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Stephanie Murphy-led Blue Dogs push police reform

Blue Dogs stop short of endorsing Justice in Policing Act

The congressional Democrats’ Blue Dog Coalition led by Winter Park Rep. Stephanie Murphy said Tuesday it intends to push for “swift and systematic change” in response to protesters’ calls for law enforcement reform.

Still, in a Tuesday statement, the Blue Dogs stopped short of endorsing the Justice in Policing Act bill introduced Monday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, though Murphy is among the cosponsors of the bill.

“We join our colleagues in Congress in seeking swift and systemic change, and we will spend the next few weeks listening to the diverse views within our Democratic caucus, especially the Congressional Black Caucus, as we work toward solutions together. It is our hope Republicans will also join this effort, because now is not the time for partisanship. Congress and the White House cannot ignore the calls for change that are sweeping this nation,” Murphy said in a statement. “The status quo is not just unacceptable, it’s also dangerous.”

The Blue Dog Coalition is a caucus of mostly moderate Democrats, particularly on issues such as national defense and fiscal responsibility. Murphy is the group’s co-chair for administration. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg is also a member.

“Members of the Blue Dog Coalition stand united in condemning the murder of George Floyd and demanding that the police officers responsible for his death be held fully accountable under the law. Like the vast majority of Americans we represent, we feel a sense of anguish and anger upon witnessing yet another unjust killing of a Black American by police officers who dishonor their badge,” Murphy wrote.

A spokesperson for Murphy’s office said it is unclear at this point whether the coalition will endorse Pelosi’s plan.

However, the vast majority of all Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as cosponsors, including Murphy and Crist. In fact, all 13 Florida Democrats have cosponsored the bill.

“As communities across the nation voice their just and deep-rooted anger and frustration at racial injustice, Congress must act to hold those who abuse their power accountable,” Crist said in a separate statement. “The vast majority of officers strive every day to uphold their oath of office, but the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade make clear that systemic problems exist – and I join the millions of people demanding that they be addressed.”

The proposal Pelosi announced would establish new national standards and oversight for police, ban choke holds, and set up a national database of law enforcement officers who have been sanctioned for police brutality. President Donald Trump has ridiculed the proposal and, as it currently stands, the bill, House Resolution 7120, faces dim prospects in the Republican-led Senate.

In announcing the Blue Dogs’ interest in some sort of national law enforcement reform, Murphy added that the Blue Dogs “stand in solidarity with the peaceful protestors who seek to bring about positive change and with the vast majority of men and women of law enforcement who strive to uphold their oaths every day” and called for those perpetrating looting and violence to be held accountable.

“Our nation is in the midst of a movement. Across the country, in major cities and small communities, Americans are exercising their First Amendment rights to call for equal justice under the law,” Murphy wrote. “Led by peaceful protest, this movement is demonstrating that, together, Americans can drive much-needed change, make our society more just and equitable, and unite us as a nation.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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