“The White House did significant outreach with us and tried to listen to our concerns,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a bipartisan think tank that focuses on police practices. “This final executive order is substantively different from the original version, and that’s made a big difference to many of us in law enforcement.”
Mr. Biden has repeatedly emphasized a message of investing in, rather than defunding, the police — wading into a national debate about whether the government should give police departments more resources or spend the money on mental health care and other social services instead.
One of the changes reflected in the executive order, according to the people familiar with the final version, centered on what it would say about standards for using force.
The administration has taken out language that would have allowed federal law enforcement agents to use deadly force only “as a last resort when there is no reasonable alternative, in other words only when necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death.” The earlier version would also have encouraged state and local police to adopt the same standard using federal discretionary grants.
Law enforcement officials complained that the standard would allow second-guessing in hindsight of decisions by officers in exigent circumstances. The final order instead refers to a Justice Department policy issued this week that says officers may shoot suspects when they have “a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”
Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he thought new use-of-force language would “bring more clarity and better guidance to officers” but without causing them to become so risk-averse that they fail to protect themselves and others when necessary.
“It’s not a question of stricter or less strict,” Mr. Pasco said. “It’s a question of better framed. And a better-constructed definition of the use of force.”