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Black police chiefs grapple with officers’ treatment of young black men

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Ross, 54, who became commissioner in 2016, stressed in a Facebook video after the incident that his officers were trained to prevent biased behavior and learn the history of “atrocities committed by policing around the world.” He also promised to examine the Starbucks case to see “what we can do better.”

Ross declined to be interviewed for this article.

An ‘institutionalized’ problem

American police departments have been struggling for decades with allegations of racism and issues of brutality and trust — and with becoming more diverse. But protests in 2014 after two black men, Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, died in confrontations with white officers, and riots a year later after another black man, Freddie Gray, died of wounds suffered in the custody of Baltimore police, touched off a renewed sense of urgency.

In 2015, President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued a list of recommendations, including expanding diversity among the ranks, letting outside agencies investigate officer use-of-force cases, embracing community partnerships and collecting better data on the types of suspects who are stopped and arrested.

Researchers also began looking anew into the link between diversity and the use of force, with mixed results: Some found that having significantly more black officers could ease tensions between police and black communities, while others found that increasing the number of black officers may drive down police killings of black people, but only when black representation on the force reached a “sufficiently high” critical mass of 35 percent or more. Nationally, the most recently available government report from 2013 found that local police departments were 12 percent black and 73 percent white.

What diversity alone does not solve are the biases many officers bring to their work — perceptions of black men as more threatening, for example — which are heightened by a police culture that emphasizes strength and power. That drives racially disparate arrests and the use of force, researchers say.

For example: The more an officer feels threatened, whether the officer is in legitimate danger or not, the more likely that officer is to use force on a suspect, particularly if an encounter occurs as part of a “zero-tolerance” approach to crime and disorder.

You have to increase the costs for bad behavior, including use of excessive force.

You have to increase the costs for bad behavior, including use of excessive force.

“It’s institutionalized,” said Nelson Lim, a RAND sociologist who studies recruitment and diversity. “You can swap out the people but the system itself is set up that way.”

Bard, the Cambridge chief, agreed.

“Even if we recruit a diverse population of officers, it’s still incumbent on us to train them to be the types of officers we want them to be,” he said.

That means training and elevating the types of officers Bard describes as “the social service promoters” as opposed to “the crime enforcers.”

Better training was among the changes Cambridge initiated nearly a decade ago after the national uproar over the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 2009 outside his own home on suspicion he was breaking in. The police department now trains officers to de-escalate tense situations, and embraces what’s called “procedural justice,” which involves managing rather than controlling situations, treating people with dignity and respect, and giving citizens a voice during encounters.

Bard, who holds a doctorate in public administration and has written about eliminating racial profiling, said that police culture has to change to send a message to officers that departments “won’t tolerate the slightest amount of abuse” of civilians.

“And then you have to increase the costs for bad behavior, including use of excessive force,” he said.

Diversity’s limits

Critics say change within departments across the country has been too slow, despite all the focus on high-profile accusations of police violence.

Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Michael Brown and who now represents Stephon Clark’s family in Sacramento, said he has found poor training to be at the root of many cases of police abuse. Crump and other activists want to see more departments address “implicit bias” ─ the subtle or unconscious discrimination that can taint officers’ interactions with young black men.

Crump is also concerned about an ingrained police culture in which officers “shoot first and ask questions later” — including black officers who use deadly force on black suspects, he said.

Just because you’re a certain race or have a certain experience doesn’t automatically mean you have the character to be a good police officer.

Just because you’re a certain race or have a certain experience doesn’t automatically mean you have the character to be a good police officer.

He cited Cameron Brewer, a black sheriff’s deputy in Harris County, Texas, who was fired in April after fatally shooting an unarmed black man, Danny Ray Thomas, in Houston (Crump is also representing the Thomas family).

Crump also pointed to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore, in which six officers, three of them black, were charged in his death, but all were eventually cleared.

African-American police chiefs told NBC News that their personal experiences helped them understand the need to earn trust from the public. But they also cautioned against giving race too much weight.

“I don’t see any correlation between the race of these chiefs and these recent incidents,” said Vera Bumpers, the chief of Houston’s transit police and first vice president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “We all wear uniforms.” She warned against drawing quick conclusions about encounters captured on video.

Gina Hawkins, the police chief in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said her ability to empathize as an officer stems from her struggles growing up black and Hispanic, including encountering discrimination. And while that alone doesn’t mean she’s going to solve her department’s problems, she does see it as her purpose.

“It’s an extreme honor and opportunity, and I know the weight that comes with it,” Hawkins said of the expectations she feels as an African-American police chief. “I know people are always watching.”

Hahn said he was troubled by the notion, expressed in many black neighborhoods, that “when you’re blue you’re not black anymore.” That “erases” his upbringing and identity, he said, and undermines the goals of increased diversity.

At the same time, he sees diversity “for diversity’s sake” as worthless.

“There are bad black officers, bad gay officers, bad female officers,” Hahn said. “Just because you’re a certain race or have a certain experience doesn’t automatically mean you have the character to be a good police officer.”

An unclear path

America, Bumpers said, still doesn’t understand a fundamental question about its police: Why, and how often, officers use force. She repeated a call, often heard during the Obama administration, for a central national database that keeps track of incidents of police use of force by the race of officers and suspects and other demographic indicators. “We don’t know the totality of the situation,” Bumpers said.

The Justice Department says it is reviewing the proposal for such a national data collection system, even as it has backed away from Obama-era efforts to investigate and sue police departments for violating minorities’ civil rights.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under Obama and oversaw a post-Ferguson report on police diversity, said more research is also needed to understand the impact of diversity on police culture. “But I’m not sure there remains a commitment to do that kind of research in this Justice Department,” said Gupta, who now heads The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of civil rights groups.

Gupta also led with the Obama administration’s efforts to investigate and reform police departments. She negotiated dozens of court-enforced “consent decrees” with local departments aimed at improving how cops dealt with citizens, including use of force, stops and searches and discriminatory enforcement.The Trump administration has said local departments should control their own affairs.

With efforts stalled at the federal level, overhauling police practices remains, in many ways, a local issue.

Hahn sees his own story as a lesson on how police departments can rebuild trust.

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Chicago police officer sacked after shooting dead unarmed black teenager | World News

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A police officer in the US has been fired after shooting a black couple inside a car – killing a 19-year-old man and injuring his girlfriend.

The Chicago officer shot dead Marcellis Stinnette and wounded Tafara Williams after what authorities described as a traffic stop on Tuesday.

The officer – whose name has not been released – committed “multiple policy and procedure violations”, Waukegan police chief Wayne Walles said.

Grandmother Sherrellis Stinnette joins demonstrators protesting the police shooting that left her grandson dead
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Mr Stinnette’s grandmother joins demonstrators after the shooting

Police said Ms Williams was driving and her partner was a passenger in a car which fled after getting pulled over, before the vehicle was later spotted by another officer.

After the second officer approached, the car moved in reverse and the now-sacked officer opened fire on the couple, who have a child together, according to authorities.

No weapon was found in the vehicle, police said.

The officer who shot the couple is Hispanic and has been with the police department for five years.

Lake County’s chief prosecutor said the FBI will work alongside Illinois state police to investigate the incident.

Michael Nerheim, Lake County State’s attorney, has asked the US justice department to look into the circumstances around Mr Stinnette’s death.

Tafara Williams' father Trevor Williams marches with demonstrators after the unprovoked police shooting left his daughter with serious injuries
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Tafara Williams’ father marched with demonstrators

“I am confident in the work being done by the Illinois state police and welcome the assistance of the FBI,” Mr Nerheim said in a statement.

“As I have said before, once the investigation is concluded, all the evidence will be reviewed and a final decision will be made with respect to any potential charges.”

The couple’s family and activists are asking police to release a video of the shooting, which authorities have said is currently with an investigating team.

