Biden White House puts its police oversight commission on hold

In what might be a big disappointment to at least some social justice advocates, the Biden administration has announced it will not go forward with a national police oversight commission despite a campaign promise to do just that in Joe’s first 100 days in the Oval Office.

In the alternative, this decision might enable the final passage of the pending police reform legislation in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

The Biden team checked with stakeholders and apparently determined that creating the group was unnecessary and possibly redundant.

“Based on close, respectful consultation with partners in the civil rights community, the administration made the considered judgment that a police commission, at this time, would not be the most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area, which is to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into law,” Domestic Policy Council Director (and former Obama National Security Advisor) Susan Rice explained in a statement, Politico reported.

Rice noted that the Biden administration strongly backs the police reform bill named after Floyd, who died last summer in Minneapolis police custody. Officer Derek Chauvin’s criminal trial in that incident is ongoing.

The bill has already passed the U.S. House and awaits consideration in the Senate, where it could go through many revisions prior to being acted upon, if at all.

“The decision to shelve the commission underscores the ways in which campaign promises can clash with the realities of governing and potentially trip up a president’s agenda,” Politico added. The news outlet also claimed that “commission fatigue” had set in as the White House staff met with civil rights groups and police unions.

It is often said a commission is where ideas got to die. “Civil rights advocates were especially concerned that a commission would be used as an excuse by lawmakers in the Senate — both Republicans and skeptical Democrats — to stall action on the House-passed police reform bill,” Politico noted in this regard.

In the alternative, the timing of the decision might be considered unfortunate in that a police-involved shooting has occurred in a Minneapolis suburb that has prompted civil unrest.

In a nutshell, the legislation as proposed would, among its various provisions, increases U.S. Justice Department sway over “problematic” local PDs, ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, require de-escalation techniques prior to the last-resort use of deadly force, require body cameras on officers as a condition of federal funding, make it easier to sue cops for police misconduct by lowering the legal threshold.

It also eliminates qualified immunity that currently shields cops from getting sued for civil money damages when victims accuse them of committing constitutional rights violations. This could also make it easier for cops to be hit with frivolous lawsuits, however.

The bill changes the justification for use of deadly force from a reasonable standard to one that is only when it is “necessary” to prevent death or bodily injury. That definitional change could prompt significant second guessing in the courtroom.

It also creates a national police misconduct registry.

Setting aside the politicized, ideological debate, reasonable people can probably agree that some form of police reform would be beneficial. Use of force guideline revisions to some extent may be appropriate. Police overtime abuse is a major issue in some jurisdictions. Union interference with police management might need to be addressed. Training and physical fitness requirements could also be upgraded, especially given the seeming prevalence of officers who are way out of shape for the demands of the job.

The Floyd law, in addition, “requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing.”

Over the years, some conservatives have raised certain concerns that one of the end games for the left is to seize control of local police departments or at least attach a lot of strings.

Joe Biden purportedly disagrees with defunding-the-police philosophy (sometimes called reimagining public safety) that would shift resources to social workers. The administration, for now anyway, supports the continuance of the qualified immunity doctrine.

Robert Jonathan

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