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Politics

Senate can't shirk police-reform duty

Corey Friedman on

Police stormed Breonna Taylor's apartment as she slept and sprayed her with gunfire, leaving the 26-year-old emergency medical technician to die in a pool of blood.

The Louisville woman's March 13 killing is still under investigation -- her boyfriend had fired on police, believing them to be burglars -- but the no-knock warrant that authorized the risky raid was routine.

Law enforcement agencies execute roughly 20,000 high-risk search warrants each year, the vast majority in drug cases. Washington Post opinion journalist Radley Balko, author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," told National Public Radio those annual raids result in 20-30 suspect deaths and "about eight to 10 cases per year where a completely innocent person is killed."

A relic of the Richard Nixon- and Ronald Reagan-era drug war, the no-knock raid places officers, suspects and bystanders in mortal danger over victimless crimes. The special search warrants are issued to prevent violent resistance, escape or destruction of evidence. It's the last scenario that really curls a cop's mustache -- flushing dope down the toilet might preempt a perp walk.

After Taylor's killing, Louisville city officials banned no-knock warrants. If justice prevails over politics on Capitol Hill, the rest of the nation will follow.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a comprehensive law enforcement reform measure, cleared the Democratic-led House on a 236-181 vote Thursday. It faces an uphill climb in the Republican-majority Senate, where a competing reform bill fell five votes short of a floor debate.

 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., pitched his JUSTICE Act as a serious effort to end racial disparities in policing and prevent police killings of unarmed Black Americans. Democratic senators refused to consider it, with critics noting it's chock-full of study panels and half-measures.

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, introduced the Justice in Policing Act with full support from House Democrats and the backing of influential leaders in the police accountability movement. Speaker Nancy Pelosi extolled the legislation in a victory-lap press conference held before a scheduled vote.

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows nearly all Americans support reform that includes clear standards on use of force and punishment for police brutality. Yet, Congress could squander the opportunity to lead and fall victim to petty partisanship.

GovTrack predictions from analytics and artificial intelligence firm Skopos Labs give the House bill a 23% chance of becoming law. Scott's counteroffer barely registers at 2%.

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