President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order in an effort to bring some semblance of meaningful reform to policing in America. The signing at the White House coincided with the two-year anniversary of the horrific police murder of George Floyd.
The executive order comes as the U.S. Senate has allowed legislation in Floyd’s name to languish for nearly a year in a time span that has seen police killings, particularly of Black people, continue to go unpunished with apparent impunity.
Specifically, Biden is signing the executive order “to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety,” according to a fact sheet provided by the White House on Tuesday. It emphasizes promoting trust between police departments and the communities they serve. That “broken” trust must be repaired before any real inroads affecting policing can be made.
“To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people,” the fact sheet says.
Civil rights groups have said the executive order is an important first step but ultimately requires a broader legislative effort to institute protocols that include true accountability.
“While the order sets necessary baseline standards of record-keeping, accountability and acceptable police behavior for federal law enforcement agencies, we can and must do so much more,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. He called it a “first step towards establishing a baseline for addressing the country’s toxic culture of policing and lack of accountability for officers and police departments” before adding, that Color Of Change is “disappointed” that the only acting being taken is the executive order.
“Congress has categorically failed on tackling problems in policing and shaping the future of public safety,” Robinson added “We can no longer accept this lack of action and direction. We can also no longer tolerate the outsize impact corporate-funded police foundations and racist police unions have on our public safety system.”
Rev. Al Sharpton was among those civil rights leaders who were in the White House on Wednesday to witness Biden sign the executive order. He welcomed the executive action while also renewing calls for the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act.
“We are glad President Biden took the initiative as we waited two years to see a national response to an egregious act. George Floyd woke us up, and we should not go back to sleep,” Sharpton said in a statement sent to NewsOne. “The failure of the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is still something that we will never give up on. But an executive order will give us a step toward federal legislation and will set a tone in this nation that no one is above the law – and that no one in our society or those charged to protect society to have the knees on our necks.”
To be sure, Biden’s executive order promotes accountability by creating a national database of police misconduct, strengthening police pattern or practice investigations, ensuring timely and thorough investigations and consistent discipline and mandating body camera policies that include activating the devices “during activities like arrests and searches” and swiftly making the footage public.
The executive order also aims to raise certain police standards, including banning certain chokeholds and no-knock warrants and instituting new requirements to de-escalate law enforcement encounters with civilians.
Measures will also be put in place to improve training practices as it relates to recruiting, hiring and promotions and revamping the way officers respond to unspecified crises.
The executive order also contains provisions to improve data transparency on use of force incidents and lays out a plan for criminal justice reform.
The language of Biden’s executive order is fairly consistent with that of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act that Senate Republicans have filibustered into legislative purgatory.
The Movement for Black Lives said Biden’s executive order is not an adequate substitute for the campaign promises the group said the president has not delivered to Black America.
“President Biden’s executive order is a poor excuse for the transformation of public safety that he promised the Black voters who put him in office. It’s also a shameful way to mark the memory of George Floyd, who died two years to this day,” it said Wednesday in a statement. “After spending the last few months denouncing our movement’s calls to reimagine policing and public safety, the president’s order is nothing but a reflection of his allegiance to law enforcement.”