Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California said Sunday the “maximum” sentence must be applied in the case of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after he was convicted last week on murder and manslaughter charges regarding the death last May of George Floyd.
In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Bass, who is black, told interviewer George Stephanopoulos that giving Chauvin as much time as possible behind bars is “absolutely needed,” adding that she was “relieved” after seeing him convicted on all three counts.
“I was definitely relieved. I was relieved when it happened and it was guilty on all counts,” Bass said.
“[W]hen we have seen the occasional guilty verdict, it is rarely followed by the maximum sentence,” she added. “And considering the egregious nature of the torturing, the death of George Floyd, a maximum sentence, I think, is absolutely needed.”
Bass noted that members of the so-called “Problem Solvers Caucus” that includes Republicans are interested in legislation that both sides believe will be effective. But thus far, Democrats have rallied around, and passed, a bill that Republicans nearly universally opposed.
In March, Democrats narrowly passed The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by a 220-212 margin, which ends qualified legal immunity for officers, thereby making it easier for people to pursue civil claims against cops. In addition, the measure bans no-knock warrants for drug cases, prohibits chokeholds, provides incentives for state officials to launch investigations into local departments and deaths involving police officers, and redirects funding to community policing programs.
But last summer, Democrats flatly rejected a reform bill put together by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), even refusing multiple offers to amend it.
“Today we lost — I lost — a vote on a piece of legislation that would have led to systemic change in the relationship between the communities of color and the law enforcement community,” Scott said on the floor of the Senate in June, about a month after Floyd died and after nearly all Democrats voted against his JUSTICE Act.
“This legislation spoke to the important issues that have brought us here today. We wouldn’t be here if it were not, as Senator Perdue alluded to, for the death of yet another African American man, George Floyd,” he continued.
I offered Democrats the chance to offer AT LEAST 20 amendments. They walked out. #JUSTICEAct
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) June 24, 2020
“His murder is why the country has given us the opportunity to lead, to lead. And my friends on the other side just said no. Not no to the legislation. They just said no.”
Clinton “war room” veteran Stephanopoulus went on to ask the California Democrat about police reforms in general ahead of an expected discussion about this issue this week by President Joe Biden who is scheduled to deliver his first joint congressional address on Wednesday to an invitation-only crowd of about 200 lawmakers and guests due to COVID restrictions.
He noted that some observers have said “you can’t just focus on police reform, you have to invest in entire communities,” while claiming that, according to ABC’s polling, a “solid majority” of Americans support such efforts.
“I absolutely agree with that. And as a matter of fact, what we have done over the years is we have divested from communities. We’ve cut health care. We’ve cut social services. And then when there are problems that result, we expect the police to pick up the pieces,” Bass responded.
“So, one of the most glaring examples is with mental illness in our country. We don’t treat mental illness properly and the people — people — people get — go into a crisis, you wind up calling the police and the individual gets killed,” she continued.
“Why do we do that? Why do we incarcerate people who are mentally ill? Why don’t we treat them, provide them health care and services upfront so they don’t deteriorate into a crisis?” she asked.