In the East Room of the White House this week, Joe Biden invited Gianna Floyd, the 8-year-old daughter of the late George Floyd, to the signing desk as he put his pen to a new executive order to revamp policing in America .
“Do you know what she said to me when I saw her when she was little two years ago?” Biden said. “Seriously, she pulled me aside and said, ‘My daddy is going to change the world.'”
The killing of Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, in May 2020, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, gave America and others a new awareness of racial justice. country of the world.
But the White House and congressional Democrats have struggled to turn that mobilization into concrete change in terms of policing practices at home, a broken promise that could lead to disappointment among the Democratic base in the upcoming election. mid-term.
Bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill to enact a sweeping police reform agenda stalled last year and show no sign of revival, putting heavy pressure on Biden to make amends through unilateral action. Earlier this week, the US president signed an executive order on policing, though the move fell short of what could have been accomplished with a deal in Congress.
“Two years after the murder of George Floyd, there is still a lot of work to do. Communities of color in Minneapolis and across the country remain over-policed and under-resourced,” Ilhan Omar, the progressive Democratic Minnesota lawmaker, said this week.
“Public safety – a core function of our government – too often means unreformed resources for policing,” she added.
Omar nevertheless thanked Biden for signing the executive order, which includes the launch of a national “accountability” database of officer misconduct; provide “anti-bias” training; and stricter enforcement of the US Department of Justice’s ban on chokeholds.
“We see this as necessary, but it’s also just one step in what needs to happen to ensure we have appropriate redress for police brutality, and those communities and families who have been impacted by it for decades.” , Kanya said. Bennett, executive director of government affairs at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“You’re not going to completely transform policing by executive order, absolutely not, but there are important things you can do and I think this executive order has done them,” added Christy Lopez, a professor at Georgetown Law who ran the DoJ. investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, which was launched after an officer killed Michael Brown in 2014.
The executive order was signed as frustrations with police erupted on another front, amid scrutiny of their slow response to the fatal shooting at a school in Texas on Tuesday and conflicting public accounts of their actions.
Politically for Biden and many Democrats, the fight for police overhaul has followed a similar pattern of other goals dear to the party’s base, including protecting voting rights, its broader “Build Back Better” economic agenda. and gun control, where hopes for transformation have crashed against barriers on Capitol Hill.
An AP-NORC poll released this month showed Biden’s approval ratings were falling especially among Democrats, reflecting widespread pessimism and disappointment about his accomplishments.
In the case of policing, the push for reform has been met with staunch Republican opposition and some concerns among moderate Democrats who have been spooked by rising crime rates in some US cities. A majority of Americans – 53% – are now “very” worried about crime for the first time since 2016, according to a Gallup survey released last month.
“I think there was a real and sincere interest in getting a resolution here and getting a legislative deal done. I believe things fell apart because the members are too far apart on some of these issues,” Bennett said.
In fact, the two top negotiators for a possible Senate deal have offered starkly different assessments of Biden’s decision. Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democrat, said it would “strengthen accountability, improve transparency and raise standards of policing” – hopefully serving as a “catalyst” for more change.
But Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican, blasted him: “Making it harder for the police to do their job to the best of their abilities should be a failure, but the Biden plan does exactly that. I am disappointed that the president who campaigned for unity has once again fallen into the trap of divisive politics.
One of the biggest shortcomings of the executive order is that the measures are subject to reversal if there is a change in administration. And in the absence of federal legislation, policing conditions will be tied even more to state laws, where the ideological leanings of legislatures generally determine the outcome.
Since the 2020 murder of George Floyd, only 10 states have passed laws banning chokeholds, and they were all led by Democrats, said Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School.
“If you look at a reform map, it’s really an ideological map. Enacting police reforms is usually an ideological process,” he said.
Biden himself acknowledged the setbacks when signing the executive order, but tried to remain optimistic. “I know progress can be slow and frustrating. And there are fears that the race reckoning inspired two years ago is starting to fade,” he said. “[Yet] the work of our time – to heal the soul of this nation – is in progress and unfinished, and requires all of us to never give up, to always keep the faith.
Legal experts argue, however, that the impact of the order remains limited because it does not change the law and can only mandate federal agencies.
In the US decentralized system, where there are 18,000 law enforcement agencies and no national police force, state laws may be the most effective way to enact reforms, experts said. Day-to-day policing in the United States is largely regulated by cities, counties or states, which often lack the resources to oversee such a fragmented police force.
“There are very few national laws that affect local police departments,” said Jack McDevitt, a professor at Northeastern University. “They are locally funded, they are locally administered. . . it is not a federalized system.