Tag Archives: officers

Minneapolis struggles to change policing as officer’s trial set to begin

A police officer’s trial in the death of George Floyd is about to pull a spotlight back to the place that launched conversations around the world about policing and racial equity: Minneapolis.

Opening arguments Monday in the murder and manslaughter trial of officer Derek Chauvin will return this city to the news and prompt scrutiny over whether policing has actually changed since last year.

Justice-reform advocate Billie Jean Van Knight was blunt in her assessment of how far Minneapolis has gotten in terms of changing policing in her city.

“Nowhere,” says the activist with the Racial Justice Network. “Unfortunately, we have not changed. We’ve actually stepped back a little bit.” 

A headline-grabbing vow last year from city officials to disband the Minneapolis police department has quietly dissolved. Talk of defunding the police has been replaced by the funding to hire new officers, amid a flood of personnel departures, with a surge in violent crime unfolding in the backdrop.

At the federal level, reform efforts have lost steam. Yet, despite all this, several activists say they remain hopeful, including Van Knight, as numerous reform initiatives persist in cities across the country — including in Minneapolis where there’s talk of a referendum this fall on reorganizing the role of police.

Knight likened the current situation in Minneapolis to the cleaning of a messy room: Sometimes, she says, the mess gets worse before it gets better.

Members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, seen here marching with relatives of those killed by the police carrying cardboard coffins at a protest last fall, say they provide security and act as a liaison between police and a skeptical community. (Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s certainly been a messy year.

How crime surge led to ‘re-fund’ the police

In the tumultuous aftermath of Floyd’s death, a majority of the local city council supported defunding and dismantling the police force. 

That’s not what happened. Instead what happened was a city budget cut of $ 8 million, followed by a $ 6.4 million boost in funding to recruit more police officers. 

The rush to recruit was prompted by an exodus of officers — nearly one-quarter of the force is gone, after veterans retired or took leave.

In the meantime, homicides were up more than one-third in major U.S. cities last year, according to analysis from the Council on Criminal Justice, a non-partisan criminal justice think-tank, and criminologists have attributed that to twin factors: the pandemic and a breakdown in communication between communities and police.

When asked where police-reform efforts have gotten since last year, activist Billie Jean Van Knight says: “Nowhere.” Yet, like several others interviewed here, she’s optimistic change is coming. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

That mistrust was underscored in Minneapolis just a few days ago. A crowd gathered around police during a carjacking arrest, and an officer was recorded punching a teenager at the scene, which prompted the department to launch an investigation.

Minneapolis has still taken some steps in changing. 

Chokeholds were banned. An African-American officer who once sued the department for racial discrimination became the new police chief. A police union boss who was vocally antagonistic toward past reforms retired early.

And even if municipal leaders now dodge talk about defunding, they’re still talking about wide-ranging structural change.

Reforms still happening

An example of one such effort is a possible referendum in this November’s municipal election where residents might be asked to reorder the city charter.

The police would be stripped of its departmental status and be placed under a new public safety department; police would be recognized as just one component of public safety, alongside mobile units of mental-health professionals.

Philippe Cunningham, a 33-year-old city councillor, says reimagining public safety was always going to be hard work and that city officials never expected it would be simple.

A Minneapolis Police officer seen at a crime scene last year. A flood of officers left the force last year, amid heavy scrutiny and civil unrest. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“If we had the easy answers, it would have already been done now,” Cunningham said. “What we fundamentally need is a new system of public safety that doesn’t 100 per cent rely on an armed police officer to show up to every need people have.”

But one longtime former councillor and public-safety official says he was flabbergasted that elected officials initially embraced talk last year of defunding the police.

Don Samuels called it irresponsible and naive.

Despite being a well-known figure in the Black community, and living in a Black neighbourhood, Samuels said he didn’t hear anything in the way of consultation — and when he first heard about it on TV, he couldn’t believe his ears.

‘We looked at each other aghast’

“My wife and I sat on our sofa and watched CNN and saw them announce the defunding of the police,” said Samuels, who now runs an organization that provides small loans to low-income people. 

“We looked at each other with our mouths open, aghast.”

