House Democrats on Thursday advanced a long-sought policing and public safety package after overcoming internal disagreements over legislation they plan to make central to their election-year pitch.

A package of four bills passed in quick succession – all with bipartisan support – and heads to the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.

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The Democrats’ victory came after party leaders spent hours sparring with progressives who threatened to block the package over their concerns about increasing money for local police departments. Some lawmakers said the plan lacked accountability measures that Democrats once championed after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests against racial injustice.

The House approved the money, including for departments with fewer than 125 officers, and aid for de-escalation training and mental health services. A key goal is to reduce fatal encounters between police and people with mental illness.


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Other parts of the package would provide money for increased community violence intervention — a priority for progressives — and technology investments to help local investigators close unsolved cases, especially Including gun crimes.

“The bottom line is that you can’t cut it off and block your way to safer communities and better police departments,” said Rep. Josh Guttimer, D-N.J., a key negotiator. “This is about investing in safety. We must always support those who risk their lives every day to protect us.

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Despite opposition from some liberals, top progressives had the support of Reps. Pramila Jaipaul, D-Wash., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who negotiated with a moderate Gottheimer.

Reps. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, facilitated several talks in recent days after it became clear that progress could be made. .

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After a deal was announced Wednesday, Democratic leaders moved quickly to vote on the bills.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve been able to do collectively here as Democrats with diverse views,” Omar told reporters. “And I think that hopefully this is the beginning of a process that we can engage in.”

To get more liberals on board, language was added that would have given the Justice Department discretion over what police departments were allowed to receive grants. It would also earmark departments to use any of the $60 million authorized to collect data on police practices and community safety.

A policing package that passed the House in March 2021 went much further, including a ban on police checkpoint holds and changes to so-called immunity for law enforcement, which would allow claims of police misconduct. Moving forward will be easier.

None of these provisions were included this time.

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Representative Cory Bush, who rose to prominence as an activist after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, said the current funding bill does little to address the “crisis of police brutality.” works.

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“Accountability measures passed last year also failed to make it into the new package,” Bush said in a statement.

Despite these internal divisions, the bills received some Republican support. Rep. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., a co-sponsor of Gottheimer’s funding bill, urged other Republicans on Thursday to join him in supporting it.

“This is for our law enforcement men and women. This is for these smaller agencies,” said Rutherford, a former sheriff in Jacksonville. “We need to be able to help them. And I can tell you that the last 2 1/2 years have lowered the morale of law enforcement like I’ve never seen before.

More than 140 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

But other Republicans called the Democrats’ package a last-ditch effort to win over voters in the November election.

“Democrats are bringing this bill today because we are 46 days away from the midterm elections,” said Rep. Pete Stober, R-Minn. “They want the American people to suddenly and miraculously believe that they care about the crime crisis facing our nation.”

Associated Press reporter Kevin Fraking contributed to this report.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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