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)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Restrictive Elections Bill Into Law
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a sweeping elections bill into law Thursday that critics say will significantly limit voting access.
- Among other measures, the bill will impose new restrictions on ballot drop boxes, add barriers to mail-in voting, and limit who can hand out materials to voters at polling locations — a provision many believe will ban the distribution of food and water.
- While Republicans claim the bill is necessary to provide election security and transparency, Democrats and voting rights advocates argue that it will suppress voters, particularly voters of color.
- DeSantis also received widespread backlash from critics and the media for taking the unprecedented step of blocking all journalists from attending the signing ceremony for the law, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.
Newest Voting Restrictions Law
Florida became the latest Republican-led state to impose new voting restrictions Thursday when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a broad elections bill into law.
The new law contains many provisions similar to the dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at restricting voting access that have been proposed and approved in the months following the 2020 election.
Among other measures, the Florida law will:
- Limit the use of drop boxes and impose new restrictions on where they can be placed.
- Add more identification requirements for requesting absentee ballots.
- Require voters to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than getting them automatically through a voting list.
- Limit who can collect and drop off ballots.
- Give more power to partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
- Expand a current rule that bans outside groups from engaging in actions that could influence voting within a 150-foot radius of a polling place, which voting rights experts say could be used to prohibit people from giving out food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.
On top of that, critics have also said the new law could result in longer lines for both early in-person and Election Day voting. Democrats and voting rights advocates have also argued that this is just a transparent attempt to suppress voters, and specifically voters of color.
Republicans, meanwhile, have claimed the new law is necessary to make elections more secure — claims that were reiterated by DeSantis during the signing ceremony.
“Me signing this bill says, ‘Florida, your vote counts,’” he said. “Your vote is going to be cast with integrity and transparency, and this is a great place for democracy.”
DeSantis Blocks Media From Bill Signing
In addition to backlash against the new law itself, many condemned DeSantis for speaking about transparency but then completely shutting the media out of the signing, which was broadcasted exclusively on Fox News.
Numerous individual reporters and outlets were blocked from accessing the event, including Jay O’Brien, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate, who tweeted that the station was supposed to film pool footage of the event to feed to affiliates nationwide.
“This isn’t a story about the press being locked out of an event,” O’Brien later added. “It’s about Floridians who had their eyes and ears in that room cut off. @GovRonDeSantis signed a law today that will impact ALL Floridians. And only some viewers were allowed to see it. That’s not normal.”
That disbelief was also echoed by other outlets, like The New York Times, which explained that “Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented.”
The Flordia law, which was immediately challenged by civil rights groups in federal court, comes just months after Georgia passed a similar, widely controverisal bill.
Meanwhile in Texas, Republican leaders are ignoring the pleas of major corporations like Dell, Microsoft, and American Airlines by moving forward with legislation that would make the state one of the toughest to vote in throughout the entire country. That proposal, which has already been passed by the state Senate, could see a full state House vote as early as next week.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CBS News)
Biden Administration To Reunite Four Migrant Families Separated Under Trump
- Four migrant families split up under former President Trump’s child separation policy will be reunited this week, Biden administration officials said Sunday.
- More than 5,500 children were separated from their parents from 2017 to 2018. Around 1,000 families remained separated when Trump left office and over half had not been contacted by the administration.
- Shortly after taking office in January, President Biden formed the Family Reunification Task Force, which has located at least 200 more parents. The families that will be reunited later this week mark the first that the task force has connected.
- While immigration advocates applauded the move, they also criticized Biden’s team for not moving faster or pouring adequate resources into reunification efforts.
Four Migrant Families To Reunite
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Sunday that four migrant parents who were separated from their children and deported alone under former President Donald Trump’s controversial family separation policy will be allowed to return to the U.S. and reunite with their kids.
The “zero tolerance” policy, one of Trump’s most notorious actions on immigration, was formally enacted in April 2018 and ended just months later in June after a federal judge forced the administration to stop.
It was later revealed that the administration had actually been regularly separating families throughout much of 2017. According to government documents, over 5,500 children were separated from their parents in 2017 and 2018.
Most of those families were later reunited, but at least 1,000 parents remained separated because a parent had been deported. More than half of those parents — an estimated 645 — still had not been contacted by the time Trump left office.
President Joe Biden has said reuniting families would be a top priority as he begins undoing the complex network of immigration policies set by Trump. This latest move marks the first families that will be reunited through the Family Reunification Task Force, which Biden created shortly after taking office in January.
So far, that task force has managed to find around 200 of the 645 remaining parents and recently reported that it’s looking into 5,600 files from the first few months of the Trump administration that may have evidence of even more separations.
Immigration Advocates Call for More
While immigration advocates and lawyers applauded the move, they also criticized the slow rate of reunification. Some also accused the Biden administration of taking credit for the reunions despite doing very little to facilitate them.
“Despite what Secretary Mayorkas would have the public believe, DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, a managing attorney for the reunification project run by immigrant advocacy organization Al Otro Lado.
“The only reason these mothers will be standing at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their airline tickets and arranged for reunification,” she added.
