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Biden, Fighting Long Odds, To Meet With Black Caucus On Police Reform

President Biden wants to revive bipartisan talks on overhauling police tactics and accountability after the death of Tyre Nichols, with the White House planning to host Black lawmakers this week, reports the Wall Street Journal. Efforts to make sweeping changes to policing have repeatedly failed, most recently in 2021 in the face of outrage over the killings of George Floyd and other Black people by officers. As bipartisan talks resume on Capitol Hill, any breakthrough could face longer odds in a divided Congress. Renewed calls for legislative action come after release of footage of the traffic stop that led to the beating and death of Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker. Nichols, who was Black, died after Memphis officers repeatedly hit and kicked him while he was lying on the ground, screaming for his mother. Five policemen, also Black, have been fired and face criminal charges.

Biden spoke with Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and plans to host caucus members Thursday. “No one in our nation should fear interacting with the police officers who serve our diverse communities, large and small. We all want to be safe,” but many Americans “are justifiably afraid to interact with law-enforcement officials,” Horsford said. The last round of negotiations were led by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC)) and then-Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). The trio struggled to resolve differences over how police officers should be prosecuted and held liable, including whether to change or eliminate a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity that shields officers from lawsuits. Scott said Democrats had blocked his efforts to improve training and recruitment for police officers. Any bill that makes it to Biden’s desk must pass the Democratic-held Senate and the GOP House. “You don’t have the push from the House, and while you’ve got people in the Senate who are every bit as committed to achieving some level of criminal-justice reform, the odds are against it given the political makeup of the Congress,” said Jim Pasco of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest union of rank-and-file officers. His organization, with the International Association Chiefs of Police, worked with lawmakers on a draft proposal in 2021. Pasco called the climate “less friendly to a deal today, so failure sadly seems to be a more likely outcome. That said, we have every bit as much responsibility as ever to come to the table and try.”


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