The order creates a national registry of officers fired for misconduct and encourages state and local police to tighten restrictions on chokeholds and so-called no-knock warrants. It also restricts the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement agencies and mandates all federal agents wear activated body cameras.
Biden had been pushing Congress to pass more comprehensive police reform legislation, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. But after the legislation failed to garner bipartisan support, the White House began crafting its own action last year. Biden called again on Congress again to take action before signing the order.
“I know progress can be slow and frustrating, and there’s a concern that the reckoning on race inspired two years ago is beginning to fade,” Biden said.
“Today, we’re acting. We’re showing that speaking out matters, being engaged matters, and that the work of our time, healing the soul of this nation, is ongoing and unfinished and requires all of us never to give up. Always to keep the faith.”
Police reform has been a key issue with the Democratic Party’s progressive base, particularly among Black voters, but the White House event Wednesday was overshadowed by the Texas elementary school shooting the day before. During his remarks, Biden called on Congress once again to pass gun reform legislation.
“And we must ask, when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done?” Biden said.
“I’m sick and tired. I’m just sick and tired of what’s going on and continues to go on,” he said.
The family of Floyd, who died after he was pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer, was at the White House for the signing. The families of other Black people killed by police in recent years — Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Amir Locke and Atatiana Jefferson — also attended, a senior administration official said.
Under the new executive order, law enforcement will be required to intervene and stop the use of excessive force when they see it and administer medical aid to those who are injured.
While Biden cannot directly issue mandates to state and local law enforcement agencies, senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the action Tuesday said attorneys general should use their power to award grants that promote and support agencies in getting accredited or those that want to adopt such policies but could use some federal help.
The Justice Department in September put new limits on chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants for the department’s law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.