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Senate Republicans to restrict police chokeholds in emerging bill

President Donald Trump has flagged his support for the proposed measures.

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Elliot Armitage, a 2020 graduate of Ballard High School, holds his mortarboard cap that reads “Defund the Police” as he prepares to take part in a cap and gown Black Lives Matter march with other high school graduates in Seattle (Ted S Warren/AP)

Elliot Armitage, a 2020 graduate of Ballard High School, holds his mortarboard cap that reads “Defund the Police” as he prepares to take part in a cap and gown Black Lives Matter march with other high school graduates in Seattle (Ted S Warren/AP)

Elliot Armitage, a 2020 graduate of Ballard High School, holds his mortarboard cap that reads “Defund the Police” as he prepares to take part in a cap and gown Black Lives Matter march with other high school graduates in Seattle (Ted S Warren/AP)

Senate Republicans are on the brink of introducing an extensive package of policing changes including restrictions on police chokeholds as Congress rushes to respond to mass demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans.

It is a sudden shift of party priorities with President Donald Trump signalling support.

The White House will announce its own executive actions on law enforcement procedures on Tuesday as police violence and racial prejudice transform national politics.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell opened the chamber on Monday declaring that Senate Republicans are developing “a serious proposal to reform law enforcement”.

While the emerging Republican package is not as extensive as the sweeping Democratic proposal, which is heading for a House of Representatives vote next week, it is perhaps the most far-reaching proposed set of changes to policing procedures from a party long aligned with a “law and order” approach.

Senator Tim Scott, the sole African-American Republican in the Senate, has been crafting the package set to roll out on Wednesday, and said he spoke with President Trump about it over the weekend.

Mr Scott warned that any delay in voting would be a “bad idea” and has said the chokehold, in particular, “is a policy whose time has come and gone”.

The weekend shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by a white officer in Atlanta led to a renewed public outcry, more street protests and the city police chief’s swift resignation.

Democrats have said the Republican package does not go far enough to match the outpouring of support for reforms.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned Republicans not to settle for minor changes, adding: “Now is the time to seek bold and broad-scale change, not change around the margins.”

Two senior administration officials told reporters that Mr Trump’s executive order would include establishing a database that tracks police officers who have complaints about excessive use of force in their records.

The officials said the president wants to keep officers facing such accusations from being able to move from one police department to another.

The officials added the executive order would also establish a national credential system that would give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices on such things as use of deadly force.

With the political debate fluid, it is unclear whether the parties will be able to find common ground. The proposals share many similar provisions but take different approaches to address some of the issues.

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Anti-racism protests have grown and continued around the world since the May 25 death of George Floyd (Kathy Willens/AP)

Anti-racism protests have grown and continued around the world since the May 25 death of George Floyd (Kathy Willens/AP)

AP/PA Images

Anti-racism protests have grown and continued around the world since the May 25 death of George Floyd (Kathy Willens/AP)

Neither bill goes as far as some activists want in their push to “defund the police” by fully revamping departments.

Central to the Republican package would be the creation of a national database of police use-of-force incidents. The Democrats have a similar provision.

The Republican bill would encourage police body cameras and include a long-stalled effort to make lynching a federal hate crime.

Additionally, the Republican package is expected to restrict the use of chokeholds by withholding certain federal funds to jurisdictions that continue to allow the practice, according to a Senate Republican source.

While chokeholds have become a symbol of police brutality — and a ban is included in the Democrats’ bill — the manoeuvre is already banned in many departments.

The Republican bill does not go as far as the Democratic proposal, particularly on the the issue of “qualified immunity”, which aims to enable those injured by law enforcement personnel to sue for damages.

But Democrats signalled a willingness to look at the Republican approach for areas of common ground.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider policing issues at a hearing on Tuesday.

PA