On May 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety. This lengthy Order calls for the creation of national standards for the accreditation of police departments and a national database of federal officers with substantiated complaints and disciplinary records, including those fired for misconduct. It also will instruct federal law enforcement agencies to update their use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation. The Order also restricts tactics like chokeholds and no-knock warrants and grants incentives to encourage state and local agencies to adopt the same standards while also banning the transfer of most military equipment to police.
The signing was done on the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd in the presence of members of his family as well as Vice President Harris, members of his Cabinet and lawmakers.
President Biden’s Comments on the Order
This order is “a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation; to address the profound fear and trauma, exhaustion that particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations; and to channel that private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come.”
“Two summers ago, in the middle of a pandemic, we saw protests [about the killing of George Floyd] across the nation the likes of which you hadn’t seen since the 1960s.They unified people of every race and generation. Athletes and sports leagues boycotted and postponed games. Companies and workers proclaimed ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Students staged solidarity walkouts. From Europe to the Middle East to Asia to Australia, people saw their own fight for justice and equality in what we were trying to do.”
“The message is clear: Enough!”
“[A]lmost a year later, a jury in Minnesota stepped up and they found a police officer guilty of murdering George Floyd, with officers and even a police chief taking the stand to testify against misconduct of their colleagues. I don’t know any good cop who likes a bad cop.”
But for many people, including many families here, such accountability is all too rare. That’s why I promised as President I would do everything in my power to enact meaningful police reform that is real and lasting. That’s why I called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, to send it to my desk.”
“This is a call to action based on a basic truth: Public trust, as any cop will tell you, is the foundation of public safety. If they’re not trusted, the population doesn’t contribute, doesn’t cooperate.”
“For the wheels of justice are propelled by the confidence that people have in their system of justice. Without that confidence, crimes would go unreported. Witness[es] fear to come forward; cases go unsolved; victims suffer in isolation while perpetrators remain free; and ironically, police are put in greater — greater danger; justice goes undelivered.”
“Without public trust, law enforcement can’t do its job of serving and protecting all of our communities. But as we’ve seen all too often, public trust is frayed and broken, and that undermines public safety.”
“The families here today and across the country have had to ask why this nation — why so many Black Americans wake up knowing they could lose their life in the course of just living their life today — simply jogging, shopping, sleeping at home. Whether they made headlines or not, lost souls gone too soon.”
“Members of Congress, including many here today . . . spent countless hours on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to find a better answer to that question. The House passed a strong bill. It failed in the Senate where our Republican colleagues opposed any meaningful reform.”
“So we got to work on this executive order, which is grounded in key elements of the Justice in Policing Act and reflects inputs of a broad coalition represented here today. Families courageously shared their perspectives on what happened to their loved ones and what we could do to make sure it doesn’t happen to somebody else. Civil rights groups and their leaders of every generation who have given their heart and soul to this work provided critical insights and perspectives. The executive order also benefits from the valuable inputs of law enforcement who put their . . . lives on the line every single day to serve.”
“Here today, I want to especially thank the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Federal Law Enforcement [Officers] Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, Major City Chiefs Association, and others who . . . stepped up and endorsed what we’re talking about today.”
“This executive order is going to deliver the most significant police reform in decades. It applies directly, under law, to only 100,000 federal law enforcement officers — all the federal law enforcement officers. And though federal incentives and best practices they’re attached to, we expect the order to have significant impact on state and local law enforcement agencies as well.”
“Here are the key parts:
“First, the executive order promotes accountability. It creates a new national law enforcement accountability database to track records of misconduct so that an officer can’t hide the misconduct. It strengthens the pattern-and-practice investigations to address systemic misconduct in some departments. It mandates all federal agents wear and activate body cameras while on patrol.”
Second, the executive order raises standards, bans chokeholds, restricts no-knock warrants, tightens use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation and the duty to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force. . . .”
Third, “the executive order modernizes policing. It calls for a fresh approach to recruit, train, promote, and retain law enforcement that [is] tied to advancing public safety and public trust.
