NAACP Legal Defense Fund urges Senate to reject GOP police reform bill

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is urging the Senate to block a GOP police reform bill set to get an initial test vote on Wednesday. 

The NAACP LDF, which is a separate entity from the NAACP, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urging them to oppose the bill over concerns that it does not go far enough to hold police officers accountable. 

“In this moment, we cannot support legislation that does not embody a strong accountability framework for police officers and other law enforcement who engage in misconduct as well as needed reforms to policing practices,” the group wrote in the letter, a copy of which was sent to members of the Senate more broadly. 

“We urge you to vote no on the motion to proceed with consideration of the JUSTICE Act and instead advance reforms that will hold law enforcement accountable and offer more transparency of policing practices such as those embodied in S.3912, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” the organization added, referring to the bill introduced earlier this month by Democrats. 

The group specified that the GOP bill — which was spearheaded by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only Black Republican senator — did not include priorities such as banning chokeholds, ending the use of no-knock warrants and ending qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from civil lawsuits. 

It also raised concerns about new money for law enforcement included in the bill, which is being debated amid a national discussion about restructuring how police departments are funded. 

“Communities of color are weary of efforts that pour more funding into police departments to purchase equipment, such as body-worn cameras, and provide the same training to officers while Black and Brown Americans continue to be brutalized, and often killed, at the hands of police,” the group wrote.

The letter comes as Democrats weigh whether to block the GOP police reform bill, with McConnell scheduling a vote on ending debate over proceeding to the bill for Wednesday. 

Republicans will need 60 votes to advance the GOP bill. As of Monday, they did not have the votes, with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) being the only Democratic senator to signal, so far, that he could vote to proceed to the bill. 

Democrats want an understanding with McConnell on allowing votes on amendments to the bill if it is brought up for debate but said on Monday that they do not yet have an agreement. 

Schumer railed against the GOP bill on Monday and warned that it would not have prevented George Floyd’s death and will not prevent future deaths. 

“The longer you look at the Republican policing reform effort, the more obvious the shortcoming and deficiencies,” Schumer said. “If we pass a bill that’s ineffective and the killings continue and police departments resist change and there is no accountability, the wound in our society will not close. It will fester.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) called the GOP bill a “half-ass bill.” 

“It doesn’t do what we should be doing, which is to do honest policing reform. … I like Tim personally, but his bill doesn’t do it,” Hirono told reporters on Monday. 

Tags Charles Schumer doug jones Mazie Hirono Mitch McConnell police reform Tim Scott
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