President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday on police reform after addressing police officers and other invited guests in the White House Rose Garden. The executive order is entitled “Safe Policing for Safe Communities.” It provides a sensible approach to police reform that rejects the left’s attempt to portray support for strong law enforcement and police accountability for misconduct as mutually exclusive. “Americans believe we must support the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe,” President Trump said in the remarks he delivered in the Rose Garden before signing the executive order. “Americans also believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency, and invest more resources in police training, recruiting, and community engagement. Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals. They are not mutually exclusive. They work together. They all work together.”
The executive order acknowledges the instances where police officers have misused their authority, and the effect of such misconduct on African-American communities in particular. The order states that “we must redouble our efforts as a Nation to swiftly address instances of misconduct.” But it also recognizes the vital work of law enforcement officers who “provide the essential protection that all Americans require to raise their families and lead productive lives.”
The executive order focuses on three mutually reinforcing measures to address current concerns with police officer misbehavior without undermining the ability of police departments to perform their responsibilities safely for themselves and their communities:
- Certification and Credentialing – providing federal incentives for police departments to seek certified independent credentialing that can confirm the adoption of best practices with regard to use–of-force and de-escalation techniques (including prohibiting the use of chokeholds except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law);
- Information Sharing – creating a database to “coordinate the sharing of information between and among Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters.” This will help to track police officers with repeated complaints against them for abusing their power so that such officers do not simply move around from one police department to another undetected; and
- Mental Health, Homelessness, and Addiction – providing federal incentives for police departments to deploy non-police experts such as social workers to accompany police when a situation may involve issues such as mental health, homelessness and addiction. “It is the policy of the United States to promote the use of appropriate social services as the primary response to individuals who suffer from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction, recognizing that, because law enforcement officers often encounter such individuals suffering from these conditions in the course of their duties, all officers should be properly trained for such encounters.”
These are initial practical and humane steps that President Trump can take within his executive authority to address calls for police reform. At the same time, the executive order reaches out to Congress to enact legislation “to enhance the tools and resources available to improve law enforcement practices and build community engagement” and assist state and local enforcement agencies.
Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to President Trump’s call for cooperation between Congress and the Executive Branch with her typical partisan attack. “The President’s weak Executive Order falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of Black Americans,” Pelosi said, insisting that only the House bill her party caucus is trying to push along is the right solution. President Trump has acted quickly and decisively pursuant to his executive authority. Churlish Pelosi is dawdling, with no floor vote on her bill anticipated until the very end of June at the earliest.
While Pelosi no doubt was sulking, President Trump showed in the remarks he delivered before signing his executive order how a real leader can serve both as America’s healer-in-chief and chief executive committed to the equal enforcement of the law for all Americans. He thanked those in attendance “as we take historic action to deliver a future of safety and security for Americans of every race, religion, color, and creed.” While stressing the importance of preserving law and order in a civilized society, President Trump also sought common ground. “What’s needed now is not more stoking of fear and division,” he said. “We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart.”
Right after his introductory words, President Trump named the families he had met just before he came out of the White House to speak, many of whom had “lost their loved ones in deadly interactions with police.” He declared on behalf of the nation, “To all of the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side. Your loved ones will not have died in vain. We are one nation. We grieve together, and we heal together. I can never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people.”
However, President Trump also made clear where he stands on the crucial role the police must play in protecting the people of a constitutional republic built on the rule of law. “Without police there is chaos, without law there is anarchy and without safety there is a catastrophe,” the president said. “When you remove the police, you hurt those who have the least, the most.” And President Trump spared no criticism of “the radical and dangerous efforts to [defund], dismantle, and dissolve our police departments.”
President Trump does not view the relatively few rogue cops who have been involved in unprovoked deadly interactions with civilians as representative of all of America’s police forces. “It’s a very small percentage,” President Trump said. “But nobody wants to get rid of them more than the really good and great police officers.” He expressed his solidarity with the many thousands of conscientious police officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect the lives and property of the people they serve in their communities. “The vast majority of police officers are selfless and courageous public servants,” the president said. “They are great men and women. When others run away from danger, police run straight into harm’s way,” the president added. “Last year alone, 89 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. In recent days, two members of law enforcement were killed amid riots and looting, and hundreds of police officers were injured just recently. One officer was shot in the head and is now laying in a hospital, almost totally paralyzed.”
In short, President Trump acknowledged the suffering of the victims of police misconduct and their families while also expressing “respect” and “gratitude” to the many good police officers who “put on the uniform and risk their lives for us every day.” Again, these sentiments need not be mutually exclusive. The left, of course, would like us to believe otherwise as they foment rage in the streets and push their radical agendas to fundamentally transform America.
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