One-year later: Rep. Karen Bass reflects on George Floyd and the status of national police reform

One year ago this week, George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

In the aftermath of that event, which had been caught on tape, protests erupted across the country, as millions called for justice and reform.

At the forefront of that push for reform was Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA), who, at the time, was Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and also sponsored national police reform in the form of The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

This week, Bass returns to The Issue Is to reflect on the Floyd anniversary, and to discuss where negotiations stand on the legislation.

Also joining Elex Michaelson this week, are actress Mira Sorvino, California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, and activist Jenna McKaye to discuss their effort to increase funding to victims of human trafficking, and progressive activist Ady Barkan to discuss healthcare reform and his own battle with ALS.



BACKGROUND:  Last June, just weeks after the killing of George Floyd, Congresswoman Bass sponsored a national police reform bill in his name. Although it quickly passed the House, the bill would fail to garner traction in the Senate. After Bass proposed the legislation again in 2021, President Joe Biden urged that Congress pass it by the May 25 anniversary of Floyd’s death. As that date came and went, where do negotiations stand on the reform package? And what issues are currently holding up the process, is it, as some point out, the debate over the elimination of qualified immunity for officers?

BASS’S CENTRAL TAKE: "We're going through it, and you know what, it's funny because as you negotiate a bill like this, it tends to get bigger and bigger and bigger. And so it takes time…. so, as much as I wanted to meet the May 25th deadline, it just didn't make sense. We needed more time and it was more important for us to take the time rather than to rush the process. And it was important to hear from the family that they agreed with that, they were far more concerned about having the substantive bill rather than something symbolic that really wasn't going to bring about the type of change that is needed right now in our country…. My main concern is what can we do to stop these shootings, beatings, death, injury from happening? You know, approximately three people a day are killed in the United States with a lot with an encounter with law enforcement. And so if you look at the cases, and I looked at over one hundred that have taken place since May 25th of last year, so many of them involve people that are in a mental health crisis or it's a substance abuse issue, something related to society that, frankly, should have never been a law enforcement problem to begin with. And so qualified immunity is an issue, but there's also lowering the standard from what it takes to prosecute an officer…"



BACKGROUND: Last May, just days after the death of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer of Derek Chauvin, and just hours before protests broke out around the world, Rep. Bass appeared on The Issue Is and wondered if there would have been more outrage had an officer been caught on tape with his knee on the neck of a dog, not the neck of a Black man. A year later, with Chauvin now convicted, and police departments around the country having enacted reforms, does Bass see progress being made?

BASS’S CENTRAL TAKE: "Well, I think it's been a give and take… I think we certainly had real progress in California and in Los Angeles and in other cities. So one of the things that that has happened, we might not have been successful so far on the federal side, but all of the momentum from all of the outpouring has absolutely allowed change to take place in many states and in many local jurisdictions. And so now it's our obligation on the federal side to meet that same standard, and everything that I said then, I absolutely still believe. So I do think that there is change in the air, but that change is still underway. We have much, much more that needs to happen.



BACKGROUND: This week, to honor the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, members of the Floyd family traveled to Washington DC to meet with President Biden, as well as Congressional leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Bass. Bass, who met with the family last June at Floyd’s funeral, once again had the chance to speak with Floyd’s daughter Gianna.

BASS’S CENTRAL TAKE: "I offered them condolences, apologized for having not gotten the job done, but assured them that I would get it done. When I had a moment to speak to Mr. Floyds daughter, I told her that she had wished that her father would have changed the world, I told her that he did change the world, and I believe that."


The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to

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