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Archive for September 3rd, 2020

What Can Mayors Do When the Police Stop Doing Their Jobs?

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Alec MacGillis reports in ProPublica:

Across the United States, cities are experiencing turbulence and a rise in gun violence following the protests of abusive policing sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. More than 110 people were shot in that city in the month following Floyd’s death, eight fatally. In Atlanta, 106 people were shot over a 28-day period ending July 11, up from 40 over the same period last year.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that America has seen such protests followed by a spike in violence. In the spring of 2015, the death of Freddie Gray, 25, from injuries sustained in police custody brought demonstrators into the streets of Baltimore. The protests flared into rioting and looting. Soon afterward, the city’s chief prosecutor announced criminal charges against the officers involved in the arrest. The officers’ colleagues responded by pulling back on the job, doing only the bare minimum in the following weeks. In the resulting void, crews seized new drug corners and settled old scores. Homicides surged to record levels and case-closure rates plunged. “The police stopped doing their jobs, and let people fuck up other people,” Carl Stokes, a former Democratic city councilor in Baltimore, told me last year. “Period. End of story.”

The protests of recent months, which reignited again in August following the shooting of a man by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he leaned into his vehicle, have created real momentum for efforts to reform police departments. In many cities, though, rank-and-file police officers are greeting these efforts with an apparent pullback. They say they are aggrieved by the charges against their fellow officers, public criticism of their department as a whole or growing calls to greatly reduce their powers and resources. In several cities, rising violence is already undermining support for shifting resources out of police departments, including among many Black residents and elected leaders. If reformers hope to succeed in curbing overpolicing, they will first have to overcome the challenge of underpolicing, which has often allowed officers to exercise an effective veto on reform.

Michael McGinn dealt with a police pullback when he was mayor of Seattle in 2012. And, he told me, the problem has a straightforward solution: A mayor facing a police pullback has to make it plain that officers are accountable to the elected government they serve. That starts, he said, with relatively small steps, such as demanding that officers uncover their badge numbers. And if officers refuse? “Anyone who doesn’t follow an order gets sent home. That’s what you do with someone who doesn’t follow orders in a semi-military organization. You fire them.”

In Minneapolis, where the City Council approved legislation that would put up for referendum the wholesale replacement of the Police Department, residents have reported a notable decrease in police presence. “All you see now is them with their windows up,” one told The Washington Post. In Atlanta, many officers started calling in sick in reaction to the 11 charges, including felony murder, filed against Garrett Rolfe on June 17. The former Atlanta police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, who had been found asleep in his car in a drive-thru, following a tussle with Rolfe and his partner after he failed a sobriety test. Brooks ran from Rolfe and his partner and fired a Taser that he had wrestled from the partner.

The interim police chief, Rodney Bryant, was left to plead with the officers on his force to do their job. “I implore you to channel your concerns for your fellow officers by having their back. At this moment, I implore you to remember why you became a police officer. We did not choose this line of work because it was easy,” he said. “We became officers because we wanted to help people in distress, make a difference in our communities and simply serve and protect.

Bryant’s appeal echoed the plea made to Baltimore officers in the spring of 2015 by Anthony Batts, then the city’s police commissioner, as homicides soared following Gray’s death. “I talked to them again about character and what character means,” Batts told me and other reporters. “I’m sharing with them what it is to put that holster on every day, to put that badge on every day, to put that uniform on every day: the character that it takes, the responsibility that comes with that, and our responsibility to this community and to the 9-year-old little boys who are playing in the middle of the street that get shot. (Batts was replaced as commissioner a few weeks later.)

It is too early to say whether the Atlanta and Minneapolis officers’ pullback will result in a continuing surge of violent crime. In the case of Baltimore, as a ProPublica investigation explored in detail last year, a police pullback appeared to be an instigating element that combined with other problems to create a breakdown of civil order in the city. The rise of violence there has yet to abate, five years later, and has resulted in more than 500 deaths over and above the average homicide toll of the decade prior to 2015.

