Country needs transformational change on policing that Trump executive order doesn't give
Amid Black Lives Matters protests across the country, President Trump signs an executive order that raises the standards for policing across the country. Wochit
I've worked in law enforcement for more than 40 years. Departments need real mandates to institute meaningful reforms.
President Donald Trump finally responded to the sustained national outcry to reform police by issuing an executive order Tuesday that appears to tick off some badly needed boxes, but it falls short of real reform.
True reformers are earnest and passionate. The document to which the president applied his Sharpie is tepid at best.
The most meaningful provisions of Trump's plan enforce little and leave change largely up to local law enforcement. The plan stops short of prohibiting certain use-of-force practices. Law enforcement agencies are still able to use chokeholds like the one that killed George Floyd, as long as it's deemed a lawful use of deadly force — changing nothing for state and local law enforcement, some of which have already banned such a move.
The order requires the attorney general to create a national database for bad cops, but there's nothing in the order mandating law enforcement agencies to report data.
An executive “order” that orders nothing — but only incentivizes and encourages limited voluntary actions — is woefully inadequate to address systemic issues. We need transformational change. The Trump administration has offered us pocket change.
A familiar task
The order commits the federal government to assist state and local agencies to train officers in safely interacting with people who are 真人百家家乐官网网站homeless and others suffering from impaired mental health and addiction. It also increases the capacity of social workers and mental health professionals to assist officers.
COLUMN: Task Force on 21st Century Policing, on which I had the honor of serving.
In 2017, those task force recommendations were rejected by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said, “We don’t need to tell police not to do their jobs."
In a televised speech, Trump asserted that Obama had done nothing to address police reform. He went on to point out that the killing of unarmed African Americans, one after another, was the work of a “very tiny, I use the word tiny … percentage” of officers.
How does Trump define tiny?
COLUMN: nearly 1,100 people were killed by police, and almost a quarter of them were Black. That's nearly twice the percentage of African Americans in society. Yet his executive order fails to recognize that there is anything systemically amiss with policing in America.
Democrats' plan more comprehensive
Before my support for congressional Democrats brings out extreme right conservatives who want to accuse me of playing partisan politics, let me get one thing straight: I'm a former law enforcement executive and a moderate Republican who is of African American descent.
I have worked at both ends of the chain of command, from rookie deputy sheriff in the Florida panhandle to director of public safety in metro Atlanta's DeKalb County. From the perspective of both extremes, I could always tell the difference between an order that carried weight and one that lacked conviction.
I also know that real, mandated changes are needed to improve America's police forces.
The Justice in Policing Act, proposed by House Democrats last week, fills in where Trump's executive order fails.
The bill prohibits racial and religious profiling by police; it bans no-knock warrants (like the one that fueled the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor) in drug cases; and it requires the activation and use of body and vehicle cameras. It also requires police departments to conduct anti-bias training, and it mandates that good cops have a duty to intervene when other cops commit unlawful or deadly acts.
RETIRED OFFICER: Give police a real education before putting them on the streets
Lynching — an evil we thought had vanished years ago — would be defined as a federal hate crime.
Where the executive order incentivizes “best practices,” the bill lays down the law: It reforms “qualified immunity” so that people whose constitutional rights were violated can sue for damages. It sharpens the federal standard defining police criminal behavior by replacing the subjective concept of “willful” action with acting “knowingly or with reckless regard.” This is better law because it is more precise law. It bans chokeholds, conditioning federal funding on state and local compliance.
Where the executive order merely encourages law enforcement agencies to submit information on abuse-of-force complaints to a federal database, the bill creates a formal federal registry of police misconduct and requires states to report use of force to the U.S. Department of Justice. It also would give the DOJ subpoena power to carry out pattern-and-practice investigations into police department misconduct and would provide federal grants to state attorneys general to conduct such pattern-and-practice probes.
In a great democratic society, transformational change is not only possible, it is our national stock in trade. But it comes about not through executive orders, which are born and die with each passing administration and whose legal force is narrowly defined and conveyed only by the strength of the document’s language. Transformational change is the product of legislation and is fueled by enduring and durable law.
The legislation proposed by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Wednesday suffers from the same evasive reluctance as Trump's executive order.
It discourages and curtails rather than bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It encourages (but does not mandate) wider use of body-worn cameras.
The Democrats are making a powerful national statement by enshrining aspects of American values and culture into law. That's what we need to get serious about the letter and spirit of policing reform in our America.
Cedric Alexander is a CNN contributor and a former police chief.