Black lawmakers want Biden to push for police reform during State of the Union

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Congressional Black Caucus members met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday afternoon to renew a stalled police reform effort, days after video showed Memphis police officers brutally beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, who later died.

The Black Caucus pushed Biden to speak on reviving police reform legislation during the State of the Union Feb. 7 and share information on results from past executive orders on police reform.

“The death of Tyre Nichols is yet another example of why we need action," said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chairman of the CBC, during the meeting, according to a pool report and a White House email about the meeting.

A small group of CBC members joined Horsford at the White House, including: Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

Police reform: Tyre Nichols case reignites conversations among lawmakers on federal police legislation

Horsford would not say, however, if Biden committed to issuing another executive order or bringing up police reform during the State of the Union. He did say that all options are being explored.

"We are working with the President, his team, the Senate, and the House," Horsford said after the meeting. "This is going to require all of us, including Republicans, to get across the finish line. We recognize that, but we are committed to meaningful, substantive reforms and a focus on public safety for all communities."

Warnock said that more work will be done in the days ahead.

"You will hear from the president, you will certainly hear from all of us in the days ahead about the work we have to do. We're looking for meaningful solutions that provide a foundation for lasting change," he said.

What would police reform look like?

"This issue is about rooting out bad policing and bad policing practices," Horsford said. "And that does require legislation, including executive actions and measures that Congress can take up in a bipartisan way."

The group wants Biden to call for bipartisan police reforms next week.

"We are actively engaged in making sure we pull all of the relevant stakeholders together," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C. "The president will be key to this."

Horsford also said he's already reached out to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the lead Republican negotiator on police reform in 2021, and will reach out to other Republicans. But he also wants Biden to push for bipartisan support.

More: Politicians, activists decry Tyre Nichols fatal traffic stop after video's release

"We need him to use that moment during the State of the Union— like he will talk about housing and jobs and investments in protecting Medicare and Social Security—to talk about the importance of keeping our community safe and rooting out bad policing," said Horsford.

Nichols' parents are attending the State of the Union at the invitation of the CBC.

How could some of this reform happen?

If need be, Black lawmakers said they would want to see Biden issue another executive order on police reform.

"We also want him, in terms of the executive power that he has, to make sure that we are publicly collecting data on these kinds of incidents at police departments across the country," said Adams.

In one example, Horsford said data on the rates of Black and brown residents interacting with law enforcement compared to white residents and the use of force against residents should be collected in a nationwide database.

"That's about transparency. That's about accountability. And that's about knowing what is happening, particularly with bad policing practices," he said.

What has Biden done in the past?

In 2022 Biden issued an executive order that established a National Law Enforcement Accountability database, improved the investigation and prosecution of criminal civil rights violations and ordered federal law enforcement to adopt body-worn camera policies.

The Black Caucus, however, wants an update on the effectiveness on the order.

"One of the things we're asking for is a status of where we are in the progress of the implementation of that executive order from 2022," Horsford said. "And what more can we do that that executive order did not include?"

What Biden is saying?

Biden has said he is in support of reviving the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

"I think we should do it right now. We should have done it before," Biden told reporters on Monday.

But he also admitted he needs congressional assistance.

"As you know, I did it by executive order for the federal side," he said. "But I can’t do it otherwise without the help of the rest of the Congress."

What are other lawmakers saying about police reform?

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for a "national conversation" on federal police accountability legislation, during ABC’s "This Week."

But any legislation will need buy-in from Republicans, who control the House and are skittish on using federal legislation to solve police misconduct problems.

"I don't know that there's any law that can stop that evil that we saw," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

What happened to previous police reform efforts?

In the wake of Nichols' death, lawmakers have called for a renewal of police reform talks after the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act failed to gain traction in Congress.

Bipartisan negotiations on the bill collapsed in 2021 when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., failed to reach a compromise on what policies would be included in the legislation.

Contributing: Maureen Groppe

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: State of the Union: Black lawmakers to press Biden on police reform