- Louisville’s Mayor announced that the city’s police department was “initiating termination procedures” against Brett Hankison, one of the three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
- In a pre-termination letter, Police Chief Rob Schroeder said Hankison violated standard procedures and “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “blindly” fired ten rounds into Taylor’s apartment.
- Schroeder also noted that Hankison had been disciplined last year for “reckless conduct that injured an innocent person.”
- Though not mentioned in the letter, Hankison is also the subject of a separate investigation involving multiple allegations of sexual assault.
Mayor Announces Termination
Brett Hankison, one of the three Louisville Metro Police officers involved in the shooting and killing of Breonna Taylor, is being fired, Mayor Greg Fischer said Friday.
A statement from the mayor’s office said that Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Chief Rob Schroeder had begun “initiating termination procedures” against Hankison.
“Unfortunately, due to a provision in state law that I very much would like to see changed, both the Chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to this moment, or even the timing of this decision,” the statement said.
Taylor was killed inside her apartment on March 13 after Hankison, along with Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, entered by force with a no-knock warrant and shot her at least eight times.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired at the officers whom he reportedly believed were intruders. The police fired back, killing Taylor. Walker later told investigators the officers failed to announce themselves after he and Taylor asked repeatedly who was at the door.
The no-knock warrant did not require the police to announce themselves, but the officers claimed they did so anyway before using a battering ram to open the door. Taylor’s family and multiple neighbors have disputed that claim.
The warrant in question pertained to a narcotics investigation that involved two men who police believed had used Taylor’s apartment to receive packages. Neither Taylor nor Walker had any prior drug arrests or convictions, and no drugs were found in the apartment.
Taylor’s death has led to nationwide protests and increasing calls for action to be taken against the officers who killed her. No charges have been filed, and Mattingly and Cosgrove have been placed on administrative reassignment.
Hakison’s pending termination represents the most significant action taken to date against the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
In a pre-termination letter sent to Hankison Friday, LMPD Chief Schroeder said that the officer violated standard operating procedures regarding obedience to rules and regulations.
“I have determined you violated Standard Operating Procedure […] when your actions displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when you wantonly and blindly fired ten (10) rounds into the apartment of Breonna Taylor,” he wrote.
He added that the rounds created “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and three occupants in the apartment next door.
Schroeder also said that Hankison violated standard operating procedures pertaining to the use of deadly force when he fired into Taylor’s apartment “without supporting facts that your deadly force was directed at a person against whom posed an immediate threat of danger or serious injury to yourself or others.”
“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience. I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion,” the letter continued. “I have the utmost confidence in my decision to terminate your employment for the best interest for the Louisville Metro Police Department and our community.”
Along with this, Schroeder noted that Hankison had been previously disciplined in January 2019 for “reckless conduct that injured an innocent person.”
In recent weeks, Hankison has also been accused of sexual assault by multiple women in now-viral social media posts. The allegations, which are all similar, claim that he offered to drive intoxicated women home from bars then sexually assaulted them.
Though not mentioned in Schroeder’s letter, the LMPD Integrity Unit is already investigating the allegation against Hankison, and last week, Mayor Fischer ordered that the investigation be expanded.
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.