The top Republican in the House overseeing criminal justice issues said that he doesn’t think Congress can—and doesn’t even really want to try—to resolve the persistent problems with American policing in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the far-right Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that he’s skeptical that “any law, any training, any reform” at the federal level is going to prevent another event like the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police.
“I don't know that there's any law that can stop that evil that we saw,” Jordan said during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Jordan’s response comes on the heels of Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate, calling for legislative action after Memphis police officer’s vicious beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who died three days after the incident. In a statement, Scott said that Americans must “unite against this blatant disregard for human life especially from those we trust with immense power and responsibility.”
“We have been here too many times before,” Scott said Friday. “We cannot continue down this path. America cannot stand silent. This was a man beaten by the power of the state.”
Memphis police pulled over Nichols on Jan. 7 for alleged “reckless driving,” although the police chief later said those accusations couldn’t be substantiated. After chasing him into a local neighborhood, five Memphis police officers, all of whom were also Black, repeatedly pepper sprayed, kicked, and beat Nichols. They were fired and have been charged with murder and kidnapping.
The city of Memphis released body camera and street surveillance video on Friday which showed the events leading to Nichols’ death, and larely peaceful protests swept the city, as well as other major cities in the U.S., over the weekend.
Scott introduced a bill after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minnesota police in 2020, which would have focused on incentivizing states to adopt stricter police accountability standards. But Senate Democrats blocked the legislation, arguing it didn’t go far enough on issues such as banning the use of chokeholds, which led to Floyd’s death. A bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House, which would have created a federal registry for police misconduct, among other reforms, also died in the Senate.
Scott then worked with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and then-Rep. Karen Bass (now the mayor of Los Angeles) the following year on a bipartisan bill, but talks broke down after Scott didn’t want to go as far on issues such as qualified immunity, which protects individual officers from being sued for wrongdoing.
Jordan referenced the bill Scott introduced in 2020 as an example of minor reforms Congress could take, as well as “all kinds of grant dollars,” during an appearance on Meet the Press. But Jordan said he believes the willingness to use major legislation—which is Congress’s job—in an attempt to prevent another tragedy boils down to a “difference in philosophy” between conservatives and liberals.
“The Democrats always think that it's a new law that's going to fix something that terrible,” Jordan told Meet the Press.
Jordan went on to say that there should be a way for police departments to communicate so the worst cops don’t get hired in other jurisdictions across state or county lines—but dismissed the role of the federal government, the most obvious qualified entity, to do that.
“I'd much prefer it be done at the state and local level,” Jordan told Meet the Press.
Later, Jordan said one of the top issues of both the Judiciary Committee and the Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, would be “abuse of the state and authority against the people that they're actually supposed to serve.”
But Jordan indicated he has a different set of priorities when it comes to addressing such “abuses of the state” abuses of state power—namely, the investigations into former President Donald Trump, disproven claims that the FBI is spying on parents at school board meetings and Elon Musk’s Twitter Files.
“They raided, they raided Trump's home,” Jordan said, during one exchange with host Chuck Todd over the growing classified documents mess involving Biden, Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence. “They haven't raided Biden's home.”
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.