President Donald Trump signed an executive order on policing on Tuesday that addresses officers’ use of chokeholds and attempts to establish a database for law enforcement misconduct, but it will be up to Congress to legislate more robust reforms.
At a Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday, the president also leaned in heavily on his contention that the problems in policing are due to a small number of officers.
“I use the word ‘tiny.’ It is a very small percentage, but you have them,” Trump said.
The executive order calls for police departments to be eligible for federal grants if they pass a certification process, which includes banning chokeholds “except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.”
The executive order also directs Attorney General William Barr to create a database “concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights.” The order also directs the Justice Department to promote training for law enforcement in dealing with homeless individuals and those suffering from addiction, as well as to encourage programs in which social workers are “co-responders” in certain situations.
The death of George Floyd triggered protests across the country and a new national conversation about racial injustice. But Trump’s response has emphasized the need for law and order, a message that he continued to stress in his remarks.
“Americans want law and order, and demand law and order,” Trump said. “They may not say. They may not be talking about it. But that’s what they want. Some of them don’t know what they want, but that’s what they want.”
Trump stood with Republican lawmakers and police union officials in making his remarks. Earlier, he met with families of victims of officer-involved shootings, but they were not present alongside the president for the signing ceremony.
The executive order also does not address a range of other issues, including that of racial profiling, while the White House has previously said that ending “qualified immunity” for police officers would be a nonstarter when it comes to congressional legislation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s executive order as insufficient.
“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,” she said in a statement. “The Executive Order lacks meaningful, mandatory accountability measures to end misconduct. During this moment of national anguish, we must insist on bold change, not meekly surrender to the bare minimum.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, “The order sugarcoats the grave national crisis of police violence and fails to acknowledge that racism and systemic discrimination have led to the deaths of unarmed Black people at alarming rates.”
On CNN, commentator Van Jones said that Trump’s executive order was “a step in the right direction.”
House Democrats have introduced more sweeping police reform legislation, while Senate Republicans are writing their own proposal.
Trump spent the latter portion of his remarks veering onto other topics, including the coronavirus crisis, China and the economy. The cable networks carried his speech live, but MSNBC cut away as it went on, with anchor Andrea Mitchell explaining that the president had launched into a “campaign rally speech.”
At one moment, Trump talked of scientists coming up with a vaccine for the coronavirus. “They’ve come up with many other cures and therapeutics over the years. They’ve come up with the AIDS vaccine,” he said. In fact, no such vaccine exists. He seemed to correct himself by referring to therapeutics that are used to treat AIDS.