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Activist Chris Blanks said video footage is crucial, as the version of events given by the police seems to contradict the version of events told by Ms Williams’ mother, Clifftina Johnson.

She says her daughter said they did nothing to provoke the officer that injured her and shot dead her partner.

Mr Nerheim called for calm during the investigation process and has promised transparency.

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US election 2020: ‘I voted for a guy named Trump’ – President casts his ballot in Florida | World News

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The president has cast his ballot in the US election, telling reporters: “I voted for a guy named Trump.”

After voting in West Palm Beach, Florida, Mr Trump also took the opportunity to attack mail-in ballots – warning that they can never be as secure as voting in person.

Describing his experience at the polling station as “perfect and very strict”, he added: “It was a very secure vote – much more secure than when you send in a ballot, I can tell you that.”

The president said that that he will be holding “three big rallies” today, and claimed: “I hear we’re doing very well in Florida and every place else.”

To secure the White House, winning in Florida is essential.

The state has consistently voted for the victor in every election except one since 1964 – and no Republican has won without the state in almost a century.

With 29 electoral college votes up for grabs, it’s the largest swing state and crucial for gathering the 270 votes needed.

Most polls show Mr Biden narrowly ahead in Florida. History suggests that, if Mr Trump loses here, he’ll likely lose the White House.

The election will take place on Tuesday 3 November – just under two weeks away.

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Coronavirus: Police find suspected illegal pub – complete with bar, 70in TV, toilet, pool table and smoking area | World News

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Police in Ireland have searched a suspected illicit pub, or “shebeen”, on suspicion of breaching coronavirus measures.

The property near Athy in County Kildare was targeted by Gardai officers on Friday evening.

The force had launched an investigation after they became aware of the premises, and the fact people were congregating in a breach of social distancing rules, through social media.

Police found a room that contained a pool table and large TV screen
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Police found a room that contained a pool table and large TV screen

Gardai searched the suspected shebeen at about 8pm and found a fully operational bar in a repurposed state.

Shebeen is an Irish term which refers to an illicit bar or club where alcoholic drinks are sold without a licence.

The premises was fitted with a bar, stools, tables, chairs, a 70in flat-screen television, and a full-size pool table.

There were several beer taps on the bar, along with an under bar cooler and kegs.

There was also a smoking area, store room and toilet on the premises.

Officers seized five kegs of beer, a significant amount of spirits and bottled beers, and various bar equipment including the taps, gas and coolers.

A full investigation is now under way and files will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

A bin outside the premises was full of empty drinks bottles
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A bin outside the premises was full of empty drinks bottles

The investigation in Ireland comes as a man in Manchester has been given a £10,000 fixed penalty notice after officers closed down a party with over 50 people in attendance.

Officers were called to a report of a party at a flat on Simpson Street in Angel Meadows shortly after 11.20pm on Friday night.

DJ mixing decks, industrial speakers and a buffet was found by officers on arrival.

A total of 52 fines have been handed out since Greater Manchester went into Tier 3 restrictions.

Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “This party was a blatant disregard of the rules and for public health. It is totally unacceptable in the current crisis the whole world is facing and is not what we want our officers to be spending their time doing.

“We had no alternative but to issue the maximum penalty for breaching the legislation on large gatherings and I hope this serves as a reminder to those considering to flout the rules – we will take action.”

It comes after a wedding attended by around 250 guests was shut down by police last week.

Officers were first called to the venue on Old Kent Road at 20:20hrs on Sunday 18 October, after concerned residents suspected the address was being burgled.

It appeared that those attending the ceremony had closed the shutters at the front of the venue, in an attempt to mask the celebration.

Police dispersed crowds at the scene.

Two people at the event were advised that they had been reported for consideration of a fixed penalty notice.

Detective Superintendent Nicky Arrowsmith, said: “This event was a blatant breach of the regulations and could have been a breeding ground for transmitting the virus.

“There were over 200 people inside, no social distancing and indeed no attempts to make the venue COVID secure, in line with the government guidelines.”

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