Law enforcement groups rebuke Dem accusations of sabotaging police reform negotiations
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National law enforcement organizations forcefully responded to accusations from Democrats that police reform negotiations are being “torpedoed” by pro-police groups.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been working on a bipartisan police reform bill ever since the killing of George Floyd last summer, prompting changes to policing standards on a federal level. A sticking point in negotiations has been over calls by Democrats to change or remove qualified immunity, which shields police from liability in civil lawsuits. Republicans and some law enforcement groups have said efforts to remove it would hurt police work and recruitment, which has declined drastically over the last year.
Last week, Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., as well as Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said they reached a preliminary deal on the framework of a comprehensive police reform package.
However, on Tuesday, another lawmaker involved in negotiations, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., accused police organizations of derailing negotiations over the qualified immunity provision, claiming police groups are “trying to torpedo the progress” that has been made over the last year.
“There are complicating factors in connection with the negotiations that are ongoing, in part that involve some of the law enforcement organizations at the national level trying to torpedo the progress that has been made. And that’s quite unfortunate because we can’t have a situation where a genuine bipartisan effort to achieve police accountability,” Jeffries said.
“It’s actually written by those police organizations that we’re trying to hold accountable — that makes zero sense. And so this is an obstacle and a stumbling block, but not an unsurprising one, because we always knew that it would exist and I still believe that it can be overcome as part of the effort to transform policing in America.”
In addition, Bass placed blame on police organizations, saying this week that bipartisan talks have hit roadblocks due to “infighting between law enforcement groups.”
“I worry that it could prevent us from coming to a deal. And you know what, I think it would be a really sad statement about the profession that they would actually prevent reforms and refuse to modernize,” she said.
Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said in a statement to Fox News on Wednesday that although the organization took the initiative to engage in good faith negotiations with members of Congress over the last year to improve policing, “politics of the moment” have derailed negotiations.
“Unfortunately, given the politics of the moment, we seem to be poised to undo more than a year’s worth of work toward common sense criminal justice reform. Demagoguery and scare tactics have jeopardized the future of these efforts and may well have derailed the negotiations,” said Yoes.
He went on to warn that the results for citizens and police officers will be “tragic” and there will be an enormous missed opportunity to “strengthen the bonds between police officers and the communities they serve” if efforts on criminal justice reform are abandoned by Congress.
“If Congress abandons its efforts on criminal justice reform, the results for our citizens and our profession will be tragic,” he said. “States and local jurisdictions will go their own way and make their own reforms—in fact, in some States and jurisdictions, this is already happening. Instead of national norms involving the use of force, body-worn camera policies, and other law enforcement issues across the country, we will have standards that are less uniform and reflect local political concerns instead of best police practices.”
Foes also said FOP remains committed to meaningful criminal justice reform and will continue to work with Congress and the Biden administration to reinforce and preserve “protections vital to officers on the street.”
Major Cities Chiefs Association Executive Director Laura Cooper told Fox News that “regardless of any efforts to torpedo reform,” the organization is still committed to “ushering a thoughtful and bipartisan police reform bill through Congress.”
“The Association has worked in good faith with the negotiators and will continue to do so regardless of any efforts to torpedo reform. The MCCA has offered constructive critiques to both sides of the aisle as we seek to ensure reform is funded, realistic and will make a meaningful difference our communities are calling for,” said Cooper.
National Sheriffs’ Association spokesperson Pat Royal told Fox News the report of infighting between law enforcement organizations by Bass is a “gross overstatement” of the negotiation process.
“Members of Congress, in particular the Senate, are reaching out to different law enforcement groups asking them to separately weigh in on various proposals and what in their opinions would be good reform. All of the groups are obviously doing that and now for someone to say because the separate responses are not in lockstep with each other that there is infighting is a gross overstatement of this process,” said Royal.
House lawmakers passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act last year, split down party lines. The bill included federal bans on no-knock warrants and chokeholds, limits on qualified immunity and the establishment of a national registry to track allegations of police misconduct.
Civil rights groups and congressional Democrats have said changes to qualified immunity are necessary to ensure accountability among law enforcement officers.
Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi contributed to this report.
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