Today’s selection of daily news articles focuses on the renewed pushes for innovative reforms of law enforcement in this country. Multiple local areas, and even Democrats at the national level, are bowing to or riding the wave of activist pressure to try and make real change. Here are tentatively hopeful stories to follow in the coming weeks and months. As always, the stories here are drawn from the newspaper front pages curated by Newseum.org.
Memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis, Photo by Lorie Shaull reproduced under CC BY-SA 2.0 License
Advocates both nationally and locally are pushing to use Minneapolis as a testing ground for police abolition. Police abolitionists specifically want to see corrupt police departments repealed and replaced without former leadership or problematic previous officers. Meanwhile, another movement is also gaining traction: Police defunding. Those who support this policy point to ballooning police budgets and costs of lawsuits incurred by cities while highlighting the degrading quality of that policing due to militarization. These pushes have been around for a while, Camden even took the advice of activists and tried abolition and replacement. Activists are hoping that Minneapolis is an even greater opportunity to push innovative new policies that serve Americans.
As part of an event put together by the Congressional Black Caucus, leading Congressional Democrats knelt for the duration of Officer Chauvin strangling George Floyd. This act of protest was how they announced a sweeping new police reform bill, one of the most complete ever pushed at the national level. The highlights are a national registry for abusive, violent officers and an end to both No-Knock Warrants and the use of chokeholds in policing.
Since 2015, US police have fatally shot over 5,400 people, despite an overall decrease in the crime rate. And that figure only covers shootings, not “mysterious” deaths during imprisonment or asphyxiation during restraint. Despite this toll, police departments and unions have - largely successfully - resisted attempts at reform by those subjected to this violence. The families of those whose lives were lost and the activists fighting to prevent another such death hope but don’t expect that this present moment will be the breakthrough they need.
Art covering broken windows, photo by Another Believer reproduced under CC BY-SA 4.0 License
After the one person of color on the command staff of the Portland Police Bureau was replaced by a white man - making the entirety of the command staff white - police chief Jami Resch was forced to step down due to activist pressure. Local black leaders from Black Male Achievement, Word is Bond, and Coalition of Black Men wrote an official letter expressing their discontent over this decision addressed to the Portland Police Bureau. Though not calling for Resch’s removal, they condemned the police leadership’s overwhelming whiteness despite Portland itself having a 28% minority population.
Activists in Boston are putting pressure on Mayor Walsh to propose real reforms to the Boston police. In particular, activists are pushing for what is commonly being called “defunding”. They want a restructuring of department financial resources to emphasize crime prevention and harm reduction strategies by turning much of that budget over to social services instead of further expenditure on surplus military equipment, tactical training, frivolous overtime, and often-bloated salaries for senior police. Representatives of Families for Justice and Healing, Muslim Justice League, and Youth Justice and Power Union called for a specific 10% cut to be reinvested in job-creation programs, prisoner reentry programs, and social services.
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