Scott: ‘There is hope’ for police reform bill
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the lead Republican negotiator on police reform, said on Sunday that “there is hope for the bill,” as the end of July nears and lawmakers prepare to leave Washington, D.C. for the August recess.
“I think there is hope for the bill, without any question. We worked on it yesterday. We’ll have it in the conversation today. We’ll be meeting tomorrow. I will be talking with law enforcement leaders tomorrow as well,” Scott told host Martha MacCallum on “Fox News Sunday.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been working toward an agreement on police reform legislation since last year, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The chief negotiators for the package — Scott, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) — announced last month that they had “reached an agreement on framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform.”
Negotiations, however, have since stalled, as the two parties remain at odds over a number of issues.
One of the main sticking points since the start of discussions has been qualified immunity, the doctrine that protects state and local government officials, including law enforcement, from liability in civil suits unless they violate a person’s clearly established constitutional rights.
Democrats do not want the legal principle to be included in the police reform bill, while Republicans hope it remains intact.
Scott earlier this month set a new deadline for police reform legislation to pass, telling reporters “I don’t think we can do this, after this month, if we’re not finished.”
When asked at the time if the Senate needs to have the bill passed with bipartisan support by the end of July, Scott responded: “That’s what I would hope.”
Scott said on Sunday that any police reform legislation cannot “leave the impression that somehow we’re going to demonize police officers,” adding, “That is dead stop, not going to happen, can’t happen.”
“When you demonize police officers, when you defund the police and you start talking about this war on police and prosecution and not on crime, you’re going to have a reduction of forces, and if you tell officers that their personal liability is on the line, it is a bad decision,” Scott said.
He added that is “one of the reasons why we’ve never been negotiating on qualified immunity for the individual officer.”
“It’s just bad policy. I won’t support it,” he continued.
Scott has, however, looked to negotiate on a different form of qualified immunity. He previously proposed keeping qualified immunity for individual officers, but allowing civil suits to be filed against departments.