Newswire : New report shows number of people killed by police skyrocketed in 2020

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

According to estimates compiled by the Mapping Police Violence project, roughly 1,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in the past year. The new report revealed that at least 28 percent of those killed were African Americans, who make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Although this figure is staggering, the Center for American Progress (CAP) noted that it is almost certainly under-represents the actual number of civilians who died while in the custody of the criminal justice system. The full scope of which cannot be determined due to a lack of official data. According to CAP, data on deaths in custody is crucial for holding law enforcement and correctional facilities across the country accountable. The organization said the absence of accurate and complete information on the number of people who die in custody and the nature of such deaths, stifles policymakers’ ability to examine the underlying causes, let alone determine what can be done to lower the incidence. In a new brief, CAP urged Congress and state legislatures to take the initiative to ensure the dependability of forthcoming data on deaths in custody. “One year ago, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police as the world watched, spurring a blistering call for police accountability in the United States,” CAP noted. “Floyd is one among the countless Black Americans and other people of color killed by law enforcement: Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Amadou Diallo, Botham Jean, Alton Sterling, Daniel Prude, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clark, and too many others. In the year since Floyd’s death, the list has grown longer still with the deaths of Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, Adam Toledo, Andrew Brown, and, again, too many others.” According to CAP, while the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began collecting data on deaths in custody in 2020 under the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) of 2013, outstanding funding and compliance issues could compromise the quality of the impending data. “Findings based on such flawed data would not help policymakers understand the causes of deaths in custody or reduce their occurrence, the primary purpose of the DCRA,” CAP editors wrote. CAP’s brief underscored how critical actions could be taken to address these concerns about data on deaths in custody. “Congress should appropriate the necessary funding for the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance to implement a methodology to search for and validate leads on deaths in custody,” Kenny Lo, a research associate for Criminal Justice Reform at American Progress, wrote in the May 24 brief. “A similar approach enabled the DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to identify nearly three times more arrest-related deaths than before as part of a broader effort that cost BJS less than $5 million between fiscal years 2014 and 2017.” For their part, state legislatures should look to compel all state and local law enforcement agencies to report DCRA data, Lo continued. States such as California, Texas, Maryland, and Tennessee already have laws that require all agencies to report data similar to those required by the DCRA, serving as models for other states to follow, Lo Wrote. Incentivizing DCRA compliance by all agencies would improve the quality of the data and bring about meaningful accountability in the criminal justice system, he continued. “Our nation urgently needs to confront the scourge of police violence against communities of color. Yet for decades, the government has failed to track the number of deaths that occur in the justice system,” said Betsy Pearl, associate director for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress. “While data collection alone can’t end systemic racism in our justice system and can’t bring back the countless lives lost, it’s essential for laying the groundwork to create real accountability and justice for all.” For more information and the full report go to the Center for American Progress website.

Newswire: Justice Dept. opens policing probe over Breonna Taylor Death

Louisville demonstration for Breonna Taylor

By: Michael Balsamo, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the March 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police during a raid at her home, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday. It’s the second such probe into a law enforcement agency by the Biden administration in a week; Garland also announced an investigation into the tactics of the police in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd. The attorney general has said there is not yet equal justice under the law and promised to bring a critical eye to racism and legal issues when he took the job. Few such investigations were opened during the Trump administration. The 26-year-old Taylor, an emergency medical technician who had been studying to become a nurse, was roused from sleep by police who came through the door using a battering ram. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once. A no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home. Investigation looks for ‘pattern or practice’ The investigation announced Monday is into the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department. It is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping review of the entire police department. Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Breonna Taylor’s family, posted a celebratory message on social media shortly after the announcement. “Boom. Thank you,” he wrote. Aguiar and other attorneys negotiated a $12 million settlement in September with the city of Louisville over Taylor’s death. The investigation will specifically focus on whether the Louisville Metro Police Department engages in a pattern of unreasonable force, including against people engaging in peaceful activities, and will also examine whether the police department conducts unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures and whether the department illegally executes search warrants, Garland said. The probe will also look at the training that officers receive, the system in place to hold officers accountable and “assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race,” among other things, he said. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted last week of murder in Floyd’s death, but no one has been charged in Taylor’s, though her case, too, fueled protests against police brutality and systemic racism. “No-knock” warrants debated nationally Her death prompted a national debate about the use of so-called “no knock” search warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without waiting and announcing their presence. The warrants are generally used in drug cases and other sensitive investigations where police believe a suspect might be likely to destroy evidence. But there’s been growing criticism in recent years that the warrants are overused and abused. Prosecutors will speak with community leaders, residents and police officials as part of the Louisville probe and will release a public report, if a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct is discovered, Garland said. He noted that the department has implemented some changes after a settlement with Taylor’s family and said the Justice Department’s investigation would take those into account. “It is clear that the public officials in Minneapolis and Louisville, including those in law enforcement, recognize the importance and urgency of our efforts,” Garland said. Louisville hired Atlanta’s former police chief, Erika Shields, in January. She became the fourth person to lead the department since Taylor’s death on March 13, 2020. Longtime chief Steve Conrad was forced out in the summer after officers responding to a shooting during a protest failed to turn on their body cameras. Two interim appointments followed before Shields was given the job. Shields stepped down from the top Atlanta post in June after the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in a restaurant parking lot. Shields remained with the Atlanta department in a lesser role. Kentucky’s lawmakers passed a partial ban on no-knock warrants last month. The measure would only allow no-knock warrants to be issued if there was “clear and convincing evidence” that the “crime alleged is a crime that would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender.” Warrants also would have to be executed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Associated Press Writer Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report. 

Newswire: ‘Couldn’t possibly be silent’: These women are carrying a torch for Breonna Taylor

Rep. Attica Scott in Louisville, KY. With photo of Breonna Taylor

By Chloe Atkins, NBC News LOUISVILLE, Ky. — One year ago, Breonna Taylor, 26, an emergency room technician, was shot and killed in her home by Louisville Metro Police officers who were serving a “no-knock” search warrant. The shooting provoked a national outcry. No charges were brought in direct connection with Taylor’s death; still, she has become one of the few Black women whose deaths have been flashpoints in the racial justice movement. In Louisville, Black women stepped up to lead the fight, organizing rallies, applying pressure to officials and drafting legislation. But above all, they emphasized the message that Black women are not an afterthought. “It has given a lot of women a voice who didn’t realize they had one or didn’t know how to use it,” said Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother. “To see so many women become part of something and stand up and not feel ashamed or powerless because they’re women — that’s a blessing, and Breonna would’ve loved to see it.” As demonstrations erupted across Louisville in late May, state Rep. Attica Scott, a Democrat and one of just two Black women in the Legislature, joined her constituents and marched through the streets demanding answers in Taylor’s death and an end to aggressive policing. “I have a responsibility to the people that I represent. … I certainly will not leave my constituents without any elected official walking alongside them in this movement,” Scott said. Since May, she said, she has attended over 100 marches and rallies related to racial justice and Taylor. In September, Scott and her daughter Ashanti Scott were arrested while protesting the grand jury’s decision. Scott initially was charged with felony rioting, failure to disperse and unlawful assembly; the charges were dropped later. She said the arrest was traumatic, but she continued to show up at demonstrations to seek justice for Taylor. Since last year, Scott has been pushing a statewide version of Breonna’s Law, which, she said, is an effort to “answer the protesters’ calls for police reform.” “I’m a mom of Black children, and I didn’t want any other mother to experience the pain Tamika Palmer is feeling,” Scott said. “I couldn’t possibly be silent and let down my own children and community.” The bill would ban no-knock search warrants statewide and require officers to activate their body cameras when serving warrants. Police officers would also have to undergo mandatory drug and alcohol testing if they were involved in deadly incidents or discharged their firearms. The Legislature is moving forward with a Republican-sponsored bill to limit no-knock search warrants to potentially violent cases, not Scott’s version. Scott said she is working with her Republican colleagues to help “prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.” “Kentucky still has a lot to reckon with” when it comes to the treatment of Black women, Scott said, adding that the state “needs to ask itself what are you doing for the lives of Black women to make sure they are safe.” Keturah Herron, 40, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said she felt hopeless after she learned that Taylor was shot to death. While activists gathered to organize protests, Herron decided to take on the tool that allowed police to enter Taylor’s apartment: no-knock search warrants. Louisville police Lt. Ted Eidem said officers knocked several times and “announced their presence as police who were there with a search warrant.” After they entered the premises, they were met by gunfire, Eidem said. However, Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, has said he did not hear police identify themselves and feared that someone was breaking in. He called 911, grabbed a gun and fired, striking an officer in the leg. He had a license to carry and kept firearms in the home. Taylor was unarmed. Herron helped draft Louisville’s Breonna’s Law ordinance, and in June, the City Council unanimously passed a ban on no-knock search warrants. Shortly afterward, Mayor Greg Fischer signed the measure, which immediately took effect. “It was the right thing for me to do, and it was the only thing for me to do,” Herron said. “I am proud of this legislation, but I also feel sad that it had to be on the back of a Black woman that we were able to accomplish something.” Breonna’s Law has inspired legislation and policy changes throughout the country. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill in June to end no-knock search warrants. In July, police departments in Indianapolis and Orlando, Florida, announced that they would ban such practices. In December, Breonna’s Law was passed in Virginia, making it the first state to pass it since Taylor died. “We as a society need to recognize and understand that women’s voices are needed, and we must listen to women, specifically Black women,” Herron said.

