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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has filed legislation advocates hope may offer an opening to resume stalled bipartisan talks over police reform.

Why it matters: It would allow excessive force lawsuits against police departments, agencies and the federal government — but not individual officers, a stumbling block in earlier efforts.

  • Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican point person on reform talks, said months ago he favored “making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee." But he has not signed on as a co-sponsor and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Details: Whitehouse's bill would provide uniform measures for victims to sue state and local governments and federal agencies for excessive force.

  • Currently, state and municipal laws vary over whether individuals can pursue civil action for constitutional rights violations by officers.
  • Individuals cannot sue a federal officer for monetary damages unless specifically authorized under a statute.

What they're saying: “As chain-of-command organizations, police departments decide how to train, supervise and discipline their personnel.  That means departments ought to bear responsibility for the behavior of their officers," Whitehouse told Axios.

  • Holding employers liable for the actions of their employees is “a time-tested and proven way to encourage responsible management."

The intrigue: Qualified immunity — protection for officers against individual lawsuits — was a major source of disagreement between Democrats and Republicans.

  • Scott said in a statement in May, "The real question is, how do we change the culture of policing? I think we do that by making the employer responsible for the actions of the employee."
  • Police unions, like the National Fraternal Order of Police, have said ending qualified immunity was a non-starter.
  • The group has not taken a stand on Whitehouse's proposal. FOP spokeswoman Jessica Cahill told Axios, "We are analyzing the bill and plan to talk with Sen. Whitehouse about it.”

Go deeper

Capitol Police chief calls for new agency to respond to rising threats

U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger testifies during a Senate hearing on Jan. 5. Photo: Tom Williams via Getty Images

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger told a Senate panel Wednesday he sees the need for a new protective agency within the force to investigate and respond to rising threats.

Why it matters: Manger's remarks on the eve of the anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 riot come amid an increasing number of threats against lawmakers, and as the Capitol Police force remains 457 officers short.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.