The deputy has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated, but Virginia State Police told CNN Brown was unarmed. He has serious but not life-threatening injuries.
There is still broad disagreement between the two parties about how far Congress should go to punish police misconduct.
But the recent shootings also illustrate how the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that is being considered in Congress — which would set up a national registry of police misconduct and overhaul qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that protects law enforcement officers from civil lawsuits — will only address some aspects of the problem, and would not necessarily have prevented any of the violence that unfolded last week. The bill has already passed the House, but has faced a more difficult path in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats lack the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.
But there were new signs of hope last week that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are at least serious about making a deal on police reform — and lead negotiator Rep. Karen Bass of California, a Democrat, said she hoped the two sides could put together a framework by late May, which would be the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder. Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina floated a potential compromise on reforming qualified immunity, arguing that police departments could be held accountable even if individual officers are still shielded.
But a number of progressive Democrats immediately rejected that idea.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic congressional delegate for the US Virgin Islands, told CNN’s Pamela Brown Saturday night that substantive changes must be made to qualified immunity, explaining the passion behind the push to do so.
“Qualified immunity has in many instances become the hood for bad police officers to, in fact, act as modern-day Ku Klux Klan members against Black and Brown people in this country. And it has got to stop,” Plaskett said. “The most conservative members of the Supreme Court say that Congress needs to do something about qualified immunity. And we cannot shirk our responsibility to victims and Americans at large because we are afraid of the unions, or talking points, or those on the right who have used the blue wall as a shield against American justice.”
Biden administration steps up its visibility on the issue
Biden plans to make a push for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, marking his first 100 days in office and laying out his priorities going forward. Newly confirmed members of his Justice Department are also taking a more active role on the issue.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta met in person at the Justice Department, and virtually, with police chiefs from major cities and influential police leaders from around the country Friday to discuss ideas for police reform, according to a spokesman for the attorney general. Garland also announced last week that he was opening a federal civil investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis.
Vice President Kamala Harris sounded an optimistic note in an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire Friday where she called the House-passed police reform bill a critical step toward repairing relations between grieving communities and the law enforcement officers who are supposed to protect them.
“I absolutely believe there is a way to rebuild trust, but it will not happen by itself,” she said. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, she said, “would be a step toward building back that trust—it is about saying there should be accountability.”
But it is not yet clear how much political capital the White House is willing to spend to help broker a deal that pulls Senate Republicans on board — and creates a real chance for substantive change.