President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order intended to increase accountability in policing and improve public trust, citing it as a sign of slow but steady progress two years to the day that George Floyd was murdered in Minnesota.
At an event attended by the Floyd family and the family of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Kentucky, Biden spoke of the order as a tangible result in response to nationwide protests in the summer of 2020 against police brutality and racial injustice.
“It’s a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation,” Biden said. “To address 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.”
The executive order signed Wednesday establishes a national database of officers who have been fired for misconduct and requires federal agencies to update their policies on use of force.
The database of disciplinary records will apply to federal officers and state and local jurisdictions that partner with the federal government on joint task forces. It will cover more than 100,000 officers in total, senior administration officials said.
The order will ban federal officers from using chokeholds unless deadly force is authorized, and it will restrict the transfer and purchase of military equipment by local police departments.
The measure will also limit the circumstances under which federal law enforcement can use no-knock warrants, and it will stipulate that certain federal grants for state and local police departments will be contingent on having proper accreditations in place.
The executive order has been in the works for months as the White House consulted with policing groups, civil rights organizations and lawyers like Ben Crump, who represented the Floyd family after George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was convicted last year of murder.
Biden said Wednesday he hadn’t signed the executive order earlier in his presidency because he did not want to undercut negotiations in Congress to pass police reform legislation.
The House last year passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would overhaul qualified immunity and outlaw no-knock warrants and chokeholds at the federal level, but negotiations in the closely divided Senate broke down and have shown little signs of restarting.
Still, Biden said he and Vice President Harris would continue to push for permanent legislation that would also apply reforms to the state level.
“On this day we’re showing the America we know,” Biden said. “We’re a great nation because the vast majority of us are good people.”