Biden administration drops plans for police oversight, citing George Floyd bill

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By Trevor Hunnicutt 

  WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden's administration is backing away from a campaign pledge to swiftly create a U.S. police oversight commission, a White House aide said, concluding that legislation would better address officers using excessive force. 

  Susan Rice, Biden's domestic policy adviser, said in a statement that the administration believed a commission would not be the "most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area" right now. 

  That priority is signing a bill that passed the House of Representatives in March, banning officers from using chokeholds and entering suspects' homes without knocking, Rice said in response to questions about progress on police reforms. 

  That bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, is unlikely to win the 60 Senate votes it needs. Republicans oppose provisions in the bill eroding "qualified immunity" protections afforded officers in legal cases. 

  Biden promised to launch a national police oversight commission by his 100th day in office, at the end of April, following the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. 

  Doing so, Biden said, would help "to ensure that our police protect and serve all members of their communities." 

  The backtracking leaves the police reform issue in legislative limbo, along with a host of liberal priorities struggling to move through Congress, where Biden's fellow Democrats hold slim majorities. 

  The White House, which consulted civil rights activists and police unions on the decision, heard that a commission could stall momentum for legislation and duplicate work done in prior administrations, an aide said. 

  In Minneapolis, prosecutors will rest their case this week in the trial of white policeman Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murdering Floyd. The trial, which the White House is monitoring, included eyewitness descriptions of Floyd, who is Black, dying as Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. 

  (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)