The videos released of Tyre Nichols’ brutal beating which led to his death in Memphis, Tennessee, and the charges against the five former police officers involved has reignited conversations about federal police accountability legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – and could have even galvanized bipartisan support for such legislative efforts.
“We need a national conversation on this,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on ABC’s This Week.
“These men and women with badges put them on each day and risk their lives for us, I know that,” continued Durbin. “But we also see from these videos horrible conduct by these same officers in unacceptable situations. We’ve got to change this for the better.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed skepticism on NBC’s Meet the Press of federal efforts, but left the door open for congressional action.
“We’ll look at what we think makes sense to help this,” Jordan said. “To make sure they have the proper training, but no amount of training is going to change what we saw in that video.”
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When pressed about the issue of “wandering cops” – police officers adjudicated for misconduct in one department only to be hired by a different police department – Jordan conceded that federal action could be needed.
“Maybe there’s some kind of federal law we can look at that requires that to happen,” said Jordan, noting his preference for some sort of local government involvement. “But it’s done at the local level.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Nichols’ family, called on President Joe Biden and Congress to discuss passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act again after negotiations over it collapsed in an evenly divided Senate in 2021.
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“Shame on us if we don’t use (Nichols’) tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed,” Crump said on CNN’s State of the Union.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act contained several reform measures that included a ban on chokeholds and federal no-knock warrants. The bill passed the Democratically-controlled House in 2020 but was brought up in the Senate which was controlled by Republicans at the time.
After Democrats retained control of the House and claimed the Senate in 2021, House Democrats passed the bill again. A group of Congress’ most prominent Black lawmakers, now-former Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., led bipartisan negotiations but the bill ultimately was never taken up in the Senate due to disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over ending qualified immunity for police officers.