Time for police reform continues to be right now

Create a policy for a transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct.

police reformIn the area of police reform, the Minneapolis Police Department is particularly problematic, I’ve discovered. One might not be surprised to find a story in the Boston Globe, from 4 June with the headline. Don’t let labor agreements thwart police accountability. “Union agreements too often prevent police departments from firing officers who act violently or inappropriately. Lawmakers of both parties need to take police discipline out of labor negotiations so that accountability can no longer be used as a bargaining chip.”

Yeah, do you know who else wrote that? The Federalist! And with some chilling details: “In the particular case of George Floyd…: at least two cops should have lost their jobs long before the event even occurred. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on [George] Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, had previously received 20 complaints filed against him, resulting in two letters of reprimand. His partner, Tou Thao, was sued in 2017 for stopping a man without cause and beating him in the street. In both cases, their contracts protected them.”

Here’s another dreadful piece of the puzzle: “Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers. ‘There’s been a big influx of PTSD,’ Kroll said. ‘But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.” Maybe.

So it’s a bit scary when a white man calls cops on black men at Minneapolis WeWork gym, which fortunately did not turn into a dangerous confrontation.

Still, Minneapolis public schools voted to sever their contract with the police. “We want justice for George Floyd, and we know that justice isn’t enough. And now is the time to defund the police and invest in the community.”

Likewise, according to the LA Times: “As protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd [continued], Los Angeles officials said [June 3] that they will cut $100 million to $150 million from the city’s police budget as part of a broader effort to reinvest more dollars into the local black community.” Here’s what the defund the police movement means.

It’ll be interesting to see if the misunderstood and frankly misleadingly labeled defund movement takes hold, and if so what it will mean.

Perhaps, it’ll be like what Bernie Sanders is pushing for: “civilian corps of unarmed first responders to supplement law enforcement, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals.”

Watch/read this now

If you’re still grappling with what this policing issue is all about, I most highly recommend Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. At the very end is a very eloquent, very angry young black woman talking about Protesters, Looters, Rioters, and the social contract between black people and the police.

The Weekly Sift guy explains How Should American Policing Change?

Surprisingly, in AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux suggests we protest also against police unions and qualified immunity.

New York State

“What we’ve been seeing play out across cities and townships throughout the country [recently] are Americans taking to the streets speaking out to say they’ve had enough of the status quo. Protesters are demanding meaningful systematic and structural changes to address the egregious racial inequities in our justice system and, really, in every facet of our government and society – including in policing, housing, health care, education, and employment, to name a few.”

There’s a list of potential police reform initiatives in the above graphic for New York State. Item #1 is the repeal of New York State’s police secrecy law, Section 50-a, which “hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public.” Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox: “Repealing New York’s 50-a law is a critical step to protect the public safety of all New Yorkers.” It was just passed!

Nationally

On the federal level, there is a bill called the Excessive Force Prevention Act. It was originally introduced in the House by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries which would make police chokeholds illegal under federal civil rights law. [The next bit I purloined from an email.]

National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-focused organization that works to end the horrific policy of pretrial detention and cash bail that keeps so many people of color in jails and prisons without a conviction, simply for being unable to pay. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, National Bail Out has been working to bail out Black mothers and caregivers—and now to bail out protesters who have been arrested en masse.

Senator Brian Schatz (D–HI) has announced that he will introduce an amendment that will prevent local police forces from getting tear gas, drones, armored vehicles, and high-caliber weapons of war from the military. This important amendment — in addition to initiatives to defund police departments and hold police officers accountable for committing crimes against the public — will help combat systemic police brutality in the U.S.

Contact Congress TODAY to stop police departments from buying weapons of war.

Arming police forces with military weapons doesn’t reduce crime or protect law enforcement officers from violence. In fact, police forces that are equipped with weapons of war are more likely to kill civilians. Even worse, militarized police forces often target Black and minority-majority communities, where getting killed by the police is among the leading causes of death.

Local law enforcement agencies have bought billions of dollars worth of guns, explosives, helicopters, and more from the military. Senator Schatz wants to end this practice by passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This important amendment will prevent the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, but only if more members of Congress support it.

Have we had an American Stonewall? “If a politician wants to exercise real leadership, let them proclaim a day of healing where they lead a march of police and protesters together in support of a new era in police relations.” OR you can go the other way, with heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves patrolling the streets of Washington, DC, sent by the Bureau of Prisons.

The other three

After Nearly 10,000 Arrested During Week of Protest, Three Other Police Officers Finally Charged Over Murder of George Floyd. “All you had to do was arrest three more.” “All four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death are now facing criminal charges. Until now the only one charged was Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd down with his knee on his neck. Minnesota’s AG announced he’s facing second-degree murder charges, updated from third-degree charges (which carry a shorter sentence). The three other officers – Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng – were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But recent news could escalate tensions.”

People have asked me, “What can I do?” Find whatever initiatives on policing that have been undoubtedly been kicking around your locality or state for years and let your representatives know you support police reform.

Allowing people in prison to vote

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison.

elon-voting-bars-buttonHmm. The idea of allowing people in prison to vote had never really crossed my mind before recent events.

Now the notion that people who were OUT of prison regaining the franchise HAS been an issue for me. For instance, voting rights can ONLY be restored through an individual petition or application to the government in Iowa and Kentucky, a draconian process.

This was also the standard in Florida until 2018, when the people decided to change it. Voting rights are now restored automatically upon completion of sentence, including prison, parole, and probation.

The right to vote is restored automatically once released from prison and discharged from parole – probationers can vote – in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, and New York. I can support this.

Fourteen states and DC allow voting rights to be restored automatically upon release from prison. Hey, this appeals to me even more.

But in Maine and Vermont, voting rights are retained while in prison, even for a felony conviction. This partially explains the position of Bernie Sanders, Presidential candidate and the US senator from the Green Mountain State

In an interview with Truthout’s Amy Goodman, Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, notes: “Prisoners are already counted for redistricting purposes, so they are already counted where they are incarcerated, but yet they’re not allowed to vote. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“And if you believe the purpose of prison is not just punishment, but rehabilitation, then allowing people to still have one of their most fundamental civic responsibilities is a key aspect of rehabilitation.”

Of course, this gets into the whole conversation about whether prison is designed for incarceration or rehabilitation. Check out this 60 Minutes story about how a Connecticut prison is trying to implement a German-style (i.e., civilized) system.

How do other countries deal with the voting issue? Here is a chart of how 45 countries regulate the ability of felons to vote in or , out of prison, or not at all. Note that Canada and Germany are among the least restrictive.

This Truthout title caught my attention: Allowing People in Prison to Vote Shouldn’t Be Controversial. “The mass disenfranchisement of incarcerated people [in the United States] has a racist past and a racist present, and has been used in particular as a tool to suppress the Black vote.” This is clearly true.

“The denial of the vote to people behind bars takes a sharp toll on many marginalized communities, subjecting them to what many call ‘civil death’ — depriving a person of all legal rights.”

Naturally, Arthur chimed in on this issue – in fact, his post popped up as I was writing this piece. “Incarceration is disproportionately directed at people who aren’t white. But that’s an issue on its own, and not, by itself, a reason to let all prisoners vote. Or, maybe it should be?

“Maybe it could help restore justice to the criminal justice system by letting the victims of that system have a say. I don’t yet know what I think, but I’m listening.” That’s about where I’m at. But I’m leaning towards Bernie’s position, significant in that I had had NO position only weeks ago.

Whither? Zither! I still don’t care

It’s my general disdain for having to deal with the political process this early.

zitherAnother Ask Roger Anything reply! Bill, who I know because he’s a friend of my sister Leslie: OK, here’s my question: Whither?

There’s obviously a lot going on in my subconscious.

To which, Dan, who I know IRL, replied: Wither? Zither!

In a recent dream, I’m at some sort of conference, where the participants are sitting in a large circle. The instructor is riding me constantly for being so backwards. I’m using a tablet when everyone else is using their smartwatches.

I’m becoming increasingly irritated. After repeated snark, I storm out of the room.

For some reason, rioting ensues on the campus. I am sitting on a toilet, with people pounding on the door to get in; it is NOT the only stall.

Bernie Sanders walks into my stall. I get up and throw him down a flight of stairs.

This is obviously a dream about my technophobia. Plus it’s my general disdain for having to deal with the political process this early. It’s not so much antagonism towards Bernie, who I voted for in the 2016 Democratic primary.

To wit, Kevin, who I’ve known since college, asked: Who do you favor for the Dem. nomination for Pres at this point in the campaign?

As I noted here and especially here, I don’t care all that much, yet.

I AM grumpy about people saying that Joe or Bernie or Elizabeth – who appear to be the front runners, so far – should not run because they’re over 70, or will be soon.

This piece about Mayor Pete pleased me.

I don’t think my senator Kirsten Gillibrand has a shot. She was perceived as too “corporatist” early, and she got Al Franken booted out of the Senate. (The actual facts re: the latter are irrelevant to the narrative.)

Re: Beto, I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a there there.

I get more email from Jay Inslee, governor of Washington state, than any other candidate, almost entirely on environmental issues. It IS a way to differentiate himself.

Why people hate politics

vote-button-3I was a political science major at the State University of New York at New Paltz in the 1970s, a fairly yeasty time of Vietnam, Watergate (I watched the hearings voraciously) and the first President (Gerald Ford) selected through the 25th Amendment, after Vice President Spiro Agnew, and later President Richard Nixon, left office.

I remember the sharp partisan divide. Yet I recall a strong sense of duty to country, being greater than duty to party, taking place, as the Republican members of the Senate committee investigating the break-in, and the House committee that was considering the impeachment of a Republican President, resolutely, though not without anguish.

The political climate in the United States in 2016 is awful. Continue reading “Why people hate politics”

Where is the revolution?

Huge outbreak of civil disobedience. The cause?

revolutionActress Susan Sarandon has said “some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode.” She made similar comments on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Then last week, on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, “Sarandon took her argument a step further, all but encouraging [Bernie] Sanders supporters to sit out in November should Clinton become the Democratic nominee.”

I know other people willing to vote for DJT rather than HRC, because Trump will either make things better or so much worse Continue reading “Where is the revolution?”