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Police responses satisfy most Americans despite ‘defunding’ push

Calls to defund the police because of brutality and racism don’t match the experience of most Americans when they call law enforcement for help, according to the most recent comprehensive national data collected by the U.S. Justice Department. The overwhelming share of U.S. residents who in the last several years initiated contact with the police…

Police responses satisfy most Americans despite ‘defunding’ push

Calls to defund the police because of brutality and racism don’t match the experience of most Americans when they call law enforcement for help, according to the most recent comprehensive national data collected by the U.S. Justice Department.

The overwhelming share of U.S. residents who in the last several years initiated contact with the police to request assistance said not only were they satisfied with the interaction and a clear majority also said the police improved the situation.

Among the millions of people who call the police for help, whether for a mental health crisis, domestic violence incident or other emergencies, an estimated 83% said they were satisfied with the police response and 59% said the police improved the situation, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Police-Public Contact Survey.

“Three hundred and seventy five million interactions with the public every year [and] overwhelmingly positive responses,” fumed Mike O’Meara, the president of New York state’s umbrella group for Police Benevolent Associations.

“We don’t condone Minneapolis. We roundly reject what he did as disgusting. It’s not what we do. It’s not what police officers do,” he said.

Law enforcement officials across the country are now under the gun from activists and politicians demanding a complete overhaul or the defunding of police departments.

Under some proposals, police response to potential life-and-death situations would get junked in favor of a social worker-style response force.

In Minneapolis, where the death of George Floyd in police custody sparked anti-police protests around the world, the city council is poised to approve a dismantling of the city police force.

City Council President Lisa Bender, a Democrat, said people who fear lawlessness without a strong police presence are speaking “from a place of privilege.”

“Because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done,” she said on CNN.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, announced he would push to shift millions of dollars from the police department to youth and social services.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is looking to cut up to $150 million from the police budget to help fund initiatives in communities of color and other people he described as having been “left behind.”

In Washington, D.C., the city council on Tuesday hurriedly approved a major overhaul of policing laws, including banning pepper spray and rubber bullets for crowd control, making it a felony for police to use a chokehold.

Much of the public discourse about racism and policing, however, appears to be disconnected from criminal justice data, said Paul Cassell, a victim-rights expert who is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“I think that makes crime victims’ advocates fearful that programs will be put in place that sound good in theory but don’t work in practice,” Mr. Cassell said. “And unless we’re measuring exactly what’s happening it’s going to be hard to tell whether these reforms are useful or counterproductive.”

Every three years, the Justice Department releases a report that tracks contacts between the public and police, including in traffic stops, emergency calls and reports of suspected crimes.

The most recent report, released in fall 2018, found that U.S. residents ages 16 or older reported nearly 76 million contacts with police. The figures were projected based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Police-Public Contact Survey in 2015.

The most common reasons for police contact were reporting a crime, disturbance, or suspicious activity to police (23.1 million), being pulled over as the driver in a traffic stop (22.7 million) and reporting a non-crime emergency (more than 12 million).

Among those who initiated contact with the police, 83% said they were satisfied with the police response and about 59% said that police improved the situation.

Hispanic residents who initiated contact with the police were only slightly less likely (56%) to say that police improved the situation than white respondents (60%) or black respondents (59%).

Racial disparities, however, started to come into greater focus for police-initiated contacts.

When it came to people who were stopped by law enforcement in a street stop, 60% of residents said the stop was legitimate and 81% said they thought the police behaved properly.

But among black respondents, 50% said they thought the stop was legitimate and 59% said they thought the police behaved properly.

Among the estimated 53.5 million residents who reported contact with the police during the previous 12 months, only about 2% said they experienced threats or use of force.

But the percentage of black and Hispanic respondents who reported threats or use of force during their most recent police interaction was more than twice as high as the percentage of white respondents who reported the same.

African-Americans were also more likely to have an interaction with law enforcement that was initiated by the police, while white respondents were slightly more likely to initiate an interaction with law enforcement themselves.

Still, substituting unarmed citizen employees for police in certain situations could have unintended consequences, Mr. Cassell said.

