Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans’ Police Reform Bill Will Restrict Use of Choke Holds

Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.) speaks in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senate Republicans will unveil legislation this week to restrict the use of choke holds by police officers, among other reforms, as protests continue nationwide in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

The legislation, which was spearheaded by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black Republican, is set to be revealed on Wednesday. It is expected to restrict the use of choke holds by withholding federal funds from departments that continue to allow the practice, an anonymous Senate Republican told the Associated Press.

An early draft of the bill would increase funding for police body cameras and create a national database to record police use of force incidents, as well as leverage grants to incentivize police departments to inform the FBI when the use of force leads to serious injury or death. The bill would also include a push to make lynching a federal hate crime.

“I think we’re going to get to a bill that actually becomes law,” Scott said Sunday on NBC, adding that the issue of police tactics in minority communities is a personal one for him.

“This is an issue whose time has come,” he said. “It’s not Republicans and Democrats. It’s Americans working together to solve a serious issue that has been running rampant throughout communities of color for far too long.”

Democrats in both legislative chambers have pushed to end “qualified immunity,” which protects police officers from lawsuits, a proposal Republicans have rejected. House Democrats have introduced a wide-ranging reform package that limits those protections for law enforcement officers and proposes other reforms including banning police choke holds.

Democrats have expressed skepticism that Scott’s bill will include enough reform measures to earn their support.

“Tim Scott is a good person, and I’ve worked with him, talked to him and respect him,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said last week. “I hope that he’ll step up. He can make a significant and historic contribution if he can bring the Republicans to a point where they are truly supportive of meaningful reform.”

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