US Senator Booker sees delicate path for police reform

Graham Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic Senator Cory Booker said on Sunday he thinks the police reform bill could pass the current Congress, though he acknowledged it would be an uphill battle given disinterest in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

“I’m getting sober thinking that we can make a big comprehensive bill. But can we do something? I believe we can,” Booker said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“Now I’m putting all my effort into it,” he added.

Booker presided over the last major congressional talks on police reform that took place in 2021 after a white Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of killing black George Floyd in an incident that sparked mass protests.

This law would make it easier for the Department of Justice to file charges related to police misconduct and would allocate more funds for police training, among other measures.

Those talks collapsed later that year as Republicans resisted changes to qualified immunity, a U.S. legal doctrine that makes it extremely difficult to bring civil cases against police.

Booker said in an interview Sunday that he met with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham about qualified immunity, which he sees as a positive step. Graham stated that while he believes that qualified immunity should protect individual officers, police departments should not receive such protection.

Talk of police reform in the United States intensified following the murder of Tyr Nichols by Memphis police officers in January.

However, Booker noted that any bill that passes through the Democratic-controlled Senate must still pass through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

“I met with Lindsey Graham last week. So when you hear encouraging words from people like him, it gives me a feeling that we could do something in the Senate,” Booker said.

“But remember that passing a bill in the Senate – as we found out in immigration reform about 10 years ago – does not mean it will pass in the House of Representatives,” he said.

Many Republicans have expressed skepticism that a significant police reform package could be passed in this Congress, given its divided composition and the likely lack of interest in the issue among Republican leaders in the House of Representatives.

(Reporting by Graham Slattery; editing by Mark Porter)

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