Trump's 'Safe Policing' Executive Order Does Nothing To Address The Root Causes Of Police Misconduct
from the admin-staff-apparently-paid-by-the-word dept
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order in response to protests around the nation triggered by the cold-blooded killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To be fair, it’s much more restrained than the law enforcement-focused directive Trump released shortly after being elected. That one — sent out under the misleading title “Law and Justice” — basically told America disliking cops was wrong and possibly per se Unamerican. Here’s a direct quote from the administration’s opening shitpost, which has since been disappeared from the White House’s site:
President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.
True to his word, President Trump has continued to honor America’s cops, even when America’s cops have shown they don’t deserve the public’s undying (or dying as it were…) support, much less the Leader of the Free World’s. But the administration must know the public isn’t buying what Trump is pushing on the cop front. It has buried this page and hit the archived version with a transitional popup directing users away from the Internet Archive’s saved versions. Nasty stuff indeed and something that shows the administration will back the blue the most when the blue isn’t embarrassing itself (and the administration) publicly.
Forced into doing something else than donning a Blue Lives Matter cheerleader outfit, Trump and his team have released a new executive order — one promising to reform police departments from the outside using [checks Order] some paperwork cops will probably never fill out completely.
First, the order says cops are mostly good:
Law enforcement officers provide the essential protection that all Americans require to raise their families and lead productive lives. The relationship between our fellow citizens and law enforcement officers is an important element in their ability to provide that protection. By working directly with their communities, law enforcement officers can help foster a safe environment where we all can prosper.
Then it says some (but not very many!) are bad:
Unfortunately, there have been instances in which some officers have misused their authority, challenging the trust of the American people, with tragic consequences for individual victims, their communities, and our Nation. All Americans are entitled to live with the confidence that the law enforcement officers and agencies in their communities will live up to our Nation’s founding ideals and will protect the rights of all persons. Particularly in African-American communities, we must redouble our efforts as a Nation to swiftly address instances of misconduct.
So, how does the administration plan to address these instances of misconduct? Through reporting, mostly. There’s nothing in here that’s even remotely daring — not like the Democrats likely-doomed plan to end qualified immunity and increase the likelihood of success when prosecuting bad cops.
The order says cops must have more credentials. Specifically named are de-escalation procedures and and use-of-force techniques. This doesn’t include a chokehold ban, but that’s likely because this sort of ban would have to be implemented at state level. However, it does make federal funding reliant on a chokehold ban, but it leaves a large loophole for cops to exploit.
…[P]rohibit the use of chokeholds — a physical maneuver that restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation — except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.
Enter the “reasonably scared” cops who are too paralyzed in fear to do anything but choke someone to death. Not exactly the deterrent the current situation calls for.
But it does include a carrot, even if the administration isn’t willing to cut a switch. Local departments will only be able to obtain certain federal funds if they are implementing these directives or “in the process” of seeking approved credentialing. The latter suggests cop shops can get federal money just by filling out procedural paperwork in lieu of actual credential work in perpetuity (or until the next regime change anyway).
A database of police misconduct will also be constructed, but it will be of very limited public utility.
The database described in subsection (a) of this section shall include a mechanism to track, as permissible, terminations or de-certifications of law enforcement officers, criminal convictions of law enforcement officers for on-duty conduct, and civil judgments against law enforcement officers for improper use of force. The database described in subsection (a) of this section shall account for instances where a law enforcement officer resigns or retires while under active investigation related to the use of force.
Here are the caveats. It won’t be searchable. All information will be sanitized by the DOJ before publication, ensuring officers are separated from their misdeeds.
The Attorney General shall regularly and periodically make available to the public aggregated and anonymized data from the database…
Again, federal funds are tied to participation, but federal funds can be acquired in other ways that don’t involve police departments sending out aggregated data for DOJ rinsing every so often. And while police departments will continue to release mugshots and personal info of those only accused of crimes, citizens won’t be able to see even “anonymized” data on cops accused of crimes until they’re “afforded fair process.”
The order also won’t demand cops decouple themselves from social problems they’re ill-equipped to solve. There’s no defunding proposal here, only a requirement that cops may eventually have to participate in some more training on handling these problems.
The Attorney General shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services as appropriate, identify and develop opportunities to train law enforcement officers with respect to encounters with individuals suffering from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction…
The funding for this is discretionary but involves a tug-of-war between the Department of Health and Human Services and the DOJ. Who would win? The department the president thinks is partially responsible for the supposed coronavirus “panic?” Or the “law and order” side Trump always takes when the general sad state of policing is highlighted in the press?
The only confirmation you need that this mild “reform” effort won’t actually do any serious reforming is the Sergeants Benevolent Association’s (SBA) show of support for the new executive order. The administration burned a few hundred words budging the dial hardly at all and the SBA — backer of the worst of the worst NYPD officers — is happy to hear it. The SBA “commends” the White House for invoking a police-friendly dialog that suggests cops aren’t really bad, they’re just a little under-trained and underfunded.
This won’t change anything. And that’s exactly what this administration wants. The Trump Administration realized doing nothing wasn’t an option. So it did as little as possible. Cops are still safe from accountability and transparency. All that hangs in the balance are unenumerated federal funds they can probably get by without. Business as usual with the veneer of change: that’s the DC way.