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Biden uses State of the Union to urge policing reform

(NewsNation) — Nearly a month after Tyre Nichols died at the hands of police officers in Memphis, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass comprehensive policing reform Tuesday during his State of the Union address.

Threading the needle between voicing support for law enforcement and promoting accountability, the president said “it’s up to all of us” to create a better justice system that protects all Americans.

“We all want the same thing: neighborhoods free of violence, law enforcement who earn the community’s trust, our children to come home safely,” Biden said.

Police have released footage of the Jan. 7 arrest, which shows Memphis police officers repeatedly kicking, punching and beating Nichols, including after he was placed in handcuffs. Multiple officers have been charged with murder and kidnapping, and other first responders have been disciplined.

Biden said what happened to Nichols happens too often, an adverse effect of police officers being asked to do too much.

“We know police officers put their lives on the line every day, and we ask them to do too much — to be counselors, social workers, psychologists; responding to drug overdoses, mental health crises and more,” Biden said. “When police officers or departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable.”

In attendance at the State of the Union was Nichols’ mother, who buried her son last week. The family and activists have called for change.

“Here’s what Tyre’s mom shared with me when I asked her how she finds the courage to carry on and speak out: with faith in God, she said her son ‘was a beautiful soul and something good will come from this,'” Biden said during his address. “Imagine how much courage and character that takes.”

Biden’s approach to police reform included hiring more police in an effort to keep communities safe.

The president’s proposals to tackle police reform became stuck in a divided Congress, however. His $37 billion Safer America Plan, which would fund 100,000 police officers nationwide and invests $20 billion in criminal justice reform, is in Congress’ hands.

Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget requests a fully paid investment of about $35 billion to support law enforcement and crime prevention.

Another piece of legislation that failed to gain traction was the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would crack down on tactics such as no-knock warrants and make it easier to prosecute officers accused of misconduct and violence.

While Biden signed an executive order banning chokeholds and restricting no-knock warrants, significant widespread reform has been stymied. The president urged Congress to make the wishes of the Nichols family become reality.

“All of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment. We can’t turn away,” Biden said. “Let’s do what we know in our hearts we need to do. Let’s come together and finish the job on police reform.”