Democratic Rep. Val Demings and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan had a heated exchange Tuesday during a House Judiciary hearing after Jordan tried to cut Demings short as she spoke about law enforcement.
Tensions escalated during debate over the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would address the surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans. Republicans had introduced an amendment that would prevent the defunding of police departments even though the legislation does not seek to strip law enforcement funding.
“I want to make it quite clear that this amendment is completely irrelevant,” Demings, who served as chief of the Orlando Police Department for three years, said.
“I served as a law enforcement officer for 27 years. It is a tough job. And good police officers deserve your support. You know, it’s interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so. Law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. They deserve better,” the Florida Democrat said.
At that point, Jordan sought to interject, earning a fierce rebuttal from Demings who struck her hand against the desk in front of her as she exclaimed: “I have the floor Mr. Jordan.”
“Did I strike a nerve?” Demings continued as she looked in the Ohio Republican’s direction. “Law enforcement officers deserve better that to be utilized as pawns. And you and your colleagues should be ashamed of yourselves.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler interrupted the exchange in an effort to restore order to the hearing, but when Jordan said he agreed with Nadler that members shouldn’t shout out of turn, Demings shot back: “Mr. Jordan you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about.”
Demings on Wednesday accused Jordan and other Republicans of creating distractions because they don’t have a plan to address pertinent issues affecting Americans.
“Now, if you’re so concerned about protecting law enforcement, how do you not stand with let’s address the crimes that law enforcement has to deal with? Mr. Jordan yesterday seized that opportunity to try to use law enforcement as a political pawn. We’ve seen it so many other times,” she told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day.” “What I was talking about on yesterday was we need to stop playing these political games, and you know, we’re dealing with a lot of issues right now.”
A staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, Jordan was in a similarly tense exchange earlier this month when he interrupted Dr. Anthony Fauci during a House subcommittee meeting.
His conduct prompted Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters to tell Jordan, “Shut your mouth.”
Tuesday’s exchange about law enforcement came against the backdrop of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd. Later Tuesday, a 12-person jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The trial in recent weeks again ignited the kind of soul searching about the role of police in society and systemic racism in the criminal justice system, and the nation writ large, that many advocates have been urging for decades.
Demings told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” Tuesday evening that the verdict presented “another opportunity to step up and do better, and do the right thing.”
“America, and quite frankly I think around the world, people have been grieving now for over a year. It’s been a tough year. We’re all exhausted. But the verdict today sent a strong message,” she said.
“You know, it sent a message that we may not be the America that we need to be, but the verdict today signals that we can be that America that we’re supposed to be.”
Demings added that she hopes this moment acts as a springboard for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House last month but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
CNN previously reported that the legislation would set up a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to other jurisdictions. It would also ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, as well as overhaul qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that critics say shields law enforcement from accountability.
“Is it going to solve all of our issues? No it will not,” the congresswoman said Tuesday evening.
“But it is certainly a great step in the right direction and we deserve it, good law enforcement officers deserve it and America deserves it.”
This story has been updated with additional comments from Demings.