President Donald Trump signed an executive order on police reform Tuesday in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 and protests demanding changes to U.S. policing.
“Though we may all come from different places and different backgrounds, we’re united by our desire to ensure peace and dignity and equality of all Americans,” Trump said before signing the order in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Trump said that he held a meeting with family members of people who died at the hands of police prior to the signing. “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,” Trump said in his remarks, and also expressed gratitude to law enforcement leaders.
“Americans believe we must support the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe,” the president said. “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. They all work together.”
“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 announced.
Addressing police reform
The order, titled “Safe Policing for Safe Communities,” rejects calls to “defund” police, instead offering grants to departments that update training and credentialing standards. In addition, the order creates a federal database to track and share excessive force complaints between departments.
Another aspect of Trump’s executive order provides for more mental health workers to join police forces to help with non-violent addictions and homelessness issues.
Trump has pushed state and local governments to crack down on protesters who turn to violent rioting, and his approval ratings seemed to suffer for it. Trump’s order did not address the ability of family members to sue police officers, which is currently not allowed unless protocols were clearly broken during the interaction.
Lawmakers in Congress from both parties are also working on their own police reform legislation proposals.
Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about how to reform law enforcement. While the far left wants to “defund” police, add new requirements for training, and outlaw forms of restraint like chokeholds, the right is more cautious about taking steps that they fear could make crime problems worse.
Another sticking point is qualified immunity, which prevents police from being individually sued for their actions on the job. Democrats think suing police should be allowed, while Republicans insist they will not support removing that protection. A proposal that limits or removes immunity would be a “poison pill” for any reform bill sent to the Republican-controlled Senate, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said Sunday.
Whether or not sweeping federal changes will improve conditions on the ground for people of color and other minorities remains to be seen.