In the four years since George Floyd was killed, Washington has been unable to find a path forward on police reform

Four years after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, momentum in Washington to enact sweeping reforms in the Minnesota man's name has all but disappeared.

The death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, sparked outrage and calls for change in May 2020. Observing the deep anger in the United States, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have put forward different bills in answer less than a month after he was killed.

But as more time passes since the image of a police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for more then nine minutes that has shocked the nation, there has been little urgency in making the kind of sweeping changes that President Joe Biden would have wanted to see.

“That's exactly the insult: not taking action,” said Keeta Floyd, George's sister-in-law.

What happens to the issue going forward could be decided in the 2024 election, as Mr Biden grapples with the prospect of waning support among black voters who are key to his bid for the White House to win again.

There have been killings by police in the years since Floyd's death, including in early 2023 Band Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, died in Tennessee. Not long after, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina gave a speech in which he accused Democrats and politicians of a lack of progress.

Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, was the leading GOP negotiator on police reform and had drafted a bill of his own after Floyd's death that was blocked by Senate Democrats at a time when many in their party supported a more far-reaching effort. their own.

“I hope that when the dust settles and the issue is no longer on the front pages of our newspapers, no longer on our TVs, our iPads and our computers, that we do something that says to the American people: We see your We are willing to put aside our partisan labels, shirts and uniforms so that we can do what needs to be done,” Scott said in his speech last year.

Less than a year and a half later, Scott is seen as one potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Scott's office declined interview requests about the fight to pass policing changes in Congress.

Mr. Biden made addressing the grim issues exposed by Floyd's killing a focus of his 2020 presidential campaign. campaign. While Republicans and Democrats rallied behind separate bills in the weeks after Floyd's killing, none of the efforts came close to becoming law with Republican Donald Trump in the White House. When Biden first addressed Congress early in his presidency, he used one of the biggest speeches of his life to call on Congress to finally find a way forward — and fast.

“We must work together to find a consensus,” Mr. Biden said in April 2021. “But let's get it done next month, before the first anniversary of George Floyd's death.”

Despite bipartisan negotiations, Congress failed to meet the demands timeline of the president. And a few months later, the talks failed. Revisiting qualified immunity, which can protect law enforcement from civil lawsuits, was an issue that Democrats cared deeply about but strongly opposed by the Republican Party.

Since then, attention to this issue in Congress has diminished significantly. In an effort to portray themselves as the party of law and order, Republicans have continued to try to associate Democrats with the politically volatile “defund the police” slogan that became prominent after Floyd was killed, even though most Democrats in Congress does not. movement.

While Congress fails to take action, crime concerns and recruitment and… staff shortages for the law enforcement are rising.

The president has taken limited action that he can implement unilaterally. Two years after Floyd was killed, Mr. Biden signed an executive order targeting federal law enforcement, including creating a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database.

“We have made progress,” said Stephen Benjamin, a senior adviser to Biden in the White House. 'Are we where we were? Absolutely not. [Are we] where do we want to be? Not yet. But we'll get there.”

Far from Washington today, policing can be a deeply personal matter.

Bridgette Stewart, a community activist in Minnesota, joined dozens of people to prevent outside disruptors from entering the area where Floyd was killed in Minneapolis at the height of the city's unrest. Four years later, she says relations between the community and police remain tense.

“Most black neighborhoods in the United States of America where a black man is murdered, either at the hands of the police or the community, is simply a neighborhood that is not thriving,” Stewart said.

For Nate Hamilton, who said he plans to vote for Biden, reforming police practices has been a mission since his brother Dontre Hamilton was shot and killed 14 times during a confrontation with a Milwaukee police officer in 2014.

Hamilton believes that police reform and accountability “is a national issue,” and expressed dissatisfaction with the federal government, from Congress to the Justice Department, for not doing enough follow-up work on cases like that of his brother.

“We thought they were really going to look at how they can support individuals who have lost their lives, but especially their families, because their families are still the ones who are traumatized,” he said.

There is recognition within the law enforcement community that local police in parts of the country have responded to the outrage that followed Floyd's death by making changes.

'There is a perception of that [because] “Congress has not passed a reform bill, that somehow there are no reforms happening in this country,” said Patrick Yoes, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. 'I don't think that's really the case. Each of these local jurisdictions is engaging with the people involved to find ways to improve the criminal justice system.”

But for Floyd's family, Congress's inaction stings, even as Biden and other Democrats continue to call for reforms that become law.

However, that doesn't mean they're blaming Biden as he runs for re-election this fall.

“I feel 100% comfortable saying that the Biden administration did what it could do,” said Keeta Floyd, George's sister-in-law.

Members of George Floyd's family appeared on Capitol Hill earlier this week to mark a renewed effort by Democrats to pass a police overhaul in his name. Although previous versions passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2020 and 2021, it is almost certain that the bill will not pass this year as Republicans now control the House.

Despite the political backlash the Floyd family has faced on the issue, George's brother, Philonise Floyd, has continued to visit Washington over the years, advocating for change to finally come.

“My brother's life was stolen,” Philonise Floyd said on Capitol Hill earlier this week. “So many other people's lives have been stolen from them.”

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