Senator Dan Sullivan is considering law enforcement reforms, but not "defunding"

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN three weeks ago, calls for police reform are ringing out across the country. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) says he supports reform, but cautions against going too far. The senator says he is concerned for his state's rural areas.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) says some rural areas in Alaska area already without law enforcement. (Source: KTUU)

"I certainly don't support this notion of 'defund the police,'" said Sullivan.

Sullivan says many rural areas are already underserved with zero law enforcement presence.

"I would not at all support anything like defunding the police, it goes in the absolute wrong direction for what we need in Alaska," said Sullivan.

But he says he is considering other proposals on the table in Congress. He says he supports elements of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott's bill that would address training, transparency, data gathering among other things. But he says he is skeptical of elements in a House bill, specifically when it comes to removing qualified immunity, something that protects law enforcement and other government officials from lawsuits over their conduct.

"You got to think about the ramifications of that. You don't want to have a police force that's not encouraged to do policing," said Sullivan.

Sullivan says he's speaking with folks in his state about the best path forward. Christy Lopez, an innovative policing expert at Georgetown University's Law School says the local conversation is important because every place is different.

"Each community is going to have different challenges and their current budgets are going to look different and the portion of the budget that goes to policing right now will look different," said Lopez.

She says the current conversation should be about rethinking how law enforcement does its job and what that job should look like. She says officers are asked to be social workers, mental health workers, and crime stoppers all in one. Lopez believes taking a load off of officers is a good start in reform.

"Shift some of that responsibility to other parts of government and that of course requires shifting resources," said Lopez.

The Democratic House reform bill is sitting in Committee. Introduction of the Republican Senate bill is expected this week.

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