Democrats push for chokehold ban, limited immunity in police reform talks

Democrats push for chokehold ban, limited immunity in police reform talks
© Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers outlined parameters for policing reform Sunday following of the conviction of Derek Chauvin on murder charges over the death of George Floyd. 

Congressional Democrats have sought to make reforms to law enforcement one of their legislative priorities, rallying behind a House bill — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — that would make several major changes to police departments, including limiting their legal shielding through changes to qualified immunity and allowing the Justice Department to issue subpoenas when investigating departments for systemic discrimination.

The bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThousands sent to emergency rooms every year due to violent police encounters: investigation Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda White House says Biden crime address won't undercut police reform bill MORE (D-Calif.), joined ABC's "This Week" and "Fox News Sunday" to discuss the bill and Chauvin's upcoming sentencing in the trial, which gripped the nation's attention ahead of his conviction last week.

"The intent of this is we have to find a way to hold officers accountable so this type of behavior ends," Bass said on "Fox News Sunday," referring to Floyd's murder.

"You said, well, if the officer was bad, he’d get fired anyway," she added to the show's host, Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceChuck Todd reluctant to 'ban' election deniers from 'Meet the Press' Sunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview MORE. "Well, actually, a lot of the time, that's not the case. For example, Derek Chauvin had multiple complaints against him."

"Had [he] not been convicted, even though he was fired, do you know that he could go through arbitration and that police chief has no ability not to rehire him?" Bass added.

Bass added on Fox that she was not interested in compromising with Republicans on qualified immunity in a way that would shield individual officers from accountability.

"If [Republicans] can show us some other way to hold officers accountable ... because this has been going on for just decades, and officers right now are not really held accountable," she said.

On "Meet the Press," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup | Rick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border | John McAfee dies Klobuchar questions Amazon, Alphabet over smart-home devices Schumer vows next steps after 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE (D-Minn.) expressed her support for the bill as well while calling for police departments to ban chokeholds and other forms of violent detention tactics used by police.

"To me, you cannot have true justice when chokeholds and knees on the neck are still being considered legitimate in some places," the senator said while referring to the recent shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn. "You cannot have true justice when a young kid can get stopped for an expired tag and then end up getting shot."

Some Republicans have expressed openness to police reform legislation, including Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure MORE (R-S.C.), who appeared on "Fox News Sunday" to express support for ending qualified immunity for police departments while allowing it to continue for individual officers.

"So there's a way to find qualified immunity reform. Take the cop out of it. My idea, along with Sen. [Tim] Scott [R-S.C.], is you can't sue the police officer. You sue the department if there's an allegation of civil rights abuse or constitutional rights abuse," Graham said.

He pushed back, however, against the implication that there is a racism problem in U.S. law enforcement.

"This attack on police and policing — reform the police, yes. Call them all racist, no," he said.

Last week saw the end of the Chauvin trial in Minnesota, with the former officer being convicted of second-degree murder and two other counts for Floyd's death.

The trial and the recent shooting of Wright have reignited calls for Congress to pass legislation addressing law enforcement and the use of force by police.

In the first three months of 2020, 213 people were shot by police in the U.S., according to Statista.