WASHINGTON (CN) — Police are still killing Black people disproportionately a year after the death of George Floyd, whose pleas for his mother, his life and some semblance of humanity as he struggled to breathe under a police officer’s knee stirred the national dialogue on police brutality and sparked national legislation intended to reform.
There is no fairytale ending in the last chapter of Floyd’s story. His death left his family bereft. It upended the life of the woman who loved him. It triggered months of national protests. It launched untold and often intense debate on racism, justice in America, and the persistence of prejudice and outright violence toward people of color in a nation built in overwhelming part on the exploitation of Black bodies through slavery.
And when Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd in 2020, was standing trial this spring, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop not far from where Floyd had gasped for air on hard pavement. Potter, despite 26 years of experience and her role supervising training for rookie cops, said she “accidentally” used her gun on Wright when she intended to use her stun gun.
Over three people a day were shot and killed by police while Chauvin stood trial and, according to the Mapping Police Violence database, there have been just six days so far in 2021, despite a raging pandemic, where police did not kill someone. This year, the database reports, is on track to be like the last seven, as police killings continue a steady upward trend despite no rise in violent crimes nationally.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — sponsored by Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus — was intended to curb excessive force and save lives when it was first introduced last year. It passed the House of Representatives exactly one month after Floyd was killed but it had no audience in the Senate where then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, refused to take it up.
The legislation bans carotid holds and no-knock warrants, while also proposing the creation of a national registry for police misconduct — a feature its proponents say would make it more difficult for officers with a history of bad conduct to jump jurisdictions without a trace.
But most contentiously among lawmakers who opposed the bill then and oppose it now is its provision to end qualified immunity for government officials and police, an accountability factor supporters of the law say is critical to restorative justice.
Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican and the only Black Republican in the Senate, countered the Floyd Act with the Justice Act, short for Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere.
Scott’s legislation didn’t go far enough for Democrats, and it ultimately died in the Senate last year because it failed to restrict qualified immunity. It also did not direct that chokeholds be banned at a federal level.
After President Joe Biden directed Congress to pass legislation by the anniversary of Floyd’s death at his first joint address to the Legislature, the going has been slow. Scott told reporters last week after emerging from talks with Representative Bass and Senator Cory Booker that they were close to a deal though qualified immunity was still a “work in progress.”
With the anniversary coming and going and nothing signed into law yet, President Biden invited members of Floyd’s family to the White House for a private meeting Monday. No press was permitted at the event. White House press secretary Jenn Psaki explained that the closed session would be more conducive to the “real conversation” that the president wished to have with Floyd’s family.