OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – 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: A sign painted by protesters stating “Defund the Police” is painted next to a Black Lives Matter sign as people demonstrate against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, near the White House in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
Here 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.
Mayors in other cities such as Boston, Lansing and Seattle also have said they are considering cuts.
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 said on June 9 that it would dismantle a vandalized statue 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 abused people of color.
Several universities and towns in the South renamed buildings and roadways titled after leaders of the Confederate movement, which defended slavery. The U.S. Marine Corps on banned public displays of the Confederate flag at its facilities.
Birmingham, Alabama, removed a Confederate monument last week.
CHANGING POLICE TACTICS
Law enforcement agencies and politicians overseeing them across the country have ordered changes aimed at boosting oversight and curbing 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 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 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.
In Europe, which has seen solidarity protests with Floyd, the French government also banned neck holds.
NEW LAWS PURSUED
Federal lawmakers and state officials in much of the country have begun proposing what they describe as police reform legislation.
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.
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.
Among those taking quick action, lawmakers for the District of Columbia on June 9 voted to make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct, including the removal of the police officers’ union from disciplinary procedures. Sweeping reform bills also were moving quickly through the Colorado and New York state legislatures.
Republicans in the Senate, as well as President Donald Trump, announced their own legislative plans to address police reform and racial injustice.
Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Aurora Ellis