The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before firing their guns — a policy shift that marks a significant milestone in the board’s attempts to curb shootings by police.
The new rules formally incorporate a decades-old concept called “de-escalation” into the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy outlining how and when officers can use deadly force. As a result, officers can now be judged specifically on whether they did all they could to reduce tensions before resorting to their firearms.
Tuesday’s unanimous vote caps a 13-month effort by the Police Commission to revise the policy. Two sentences will be added to the department’s manual, the first of which tells officers they must try to de-escalate a situation — “whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so” — by taking more time to let it unfold, moving away from the person and trying to talk to him or her, and calling in other resources.Not everyone supported the new policy, however.
The American Civil Liberties Union sent the commission a letter before Tuesday’s meeting expressing concern the revisions did not go far enough to explicitly state that de-escalation would be considered when determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable. Without such language, the letter said, the ACLU urged commissioners to “refuse to accept the proposed revisions as complete.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission’s inspector general said because commissioners can consider whether an officer’s actions before a shooting contributed to that shooting, the revisions do allow the panel to consider an officer’s de-escalation efforts — or lack of them — when deciding if a shooting was justified or not.
New training and directives from the LAPD reinforce the importance of de-escalation and the policy change, the inspector general, Alex Bustamante, added. LAPD officers expected to face more scrutiny over shootings with new rulesThe revamped policy is the latest in a series of changes the five-person Police Commission has made in hopes of reducing shootings by officers. For almost two years, the civilian panel has pushed LAPD brass for more training and to provide officers with less-lethal devices, as well as a stronger emphasis on avoiding deadly force whenever possible.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin just filed a law suit against the city of Milwaukee alleging that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) routinely and purposely stops and frisks Black and Latinx people with no cause.
Collins v. City of Milwaukee was filed in the Milwaukee Division of the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Wisconsin. It names six Black and Latinx residents who were stopped by police without reasonable suspicion as the plaintiffs. But as a class action suit, it seeks redress for every person who has been, or will be, stopped by the MPD since January 7, 2008, plus a subclass that includes all Black and Latinx members of that class.
The suit names the city, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission as defendants. Filed yesterday (February 22), the suit alleges that at Flynn’s direction, the department violates the protections that should be afforded citizens of color via the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And the ACLU says those violations are increasing: the number of traffic and pedestrian stops tripled in the years after Flynn became the top cop, jumping from 66,657 in 2007 to 196,434 in 2015.
In the weeks after the Nov. 8 election, when Donald Trump secured a surprise victory to become president of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union received so much money in online donations — more than $15 million — that an official with the 100-year-old organization called the flood “unprecedented in our history.”
That was before Trump had even sworn the oath of office. Eleven days ago he did just that, then spent his first week as president signing executive orders and making good on some of his campaign promises, spurring massive protests across the country and the world — about women’s rights, the environment and what Trump calls his “extreme vetting” of travelers to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
Amid the swift and intense backlash, the ACLU seems once again to be benefiting directly.This weekend alone, the civil liberties group received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people, a spokesman told The Washington Post early Monday morning, a total that supersedes its annual online donations by six times.
In an interview with CNN, the ACLU had a one-word reaction: “Wow.” Before the donations had soared to $24 million, Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, told Yahoo News he was blown away by the influx.“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Romero told Yahoo News. “People are fired up and want to be engaged. What we’ve seen is an unprecedented public reaction to the challenges of the Trump administration.”
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York put a temporary ban on an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on Saturday that was put in place to prevent Syrian refugees and travelers from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. According to the Huffington Post, Donnelly declared that the ban “violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants’ rights groups and refugee relief organizations had filed the action in federal court Saturday morning on behalf of two Iraqi nationals who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, asking for a declaration that the order is unconstitutional and requesting an injunction to prevent its implementation against other travelers who may be equally harmed.
“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioners and others similarly situated violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York wrote in her order.
The legal action named Trump in his official capacity as president, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and other high-ranking officials. Although temporary and subject to appeal, it represents the first major constitutional setback faced by the new administration.
ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt says that the ruling will protect people from other countries who have permission to be in the U.S. “This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil,” he told the Huffington Post.
Earlier this year, home-rental site Airbnb came under heavy scrutiny after black users of the platform took to social media to describe the discrimination they faced. Most noted that after renters saw their photos, which were included in the booking request, they were denied accommodations. The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack popped up on Twitter and went viral. The company needed to do some serious soul-searching.
“Our mission is to allow people to belong anywhere … and that this issue, the issue of racial bias [or] discrimination on the platform, was a big problem and antithetical to our actual mission,” Christopher Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for Airbnb, told The Root. “We needed to address this, but to be able to address it, we needed to understand it, consult with the experts [and] listen to people who’ve been on the front line for decades to help us … understand what the challenge was and then, from there, what we can do.”