Former city councillor Don Samuels says the pledge to defund the police was hastily made and made his neighbourhood more dangerous. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels said public officials should have considered how their words might be interpreted by criminals and the effect that might have in communities.

Just a few days ago, he said, he heard six separate bursts of gunfire over the course of about nine hours; 20 rounds popping one time, 10 pops another, with bullet holes left in houses and cars around his place.

A few months ago, someone was shot about eight houses up from his home in North Minneapolis, and another person was shot just around the corner.  

“We knew that as a result of this the [criminals] around here would become so emboldened,” Samuels said.

“They [already] feel like this is their territory, wearing a red bandana or a blue bandana, to suggest one gang or another. And it’s like, ‘We own this street.’

“So now you’re telling them, ‘Actually, now, we’re going to remove the only restraint on your behaviour’ — which is the police.”

An IT worker by day, Charles, who would not give his last name, carries licensed weapons for what he says is an effort to ensure community safety on behalf of the group Minnesota Freedom Fighters. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

Samuels chalks it down, in part, to youthful naivete from idealistic young members of council; he agrees, however, that police reform is desperately needed. 

He said what’s also needed is broader societal change, including to an education system he calls riddled with racism. 

Nationwide, schools in richer areas tend to receive more funding through property taxes. Those schools, and those areas, tend to be whiter. In Minneapolis, both the city and the schools are highly segregated by race.

Few expect imminent solutions from the national level.

Change happening locally

Reform efforts in Washington appear stalled in the way so many other issues have faltered there: with partisan gridlock. 

Democrats stalled a Republican police-reform bill they called insufficient last year, and Republicans aren’t backing Democrats’ proposals, such as officer immunity from lawsuits, which leaves little hope of major reform getting the 60 per cent required for a vote in the Senate.

WATCH | Changes to policing in Minneapolis have been slow:

In the 10 months since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the city struggles to change policing and some have little hope Derek Chauvin’s murder trial will change much. 2:30

One advocate for dramatic change said he isn’t looking to Washington. But he’s visiting multiple cities a month, and excited about many ideas he’s heard from local officials.

“That’s where my focus is — [the local level],” says Alex Vitale, a professor at Brooklyn College and author of The End Of Policing

A number of jurisdictions are studying new models of public safety, and potentially shifting responsibilities from police — that’s the sweeping approach Vitale favours. 

Others are studying narrower reforms to policing, like better training — which Vitale calls insufficient, based on past studies, and a “PR stunt.”

Chauvin, in a courtroom sketch, is seen being introduced to potential jurors during jury selection earlier this month. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Already, Austin, Texas, has reallocated some funds from the police budget to support housing for homeless people. 

Denver now has non-police officers dealing with mental-health crises. Los Angeles is shifting funding to social services and jail-diversion programs. Oakland is dissolving a policing unit that works in schools.

“There have been some small but significant changes to the scope of policing,” Vitale said in an interview. 

As for Minneapolis, he says: “I think it’s going to have some radical changes. It just takes time.” 

First, there’s the Chauvin trial. 

The case is fraying nerves locally about the verdict, how people will react, and how it might affect reform.

Armed group ready to defend neighbourhoods

One armed group of mostly Black volunteers with legal firearms permits is on alert, ready to patrol areas struck by vandals last year.

A man who works in information technology and volunteers with the group — the Minnesota Freedom Fighters — says he’s ready with his Glock 34 handgun and a Glock 19 with an extra magazine.

Charles, who declined to have his last name published, said people don’t trust the police and his group acts as a go-between, responding to calls, communicating with law enforcement, and patrolling at risk-areas to deter property destruction.

A number of businesses remain boarded up from last year, even if they’re operating inside. 

Toussaint Morrison, an actor and community activist in Minneapolis, says anxiety and tension are building in advance of the trial. (Steven D’Souza/CBC News)

As he walked with CBC News down West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis, Charles expressed his fear: “They might go after this corridor again.” 

One community activist, Toussaint Morrison, said the upcoming case feels like a trial about racial attitudes and American society as a whole, and not just about one officer.

“There’s just an anxiety and a tension that’s been brewing,” Morrison said.

So this community is acutely aware that the world is watching it again. And that others will draw inferences from what happens, not just inside the courtroom.

