Social Justice Posts
Brief #13—Criminal Justice
By Laura Plummer
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is the largest police department in California and the third largest in the country. Angelenos have been clamoring for meaningful police reform in recent months as the LAPD has made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
By Linda F. Hersey
October 21, 2020
Deshawn Grange says he is proud to have not just one but two jobs. He is a part-time worker assembling vehicle doors at a Tesla plant in California. He also is a monitor at a public restroom owned by the City of San Francisco.
Grange, a San Francisco native, said he landed the jobs through assistance from a prison re-entry program that connected him to life-skills training, job preparation and employment. “I work all the time now,” said Grange, who did not use his real name for this story.
With two thirds of state prisoners in the U.S. re-arrested within 36 months of their release, prison-to-work or so-called re-entry programs are a path for former offenders to enjoy a law-abiding life. The goal is to provide wraparound services, from help with housing to finding a job, to lower the risk of returning to jail or prison.
A growing body of evidence shows that offenders need a diverse range of support services as they transition from incarceration to their communities, to lessen the chance of re-arrest and landing back in prison or jail, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Research shows that the better educated and/or older offender is less likely to re-commit crimes, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization.
HIGH RATE OF INCARCERATION
Incarceration numbers in the U.S. are staggering for a western nation. More than two million people are behind bars in the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
More than a half-million Americans each year are released from prisons and jails after serving time.
Many go back to the communities and friends they left when they originally broke the law and got into trouble. The return to their former lives poses risks and challenges.
The ex-offenders face significant barriers:
- Having a criminal record makes it hard to find work.
- Many have a history of drug addiction.
- Offenders are less likely to have completed high school or have the skills to sustain a job.
- Many have no place to live.
Advocates for people who have served time focus efforts more and more on education, employment and housing. These support services, studies show, can determine whether a former convict succeeds or fails after release.
To reduce the $40 billion spent by state governments annually for corrections without compromising public safety, advocates say it is critical to identify programs and services like these that improve outcomes.
FAITH-BASED PROGRAMS REACH OUT TO EX-OFFENDERS
An array of nonprofits in the U.S., many of them faith-based, aim to help offenders post-release. Saved by Grace of the San Francisco Bay area, for example, is staffed by ex-felons and focuses on both the spiritual and economic needs of former offenders.
The agency offers case management, job training, education resources and help with writing resumes and contacting employers. The agency provides a positive and welcoming community with church pastors, employers, caseworkers and advocates who represent a new network of friends and associates for the former offender.
The agency not only directs former offenders to education and employment, it also tries to provide a constructive alternative to peer pressure and negative influences former offenders may encounter again in their communities.
“Throughout my life I have made some good and bad decisions, but through it all I truly believe God had, and still has, his hand on my life,” Pastor Ronnie Muniz states about his former criminal life and his founding of the prison-re-entry agency, Saved by Grace.
A FOCUS ON OUTCOMES
Nationally, two initiatives known as SVORI and the Second Chance Act, have shown the most promise and continue to evolve, according to research by the National Institute of Justice.
- SVORI – the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative — is considered the pioneering federal grant program for integrating support services for former offenders, including job and life-skills training, education, and treatment and release plans. Research shows that participation in SVORI-funded programs have resulted in fewer re-arrests and longer times between arrests, compared with former prisoners who did not participate. Women, especially, experienced better outcomes in the areas of employment and overcoming substance abuse.
- The Second Chance Act, reauthorized by President Trump in 2018, is a follow-up to SVORI. Its goal is to improve outcomes for former offenders. In looking at outcomes for close to 1,000 former offenders in Second Chance, the National Institute of Justice found that the men and women had better rates of long-term employment and earnings but were not less likely to be re-arrested. Researchers are trying to determine why and how to change that. The legislation signed by Trump provides federal funding to programs considered essential to an offender’s re-entry.
Now a new generation of programs and research aims to identify high-risk populations that are more prone to re-offend and land back in jail or prison, according to the National Institute of Justice. Former offenders in this at-risk group may have literacy challenges, dropped out of high school, struggled with drug addiction, and a long rap sheet, including with the juvenile justice system.
