Police groups divided on Biden's executive order on law enforcement reform

Biden signed the “Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety” Wednesday afternoon on the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.

The executive order “is a measure of what we can do to heal the very soul of this nation,” Biden said. 

The executive order comes as crime rates are skyrocketing across the nation and a record number of police officers have been shot in the line of duty. Officers say morale is low among their departments and are having trouble hiring. It also comes several months after legislation to reform policing stalled in the Senate due to disagreements between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. 

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Senior administration officials have told Fox News that the action will target a wide range of reforms including: directing the Attorney General to establish a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database, banning the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized, restricting the use of no-knock entries, strengthening pattern and practice investigations and limiting the transfer of military vehicles and equipment to police departments.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 13, 2022, during an event to highlight state and local leaders who are investing American Rescue Plan funding. Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, and Kansas City, Mo., Police Department Police Chief Joe Mabin listen.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 13, 2022, during an event to highlight state and local leaders who are investing American Rescue Plan funding. Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, and Kansas City, Mo., Police Department Police Chief Joe Mabin listen. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) told Fox News Digital that the organization was not consulted by the Biden administration in crafting the action.

NSA President Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said, “There are potentially elements of this Order that make sense and could be beneficial to all law enforcement. However, Sheriffs are disappointed that the President chose opaqueness over transparency in drafting this order.”

“By choosing not to listen to elected law enforcement the President missed hearing from the rest of the Country. Unfortunately, [he] hand-picked who he and his staff would share the actual verbiage with and who they would take input from. Law enforcement operates in every county in America, not just in East and West coast cities.”

“This process leads us to believe the President had preconceived notions of our opinions and perspectives. Importantly, elected Sheriffs represent and protect 300,000,000 citizens, operate 90% of the Nation’s jails, protect 90%+ of the courthouses, and operate 90% of the 911 systems in the Nation. This effort can only be perceived to be biased against the nation’s 3,086 Sheriffs,” continued Stanforth.

In addition, the National Police Association (NPA) called Biden’s action “political theater,” which may endanger the lives of police officers and the public.

Spokesperson Sgt. Betsy Branter Smith told Fox News Digital that restrictions on military equipment transfers is one area in which, in the name of making the public safer, may endanger the lives of police and the public.”

“If the president is going to inhibit the ability of law enforcement agencies to obtain these lifesaving vehicles it is incumbent upon him personally to provide a substitute that will be equally effective in protecting police and the public,” Smith said.

Smith told Fox News Digital: “The death of George Floyd was tragic, our justice system has dealt harshly with those involved, and now isn’t the time to tell the public that American law enforcement is ‘systematically racist’ and needs to be further limited in our methods to stop the criminal activity that continues to plague our nation. It would be most helpful if the president would declare a war on crime so that criminals would once again know the president doesn’t have their back.”

Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) told Fox News Digital: “This Executive Order is a political response to activist demands. If the administration really wishes to help law enforcement improve its training and continue to increase professional standards, it can be done. But that requires working with law enforcement leadership and the various labor organizations that represent law enforcement officers.”

“I sincerely hope the administration will recognize that, while politically expedient, unjustified restraints on law enforcement has had and will have a deleterious effect on public safety.”

However, other law enforcement groups that were more involved behind the scenes in crafting the executive order are optimistic that it is a step in the right direction.

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The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) told Fox News Digital that they had been engaged in “extensive discussions” with the Biden administration to develop the executive order, saying that it “marks a significant step in our continuing efforts to strengthen the trust of the public in police and the criminal justice system.”

Police cars in a lineup. 

Police cars in a lineup.  (Frankysze via Getty Images)

“During our discussions, the IACP and FOP remained focused on communicating the challenges facing the policing profession and making clear that our profession is comprised of dedicated individuals who are committed to the preservation of human life, maintaining the highest ethical standards, and treating all individuals with dignity and respect, while holding themselves and others accountable for their actions,” the groups said.

The organizations see the order as a “blueprint” for additional Congressional action and said they remain “steadfast in our commitment to working with all interested parties who are willing to take an evidence -based approach to enact effective and lasting change to build a safer future for our communities and the men and women peace officers that serve them.”

“A broader approach to overall systemic issues needs to be a priority of all elected officials and, just as our organizations have done from the start, stand ready to work together to make the entirety of our criminal justice system fairer and more equitable for all,” the IACP and FOP said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice on January 5, 2022 in Washington, DC. Garland addressed the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice on January 5, 2022 in Washington, DC. Garland addressed the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. (Carolyn Kaster-Pool/Getty Images)

Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) also said the administration “extensively consulted” with MCCA while developing the executive order, but warned that executive action “in lieu” of congressional action is “not a sustainable” means of instituting change.

“Instituting effective and meaningful reform without jeopardizing law enforcement’s ability to keep our communities safe is exceptionally complex. Therefore, as this Executive Order moves to the implementation phase, the Administration must continue to collaborate with law enforcement stakeholders like the MCCA. It is critical to ensure implementation does not result in unfunded mandates or infringe on officer privacy, due process, or other important protections,” the group said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

“The MCCA has consistently held that executive action in lieu of congressional action is not a sustainable means of achieving and instituting change. Therefore, while today’s Executive Order is an important first step, the MCCA encourages Congress to come together to develop and pass bipartisan legislation that promotes transparency and accountability while supporting the brave officers who protect and serve our communities.”

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president Larry Cosme said the action “will usher in a new era for federal law enforcement.” 

The organization, which played “an integral” part in developing the executive order, says the order “strikes the correct balance between understanding the public need for accountability and understanding the law enforcement needs for ensuring all communities are safe and protected.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memo to law enforcement agencies on Friday notifying them that the federal government has updated its use-of-force policies for the first time in nearly two decades. 

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“It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life. Officers may use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively gain control of an incident, while protecting the safety of the officer and others,” the memo says, citing a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that established the standards for police use-of-force.  

Fox News’ David Spunt, Lucas Tomlinson and Paul Best contributed to this report.

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