Rice said the government “strongly” supports the police reform bill named after Floyd, which was killed last May after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stuck his knee to Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin’s murder trial for the death of Floyd is still ongoing.
The White House “is working with Congress to swiftly implement meaningful police reform that will bring about profound, much-needed changes,” said Rice.
The decision to postpone the commission underscores the way in which election promises can conflict with the realities of governance and potentially hit a president’s agenda. Biden first promised to set up a supervisory board last June, about a week after Floyd’s murder. When numerous cities held mass protests against the killings of black people, Biden called for policing reforms, including a national database of police misconduct and a ban on the use of chokeholds. However, he refused to endorse the Black Lives Matter movement’s major political demands on issues such as police liability and declined its call to “defuse the police” and reallocate funds to community social programs and priorities to accept.
“We need every single police station in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their attitudes, training and de-escalation practices,” said Biden in a speech in Philadelphia, addressing protests across the country last summer. “And the federal government should provide cities and states with the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.”
When this was announced, members of the Black Lives Matter movement and civil rights activists voiced skepticism about the value of another commission and questioned what impact it could have. And after Biden took office, civil rights organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Protection and Education Fund, told the administration that, given the decades of research that had already been put together on police practices, no further commission was needed .
“As the ongoing trial of George Floyd shows, the police transformation in America is one of the most pressing crises the nation faces today,” Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference, told POLITICO. “We also agree with the White House’s decision not to set up a commission to investigate the problem.”
“This matter is far too urgent to be delayed, and Congress is by far the more appropriate place to consider legislative changes related to police accountability,” added Henderson.
Civil rights activists were particularly concerned that a commission would be used by Senate lawmakers – both Republicans and skeptical Democrats – as an excuse to stall measures against the House-passed police reform bill. Legislators’ fears may cite the need to see the Commission’s finished work as a reason to end support for police reform legislation.
There has been significant “Commission fatigue” at all White House meetings with civil rights groups and police unions, said a source familiar with the administration’s efforts.
Police union officials themselves were indifferent to any other body, despite making it clear to the White House that if one was formed they would want a seat at the table.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the fraternal police force, said he and the organization’s president practically met with Rice shortly after Biden took office. During that meeting, the White House was still planning the formation of the commission, but Pasco told Rice that the FOP did not consider another body to be mandatory.
“Our concern wasn’t that they would or would not have one. We were concerned that we would have a voice and were assured we would have a voice, ”said Pasco.
Pasco noted that former President Barack Obama had set up a police commission of his own that “made a variety of recommendations, most of which we agreed and which practically nothing had happened to.”
“So,” he added, “would be a good starting point to take on board the recommendations of the most recent previous commission and try to implement them.”
The Obama-era task force, which issued a 120-page report in 2015, failed to respond to two key demands made by activists at the time: the demand for body cameras for all police forces and the provision of federal funding for local police departments to benefit from racial bias training are dependent.
Former President Donald Trump also set up a commission, but it was made up entirely of law enforcement agencies. The Commission’s report defended qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects the police from civil rights violations lawsuits committed by victims of police violence or their families. A federal judge in Washington also found that the Trump Commission violated federal advisory committees law by failing to have a balanced advisory board.
These previous commissions “did not change the policy,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, in an interview.
“Without full power to hold officers and authorities accountable,” said Johnson, “a commission is” more window dressing, unless the commission’s purpose was to provide public support for the passage of the George Floyd bill in the Senate build up. “