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Some Democrats call for revival of police accountability bill, the George Floyd Act

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives gather for a fourth round of voting for a new House Speaker on the second day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 4, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Some Democrats on Friday called for reviving the defunct George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as they responded to video of Tyre Nichols’ fatal encounter with Memphis police.

Vice President Kamala Harris led the Democrats in calling for the return of the 2021 bill, which would have lowered the threshold for federal wrongdoing convictions for officers, restricted law enforcement’s use of qualified immunity to hide from liability, and limited police use of physical restraint methods like chokeholds. The bill at one point also included a database of fired officers to make transferring to unknowing communities more difficult.

“Congress must act with urgency and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” she said in a statement late Friday.

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President Joe Biden blamed Republicans in the U.S. Senate for blocking the bill in 2021, the year Congress considered a version authored by then-Rep. Karen Bass. It’s known more commonly as the George Floyd Act.

“Real and lasting change will only come if we take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” Biden said in a statement Friday, reacting to video of Nichols’ death.

Bass, now mayor of Los Angeles, did not call outright for the legislation to be revived Friday, but did argue that its provisions are needed in the wake of Nichols’ death.

“Officers have to know that there will be consequences,” she said on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut with Joy Reid.” “They will lose their job. And also that they just can’t go to another department. That’s why we wanted to have a database, so that an officer couldn’t just go from one department to the next.”

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The L.A. County Democratic Party on Friday endorsed the idea of reviving the George Floyd Act, but said stronger accountability must be established at the state and local level.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who’s representing Nichols’ family alongside lawyer Antonio Romanucci, has called on lawmakers to introduce “Tyre’s law,” which would require fellow officers to intervene when they witness physical abuse.

Romanucci, speaking on MSNBC Friday, said he would like to see Congress “rejuvenate” the George Floyd Act.

“Let Washington hear us,” he said.

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