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June 15, 2020

Police Reform Goes Mainstream

This Day in History | 1215

King John signs the Magna Carta. The document is viewed as the people’s reassertion of rights against an oppressive ruler, a legacy that captured American distrust of concentrated political power. Magna Carta exercised a strong influence both on the United States Constitution and on the constitutions of the various states. 

Good morning Middle Americans, 

GOP Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina says Congress is going to pass some sort of police reform bill. We won’t hold our breath. One can be clear about the fact that we need to reform systematic abuses of power by police departments. We need to do more to end the unnecessary deaths of minorities while in the custody of police. But there is way too much conflation here. Both Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd were accused of committing crimes before and while they were in contact with police. Floyd, for trying to pass a fake $20 dollar bill. Brooks, had fallen asleep in his car at a Wendy’s drive through and failed a field breath-alizer test.  Are we doing Breona Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery a disservice by lumping their cases with Brooks and Floyd. All seem like unnecessary deaths. But Arbery and Taylor were not accused of committing any crimes by uniformed law enforcement when they died. Taylor, because of a no-knock warrant at her home, which was the wrong address and not the intended target.   Arbery was out for a jog, sure he technically was accused of trespassing at a construction site, but that’s a technicality. 

There’s always more to these stories and rash decisions made in the wake of tragedy will yield unintended results and collateral damage. 

We have an update today on all that, including the medical examiner’s report on the death off Brooks. Also Colorado lawmakers have passed historic policing reforms, a first for the nation after these recent deaths of black Americans while in contact with cops. 

Meanwhile, new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across America, and more states are opening up more parts of their economy. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he might shut things back down if crowds continue to gather the way they did this past weekend. What did we think was going to happen? People have been pent up for months. 

Finally, get ready for the presidential campaign to noticeably ramp up this week. President Trump will have his welcome back MAGA rally in Tulsa this weekend. But he’s got plenty to worry when it comes to polls, policy, and imagery. Did you see him drinking water at West Point over the Weekend? We have an opinion article below about why that pic could come back to haunt President Trump. 

Read all about it. 

-Fraser Dixon

Medical Examiner: Police Fatally Shot Rayshard Brooks Twice in the Back

(NBC News) – The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Brooks, 27, died after he was shot twice in the back.

Authorities in Georgia ruled Sunday that the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside an Atlanta Wendy’s was a homicide.

Brooks, 27, died after he was shot twice in the back on Friday, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement. Brooks was shot after a confrontation with two Atlanta police officers in the parking lot.

Police had been summoned there on a report of a man sleeping in his car in the drive-through.

Brooks struggled with the officers after they administered a field sobriety test and tried to take him into custody. Surveillance video appears to show Brooks running away from the officers with a stun gun that he’d taken from one of them, said Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

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Colorado Among First in U.S. to Pass Historic Police Reforms Following Protests

(Denver Post) – Colorado passed one of the most comprehensive police reform packages in the country Saturday, setting limits on police use of force and mandating data collection to make sure cops who are fired from one agency don’t get rehired by another.

Gov. Jared Polis has said he will sign the historic bill into law once it reaches his desk.

“This is, in my estimation, the largest single advancement of individual civil rights and liberties for Coloradans in a generation,” said Denver civil rights attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai.

Among the biggest changes, Colorado’s Senate Bill 217 bans the use of chokeholds and carotid control holds, limits when police are allowed to shoot at a fleeing person and requires officers to intervene in cases of excessive force or face criminal charges. The bill requires all officers to use body-worn cameras and departments to release the footage within 45 days, and it allows for officers to be held personally liable for civil rights violations.

Find out more here

NY Gov. Cuomo: Bars and Restaurants Will Lose their Liquor License if Crowds Are Too Big

(CBS News) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that he would revoke the liquor licenses of bars and restaurants that have large crowds that are in violation of coronavirus restrictions. There were multiple videos that went viral showing crowded bars and restaurants over the weekend, and Cuomo even tweeted “don’t make me come down there” on Saturday in reaction to one video of bar patrons seen in Manhattan’s East Village.

 “I am not going to allow situations to exist that we know have a high likelihood of causing an increase in the spread of the virus,” Cuomo said at his coronavirus briefing Sunday.

Although he did not give specifics, Cuomo said “there is a very real possibility” reopening in certain areas could be rolled back if there is an increase in coronavirus cases. He specifically cited Manhattan and the Hamptons on the eastern end of Long Island. 

While restaurants have begun to open throughout the state with restrictions on capacity, they are still closed in New York City except for takeout only and bars are still closed statewide except for curbside service. Crowds have developed outside bars, especially in New York City, as the weather has become nicer. 

Get the latest here

Most Americans Say Wealth Hasn’t Improved During Trump Years

(Bloomberg) – The “Trump Bump” hasn’t benefited most Americans, with fewer than one in six saying their personal finances have improved since Donald Trump became president, according to a survey commissioned by Bankrate.com.

Almost twice as many respondents said they’re worse off since Trump moved into the White House in January 2017, while about half of the U.S. adults polled, 45%, said their financial situation has stayed about the same.

Groups likely to report doing better under Trump included men, those identifying as white, and those earning $80,000 or more annually.

Covid-19 is only partly to blame. Three out of five of those surveyed said they failed to see any improvement in their personal wealth during Trump’s presidency, even before the coronavirus slammed the U.S., cratered the economy, and ate into stock market gains of the past three years.

Learn more here

Opinion:

Why Trump Is Right To Worry About That Glass of Water

(Politico) – Even if it’s baseless and unfair, few things stick to a modern president like images of physical frailty.

What to call it—”Photo-oops”? “Glass of Watergate?”

Whatever the label, when the videos appeared on Saturday of President Trump shuffling down that ramp at West Point, a general walking attentively by his side, and using two hands to guide a water glass to his lips, the response on liberal Twitter threatened to deplete America’s Strategic Schadenfreude Reserve.

The same man who ran for office by mocking the height and stamina of his rivals, who celebrates dominance as the cardinal virtue of leadership, whose 2016 campaign compiled similar slips by Hillary Clinton into a dark TV commercial accusing her of lacking the strength to serve as president, found himself looking like a longtime resident of Shady Grove Home For the Weary.

The images led to some elaborate online speculations and diagnoses, and for Trump, the attention clearly struck a nerve. Why else would the president take to Twitter to offer the excuse that the ramp was “very slippery” (a claim that a New York Times story labeled highly dubious)?

He might well be revealing his own insecurities. But he’s also right about one important thing: just how damaging such a picture of weakness can be. It may sound trivial, and it’s often unfair, but when a modern president, or even a candidate, exhibits physical weakness, it comes with a political cost.

It helped sink President Gerald Ford—perhaps the most athletic of our recent presidents; football star at the University of Michigan, skilled skier. But a couple of stumbles down the steps of Air Force One, a tumble on the ski slopes, and the relentless mockery of Chevy Chase on “Saturday Night Live” cemented a new image of Ford that stuck: A fumbling character barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

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