VP Kamala Harris: American people want a result in George Floyd reform effort

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Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday she is confident the Senate can pass police reform in the wake of guilty verdicts against former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, saying the “American people, in a bipartisan way,” are demanding a shake-up of the system.

“Nine minutes and 29 seconds. People are in pain over what we all saw in that video,” Ms. Harris told CNN’s “State of the Union” in a sit-down interview, referring to the length of time the former officer knelt on Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis. “We’ve got to put an end to these moments where the public questions whether there is going to be accountability.”

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the Democrat-led House last month, was seen previously as dead on arrival in the 50-50 Senate. But Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, said last week the parties can reach an agreement.

Looming as a deal-breaker is the proposed eradication of qualified immunity for law enforcement, which has become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter and other activist groups, but which Mr. Scott said is “off the table for me.”

Mr. Scott has floated an idea in which police departments, rather than individual officers, would be held liable for bad acts.

Rep. Val Demings, Florida Democrat, said she thinks there are  times when officers should be sued on a personal level, though she expressed optimism overall.

“I am hopeful that the Senate will meet this moment. I think we’re closer than a lot of people realize,” Ms. Demings, a former police chief in Orlando, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

In addition to eliminating qualified immunity for officers, the bill would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, end “racial and religious profiling” and establish a national database of police misconduct.

Ms. Demings said a bipartisan deal would be good for communities and police alike.

“Quite frankly, the American people need it,” she said.

Chauvin last week was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death, increasing momentum on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Harris said the verdict is just the start of the process and that Americans want to see change.

“This verdict is but a piece of it. And it will not heal the pain that existed for generations,” she told CNN.

Ms. Harris acknowledged the role she plays in these debates as not only the first female vice president but the first of African American and Asian-American descent. She said Mr. Biden was deliberate in choosing her as a voice for those who “have not traditionally been in the room.”

“I will bring a perspective that will contribute to the overall decisions that we make,” Ms. Harris said. “He is the president and makes the final decision.”

Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.

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