Two Years After Death of George Floyd, Biden to Sign Police Accountability Order
© Flickr / Jorge DalmauThe official held a press conference on March 30 announcing that he had created three separate task forces to investigate three police misconduct scandals that came to light in the city last month, and it has members of the SF Police Officers Association up in arms.
© Flickr / Jorge Dalmau
After a string of police killings in 2020, massive protests gripped the nation. The election of Joe Biden gave civil rights advocates hope that reforms would be coming.
US President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order aimed at increasing police accountability on Wednesday, which will mark the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The executive order will call for national standards on the accreditation of police departments and the creation of a national database of police officers who have disciplinary records, complaints or have been fired for misconduct, according to the Washington Post, who cites “people briefed on the matter.”
The order will also authorize the Justice Department to wield its federal grant funding to encourage local police departments to restrict or ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It will also set restrictions on the sale of military equipment to local police departments, but how strict those cutbacks will be remains unclear.
The news comes after a proposed bill, named the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, failed in Congress. Although the legislation passed the House of Representatives, the initiative failed to gain clearance through the US Senate. One sticking point proved to be the elimination of qualified immunity, which prevents officers from being sued for misconduct.
Jim Pasco, the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, was involved in negotiations with the White House and was told what the executive order entails. He told the Post that he hopes “it will be an element in healing the rifts that exist in some places between police officers and the communities they serve,” while also helping the country “standardize training and procedures and hopefully standardize police across the country.”
George Floyd’s family is expected to be at the White House when Biden issues the order, along with civil rights advocates and law enforcement officials. Though the order does not go nearly as far as advocates hoped the bill would, it does address some of the issues racial justice advocates have been calling for.
The issues it does not touch, like qualified immunity and banning chokeholds, would require action either by Congress or on the state and local levels, but police departments are increasingly dependent on federal cash.
While many departments are purely funded by local and state taxes, federal funding has been increasing. As of 2020, $14 billion has gone from the federal government to local police departments since the formation of the Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS) in 1994. That is only part of the federal funding, however. There are other programs such as the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership and the Department of Homeland Security preparedness grant, which was created after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to help localities prevent terror threats.
Withholding those grants could be a powerful motivator for local departments to fall in line with the executive order.
Last week, the Justice Department updated its use-of-force policy, saying that federal agents have a duty to intervene if they see another law enforcement official using excessive force.
Though that is unlikely to have a major impact on abuses by local police, it does showcase that the Biden administration is attempting to at least appear to be doing something, a step forward for the president, who recently said the answer was to provide police with more funding.