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Trump calls for national standard on police use of force

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A protester and police face each other during a demonstration near a private event attended by President Donald Trump, Thursday, June 11, 2020.
A protester and police face each other during a demonstration near a private event attended by President Donald Trump, Thursday, June 11, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/LM Otero
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US President Donald Trump has unveiled his first concrete proposal to address nationwide anger over brutality and racism in law enforcement, saying he will pursue a national standard on police use of force.

Speaking at a round-table discussion in Dallas, Texas on Thursday, Trump said his proposed executive order would "encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards of force" and de-escalation.

The move is Trump’s first formal response to the outcry sparked by the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.

However, the president gave few details of his plan, and accused Democrats of unfairly branding police officers as the problem. He admitted that there may be some "bad apples" but vowed to "take care of our police" and increase training and equipment.

"We have to work together to confront bigotry and prejudice wherever they appear," Trump said.

"But we'll make no progress and heal no wounds by falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racists or bigots."

He said his administration would aggressively pursue economic development in minority communities, tackle health care inequalities and improve school choice options.

Since Floyd's death, there have been growing calls for the police to change the way they treat black people in America. These calls are now starting to bear fruit.

Winds of change

Democrats in the US House of Representatives have unveiled proposals for sweeping police reform that would place stronger oversight on the police and reserve the use of deadly force only as a last resort.

Congressional Republicans say they are also open to some reforms, including a national registry of use-of-force incidents so police officers cannot transfer between departments without public awareness of their records.

Council officials in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was from, have vowed to redirect police funding from the authorities. Money could instead be spent on mental health services and community programmes.

"Our commitment is to end our city's toxic relationship with the Minneapolis police department, to end policing as we know it," said Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender.

Similar moves are also being planned in Los Angeles and New York.

"We will be moving funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services. The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said last Sunday.

US President Donald Trump has dismissed the plans, even though he doesn't control how police forces are financed – that’s up to local authorities.

"There won’t be defunding. There won’t be dismantling of our police. There’s not going to be any disbanding of our police," Trump said on Monday.

What seems certain to happen is a major re-evaluation of how officers engage with black and minority ethnic communities.

At least seven US cities have banned the use of chokeholds – the suffocating restraint method that Floyd endured.

The New York Police Department had already outlawed the practice in 1993, but now lawmakers want aggravated strangulation by the police to become a crime.

Democrats want the manoeuvre to be banned nationwide as part of their proposed Justice in Policing Act.