House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaks as House Democrats gather for a press event on the steps of the house before voting on the 2020 George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, June 25, 2020 .
Bill Clark | CQ appeal | Getty Images
The house passed a law reforming the democratic police on Thursday as Congress struggled to find consensus on how to respond to the overwhelming public demand for law enforcement agencies to be overhauled.
The Democrats in the Chamber approved the legislation with little Republican backing by a lead of 236-181. Three GOP legislators voted for it.
On Wednesday, the Senate Democrats blocked a separate republican plan that they said didn't go far enough to eradicate systemic racism and police violence.
The measure, which the house passed Thursday evening, would make it easier for victims of ill-treatment to sue the police and officials to fire and prosecute officials. It would ban chokeholds and "no-knock" federal search orders and tie funding to state and local governments if these tactics are not followed. It would also require bias training and more data exchange on the use of violence by the police.
"The Law on Justice in Police Work is a bill for human rights in our country," said Black Bass President of Congress Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., On Thursday morning's legislation.
House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), applauds as MP Karen Bass (D-CA), chair of Congress's Black Caucus (CBC), during a press event before voting on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act from 2020 speaks The Steps of the East Front House on Capitol Hill in Washington, the United States, June 25, 2020.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters
Since the Democrats see the measure as the first step in combating discrimination and abuse of black Americans by the police, it remains to be seen whether the entire Congress can pass reform laws. The Senate is unlikely to approve the proposal, given that President Donald Trump and his GOP allies are against, among other things, a provision to withdraw "qualified immunity" for civil servants.
When the Democrats voted on Wednesday not to push ahead with Senate Republican law, they argued that the Chamber should be a bipartisan group to work out a compromise plan. So far, the Senate has not committed to it, and Congress risks not responding to the loudest public call to eradicate police abuse in decades.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, a Republican who led the legislation, said Thursday that the Democrats had "walked away" from the Senate police reform. He had asked them to allow a debate on the bill, and then to propose changes. A process said by Senate Minority President Chuck Schumer would not solve the problems of the proposal.
In contrast to democratic legislation, the GOP law would not reset qualified immunity protection for the police or facilitate the prosecution of officers who commit abuse. The chokehold ban in the republican plan is narrower and calls for data on no-knock warrants to be collected rather than banned.
Neither of the two bills has met the demands many activists have made since the police killed 46-year-old black George Floyd in Minneapolis late last month, sparking weeks of protests around the world. Demonstrators have called on governments to cut at least a portion of the police department's funds and pass them on to social services to address inequalities in the labor market, education and healthcare.
The federal government has limited powers over the changes that state and local governments can make to their police stations. This is due in part to its ability to tie the terms to funding and grants that Washington states and communities receive.
However, some state and local governments have started to take their own steps to reform police practices. Some have banned chokeholds or measures to improve transparency, or have committed to cutting back on their departments.
A majority of the Minneapolis City Council even promised to completely replace the city's police department.
While the House’s legislation doesn’t go as far as many would like, the Democrats have repeatedly described it as the first step towards a comprehensive revision of law enforcement.
On Thursday, Bass said the house had "embarked on a journey toward a new vision of police work in America."
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