On Tuesday, it will be one year since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis
police officer Derek Chauvin
, who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Since that tragic encounter with police, lawmakers have been working to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
, a sweeping police reform
bill. The bill still faces several hurdles, including a heated debate over qualified immunity.
The bill will not be passed by the anniversary
of Floyd's death
, as President Joe Biden
had hoped, but Cedric Richmond
, a White House
senior adviser and former congressman, believes it will.
Richmond discussed the bill and the administration's plans for police reform with Stardia.
How important is this legislation to the president's agenda, and what does its failure to pass Congress mean?
It's critical when you see what's happening in communities and across the country, whether it's George Floyd, Ronald Greene
, or Breonna Taylor
... It's a problem. We know it's a problem. It's an injustice, and we have to confront it.
The president has publicly declared, even in a joint address to Congress, that the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act must be passed and that we must reexamine how police and the communities they serve interact, and there is no trust there. There must be transparency and accountability in policing in this country, end of story.
How concerned are you that without an urgent deadline, the legislation will take a back seat and may not move forward? The president wanted police reform legislation on his desk by May 25.
No, I know that Sen. [Tim] Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. [Cory] Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. [Karen] Bass (D-Calif.), and others are meeting on a regular basis to try to find common ground and produce a bill that is, one, substantive, and that will achieve the goal of reforming policing, building trust, and instituting accountability.
These negotiations are primarily between members of Congress, as Sen. Tim Scott stated, "I've never found it helpful to negotiate with anyone other than those who have votes
." So, what role can the White House play in this?
We will play whatever role they deem necessary, and we will continue to do so, but we publicly support the bill and the ongoing negotiations.
Have you or other White House officials met with Republican
members of Congress to discuss the legislation?
Let us just say that we are actively monitoring the situation and offering assistance whenever and wherever it is requested during these negotiations.
Ending qualified immunity appears to be a sticking point; where does the White House stand on it, and how important is it to the final bill? Are there any red lines for the president in terms of what must be included?
It must be a substantive bill that addresses what occurs far too frequently in this country, so we are not negotiating or setting red lines in public; instead, we are giving Congress the space
to do so, but we would like to see a meaningful bill.
Do you agree with Rep. Jim Clyburn that qualified immunity does not have to be included in the bill?
No, Congressman Clyburn is a close friend and a historian; I know how important this issue is to him, but I believe he was speaking for... those were his views.
How about you?
My opinions are irrelevant, but I can tell you that President Biden believes it must be a substantive bill, and I agree with him. We also need ways to make it transparent and hold police accountable, while also ensuring that families are economically whole to the greatest extent possible.
Do you think the increase in crime
in many American cities over the last year will make it more difficult to pass this legislation?
Do I worry that increased crime will have an impact on the passage of this legislation? Well, I hope not. Where we are concerned, we will continue to look at, monitor, and work on crime prevention measures such as the community violence money
that we included in the American Jobs
Plan. But we believe that constitutional policing, not violating people
's rights, and not using excessive force are all important.
We've seen the resumption of DOJ pattern and practice investigations, but that isn't a nationwide solution, and it's not always the best or most effective solution in every city or town. What role can the federal government play in encouraging police reform?
Practice and pattern investigations are very important tools, and they are significant. I live in a city that had a consent
decree, and I would hate to minimize how important it is in terms of setting the tone for other police departments to know that you have a Justice Department
that is watching and mindful of constitutional policing, excessive force complaints, and so on.
The length and clarity of this interview
have been edited.
Here you can find live updates on Floyd's death anniversary.