That aha moment led the company to tap powerhouses such as formerU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, along with Laura W. Murphy—former director of the ACLU Legislative Office, who currently serves as a senior adviser to Airbnb—launched a review into the company’s practices with the intention of confronting and dealing with explicit and implicit discrimination and bias.
“What Airbnb made clear from the beginning is that they didn’t want to simply follow the law … but to do that which would exceed what was legally required,” Holder told The Root. “Change comes when you have tough, honest conversations, which I think Airbnb has done; when you have genuine self-reflection, which I think they have engaged in; and when you come up with proposals for bold action.”
Holder, along with civil rights attorney John Relman and Airbnb staffers, spoke with civil rights leaders for input and ideas about policy changes to address the problems and also to position the company to deal with any future grievances.
“The first time I spoke to the executives at Airbnb, there was a palpable demonstration to be willing to have these uncomfortable but absolutely necessary conversations about how these issues arose … and I thought they were interested in solving the problem and not just responding to public criticism,” Holder said.
On Thursday the company is releasing a report detailing its findings and how it plans to remedy the issues that the victims of discrimination have faced. In doing so, Airbnb acknowledges its own lack of workforce diversity, saying that it plans to create a “new comprehensive plan to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.” According to the report, some 9.64 percent of all its U.S.-based employees come from underrepresented communities. The company hopes to increase that number to 11 percent by the end of 2017.
Part of that plan includes implementing the “Diversity Rule,” which mandates that all vacant senior positions at the company include candidates from underrepresented backgrounds before any hiring is permitted to go forward.
The U.S. Justice Department will phase out use of privately owned prisons, citing safety concerns. Contracts with 13 private prisons will be reviewed and allowed to expire over the next five years .”They do not save substantially on costs and … they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said explaining the decision.
The majority of US prisoners are held in state-run prisons. On Wall Street, the stocks of private prison companies declined sharply after the news was announced. By Thursday afternoon, Corrections Corporation of America stock had plunged by nearly 50%. An Inspector General’s report released this month found that private prisons saw higher rates of violent incidents and rule infractions in comparison with government-run institutions.
Jonathan Burns, a spokesman for the Corrections Corporation of America, told BBC News that the report contained “significant flaws” and that other studies have shown their facilities “to be equal or better with regard to safety and quality”. David Fathi, who directs the National Prison Project for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told BBC News that the decision could have a trickle-down effect on state and local prisons, where more than 90% of U.S. prisoners are held.
A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the heart of a North Carolina voting law seen as the strictest in the nation, finding that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against African-Americans when they passed it.
A divided 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the measure’s provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
The ruling is just the latest court win for voting rights advocates. A different federal appeals court ruled this month that Texas’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory and must be softened. And a district court softened Wisconsin’s ID law, too, though that decision is being appealed.
North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said of the ruling, “we can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election. We will obviously be appealing this politically motivated decision to the Supreme Court.”
The voting law imposed a voter ID requirement, cut early voting opportunities, eliminated same-day voter registration and banned out-of-precinct voting, among other provisions.
The court found that by 2013, African-American registration and turnout rates had reached near parity with those of whites. But weeks after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republicans said they planned to enact an “omnibus” voting law.
The court’s ruling continued: “Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised the appeals court’s decision.
“I am pleased that the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has struck down a law that the court described in its ruling as ‘one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,'” she said. “The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country — to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation – is fundamental to who we are and who we aspire to be.”
Los Angeles, C.A. – What is being hailed as the first ever comic-con of politics and entertainment, Politicon is holding its inaugural convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend in the city with the largest, most militarized, and most violent policing forces in the nation. The lineup includes big names like Trevor Noah, James Carville, Newt Gingrich, and Ann Coulter – as well as Los Angeles based human rights activists, formerly incarcerated people, and the families of loved ones who have been killed by law enforcement.
Los Angeles based organizations including Dignity and Power Now, Black Lives Matter LA, and the ACLU of Southern California will be joining the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in a Politicon event hosted and moderated by Tourè this Saturday in order to highlight how the families of the victims of police brutality are the ones leading the charge for change, introduce the key players, and encourage people to join the fight. This cumulative event also serves as the finale to the Caravan For Justice, a week-long statewide tour that has been guiding Californians on how to utilize the ACLU’s Mobile Justice app and rallying together those affected by state violence to take action.
“The people affected by state violence have always been leading this movement,” says Director of Health and Wellness Mark-Anthony Johnson of Dignity and Power Now. “This Saturday we’ll be center stage at Politicon, just as we’ve been center stage at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the police commission for years. We got civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department. We passed AB 953. We’re getting stronger and we’re not going anywhere.”
