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US House passes police reform bill but deadlock awaits in Senate

Protesters take part in an anti-police brutality march in front of the White House as racial inequality protests continue in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020.
Protesters take part in an anti-police brutality march in front of the White House as racial inequality protests continue in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020. © REUTERS/Leah Millis

Democrats pushed sweeping new police guidelines through the US House on Thursday amid a polarising debate after the high-profile killing of African-American George Floyd sparked nationwide protests and calls for change.

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The measure, which bans choke holds and no-knock warrants, restricts officer immunity, combats racial profiling and establishes a database to track police misconduct, passed largely along party lines.

It sets up a showdown in the Senate where Republican leadership has no intention of passing it.

Applause rang out when the bill passed by 236 votes to 181, with three Republicans joining the chamber's Democrats in support.

President Donald Trump is opposed to the House measure, and on Tuesday said the Democrats were aiming to "weaken our police" and end officer immunity.

Instead he backs a narrower, Senate Republican proposal. That measure was blocked by Democrats on Tuesday and there were no signs of new negotiations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her chamber's bill is named after George Floyd, whose final words "I can't breathe" before his death at the hands of Minneapolis police "changed the course of history in our nation." 

The legislation "will fundamentally transform the culture of policing to address systemic racism, curb police brutality and save lives, as it puts an end to shielding police from accountability," Pelosi said.

"We don't paint all police with the same brush, but for those who need to be painted with that brush, we need to take the action contained in this bill."

Pelosi and other Democrats have dismissed the Senate measure because it mimics the words of reform while requiring no specific action. 

Instead of direct mandates, the Republican proposal would incentivize change by denying federal grants to police departments that do not end choke holds or no-knock warrants.

Republicans say their bill would be a good starting point for negotiations. Democrats argue it falls well short, and Pelosi said it would be "a moral failure to accept anything less than transformational change."

(AFP)

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