https://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2021/05/13/sen-mike-braun-tim-scott-justice-act-police-reform-bill/5064416001/

Over the past year I have spent many hours listening to law enforcement officers and police groups, and as discussions of policing reform continue to dominate the news and threaten to upend the policing profession and the protections afforded to those who wear the badge, two things are very clear to me: No one does a more difficult job than our nation’s law enforcement, and the federal government is not where these discussions should be taking place.

Last year, I signed on to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, a reform bill that had the support of many national and state law enforcement groups.

In June of last year, as violent riots broke out in our cities, Senate Democrats used the filibuster to kill that bill so they could exploit this issue for political gain at the ballot box in November.

Last year, the United States had a strongly pro-police administration in the White House. The dynamic of the debate in Washington has changed drastically in a year.

And now, those same Senate Democrats have returned to the negotiating table under threat of eliminating the filibuster that they used to shut down Republicans’ good faith efforts last year. 

Though top Democrats in Congress have tried to replace the radical left’s rallying cry of “Defund the police” with bureaucratic baloney as much as they can – likely after discovering the vast majority of Americans know that defunding our police is as foolish as it sounds – their end goal is the same: to divert funds away from police, make our communities less safe and demonize those who protect and serve.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last year blocked a resolution in opposition to defunding the police. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spoken of “rebalancing” police budgets and directing funds away from law enforcement and into other priorities.

Vice President Kamala Harris has called for diverting police funds away from departments and “reimagining” police departments across the country.

What’s the difference between “defunding the police” and “rebalancing” and “reimagining” their budgets to include less resources for enforcing laws? Nothing but rhetoric.

No one wants to improve policing in this country more than law enforcement, and yet, in these negotiations, Democrats have continued to make sticking points out of issues law enforcement groups have deemed nonstarters.

While law enforcement has resoundingly rejected calls to modify or end qualified immunity, Democrats have continued to push for ending this protection. I oppose any reform to the current doctrine of qualified immunity, which I believe extends critical protections for law enforcement officers who are forced to act in split-second scenarios when lives are on the line.

Any federal reform package that cannot garner the support of law enforcement is not the right solution to me, and considering that 12,000 of America’s 18,000 police agencies are local departments, it raises the question why the federal government is the venue for these negotiations at all.

Because Republicans came to the table in good faith in 2020 with solutions and were rejected by Democrats whose end goal is the dissolution of law enforcement as we know it, I do not believe the federal government should be the source of reform measures for police departments. 

Indiana on this issue has it right. In April of this year, Indiana’s state government unanimously passed a police bill that was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Rather than foolishly defunding the police or punishing all cops for the misconduct of a tiny handful of officers, Indiana’s law focused on empowering the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify officers who are found to have abused their power and provided funds for repairs and updates to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy’s training facility.

Indiana’s law includes de-escalation training requirements, prohibits chokeholds under certain circumstances, criminalizes an officer turning off their body camera to conceal criminal behavior, requires that police agencies request an officer’s employment record during the hiring process, and most importantly, earned the support of our state Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Indiana Sheriff’s Association.

That’s the kind of reform that works best: the kind that's designed with the officers who serve our communities engaged and negotiated by local representatives who are most accountable to the communities these decisions will impact. 

Federal reform that cannot garner the support of law enforcement will be ineffective and put us further down the path toward defunding the police that has already jeopardized those who protect and serve our communities so much.

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