About two years after a Tulsa police officer fatally shot Terence Crutcher, his twin sister found herself losing hope as Department of Justice officials told her there would be no indictment.
“’Well, what am I supposed to do now?’” Tiffany Crutcher remembers asking them, wondering how she could continue her fight for justice. “They looked at me and said, ‘It’s going to take an act of Congress.’ And I said, ‘Well that’s what I’m going to do.’”
A few years of campaigning and several additional lives lost later, Crutcher thinks that action is now closer than ever.
The Tulsa native spent the latter portion of last week in Washington, D.C., alongside others with family members who were killed by police, meeting with White House officials and legislators, urging the leaders to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act’s passage.
Having already passed the House in June of last year, the bill addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. If passed, it would lower the criminal-intent standard to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution from willful to knowing or reckless, and it would limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, among other changes.
It would also create a national registry — the National Police Misconduct Registry — to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct and establish a framework to prohibit racial profiling at federal, state and local levels.
President Joe Biden urged the Senate to pass the act within the next four weeks during his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday, and, thanks to his voice, momentum is high, Crutcher said.
“The appetite was there,” she said. “People think that this is the moment; this is the time for us. (Sen. Cory Booker) said change doesn’t come from Congress; change comes to Congress from families like ours, from the people who’ve been fighting.”
The meeting wasn’t the first time Crutcher met with other people who, like she, lost someone they loved to police killings, but it was her first time to engage intimately with some of the newest members of the poignant group.
She described the somber moment she saw Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother.
“He immediately embraced me,” she said. “We didn’t really even have to say much because we understood each other. What do you say?”
Family members of Eric Garner and Botham Jean joined them as well, and Crutcher said she thinks the pain they were able to share directly with the lawmakers left a lasting impression.
In addition to Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York,Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were all present, and the families also met with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.
Negotiations are ongoing, and there’s currently a gridlock around the proposed changes to qualified immunity, Crutcher said, adding that that is the issue that has had her civil case in her brother’s death sitting in court since 2017.
But Crutcher said Schumer promised the families he wouldn’t put a weak bill on the floor and emphasized his desire to present one with which the families were satisfied.
“It would mean so much to know that the passing of this bill could potentially prevent another Terence Crutcher from happening — or another George Floyd,” Crutcher said.
“Because the fact is, we can’t bring any of our loved ones back. But there are future generations that we have to fight for to make sure that they don’t have the same fate. That’s what this is all about.”