Some Senators Are Freaking Out Because The White House Is Pitching Some Extremely Minor Police Reforms

from the fainting-couches-all-around! dept

Some senators are getting all angried up about proposed police reforms President Biden possibly might deliver as an executive order. Reporting earlier this month indicated Biden had something planned, but no one involved in breaking the news appeared to have any details.

President Joe Biden plans to sign executive actions on police reform as early as this month, three people familiar with the plans said, as his administration seeks to unilaterally jump-start an issue that is a top priority for a key constituency.

The executive actions would follow Biden’s uphill battle to advance voting rights legislation, and they could coincide with a similar effort by some Democratic lawmakers to revive the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled on Capitol Hill after attempts to craft a bipartisan measure failed.

NBC spoke to two people “familiar with the discussions” and got nothing useful at all out of them.

The executive actions on policing are still being finalized, the sources said. They did not know how the actions would differ from steps the Justice Department took last year when it imposed new restrictions on chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants.

Really powerful reporting. Apparently a few senators have seen a draft of the proposed executive order and they’ve decided to peremptorily respond to something that may never happen or may be altered extensively before its issued. This is from Senator Chuck Grassley’s site, which implies something horrible is coming and that he and other “Senate Republicans” aren’t having any of it.

A group of Senate Republicans, led by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), today are expressing serious concern about a proposed executive order (EO) by the Biden Administration that would limit law enforcement access to nonlethal and lifesaving resources, and impose greater restrictions on federal grant dollars. The planned executive order comes amid a national surge in violent crime while the “defund the police” movement has eroded morale and curbed recruiting in police departments across the country.

Fortunately, the letter [PDF] these senators sent to the White House actually has a few details in it. Once again, we have no idea if, when, or in what state the executive order will arrive, but this is apparently what has been seen in the draft version.

Specifically, according to screenshots of a draft of such EO, the Administration would unilaterally impose the following new policies on law enforcement: restrictions to the 1033 program, expanding pattern and practice authority, planned expansion of 18 U.S.C § 242 prosecutions, and conditioning state and local law enforcement grants.

Leaked screenshots of the alleged EO can (barely) be seen here. But what’s contained in these accusations (I guess??) doesn’t indicate a wholesale disruption of law enforcement enterprise. In fact, most of this has already been done before, issued by presidents and rescinded by their successors or vice versa.

1033 restrictions have been tried before. They’ve never lasted. And those put in place are usually far from effective in preventing local law enforcement agencies from acquiring military gear. President Obama tried it about a human lifetime ago and that effort didn’t even survive his term as Commander in Chief.

“Expanding pattern and practice authority” most likely means removing the handcuffs placed on federal investigations of local law enforcement agencies by President Trump. It’s not an expansion. It’s just a return to form for the DOJ, which has engaged in “pattern and practice” investigations for decades.

The same can be said for “expansion” of 18 USC 242 prosecutions. These “deprivation of rights under color of law” prosecutions have long been part of the DOJ’s daily business. It’s only in recent years — under a very pro-law enforcement president — that they’ve been dialed back. If anything, this will just be a regression to the mean, rather than the creation of some souped-up prosecutorial machine that goes after bad cops.

This all dovetails into some cherry-picked stats stripped of context and served up as a justification for allowing cops to do whatever they want and acquire whatever they want.

Such potential restrictions on the 1033 program would come at a time when law enforcement needs our support more than ever. We have spoken about the unprecedented 30-percent spike in murders that began in the summer of 2020. It continues to this day. In 2021, police officers recorded the highest number of on-duty deaths on record. According to the Fraternal Order of Police, 63 officers were murdered and 346 officers were shot. They also reported ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers spiked 115 percent in 2021. Police officers will face a grim reality if this EO is enacted and their lifesaving equipment is restricted from them. Violent crime will continue to skyrocket when police officers are unable to stop these crimes and save innocent lives. We cannot understand why any elected official would want to stop law enforcement from safely doing their jobs other than to be able to tell their base of voters they are defunding the police.

There is no effort to defund local law enforcement agencies contained in this executive order. First of all, the federal government simply cannot do that. Funding is a completely local function. It can deny access to federal grants, but this is something that almost never happens. Grants earmarked for law enforcement agencies receive almost zero oversight, much like the 1033 program the Biden Administration may or may not alter. Grassley also appears to have forgotten the previous president threatened to withhold federal grants all the time if cities or their law enforcement agencies angered him.

A spike is not a trend and the reason more officers are dying than ever is because of COVID. And it will continue to get worse for officers since so many of them are involved in fighting vaccine mandates and other COVID-related safety measures. And if agencies are having trouble re-staffing, they might want to take long looks in the mirror to understand why that might be. Spending decades destroying trust and community relationships tends to cause recruitment problems. Playing the eternal victim while simultaneously rejecting common sense safety measures during a pandemic isn’t going to win the hearts and minds of anyone worth hiring.

