In a classic example of his ability to mix messages along with the word salads he is prone to toss, President Trump signed an executive order in the Rose Garden on Tuesday encouraging modest police reform efforts by state and local governments, while also offering more of the “law and order” rhetoric that has made him a symbol of resistance to reform, as CNN reports:
Trump 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.
While Trump said he met with the families of people who lost loved ones to police violence earlier, they did not accompany him in the Rose Garden. Instead, his audience was made up of representatives from law enforcement and police unions.
The order Trump signed was intended (by its apparent chief sponsors, Trump aide Ja’Ron Smith and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner) to serve as a prelude to more significant police reform initiatives by Congress, though action on that front is being stalled by unnamed “senior Republicans” in the Senate, to the reported displeasure of chief Republican advocate Tim Scott. Democrats have their own bicameral plan drafted by the Congressional Black Caucus, and it’s unclear whether a bipartisan bill Trump will sign is in the works.
Trump’s own order is more carrots than sticks, as Axios explains:
Under the order, police departments that meet certain standards, outlined by the Justice Department, on use of force will be given access to federal grants, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters on Monday.
Departments must ban the use of chokeholds to receive such certification, unless an officer is targeted by deadly force.
The order also moves to create a national registry to track police officers with multiple instances of the use of excessive force.
The order also includes new programs that would help law enforcement officials better deal with mental illness, homelessness, and addiction — including encouraging departments to involve mental health professionals and social workers to work alongside officers in the field.
The narrow focus of the order was not necessarily reflected in the president’s remarks, which strayed into a vast overstatement of an old conservative chestnut:
Trump added the same sort of overstatement to the central message he did appear determined to deliver:
And he appeared to have offered a brief shout-out to last-ditch defenders of Confederate monuments, symbols, and military base names, saying “We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down.” All in all, it was a characteristic Trump ramble:
At one point when he was expanding on the federal government’s willingness to stop “looting and arson” you half-expected him to start quoting Tom Cotton on the need to send the military into the streets and offer “no quarter” to law-breakers. But he wandered off on another tangent instead.
At least he didn’t claim George Floyd was looking down from heaven and blessing his work.