Law and Disorder: Trump Steps In

June 18, 2020

There were 1,025 of them in Minneapolis alone -- buildings, homes, businesses, all damaged by the state's three weeks of rioting. A colored map shows each spots of destruction, so dense it's like looking down at a metropolis from a nighttime flight. "It's going to take a long, long time" to even quantify all the wreckage, officials say. And it's not over yet.

President Trump can't walk into Minneapolis and try to stop the city's violence. He can't tell the city council to reconsider its ridiculous move to defund the police. But he can do his best to bring the situation under control using the power he has. Police reform, he's decided is a good place to start. And in an executive order earlier this week, he tried to start a much-needed conversation about rebuilding trust and creating the kind of law enforcement communities can believe in.

"Americans want law and order," the president insisted at his Rose Garden press conference. "They demand law and order. They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that's what they want." So instead of targeting the brave men and women who provide it, let's enact standards, he said, "as high and strong as there is on earth."

Among other things, the White House's Scott Turner said on "Washington Watch," the president wants to promote closer ties between law enforcement and the community. He wants to make sure that we're training officers well, treating any "mental illness, addiction or homelessness." He also wants to ensure that the kind of tactics used against George Floyd are never witnessed again. "So that type of trend is addressed in the E.O.," Scott pointed out, "and the use of excessive force." If officers do, he warns, they'll be held accountable.

One of the president's other directives is creating a national database to track the officers who've had offenses or faced "disciplinary action or criminal convictions or termination so that they can't move from force to force freely. There will be accountability and transparency." At the end of the day, Scott pointed out, we need more information sharing, especially between police departments. The idea, he insisted, is to start tearing down walls -- not just in the field itself, but in the country.

As someone who spent more than 10 years in law enforcement, I commend the president for getting out front on this. Unfortunately, I can say from experience that the brutality Americans witnessed in May is real. It happens. I've seen it. In fact, I've called it out back when I was a police officer -- and it cost me. But it's important to remember what so many politicians, being led by extremists, have not, which is: it's not the norm. It's the exception. Still, I believe, the president is taking appropriate steps.

I policed the inner city for a good part of my career, and in my experience, those residents wanted us there. They'd come up to our cars in the neighborhoods, and we'd have good conversations -- nothing like you're seeing today in places like Seattle and Minneapolis, where the officers are the bad guys. But sadly, over the course of time, barriers have been erected between the police and the community, and in the absence of relationship or communication, fear has gripped both sides. Now, some people, obviously, have exploited this. But, as Scott pointed out, that fear causes people to do irrational things. "And we have to get back to... a sense of security on both sides."

"When I was a little kid," he remembered, "firemen and policemen were like our heroes. And that's what we have to get back to." The president's executive order gets the ball rolling, but, as Scott said, it can't do everything. Nothing can replace personal responsibility on either side. It all comes down to people on the local level, reaching out and rebuilding those relationships in good faith.