U.S. President, Joe Biden, has urged Congress to approve a police reform bill by the end of May, which will mark one year since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer.
In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Biden emphasized the need for accountability for law enforcement officials who abuse authority when engaging with the public. He specifically pointed to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“We have to come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve, herd out systemic racism in our criminal justice system and enact police reform in George Floyd’s name,” Biden said. “Let’s get it done next month on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”
The bill named after Floyd was introduced last year by Reps. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Rep Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and then-Sen. Kamala Harris.
Floyd, a Black man, died last May after former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for nine minutes while arresting Floyd. Chauvin was found guilty on three counts of murder and manslaughter this month after a highly publicized court trial.
The bill proposes a host of reforms to community policing, including bans on discriminatory profiling based on race or religion, mandated use of dashboard cameras and bans on chokeholds, like the one used on Floyd. It passed on the House last month and is pending a Senate vote.
“We’ve all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans. Now is our opportunity to make some real progress,” Biden said. “The vast majority of men and women wearing a uniform and a badge serve our communities and they serve them honorably. I know they want to help meet this moment, as well.”
The bill faces pushback from some Republicans with alternate suggestions on policing reforms. But Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said there’s room for compromise on the measure in the Senate, noting efforts by Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina to work with lawmakers.
Stay safe and informed with updates on the spread of the coronavirus
“I am of the belief that we will do some negotiations and that we’ll be able to move the needle,’’ she said.
Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, introduced a bill last summer that contained some of the reforms outlined in the George Floyd act, but it was blocked by House Democrats for not going far enough. Scott recently said language on compromised legislation could be finalized by early May.
“The country supports this reform and Congress should act,” Biden said during his speech. “We have a giant opportunity to bend the act of the moral universe toward justice — real justice.”