NEW YORK — Even as advocates praise the Derek Chauvin verdict in the murder of George Floyd, they stressed this moment needs to bring change.
Wednesday, the justice department signaled they would return to the Obama-era practice of taking a long and hard look at police departments, beginning with the Minneapolis PD.
“We undertake this task with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The DOJ is opening what is known as a “pattern and practice” investigation into potentially biased policing. Garland said it will likely result in a legal agreement to resolve systemic misconduct if problems are uncovered.
Under former President Trump, the DOJ essentially stopped enforcing these types of agreements, and opened only one new investigation into police, compared to 25 during the Obama years.
However, systematically reform the thousands of police agencies around the country will require Congress to act.
Democratic Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer signaled on the Senate floor Wednesday he was ready.
“We should not mistake a guilty verdict in this case as evidence that police misconduct has been solved,” Schumer said.
Immediately after the murder of Floyd, Democrats led by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, proposed sweeping reforms. The proposal included a ban on chokeholds and creation of national use of force standards. It also included an end to no-knock warrants and qualified immunity, a key legal protection for police.
The Democrat-controlled House recently passed a bill in the new Congress known as the George Floyd Justice in Police Act of 2021. Republicans, led by South Carolina senator Tim Scott favored more modest reforms.
The GOP plan includes strict police reporting requirements on use of deadly force and no-knock warrants, more de-escalation training and studying the impact of criminal justice system on people of color. It did not get much traction last summer, but Scott says he plans to reintroduce his plan and work to compromise.
Booker and Scott have been in conversations lately, but qualified immunity seems to be a big sticking point.
“We’re still open to looking at police reform,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “But it ought to come up before the Senate, open for amendment and our ideas, led by Tim Scott, ought not just be summarily dismissed in the process.”