A suburban Denver police department is apologizing after a video showed officers handcuffing Black children face down in a parking lot. The Aurora Police Department said the family was stopped mistakenly.
The clip, which was posted on Facebook, shows a Black family of five being detained by Aurora police on Sunday. During the video, a woman later identified as Brittany Gilliam is seen being handcuffed and four of her family members, ages 6 to 17, were ordered to lie down with their faces on the ground. Two of the kids were also placed in handcuffs.
Throughout the footage, the children can be heard crying for help.
“I want my mother,” said one of kids.
(Warning: Footage below contains profanity and the video may be upsetting to some viewers.)
Before the recording, police officers drew their guns when confronting the group, the family and a witness said. One of the witnesses who filmed the incident told CBS Denver that she had never seen a gun that close.
“I went from seeing kids in a car to seeing a gun pointed at the kids in the car,” Jenni Wurtz-Bennett told the station. “I called my husband and said ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at,’ and he said ‘Hang up and start recording.”
Police said they were conducting a “high-risk stop” because of a suspected stolen vehicle. Gilliam’s car had the same license plate number, but was not registered to the state officers were looking for, police said.
Newly appointed chief of the Aurora police Vanessa Wilson said in a statement obtained by CBS News that the department apologized for the incident and is looking to new practices and training when it comes to a high-risk stops. The practice involves officers drawing their weapons and ordering all occupants to exit the car and lie prone on the ground.
Gilliam told CBS Denver on Monday that she doesn’t want an apology.
“I want change,” she said. “Better protocol, better procedures because the way you did it yesterday was not it.”
She said her 6-year-old daughter and 14-year-old niece were obeying commands from police to lay on the ground. She said police put handcuffs on her 12-year-old sister and 17-year-old niece.
“Those kids are not OK,” she told the station. “They’re never going to be OK. That was a traumatic experience. Would your kids be OK after that? Having a gun pulled on them and laid on the ground. Especially a 6-year-old.”
Her attorney now plans to file a federal lawsuit against the department for excessive force, CBS Denver reported.
The incident comes as the police department faces scrutiny from the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died in August last year after he was detained and placed in a chokehold by officers and later injected with ketamine. McClain’s case received renewed attention in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in May.
The man has a criminal history that includes convictions for domestic violence and assault, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which also reported that the man was among a group of suspected white supremacists who confronted a Muslim woman in June in Stillwater.
A search warrant affidavit was filed in Hennepin County District Court on Monday for cellphone records that would establish the suspect’s whereabouts May 27, when the incident happened at the AutoZone on East Lake Street.
The suspect has remained in the shadows ever since.
Investigators with the Minneapolis police spent “innumerable hours” poring over videos of the incident on social media but didn’t learn who the man was until last week after someone emailed a tip. From there, detectives used photographs and a driver’s license to positively identify him, according to reports.
An arson investigator with the Minneapolis police wrote in the affidavit that the man’s actions on May 27 “created an atmosphere of hostility and tension” that helped inflame what had been relatively peaceful protests up to that point. The business was burned to the ground later the same day along with the city’s 3rd Precinct building.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Erika Christensen wrote in the search warrant.
On the day of the AutoZone incident, the unidentified person walked up casually in all black, wearing a gas mask, gloves and tactical boots and carrying an open umbrella, as he smashed at least four windows of the business with a hammer. Monday’s warrant revealed the man also spray-painted a message on the doors of the business that encouraged looting.
Other protesters on the scene seemed to know immediately the man was not among them and began recording his actions on their cellphone cameras.
The videos went viral on social media with the hashtag #UmbrellaMan, and conspiracy theories emerged that the man was an undercover police officer acting as an agent provocateur.
At the time, the St. Paul Police Department was forced to issue several public denials after one of its officers had been misidentified by internet sleuths as being the Umbrella Man.
The term “Umbrella Man” also refers to a figure who was in Dealey Plaza on the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Louie Steven Witt was identified by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 as the man who opened and raised an umbrella as shots rang out on Kennedy’s limousine on Nov. 22, 1963.
The umbrella man came under some suspicion after the Zapruder film revealed he was one of the people standing closest to the curb toward the president’s motorcade, carrying an umbrella on a sunny fall day. Conspiracy theorists of the time speculated the umbrella may have been a signal to more than one shooter.
