Politics & Government

Sen. Scott proposes ‘simple solutions’ to rebuild trust in black communities

FILE - In this June 21, 2016, file photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Scott, one of just two black members of the U.S. Senate and the only black Republican, said July 13 he has been repeatedly pulled over by law enforcement and was once even stopped by a Capitol Police officer who apparently did not believe he was a senator.
FILE - In this June 21, 2016, file photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Scott, one of just two black members of the U.S. Senate and the only black Republican, said July 13 he has been repeatedly pulled over by law enforcement and was once even stopped by a Capitol Police officer who apparently did not believe he was a senator. AP

A day after his frank speech about the frustrations of being targeted by police as an African American man made national headlines, Sen. Tim Scott took to the Senate floor one more time on Thursday to call for solutions to rebuild the trust between black communities and law enforcement.

In order for any legislation to make a difference, the South Carolina Republican said, Americans will have to do their part.

The government is not the answer to what ails us, he said. We can help in places, but the good news is 300 million Americans, we as a nation, as a family, we are the solution.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

“The government cannot make us get along,” he said, acknowledging that it was a “dark hour” for race relations in the country. “It just simply cannot force you and I to take the leap of faith to try to trust again.”

The only black Republican in the Senate said he does not see a way forward without Americans “looking into each other's eyes, walking in each other's shoes, and listening.”

It was the last of Scott’s three speeches on the Senate floor this week addressing the issues between police and black communities. He decided to speak out after the violent shootings of two black men by white police officers in Baton Rouge, La. and St. Paul, Minn., were followed by a retaliatory ambush that left five officers dead in Dallas.

Scott spoke of several legislative proposals to address the distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, including funding body cameras, tracking police shootings and investing in poor communities.

The day before, Scott told the Senate that he cried last summer watching the video of Walter Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old black man, being shot and killed while fleeing from a cop in North Charleston.

This has been a very emotional ten days for all of us, and I believe a pivotal time for the future of our nation.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Soon after, he proposed to authorize $100 million in grants for police departments to pay for body cameras for their officers to wear on patrol.

“While we know body cameras cannot be the panacea, we also know this: if an officer is wearing one, we have a much better chance of understanding the situation from all sides,” he said on Thursday.

He also mentioned the Walter Scott Notification Act, which he introduced last year with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that would work to track police shootings.

“Our system for tracking police shootings, it's not working for our nation,” he said. “It's a patchwork system not built for the 21st century.”

Scott praised several of his colleagues for proposing solutions of their own. He and fellow South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy are working on plans to bring South Carolina pastors and law enforcement officials together to “have an honest, sometimes painful conversation about how to move forward together,” he said.

He also said that Sen. Lankford, R-Okla., had approached him about an idea called ‘Solution Sunday.’

Speaking on the floor after Scott on Thursday, Lankford explained that it was a simple matter of getting “everybody to have their feet under the same table.”

“We talk about a conversation on race as if it’s something that can happen nationally,” he said. “If you’re going to be a part of the solution in America, maybe on a Sunday for lunch or for dinner, invite a family over of another race, just to sit and have conversation.”

It's a dark hour in race relations for America.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

While he admitted the last ten days had been “very emotional,” Scott urged his colleagues to be optimistic about the future.

“I am hopeful, because I have experienced the power of a state that has been transformed - the great state of South Carolina,” he said.

“I hope we all remember we have survived turbulent times before. The Civil War, the Great Depression, World War II, 1968. And in South Carolina, 2015,” he said, referring to the forgiveness of the families of the victims of a white supremacist gunman who shot nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

To see how far America has come, one only has to look at “yours truly,” Scott said.

“In the heart of the South, the home of the Civil War, in a majority white district, these voters elected the grandson of a man who picked cotton,” he said, acknowledging his late grandfather who passed away earlier this year. “That's the beauty of America. From cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”

In his first speech on Monday, Scott reminded the chamber that most police officers truly believe in their vocation to “protect and serve” and should not be held responsible for the actions of a few. Wednesday’s speech took a more critical view of law enforcement, and his own “anger, frustration, sadness and humiliation” of being targeted by police.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

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