Bipartisan negotiations for the federal bill that would bring transformative change to how police officers operate have broken down, effectively killing the legislation.
Sources familiar with the talks between Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott R-SC) say the two have emerged without a deal, according to USA Today.
It represents a major failure on the part of the U.S. Congress to meaningfully address a system of policing that kills 1,000 U.S. civilians a year on average. It also represents a slap in the face to Black America, akin to spitting on the families of those who’ve been brutalized and victimized by lawless law enforcement officers.
Bipartisan talks fizzle into nothing
Additionally, hundreds of mostly young, mostly Black protesters facing criminal charges for participating in the George Floyd-inspired uprisings in 2020 are left wondering what it was all for.
A Senate aide told USA TODAY that Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., made it clear in a private conversation Wednesday with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., that he was done with the talks after Scott rejected his final offer.
Following the public lynching of George Floyd by police in 2020, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) came together following the collective outrage against police killings. They promised to succeed with negotiations on a transformational police reform bill that would be able to pass the full Congress.
Qualified immunity remains major sticking point
In March, the trio had announced significant compromises around the piece of legislation known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The bill would create national standards for police use of force, make it easier to charge officers who commit misconduct, and drastically reduce qualified immunity–which shields officers from most brutality lawsuits.
In May, Congress missed a deadline that President Biden had set for passage of the bill. He called on Congress to bring the bill to his desk on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Months went by with no progress.
Republican Tim Scott unwilling to compromise
“The good news is we’ve not resigned ourselves to stopping. We believe there’s still a path forward, so that’s really good news,” Sen. Tim Scott told NBC News in August after missing yet another self-imposed deadline.
Sen. Cory Booker managed to gain support from the Fraternal Order of Police to end qualified immunity. But without support from Sheriff’s associations, Sen. Tim Scott wasn’t willing to move forward.
Now, reports have surfaced detailing a conversation on Wednesday between Sen. Cory Booker and Tim Scott. Scott.
Legislators release statements
Booker said in a statement Wednesday that “Even with law enforcement support and further compromises we offered” during the talks, Booker felt “there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal,” USA Today reported.
Rep. Karen Bass, who wrote the House version of the bill that has yet to be voted on by the Senate, said despite compromising on important parts of the bill, Republican Tim Scott has been unwilling to do the same.
“But every time, more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing,” Rep. Bass said.
“With our counterparts unwilling to come to a compromise, we have no other option than to explore further avenues to stop police brutality in this country. I will not ask our community to wait another 200 days.”
Families who lost loved ones to police violence feel betrayed
For families like Dr. Tiffany Crutcher’s, the news is unacceptable. She recently held a press conference with Attorney Ben Crump in Washington. Dr. Crutcher, along with Human Rights Watch and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, called for reopening the federal investigation into the police killing of her brother Terence in Tulsa. She also called for immediate passage of the Justice in Policing bill. She even noted a conversation she had with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who promised to discuss the matter with Senator Tim Scott.
In a recent statement regarding the failure to pass the bill, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher said she was “stunned, disheartened and deeply disappointed that Senator Tim Scott and his Republican colleagues chose politics over the lives of their constituents today.”
“Across this country, families like mine who have lost loved ones to police violence have summoned the courage to come before Congress and share their pain time and again. And yet Senator Tim Scott could not even have the courage to stand up and do what is right,” Dr. Crutcher added. She said he also hasn’t reached out to families of police brutality victims to explain why he walked away from the process.
Justice delayed once again
She also called out Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhoffe and James Lankford, both Republicans, for ignoring the pleas from Black Americans.
President Biden released a statement on the bill’s apparent defeat. “I still hope to sign into law a comprehensive and meaningful police reform bill that honors the name and memory of George Floyd, because we need legislation to ensure lasting and meaningful change,” Biden said. “But this moment demands action, and we cannot allow those who stand in the way of progress to prevent us from answering the call.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced federal bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants. However, the failure to pass the George Floyd-inspired bill means addressing police brutality remains left to cities and states.
“I’m grateful to Senator Booker and others for being so committed to our family and this cause,” Dr. Crutcher added. “I hope all Tulsans and all Americans know this fight is far from over. I will not rest until my brother Terence has justice and until this country changes the laws that allowed his life—and the lives of far too many others—to be taken.”