President Donald Trump vowed to end the war on police in the past presidential election, but recent events, dominated by the killing of George Floyd and the resulting mass protests across the U.S., now have him considering reforms allowing policing to be done "in a much more gentle fashion."
"We're going to work and we're going to talk about ideas, how we can do it better and how we can do it, if possible, in a much more gentle fashion," Trump said during a roundtable with law enforcement officials Monday.
"A thing like what happened should never have happened, and plenty of things shouldn't have happened."
But Trump vowed his administration will not disband the "finest law enforcement anywhere in the world; there's nothing like it."
"But we won't be defunding our police," he said. "I guess you might have some cities who want to try."
Trump saluted a banner year in 2020 for reductions in crime, but he said the rooting out of "bad actors" among law enforcement is a priority.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner weighed in on the Trump administration's work on criminal justice reform, adding reforms are an ongoing process in the wake of George Floyd's killing while in the custody of Minneapolis police. Now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other cops have been charged in the killing of the unarmed black man on Memorial Day.
"We've really in the last 3 1/2 years had the opportunity to grow very close with law enforcement," Kushner told the roundtable. "We've worked very closely together to bring forward to this country criminal justice reform. The law enforcement community heard the cries from the communities who saw the injustices in the system that needed to be fixed, and they responded by coming together to fix it."
Attorney General William Barr spoke of the administration's work to reform law enforcement and a renewed emphasis on setting standards and establishing greater "clarity" on the use of force.
"I know there's a lot of interest among police leaders for clarity and guidance on the use of force," Barr told the roundtable, adding "making sure the standards are out there, making sure they are trained, and making sure they are adhered to.
"The time for waiting is over," Barr continued. "It's now incumbent on us to bring good out of bad, and we can do it, and the commitment is there in law enforcement to do it, so let's get it done."
Barr closed with a reference to the phrase "from law and order everything else comes," which he said "is the foundation of civilization."
"It's our responsibility to make sure our country to ruled by law and not by violence," Barr concluded.
Trump finished with a rebuke of newspapers seeking to "end the police department in Minneapolis." Council members there say that's their plan, calling for a revamp of the force from the ground up.
"I insisted in bringing in the National Guard, and all of a sudden, it was like magic – it was in good shape," Trump said. "We insisted on having protection on that great city and that great state."
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