State Watch

Minnesota AG urges Congress to pass police reform bill following Chauvin sentencing


Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) is demanding that the Senate approve the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act following Friday’s sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 22 1/2 years in prison for Floyd’s murder. 

During a press conference held immediately after the sentencing hearing, Ellison, who had requested a 30-year prison sentence for Chauvin in a motion earlier this month, nevertheless acknowledged that Friday’s punishment is “one of the longest a former police officer has ever received for an unlawful use of deadly force.” 

The sentence handed down by Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill was longer than many legal experts had predicted for Chauvin, who was convicted in April of second-degree murder and manslaughter, as well as third-degree murder. 

Ellison said Friday that Chauvin’s sentencing, like his conviction, “is not justice [but] another moment of real accountability on the road to justice.” 

“Today is also an important moment for our country,” the state attorney general continued. “The outcome of this case is critically important.

“But by itself, it’s not enough,” he added before saying that “concrete change” must come through legislative action at the local, state and federal levels. 

Ellison pointed out, “There is so much legislation around the country, in city councils, county boards, state legislatures and Congress, that is still waiting to be passed.”

“Every one of these bills at every level of government is critical for helping our families, our law enforcement officers, communities in the country heal,” he continued. “Above all, Congress has still not passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“I call on leaders and members of Congress to pass the best and strongest version of this bill that can be passed and to pass it now,” the attorney general said, pointing out that President Biden himself has urged lawmakers to quickly pass the sweeping police reform legislation. 

“It must be passed,” Ellison argued. “Lives are depending upon it. It’s just that simple.” 

Ellison went on to say that policing legislation is essential to restore trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve “at a moment where violent crime is spiking across the nation in major cities.” 

“The schism leaves us all a little less safe,” he added. “But trust and cooperation must be earned. You cannot clean a dirty wound. By bringing accountability in law enforcement, you actually promote public safety.”

The House has passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was introduced by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), twice since Floyd’s death in May of 2020, most recently in March. 

The legislation would implement sweeping changes to how policing is carried out in the country, and was spurred by the now-viral video of Chauvin restraining Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes before he died. 

However, the legislation did not gain support from GOP House members, and Bass has been conducting ongoing negotiations with Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) over a bipartisan Senate version of the bill. 

The negotiators announced Thursday that they had reached a bipartisan agreement, though they said in a statement that “there is still more work to be done on the final bill.” 

“Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to,” the lawmakers said. “Over the next few weeks we look forward to continuing our work toward getting a finalized proposal across the finish line.”

Tags Chauvin sentencing Cory Booker George Floyd Justice in Policing Act House Joe Biden Karen Bass Keith Ellison Minneapolis Minneapolis Police Department Minnesota Murder of George Floyd Police reform legislation Senate Tim Scott Trial of Derek Chauvin

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