Police Reform Stalls: Washington’s Struggle Post-Floyd

Police Reform Stalls Washington's Struggle Post-Floyd
Police Reform Stalls Washington's Struggle Post-Floyd

Police Reform in the USA: Washington’s Stalemate Four Years After George Floyd’s Death

Four years have passed since George Floyd’s tragic death. This event ignited nationwide protests and calls for police reform. Floyd’s death, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, shocked the world and prompted urgent demands for change. Despite initial momentum, Washington has struggled to pass comprehensive police reform legislation.

Police Reform Stalls Washington's Struggle Post-Floyd
Police Reform Stalls Washington’s Struggle Post-Floyd

The Initial Push for Reform

In May 2020, George Floyd’s death sparked outrage and mobilized millions. People across the United States demanded justice and an end to police brutality. Sensing the public’s anger, both Democrats and Republicans proposed different reform bills. However, as time passed, the urgency for reform seemed to fade.

President Biden made police reform a focal point of his 2020 campaign. He aimed to address systemic issues highlighted by Floyd’s death. Early in his presidency, Biden urged Congress to act quickly. In April 2021, he called for a consensus on police reform by the first anniversary of Floyd’s death. However, bipartisan negotiations failed, and the talks fell apart a few months later.

Police Reform Stalls Washington's Struggle Post-Floyd

Police Reform Stalls Washington’s Struggle Post-Floyd

Key Challenges to Reform

One significant hurdle to passing police reform has been the debate over qualified immunity. This legal doctrine protects law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits. Democrats have pushed to overhaul qualified immunity, but Republicans strongly oppose these changes. This disagreement has been a major sticking point in negotiations.

Republicans have also sought to associate Democrats with the “defund the police” movement. This politically volatile slogan has made it difficult to reach a bipartisan agreement on reform. Despite most congressional Democrats not supporting the defund movement, the association has hindered progress.

Limited Actions and Local Efforts

While Congress has struggled to pass comprehensive reform, President Biden has taken some unilateral actions. Two years after Floyd’s death, he signed an executive order focused on federal law enforcement. This order included the creation of a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database. However, these actions fall short of the sweeping reforms many activists and citizens demand.

Local police departments across the country have made some changes in response to the outcry following Floyd’s death. Patrick Yoes, President of the Fraternal Order of Police, noted that many local jurisdictions have engaged in discussions to improve the criminal justice system. However, the perception remains that without federal legislation, true reform is incomplete.

Police Reform Stalls Washington's Struggle Post-Floyd
Police Reform Stalls Washington’s Struggle Post-Floyd

The Human Impact and Ongoing Struggle

For many, the issue of police reform is deeply personal. Bridgette Stewart, a community activist in Minnesota, remembers the unrest in Minneapolis following Floyd’s death. She believes that community-police relations remain strained, particularly in Black neighborhoods where trust in law enforcement is low.

Nate Hamilton, whose brother Dontre Hamilton was killed by a Milwaukee police officer in 2014, has made police reform his mission. He criticizes the federal government for not doing enough to support families affected by police violence. Hamilton believes that police accountability is a national issue that requires more robust federal intervention.

Political Implications

The struggle to pass police reform in Washington has significant political implications. As President Biden prepares for the 2024 elections, he faces the challenge of maintaining support from Black voters. These voters were crucial to his 2020 victory, and their support could be pivotal in the upcoming election.

South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, has been a prominent figure in the police reform debate. He authored a reform bill after Floyd’s death, but it was blocked by Senate Democrats. Scott has since criticized Democrats for the lack of progress. He is now seen as a potential running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Renewed Efforts and Hope for Change

Despite the setbacks, there is renewed effort to pass police reform. Earlier this week, members of George Floyd’s family appeared on Capitol Hill. They supported a new push by Democrats to pass an overhaul of policing in Floyd’s name. Although earlier versions of the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2020 and 2021, the current political landscape makes passage unlikely.

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, has been a persistent advocate for change. He continues to visit Washington, making the case for comprehensive police reform. “My brother’s life was stolen,” he said. “So many other people’s lives were stolen from them.”

Key Takeaways

  • Initial Momentum: George Floyd’s death in 2020 sparked national outrage and demands for police reform.
  • Political Challenges: Disagreements over qualified immunity and associations with the “defund the police” movement have hindered progress.
  • Limited Federal Actions: President Biden has taken some unilateral actions, but comprehensive reform remains elusive.
  • Local Efforts: Some local police departments have made changes, but perceptions of incomplete reform persist.
  • Personal Impact: For many, police reform is a deeply personal issue, with ongoing struggles for justice and accountability.
  • Political Implications: The struggle for reform could impact the 2024 elections, particularly for President Biden.

Relevant Quotes

  • “That’s the insult right there, not taking action.” – Keeta Floyd, George Floyd’s sister-in-law.
  • “We need to work together to find a consensus.” – President Joe Biden.
  • “I hope that when the dust settles… we do something that says to the American people, we see your pain.” – Senator Tim Scott.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is qualified immunity? A: Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits unless they violated clearly established constitutional rights.

Q: Why has police reform stalled in Congress? A: Disagreements over key issues like qualified immunity and political associations with the “defund the police” movement have made bipartisan agreement difficult.

Q: Has there been any progress on police reform at the federal level? A: President Biden has signed an executive order focused on federal law enforcement, but comprehensive reform legislation has not been passed.

Q: What changes have been made at the local level? A: Many local police departments have engaged in discussions and made changes to improve the criminal justice system in response to public outcry.

Q: How does the struggle for police reform impact the 2024 elections? A: The struggle for reform could impact voter support, particularly among Black voters who were crucial to President Biden’s 2020 victory.


The struggle for police reform in the United States continues. Four years after George Floyd’s death, comprehensive reform remains elusive. The political and personal stakes are high, and the upcoming 2024 elections may be a turning point in this ongoing struggle for justice and accountability.

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