Transcript: Rep. Val Demings on "Face the Nation," April 25, 2021

Val Demings on Ohio shooting
Val Demings on Ohio shooting 06:39

The following is a transcript of an interview with Florida Congresswoman Val Demings, that aired Sunday, April 11, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: We go now to Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, who is also the former police chief of Orlando. Good morning, Congresswoman.

REPRESENTATIVE VAL DEMINGS: Good morning, JOHN. Good to be with you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Thank you so much for being here. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, it has passed the House. The president wants it to move in the Senate. I read in the papers that there is progress. Is there any progress?

REP. DEMINGS: Well, I do believe that every day gives us an opportunity for progress, JOHN, and also I am hopeful that the Senate will meet this moment. We know that informal discussions are going on. I think we're closer than a lot of people realize. I know one of the sticking points centers around qualified immunity, but I do believe that we can do just about anything that we have the political will to do. And I do believe that we can meet this moment.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned qualified immunity, it's an expression- its a word we hear- or two words we hear a lot. Senator Scott, who's been running this issue for Republicans, says that he's trying to float a new idea on qualified immunity. And the idea would be that in civil suits, you wouldn't go after the individual police officers, but that the department would be on the hook for an incident. Do you think there's any chance that that might get some agreement among Democrats?

REP. DEMINGS: Well, you know, as I said, JOHN, I think we're closer than a lot of people realize. One thing that we all need to remember is that everybody counts, but everybody's accountable. And we do have to look at the inappropriate behavior of some officers, how egregious it is, how inhumane it is. And I do think there are opportunities to sue those individuals- individuals on a personal level. The department is always, or can always be held accountable. I am hoping that Senator Scott will lead his delegation, if you will, or the Republican members in the Senate to sit down at the table, finish the negotiations and let's get this done. George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is not perfect, but it is a major step in the right direction. Let's get this done. We need it. The American people need it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the George Floyd Policing Act and this awful incident, Ma'Khia Bryant in- in Ohio. So under- as I understand it, under the legislation, federal officials, police officers, they would be restrained from using excessive force unless a third party was in danger and unless they couldn't deescalate. Those seems to be the facts of the case in the Bryant case, which means that under the standards set in the Floyd Policing Act, the officer in that case seems to have acted as they were trained and supposed to.

REP. DEMINGS: Well, you know, JOHN, when I served as a police chief, what I prayed for daily was that my police officers would respond as they are trained to do. Now, after every incident we would have to go back and look at our policies and make sure that the policies met the moment. But look, I worked as a social worker with foster care children. So it's a- it's a sad moment for me. But I also was a patrol officer who was out there on the street having to make those split-second decisions. You know, now everybody has the benefit of slowing the video down and- 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. 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- and a loss of life of the person who was about to be assaulted.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned your experience. It's always nice in politics to have people who've done something that's being talked about on Capitol Hill. Do you have any advice for your colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, about how to think this through, given the fact that you have experience as a police officer?

REP. DEMINGS: Well, I think it- it does help to talk to those members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who have actually been out there doing the job. But my main advice, JOHN, would be let's don't make this a political issue. You- 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. 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.

JOHN DICKERSON: While I'm asking you about advice, Congresswoman. What would you say to your former colleagues, to police officers who feel like they're- they're being- they are getting scrutinized more than they deserve, that they are being all thrown into one barrel? How would you talk to them about the efforts to achieve accountability, given what you know about the work they do?

REP. DEMINGS: Well, JOHN and I have talked to some of them. And what I remind them of is that they- they wear the badge, and I used to do this as a chief, over their heart because they have to have the heart for the job. We want them to have the mind for the job so that they will make good decisions. But we want them to have the heart for the job as well. And I- I also remind them, remember, you are well trained. Utilize the training that you have, but also remember that it's human beings that you're dealing with and always have compassion for the community in which you represent. And, you know, 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--

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. 

REP. DEMINGS: --and be professional and do the job that you're paid to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Congresswoman Demings, thank you so much for being with us. FACE THE NATION will be right back with some new poll finding- new poll findings. Stay with us.