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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

June 07, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Police show less force as peaceful protests push reform

Police around the U.S. took a less aggressive stance and even sometimes joined protesters demanding a reckoning with institutional racism, as leaders in the city at the centre of the latest call for police reforms pushed Sunday to dismantle its department.

Two weeks after George Floyd, a black unemployed bouncer, died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes, a majority of that the City Council vowed to dismantle the 800-member agency.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” said Lisa Bender, the council president. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

It's not the first time an American city has wrestled with how to deal with a police department accused of being overly aggressive or having bias in its ranks. In Ferguson, Missouri — where a white officer in 2014 fatally shot Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old — then-Attorney General Eric Holder said federal authorities were considering dismantling that police department. The city eventually reached an agreement short of that but one that required massive reforms.

The state of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the first concrete changes came when the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

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Minneapolis council majority backs disbanding police force

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city's police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd's death.

Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died May 25 after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck, ignoring his “I can't breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving. His death sparked protests — some violent, many peaceful — that spread nationwide.

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A U-turn, an angry president and a fateful walk to a church

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defence Secretary Mark Esper was three blocks from the FBI's Washington field office. He had planned to confer there at a security command centre, but plans changed with an unexpected call to divert immediately.

Go the White House. President Donald Trump wanted a briefing from him and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on how the military was handling security as protests grew on the streets of the nation's capital.

Esper's driver pulled a U-turn in the middle of the street and flipped on the flashing lights, and they rushed to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was late afternoon on Monday, June 1 — one of the more consequential days of Donald Trump's presidency, when he was forced to reckon with rapidly swelling demonstrations after George Floyd's death in the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

This account of Trump's decision-making, based on a senior defence official as well as several others in the Trump administration, offers insight into how the president was pushing for the fastest, most extreme measures while advisers at the Pentagon tried to persuade him to take a more moderate approach.

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Left out: More workers now losing hope of getting back jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Eric Benz didn't worry very much when his graphic design firm in Atlanta laid him off in March. He felt sure he'd be recalled to work once the viral pandemic eased and his firm's clients resumed spending.

Three months later, there's been no call. Instead, Benz has applied for gig work as an Instacart shopper.

Hope has given way to an urgent need to pay bills because Benz's unemployment benefits haven't yet come through. Benz has negotiated with his mortgage lender to defer payments on the home he and his wife bought earlier this year. But the deferral won't last long.

“I’m doing everything I can,” said Benz, 37. “It will take a little while to get back.”

Even as the U.S. economy begins to flicker back to life, even as job cuts slow and some laid-off people are called back to work, the scope of the devastation left by the viral pandemic has grown distressingly clear to millions who'd hoped for a quick return to their jobs: They may not be going back anytime soon.

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Democrats' legislation would overhaul police accountability

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are proposing to overhaul legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force episodes and ban police choke holds in legislation coming Monday in response to the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, according to a draft outline obtained by The Associated Press.

“We’re in a real moment in our country,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-Ca., chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union," speaking after days of massive protests set off by the death of George Floyd and other African Americans involving the police.

She said t he package from House and Senate Democrats will be bolder than any law enforcement changes of the past decade. “It is time for police culture in many departments to change,” she said. “And we believe that the legislation will make a major step forward in that direction.”

The Justice in Policing Act confronts several aspects of law enforcement accountability and practices that have come under criticism, especially as more and more police violence is captured on cellphone video and shared widely across the nation, and the world.

The draft document said the proposed legislation would revise the federal criminal police misconduct statute to make it easier to prosecute officers who are involved in misconduct “knowingly or with reckless disregard."

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Tropical storm crashes onto US Gulf Coast amid flood threat

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lopsided Tropical Storm Cristobal came ashore Sunday afternoon in Louisiana but ginned up dangerous weather much farther east, sending waves crashing over Mississippi beaches, swamping parts of an Alabama island town and spawning a tornado in Florida.

