Harris hits back after Pence takes aim at criminal justice record during debate

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence took aim at Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, accusing her of not doing enough to enact criminal justice reform during her time in the U.S. Senate.

Pence made the comments during Wednesday evening’s vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“It’s remarkable, that when Sen. Tim Scott tried to pass a police reform bill, brought together a group of Republicans and Democrats, Senator Harris, you got up and walked out of the room,” Pence said.

“And then you filibustered Tim Scott’s Bill on the Senate floor that would have provided new accountability, new resources.”

Trump and Pence have repeatedly attempted to paint the Biden-Harris campaign as soft on crime, in an attempt to create a stark contrast to their own “law and order” stance.

The comments came after debate moderator and USA Today journalist Susan Page asked the candidates whether justice had been served in the case of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, a Black Louisville emergency medical tech studying to become a nurse, was shot multiple times in March after being roused from sleep by police at her door.

The warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation in which Taylor’s boyfriend was a suspect. No drugs were found at her home.

One officer, Brett Hankison, was charged with “wanton endangerment” for firing into the home of Taylor’s neighbours. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The case acted as a catalyst, fuelling protests across the U.S. against systemic racism and police brutality.

Harris, who served as attorney general in California from 2010 to 2016, was quick to hit back at Pence’s comments.

“I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of our country,” Harris said.

“I am the only one on this stage who has personally prosecuted everything from child sexual assault to homicide,” she continued.

“I am the only one on this stage who has prosecuted the big banks for taking advantage of America’s homeowners. I am the only one on this stage who has prosecuted for-profit colleges for taking advantage of our veterans.”

In 2020, Harris co-authored a sweeping police reform bill alongside Senators Cory Booker, Karen Bass and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler.

The bill was passed by House Democrats, but was ultimately rejected by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who instead championed Scott’s bill.

Harris also took the opportunity to discuss police reform, saying under a Biden administration, America would see a ban on chokeholds and the creation of a national registry for police officers who break the law.

“Bad cops are bad for good cops,” she said. “We need reform of policing in America, and our criminal justice system.”

Pence, however, said while the Taylor family has his sympathies, that he trusts the American justice system.

“This presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, and as Joe Biden said, he believes that law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement,” he said.

— With a file from The Associated Press

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