Speaking Saturday morning Craig addressed a question about why deadly force is such a commonly used tactic in policing.
“As you saw in the video, that our officers were fired on. The next suspect was within two to three feet, and he was pointing a gun at the officers head. This hero who then quickly responded to try to mitigate violence, he ran, didn’t even have a chance to take his weapon out and he was concerned about his safety, and the safety of his partners. And you ask me how we respond to a situation like that, that was quickly unfolding, unbelievable,” said Craig.
He added that those are the kind of conversations which can cause antagonism and incite riots.
“What do we say to that officer had he been shot, what do we say to the officer in Toledo, Ohio, who made the ultimate sacrifice going to a call,” said Craig.
During a press conference Friday night, Craig criticized false information put on social media about the shooting that he says incited violence. There was a false report that Littleton was shot up to 15 times.
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Americas|Mexico City Police Chief Is Wounded in Brazen Ambush
The attackers shot the head of police three times, and killed three people, in an attack that may signal a new front in the battle between security forces and organized crime in the capital.
Gunmen wounded Mexico City’s chief of police on Friday, and killed two of his bodyguards and a bystander, in a brazen ambush on his vehicle as it traveled through a wealthy neighborhood that is home to ambassadors and business leaders.
The police chief, Omar García Harfuch, tweeted hours after the shooting that the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel was to blame. Mr. García Harfuch, who said he had been shot three times, was recovering in a Mexico City hospital. A dozen people were arrested following the shooting.
The dawn attack further punctured Mexico City’s image within the country as an oasis largely shielded from the gruesome violence that has gripped other parts of Mexico.
If investigators can prove a cartel staged Friday’s attack as an assassination attempt, it would signal a new front in the battle between security forces and organized crime. It would also offer further evidence of the government’s inability to curb the criminal groups that wield vast influence over large swaths of Mexico, security experts said.
“This is a dramatic breach of what would be considered one of the most guarded, safest zones of the city,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on organized crime at the Brookings Institution. “It’s a massive tactical lapse to allow a government official of this importance to end up with three bullets in him.”
Mexico City has become more dangerous over the past decade, with a rise in murders, kidnappings and extortion. But while gangs in the city have gained strength, they are much less powerful than the cartels that control the drug trade and operate largely outside the capital.
“If the group involved is in fact the Jalisco cartel, it is a sign that they are willing to enter into a direct confrontation with the state,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City, who noted that this would be the first assassination attempt against such a high-ranking security official in Mexico City.
Since taking the helm of the city’s police force last year, Mr. García Harfuch has led a more aggressive crackdown on organized crime and has examined collusion between law enforcement officers and criminal groups.
Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, said at a news conference that the government was on “alert,” monitoring the rise in violence and enlisting the national guard to support the local police force. The mayor said she has not received any death threats.
Mexico’s security minister, Alfonso Durazo Montaño, told reporters that three other government officials did face threats, though he would not offer details. He said there was no immediate indication that the attackers had inside knowledge of Mr. García Harfuch’s travel route on Friday.
This is the second high-profile attack on a public official in Mexico this month. Last week, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, afederal judge, was shot to death at his home in the state of Colima. His wife, Verónica Barajas, also died in the attack.
Mr. Durazo Montaño confirmed on Friday that “a preliminary hypothesis” suggests that the New Generation Jalisco Cartel was involved in the shooting of the judge and his wife.
U.S.|Tucson Police in Turmoil After Death of Latino Man in Custody
The police chief of Tucson, Ariz., offered to step down after the release of a video depicting the death of a handcuffed man. Three officers involved have already resigned.
The police chief of Tucson, Ariz., abruptly offered to resign on Wednesday while releasing a video in which a 27-year-old Latino man, Carlos Ingram Lopez, died in police custody two months ago.
The video, taken by police officers’ body cameras and not made public until Wednesday, depicts a gruesome episode on April 21. Before his death, Mr. Lopez is seen handcuffed while pleading repeatedly in English and Spanish for water and for his nana, or grandmother.
Chief Chris Magnus said officers did not use a chokehold on Mr. Lopez. But he said they violated training guidelines by restraining the victim in a prone position, face down, for about 12 minutes before Mr. Lopez went into cardiac arrest and died at the scene. While he was restrained, Mr. Lopez told the officers he could not breathe.
