Rep. Karen Bass: “the country is ready for” policing reform

“I promised George Floyd’s brother that we were going to make this happen.”

After weeks of protests following the killing of George Floyd, Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told FOX 11 anchor Elex Michaelson the country is ready for change, and that she believes she and her Congressional colleagues will make it happen.

This, as Bass, alongside Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and other Congressional Democrats, on Monday unveiled the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a package of sweeping reforms aimed at transforming law enforcement in the United States.

Among other reforms, the legislation would require the use of body and dashboard cameras, lower the bar for qualified immunity, and ban no-knock warrants in drug cases, as well as the use of chokeholds, something House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has similarly expressed support for.

Given that potential common ground, Bass said she and McCarthy have not only been having ongoing conversations on the legislation, but that their teams are set to meet and work together in the coming days.

It’s that kind of bipartisan interest, from McCarthy as well as other GOP legislators, that Bass said gives her hope, that despite the size of the bill, it will pass quickly, with a committee vote potentially this coming week, and a floor vote the next.

“When you introduce a massive bill like this, it usually takes a long time to get enough votes to pass, and I’m talking about Democratic votes,” the California Democrat said. “Well, we’re already to the point where we have enough votes to pass off the floor even before it’s out of committee, and I think that’s completely because of the momentum in the streets… we’re going to follow this momentum to the finish line.

Still, for some activists, the bill may not go far enough.

For one, while the Justice in Policing Act calls for structural and operational change to police departments, the reforms are not as sweeping when it comes to police unions,  which have been accused of being too strong and shielding bad officers in cases of alleged misconduct.

Bass said that she doesn’t know whether we could or should try to interfere with the police unions, but that the aim should be getting at police culture, one that gives officers the idea they can act with impunity.

“One thing the bill does is create a national registry,” she said. “The other thing the bill does, it will make it easier to fire, to prosecute, to sue… so it’s really important that we make those structural changes.”

Beyond taking on the police union, Bass also addressed growing calls to #DefundThePolice.

“No, I don’t think it’s time to defund the police,” she said, pointing to the fact she believes that at the city, state, and national levels the budgets are out of balance, neglecting social, economic, and health needs of communities. “What has happened over the years is that we have not invested properly in the proper balance, when we don’t invest in society and address the problem, then the police officers are left to pick up the pieces, and that’s wrong.”

In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is,  Bass also discussed lessons she’s learned from 50 years of advocacy, her reaction to President Trump’s recently announced rally in Tulsa, and what she makes of speculation that, with her new-found prominence, she may have a future place as Speaker of the House, or possibly Joe Biden’s running mate.

Before taking on future roles in government, Bass remains focused on getting the Justice in Policing Act passed,  following through for the marchers and the protesters that she says have been fighting against police brutality for a century.

“I see the sea change,” she said. “My job is to take that sea change and make it legislative and bring about transformative change.”

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