President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order on police reform that he hopes will help prevent excessive force and encourage officers to intervene in such cases.
The president signed the order on the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“Two years ago, the murder of George Floyd exposed for many what Black and brown communities have long known and experienced — that more must be done to ensure that America lives up to its founding promise of fair and impartial justice for all,” Biden said. “As divided as this nation can feel, today we’re showing the strength of our unity. This executive order is going to deliver the most significant police reform in decades.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke at the White House signing ceremony that featured Floyd’s family.
“We know this executive order will not take away your pain,” she said. “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.”
Following the murder conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, three other officers were found guilty in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Prosecutors said the trio stood by while Chauvin pressed his knee into the unarmed 46-year-old’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Thomas Lane recently agreed to a plea deal to avoid state prosecution and serve two years in prison.
The other two officers involved, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, face a state trial this summer.
“The incident sparked one of the largest social movements this country has ever seen, with calls from all corners to acknowledge the legacy of systemic racism in our criminal justice system and in our institutions more broadly,” administration officials stated prior to Biden signing the executive order.
Biden’s action will advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety, the White House said.
“Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” administration officials wrote in a fact sheet. “Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people.”
The order intends to enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency, and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system.
Increased trust makes policing more effective and thereby strengthens public safety, the president said.
“Without that trust, victims do not call for help. Witnesses do not step forward. Crimes go unsolved. Justice is not served,” he said.
The order mandates measures for all federal law enforcement agencies, leveraging the president’s direct authority over the executive branch.
It requires the use of federal tools such as guidance on best practices, training, and technical assistance, and grant-making to support reforms at state, tribal, local, and territorial law enforcement agencies that will strengthen public trust and improve public safety across the nation.
The order creates a new national database of police misconduct to include records of officer misconduct, including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations, and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct, and sustained complaints or records of disciplinary actions for serious misconduct.
The data also will have due process protections for officers.
Biden’s order requires federal agencies to adopt measures to promote thorough investigation and preservation of evidence after incidents involving the use of deadly force or deaths in custody, as well as to prevent unnecessary delays and ensure appropriate administration of discipline.
It also mandates the adoption of body-worn camera policies.
Further, the order bans the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized and restricts the use of no-knock entries.
Further, the order directs a government-wide strategic plan to propose interventions to reform the criminal justice system. A new committee with representatives from agencies across the federal government will produce a strategic plan that advances front-end diversion, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation and reentry.
Biden has ordered the attorney general to publish an annual report on resources available to support the needs of persons on probation or supervised release.
“As divided as this nation can feel, today we’re showing the strength of unity,” Biden said. “This executive order is going to deliver the most significant police reform in decades.”