Va. lawmakers take up national policing reforms
From Capitol Hill to Richmond, leaders are weighing how to resolve tensions between communities and police departments. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle tell Washington Correspondent Alana Austin they support reforming the criminal justice system. Now the question is: can a divided Congress come together to move this country forward?
“It’s important that we have a long-overdue conversation about criminal justice reform," said Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner.
"I'm looking at reforms...making sure that all Americans – no matter what we look like – feel like the police department is going to treat them in a fair and effective way," said Warner.
Virginia Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, plus GOP Congressman Denver Riggleman all want to take action in response to George Floyd’s death – and other tragedies involving African Americans dying in police custody. All three disagree with the ‘defund the police’ slogan, but they want to look at proposals like setting up a national database of excessive-force incidents and banning police chokeholds.
Kaine hopes to adjust ‘qualified immunity’ laws so officers accused of misconduct are not shielded from civil lawsuits.
“Right now they can behave recklessly and be shielded from liability and frankly, if you allow recklessness, you encourage recklessness," said Kaine.
Kaine also calls for outlawing no-knock warrants and racial profiling. There are competing bills in Congress to address criminal justice concerns. Kaine says the Senate GOP bill, led by Senator Tim Scott, falls short. But Kaine concedes bipartisanship is needed for change.
“You don’t get things done with just one party’s involvement, not in the current climate," said Kaine.
Riggleman argues more money - not less - is needed to increase training and resources for cops.
"We need to make sure that that training is applied to everybody equally, and make sure that de-escalation works, not only for African Americans, but for Hispanics, Whites, everywhere across the line, that everybody is treated equally, in the right way, with the proper training," said Riggleman.
But, he wants to target agencies with a record of civil rights abuses, and he says more healing can come when injustices in the nation’s history are acknowledged.
“There needs to be reconciliation for members of the black community, and we need to reconcile what happened as Americans," said Riggleman.
Congressional leaders hope to hold votes next week and send a bill to the President’s desk ahead of the July 4th holiday.