Washington, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States on Tuesday signed an executive order that, among other measures, offers federal grants to police departments that meet high standards in the areas of de-escalation training and the use of force.
The measures unveiled by Donald Trump at the White House fall well short, however, of the demands made by protesters following the death late last month of an African-American man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“These standards will be as high and as strong as there is on Earth,” Trump told reporters shortly before signing what the White House labeled an “Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities.”
The police departments seeking to receive the federal grants must undergo a “credentialing process” in which they pledge, among other things, to avoid using choke holds on suspects unless “an officer’s life is at risk,” he added.
Choke holds have become an urgent issue in the wake of the death of Floyd, who died of cardiopulmonary arrest on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt for nearly nine minutes on the handcuffed man’s neck.
That disturbing incident, which was filmed by a bystander, set off a wave of protests in the US and other countries.
While Trump’s executive order provides incentives to police departments, it does not compel them to commit to adopting best practices. The president, however, also has said he will work with Congress on more ambitious reforms.
The president spoke to reporters after meeting privately with the family members of a dozen African American men who died at the hands of police or in racially motivated violence, although Floyd’s relatives were not part of that group.
Trump said he had promised those families that he would work to put a stop to police violence against minorities.
But none of the victims’ relatives attended the signing ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, where the president was surrounded by law enforcement leaders and police union officials.
Trump said only a “very tiny” percentage of officers are guilty of police brutality or racially motivated abuse, adding that the vast majority of Americans “want law and order.”
“They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that’s what they want. Some of them don’t even know that’s what they want, but that’s what they want.”
Trump also stressed during the event that he adamantly opposes recent calls for defunding police departments that have been voiced by organizations such as the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The president’s executive order furthermore directs Attorney General William Barr to create a national database of police who have been fired for misconduct, a step aimed at ensuring that officers with a track record of using excessive force cannot be hired by departments in other cities.
The US’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, says it supports the goals set forth in the executive order.
But leading Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the measures are insufficient.
“While the president has finally acknowledged the need for policing reform, one modest executive order will not make up for his years of inflammatory rhetoric and policies designed to roll back the progress made in previous years,” Schumer said.
“Unfortunately, this executive order will not deliver the comprehensive meaningful change and accountability in our nation’s police departments that Americans are demanding. Congress needs to quickly pass strong and bold legislation with provisions that makes it easier to hold police officers accountable for abuses, and President Trump must commit to signing it into law.” EFE-EPA