Donald Trump signs executive order on police reform after weeks of Black Lives Matter protests
US President Donald Trump, facing criticism that his policies and inflammatory rhetoric have aggravated a racial divide, has signed an order aimed at improving police practices saying that “Americans want law and order”.
- The order would set up a database on officers with excessive use of force complaints
- It would also encourage police to use social workers in non-violent cases
- Mr Trump said chokeholds should only be used “if an officer’s life is at risk”
After weeks of protests against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr Trump offered a policy response to rising concerns about racial injustice.
“Americans want law and order, they demand law and order,” Mr Trump said at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, before signing the executive order.
The President offered his condolences to the families of victims of recent violence and vowed to pursue justice.
In his public comments and on Twitter, Mr Trump has called for crackdowns on protesters and emphasised a forceful and militarised response to the social unrest sparked by the deaths of Mr Floyd and others.
Opinion polls show widespread concerns among Americans about police brutality.
The executive order encourages police departments to employ the latest standards for use of force, and improve information sharing so that officers with poor records are not hired without their backgrounds being known.
The order would establish a database that tracks police officers with excessive use of force complaints in their records and would give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices.
Mr Trump said under a new credentialing process, chokeholds will be banned “except if an officer’s life is at risk”. The holds though are already largely banned in police departments across the US.
It would also encourage police to add social workers to law enforcement responses in non-violent cases involving drug addiction and homelessness, officials said.
Mr Trump reiterated that he opposed calls to “defund the police” by reimagining or even dismantling police departments. Leading Democrats, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, have not embraced such calls, but Republicans have jumped on the issue.
Congress to put forward police reform proposals
The Democratic-led House of Representatives is expected to vote later this month on sweeping legislation put forward by the Congressional Black Caucus to rein in police misconduct.
Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own legislation this week that concentrates more on data collection than on policy changes in areas involving lethal force.
Democrats want to allow victims of misconduct and their families to sue police, an idea that Republicans oppose. Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing to reduce job protections for members of law enforcement unions.
Some Republicans say the two sides are so far apart on key issues that no final action is likely until after the July 4 holiday.
Attorney-General William Barr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Tim Scott, who is developing the Republican legislation, attended the White House signing.
One civil rights group said Mr Trump’s action did not go far enough.
“While the order takes some steps forward, it is an inadequate response to a nation demanding sweeping, bold action,” Vanita Gupta, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement.