President Donald Trump signed a trio of executive actions on Wednesday directing the Department of Justice to intensify its effort to fight drug-related crime and violence against police officers.
The moves, which Trump announced after swearing in former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, include the creation of a Justice Department task force dedicated to curbing violent crime, as well as a study of new legislation that could impose tougher mandatory minimum sentences for attacks on law enforcement officers. Trump said he also ordered the Justice Department to partner with the Department of Homeland Security to "break the back of criminal cartels."
“We face the menace of rising crime and the threat of deadly terror,” Trump said. “A new era of justice begins and it begins right now.”
The actions won’t have much immediate impact but were designed to send a signal about the priorities of the new president, who pitched himself as a "law-and-order" candidate during the campaign.
The executive order establishing the anti-crime task force simply asks officials already responsible for law enforcement to look for new strategies and suggest legislation. The panel is expected to present a report within a year.
Similarly, the executive order on transnational criminal organizations asks for a study to be presented within 120 days, with annual reports thereafter on efforts to combat such groups. In the third executive order, Trump is asks for recommended legislation to bolster the safety of law enforcement personnel, including the possibility of establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for people who attack them.
The president met twice with law enforcement officials this week, bringing a group of county sheriffs to the White House on Tuesday and delivering remarks to the Major County Sheriffs’ Association and Major Cities Chiefs Association on Wednesday.
“It’s time to dismantle the gangs terrorizing our citizens, and it’s time to ensure that every young American can be raised in an environment of decency, dignity, love and support,” Trump said at the event on Wednesday. “We must protect those who protect us.”
The president has frequently proclaimed his support for law enforcement and has shown little sympathy for protests against police brutality, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. He has criticized programs begun during the Obama administration to curb the use of force by police following a series of incidents in which officers killed unarmed black men.