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Police suicides could spike amid George Floyd protests, advocates fear

America’s law enforcement officers were suffering a suicide epidemic before anti-police and racial justice protests engulfed the country. Now police advocates worry it will get worse. Last year, a record 228 current or former police officers died by suicide, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that tracks police suicides. That total is higher than all…

Police suicides could spike amid George Floyd protests, advocates fear

America’s law enforcement officers were suffering a suicide epidemic before anti-police and racial justice protests engulfed the country. Now police advocates worry it will get worse.

Last year, a record 228 current or former police officers died by suicide, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that tracks police suicides. That total is higher than all other line-of-duty deaths last year, the organization said.

The number of suicides slowed somewhat in the first half of 2020 with only 70 deaths, down from 89 during the same period in 2019, though mental health experts caution that those numbers are vastly underreported because of the stigma associated with suicide.

That was before police officers across the country came under siege because of the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

Psychologists and police officers say the torrent of criticism is more traumatic than the life-and-death situations officers face on the job. They expect the number of police suicides to start climbing again.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I think the number of police suicides will start to creep back up,” said Sherri Martin, a former police officer and national director of the Fraternal Order of Police’s national officer wellness committee.

“Long term, the number of anti-police sentiments could take more of a toll than a singular incident you can compartmentalize,” she said. “This is a widespread big wave of things coming at officers at once rather than a small whitecap.”

Rioters have hurled bricks and screamed obscenities at officers and burned down a Minneapolis police station during the wave of protests. Residents of one Seattle neighborhood have set up a six-block no-police zone. Activists and politicians have called to defund the police. Congress is hurriedly drafting legislation to combat what is described as racism and brutality in policing.

President Trump plans to sign an executive order on policing to address the nationwide uproar. It is expected to tread lightly on police powers, with measures such as creating a national database to track officers with repeat misconduct charges.

“The overall goal is we want law and order, and we want it done fairly, justly, we want it done safely,” the president said Monday. “But we want law and order. It’s about law and order. But it’s about justice also, and it’s about safety.”

Still, the overriding tone on the streets of U.S. cities and on Capitol Hill has been punitive toward police.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said police clashes with protesters and “overly aggressive tactics have only articulated further the need for bold and wide-reaching reform of police practices.”

“Being killed by police is now the sixth leading cause of death for young black men in America,” he said.

It is expected to take time before the toll on police officers can be fully calculated.

Depression usually strikes within 12 to 18 months of a traumatic incident, said Thomas Coghlan, a retired NYPD police detective who served for 21 years on the force before becoming a clinical psychologist specializing in first responders.

Police officers did not experience post-traumatic stress disorder in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but they did about a year later, he said.

This time, it could be worse for officers as the anti-police animosity takes its toll. Ms. Martin said.

During the two weeks following Mr. Floyd’s death, 749 officers nationwide were injured while responding to protests and disturbances, according to Justice Department statistics. That figure includes the roughly 150 officers hurt during the protests in the District of Columbia, where 22 officers suffered concussions and other head injuries requiring hospitalization.

“Katrina and 9/11 were not direct attacks on law enforcement,” she said. “The riots and anti-police sentiment is different, but it is going to have the same effect. I’ve never seen [the animosity] at a level like this. It is not only the intensity of the sentiment but that it is so widespread.”

As the defund-the-police movement gains momentum, mayors of several large cities, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, have moved to slash their department’s budget. Analysts expect the cuts to put mental health services within those police departments on the chopping block.

“The defunding is not going to be operational defunding,” Mr. Coghlan said. “It is going to hit social and mental health services. It is the exact opposite of what needs to be done.”

One of the first signs of potential suicide is burnout, Mr. Coghlan said. That burnout, he added, is materializing with police officers resigning en masse from departments across the country:

⦁ At least seven police officers have resigned from the Minneapolis police force since Floyd’s death.

⦁ In Buffalo, 57 officers resigned from the department’s emergency response team after the suspension of two officers who are seen on video pushing a 75-year-old protester.

⦁ Ten members of the police department’s SWAT team in Hallandale Beach, Florida, resigned. They said they were “minimally equipped” and abandoned by city commissioners.

“When you start seeing the most experienced officers handing in their papers, it says to the less-senior rank and file that the job is really dead,” Mr. Coghlan said. “There is a sense that if you go out and do your job by the book and legally you are still going to be vilified by the department, vilified by the media and vilified by the public, so officers are wondering why they would stick around and do this.”

To fight police suicide, Mr. Trump last year signed into law a bipartisan bill that restored grant funding for law enforcement mental health services and expanded officer access to those programs.

In January, Attorney General William Barr formed a commission to confront the burdens carried by law enforcement officers, including decreased morale and suicide.

While announcing the commission, Mr. Barr suggested mental health issues experienced by officers result from increasing public contempt for police.

“There has been, especially of late, a disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown towards law enforcement,” he said at the time. “All Americans should agree that nobody wins when trust breaks down between police and the community they serve. We need to address the divide.”

Analysts say the government needs to do a better job tracking officer suicides to get a better handle on the size of the problem. A provision in the government’s spending bill last year directed the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics to track officer suicides. A status report was due to Congress in March but has been delayed for unknown reasons.

Mr. Coghlan called for partnership among law enforcement, government officials and the media to address the uptick in anti-police rhetoric.

“The animosity has become so rampant and so acceptable,” he said. “We are seeing unprovoked attacks on officers. I think we need a partnership to engage in a partnership. We need to tone down the violence, aggression and anger towards police.”

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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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