Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin said Sunday that the brutal footage of Memphis police beating Tyre Nichols demonstrated the need for “a national conversation” on law enforcement.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” the Illinois Democrat said, “We need a national conversation about policing in a responsible, constitutional and humane way. These men and women with badges put them on each day and risk their lives for us. I know that, but we also see from these videos horrible conduct by these same officers in unacceptable situations.”
Durbin told host Martha Raddatz “that law enforcement, by and large, is a state and local responsibility,” but added that Congress can insert itself into the conversation, noting a package of police reforms that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had been working on after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020.
That legislation stalled. One factor was a debate over the question of whether to retain “qualified immunity” for police officers.
“I think,” Durbin said of Booker, “he and Senator Scott should sit down again quickly to see if we can revive that effort.”
Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after being beaten repeatedly after a police stop by five Memphis officers, who have since been fired and charged in his death.
As for his own reaction to the footage of the beating of Nichols, Durbin said he was aghast.
“It was horrible. Inhumane. My heart goes out to the Tyre Nichols family to think that their son went through this,” he said, adding later: “What we saw on the streets of Memphis was just inhumane and horrible.”
First-term Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) said she found Nichols’ death horrifying but not surprising, saying it was not the first time the nation has seen an African American mother grieve in response to her child’s death.
“There are so many Black cities across the country that have re-lived this,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But it’s painful every single time and never gets any easier.”