Cristobal made landfall between the mouth of the Mississippi River and the since-evacuated barrier island resort community of Grand Isle, the storm packing 50-mph (85-kph) winds. With its drenching rains, the storm was expected to keep inundating the northern Gulf coast well into Monday.

In New Orleans, the question was how much rain would fall and whether there would be enough breaks in the bands of heavy weather for the beleaguered pumping system to meet its latest test of keeping streets free of flood waters.

Coastal Mississippi news outlets reported stalled cars and trucks as flood waters inundated beaches and crashed over highways. On the City of Biloxi Facebook page, officials said emergency workers helped dozens of motorists through flood waters, mostly on U.S. 90 running along the coast.

In Alabama, the bridge linking the mainland to Dauphin Island was closed much of Sunday. Police and state transportation department vehicles led convoys of motorists to and from the island when breaks in the weather permitted.

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Duty to intervene: Floyd cops spoke up but didn't step in

Minneapolis was among several cities that had policies on the books requiring police officers to intervene to stop colleagues from using unreasonable force, but that didn't save George Floyd and law enforcement experts say such rules will always run up against entrenched police culture and the fear of being ostracized and branded a “rat.”

Power dynamics may have been magnified in the Floyd case because two of the four officers involved were rookies and the most senior officer on the scene was a training officer, Derek Chauvin, a 19-year police veteran who was seen putting his knee on the back of the black man’s neck despite his cries that he couldn’t breathe.

Even though lawyers for the rookie officers say both men voiced their concerns about Chauvin's actions in the moment, they ultimately failed to stop him. Chauvin is now charged with second-degree murder, and his three fellow officers are charged with aiding and abetting.

“This is a lesson for every cop in America: If you see something that is wrong, you need to step in,” said Joseph Giacalone, a former New York police sergeant who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “There are a lot of gray areas in policing, but this was crystal clear. … You’re better off being ostracized by the group than going to prison for murder.”

Added Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief who testifies in use-of-force cases: “They’re suffering the effects of an organizational culture that doesn’t allow that or reward that behaviour. The fraternity of law enforcement is a tight fraternity and fraternities have a group think.”

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Bloodied store manager describes life in the age of COVID-19

For weeks Samantha Clarke calmly listened to the insults and threats directed daily at her and her employees by people who learned they couldn't enter the Modesto, California, store without wearing a mask and following other coronavirus-related rules.

But never, says the 17-year veteran of retail sales, did she expect she'd be sucker-punched and left with blood gushing from her battered face. Not until it happened recently after a customer was told the last above-ground swimming pool in stock had just been sold to someone else.

“I’ve been in retail my whole life. I’ve been at this particular job 17 years, and I've never heard of anyone being attacked, ever," Clarke said by phone one recent evening after finishing the night shift.

But in retrospect she said, perhaps she should have seen it coming.

“We had the normal upset customer from time to time, but rarely did someone lose their temper and cuss at us,” she said of life before the store she manages began operating under state-issued coronavirus safety guidelines.

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NY Times editorial page editor resigns amid fury over op-ed

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Times’ editorial page editor resigned Sunday after the newspaper disowned an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton that advocated using federal troops to quell unrest, and it was later revealed he hadn't read the piece prior to publication.

James Bennet resigned and his deputy, James Dao, is being reassigned at the newspaper, the Times said Sunday.

The fallout was swift after the Arkansas Republican’s piece was posted online late Wednesday. It caused a revolt among Times journalists, with some saying it endangered black employees and calling in sick on Thursday in protest.

Following a review, the newspaper said Cotton's piece should not have been published, at least not without substantial revisions.

Katie Kingsbury, a Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial writing who joined the Times from the Boston Globe in 2017, will oversee the opinion pages through the November elections, the Times said.

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When protesters cry 'defund the police,' what does it mean?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Protesters are pushing to “defund the police" over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement. Their chant has become rallying cry — and a stick for President Donald Trump to use on Democrats as he portrays them as soft on crime.

But what does “defund the police” mean? It’s not necessarily about gutting police department budgets.

WHAT IS THE ‘DEFUND THE POLICE’ MOVEMENT?

Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.

State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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