On the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police, President Joe Biden will sign a police reform executive order — a move eagerly awaited after legislative efforts failed.
Biden’s executive action on Wednesday will establish a national police registry for officers fired due to misconduct, and requires that all federal law enforcement agencies regularly submit records such as substantiated complaints and disciplinary actions to the database. The action also requires federal agencies to thoroughly investigate incidents involving use of deadly force. It also bans federal law enforcement officers from using chokeholds and so-called carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized. And it includes new tools to screen and vet officers as well as requiring them to intervene to stop the use of excessive force when they see it, and that they administer medical aid to injured people.
The order comes after a leaked proposal was blasted by law enforcement representatives. The new order was a product of more than 100 hours of conversations and over 120 meetings with police unions, families who lost loved ones, criminal justice advocates and members of Congress, admittedly resulting in an action that is unlikely to fulfill the entire wishlists from any of the parties.
Though limited to federal law enforcement agencies, both police and civil rights advocates said the new actions could present a model for states and local municipalities that are trying to institute better practices and rebuild trust between police and the public. After George Floyd’s killing in 2020, the country was rocked with social justice protests calling for an systemic overhaul to policing in response to police brutality and killings of Black people.
Arriving at a final product was hard fought and painstaking, and it comes as the political terrain around police reform has shifted amid rising violent crime and an administration that has increasingly leaned on its fealty to police and law enforcement even as they signaled a need for reforms.
Administration officials previewing the order stressed that Biden strongly supported the House-passed legislation named after Floyd and repeatedly urged the Senate to pass meaningful police reform legislation that included accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths to serve and protect.
A senior Biden official also noted that Senate Republicans rejected enacting “even modest reforms that many in law enforcement supported.”
The new executive actions are the product of hours and hours over months of Zoom calls and meetings between police unions and the White House and Justice Department, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We all came at it in the beginning from very different perspectives,” Pasco said.
“While it may not be totally pleasing to everyone, it addresses many of the concerns and areas of interest on the part of the civil rights community and also on the part of the police community,” he added.
Both Pasco and heads of civil rights organizations said they hoped the new actions would set a standard nationally that cities could follow.
“The hope is that responsible mayors and local police chiefs will look at the reforms that are being carried out at the federal level as a model,” said Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League. He added that Congress still needs to pass more substantive police reform legislation but credited Biden’s order as “a necessary step right now.”