Rises and falls in crime rates are notoriously hard to explain definitively. Scholars still don’t agree on the causes of a decadeslong nationwide decline in crime. Still, some academics who have studied the phenomenon in recent years see evidence that rising rates of violence in cities that have experienced high-profile incidents of police brutality are driven by police pullbacks. Many criminologists also cite the general deterioration of trust between the community and police, which leaves residents less likely to report crimes, call in tips or testify in court. Added to that are the dynamics that are now likely also driving a rise in violent crime, even in cities that have not witnessed recent high-profile deaths at police hands: the economic and social stresses of the pandemic lockdowns, including disruptions to illegal drug markets, and the usual seasonal rise in violence during summer.

Lawrence Grandpre, the research director with Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore activist organization, cautions against overstating the role of underpolicing in the rise in violence. He argues that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2020 at 12:20 pm

Russia and the US election

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Heather Cox Richardson points out storm clouds gathering over the upcoming election:

As I wade through the flood of news today, all of it trying to tilt the playing field toward Trump in the upcoming election, it strikes me there is an elephant in the room that we really need to identify: why is Trump so hell-bent on reelection? He has made it clear he doesn’t particularly like the job. He has no real goals for a second term. He feels victimized by the media and his opponents. He prefers Florida to Washington, D.C., and he really likes to golf. He claims to be wealthy enough to do whatever he wants. So why on earth is he apparently determined to bend our democracy to the point of breaking in order to win reelection to a job he doesn’t seem to want to do?

According to today’s news, Trump’s acting Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, recently buried the release of a bulletin from the Intelligence Community warning that Russians were trying to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by saying he is deteriorating mentally. The bulletin was produced for federal, state, and local law enforcement, but DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis stopped the distribution of the bulletin and referred it to Wolf. It disappeared. Congress will not be able to ask about what happened because on Saturday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced it would no longer brief Congress in person on election security.

A DHS spokesperson said the bulletin had been pulled because it had not met the agency’s standards, but analysts who produced it said they had determined with “high confidence” that the disinformation effort was taking place. Trump, of course, has tried repeatedly to establish the idea that Biden, who stutters, is slipping mentally.

Although the administration tried to bury this intelligence committee report about actual Russian interference in the election, today Attorney General William Barr told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer a fake story. He said that hostile foreign powers could send thousands of mail-in ballots to this year’s election, creating massive voter fraud. When pressed, Barr admitted there was no evidence for such a claim. The U.S. Intelligence Community has no evidence that foreign countries are trying to manipulate mail-in ballots.

Trump is also continuing his attacks on mail-in votes, insisting they will usher in voter fraud despite their widespread previous use that showed no evidence of fraud, and despite the fact that the president himself votes by mail. Today, in North Carolina, he urged people to vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, to test the validity of the election. Voting twice is illegal under federal law. Under North Carolina state law, it is also illegal to induce someone to vote twice.

On Monday, we learned that Barr has recently replaced the head of the Office of Law and Policy, a Justice Department office that oversees the FBI’s intelligence-gathering activities. Barr has removed Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, a 23-year career public servant, and replaced him with 36-year-old Kellen Dwyer, a prosecutor who made headlines two years ago when he accidentally revealed that the U.S. government had indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The timing of this replacement, just before the election, might reflect Barr’s planned release of a report of his own on the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr has dispatched his own investigator to counter the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Senate established that the investigation was legitimate, and that Russia did, in fact, intervene in the 2016 election to bolster Trump.

Remember, that while world leaders are condemning Russia for the recent poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Trump has still not commented on it. Neither has he addressed the story that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. and allied soldiers in Afghanistan, nor the growing Russian aggression toward U.S. troops in Syria.

There is yet another possible attempt to skew the election on the horizon. Led by Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal health officials have told states to get ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by November. Vaccine-makers say this timing is impossible, and that they will not know by then if their vaccines, which are currently in development, are safe and effective. The chief of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Stephen Hahn, insists that the agency won’t approve a vaccine simply to help Trump get reelected, but the FDA’s recent authorization of emergency use of convalescent plasma despite concerns about its effectiveness has worried public health experts. In any case, Redfield’s letter suggests the CDC might authorize a vaccine itself through its emergency powers.

Trump is also pushing hard on . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2020 at 8:32 am

Strong ‘n Scottish — and strong it is

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I like this shaving soap a lot, and its fragrance is the polar opposite of anodyne. My Simpson Emperor 2 generated a lovely lather, the Yaqi DOC did its usual superb job, and a splash of Irisch Moos finished the shave. Once again my day begins with a pleasant experience, contributing to my optimistic outlook — although: see next post.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2020 at 8:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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