First and foremost, all of us at Good Black News are heartbroken over the loss of the nine precious lives taken this week by senseless, hateful murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and our sympathies and prayers go out to the families and loved ones most acutely affected by this domestic terrorism. Even though you may already know the names of the unintended martyrs, they bear repeating, and often, so we never forget: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Tywanza Sanders, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Daniel L. Simmons, Ethel Lee Lance, Myra Thompson, and Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor.
We call them martyrs because they are now part of the unfortunately long lineage of named and unnamed African-Americans subjected to racially-motivated violence in the United States. From enslaved persons who died on slave ships in the Middle Passage, to persons enslaved in the colonies, to Reconstruction, to the Jim Crow era, to the Civil Rights movement and up through today, the pattern is plain: you are black, you are hated, your life doesn’t matter, you die violently.
I have spent a lot of time this past week reading and watching coverage of this national tragedy, not only to gather as much information as possible, but also to process and attempt to think of the right words to share on how to move forward in a positive manner, as that is overriding philosophy and mission of Good Black News. I do think it is crucial first, however, to talk about WHERE this happened, HOW it happened and WHY it happened.
As everyone knows by now, South Carolina so proudly claims its antebellum history that the Confederate flag still flies on its State Capitol building. The battle at Fort Sumpter in 1861, right outside of Charleston, which occurred not long after South Carolina seceded from the Union, set off the Civil War. Tourist shops in Charleston casually sell merchandise such as mammy magnets and confederate bumper stickers, which are symbols of racial oppression to my eyes, but symbols of “the good ol’ days” to others.
The other “where” in this situation is specifically the Emanuel AME Church. The history of this church is steeped in the fight for African-Americans to create their own place of worship and the freedom to express their humanity. One of the church founders, Denmark Vesey, attempted in 1822 to organize a slave rebellion from this space, which, although thwarted, created mass hysteria among the slave owners in the Carolinas and lead to the church being burned. It has been rebuilt several times and stands as a consistent symbol of black pride, resistance and fortitude. So the choice of this place for this action makes it clear this was a targeted, racially-motivated attack.
On Wednesday night, in the spirit of fellowship, church members welcomed Dylann Roof, the unfamiliar stranger who would become their assassin, to join and participate in their bible study. He took advantage of their compassion and open hearts to forward a racist agenda that is centuries-old and still pervasive in the DNA of this country, and particularly so in South Carolina and the South. In the 1960s, people didn’t call the killers of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., or the four African-American girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama “mentally insane.” They called them what they were – Klan members and/or racists. So regardless of whether or not Roof has mental problems, his racism and desire for racial supremacy is the primary motivation behind his actions.
So, clearly knowing all of that, what are some positive, actionable ways we can move forward as a nation, in our communities and in our personal lives from this horrific event?
Petition/protest/vote for removals of all symbols of oppression and hate from government buildings, streets, tourist centers and shops.
Contribute to the donation fund set up for the families of the victims of the Emanuel AME shootings.
Support/join organizations such as the NAACP, ACLU or the National Urban League, that are dedicated to protesting racial injustice and empowering minorities.
Educate all children of all colors and creeds about the racial history of the United States from slavery to the present and call it what it is. Visit civil rights museums. Read, know and learn the history. Just as Jewish peoples around the world make sure each generation “never forgets” the Holocaust – so should we never forget about American racial injustice.
Keep calling out and protesting current injustices – we need to keep filming and reporting and being sources for unjust police actions, racial disparities in the workplace and even in our personal conversations. Let’s not be Roof’s friend Joseph Meek Jr.,who now regrets not checking his friend more thoroughly about his racist vitriol.
Love. Find forgiveness in our hearts just as the family members of several of the victims are doing for the assailant. Meeting hate with hate solves nothing.
Californians who use their cellphones to record police encounters with the public on video will be able to automatically transmit them directly to their local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union using a smartphone application launched Thursday.
By using the Mobile Justice CA app to send recordings to the ACLU, leaders of the organization said, people can ensure that video of potential police misconduct is preserved, even if their cellphone is tampered with or destroyed.
“We’re merging the power of technology with the power of the ACLU and the power of the people,” Hector Villagra, the executive director for the ACLU of Southern California, told reporters Thursday. “We are so proud to put an innovative new tool in people’s hands, empowering people to know, to assert and to protect their rights.”
Peter Bibring, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, told The Times that work on the app began before the recent national outcry over how police officers use force, particularly against black men. But, he said, the recent string of controversial police killings have shown the importance – and impact – of civilian-captured video.
“As we’ve seen in headlines over the previous few months, recordings by members of the public is a crucial check on police abuse,” Bibring said. “We’ve seen a number of examples of high-profile incidents of abuse and unlawful shootings or killings that never would have come to light if someone wouldn’t have pulled out their phone and taken video.”