Grassley and Ernst support police reform, but Democrats want more

Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst
Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst wait for the beginning of a news conference on immigration in February 2018 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley say they support police reform, but the measures they’re backing are not as broad as those called for by Democrats.

Responding to protests over the death of George Floyd last month while in the custody of Minneapolis police, local and federal agencies are examining their law enforcement policies in an effort to better address racial disparities and the excessive use of force.

This week in Congress, Republicans and Democrats are going back and forth over how far a federal police reform package should go. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he would support Congressional action on police reform.

Sen. Joni Ernst in a video her office produced in May 2020.

A Senate GOP bill would incentivize police departments to ban chokeholds, increase the use of body cameras, improve training in de-escalation tactics, and take past employment issues into account when making hiring decisions.

It also would increase data collection on the use of force and no-knock warrants, and make lynching a federal crime.

House Democrats, however, want to also bar racial and religious profiling, mandate police training in racial profiling and require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use-of-force data by race and other characteristics. Democrats also want to limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement officials.

In a video released on Tuesday, Ernst said she supports increasing transparency and training and eliminating the “law enforcement consent loophole,” which makes it legal for officers and prison guards in some states to have sex with people in their custody.

“Certainly, we need to wrap up that loophole, make sure we’re closing down on that and hold our law enforcement officials to a higher standard of conduct,” Ernst said.

Grassley took to the Senate floor Tuesday to say he supports passing a police reform bill, telling his Senate colleagues how the Iowa Legislature unanimously passed its own reform bill on June 11.

Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks on the Senate floor on March 20, 2020, about COVID-19. (Photo by Iowa Capital Dispatch)

“Washington should follow Iowa’s example and pass legislation to help correct wrongs and inspire positive changes in our communities across the country,” Grassley said.

Ernst’s Democratic opponent in the November election,  Theresa Greenfield, supports stronger reform measures than the Senate Republicans proposal, said campaign spokesperson Izzi Levy. Greenfield supports also requiring the use of body cameras and banning most chokeholds, which is similar to Iowa’s law that recently passed.

“She is also committed to broader reforms to invest in Iowa’s Black, indigenous, and people-of-color communities and confront systemic racism by ending racial disparities in housing, health care, education, entrepreneurship, and more,” said Levy in an email.