- 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)
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.