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Will Trump’s executive order force change in American policing?

On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order on policing, amid growing calls for reform and racial justice. While the measure represents Trump’s most significant action on policing since taking office, many experts say it won’t compel police departments to make major changes. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the details as well as Trump’s meeting with grieving families.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, President Trump signed an executive order today on policing, amid growing calls for police reforms and racial justice.

    Yamiche Alcindor joins me now.

    Hello, Yamiche.

    So, tell us, what do we know at this point about what's in this executive order that the president wants to do about the police in this country?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Trump's executive order on policing is the most sweeping action that he's taken on policing since he was elected and came into office.

    That said, many experts and people who are working on policing efforts in this country say that this executive order doesn't really have a lot of teeth. It tries to incentivize a lot of police departments into doing things like establishing training, like establishing (AUDIO GAP) for use of force through federal grants, rather than forcing them to do something.

    So, some of the things that are in the executive order, there is a statement there that doesn't actually mention systematic racism, but it actually does say that there are law enforcement officials who misuse their power, and that that has led to mistrust, particularly in the African-American community.

    It also is pushing for a national database to track bad cops, officers who are accused of wrongdoing that maybe go from department to department, as data shows that they do.

    The other thing that it does is talk about choke holds. The president made a point of saying today that choke holds will be banned unless police officers fear for their lives. That is what is written essentially in the executive order.

    There are a lot of people who say, that doesn't really change much, because that still means that police officers can say: I feared for my life. It's one of the most common things that police officers say when they kill someone.

    The other thing to note is that this is an executive order that is focused on trying to change the culture of policing. The president really talked to a lot of advisers, talked to a lot of lawyers and family members for people who have been killed by the police to come up with this.

    But even with this still, Democrats are saying that this just isn't going far enough. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today called it weak, saying that, even though it's mentioning all sorts of things that activists want, that it's just not going far enough.

    And that's what I'm usually hearing from people as I try to get feedback about the executive order.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, we also know the president met today with family members of a number of those who have been killed by police in this country.

    What do we know about that? I know you talked to some of those family members.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    That's right, Judy.

    The president spent about an hour meeting with family members of people who had either been killed by the police or who had been killed in racially charged incidents. And what I heard from the lawyer of those families, as well as several families who were in that meeting, the president expressed sympathy.

    He listened to a number of families as they explained their situations. The president said that he wanted to have federal investigations into each one of their cases.

    But I talked to a man named Dwayne Palmer, whose brother Everett Palmer died mysteriously in a Pennsylvania jail. And he said, while the president was offering kind words, he said — quote — "We're beyond kind of words. We want action."

    The other thing that Dwayne told me is that he felt like the president was using a lot of platitudes, saying, oh, this must have been a great kid, and this must have been terrible. He said, really, the president, in some ways, he wanted to see more specific actions that the president said he wanted to do.

    The other thing to note is that the president signed the executive order in the Rose Garden. He was surrounded by law enforcement officials, as they were clapping and really applauding for a job well done.

    The people who weren't in the Rose Garden were those families of loved ones who were killed. I was told that a lot of those families didn't want to be used as — quote — "props." Dwayne Palmer told me that he was very worried about being used as a photo-op. He said he didn't want President Trump to be able to — quote — "claim victory" with a sea of black and brown voices.

    Instead, he said: "I'm happy to give him credit for the executive order, but I want him to do more."

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor following all this today at the White House.

    Yamiche, we thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:


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