Despite the long process of negotiation that went into crafting Biden’s executive order, reactions to the document have been mixed. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who previously clashed with the Biden administration over the failure of police reform legislation in Congress, took credit for some of the provisions within the Biden order, such as tracking police misconduct.
At the same time, Scott criticized other provisions of the order, claiming that Biden is “making it harder for police to do their jobs to the best of their ability.” The conservative Heritage Foundation objected to provisions of the order that gather data on police misconduct, limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to police departments and promote hiring practices that weed out officers with biases rooted in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and other aspects of identity. The GOP-friendly think tank labeled these policies “divisive and problematic” and argued that they could be used to target officers with conservative political or religious views.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for American Progress judged that the executive order “offers a starting place, but does not go far enough.” These organizations approved of the measure as far as it goes while adding that Congress needed to expand the list of police actions that can be considered civil rights violations. They also argue that Congress must end qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that protects officers from lawsuits filed because of their actions.
With the changes that the Biden executive order will put into place and the reforms that are not covered by the order, the campaign to enact meaningful and wide-ranging police reform will continue for some time. The latest action taken by the Biden administration will likely make some difference while also fueling the continuing debates and disputes over how to change policing in this country.