Jun 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans unveil their police reform bill

Sen. Tim Scott. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and other Senate Republicans introduced Wednesday their police reform bill that encourages departments to ban chokeholds through the use of federal grants and requires officers to report uses of force and no-knock warrants.

Why it matters: The bill, which has the support of the majority of the Senate GOP conference and the White House, is seen as the starting point for larger negotiations with House Democrats on compromise legislation.

What they're saying: "This legislation ... speaks to that spirit, that we believe the overwhelming number of officers in this nation are good people, working hard," Scott said at a press conference announcing the bill.

  • "I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who's concerned when he's stopped by law enforcement officers," he added.
  • "If our Democratic friends would like to make a law and not just make a point, I hope they'll join us. ... I want you to know we're serious about making a law here," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, announcing that the chamber will move the legislation to the floor next week.

The big picture: Beyond the chokeholds and reporting provisions, the bill would ...

  • Make lynching a federal crime.
  • Incentivize the use of body cameras through federal grants.
  • Increase penalties for false police reports.
  • Create a "Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys."
  • Charge federal law enforcement with a federal crime if they engage in a sexual act with an individual in custody.

Worth noting: The bill does not mention "qualified immunity" — something Democrats have pushed at restricting but the White House has called a red line.

  • Scott is still committed to pursuing a "decertification" process for officers who knowingly violate the law.
  • Sources familiar with the Senate GOP bill tell Axios that they expect the issue to be the first topic to come up during negotiations.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to the bill in a statement Wednesday:

House Democrats hope to work in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that creates meaningful change to end the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality in America. The Senate proposal of studies and reporting without transparency and accountability is inadequate. The Senate’s so-called Justice Act is not action.

Read the bill text.

Go deeper: Senate Republicans prepare their opening bid on police reform

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