Lawmakers come to bipartisan framework agreement on police reform
The three chief negotiators on a police reform package announced Thursday they had reached a bipartisan agreement on the issue.
“After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a joint statement Thursday afternoon.
“There is still more work to be done on the final bill, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalized proposal across the finish line.”
At issue was the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March but has since been embroiled in negotiations led by Bass, Scott and Booker.
The bill, which would implement sweeping changes to how policing is carried out in the country, was introduced by Bass last June following the police murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s killing was a spark for a summer dominated by nationwide Black Lives Matter protests decrying police brutality and systemic racism.
While Bass’s bill has passed the House twice in two years, it did so with no GOP support.
That said, police reform isn’t inherently partisan; following Floyd’s murder, Scott introduced a police reform bill of his own, the Justice Act, though it failed to gain sufficient traction.
Until now, Bass, Booker and Scott have been mostly cryptic about how negotiations have gone, though optimism that a deal is within reach has been a constant.
The initial agreement comes right before the self-imposed deadline of Friday.
It also comes the day before Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering Floyd, is scheduled to be sentenced.
The final outline of the bill is still unclear, though it’s believed that qualified immunity — the powerful legal doctrine that shields law enforcement and other public officials from liability in civil lawsuits — was one of the main sticking points.
The original version of the police reform bill also sought to broaden the scope of the federal civil rights provision that prohibits officers from “willfully” denying someone of their constitutional rights, a standard of proof that is incredibly difficult to achieve in court — something Republicans have also balked at.
Scott, however, has previously hinted that a change to the statute is already off the table.
Initially, Bass and the White House indicated they wanted to have a deal by May 25, the anniversary of Floyd’s killing, but that date has come and passed.
Since then, they have operated under the goal of having a concrete framework by Friday, as after that, the Senate is in recess until July 12 and then is in session only a few more weeks before both chambers break for their lengthy summer recess.
Updated at 6:10 p.m.