“We know that we are the centre of attention right now,” Van Knight said.

“And if we don’t get these things done, how are we going to expect other people to to get these things done?”

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British police officer’s arrest for missing woman Sarah Everard’s death stuns public, politicians

Britain’s most senior police officer has sought to reassure women it is safe to walk the streets of London at night after one of her officers was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering a 33-year-old woman.

Sarah Everard’s disappearance and the announcement that human remains had been found prompted women to flood social media with posts about the steps they take to keep safe when out alone at night, including clutching keys to use as a weapon and wearing running shoes in case they need to escape.

Others detailed a catalogue of incidents of harassment by men in public over the decades since they were schoolgirls.
“These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said. “Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.”

Everard was last seen at 9:30 p.m. on March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London. Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that evening, has been splashed across British newspapers all week.

‘Women aren’t safe on our streets’

An officer, a man in his 40s whose job it was to guard diplomatic buildings, has been arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnap and indecent exposure, while a woman in her 30s was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender.

“The disappearance of Sarah and the absolute tragedy around that has really touched a nerve with a lot of women,” said Anna Birley, 31, one of the organizers of a planned Reclaim These Streets vigil to honour Everard and demand change.

“We feel really angry that it’s an expectation put on women that we need to change our behaviour to stay safe. The problem isn’t women, the problem is that women aren’t safe on our streets,” said Birley.

A forensic officer leaves a house in Deal, U.K., in connection with the Everard investigation on Wednesday. (Steve Parsons/PA/The Associated Press)

The London police force has said the officer, who works for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, had not been on duty the night Everard disappeared. Multiple reports from British news outlets indicate his most recent shift before that was at the U.S. embassy.

Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, said she and her colleagues were “utterly appalled” at news a serving officer had been arrested, saying it had sent waves of “shock and anger” through the public and the police.

“I know Londoners will want to know that it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets,” she said.

“But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public, particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing, will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

Reaction from a Labour MP:

Police continued to question the officer on Thursday. A woman in her 30s, who media reported was the officer’s wife, was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender, but has since been released on bail.

England’s police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said it had launched an investigation into the London police force’s handling of the case.

The officer who was arrested was reported to police on Feb. 28 over allegations of indecent exposure in a south London fast food restaurant, several days before Everard disappeared.

Although the remains have not yet been formally identified, Everard’s family released a statement, saying their “beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.”

“Sarah was bright and beautiful — a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable,” the family said.

Vigil planned for Saturday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was shocked and deeply saddened by the developments.

“The message that needs to be sent is that male violence is something that has to be tackled and challenged and the justice system and society has to wake up to that,” said Jess Phillips, the opposition Labour Party’s spokesperson on domestic violence.

“At the moment we just simply don’t take it seriously as we take other crimes.”

Phillips on Thursday read out in the chamber of the House of Commons the names of 118 women killed in the United Kingdom last year in cases in which a man has been charged or convicted. It took her more than four minutes to read the list.

The hashtags #saraheverard and #TooManyMen trended online as women relayed their experiences, prompting men to ask what they should do differently, such as not walking closely behind a woman on her own.

Some pointed out online the concerning drop in prosecutions of sexual assault, though it’s not clear if it is specifically applicable to the Everard case.

Only 1.5 per cent of 57,516 rape cases recorded in England and Wales led to a charge in the year up to September 2020, official data showed last month, with 42 per cent of cases failing due to evidential difficulties, such as victims not supporting further action.

Rape prosecutions hit a record low of 2,102 in 2019-2020, down about 30 per cent year on year, while convictions fell by 25 per cent to 1,439, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Amid warnings the system is failing survivors, the CPS has set out a five-year blueprint to ensure sex offenders are brought to justice, including improving communications with victims and working with police to strengthen cases.

The Reclaim The Streets vigil is set to be held Saturday night at Clapham Common, near the place where Everard was
last seen.

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Charges dropped against Buffalo, N.Y., officers seen on video shoving elderly activist to the ground

Criminal charges have been dropped against two police officers seen on video last spring shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground in Buffalo, N.Y., prosecutors said Thursday.

A grand jury declined to indict Buffalo Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski on felony assault charges, ending the matter, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said.

