Source: Yahoo! News
- President Donald Trump signed an executive order to address police reform, which among other changes, will create a national registry of officers with credible allegations of excessive use-of-force against them.
- The order encourages local departments to send in mental health professionals with armed officers to respond to non-violent crimes.
- It also bans the use of chokeholds, unless an officer’s life is threatened, a caveat that some have said lacks meaningful change.
- But critics say the order does not meet the demands of protesters, who have called for major police reform, including defunding or abolishing police departments.
Trump Executive Order
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday in response to recent and massive calls from protesters to defund the police; however, Trump’s order falls far short of their demands.
The order is shaped by several measures, including setting financial incentives for police departments to meet certain standards on the use of force. If those departments meet those standards, they’ll be given access to federal grant money.
It will create a national registry for tracking officers with credible abuses so that those officers don’t simply go from one department to the next. This will be meant to track officers with multiple instances of excessive use-of-force.
It encourages mental health professionals to be utilized by departments and sent on some nonviolent calls. That provision is largely geared toward calls relating to mental health, homelessness, and addiction. Unlike many protesters’ calls, social workers would not handle those situations on their own; rather, they would be sent along with uniformed police officers.
Trump also said that his order would specifically ban police chokeholds unless an officer’s life was in danger. That provision has been met with criticism, with people like Reverend Al Sharpton, who argued that police officers who use chokeholds already justify them by saying their lives were threatened.
In addition to Sharpton’s criticism, others have noted that Trump’s order does not address larger concerns about systemic racism and racial profiling within law enforcement. In fact, in his address prior to signing the order, Trump dismissed the idea of defunding or abolishing police.
“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments…” he said. “Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy. And without safety, there is catastrophe.”
Following that comment, Trump praised police, calling the “vast majority” of officers “selfless and courageous public servants.”
“Nobody is more opposed to the small number of bad policers—and you have them, they are very tiny—but nobody wants to get rid of them more than the overwhelming number of really good and great police officers.”
“Nobody is more opposed to the small number of bad police officers, and you have them — they are very tiny; but nobody wants to get rid of them more than the overwhelming number of really good and great police officers.” – President Trump pic.twitter.com/14OGacdLOX— BG (@TheBGates) June 16, 2020
Trump’s order is meant to serve as a precursor for more changes expected to be enacted by Congress, though it is likely Trump and Republicans will butt heads with Democrats on how drastically to enact changes.
Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said Trump’s order does not go far enough.
House Democrats have proposed a sweeping reform package that is soon expected to hit the main floor. That bill would ban police chokeholds, ease qualified immunity laws that prevent victims of police violence from suing officers and departments, create a national database of police misconduct, and require police to report data on the use of force.
Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are encouraging local departments to ban chokeholds rather than outright banning them nationally. The issue of qualified immunity will also likely be a red line in the sand for Republicans.
On Sunday, Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said that ending qualified immunity is “off the table,” adding that “any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done.”
U.S. Cities Announce Police Reforms
In a local scope, several cities across the country have already begun to enact or propose legislation that would lead to police reform. In many cases, those proposals have directly protesters’ calling for defunding or abolishing police departments.
On June 7, Minneapolis’ city council voted to dismantle the city’s police department and make a new system for public safety. Last Thursday, Louisville’s city council unanimously voted to ban “no-knock” warrants, also requiring city police to wear body cameras when serving warrants.
Monday night in Baltimore, the city council voted to slash next year’s police budget by $22 million dollars. That’s now headed to the mayor’s desk.
The New York City Council has unveiled a list of proposals that would slash $1 billion from the NYPD’s $6 billion dollar budget. Among those proposals include eliminating overtime, removing the School Safety Division from the NYPD’s purview, and reducing uniform headcount
NYPD Disbands Anti-Crime Units
Also in New York City, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced Monday that he would be disbanding the NYPD’s anti-crime units.
Those units are made up of plainclothes teams that target violent crime, but notably, they have been involved in some of the city’s most notorious police shootings.
Because of that, Shea said these plainclothes units were part of an outdated policing mode, saying they too often pitted officers against their communities. He also called them a remnant of the city’s stop-and-frisk policies, which had disproportionately affected people of color.
Shea went on to say that because the NYPD now depends more on intelligence gathering and technology to fight crime, it “can move away from brute force.”
Regarding the roughly 600 officers who serve in those units, Shea said they will be immediately reassigned to other duties such as the detective bureau and the department’s neighborhood policing initiative; however, plainclothes units that work in the city’s transit system will remain, as well as plainclothes units in other divisions of the NYPD.
Still, many said the NYPD needed to continue to go further with its changes.
“For this change to have any meaningful impact on how communities experience policing in N.Y.C., these former anti-crime officers will need to change the way they police communities of color, and nothing the commissioner said gives me any confidence that the N.Y.P.D. has a plan to make sure that happens,” Darius Charney, a staff lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said.
Others such as Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, criticized this move in general, saying:
“Anti-crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence. Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward, but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore.”
Albuquerque To Add New Safety Department
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mayor Tim Keller on Monday announced plans to create a new city department to focus on community safety.
That department is designed to be an alternative option to dispatching police or firefighters and paramedics if someone calls 911. It would be made up of social workers and other civilian professionals who would focus on situations involving violence prevention, mental health, and homelessness.
