U.S. Senator Booker sees delicate path forward for police reform

Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker on Sunday said he believes a policing reform bill could pass the current Congress, although he acknowledged that it will be an uphill battle given disinterest in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

“I’m sobered about the belief that we can get a big comprehensive bill done. But can we get something done? I believe we can,” Booker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I’m putting all my effort into that right now,” he added.

Booker led the last significant congressional negotiations over police reform, which occurred in 2021, after a white Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, in an incident that sparked widespread protest.

That legislation would have made it easier for the Justice Department to bring charges related to police misconduct and granted more funds for police training, among other measures.

Those talks collapsed later in the 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 in the Sunday interview said he had been meeting with Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on the issue of qualified immunity, which he considered a positive step. Graham has stated that while he believes qualified immunity should protect individual officers, police departments should receive no such protection.

Talk of police reform in the United States has gained some momentum since the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers in January.

Booker noted, however, that any bill passed through the Democrat-controlled Senate would still need to pass through the Republican-controlled House.

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

“But remember passing a bill in the Senate – as we found out with immigration reform about 10 years ago – doesn’t mean it’ll pass in the house,” he said.

Many Republicans have expressed skepticism that a significant police reform package could pass this Congress given its divided composition and likely disinterest in the matter among House Republican leaders.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Mark Porter)

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