Newswire: Biden signs executive orders aimed at tackling racism in America

President Joe Biden

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders that his less than two-week-old administration hopes will be a catalyst to tackling America’s long-standing race problem. Biden’s action focused on equity and included police and prison reform and public housing.
“America has never lived up to its founding promise of equality for all, but we’ve never stopped trying,” President Biden wrote on Twitter just before signing the executive orders.
“I’ll take action to advance racial equity and push us closer to that more perfect union we’ve always strived to be,” the President proclaimed.
Within hours of taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, President Biden signed 17 executive orders to reverse damaging policy put forth by the previous administration. Throughout his campaign, President Biden pledged to do his part in the fight against systemic racism in America.
One of the Jan. 20 executive orders charged all federal agencies with reviewing equity in their programs and actions. President Biden demanded that the Office of Management and Budget analyze whether federal dollars are equitably distributed in communities of color.
On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the President reinstated a policy from the Barack Obama administration that prohibited military equipment transfer to local police departments. The President noted the disturbing trends he and the rest of the country reckoned with in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.
The order prevents federal agencies from providing local police with military-grade equipment, which was used by Ferguson, Missouri officers after police shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown.
The previous administration reinstated the policy to allow federal agencies to provide military-style equipment to local police.
Like Obama, President Biden has said he also would attempt to eliminate the government’s use of private prisons where unspeakable abuses of inmates – mostly those of color – reportedly occur almost daily.
President Biden also issued a memo that directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to promote equitable housing policies with the executive orders. He also signed an order to establish a commission on policing.

Newswire : Police pepper spay Black Lives Matter protestors in North Carolina

by Cedric ‘BIG CED’ Thornton, Black Enterprise News Service


Alamance Co. police pepper spay demonstrators


Over the weekend, in Graham, North Carolina, a Black Lives Matter rally was broken up by police officers who then attacked the crowd of protesters using pepper spray, according to CNN.
The “I Am Change” march was intended to be a “march to the polls” in honor of the Black people who fell victim to racialized violence like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Trayvon Martin, according to an advertisement for the event. However, the Graham Police Department says people were pepper-sprayed in two instances. The first time occurred after marchers refused to move out of the road following a moment of silence, and then again after an officer was allegedly “assaulted” and the event was deemed “unsafe and unlawful by the police department.”
At a press conference, the march organizer, the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, said, “I and our organization, marchers, demonstrators and potential voters left here sunken, sad, traumatized, obstructed and distracted from our intention to lead people all the way to the polls.”
The Graham Police Department arrested eight people for resisting delay and obstruction, failure to disperse, and assault on a law enforcement officer. Scott Huffman, who is running for Congress, released a video clip describing the incident on his Twitter account.
The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office said that arrests were made at the demonstration, citing “violations of the permit” Drumwright obtained to hold the rally.
 Mr. Drumwright chose not to abide by the agreed upon rules,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement Saturday. “As a result, after violations of the permit, along with disorderly conduct by participants leading to arrests, the protest was deemed an unlawful assembly and participants were asked to leave.”
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the non-violent demonstrators, as part of a continuing voting rigjts battle with Alamance, North Carolina authorities.

Newswire: More police shooting of Black Men sparks protests as “Knee Off Our Necks” March is scheduled for Saturday

By Hazel Trice Edney

Jacob Blake, 29, was shot seven times in the back in front of his children. (Credit: family photo.)


