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.
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators raise their fists in the air near the White House, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washington, U.S., June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File PhotoHere 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 on Sunday 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 last week 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.
Mayors in smaller cities such as Boston, Lansing and Seattle also have said they are considering police budget cuts.
OFFICERS CHARGED Former police officer Derek Chauvin was charged on May 29 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.
On June 3, prosecutors newly charged Chauvin with second-degree murder as protests continued. Three fellow officers fired from the Minneapolis police department were charged June 3 with aiding and abetting 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.
MONUMENTS TO COME DOWN Some officials in the South, where Africans were enslaved in early U.S. history, are now ordering the removal of monuments honoring the Confederate movement, which defended slavery. Birmingham, Alabama, removed a Confederate monument last week, while Virginia’s governor said a statue of Confederate Army leader Robert E. Lee in Richmond should come down as soon as possible.
Philadelphia last week removed earlier than planned 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 policies discriminating against people of color.
Several universities and towns in the South, including Nicholls State University in Louisiana, renamed buildings and roadways titled after Confederate leaders. The U.S. Marine Corps on Friday banned public displays of the Confederate flag at its facilities.
Other institutions are weighing actions. Kentucky’s governor said on Thursday officials are studying how to move a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the state’s Capitol building.
CHANGING POLICE TACTICS Law enforcement agencies and politicians overseeing them across the country have ordered changes aimed at boosting oversight and curbing brutality.
California’s governor on Friday ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching neck holds. The announcement came days after police and sheriff’s departments in San Diego announced they would stop using the maneuver over concerns that it can be deadly.
Other governments discussed new policies for apprehending suspects to reduce the risk of deadly encounters. Lexington, Kentucky, said top police officials now would need to approve “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 protesters’ 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 and Seattle have temporarily restricted the use of tear gas on protesters.
Slideshow (2 Images)NEW LAWS VOWED Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Monday introduced legislation to make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct and adjust their tactics nationwide. If passed, the legislation would ban officers’ use of chokeholds, require federal officers to wear body cameras, and subject departments to increased independent oversight.
U.S. Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican turned Libertarian, and Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis and Ayanna Pressley of Boston, said last week 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.
State officials in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, New York and elsewhere have also renewed calls to pass what they describe as police reform legislation.