JUSTICE

Sen. Mike Lee discusses police reform bill, George Floyd, one year later

May 26, 2021, 5:35 PM | Updated: 5:36 pm
George Floyd one year later lee police reform...
(The portraits of George Floyd, Bernardo Palacios and Darrien Hunt, who were all killed by police, painted on the walls of a building near 300 West and 800 South in Salt Lake City. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(The portraits of George Floyd, Bernardo Palacios and Darrien Hunt, who were all killed by police, painted on the walls of a building near 300 West and 800 South in Salt Lake City. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Utah’s senior US senator weighed in on police reform, one year after the killing of George Floyd under the kneel of a cop, and also how Ogden’s protest at the time remains a unifying model for the nation.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to give an update on criminal justice-reform efforts on the federal level on the first anniversary of Floyd’s death.

Floyd, the Minneapolis man who died in police custody, became the symbol of nationwide protests to reform law enforcement.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 is a civil-rights and police-reform bill drafted by congressional Democrats. They introduced it in the House on Feb. 24, 2021. The legislation intends to combat police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias in policing. It passed the Democratic-controlled House on a mostly party-line vote of 220–212, but it has not yet been voted upon by the Senate.

Lee on police reform efforts

“I want to get to some of the police reform conversations that are going on. Of course, your friend and colleague, Tim Scott from South Carolina, and Cory Booker from New Jersey, have been working on some things around police reform, which seems to be stalling just a little bit there. What’s your sense of what’s happening in in the Senate?” Boyd asked.

“There’s a lot of appetite to bring about police reform,” Lee said. “We certainly have jurisdiction over federal law enforcement officers [and] federal law enforcement programs. I believe it’s important for us to deal with that which is federal and to make sure that we don’t step on the toes of state and local law enforcement agencies.” 

Lee pointed to a hearing on police reform concerns, held a few months back in the Judiciary Committee. 

“We discovered that, especially in poor communities and in communities where there are a lot of racial minorities, the more you take away the accountability of the local officers, by, among other things, adding all kinds of restrictions through federal regulations or otherwise, you make them less accountable to those they serve, and that in turn translates to higher rates of crime, particularly violent crime. We got to be very careful of that,” Lee said.

Ogden protest — one year later

While violent protests broke out across the country, including in Salt Lake City on May 29, 2020, hundreds of people peacefully gathered on the steps of the Ogden Municipal Building to honor Floyd and call for police reform, Lee pointed out.

Malik Dayo helped organize the “Take a Knee” rally in memory of Floyd in Ogden.

“I wanna set the tone,” Dayo told the crowd from the start, according to the Standard-Examiner. “This is a peaceful protest. … This is not an anti-cop rally. This is a solidarity rally. This is a rally for police reform.” 

“I’ve been inspired by those words ever since then,” Lee said on Inside Sources. “I think it’s a good time to reflect on the fact that the people of the city of Ogden did it right. And in that in that spirit, the spirit of of solidarity, peacefulness and not being anti-cop that I think we can really accomplish a lot of good.”

Dayo said he was “extremely honored” that Lee chose to quote his words in “such a time of uncertainty and turmoil in our great country.”

“We can never lose hope in the goodness of one another as human beings. I promise you that I will continue to protest peacefully with honor and properly represent the state of Utah. I will always put the safety of the citizens first. Bless you for standing with the movement toward justice and equality,” Dayo posted on Facebook along with a video of Lee’s speech on June 3, 2020, quoting the pacifying words of Dayo during a Senate speech, as reported by Deseret News.

In the video below, Lee’s floor speech begins at around seven hours and 32 minutes in.

Honoring fallen officer

“I know you were up in Ogden last year and delivered really a landmark speech. Give us a little sense of where you think we’ve come since then,” Boyd said.

“Today’s the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd,” Lee said. “Next week, it’ll be a year since I spoke on the Senate floor and celebrated what had happened in Ogden. The people of Ogden. . . showed the rest of the country that the tragedy doesn’t have to be the catalyst for division.

“We had a lot of people in Ogden coming together to honor the memory of George Floyd and simultaneously to call for nationwide police reform. They did so in a spirit of unity. It wasn’t a divisive event designed to make people choose between police and protesters. Those who gathered also came independently and simultaneously to honor the memory of Ogden police Officer Nathan Lyday, who was 24 years old. He was killed 15 months on the job on May 28 while responding to a domestic-violence call,” Lee said.

“One more great example of the the Utah model working. I love the way you frame that, senator, that tragedy doesn’t have to be the beginning of division, but it can be the beginning of healing. So important,” Boyd said.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

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Sen. Mike Lee discusses police reform bill, George Floyd, one year later