President Donald Trump held a press conference today (June 16) in the Rose Garden at the White House to sign an executive order providing his strategy for restoring, renewing and rebuilding communities through police reform.
The plan, and Trump’s remarks, however, were in full support of the police and did not consider the ideas of defunding police departments that have become a rallying cry in the wake of social justice protests around the country.
In fact, the President pledged to provide even more funding for departments.
Joined by several law enforcement professionals and community leaders in the audience (very few of whom wore protective masks) Trump started his speech saying that he had just concluded a meeting with the families of several Black victims who had died at the hands of police.
The families of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antoine Rose Jr., Jamelle Roberson, Attianna Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb and Everett Palmer Jr., who, the President called, “incredible people” were there to meet with Trump and presumably express their thoughts on bringing about change in the way police interact with Black citizens. However, none of the family members were seen at the press conference nor stood with the President as he signed the executive order.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who was there and represents several of the families in attendance, posted this explanation on Twitter as to why they decided to participate in the meeting amidst claims that Trump was using them for yet another photo opp.
“To all of the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side. Your loved ones will not have died in vain,” said Trump.
“We are one nation. We grieve together, and we heal together. I can never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people and I gave a commitment to all of those families today with Senator Tim Scott and Attorney General Bill Barr. we are going to pursue what we said we will be pursuing and we will be pursuing it strongly.”
A senate bill is reportedly in the works helmed by Republican Senator Tim Scott, who is working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as well as a number of other political figures to pursue what the President called “common sense” reform.
No mention was made of the competing Democratic legislation which includes an amendment to the federal criminal code that makes it easier to prosecute police officers for misconduct, mandates that all uniformed federal officers wear body cameras and allocates federal grants for anti-discrimination training and practices. There is also a ban on no-knock warrants included to address concerns raised after the police killing of Breonna Taylor in the botched drug raid in Louisville, KY that took her life on March 13, 2020.
The executive order signed today, however, includes a call for accountability and transparency within police forces across the country as well as better police training, more community engagement and the resources needed to hire more co-responders and social workers to work in collaboration with police departments to handle those with mental health or addiction issues.
“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” said Trump.
Watch today's press conference here:
In an effort to bring community and law enforcement together, Trump’s executive order also includes:
Having the Attorney General’s office create a database to coordinate the sharing of information between and among Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies concerning instances of excessive use of force.
A new credential process that bans chokeholds except when an officer’s life is at risk.
A look into new, advanced, less deadly weapons to use during interactions.
Departments must share information about officers with significant issues so they don’t move from one police department to the next.
People familiar with the meeting today told CNN that the President was in fact not heavily involved in drafting the order. However, that didn’t stop him from taking the praise for its implementation and take advantage of yet another opportunity to dig into former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden with Trump saying it's time that we break the old patterns of failure.
“Nobody has ever delivered results like we’ve delivered,” said Trump. “Nobody has ever come close.”
There was plenty of emphasis during the press conference on the contributions made by officers on a daily basis, including a number of statistics about the apprehension of dangerous criminals in light of a number of police forces that are underfunded, under supported or understaffed. Yet, nothing was said of the abject fear that many people of color face every day in their basic interactions with police or the countless mistakes and excessive use of force complaints against police that have permeated within Black communities for years.
“Nobody needs a strong, trustworthy police force more than those who live in distressed areas and no one is more opposed to the small number of bad police officers...and you have them," said Trump. “It’s a very tiny, small, percentage, but you have them, but no one wants to get rid of them more than the overwhelming number of really good and great police officers.”
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images