No Deal in Police Overhaul Talks 09/23 06:04
Bipartisan congressional talks on overhauling policing practices have ended
without an agreement, top bargainers from both parties said, marking the
collapse of an effort that began after killings of unarmed Black people by
officers sparked protests across the U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bipartisan congressional talks on overhauling policing
practices have ended without an agreement, top bargainers from both parties
said, marking the collapse of an effort that began after killings of unarmed
Black people by officers sparked protests across the U.S.
"It was clear that we were not making the progress that we needed to make,"
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., told reporters Wednesday. He cited continued
disagreements over Democrats' efforts to make officers personally liable for
abuses, raising professional standards and collecting national data on police
agencies' use of force.
Talks had moved slowly for months, and it had became clear over the summer
that the chances for a breakthrough were all but hopeless. Booker said he'd
told South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the lead Republican negotiator, of his
decision earlier Wednesday.
Repeated visits to Washington by victims' relatives helped keep pressure on
the issue. But in the end, Booker said, "I couldn't get to a point where I can
meet with families and tell them that we were going to address the specific
issues that were putting your family member in harm's way."
Scott said he was "deeply disappointed" that Democrats had walked away from
accords reached on several issues, including banning chokeholds, curbing the
transfer of military equipment to police and increased funds for mental health
programs, which address problems that often lead to encounters with law
"Crime will continue to increase while safety decreases, and more officers
are going to walk away from the force because my negotiating partners walked
away from the table," Scott said in a statement.
Democrats rejected a deal "because they could not let go of their push to
defund our law enforcement," said Scott, using a catchphrase of progressives
from which most Democrats in Congress have disassociated themselves. "Once
again, the Left let their misguided idea of perfect be the enemy of good,
The failed congressional effort followed high-profile police killings last
year of Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor
in Louisville, Kentucky. Those killings and protest demonstrations in scores of
cities that followed called attention to abusive police behavior and the
disproportionately high number of Blacks who are victims of fatal encounters
with law enforcement.
In a written statement Wednesday, President Joe Biden called Floyd's killing
"a stain on the soul of America," adding, "We will be remembered for how we
responded to the call."
He said Senate Republicans had "rejected enacting modest reforms" that
then-President Donald Trump had backed and some law enforcement organizations
were open to. He cited new Justice Department policies on chokeholds and other
practices, and said his administration would seek ways, including with
executive orders he could issue, "to live up to the American ideal of equal
justice under law."
Booker cited support parts of the effort had won from police organizations,
and said he was talking to the White House, other congressional Democrats and
civil rights and other outside groups about still making some progress on the
issue. But he avoided specifics.
"I just want to make it clear that this is not an end," he said.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who have represented shooting
victims' families, expressed "extreme disappointment" in the talks' outcome.
"We can not let this be a tragic, lost opportunity to regain trust between
citizens and police," they said. They said the Senate should vote anyway on
Democrats' policing bill -- which Republicans would be certain to defeat with a
filibuster, or procedural delays, but would let voters "see who is looking out
for their communities' best interests."
The police killings and the public reaction quickly caught the attention of
both political parties, and work began in Congress to write legislation that
would curb and monitor the police use of force. But from the beginning, some
from each party voiced suspicions that their rivals would make few concessions
in hopes of retaining an issue -- crime for Republicans, restraining police for
Democrats -- that they could use to appeal to voters in election campaigns.
Political roadblocks soon emerged. Democrats blocked a Republican Senate
bill last year that they said was too weak, while a tougher House-approved bill
this year was derailed in the Senate by the GOP.
Lobbying trips to Washington by victims' families and Biden's call this
spring for a bipartisan deal by May 25, the anniversary of Floyd's death,
seemed to provide momentum for the effort. But May 25 came and went without an
Booker and Scott, among only three Black senators, refrained from
criticizing each other throughout the talks and held to that on Wednesday. The
two have said they are friends and have cited similar experiences of being
challenged by officers.
"We disagree on a lot of issues, and in this case, I'm disappointed that we
have those disagreements," Booker said. "But we both share the humiliation of
being stopped by police officers."