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Tag: police brutality

Advocates Urge Federal Probe Of Shocking Police Violence In Jefferson Parish

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the September 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold's braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff's Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police's protection. But protection is not what she got.

The video begins with a sheriff's deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold's arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold's back.

In this case, the Sheriff's Office is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident, something it has not done in some similar cases, according to court records. ProPublica and WWNO/WRKF were able to confirm the probe because Arnold, who did not file an official complaint, and her relatives have transcripts of their interviews with investigators. But Sheriff Joe Lopinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the incident itself or his department's response to it.

For decades, members of the Black community have accused the Sheriff's Office of using excessive force against them, making false arrests and failing to rein in abusive deputies. Last month, a story published by WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica revealed stark racial disparities in shootings by deputies and systemic problems with transparency and accountability.

The investigation found that more than 70 percent of the people deputies shot at during the past eight years were Black, more than double the parish's Black population. In addition, 12 of the 16 people who died after being shot or restrained by deputies during that time were Black men. The investigation also found that the Sheriff's Office could not account for how often its deputies use force or how many complaints civilians lodged against its employees.

Lopinto previously declined to be interviewed about the news organizations' findings, saying only that when his deputies commit serious misconduct, they are arrested; he also noted that at least nine deputies, in a department of about 760 deputies, had been booked since he became sheriff in 2017.

Following the story, the ACLU of Louisiana called on federal prosecutors to launch an investigation into the Sheriff's Office.

Arnold's case raises many of those same issues. The evidence — based on interviews with the victim and the two witnesses, statements they provided to the sheriff's internal affairs division and the video — makes clear that something went very wrong when a citizen of Jefferson Parish needed help.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family's trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff's deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

In the transcript of her interview with an internal affairs investigator, Arnold says: “I'm on my way home. I ain't make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, 'Come here.' I'm like, 'What's going on? I just got beat up by two children, what ya'll doing?'"

Arnold said the deputy demanded she stop and talk to him. She told him that she had just been assaulted and wanted to go home, and she continued walking.

According to Gray and another witness, Arnold's 55-year-old uncle, Tony Givens, the officer jumped out of his vehicle, grabbed Arnold and threw her to the ground, unprovoked. Gray and Givens were standing at the foot of the family's driveway, about 20 feet away.

In an interview with the internal affairs investigator, Gray said that Arnold didn't pull away. “She didn't have a chance to pull away because, you know, this guy was strong. He grabbed her arm, and some kind of move he made, and she went down to the ground. ... So I was walking up to him and he told me, 'If you come any closer I'm going to kick everybody's ass out here.' So, I said ... 'you don't have to use that type of force on that little woman right there, she's a midget.'"

What happened next was picked up on a video shared on social media and viewed more than 130,000 times. It is unclear who took the video, which is the only footage of the incident to have surfaced; the Sheriff's Office remains one of the few large law enforcement agencies across the country that does not use body cameras. This week, however, the Sheriff's Office announced that it had signed an $8.7 million contract for 500 body cameras that would be deployed by December.

Lopinto said that the contract had been signed in June, “well before any of these articles that were written," and that he didn't say anything publicly because “really nobody has asked me. It's not like I denied it," he said.

WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica sent the Sheriff's Office an email on July 29 specifically asking about the fact that the office had not yet adopted body cameras. The Sheriff's Office did not respond to that email, five follow-up emails and multiple voicemail messages, texts and a certified letter.

Arnold told investigators with the Sheriff's Office that it was not the boys but the deputy who caused her injuries, which included bruises and scratches across her body, a busted lip and recurring headaches. Deputies on the scene called an ambulance, which took Arnold to a local hospital. She was not charged with a crime.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said the video of Arnold and the deputy was “yet another testament to the shocking frequency that JPSO targets and brutalizes innocent, unarmed members of the Black community."

Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called the deputy's actions in the video “outrageous" and questioned whether the Sheriff's Office properly trains its deputies in control tactics or de-escalation techniques.

“There are essentially two answers here. One is they do, and he ignored his training," Walker said. “Or answer No. 2 is no, they don't, which is to say their training program is completely unacceptable. So, it's either him or the organization."

The video of Arnold and the deputy also raises new questions about the Sheriff's Office use-of-force policy, which activists and critics have assailed as vague and insufficient.

