Why Congress has failed to pass policing reform in recent years
As the nation awaits the release of body camera footage from Memphis police in the death of Tyre Nichols, calls for systemic police reform at the Congressional level are once again starting up.
This is far from the first time in recent years that police reform has been a serious political discussion. President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to reform policing. Since taking office, he's vowed to "sign into law a comprehensive and meaningful police reform bill."
MORE: Memphis police chief 'horrified' at Tyre Nichols video, set to be released today
But despite Biden's promises, there's been no bill put forward by Congress for him to sign. It's not for lack of trying: there's been multiple attempts on Capitol Hill in recent years to pass police reform. None have been successful.
Here is why some of the recent attempts at police reform have failed.
-While police reform remains an ambition for some Democrats, there are currently no major efforts in Congress to reform policing. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is not expected to pick up any reform efforts Democrats may bring forward.
-Senate Democrats do not appear to be actively negotiating on the topic after talks failed in 2021.
-The last major push to reform policing stalled out in the Senate in September 2021 after months of bipartisan negotiations between Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. Negotiators couldn't get past concerns about union involvement or qualified immunity
-Vice President Kamala Harris, while still in the Senate, led Democrats in blocking a separate 2020 Republican-led effort to reform policing arguing that a GOP bill was not substantive enough.
Booker-Scott effort stalls
After former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the death of George Floyd in April 2021, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Booker and Scott, began working on a police reform deal that ultimately failed to come together after months of negotiation.
This 2021 push was the most recent Congressional attempt to enact nation-wide police reform. It yielded a framework, but never a bill that could be brought to the Senate floor.
The framework would have, among other things, provided more resources to police departments, a key item for Republicans, while granting more federal power in bringing misconduct cases in areas of excessive force, sexual misconduct, theft and obstruction of justice, an item of import for Democrats.
But there proved to be insurmountable differences between Booker and Scott that could not be resolved. Negotiations hit a major snag over the summer before collapsing in September after two significant sticking points proved insurmountable.
MORE: Policing reform talks hit setback over qualified immunity, but negotiators plow on
The first issue stemmed from the bill's failure to address so-called qualified immunity, a legal immunity for police officers. Democrats insisted on ending immunity protections by modifying the standard that had to be reached for an officer to face prosecution. Republicans said modifying these standards could subject officers to frivolous lawsuits. It was a red line for both parties and neither budged.
The framework also met its demise over disagreement from police unions. Scott told Booker he would "not stand in the way" of the framework if unions could get on board, a source told ABC News. The National Association of Police Organizations ultimately opposed the legislation and the fact that it was not included in talks earlier in the process.
MORE:Bipartisan police reform negotiations over without deal
The combined problems led to lawmakers announcing in September 2021 that talks were ending.
GOP bill blocked by Democrats
Kamala Harris, then a junior senator, was also one of the faces of a separate Congressional effort to reform policing in 2020, before she gave up her seat to join Biden's presidential ticket.
She and Booker led Democrats in blocking Scott's first policing reform bill, the JUSTICE Act -- proposed in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police -- arguing that Republican efforts were unserious and not substantive enough.
"We will not meet this moment by holding a floor vote on the JUSTICE Act, nor can we simply amend this bill, which is so threadbare and lacking in substance that it does not even provide a proper baseline for negotiations. This bill is not salvageable and we need bipartisan talks to get to a constructive starting point," wrote Harris, Booker and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in a letter to then-majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time.
Scott's 2020 bill would have ended controversial practices like chokeholds, increased the use of body cameras, made lynching a federal hate crime (legislation doing this has since passed), increased training for de-escalation tactics and established a commission to study the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases.
"The Republican bill has been thrown out to give lip service to an issue with nothing substantial in it, that would actually save or would have save any of those lives," said Harris during debate about whether to vote on the legislation.
Harris instead called for the Senate to consider a House-backed bill that went further, banning no-knock warrants and eliminating qualified immunity. But in the then-Republican controlled Senate, it went nowhere. No votes on either bill were held in the upper chamber in 2020 either.
Biden now faces a divided Congress with Democrats holding the narrowest of majorities in the Senate. There are not any major talks of police reform going on in the Senate at this time, and any House effort will likely be blocked from the floor by the GOP majority.
Why Congress has failed to pass policing reform in recent years originally appeared on abcnews.go.com