- A&E canceled “Live PD” on Wednesday, following the ongoing George Floyd protests and controversy over the fact that it recorded, then deleted, footage of a black man’s fatal encounter with police.
- The footage shows Javier Ambler, who was reportedly tased four times during the 2019 arrest, saying “I can’t breathe” and “Save me” before dying.
- “Live PD” host Dan Abrams said footage is routinely deleted to keep the show from becoming “an arm of law enforcement,” and in this case, it was deleted after an investigation cleared officers of any wrongdoing.
- Abrams also said, in retrospect, he wishes that footage would have been preserved.
A&E Cancels “Live PD“
After pulling new episodes last week, A&E officially announced Wednesday that it had canceled the series “Live PD.” Calls for the show to end grew amid ongoing protests since the killing of George Floyd. Those calls then escalated when it was discovered that the show deleted footage of a different black man’s death while being arrested by police in 2019.
During that incident, Javier Ambler told deputies in Williamson County, Texas that he couldn’t breathe before asking them to save him. The phrase “I can’t breathe” has also been associated with Eric Garner and Floyd, as well as other unarmed black men who died after being arrested by police.
“Live PD” is the latest in a list of shows and films being re-examined since Floyd’s death. On Tuesday, Paramount canceled “Cops,” HBO temporarily removed “Gone with the Wind,” and Netflix pulled the British sketch show “Little Britain” for blackface.
Last week, A&E cut short a marathon of “Live PD” and pulled new episodes that had been set to air. At the time, the network was said to have been re-evaluating the survival of the show.
“Shocked & beyond disappointed about this,” the show’s host Dan Abrams said on Twitter following the news of its cancellation. “To the loyal #LivePDNation please know I, we, did everything we could to fight for you, and for our continuing effort at transparency in policing. I was convinced the show would go on. . More to come. . .”
In a post on his site, lawandcrime.com, Abrams explained why the footage of Ambler’s death was deleted and not handed over to law enforcement or prosecutors. This is because the show is allowed to destroy unaired footage within 30 days unless a court order or other state or federal law requires it to be retained.
Abrams, however, said they held onto the footage of Ambler’s death for three months but no authorities ever asked them to hand over the footage.
On Tuesday, A&E also made a similar statement, saying neither the network nor the show’s producers “were asked for the footage or an interview by investigators from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s office.”
After the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office concluded an internal affairs investigation into its officers—where it found no wrongdoing—”Live PD” deleted the video.
In his post, Abrams said the show deletes footage so that it doesn’t “become an arm of law enforcement attempting to use ‘Live PD’ videos to prosecute citizens seen on the footage,” Still, he admitted that he wishes those tapes had been preserved and that the show’s policy should have had an exception to such a situation.
Abrams also went on to distance “Live PD” from shows like “Cops,” saying it instead follows officers in real-time and is more than just a “crazy highlight reel.”
Because of the nature of the show, A&E has also said the incident didn’t happen while the show was filming live and that the footage wasn’t aired later, either.
Javier Ambler Dies
On March 28, 2019, a Williamson County deputy noticed that Ambler was driving with his high beams on and that he had failed to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic.
That officer then reportedly flipped on his flashing lights, but instead of pulling over, Ambler then sped across highways and onto neighborhood streets for 22 minutes as the officer chased him. According to reports, Ambler also smashed into four stationary objects before crashing a final time.
While dashcam footage of that chase hasn’t been released, local news outlets were able to obtain bodycam footage.
In it, an officer arrives several minutes after Ambler crashes his SUV. He runs up to Ambler, who is already surrounded by deputies. Another officer tells Ambler to put his hands behind his back or he will tase him again, implying that he already had at least once. According to information later released by the Williamson County’s Sheriff’s Office, he had been tased three times by this point.
From there, the video shows Ambler on the ground with police over him. All the while, he’s telling them that he has congestive heart failure. He then says, “I can’t breathe.” Ambler repeats that phrase as police grab his arms and try to handcuff him.
Deputies tell him to stop resisting. He says he’s not resisting.
“Save me!” he cries out before being tased again.
During this, the officers keep trying to force his hands behind his back. At one point, an officer says he thinks he just broke Ambler’s finger.
From there, they eventually handcuff him; however, Ambler becomes unresponsive. Deputies search for a pulse but don’t find one. They then reportedly perform CPR for four minutes.
Ambler ultimately died after being handed off to medics and doctors, who spent 50 minutes trying to save his life.
An autopsy later determined that Ambler had, in fact, died of congestive heart failure as well as hypertensive cardiovascular disease “in combination with forcible restraint.”
Report Finds No Wrongdoing From Officers
A death-in-custody report was later filed with the attorney general’s office, where Ambler’s manner of death was listed as a homicide, That report also noted that his homicide could have been “justifiable.”
Notably, that report said Ambler did not attempt to nor did he assault deputies. It also said he didn’t verbally threaten others or attempt to get control of any officers’ weapons.
Alongside this report, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department conducted its internal affairs investigation, where those officers involved were cleared of violating the agency’s pursuit or use-of-force policies.
Because of that, they haven’t faced any repercussions.
Still, for 15 months, little was publicly known about Ambler’s death. In fact, his own parents said until last week, they didn’t know anything more than that he died in police custody. It was actually reporters who told them that he had died after a chase for a minor traffic violation.
On Tuesday, after the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained the body cam footage, three of the four Williamson County commissioners called for Sheriff Robert Chody to resign.
Still, another investigation is being conducted by Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore. In a statement to the American-Statesman, she said her civil rights division plans to present the case to a grand jury.
“It is of very serious concern to any of us who are in law enforcement that the decision to engage in that chase was driven by more of a need to provide entertainment than to keep Williamson County citizens safe,” she said.
Moore has criticized the show for existing in the first place, saying it puts police in the mindset of dramatizing their interactions with people.
Moore has also accused Chody of stonewalling and refusing to provide evidence, but Chody has dismissed those accusations as “misleading” and denounced the calls for his resignation as politically motivated. Chody also said his department is ready and willing to help Moore’s office.
Invariably, part of the investigation into Ambler’s death will result in the question: Why did Ambler run if he just had his brights on?
It is possible that answer will never be learned, but according to Yale University psychology professor John Dovidio:
“[Black people] tend to see police as occupiers, as oppressors, as people who have mistreated them in the past.This is not just being paranoid; there’s enough historical evidence to make that credible.”
See what others are saying: (American-Statesman) (USA Today) (KVUE)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.