The First Step Act (FSA), also signed into law in 2018, centers on developing a risk and needs assessment for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to better identify this high-needs population. Increasingly, a strong body of research shows that successful outcomes do not depend on just one factor but a whole host of supportive services and positive connections in the community.
Trauma During Re-Entry Study: This report by the Institute for Justice Research and Development looks at the effects of violence and trauma on offenders returning to their communities after serving time.
National Institute of Justice and Recidivism: The institute researches, reviews and evaluates programs for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Prison Policy Initiative: The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization offers research and advocacy around prisons and prison reform in the U.S.
Saved by Grace is a nonprofit California agency that provides supportive services to former inmates returning to their communities.
The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, national news organization that covers the criminal justice system.
Policing in America
“Police Wall of Shame” is a Policing in America series by Laura Plummer.
October 15, 2020
The New York Police Department (NYPD) is the largest police department in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after Tokyo. It has over 36,000 sworn officers, equal to the population of a small city, with approximately one officer for every 233 people.
When the NYPD killed Black man Eric Garner in 2014, it helped transform the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter into a national movement. Since then, the department has not done much to improve its reputation. In fact, its shocking antics continue to dominate headlines. From discriminating against women to planning assaults on protestors, it’s no wonder the NYPD finds itself in our Police Wall of Shame.
Date: June 4, 2020
Incident: Officers assaulted protestors in what was called the “most aggressive police response” to the George Floyd murder protests in the U.S.
Date: August 11, 2020
Incident: A female chief quit and sued the department for rampant gender discrimination. She alleged that women were systematically prevented from reaching top positions.
Date: September 1, 2020
Incident: Officers pushed back against the department’s new disciplinary measures, which are meant to improve transparency and accountability in the department. They complained that such measures would prevent them from doing their jobs.
Date: September 9, 2020
Incident: The president of the sergeants union posted a homophobic tweet about an openly gay city councilman. The councilor called for the union leader’s resignation.
Date: September 10, 2020
Incident: The department continued to promote an officer who was accused of invasive, inappropriate strip searches of Black and Latino men.
Date: September 17, 2020
Incident: Reporting showed that officers were still ticketing street vendors in September, despite Mayor de Blasio’s June declaration that the department would be relieved of this duty.
Date: September 25, 2020
Incident: The department suddenly suspended its funding for a crisis intervention training meant to reduce violent conflict with the mentally ill by teaching officers empathy.
Incident: The state attorney general declared that the department should cease making traffic stops, due to a history of stops escalating quickly into fatal violence.
Date: September 26, 2020
Incident: Officers aggressively charged at a group of protestors, diners and pedestrians, arresting 12 people. Protestors were responding to having their music equipment seized by the department during a raid of a peaceful art protest earlier in the evening.
Date: September 28, 2020
Incident: An officer was arrested for allegedly punching and pointing a gun at his girlfriend. The officer had a long history of domestic violence and was previously arrested in 2014 for threatening a woman with knives.
Date: September 29, 2020
Incident: Officers refused to wear face masks, despite it being law. Gov. Cuomo pointed out the hypocrisy of a group that is tasked with enforcing mask-wearing and yet refuses to cover their own faces.
Incident: A judge ordered a judicial review into the department’s killing of Eric Garner in 2014. Officers put Garner in a chokehold despite the fact the chokehold had been banned since 1993.
Date: September 30, 2020
Incident: A report revealed that the department planned the assault on protestors on June 4 (see above.) The attack was led by the highest-ranking uniformed officer on the force.
Incident: The department was lambasted by a former officer. The man uploaded a video in which he criticized its modern tactics and militarism, comparing it to the Call of Duty video game.
Date: October 2, 2020
Incident: Several dozen officers dressed in riot gear disrupted an outdoor concert. Neighbors were shocked, stating they had never seen such an overwhelming show of force.
Incident: The department broke the law by failing to enforce illegal placard parking. Officers are required to investigate placard abuse and turn the evidence over to the Department of Investigation.
