Biden to Congress: Pass police reform bill by anniversary of George Floyd's death

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President Biden urged Congress on Wednesday to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a sweeping police reform bill, before the upcoming one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death under the knee of then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

During his address to a joint session of Congress, Biden asked lawmakers to “work together to find a consensus” on the bill, which passed the House last summer but didn’t make it out of the Senate.

Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck until he was asphyxiated while Chauvin and two other now former officers restrained him during an arrest. Chauvin was convicted last week of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and will be sentenced in June.

In his speech, Biden recalled his conversation with Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, before Floyd’s funeral.

“As I knelt down to talk to her so we could talk, she said to me, ‘Daddy changed the world,’” Biden said. “After the conviction of George Floyd’s murderer, we can see how right she was — if we have the courage to act.”

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi
President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters)

The bill would, among other things, eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement, making it easier for people to sue law enforcement for constitutional violations in civil court. It would also ban chokeholds and carotid holds — potentially lethal uses of force — at the federal level, and it would promote the same in local and state police departments by conditioning federal funding on whether those agencies forbid the practice.

The bill also requires that officers use deescalation techniques before using deadly force.

While Biden noted that “most men and women in uniform wear their badge and serve their communities honorably,” he stressed that the country must “come together to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.”

“Let’s get it done next month,” he said, “by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.”


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