Senate Republicans have unveiled their own version of police reform following a Rose Garden ceremony where Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing.
Democrats in the House are in the process of marking up their own idea of police reform that contains some of the same elements as the Republican bill. But the GOP measure is far more “police friendly” than its Democratic counterpart in that it doesn’t treat the police like out-of-control thugs who need to be sat on.
Trump’s executive order would ban chokeholds “except if an officer’s life is at risk.”
According to the White House, Trump’s order touches on use of force best practices, information sharing to track officers who have repeated complaints against them and federal incentives for police departments to deploy non-police experts on issues like mental health, homelessness and addiction.
Trump said law enforcement officers would only be allowed to use chokeholds if their lives are in danger.
But unlike the Democrats, Trump gave glowing support for the nation’s police.
“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments. Especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history,” Trump said, while acknowledging a “tiny” number of bad police officers. “Without police there is chaos, without law there is anarchy and without safety there is a catastrophe.”
Trump added: “When you remove the police, you hurt those who have the least, the most.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) introduced the legislation in the Senate and had a message for Democrats.
“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.”
Scott said the overwhelming number of officers in America are good people. But he acknowledged the real fears people of color have about encountering the police.
“We hear you. We’re listening to your concerns,” said Scott, who recalled his own “driving while black” experiences of being stopped seven times in one year. “The George Floyd incident certainly accelerated this conversation.”
Fortunately, Scott is not hearing the hysterical radicals who are calling for defunding the police departments. What he’s hearing are the voices of moderation and caution.
The GOP legislation would beef up requirements for law enforcement to compile use of force reports under a new George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, named for the Minnesota father whose May 25 death sparked worldwide protests over police violence, and Scott, the South Carolina man shot by police after a traffic stop in 2015, no relation to the senator.
It would also establish the Breonna Taylor Notification Act to track “no-knock” warrants. Such warrants used to be rare, but the 26-year-old was killed after police in Kentucky used a no-knock warrant to enter her Louisville home.
To focus on ending chokeholds, it encourages agencies to do away with the practice or risk losing federal funds. Many big-city departments have long stopped their use. It also provides funding for training to “de-escalate” situations and establish a “duty to intervene” protocol to prevent excessive force.
A reasonable reform proposal that will fail in the Democratic House because Scott doesn’t call the police names and say how evil they are.
Trump and the Republicans will get no credit from the media and Democrats for common-sense reforms. They’re not radical enough. They’re not quick enough. They don’t claim that police need to be handcuffed and castrated if they’re going to stop anyone of color.
It’s not a bad thing that Congress won’t be able to get anything done on police reform this term. It’s never a good idea to make law when passions are so obviously aroused. Better to wait until passions cool before carefully examining the options and intelligently writing bipartisan legislation.
That’s what should be done. That it won’t be says a lot about our broken political system.