In early summer 2020, New York City saw an increase in protests against police brutality and calls to defund the NYPD. While these outward demonstrations seem to have waned in recent months, local advocacy groups like Brooklyn Movement Center, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) and The Gathering for Justice are still hard at work organizing for tangible change in policing.
One way in which residents can have their voices heard is by voting in the city’s 2021 elections. Up for election are mayor, city councilors, public advocate, borough presidents and district attorneys. New Yorkers are urged to support progressive candidates who back comprehensive police reform. A list of current candidates can be found here.
- Brooklyn Movement Center – A campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) – A campaign working against discriminatory and abusive policing in New York
- The Gathering for Justice – An organization working to expose the NYPD’s unfair targeting of people of color
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add an incident involving the NYPD to this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a general election looming, there is a lot of debate on whether or not the results of the election will incite violence. Since Donald Trump took office as President just four years ago, a lot has changed. One of the most concerning changes is the phenomenon of white nationalist militias coming out of the woodwork. Throughout 2020, private militias were antagonizing Black Lives Matters protesters with sometimes deadly consequences. More recently, there was a plot by right-wing extremist group Wolverine Watchmen to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam due to their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the plan was exposed and while thirteen men total were arrested, six were specifically charged with planning to kidnap Whitmer and Northam. Besides the troubling situation with plotting to kidnap sitting governors, it has also been hypothesized that these right-wing militias will likely show up to the polls in certain states on Election Day. They will probably be armed and ready to intimidate others if they deem it necessary. While some groups claim they do not wish to harm anyone and only want to curb civil unrest, it can be seen that many of these groups have already engaged in violence.
These bold moves by white nationalist militia groups are not only a potential threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, but also to our democracy as a whole. Often, these right-wing militias disobey laws to achieve their goals and create more civil unrest in the process. There is the question of whether or not these civilian-formed militias are even legal. The answer to that is a bit complicated; people with extreme views are allowed to create a group off of those shared political views and call themselves a “militia.” However, all fifty states prohibit “private, unauthorized militias and military units from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement activities,” according to Georgetown University Law Center. This is exactly what we have seen pop up lately: armed civilians who are untrained in formal law enforcement attempting to do the job of legitimate law enforcement. When this happens, tragedy often strikes, as was the case with 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, IL. His involvement with right-wing militia Boogaloo Bois during the Kenosha protests ended up being deadly and he is now being charged for the murder of two out of the three protesters that he shot. Citizens have a right to defend themselves under the Second Amendment, but self-defense is not what we see these militias engaging in. Instead, we see them engaging in outright vigilantism, acting as a paramilitary unit.
The brazen actions of these right-wing nationalist militias should concern American citizens, as there is the potential for more violence as the election approaches. The FBI has arrested about 120 people on domestic terrorism suspicions this year, many of which were members of white supremacist or anti-government groups. It is clear that these groups now feel comfortable enough to come out of the woodwork and showcase themselves. Members of these groups know that laws against private militias are rarely enforced, and our own President refuses to condemn their existence. During a presidential debate, President Trump even told white supremacist group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” to deal with ANTIFA, which is a reflection of his attitude in general over the past four years. It is no wonder these groups continue to assemble and emerge, as they feel they have the support of our country’s “leader.” While these white nationalist militias grow in membership, what we need is a leader who will condemn their existence to protect our democracy and preserve law and order.
On September 21st, President Donald Trump followed through with an Executive Order from earlier this month and officially deemed New York, Seattle, and Portland “anarchist jurisdictions.” This could mean that these three cities will potentially see cuts in federal funding, especially regarding federal grants. In the original September 2nd Executive Order, Trump specifically targeted the government officials of cities who are “permitting anarchy, violence, and destruction.” The three cities listed have seen heavy protests this year after several law-enforcement involved shootings.