The autopsy report said the cause of death was a combination of physical restraint and cardiac arrest involving cocaine intoxication. Three officers resigned from the department last Thursday, Chief Magnus said.
The disclosure of Mr. Lopez’s death comes at a time when many Latinos around the United States are calling for changes in how police treat their communities, echoing similar calls by African-Americans. Last week in California, outrage emerged over the killing of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old Latino student and security guard, by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. The episode in Tucson occurred about a month before George Floyd, a black man, was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, igniting protests throughout the country.
Mayor Regina Romero of Tucson appeared shaken while discussing Mr. Lopez’s death at a news conference on Wednesday. She spoke in Spanish, offering condolences to Mr. Lopez’s family, while expressing indignation in English over what happened.
“I am deeply troubled and outraged,” said Ms. Romero, who is the first Latina to serve as mayor of the heavily Latino city. “These officers would have been terminated had they not resigned.”
Two of the officers who resigned are white and one is African-American, said Lane Santa Cruz, a member of the City Council who had been briefed on the episode and reviewed the video on Tuesday. The police chief identified them as Samuel Routledge, Ryan Starbuck and Jonathan Jackson.
Chief Magnus’s own offer to resign seemed to catch Ms. Romero, who was standing by his side, by surprise. She said she would examine the details of what happened before taking action.
The department’s handling of the issue is now coming under intense scrutiny. Authorities did not disclose details about Mr. Lopez’s death until Tuesday, when Ms. Romero canceled a City Council meeting after watching the video.
Before the release of the video, Chief Magnus had publicly described the Tucson police force as one of the more progressive departments in the country. It had previously banned chokeholds and required officers to participate in cultural awareness and crisis intervention training.
Chief Magnus said that officers were responding to a call regarding “disorderly conduct” by Mr. Lopez, who was unclothed and seemed to be acting erratically when the officers arrived at the scene. At one point, an officer told Mr. Lopez he would be shocked with a stun gun if he failed to cooperate.
In the news conference, Chief Magnus said he had asked the F.B.I. to review the episode, which has been under internal investigation in the department. He said the officers involved had not met the standards established in training for what he described as a mental health crisis involving “excited delirium.”
For years, many departments have trained officers that people held face down, in what is known as “prone restraint,” are more likely to die suddenly of positional asphyxia because they have difficulty expanding their chest to bring in air.
This is particularly true if they are showing signs of mental distress or intoxication with stimulant drugs, a condition sometimes referred to as excited delirium. Guidelines for such circumstances usually call for officers to move people onto their side or sit them up as soon as possible.
The autopsy report for Mr. Lopez noted that he was restrained in a prone position with a spit hood, a mesh covering that goes over the head. The officers tried administering CPR to revive Mr. Lopez and also injected him with Narcan, a drug used to revive people overdosing on opioids.
Latino leaders in Tucson expressed dismay and anguish after the video was released. Ms. Santa Cruz, the councilwoman, said the episode underscored how “we are disproportionately being killed by the police.”
Ms. Santa Cruz emphasized how desperate Mr. Lopez was while being restrained, calling for his nana. “In our culture, nanas are the matriarchs,” she said. “He was calling out for his lifeline.”
Hours after the Fulton County district attorney announced felony murder and other charges against the former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, in the back, a number of Atlanta police officers called in sick just before a shift change Wednesday evening.
The city was left scrambling to cover absences as the Atlanta Police Department tried to tamp down rumors of a mass police walkout that spread widely on social media.
It’s unclear how many officers declined to show up for their Wednesday night shift. The police department declined to answer specific questions about the no-shows and the mayor did not release specific numbers when she spoke to reporters late Wednesday.
“We do have enough officers to cover us through the night,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) told CNN. “Our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out.”
The Atlanta Police Department confirmed a larger-than-normal number of absent officers on Wednesday evening but denied any mass strike in response to the criminal charges leveled against the two men involved in the fatal shooting of Brooks, whose death has sparked more protests against racism and police brutality.
Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.
Bottoms added that the city could rely on support from other law enforcement agencies in the area.
“We have other partners across the metropolitan area, including assistance from the state and from the county and from other jurisdictions,” she said. “So, we will be fine.”
