Disinformation ‘Sabotaged’ Floyd Policing Bill Talks, US Activists Say

© Evelyn HocksteinA U.S. Capitol police officer's badge shows a black stripe in honor of deceased colleagues as he guards the building on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
A U.S. Capitol police officer's badge shows a black stripe in honor of deceased colleagues as he guards the building on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.09.2021
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Barrington M. Salmon - US Senate negotiators failed to reach a deal on law enforcement reform legislation partly due to misinformation about the ramifications of limiting police immunity, among other restrictions, activists told Sputnik.
Lawmakers in the US Senate were trying to strike a deal to advance the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was passed in the House earlier this year, before talks collapsed last week. Democratic chief negotiator, Senator Corey Booker, blamed the collapse on Republican opposition to limiting qualified police immunity and restrictions on the distribution of military equipment to local departments. The Republicans, led by Senator Tim Scott, for their part, accused the Democrats of trying to defund the police.
The bill is named after George Floyd, a 46-year old black man who was murdered by a Minnesota officer last May in an incident which sparked nationwide protests and calls for police reforms.
"There’s swirling disinformation about qualified immunity," Law Enforcement Advancement Project Executive Director Diane Goldstein said. "Cops don’t know what it means. They think it will remove indemnity and hinder their ability to do their jobs."
Goldstein, the first female lieutenant at the Redondo Beach Police Department in California, said law enforcement officers fear they will be judged on day-to-day decisions and that the proposed reforms will impede their ability to do their jobs.
However, Goldstein also indicated that law enforcement will actually benefit from the removal of police immunity, which many experts have said has fueled distrust within communities.
"The reforms would be holding them accountable, increasing transparency and attempt to make victims of police brutality whole," Goldstein said.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, told Sputnik the collapse in negotiations raises questions about whether Scott had the full support of his caucus. Moreover, there were reports that some anti-reform organizations sought to undermine the bill just when negotiators were on the verge of an agreement.
"Did Republicans ever intend to agree to a compromise or did they send Senator Scott on a fool’s errand?" Morial asked. "The Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police did engage in good faith, but it appears that other organizations actively worked to sabotage the reform effort."
Democratic lawmakers, Morial added, had worked assiduously to build a strong coalition in support of the bill "only to see it derailed by a handful of obstructionists."
Absent comprehensive reform legislation, Morial warned, the Justice Department lacks the full set of tools it needs.

Movement to Fight On

Goldstein said while the failure to get a deal on the Floyd bill was certainly a setback "the movement hasn’t lost steam."
"There’s still a lot of movement… [and] a tremendous amount of reforms and laws changed at the state level," Goldstein said. "There has been decertification and indemnification measures implemented in California despite massive resistance elsewhere in the country."
Activist groups, however, have to think of approaches and tactics around "strategic policing," Goldstein added.
"All of us need to figure out where we all agree and figure out how to make it work," she added.
Morial said the breakdown of talks constitutes a betrayal of the families who have lost loved ones to police violence and the millions of Americans who marched in protest of brutality. But now is not the time to quit, he added.
"We are not prepared to give up the fight," Morial said. "We are determined to enact comprehensive and meaningful reform."
Morial noted that in the 15 months since the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act first was introduced, more than 2,400 Americans have died during interactions with police while dozens of departments and officers around the country are under investigation or facing lawsuits for civil rights violations and allegations of excessive force.
"Every day that goes by without Congressional action to curb police violence and misconduct is a badge of shame on our nation," Morial said. "It’s unacceptable."
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