They have also said that the department lacks transparency around use-of-force incidents. According to the news investigation published last month, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office was unable to produce any documents related to non-shooting use-of-force incidents. The research organization Police Scorecard Project made a similar request for data on use-of-force incidents; the Sheriff's Office responded by saying those records don't exist.

Shortly after Arnold had been taken to a hospital by ambulance, her sister, Mercedes, arrived on the scene. Mercedes, 32, said the deputy accused of attacking her sister was still present and tried to convince her to call the coroner to have Arnold committed to a hospital for mental health problems. She refused.

“He was just trying to cover up what he did by saying my sister is crazy," she said.

In the following days and weeks, Mercedes and multiple family members said, the same deputy has rolled by their house multiple times in what she believes to be an attempt to intimidate them. But she said she and her family are not afraid and will continue to speak up until the Sheriff's Office holds its deputies accountable.

Garland Fulfilling Commitments On Civil Rights, Police Reform

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Department of Justice had the kind of pro-police reform week that doesn't happen every year. In a seven-day period, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a ban on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, an overhaul on how to handle law enforcement oversight deals, and a promise to make sure the Justice Department wasn't funding agencies that engage in racial discrimination.

"This was a big week for civil rights at the DOJ," Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, shared in a thread about the progress on Twitter Thursday. "Proof that elections matter and that having civil rts attys in DOJ leadership matters. Let me walk you through what's happened in just this one week. It's actually astounding."

The first step forward on Ifill's list came in the form of a review of the Department of Justice's use of monitors who oversee implementation of consent decrees. The New York Timesdefined the legal mechanisms as "court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governmental agencies that create a road map for changes to the way they operate." Garland rescinded Trump-era policy that blocked consent decrees from addressing police misconduct in April. "This has been a concern among community groups in cities where police dept's are covered by consent decrees after DOJ investigations," Ifill tweeted. Garland announced on Monday 19 actions the department will take to address that concern.

"The department has found that – while consent decrees and monitorships are important tools to increase transparency and accountability – the department can and should do more to improve their efficiency and efficacy," Garland said in a news release. "The Associate Attorney General has recommended – and I have accepted – a set of 19 actions that the department will take to address those concerns." Those actions include capping monitoring fees on consent decrees, requiring stakeholder input, imposing specified terms for monitors, and requiring a hearing after five years "so that jurisdictions can demonstrate the progress it has made, and if possible, to move for termination."

"Consent decrees have proven to be vital tools in upholding the rule of law and promoting transformational change in the state and local governmental entities where they are used," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in the news release. "The department must do everything it can to guarantee that they remain so by working to ensure that the monitors who help implement these decrees do so efficiently, consistently and with meaningful input and participation from the communities they serve."

That was only Monday.

Kristen Clarke, who leades the Justice Department's civil rights division, announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department has launched an investigation into allegations of unconstitutional mistreatment of prisoners in Georgia, according to The New York Times. "Under the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution, those who have been convicted of crimes and sentenced to serve time in prison must never be subjected to 'cruel and unusual punishments,'" Clarke said in her announcement of the investigation.

At least 26 people died last year by "confirmed or suspected homicide" in Georgia prisons, and 18 homicides have been reported this year in the state. That's not including those who have been left to die in horrible conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inmates facing that threat rioted at Ware State Prison last August in a viral uprising. Two inmates at the facility had died of COVID-19, and 22 prisoners and 32 staff members had tested positive for the virus during the time of the riot, according to Georgia Department of Corrections recordsobtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"This is huge. The humanitarian crisis in southern prisons is a critically important issue," Ifill tweeted of Clarke's announcement."Then the DOJ announced that it will ban the use of no-knock entries and chokeholds by federal law enforcement officers (except in cases where deadly force is authorized - more to probe abt the exception to be sure) ."

The decision follows the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was sleeping when officers executing a no-knock drug warrant smashed in her door after midnight and shot her at least eight times in her Louisville, Kentucky, home on March 13, 2020. Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020 when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes despite Floyd saying repeatedly that he couldn't breathe. "Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department," Garland said in a news release. "The limitations implemented today on the use of 'chokeholds,' 'carotid restraints' and 'no-knock' warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ's federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability."

