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.