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)
Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”
“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.
Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry
Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.
Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.
“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”
“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.
“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”
Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas
Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.
“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”
As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.”
“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”
On the Note of Democracy
Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.
“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”
“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”
“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.”
“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Senate Passes Bill to Help Veterans Suffering From Burn Pit Exposure
For Biden, who believes his son Beau may have died from brain cancer caused by burn pits, the issue is personal.
Veterans to Get Better Healthcare
The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday to pass a bill that would widely expand healthcare resources and benefits to veterans who were exposed to burn pits while deployed overseas.
Until about 2010, the Defense Department used burn pits to dispose of trash from military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, dumping things like plastics, rubber, chemical mixtures, and medical waste into pits and burning them with jet fuel.
Numerous studies and reports have demonstrated a link between exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by the pits and health problems such as respiratory ailments and rare cancers. The DoD has estimated that nearly 3.5 million veterans may have inhaled enough smoke to suffer from related health problems.
For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs resisted calls to recognize the link between exposure and illness, arguing it had not been scientifically proven and depriving many veterans of disability benefits and medical reimbursements.
Over the past year, however, the VA relented, awarding presumptive benefit status to veterans exposed to burn pits, but it only applied to those who were diagnosed with asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis within 10 years of their service.
The latest bill would add 23 conditions to the list of what the VA covers, including hypertension. It also calls for investments in VA health care facilities, claims processing, and the VA workforce, while strengthening federal research on toxic exposure.
The bill will travel to the House of Representatives next, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to push it through quickly. Then it will arrive at the White House for final approval.
An Emotional Cause for Many
Ahead of a House vote on an earlier version of the bill in March, comedian John Stewart publically slammed Congress for taking so long to act.
“They’re all going to say the same thing. ‘We want to do it. We want to support the veterans. But we want to do it the right way. We want to be responsible,’” he said. “You know what would have been nice? If they had been responsible 20 years ago and hadn’t spent trillions of dollars on overseas adventures.”
“They could have been responsible in the seventies when they banned this kind of thing in the United States,” he continued. “You want to do it here? Let’s dig a giant fucking pit, 10 acres long, and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel. And then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s going to cause some health problems.”
For President Biden, the issue is personal. He has said he believes burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded the fact the long-awaited benefits could soon arrive for those impacted.
“The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God,” he said during a speech on Thursday.
A 2020 member survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins.
Although burn pits have largely been scaled down, the DoD has not officially banned them, and at least nine were still in operation in April 2019.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Military Times) (Politico)
Key Takeaways from the Second Jan. 6 Committee Hearing
The second hearing focused primarily on showcasing how Trump ignored top advisors who told him his election fraud claims were false and warned him against declaring victory on election night.
Advisors Told Trump His Fraud Claims Were Wrong
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection held its second public hearing Monday, during which members laid out evidence to support their case that former President Donald Trump knew his election fraud claims were false but still pushed them away.
“We will tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election and knew he lost an election and, as a result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy — an attack on the American people by trying to rob you of your voice in our democracy,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Ms.) said in his opening statement.
“And in doing so, lit the fuse that led to horrific violence on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, sent by Donald Trump to stop the transfer of power.”
Drawing from live witness testimonies and taped depositions, the committee showed how top officials and advisors close to the president repeatedly told him that his election fraud claims were false and that he had lost the race. Despite this, he declared victory on election night long before all the votes were counted, then continued his efforts to push the Big Lie and overturn his defeat even as a growing number of people provided more and more evidence to the contrary.
Some of the strongest moments of testimony were from former Attorney General Bill Barr, who at various times described Trump’s election fraud claims as “bogus and silly,” “idiotic,” “stupid,” “complete nonsense,” “crazy stuff,” and “bullshit.”
The former Justice Department leader also outlined multiple instances where he said he had told the then-president that alleged fraud the DOJ had looked into turned out to be without merit — including some examples that Trump had publicly touted.
That was also echoed by former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, who listed a number of fraud claims in detail and said he too informed Trump that there was no evidence to support them.
“I tried to, again, put this in perspective and to try to put it in very clear terms to the president,” he told the panel. “And I said something to the effect of, ‘Sir, we’ve done dozens of investigations, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed. We’ve looked in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada. We’re doing our job. Much of the info you’re getting is false.’”
Both Barr and Donoghue said that Trump seemed to have little interest in listening to the evidence.
“I was somewhat demoralized because I thought, ‘Boy, if he really believes this stuff, he has … become detached from reality,’” Barr said in one now-viral clip. “On the other hand, you know, when I went into this and would, you know, tell them how crazy some of these allegations were, there was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.”
Trump Ignored Aides Who Told Him Not to Declare Victory
The panel also played footage of top officials saying they had advised Trump against declaring victory on election night, including his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and another top campaign aide, Jason Miller.
Stepien and Miller said they had explained to Trump that votes were still being counted, including many Democrat votes that would come in later because more Democrats had cast ballots by mail. But Trump ignored them, and instead opted to listen to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who Miller told the panel was “definitely intoxicated” on the consequential night.
Even Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told the committee that he had shared his reservations about Giuliani with the president. When asked what he told Trump about his concerns over Giuliani, Kushner responded: “Basically, ‘not the approach I would take if I was you.’”
In regards to Giuliani, the committee also emphasized that there were two groups of people who surrounded Trump following the election: “Team Normal” and “Rudy’s Team.”
“Team Normal” was being led by Stepien and composed of people who tried to dissuade Trump of his fraud claims, while “Rudy’s Team” was made up of Giuliani and others who encouraged Trump to spread the Bog Lie, like lawyer Sidney Powell.
Possible Fundraising Fraud
The Jan. 6 committee has previously floated multiple laws the former president may have violated through his actions leading up to the insurrection, including obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering.
On Monday, the members appeared to outline a new possible crime: fundraising fraud.
In a video presentation that concluded the day, the representatives illustrated how Trump and his allies used the “Big Lie” as a “big rip-off” by convincing supporters to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to what they called his “Official Election Defense Fund,” which they had said would be used for the legal efforts to overturn the results of the election.
But a senior investigator for the committee said that they had found that the fund never existed. Instead, most of the $250 million in donations went to Trump’s Save America PAC. Some of it was also given to PACs run by Trump advisors and the former president’s own hotels, but very little was actually spent on legal battles.
The Jan. 6 committee does not have the power to bring criminal charges, though they can refer them to the DOJ. When asked by reporters on Monday if the committee would make any criminal referrals, Thompson replied, “No, that’s not our job. Our job is to look at the facts and circumstances around January 6, what caused it, and make recommendations after that.”
That remark, however, was later contradicted by the committee’s vice-chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.).
“The January 6th Select Committee has not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals,” she wrote on Twitter. “We will announce a decision on that at an appropriate time.”
A spokesperson for the committee also appeared to back up Cheney’s remarks in a statement to CNN.
“Right now, the committee is focused on presenting our findings to the American people in our hearings and in our report,” the spokesperson said. “Our investigation is ongoing and we will continue to gather all relevant information as we present facts, offer recommendations and, if warranted, make criminal referrals.”
The panel’s third public hearing was initially set to be held Wednesday, but a spokesperson announced that it will be postponed until an undisclosed time next week. The committee did not provide reasoning for the move, but sources have cited a scheduling conflict.
Cheney has said that the hearings in days ahead will expand to Trump’s broader efforts to plan for Jan. 6, including his plan to “corrupt” the DOJ, as well as his efforts “to pressure the vice president, state legislatures, state officials and others to overturn the election.”