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Biden set to issue police order on anniversary of Floyd’s murder

TOKYO — President Joe Biden is expected to issue an executive order Wednesday to reform federal policing on the second anniversary of the death of George Floyd, who died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer, people familiar with matter says.

The order will ask all federal agencies to revise their use-of-force policies, create a national registry of officers fired for misconduct, use grants to encourage state and local police to tighten restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and restrict the transfer of most military equipment to law enforcement, the people said. They requested anonymity to discuss the details of the order before it was announced.

The White House and Justice Department have been working on the order since last year, when efforts to find a bipartisan compromise on a national police overhaul failed in the Senate. Biden’s executive order is expected to be more limited than this bill, a sign of the balancing act the president is trying to navigate criminal justice.

While Floyd’s death and the nationwide protest movement he inspired helped dramatically shift public opinion on race and policing issues in the summer of 2020, Republicans have also launched political attacks that portray Democrats as enemies of law enforcement.

The order is unlikely to entirely please either side; many progressive activists still want tougher limits and accountability measures for police, even as a rise in violent crime in some cities has become a Republican line of attack ahead of the midterm elections.

But officials believe the ordinance, the final text of which was narrowly held back after an earlier draft leaked earlier this year, will have support from activists and police.

Biden plans to sign the new executive order, alongside Floyd’s relatives and police officials, in what is expected to be among his first official acts after returning from a diplomatic trip to South Korea and Japan this week.

Police groups had been particularly upset by several elements of the previous 18-page draft order when it became public in January, leading them to complain that the White House had given them only a cursory chance to participate. They threatened to withdraw their support, leading to a major reset of the process by the White House Domestic Policy Council, led by Susan Rice.

In the months since, the White House has worked more closely with police and Justice Department officials, who have more experience straddling the line between police reform and force management. of order, while the administration has elevated a more centrist stance on criminal justice.

“The White House has done a lot of outreach to us and tried to listen to our concerns,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a bipartisan think tank that focuses on policing practices. Final Executive is substantially different from the original version, and that has made a big difference for many of us in law enforcement.”

Biden has repeatedly emphasized a message of investing in police, rather than funding, – launching into a national debate over whether the government should give police departments more resources or spend money for mental health care and other social services instead.

One of the changes reflected in the executive order, according to people familiar with the final version, centered on what it would say about standards for the use of force.

The administration removed language that would have allowed federal law enforcement officers to use lethal force only “as a last resort when there is no reasonable alternative, in other terms only when necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death”. The earlier version would also have encouraged state and local police to adopt the same standard using discretionary federal grants.

Law enforcement officials have complained that the standard would allow officers’ decisions to be questioned after the fact in an emergency. The final order instead refers to a Justice Department policy released this week that states officers may shoot suspects when they have “reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death. or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.”

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he thinks new language on the use of force “would bring more clarity and better guidance to officers,” but without making them so averse at the risk of them failing to protect themselves and others when necessary.

“It’s not a matter of stricter or less strict,” Pasco said. “It’s a question of a better framework. And a better constructed definition of the use of force.”

He added: “It’s not a drastic change.”

Udi Ofer, deputy national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, offered cautious support for the Justice Department’s policy, saying it would all depend on how it is implemented.

“The correct implementation of this standard will be critical to its success,” he said. “We’ve seen jurisdictions with strict standards where officers still resort to the use of deadly force, so just having these words on paper won’t be enough. The whole culture and mentality needs to change to bring life to those words and save lives.”

The administration will also include guidance on screening for inherent biases among the base, including those that may harbor white supremacist views, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some provisions of the order would build on previous Justice Department efforts, including requiring federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. The order would also require the government to expand data collection, including use-of-force incidents across the country, and attempt to standardize and improve accreditation of police departments.

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