WASHINGTON – Less than a month after George Floyd’s assassination, President Donald Trump sat in the Rose Garden and signed an executive order that required police departments to establish accreditation and accountability standards to receive federal funding.
Senator Tim Scott, RS.C., attended and later praised the order saying it would “provide real solutions so there are fewer families sitting in the White House talking about lost loved ones.” Just over a year later, Scott, the top Republican negotiator in an effort to turn police reform into law, rejected a Democratic offer that would codify that same executive order.
Democrats were baffled and that led them to believe that Scott had no interest in reaching a deal, the final straw for Senator Cory Booker, DN.J., who made the decision this week to walk out of negotiations.
It was the final death sentence for an effort to pass a radical bipartisan police reform that was once announced with great hope but that seemed to have lost the moment, crushed by political pressures that made it impossible for the two sides to find common ground.
“When the other side didn’t even codify Donald Trump’s executive order into law because it went too far, they clearly didn’t get serious about creating meaningful reform,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, told NBC News.
A spokeswoman for Scott said the language in Trump’s executive order amounts to defunding the police. “Disqualifying police departments from (federal) grants cuts off a crucial flow of funds,” Caroline Anderegg, Scott’s press secretary, said in a text message.
“Withdraw funds from the police” has become a politically charged phrase.
It started as the mantra of some protesters in favor of police reform in the wake of Floyd’s murder. But it quickly became the rallying cry of Republicans, who argued that Democrats wanted to make America less safe by stripping police departments of the resources to fight crime.
Scott, in a statement after negotiations ended Thursday, twice accused Booker and Democrats of wanting to defund police. The various Democratic proposals provided hundreds of millions of dollars to police departments to address mental health, create databases of misconduct and increase training.
But the negotiations ran into political and cultural headwinds that doomed the possibility of success.
“I thought they were heading to a place where Congress would have set at least some new standards, but it could BE that there is less pressure on that issue than six months ago when those talks were at their highest boiling point,” Senator Roy said. . Blunt, R-Mo., Said
Police accountability and transparency measures gained national momentum after Floyd’s murder. But a year later, public sentiment began to change as summer crime spikes in cities complicated the politics of police reform.
The end of the talks was devastating for Floyd’s family. “We were extremely disappointed at this point because, as you know, we have been optimistic since March,” Shareeduh Tate, George Floyd’s cousin and president of the George Floyd Foundation, said on MSNBC. “We have been very patient as everyone else has seen this process unfold.”
That crime spree and the shift in sentiment came at a critical time in the negotiations when Booker in June struck a critical agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police on the issue of qualified immunity. Despite saying that he would support what was agreed by the fraternal order, Scott did not accept it. Scott changed the goalposts, saying the sheriff’s associations also had to support him. But sheriff’s groups have long been ignored in criminal justice discussions because of their ardent opposition. They even rejected the Trump-era First Steps Act, which Scott helped negotiate.
The rise in crime “hurt Democrats because it was used even though it had absolutely nothing to do with police reform,” Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, a member of the negotiations, told NBC News. “It was used as a topic of conversation and during campaigns.”
Scott is set for re-election in 2022. While he is likely to easily win his career as the most popular elected official in the state of South Carolina, there are bigger issues at stake. Scott’s positions could now have broader implications for the Republican Party. In the evenly divided Senate, Republicans believe a tough stand on crime could help them take control of the chamber.
Several House Democrats who lost or nearly lost their reelection in swing districts have said the “underfunding” message hurt them politically. And in the Virginia gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Younkin, which polls show as nearly tied, crime has been at the center.
Since the critical juncture in June, the negotiations have become more difficult and sporadic. Things that had been agreed were put back on the table and opened for discussion, including the arrest warrants. At the end of July, the only thing agreed between the two senators was to prohibit the strangulations.
Realizing that comprehensive police reform was unrealistic, in early August, both Scott and Booker publicly released a shortened and shortened version. The arrest warrants against the door and qualified immunity were no longer on the negotiating table.
Booker presented the shortened version to Scott, which included Trump’s executive order on accreditation, money for mental health, limiting the transfer of military equipment to police departments and a ban on stranglers. Scott said no.
The political will was gone. So was the momentum.
“I think we should have been able to do something when the momentum was there, last year,” Bass said.
Last year, Republicans controlled the Senate and the White House. Democrats rejected Scott’s police reform bill, which consisted primarily of studies and recommendations to change police behavior. Democrats bet they would retake the White House and Senate and have a stronger bill. They only achieved one of those goals.