US president Donald Trump has said he would pursue an executive order to encourage police departments to meet “current professional standards for the use of force”, in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Mr Trump accused Democrats of broadly branding police as the problem, and defended his calls for governors and mayors to aggressively quell violent protests that erupted across the country after the death of Mr Floyd in Minneapolis.
The US president boasted: “We’re dominating the street with compassion.”
Mr Trump offered few details about the yet-to-be-formalised order during a discussion on race relations and policing before a friendly audience in Dallas, Texas.
The call for establishing a national use-of-force standard amounted to his first concrete proposal for American police reform in response to the national and international outcry following Mr Floyd’s death during a violent encounter with Minneapolis police.
The president also acknowledged that law enforcement may have some “bad apples”, but he said it is unfair to broadly paint police officers as bigots.
Mr Trump said: “We have to work together to confront bigotry and prejudice wherever they appear.
The Radical Left Democrats: First they try to take away your guns. Then they try to take away your police!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2020
“But we’ll make no progress and heal no wounds by falsely labelling tens of millions of decent Americans as racists or bigots.”
The president said his country also needs to bolster its efforts to confront its long-simmering racial relations problems by focusing on inequality, redoubling on his contention that solving economic issues is the fastest way to healing racial wounds.
He said his administration would aggressively pursue economic development in minority communities, confront health care disparities by investing “substantial sums” in minority-serving medical institutions, and improve school choice options.
Dallas police chief U Renee Hall, Dallas county sheriff Marian Brown and Dallas county district attorney John Creuzot did not receive invitations to the event, according to their offices.
Mayor Eric Johnson was invited but did not attend because of prior commitments, a source said.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters ahead of Mr Trump’s trip noted other law enforcement officials were in attendance, but did not directly respond to a question about why the three officials were not invited.
Mr Trump filled the roundtable with police union officials and allies from the African American community, including a member of Black Voices For Trump – many of whom spoke glowingly about the president.
Meanwhile, Democrats on Capitol Hill have unveiled sweeping police reform legislation, including provisions to ban choke holds and limit legal protections for police.
Congressional Republicans say they are also open to some reforms, including a national registry of use-of-force incidents so police officers cannot transfer between departments without public awareness of their records.
Mr Trump, for his part, attacked some in the Democratic party who have called for “defunding the police”, a broad call to re-frame thinking about how communities should approach public safety.
Activists say the move is not about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all their money.
They contend that it is time for authorities to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on other things communities across the US need, like housing and education.
Mr Trump has previously publicly expressed sympathy for Mr Floyd’s family, but did not mention them during the roundtable discussion, held two days after Mr Floyd was buried in Houston.
We need a president who chooses hope over fear.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 12, 2020
He previously suggested that Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who prosecutors allege pressed his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes, must have “snapped”.
US surgeon general Jerome Adams, who took part in the panel, started his remarks by extending condolences to the Floyds and Texans.
America’s attorney general William Barr, who accompanied Mr Trump to the event, backed up the president’s emphasis on law and order.
Mr Barr said what happened to Mr Floyd should not obscure the fact that police offers are decent people “who put their lives on the line for us”.
Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, dismissed Mr Trump’s Dallas visit in advance as a “photo op”, and charged that the president has “run away from a meaningful conversation on systemic racism and police brutality”.
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