Messages seeking comment were left with lawyers representing the officers. A message was also left for the man who was pushed to the ground, longtime activist Martin Gugino.

John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told The Buffalo News: “Obviously, we are ecstatic with their decision. These officers have been put through hell and I look forward to seeing them back on the job.”

Flynn, echoing earlier statements, said he didn’t necessarily feel that altercation rose to the level of a felony but that state law required prosecutors to bring such a charge when a victim is at least 65 and the suspected perpetrators are at least 10 years younger.

WATCH | Video of the June 2020 incident in Buffalo, N.Y.:

The man was at a protest that was nearing its end when he was pushed by police and hit his head on the sidewalk. Two police officers have been suspended.   0:35

‘This was not the J.F.K. assassination’

Addressing criticism that he slow-played or “sandbagged” the case, Flynn said prosecutors made a thorough presentation to the grand jury but, citing secrecy rules, said he couldn’t discuss what witnesses were called or what evidence was presented. The grand jury heard the case on a delayed basis because of coronavirus-related court closures, he said.

Flynn said throughout the investigation, video of the shove remained the primary evidence.

“This was not the J.F.K. assassination,” Flynn said. “This was not that complex of a case. The video that was taken speaks for itself.”

A news crew covering protests in downtown Buffalo last June over the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd captured video of the officers shoving longtime activist Martin Gugino to the ground in front of city hall as they cleared demonstrators from the area for an 8 p.m. curfew.

Gugino, pushed backward, started bleeding after hitting his head on the pavement and spent about a month in the hospital with a fractured skull and brain injury.

McCabe and Torgalski were suspended without pay and subsequently arrested. They pleaded not guilty and were released without bail pending further developments in the case.

Flynn said at a news conference Thursday that national attention on the case had no influence on his decision to charge the officers right away.

“All I need is probable cause for an arrest,” Flynn said. “When I go to trial, though, I need beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point right now, it’s 50/50 in my mind as to whether or not it was intentional or reckless. If it’s 50/50, that’s not beyond a reasonable doubt. That analysis factors into my mind, but I can’t articulate to you what was going on in [grand jurors’] minds.”

In the wake of the officers’ suspensions, nearly 60 other members of the department’s crowd control unit said they would no longer serve on the unit, effectively shutting it down.

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Rochester, N.Y., mayor orders police officers’ suspensions amid investigation into pepper-spraying of child

The mayor of Rochester, N.Y., ordered the city’s police chief to immediately suspend officers who were involved in Friday’s pepper-spraying of a child, the city announced on Monday.

Body-camera video footage showed officers handcuffing and pepper-spraying a nine-year-old girl.

The city didn’t say how many officers were ordered to be suspended, but said in a series of tweets the suspensions will continue at least until the police investigation is concluded.

“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged all of our community,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was quoted as saying in one of the tweets. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action.”

Officers were responding to a 911 call about family trouble, police said. Video taken during the incident showed police wrestling the girl to the ground in the snow.

WARNING | This video contains graphic content:

Body camera footage released by the police shows them interacting with a nine-year-old in distress after responding to a call for ‘family trouble.’ 4:19

“You’re acting like a child,” an officer in the video tells her.

“I am a child,” she says, as she screams and cries for her father.

The girl’s identity was not released and the video was blurred to provide anonymity. A representative for the child’s family could not be immediately identified. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Monday her office was “looking into” what happened. She called the incident “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

The investigation comes months after Rochester was rocked by protests in the wake of the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died last year after officers from the department put a hood over his head and pressed his face into the pavement.

An inquiry concluded that seven officers involved in the death of Prude, 41, acted within department policy and ethical standards.

In Friday’s incident, police were responding to a 911 call reporting “family trouble,” Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson told reporters. He said the girl “indicated she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom.”

After the girl tried to run away, officers handcuffed her and attempted to take her to a hospital in the patrol car, Anderson said.

Screaming “I want my dad!” she resisted their efforts to get her into the patrol car, the video showed.

‘This is your last chance’ 

“This is your last chance. Otherwise pepper spray is going into your eyeballs,” an officer tells her. “I will call your dad.”

