Saturday, June 19, 2021

Republican States Undercutting Police Reform


As the majority of the country supports police reform following the spate of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans in the past few years, a number of states controlled by Republicans are moving in the opposite direction: giving police more power, authority and resources. Using protests over the killings and racial injustice as an excuse, Republican governors and legislatures are moving to undermine reform efforts:

"States where lawmakers pushed back against the police-reform movement included Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming, according to an Associated Press review of legislation.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill Thursday to expand qualified immunity for police officers and enhance penalties for protesters, including elevating rioting to a felony.

'This is about protecting law enforcement and giving them the tools they need to keep our communities safe and showing them that we have their back,' said state Rep. Jarad Klein, a supporter of the bill."  (our emphasis)

Ask African-American Iowans if racial profiling, choke holds and qualified immunity for police are the "tools" for keeping their community safe, Rep. Klein.

Oklahoma is another state controlled by Republicans who've decided to double down on harsh police methods, while allowing them to hide behind their shields:

"After [George] Floyd’s death, Oklahoma Democrats tried to seize on the protest movement to pass bills that would ban the use of chokeholds, provide uniform guidance for body cameras and create a database of police use-of-force incidents. But none of those proposals even received a hearing. One GOP lawmaker called them unnecessary after the measures faced opposition from rank-and-file officers, prosecutors and county sheriffs.

Instead, the Republican-dominated Statehouse passed legislation to grant immunity to drivers whose vehicles strike and injure protesters on public streets and to prevent the 'doxxing,' or releasing of personal identifying information, of law enforcement officers if the intent is to stalk, harass or threaten the officer."  (our emphasis)

Who's surprised that "rank-and-file officers" -- the bad ones, at least -- don't want to be held accountable for their behavior? Also, who's surprised that Republicans want to give their violent base a green light to plow into protesters with their cars?

The list goes on, ranging from reducing the power of oversight boards to making filming a police officer a crime (otherwise, Derek Chauvin would be a free man, right?).  It's yet another example of why we need the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act (HR 7120) passed in this session of Congress to override these reactionary actions in Republican-controlled states.

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