Trump slams Democrats' police reform bill

Lisa Mascaro
Democrat politicians have knelt to remember George Flloyd as they proposed an overhaul of US police

Democrats have proposed a far-reaching overhaul of US police procedures and accountability, a sweeping legislative response to the mass protests denouncing the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

The political outlook is deeply uncertain for the legislation in a polarised election year. President Donald Trump is staking out a tough "law and order" approach in the face of the outpouring of demonstrations and demands to re-imagine policing in America.

"We cannot settle for anything less than transformative structural change," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, drawing on the nation's history of slavery.

Before unveiling the package on Monday, House and Senate Democrats held a moment of silence at the Capitol's Emancipation Hall, reading the names of George Floyd and many others killed during police interactions.

They knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds - now a symbol of police brutality and violence - the length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned under a white police officer's knee before he died.

Trump, who met with law enforcement officials at the White House, characterised Democrats as having "gone CRAZY!"

As activists call for restructuring police departments and even to " defund the police", the president tweeted, "LAW & ORDER, NOT DEFUND AND ABOLISH THE POLICE."

He declared later, "We won't be dismantling our police."

Democratic leaders pushed back, saying their proposal would not eliminate police departments - a decision for cities and states - but establish new standards and oversight.

Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, "does not believe that police should be defunded", said spokesman Andrew Bates.

The Justice in Policing Act, the most ambitious law enforcement reforms from congress in years, confronts several aspects of policing that have come under strong criticism, especially as more and more police violence is captured on mobile phone video and shared widely across the nation and the world.

The package would ban chokeholds federally, end certain no-knock warrants, expand the use of body cameras, and establish a database for tracking officers' misconduct. There would also be changes to qualified immunity, making it easier to sue officers for abuse.

The legislation would ban racial profiling, boost requirements for police body cameras and limit the transfer of military equipment to local jurisdictions.

A long-sought federal anti-lynching bill that has stalled in congress is included in the package.

It is unclear if law enforcement and the powerful police unions will back any of the proposed changes or if congressional Republicans will join the effort.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose Louisville hometown faces unrest after the police shooting of Breonna Taylor in her home, said he would take a look at potential Senate legislation.

Republicans are likely to stick with Trump although McConnell was central to passage of a 2018 criminal justice sentencing overhaul the president signed into law, and some key GOP senators have similarly expressed interest in changes to policing practices and accountability.

Senator Lindsey Graham.,chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, has said his panel intends to hold a hearing to review use of force and other issues. And Senator Mike Lee has said he'd like to review the package coming from Democrats.

Will Hurd, who marched in support of Floyd in Houston, penned an op-ed on Monday about how his own black father instructed him as a teen driver to respond if he was pulled over by the police. Hurd offered his own proposals for changes in police practices.