Eventually, another officer says, “Just spray her at this point.”

The girl screams. She pleads, “Wipe my eyes, please!”

“Unbelievable,” the officer says.

After Prude’s death, Warren fired the police chief, La’Ron Singletary, and named Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan as the first woman to run the department.

Video footage, released by Prude’s family, showed officers using a mesh hood and pinning him to the pavement, in a scene reminiscent of George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody that sparked worldwide anti-racism protests.

‘No conceivable justification’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the officers’ actions in a statement issued Monday.

“As a human, this incident is disturbing and as a father, it’s heartbreaking — this isn’t how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl,” the statement said.

“Rochester needs to reckon with a real police accountability problem, and this alarming incident demands a full investigation that sends a message this behavior won’t be tolerated,” he added.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said Rochester police should no longer be involved in mental health crises.

“There is no conceivable justification for the Rochester police to subject a nine-year-old to pepper spray, period,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said Monday.

Also Monday, two Democratic state lawmakers from Rochester, Sen. Samra Brouk and Assemblyman Demond Meeks, announced legislation to prohibit use of chemical agents against minors by police officers.

“To see such horrific footage of the mistreatment of a little girl, no less, was simply unreal. We have to remember who we’re talking about here,” Brouk said during a video news conference. “This is a child. She’s in elementary school.”

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Louisville officers connected to Breonna Taylor’s death could be fired

Louisville, Ky., police have taken steps that could result in the firing of two officers connected to Breonna Taylor’s death — one who sought the no-knock search warrant that led detectives to her apartment and another found to have opened fire.

Det. Joshua Jaynes received a pre-termination letter, media outlets reported Tuesday. It came after a professional standards unit investigation found he had violated department procedures for preparation of a search warrant and truthfulness, his lawyer said.

Det. Myles Cosgrove also received a pre-termination letter, media outlets later reported, citing his lawyer, Jarrod Beck. Kentucky’s attorney general has said it was Cosgrove who appeared to have fired the fatal shot at Taylor, according to ballistics tests.

The shooting death of the 26-year-old Black woman in her home sparked months of protests in Louisville alongside national protests over racial injustice and police misconduct.

Jaynes has a hearing with interim police chief Yvette Gentry and her staff on Thursday.

“Detective Jaynes and I will show up for the pre-termination hearing to try to convince acting chief Gentry that this action is unwarranted,” lawyer Thomas Clay told the Courier Journal. “Jaynes did nothing wrong.”

Protesters in Denver march against racial injustice and for Black women on Sept. 26 following the grand jury decision in Louisville’s Breonna Taylor case. (Kevin Mohatt/Reuters)

Jaynes was not present during the shooting at Taylor’s apartment in Louisville. About 12 hours earlier, he secured a warrant with a “no-knock” clause from a judge.

In Jaynes’s pre-termination letter, Gentry said, the officer committed “extreme violations of our policies, which endangered others.”

“Your actions have brought discredit upon yourself and the department,” she wrote. “Your conduct has severely damaged the image our department has established within our community.”

Officers were serving a narcotics warrant on March 13 when they shot Taylor, but no drugs or cash were found in her home. Taylor was an emergency medical worker who had settled in for the night when police busted through her door.

Former officer Brett Hankison was charged by a grand jury with wanton endangerment, a low-level felony, for firing into an adjacent apartment where people were present.

The two officers who shot Taylor, according to ballistics evidence, were not charged by the grand jury. One of those officers was shot by Taylor’s boyfriend during the raid and returned fire. Taylor’s boyfriend said he thought an intruder was breaking into her apartment.

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Clashes in Paris as thousands protest bill that would outlaw filming police officers


Tens of thousands of critics of a proposed security law that would restrict the filming of police officers protested across France on Saturday.

Violence erupted nearby as small groups of protesters clashed with riot police

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Family does not want officers who shot Black man in Philadelphia charged with murder: lawyer

The footage from body-worn cameras that was taken as Philadelphia police responded to a call about Walter Wallace Jr. shows him emerging from a house with a knife as relatives shout at officers about his mental health condition, a lawyer for the man’s family said Thursday.

