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Thune: Senate Democrats Filibuster Policing Reform Debate and Put Politics Ahead of Change

“To refuse to even allow debate on this bill suggests that Democrats are more interested in attempting to score political points on this issue than in actually doing anything about reform.”

June 24, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today, prior to Senate Democrats voting to block debate from even commencing, discussed the American people’s desire to have a policing reform debate in this country. Thune also discussed Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act, an extensive bill that focuses on a number of common-sense, bipartisan priorities. Thune believes that while this legislation might not be perfect, both Republicans and Democrats should at least be able to support getting on the bill to begin having this important conversation.

Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:

“Mr. President, in just a few minutes, we will vote on whether to move forward on Senator Scott’s policing reform bill.

“We are at a turning point in our country’s history – a moment when Americans of every background and political persuasion are united in a call for change.

“And we have a chance to give it to them.

“Over the course of the next two weeks, we have a chance to pass legislation that will permanently reform policing in this country.

“Legislation that will improve training, increase accountability, and give increased security to families who worry that their son or daughter could be the next George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.

“Senator Scott’s legislation – the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act or JUSTICE Act – is the product of years of serious work.

“It is an extensive bill that focuses on a number of areas that call for reform.

“One of the most important sections of the bill is the George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, which would correct deficiencies in law enforcement reporting of use-of-force incidents.

“Right now, the FBI National Use of Force Data Collection only receives data on about 40 percent of law enforcement officers.

“That needs to change.

“The only way we can understand the scope of the problems we’re facing is to have full and accurate data.

“A complete data picture will allow us to pinpoint problems, identify troubled police departments, and develop best practices for use-of-force and de-escalation training.

“There are many police departments across our nation that are doing an excellent job of policing and that are keenly interested in becoming still better.

“I recently met with local law enforcement leaders back home in South Dakota. 

“Among other things, they have been participating in listening sessions with the community since George Floyd’s death and are supportive of new measures that will help ensure that every officer is doing his or her job in the best possible way.

“But while there are a lot of excellent police departments out there, there are also troubled departments – departments that fail to train their officers properly or that overlook officer misbehavior.

“And we need to identify those departments and demand their reform.

“Collecting full and accurate data on use-of-force incidents will help us do that.

“Another important section of the JUSTICE Act focuses on police de-escalation and duty-to-intervene training.

“Sometimes police end up using force in situations where it could have been avoided simply because they lack the necessary training to de-escalate a situation without the use of force.

“It may be understandable that well-meaning but overwhelmed police officers in dangerous circumstances have sometimes resorted to the use of force too quickly.

“But that’s not a situation we can accept.

“Every police officer in this country should be given the kind of training that will ensure that use of force is restricted only to those situations where it is absolutely needed.

“Mr. President, another key area of the bill – one that is absolutely essential to getting bad cops off the streets – deals with law enforcement records retention.

“Too often, law enforcement officers with problematic records – like multiple excessive-use-of-force complaints – manage to transfer to new jurisdictions because the hiring police department never sees their full record.

“That’s a problem.

“Bad cops should not be able to find a new home in another jurisdiction.

“And we can prevent that from happening by ensuring that every police department is able to access the full disciplinary record of any officer it is looking to hire.

“The JUSTICE Act would help make sure those records are readily available by requiring police departments to keep officer records for at least 30 years.

“It would also require any police department hiring a new officer to obtain a full employment and disciplinary record for that officer from all of his previous departments.

“Mr. President, there are a lot of other important measures in the JUSTICE Act, from funding for body cameras to expanding minority hiring to developing policing best practices.

“With this legislation, we have a real chance to improve policing in this country and ensure that every officer is held to the highest standards.

“But our ability to do that, Mr. President, is going to depend on one thing: Democrats’ willingness to come to the table.

“It was disheartening to see Democrats dismissing Senator Scott’s bill before it had even been released, especially because many of the proposals in the bill are taken directly from earlier bipartisan bills.

“And now the word is that Democrats are planning to block this bill … without even allowing it to be considered on the floor.

“Mr. President, Democrats have spent a lot of time talking about police reform.

“But if they want to actually achieve reform, and not just talk about it, they’re going to have to decide to move beyond politics.

“Senator Scott’s bill is a serious, wide-ranging bill. 

“It’s a commonsense bill.

“It’s a bill that all of us, whatever our party, should be able to agree on.

“And if Democrats have changes they’d like to make, the leader has made it clear that there will be opportunity for amendments.

“To refuse to even allow debate on this bill suggests that Democrats are more interested in attempting to score political points on this issue than in actually doing anything about reform.

“Mr. President, I hope what we’re hearing about Democrats’ plans to block this bill is wrong.

“I hope, I really hope, that we are going to see Democrats come to the table and vote to move forward with debate on this legislation.

“We have a chance to do something important here.  A historic chance.

“With the JUSTICE Act, we can permanently improve policing in this country and bring real hope to those who have lost faith in law enforcement.

“But we’re going to have to stand together to get this done.

“I urge my colleagues to vote to move forward on the JUSTICE Act and start the process of reform.”