BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - President Trump signs an executive order Tuesday on police reform in the wake of mass protests against police brutality.
The order requires the Attorney General to create a nationwide database to track police officers with a history of misconduct. The order says it will track terminations, criminal convictions, and civil judgments against law enforcement officers for excessive force. It will also use federal grants to encourage departments to meet higher standards on use of force.
UAB Criminal Justice professor Dr. Jeff Walker says this kind of information is needed. He says academics and other groups have been complaining for years about there being no national database on police shootings. Walker says having this information will help answer questions and it could lead to more transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
"There’s a lot of questions that we don’t know. We’re pretty sure we know race issues, but we don’t know a lot the other circumstances that happen in police shootings particularly in use of force in general. For instance, it’s kind of important, was there a chase before that? What kind of resistance? Those kinds of things,” Walker said.
The president’s executive order also includes calling on police departments to involve social workers on calls dealing with mental illness, addiction, and homelessness.
"That is very much needed. It’s been tried in different places and its very successful,” Walker said. Walker cites the Memphis Police Department’s program where a social worker would ride along in the patrol car. Depending on the situation, they would help calm the person down and take them to get help rather than to jail.
"They just routinely travel with them because there are so much interaction between the police and some of these populations that need a social worker or counselor or something like that to go with the police officer,” Walker said.
Birmingham Deputy Chief Darnell Davenport says BPD needs to have the ability to access these social service programs to get people the help they need.
"I think if that occurs what you’re going to see an increased confidence in the police response. You’re going to see increased trust,” Davenport said.
Trump’s order would give incentives to police departments to involve social workers for certain nonviolent issues.