The executive order that President Biden signed last week went through many drafts and opinions before coming to life, the Associated Press reports. It started with a phone call from Susan Rice, top White House domestic policy adviser, to Jim Pasco, the executive director for the Fraternal Order of Police. Negotiations over an executive order to address racism and policing were in danger of breaking down after a draft was leaked that law enforcement groups believed was too harsh toward officers. Now Rice was looking to get things back on track. “She said they wanted to start over,” Pasco said. “And they wanted to deal with us in total confidence.” He agreed. The result was the executive order signed during a ceremony that, improbably, brought together law enforcement leaders, civil rights activists and families of people who had been killed by police. Initially, a draft took shape, and it was circulated among various federal agencies. Then a leaked copy was posted online by the Federalist, a conservative website, in January.
“Everyone went ballistic,” Pasco said. Not only did law enforcement groups dislike various parts of the draft, they believed the administration hadn’t adequately listened to them. Rice worked the phones to calm nerves, opening a new chapter in the negotiations. One sensitive part of the leaked draft didn’t change. The final version still says the U.S. should “acknowledge the legacy of systemic racism in our criminal justice system and work together to eliminate the racial disparities that endure to this day.” To balance the tone, more language was added about “rising rates of violent crime” and how “reinforcing the partnership between law enforcement and communities is imperative for combating crime and achieving lasting public safety.” A phrase about how deadly force should be used only as “a last resort when there is no reasonable alternative” was cut. However, the executive order requires federal law enforcement officers to prioritize de-escalation and then intervention if they see another officer using excessive force.