In a press conference held at noon on Tuesday, President Trump announced the signing of a new executive order on police reform, the first of such reforms to come after the killing of George Floyd prompted Americans across all 50 states to take to the streets in protest. The executive order will seek to ban the use of chokeholds, establish new programs to help law enforcement when responding to issues involving mental illness, and create a National Registry to track police officers who repeatedly engage in excessive force.
According to Axios, the somewhat confusing executive order doesn’t outright ban chokeholds but will incentivize police departments to avoid the use of excessive force by only allowing access to federal funds to police departments that comply with criteria outlined by the Justice Department. Police may still use chokeholds if the officer is the target of deadly force.
The full executive order (obtained by CNN) indicates that officers will be retrained regarding their response to calls regarding mental illness and will “provide guidance regarding the development and implementation of co-responder programs, which involve social workers or other mental health professionals working alongside law enforcement officers so that they arrive and address situations together.” This is perhaps the most significant part of the President’s executive order, as according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.
The Executive order also seeks to create a national registry to track police officers who have a record of responding with excessive force, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd through his use of excessive force, reportedly had a record of misconduct complaints and a reputation for aggression. Whether or not a national registry would actually affect an officer’s ability to retain their job remains to be seen.
For those hoping the President would take steps toward defunding the police, Trump has indicated that he’s still positioning himself as a “Law and Order” president, addressing the movement that was now gaining popularity nationwide at Tuesday’s press conference.
“We have to find common ground,” he said. “But 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.”
Ultimately, the President’s executive order won’t do much to quell the justifiable anger that continues to bring so many thousands into the streets now three weeks after George Floyd’s death, especially considering the order does little to address the systemic racism and racial profiling that many believe has led to police to disproportionally target African Americans. The executive order also fails to address the “qualified immunity” enjoyed by police officers, a doctrine that often shields police officers from lawsuits over their conduct. However, the move does signal to lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the President may be willing to play ball on more substantive legislative reform.
According to CNN, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are currently working on two separate police reform bills, though it’s unlikely anything will be passed before the Senate enters its two-week Fourth of July recess.