In a statement on September 21st, Attorney General William Barr implied that leaders in these cities do not allow law enforcement to do their jobs, which in turn leads to citizens not being protected by law enforcement when the time comes. Since these leaders will allegedly not cooperate with law enforcement, President Trump and the Justice Department intend on punishing them through cutting federal funding. Some of the criteria for cities to fall under the scope of the term “anarchist jurisdiction,” as laid out in the Justice Departments September 21st memo, are: whether a jurisdiction disempowers or defunds police departments and whether a jurisdiction refuses to accept offers of law enforcement aid from the Federal Government. According to the memo, cities may be added to the list as they fall under these criteria. In the coming weeks, there is expected to be more information released about what specific cuts in federal funding may occur.
The move to declare New York City, Portland, and Seattle as anarchist jurisdictions is perceived by many as a political move. The November 3rd election is looming, and President Trump is looking to make good on his promise to be a “law and order” candidate. Painting cities as “lawless zones” that he intends to help or put an end to, Trump grasps at straws as Election Day closes in. In recent national polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is favored at 51%, putting him eight points ahead of President Trump. Being that the election is so close, it is no coincidence that all three of the cities named in this recent announcement are Democrat-led. Any other cities that are added to the Justice Department’s list in the coming months would likely be Democrat-led, as well. The President has often criticized the leadership of these cities during the protests, and subsequent looting and rioting, earlier this year. The mayors of these three cities believe that if Trump follows through with his promise after labeling them anarchist jurisdictions, he would be breaking the law. In response to this threat, the mayors have also vocalized that they feel the President’s move is purely political and unconstitutional. There are already legal wheels turning, with New York Attorney General Letitia James stating that she is preparing a lawsuit to challenge President Trump’s plan to withhold federal grant money.
President Trump has once again successfully manipulated the Constitution with his latest move; he claims he does not want Federal funds used in a way that violates the Government’s promise to “protect life, liberty, and property,” yet, he cuts funding instead of redirecting it in a more productive way or attempting to get to the root of the problem.
The protests that have been going on in recent weeks are nothing new here in the U.S. since police-involved shootings have been prompting people to gather an protest for change. However, incidents involving these protests are becoming increasingly violent. We still see ongoing protests in cities like Kenosha, Portland, Rochester, and Lancaster. In the past few weeks, we have seen incidents where Trump supporters clash with protesters, as well as protesters clashing with counter-protesters. The protesters are trying to get across a point: systemic racism is real, and the police target minority groups. The Black Lives Matter movement exists to further gain equality for black people in America; however, the right sees it as a movement to dismantle and destroy our democracy.
A few weeks ago, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a Trump supporter, shot three protesters in Kenosha. Two of them were killed, while the other was injured. This is an act of vigilante-like justice by somebody who is underage, and we are seeing a lot of these acts coming from Trump supporters as of late. There was an instance in Portland where a pick-up truck full of Trump supporters drove into a crowd of protesters, firing paintballs and pepper spray. On August 29th, Aaron J. Danielson, an alleged counter-protester and member of right-wing group “Patriot Prayer,” was shot and killed at a protest in Portland when a caravan of Trump supporters clashed with protesters. The “Trump 2020 Cruise Rally” was involved in some back and forth with the counter-protesters, and when it escalated Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-proclaimed ANTIFA member, reportedly shot and killed Danielson. Later, Reinoehl was killed when law enforcement attempted to apprehend him in Olympia, Washington. Reinoehl allegedly emerged with a firearm when the U.S. Marshals arrived, and the federal task force shot and killed him.
It seems that the protests have been mostly peaceful during the daytime. When night falls, that is when we tend to see things get out of hand. While there have been instances where both sides are the agitators, there are also outside forces at play. Counter-protesters often arrive, and in some cases, make matters worse for everyone involved; we saw this with the tragic shooting of Danielson, and subsequent death of Reinoehl by federal law enforcement. One of the problems is that people who do not live in these cities, and who are often times not associated with Black Lives Matter, come to these cities to get people riled up. They come to the sites of the protests to antagonize and incite violence. Another problem that lends to protests turning violent is the presence of federal law enforcement. While they claim to be there to protect federal property, they often end up provoking protesters with the use of tear gas, and the threat of violence. While the Black Lives Matter protests are supposed to be helping to make a change for the better, outside factors often intervene and attention gets strayed away from their central message: to ensure fair treatment of black people by the state and negate the world of any bigoted, anti-black sentiments.
