Roger Williams
Roger Williams

Police officers are on the front lines every day, defending our communities from those who wish to do their fellow citizens harm. Oftentimes they are alone and unafraid, relying on their training in some of the most violent and precarious conditions while making life or death decisions in the blink of an eye. That blink can mean the difference between going home to their families or a murderer evading justice only to kill again.

As the national debate surrounding policing grows, we must approach solutions to greater accountability with bipartisan consensus and rationale. Our focus should not be on radical ideas like abolishing law enforcement or ending qualified immunity, but rather on improving training for police officers and providing them with the resources needed to perform their jobs most effectively. In those split-second decisions, we have to increase our confidence that they have the skills, decisiveness, patience and composure to make the right decision based on what has been appropriately taught.

We had an opportunity recently in Congress to achieve that by promoting better training to strengthen our communities. Instead, it was squandered by a political agenda.

Despite a nearly identical bill being introduced by Republicans, Democrats pushed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act through the House floor, knowing that it would never become law. The bill would end qualified immunity for officers – paving the way for lawsuits without evidence – and would limit the ability of departments to receive excess equipment from the federal government. Both of these would severely hinder the ability for law enforcement officers to help those they are sworn to protect.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act was blocked by Democrats from even being debated on the Senate floor. The bill, which I proudly co-sponsored in the House, would have provided meaningful reform, like strengthening de-escalation training methods, calling for greater reporting on use of force and incentivizing chokehold bans. This dismissal was part of a politically charged campaign that ultimately weakens future discussion.

These actions only add to the inflamed national tenor, but I believe we still have the chance to join together to create real change.

We must enact policies that both hold law enforcement accountable and support officers who proudly wear their badge. I will always stand with the thousands of men and women in Texas who put their lives on the line for us and have honorably answered the call to serve.

The tragic injustices experienced by hurting communities and families at the hands of those with evil intent cannot be undone. But by allowing politics to win, Congress missed a crucial moment to help heal our nation. We don’t have to follow suit again.

Let’s learn from this passed opportunity and come to the table to show that despite political differences, Congress can and will work together for all Americans.

CONGRESSMAN ROGER WILLIAMSrepresents Texas District 25, which includes Lampasas County.