Five Differences Between Democrat and Republican Police Reform Bills

The Minneapolis Police Department. | Minneapolis Police Department

As protesters across the United States continue to demand that cities defund police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a stalemate between Democrat and Republican lawmakers could thwart the passing of nationwide police reforms.

Both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House have introduced police reform bills. Even though the Senate bill was blocked by Democrats this week, the House’s bill passed 236-181 on Thursday, with three Republicans voting for it. The legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

While there are major differences, there are also similarities that could indicate areas of common ground. Below are five areas where there are some similarities or differences between the two police reform bills.

Chokeholds

Many outraged demonstrators have been calling for a ban on police use of chokeholds following the videoed death of the 46-year-old Floyd underneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced the GOP police reform package earlier this month that sought to increase transparency at police departments and incentivize state and local agencies to ban the use of chokeholds by their officers.

However, Scott’s bill was opposed by Senate Democrats, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling the bill “woefully inadequate.” Democrats argue that the GOP bill does not outright ban what they are calling chokeholds — more accurately known as a “vascular neck restraint” or “carotid restraint control hold.” These are sleeper holds that temporarily reduce blood supply to the brain and render a person unconscious for seven to 10 seconds. These holds do not restrict a person’s ability to breathe because they do not compress the trachea.

The other type of hold is a respiratory hold that puts pressure on the trachea and restricts a person’s ability to breathe. “This type of hold should never be used by law enforcement unless lethal force is justified,” says Police magazine.

The GOP bill would condition federal funding on whether state and local police departments enact policies that restrict the use of chokeholds — defined as maneuvers that block the ability for suspects to breathe — except in cases where deadly force is authorized.

Scott contends that requiring state and local agencies to adopt policies that restrict the use of chokeholds to get federal funding is essentially a “default a ban on chokeholds.”

His bill also instructs the Justice Department to develop a policy for federal law enforcement agencies that would ban chokeholds except when deadly force is authorized, according to The Wall Street Journal.

One criticism by Democrats of the GOP bill is that while it also incentivizes bans on the use of chokeholds, it does not expressly call on agencies to ban the use of carotid restraint control holds. Scott has said that he’s open to amending the language of the bill but accused Democrats of stonewalling the legislation.

According to The Associated Press, the House bill goes as far as banning respiratory holds and carotid restraint control holds for federal law enforcement agents. It would also condition federal funding for state and local law enforcement agencies based on the enactment of bans on both.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith