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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 13, 2021

Biden pauses promise to form police oversight commission

The White House put on hold President Joe Biden's campaign promise to form a national commission on policing and instead aims to advocate for the passage of a police accountability law.

Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, told Politico that the commission was on hold. The White House sent PolitiFact a statement by Rice:  

"The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and is working with Congress to swiftly enact meaningful police reform that brings profound, urgently needed change. Based on close, respectful consultation with partners in the civil rights community, the administration made the considered judgment that a police commission, at this time, would not be the most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area, which is to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into law." 

 White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration had been in close contact with civil rights activists, and law enforcement authorities about the most effective path forward.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, HR 7120, is described as legislation "to hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies." The legislation passed the Democratic-led House in June and the latest version passed in March. The legislation has not reached a vote in the Senate.

The legislation was introduced after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in Minneapolis when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck. Chauvin's trial on charges of murder and manslaughter is underway.

The legislation would also create a national registry to track police misconduct, require law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, ban no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, require officers to use more body and dashboard cameras, and tie some federal grants to law enforcement agencies adopting anti-discrimination training and practices. 

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told PolitiFact that he supports the White House's strategy to focus on passing legislation rather than forming another commission. There have been commissions in the past, including during the Obama administration, that suggested a number of ideas.

"A commission is when you are seeking solutions," Morial said. "There is a solution, this solution passed the House of Representatives twice. It incorporated recommendations made over the years by various committees, commissions. There has been plenty of process — now we need action."

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, also said in a statement that it agrees with the White House's decision.

"This matter is much too urgent for delay, and Congress is by far the more appropriate venue to consider changes in law regarding police accountability," Henderson said.

In 2015, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued 59 recommendations on various topics including use of force, data collection and training. Some members of the task force wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 2020 that "most American police agencies have not incorporated the task force's reforms."

Biden made the promise to form a national policing commission during a Sept. 3 campaign visit to Kenosha, Wis. On Aug. 23, a Kenosha police officer, who is white, fired seven shots at 29-year-old Jacob Blake from behind at close range. Blake, who was ignoring officer's commands as he got in a vehicle, survived but is paralyzed from the waist down. 

Violent protests ensued, prompting 17-year-old Illinois resident Kyle Rittenhouse to travel to Kenosha and arm himself with an AR-15. Video footage shows Rittenhouse, who is white, shooting three people, killing two. He has been charged with homicide, claims self-defense and awaits trial. 

Back to Biden's promise: The White House has decided to put on pause Biden's promise to form a national commission on policing and focus instead on passing legislation. Key civil rights advocates agree with this strategy, but it does mean that Biden is putting on hold a campaign promise. We will track what happens to the legislation named after Floyd and any other steps Biden may take in the future, but for now we rate this promise Stalled.

RELATED: Biden made a lot of promises about race. Can he keep them?

RELATED: Biden Promise Tracker

Our Sources

Politico, Biden White House puts its police oversight commission on ice, April 11, 2021

White House, Press briefing, April 12, 2021, H.R.7120 - George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, House vote June 25, 2020, H.R.1280 - George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, House vote March 3, 2021

U.S. Department of Justice, Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, May 2015

PBS, Democrats' police reform bill faces opposition in the Senate — but that's only the first hurdle, March 5, 2021

New York Times op-ed, There Is a Playbook for Police Reform, June 4, 2020

PolitiFact, Top 10 Kenosha-related fact checks of 2020, Dec. 28, 2020

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with homicide. Here's what we learned about the Kenosha shootings from the charging documents. Aug. 27, 2020

Email interview, Andrew Bates, White House spokesperson, April 13, 2021

Telephone interview, Marc Morial, Urban League president and CEO, April 13, 2021

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Statement to PolitiFact, April 13, 2021

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