“Obviously, if an unarmed responder ends up in a dangerous situation that increases risks — not just to the responder, but also to the surrounding community,” he said. “So I think the devil is going to be in the details on these kinds of reforms.”

Jack Rinchich, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, said there’s always room for improvement but knee-jerk responses and radical overhauls are unlikely to be helpful.

Mr. Rinchich, a 40-year veteran of law enforcement in West Virginia, said social workers can provide valuable services but cannot replace police on the frontlines of crime-fighting.

“All of a sudden you have an active shooter response situation in a high school and the shooter chained the doors. You have mass casualties and no one to breach the facility and neutralize the shooter,” he said. “I can’t imagine a social worker going into a situation like that and trying to convince a shooter to lay down their gun with a Ph.D. or a diploma.”

Former Obama administration official Van Jones said the new slogan is going to mean different things to different people.

“Law enforcement should embrace an element of this,” Mr. Jones said on CNN. “Now police officers have to be cops, they have to be counselors, they have to be marriage counselors, coaches — it’s too much on them and their budgets have ballooned.”

Still, tensions between police and minority communities might have already gotten to the point where many people of color simply opt not to call the police in the first place during a crisis.

The Justice Department survey estimated that 21% of U.S. residents ages 16 or older had experienced some kind of contact with the police during the previous 12 months, which was down from 26% in 2011.

The time frame for the most recently available survey would have covered the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and some of the ensuing protests that ended up affecting part of former President Barack Obama’s second term in office.

As was the case with the left’s recent push to “abolish” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the definition of what constitutes “defunding” the police in the current context can also be in the eye of the beholder at times.

Some Democrats are trying to capitalize on the newfound push by embracing reforms but rejecting the nebulous idea of “defunding” the police.

Likely Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, among others, have said they oppose defunding the police.

“When they’re saying ‘defund the police,’ what are they saying? They’re saying we want fundamental basic change when it comes to policing, and they’re right,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Republicans say Democrats can’t have it both ways as major localities outside of Minneapolis, such as New York City and Los Angeles, are also embracing calls to cut back on police funding.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody pushed back against the idea of dismantling police administration at a White House roundtable this week.

“They rush in to save us when other people rush out. They deliver babies. They charge in when someone is hyped up on fentanyl and just beat his wife and children and rescue them,” Ms. Moody said. “We have to ensure they’re safe, and at the same time, we must remain committed to improving our system.”

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Minneapolis police reviewing Project Veritas allegations of voter fraud benefiting Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minneapolis Police Department said that voter-fraud allegations were being “evaluated” as Project Veritas dropped Tuesday a second bombshell video in its investigation into ballot harvesting on behalf of Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Democrats. “ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED,” the department tweeted on Monday. “The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote…

Minneapolis police reviewing Project Veritas allegations of voter fraud benefiting Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minneapolis Police Department said that voter-fraud allegations were being “evaluated” as Project Veritas dropped Tuesday a second bombshell video in its investigation into ballot harvesting on behalf of Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Democrats.

“ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED,” the department tweeted on Monday. “The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote harvesting. We are in the process of looking into the validity of those statements. No further information is available at this time on this.”

Project Veritas released Tuesday a second video in its “cash for ballots” investigation, this one showing a man speaking Somali allegedly telling another man how to fill out either a voter registration form or an absentee ballot application, then paying him $200 in “pocket money.”

Project Veritas President James O’Keefe said that he received the undercover footage, but did not identify the source.

The latest video also included a recorded conversation with a man identified as a ballot harvester who said he was paid $800 for his ballot, adding, “We don’t care if [it’s] illegal.”

“A lot of people will go to jail if this continues this way,” the man said. “If this continues this direction, many people will go to prison, or no one will vote in the city of Minneapolis. It is very, very corrupt.”

He and a man identified as a Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member said that ballot harvesters would walk with voters into the booth under the guise of being translators, then tell them how to vote, or mark the ballots themselves.

ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED. ✅ The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote harvesting. We are in the process of looking into the validity of those statements. No further information is available at this time on this.
— Minneapolis Police (@MinneapolisPD) September 28, 2020

NEVER SEEN BEFORE: Cash-For-Ballot EXCHANGE caught on camera#CashForBallots pic.twitter.com/DCSLfjHeD6
— Project Veritas (@Project_Veritas) September 29, 2020

President Trump weighed in Monday with a call for an investigation after Project Veritas released a 16-minute video alleging that campaign operatives were rounding up absentee ballots from elderly Somali immigrants, and driving other voters to the polls, then paying them after they voted.

Liban Mohamed, brother of newly elected Minneapolis city councilman Jamal Osman, bragged on Snapchat about having 300 absentee ballots in his car, as shown in the video.

Two of those on the video said the operation was being run by a top member of Ms. Omar’s campaign, while the Omar camp denied any wrongdoing, saying that “amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy.”

Ballot harvesting — the collection and turning in of absentee ballots — is legal in Minnesota, but the limit is three ballots per person per election. Filling out ballots for others is illegal under federal law, as is paying for votes.

The state ballot-harvesting law was in flux this summer after a court invalidated the three-ballot limitation in July, a ruling that was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court in September, after the Aug. 11 primary, as Fox9 in Minneapolis reported.

The MPD announcement came after the Hennepin County Attorney’s office said that it had “no information” about alleged illegal ballot harvesting, and said any evidence should be turned over to police.

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Portland police deputized as U.S. Marshals ahead of clashing demonstrations

Portland police were deputized as U.S. Marshals Saturday morning, meaning federal prosecutors can now bring charges against anyone who assaults them as they respond to what’s expected to be clashing demonstrations later in the day. That could up the consequences for rioters on a day when both far-right and left-wing activists have planned gatherings in…

Portland police deputized as U.S. Marshals ahead of clashing demonstrations

Portland police were deputized as U.S. Marshals Saturday morning, meaning federal prosecutors can now bring charges against anyone who assaults them as they respond to what’s expected to be clashing demonstrations later in the day.

That could up the consequences for rioters on a day when both far-right and left-wing activists have planned gatherings in the Oregon city.

The last time there were dueling gatherings, a far-right activist was shot and killed by an Antifa supporter, who was later killed when he resisted arrest.

Police officials said their officers have faced “unspeakable violence” over the last few months. Racial justice protests have occurred throughout Portland, mostly peacefully, but on a near-nightly basis some of those protesters will arm themselves with shields and weapons and confront the police.

The local district attorney has been reluctant to pursue cases in many instances, so the U.S. attorney has stepped in to make federal cases where he can. Deputizing police makes that process much easier.

“I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a Portland Police Bureau Officer,” said Travis Hampton, superintendent of the state police.

U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, in a statement Friday, recounted some of the more recent violence against first responders, including a firefighter being shot in the chest with a steel ball bearing launched from an arm-mounted slingshot, and a man who splashed “high-powered bear deterrent spray” on officers.

He said the high-profile clashes have become a self-fulfilling cycle, drawing “outsiders” traveling to the city to be part of the clashes.

“Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time,” he said. “Already more than 100 people have been arrested and more than 80 people are facing federal charges related to protest violence.”

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Greece: Police move refugees to new Lesbos camp after Moria fire |NationalTribune.com

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities. Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to rehouse thousands of refugees and migrants who have been sleeping rough after their camp was destroyed by fire. Officers on Thursday morning woke people in their tents to take them to a…

Greece: Police move refugees to new Lesbos camp after Moria fire |NationalTribune.com

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities.
Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to rehouse thousands of refugees and migrants who have been sleeping rough after their camp was destroyed by fire.
Officers on Thursday morning woke people in their tents to take them to a temporary centre that was hastily set up after Europe’s largest camp for asylum seekers at Moria burned down last week.   
The new Kara Tepe camp, near the island’s main town Mytilene, was made on a former military firing range and is close to the remains of the Moria site.
But many have refused to go, fearing living conditions would be as bad or worse than at Moria, which was notoriously unsafe, and worried they would be left waiting for months to have their requests for asylum processed and transferred to the Greek mainland or another European country.
Riot police and police vans were parked on either side of a street where thousands who fled the Moria camp have been living.
Quietly, with the sounds of children crying and under an already hot sun, people folded their blankets, picked up bags containing whatever belongings they had saved from the fire and dismantled their tents.   

