A black Democratic lawmaker from Florida has defended the Columbus, Ohio police officer who shot and killed knife-wielding Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, last week a half-second before she stabbed another teen.
In an appearance on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Rep. Val Demings said that when she was chief of police in Orlando, Fla., she often prayed that her officers would respond according to their training, while adding that the teen’s death was a “sad moment” in particular because she also worked with foster kids as a social worker.
“But I also was a patrol officer who was out there on the street, having to make those split-second decisions. You know now everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and seizing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability. He or she has to make those split-second decisions and they’re tough,” Demings told the program’s host, John Dickerson.
She added that according to “the limited information that I know in viewing the video — it appears that the officer responded, as he was trained to do with the main thought of preventing a tragedy and loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted.”
The officer in question, Nicholas Reardon, joined the Columbus Police Department in 2019. He is also a member of the Ohio Air National Guard.
The host went on to ask Demings what she would tell colleagues in the House about how to respond to officer-involved shootings in the future.
“Let’s don’t make this a political issue. When we look historically throughout our history, even though there’s always been too strong political parties, they always seem in most instances to be able to lay down their political difference(s), and rise to meet that significant moment,” she responded.
Demings also said during the interview that lawmakers should join together to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, with the House passed in March.
“Let’s get this done. [The] George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is not perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction. Let’s get this done. We need it. The American people need it,” Demings said.
Republicans have aligned against the measure, which narrowly passed last month on a vote of 220-212, with two Democrats voting against it, because they argue it will further hamstring police in a way that will be dangerous to them.
Also, Republicans oppose provisions that end qualified legal immunity for officers, making it far easier to pursue civil claims against cops. The bill bans no-knock warrants for drug cases, prohibits chokeholds, incentivizes state officials to investigate local departments and deaths involving police officers, and redirects funds to community policing measures.
Last week, Demings got into a heated back-and-forth during a Judiciary Committee hearing on law enforcement with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) over an amendment he offered.
Jordan sought to amend a current piece of legislation while also being critical of Democrats who have, for months, criticized police shootings involving blacks, with many in the department previously supporting ‘defund’ efforts being pushed by radical leftists in many major cities.
Demings accused Jordan and Republicans of supporting police only when it is politically convenient for them — the exact same thing Republicans accused Democrats of doing following the death of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“It is interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support police when it is politically convenient to do so. Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day, they deserve better,” Demings insisted, prompting an interruption from Jordan and a loud response from the Democrat.
“I have the floor, Mr. Jordan! What, did I strike a nerve?!” she said, banging her hand on her podium.
“Law enforcement officers deserve better than to be utilized as pawns! And you and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves!” Demings hollered. “Mr. Jordan, you don’t know what in the heck you’re talkin’ about. You know nothin’ about what law enforcement officers do.”
“I know about my motive,” Jordan fired back.
Later, he reminded colleagues that Republicans have regularly defended police, especially during the riotous months of 2020 following Floyd’s death.
“We condemned the violence on Jan. 6 and we condemned it last summer. It would’ve been nice if our colleagues on the other side had done the same,” an emotional Jordan said.
“Last summer when police were being pelted with frozen water bottles, bricks, and beat up, where were they? They were raising money to bail out rioters who were doing those very actions to the police,” Jordan added. “And today we get a lecture about how we haven’t been consistent, you’ve got to be kidding me!”
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