Schumer Floor Remarks On Senate Republicans’ Police Reform Legislation

June 22, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Senate Republicans’ police reform legislation, and laid out the shortcomings of the Republican proposal. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The American people are crying out for major, significant changes in policing in this country. Being killed by the police is now the sixth-leading cause of death for young men in America, and young Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police, while Black women are 1.4 times more likely than white women to be killed by police. As hundreds of thousands of Americans of all ages and colors take to the streets to demand change, we need legislation that rises to the moment.

So Democrats introduced a bill three weeks ago that would bring strong, comprehensive, and lasting change to police departments across America: the Justice in Policing Act. Our colleagues in the House are expected to pass that bill this week.

However, Here in the Senate, however, our Republican colleagues have responded to our comprehensive proposal with an approach that is piecemeal and half-hearted. And the longer you look at the Republican policing reform effort, the more obvious the shortcomings and deficiencies.

The Republican bill does nothing—nothing—to reform the legal standard that shields police from accountability for violating Americans’ constitutional rights.

The Republican bill does nothing—nothing—to encourage independent investigations of police departments with patterns and practices that violate the Constitution.

The Republican bill does nothing—nothing—to reform the “use of force” standard.

Nothing—nothing—on qualified immunity, nothing on racial profiling.

And nothing on limiting the transfer of military equipment to local police departments.

The Republican bill doesn’t even truly ban chokeholds or no-knock warrants. It leaves major loopholes when it comes to chokeholds and only requires more data on no-knock warrants.

More data would not have saved Breonna Taylor’s life. Allowing police to use chokeholds whenever they say that deadly force is necessary is not going to save lives.

We need a bill that achieves genuine police reform. The Republican proposal comes across like a list of suggestions.

I would repeat this important warning: if we pass a bill that’s ineffective, and the killings continue, and police departments resist change, and there’s no accountability, the wound in our society will not close, it will fester. This not about making an effort, or dipping our toes into the water. It must be about solving a problem that is taking the lives of too many Black Americans.

This is not a time for studies, or commissions, or tinkering around the edges. This is not a debate about tax policy, or transportation policy. 

This is a matter of the constitutional rights of the American people. And it is, truly, a matter of life and death.

And unfortunately, Senator Scott’s bill is fundamentally flawed.

If the bill would not have prevented the death of George Floyd, or Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery, or Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, and if it won’t stop future deaths of Black Americans in police custody…then it does not represent the change we need right now.