- To find out more about the organization’s mission, donate, or get involved, visit the Black Lives Matter website.
- For tips on how to stay safe during protests, visit this PDF published by Amnesty International.
- The National Lawyers Guild has a mass defense program for those who have been arrested or held during protests and need legal support.
“Police Wall of Shame” is a new Policing in America series by Laura Plummer that provides a chronology of all the shameful incidents within a single police department. Articles in this series will be updated to reflect new events as they occur.
September 11, 2020
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is the largest police department in California and the third largest in the country. Angelenos have been clamoring for meaningful police reform in recent months as the LAPD has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. From profiling Black citizens and allegations of misconduct to falsifying records and the fatal shooting of Dijon Kizzee, the LAPD has earned its place firmly in our Police Wall of Shame.
Date: April 22, 2020
Incident: An officer nicknamed Top Shot shot and killed 38-year-old Daniel Hernandez when he exited his vehicle following a crash. The clearly intoxicated Hernandez stumbled out of his car shirtless holding a box cutter. When he did not drop the weapon, the officer shot him six times.
Date: June 1, 2020
Incident: Four police officers allegedly surrounded a man’s vehicle and smashed his car window during a protest against police violence. Hundreds of complaints have been filed alleging police misconduct during demonstrations in the city. Supervisors also told officers to remove their body cameras during the unrest.
Date: June 2, 2020
Incident: During a protest against police brutality, officers pushed a 28-year-old man holding a sign and shot him in the groin at close range with a non-lethal projectile. The incident plainly violates the department’s use-of-force policy.
Date: July 10, 2020
Incident: Three officers were charged with labeling dozens of innocent people gang members and entering them into the state’s gang database in 2018. With the officers’ credibility challenged, all defendants with whom they have had contact since 2002 may have their convictions overturned. In addition, the LAPD announced it was investigating over 20 other officers for the same behavior.
Date: July 31, 2020
Incident: Officers defied state orders for social distancing and attended a party for first responders inside Hollywood’s Sassafras Saloon, despite the fact bars had been shut down since earlier that month.
Date: August 12, 2020
Incident: A woman sued the LAPD after one of its officers was caught on his own body camera fondling the corpse of her deceased daughter. The officer was responding to the woman’s death, which was determined to be the result of an accidental overdose.
Date: August 18, 2020
Incident: A report showed a rise in misconduct accusations against LAPD officers in 2019. Despite this, fewer officers were found guilty or received punishment than in previous years. Allegations included driving while intoxicated, biased policing, domestic abuse and neglect of duty.
Date: August 22, 2020
Incident: Officers allowed a heavily intoxicated driver to walk away from the scene of a crash he caused without charging him or forcing him to take a breathalyzer test. The drunk driver was white and driving a sports car.
Date: August 27, 2020
Incident: Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd that was protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Date: August 31, 2020
Incident: A 29-year-old Black man was shot and killed by police over a bicycle. Dijon Kizzee had allegedly violated a bicycle vehicle code and was shot 20 times by officers while fleeing on foot.
Date: September 4, 2020
Incident: Despite a season of controversy, scandal and legal woes, LAPD officers were on track to get a raise. Mayor Eric Garcetti allocated $1.75 billion to pay department salaries, over half the entire operational budget of the department.
Date: September 8, 2020
Incident: A study revealed that Black people were more than twice as likely to be stopped by the LAPD than white people in 2018 and 2019, even though white people were ten percent more likely to be in possession of illegal contraband.
Date: September 17, 2020
Incident: A 26-year-old Muslim woman filed a federal lawsuit stating that police forcibly removed her hijab during a 2019 search. A hijab is a religious headscarf worn by some female practitioners of Islam and is protected under the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Date: September 21, 2020
Incident: A report revealed that the LAPD was keeping its K9 unit dogs caged for days, including when the temperature reached a scorching 115 degrees. Video footage shows the dogs being kenneled for up to three days with little human interaction or exercise.