The video also shows Wallace became incapacitated after the first shot of 14 that two officers fired at him, said lawyer Shaka Johnson, describing footage he said police showed him and other members of Wallace’s family before a plan to release it and 911 calls publicly.

“I understand he had a knife, but that does not give you carte blanche to execute a man, quite frankly,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference outside Philadelphia City Hall. “What other than death did you intend when you shoot a man — each officer — seven times apiece?”

The family does not want the officers, who have not yet been publicly identified, to be charged with murder, Johnson said, because they were improperly trained and didn’t have the right equipment to do their job.

The video shows “instant panic” from officers whose training taught them only how to open fire, he said, noting he saw no viable attempt from officers to de-escalate the situation.

“What you will not see is a man with a knife lunging at anyone that would qualify as a reason to assassinate him,” Johnson said.

People stand near the scene of the shooting. A lawyer for the Wallace family says they do not want the officers who opened fire charged with murder. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via The Associated Press)

Police also faced rebuke from Philadelphia leaders as the anguished city bemoaned the department’s response to a year of extraordinary, and sometimes violent, civil unrest.

The city council, joining leaders of other cities, voted to block police from using tear gas, rubber bullets or pepper spray on peaceful protesters after hearing hours of testimony from people injured or traumatized by them, including a group hit with tear gas as they were corralled near a highway overpass.

“It was undisciplined, it was indiscriminate and it hurt a lot of people,” said Council Member Helen Gym, who introduced the bill.

The moves follow days of protests, store break-ins and ATM thefts after the death of Wallace, a Black man, that led the mayor to lock down the city Wednesday night with an overnight curfew.

A person is handcuffed and detained by police on Wednesday in Philadelphia, after the citywide curfew had passed, two days after Wallace was killed. (Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via The Associated Press)

The family had called Monday for both medical services and police, but only the latter arrived, lawyer Shaka Johnson said. Less than 30 seconds into the encounter, Wallace was dead, felled by a blast of 14 bullets, he said.

Police have said the two officers fired after Wallace ignored orders to drop a knife. Wallace’s mother and wife were outside, shouting to police about his mental health problems, Johnson said.

In a news conference Wednesday, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw lamented the lack of a behavioural health unit in a department she joined only this year.

She pledged to address that need and also told the council that she supports the goal of their bill, which she said aligns with current police policy. Mayor Jim Kenney also supports the ban in principle but wants to review it before signing it into law, a spokesman said.

Cities review use of force against protesters

The city had a strong record of accommodating protesters in recent years, until the Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the city on May 30, following the death of George Floyd. Chaos and violent clashes ensued, and broke out anew this week after Wallace’s death in a mostly Black section of west Philadelphia.

“The unjustified shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. this week has our city both raging and grieving, but also extraordinarily purposeful about taking action,” Gym said.

Several other cities across the U.S. have debated or enacted similar measures to limit the use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets against protesters.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney William McSwain, who was appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump, announced charges Thursday against a Philadelphia social studies teacher and three others for their alleged roles in the torching of two police cruisers during the May 30 protests.

According to McSwain, 29-year-old teacher Anthony Smith and two others put “combustible materials” into a cruiser near City Hall that was already on fire. Another man was charged separately with setting fire to a second cruiser. Smith helped organize the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial and Economic Legal Justice, known locally as Philly for REAL Justice.

Smith’s lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, noted the arrest came five months after the incident and five days before “the most important presidential election of our time.”

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Oregon officials angered as uninvited federal officers deploy in Portland to quell protests

Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters in Oregon, hours after the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security visited Portland and called the demonstrators “violent anarchists.”

Video showed many protesters leaving the area near the federal courthouse late Thursday as smoke filled the air. Protests have taken place for nearly two months in Portland, since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

During a visit to Portland earlier Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said state and city authorities are to blame for not putting an end to the protests, angering local officials.

“The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city,” Wolf said in a statement. “Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

Mayor Ted Wheeler and other local officials have said they didn’t ask for help from federal law enforcement and have asked them to leave.

Van report draws ire

Further questions have been raised after an Oregon Public Broadcasting report on Thursday detailed accounts of witnesses who have seen camouflaged officers emerged from unmarked white vans to swoop on individuals and apprehend them before driving off.

“Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, said in a tweet in response to the OPB report.

The American Civil Liberties Union also expressed its condemnation of the actions described in the report.

Homeland Security acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Friday morning on Fox & Friends that the federal government has a responsibility to protect buildings such as the courthouse.

“What we’ve seen around the country is where responsible policing is advanced, violence recedes,” Cuccinelli said. “And Portland hasn’t gotten that memo. Nor have a lot of other cities. And the president is determined to do what we can, within our jurisdiction, to help restore peace to these beleaguered cities.”

On Thursday night, a few hundred people had gathered near the federal courthouse, news outlets reported. Police told protesters to leave after announcing they heard some chanting about burning down the building, according to The Oregonian.

In this Friday, July 10, 2020, file photo, U.S. federal officers take a protester into the Federal Courthouse as demonstrators gather in downtown Portland, Ore. The increased presence of federal officers has displeased the city’s mayor and the state governor. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

A short time later, federal officers deployed tear gas to break up the crowd. Some protesters remained in the area early Friday and were detained, but it was unclear whether any arrests were made, the newspaper reported.

“This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tweeted. “The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”

Protester hospitalized last week

Tensions were exacerbated after a protester was hit in the head by a less-lethal weapon fired by a federal law enforcement officer on July 11. Less-lethal weapons can fire rubber or plastic bullets.

Bystander videos show Dustin LaBella, 26, collapsing to the ground unconscious and bleeding profusely from the head after being hit.

LaBella’s mother, Desiree LaBella, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that her son suffered facial and skull fractures.

U.S. President Donald Trump said two days after the incident that “Portland was totally out of control” and that federal officers “very much quelled it.”

“They went in and I guess they have many people right now in jail. We very much quelled it. If it starts again, we’ll quell it again, very easily. It’s not hard to do if you know what you’re doing,” he said at a roundtable on law enforcement.

The federal response has greatly concerned Oregon’s representatives in Washington, D.C. Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democratic senators, as well as Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer of the House of Representatives, have written U.S. Attorney General William Barr to demand answers into how the federal officers were deployed and the scope of their activities.

“A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump’s secret police,” Wyden tweeted on Thursday. “Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.”

Protesters are shown removing fencing downtown during a demonstration Thursday in Portland, Ore. Federal officers deployed tear gas and fired less-lethal rounds into a crowd of protesters late Thursday. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian via AP)

Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Monday that police communicate with federal officers mostly to avoid any unintentional confusion.

Last week, Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said an “agitator corps” of violent protesters were responsible for vandalism and chaos in the city. Davis made a distinction between Black Lives Matter protesters, whom he said were nonviolent, and a smaller group of people he repeatedly called “agitators.”

The U.S. Marshals Service is investigating the LaBella shooting.

The investigation into the shooting will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy J. Williams said earlier this week.

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George Floyd’s family sues City of Minneapolis, officers charged in his killing

George Floyd’s family filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the City of Minneapolis and the four police officers charged in his death, alleging the officers violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him and that the city allowed a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity to flourish in its police department.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, was announced by attorney Ben Crump and other lawyers representing Floyd’s family members.

“This complaint shows what we have said all along, that Mr. Floyd died because the weight of the entire Minneapolis Police Department was on his neck,” Crump said in a statement. “The City of Minneapolis has a history of policies, procedures and deliberate indifference that violates the rights of arrestees, particularly Black men, and highlights the need for officer training and discipline.”

Crump said the lawsuit seeks to set a precedent “that makes it financially prohibitive for police to wrongfully kill marginalized people — especially Black people — in the future.”

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

All four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death, which set off protests that spread around the world and turned into a national reckoning on race in the United States.

The four officers charged in Floyd’s death are, from left: Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/File/The Associated Press)

Floyd’s death also sparked calls to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a new public safety department. A majority of city council members support the move, saying the department has a long history and culture of brutality that has resisted change.

A public hearing was planned later Wednesday on the proposal, which requires a change in the city’s charter that could go to voters in November.

Body camera footage available by appointment

The lawsuit comes on the same day that a court allowed public viewing by appointment of video from the body cameras of Lane and Kueng. A coalition of news organizations and attorneys for Lane and Kueng have been advocating to make the videos public, saying they would provide a more complete picture of what happened when Floyd was taken into custody. The judge hasn’t said why he’s not allowing the video to be disseminated more widely.

