President Trump signed an executive order on police reform, titled “Safe Policing for Safe Communities,” on Tuesday that directs police departments across the country to adopt new standards for the use of force, following weeks of national unrest in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody last month.
“Today is about pursuing common sense and fighting — fighting for a cause like we seldom get the chance to fight for. We have to find common ground. That is why today I’m signing an executive order encouraging police departments nationwide to adopt the highest professional standards to serve their communities,” Trump said in remarks at the Rose Garden before signing the executive order. “Americans also believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency, and invest more resources in police training, recruiting, and community engagement. Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals, they are not mutually exclusive; they work together.”
Before the Rose Garden event, Trump said he met with several families who “loved ones in deadly interactions with police” in the White House. The members included families of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antoine Rose, Jamel Roberson, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb, and Everett Palmer.
“Many of these families lost their loved ones in deadly 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. I can never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people. And I gave a commitment to all of those families today with Senator Tim Scott and Attorney General Bill Barr.”
The order consists of three key components — a national database to track police history of misconduct to prevent those officers from easily moving between different departments, ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer life is in danger, instructs the Justice Department to allocate discretionary grant funding to police departments that are certified by federally-approved bodies in police training and de-escalation techniques, incentivize officer training and provide more resources for co-responders to include social workers and individuals trained in mental health issues to help officers respond to non-violent calls.
“Americans want law and order,” he said, adding that several law enforcement officials worked with his administration in crafting the order. “We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart. Today’s action is a big part of the solution to restoring, renewing, and rebuilding our communities.”
During his remarks, the president largely praised police officers while slamming the “radical and dangerous efforts” to defund the police, a movement that has grown loudly in recent weeks from the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history,” Trump said, noting that 89 officers were killed in the line of duty last year with two officers in recent days were killed amid the riots and looting, and hundreds of police officers were injured. “The vast majority of police officers are selfless and courageous public servants. When others run away from danger, police run straight into harm’s way, often putting their lives at stake to protect someone who they don’t know or never even met.
He added, “police officers run straight toward this incredible harm. Take the World Trade Center They ran straight into the Twin Towers of 9/11. Many of them never returned. Never returned. Vast numbers of New York’s Finest never returned.”
The president called on Congress to seek legislative reform, beyond his executive order to further the policies of the order and build community engagement.
“Beyond the steps we’re taking today, I am committed to working with Congress on additional measures,” Trump said. “Congress has started already, and they’ll be having bills coming out of the Senate and possibly out of the House. And hopefully, they’ll all get together, they’ll come up with a solution that goes even beyond what we’re signing today, but this is a big, big step.”
Senate Republicans are preparing to release their own package of policing changes on Wednesday. Last week, House Democrats unveiled a comprehensive sweeping national proposed police reform package that seeks to hold police departments accountable, end the use of police chokeholds, create a national database to track officers with a record of misconduct and outline ways for law enforcement to change their tactics across the country.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized the order shortly after Trump signed it saying the “weak” measure “falls sadly and seriously short.”
“The President’s weak Executive Order falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of Black Americans,” Pelosi said. “During this moment of national anguish, we must insist on bold change, not meekly surrender to the bare minimum.”