Washington — Congresswoman Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida and former chief of the Orlando Police Department, said Sunday the police officer whoin Ohio last week appears to have responded in accordance with his training.
In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Demings reflected on her time as a patrol officer and said those working in the community have to make split-second decisions.
“Everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and seizing the perfect moment. The officer on the street does not have that ability. He or she has to make those split-second decisions and they’re tough,” Demings told “Face the Nation.” “But the limited information that I know in viewing the video, it appears that the officer responded as he was trained to do with the main thought of preventing a tragedy and a loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted.”
Bryant, 16, was shot and killed by police officer Nicholas Reardon in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday after he responded to 911 calls requesting law enforcement assistance. In body camera footage released to the public, Reardon is seen firing four shots at Bryant as she swung a knife at another young woman pressed against the side of a parked car.
The shooting in Columbus occurred just before a Minneapolis jury rendered its guilty verdict against police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin’s conviction renewed a focus in Congress to pass federal police reform legislation named for Floyd, though talks are informal.
The sweeping reform bill passed the House this year but has not yet been taken up in the Senate, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the upper chamber will take action. A sticking point in negotiations, however, is reforms to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers from civil lawsuits for constitutional violations.
Demings said she is “hopeful that the Senate will meet this moment” and believes lawmakers are closer to reaching an agreement than the public understands.
“When we look historically throughout our history, even though there’s always been two strong political parties, they’ve always seem in most instances to be able to lay down their political differences and rise to meet that significant moment. This is such a time,” she said. “And so I’m hoping that we will put politics aside and come together because we need to get this done. Our communities around the nation need it. Our good police officers need it, and quite frankly, the American people need it. We in Congress in both chambers can meet this moment as well if we have the political will to do so.”
Demings said that when she speaks with police officers, she reminds them that they should use the training they have undergone and to use the compassion for the communities in which they serve.
“The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in this nation are good people who go to work every day to protect those, protect and serve our communities. I remind them of that. Always stand on the right side, speak up and be professional and do the job that you’re paid to do,” she said.