This week, Democrats and Republicans unveiled their plans for police reform. Ava DeSantis writes about how these plans demonstrate the aligned goals of the two parties.
Yesterday, Republican Senator Tim Scott introduced a bill to deter the use of dangerous police practices. While the Democrats emphasize the importance of banning chokeholds, advocates say their legislation, at best, only disincentivizes their use.
The Republican bill expresses in clear terms: we are incentivizing the use of chokeholds, not bothering to fake an outright ban. The GOP bill requires increasing disclosure of the use of force, reporting of no-knock warrants, and provides incentives for the passage of local chokehold bans.
On Monday, Democratic Congressional Leadership introduced the “Justice in Policing Act.” The Act would ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases, two reforms in direct response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Derek Chauvin used a chokehold to murder George Floyd, prompting the ongoing national Black Lives Matter protests. Taylor’s murderers used a no-knock drug raid, and hers was the wrong house. The Act also requires local police departments to share data on uses of force with the federal government, and create a grant program to allow state attorneys general to independently investigate police misconduct or excessive force. The bill makes federal lynching a hate crime. Finally, the bill would overturn “qualified immunity” which prevents victims of police violations of civil rights from recovering damages.
Tim Scott: Some of my colleagues on the other side just want to score political points. The majority has the same heart that I have for the American people. That’s where we should be focusing our attention, not on the color of my skin.
The action on qualified immunity, activists celebrated. A coalition of 400 civil rights organizations wrote a letter to Congress, describing qualified immunity as a doctrine that allows “officers to engage in unconstitutional acts with impunity.” The actions on the chokehold, however, activists have criticized sharply.
“Cities that have banned chokeholds 20 years prior have had instances of police brutality with chokeholds,” said Jacqueline Albany, a representative of Freedom Fighters DC. The Chair of Black Lives Matter Greater New York echoed Albany “The chokehold ban, in essence, is useless.” He called the policy a “toothless guard dog.”
In New York State, the chokehold was banned for over 10 years before Eric Garner’s murder by an NYPD officer using the technique. Daniel Panatela, the officer responsible, never faced prosecution. Richard Emery, former Chair of the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board, explained that the chokehold ban “[will] have a deterrent effect,” but will not likely protect citizens from the police.
The upcoming congressional debate over police reform will highlight the currently aligned goals of America’s two major political parties.