With Congress deadlocked over how to address racism and excessive use of force, President Biden is signing an executive order on policing Wednesday, the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death, the Associated Press reports.
The action reflects Biden’s struggle to use his limited powers to advance his campaign promises, as well as his attempt to strike a balance between police and civil rights groups at a time when rising concerns about crime are eclipsing calls for reform.
Most of the order is focused on federal law enforcement agencies, including requiring them to review and revise policies on use of force. It would create a database to help track officer misconduct.
Although the administration cannot require local police departments to participate in the database, which is intended to prevent problem officers from hopping from job to job, officials are seeking ways to use federal funding to encourage their cooperation. The order would restrict the flow of surplus military equipment to local police. Rev. Al Sharpton described Biden’s order as “an important step” that showed the president “took the initiative” when Congress failed to act, while he said activists would “never give up” on pushing for legislation.
“George Floyd woke us up, and we should not go back to sleep,” Sharpton said in a statement.
When four officers were convicted last year for killing Floyd, Biden urged Congress to pass legislation to reform police by the anniversary of his death. The guilty verdict was “not enough,” he said, and “we can’t stop here.”
No legislation was passed, and bipartisan talks dragged on, and later broke down.
In September, the Justice Department curtailed federal agents’ use of no-knock warrants — which allow law enforcement agents to enter a home without announcing their presence — and updated its policy to bar agents from using chokeholds in most circumstances. “We know full well that an executive order cannot address America’s policing crisis the same way Congress has the ability to, but we’ve got to do everything we can,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson.