Maureen Dowd | New York Police Officers Remember Jason Rivera – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Maureen Dowd  Get an email as soon as Maureen Dowd’s latest column is published. Get it sent to your inbox.

“We don’t hear much about good cops these days.

Their stories get lost amid the scalding episodes with trigger-happy, racist and sadistic cops.

The good ones get tarred with the same brush, even though the last person who wants to get in a squad car with a bad cop is a good cop.

It takes a catastrophe, like 9/11, or an attempted coup like Jan. 6, or a heartbreaking funeral with a sea of blue, like Friday’s ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the murdered 22-year-old New York City police officer Jason Rivera, to remind us that we should be proud of good cops even as we root out bad ones.

“There shouldn’t have to be a funeral to acknowledge how valiant they can be in the face of danger,” Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum told me.”

Editorial | Train the Police to Keep the Peace, Not Turn a Profit – The New York Times

“Some police departments across the country have embraced the corrupting and unjust practice of raising revenue for their municipalities by pushing officers to write as many traffic tickets as possible.

Policing for profit encourages unfair enforcement of the law. It also increases the likelihood that motorists stopped for infractions largely unrelated to public safety will be killed or injured during encounters with officers who are trained to view traffic stops as moments of mortal peril.

The situation cries out for departments to change how officers are trained. Ultimately, these departments need to stand down from practices that bring many more people than necessary into contact with the law under circumstances that too often lead to what one district attorney refers to as “anticipatory killings” by police officers.

The New York Times lays out these and other issues in an alarming investigation of the culture that too often transforms traffic stops for common violations into unnecessary beatings, car chases or shootings.

Nekima Levy Armstrong | Black Voters in Minneapolis Wanted Better Policing, Not Posturing by Progressives – The New York Times

Ms. Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer, is a founder of the Racial Justice Network and the executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation.

“MINNEAPOLIS — This city always prided itself for being a progressive place where everyone could thrive. At least, that was true for white people. Black residents all too often faced persistent racism and inequality — in education, homeownership, income and employment — and in the way the police treated us.

For years, the Minneapolis police have persistently abused Black residents, even children. Several years ago I saw a white officer confront a Black boy who looked to be about 10, grab him by his shirt and slam him against the hood of a police car. I confronted the officer and notified the white police chief at the time. The chief shrugged as if there was nothing he could do.

It took the police murder of George Floyd last year, and an uprising by outraged residents, to finally call attention to the brutality and injustice Black people face every day here and around the country.

Those of us who had long fought for a reckoning over police abuse in Minneapolis expected to see a critical examination of the practices, laws, policies, contractual requirements and spending that undergird policing. We expected a well-thought-out, evidence-based, comprehensive plan to remake our police department.”

Charles M. Blow | ‘Awful but Lawful’ – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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“Along with many others, I have long argued that the reason so few police officers are ever charged in their killings of unarmed Black people (and few of those charged are ever convicted) is that our legal system has effectively rendered those killings legal. This is the case regardless of how horrendous the killings are or how much evidence, including video, makes clear what took place.

The defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd raised this very concept Wednesday when questioning Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department use-of-force expert who was a witness for the prosecution.

Eric Nelson, an attorney for Chauvin, asked if Sergeant Stiger had ever had anything to do with a training called “awful but lawful, or lawful but awful.” He said that he had. Nelson continued his questioning: “The general concept is that sometimes the use of force, it looks really bad, right, and sometimes it may be so, it may be caught on video, right, and it looks bad, right?”

Sergeant Stiger responds, “yes.”

Nelson then says, “But, it is still lawful.”

The officer concludes, “Yes, based on that department’s policies or based on that state’s law.” “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Charles Blow. It seems that awful should not be lawful. You stop someone for the equivalent of jay walking, and then, if they try to run, you execute them with your gun. How do we make awful unlawful?

