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Police Reform: Trump Acts While Congress Dithers

The executive order on police reform is a start and puts Trump ahead of his critics.

Police reform: Is it a knee-jerk reaction to recent events or a vital part of the solution to the growing distrust of police within minority communities? On June 16, President Donald Trump signed the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. The order concedes nothing to the growing calls for defunding of police departments. However, it does provide more funds for training, for community outreach, and for greater cooperation between law enforcement officers and social workers. Additionally, it steals the Democrats’ thunder, enacting meaningful reforms while Congress squabbles over legislative solutions.

Unfortunately, most congressional, state, and local Democrat officials refuse to work with the president on any significant issue. Trump’s action is no magic panacea; it does not, by any means, solve the problems of policing or how the police are often perceived. It serves as a good starting point for reform, though it will almost certainly meet resistance at all levels, simply because it is an order signed by President Trump. The fact that it supplies the foundation for what is likely to come out of Congress is irrelevant – because, for Trump’s opponents, politics always comes before solutions.

The Reforms

The order demands revised training standards for police officers, including an emphasis on de-escalation methods and use-of-force guidelines. Specifically, the use of “chokeholds” is not sanctioned unless lethal force is an officer’s only option.

The president’s order establishes a system in which law enforcement agencies would be periodically assessed by “independent credentialing bodies.” This idea is more about building public trust in police departments than anything else. A department would, essentially, be certified as having met certain standards in training and best practices. The Department of Justice is authorized to withhold “discretionary grant funding” from local and state agencies that do not work with these credentialing bodies.

Additional measures include greater cooperation between social workers and police officers, who regularly encounter people with mental health or drug addiction problems. The secretary of Health and Human Services is directed to formulate recommendations regarding the allocation of funds to “community-support models addressing mental health, homelessness, and addiction.”

Additionally, this executive order directs the Attorney General to create a database that would allow – in fact, would compel – state and local jurisdictions to report and share information on individual officers who are the subjects of complaints regarding excessive use of force or who have been reported for other on-duty transgressions.

The president has managed to leap-frog House Democrats on the issue. No doubt, his detractors will claim this executive order was signed only for that purpose. Had Trump taken no such action, he would have been panned for doing nothing.

The big question now is whether state, city, and county Democrats will comply with the order or come up with a myriad of reasons why the measures contained therein are impractical, unaffordable, inadequate, or overreach of executive power. Once again, Trump finds himself in the position of having to do something while facing the inevitable claims that it is too little, too late. Ironically, much of this criticism will come from politicians who have been in power for decades, yet failed to address these problems – and, in many cases, were the cause of them.


Read more from Graham J. Noble.

Read More From Graham J Noble

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