Keith Ellison urges Congress to act on stalled police reform after Chauvin sentencing

The Minnesota attorney general who secured the conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin said on Sunday Congress must pass stalled policing reform named for George Floyd, the African American man the former officer murdered in May last year.

“We had to focus on proving a case based on evidence in a courtroom,” Keith Ellison told ABC’s This Week. “But I do believe that the larger society must grapple with the bigger issues. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has not passed. We need it to pass.”

Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. He was sentenced on Friday to 22 and a half years in prison, a penalty applauded by activists across the US.

“All over the United States,” said Ellison, a former congressman, “states are looking at police reform. We need them to act. We need departments to act. We need prosecutors and we need other police officers to look inside and say, ‘What can we do to build greater trust and greater cooperation with our communities that we protect and serve every day?’

“… From a larger perspective, we have got a lot of lifting to do. And when it comes to Congress, I think they could lead the way by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I think it’s essential, and the country needs it.”

The act named for Floyd passed the Democratic-controlled House but has stalled in the Senate. Key provisions include ending qualified immunity for police officers, which Republicans oppose, and establishing a national standard for the use of force.

Some Republicans have sought to link a rise in violent crime to efforts for police reform. Senior White House adviser Cedric Richmond, another former congressman, told CNN’s State of the Union: “We don’t want people to conflate the two.

“And we support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. But we also support investing in these cities, so that they can replenish their law enforcement and we can tackle gun violence, where the guns are coming from, who’s using the guns. How do we do it in a comprehensive manner, so that we employ violent crime interrupters?

“And so we want to do it in a very smart way. And we need the police to have a better relationship with the communities. We need constitutional policing, and we need our communities to trust our police.

“And so I’m glad that they’re still negotiating and working together, both Democrats and Republicans.”

George Floyd's family speak of their trauma at Chauvin sentencing – video
George Floyd’s family speak of their trauma at Chauvin sentencing – video

In Ellison’s home state on Saturday, Democrats and Republicans reached agreement on a public safety bill that includes police accountability measures.

While some details remained to be finalized, leaders said the compromise settled major issues after months of talks. It has been the most contentious piece of budget negotiations before a Wednesday deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

The Democratic-controlled Minnesota House included several policing provisions in its public safety budget bill, in the hope of building on a package approved in the aftermath Floyd’s death.

The 223-page draft bill includes provisions regulating the use of no-knock warrants, a police misconduct database, and the creation of an office of missing and murdered indigenous relatives and a task force for missing and murdered Black women.

“It doesn’t include some of the important police reform and accountability measures pushed by the House,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said, “but it is a step forward in delivering true public safety and justice for all Minnesotans despite divided government.”

Democrats advocated for limits on pretextual traffic stops, where police pull over a driver for a minor violation, such as expired tabs or something hanging from the rearview mirror. That push intensified after an officer in suburban Brooklyn Center shot and killed Daunte Wright after stopping him for driving with expired tabs. That proposal is not part of the agreement.

Republicans who control the Minnesota Senate called some Democratic proposals “anti-police”, focusing on those pushing to abolish the police and on violent protests following Floyd’s killing.

The agreement includes $2m for violent crime enforcement teams, a Republican-backed provision.

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