MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday, two years to the day George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, signed an executive order designed to strengthen accountability in federal law enforcement agencies.
"I promised the Floyd family among others that George's name is not just going to be a hashtag. Your daddy's name is going to be known for a long time," Biden said during remarks at the White House, where some of Floyd's family members attended. "As a nation we're going to ensure that his legacy and the legacy of so many others we remember today—it's not about their death, but what we do in their memory that matters."
The directive bans the use of chokeholds, restricts no knock warrants, requires tracking of use of force data, and mandates anti-bias training and body-worn camera, among other provisions. But it only impacts federal law enforcement agencies.
The executive order also instructs establishment of a national database tracking federal officer misconduct that allows local and state agencies to enter their records, too, and directs the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create best practices to promote wellness of officers.
But the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which stalled in Congress, would go farther, said Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor at the University of St. Thomas Law school, who teaches criminal law and has expertise on criminal justice issues. He said the executive order falls short of what some advocates for police reform hope for, but acknowledged it's a step forward.
"The general tenor of this is important. Two years ago we had great hopes that something good would come out of this tragedy, that there would be broad reform," he said. "But what we've seen is what's represented by this executive order—it's been largely baby steps and there is a lot more work to do."
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz in July 2020 signed into law bipartisan changes approved by the legislature banning the use of chokeholds and "warrior style training." Democrats at the capitol have failed so far to enact more broad reforms they're seeking, including restricting no-knock warrants to the most narrow of circumstances.
The Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training on a 9-3 vote earlier this spring approved new rules banning members of white nationalist or extremist groups from becoming cops. The changes also expand the criteria for officer discipline and license revocation to include on or off duty "discriminatory conduct," defined as a pattern of discrimination based on a person's race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and more. The board can also seek discipline for other offenses, regardless if it results in criminal charges and convictions.
The policy is still going through an long administrative rules process and there will be a 30-day public comment period this summer.
"This effort at the POST Board is the only appropriate response in a post-George Floyd world, that you would overhaul the standards of conduct for every officer to make sure that we get it right," said, Justin Terrell, a member of the POST board and the executive director of the Minnesota Justice Research Center.
Kelly McCarthy, chief of police in Mendota Heights and the chair of the POST board, characterized the changes as "not earth shattering," but rather a way to make clear consistent standards statewide.
"We're becoming more in line with what citizens think a licensing agency should do," she said.
But the Minneapolis Police and Peace Officers Association, which represents rank and file officers, has concerns about due process under the proposed changes, executive director Brian Peters said.
"Permitting the board to become an investigative agency, outside and regardless of the judicial system, is extreme," Peters said in a statement. "The new proposed scope also it diverts the Police Officers Standards and Training Board away from its primary, valuable purpose of establishing education criteria, training, modeling, and the constant pursue of excellence in police work."
The City of Minneapolis has attempted to make its own changes to policing since George Floyd's killing two years ago. A Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation found the city and its department "engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination" violating the state law.
Voters last fall rejected an attempt to remove the police department from the city charter and replace it with a department of a public safety.
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