US Senate Republicans ready police reform bill to rival Democrats

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Democrat plan an 'overreach'. — Reuters pic
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Democrat plan an 'overreach'. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, June 17 — Police reforms take centre stage in Congress today as Senate Republicans unveil a bill to address racial disparities in law enforcement and Democrats in the House of Representatives advance their own, more sweeping proposal.

More than three weeks after George Floyd’s killing in police custody spurred protests nationwide, Senate Republicans will present their legislation at a 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) press conference. Democrats will advance their own bill out of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25, after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, was the latest in a string of killings of African Americans by US police and it sparked widespread protests and fresh calls for reforms.

“The American people have spoken, and we hear you,” Senator Tim Scott, the chamber’s lone black Republican, who crafted the legislation, said in a post on Twitter.

The two bills address similar issues. Both make lynching a federal hate crime, encourage the use of body cameras and seek better training standards for police.

But it is not clear that Congress will agree on how to act.

Democrats claim the Republican plan does not go far enough, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Democratic legislation would go nowhere in his chamber, dismissing it as “typical Democratic overreach.”

Unlike the Democratic legislation, the Republican bill is not expected to allow victims of misconduct to sue police, ban police chokeholds outright or create new rules to restrict the use of lethal force.

Instead, Republicans rely on the use of federal grant money to encourage police departments to adopt reforms.

Facing criticism over his policies and inflammatory rhetoric, President Donald Trump today signed an order that would steer federal money to police departments that agree to outside review and limit the use of chokeholds. — Reuters

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