Atlanta had already been rocked for weeks by Black Lives Matter protests and grief over the allegedly racially motivated slaying of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Ga. Tensions with the police flared again on Friday, when two officers responded to a call claiming Brooks had fallen asleep at the wheel while parked in a Wendy’s drive-through.
Brooks initially cooperated with a field sobriety test, but a scuffle broke out when two officers attempted to arrest him. Brooks grabbed one officer’s Taser and began running away. Prosecutors allege former officer Garrett Rolfe then shot Brooks in the back, said “I got him,” and then kicked Brooks as he lay on the asphalt. His partner, Officer Devin Brosnan, stood on Brooks’s arm after the shooting, prosecutors said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr., announced murder and other charges against Rolfe on Wednesday. Brosnan faces aggravated assault and other charges.
Hours after the charges were announced, some Atlanta police officers began calling in sick just before their night shifts started. A police union spokesman confirmed the protest to NBC News, but said the union had not organized a formal walkout. Throughout Wednesday night, more officers reportedly called in sick, refused to show up to any calls except those requesting backup and went radio-silent.
“This is not an organized thing, it’s not a blue flu, it’s not a strike, it’s nothing like that,” Vince Champion, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, told NBC News. “What it actually is is officers protesting that they’ve had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer.”
The “blue flu,” which Champion denied, is a type of de facto police strike in which a large group of officers simultaneously call in sick. Essential state employees, like police and first responders, are legally forbidden from actually walking out on the job in many jurisdictions.
Champion added that many officers felt prosecutors had not publicly shared sufficient evidence to back up the charges leveled against Rolfe, in part because the district attorney only released a video still that appears to show the former officer kick Brooks rather than the full video itself.
As officers began canceling their shifts Wednesday night, President Trump joined the fray to criticize the district attorney’s decision. In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump called the shooting “a very, very sad thing” but then suggested Brooks was at fault.
“I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer,” he said on Sean Hannity’s show. The president repeated a claim made by Rolfe’s defense attorney, saying that the officer believed he had seen a flash and heard a gunshot before firing on Brooks.
“I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country,” Trump said. “But again, you can’t resist a police officer like that. And they ended up in a very terrible disagreement and look at the way it ended. Very bad. Very bad.”
“You can’t resist a police officer. If you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact.” — Trump defends the Atlanta cop that shot and killed Rayshard Brooks pic.twitter.com/dbcJpWzdEr
The wheels of justice have moved strikingly fast in Atlanta over the last week. Just two days after Brooks’s death, video of the fatal encounter was released to the public and Atlanta’s mayor had already called for Rolfe to be fired. By the end of Sunday, Rolfe had been fired, Brosnan had been placed on administrative duty, and former police chief Erika Shields had resigned.
Less than a week after the incident, Rolfe and Brosnan were criminally charged.
The rapid pace comes as ongoing Black Lives Matter protests demand police reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death, after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Although the quick action in Atlanta has been praised by civil rights advocates and hailed as a victory for activists, some in the police department have decried the quick process.
Bottoms said that morale in Atlanta’s police department was at a low, perhaps even more so than in other jurisdictions facing intense scrutiny and criticism during the last three weeks of protests.
“The thing that I’m most concerned about is how we repair the morale in our police department,” Bottoms said on CNN, “and how do we ensure our communities are safe as they interact with our police officers.”
The fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta is changing how the city’s citizen watchdog group operates and, after years of criticism that it is a “toothless” body, could further empower it in investigating and recommending disciplinary action against officers.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a series of administrative orders Monday related to de-escalation and police reform, one of which would send all cases of deadly force by officers to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, a process that is normally triggered only when someone files a complaint.
An amended ordinance was also presented at a City Council meeting Monday that would, among several other changes, broaden the board’s authority to conduct investigations and hold public hearings; expand the board to include younger members, because their age group often comes into contact with police; and institute an independent “reviewer” who would essentially mediate and make binding rulings when the board and the police department fail to agree on investigations.
Samuel Lee Reid II, the board’s executive director, told NBC News on Tuesday that he supports the measures and believes they can strengthen the board’s guiding purpose, which is to field misconduct and civil rights abuse complaints against police and to open independent investigations. The panel also has subpoena power to interview officers, an important tool that was introduced in 2010, three years after the board was established.
