Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., asserted Monday that it is Democrats who are to blame in Congress for years of unsuccessful federal police reform that aimed to have “only the best wearing the badge” in America.
Scott, the lead Republican negotiator for police reform, delivered a rare Senate floor speech on Monday after Memphis, Tennessee, officials released disturbing footage showing five Black officers severely beating 29-year-old Tyre Nichols following a traffic stop. Nichols, also Black, died at a hospital days later.
“Yesterday on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ Sen. Durbin asked Sen. Booker and I to come back to the table and start talking about policing in America. Well, I never left the table,” Scott said. “But it was Sen. Durbin who filibustered my JUSTICE Act. It was Sen. Durbin who called the effort to make de-escalation training more available a token piece of legislation. It was indeed the senator from Illinois who said as aspects of my JUSTICE Act talked about the importance of the duty to intervene, a token piece of legislation.”
That legislation “had more resources for more training because we want only the best wearing the badge in every location, in every municipality, in every county, in every state in this great nation,” Scott told the Senate President. “But politics too often gets in the way of doing what every American knows is common sense. But here we find ourselves again, Mr. President, having the same conversation with no action having happened so far.”
MEMPHIS COPS REPORTEDLY GAVE TYRE NICHOLS 71 COMMANDS IN 13 MINUTES: ‘SO FAR OUT OF THE NORM’
On Monday, January 30, 2023, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., spoke on the Senate Floor following the release of footage showing Memphis police’s fatal beating of Tyre Nichols.
Since the release of video showing Nichols’ fatal beatdown Friday, civil rights activists, including George Floyd and now Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump and Al Sharpton have discussed working with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and others to reintroduce the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Despite it being a campaign promise of President Biden to pass federal-level police reform, the last major push stalled in the Senate in September 2021 following months of negotiations between Booker and Scott. A consensus couldn’t be reached on union involvement and qualified immunity for officers.
“I don’t speak on this floor very often, but this is my tenth speech on policing in America in eight years. The tenth time I’ve asked for something that will make our officers better and safer and make our communities better and safer,” Scott said Monday. “Another time, I have asked for more resources for recruitment so that we can have only the best wearing the badge, but this legislative body – the greatest deliberative body in the world – didn’t act.”
This photo provided by the Nichols family shows Tyre Nichols. Nichols was just minutes from his home in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 7, 2023, when he was pulled over by police and fatally beaten. Five Memphis police officers have since been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
(Courtesy of the Nichols family via AP)
A day after Nichols’ death, Memphis police relieved seven officers from duty on Jan. 8. Five of them — Desmond Mills, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin, Tadarrius Bean and Demetrius Haley – have since been terminated and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and other offenses.
Memphis Police Department Officers Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills and Justin Smith were terminated on Jan. 18 for their role in the arrest of deceased Tyre Nichols.
(Memphis Police Department)
The actions of the two others remain under investigation. One of them, identified as Officer Preston Hemphill, participated in the initial traffic stop and use of a taser but was not directly involved at the first and second scene where Nichols was physically abused and suffered serious injuries, Memphis police said Monday. Crump has taken to cable TV shows claiming Hemphill, the only known White officer involved, is being protected. The attorney also claimed the beating by five Black cops demonstrates America’s racially “biased police culture.”
The identity of the seventh officer involved has not been revealed.
Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of duty from the Memphis Police Department.
Three Memphis fire EMTs were terminated Monday as a result of investigations into Nichols’ death.
Memphis police also have since disbanded its SCORPION unit, which was launched in November 2021 to patrol high-crime areas.
Three members of the Memphis Fire Department were terminated on Monday for failing to "conduct an adequate patient assessment" on Tyre Nichols.
(Memphis Fire Department)
“It was in 2015, shortly after the shooting of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back in my hometown, Charleston, South Carolina, that I came to this floor to ask for more resources for body-worn cameras so that we could capture what happens during those vital times,” Scott continued Monday, detailing efforts on police reform years before Floyd’s death. “Not a single Democrat cosponsored that legislation. I came back a year later, in 2016, and gave three speeches on the importance of policing in America.”
“In 2020, June 17th, I introduced the JUSTICE Act with more requests for what I believe is common sense. It was 70% of what House Democrats were asking for,” Scott said. “We, on our side of the aisle, said this makes sense. Why don’t we find common ground on that 70%, make it into a piece of legislation and show the American people that, yes, their elected officials can at times act with common sense?”
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“Because my assumption was that common ground leads to common sense. Imagine my disappointment, Mr. President, when the duty to intervene, de-escalation training, more resources, more reporting, so that we all have eyes around the country, was filibustered in this chamber,” he said.