WATCH | What systemic racism in Canada looks like:

The police killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed have brought renewed attention to systemic racism. In Canada, some have been quick to deny its existence. But these experts say racism has been normalized within Canadian institutions. 10:01

According to documents in state probate court, Floyd is survived by 11 known heirs, including five children and six siblings. They live in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and New York. All but one of Floyd’s children are adults. He has no living parents or grandparents.

The families of victims of other high-profile police killings have received high payouts in Minnesota. Last year, Minneapolis agreed to pay $ 20 million US to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed woman who was shot by an officer after she called 911 to report hearing a possible crime happening behind her home.

The settlement came three days after the officer, Mohamed Noor, was convicted of murdering her and is believed to be the largest payout ever stemming from police violence in Minnesota.

At the time, Mayor Jacob Frey cited Noor’s unprecedented conviction and his failure to identify a threat before he used deadly force as reasons for the large settlement.

The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by an officer in 2016, reached a nearly $ 3 million US settlement with the suburb of St. Anthony, Minn., which employed the officer. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges.

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First of its kind mental health app for police officers launches in Halton Region

They are the ones who answer calls for help — witnessing some of the worst kinds of trauma, often on a daily basis.

And while many officers say there’s been a cultural shift around police and mental health, many still struggle with how to manage that stress.

Now, there’s a new app available for police in Halton Region aimed at helping them cope.

It’s called Backup Buddy and it’s the first of its kind designed for police services in Canada, according to Deputy Chief Jeff Hill.

“You can see that in the privacy of wherever you are, that you are not alone,” said Hill. “And the idea is that knowing you are not alone will hopefully encourage you to come out and talk to somebody.”

Deputy Chief Jeff Hill with Halton Regional Police Service says the goal is to offer members as many mental health options as possible so they feel safe coming forward to ask for help. (Provided by Halton Regional Police Service)

The app includes contacts, mental health tips, and details a number of common issues from anger to alcohol abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

It also features three video testimonials from officers.

In one video, which is also posted on Youtube, a constable with 13 years of service describes his experience with depression and suicidal thoughts:

“I’m hoping that by watching this video, you can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says John, who did not want his last name used.

“That no matter how dark things get, how tough they get, you can get help.”

Fear of being labelled

Clayton Gillis, a veteran officer who’s worked in drugs, gangs and guns as well as commercial robbery, says while there’s been a big shift in policing culture, stigma is still a challenge.

“We are getting to a point in policing where people are saying, ‘Enough is enough,'” said Gillis, who recently was elected president of the Halton Regional Police Association.

“We can’t put on our brave face and pretend like this stuff doesn’t affect us,” he told CBC Toronto.

“We all know people in emergency services are suffering with mental health [issues] relating to the stress of what we do on a day-to-day basis.”

While he hasn’t had a chance to go through the app, he says it will be a huge benefit for members have a mental health resource on their phone any time, any day.

“A lot of it is just about access to professional people and wait times to get into see someone,” he said. “If it’s 2:00 a.m. on a Monday you’re not going to be able to see a psychologist and speak to them in person.”

The app, he says, is “giving people at least a first step to ask some questions and reach out and talk to someone if they need to and have that around-the-clock coverage.”

The app is designed for members of the Halton Regional Police Service, offering practical advice and warning signs, among other supports. (CBC News)

Halton police expand mental health training

The app is just the latest effort by the service’s organizational wellness unit, which launched in 2016. 

The unit is made up of a staff sergeant, constable and psychologist, who work out of an unmarked building, separate from any police site. Hill, the service’s deputy chief, says one of the unit’s primary goals is reducing the stigma around mental health.

Starting Friday, the service will make a one-day mental health training course mandatory for both civilian and uniform members.

“If I break my ankle, I have no problem telling everybody the story,” Hill said.

“But when it comes to mental wellness, there’s still that stigma that people don’t feel comfortable talking about it that way. They don’t talk about what is necessary about my recovery,” he added.

“That’s what we are constantly working toward.”

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