President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he plans to deliver “a lot” on police reform but would not elaborate further ahead of a meeting that afternoon with Vice President Kamala Harris and key members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the Oval Office.
Biden, speaking days after police killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in a Minneapolis suburb, said he would inform reporters of his plans to reform police at a later date.
The White House billed Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with members of the CBC as an opportunity to create a path forward on voting rights, racial equity and infrastructure legislation. The meeting comes a few days after Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, announced that the Biden administration was pausing the creation of a national police oversight commission.
White House officials told Politico the decision was made in coordination with civil rights groups and police union representatives, who agreed that a commission would not be effective. Biden had pledged to create a commission aiming to address police brutality within the first hundred days of his presidency.
Beyond commissions and executive orders, there may not be much the Biden administration can do to make significant changes to how police carry out their jobs. Instead, the White House plans to encourage the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill passed by the House of Representatives last year with the support of just one Republican lawmaker.
The legislation aims to ramp up oversight of law enforcement by, among other measures, ending qualified immunity, lowering the criminal intent standard and creating a national database of police misconduct. The Floyd bill is likely to meet Senate opposition from moderates and conservatives who believe the reforms to be too far-reaching.
In the meantime, protests continue following the death of Wright at the hands of a white police officer who says she accidentally discharged her firearm at a traffic stop on Sunday. The Minneapolis area has been tense in the months since Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died there in police custody last May, setting off nationwide protests that continued throughout the summer.
A verdict is expected soon in the case of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged with killing Floyd. Biden called for peaceful protest on Monday afternoon, and reiterated his stance Tuesday that there is no excuse for violence.
When asked Tuesday if the White House is prepared to negotiate on some aspects of the Floyd bill, or perhaps even embrace parts of a more conservative reform bill introduced last summer by South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not rule out any legislative path forward.
“We certainly understand that there could be changes to proposals that have been put forward to date,” said Psaki during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
“We believe that the George Floyd Act has a lot of the components to rebuild the trust, [and] help put in place many of the reforms that are frankly long overdue. But we also recognize that democracy in action means changes take place,” Psaki said.
“So we’ll have to see what the discussions look like and whether the president could support any changes that could be made in that process.”
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