According to the board’s latest data, the Atlanta Police Department has agreed with the board’s findings about 41 percent of the time, but Reid said he believes that should be far higher — at least 75 percent — to show “how serious the department is to address citizen complaints.” (The number was as low as 11 percent in 2015.)
The board received 153 complaints in 2019, a 13 percent increase from 2018. The complaints centered mostly on allegations that officers failed to follow protocol, used excessive force or exhibited questionable conduct. According to board data, the majority of complaints last year were made by Black men over 35, while the majority of law enforcement officers identified in the complaints were Black officers who had more than five years of policing experience.
While the board has four investigators who review complaints before they’re brought before all 13 members for hearings, Reid said, he’d also like the city to hire an analyst to perform audits and conduct studies on why officers might be disciplined only in some cases or not at all, as well as highlight other trends or gaps in reporting.
“We want to dig into that data,” Reid said, adding: “If you want to do this correctly, you need the power and the manpower to do it. We want to catch these issues before it happens again.”
There are about 150 civilian review boards nationwide, most of them associated with larger municipal police agencies and many formed either after high-profile incidents or as responses to patterns of complaints of police brutality or racial bias.
The death of Brooks, 27, during a police encounter Friday night has focused renewed scrutiny on the Atlanta Police Department, which has about 2,000 sworn officers. Chief Erika Shields resigned Saturday night, less than 24 hours after the shooting; Assistant Chief Rodney Bryant is serving as interim chief.
Brooks’ shooting in a Wendy’s parking lot was captured on security and bodycam video. Police responded to a report that a man had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru. Two officers encountered Brooks, and a struggle ensued after they administered a field sobriety test and tried to take Brooks into custody.
Video shows Brooks holding a stun gun as he runs away. He appears to turn around and point the weapon before an officer, Garrett Rolfe, fires at him, hitting him in the back, according to investigators. Rolfe, a six-year veteran of the department, was fired, while the second officer, Devin Brosnan, a veteran of nearly two years, was placed on administrative leave.
Neither officer has been charged. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the case.
Atlanta police released Rolfe’s disciplinary record, which shows that he was issued a written reprimand in 2016 related to a use-of-force incident involving a firearm. Details weren’t disclosed. In addition, Rolfe was the subject of four citizen complaints during his career, which didn’t result in any disciplinary action, and he was also involved in vehicle accidents, one of which led to a written reprimand and another to an oral admonishment.
There was also an incident involving the discharge of a firearm in 2015, although it’s unclear how it concluded.
Reid said it wouldn’t be surprising that officers with histories of complaints could remain employed in the Atlanta Police Department, particularly if they are cleared internally and aren’t seeking to be promoted.
But Xochitl Bervera, director of the Racial Justice Action Center, an Atlanta-based organization fighting the criminalizing of Black and brown communities, said that even though there’s an independent police oversight agency, it’s apparent that Atlanta officers with complaints can continue operating in communities and that residents may be left in the dark about how many complaints they have and for what, a disconnect she said she believes doesn’t engender trust.
“We need to rethink what community engagement and community control of policing looks like and how we make accountability of the police something transparent,” Bervera said, adding that there is a role for some form of a review board but that “we have to ask ourselves at this point, does this model work?”
The Atlanta Citizen Review Board was established after the death of Kathryn Johnston, 92, a Black woman who was killed during a police raid on her home in 2006. Officers, dressed in plainclothes and wearing bulletproof vests, were executing a “no-knock” warrant in connection with a man who they claimed was selling drugs from Johnston’s home. After officers forced their way in, Johnston, a resident of one of Atlanta’s most crime-plagued neighborhoods, opened fire on them and was killed in a shootout, according to reports.
The disturbing case enraged residents after one of the officers admitted to having planted bags of marijuana inside the home after Johnston was killed, as well as having based the warrant on falsified records. Three officers were charged with federal crimes and sentenced, which also galvanized the community to demand police reform and paved the way for the Citizen Review Board.
Proposals to abolish the use of no-knock warrants have been revived in recent weeks as part of policing reform efforts in other cities and states following the death of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman who was killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police in her home this year.