Many advocacy groups have also slammed the Biden administration for not doing enough to plan what happens next for these families. Some have urged them to provide permanent legal status to parents so they cannot be separated from their children again, as well as support services and potential financial compensation.
The parents arriving this week will be allowed to temporarily stay in the country under what’s called humanitarian parole, their long-term immigration status and what happens from here is largely up in the air.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (NBC News)
Matt Gaetz’s “Wingman” Reportedly Said the Congressman Paid for Sex With a Minor
- The Daily Beast reported Thursday that it had obtained a letter written by Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a close associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), where he admitted that he and the congressman paid for sex with numerous young women, including a 17-year-old girl.
- In the letter, Greenberg allegedly claimed that he and Gaetz believed the girl was 19 but ended contact in September 2017 after realizing she was a minor. Once she turned 18, he said both men re-established contact.
- The Daily Beast also obtained alleged screenshots of messages where Greenberg offered to pay Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Trump. Greenberg admitted he and Gaetz paid for sex with a minor in those messages as well.
- In a statement, Stone confirmed that he had spoken to Greenberg about a possible pardon and said he had requested Greenberg’s letter but denied receiving compensation. Gaetz, who is currently under investigation for possible violations of sex trafficking laws, denied ever paying for sex or having sex with a minor.
Alleged Greenberg Letters
Joel Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker and a central figure in the ongoing federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.), admitted that both men paid for sex with multiple young women and a 17-year-old girl, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Beast Thursday.
Greenberg was indicted last summer on 33 counts, including sex trafficking a minor. The former Florida politician is an ally of Gaetz, who is currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation that is allegedly part of a broader probe into Greenberg.
The letter in question was reportedly written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, to help him obtain a pardon from the then-president before he left office.
According to The Daily Beast, Greenberg had written multiple drafts of the letter at Stone’s request, including “two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one,” seen by the outlet. In at least one of the letters, Greenberg reportedly said both he and Gaetz had repeated interactions with a girl who was 17-years-old.
“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” he allegedly wrote of the girl.
“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”
In the drafts, Greenberg purportedly stated that “all of the girls were in college or post college,” and he claimed that he and Gaetz had believed the minor was 19 at the time of their sexual relationships with her.
He said he learned she was underage in September of 2017 and contacted Gaetz, who he reportedly wrote was “equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.” After that Greenberg said, “there was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”
However, after she was legal, Greenberg contacted her again, according to The Daily Beast, which previously reported Gaetz had sent Greenberg $900 on Venmo asking him to “hit up” the same girl five months after she turned 18.
Messages Between Greenberg and Stone
The outlet also obtained a series of private messages between Greenberg and Stone starting in late 2020 that had been sent over the encrypted app Singal. Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of conversations, which are automatically deleted after a set period of time.
“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone in one of the screenshots published in the exposé.
“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone appears to have responded in a message The Daily Beast said was sent on Jan. 13. Just weeks before, Trump pardoned Stone himself for his 2019 conviction.
The images also appear to show Greenberg describing his activities with Gaetz, who he repeatedly refers to as “MG” or “Matt.” In one exchange, Greenberg says that he has not spoken to Gaetz and implored Stone to help him reach out to the congressman.
“He absolutely has to know that the sex charge they hit me with would be what they would hit him with,” he wrote, per the screenshot.
The Daily Beast additionally detailed several other messages between the two men that it did not provide screenshots of. In one alleged interaction, the outlet claims that Greenberg said that federal law enforcement officials were pressuring him to cooperate with their investigation and that he fired his lawyers for urging him to do the same.
“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” he purportedly wrote. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage. So naturally they think that is my golden ticket.”
However, according to the outlet, Stone said several times that Gaetz refused his request to help with the matter. Greenberg did not ultimately receive the pardon, though The Daily Beast stated that White House officials confirmed his name had made it on a list of possible candidates, a detail backed up messages seen by the outlet.
“What I don’t understand is why [Gaetz] would not help me at all and actually told me not to help you which I tried to do anyway. In the end it would not have mattered,” Stone purportedly wrote after Trump had announced his final pardons.
Official Responses to Latest Allegations
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Stone confirmed that Greenberg had tried to hire him to help get a pardon, but denied that he asked for or received payment.
“I made no formal or informal effort in regard to a pardon for Mr. Greenberg,” Stone said. “I recall requesting a document explaining his prosecution The [sic] details of which I was unfamiliar with.”
“I never requested or received a penny from Mr. Greenberg,” he continued. “I recall him offering to retain me and I declined.”
Stone also acknowledged that there may be “copies of correspondence” between him and Greenberg, but he questioned whether they were in full context.
“Sounds to me like you have been presented some kind of cut and paste record,” he said, warning the outlet to “be very careful” and threatening legal action if it published “anything that is false or defamatory.”
Greenberg’s lawyer declined to comment on the story. Gaetz’s office did not respond to the request to comment, but Logan Circle Group, an outside PR firm hired by the Congressman, denied the accusations in a statement.
“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult,” the firm said. “We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either.”