Calling for unity as legislators in Washington, DC debate police reform and cities across the country struggle to address anti-police protests, President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Tuesday that he said, “encourages police departments to adopt the highest professional standards”.
Trump’s order establishes financial incentives for police departments to adopt national best practices through credentials to be offered by independent qualifying bodies. It would restrict chokeholds of the kind that killed George Floyd on May 25 but still allow use when a police officer’s life is threatened.
The order also establishes a Department of Justice database that will track police officers who are accused of using excessive force to prevent bad cops from hopping from town to town in law enforcement.
It would steer more federal funding to training for police departments in handling mental health, homelessness and addiction.
“What’s needed now is not more stoking of fear and division. We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart,” Trump said.
Democrats in the House of Representatives and Republicans in the Senate are preparing competing packages of policing changes as US politicians seek to respond to mass demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans.
Favourability On Black Lives Matter:
Favourable 61% (+24 Since 2017)
Unfavourable 30% (-18)
Morning Consult National Poll
— Political Polls (@PpollingNumbers) June 11, 2020
The flurry of activity shows how quickly the mass protests over police violence and racial prejudice are transforming politics in the US.
Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said the president and Congress are responding to “some real measurable shifts in public opinion about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement”.
“Usually when there are big shifts in public opinion you do see politicians try to get in front of that. It’s not just Trump,” Kondik told Al Jazeera.
“These protests have captured the public’s interest and the political system is responding to that,” Kondik said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday held a hearing on policing, drawing testimony from the nation’s leading civil rights and law enforcement leaders.
“Now is the time to reimagine a more fair and just society in which all people are safe,” Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told senators, according to The Associated Press news agency.
The nationwide outcry “is anything but a reaction to one isolated incident or the misconduct of a few ‘bad apples'”, Gupta said.