Biden White House weighs executive orders for police reform amid Floyd bill collapse in Congress
EXCLUSIVE: Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family of George Floyd, told theGrio that he and other civil rights lawyers submitted recommendations to the White House.
Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump reached out to theGrio Saturday morning to provide details about the White House meeting between Biden officials, civil rights attorneys and the families of Black victims of police and racial violence.
TheGrio broke the story on Friday. Crump, who attended this week’s meeting, echoed that the administration is working to “move” on executive orders to enact police reform after negotiations failed on Capitol Hill.
The White House is trying to pick up the broken pieces of the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act by exploring ways President Joe Biden can mend together some type of police reform through presidential executive orders.
The meeting included senior-level Black members of the administration, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and the head of public engagement Cedric Richmond, who met with attorneys and the families of George Floyd, Atatiana Jefferson, Ronald Green and Ahmaud Arbery.
Knowledge of this meeting had not been previously known.
There will be separate meetings with civil rights leaders on the issue but the White House wanted to meet first with families.
Biden officials are working to address police reform through executive orders as negotiations caved on the Hill between Democrats Congresswoman Karen Bass and Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Tim Scott.
“I think the DOJ can keep track of who the police kill,” Ben Crump told the theGrio. The civil rights lawyer, along with accompanying attorneys, submitted 10 recommendations to the White House. Crump is calling for a national federal database of an accurate accounting of the numbers of people killed by police brutality and misconduct.
Crump said he wants to know, “how many people they are killing and who they are killing.” The Floyd family attorney also wants a ban on chokeholds. These are just some of the items that were in the now collapsed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker was one of the negotiators for the police reform bill. The New Jersey lawmaker acknowledged the breakdown in five weeks of negotiations due to a “toxic culture” in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Booker spoke to the NAACP during a public meeting Saturday morning, saying that he “will not stop” on his push for a pathway forward for a national standard on policing. He told the oldest civil rights group in the nation that he worked nine months on the bill and that he and Sen. Scott could not come to terms even as the Fraternal Order of Police supported the legislation.
Booker vowed to work with President Biden to move forward on the executive orders.
Crump also wants to keep a national database of officers who use excessive force. The fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio serves as one of his examples for the need of this kind of database. The police officer who killed Rice was fired by one police department and then hired by another.
Additionally, he wants “the law of the land” to be that if an officer chokes a Black person or kills a Black person by choking, they have committed a violation of federal law. Crump wants a similar criminal penalty involving no knock warrants.
“Our recommendation is that policies for uniform body worn camera use are implemented for a broader scope of police activities with penalties for failing to turn on at the commencement of an encounter or for turning off during an encounter,” said Crump.
The Obama administration included a recommendation for body cameras in its 21st Century Policing report and the Department of Justice provided funds for some municipalities to pay for the cameras. A former Obama official source told theGrio, “we could not require them by executive order.”
The office that oversees the programs that would implement these actions at the DOJ has not been filled by the Biden administration. TheGrio has confirmed that there had not yet been a nomination for the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Justice Programs. Currently, someone is serving as head of the office in an acting capacity.
Another request out of the ten items Crump submitted to the White House is to allow state attorneys and the U.S. Justice Department to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations.
Crump asserts these are things the White House can do for them to fight against deadly and wrongful policing in court as “an executive order is authoritative and matters.”
More meetings are expected with the families and the attorneys as well as civil rights leaders to move forward on the George Floyd Justice In Policing executive order.
However, the problem with executive orders is they could be changed or ended with a new president.
The happenings in Washington over police reform comes as Monday begins the jury selection process of another high-profile vigilante shooting of a Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, a year and a half ago.
As a point of reference, Sen. Scott felt the sides were too far apart on policing reform negotiations with the issue of qualified immunity being one of the major sticking points of the negotiations. President Biden is also on record saying he did not believe reform of qualified immunity, which provides legal protection for police, should be removed.
During an interview last month, Scott also said he walked away from the negotiating table because, from his view, language in the bill that would withhold federal dollars from police departments that do not comply with proposed reforms is “defunding the police.”
The question of Scott being an honest broker on behalf of Republicans to come up with a bipartisan police reform bill has been a cloud over the negotiations as his claim that “America is not racist” in his Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s joint address to Congress earlier this year have loomed negatively over the negotiations considering the role race has played in the national conversation and reality about policing in America.
Sources near the police reform conversation with the White House this week tell theGrio that the administration can escalate prosecutions for bad actors at police departments based on current laws already on the books.
Kurt Schmoke, attorney and president of the University of Baltimore, tells theGrio that the U.S. Department of Justice can “direct U.S. Attorneys to give certain crimes priorities.”
TheGrio exclusively asked a former high-ranking Democratic official about what teeth the executive orders could have.
“Not a huge amount. Most policing is done by states and localities. But [the president] has a huge bully pulpit,” said the source. With a keen understanding of the law and how the White House works, the former official went on to say, “You can order things for federal law enforcement and you can condition the receipt of federal funds to the states on certain conditions being met.”
When it comes to blame for not getting police reform done, the source lays the blame on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Failure to come up with a bill from Congress on police reform shows how dysfunctional Congress is,” the source aded. “The American people, regardless of party affiliation, support meaningful reform.”
Sources on this week’s initial police reform call contend the civil rights lawyers had submitted to the Biden transition team a list of executive actions that could be taken on Biden’s first day and or first week in office. The families and leaders resubmitted the paper during the impromptu virtual meeting. The submission included increased funding for the civil rights division of the Justice Department, and federal review for police-involved deadly and violent incidents.
TheGrio reached out to several members of the Biden White House. No comment as of yet.
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