Lawmakers around the country are grappling with how to reform the police following weeks of mass protests against police brutality set off by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill with a number of police reforms from banning chokeholds to weakening qualified immunity for police, but the Democrats have largely resisted protester demands to defund the police.
Freshman Democrat Elissa Slotkin represents Michigan’s 8th congressional district. She spoke with WKAR politics reporter Abigail Censky about where she stands on police reforms and calls to defund the police. Below are highlights of their conversation.
Rep. Slotkin Against Defunding The Police
“Our bill does not defund the police. But there is a moment going on right now to really like take a second, take a beat and reflect on whether this is the right way to be organized. Do we have the incentive structure right or is it something that really needs major reforms? I don't love that slogan. It's not what I support. But I do support having the conversation at the national level.”
Slotkin is a co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act—the product of a Democrat dominated House of Representatives. The bill proposes a federal ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants—directly responding to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
The legislation also proposes changes including weakening qualified immunity—the doctrine that makes it difficult to pursue civil action against police officers—creating a national registry of police misconduct, and making lynching a federal hate crime.
However, after the bill was introduced last week, Republican counterparts in the U.S. Senate expressed reticence to ban chokeholds and called winnowing the doctrine of qualified immunity a non-starter.
"I've had lots of conversations with a lot of community leaders over the past three weeks. First and foremost, the African-American leaders here in Lansing. And they'll say the same thing that some of the sheriff's and the police chiefs are saying—they don't want cops to be the front face of a lot of these social services, neither do the cops."
On the streets, protesters hold signs emblazoned with “Defund the Police,” but the umbrella term means different things to different people. To some it signifies zeroing out police budgets, and entirely dismantling departments as the city council in Minneapolis pledged to do. But to others it means re-allocating portions of police budgets toward community-based funding—something Slotkin said she and local advocates she spoke with are in favor of. Small, nightly protests in Lansing have advocated for the latter approach.
Standing Up For Schor
"I believe Mayor Schor has demonstrated that he wants to have that conversation. He's doing a ton of engagement with people. He's out there talking to folks, and he's hearing from his critics and from his supporters. I think that's what creates change, and you're already watching him, make announcements about things that he's going to do differently with police funding."
Slotkin said she supports embattled Lansing Mayor Andy Schor who’s drawn the ire of a small, but vocal group of nightly protesters in addition to leadership of the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter. Over the last several weeks protesters and Black Lives Matter Lansing co-founder Angela Waters Austin have separately called for Schor’s resignation. Tuesday, Schor introduced proposals and pledges to meet some of the protesters' demands.