Trump signs executive order urging police reform, says cops need more funding

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 29, 2020.

Al Drago | Reuters

With protesters around the country pressing their fight against police brutality and racism, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order aimed at tracking misconduct by law enforcers and creating incentives for departments to improve their practices.

“In many cases local law enforcement is underfunded, understaffed and under [supported],” Trump said.

The action from Trump, who has focused on the violence seen at some demonstrations and aggressively demanded “law and order” from state leaders, comes as lawmakers of both parties pursue legislation to reform law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

“Though we may all come from different places and different backgrounds, we’re united by our desire to ensure peace and dignity and equality or all Americans,” Trump said in the Rose Garden before signing the order.

The president lauded law enforcement officers at the event, saying “the least we can do, because they deserve it so much, they have to get our gratitude and we have to give them great respect for what they do.” Trump said he held a meeting shortly before the news conference with a number of families of people who have died in altercations with the police.

The Trump administration’s order rejects calls to “defund the police” that have gained traction from within the nationwide protest movement. Rather, it aims to reward police departments with federal grant money for updating their standards on training and credentialing and will create a database to track individual cops on metrics such as excessive use-of-force complaints, which would be shared between departments.

The order would also give departments incentives to involve trained professionals, such as social workers, to respond to calls for certain nonviolent issues — including mental health, drug addiction and homelessness — rather than police alone.

“The goal of this is to bring police closer together with the communities,” a senior administration official said while describing the executive order in a press call Monday evening. “We’re not looking to defund the police; we’re looking to invest more and incentivize best practices.”

The administration worked with numerous police groups, religious leaders and family organizations in crafting the order, according to senior administration officials.

The president has not delivered a formal address on the protests or the issues of widespread police misconduct and structural racism alleged by activists. On social media, however, he has taken a bellicose stance against the rioting and looting that occurred at some protests following Floyd’s death on Memorial Day, pressuring governors and mayors to call in the National Guard to quell the unrest.

The unarmed Black man died after a white officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The confrontation was captured on video.

Trump’s popularity has fallen, polls show, amid criticism over his response to the demonstrations and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He faces reelection in November against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who has widened his lead over Trump in most recent national polls.

Trump said Monday that the fatal police shooting on Friday of another Black man — Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta – “was a terrible situation.”

Lawmakers of both parties are working on passing their own legislative proposals to reform the police.

Democrats unveiled a sweeping bill last week that would change “qualified immunity” rules for officers, making it easier for people whose constitutional rights were violated to recover damages.

The White House has said that ending qualified immunity is a “non starter.” A senior administration official told reporters Monday evening that I don’t see anything that has that in there passing Congress any time soon.”

Republicans picked Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., one of three Black members of the Senate, to lead a working group to develop reform measures of their own. Scott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he believes both parties will be able to find a path forward to pass a bill into law.

— CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

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