WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans unveiled a police reform bill Wednesday that takes a markedly different approach to police reform efforts backed by congressional Democrats.
The Senate GOP bill would incentivize police departments to ban chokeholds, increase the use of body-worn cameras, improve training in de-escalation tactics and take prior records into greater account when making hiring decisions.
It would also increase data collection on the use of force, weapon discharge and no-knock warrants and make lynching a federal crime, among other things.
“When Black Americans tell us they do not feel safe in their own communities, we need to listen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, called the GOP bill “inadequate” in a statement. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said the GOP approach “does not rise to the moment.”
“We have a tale of two chambers, a glaring contrast between a strong, comprehensive Democratic bill in the House, and a much narrower, and much less effective Republican bill in the Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
A ‘false, binary choice’
GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — a Black Republican who led the Senate GOP police reform effort — told reporters Wednesday that the bill aims to “restore confidence communities of color have in institutions of authority.”
Scott said Senate Republicans are listening to public concerns about law enforcement and noted that he has borne the brunt of racial profiling himself, such as when he was given a warning for failing to turn on a turn signal soon enough before changing lanes.
“We hear you,” he said.
But Scott also voiced strong support for law enforcement, saying the “overwhelming” number of officers are “good people” who work hard to keep communities safe and orderly.
Supporting either law enforcement or communities of color is a “false binary choice,” he said.
McConnell accelerated the timetable for floor consideration and now plans to bring the GOP bill to the floor for a vote next week — roughly a month after the death of George Floyd while being arrested by a white Minneapolis police officer.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.