WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday, the third anniversary of the killing of George Floyd, he vetoed a congressionally led effort republicans strike down a new District of Columbia law to improve police accountability.
The law was part of a drive to reform the police across the country and was passed in the wake of of the 2020 police murder of Floyd in Minneapolis. Biden has said he supports many parts of the bill, including banning chokeholds, limiting the use of deadly force, improving access to body cameras and requiring training for officers to de-escalate situations. .
“I believe we have an obligation to make sure all of our people are safe and that public safety depends on public trust,” Biden said in a statement to Congress vetoing the effort. “It is a core policy of my administration to provide law enforcement with the resources they need for effective and accountable community policing.”
The veto comes as Democrats in Congress have rallied twice this year with Republicans to try to block a crime and surveillance law in the district. The first effort Biden supported was to strike down changes to the district’s penal code.
Washington is not a state; and it lacks the same rights that states have to make and amend laws. While Congress has granted city residents some “home rule” powers, it has retained the power to override district government actions. District residents also have no voting members in Congress.
Still, Congress hasn’t regularly used its repeal power until this year. Biden’s signing two months ago marked the first time in more than three decades that Congress struck down capital city laws through the repeal process, and reflected a shift in the long-standing Democratic position that the federal government should allow DC to rule itself.
The previous bill was a revision of the penal code of the District of Columbia. It has not been substantially updated since it was first written in 1901, although blacks have been disproportionately affected by the criminal laws, as have many other cities.
The revisions would have redefined some crimes, changed criminal justice policies and reworked how sentences should be handed down after convictions. It would also have eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for many crimes and reduced maximum penalties for robbery, car theft, and robbery.
The Senate approved the House bill that sought to annul the changes to the penal code. Biden signed that resolution, ultimately blocking the DC law. The president and members of both parties expressed concern on rising violent crime rates in cities across the country and said the revisions could lead to an increase in crime.
In DC, homicides in the city rose for four years in a row before falling about 10% in 2022. The 2021 homicide count of 227 was the highest since 2003.
The Senate also voted to strike down a District of Columbia law enacted last year to improve police accountability, after six democrats voted in favor of the GOP-led resolution. But this time, Biden disagreed.
“Congress must respect the right of the District of Columbia to pass measures that enhance public safety and public trust. I continue to call on Congress to pass common sense police reform legislation,” Biden said.
And the president, in a separate letter, also offered his condolences to the family of George Floyd, whose death sparked new protests over police killings of Black people and calls for law enforcement reform across the country.
“The murder of George Floyd exposed for many what Black and Latino communities have known and experienced for a long time: that we must engage all of society in ensuring that our nation lives up to its founding promise of fair and just justice for all. Under the law”. he said.