Alex Samuels: The brutal body cam footage showing 29-year-old Tyre Nichols being beaten to death by Memphis, Tennessee, police officers was released late Friday. The videos prompted outrage from all corners of D.C. since its release. But whether it will spark action is another question.
The video has revived some bipartisan calls for police reform legislation.The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus also said that he and his group requested to meet with President Biden this week to quote “push for negotiations on much-needed national reforms to our justice system – specifically, the actions and conduct of our law enforcement.”
But the negotiations aren’t necessarily starting from a hopeful place. After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, both Democrats and Republicans drafted police reform bills. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the House, but stalled out in the Senate in September 2021 after months of bipartisan negotiations. Essentially, the two sides couldn’t get past concerns about union involvement or qualified immunity — that’s the policy that often protects police officers from being held personally liable for their actions. And those sticking points haven’t necessarily been resolved.
And while there’s not a lot of recent polling gauging American’s views on policing, a spring 2022 study from the Gallup Center on Black Voices found overwhelming support for some level of change to how police officers do their jobs among Americans of multiple races and ethnicities.
But even if the public wants to see policing change, it’s not clear that lawmakers are on the same page. Let’s not forget, Republicans now control the U.S. House and reform legislation is likely not high on their to-do list. In fact, over the weekend, Republican representative Jim Jordan said the following:
Rep. Jim Jordan: I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video.
Samuels: In the meantime, reporting suggests that Sen. Cory Booker will re-introduce a version of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as soon as this week — and negotiations should begin in earnest from there. So we’ll be keeping an eye on the police reform efforts and whether Congress makes any headway on this go-around.