Protests over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody have prompted government and police officials across the United States to enact or propose changes aimed at showing demonstrators that their concerns about police brutality and racism are being heard.
Demonstrators protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New York City, New York, U.S. June 11, 2020. Picture taken June 11, 2020. REUTERS/Idris SolomonHere are some of those actions.
POLICE BUDGET CUTS PROPOSED With protesters rallying officials to “defund the police” and “abolish the police,” a majority of Minneapolis city council members pledged to disband the city’s police department with a new community-led safety model, a step that would have seemed unthinkable before Floyd’s death.
Los Angeles’ mayor proposed cutting up to $150 million from the police department’s $3 billion budget, and New York City councilors proposed a 5% to 7% cut for all agencies, including the $5.9 billion police budget.
OFFICERS CHARGED Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter after a video showed him pinning Floyd’s neck to the street for over eight minutes during an arrest.
But as protests continued, prosecutors charged Chauvin with second-degree murder and alleged that three now former officers aided and abetted second-degree murder and manslaughter.
On June 6, two Buffalo, New York, police officers were arraigned on felony assault charges for shoving a 75-year-old demonstrator amid protests. A New York City police officer who shoved a woman to the ground during a protest was charged with assault, menacing and harassment on June 9.
MONUMENTS COME DOWN Statues, monuments and buildings of U.S. historical leaders who carried out policies viewed as racist are being removed.
Boston and Camden, N.J. removed statues of Christopher Columbus, who enslaved people while colonizing America for Spain.
Philadelphia took down a statue of Frank Rizzo, a former mayor and police commissioner, and Dallas took away a statue at its airport of former Texas Ranger Captain Jay Banks, both of whom critics highlight supported actions that targeted people of color.
Several universities and towns in the South removed monuments or renamed buildings and roadways honoring the Confederate movement, a largely southern campaign which defended slavery. The U.S. Marine Corps banned public displays of the Confederate flag at its facilities.
CHANGING POLICE TACTICS Across the country changes are being made to boost oversight and curb police violence.
California’s governor ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching neck holds, as law enforcement agencies across the state said they would ban them and related maneuvers over concerns that they can be deadly.
Memphis police department in Tennessee said it introduced a new policy on June 9 warning officers would face consequences if they do not try to stop colleagues engaged in misconduct.
Other governments approved new laws or policies for apprehending suspects to reduce the risk of deadly encounters. Austin, Texas, said police cannot shoot at fleeing suspects unless they pose an imminent threat. Louisville, Kentucky banned “no-knock” warrants, which are used to forcibly enter homes but can result in residents shooting at officers seen as intruders.
Kansas City, Missouri’s mayor committed to having an outside agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, review every local police shooting, seeking to address concerns about departments mishandling internal investigations.
Seattle’s police chief banned covering badge numbers, which help the public identify officers. Police said they cover badges with black tape to mourn the death of officers, but critics say it can be used to shield police misconduct.
Amid public outcry over the police response to racial justice demonstrations, Portland, Seattle and Austin officials have curbed the use of tear gas on protesters.
In Europe, which has seen solidarity protests with Floyd, the French government also banned neck holds.
SCHOOLS CUT TIES School administrators in several cities have canceled security services contracts with police departments after years of complaints that officers target students of color and worsen safety. Schools in Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon and Denver were among the first to drop what are often called school resource officers.
NEW LAWS PURSUED State officials have begun passing what they describe as police reform legislation, while federal officials are pursuing similar proposals.
New York’s governor signed into law on June 12 measures making police disciplinary files public records and criminalizing false 911 calls based on someone’s race.
Lawmakers for the District of Columbia voted to make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct, including the removal of the police officers’ union from disciplinary procedures.
Democrats in the U.S. Congress on June 8 proposed legislation to ban neck holds, require federal officers to wear body cameras, and increase independent oversight over departments.
Republicans in the Senate, as well as President Donald Trump, announced their own legislative plans to address police reform and racial injustice.
U.S. Representative Justin Amash, a Libertarian, and Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis and Ayanna Pressley of Boston, said they plan to back a separate bill allowing civil lawsuits against police. It would reverse a Supreme Court “qualified immunity” doctrine that has largely shielded police from legal liability even when courts find officers violate civil rights.