Lawmakers trying to find a bipartisan compromise on a national police overhaul said on Wednesday their efforts had failed, officially ending the latest round of negotiations amid the same disagreements that have plagued them for more than a year.
The announcement by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the Democrats’ top emissary on the issue, acknowledged what had been evident for months, as talks collapsed with no sign of a breakthrough. This virtually shut down the possibility of Congress taking action on an issue President Biden has vowed to tackle, amid a wave of public support for tackling systemic racism in law enforcement.
A group of Republicans and Democrats began negotiating in April following a policeman’s guilty verdict in George Floyd’s murder trial, hoping the move would provide new momentum to break a deadlock that had persisted ever since. Mr Floyd’s death in 2020. But for months before Wednesday’s announcement, negotiators had been unable to reach agreement on a slew of issues, including whether to change criminal penalties and civilians to facilitate the punishment of police officers for misconduct.
“We were not making significant progress in bringing about truly substantial reform for the US police force,” Booker said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Mr Booker said he called South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who had negotiated on behalf of the Republicans, Wednesday morning and determined they would not be able to fill what had become “too much of a chasm. large”. The pair had previously set several deadlines for a breakthrough, but exceeded them each time, publicly expressing optimism that a deal was within reach.
In a statement, Scott blamed Democrats for the collapse, accusing them of letting their “mistaken idea of perfection be the enemy of good, hard-hitting legislation.”
In fact, a wide range of issues had stymied negotiations for months, including restrictions on the lethal use of force, the creation of a national database to track police misconduct, and whether victims of misconduct could more. easily sue agents or their services in court.
Their efforts were complicated by internal feuds between police unions as Republican lawmakers were reluctant to cross over to the more conservative National Sheriffs’ Association. On Wednesday, Mr Booker expressed frustration that their opposition to the bill had superseded progress he and other Democrats had made in gaining support from other police labor groups, including the powerful Fraternal Police Order. .
“What is painful for me is that we have achieved some pretty significant accomplishments,” Mr. Booker said. “We got the FOP and the International Association of Chiefs of Police to agree on some pretty incredible things that would have improved the profession, that would have protected police officers.”