Bush, Lee hold meeting with Democrats, DOJ on police reform

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)
Greg Nash
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Thursday, January 26, 2023.

Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability and House Judiciary Committee met with Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta this month to discuss the status of police reform.

The meeting was orchestrated by Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.) and Summer Lee (Pa.).

Both congresswomen have been open about their stance on police reform and the way police brutality affects many in their districts, though it was the recent death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols and the continued failure to see federal police reform that spurred the two congresswomen to call the meeting with Gupta.

“Policing and public safety are issues I worked on in St. Louis long before I got to Congress, and I know firsthand the importance of oversight and compliance with relevant non-discrimination laws when it comes to law enforcement,” Bush said in a statement to The Hill. 

The 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo., police officers is what spurred Bush to run for office. Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a white officer who was never charged for the shooting that killed the 18-year-old and sparked nationwide protests. 

Bush said the meeting with Gupta was a “respectful and candid conversation” that detailed the concerns of members, the personal ways their constituents have been affected by police violence and ways Congress could better support the department’s oversight efforts. 

“For both Congresswoman Lee and I, systemic police violence is not an abstract issue but the tragic reality that our communities and so many others across our country face every day,” Bush said.

Lee has also been affected by the killing of a young Black American in her district.

Antwon Rose II, a Black teenager, was shot in East Pittsburgh, Pa., during a traffic stop in 2018. The officer involved was acquitted on all counts in connection with the shooting death.

“We have to find ways to hold abusive police officers and departments accountable,” Lee told The Hill in a statement.

“This isn’t about one police officer at a time or one department at a time or one victim of police violence at a time – this is about addressing the system that allows this to keep happening. This will happen again and again until we do that. This kind of violence has been committed with impunity for far too long.”

The Democrats’ meeting with Gupta follows a renewed push by the party — particularly Black members — to enact police reform. 

Earlier this year, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) invited families who lost loved ones to police violence to the State of the Union address. Those attending included the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tyre Nichols.

The CBC this month sent a letter to the Department of Justice demanding data around the status of President Biden’s 2022 executive order on police accountability. 

The DOJ also released a scathing report this month detailing the Louisville Metro Police Department’s pattern of unconstitutional behavior, routine use of excessive force and unlawful discrimination against Black people. The investigation was launched after the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., when police shot and killed her while executing a “no-knock” warrant.

For Lee, the bombshell report not only offered insight into why Taylor ended up dead in her own apartment but also that the government has the ability to investigate these cases.  

“The DOJ’s consent decree with the Louisville Metro Police Department and community is one step towards righting these egregious violations,” Lee said. “Louisville Metro Police Officers killed Breonna Taylor and have been violating people’s constitutional and civil rights for years. Government has the tools to address these problems, we must use them.”

Like Bush, Lee said she is committed to working with every level of government to pass police reform and end police violence “because it’s not enough just to just say their names.”

Both congresswoman hope to have ongoing conversations with the DOJ about how to address police violence.

Updated at 7:27 p.m.

Tags Black Lives Matter breonna taylor Breonna Taylor Bush Cori Bush Cori Bush Darren Wilson DOJ police reform Summer Lee Summer Lee Vanita Gupta

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