One of the orders will fulfill a key campaign promise to set up a commission on policing. It’s something that will take time to yield results, but another of Biden’s moves will have a concrete effect much sooner: He’s reinstating an Obama-era policy prohibiting the federal government from sending local police departments military equipment like grenade launchers and bayonets. Donald Trump had, of course, revoked that policy.
Biden will also require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote equitable housing policies—again, something Trump had actively moved against—and will sign orders to improve prison conditions and move to end the use of private prisons, another campaign promise. Another order will reportedly disavow racism, with particular attention paid to the treatment of Asian Americans, “particularly in light of rhetoric around the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Dismantling systemic racism isn’t something that can be accomplished through executive orders—that will require years of work at every level of the government, society, and culture. For that matter, the U.S. system of militarized policing and mass incarceration is not going to turn on a dime, and as with so many things, the president cannot do all that’s needed without Congress, but it’s a start. Biden will speak on the orders at 2 PM ET.