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Byrne supports Senate Republicans police reform bill

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, on Wednesday announced that he was supporting of Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Senate Republicans’ plan to reform policing in this country, the JUSTICE Act.

“I applaud Senator Tim Scott for his leadership on the #JUSTICEAct, and I hope Congress will come together in a bipartisan manner to pass this bill and send it to President Trump for his signature,” Rep. Byrne said on social media. “Instead of ridiculous partisan ideas like ‘defunding the police,’ Senator Scott has put together a commonsense proposal to address concerns about policing policies across the country in a way that actually promotes more transparency and better community policing.”

Congressman Byrne has written against the “Defund the Police” movement that has gripped a number of major cities.

“The ‘defund the police’ movement is not the answer,” Byrne wrote recently. “My colleagues Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke out against it last week. Ms. Norton said that the poorest of the people she represents live in the parts of town that experience the most homicides and crime. ‘I’m not sure I would hear them saying we ought to reduce the number of police, I may hear them saying just the opposite,’ she said.”

“Neither does it make sense to paint all of law enforcement with a broad and negative brush,” Byrne continued. “We all need law enforcement and we are blessed that the vast majority of our officers are good professionals, often doing their jobs under dangerous circumstances. Last year 89 officers died in the line of duty in the U.S. Many more were injured. Most of us don’t work in a job where it is unclear whether we will return home at the end of the day safe and sound. But they do.”

Sponsors say that the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act provides long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency, while also promoting efforts to find solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities.

“Now is the time for reform,” Scott said. “The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement. The JUSTICE Act takes smart, commonsense steps to address these issues, from ending the use of chokeholds and increasing the use of body worn cameras, to providing more resources for police departments to better train officers and make stronger hiring decisions. I want to thank Leader McConnell and the entire task force not just for their hard work on putting this bill together, but for their commitment to finding real solutions.”

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“I really appreciate Senator Scott’s leadership putting together a police reform proposal that will make a difference,” stated Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. “This proposal reinforces the need for better community policing, best practices and creating more transparency when it comes to reporting encounters with law enforcement throughout the country. I hope our Democratic colleagues will take this proposal seriously, and that all of us work together to find common ground to bring reform to policing in America.”

“When I spoke with George Floyd’s family last week, they asked me for one thing: justice. That is what we set out to do with this legislation,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “The JUSTICE Act is a package of significant reforms that already have bipartisan support, so there’s no excuse for Democrats to reject them out of hand. Although many of the changes to reform policing in our communities will happen at the local level, we can help stem racial inequality and ensure America’s police are more responsibly serving our communities.”

The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding deescalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds.

The bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve. It also ensures that when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records

The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly. The bill requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers. Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force.

The bill will require full reporting in these two areas The JUSTICE Act will also make lynching a federal crime. It creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is not seeking re-election.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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