Trump Signs Order on Police Force After Meeting Victims’ Families
President Donald Trump said he met with families of Black people killed at the hands of police ahead of a Rose Garden ceremony where he signed an order to encourage better training on use of force.
Trump said Tuesday the order would leverage federal funding to help stop the use of choke holds nationwide, except when an officer’s life is at risk, under a new credentialing process for law enforcement agencies.
But he was largely supportive of police in his remarks, rejecting calls from protesters against police brutality that law enforcement agencies be defunded and broken up.
“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments,” Trump said. “Americans know the truth -- without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy. And without safety, there is catastrophe.”
Trump said he met with the families of Jemel Roberson, a Black security guard in Illinois who was fatally shot by police in 2018, and Antwon Rose, who was killed by police in East Pittsburgh that same year. Others included the family of Cameron Lamb, who was shot and killed last year by police in Kansas City, Missouri.
Trump’s meeting and order comes as Trump has repeatedly called for “law and order” in the wake of weeks of demonstrations over George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day, when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck while he was under arrest.
But the president has faced widespread criticism over his response and some of his political advisers have expressed concern that his handling of the protests and the coronavirus pandemic have damaged his chances of being re-elected.
His executive order seeks to address some of the protesters’ grievances, and Trump said he would support efforts in Congress to pass legislation reforming some police behavior. But he described the order as “encouraging” police departments to adopt higher standards for their officers’ behavior rather than requiring reforms.
The order directs the Justice Department to issue grants only to police departments that have received or are in the process of seeking certification from certain independent organizations on best practices. The certifying groups would be chosen by the attorney general.
The standards include training officers with modern use-of-force standards, de-escalation tactics and community engagement. To be eligible for grants, state and local department policies would need to limit the use of choke holds to incidents in which lethal force is allowed by law.
The order also forms a federal officer database so that those with violent track records can’t easily get new jobs, and allows the attorney general to deny grant funding to state and local departments that do not participate.
It encourages departments to invite social workers to join police in responding to non-violent calls involving mentally ill and homeless people and better train officers to deal with those scenarios.
Senior administration officials said that they consulted with law enforcement groups and representatives of families of people killed by police, some of whom attended Tuesday’s ceremony.
Trump on Monday called the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, in Atlanta “very disturbing.” The city’s police department fired one of the officers involved and the police chief resigned.
Lawmakers are working on broader police reform legislation. Senior White House officials have discussed a proposal being drafted by Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the upper chamber.
“We’re going to take these steps today to help improve policing, to help to move that process forward as a country in the wake of these tragic events and the violence that ensued. But we’re not going to stop there,” Vice President Mike Pence said earlier Tuesday on Fox News.
Some activists have called for more sweeping reforms, such as stripping funding from police departments and spending the money on social programs. Trump has repeatedly denounced the movement to “defund the police,” and sought to tie Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to it, even though Biden has not embraced it.
“The president’s going to take this action to assure the American people that we’re listening, we’re supporting law enforcement. We’re not going to defund the police, quite the contrary,” Pence said.