Facing criticism that his policies and inflammatory rhetoric have aggravated a racial divide in the U.S., President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday aimed at improving police practices.
But at the same time he stood firm as the “law and order” president, a position likely to appeal to his base as he seeks re-election in November.
“Americans want law and order, they demand law and order. They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that’s what they want.”
Trump opened his remarks by expressing sympathy to the families of victims of police violence, several of whom he met with earlier in the day – including the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who was allegedly killed after being chased by three white men while jogging, one of them an ex-cop.
But the president quickly pivoted to a threat of more law enforcement to quell protests and penalties for looters.
“There will be no more looting or arson, and the penalty will be very grave for those who get caught. Violence and destruction will not be tolerated. We cannot do that. The looters have no cause that they’re fighting for, just trouble.”
Trump’s executive order includes new restrictions on chokeholds –
“Chokeholds will be banned, except if an officer’s life is at risk….”
And encourages police departments to improve information sharing of officers’ backgrounds -
“so that officers with significant issues do no simply move from one police department to the next.”
It also encourages police to employ the latest standards for use of force - and to use less-lethal weapons such as stun guns.
Federal dollars would be steered to police departments that get independent certification by outside bodies.
But some civil rights groups and critics such as Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer thought Trump’s actions came up much too short.
In a statement, Schumer said, “The executive order will not deliver the comprehensive meaningful change and accountability in our nation’s police departments that Americans are demanding.”
The Democratic-led House of Representatives is expected to vote later this month on sweeping legislation put forward by the Congressional Black Caucus.
Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own legislation on Wednesday that concentrates more on data collection than on policy changes regarding the use of deadly force.