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Biden orders federal policing reforms on 2nd anniversary of George Floyd's death

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Biden orders federal policing reforms on 2nd anniversary of George Floyd's death
President Joe Biden signs an executive order to advance effective, accountable policing and strengthen public safety during an event at the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed an executive order that aims for policing reforms regarding racism and excessive use of force on Wednesday, which is the second anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Biden signed the order in an event at the White House on Wednesday afternoon acknowledging that "progress can be slow and frustrating" along with concerns that "the reckoning on race inspired two years ago is beginning to fade."

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"Today, we're acting," Biden said. "We're showing that speaking out matters, being engaged matters, and that the work of our time, healing the soul of this nation, is ongoing and unfinished and requires all of us never to give up. Always to keep the faith."

Biden's order on Wednesday aims to strike a balance between what civil rights activists are calling for and the need for community policing.

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The effort aims to create a database for claims of police misconduct, strengthen investigations into police brutality, mandate body cameras, ban police-applied chokeholds and no-knock warrants and require de-escalation techniques for federal agents. It also calls for "reimagining" crisis response and prioritizing "officer wellness" training.

"The law enforcement officers of our nation swear an oath to protect and to serve and the vast majority do so honorably," Vice President Kamala Harris said during the event. "Yet we know too often when there is a use of biased policing and excessive force ... it too often is not met with accountability, denying equal justice not just to individuals but to whole communities and therefore to our nation as a whole."

The order, however, will mostly apply only to law enforcement officers at the federal level -- as they are the only ones under the purview of the president's executive authority.

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"Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system," the White House added. "Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken.

"To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people."

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks via video link at the funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas, on June 9, 2020. File Photo by David J. Phillip/UPI
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Floyd's family, as well as the families of other Black people killed by police in recent years including Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Amir Locke and Atatiana Jefferson, were also present for the signing.

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Floyd's death, during an arrest by several Minneapolis police officers, set off a wave of protests nationwide calling for civil rights and action to end police brutality. Video of Floyd's arrest -- during which Floyd repeatedly tells the officers that he can't breathe -- fueled angry demonstrations that reached overseas and led to calls from some to "defund the police."

"Two years ago, the murder of George Floyd exposed for many what Black and Brown communities have long known and experienced -- that we must do more to ensure that our nation lives up to its founding promise of fair and impartial justice for all," the White House said in a statement.

"The incident sparked one of the largest social movements this country has ever seen, with calls from all corners to acknowledge the legacy of systemic racism in our criminal justice system and in our institutions more broadly."

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered that the FBI and other federal law enforcement officers under the Justice Department must intervene if they witness illegal use of force by other officers.

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Garland's order originated from rank-and-file agents with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Prisons about what agents should do when they witness excessive force.

"President Biden's [order] will enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system," the White House added on Wednesday.

"Increased trust makes policing more effective and thereby strengthens public safety. Without that trust, victims do not call for help."

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