THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION (ACLU) has commended President Joe Biden for taking action through an executive order which reforms a variety of policing practices. 

Udi Ofer, deputy national political director at the ACLU, issued the following statement on the executive order:

“Today marks the two-year anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd. This tragedy galvanised the nation to take to the streets to protest police violence and racism. That movement continues today and is still seeking a new vision for public safety in America, one that rejects racism and toxic policing.

“We commend President Biden for taking much-needed action on police reform. This executive order takes an important and necessary step forward in light of Congress’ failure to act on police reform – but it is only a first step. Proper implementation of this order will be vital for its success. Words on paper alone will not end police violence. More broadly, we need a complete reimagination of public safety in America.

“The executive order implements a number of important reforms. First, it strengthens limits on the use of force by federal law enforcement, including by emphasising de-escalation, recognising that force should be used only when no reasonable alternative exists, and creating an affirmative duty for officers to intervene when a fellow officer violates DOJ policy. We believe this new standard, if implemented correctly, will help save lives while also paving the path for states across the nation to treat this as a new floor, and to change their laws to adopt even stronger use of force standards, including creating an explicit exhaustion requirement.

“Second, the executive order places new limits on the transfer and purchase of military equipment by state and local police. Multiple studies have shown that federal provision of military equipment to police does not make communities or officers safer. While these limits fall short of a total prohibition, if implemented appropriately they will be more effective at stemming the tide of police militarisation than the prior 2015 executive order.

“Third, we are encouraged that the order provides vital support and assistance for state and local governments to implement alternative first responder models, which can provide appropriate, non-police responses when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, struggling with a substance use disorder, or is unhoused. Federal assistance for these programs is especially important in light of the disproportionate federal funding that has recently gone to state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Finally, the executive order institutes a number of additional reforms, including establishing a national registry of officers fired for misconduct, and increases reporting requirements and transparency for federal policing practices. The executive order will directly impact more than 100,000 federal law enforcement officers and incentivise reforms at the state and local level.

“The ACLU will continue to work with the administration to ensure that this order is implemented in the most robust manner that advances civil rights, and that additional reforms are passed by Congress, including an end to qualified immunity.

“We will also continue to fight for investment of resources in programs that have been proven to create long term community safety, and to restrict the use of armed law enforcement. Since the 1980s, spending on law enforcement and the criminal legal system has dramatically outpaced investment in community services such as housing, education, and violence prevention programs. Those are the best institutions for building stable, safe, and healthy communities.

“We cannot achieve justice for George Floyd until our country commits to true transformative change. The fight in the streets two years ago is the same that we fight today. And it is the same that we will continue fighting until Black and Brown communities are not brutalised by systemic police violence.”

* Source: American Civil Liberties Union