Talks on police reforms sought by BLM protesters fail in Congress

Talks on police reforms in the United States that had aimed to stem the killings of Black Americans by police have failed in the US Congress after key Democratic negotiators were unable to reach an agreement with Republicans.

Democratic Representative Karen Bass said on Wednesday that negotiations she and Democratic Senator Cory Booker had held with Republican Senator Tim Scott had proved fruitless.

“We accepted significant compromises, knowing that they would be a tough sell to our community but still believing that we would be moving the needle forward on this issue,” Bass said in a statement on Wednesday.

“But every time, more was demanded to the point that there would be no progress made in the bill that we were left discussing,” Bass said.

The US House of Representatives passed a sweeping police reform bill in March that would ban chokeholds and combat racial profiling. But the proposed law – named for George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police – faced Republican opposition. Floyd’s death in 2020 triggered nationwide protests against police brutality, rejuvenating the Black Lives Matter movement that had been founded in 2013.

Bass and Booker had been negotiating a narrower bill with Scott that could potentially win support from enough Republicans to pass the narrowly divided US Senate.

A key sticking point had been the problem of “qualified immunity“, a legal doctrine adopted by US courts that frequently protects police from civil lawsuits in cases of abuse or death. Republicans had objected to a Democratic compromise proposal to allow such lawsuits to proceed.

The House bill, drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus, had passed on a party-line vote of 220 to 212. It would need support from at least 10 Republicans to pass the evenly divided US Senate.

 

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