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GOP Officially Responds to National Crisis with Policing Legislation

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Senate Republicans are preparing a package of proposed policing changes that would create a national database of use-of-force incidents, boost the use of police body cameras and include an effort to make lynching a federal “hate crime.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state of Kentucky faces unrest over the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, indicated Thursday that the legislation would be ready soon.

“The killing of black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have accelerated important conversations,” McConnell said as he opened the Senate.

The emerging bill comes as some lawmakers push to overhaul police departments in response to nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“This is an issue whose time has come,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show.

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A working group of GOP senators led by Scott, who is black, is meeting behind closed doors and with the White House on the legislation. It is expected to be released early next week, according to a senior GOP aide unauthorized to discuss the situation and granted anonymity.

Central to the package will be a new national database of use-of-force incidents, similar to one included in the Democratic policing bill unveiled this week. It’s a concept both parties support as a way to track potential police misconduct and ensure officers cannot transfer from one department to another without public disclosure of their records.

Scott said the provision would be named the “Breonna Taylor Reporting Act” and would include not only the tracking of use-of-force incidents but also no-knock warrants.

The database proposal expands on a similar bill Scott introduced in 2015 after Walter Scott — no relation — was killed by police in South Carolina.

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Unlike the House Democratic bill, which would ban police choke holds, the Republican bill appears to be more focused on providing training for officers to de-escalate confrontations.

It would also include “duty to intervene” provisions so that other officers might step up to stop misconduct, Scott said.

“We’re trying to provide the resources necessary to retrain these local departments,” he said.

The Democrats’ bill adjusts so-called “qualified immunity” to make it easier for injured individuals to claim damages in civil suits against police offices. The White House has said it is a nonstarter and is not likely to be included in the Senate bill.

Agreement, though, is quickly forming around the anti-lynching bill, an effort that has previously been approved by both the House and Senate but was held last week up by objections from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

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Paul has pushed instead for other measures, including changes to no-knock warrants and an end to the practice of sending surplus military equipment to local police departments. Both measures are included in the Democrats’ bill, which the House is expected to approve mid-June.

“The moment does not call for cherry-picking one or two things to do. It calls for bold and broad-scale change,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.

In the House, the GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California signaled optimism on the issue.

“I think there’s a lot of concepts that we agree upon,” McCarthy told reporters.

McCarthy said he favored a ban on choke holds.

McConnell said the Senate is “preparing to add to the conversations surrounding law enforcement with our own serious proposal.”

The policies would “take smart steps without attacking the vast majority of police officers who bravely do their jobs the right way,” he said.


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