By Mark Anderson
Amid all the irrational talk about defunding police departments across the nation—egged on by radical-left arsonists, rioters, and looters who give legitimate protesters a bad name—a bill was recently introduced in Congress called the JUSTICE Act (S.3985) that sought to end the use of chokeholds on suspects while instituting new reporting and accountability rules at police departments.
Due to widespread rioting and heightened tensions across the country, hyper-fed and amplified by wall-to-wall leftist news coverage that seeks to blame it all on President Donald Trump, this police reform legislation could have dramatically affected the optics of his reelection prospects as he tries to balance upholding law and order with showing Americans that he’s sensitive toward abuse of power by police.
An office spokesman for Sen. Scott said the bill failed 55-45 on June 24 in an initial vote to invoke cloture, end debate and expedite the urgent measure before the July recess. A 60-vote threshold is needed to invoke cloture. In the meantime, Sen. Scott is open to amendments to address fellow senators’ objections and a strong showing of public support likely would improve the bill’s prospects. Readers can call 202-224-3121 or 225- 3121 to reach any Senator. Scott chastised those Democrats who rejected the bill. He said, “We’re failing at politics. . . . The actual problem is not what is being offered, it is who is offering it. Took me a long time to figure out the most obvious thing in the room. It’s not the what.”
Scott, who’s one of three African-American senators and the only black Republican, said on June 17: “We find ourselves at a place with a package that I think speaks to the families that I spoke with. . . that lost loved ones. . . . I think this package speaks very clearly to the young person who is concerned when he’s stopped by law enforcement officers.”
According to The Hill, a Beltway newspaper that focuses on Congress, “[T]he bill focused on three areas: data collection, training, and officer misconduct and transparency… In language that largely lines up with President Trump’s executive order, the bill would block state and local law enforcement departments from getting COPS and Byrne grants if they do not have a ban on chokeholds in place.”
COPS, or Community Oriented Policing Servicing grants, are awarded by the federal government to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. Created under the Clinton White House in 1994, the annual COPS appropriation averaged more than $1.4 billion between fiscal years 1995 and 1996.
“The relatively high funding levels during this time period were largely the result of Congress’s and the Clinton administration’s efforts to place 100,000 new law enforcement officers on the street,” a February 2014 Congressional Research Service report states. “Starting in Fiscal Year 1998, an increasing portion of the annual appropriation for COPS was dedicated . . . to help law enforcement agencies purchase new equipment, combat methamphetamine production, upgrade criminal records, and improve forensic sciences.”
The Byrne Grant, named after New York City policeman Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty, provides criminal justice funding for personnel, equipment, training, and supplies. The U.S. Justice Department announced in late July 2017 that a number of sanctuary cities would be disqualified from receiving Byrne Grants if they continue to refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Since some of those sanctuary cities are among the Democrat-run cities whose leaders are presently coddling rioters and opposing their own police, this provision may provide leverage to reign in radical mayors who are partners in crime with street thugs.
According to Scott, this bill was not an effort to federalize local police—and only governs police funding to ensure lawful behavior. Notably, the bill actually “provided grants for training resources and body cameras [but] with penalties for improper use of the recording devices, filing false police reports, or serious bodily injuries that lead to prosecution,” the June 21 Washington Times noted.
The GOP bill also included new reporting requirements on the use of force by police departments and highly intrusive “no-knock” warrants. And while a Democratic police reform bill also is making headway, Sen. Scott noted that some key areas between the GOP and Democrat bills overlap—including the new reporting requirements and the chokehold ban.
A difference is that the Democrat bill would overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police officers from lawsuits.
Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. Email him at [email protected].