President Donald Trump signed three new executive orders Thursday morning that he said were focused on scaling back crime and violence against police officers.
“I’m signing three executive actions today designed to restore safety in America,” Trump said at the swearing-in ceremony of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Trump said one would “break the back of the criminal cartels that have spread across our nation and are destroying the blood of our youth,” another would create a task force to reduce violent crime and the last would instruct the Department of Justice — now under Sessions’ command — to come up with a plan to stop violence against law enforcement officers.
The text of the first order directs the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence to work on coordinating the efforts of federal agencies to catch transnational criminal organizations, in addition to making that issue a “high priority” for federal law enforcement.
The task force order calls on the Attorney General to identify issues in existing law that makes law enforcement “less effective in reducing crime and propose new legislation that could be enacted to improve public safety and reduce crime.” The group is also tasked with evaluating existing crime-related data and suggesting ways to improve it.
Trump said in remarks at a White House meeting with sheriffs earlier this week that the murder rate is the highest it has been in “45 to 47 years.” Politifact has rated that statement false, pointing out statistics show the murder rate in the U.S. is considerably lower than it was in the early 1990s.
“Specifically, the number of murders declined by 42 percent between 1993 and 2014, even as the U.S. population rose by 25 percent over the same period,” Louis Jacobson wrote. “So while homicides have recently risen — a legitimate concern, experts say — they are far below their high levels of the early 1990s, when the nation’s population was much smaller.”
The final order will create “new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers.”
There were 135 officer fatalities in 2016, up 10 percent from 123 in 2015, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. However, that number tends to highly fluctuate year to year, and has overall been trending down every decade since the 1970s. There were an average of 188 officer deaths per year in the 1970s, compared with 108 average officer deaths per year so far in the 2010s.
The majority of officer deaths in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were due to firearms, while in the 2000s and so far in the 2010s the majority were traffic-related.
Sessions reiterated Trump’s claims about rising crime in the U.S.
“We have a crime problem. I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today was some sort of aberration or blip,” Sessions said, adding that he thought it was a “dangerous permanent trend.”
Sessions also voiced support for Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, saying, “We need a lawful system of immigration. That’s not wrong, that’s not immoral, that’s not indecent.”