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Bipartisan negotiations on police reform bill fall apart in Congress

Bipartisan negotiations on police reform bill fall apart in Congress
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., on Wednesday said bipartisan negotiations on a police reform bill had broken down following months of talks and stalled legislation. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Lawmakers on Wednesday said bipartisan negotiations on a police reform bill have broken down after months of talks.

The talks wrapped up as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called head Republican negotiator Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. to say the sides could not reach an agreement, NBC News reported.

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"After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now, even after working collaboratively with and securing the support of policing groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police for our proposals," Booker said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, even with this law enforcement support and further compromises we offered, there was still too wide a gulf with our negotiating partners and we faced significant obstacles to securing a bipartisan deal."

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Scott issued his own statement saying he was "deeply disappointed" in the breakdown in negotiations, adding that he believed Democrats had "squandered a crucial opportunity" to implement police reform.

"I offered to introduce a bill that included our areas of compromise -- a bill that activists and law enforcement alike could have supported," Scott said. "Despite having plenty of agreement, Democrats said no because they could not let go of their push to defund our law enforcement."

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The House in March passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which included provisions to federally ban police from using chokeholds, end racial and religious profiling, eliminate qualified immunity for officers, and mandate data collection of police encounters, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate.

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Last June, Senate Democrats also blocked a bill authored by Scott that would institute new federal incentives to bolster police training and create a national database to track misconduct.

Booker added he would "explore all other options" to pass police reform through Congress as the Senate would require at least 10 Republican votes to avoid a legislative filibuster and pass any measure through the evenly divided Senate.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., called on the Biden administration "to use the full extent of their constitutionally mandated power to bring about meaningful police reform."

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President Joe Biden said he still hoped to "sign into law a comprehensive and meaningful police reform bill" but noted previous actions the administration has taken such as the Justice Department's announcement earlier this month that it would tighten restrictions on when its agencies can use chokeholds, carotid restraints and no-knock entries.

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"The White House will continue to consult with civil rights and law enforcement communities, as well as victims' families to define a path forward, including through potential further executive actions I can take to advance our efforts to live up to the American ideal of equal justice under law," he said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Floyd's family as well as the families of others who have been victims of police violence, issued a statement expressing "extreme disappointment" in lawmakers' inability to reach an agreement.

"We can not let this be a tragic, lost opportunity to regain trust between citizens and police," Crump said. "We strongly urge Democratic senators to bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to the floor for a vote so Americans can see who is looking out for their communities' best interests and who is ready to listen to their constituents so we can together put the country on a better, more equitable path for all."

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