Biden Signs Executive Order Reforming Federal Law Enforcement

Biden Signs Executive Order Reforming Federal Law Enforcement
President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on May 24, 2022. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Nick Ciolino

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that sets broad new policing standards for federal law enforcement agencies. The order does not affect state and local police departments but encourages them to follow suit.

Among other things, the order puts into place a police misconduct database, mandates body cameras, limits no-knock warrants, and bans chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized.

“It’s a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation to address profound fear and trauma exhaustion, particularly black Americans have experienced for generations and to channel a private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come,” Biden said during a live bill signing ceremony.

The action comes on the two-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests that, in several cases, led to violence and rioting in major cities during the summer of 2020. Members of the Floyd family were present at the bill signing.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, Congress failed to pass a police reform bill called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Congress also failed to move on the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act—a ban on no-knock warrants named after a Louisville resident and EMT who was killed during a police raid on her home in March 2020.

Biden’s executive order serves as a fallback position for the administration that has voiced support for the Floyd bill.

“Why haven’t I done this executive order earlier?” asked Biden during his speech. “If I'd done it, I was worried it would undercut the effort to get the law passed.”

“We also know this executive order is no substitute for legislation, nor does it accomplish everything we know must be done, but it is a necessary and long overdue, critical step forward,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.

The order includes a list of changes meant to promote accountability, raise standards, improve training and improve data transparency at federal law enforcement agencies. It also takes some steps to reform the broader criminal justice system.

This includes the database, which will be required by all federal law enforcement agencies and show a record of officer misconduct. State and local law enforcement agencies are encouraged to enter their own officer records into the database as well.

Biden’s order also limits the use of no-knock warrants to special circumstances like “when an announced entry would pose an imminent threat of physical violence.”

The order will “enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency, and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system,” according to a release from the White House.