Right now, we don’t systematically collect data, for instance, on instances of police use of force. This executive order is going to improve that data collection.”
Other Comments on the Order
As an executive order, it is not as comprehensive as a federal statute on these subjects, but because of Republican opposition Congress has refused to adopt such legislation this term. Moreover, as a federal order it cannot and does not compel state and local law enforcement agencies to adopt the policies set forth in the order; instead, as previously noted, it provides incentives for state and local agencies to do so.
“Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the order will have the most direct impact on the nation’s 100,000 federal officers, given that Biden’s ability to act unilaterally on policies for local and state police is limited. But Cosme [also] said the document could serve as a ‘national role model for all law enforcement around the country. We’ve engaged in hundreds of hours of discussions, and this can inspire people in the state and local departments to say: ‘This is what we need to do.’”
“Cosme emphasized that the order will include sections aimed at providing more support for officer wellness, including mental health, and officer recruitment and retention at a time when many departments are facing low morale and staffing shortages. ‘No officer wants anyone, not the suspect or the victim, to lose their life. We want the maximum safety for everyone in the country.’”
The order also drew support from other leaders of major policing organizations.
Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he thought the order’s revised use-of-force language would “bring more clarity and better guidance to officers” but without causing them to become so risk-averse that they fail to protect themselves and others when necessary. “It’s not a question of stricter or less strict,” Mr. Pasco said. “It’s a question of better framed. And a better-constructed definition of the use of force.” He added: “It’s not a sea change.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, “It’s the nature of American policing. We don’t have a national police force, no national standards and no way of making every department comply with national standards. What this does is, when you don’t have Congress acting on a police bill, you have the president of the United States setting the tone: ‘Here’s what I expect of federal agencies and, therefore, I think state and local will follow.’”
Another supporter of the order, the NAACP by its President, Derrick Johnson, said, ‘We know full well that an executive order cannot address America’s policing crisis the same way Congress has the ability to, but we’ve got to do everything we can. There’s no better way to honor George Floyd’s legacy than for President Biden to take action by signing a police reform executive order.’”
Marc Morial, a former New Orleans mayor who is president and chief executive of the National Urban League, called the order ‘a very important step. We recognize that this process is not going to be easy. This is a long fight. I’m going to accept this first important step by the president because it’s a powerful statement, and it reflects what he can do with his own executive power.’”
The American Civil Liberties Union by Udi Ofer, its deputy national political director, offered cautious support for the executive order, saying much would depend on how it was carried out. “Correct implementation of this standard will be pivotal for its success,” he said. “We have seen jurisdictions with strong standards where officers still resort to the use of deadly force, so just having these words on paper will not be enough. The entire culture and mentality needs to change to bring these words to life, and to save lives.”
Christy E. Lopez, a Georgetown University Law professor and expert on policing issues,  praised the order, but noted, that the order is not self-executing, but “will take an enormous amount of effort and focus, particularly by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department, but by other federal agencies as well, to ensure that the mandated guidance, studies, grants, task forces and databases are not only created but remain faithful to the goals of the executive order. And that is going to require advocates to keep persistent pressure on the government.” This order “is not legislation. This means, for example, that those of us who support modifying qualified immunity for officials accused of violating a plaintiff’s rights, or creating direct municipal liability for police misconduct, must still push Congress to pass the necessary laws. An even bigger limitation is that while the executive branch can provide state and local governments support and incentives to reduce the harms of policing, it cannot direct them to do so. The bulk of that work must continue to be done in cities, counties and states across the country.”
 White House, Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety (May 25, 2022);
 White House, Remarks by President Biden and Vice President Harris at Signing of Executive Order to Advance Effective, Accountable Policing and Strengthen Public Safety (May 25, 2022); Biden Set to Issue Policing Order on Anniversary of George Floyd Killing, N.Y. Times (May 24, 2022); Biden signs executive order on policing on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (May 25, 2022); Biden signs police reform executive order on anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, Guardian (May 26, 2022); Lopez, Biden’s order is a good start on police reform, But Congress must also act, Wash. Post (May 27, 2022)
 See Importance of Pending Federal Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 24, 2022).