Opinion | To Get Police Reform, ‘Defund the Politicians’ – By Miriam Pawel – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“LOS ANGELES — In late August, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies shot a Black man, Dijon Kizzee, whom they had stopped for a suspected traffic violation as he rode his bicycle. He became the seventh man killed by deputies in Los Angeles since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day weekend.

On the same afternoon, state legislators in Sacramento raced to the end of their 2020 session. The most significant police reform measure, heralded in the days of the Black Lives Matter marches that filled the streets, did not even come up for a vote.

A centerpiece of the agenda would have set up a process for yanking the badge of any officer found to have committed serious misconduct. California is one of only five states that has no process for certifying police officers, which among other things enables bad cops to move from department to department with impunity.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses. Major newspapers in California editorialized in favor of a slew of police reform bills. Polls showed support. In one of the bluest states in the country, all indications pointed toward action on reform.

But in the end, even here, it was essentially business as usual in a State Capitol where police unions have long wielded enormous power. The measures that passed this year were either noncontroversial or so diluted as to have little if any immediate impact.”

‘Top Cop’ Kamala Harris’s Record of Policing the Police – The New York Times

“During this summer of tear gas and turmoil, Kamala Harris has not been quiet.

On “The View,” the California senator spoke about “reimagining how we do public safety in America.”

On the Senate floor, she sparred with Rand Paul after the Kentucky Republican blocked a bill to make lynching a federal crime, and she is among the Democrats sponsoring policing legislation that would ban choke holds, racial profiling and no-knock warrants.

On Twitter, she expressed frustration that police officers who killed a Black Kentucky woman, Breonna Taylor, during a drug raid gone wrong, “still have not been charged.”

As a leading contender to be Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate in the final days before his decision, Ms. Harris has emerged as a strong voice on issues of police misconduct that seem certain to be central to the campaign. Yet in her own, unsuccessful presidential run, she struggled to reconcile her calls for reform with her record on these same issues during a long career in law enforcement.”

David Lindsay: We admired the report the other day of a hard core Republican, who said, if the Democrats ran a can of soup against Donald Trump, he would still vote for the can of soup.
I am not an admirer of Kamala Harris. I will try and find the Nicholas Kristof muck raking report that turned me off – from 2018.05.17.
But as the Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris supported the police unions about 99% of the time, because it was then popular with the majority of voters. I was pleased, on the other hand, to see a report on her on the PBS News Hour last night, that showed a far more nuanced and favorable set of facts. She did push for improvements, but oh so gently. When a police officer killed a person, she always deferred to the local district attorney, to decide whether to investigate the police to respect the current process. And investigations almost never happened. Many many killings went uninvestigated.

Opinion | Three Futures for the Police – By Ross Douthat – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

“American policing is going to emerge changed from this June of protest. The question is whether it will be altered for the better. So let’s consider three possible scenarios for change — one building on the current system, another more ambitious but also riskier, and a third to be avoided at all costs.

At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.

On the other hand, as Charles Fain Lehman of The Washington Free Beacon points out, police departments aren’t as awash in funding as the rhetoric of “defund the cops” — even in its milder or nonliteral interpretations — would suggest. As a share of budgets, state and local spending on the police increased in the 1990s but has been flat or falling for the last two decades. (Indeed, cities may be offering sweeping union protections to their cops as a way to avoid paying them more money.) Despite frequent suggestions that the United States overspends on policing, as a share of gross domestic product, the European Union spends 33 percent more on cops than the United States does — while spending far less than us on prisons.

There are good reasons to think that the Europeans know what they’re doing. A substantial body of research suggests that putting more cops on the beat meaningfully reduces crime. And even the American neighborhoods that suffer most from police misconduct and brutality are often still under-policed when it comes to actually solving murder cases.”

