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Police killing of Amir Locke leaves blood on the hands of a do-nothing Congress | Will Bunch

Congress chickened out on the George Floyd-inspired cop reform bill that would have all but banned the senseless raid that killed a Minneapolis man.

In this image taken from Minneapolis Police Department body-cam video and released by the city of Minneapolis, police enter an apartment on Wednesday moments before shooting 22-year-old Amir Locke. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has imposed a moratorium on no-knock warrants after Locke was killed as a SWAT team carried out a search warrant in a downtown apartment.
In this image taken from Minneapolis Police Department body-cam video and released by the city of Minneapolis, police enter an apartment on Wednesday moments before shooting 22-year-old Amir Locke. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has imposed a moratorium on no-knock warrants after Locke was killed as a SWAT team carried out a search warrant in a downtown apartment.Read moreAP

If you watch your local crime-soaked TV newscasts, you’ve probably seen reports about a recent spike in carjackings in some cities. In Minneapolis, a 22-year-old Black man named Amir Locke, who occasionally worked deliveries for DoorDash, told his family those worries were why the young aspiring musician with no criminal record went out and legally purchased a handgun.

At 6:48 a.m. Wednesday, Locke was apparently soundly sleeping in a friend’s downtown apartment when he was startled by five loud men coming through the front door — causing him to grab the nearby gun. In the predawn utter chaos, we’ll never know if Locke even heard the men shouting “Police, search warrant” or commanding him to get down and drop the weapon.

It took just nine seconds for those Minneapolis police officers — who’d obtained a no-knock search warrant in a murder investigation — to fire three shots that struck and killed the young man. Locke, it turned out, wasn’t even being sought in the homicide probe.

“My son was executed on 2/2 of 22,” Locke’s heartbroken mother, Karen Wells, later told reporters, describing the 22-year-old as respectful and law-abiding, with several family members who work in law enforcement. “And now his dreams have been destroyed.”

Indeed, it was hard to say which was more tragically ironic about Amir Locke’s senseless killing at the hands of police. That it was carried out by the very same Minneapolis Police Department whose wanton May 2020 murder of George Floyd sparked the largest protests in American history and a supposed racial reckoning? That the darkened chaos, confusion, and fatal misunderstandings of this no-knock raid were almost identical to the 2020 Louisville, Ky., killing of Breonna Taylor, which also caused a national outcry and promises of reform? Or that Locke’s killing exposed the political pledges of two years ago as such a feckless political lie?

On Saturday, more than 1,000 protesters marched through the frigid February streets of downtown Minneapolis, demanding justice and adding Amir Locke to the ever-growing list of names that have become a monument to the broken culture and values of an American police state — not just Floyd and Taylor, but also Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Daunte Wright, Philando Castile, Fanta Bility, and countless others. And yet on some level, Locke’s killing seems even worse. So many so-called leaders — from the president to senators right down to the mayor — assured Americans this would never happen again.

They all lied.

No-knock raids like the one that resulted in Locke’s death seemed on the way out after 2020′s protests over the killing of Taylor, Floyd, and other Black Americans at the hands of police. Increasingly used by cops as the so-called War on Drugs escalated from the 1980s on, police and prosecutors justified these swift, unannounced entries both as a way to protect officers in an era of increasing gun violence and prevent suspects from destroying evidence — even as civil libertarians decried the erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The growing number of no-knock raids that went horribly wrong — most notably the March 2020 killing of Louisville’s Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, which triggered months of protests in Kentucky’s largest city — sparked promises of reform. That year, several congressional Republicans — led by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, that chamber’s only Black Republican — joined Democrats in promising a federal law that would curb the most egregious police practices, even as some critics said the plan didn’t go far enough.

What became known in 2021 as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act explicitly banned no-knock warrants for federal narcotics probes, and it dangled the powerful threat of barring federal dollars for state and local law enforcement agencies that refused to curtail these types of raids. And some states and localities have indeed either banned or sharply restricted their use over the nearly two years since the botched Taylor break-in.

It’s likely that many more would have acted with passage of the George Floyd bill. But once the loud din of 2020′s Black Lives Matter marches died down, Republican lawmakers — whose lofty rhetoric about freedom seems to melt whenever it meets the police state — sided with lobbyists for cop unions and stopped paying even lip service to reform. The proposal passed the House last March on a mostly party-line vote, but Scott admitted there weren’t the 10 Republican Senate votes needed under the onerous filibuster regime. He even turned against his own bill.

» READ MORE: Hey Biden, Shapiro: Stop pandering on cops | Will Bunch Newsletter

Nor has there been any willingness by so-called centrist Democratic senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin or Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to end the filibuster that enables GOP obstructionism. Nor has President Joe Biden shown much willingness to expend the political capital of the Oval Office on reforming the police. Upon taking office, Team Biden nixed a plan for a national police reform commission — supposedly to focus on passing the George Floyd bill — but then the bill was allowed to die with little talk of reviving it.

This tepid cowardice in Washington provided plenty of cover for mayors and police chiefs eager to continue the inertia of aggressive law enforcement embraced by the wider cop culture. This proved the case in Minneapolis, where a supposedly progressive Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, stunned critics in November 2020 by announcing “reforms” to no-knock raids that essentially changed nothing beyond asking officers to be a little louder as they entered a dwelling. At the time, Minneapolis police reform advocates called Frey’s announcement “pretty disappointing.”

Now, Amir Locke is dead — and the killing couldn’t come at a more pivotal time for the police reform movement in America. Pressured by a spike in homicide rates and political punditry that embracing the George Floyd protest movement hurt the party in 2020 and 2021 elections, many Democrats are swinging the pendulum back toward the “law-and-order” agenda of the last 20th century that led to a mass incarceration regime.

And now Biden is fast becoming the pivoter-in-chief. Just last week, the president went to New York to embrace its new ex-cop mayor, Eric Adams, and call for more money for cops to “give you the tools, the training, the funding to be partners, to be protectors.” POTUS46 did share common cause with progressives on seeking gun control measures, but he also implicitly embraced Adams’ backsliding on aggressive policing and opposition to bail reform, with the suggestion that Biden’s 2020 call for reforms is now taking a back seat.

In this climate, it feels like the body politic learned absolutely nothing from the loss of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Not only are policies like no-knock raids — which endanger the public instead of making it safer — still in place, but the same Minneapolis PD that was caught blatantly lying about how Floyd was murdered fell back on its old tricks last week with Locke. Its news release falsely claimed Locke was “a suspect” and described a chain of events — such as an allegation that Locke had pointed his gun at officers — exposed as falsehoods once the police body-cam footage was released to the public.

But while Locke died directly from the reckless behavior of these Minneapolis cops so desperate to attempt such a lame cover-up, his pointless killing leaves blood on many other hands. That includes the Republican lawmakers who’d rather run for reelection by stirring up suburban paranoia than pass a law to save lives by ending needlessly dangerous ploys like no-knock raids or choke holds, the Democrats like Manchin and Sinema who hide behind posturing on bipartisanship to block measures backed by the American people, craven leaders like Biden who let their campaign promises get blown over by the first political wind, and mayors like Frey and so many others who make meaningless pledges and cave to the status quo.

We were promised that the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor would not be in vain, but time for that is fast running out. For Amir Locke and his dreams of a full life, and for his grieving family, it’s already too late.

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