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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Citing the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. needs to “bridge that separation” that exists between law enforcement and communities of color and suggested a return to “genuine community policing” to restore trust between the two.

In a possible preview of recommendations coming from the president’s so-called Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Biden recalled a major component of the 1994 crime bill he wrote was an infusion of billions in federal dollars to help hire 100,000 new police officers through what was known as the COPS program. Funding for that program has dropped by 87 percent since 1998.

“That means fewer cops in the streets, in the neighborhoods, building recognition, trust — seeing one another,” Biden said at a Martin Luther King Day breakfast in Wilmington, Del. “The result — more separation, less communication, more hostility, and a place for crime to thrive in a neighborhood (where there) are decent and honorable people.”

Biden used the holiday speech to discuss the polarizing political issue, presenting himself as a bridge between the two camps by playing up his reputation as a law-and-order politician and his personal connection to the local black community without which, he said, he “wouldn’t have this job.”

“I know when I see the decency and the honor and the dignity that exists in each of the communities of this city, they’re a reflection of the decency all of you represent,” he said. “But through that same period of time I’ve also worked with thousands of honorable women and men wearing a uniform. … And at times I’ve seen in their eyes the uncertainty and fear that comes with being asked to put their lives on the line, them wondering, ‘Who has my back?'”

He said Americans all need to agree on two points: that “cops have a right to go home at night” and that minorities “no matter what the neighborhood, have a right to be treated with respect and with dignity.”

Weeks after he attended a funeral service for one of two New York police officers who were murdered in the line of duty, he noted that both were minorities — and that in fact the city police department is now a majority-minority force.

“They had a humanity that was denied them by an assassin’s bullet, who judged them by the color of the uniform they wore, as Dr. King would say, not by the content of their character,” Biden said.

President Barack Obama formed the policing task force in December in the wake of violent confrontations between law enforcement and individuals protesting the death of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo. Its recommendations were to be delivered in 90 days.

In addition to beefing up community policing programs, Biden said the commission was looking at ways to increase diversity in police forces, increase the use of technology like body cameras, and new training methods that would educate officers “how to respond to dangerous situations without inflaming them.”

In his speech Biden made no mention of a law enforcement matter closer, literally, to his home — an incident Saturday night when an individual fired shots at his Delaware residence while driving past on a public street. New Castle County police and the Secret Service are investigating.

Photo: Tony Webster via Flickr

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.