Just two weeks after the Trump administration forcibly cleared peaceful protestors from the path Donald Trump intended to walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op with a Bible, the president announced an executive order marking his first definitive step to address the national outcry over police brutality. The order attempts to incentivize elements of reform while also establishing systems in which police officers with a history of violence can be tracked.
“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” Trump said during his address from the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. “They are not mutually exclusive. They work together. They all work together.”
Based on his actions and his tweets, it is clear where Trump’s allegiance lies; however, there is a detectable irony in balancing his continued embrace of being a “law and order” president with police reform that, if enforced fully, would mean considerable changes in police departments nationwide. How can one effectively address systemic problems with law and order while simultaneously utilizing it for his own advantage and building a platform for reelection on the foundation of this same law and order? Enter Donald Trump.
Throughout his statement, Trump did not address racism directly. Instead, he chose to address the problem by promoting the narrative that the issues lie within a small number of individual officers rather than a system that needs a line-by-line reexamination. “They’re very tiny. I use the word tiny,” Trump said, stepping over himself to defend police departments nationwide. “It’s a very small percentage. But nobody wants to get rid of them more than the really good and great police officers.”
But Trump's message misses the point that protestors are trying to make, and conflates ideal principles for conservatives with what Americans "want." Suggesting that Americans “demand law and order,” Trump stated: “Without police, there is chaos.” He then celebrated the efforts of law enforcement to thwart violence during recent protests against police brutality.
Trump is clearly making concessions, and hypocritical ones at that, by way of this new executive order “to deliver a future of safety and security for Americans of every race, religion, color, and creed.” The order sets financial incentives for police departments to create training programs and follow “best practices.” Additionally, it aims to establish a federal database to keep track of police officers with a history of using excessive force. Compared to the swift national reckoning and surge of support behind movements calling for the defunding of police departments nationwide, this seems like an underwhelming attempt to address the systemic issues thriving within U.S. law enforcement.
But that wasn't his only ironic twist. In the same address, Trump said he met with the families who lost loved ones to police violence and racial profiling prior to making the announcement. He claims he met with the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antwon Rose, Jemel Roberson, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb, and Everett Palmer.
“These are incredible people...and it’s so sad. We are one nation. We grieve together. And we heal together,” said Trump. “I can never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people. And I gave a commitment to all of those families today.” Despite that meeting taking place earlier the same day, none of the families attended the Rose Garden event, reports CNN. Instead, the audience was primarily made up of law enforcement representatives and police unions.
In a time of reckoning, Trump's actions not only miss the mark of what the masses need from our security systems going forward, but gaslights Americans who are suffering with the tragedies of weeks, months, and years past to say that this is what they need. But the American people are not trying to be appeased — especially now. They are trying to be heard, and hoping to see serious action to quell the dangers of violent policing that's been tolerated for so many decades.