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Biden issues call to 'finish the job on police reform' during State of the Union

With Amir Locke's father in the audience as a guest of Rep. Omar, Biden made another push for police reform.

WASHINGTON — President Biden issued another call to "finish the job on police reform" during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, as discussions stall in Congress due to disagreements on a number of key issues.

Although Biden devoted only a small portion of his speech to issues of policing, he pushed for more training and gun violence prevention resources and said that "when police officers or departments violate the public's trust, they must be held accountable."

"I know most cops and their families are good, decent, honorable people, the vast majority," Biden said. "They risk their lives every time they put on that shield. But what happened to Tyre [Nichols] in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better. Give law enforcement the real training they need. Hold them to higher standards, help them succeed in keeping us safe."

Biden specifically pointed out Nichols' parents, who attended the State of the Union as the guests of Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nevada).

Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota also invited Andre Locke, Sr., the father of Amir Locke, who was killed by Minneapolis Police a year ago during the execution of a no-knock warrant. 

"It's actually overwhelming," Locke said in an interview before the speech. "Amir did not die in vain. That's the message. We're looking forward to accountability and we're looking forward to things happening."

Omar said she plans to reintroduce the ''Amir Locke End Deadly No-Knock Warrants Act" this session, which would place heavy federal restrictions on the tactic except for in extreme cases of imminent danger to life. Last year, President Biden issued an executive order that restricts no-knocks, and the proposed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would also ban federal no-knock warrants in drug cases.

However, Republicans still have the numbers in the Senate to filibuster Democratic initiatives such as policing proposals, and they now control the House, meaning compromise must occur for any measure to actually move forward. The issue of qualified immunity, which shields police from lawsuits, has emerged as one of the major areas of disagreement among lawmakers. 

Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of the leaders in the negotiations for his party, recently said that "resurrecting the House progressives' police reform bill is a nonstarter." In recent days, he's pushed to give more resources to police departments so that they can train on de-escalation and intervention.

"We need to improve the way we train our police," Scott tweeted during the State of the Union, "not engage in these harmful calls to defund and dismantle our police departments. I've consistently stood up and called for a meaningful dialogue on police funding and training; it's time to give it a shot."

Other members of the Minnesota congressional delegation also invited guests related to policing. Republican Rep. Tom Emmer brought retired St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson, citing his work on community relations and decreasing crime. Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, meanwhile, invited newly elected Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt.

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