Biden to sign executive order on police reform on Floyd anniversary

A source familiar with the anticipated order told theGrio that Biden’s unilateral move is an “effort to be responsive” after Congress failed to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

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President Joe Biden will mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s death by signing an executive order on Wednesday to establish new rules and regulations for federal law enforcement officers, theGrio has learned.

The presidential action is an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise in 2020 to reform policing on the national level, create accountability and protect civil rights.

President Joe Biden and a man holding up a sign protesting the police death of George Floyd. (Photo: Getty Images)

Now, two years later, a source familiar with the anticipated executive order told theGrio that President Biden’s unilateral move is an “effort to be responsive” after Congress failed to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – a comprehensive police reform bill intended to prevent and remedy racial profiling and excessive use of force.

Some high-profile families who have been impacted by deadly police violence will be on hand for the presidential signing ceremony. The one order expected to be signed will extend measures on police use of force after civil rights leaders submitted guidance requesting at least 20 executive actions.

The New York Times reported that the executive order will specifically use federal grants to encourage state and local agencies to tighten restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants. It will also reportedly create a national registry of cops who are fired for police misconduct.

Sources described the order as progressive and one that mirrors the State of California’s use of force statute, which more narrowly defines a “justifiable homicide.”

Any executive order signed by Biden could ultimately be reversed by another administration when he is no longer in office. However, the White House is hoping to do its part in lieu of legislative action from Congress. Attempts to pass a bipartisan Floyd bill fell apart when Democrats and Republicans failed to reconcile their differences on provisions of the legislation.   

The executive signing will take place on the second anniversary of the death of Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis Police on May 25, 2020. Video and images of Floyd losing the literal breath from his body — and witnessed in perpetuity on social media — forever live in the consciousness of Americans. Former officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. Three other officers were also convicted for violating Floyd’s civil rights.

The four former Minneapolis Police officers charged over the death of George Floyd are pictured: (from left) Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)

In the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s murder, mass demonstrations emerged in Minneapolis and around the world and galvanized a new global movement for racial justice while in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, then Democratic presidential candidate Biden traveled to Minnesota to meet with Floyd’s family.

More notably, he made the campaign promise to root out racial bias and brutality in policing through federal reform measures. Biden’s decision to select Kamala Harris, a Black woman, as his vice presidential nominee was largely seen as a direct response to the moment. 

However, after Biden was elected, the push for the Floyd bill became an uphill battle. In an effort to reach a bipartisan consensus on police reform, a coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill — Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass and Republican Sen. Tim Scott — met for several months. The two parties ultimately failed to reconcile their political differences and move the bill forward.

(L-R) Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) speak briefly to reporters as they exit the office of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) following a meeting about police reform legislation on Capitol Hill May 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, President Biden invited the Floyd family to the White House in hopes that he would have a bill passed by Congress to sign into law. A major sticking point was Republicans’ opposition to amending the legal provision known as “qualified immunity” that allows for a high threshold of legal accountability when an officer uses excessive or deadly force.

There was little public uproar over the failure to pass the police reform bill to suggest any political blowback. 

Toluse Olorunnipa, co-author of the new book “His Name Is George Floyd,” told theGrio, “it’s hard to see how our politics can navigate through [it]” when people aren’t really discussing police reform in the public sphere. 

“Systemic racism is going to be a long fight to get to that place,” said Olorunnipa, “it’s an ongoing fight for those activists who were originally part of the Black Lives Matter movement and continue to fight for those same issues.”

A demonstrator holds a Black Lives Matters sign during a protest against racism at the statehouse on June 6, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Rep. Bass, who is running in this year’s mayoral race in Los Angeles, said negotiations on a bipartisan effort to enact police reform failed because Scott wanted to roll back what Democrats saw as minimal accountability established by former President Donald Trump.

“Senator Scott was actually proposing that we do less than President Trump and obviously we couldn’t,” Bass told theGrio.

“Any time you do legislation, the most important measure is [to] do no harm. That would have done harm.”

Scott, she said, also found that a proposal from Booker “wasn’t acceptable” to him. Bass emphasized that Booker’s proposal was the result of negotiating with law enforcement organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed the Floyd bill. 

“Well, if you can’t go with that, then it’s off,” Bass recalled of Democrats’ thinking at that time.

The congresswoman also noted that President Biden had not reversed Trump’s previous police reform executive order. The Floyd bill, she said, would’ve simply put those measures into law rather than be potentially overturned by a future administration.  

Beyond Wednesday’s executive order signing, the Biden administration is expected to be urged by civil rights leaders to continue the push to reform police and practices through law. However, recent past events suggest Republicans may not have a political appetite for passage of the Floyd bill. Many believed that to be evident in Sen. Scott’s lack of cooperation with Democrats once negotiations fell apart. 

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, alongside U.S Vice President Kamala Harris, after signing H.R. 55, the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act” in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

While Bass said she believed Scott was “genuine” in his quest to achieve bipartisan police reform in George Floyd’s honor, she also noted that the South Carolina lawmaker’s rising popularity among Republicans following his State of Union rebuttal to President Biden may have caused him to “backtrack.”

“He raised a ton of money,” said Bass. “There was [also] word circulating, maybe he’s presidential material.”

During his speech, Scott, the Republican Party’s lone Black U.S. Senator, infamously said that “America is not a racist country.”

The senator said that after the death of Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, he proposed a police reform bill that Democrats blocked from a debate on the Senate floor.

“My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution. But I’m still working,” he said. “I’m still hopeful.”

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