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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are meeting with President Joe Biden on Thursday, a day after they renewed calls for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act at the funeral of Tyre Nichols.
The Black Caucus is urging Biden to use his State of the Union address on Feb. 7 to urge Congress to pass the policing reform bill, according to Politico. It stalled last year after South Carolina’s Black Republican Senator Tim Scott refused to agree to end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects individual officers from personal liability for police brutality lawsuits.
“They want action,” Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) told reporters after speaking with the Nichols family. “The action is legislative action; that’s here in Congress and at the state and local level, they want executive actions that still can be taken by the president and his administration.”
Calls grow for police reform…again
Following the public police lynching of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, efforts to achieve reforms intensified before fizzling out in Congress.
In lieu of the bill’s passage, Biden signed executive orders in 2021, creating a national, federal database of police misconduct, mandated body-worn cameras, and banned choke holds by federal law enforcement.
Yet the orders have done nothing to stop the many cases of brutality and killings by state and local police each year.
In 2022, researchers recorded the highest number of police killings of civilians in U.S. history. And the beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police on Jan. 7 has drawn attention back to a seemingly never-ending struggle for justice.
For her part, Vice President Kamala Harris attended Tyre Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday, as the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded an end to qualified immunity during his eulogy.
“Tyre Nichols said ‘I didn’t do nothing.’ You kept on going anyhow,” Sharpton told the crowd of mourners. “Why do they go ahead? Because they feel that there is no accountability. They feel that we are going to get angry a day or two, and then we are going on to something else. But some of us do this everyday. Some of us believe in the dream that has to come true. Some of us are gone’ fight until we make this legislation happen.”
Black Caucus meeting with Biden
On Thursday, the Black Caucus is expected to urge Biden to use his bully pulpit to continually call for reforms, despite the low expectations that a divided Congress, in which Republicans control the House, will ever pass anything substantial.
“I’m not optimistic. I’m not confident that we are going to be able to get real police reform,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), according to Politico. She will also attend the White House meeting. “I approach working on this issue as a responsibility that I have to do, that we must try.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would establish a nationwide database of police misconduct and create nationwide standards for police use of force, along with banning the use of chokeholds. It would also make it easier for prosecutors to indict officers for excessive force. Perhaps most significantly, it would ban the use of qualified immunity, which frees individual officers from facing any personal financial liability for misconduct and abuse, passing the cost onto the city’s taxpayers.
Yet some on the left consider even that proposal too moderate in a country whose police officers kill over 1,000 people each year, according to Mapping Police Violence.
Advocates call for police abolition
In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, advocates for the abolition of police described what they view as a need to defund the police and invest in communities.
Andrea Ritchie, a lawyer and organizer whose working on policing issues for three decades, is the author of “No More Police: A Case for Abolition,” co-authored with Mariame Kaba.
Ritchie disagrees with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a solution, since it pours millions more dollars into police budgets for training.
“It’s really about the entire structure of policing.” she said. “This is not an exception to the rule, This is rule of policing. So it is essential that we think about responses that will take not only power away from police to engage in this kind of behavior…but also the resources and the weaponry and the legitimacy that enables them to continue in this kind of behavior.”