Incident: A woman sued the LAPD for the wrongful death of her father in police custody in 2019. The 50-year-old man was held on the ground by officers for several minutes until he lost consciousness. He died five days later.
Date: September 22, 2020
Incident: A report indicated that the LAPD downplayed its use of facial recognition technology, and in fact used it 30,000 times since 2009, including 3,750 times since February. Facial recognition technology is a tool to identify individuals on videos based on their facial features, but is notoriously bad at recognizing African-Americans and other minorities.
Residents and activists in LA are agitating for change. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles is energized. Its People’s Budget LA coalition is proposing significant cuts to the city’s police budget and demanding city leaders prioritize “care not cops”. A current Change.org petition is pushing for LAPD funding to go toward improving infrastructure, education and support services.
- People’s Budget LA, a coalition led by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles
- Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, a local chapter of the global Black Lives Matter movement
- Change.org petition to defund the LAPD
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add an incident involving the LAPD to this article, please contact email@example.com.
At the start of the 2016 NFL Preseason, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem, as the rest of the players as well as stadium attendees stood, hand on heart. After receiving criticism for this tactic, Kaepernick and fellow 49er Eric Reid began kneeling. When asked for an explanation, Kaepernick explained to NFL Media, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The NFL followed with a statement clarifying that players are not required to stand, and that this is a matter of individual rights.
While Kaepernick’s response to the outrage his kneeling caused seems reasonable in 2020, it was not taken as such at the time. 2016 was the last season Kaepernick was signed to an NFL team. The reasoning behind that has been disputed, but curiously Donald Trump stated in 2017 that he was responsible for the former QB’s lack of employment. In 2018, Nike announced Kaepernick would be part of their anniversary campaign which resulted in a national boycott of the brand. Cut to present day: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commented in June 2020, “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”
Goodell is not alone in his apparent flip flop in acceptance and even support for kneeling as protest. This year, NBA, MLB, and NWSL teams kneeled during the National Anthem without much in the way of fallout. Players, most notably in the NBA, have utilized interview time to call for justice for victims of police brutality, namely Breonna Taylor. While Trump has no more understanding now than in 2016, most of the country seems to have accepted the notion. When fans saw that NHL players were not kneeling for the anthem, #kneel4hockey began trending on Twitter, accompanied by fan photos of themselves kneeling and encouraging the league to do as much or more.
This shift in acceptance no doubt stems from the Black Lives Matter activity of this year. Protests of police violence continue around the country, and as they are met with more police violence, shifts in perspective are no doubt happening. This is not to say that all of America agree with the protests; a recent CBS survey stated that 58% of Americans think kneeling is an acceptable means of protest. The same poll in 2018 showed only 36% thought it acceptable. It has been four years since Kaepernick first took a knee. With the NFL season quickly approaching, time will tell whether this trend will persist.
- Know Your Rights Camp is a youth program created by Colin Kaepernick in the wake of his activist status: www.knowyourrightscamp.com
- Black Lives Matter organizes protests and resources for the causes discussed in this article, including civil rights and justice from police brutality: www.blacklivesmatter.com
This past Sunday, August 23, police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Reportedly, Blake was attempting to break up a fight between two women, when police responded to the call. When police arrived words were exchanged, and Jacob Blake attempted to retreat to his vehicle, where his three small children were waiting in the backseat. There was an effort to use a Taser against Blake to stop him from returning to his vehicle, but it was not successful. One of the officers, now identified as Rusten Sheskey, grabbed Blake by the shirt and discharged his weapon seven times into Blake’s back as Blake opened his driver’s side door. According to lawyers for his family, Jacob Blake is now paralyzed from the waist down and it would take a miracle for him to be able to walk again. The unlawful shooting of Blake is just the latest police-involved shooting where unnecessary force is used by police on African American suspects.
