Tim Scott Leads on Police Reform
Practical politics can sometimes be married to high purpose. That’s the case with Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.), the leader of GOP efforts on police reform following the death of George Floyd.
This work is essential because the video of Floyd on a Minneapolis street with a police officer’s knee on his neck both shocked the nation’s conscience and revealed systemic injustices. Americans want thoughtful reforms of law enforcement, and the GOP must help fashion these improvements or pay a heavy electoral price.
Republicans are fortunate to have Mr. Scott leading their reform effort. The only African-American GOP senator, he knows of the slights, humiliations and dangers of simply being black. He is regularly stopped and profiled, and he receives racist death threats. He was once asked for ID by the Capitol Police even though he was wearing his members-only Senate pin. Moreover, Mr. Scott is a man focused on constructive action. “It’s too easy to be angry,” he once observed. “And too natural. And also too unproductive.”
Following the fatal 2015 shooting of Walter Scott, a black man, by a North Charleston, S.C., officer during a traffic stop for a broken brake light, Sen. Scott introduced legislation requiring states that get federal law-enforcement grants to report details of all officer-related shootings. The bill foundered, and only 40% of U.S. jurisdictions now report this information. A comprehensive database could help improve law-enforcement training and practices.
The working group of GOP senators is also discussing ways to ensure police employment records are available to other departments so it’s possible to know any potential hire’s record. The legislators are considering making lynching a federal hate crime, providing funds to help departments hire more diverse officer candidates, and reducing law-enforcement grants for states that don’t penalize failures to use body cameras.
Mr. Scott can also play the role of his country’s and party’s conscience in the days ahead. It’s important that he and his colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, succeed. If they could do it by working together, that would be a welcome gift to the nation.
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