David Lindsay, comment in the NYT:

Thank you Ross Douthat. You wrote: “At this point, almost everyone except their union reps agrees that American police officers are too well defended from accountability. Collective bargaining makes police misconduct more common; the terms of union contracts often obstruct disciplinary action. It’s too hard to fire bad cops, too easy to rehire them, too difficult to sue them, too challenging to win a guilty verdict when they’re charged with an offense. All of which means it’s too easy for cops to get away with abuse, violence, murder.” With such a clear opening statement, you could only add value to a most complicated debate. I would love to hear more about how the Europeans do better than us. I also, as a trained martial artist, would like to see all police officers required to work towards a black belt in Aikido, the modern Japanese martial art about controlling an opponent, while also knowing how not to hurt them, as well as how to hurt them if necessary.

Opinion | Abolishing Qualified Immunity Is Unlikely to Alter Police Behavior – By Daniel Epps – The New York Times

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Mr. Epps is an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Credit…Madison Carter/WKBW, via Associated Press

“The national movement galvanized by the killing of George Floyd has created the possibility of transformational change to policing. One reform that has generated broad discussion is eliminating “qualified immunity,” the court-created doctrine that makes it difficult for people whose civil rights are violated by police officers to obtain money damages in lawsuits. There are good arguments for getting rid of this immunity, or at least seriously restricting it. But abolishing it is unlikely to change police behavior all that much.

Qualified immunity shields government officials from personal liability in federal lawsuits unless they violate “clearly established” federal law. That means that even if a police officer violates someone’s constitutional rights, the victim can’t obtain damages from the officer unless he or she can show that the officer violated a right explicitly recognized by a prior court ruling.

In theory, this requirement protects government defendants from unexpected liability when law changes. In practice, courts apply the doctrine aggressively to shield officers from lawsuits unless plaintiffs can point to other cases declaring essentially identical conduct unconstitutional — a difficult hurdle, even when police conduct appears clearly wrong.

Indeed, even if the former police officer Derek Chauvin is convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd, it’s quite plausible that a court could refuse to hold him liable for violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights if his lawyers were unable to point to an earlier case making clear that the specific action Mr. Chauvin took — kneeling on a restrained person’s neck for more than eight minutes — was unconstitutional.”

Tasers: Are These Police Tools Effective and Are They Dangerous? – The New York Times

“The fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was found asleep in a car in a drive-through at a Wendy’s on Friday night in Atlanta, has reignited the debate over Tasers.

Mr. Brooks, 27, had fled from the police after failing a sobriety test, and grabbed a Taser from an officer during a struggle, the authorities said.

“During the chase, Mr. Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer,” the authorities said, adding that “the officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks.”

Kalfani N. Turè, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, said the shooting of Mr. Brooks was what was known in police circles as “lawful but awful.”

That is, he said, officers are trained that they have the right to escalate their use of force if they believe someone is threatening to incapacitate them.

In the case of Mr. Brooks, Professor Turè said, other options were available to the officers: Identify Mr. Brooks through his car and track him down later, for instance, or call for backup to help apprehend him.”

Opinion | When It Works to ‘Defund the Police’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

““Defund the police” is a catchy phrase, but some Americans hear it and imagine a home invasion, a frantic call to 911 — and then no one answering the phone.

That’s not going to happen. Rather, here’s a reassuring example of how defunding has worked in practice.

In the 1990s, both the United States and Portugal were struggling with how to respond to illicit narcotics. The United States doubled down on the policing toolbox, while Portugal followed the advice of experts and decriminalized the possession even of hard drugs.

So in 2001, Portugal, to use today’s terminology, defunded the police for routine drug cases. Small-time users get help from social workers and access to free methadone from roving trucks.

This worked — not perfectly, but pretty well. As I found when I reported from Portugal a few years ago, the number of heroin users there fell by three-quarters and the overdose fatality rate was the lowest in Western Europe. Meanwhile, after decades of policing, the United States was losing about 70,000 Americans a year from overdoses. In effect, Portugal appeared to be winning the war on drugs by ending it.

That’s the idea behind “Defund the Police” as most conceive it — not to eliminate every police officer but to reimagine ways to make us safe that don’t necessarily involve traditional law enforcement”