Racial justice advocates have been pushing for police reform since…well, approximately as long as there have been police in the United States. With the release of footage showing the killing of Tyre Nichols, the pressure is on for Congress to act, raising the important question: can policing reforms actually pass a House held by Republicans?
The released videos of Nichols’ killing have had a visceral effect, showing a horrifying level of apparently unprovoked brutality and abusive behavior.
All five officers involved have been charged with second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and other charges.
Attorney Ben Crump, who has represented numerous families who have lost loved ones to similar violence, is demanding that Congress act to prevent further victims.
A long list of Democratic Senators and House Representatives are in agreement, but some right-wing figures are still sowing doubt.
On Sunday, Crump explained that he recognizes racism can’t be legislated away, but the law can protect a victim, and seek redress for harm.
The legislation in question addresses a wide range of issues from qualified immunity, to racial profiling, to body cameras.
“The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed in the Democratic-controlled House in 2021 but failed in the Senate, would limit qualified-immunity policies that protect officers accused of misconduct; create a national registry of sustained disciplinary actions against officers; and ban chokeholds and limit no-knock warrants, among other measures…The legislation was sponsored by Democrats including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey but faced opposition in the Senate from Republicans,” The Washington Post reported.
That passage in the House was narrow, with the support of all but two Democrats, and only one Republican, while 210 opposed.
Now, there’s a larger proportion of Republicans in the House, and unless they have a change of heart to rival the Grinch on Christmas Day, the legislation will likely stay buried.
House Democrats have been expressing their support for Nichols’ family and the police reforms proposed.
Nancy Pelosi, for one, says that the House must pass the bill again, and this time, the Senate must pass it and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
My heart goes out to Tyre Nichols’ mother and their entire family. Tyre should be alive today. Justice must be done.
We must reform policing. The House must, again, pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — and this time, the Senate must advance it to the President. -NP
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) January 28, 2023
Ilhan Omar weighed in as well, saying that Tyre’s death is a clear case of murder, and that accountability is necessary not only for the officers directly responsible but on a policy level.
Let’s call this footage what it is—murder. There must be full accountability for the officers involved, but that is not enough. Policy failures need policy solutions. Starting with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act we need a public safety system that actually keeps us safe
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 28, 2023
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, too, spoke about the brutality of the killing but stopped short of advocating for a legislative response.
I have read descriptions of the brutal beating. Ann and I cannot yet bring ourselves to watch the video. We are heartsick and we ache with sorrow for Tyre’s family and loved ones.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) January 28, 2023
Watch Crump’s discussion with CNN‘s Dana Bash below.
Ben Crump on CNN on killing of Tyre Nichols: "Shame on us if we don't use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed." pic.twitter.com/VyOGL7Mnkb
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 29, 2023
One can only hope that a crime like the murder of Tyre Nichols by the Memphis Police could sway enough Republicans to reach across the aisle for a solution to excessive violence by law enforcement, but the current partisan divide in our country does not inspire much hope at this point
Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.