- Brett Hankison, one of the three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor, has been fired.
- In a termination letter, the Louisville police chief said that Hankison violated standard procedures for obedience to rules and regulations and the use of force.
- Hankison’s removal from the force now represents the most significant action taken against the officers who shot and killed Taylor in March.
- While some cheered the move, many others took to social media to call for more measures to be taken and for all three officers to be arrested and charged.
Brett Hankison Fired
Brett Hankison, one of the three Louisville Metro Police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment on March 13, has officially been fired.
The reasons for Hankison’s termination were outlined in a letter from Police Chief Rob Schroeder that the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) shared on Twitter.
The letter is nearly identical to a pre-termination letter Schroeder sent Friday warning Hakison of his intentions to remove him from the force.
In both letters, Schroeder said that Hankison had violated standard operating procedures pertaining to 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, noting that the rounds created “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and three occupants in the apartment next door.
Schroeder went on to state that Hankison violated standard operating procedures regarding 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.”
Prior to Hankison’s firing, he had been placed on administrative reassignment along with Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, the other two LMPD officers involved in the shooting. There have been no public reports of any actions taken against Mattingly and Cosgrove.
Response and Backlash
Hakison’s firing marks the most significant measure taken to date against the officers involved in Taylor’s death, which took place more than 100 days ago and has become a central element of the nationwide protest movement.
While some have cheered Hankison’s firing, many have also said it is only one small step.
Lonita Baker, an attorney for Taylor’s family, said that they were “excited to get this news and are encouraged by it,” but added, “This is just one step though.”
“We’re waiting for the other officers to be held accountable and for additional charges to be filed but this is a step in the right direction.”
That sentiment was echoed by many others on social media, who said that all three officers should be arrested and charged, and that firing was not enough.
Some also argued that it was too little too late, noting that it took 102 days for officials to take any kind of action, and comparing that to the fact that the officers that were involved in the killing of George Floyd were fired within a few days and arrested after two weeks.
Currently, it remains unclear if other measures will be taken against Hankison or the other two officers. In late May, the FBI launched an investigation into the matter which is still ongoing.
Rules Protecting Officers
As numerous social media users mentioned, the LMPD and government officials in Louisville have received significant backlash for taking months to do anything.
One of the reasons that officials have been so slow to take any steps is due to the fact that both state law and the current police union contract prevent officers from being fired or even disciplined while they are under investigation.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has used this in the past to explain why action had not been taken against the officers that killed Taylor. Earlier this month, Fischer said that violating the rules could lead to the officers being reinstated and even being compensated for lost wages.
The resulting effect has been increased scrutiny and criticism of the union contract and, more importantly, the statewide law, which would still provide protections for officers even if the collective bargaining agreement was changed.
No steps have been taken yet, but according to reports, state Democratic Rep. Charles Booker has said he plans to file legislation to change the law that protects officers from being fired before investigations are done.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CBS News) (CNN)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.