Vincent Fort, a former Democratic state senator in Georgia who tried unsuccessfully to get a no-knock bill passed, said subsequent police-involved killings and injuries of Atlantans over the years have resulted in board investigations that appeared only to languish for months without meaningful repercussions.
“The administration and City Council made the review board toothless,” Fort said. “The problem with it is, even as they acquired subpoena power over time, there’s a loophole the police use: If I’m on the board and I ask the police for data, documents or even for the officer to appear, all they say is ‘it’s an ongoing investigation.’ And the case just drags on and on.”
“I once told them: ‘You’re a paper tiger. You’re a joke in the community,'” Fort said of the board.
In 2015, the Citizen Review Board drew heat from activists who demanded an investigation into the death of Alexia Christian, a Black woman who was killed in police custody, and criticized the board’s “Don’t Run” campaign, meant to encourage residents not to flee from police. Bottoms, who was a City Council member at the time, had supported the idea of the campaign but said she also felt it was telling people not to exercise their constitutional rights.
Fort said that now that she’s mayor, Bottoms must go further.
“Right now, Black people believe that the police in their community are tantamount to an occupying force that’s designed to keep Black people and working-class people under control,” he said.
Atlanta police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Bottoms said Tuesday on NBC’s “TODAY” show that more administrative orders involving the police are likely coming.
“We have to objectively look at de-escalation. That’s not very clear in our policies,” Bottoms said. “Shooting at moving vehicles and so many other things — that as we’re peeling back the layers of our standard operating procedures. Some of it’s ambiguous, and some of it is simply not laid out.”
Given the history of Atlanta, a majority-Black city, and its storied place in America’s civil rights movement, the police department has benefited from a reformist-type legacy in the past, with Black officers joining the force and pushing back at Jim Crow restrictions themselves, said Nirej Sekhon, a Georgia State University law professor who studies policing.
But that “hasn’t translated to particularly radical renovation in recent times,” he said. “We have to be careful about celebrating Atlanta’s civil rights history, not because there’s nothing to celebrate or because it’s all a lie, but because it’s still incomplete.”
Policing the Unions is a five-part series that examines the renewed friction between police unions and politicians in the wake of unrest over George Floyd’s death, and the dynamics at play in efforts to reform law enforcement. Part One looks at the political pressure unions are facing in the immediate aftermath.
After the horrifying video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck shocked the nation – and amid new unrest over a fatal shooting in Atlanta – politicians are plowing forward with policing reforms that previously had been rejected by unions. Collective bargaining agreements for police are getting renewed scrutiny for provisions critics say shield bad cops from accountability. And fellow unions have distanced themselves from the police and with one calling for the International Union of Police Associations to be expelled from the nation’s largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO.
The tensions with the police union were on full display in Minneapolis, ground zero for the unrest that has rippled throughout the nation. Mayor Jacob Frey called out the union that represented the officers now charged in connection with Floyd’s death as an obstacle to police brutality reforms, while the Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo targeted the union contract as a starting place for reform, arguing police chiefs should have more control over which officers are on their force patrolling the streets.
“The police union needs to be put in its place,” Frey told protesters earlier this month before getting booed for not agreeing to defund the police.
Police have widely denounced the conduct of Derek Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and the three other Minneapolis police officers who stood by. All four of them have been fired and criminally charged in connection to Floyd’s May 25 death.
“Stop treating us like animals and thugs, and start treating us with some respect,” Michael O’Meara, the president of the New York State Association of Police Benevolent Associations, said in an emotional speech last Tuesday, arguing actions of one bad officer shouldn’t stain the badge of good officers who protect and serve their communities.
‘We’re being demonized’
The group that represents big-city police chiefs ticked off the police unions by putting out a statement after Floyd’s death that targeted police union contracts as an obstacle to police accountability. The Major Cities Chiefs Association acknowledged institutional racism and police brutality and called for “bold and courageous action” to right the past wrongs.
“We’re being demonized,” Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston police union and vice president of the national Fraternal Order of Police, told Fox News. He ripped the police chiefs for “blaming police unions for all the ills of law enforcement.”
“Police unions don’t do background checks,” Gamaldi continued. “We don’t investigate new recruits. We don’t hire people. We don’t train them. We don’t set policy. We don’t discipline them. And we don’t fire them. That is all under the control of police chiefs. And it’s just funny that they would blame us, when they really should be looking in the mirror.”