Also on Ifill's list of Justice Department wins is a review to make sure it isn't awarding grants to law enforcement agencies that engage in racial discrimination. That review could have wide-reaching effects, touching education, health care, transportation, pretty much every facet that receive federal funding, The New York Times reported. "Approximately $4.5 billion in federal funding flows through the department to police departments, courts and correctional facilities, as well as victim services groups, research organizations and nonprofit groups," Times writer Katie Benner wrote. "All of these organizations, not just police departments, could be affected by this review."

Ifill tweeted it's been a long time since she's seen a week like last week, with the Justice Department announcing multiple measures to reform criminal justice "each with the potential to result in fundamental shifts in longstanding discriminatory practices." "I'm remembering AG Garland's confirmation testimony in which he explained that he needed AAG @vanitaguptaCR & Asst AG for Civil Rights @KristenClarkeJD on his team in particular to help him with critical areas of the work with which he does not have experience.

"This week feels like an important return on his commitment to assembling this rich team."

Kristen Clarke, a longtime voting rights advocate, was confirmed on May 25, making her the first woman and the first Black woman to lead the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division since it was created in 1957. When Gupta was confirmed on April 21, she became the first woman of color and the first civil rights lawyer to serve as associate attorney general.

Ifill went on to tweet: "For many I know this all may seem slow and clunky - it is after all, the government. I'm gratified to see that they're using the tools they have to undertake measures civil rights groups have been asking for for years. And they're working carefully and smart."

Students Don’t Need The Disney Version Of Our History

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The White House issued a proclamation last week, of the sort that most presidents have issued about historical events that deserve commemorating, but that were missing, for the most part, during the Trump reign.

This one marked the 60th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides, on May 4, 1961, when traveling on a bus meant risking your life, if you were with an integrated group, sitting in a spot of your choice. Those southbound heroes were willing to face beatings and the unknown at the hands of fellow citizens intent on stopping progress by any means necessary. Angry and afraid, the violent white supremacist mobs refused to acknowledge the humanity of African Americans or the validity of any law that looked forward not back.

It's the reality — and not the myth of uncomplicated greatness the country has told the world and itself for far too long.

And it's not always pretty.

For that reason, many Republicans want to "cancel" it, to use a word today's conservatives have been misusing with reckless abandon. They'd like to erase the history and the essential lessons that reveal so much about how and why America is so divided and its systems — of health care, housing, education, and more — so inequitable in 2021.

Why? Because for all the chest-thumping toughness so many Americans brag about, apparently white students are too fragile to hear the truth, or see the pictures on prized postcards that treated lynchings as entertainment for the whole family, an indictment of more than a few rogue racists.

Black students, of course, subject to disproportionate school suspensions, stereotypical assumptions from teachers, and keen scrutiny by law enforcement on their way to and from, and sometimes in, the classroom, know all too well that the problems they face stretch back 400 years and more. But the laws being passed and pushed in states across the country — no surprise — don't have them in mind.

Alternate Reality

For those making and debating these rules, in states such as Idaho, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, creating an alternate reality, a version that resembles a Disneyfied diorama, is fine even if it is false, as long as it accommodates white feelings and gives in to white fears.

How will these laws be enforced? Government monitors? Would a fine be imposed if a teacher steps over some vague line? Well, yes, in Arizona, the penalty could be $5,000. If a curious student asks a question, will the teacher no longer be allowed to answer?

The late Rep. John Lewis, brave and persistent, who endured brutal beatings as a consequence of his civil rights activism —including his part in the Freedom Rides — would seem to be someone America's students could look up to. But I'm doubtful his march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 would make it past the curriculum censors since his attackers were agents of the state, enforcing unjust laws that prevented African Americans from voting, from living a free life.

Can you imagine? Students might make a connection between those troopers and Derek Chauvin, a murderer in a uniform, and want to learn about the racist history of policing in America. Plus, calling that day "Bloody Sunday" just wouldn't do.

It's no coincidence that the defenders of a white-washed version of history are in many cases the same legislators rushing through laws that criminalize the protesters who are the spiritual sons and daughters of Lewis.

Do these arbiters of education think that if students don't learn about Jim Crow, they won't see anything shameful about "Jim Crow 2.0" laws that restrict voting rights and harken back to post-Reconstruction rules enacted to crush the progress of those who, once unshackled, achieved elective office and thrived?

It's clear from the twisted views of America's past held by many of the staunchest defenders of the anti-history movement that a more inclusive curriculum is overdue, and they should sign up for a makeup class.