This incident has prompted protests every night in Kenosha since its occurrence. There is currently a 7 p.m. curfew in place until Sunday night. Tensions have been on the rise since the shooting, and Tuesday night some of those tensions came to a head in Kenosha. 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse traveled from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin armed with an AR-15 rifle to allegedly help defend businesses from looters. While in Kenosha, he shot three people, killing two of them. Although some speculate this was self-defense, most people are wondering why a minor was there in the first place. It is unlawful for someone under the age of 18 to carry a gun across state lines; in Illinois, where Rittenhouse resides, it is unlawful for someone under the age of 18 to own a gun. Rittenhouse was not immediately arrested, and was able to spend the night at home. This adds fuel to the idea that the police target black criminals with violence and shots to the back, while peacefully arresting their white counterparts. To contribute to the uproar, certain mainstream media outlets have labeled Jacob Blake as a man with a criminal past, while Kyle Rittenhouse has been labeled as a young man aspiring to be a police officer.
In response to the protests and rioting, President Donald Trump has sent in federal assets to help Kenosha “restore law and order.” After Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had already sent in the Wisconsin National Guard, Trump tweeted “Governor should call in the National Guard in Wisconsin. It is ready, willing, and more than able. End problem FAST!” This tweet is similar to others, where Trump is quick to paint Democratic leaders as incompetent, even though they have acted on the problem. It has since been announced that the Department of Justice is sending in federal law enforcement to Kenosha, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals. Thursday, Governor Evers requested the help of other National Guard troops under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. National Guard troops from Alabama, Arizona, and Michigan will be heading to Kenosha to support the Wisconsin National Guard.
There is already evidence that many votes in Wisconsin will be voting for President Trump this November, with residents feeling that he better understands what they need. Some residents feel that Democrats are only focusing on systemic racism, and not on other issues. The Republicans have painted a picture that if Democrats are elected, the looting and rioting will continue. This idea has potentially swayed some voters back to President Trump.
The consequences of the actions of the Kenosha Police Department have put the national spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement. With the protesting and rioting that has been abundant in Kenosha the past week, some opponents have voiced their criticism of Black Lives Matter, insinuating that they exist to inspire hatred against the police. These claims are unfounded and unsubstantiated. The movement is responding to Jacob Blake and many others being shot unlawfully by the police, and wants transparency from investigators. Black Lives Matter protestors attempted to remain peaceful, but tensions with police led to both sides escalating the situation. On Sunday night, the police antagonized the already agitated protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets. Protestors are frustrated over a lack of accountability in police-involved shootings, and become angry when they are responded to with either silence or violence from the police. By the time leaders from the local NAACP arrived, the national spotlight was already on Kenosha and the violence was spiraling out of control. There is speculation that until there is transparency, and until the officer that shot Blake is arrested or officially fired, the protests and rioting will continue for this Wisconsin city, with Black Lives Matter at the forefront.
- To find out more about the organization, donate, or get involved, visit the Black Lives Matter website.
- The NAACP is a civil rights organization that responds to violence against African Americans and advocates for civil rights and equality for everybody.
- To donate or find out more about their mission in Kenosha, visit the Wisconsin ACLU website.
By Erika Shannon
August 24, 2020
Policy Summary: Operation Legend has now been up and running since July 8, 2020. Named after four-year-old gun violence victim LeGend Taliferro, we originally saw 1,000 federal agents and investigators deployed to Portland, Chicago, Albuquerque, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Kansas City. In recent weeks, other U.S. cities have seen the arrival of federal agents. Indianapolis will be the site of a 45-day effort from Operation Legend to help curb gun violence; 57 federal agents will be a part of this recent deployment. There have been recent talks of expanding the program to Cincinnati, Ohio, to respond to high murder rates in the midwestern city.
On August 19, 2020, Attorney General William Barr gave an update on Operation Legend. It is estimated that there have been 1,485 arrests and almost 400 guns seized by federal agencies. Of those arrested, 217 have been charged federally and more than 90 have been charged with homicide. In Chicago there have been 61 arrests alone, with another 32 arrested in Cleveland. There has been concern of federal agents interfering with lawful protests around the country, but Barr stated that Operation Legend remains separate from any federal agents that have been deployed to respond to civil unrest.
