WASHINGTON — With Congress deadlocked over how to address racism and excessive use of force, President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order on policing Wednesday, the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The decision reflects Biden’s struggle to use the limited powers of his office to advance his campaign promises, as well as his attempt to strike a balance between police and civil rights groups at a time when rising concerns about crime are eclipsing calls for reform.
The order would require federal law enforcement to review and revise policies on use of force, and it would restrict the flow of surplus military equipment to local police.
In addition, it would encourage limitations on chokeholds and no-knock warrants by attaching strings to federal funding.
The people who described the order spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of any public announcement, which is scheduled for the first day after Biden’s return from his first trip to Asia as president.
He is expected to appear alongside relatives of Floyd, whose killing by Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests.
It was the largest series of demonstrations in American history, occurring in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns and President Donald Trump’s divisive reelection campaign.
However, transforming the initial outcry into political change has proven difficult.
When four officers were convicted last year for killing Floyd, Biden urged Congress to pass legislation to reform police by the anniversary of his death.
The guilty verdict was “not enough,” he said, and “we can’t stop here.”
However, no legislation was passed, and bipartisan talks dragged on, and later broke down.
The White House eventually decided to move forward with executive actions rather than wait for Congress.
In September, the Justice Department curtailed federal agents’ use of no-knock warrants — which allow law enforcement agents to enter a home without announcing their presence — and updated its policy to prohibit agents from using chokeholds in most circumstances.
But extending such rules to local police is more challenging, and White House officials have spent months in negotiations with civil rights groups and police organizations.
The resulting set of policies is less extensive than originally sought, not to mention delayed by a year.
“We know full well that an executive order cannot address America’s policing crisis the same way Congress has the ability to, but we’ve got to do everything we can,” said a statement from NAACP President Derrick Johnson.