(CNN)Bipartisan talks on overhauling America’s policing practices are hung up on a key issue: Whether Congress should include new standards for when officers can be charged with crimes.
The issue has dogged the two sides for weeks — and it’s far from clear how the matter will get resolved or if it could doom the effort entirely.
But Republicans say the topic should be off the table completely, with the GOP suggesting that Democrats have reinserted the issue back into the talks when they had thought there was an understanding it be set aside.
“That is definitely a point of contention,” Rep. Karen Bass of California, the lead negotiator for House Democrats, told CNN, with her side arguing such changes are essential to ensure that victims of excessive police force can see individual officers held accountable in the courts.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said the issue remains unresolved.
The lead Senate GOP negotiator, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, has called any changes to the standard for criminally prosecuting police officers, known as Section 242, a red line.
“We’re just moving on, honestly,” Scott said on Tuesday.
The issue is separate from another sticking point: Whether to change the so-called qualified immunity standard to make it easier to sue officers in civil court. The two sides have generally agreed to include language ensuring there is “liability by the employer” to allow departments and cities to be sued in civil court. It’s a compromise Scott initially suggested since Democrats wanted to do away with the standard altogether.
In the meantime, Democrats have proposed adding additional crimes “of a very serious nature” for which an individual officer can be criminally charged, Durbin said, with their side arguing the current standard makes it too difficult to prosecute officers when they’ve acted recklessly.
But lowering the bar for criminal prosecution has been met with complete resistan
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