WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing police departments to adopt new standards for the use of force following protests over the deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The order also calls for the creation of a national database to allow departments to track potential hires with records of abuse.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he met privately with several families of those killed in police interactions, including family members of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antwon Rose and Michael Dean, before the event.
"All Americans mourn by your side, your love ones will not have died in vain," he said in a message to those families, who were not in attendance. "Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals."
Trump said the order would focus on certifying police officers on de-escalation tactics; creating a database to track officers who have been accused of using excessive force, aiming to prevent them from being rehired at another police department; and launching a co-respondent program that would see mental health professional working more closely with police.
"Americans want law and order, they demand law and order," Trump said. "We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart."
Trump said the order would prioritize Department of Justice federal grants to police departments that seek out independent credentialing and certify that "they meet high standards on the use of force and de-escalation training." The order does not include a ban on chokeholds as many activists have demanded but says they should only be used in life or death situation.
The orderwas crafted in consultation with law enforcement officials and representatives of families of victims of police killings, officials said. It remains unclear how it will be enforced or how law enforcement agencies will be held accountable, but officials pointed to local leaders and mayors who they said would be responsible for their police departments.
While the order is aimed at reforming police training and boosting funding for mental health, it does not address issues of systemic racism that activists say are crucial to meaningful criminal justice reform.
More: What does 'defund the police' mean and why some say 'reform' is not enough
The White House has pushed back on some activists' calls for reallocating police funding to other community programs, while Trump has fiercely defended members of the law enforcement community and described police brutality as the work of a few "bad apples."
"We want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely," Trump told reporters of his executive order at the White House Monday. "But we want law and order. This is about law and order, but it's about justice also."
The president also plans to ask Congress to push through legislation that would allocate funding to incorporate the White House's programs, according to a senior administration official.
What is qualified immunity? As Congress debates police reform, qualified immunity emerges as key dividing issue
The order also comes as congressional Democrats and Republicans are working to pass their own versions of police reform. House Democrats unveiled a bill last week that would ban certain police tactics such as chokeholds, mandate body cameras and curb "qualified immunity," which shields police officers from civil lawsuits if accused of misconduct. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is leading the Republican effort and is expected to unveil legislation in the GOP-led Senate on Wednesday, has said ending qualified immunity was a "non-starter."
The chambers will have to find a middle ground and garner the approval of Trump before any changes become law.
Floyd died on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The incident was captured on camera and sparked national outcry over police brutality and racial injustice. Protests erupted across the country and around the world, and have led to a groundswell of support to pressure lawmakers to address police reform in recent weeks.