Updated Jun 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump signs executive order on police reform

US President Donald Trump shows his signature on an Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, in the Rose Garden of the White House
President Trump shows his signature on an Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump signed a modest executive order on Tuesday that encourages limiting the use of chokeholds and moves to create a national database for police misconduct.

Why it matters: Top Trump aides recognize that he is under increased pressure to do something to address the mass outcry spurred by the killing of George Floyd. This order, which many lawmakers will say does not go far enough, is intended to send a message that Trump is willing to work with Congress on more meaningful reform.

  • Trump said he had spoken privately with a group of families — many of whom lost relatives to police violence — about the order earlier in the day. He specifically mentioned the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antwon Rose II, Jemel Roberson, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb and Everett Palmer, Jr.  Floyd's family was not present.
  • Those families were not present in the White House Rose Garden for the executive order signing.
  • The president also encouraged Congress to pass its own police reform legislation.

Despite the executive order, Trump made clear in his Rose Garden remarks that he is still a "law and order" president:

  • "We have to find common ground. But I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend [sic], dismantle and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history," he said.
  • The president said there are a “small number of bad police officers...They are very tiny. I use the word ‘tiny.’ It is a very small percentage. But you have them.”

The big picture: Under the order, police departments that meet certain standards, outlined by the Justice Department, on use of force will be given access to federal grants, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters on Monday.

  • Departments must ban the use of chokeholds to receive such certification, unless an officer is targeted by deadly force.
  • The order also moves to create a national registry to track police officers with multiple instances of the use of excessive force.
  • The order also includes new programs that would help law enforcement officials better deal with mental illness, homelessness, and addiction — including encouraging departments to involve mental health professionals and social workers to work alongside officers in the field.

Worth noting: The order does not address larger concerns about systemic racism and racial profiling in law enforcement.

  • "I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments. ... Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy," Trump said.

Our thought bubble: While the president began with a policy message aimed at addressing longstanding calls from civil rights advocates — including by highlighting the database for bad cops — he quickly broke into standard campaign rhetoric by attacking Democrats like former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.

  • The notion that the Obama administration did not take issues of criminal justice reform seriously is not supported by the facts.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the group of families that President Trump spoke with about the executive order before its signing did not all have relatives who were victims of police violence.

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