Trump signs executive order for better police practices, slams ‘defund the police’ efforts

Trump signs executive order for better police practices, slams ‘defund the police’ efforts

Following weeks of national protests since the death of George Floyd, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing Tuesday that would encourage better police practices and establish a database to keep track of officers with a history of excessive use-of-force complaints.

In Rose Garden remarks, Trump stressed the need for higher standards and commiserated with mourning families, even as he hailed the vast majority of officers as selfless public servants and held his law-and-order line.

“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” he said before signing the order flanked by police.

Trump and the Republican party have been rushing to respond to the mass demonstrations against police brutality and racial prejudice that have raged for weeks across the country in response to the deaths of Floyd and other Black Americans. It’s a sudden shift for the Republicans — and one Democrats are watching warily — that shows how quickly the protests have changed the political conversation and pressured Washington to act.

But Trump, throughout the crisis, has continued to emphasize his support for law enforcement and even on Tuesday railed against those who committed violence during the largely peaceful protests.

Law enforcement officials applaud after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on police reform in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Trump’s executive order would establish a database that tracks police officers with excessive use of force complaints in their records. And it would give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices and encourage co-responder programs, in which social workers join police when they respond to nonviolent calls involving mental health, addiction and homeless issues.

Trump said that under a new credentialing process, chokeholds will be banned “except if an officer’s life is at risk.” Chokeholds are already largely banned in police departments nationwide.

Trump framed his plan as an alternative to the “defund the police” movement that has emerged from the protests, which he slammed as “radical and dangerous.”

People walk on the words Black Lives Matter that was painted in bright yellow letters on 16th Street as demonstrators protest on June 7 near the White House in Washington over the death of George Floyd. (Maya Alleruzzo/The Associated Press)

“Americans know the truth: Without police there is chaos. Without law there is anarchy and without safety there is catastrophe,” he said.

Trump’s audience included police officials and members of Congress, and came after he met at the White House with the families of men and women who have been killed in interactions with police.

“To all of the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side,” Trump said. “Your loved ones will not have died in vain.”

Yet Trump made no mention of systemic racism in his comments. 

Now is the time to reimagine a more fair and just society in which all people are safe– Vanita Gupta, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Rose Garden announcement came as Senate Republicans are preparing their own package of policing changes. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the Senate, has been crafting the Republican legislative package, which will include new restrictions on police chokeholds and greater use of police body cameras, among other provisions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that Republicans are developing “a serious proposal to reform law enforcement.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee was to conduct a hearing Tuesday afternoon on “Police Use of Force and Community Relations,” drawing testimony from leading civil rights and law enforcement leaders.

“Now is the time to reimagine a more fair and just society in which all people are safe,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, was to tell senators, according to advance testimony obtained by The Associated Press.

Competing legislation

The nationwide outcry “is anything but a reaction to one isolated incident or the misconduct of a few ‘bad apples,”‘ Gupta says in the advance testimony. “The outcry is a response to the other horrific killings of Black people by police.”

While the emerging Republican package isn’t as extensive as sweeping Democratic proposals, which are headed for a House vote next week, it includes perhaps the most far-reaching proposed changes to policing procedures from the party long aligned with a “law and order” approach.

Scott, who said he spoke with Trump about the legislation over the weekend, warned Monday that delaying voting until later this summer would be a “bad decision.”

The weekend shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by a white officer in Atlanta led to a renewed public outcry, more street protests and the police chief’s resignation.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York is among those urging Republicans not to settle for minor changes.

“Now is the time to seek bold and broad-scale change,” Schumer said Monday.

With the political debate fluid, it is unclear whether the parties will be able to find common ground. The proposals emerging from Democrats and Republicans share many similar provisions but take different approaches to address some of the issues. Neither bill goes as far as some activists want in their push to “defund the police” by fully revamping departments.

Central to the Republican package would be the creation of the national database to improve transparency so officers cannot transfer from one department to another without public oversight of their records. The Democrats have a similar provision.

Yet the Republican bill does not go as far as the Democrats do on the issue of eliminating qualified immunity, which would allow those injured by law enforcement personnel to sue for damages. The White House has said that is a step too far. As an alternative, Scott has suggested a “decertification” process for officers involved in misconduct.

One large police union, the influential Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement it is working with Congress and the White House on the proposals, having provided “feedback” on the Democratic bill and “substantial input” on the emerging Republican package.

Published at Tue, 16 Jun 2020 17:50:24 +0000