The release of footage showing Memphis police violently beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died from his injuries three days later, has renewed calls to pass federal police reform. With the House of Representatives now in Republican hands and a closely divided Senate, the prospect for any such reform remains unlikely, reports Vox. Chief among the proposals is the Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the then-Democratic controlled House in 2021 without a single Republican vote, but failed in the Senate. Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Nichols family, has urged Congress to pass the bill, saying he hoped Nichols’s death would prove a turning point. Democrats have echoed that sentiment, either rallying behind that bill or calling for further negotiations in the hopes of reaching a compromise that has a chance of passing.
Both Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC), who led unsuccessful negotiations in 2021, seemed receptive to giving bipartisan talks another chance. Booker said he would “never stop working to build a broad coalition” necessary to pass policing reform,. Scott said Nichols’s death should be a “call to action for every lawmaker in our nation at every level.” The Congressional Black Caucus called for both a meeting with President Biden and a robust push for national criminal justice reforms. Many Republicans have expressed opposition to key reforms proposed by Democrats, including limitations on qualified immunity, which protects officers from certain lawsuits. Others dismissed the need for reform at the federal level. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) told NBC, “Democrats always think that it’s a new law that’s going to fix something that terrible. We kind of think that … no new law is going to do that.” In December Congress passed a law that supports de-escalation training for law enforcement officers dealing with people with mental health issues. After a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde, Tx., elementary school last year, Congress passed its first gun safety law in nearly three decades, making strides in preventing guns from ending up in the hands of dangerous individuals.