June 17, 2020

Police Reform, Trump Style

The president’s executive order hits some right notes, and should appeal to blacks.

If Donald Trump wins reelection in November, he will do so in large part because he worked hard to win the black vote. Perhaps no Republican president since the first, Abraham Lincoln, has done more to win their support. And so it was yesterday, when the president issued his “Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities.”

“All Americans are entitled to live with the confidence that the law enforcement officers and agencies in their communities will live up to our Nation’s founding ideals and will protect the rights of all persons,” the order states. “Particularly in African-American communities, we must redouble our efforts as a Nation to swiftly address instances of misconduct.”

The order goes on to address reform in four areas: certification and credentialing of law-enforcement agencies; information sharing via database among local, state, and federal agencies; expanded care for those with mental health, homelessness, and addiction issues, and training for cops who encounter them; and legislation and grant programs to improve policing practices and build community engagement.

It was an order and a message aimed squarely at black Americans, and it comes three weeks after the wrongful death of George Floyd while in police custody. Whether Floyd is a worthy martyr is debatable, but his death was sickening, and inaction on the president’s part was not an option.

Yesterday’s event was televised from the White House Rose Garden, but the president met privately beforehand with family members of several black men who’d been killed in confrontations with cops. He also met with relatives of a man who wasn’t killed by cops: Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old who was shot and killed in February near Brunswick, Georgia, by two white men. “I think the president was very receiving,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mom. “He’s very compassionate. He did assure each family member that we would and should expect change.”

Even CNN’s Van Jones praised the president’s actions yesterday.

Of course, Trump’s EO elicited the usual catcalls from the usual critics: “The president’s weak executive order,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of black Americans.” (Fact check: Nine unarmed black men nationwide were killed by cops last year. Nine, Nancy, not “hundreds.”)

Is it us, or does Speaker Pelosi’s tone become even more shrill than normal when the issue involves President Trump and black Americans? Could it be that she and her fellow Democrats sense a weakening of their stranglehold on the black vote?

To be sure, Trump won’t get 40% of the African American vote. But if he gets even a third of that on November 3, Joe Biden is toast.

“Americans want law and order,” the president said, no doubt staking out his territory against Biden. “They demand law and order. They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that’s what they want. Some of them don’t even know that’s what they want, but that’s what they want.”

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