House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Tuesday stressed that the US has “got to have police officers” after Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a fellow Democrat, called for “no more policing, incarceration, and militarization” in the wake of Daunte Wright’s fatal encounter with police in Minnesota.
“This is not about policing. This is not about training. This is about recruiting. Who are we recruiting to be police officers? That to me is where the focus has got to go. We’ve got to have police officers,” Clyburn told CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight.”
His comments come a day after Tlaib said policing cannot be reformed and argued that law enforcement systems in the US are “inherently & intentionally racist.”
“No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed,” she wrote in a tweet.
Wright was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday during a routine traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The shooting happened about 10 miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the killing of another Black man, George Floyd.
The fatal encounter has has again ignited the kind of soul searching about the role of police in society and systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and the nation writ large, that many advocates have been urging for decades.
Pressed Tuesday if Tlaib’s message could harm the Democratic effort to pass police reform legislation, Clyburn responded, “No.”
“I think she’s expressing her frustrations and what she hears from her constituents, ” he said. “And I can understand that.”
While some Democrats, like Tlaib, have joined calls for a radical shift in police policy, including a reduction in police budgets, top congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden have not supported calls to “defund the police.” And Biden’s administration is moving forward in its efforts to pass police reform through legislative channels.
The President sees police reform as a “priority,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday. Biden looks forward to “continuing to discuss” the George Floyd Act with members of Congress and “believes that there is a path forward,” declining to provide information on specific engagement with lawmakers.
CNN previously reported that the legislation, which has passed the House, would set up a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to other jurisdictions. It would ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, and it would overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that critics say shields law enforcement from accountability.
“He certainly will use the power of his presidency to move it forward,” Psaki said.
Clyburn, one of the leading African American members of Congress, has long called for a restructuring of law enforcement while pushing back against calls to defund the police.
“Nobody is going to defund the police,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of The Union” last summer amid the nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice
“We can restructure the police forces. Restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do,” he said at the time.
Clyburn said Tuesday that the best path forward is for the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, “just because it gives us the kind of tools that we need to deal with police officers who are not good.”