House Passes Sweeping Policing Bill Targeting Racial Bias and Use of Force

Over 100 civil rights groups endorsed the legislation, as did some families of black Americans killed by the police, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after an officer put him in a chokehold, and Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot for carrying a toy gun.

“From banning chokeholds to eliminating no-knock warrants, this bill will hold officers accountable to the communities they serve and compel them to have a guardian mentality, not a warrior mentality,” the families said in a statement. “In the valiant pursuit of justice, this is a strong step in the right direction.”

The bill would also create a national registry to track police misconduct and require law enforcement agencies to report data on the use of force, aim to force departments to eliminate the use of chokeholds, and condition some federal grants on the adoption of anti-discrimination training and practices.

Law enforcement organizations and police unions forcefully opposed it, mounting a successful effort to dissuade the White House and Senate Republicans from embracing the most stringent requirements and restrictions.

Hours before the vote, the White House issued an official threat to veto the measure, calling it “overbroad” and arguing that it would “deter good people from pursuing careers in law enforcement” and “weaken the ability of law enforcement agencies to reduce crime.”

Over two weeks ago, as protesters thronged streets in big cities and small towns across the nation, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill hoped that they would be able to bridge a previously insurmountable gulf on police reform efforts and pass legislation addressing systemic racism in law enforcement. Those hopes have rapidly fizzled, replaced by bitter recriminations after Senate Democrats refused on Wednesday even to allow the Republican bill to come up for debate, calling it “woefully inadequate.”

The move left Republicans apoplectic and charging that Democrats had blocked the legislation for political gain. Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, told reporters on Thursday that he had reached out to Democrats “explaining that I wanted to make law, I wanted to work together.”

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