Portman, Brown optimistic about police reform bill, parties disagree on details


WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — Senate republicans unveiled their plan to tackle police reform Wednesday following weeks of unrest after the death of George Floyd. Democrats are also pushing ahead with their own plans as Congress attempts to find common ground.

Senate republicans hope financial incentives, rather than government mandates, are enough to spur police departments to make changes on their own. Ohio Senator Rob Portman supports the plan.

“I’m encouraged by this discussion,” Portman said. “I think there’s an opportunity here to make progress.”

The legislation, crafted by South Carolina Republican Tim Scott, strengthens data collection on police misconduct and use of force and encourages departments to ban chokeholds in exchange for federal funding. There’s also money for de-escalation training.

But Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun wants more done on qualified immunity, which the GOP plan doesn’t touch.

“I’m one that wishes we had been a little more bold as republicans,” Braun said. “Not eliminate [qualified immunity], but modify it.”

Democrats say qualified immunity, which protects government officials from being sued, has to go.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says if it stays, it creates problems trying to prosecute officers.

“You’ve created a wall, a defense wall, for any potential defendant who is in law enforcement from civil liability,” Durbin said.

Still, some senators say there’s more agreement than people might think.

“We’re in good faith sitting down and trying to find that common ground,” Portman said.

His colleague and fellow Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is optimistic.

“I’m hopeful we can find a way forward,” Brown said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to move the bill to the floor next week.

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