Biden orders police reforms two years after Floyd’s murder

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President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at preventing and punishing police misconduct, a move that came on the second anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd but fell short of the sweeping reform legislation the White House had now hoped would become law.

The order authorizes the formation of a national accreditation system for police departments, and will create a national database of federal officers who have disciplinary records or face complaints of misconduct. Federal law enforcement agencies will also update their use of force policies to emphasize de-escalation.

It’s a measure of what we can do together to heal the soul of this nation, and to address the fear and profound trauma — exhaustion — that black Americans in particular have experienced for generations, Biden said. “And to channel that personal pain and public anger into a rare sign of progress for years to come.”

Biden was joined by civil rights leaders, police officials, members of Congress and family members of victims of police violence, including Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed by police in Louisville in 2020. The event came at a tense moment in the aftermath. of several mass shootings, including one in which a black resident of Buffalo was attacked in a grocery store.

The arrangement was the result of a months-long process that began in earnest after Last September, for Congress’ efforts to draft a bipartisan bill. Police groups decried a leaked draft in January that referred to “systemic racism” in the criminal justice system, and the order went through several iterations afterwards based on input from police groups and civil rights advocates, according to White House officials.

Wednesday’s version struck a delicate balance. He noted that “the vast majority of law enforcement officers perform these challenging jobs with honor and integrity,” while adding that “fatal encounters have disproportionately affected blacks, browns, and other blacks.”

Two years after Floyd’s death, there has been little movement in reform

At the beginning of his remarks, Biden addressed the massacre that occurred Tuesday in Texas, when an 18-year-old killed 19 children and elementary school teachers, saying that he and First Lady Jill Biden would visit the community in the future. days.

“I am sick and tired. I am sick and tired of what is happening and what continues,” Biden said, before stepping up his rhetoric about the constitutional right to bear arms.

“The Second Amendment is not absolute,” he said. “When passed, you can’t have a cannon – you can’t have a cannon. You can’t have certain types of weapons. They have always been restrictions. But guess what? These actions we took before, they saved lives. They can do it again.”

Human rights advocates have been pressing the White House to take sweeping action to address systemic racism, focusing on police reform and the criminal justice system. They fear Biden has lost a sense of urgency about police reform after the collapse of the legislation naming it for Floyd, the black man whose death under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 sparked social justice demonstrations across the country.

Biden said he would have signed the executive order sooner, but was worried it would derail negotiations in the Senate. “Our Republican colleagues have opposed any meaningful reform,” he said. “So we started working on this executive order.”

He also hinted at the concern of black leaders that it was falling short. “I know progress can be slow and frustrating. There is concern that the reckoning on the race that inspired us two years ago is beginning to wane,” he said near the end of his remarks, urging the Activists Chamber and lawmakers to keep pushing.

A year ago, on the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death, the man’s family was also in the White House. Biden assured at the time to Floyd’s relatives that he still hoped to sign police reform legislation named in honor of their brother, father and uncle.

During that meeting last year, Biden told them he was frustrated that the legislation had not passed but said, according to those present, he was willing to be patient and “make sure it’s the right bill, not a rushed bill.”

The George Floyd Police Justice Act, which was passed by the House but not the Senate, would have implemented a wide range of changes, including bans on the use of choke-and-not-beat orders, as well as a ban on racial profiling. The biggest sticking point has been the termination of “qualified immunity,” which makes it difficult to prosecute individual law enforcement officers for their actions on the job.

Without legislation, Biden has little authority to directly control the practices of the country’s 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies. And while he can change the policies of federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, those changes can be reversed by a future president.

So Biden’s actions on Wednesday were intended in many ways to provide guidance and incentives for local police.

The Justice Department’s executive order authorizes the use of federal grant funding to encourage local police to restrict the use of choke-and-not-beat orders, steps that federal law enforcement agencies have already taken. The order also places new restrictions on the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

It says federal agents have a duty to intervene if they see other law enforcement officials use excessive force. This language reflects the changes made by the Ministry of Justice last week in force policywhich was first updated in 18 years.

Likewise, the order will encourage all law enforcement agencies to participate in the new misconduct database and to adopt de-escalation policies similar to those that would be established by federal agencies.

The White House does not have the authority to make some of the changes advocates have long demanded, such as eliminating qualified immunity, which protects police officers from individual prosecution for misconduct and was included in the federal bill. Dozens of state bills that would eliminate this immunity They are also defeated.

Other changes, such as banning strangulation or adopting stricter policies about when police can use force, require action at the state or local level.

But Biden and Vice President Harris, while acknowledging that Wednesday’s action fell short of what they wanted, declared it an important moment. When Harris introduced Biden, she turned to family members of those who had died at the hands of the police.

“I have felt great pain and endured unimaginable grief. I have suffered the pain of losing someone you love and cherish,” she said. “And yet here you are, as you have been throughout your days of grief, standing selflessly full of grace and resilience to speak, to speak, often against The odds, the great possibilities of fighting for a world no one has to experience what I went through.”

After signing the order, Biden summoned Floyd’s daughter, Gianna.

“You’re too old!” He told the 10-year-old boy.

He also recounted what she had told him nearly two years ago. “My dad is going to change history,” Biden remembers saying. “And he wills, honey. He will.”