The letter wraps up with this incredible paragraph:

These hard-left policies are extremely ill-advised, dangerous to Americans, and would only further demoralize law enforcement. Along with the alarming rise in violence against officers, police departments continue to report low morale among officers that is directly related to the dangerous “defund the police” rhetoric. This is careless rhetoric that has lasting consequences to the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe, and the EO’s policies are simply an extension of that rhetoric.

These are far from “hard-left” policies. The DOJ has engaged in plenty of what’s being proposed while working for right-wing administrations. There’s nothing about this that’s dangerous to Americans. The only threat it possibly poses is to bad cops. Those are the people these senators are defending by calling any small change to current policies (or reversions to old policies) permanently damaging to law enforcement. To be sure, law enforcement is in mid-crisis. But it’s not going to emerge from that crisis using a blend of hands-off oversight and zero accountability. These senators are just shilling for the worst of the worst while pretending it’s nothing more than a left-wing power grab designed to grab the attention of Biden’s voter base.

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Comments on “Some Senators Are Freaking Out Because The White House Is Pitching Some Extremely Minor Police Reforms”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 115% increase in "ambush attacks"

They also reported ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers spiked 115 percent in 2021

From the report the Senator’s letter references:

In 2013 alone, there were between 200 and 300 ambush attacks reported.


There were 103 ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers this year [2021] (+115% from 2020 YTD)

So… yay? They’re down by half or two thirds from 2013, even given the rise from 2020?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 115% increase in "ambush attacks"

Sorry for the spam. But reaching back to the DOJ report on ambush attacks on police, Figure 1 in that link shows a slightly longer timeline… with 1991 having over 500 such attacks and 1995-2013 or so having between 200-300 each. And actually reading said report? I’m seeing lots of worrisome signs indicating that the underlying data is bogus, that the author made little attempt to preserve the data they were using, etc. Ask for the raw data, and I bet the author would simply point you at some web sites.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The biggest problems with this kind of data, at least as you’re reporting it:

  1. Consider the likely source and of course you’d be right to doubt it.
  2. It doesn’t necessarily define what an “ambush attack” is, which means what does and doesn’t count can be fudged to make the stats seem more inflated (or deflated).
  3. It doesn’t tell us how many officers died as a result of those attacks, how many of the attackers died as a result of police retaliation, or the number of people were killed by the police compared to the number of police officers killed in “ambush attacks”.

Now, if the report actually does lay out the info I’m talking about in points 2 and 3, cool, let’s see it. But otherwise, I’m not inclined to trust that information any farther than I can throw a printout of that report.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You are precisely on point with #2. At one point, the report claims some of the "ambush attack" data came from a source that only categorized three ways: "ambush", "traffic stop", or "interaction with mentally ill". That’s no way to run a research study.

Similarly on #3, the report did have a numbers, but if you wanted to verify those numbers, you were on your own.

The report listed several pages of references, and showed no real indication of verification. I did, though, link the DOJ report itself, if you feel masochistic.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"At one point, the report claims some of the "ambush attack" data came from a source that only categorized three ways: "ambush", "traffic stop", or "interaction with mentally ill""

"Interaction with the mentally ill" there being the type of interaction where "defunding the police" literally means that someone with experience in dealing with the mentally ill is sent instead of a cop. Weird how they’d oppose that… (well, not weird but you know what I mean).

cattress (profile) says:

Re: Re: 115% increase in "ambush attacks"

That supposed increase of being ambushed, does that include Jan 6? Kinda a lot of cops beaten up that day, and they weren’t, mostly, expecting it, this could reflect a real attack on police! Oh wait, "data" cited by a republican, who bow down to a man that said the insurrectionist hugged and kissed the cops that day… Nevermind.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 115% increase in "ambush attacks"

Yeah, I’m very interested in how they define "ambush". It could be that, it could be that they’re been forced to follow groups of people into such situations as people who would normally be in the street were inside due to curfews or other lockdown situations, or some other unusual situation related to the pandemic.

We’ll probably have to wait until the figures from this year come out to see if there’s any long-term trend not related to COVID, but until then I’m thinking they shouldn’t make too much of a big deal out of them having to deal with greater risks that affect every public-facing industry. Fast food workers seem to be at far greater risk of violence and even death when they ask certain types of people to follow basic pandemic measures such as mask wearing, but I don’t see that being used as a call to do anything about how makes them more armed or give them special powers.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

One more gem from the letter:

The EO would also ban the transfer of stun and flashbang grenades. These items might sound
dangerous and perhaps militaristic because they include the nomenclature “grenade,” but they
are not.

Baby Bou Bou would beg to disagree. If he could talk, that is.

Not 100% lethal, perhaps. But not dangerous? Not militaristic? Really, senators?

