Senate Republicans held a press conference on Wednesday to announce their plans for police reform across the country. Image in the public domain.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Following an extensive police reform outline from House Democrats, Senate Republicans released their proposal to address problematic policing practices across the country. 

A key tenets of the Republican’s proposal was federal funding for de-escalation training, encouraging police departments to ban chokeholds by withholding funding. The only black Senate Republican, Tim Scott (R-SC), authored the bill. Contrary to the Democrat’s proposal, the Republicans do not call for a nationwide database of complaints against police. Instead, it would encourage individual departments to track complaints, discipline, and use of force to be reported when officers apply to any jobs.

Other Senators, such as Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Braun (R-IN), are expected to introduce their own legislation, claiming this proposal does not go far enough. 

Neither bill sought input from the other side of the aisle, which could lead to intense debates as they are pushed through the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House. After signing an executive order for police reform, President Donald Trump stated his opposition removing qualified immunity from police officers, which is a significant part of Democratic demands. Qualified immunity prevents individual police officers from being held liable for any damages caused when on duty.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Parties collide over police reform – The Hill – 6/17/2020
But unlike the House package, Scott said his bill would not end qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that largely prevents citizens from suing officers for misconduct in the line of duty. Scott has called the Democratic provision a “poison pill.”

Senate Republicans unveil police reform legislation: ‘We hear you’ – Fox News – 6/17/2020
“The answer to the question of which side do you support is ‘I support America,'” Scott, R-S.C. said, “And if you support America you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority. If you support America, that means you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job, go home to their family. It is not a binary choice. This legislation encompasses that spirit.”

Trump signs executive order incentivizing police reforms – Politico PRO – 6/16/2020
Trump’s order would also incentivize local departments to bring on experts in mental health, addiction and homelessness as “co-responders” to “help officers manage these complex encounters.” And the order would encourage better information sharing to track officers with “credible abuses” to prevent them from moving from one department to the next, while aiming to provide officers with “less lethal weapons.” But the president’s action Tuesday is sure to draw criticism from activists for systemic reform for not going far enough and for a lack of teeth. The vast majority of law enforcement decisions are made at the state and local levels and Trump’s order outlined only incentives to prioritize federal money for departments that adopt the president’s recommendations.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

FOX61 on Twitter, 6/17/2020: The Republican bill, along with a sweeping Democratic proposal, shows how swiftly Congressional priorities have transformed due to the national debate.

Nicholas Wu on Twitter, 6/17/2020: Schumer, on the Senate floor, says the Republican proposal “does not rise to the moment.” The “greatest flaw,” he says, is that the bill is “meaningful accountability for individual officers’ misconduct.”

John Hawkins on Twiter, 6/17/2020: If you get rid of choke-holds for the police and you will see more people shot and more people beaten with batons by necessity. It’s not an improvement.

Adam Blickstein on Twitter, 6/17/2020: We’ve asked police to self police for decades & it’s been an abject failure. Discouraging cops to use choke holds is like discouraging smokers from smoking indoors. Unless it’s banned the problem will persist

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