Commonsense police reforms proposed by Senate Republicans Wednesday in their Justice Act would help reduce incidents of excessive use of force by police without reducing their ability to keep our neighborhoods safe and protect our lives and property.
The legislation – sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate – was announced at a news conference held by Scott, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators.
McConnell said he would bring the bill up for a vote in the full Senate by next week. The legislation is an important step forward that deserves passage in both the Senate and House of Representatives and should become law.
Black Americans, as much as any other population group in the country, rely on police officers every day to protect us from criminals. The vast majority of police officers do this and are not racists. Many officers are themselves black, and some have lost their lives in the line of duty.
But there is no question that a small minority of officers are guilty of police brutality, which in the most extreme cases has resulted in the unjustified killings of black people and people of other races as well.
At a Capitol news conference, Scott repeatedly assailed the “false, binary choice” that poses the question: “Are you supporting the law enforcement community or are you supporting communities of color?”
Instead, Scott rightly observed that we all should lend our support and advocacy to both groups. And in turn, black Americans and police must support one another.
Despite the history of tension between police and blacks, we absolutely need each other. There are many more black crime victims than black criminals, and without police protection far more people of all races would be assaulted, robbed, raped, murdered and victimized by lawbreakers.
“If you support America, you support restoring the confidence that communities of color have in institutions of authority,” Scott said. “If you support America that means you know that the overwhelming number of officers in this nation want to do their job [and] go home to their family.”
This is the message our nation needs to hear – not the anti-cop rhetoric of the left-wing crowds chanting “defund the police” or the even more radical and absurd slogan of “abolish the police.”
For weeks following the horrific May 25 killing of George Floyd – an unarmed black man on the ground in handcuffs – by Minneapolis police, Americans of all races and colors poured out their anger, disbelief and grief in protests. Unfortunately, those protests sometimes devolved into violent riots.
As a country, we are now seeking to administer justice to all lawbreakers involved. Charges of second-degree murder or aiding and abetting second-degree murder have been filed against four fired police officers in Floyd’s killing. At the same time, charges have also been filed against scores of rioters who committed criminal acts.
In the case of another unarmed black man killed by police, fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was hit Wednesday with 11 charges – including felony murder, carrying the death penalty – for the killing of Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy’s restaurant Friday. That killing also sparked protests around the nation.
As our collective wounds heal, we now must channel our concern into productive and thoughtful solutions – while avoiding a descent into partisan bickering aimed at scoring political points.
The Senate Republican proposals unveiled Wednesday – along with an executive order signed by President Trump on Tuesday – will help move us in this direction.
Both the Senate Republican bill and President Trump are focused on goals such as improving police training in areas like de-escalation of force.
Sen. Scott and his fellow Senate Republicans also proposed incentives to encourage police agencies to stop using chokeholds as a means of detaining suspects and to establish a “duty to intervene” if they see fellow officers engaging in wrongful conduct.
Like President Trump, the Senate Republicans favor greater use of co-responders – such as social workers – when police are dealing with individuals beset by such issues as homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.
The Senate Republicans also proposed strengthening hiring practices by requiring police agencies to show they have adequately researched the backgrounds of potential recruits.
There are many more black crime victims than black criminals, and without police protection far more people of all races would be assaulted, robbed, raped, murdered and victimized by lawbreakers.
In addition, the Republican legislation incentivizes the use of police body cameras as accountability measures and boosts transparency by requiring reporting from law enforcement agencies nationwide anytime officers discharge weapons, use force, or enter premises with no-knock warrants.
Going forward, we must make sure that policing remains a field attractive to bright and energetic jobseekers interested in serving the public. That means not only holding police accountable but also looking out for their own emotional, mental and physical well-being.
The line about officers putting their lives on the line has become so clichéd it has almost lost its meaning. But we must not lose sight of the extraordinary risks and sacrifices officers undertake in order to serve and protect the rest of us.
Society must provide police officers the right and ability to protect their own lives in the course of their duties. And we should not expose police to endless lawsuits by taking away their qualified immunity.
If we make the job of police officer a role that no one in their right mind would pursue, then we all lose. And when cops can no longer be cops, then criminals will ramp up their lawbreaking. We saw this during recent riots, when looters broke into stores in plain sight of law enforcement, knowing that the officers were restricted in their response.
Yes, let’s make it as hard as possible to be a bad cop. Let’s charge cops who break the law with crimes that can send them to prison. But let’s make it as rewarding as possible to be a good cop.
The initiatives put forward this week by President Trump and Senate Republicans are steps in the right direction – and a stark contrast to the left’s ridiculous dream of defunding the police, or the even more ridiculous calls to disband police departments entirely.
Keeping strong and well-supported police on the streets is vital for the future of all Americans of every race.