- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Rep. Matt Gaetz promised Wednesday that Republicans will work across the aisle to get a bipartisan piece of policing reform legislation across the finish line.

During a hearing on police brutality after more than a week of outrage and protests, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee pushed back against the trending movement to “Abolish the Police.”

However, they said they were hopeful there were areas for potential bipartisanship.

“I wanted to thank Ms. [Karen] Bass for the legislation she’s introduced — that constellation of ideas. While I think that we can fine-tune elements to ensure that we don’t defund the police, that we don’t make our communities less safe, I do think there is not a legitimate defense of chokeholds, or lynching or bad cops that get shuttled around,” the Florida Republican said. “You will be able to count on Republican cooperation as we hone these ideas and hopefully pass them and get them to the president’s steps.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, countered by explaining that the Democrats’ police overhaul package does not defund police departments, and the party’s massive coronavirus package — still stalled in the Senate — would have shored up resources for hard-hit local communities.

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have ignited more than a week’s worth of unrest and protests across the country and fueled this renewed debate about racial tensions and police accountability.

The hearing comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill move quickly to respond to the outrage and demands for change.

The Democrats’ bill, introduced on Monday, would mandate anti-bias training, impose national use-of-force standards and make it easier to sue officers for misconduct in the line of duty.

It includes chokehold and “no-knock” warrant bans as well as an anti-lynching provision. It goes further by proposing a national use of force standard and limits qualified immunity.

One issue highlighted by both members across the political divide is the matter of “bad cops” either being retained, rehired or generally being difficult to remove from the force.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrod Nadler, New York Democrat, cited that Derek Chauvin, the former officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, had 16 complaints filed against him.

“He should have been out of the force,” Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, said about Mr. Chauvin. “Any officer committed the act like that shouldn’t be able to get a job in any county after they get fired.”

Mr. Floyd also noted that Mr. Chauvin, who is white, and his brother, who is black, knew each other from when they both worked at a club a few years ago, arguing that he believed racism was at the root of the killing.

While Democrats focused on the national misconduct registry as a solution to that issue, Republicans — agreeing there was a problem — said it needs to go further.

“A lot of the police union activity that we have seen has been to protect bad cops and the police unions in this country. And my Democratic colleagues, you know have more friends in those unions then we Republicans do. You are going to have to step up to the plate and to be cooperative with communities and getting rid of the bad cops, the sooner there will no longer be any bad apples to spoil the whole barrel,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said.

“I see nothing wrong with having, you know, a bad cop database. But having a database isn’t going to get somebody fired who ought to be fired. And the sooner we get the bad cops off the force,” the Wisconsin Republican added.

However, Rep. Doug Collins highlighted the committee’s success in passing historic criminal justice reform on a strong bipartisan basis, but he said the Democrats’ bill has areas that need more work, in particular the changes to qualified immunity.

Lawyer Benjamin Crump, who is representing George Floyd’s family, told lawmakers that qualified immunity gives far too much leeway to officers who abuse their power.

“If officers know they have immunity, they act with impunity. If officers know they can unjustly take the life of a black person with no accountability, they will continue to do so,” he said.

Mr. Collins, Georgia Republican, said that going too far in pulling back those protections can undermine officers’ ability to do their job.

“Have you considered the fact that some of these police officers out of fear of the rather litigious society we live in now, unfortunately, will now be afraid in the street to go and do their jobs and be proactive in communities that needed most?” he said. “Qualified immunity has issues. You can work around the edges, but the margins matter.”

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