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On June 16, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled “SAFE POLICING FOR SAFE COMMUNITIES.”  The Order can be found at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6948245/Trump-Policing-Executive-Order.pdf.

There is speculation in the national press that Congress may soon enact legislation in this regard, but for now, the Order provides requirements with which all state and local law enforcement agencies must comply in order to qualify for the Department of Justice discretionary grants. 

Among these requirements, local agencies must seek credentials from an independent body certified by the U.S. Attorney General.  These credentialing bodies should address such issues as the use of force training, de-escalation, early warning systems for individual interventions and best community practices. The U.S. Attorney General is directed to develop training for officers dealing with the homeless, addicted, or persons suffering from mental health impairments. 

Local agency use of force policies must also comply with all Federal, State, and local laws. Choke holds are prohibited except where use of deadly force is authorized.

In addition, the U.S. Attorney General is directed to create a database concerning instances of excessive use of force. This database will track law enforcement officer terminations, de-certifications, criminal convictions, and civil judgments for improper use of force.  An officer who retires or resigns during an investigation of any of these will also be included in the database. The public will have access to this database. 

At present, this Order is a “purse strings” approach to federal program enforcement.  We recommend each local law enforcement agency review its current federal grant programs to determine if they must comply with this Order. As the Order also provides for enhancement of current grant programs, agencies are also well advised to review these as they become available.

The impact this will have on local police policies, union agreements and law enforcement, in general, remains unclear.  We expect additional officer training will be required of all local agencies.  The long term effect of the officer database will certainly impact the use of force litigation. 

Should you have any questions regarding this Order, please contact a Tressler attorney. 

For more information about this article, contact Tressler attorney Peter Murphy at pmurphy@tresslerllp.com.