Cautious Trump to unveil police reforms

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WASHINGTON, June 16, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – US President Donald Trump will
stake his place Tuesday in the national debate sweeping the country
over police violence and racism following the death of George Floyd
with an executive order on police reforms — while taking care not to
damage his friendly ties with law enforcement.

Trump has consistently backed the police against accusations that
systemic racism is to blame for the deaths of Floyd and other African
Americans at the hands of forces around the United States, usually
during arrests that escalate abruptly into lethal violence.

Last week, Trump, who faces a tough reelection fight in November,
blamed a few “bad apples” for problems. By contrast, Democrats and
civil rights groups say that only full-scale rethinking of police
culture, and sometimes a cut in police funding, will bring necessary
change.

With protesters taking to the streets in multiple cities and polls
showing a shift in public opinion, Trump and his Republicans appear to
be seeking not to be left behind.

Trump was due to sign what he said would be a “pretty
comprehensive” executive order in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White
House, with an emphasis on better training for police officers in
their increasingly complex — and at times highly dangerous — job.

A first wave of unrest began more than three weeks ago, after the
May 25 death of Floyd, who stopped breathing when an officer kneeled
on his neck, having already handcuffed him during arrest for a minor
offense in Minneapolis.

New tension erupted last week after the death in Atlanta, Georgia,
of Rayshard Brooks, another African American whom police say was shot
in the back as he ran away from arresting officers, after grabbing one
of their tasers and aiming it at them.

The president’s power over policing is limited because forces are
largely controlled at a state and local level.

However, senior administration officials said Trump could use
federal funding for police departments as an incentive to modernizing
their hiring practices and their use-of-force rules.

“A lot of the police departments that have had problems are not using
the most modern standards,” one official told reporters.

The official said police departments should hire more officers
locally and need a database to help them screen out officers with bad
histories elsewhere.

Communities also need more “co-responders” better trained than
police to deal with mental health, addiction and homeless issues, the
official said.

– Leadership void? –

At the height of the anger on the streets, Trump struck a defiant
tone, warning of anarchy and threatening to send federal troops to
cities unable to control the crowds.

The president clearly felt that played well with his base, a
passionately loyal minority of the electorate that he hopes will power
him to a win, however narrow, in November. Trump regularly touts his
support for police and is using the slogan “law and order” as a new
pillar of his reelection campaign message.

Trump’s lukewarm attempts to express empathy for the fear and
powerlessness that many black Americans say they feel on a daily basis
when encountering police left a vacuum that his Democratic opponent
Joe Biden sought to fill by calling for honest national conversations
on racism — arguably the deepest, most painful subject in the
country’s psyche.

In the Rose Garden, Trump will also be hosting police and the
families of victims of police violence for what a senior official said
would be “the discussion that the country needs to have… and
hopefully bring some unification and some healing.”