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Biden Faces Pressure on Policing       02/02 06:06

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- When Vice President Kamala Harris was called to the 
pulpit at the funeral for Tyre Nichols, she said the White House would settle 
for nothing less than ambitious federal legislation to crack down on police 
brutality.

   "We should not delay. And we will not be denied," Harris said to applause in 
Memphis, Tennessee. "It is non-negotiable."

   Back in Washington, however, progress appears difficult, if not unlikely. 
Bipartisan efforts to reach an agreement on policing legislation stalled more 
than a year ago, and President Joe Biden ended up instead signing an executive 
order named for George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of Minneapolis police 
set off nationwide protests nearly three years ago.

   Now, with a new killing in the headlines, Biden and Harris will meet with 
members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday to explore whether it's 
possible to get legislation back on track.

   "I am working to make sure that we have a clear plan," said Rep. Steven 
Horsford, D-Nev., who chairs the caucus.

   The White House is facing fresh pressure to advance the issue, and even some 
political allies are frustrated with what they view as excess caution from 
Biden.

   "I think the president is missing the opportunity to be a historic president 
when it comes to the social issues that continue to plague our country," said 
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. "That's what we need."

   Bowman described Biden as "a champion of the status quo in many ways," and 
he said Biden needs to be "a champion of a new vision for America."

   The solution, Bowman said, is not "thoughts and prayers, come to the State 
of the Union after your kid gets killed," a reference to Nichols' mother and 
stepfather being invited to attend next week's speech.

   White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday 
that "we understand there's a lot more work to do." She blamed Republicans for 
blocking progress in Congress.

   "The way that we're going to deal with this issue is to have federal 
legislation," Jean-Pierre said. "That's how we're going to move forward."

   Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was 
in touch with the White House last Friday, when video of Nichols' beating 
became public, about whether the situation could be a catalyst to "get things 
moving again."

   His organization, the nation's largest police union, had participated in 
previous attempts to reach a bipartisan deal, and Pasco said that "we welcome 
any constructive effort to help us do our jobs better." The union's president, 
Patrick Yoes, has already condemned Nichols' killing and said that "our entire 
country needs to see justice done -- swiftly and surely."

   However, Pasco said, "we're kind of in a wait-and-see mode right now," with 
Republicans recently regaining control of the House, making legislative 
progress much harder.

   "You've got to look at the political realities here," he said.

   The issue involves critical political questions for the White House. Biden 
has carefully balanced his approach, embracing calls for overhauling how police 
do their jobs while also emphasizing his longtime support for law enforcement 
and rejecting proposals to cut funding. He was elected with strong support from 
Black voters, and he's preparing a reelection campaign that could launch in the 
near future.

   As a former prosecutor and the first person of color to serve as vice 
president, Harris has faced particular scrutiny for her approach to police 
issues. While attending the funeral on Wednesday, she condemned Nichols' death, 
saying that "this violent act was not in pursuit of public safety."

   "When we talk about public safety, let us understand what it means in its 
truest form," Harris said in her short speech. "Tyre Nichols should have been 
safe."

   Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said he was encouraged 
that Harris attended the funeral.

   "This is what people expect, that you'll be there for them at a time of 
need," he said.

   Now, Morial said, "we need a substantive response, not a political response 
where they say, 'Let's just pass something.'"

   Last year's executive order was the product of negotiations among civil 
rights leaders and law enforcement organizations, and it mostly focuses on 
federal agencies by requiring them to review and revise policies on the use of 
force.

   The administration is also encouraging local departments to participate in a 
database to track police misconduct.

   But deeper modifications, such as making it easier to sue officers for 
misconduct allegations, have remained elusive.

   "We haven't gotten even a fraction of the changes that are necessary," said 
Rashad Robinson, president of the activist group Color of Change. "We haven't 
gotten the kind of structural change to policing that is required."

   Robinson said he was encouraged by the swift arrests of the Memphis police 
officers responsible for beating Nichols. However, he said that shouldn't be 
the end of the matter.

   "Are those in power willing to do something to make sure it doesn't happen 
again?" he said. "Or do they want to make sure only individuals are punished?"

 
 
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