Senate Democrats Ordered Police Reform. Tim Scott Delivered A Sh*t Pie.
Police reform legislation has officially died in Congress. Wait, you never thought it was alive in the first place? Y'all so cynical. No, Donald Trump had assigned Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina the fun task of leading Democrats on a productive pursuit of their own tails. That was more than a year ago, during the brief window after George Floyd's murder when Republicans thought their voters might want them to pretend to care about Black lives.
However, this week, Scott and his fellow GOP negotiators rejected the final, bare-ass minimum version of the Democrats' proposal, which would have barred police from using chokeholds, cut back on the transfer of military-grade equipment more suitable for G.I. Joe than local police departments, and created a federal database on police officers' misconduct (a Sharper Image catalog of crappy cops).
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.
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. The time has come to explore all other options to achieve meaningful and common sense policing reform.
After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for… https://t.co/24je59R9li— Tim Scott (@Tim Scott) 1624572015.0
Back in June, Scott tweeted: "After months of working in good faith, we have reached an agreement on a framework addressing the major issues for bipartisan police reform." However, there's no compelling evidence that Scott was negotiating in good faith with Booker and Rep. Karen Bass from California. Scott and the GOP opposed ending qualified immunity, which shields police officers from personal liability when they violate your constitutional rights. The $2 million that Rickia Young received after Philadelphia cops beat her up and used her traumatized child in a photo op? Or the $12 million Louisville, Kentucky, paid Breonna Taylor's family after the cops executed her in her home? Taxpayers pay the price, not the cops themselves. Ending qualified immunity is the foundation upon which any serious police reform is built. But Republicans aren't interested in serious police reform.
Democrats had even accepted a "watered-down workaround" because of course they did: This would've superficially reformed rules around filing lawsuits against police departments but without addressing the legal precedent that makes it all but impossible to sue an individual cop. It's hardly “super precedent," either. Qualified immunity was established in 1982, another gift from the Reagan era.
Here's one of many grotesque examples of police brutality that Republicans are protecting: Minnesota police are accused of using "pain compliance, psychological trauma, threats, rubber bullets, mace, and chemical warfare" on civilians exercising their constitutional rights.
NEW: Minnesota police are using brutal physical violence and “pain compliance” against water protectors and Line 3… https://t.co/8QL05x04eM— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1632343808.0
True police reform involves rebuilding the system from the ground up because, in its current form, law enforcement is inherently corrupt and brutal. But Democrats weren't even aiming that high. They proceeded from the belief that the system works and we just need to hold the mythical “bad apples" accountable. But even this is unacceptable for the police and their political enablers.
Senate Democrats started to realize over the past few months that Scott was stuffing bananas up their tailpipes. Whenever they were close to a deal, he'd just move the goalposts. If they'd kept negotiating, the final bill might've encouraged police brutality with large cash prizes.
"He didn't want a deal and torpedoed it. In the months since we've made concessions, tried to compromise, but he wasn't willing to move," a Senate Democratic aide told VICE News.
Last year, to much fanfare, Trump signed a half-assed executive order that created a nationwide Tinder profile list of bad cops and set new federal guidelines for use of force. Scott wouldn't even agree to making the deliberately toothless order an actual law. It was like he just wanted to see Democrats agree to dine on table scraps and then snatch them away at the last minute.
Scott should make an excellent Lucy van Pelt this Halloween. He's already lived the part.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."