The idea of the new agency is to dispatch the right resources depending on the nature of the call. For example, police officers would be dispatched for a reported violent crime, while social workers would be dispatched to handle non-violent crimes and social needs.
The idea of having mental health professionals respond to calls like this has actually been one of the big rallying points for protesters, with many arguing that police should not be responding to those types of calls.
“It is fascinating that given all the challenges in America over the last 100 years on a number of fronts, when it comes to public safety we still just think there’s two departments—police and fire—in every city,” Keller told the Associated Press. “I think fundamentally this could be a new model for how we look at public safety response in cities across the country.”
Still, Keller’s plan has faced pushback because it’s still unknown exactly where the money is coming from to fund this new department or how much will be needed.
According to The Washington Post, city staff will review budgets for multiple departments, including the police, to find “tens of millions of dollars” to fund the new agency. In fact, the city’s already identified 10% of the city’s $300 million public safety budget, two-thirds of which goes to the police department.
However, Keller has promised that he won’t take money away from core police work or court-mandated reforms already underway.
Keller also said this new department won’t change “any of our approach with respect to addressing crime from all sides, and that also including hiring more officers. We have to do that.”
That’s why some, including a senior policy strategist with the ACLU of New Mexico, have said that this plan isn’t really a mission to defund the police.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the mayor to set up a system where it decreases the likelihood of armed police officials responding to calls, how is it going to be funded and will it have a strong mechanism of accountability?” that strategist, Barron Jones, said.
Three Major California Police Unions Propose Reforms
In California, police unions for the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose have unveiled plans for a reform agenda.
Notably, that would include finding racist police officers to “root those individuals out of the law enforcement profession.”
Their plan also calls for the creation of a national database of former police officers who were fired for gross misconduct to keep other agencies from hiring them.
Among other things, those unions are calling for ongoing and frequent training of police officers as well as the creation of a national use-of-force standard.
Within these cities themselves, San Francisco Mayor London Breed has proposed major changes to SFPD’s responsibilities, saying she wants them to stop responding to issues like disputes between neighbors, reports about homeless people, and school discipline interventions.
Breed has also directed the police department to write a policy banning the use of military-grade weapons against unarmed civilians. For example, weapons like tear gas, bayonets, and tanks.
The city has also recently banned choke holds and required officers to intervene if they see other officers engaging in excessive force.
In LA, the city council is actually expected to meet today to discuss a proposal that would slash $100 to $150 million from the LAPD’s budget for next fiscal year.
See what others are saying: (KOAT) (Axios) (The Washington Post)
Biden Calls on Congress To Extend Eviction Moratorium
The move comes just two days before the federal ban is set to expire.
Eviction Freeze Set To Expire
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday to extend the federal eviction moratorium for another month just two days before the ban was set to expire.
The request follows a Supreme Court decision last month, where the justices ruled the evictions freeze could stay in place until it expired on July 31. That decision was made after a group of landlords sued, arguing that the moratorium was illegal under the public health law the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had relied on to implement it.
While the court did not provide reasons for its ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a short concurring opinion explaining that although he thought the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he voted not to end the program because it was already set to expire in a month.
In a statement Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited the Supreme Court decision, as well as the recent surge in COVID cases, as reasons for the decision to call on Congress.
“Given the recent spread of the delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Delays in Relief Distribution
The move comes as the administration has struggled to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental relief funds approved as part of two coronavirus relief packages passed in December and March, respectively.
Nearly seven months after the first round of funding was approved, the Treasury Department has only allocated $3 billion of the reserves, and just 600,000 tenants have been helped under the program.
A total of 7.4 million households are behind on rent according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau. An estimated 3.6 million of those households could face eviction in the next two months if the moratorium expires.
The distribution problems largely stem from the fact that many states and cities tasked with allocating the fund had no infrastructure to do so, causing the aid to be held up by delays, confusion, and red tape.
Some states opened portals that were immediately overwhelmed, prompting them to close off applications, while others have faced technical glitches.
According to The Washington Post, just 36 out of more than 400 states, counties, and cities that reported data to the Treasury Department were able to spend even half of the money allotted them by the end of June. Another 49 — including New York — had not spent any funds at all.
Slim Chances in Congress
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) urged her colleagues to approve an extension for the freeze Thursday night, calling it “a moral imperative” and arguing that “families must not pay the price” for the slow distribution of aid.
However, Biden’s last-minute call for Congress to act before members leave for their August recess is all but ensured to fail.
While the House Rules Committee took up a measure Thursday night that would extend the moratorium until the end of this year, the only way it could pass in the Senate would be through a procedure called unanimous consent, which can be blocked by a single dissenting vote.
Some Senate Republicans have already rejected the idea.
“There’s no way I’m going to support this. It was a bad idea in the first place,” Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters. “Owners have the right to action. They need to have recourse for the nonpayment of rent.”
With the hands of the CDC tied and Congressional action seemingly impossible, the U.S. could be facing an unprecedented evictions crisis Saturday, even though millions of Americans who will now risk losing their homes should have already received rental assistance to avert this exact situation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)
Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.
Mississippi’s Abortion Case
Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.
After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.
If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.
As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.
When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”
But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
New Filing Takes Aim at Roe
With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.
“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.
“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers.
“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.
“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”
The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.
An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)
Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks
The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.
Pelosi Vetoes Republicans
Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.
In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”
Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden.
A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.
The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.
In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.
McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation
McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.
In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.”
“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.
“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel.
“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.