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Two years after Floyd’s murder, Biden signs executive order on police reform

The executive order creates a database for police-misconduct reports and sets new use-of-force standards for federal officers.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday coinciding with the second anniversary of the fatal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Amid widespread public unrest and the failure by Congress to pass comprehensive police reform, the order bans federal police officers from using chokeholds and carotid artery restraints unless they have been authorized to use deadly force.

Federal law enforcement agencies will now be required to follow the standard of using force "only when no reasonably effective, safe, and feasible alternative appears to exist."

Biden's new use-of-force rules also limit when federal law enforcement officers can use no-knock warrants, and they require a record to be made any time such a warrant is used.

The warrants, which allow officials to enter someone's home without notifying the resident that they are police officers, have long been controversial. Calls to ban them outright escalated, however, after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police conducting a no-knock warrant on her home back in 2020.

Earlier this year, Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a Minneapolis SWAT officer during a no-knock warrant.

Biden is seeking as well to create a national database of information on officers who have been fired for misconduct. All federal officers, as well as local law enforcement agencies that work with the federal government on joint task forces, will have to provide information about credible claims and any disciplinary actions taken against officers to the database.

The executive order additionally restores and expands restrictions first adopted by the Obama administration. On top of barring local police departments from using federal military equipment, the restrictions mandate that all federal law enforcement officers use body cameras during arrests and searches.

The new regulations do not apply to local law enforcement agencies, though Biden encouraged state and city officials to enact similar policies.

"It's a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation to address profound fear and trauma, exhaustion, particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations, and channel that private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come," Biden said.

Biden's executive order marks the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder by Derek Chauvin. The white officer kneeled on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as other police officers watched and Floyd, pinned to the pavement, pleaded for his life, repeating the phrase: "I can't breathe."

Floyd's murder and the subsequent death of Taylor ignited protests across the globe against police brutality and racism.

"We will never forget what happened that day. The eyes of the world, literally, were on what happened that day. And collectively we remain horrified by what we witnessed. We are here today in memory of George Floyd and all those we have lost, to take action," Vice President Kamala Harris said during a signing ceremony Wednesday.

In the wake of Floyd's murder, momentum grew for Congress to pass federal police reform, but legislation repeatedly failed to pass the staunchly divided Senate.

Last year, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which aimed to get rid of no-knock warrants and reform qualified immunity. That bill stalled in the Senate.

During his Wednesday speech, Biden urged Congress to pass the legislation that has been dormant for two years.

"I know progress can be slow and frustrating, and there's a concern that the reckoning on race inspired two years ago is beginning to fade," Biden said.

The president then went on to quote the late civil rights leader and former member of Congress John Lewis, noting: "Democracy is not a state, it's an act."

Biden signed the executive order in front of lawmakers and the families of Floyd, Taylor, Locke, Elijah McClain and Atatiana Jefferson, both of whom were shot and killed by police officers.

"I know events to remember your loved ones, even though they're met with reverence, are really hard. Everything's coming back as if it was happening yesterday. But in your own ways, each of you whose family has been victimized, have some of the courage to find purpose through your pain, to stir justice that's been too long dormant, to give hope while in need of hope yourself," Biden said.

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