October 22, 2021

Democrats have ditched legislative efforts to craft bipartisan police reform

After months of negotiations with Republicans aimed at crafting police reform legislation capable of garnering support on both sides of the aisle, Democrat lawmakers Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) and Rep. Karen Bass (CA) announced Wednesday that talks have fatally broken down and no further progress is likely to be forthcoming, as CNBC reported.

The collapse comes after lengthy discussions led by Booker, Bass and GOP Sen. Tim Scott (SC) meant to come up with a package that could win sufficient Republican endorsement to pass both the upper and lower chambers, wrangling that often centered on thorny issues such as ending doctrine of qualified immunity that shields police officers from civil lawsuits, as CNBC reported separately earlier this year.

Despite the fact that, as Politico noted, the impasse on qualified immunity was removed from the equation this summer, and attention was trained on a less ambitious set of reforms, consensus even on that proved elusive in the end.

Announcing the end of negotiations and the failure to reach agreement, Booker said in a statement, “After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now, even after working collaboratively with and securing the support of policing groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police for our proposals,” adding:

Unfortunately, even with this law enforcement support and further compromises we offered, there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Booker and Bass gave Scott their final proposal during a Tuesday meeting, which in itself was just the bare minimum of what they believed they could rightly accept, a plan which reportedly included placing limits on the use of choke holds and reducing curtailing the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement authorities.

In the aftermath of the announcement, Bass expressed her disappointment at the situation and implored the Biden administration to use “the full extent of their constitutionally-mandated power to bring about meaningful police reform,” according to CNBC.

For his part, Scott slammed his counterparts on the left for quitting negotiations, adding that he made attempts to offer compromise options, but that all were rejected by Democrats, Politico reported.

“After months of making progress, I am deeply disappointed that Democrats have once again squandered a crucial opportunity to implement meaningful reform to make our neighborhoods safer and mend the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and communities of color,” Scott declared, adding:

Crime will continue to increase while safety decreases, and more officers are going to walk away from the force because my negotiating partners walked away from the table.

Booker pledged to “explore all other options” to effectuate reforms in the area of policing standards, but unless his party takes the highly controversial step of eliminating the filibuster rules, he will need to attract 10 GOP votes in order to do anything legislatively.

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