May 25 (abbreviated for length) Today, President Biden will sign a historic executive order (EO) to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety. Police cannot fulfill their role to keep communities safe without public trust and confidence in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Yet, there are places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken. To heal as a nation, we must acknowledge that fatal encounters with law enforcement have disproportionately involved Black and Brown people.
President Biden’s EO will enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency, and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system. Without that trust, victims do not call for help. Witnesses do not step forward. Crimes go unsolved. Justice is not served.
The EO mandates measures for all Federal law enforcement agencies, leveraging the President’s direct authority over the executive branch. The EO also requires the use of federal tools such as guidance on best practices, training and technical assistance, and grantmaking to support reforms at State, Tribal, local, and territorial law enforcement agencies that will strengthen public trust and improve public safety across the nation.
Creates a new national database of police misconduct. The EO orders the Attorney General to establish a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database, in which all Federal law enforcement agencies (Federal LEAs) must participate. The database will include records of officer misconduct (including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct, and sustained complaints or records of disciplinary actions for serious misconduct), as well as commendations and awards.
Mandates the adoption of body-worn camera policies. The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt and publicly post body-worn camera policies that mandate activation of cameras during activities like arrests and searches and provide for the expedited public release of footage following incidents involving serious bodily injury or deaths in custody.
The EO orders all Federal LEAs to adopt policies that ban chokeholds and carotid restraints unless deadly force is authorized and restricts the use of no knock entries to a limited set of circumstances, such as when an announced entry would pose an imminent threat of physical violence.
Requires new standards that limit the use of force and require de-escalation for all federal agencies. The Department of Justice’s updated use-of-force policy authorizes force only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist; authorizes deadly force only when necessary; and emphasizes de-escalation. The policy also imposes a duty to intervene to stop excessive force and a duty to render medical aid.
Restores and expands upon the Obama-Biden Administration’s restrictions on the transfer of military equipment. The EO imposes sensible restrictions on the transfer or purchase with federal funds of military equipment that belongs on a battlefield, not on our streets. The EO continues to ensure that state and local LEAs can access and use appropriate equipment for disaster-related emergencies; active shooter scenarios; hostage or search and rescue operations; and anti-terrorism efforts.
Supports Law Enforcement with Improved Systems and Training
Requires an updated approach to recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of law enforcement officers. The EO requires Federal LEAs to develop best practices to attract, support, and retain an inclusive, diverse, expert, and accountable law enforcement workforce, including by implementing screening tools to ensure that agencies do not hire or retain, or partner with on task forces, individuals who promote unlawful violence, white supremacy, or other bias on the basis of protected characteristics. The working group also will identify ways to expand mentorship and leadership opportunities, and ensure that performance evaluations and promotions are tied to an officer’s adherence to these policies.
Reimagines Crisis Response. The EO directs the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance and identify federal resources for innovative models to respond to persons in crisis, including co-responder and alternative responder models, community-based crisis centers, and post-crisis care.
Prioritizes Officer Wellness. The EO directs DOJ and HHS to publish best practices and standards to promote officer wellness and to identify resources to support wellness programs, and requires each Federal LEA to assess and improve its own Officer Wellness program.
Implements a new, evidence-informed annual anti-bias training requirement. T
Improves Data Transparency and Oversight of New Technologies
Tracks data on use of force incidents. Within six months of the date of the EO, all Federal LEAs must collect and submit on a monthly basis all data on incidents involving use of deadly force compiled by the FBI’s Use of Force Data Collection. The Attorney General must also plan to fully implement the Death in Custody Reporting Act.
Safeguards the use of facial recognition technology and other sophisticated algorithmic tools. The EO directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and publish a study of facial recognition technology, other biometric technologies, and predictive algorithms that assesses any privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, accuracy, or disparate impact concerns with their use. This study will then be used to make any necessary changes to Federal law enforcement practices.
Enhances data collection and data transparency. A working group will write a report to the President on how to collect and publish data on police practices (including calls for service, searches, stops, frisks, seizures, arrests, complaints, law enforcement demographics, and civil asset forfeiture), and on the practices and policies governing the acquisition and use of advanced surveillance and forensic technologies.
Reforms Our Broader Criminal Justice System
Directs a government-wide strategic plan to propose interventions to reform our criminal justice system. A new committee with representatives from agencies across the federal government will produce a strategic plan that advances front-end diversion, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation, and reentry. The Attorney General will also publish an annual report on resources available to support the needs of persons on probation or supervised release.
Improves conditions of confinement. The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, will update procedures as necessary to increase mitigation of Covid-19 in correctional facilities; expand the publication and sharing of vaccination, testing, infection, and fatality data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, and facility; and to identify alternatives to facility-wide lockdowns and restrictive housing to reduce the risk of transmission.
The Attorney General will also report to the President on steps to limit the use of restrictive housing and improve conditions of confinement, including with respect to the incarceration of women, juveniles, and persons in recovery.
Requires full implementation of the FIRST STEP Act. The Attorney General will update DOJ policy as necessary to fully implement the FIRST STEP Act and to report annually on implementation metrics, including an assessment of any disparate impact of the PATTERN risk assessment tool and steps to correct any such disparities.