Sat. Oct 1st, 2022


House Democrats on Thursday pushed through a long-sought package of police and public safety legislation after overcoming internal differences on the legislation they plan to make central to their campaign year.

A package of four bills passed back-to-back – all with bipartisan support – and head to the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.

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The Democratic victory came after party leaders spent hours sparring with progressives who threatened to block the package over their concerns about increasing money for local police departments. Several lawmakers said the plan lacked the accountability measures Democrats once sought after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests against racial injustice.

The House eventually approved the money, including for departments with fewer than 125 officers, and aid for de-escalation training and mental health services. The main goal is to reduce fatal encounters between the police and people with mental illness.

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Other parts of the package would provide money for increased community violence intervention — a priority for progressives — and technology investments to help local investigators close unsolved cases, especially those involving gun crimes.

“The bottom line is that you can’t cut or cut your way to safer communities and better police departments,” said Rep. Josh Gotheimer, D-N.J., one of the lead negotiators. “It is an investment for protection. We must always have our backs for those who risked their lives every day to protect us.”


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Despite opposition from some liberals, there was support from top progressive Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who negotiated with Gotheimer, a moderate.

Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, facilitated a series of talks after it became clear in recent days that progress could be made.

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After the deal was announced Wednesday, Democratic leaders quickly moved the bills to a vote.

“We are proud of the work we have been able to do here together as democrats with different ideologies,” Omar told reporters. “And I think this is the beginning of, hopefully, a process that we can continue to participate in.”

To get more liberals on board, language was included that would allow the Justice Department discretion over which police departments are allowed to receive grants. It would also authorize departments to use any of the $60 million approved to collect data on police practices and community safety.

The police package that passed the House of Representatives in March 2021 went much further, including a ban on police chokeholds and an amendment to so-called qualified immunity for law enforcement, which would make it easier to prosecute allegations of police misconduct.

This time, none of those provisions are included.

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Rep. Cori Bush, who rose to prominence as an activist leader in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, said the current funding bill does little to address the “crisis of police brutality.”

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“Even the most basic accountability measures” passed last year failed to make it into the new package, Bush said in a statement.

Despite these internal divisions, the bills still attracted some Republican support. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., a co-sponsor of Gotheimer’s funding bill, spent time Thursday urging other Republicans to join him in support.

“This is for our law and order men and women. This is for those small agencies,” said Rutherford, the former Jacksonville sheriff. “We have to help them. And I can tell you that the last 2 and a half years have left the police demoralized like I have never seen before.”

More than 140 Republicans ended up voting for the bill.

But other Republicans called the Democrats’ package a last-ditch effort to win over voters in the November election.

“Democrats are introducing these bills today because we have 46 days left until the midterm elections,” said Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn. “They want the American people to suddenly and miraculously believe that they care about the crime crisis plaguing our nation.”

Associated Press reporter Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

© 2022 The Canadian Press





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