White House simultaneously negotiating executive orders on policing amid voting rights push

EXCLUSIVE: The Biden-Harris administration is still negotiating unilateral action on police reform, according to officials and stakeholders discussing next steps since Congress failed to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

As the nation watches on while Senate Democrats head into an improbable push on Tuesday to pass federal voting rights legislation, over at the White House Biden officials are simultaneously working on addressing another key policy issue that President Joe Biden promised results on to his base of Black and minority supporters.

President Joe Biden and the White House COVID-19 Response Team participate in a virtual call with the National Governors Association from the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House Complex on Monday, Dec. 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Biden-Harris administration is still negotiating proposed executive orders on policing, according to White House officials and stakeholders who are discussing next steps since Congress failed to pass what was supposed to be a bipartisan George Floyd Justice in Policing Act due to a lack of support from lead Republican negotiator Senator Tim Scott and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The White House has hosted a series of meetings with the latest conference call held last week. While the world was focused on President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris‘ voting rights speeches in Atlanta, back in Washington, D.C. at the White House there was a call with stakeholders on the policing executive orders as a resolve to the stalemate on Capitol Hill.

“[The policing executive orders are] important to us and we’re disappointed that it [the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act] couldn’t get done in Congress but we won’t let that deter us … the president and the vice president won’t let that deter them,” said Cedric Richmond, senior advisor to President Biden. 

The White House is working to put more teeth into the proposed executive orders that would have far less strength than a legislative bill that is passed in Congress and signed into law by the president. 

In the initial start of the work on executive orders, reported first by theGrio last year, the new proposal did not have no knock warrants or a ban on chokeholds included in the potential presidential actions. 

However, the administration is ensuring the “president’s commitment to delivering on his promise.”

“Of course, we were very supportive of the efforts to negotiate police reform on a bipartisan level. Obviously, that didn’t move forward as we would have hoped,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told theGrio during Thursday’s press briefing. “And so there’s a legal policy substantive process that has to go through the consideration of executive orders. That’s ongoing. It is hard to predict the timing of that.”

The stakeholders that the Biden-Harris administration originally included in the talks were the families of victims of police-involved killings like Floyd, and others, as well as civil rights attorneys and civil rights leaders. 

The group as a whole was conflicted with the lack of no knock warrants and a ban on chokeholds in the proposal. However, now these same stakeholders tell theGrio that they are feeling more comfortable with the latest effort that has not yet hit the president’s desk.

Nationwide, there seems to be a universal disappointment that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act did not get Congressional approval or even move into an up or down vote on the Senate floor. Much of this Biden executive order effort and the attempts at the George Floyd bill effort stems from the baseline work of Task Force 21st Century Policing under then-President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama addresses the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference at McCormick Place on October 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Obama’s focus on bad policing and vigilante misconduct targeting Black citizens started 10 years ago with the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman who was acquitted on murder charges. 

Following Martin’s killing, there was an onslaught of new stories about police-related deaths of Black people, including the high-profile cases of Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland and others.

According to the National Police Foundation, “Black Americans experience disproportionate outcomes as it relates to deadly force and other police and justice system actions.” The National Police Foundation conducted a report on 21st century policing. 

The non-profit organization found that 21st century policing was gutted by President Obama’s successor, former President Donald Trump, who was not as sympathetic to the issue as he made clear that would unequivocally stand by law enforcement during nationwide calls for police accountability. 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media after meeting with sheriffs from across the country in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House February 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images)

However, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act did not pass due to a lack of support from police organizations. In a statement to theGrio, the National Police Foundation said, “We do support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Our primary concern with the bill had less to do with any specific provisions and more to do with the absence of one.”

The foundation’s president Jim Burch said, ”We would like to see additional data being collected in the field so we can have research-based solutions to avoid these tragic situations. While we have good information in many key areas, additional scientific research is needed to validate that the solutions proposed in the bill truly have an impact and if they don’t, we must understand why.”

He added, “we recommended the expansion of the definition of use of force and the requirement for additional data to be reported by officers when pointing a firearm at a person.”

According to a database compiled by The Washington Post, the number of police-involved deaths were down by 13% in 2021. However, the data also found that Black fatal police brutality was two times that of white victims.

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