This month, President Donald Trump signed three executive orders that will intensify the criminalization of communities of color, under the false premise of the need to increase “law and order.” Leveraging public perception that crime is on the rise and the backlash against protesters, immigrants and grassroots efforts such as the Black Lives Matter movement, these executive orders ramp up policing efforts and federalize protections for police. Executive actions like these only worsen the continued criminalization of communities of color.
First, the Presidential Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal State, Tribal and Local Law Enforcement Officers focuses on increasing enforcement of existing and new laws and strategies that will punish those who commit or attempt to commit crimes of violence against law enforcement. It also states that the executive branch will develop strategies to fulfill this goal, including new legislation to define new crimes, increase penalties, and establish new mandatory minimums for existing crimes against law enforcement.
This may seem reasonable. There should be penalties for committing crimes against the police. Yet as Jonathan Blanks, a research associate at the conservative Cato Institute, stated: “Violence against police officers is taken seriously in every policing jurisdiction in America.” Blanks continued, “Keeping law enforcement officers safe is a noble goal. But there is little evidence that new and harsher federal criminal laws will do anything at all to make American police safer.”
This order addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, it neglects and worsens a problem that does. Because people of color, who — masculine-presenting black people in particular — are often profiled and misperceived as violent, increased focus and heightened anxiety about violence against police only serve to put them at even greater risk for over-policing and excessive force.