Police chiefs and local leaders, however, argue that unions have negotiated contracts and pushed for state reforms that make it harder for chiefs to boot out problematic cops and replace them with fresh officers who embrace policing reforms. The Center for Public Integrity found that police contracts typically include language to hide complaints against police officers from the public, arbitration clauses that sometimes force police departments to rehire cops and provisions to bar police departments from immediately interrogating or firing officers after egregious acts of misconduct, known as a “cooling off” period that critics pan as time for cops to get their story straight.
“Union contracts themselves often contain provisions that are antithetical to the kind of reform that you’re seeking,” Jonathan M. Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, told Fox News.
Unions have benefited from political clout in Washington and with local elected leaders. Since the 1994 election cycle, 55 police union and law enforcement PACs have donated over $1.1 million to congressional campaigns, with sitting Democratic members of Congress being big beneficiaries, along with Republicans, according to the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2016, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, endorsed President Trump over Hillary Clinton. In the years since, he’s remained close to police, famously telling a crowd of law enforcement officers in New York “please don’t be too nice” when arresting people. While Trump has called Floyd’s death a tragedy, he’s largely stood by the police during the unrest — and directed his fire toward rioters, Antifa and looters, repeatedly calling for “Law and Order.” Trump is eyeing an executive order on reforms and now wants policing done in a more “gentle fashion.”
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has resisted calls from the left to “Defund the Police.” But the former vice president who wrote the 1994 crime bill is facing blowback from police unions who were once close to Biden over his calls for police reform overhauls, the Wall Street Journal reported. Unions say Biden has not done enough to praise the vast majority of police officers who are acting properly.
In New York, unions have spent big to ward off police reforms and — until now — thwarted multiple attempts to allow the public release of police misconduct records. From January 1, 2015, through May 13, 2020, the PAC for the Police Benevolent Association of New York City funneled $650,000 to New York politicians, according to records examined by THE CITY. The union also spent $768,000 from 2017-2019 on lobbying government officials and $320,000 on political ads in 2018, the report found.
“Part of the challenge with respect to police reform has always been the strength of the police union,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y, told WNYC, citing police opposition to his long effort to ban chokeholds since the 2014 death of Eric Garner.
Protests against police brutality and racism triggered by the police killing of George Floyd nearly three weeks ago continued over the weekend in towns and cities across the world — and even took on new momentum in some areas in response to the deaths of two more black men.
The continuation of widespread public demonstrations suggests the energy behind grassroots activists’ demands for racial justice and societal change remains high amid dramatic shifts in public opinion toward a broadly embraced and more pronounced rejection of racism in American life.
In Palmdale, California, protesters demanded answers from authorities over the death of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old black man who was discovered dead hanging from a tree in a park on Wednesday morning. The local sheriff’s department has said initial results from a coroner’s investigation indicate suicide, but a full autopsy has not yet been released. Fuller’s friends and family have pushed back against the suggestion the young man’s death was from suicide — as have many activists, like the protester who told LAist, “If you can suggest suicide, I can suggest a lynching.”
In Philadelphia, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets for a 15th consecutive day. Many protesters called for defunding the police, and there was a minor stand-off with rifle-carrying counter-protesters around a statue of Christopher Columbus. The counter-protesters claimed they were defending the statue from being pulled down — like those of slaveholders and members of the Confederacy, Columbus statues have been destroyed by protesters across the US. Saturday, the standoff ended peacefully, with no shots fired, and the statue remaining on its pedestal.
In Clemson, South Carolina, members of the Clemson University football team led a march against police brutality and racism the day after university trustees voted to rename its honors college, which had been named after John C. Calhoun, a former vice president and a prominent defender of slavery in the years before the American Civil War.
Several protests swept Chicago, where demonstrators chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.” In Washington, DC, protesters organized a block party outside DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s home and called for her to defund the police. In Minneapolis, protesters marched toward police headquarters and gathered near the city’s NFL stadium, chanting and making suggestions for how the city council might accomplish its pledge of restructuring the city’s police force.
International protests in solidarity with US demonstrations — and seeking to drive conversations and changes with regard to their own countries’ histories of racism — took place around the world, including in the United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand. In Paris, police intervened to prevent a clash between anti-racist protesters and far-right activists carrying a banner decrying “anti-white racism.”