Policy Analysis: Since its original announcement, Operation Legend has been met with opposition from state and local leaders. It has been seen as a political move by President Trump to boost his approval before the November elections, where he is on the ballot opposite Democrat hopeful Joe Biden. According to data from a recent Gallup Poll, President Trump’s approval rating is at 42%, leading some to believe that any actions taken by President Trump at this point are purely to increase ratings. President Trump is attempting to present himself as a candidate who is tough on crime and prides himself on “law and order.” It is true that the cities that have been targeted by Operation Legend do need federal resources; however these resources should not be limited to federal agents and investigators. Cities like Chicago are still seeing record shootings and homicides, despite the presence of federal agents. Operation Legend may be resulting in higher arrest rates, but it has not contributed to a drop in overall gun violence.
Local politicians have voiced their opposition to Operation Legend, feeling that they are being used as pawns in the President’s bid for re-election. There is the idea that President Trump is attempting to make some democrat-led cities seem like they are more violent and need intervention from simply federal law enforcement agencies. Leaders in Albuquerque and Kansas City learned of the federal intervention in their cities at the last minute, and some of the details are still unclear to them due to a lack of coordination between federal and local investigators. Chicago leaders, on the other hand, have seen positive results from working with federal investigators. There has been the integration of federal agents working closely with the Chicago Police Department, and other state and local leaders are hopeful that Operation Legend will eventually yield positive results for their cities, as well.
- Crime Victim Assistance Indianapolis is a resource for people who have been directly or indirectly affected by gun violence and other crimes and will send out a Victim Assistance Unit to those in need
- The American Civil Liberties Union is an organization that can defend your civil liberties if they are violated
August 13, 2020
Across the country Americans are demanding an end to police violence in their communities, with different activist groups calling for different solutions. Chief among these are reform, defund and abolish. These terms are used a lot in the media, often interchangeably, but they are actually separate and distinct points along a continuum.
Police reform refers to efforts to improve existing departments by addressing their values, policies and practices. Measures, which often translate into increased funding for departments, include requiring special training, revising old policies, making declarations and changing hiring procedures. Reformers believe police are mostly nonviolent aside from a few “bad apples.”
Defunding the police involves slashing department budgets, forcing them to downsize and minimize their operations. Defunding could be complete or partial, and some law enforcement capacity may be retained. The second part of the defunding strategy invests the money saved back into the local community in the form of infrastructure, education and social services. Proponents of defunding believe police violence is a symptom of a larger problem.
The abolitionist movement takes defunding one step further by seeking a completely new system of public safety constructed on class equality and supported by a team of “nonviolent emergency responders.” As with defunding, police budgets would go toward meeting community needs. Abolitionists believe police would be obsolete if people had more access to social services, jobs and education.
Each of the three solutions has its supporters and detractors. Ultimately, it is up to towns and cities to decide which makes the most sense for them.
#8CantWait is a police reform campaign that lays out eight actions departments can adopt to prevent the killing of civilians. These include banning chokeholds, requiring more comprehensive reporting and requiring a duty to intervene. Many major cities have already adopted all eight policies, including Cincinnati, Denver, San Francisco, St. Louis and Tucson.
Black Lives Matter supports defunding the police, as do the American Civil Liberties Union and the Movement for Black Lives. The Seattle City Council recently voted to cut its police funding by $4 million. It is among 12 cities actively exploring defunding their police departments to some degree, including New York and Los Angeles.
Groups like Critical Resistance are pushing for abolition. The campaign #8toAbolition was created in response to the #8CantWait campaign and lays out eight steps to radically transform policing, including removing police from schools, freeing people from jails and providing housing. Minneapolis, which is at the heart of the nation’s debate on police violence, is currently hearing arguments for the abolition of its police department.
#8CantWait is a police reform campaign focusing on use of force
Black Lives Matter is a global movement defending Black lives
American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit defending human rights
Movement for Black Lives is a space for Black organizations to come together
#8toAbolition is a police abolition campaign
Critical Resistance is a police abolition group
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. To add your organization as a resource, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.