Senate attempt to reform U.S. police fails

September 27, 2021 - 17:31

TEHRAN - Negotiations in the U.S. Congress to reform police practices following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis have collapsed, Democratic Senator Cory Booker says, as President Joe Biden blamed Republicans for the failure.

The end of congressional negotiations, at least for now, marked yet another setback for the Democratic president, who campaigned on the need for policing reforms.

Calling Floyd's murder "a stain on the soul of America," Biden, in a statement, held out hope for eventually signing a comprehensive police reform bill into law and said he would look at developing further executive actions on the matter. 

Biden says, "Regrettably, Senate Republicans rejected enacting modest reforms, which even the previous president had supported while refusing to take action on key issues that many in law enforcement were willing to address." 

Tim Scott accused Democrats of reverting to "a partisan approach to scoring political points."Among the issues that lawmakers were discussing were some changes to "qualified immunity" that protects police officers from some lawsuits accusing them of using excessive force and prohibiting the kind of chokeholds and other restraints on people being arrested that have led to deaths.

Reuters found among some cases it analyzed more than three dozen in which qualified immunity protected officers whose actions had been deemed against the law. 

The increasing frequency of such cases has prompted a growing chorus of criticism from lawyers, legal scholars, civil rights groups, politicians, and even judges that qualified immunity, as applied, is unjust. However, this broad coalition says the doctrine has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims' constitutional rights.

The Reuters research supports arguments that the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases in favor of the police. 

The high court has indicated it is aware of the mounting criticism of its treatment of qualified immunity. After letting multiple appeals backed by the doctrine's critics pile up, the justices are scheduled to discuss privately as soon as May 15, which, if any, of 11 such cases they could hear later this year.

Speaking to journalists, Booker says, "It was clear at this negotiating table at this moment we were not making progress" following nine months of meetings. He added, "In fact, recent back and forths with paper showed me that we were actually moving away from it."

Republican Senator Tim Scott, in a statement, accused Democrats of reverting to "a partisan approach to scoring political points." Scott said the two sides had reached agreements banning chokeholds, limiting the transfer of military equipment to police departments, and increasing mental health resources.

In April, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. This death triggered protests across the United States and gave new impetus to police reform efforts in Washington to stamp out systemic racism.

Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin, white, knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Reform advocates encouraged Biden to use his executive powers to achieve changes.

One of the congressional negotiators, Democratic Representative Karen Bass, pointed to just such an action this month imposing strict limits on when federal officers can use chokeholds and "no-knock warrants." But those will not apply to local police departments

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