The protests are reflecting — and propelling — changing attitudes
Pollsters say the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd have had a tremendous impact on public opinion.
Data from Civiqs, an online research firm, showed that support for the Black Lives Matter movement surged in the first two weeks of protests, increasing nearly as much as it had risen over the past two years.
As Vox’s Anna North has reported, experts are most struck by the change in opinions and activist participation among white Americans:
The change is coming “at a speed that I don’t think we’ve seen before in American politics,” said Dorian Warren, president of Community Change, a nonprofit that works with grassroots groups in low-income communities around the county.
And a lot of the shift is coming from white people. Looking at changes in polling data over time, “most black respondents in 2014 and now had pretty progressive views,” Duncan Gans, an analyst at the polling firm PerryUndem, told Vox. “Most of the change was among white respondents.”
For example, in 2016, 77 percent of black Americans said that police were more likely to use force on black people. That jumped to 87 percent this year. But among white Americans, the change was much greater, from just 25 percent in 2016 to 49 percent in 2020.
It’s not just polling. White people are also engaging in protests and other activism in ways they haven’t always in the past, many say. Organizers on the ground are pleasantly surprised by the sustained outpouring of support from people of all races, including people getting in touch for the first time asking how they can help, Warren said. “In some ways we’re seeing the vibrant renewal of civic engagement in our democracy.”
It’s unclear how long the protests will continue or when they may lose their potency in terms of shaping public opinion and inspiring new modes of anti-racist action. But for now there’s no denying that they matter — and that they have already led to some significant changes in opinion, and in proposed policy.
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(CNN)An Atlanta police officer shot and killed a man at a Wendy’s drive-thru Friday night after he resisted arrest and struggled for an officer’s Taser, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
The GBI identified the slain man as Rayshard Brooks, 27, of Atlanta,who was African American.
Witnesses provided video to investigators, the GBI said on Twitter.
“The GBI is aware that there is video posted on social media captured by witnesses in this incident. We are reviewing the video & the early investigative information in this case. We’ll provide an update as soon as we can,” the tweet said.
Friday, officers responded to a call at 10:33 p.m. about a man sleeping in a parked vehicle in the drive-thru, causing other customers to drive around it, the GBI said in a statement.
Police gave Brooks a field sobriety test, which he failed, the GBI said. He resisted arrest and struggled with officers, the GBI said.
An officer drew his Taser and, witnesses said, the man grabbed it, the statement said. An officer then shot him.
Brooks was taken to a hospital, where he died, the statement said.
One officer was treated for an injury and released, the GBI said.
CNN has reached out to the APD, GBI and the mayor’s office but they have not responded.
‘I thought Atlanta was higher than that’
At the Wendy’s in southeast Atlanta, Decatur Redd, who said he is a relative of Brooks, spoke with reporters and a crowd of people.
“I don’t know how to do this because I never knew that I was going to have to do this,” Redd said. “I’ve watched this on the internet, from the whole George Floyd situation to us coming together like we’re doing and this whole thing landed on my doorstep with my little cousin.
“I thought Atlanta was higher than that. I thought Atlanta was bigger than that,” Redd said.
“We’ve been watching this happen for so many years, with young black boys around the country just dying in vain,” Redd said. “I just don’t want that to continue and keep happening like that.”
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams commented on Twitter.
“The killing of #RayshardBrooks in Atlanta last night demands we severely restrict the use of deadly force. Yes, investigations must be called for — but so too should accountability,” Abrams wrote. “Sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death.”
The Georgia NAACP said Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields should be fired immediately.
“The City of Atlanta must not only address this with their words, but also their actions,” said President James Woodall in a media call.
District Attorney investigating
The GBI is investigating at the request of the APD, the statement said. Once completed, the case will be turned over to prosecutors for review.
Howard, the district attorney, issued a statement Friday afternoon.
“My office has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident,” Howard said. “Members of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office were on scene shortly after the shooting, and we have been in investigative sessions ever since to identify all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.”
CNN affiliate WSB reports this is the 48th police shooting the GBI has investigated in 2020.
CNN’s Chandler Thornton and Alex Meideros contributed to this report.