In response to the White House’s Executive Order on Police Accountability, Damon Hewitt, the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has released the following statement:
“Today marks two years since George Floyd was murdered. It’s crucial to recognize that Black communities in this country are still suffering from discrimination, excessive force, and other abuses at the hands of the police. The White House’s Executive Order on policing, a response to the revitalized movement for racial justice that Floyd’s death catalyzed among millions of Americans across the country, is a necessary step to reform federal law enforcement and incentivize reforms at the state and local level. It is also a vital part of law enforcement earning the trust of communities of color.
“The provisions in the Executive Order reflect unprecedented steps to increase accountability and transparency of law enforcement, including the creation of a national misconduct database; a provision to end the transfer and sale of military equipment to local law enforcement; screening to avoid the hiring and retention of officers who promote violence, white supremacy, or other bias; and a requirement for federal law enforcement agencies to adopt the Department of Justice’s updated use of force policy. In combination, these and other changes will help address the scourge of unchecked police violence and alarming militarization of the police, while also helping to shift the broken culture of policing in this country.
“The Executive Order is a fundamental first step, but it cannot be the last one. Of course, executive action by the President cannot directly mandate changes to policies and practices by local and state law enforcement agencies in the same way federal legislation could. As a result, most of the key provisions of the Executive Order, including body-worn cameras and a ban on chokeholds, will apply only to federal law enforcement agencies.
“That is why it’s still imperative that Congress pass national police accountability legislation to address the killings of Black women, men, and children around the country by law enforcement and the mistreatment of people of color by police more generally.
“It is also imperative that state and local governments, which oversee the majority of the nation’s 18,000 police departments across the country, enact their own reforms that increase police accountability and transparency. State and local officials should use this Executive Order as a model for reform in their own communities.
“Even though executive action cannot address all harms, we commend the Biden administration for taking what action it could following the shameful sabotage of federal police reform legislation by anti-community forces last year. The steps taken today represent a floor–not a ceiling–on future reform efforts. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue working alongside President Biden and Congress to secure meaningful accountability for law enforcement at all levels of government.”