David Jackson, USA TODAY
Published 5:09 p.m. ET June 15, 2020 | Updated 7:25 p.m. ET June 15, 2020
President Donald Trump says he's pursuing an executive order to encourage police departments to meet “current professional standards for the use of force,” while slamming Democrats for broadly branding police as the problem. (June 11)
WASHINGTON – Under political pressure over protests against police brutality, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Tuesday that encourages law enforcement agencies to adopt high standards for the use of deadly force.
“We want law and order and we want it done fairly, justly, and we want it done safely,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday, declining to provide details ahead of a formal signing ceremony.
Trump and his staff developed the executive order amid protests in cities nationwide in response to a series of police killings, particularly last month's death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The White House was itself the scene of protests in the week following Floyd's death.
The order comes down as Trump, down in pre-election polls to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, faces criticism over his handling of nationwide protests over Floyd's death.
In recent weeks, aides talked about a possible national address on race by Trump. The president said he wanted to wait until he had something specific to propose. He and aides proceeded to meet with a number of groups about what might be in the executive order, even as skeptics pointed out that the president has a very limited role when it comes to local police policies.
Telling reporters he plans to sign the order on Tuesday, Trump also said he wants to see what Congress might be able to do on the issue.
“Maybe they can get something passed and maybe they can't,” he said.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives is set to pass a sweeping criminal justice reform bill out of committee on Tuesday. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, unveiled by Democrats last week, would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from using certain police tactics such as chokeholds or “no-knock” warrants in drug cases.
It would also end “qualified immunity,” or protections that make it difficult for citizens to sue police officers for using excessive force. Republicans are also expected to unveil their own criminal justice bill, led by South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, who said ending qualified immunity was a “non-starter.”
During a “roundtable” discussion last week in Dallas, Trump said he wanted to design an order to “encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards for the use of force, including tactics for de-escalation” of disputes.
Trump also touted “pilot programs that allow social workers to join certain law enforcement officers so that they work together.”
Before the Dallas event, several local officials pointed out that he did not invite the city police chief, county sheriff, or the district attorney, all of whom are African-American.
While condemning Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, Trump has long cast himself as a friend of police and encouraged them to use aggressive tactics.
Trump has criticized some protesters for being violent. In one tweet that criticized property damage in Minneapolis, Trump tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Aides said the executive order would include a call for a national certification system for law enforcement agencies. In theory, agencies they could only win certification if they are following the most modern practices for handling confrontations that could turn violent.
Officials did not detail how such a certification system could be set up or might work in practice.
The order also proposes the creation of a database to track the uses of excessive force by police officers nationwide, said the aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because Trump has not yet made the order official. The database would be intended to help police departments avoid hiring officers who have a history of abuse cases.
The order also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage police departments to embed mental health professionals in their response to calls, aides said.
Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to President Trump, has described the order as a way to link police to the communities they serve.
“This week, what we’re looking to do is sign an executive order that will be good glue to bring communities and police together,” he told Fox News on Monday.
He said the order deals with “co-responders,” social workers and others who could be brought in to help police with challenges ranging from drug addiction to alcohol abuse to homelessness.
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