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Palmer votes against Democratic bill reforming law enforcement

Alabama Republican Congressman Gary Palmer.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed H.R. 7120. Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, said that the Democratic-led bill was introduced with no Republican input, and that, if passed, it would undermine law enforcement officers’ ability to do their jobs effectively.

“I opposed this bill because it would result in more crime and fewer people willing to serve in law enforcement.,” Palmer said. “The Democrat bill lowers the standard for mens rea and virtually eliminates qualified immunity for officers, meaning that an officer could potentially go to prison for breaking the law unintentionally. Few people want to serve in a job in which they are attacked, underpaid, and overworked, and even fewer want to serve in one in which they could be charged as a criminal besides. At the end of the day, more crime and fewer law enforcement officers to ensure our safety would be the results of this bill.”

“Without qualification, George Floyd’s death was horrific,” Palmer stated. “It was a brutal, callous assault that has damaged public trust in police officers. But we cannot undermine the entire law enforcement community because of it. Every group has bad actors, but we cannot continue painting all law enforcement officers as villains. I’m thankful for the brave men and women who work for the safety of our communities, families, and the very Capitol in which Congress convenes. Officers take an oath to run toward danger when everyone else runs away, and I’m indebted to two officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, who did just that to keep my colleagues and me from being killed on a baseball field three years ago. They and many more like them are heroes and I stand with them.”

“The Democrat leadership claimed they wanted to come together with Republicans to craft a bill for sensible law enforcement reforms, yet they did not allow a single Republican to give input on this bill,” said Palmer. “Moreover, the Democrats rejected every Republican amendment, including those that would have strengthened the bill, such as anti-lynching provisions, extensive new training requirements, more transparency, and more accountability. What’s more, the Democrats in the House and Senate exhibited stunning disrespect and contempt for the Senate companion bill introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), one of only three African-Americans in the Senate. One Senate leader even called his bill a “token,” a dismissive word with clear racial overtones. And while violent anarchists are holding Democrat cities hostage, Speaker Nancy Pelosi stooped to a new low by calling Senator Scott’s reform bill ‘an attempt to get away with murder.’”

“Every day, police officers put their lives on the line to serve our communities honorably, and I will never support any effort, such as H.R. 7120, to make their jobs even more dangerous while also leaving our communities vulnerable to the lawless acts and senseless violence we are witnessing across our nation today,” Palmer concluded.

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced that he was going to vote no before the vote.

“I will vote ‘No’ on H.R. 7120,” Brooks said. “The bill is premised on the belief that 435 Congressmen & 100 Senators & one president are collectively smarter than all of America’s city councilmen, mayors, county commissioners, sheriffs, legislators and governors. I reject that premise. I have worked with hundreds of local and state officials. I know from first-hand experience that Congress is NOT smarter than everyone else in America!”

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Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-California, supported the legislation.

“If the Justice in Policing Act had been the law of the land several years ago, Eric Garner and George Floyd would be alive because the bill bans chokeholds,” Bass said. “If the bill had been law last year, Breonna Taylor would not have been shot to death in her sleep because no-knock warrants for drug offenses would have been illegal. And, this May, Tamir Rice would have graduated from high school. The officer who killed the twelve year-old child, after an encounter that lasted seconds, had been fired from another department; the Justice in Policing Act calls for a national registry that would have revealed his instability and propensity for violence.”

“When society does not invest in communities, police officers are left to pick up the pieces,” Bass argued. “Police officers are the first to say it is unfair, that they are not trained to be social workers or health providers.”

The bill now goes to the Senate where a Republican policing reform bill by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, was blocked by Senate Democrats who thought it did not go far enough. H.R. 7120 in its current form appears to have little chance of passing in the Senate.

Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District.

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

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