(TriceEdneyWire.com) – A 29- year-old Black man remains in stable condition today after being shot seven times in the back by a White police officer for unknown reasons on Monday, Aug. 24.
Jacob Blake, shot by a Kenosha, Wisconsin policeman, was reportedly leaving the scene of an altercation between two women as police followed him on foot, one holding a gun to his back. Blake had reportedly broken up the fight between the two women.
When Blake attempted to get into the driver’s seat of the car where his 8, 5, and 3-year-old sons were seated, the officer with the gun grabbed the back of his t-shirt; then opened fire, appearing to shoot Blake seven times in the back.
According to reports, Blake was paralyzed from the waste down after undergoing several surgeries but remained in stable condition. Two of the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending investigations.
In Lafayette, Louisiana, Trayford Pellerin, was shot to death by police at a gas station on the Evangeline Thruway, on Friday August 21, 2020. Peaceful protestors returned to the same gas station over the weekend, Some of the protestors continued to march to block the major highway through Lafayette. Police in riot gear then attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Wisconsin’s governor called on the National Guard in anticipation of possible violent protests. This incident comes after a summer of heated protests after the killings of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor both killed by police. It also comes just before the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march this Saturday, August 28, “citing racial climate as the urgent need to still mobilize.”
Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, along with Attorney Benjamin Crump and the Families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and others will convene with NAN, NAACP and others for the march on Washington in protest of police brutality. For more information on this march, go to https://nationalactionnetwork.net/commitment-march-get-your-knee-off-our-necks/.
Protestors quickly hit streets around the country as the Blake family pleaded for peaceful demonstrations only. Despite their pleas, buildings were set afire in Kenosha. Nothing was mentioned of the shooting by President Donald Trump during the first day of the Republican National Convention. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden issued a statement.
“This morning, the nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force,” Biden said. “This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable.”
DNC Chairman Tom Perez concluded, “A bullet in the back. A knee on the neck. When will it end? Yet again, our nation is hurting. Yet again, Black communities are hurting. Our hearts go out to Jacob Blake and his family as we pray for his recovery. Sadly, we know he is not the first to be viciously gunned down by law enforcement. He is one of countless Black Americans who have suffered at the hands of bigotry with a badge.

25 cars join ‘Slow Ride for Justice’ through Eutaw to protest police brutality and call for criminal justice reform

Cars lining up at the National Guard Armory for the “Slow-ride”

On Sunday afternoon, June 14, 2020, twenty-five cars joined the ‘Slow Ride for Justice’ through the City of Eutaw, to protest the police killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others. The ride called for criminal justice reform and passage of the Justice in Policing Act, proposed by the Black Congressional Caucus.
The caravan was sponsored by the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement under the director of Spiver W. Gordon, its President. “We decided on a slow ride so that our elderly and others reluctant to expose themselves to coronavirus would feel free to participate,” said Gordon.
Cars, covered with signs saying: No Justice – No Peace, Black Lives Matter, Equal Justice for All, Stop Killing Black People and others, left from the National Guard Armory, driving west on Highway 14, down Prairie Avenue passing King Village and Branch Heights, turning back north on Highway 43 and east on Highway 14 to the Courthouse Square, named for Sheriff Thomas Gilmore.
A rally with people in masks and at social distancing was held at the Courthouse Square. Many speakers spoke and prayed for greater justice in the work of police departments across the nation.
Many of the speakers were concerned that police killings were the third greatest cause of death for Black men between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
“In addition to the coronavirus pandemic raging in this country, we have a long-standing pandemic of racism that also plagues Black people,” said Gordon.

Newswire : Congressional Black Caucus introduces legislation to make the police more accountable

By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet.Today

House and Senate sponsors of legislation take a knee to pray for George Floyd


The Congressional Black Caucus on Monday introduced “The Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” legislation designed to make the nation’s police more accountable to the nation’s citizens, especially its black citizens, in the wake of the brutal in police custody death of George Floyd.
The May 25th murder Floyd by a Minneapolis cop has sparked worldwide protests about police brutality and has led to a demand in the U.S. for greater accountability by the police.
Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the out the names of other unarmed black men and women killed by police. Bass (D., California) said the names of several victims before asking other members of the CBC to shout out the names of other black men and black women killed by police.
Audience members screamed the names of Freddie Gray, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Dontre Hamilton, Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, Corey Jones, Terrence Crutcher and Botham Jean.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D., California), who helped write the legislation, said, “America’s sidewalks are stained with black blood. In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, we must ask ourselves: how many more times must our families and our communities be put through the trauma of an unarmed black man or a woman’s killing at the hands of police who are sworn to protect and serve them?
“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand change that ends police brutality, holds officers accountable and calls for transparency,” Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said during a Washington, D.C. news conference. “For over 100 years, Black communities in America have sadly been marching against police abuse and calling the for the police to protect and serve them as they do others. Today, we unveil the Justice in Policing Act, which will establish a bold transformative vision of policing in America. Never again should the world be subjected to witnessing what we saw on the streets in Minnesota with George Floyd.”
The bill, if passed and signed into law, it would:
Ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement
Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic cops who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability
Amend a federal criminal statute from a “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct
Require state and local law enforcement agencies to report us of force data by race, gender, disability, religion and age
Mandate the use of dashboard cameras and body cameras for federal officers and require state and local enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras
Prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandate training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement
Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not barred from recovering damages when police violate their constitutional rights
Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches
Create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and require the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing
Improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and create a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments
Establish a Department of Justice task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, states and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.
Thirty-five members of the U.S. Senate and 166 members of the House of Representatives are sponsoring the bill.