Kansas City Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says there are real commitments from leaders on both sides of the aisle to pass a package of criminal justice reforms this year.
He says one provision will likely require the appointment of a special prosecutor when a grand jury considers indicting a police officer or possibly even a political figure.
While Congress may only reform federal grand juries, Cleaver says states will likely follow if lawmakers in Washington reach agreement.
Another proposal with broad bi-partisan support would give judges greater flexibility in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders.
He says events like those seen in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago have gotten the attention of lawmakers:
“I think people have watched for the last year or so, the goings on in various cities around the country - and they have been stunned and shocked at what they’ve seen. - to the degree that I think we will get some great criminal justice reform this year.”
After the State of the Union address, Cleaver said the goal should be to hear the voice of “the protester determined to prove that justice matters and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave quiet work of keeping us safe.”
He was hopeful that lawmakers could overcome some of the divisiveness in politics.