Trump Floats Idea of Gentler Police Tactics, With No Specifics
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Monday he will discuss ideas for revamping police tactics in response to protests over the killing of George Floyd, even as he criticized Democrats for activists’ calls to defund the police.
Neither Trump nor anyone in his administration proposed specific changes to police behavior on Monday and the White House rejected a central provision of a sweeping police-reform bill introduced by congressional Democrats.
The president has demanded a “law and order” approach to nationwide protests over the death of Floyd, a black man, in police custody in Minneapolis. But his re-election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has recently opened wide leads in national polls and surveys of key battleground states while sympathizing with protesters and the families of black people killed by police.
“We’re going to work and we’re going to talk about ideas, how we can do it better, and how we can do it, if possible, in a much more gentle fashion,” Trump said in a round-table discussion with law enforcement leaders at the White House.
It’s a shift in tone for Trump, who in the past has endorsed rough police tactics. During a July 2017 speech in New York, the president told officers “please don’t be too nice” to suspects under arrest.
Still, Trump praised the vast majority of police as “fantastic” and declared “we won’t be ending our police force.”
“Sometimes we’ll see some horrible things like we witnessed recently but I say 99.9 – let’s go with 99% of them – great, great people,” Trump said of the police.
The president’s remarks stood in contrast with those of Democrats and activist groups, which say police departments suffer from systemic racism and are in need of wholesale reform.
The president on Monday continued his attempt to tie Biden to civil-rights activists’ calls to defund police departments, even though the vice president’s campaign specifically rejected the proposal.
The Democratic candidate has called for changes to law enforcement practices and proposed spending $300 million to support community-oriented policing. Biden has also voiced support for protesters. On Monday, he visited members of Floyd’s family in Houston ahead of his funeral.
Trump’s comments about changes in policing came on the same day House and Senate Democrats introduced a plan that would make it easier to pursue legal action against officer misconduct and outlaw aggressive tactics.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said getting rid of “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from misconduct suits, is a non-starter but added that staff had not reviewed the entire bill.
In the discussion with Trump, Sheriff Tony Childress, of Livingston County, Illinois, said he supports changes such as mandatory de-escalation training, bans on choke holds and requiring officers to intervene when others use unnecessary force. Most of the changes he mentioned were in the Democrats’ bill.
As Childress spoke, White House director of intergovernmental affairs Douglas Hoelscher took notes. Attorney General William Barr said he wants to work with police officials to review standards for the use of force and improve training.
“The time for waiting is over,” Barr said. “It’s now incumbent on us to bring good out of bad.”
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