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s a ‘put up or shut up’ situation if I ever saw one. Anyone who wants to argue that stun/flashbang grenades aren’t dangerous should show how much they really believe that by voluntarily putting themselves in a position(say reading/watching tv in a room) where a third party lobs one at them without them knowing when or how close it might land to them.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


It is one thing to see a thing and misunderstand it.
It is insane that having no idea what is in the thing, you assume you know what is in it and threaten all sorts of things in response to what you imagine maybe kinda might be in the thing when the thing is actually written.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It may seem insane at first glance but it actually makes perfect sense if you operate from the dual positions of ‘The Police Are Never Wrong’ and ‘Anything that might negatively impact the police is to be fought at all costs’. From that mindset it doesn’t really matter what’s in the order, all that matters is that it might put restrictions on the police and is therefore bad by definition.

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cattress (profile) says:

Police morale

Grassley, and whoever else signed letter equivalent of pulling a fire alarm to get out of a test, are really worried about police morale? And they believe the reason for supposed drop in morale and hiring difficulty, is because of a movement that Republicans have outright lied about, claiming it’s some sort of punitive measure against cops when it’s not, and has has little to no success in getting cities to spend less on cops and instead on social programs. A boogie man they made up is hurting morale? What about the actual communities that are protesting for change, that are sick of violence at the hands of cops and want to change their community for the better? What about their morale?
I mean, anyone who is paying attention knows that if cops aren’t given their ever expanding budget demands, that reflect some of the lowest rates of solved crime against some of the lowest crime rates, that cops will just do less visible work, and take the money from citizens anyway. Then they can spend it on whatever they want.
Seriously, I would love to see a collection of recordings, quotes, social media posts, especially anything found on their private group pages, anything that could be gathered in "sacred" cop spaces like union meetings, police one website, of all the garbage they spew denigrating the people, laughing at their pain and suffering, elevating and applauding their violence that they are never held accountable for, over the past 5 years and just gather it all for these asshats to take in. Then I want to know if these asshats think there’s a morale problem, and who is to blame.

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PaulT (profile) says:

"In 2021, police officers recorded the highest number of on-duty deaths on record"

It’s been noted in the article, but that’s really their own fault. Police unions have opposed some COVID mandates, and a lot of officers have died due to COVID. There’s not a direct causal effect as officers are at risk due to their need to deal with the public, but no more than the average fast food worker and they’re likely at less risk than most healthcare workers.

Then, to add to that, there seems to have been a spike in suicides in recent year. I don’t see it listed on the full report associated with the linked article unless I’m missing a euphemism I’m unfamiliar with so it’s possible they’re not listed, but my understanding from other sources was that they, along with deaths in traffic accidents, comprised the largest non-COVID cause of death.

Then, the full report offers something interesting on closer examination – in many of the non-COVID death types, deaths are going down. For example, traffic related deaths – while there seems to be a spike related to officers being hit while outside their vehicle, the average for this decade is lower than any, and significantly lower than the previous spike in the 2000s.

So what can be done about this? Ironically, one of the best solutions is the one they oppose – defunding the police. What that term actually means is that other people more suited to dealing with certain types of calls are sent as a first response, which mean that there’s less likelihood of an officer overreacting to a suicide threat or welfare check in a manner that results in a shooting, so presumably less risk of being fired back on and less risk of a depression-causing suicide for the officer who gunned down an innocent person. Most suggestions also deal with redirecting funds currently used for military surplus to training, so that officers are more able to de-escalate situations non-violently, in line with the way it’s done in many other countries. Overall, this means less calls and less interactions, which reduce the risk of both COVID and traffic accidents.

Obviously, it’s a complicated issue with no single real solution, but looking through the report – other than a few concerning outliers – the major issue is COVID (which, the cops would be well advised to remember is affecting EVERY line of work, so don’t make themselves out to be a special level victim).

Then, a lot of the other issues seem to be things that could be related to COVID – more oppositional defiance on the parts of populations who don’t like being told what to do, or it strikes me that the "ambush" style attacks could be happening because more people are forced inside due to COVID? I’m not sure, but I suspect that this is something where they need to get rid of the pandemic, not give cops more power.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hi I’m Pepperidge Farms, and I remember a report released making it sound like cops were being knocked off at numbers on par with the hookers shipped to the superb owl… but when you read the facts they were including heart attacks and other things that weren’t executions by roving gangs on Antifa or BLM.

I miss truth.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Let's add a few more logs to that fire shall we?

So long as those in power(both political and otherwise) refuse to admit why people are increasingly mad at the police those ‘morale’ issues and hostility are just going to keep rising, so funnily enough the die-hard ‘Back the Blue, no matter what’ types are doing a great disservice towards the police and making their jobs both more dangerous and less pleasant.

By refusing to even admit to the need for any reform they just add fuel to the fire of those pushing for it, and if they keep refusing to come to the table and admit that maybe the police aren’t he shining paragons of justice that they like to present them are they just make people more likely to go from ‘keep the system mostly as-is and just implement changes to curb the worst’ to an actual ‘defund the police since they refuse to change and create more problems than they solve’.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Facepalm

Yes, every president has issued executive orders, although Trump seems to have relied on them more than most modern presidents (he issued 220 in one term, while both W and Obama issued less than 300 in 2 terms).

So, what’s your point here? EOs are bad, they’re bad when a Democrat does something Trump wouldn’t have liked, or something ese?

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