Bipartisan police reform negotiations collapse in the Senate

by | Sep 23, 2021 | Law Enforcement, Politics

Bipartisan legislation on criminal justice reform is officially dead after Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a statement on Wednesday stating that a deal with Republican legislatures remains out of reach.

“After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now, even after working collaboratively with and securing the support of policing groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police for our proposals,” Booker said in a statement. 

Although the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year, it is stalled in the Senate because of the potential filibuster and mandatory Republican support. 

Elected officials, Sen.Booker, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif) have been meeting to compromise on police reform, but nevertheless couldn’t reach an agreement.

After the May 2020 murder of Houston native George Floyd both Democrat and Republican officials recognized the need for criminal justice reform, but had different ideas on how to fix it. 

In 2020, Scott pushed for the JUSTICE Act,which primarily focused on incentivizing state and local departments to use body worn cameras, ban no-knock warrants and in return are awarded federal funding. Moreover, the bill tasked the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Office to create training that provides alternatives to the use of force.

Additionally, it required law enforcement agencies to review officers career history before hiring them and made lynching a federal crime.

While both bills overlapped on many key issues, the Democrat favored George Floyd Justice and Policing Act went even further to limit qualified immunity, which creates accountability for law enforcement officers who violate the law. 

In an interview with Fox 11, Bass said the failed negotiations were not over qualified immunity, but that Booker and Scott could never get to common ground. 

“My Republican colleagues brilliantly waged a campaign all across the country, accusing Democrats of defunding the police and saying that essentially the reason crime was ticking up was because of police reform,” Bass said. “When that momentum took hold well then that took away the incentive for reform.” 

Yet, with negotiations ending and no pathway to reform, lawful changes to the system are in question. 

The National Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police organization in the world, was also working with officials to come to a compromise. 

“We spent countless hours working with Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and in the Senate, to draft legislation that would improve policing in the United States, while preserving the protections so critically important to officers on the street,” President of FOP Patrick Yoes said in a statement.

 “While we are disappointed that bipartisan legislation on criminal justice reform could not be agreed upon, the FOP remains committed to working with our partners in Congress and the Administration to find opportunities to strengthen the bonds between police officers and the communities they serve.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson also issued a statement in response to the negotiations failing. 

“In a year unlike any other, when the American people spoke up, marched, and demand reforms in policing enforcement unions and partisan politicians chose to stand on the wrong side of history,” Johnson said. It is disheartening that there is a lack of courage and bravery to bring about true reform.” 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden is disappointed with the failed negotiations, and is promising to meet with different interest groups in the upcoming weeks. 

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Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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