June 17, 2020

Trump Signs Executive Order

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at encouraging police reform. White House

Tuesday’s order encourages police departments to employ the latest standards for use of force, improve information sharing so that officers with poor records are not hired without their backgrounds being known, and add social workers to law enforcement responses to non-violent cases involving drug addiction and homelessness, officials said. Trump’s proposal would steer federal money toward police departments that get certification by outside bodies and would ban chokeholds unless an officer’s life was in danger. It also would encourage them to use less-lethal weapons such as stun guns.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left argues that the executive order is insufficient.

“The order itself represents a surprising tone shift on the part of Republicans over the last few weeks. Trump previously condemned protests against police brutality by NFL players, and in 2017 he encouraged officers to not be ‘too nice’ to people under arrest. Trump also took an aggressive line toward the most recent wave of activism around police reform in the US…

“While it might be the most federal action taken in response to the nationwide upheaval over the police killing of George Floyd — unless a divided Congress manages to come to some agreement on various proposals — the order is more police-friendly than other potential reforms and falls far short of some protester demands.”
Cameron Peters, Vox

“Saying ‘there have been instances in which some officers have misused their authority’ quite intentionally characterizes the problem as one of isolated incidents, perpetrated by a few officers who can be identified and removed, thereby solving the problem… But what if the problem is not one of a ‘bad cop’ here or there but something systemic and structural, requiring dramatic and deep reform? This is not an idea the White House is willing to entertain…

“I’m not saying that none of the things the executive order discusses would be worthwhile if viewed in isolation. Would more and better training for police on handling mental health issues be a good thing? Sure. It would be much better, however, if we discarded the presumption that when someone is in a mental health crisis, what we do is send a couple of people with guns to deal with them…

“The truth is that there are limits to what the federal government can do to reform policing when law enforcement mostly takes place at the local level. But at a minimum, you need a federal government eager to examine the problem honestly and do more than just issue an executive order that says it will look into suggesting some cosmetic changes.”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“New York banned chokeholds. Seattle required de-escalation training. Los Angeles restricted shooting at moving vehicles. But those reforms did not stop police from killing Eric Garner, Charleena Lyles or Ryan Twyman, who died when officers used the very tactics that the changes were supposed to prevent… given the failure of many past reforms, a coalition of activists actively opposes such moderate policy shifts and argues the US needs more radical change…

“They point at the continued power and influence of police unions and legal protections for police officers accused of wrongdoing and excessive force as barriers to change. If police and politicians who oversee law enforcement continue to adopt policies that focus on fixing individual behaviors, they say, it will not address institutional and deeply embedded cultural problems. Instead, they are backing efforts to immediately reduce police power and size, as a way to move toward dismantling police departments and creating different models of safety.”
Sam Levin, The Guardian

“We could have set up a society in which our instincts would have told us to call a Lyft to take a drunk man home, or to knock on his window and ask if a loved one could come get him. But we didn't. Because of that, too many of us have been conditioned to believe guys with guns are our best option, or the only real one

“We are the United States of America, the shining city on the hill, the place the rest of the world looks for guidance. And yet, we far outpace every other advanced country in the rate of police killings and mass incarceration. If we really are exceptional -- as we keep insisting we are -- that can't be by accident. We like it this way.”
Issac Bailey, CNN

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of the executive order.

The right is generally supportive of the executive order.

“More than 800,000 men and women are employed in U.S. law enforcement agencies. In the wake of killings by police of unarmed African-Americans, we must redouble our efforts to address misconduct and restore trust between law enforcement officers and communities.The president’s executive order clearly addresses the changes needed, along with additional training necessary to weed out bad cops and help officers do their jobs using only the force necessary…

“While many on the left want to defund police, President Trump wants to ensure police have the resources and training to keep our communities safe and succeed in their dangerous mission, while treating everyone fairly… A new ABC/Ipsos poll shows 64 percent of Americans oppose defunding the police and 60 percent oppose reducing police department budgets. President Trump is with the American people on this issue.”
Tom Homan, Fox News

“The order instructs the attorney general to create a database to track ‘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.’ This is good: It will make it easier for departments to know whether an officer applying for a job has been punished for excessive force elsewhere

“[The part involving grants to local departments] seems a bit more problematic. For one thing, I’m not sure we want the federal government, much less someone in the executive branch, leveraging taxpayer money to set policy for police departments across the country; that’s a much more appropriate task for state and local governments… it’s not even clear how many federal grants the executive branch can restrict in this way — Congress creates these grant programs and supplies their conditions; the executive has some discretion, but it arguably can’t just make up new conditions and tack them on.”
Robert Verbruggen, National Review

Some argue that “At a time when the police are facing unprecedented levels of hostility in America, the Trump administration should be defending officers. Instead… The order, while relatively toothless, does one important thing: it accepts the premise of progressive activists that police institutions must be fundamentally changed

“Sending social workers on non-violent calls might sound like a good idea, but it ignores several realities of policing. First, situations where mental health and drug abuse issues are involved can turn violent quickly and unexpectedly. Second, the presence of, and the responsibility to protect, a third party can distract the police officer from performing his or her duties…

“Getting rid of police unions is another misguided policy ‘solution’. No doubt many public sector unions have some embedded corruption. But stripping police of their bargaining power will lead to lower salaries and fewer benefits for officers. The median police salary isn’t far above the national median as it stands — making police even less well compensated will lead to fewer people wanting to join the force and police departments being even less selective about who they put through academy. That is not the way to root bad actors out of the system.”
Amber Athey, Spectator USA

“There’s nothing wrong with having a national conversation about better policing, but this one has turned into a conversation about blaming law enforcement for social inequality, which is not only illogical but dangerous. Unsafe neighborhoods retard upward mobility, and poorly policed neighborhoods are less safe. A conversation that doesn’t acknowledge that reality is hardly worth having.”
Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal

A libertarian's take

“Anna Swanson, an attorney and Houston police officer, recommends [that] ‘In light of the risk and reality of death, chokeholds and neck restraints of any type should be classified as deadly force… Neck restraints should be viewed in the same light as firearms because both have the potential for fatal outcomes each time they are used.’…

“Most state legislatures have not imposed limits on neck restraints. And while some police departments have, those policies—the solution favored by Trump's order—are not necessarily effective…

“[At the same time] ‘a total ban [would be] an extreme response that is not practical in the context of policing where the use of lethal force is constitutionally reasonable under circumstances where officers are faced with imminent serious bodily injury or death,’ [Swanson] argues. ‘Thus, legislation that limits the use of chokeholds to situations where deadly force is required are the more practical, and constitutionally sound, legislative attempts at addressing law enforcement use of neck restraints.’”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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