Senate Republicans, Led by Tim Scott, Begin Drafting Their Own Plan for Police Reform

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is heading up a working group to draft a legislative response for Senate Republicans on issues of racial discrimination that have become more prominent since George Floyd’s killing.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tapped Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber’s lone black Republican, to put together a legislative package addressing the country’s policing system.

The plan would respond to the “obvious racial discrimination that we’ve seen on full display on our television screens over the last two weeks,” McConnell told reporters following a GOP luncheon Tuesday to discuss the issue.

The plan comes a day after Democrats – with the support of more than 200 co-sponsors – rolled out their plan to overhaul law enforcement departments across the country. Scott told reporters he hopes Republicans can get a bill on the Senate floor before their July Fourth break.

Scott said Republicans are considering a proposal to increase training to focus on de-escalation tactics that would lessen the potential for chokeholds and other dangerous forms of police restraints. But Scott was clear his GOP colleagues aren’t fans of the major items in the Democratic legislation, which includes bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug-related cases. He also ruled out reform of the legal doctrine for police known as qualified immunity — a key provision in the bill Democrats unveiled Monday.

The South Carolina Republican said there’s also talk about bringing more police departments under reporting requirements to the FBI and Justice Department. Today, only 40% are under such reporting requirements, and that needs to change, Scott said.

“We’d like to see all the agencies report, so we’re going to provide either resources for it or perhaps reduce grants if they don’t,” Scott said.

The GOP is also discussing setting up a commission to get a handle on concerns facing policing today, Scott added.

The plan would trigger “the establishment of a ‘National Police Commission’ study, so that we can figure out best practices that can used across all departments that we would at least direct funding and resources toward in that direction,” he said.

Scott also noted it’s time to increase funding for police body cameras, which stands at less than $20 million today.

“I’d like to see that number grow significantly,” he said.

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SOURCE: NPR, Claudia Grisales