President Donald Trump signed an executive order that will only award certain federal grants to police agencies that reform their use-of-force rules and send data on officer use-of-force misconduct to a national database.
It also directs federal dollars to train police in how to respond to incidents involving mental health, overdoses, and homelessness, and to develop standards for sending social workers along with officers to such incidents.
The order will give incentives to police to adopt “the highest professional standards to serve their community,” Trump said in June 16 remarks before signing the order in the White House’s Rose Garden.
He was accompanied by police representatives as well as members of families whose loved ones have been killed by police.
Americans want police to keep them safe, but also want accountability, Trump said.
“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals. They are not mutually exclusive, they work together,” he said.
The order came upon weeks of protests after a man, George Floyd, died during an arrest by a police officer in Minneapolis.
The protests have often turned violent, including arson, looting, and attacks on police. The administration has mostly laid blame on the anarcho-communist group Antifa and other extremists for inciting the violence.
Many of the protesters and some Democrat politicians have voiced demands for defunding police departments or disbanding them altogether.
Trump rejected such ideas.
“Americans know the truth,” he said. “Without police, there is chaos; without law, there is anarchy; and without safety, there is catastrophe.”
The order will establish independent credentialing for police departments in activities including the use of force and de-escalation training as well as “early warning systems that help to identify officers who may require intervention” and “best practices regarding community engagement,” the order reads.
Only those agencies that apply for the credentials will be eligible for discretionary federal grants.
As part of the credentials, departments will have to ban their officers from using chokeholds “except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law,” the order says.
The attorney general will be responsible for setting standards for which entities could issue such credentials.
The order establishes a national database “concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights.”
The database should track which officers were fired, decertified, or convicted for on-duty conduct, or had a civil judgment entered against them for “improper use of force,” the order says. It should also include those who resigned or retired “while under active investigation related to the use of force.”
“The Attorney General shall take appropriate steps to ensure that the information in the database consists only of instances in which law enforcement officers were afforded fair process,” the order states.
Only agencies that send their data to the database will be eligible for discretionary federal grants, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law,” the order says.
“Aggregated and anonymized data” from the database will be periodically released to the public.
The order further directs the secretary of Health and Human Services to “survey community-support models addressing mental health, homelessness, and addiction” and produce a report on the survey within 90 days.
Federal resources shall then be prioritized “to support widespread adoption of successful models,” it says.
The order also requires drafting of legislation that would direct money to help police departments with the credentialing process, training required for the credentials, reporting to the misconduct database, and implementing the “community-support models.”
The legislation should further address retention and recruitment of “high-performing law enforcement officers;” confidential access to mental health services for law enforcement officers; and “programs aimed at developing or improving relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve, including through community outreach and listening sessions, and supporting nonprofit organizations that focus on improving stressed relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
The order was endorsed by several large police organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union.
The legislative proposal would add to similar initiatives in both the House and the Senate.
“I am committed to working with Congress on additional measures,” Trump said.
House Democrats have unveiled a proposal that would, among other measures, remove the “qualified immunity” provision that shields government workers from getting sued in some circumstances. The provision has been used by some police officers to defend against lawsuits alleging excessive force or other misconduct.
Trump is “flexible” in looking at bills that come his way, but nixing qualified immunity would be “a very high hill to climb,” a senior administration official told reporters during a June 15 background call on the executive order.
That same day, the Supreme Court declined to hear eight cases involving qualified immunity. Seven of the cases involved police.
Reuters contributed to this report.