“We have to break old patterns of failure,” Trump said in a Rose Garden ceremony attended by police and Republican congressional allies, though no black civil rights representatives or political opponents.
The president has limited power over policing, which is run mostly at a state and local level. However, Trump said that he would use access to federal funding grants as leverage to persuade departments “to adopt the highest professional standards.”
His executive order encourages de-escalation training, better recruitment, sharing of data on police who have bad records, and money to support police in complicated duties related to people with mental or drug issues.
A highlight of Trump’s proposals, which he said could be complemented by legislation being negotiated in the Republican-controlled Senate, was ending choke holds “except if an officer’s life is at risk,” he said.
Trump called his initiative “a tremendous step” toward “safe, beautiful and elegant justice.”
Trump began by announcing he’d just met in private with families of several black people killed in encounters with the police. “We are one nation. We grieve together and we heal together,” he said.
However, Trump’s choice to keep the televised audience overwhelmingly white, male and focused on law enforcement representatives reinforced his main message.
“Americans know the truth: without police, there is chaos,” Trump said. Only a “very tiny” number of police commit wrongdoing, he said in remarks that frequently veered into a campaign speech about his accomplishments.
A first wave of unrest began more than three weeks ago, after the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in Minneapolis. Floyd stopped breathing when a white officer kneeled on his neck, having already handcuffed him during arrest for a minor offense.
Amateur video of the incident sparked demonstrations nationwide and in some places looting and arson.
New tension erupted last week after the death in Atlanta, Georgia, of Rayshard Brooks, another African American whom police say was shot in the back as he ran away from arresting officers, having grabbed one of their tasers and aimed it at them.