Louisiana congressmen talk police reform efforts; react to Trump’s executive order

Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 8:32 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation reacted to President Donald Trump’s executive order on policing and commented on police chokeholds as protests continue around the country over deadly police force against African Americans and other people of color.

The president signed the executive order in the Rose Garden at the White House as some members of law enforcement stood next to him.

"What's needed now is not more stoking of fear and division, we need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together,” said Trump.

Trump said his executive order will encourage better police practices and establish a database to keep track of officers with a history of excessive use-of-force-complaints. And related to chokeholds, Trump said his administration would prioritize federal grants for police departments that seek independent credentialing, certifying that they meet high standards.

“As part of this new credentialing process chokeholds will be banned, except if an officer’s life is at risk. And I will say, we've dealt with all of the various departments and everybody said, it's time, we have to do it,” said Trump.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican and Louisiana’s senior U.S. senator said he has been learning more about chokeholds and the arguments for and against them.

"I'm learning about the issue, I'm told that if an officer is a female and she's 140 Ibs and she's trying to control somebody who's 220 Ibs, a male, an aggressive or inebriated then there has to be something about that, now I'm not saying I have the final answer but I'm saying I'm learning these answers and asking these questions. As it regards deadly force, clearly there needs to be a review of deadly force,” said Cassidy.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the only Democrat in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, was not impressed with the president’s comments or the contents of the executive order.

"I think everyone should be able to agree that we ban the use of chokeholds and so we saw 8 minutes and 46 seconds with George Floyd, we saw Eric Garner and a number of cases where chokeholds led to the death of a person of color, black man that was unnecessary and did not have to result in a loss of life. So I think the president could have started with first and foremost we’re going to ban chokeholds, two we’re going to have a national standard for use of force by police officers, especially deadly use of force,” said Richmond in an interview with FOX 8.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP House Minority Whip from Louisiana said in a statement:

“I applaud President Trump for his leadership in taking bold action to reform law enforcement problems we have witnessed across the country. In the past few weeks, we have seen communities across America come together to demand equality, justice, and accountability from all levels of government — from local police departments, to mayors, and governors. We must work for greater accountability and justice while also recognizing the heroic work law enforcement officers do every day to keep our communities safe. My life was saved by police officers, and I got to see first-hand the best that law enforcement has to offer. The move to defund police departments across the country is a dangerous and radical idea, and would make our communities less safe. President Trump is taking decisive action to confront these problems, and it is now up to Congress to rise to the challenge and pass real, bipartisan reform on these serious issues.”

But criminologist Ashraf Esmail, Ph.D., of Dillard University in New Orleans does not think the president addressed race as it relates to policing and he said Trump’s words on chokeholds did not go far enough.

"That word discretion is always in place and so they can always fall back on that, well, I felt threatened because of this, felt threatened because of that. That doesn't really again solve our problem. We need to be much more forceful in our terminology, in terms of describing that this just will not be tolerated. Not in terms of discretion, this will not be, you know, tolerated,” said Esmail.

Richmond said the president’s executive order does not line-up with what criminal justice experts say need to happen to achieve true reform in policing across America.

"I think it's weak and it doesn't rise to the moment that's happening in this country. If you listen to the passionate voices of the people in the streets, if you listen to civil rights advocates, criminal justice experts and policing experts this executive order from the president just does not do it,” said Richmond.

And Dr. Esmail thinks all law enforcement agencies across the country, local, state, and federal should have community advisory boards.

"To discuss some of the issues that people see from the community and you have to use a wide variety of people in the community,” said Esmail.

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