President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on police reform this week, meant to address the concerns of the protesters across the nation. The new order will reportedly create national standards for use of force and provide new methods for tracking police misconduct. The news comes from civil rights lawyer S. Lee Merritt, who told PBS News that he will be at the signing of executive order on Tuesday.
Trump is expected to sign the new executive order on Tuesday at the Rose Garden, during an event including Merritt, Attorney General William Barr and Black families impacted by police violence. So far, the White House has not confirmed the existence of this event, nor commented on any plans for a national law enforcement order. Merritt has represented victims of police brutality and their families, including the loved ones of Antwon Rose and Botham Jean. According to Merritt, there are five sections in the executive order.
First, the document will contain a statement acknowledging that some law enforcement officers have "misused their authority and have caused communities and particularly Black communities to mistrust them." It will then order the establishment of a national certification and credentialing system for all law enforcement agencies.
Third, the order will create a federal database to track officers who are accused of excessive force or other wrongdoing on the job. Fourth, it will direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to "work on encouraging police departments to involve mental health officials" in any situation where their expertise might be relevant. That can include dealing with mentally ill members of the community, cases of addiction and homeless populations.
Finally, the executive order will encourage Congress to pass new legislation related to policing. This should not be difficult since the Congressional Black Caucus introduced the Justice in Policing Act just last week. All in all, Merritt said that the executive order is "a step in the right direction."
"It's too incremental to have, you know, sweeping impact," Merritt went on. But it's things that we need to have done among the myriad of things that we need to address this crisis. It's not a cure. But it is a way to deal with the damage from the fallout."
The reported executive order is more evidence that the protests across the country over the last few weeks have had a serious impact. It also flies in the face of the president's rhetoric so far — condemning protesters as "radical," "far-left" and "domestic terrorists," while generally defending police in all his speeches and tweets. Still, many activists are calling for an even greater overhaul of law enforcement in the United States — one so different from what we have now that the word "police" may not apply anymore.