Trump signs modest police reform order; defends ‘brave men and women in blue’

Donald Trump has announced limited efforts to curb police misconduct. Shown is the scene in Phoenix just before a line of police advance upon demonstrators after a rally by President Donald Trump in 2017. Phoenix police ended the demonstration by firing tear gas into the crowd. Credit: David McNew | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a modest police reform order Tuesday in response to massive civil unrest over police brutality against people of color.

The executive order strengthens efforts to track police misconduct and uses federal funds to encourage police departments to improve training and certification standards and to work with social workers and other “co-responders” when dealing with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.

Under the order, the U.S. attorney general will require police credentialing agencies to confirm that departments bar choke-holds except when use of deadly force is permitted by law.

“Today is about pursuing common sense,” Trump said during a signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. “We have to find common ground.”

Trump delivered a strong defense of the nation’s “brave men and women in blue” but said he is committed to working with Congress to enact additional police reforms.

It’s unclear how the federal order will affect officers’ behavior as police departments generally fall under the purview of state and local governments, or what effect it may have on police reform legislation in Congress.

Congressional Democrats introduced a sweeping police reform package earlier this month that would bar racial and religious profiling, mandate police training in racial profiling, and require state and local law enforcement agencies to report use-of-force data by race and other characteristics.

The legislation would also make it easier to hold police accountable for misconduct, ban choke-holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level, limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement officials, and more.

During a news conference, Florida Democratic argued the order doesn’t go far enough.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee plans to mark up the bill Wednesday and the House is expected to approve it this month.

Senate Republicans are expected to file their own version of police reform legislation this week.

The effort is led by Sen. Tim Scott, a Black Republican from South Carolina.

Scott has called for more body cameras and police training in de-escalation tactics, data collection on use-of-force incidents and officer-involved shootings, and the creation of a committee to study the issue. He has also expressed support for a ban on choke-holds.

Senate Republicans don’t expect their bill to move until late July at the earliest, according to Politico.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y). called on Republicans to take a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to the issue and act before the July 4 recess.

“This has been a pervasive and deep problem in America for decades and centuries,” he said on the Senate floor Monday. “To now give it short shrift — to try and get off the hook — would be so wrong at the moment when Americans are calling for it.”