We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Timothy Eugene Scott, a senator from the great state of South Carolina. Although many disagreed with Sen. Scott’s political ideology, he was once a genuine conservative. He had no facial hair. He constricted his vocal cords when he talked. He breathed air.
Despite being born with a birth defect that rendered him incapable of saying the words “systemic racism,” anyone who has ever met Tim Scott would tell you that he was an actual human being. He had fingers and toes; a mouth and eyes. This may be hard for many to fathom but—and I swear it is true—Tim Scott even believed in things. He believed in family. He believed in the law. And he believed he was Black.
Seriously, stop laughing.
“I was Black before I got to the Senate and I’m going to be Black after I leave the Senate,” he once told The Root. “I just want to find a way to create a better outcome for my nephew and my cousins, who are 3 and 4 years old, don’t have to worry about systemic, systematic or whatever you guys call the crap that you and I have to worry about.”
That’s right—he once had cousins. I told you he was Black.
But that Tim Scott is dead and gone. He is now a ghost of a memory, floating in the wind like the gossamer product of the 900-acre cotton farm owned by the granddaddy Scott likes to paint as a poor, illiterate cotton-picker whenever he’s bootstrap speechifying to his conservative Caucasian constituents. Not that it matters because, again, Tim Scott is dead as fuck.
But before his untimely death, Scott also believed in police reform. He didn’t just believe in it, he actually tried to do something about it. He tried before Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck. He tried before Louisville, Ky., police officers lied on an affidavit to obtain a no-knock warrant for Breonna Taylor’s home. Before Ahmaud Arbery. Before white people pretended to care about Black people for one brief summer, Tim Scott cared about Black people.
Since 2015, Scott had been trying to pass the Walter Scott Notification Act. Named after one of his constituents, the law would simply create a national database that contained every instance of police use of lethal force. Scott’s bill would make the database public and, according to the bill, any state that refused to report would face a 10 percent reduction in federal law enforcement grants and funds. That’s right. Tim Scott’s plan would prove, once and for all, that police disproportionately use lethal force against Black people.
Scott tried to pass the proposal as a standalone bill, to no avail. When he attempted to attach it to funding legislation, it failed. So, in a last-ditch attempt, as the First Step Act worked its way through the Senate in 2018, Scott attempted to slide his much-needed idea in as an amendment to the groundbreaking criminal reform bill. But his fellow GOP Senators balked again, so Tim Scott gave up...
Until Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
During the ensuing protests, House Democrats introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, their plan to reform policing, and passed it twice. However, when it reached the Senate, it stalled because Republicans had come up with their own version of police reform—Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2o20. So what was this big Republican plan to hold police accountable? Well, most of the reforms in the JUSTICE Act came from one source: the Walter Scott Notification Act.
To hash out the differences in the JUSTICE Act and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Scott teamed up with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). According to Senate and House staffers who spoke with The Root on the condition of anonymity, the impasse was caused by five key issues:
- Banning chokeholds;
- Outlawing no-knock warrants;
- Demilitarization of law enforcement agencies;
- Federal accreditation of police departments;
- And whether the police misconduct database should be public.
Republicans refused to acquiesce to these issues because of their support from police unions. But Booker, ever the negotiator, took on the challenge and went to the Fraternal Order of Police, America’s largest and most powerful police union, representing more than half of the nation’s 697,000 law enforcement officers and convinced them to sign off on the reforms.
“We got the F.O.P. and International Association of Chiefs of Police to agree on some pretty incredible things,” Booker told the New York Times.
Yes, they had worked everything out! They’d get Tim Scott’s database. They’d get the Democrats’ chokehold ban. There would be a national standard for use of force. There were no roadblocks and we’d finally get police reform.
Until Tim Scott balked again.
Scott refused to sign off on the deal even though it was officially endorsed by representatives of most police officers in America. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the “control of a group or organization by the majority of its members” is the literal definition of “democracy.” So what was Scott’s and the GOP’s reason for reneging on the deal? Well Republicans were motivated by one right-wing group that represents less than 3 percent of law enforcement officers in America—the National Sheriffs’ Association.
To understand the significance of this, you should first understand that 90 percent of all sheriffs in America are white men. Then you should know about the fringe, far-right constitutional sheriffs’ movement, which “encourages law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide are illegal,” according to NBC. According to the movement, sheriffs are the “only legal law enforcement authority,” based on a white supremacist manifesto that interpreted Anglo-Saxon laws. The Trump administration embraced the movement, even sending Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak to the group to tell them they are part of the “Anglo Saxon heritage of law enforcement.”
Up to 25 percent of the National Sheriffs’ Association leadership is aligned with the movement, according to a 2019 assessment by Political Research Associates. And sitting on the NSA’s board of directors is commander of the S.C. State Guard, Sheriff Leon Lott, who used his authority to charge protesters with violent crimes, alleging that the George Floyd demonstrations were “infiltrated by violent gangs, outside agitators and others who planned to burn down” the city, the Charleston Post-Courier reports.
Tim Scott, the man Republicans put in charge of reforming the police, is one of the most powerful men in America. But in the state Scott represents, Leon Lott is considered to be the most powerful man in South Carolina. Aside from serving on the NSA’s board of directors, Lott received one other accolade.
This right-wing organization is what sank the negotiations, with the help of Tim Scott and the Republican Party. But when asked, Scott did not mention how he was beholden to a far-right group. He did not mention the provisions of the bill. Instead, he told an entirely different story.
Two major policing organizations — the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police — are disputing Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s account of how negotiations over a policing overhaul plan broke down last week.
“Despite some media reports, at no point did any legislative draft propose ‘defunding the police,’ “ according to a joint statement from the two groups. “In fact, the legislation specifically provided additional funding to assist law enforcement agencies in training, agency accreditation, and data collection initiatives.”
Scott said last week that he was “not going to be part of defunding the police” after bipartisan negotiations fell apart, and said that disagreement was over tying grant money to cooperating with the reform efforts.
You know its bad when the police are calling you out as a liar.
Technically, however, Tim Scott was right. The definition of defund is to “to withdraw funding from,” which is exactly how the proposed police reforms would have been enforced among agencies who didn’t comply with national police standards. But where did the Democrats get that idea from?
Well, the idea came from the JUSTICE ACT, which came from the Walter Scott Notification Act, which came directly from a little-known senator named Tim Scott. More than a year ago, Scott’s own Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Leigh Richardson told The Root that reducing funding to police departments was a “complicated mechanism that we had to create to hold every agency accountable.” See for yourself.
That’s right; Tim Scott came up with the original plan to defund the police.
And sure, according to the technical definition of the word, Tim Scott is a liar. But before Tim Scott sold out Tim Scott, he believed in things. While you may not have preferred his political positions, you must admit, he was an actual human being. He had a mouth and a brain and everything.
I prefer to remember Tim Scott that way, before he paraded on TV to explain how America is not a racist country. Before he avoided commenting on partymate Donald Trump’s white supremacist remarks by pretending he didn’t watch the news or read the newspaper or exist in a world where people say things. Before he was brutally killed by Tim Scott’s craven need to sidle up to white supremacy.
But just like Tim Scott’s Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said when his homeboy delivered him into the hands of law enforcement officers in one of the most famous instances of police killing an unarmed man:
“It be ya own people.”
May he rest in peace.