17 Jun 2020

Donald Trump signs executive order on 'best practice'

6:38 am on 17 June 2020

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order introducing several police reforms while rejecting calls to defund or dismantle the police.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

His order offers federal grants to improve police practices, including creating a database to trace abuses by officers.

The order comes amid anger over the killing of African Americans by police officers.

Several US cities have proposed more radical reforms.

Speaking at the White House on Tuesday local time, Trump began by saying he had met a number of African American families who had lost loved ones, including the relatives of Antwon Rose, Botham Jean and Ahmaud Arbery - the black jogger killed in Georgia earlier this year.

In his address, the president again defended police while condemning looters and "anarchy".

"We have to find common ground," Trump said. "But I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments."

He added that "without police, there's chaos".

Protesters demand to kneel down from police officers with the call for unity during a protest in New York

Protesters call for unity during a protest in New York in early June. Photo: AFP

"Americans believe we must support the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe," Trump said.

"Americans also believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency and invest more resources in police training, recruiting and community engagement."

The latest drive for reform began after the death of George Floyd in police custody last month.

Floyd died after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. The killing spurred global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

There was fresh outrage after the death of another black man, Rayshard Brooks, who was shot during an attempted arrest in Atlanta last Friday.

What does the Trump order include?

The Trump announcement comes as Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress are developing reforms of their own.

The president's executive order aims to provide incentives for police departments to improve by tying some federal grants to "best practices".

It will create a federal database of complaints against officers. It will also encourage the deployment of social workers alongside officers to deal with non-violent cases involving drug addiction and homelessness.

The White House has stressed the idea is to bring the police closer to communities.

The order will also prioritise federal grants to departments that obtain certifications of high standards regarding de-escalation training and use of force.

"As part of this new credentialing process, chokeholds will be banned except if an officer's life is at risk," Trump said. "Everybody said it's time, we have to do it."

The president said the government was looking into new "less lethal weapons to prevent deadly interactions".

Trump has described the Atlanta incident as "very disturbing", and said his initiative was "about safety".

A man prays in front of a makeshift memorial in honor of George Floyd who died in custody on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A man prays in front of a makeshift memorial in honour of George Floyd who died in custody on 26 May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: AFP

The president has also condemned Floyd's death, but rejected suggestions of ingrained racism in police forces.

Critics say the measures fall short of the deep reform that many are seeking.

Following the announcement, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on lawmakers to pass bolder legislation.

"Unfortunately, this executive order will not deliver the comprehensive meaningful change and accountability in our nation's police departments that Americans are demanding," he said.

What other reforms have been proposed?

In Minneapolis, some council members have announced plans to defund and dismantle the police department.

In Atlanta, following Rayshard Brooks's death, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms demanded a series of changes concerning the use of lethal force by police. These include a "duty to intervene" if a police officer sees misconduct by a colleague.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are among the cities that have said they will reform their policies on the use of force, and root out racist officers.

At a federal level, the Democrats have introduced their own legislation into the House of Representatives.

It calls for a ban on the chokeholds method of restraining suspects, and a ban on no-knock warrants - which allow police to enter a property without notifying residents.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs