House Democratic Whip James Clyburn rejected calls within his party to defund police departments, aligning with more moderate proposals as Congress works on a response to nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.
“Nobody is going to defund the police,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We can restructure the police forces” to ensure that young African-Americans don’t have to fear them, he said. “This is a structure that has been developed that we’ve got to deconstruct.”
His comments contrasted with Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, a leader of the defunding movement, who criticized likely Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden for suggesting increased funding for police. Departments that are “beyond repair,” including the one in Minneapolis, should be dismantled “as we look for a new way forward” to provide public safety, she said on CNN.
Tension over policing and how to address perceived excesses in law enforcement that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis policy custody reignited after a white police officer shot an African-American man in Atlanta. That prompted protests and the resignation of the city’s police chief on Saturday.
While Democrats are calling for measures ranging from fundamental overhauls to targeted reforms, Senate Republicans are weighing proposals including racial bias training, increased use of body cameras and finally enacting the first federal anti-lynching law. Clyburn suggested there was room for a bipartisan compromise on legislation.
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford echoed that optimism, saying agreement a national ban on police use of chokeholds should be straightforward.
“We absolutely have to be able to find common ground with the House,” he said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “Our focus is on basic things like transparency.”
Lankford said on CNN that the Republican bill in the Senate would be released on Wednesday.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina laid out the three elements of the Republican bill: localities should provide information to the Justice Department when there’s serious bodily injury or death; a focus on tactics and training; and drilling into officer misconduct.
Any legislation is unlikely to a include a national standard on the use of force, Scott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The goal is “finding the best practices around use of force around the country, and then provide that clarity and guidance for those departments who may need to have a better, better perspective on use of force,” he said.
Scott signaled that how to punish transgressions -- whether by reducing the immunity of police officers or decertification -- remains in dispute.
President Donald Trump last week rejected calls to overhaul law enforcement or cut officers’ funding. Instead, he backed new training programs as well as economic development, school choice and improved health care in minority communities.
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