More than 12,000 people including entire families with elderly people and newborns were left homeless when fire tore through the overcrowded and unsanitary Moria camp [Elias Marcou/Reuters]

Women and children with bundles on their backs were seen gathering by a barricade police had set up on the road.
Some mothers pushed their babies in prams up the road as other refugees took shelter from the morning sun in the shade of a large building, or washed with water bottles on the roadside.
“The aim is to safeguard public health,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told AFP news agency, confirming that “an operation is under way” which “responds to humanitarian aims.”
But Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which opened an emergency clinic in the area, said it was barred from accessing its facility during the night, as rumours of the police operation spread.
“A police operation is under way to take refugees to the new camp. This should not prevent medical aid,” MSF complained on Twitter.
More than 12,000 people including entire families with elderly and newborns were left homeless when fire tore through the overcrowded and unsanitary Moria camp – built five years ago at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis – on the night of September 8.
Thousands have been sleeping under tarpaulins or tents at roadsides and in the car parks of closed supermarkets since the blaze.     
Late Wednesday, around 1,000 tents, each able to accommodate between eight and 10 people, had been erected at the new site.

The UN refugee agency has urged Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos [Elias Marcou/Reuters]

The atmosphere on Thursday morning was calm, with people exhausted from spending a week on the street. Families collected their belongings, some pushing them in large bins or supermarket trolleys, in preparation for the move.
At the start of the operation, single men were not allowed to enter the new camp.
Farhad*, is 20 and alone in Greece, having fled war in Afghanistan.
Even if he was allowed in, he told Al Jazeera he does not want to enter Kara Tepe.
“I’ve been in Moria for nine months and again, if we enter the camp, [maybe] it will be for a year, too. I’m losing my youth just waiting.”
Other families have accepted their new reality.
“We hear there is food and water there,” said Abdul*, who has five children.
His family is tired of living on the street waiting for help that never seems to arrive and believes there is no other option.
Six young Afghans have been arrested in connection with the incident, with four of them brought before a Lesbos magistrate on Wednesday.

A general view of the temporary camp for refugees and migrants near Mytilene town, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, on September 13 [Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press]

Medical tents were to be set up, and two quarantine zones were planned for the several dozen people who have tested positive for coronavirus.
“We have seen a lot of people come in hazmat suits trying to talk to people, to convince them to go to the camps. People are moving. Not everyone is moving, but people are moving,” said Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Lesbos. 
“A lot of people we have been speaking to this morning still don’t want to go. They say they are hearing the situation is bad, they are are going to be stuck in there, there are calling it a jail.
“Certainly the message from the authorities is that they have to move to the camp, and if they are not going to do so willingly … they will use the police to move people forcefully.”
The Greek migration ministry said on Tuesday that around 1,200 people had entered the new camp.
Aid groups said a few hundred more arrived on Wednesday, forced by exhaustion after sleeping rough under a hot sun for a week.
The UN refugee agency has urged Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos.
“The idea is not that people remain forever on the island of Lesbos, but that processes are accelerated so that people can leave gradually and in an orderly way” to the capital Athens or elsewhere on the mainland, the UN agency’s chief in Greece Philippe Leclerc told reporters.
Meanwhile, anger is growing among local Lesbos residents, who complain overcrowding on the island is affecting its tourism possibilities.
“We have two human dramas here. Unfortunately, it is the drama of the migrants living here that is constantly talked about, and never the locals who have gone through a very hard time, since 2015, and are very frustrated. These people should be put in a controlled camp and far away from the local population,” Moria village resident Stratis Kokkinellis told Al Jazeera.
Greece’s police minister Michalis Chrysochoidis this week said that half the refugees and migrants on Lesbos should be able to leave by Christmas and “the rest by Easter”.
With reporting by Katy Fallon in Lesbos.
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