WASHINGTON D.C. — President Donald Trump took his first concrete steps on Tuesday to address growing national outcry over police brutality, signing an executive order that he said bans chokeholds and creates a federal database of police officers with a history of using excessive force.
The order also sets financial incentives for police departments to establish credentialing programs and follow standard “best practices,” Trump said.
The President unveiled the reforms during a noon event in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded primarily by law enforcement officials and lawmakers. He said he met earlier with families of those killed by police, including Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean and Antwon Rose. He did not mention George Floyd.
“We are one nation. We grieve together, and we heal together. I could never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people,” Trump said to the families of several black citizens who died at the hand of police.
Trump said he was against efforts to defund departments and said police were owed respect for their work. He said Americans “demand law and order” and hailed the efforts of law enforcement to quell violence during protests against police brutality earlier this month.
“Without police, there is chaos,” Trump said.
Trump has been encouraged by advisers to address issues of excessive police force after adopting a hardline “law and order” stance amid nationwide civil unrest over the death of George Floyd. At the same time, he has been cautious about alienating police officers and law enforcement officials.
“We have to find common ground,” Trump said.
The effort was led by Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to the President, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Smith and Kushner sought out police reform proposals from criminal justice reform advocates and law enforcement groups in the wake of Floyd’s killing.
The executive order is expected to direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to encourage police departments to embed mental health professionals in their response to calls related to mental health, homelessness and addiction as well as to find resources to help police departments hire mental health co-responders.
The measure is also expected to include language acknowledging that some law enforcement officials have misused their authority and will urge Congress to pass legislation on police reform.
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are also working to advance two competing bills. A law passed by Congress and signed by the president would help cement the reforms.