The White House has announced that President Biden will sign a historic executive order increasing police accountability, banning chokeholds and no-knock entries.
Via a White House Fact Sheet provided to PoliticusUSA:
Strengthens Pattern or Practice Investigations. The EO requires steps to improve the investigation and prosecution of criminal civil rights violations, including directing the issuance of best practices for independent investigations and improving coordination to address systemic misconduct through pattern-or-practice cases.
Ensures timely and thorough investigations and consistent discipline. The EO requires Federal LEAs to adopt measures to promote thorough investigation and preservation of evidence after incidents involving the use of deadly force or deaths in custody, as well as to prevent unnecessary delays and ensure appropriate administration of discipline.
Mandates the adoption of body-worn camera policies. The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt and publicly post body-worn camera policies that mandate activation of cameras during activities like arrests and searches and provide for the expedited public release of footage following incidents involving serious bodily injury or deaths in custody.
Requires new standards that limit the use of force and require de-escalation for all federal agencies. The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt use of force policies with requirements that meet or exceed those in the Department of Justice’s updated use-of-force policy, which authorizes force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist; authorizes deadly force only when necessary; and emphasizes de-escalation. The policy also imposes a duty to intervene to stop excessive force and a duty to render medical aid. Federal LEAs must conduct annual training on those policies, implement risk management tools to facilitate appropriate interventions before problematic behavior escalates, and ensure accountability for policy violations. The policy is publicly available on DOJ’s website.
Restores and expands upon the Obama-Biden Administration’s restrictions on the transfer of military equipment. The EO imposes sensible restrictions on the transfer or purchase with federal funds of military equipment that belongs on a battlefield, not on our streets. The list of prohibited equipment is broader than under the Obama-Biden Administration, and the EO’s mandate is broader than the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (GFJPA) in that it pertains to all relevant programs, not only the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The EO continues to ensure that state and local LEAs can access and use appropriate equipment for disaster-related emergencies; active shooter scenarios; hostage or search and rescue operations; and anti-terrorism efforts.
Supports Law Enforcement with Improved Systems and Training
Reimagines Crisis Response. The EO directs the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance and identify federal resources for innovative models to respond to persons in crisis, including co-responder and alternative responder models, community-based crisis centers, and post-crisis care. It also orders guidance on the use of pharmacological agents such as ketamine outside the hospital setting.
Prioritizes Officer Wellness. The EO directs DOJ and HHS to publish best practices and standards to promote officer wellness and to identify resources to support wellness programs, and requires each Federal LEA to assess and improve its own Officer Wellness program. The Attorney General must also recommend measures to the President to help prevent officer suicide, after consultation with HHS and stakeholders.
Requires new standards for accreditation and for accrediting bodies. The EO requires the Attorney General, after consultation with stakeholders, to formulate standards for bodies that accredit law enforcement agencies. Those standards must include that the accrediting body requires policies consistent with those of the EO, and that the accrediting body conducts independent assessments of agency compliance rather than rely on the agency’s self-certification. The Attorney General must also incentivize and support agencies in seeking and obtaining accreditation, including through grantmaking.
Implements a new, evidence-informed annual anti-bias training requirement. The EO requires development of an evidence-informed training module for law enforcement on implicit bias and avoiding improper profiling based on the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, limited English proficiency, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or disability of individuals. Federal LEAs must conduct that training annually, implement procedures to respond meaningfully to complaints of bias, and reassess a 2014 guidance on use of certain protected characteristics by law enforcement.
Improves Data Transparency and Oversight of New Technologies
Studies the impact of use of force incidents on communities. The EO directs HHS to publish a nationwide review of the physical, mental, and public health effects of use of force incidents on communities, including any disparate impacts, and outline available resources to support mental health and support services. It also tasks the Attorney General to issue best practices for conducting law enforcement-community dialogues, and for ensuring timely and appropriate notification of deaths in custody.
Safeguards the use of facial recognition technology and other sophisticated algorithmic tools. The EO directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and publish a study of facial recognition technology, other biometric technologies, and predictive algorithms that assesses any privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, accuracy, or disparate impact concerns with their use. This study will then be used to make any necessary changes to Federal law enforcement practices.
Enhances data collection and data transparency. A working group will write a report to the President on how to collect and publish data on police practices (including calls for service, searches, stops, frisks, seizures, arrests, complaints, law enforcement demographics, and civil asset forfeiture), and on the practices and policies governing the acquisition and use of advanced surveillance and forensic technologies.
Reforms Our Broader Criminal Justice System
Improves conditions of confinement. The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, will update procedures as necessary to increase mitigation of Covid-19 in correctional facilities; expand the publication and sharing of vaccination, testing, infection, and fatality data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, and facility; and to identify alternatives to facility-wide lockdowns and restrictive housing to reduce the risk of transmission. The Attorney General will also report to the President on steps to limit the use of restrictive housing and improve conditions of confinement, including with respect to the incarceration of women, juveniles, and persons in recovery.
Requires full implementation of the FIRST STEP Act. The Attorney General will update DOJ policy as necessary to fully implement the FIRST STEP Act and to report annually on implementation metrics, including an assessment of any disparate impact of the PATTERN risk assessment tool and steps to correct any such disparities.
The Four Parts Of The Biden Police Executive Order That Will Save Lives
Importantly, this executive order only applies to federal law enforcement agencies, and the president’s executive authority is limited to the executive branch.
The ban on chokeholds unless lethal force is authorized will save lives. The ending of no-knock entries will help to stop innocent people from being killed through accidents and misunderstandings. The body camera requirement will increase accountability, and increasing the federal standards for use of force will help to keep both law enforcement and the public safer.
The ban on the transfer of military equipment to police departments is another positive step, as local police do not need military-grade equipment to keep communities safe.
President Biden also places an emphasis on officer wellness and care.
The discussion around policing has become politicized with the goal of keeping both the brave people who put their lives on the line, while also using best practices to keep community members safe.
Biden’s executive order is a step toward accomplishing both goals.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association