Get the dunce cap ready for Martha Huckabay, president of the Women's Republican Club of New Orleans, who defended Louisiana GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo's words on teaching about the "good" parts of enslaving men, women, and children and offered choice thoughts of her own. Huckabay opined that slavery resulted in "hard working ethics" and that "many of the slaves loved their masters, and their masters loved them, and took very good care of them, and their families." Was she talking about the torture, the rape, or the selling of children away from moms and dads?

Tennessee Republican state Rep. Justin Lafferty somehow interpreted the three-fifths compromise in the original Constitution, which counted the enslaved as three-fifths of a human being, as a step toward ending slavery.

Colorado GOP state Rep. Ron Hanks said the three-fifths compromise "was not impugning anybody's humanity" — after he made a lynching joke. His Republican colleague, state Rep. Richard Holtorf, called another colleague the racist stereotype "Buckwheat," and insisted it had nothing — nothing — to do with race.

CNN contributor Rick Santorum has tried and failed miserably to explain his comments that "we birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture." Why, when he was a senator from Pennsylvania, could Santorum not be bothered to stroll to the National Museum of the American Indian? Was he too lazy or just incurious, either way not an example for school kids of any age?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has weighed in on the debate. He seems fine with teaching the words of America's founding documents — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. Does he want to stop there, leaving out how, when and why the country failed to live up to the lofty principles in those documents until forced to by true patriots? He has said the year 1619, when the first enslaved Africans arrived in colonial Virginia, means little to him. Considering his slave-owning ancestors benefited from trading and "owning" human beings and, presumably, passed the wealth on to family members, you'd think McConnell would be a little more "woke."

History Repeats

"The past is never dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner. The depressing proof can be seen in the tiki-torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia., chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" You have to wonder if avowed neo-Nazi James Fields Jr., serving life in prison for the killing of Heather Heyer, would even be charged under new laws that give a pass and winking approval to drivers who mow down protesters blocking a roadway?

Just months ago, on January 6, violent, hate-filled mobs — cousins in crime to those who greeted the Freedom Riders — stormed the U.S. Capitol, attacking police with the same weapons of batons and bats, hoisting Confederate flags, erecting gallows, hunting for lawmakers and endangering democracy itself.

South Carolina, where Lewis was viciously attacked and left in a pool of blood at the Rock Hill stop of the original Freedom Rides, on Monday officially observed Confederate Memorial Day, honoring traitors who fought to split a nation over the issue of slavery.

This Monday.

How will the next generations do better if they are forbidden from learning the history they must not repeat?

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

This Whiteness Of Being

It's Wednesday morning. I sign into the eighth one-on-one student videoconference but immediately see that, on this call, with this cherished student, there's no oxygen for talking about the final, mundane details of spring semester. The young Black woman looking at me through the computer screen is in almost unspeakable pain.

We are meeting less than 24 hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts for the murder last May of George Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. I always try to remember to include that because, in my experience, young people can't forget it, and neither should we. It's the very least we can do for Floyd and for Darnella Frazier, the brave 17-year-old Black girl who held up her phone that day and bore witness to the last minutes of his life. It's hard for me to believe a person can watch even part of her ten-minute video and not feel something break inside.

The Chauvin verdict is an accountability, but it is not justice, my student says, and I agree. Justice would mean George Floyd was still alive and able to hold his 6-year-old daughter Gianna in his arms.

But this Wednesday morning is worse, so much worse, because minutes before the Chauvin verdict was announced, a 16-year-old Black girl named Ma'Khia Bryant was shot and killed in the street by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio. An investigation is pending, but surely, I don't have to tell you how that sounds to my student less than 24 hours later.

It's too much on top of more than one can bear. My student, this talented and spirited young woman who has been such a fierce presence in my class, has no energy left to talk about what's due by the end of the semester. She is the first of several Black women, current and former students, who tell me that day, without hesitation or doubt, "That girl could be me."

I am a white woman who has never had a minute's worry that the color of my skin would lead to the cause of my death. What is my role in this moment as a professor, a colleague, a friend?

I try to take guidance from Black friends, students and colleagues. The instruction is pretty simple: Shut up. For the sake of all that is right and holy, just shut up for a while and listen. To ignore their pain is to magnify our indifference, and filling this space with our words, our feelings, is just another way to say, "I don't see you."

If your daily life includes no Black friends, colleagues or neighbors, it is by choice. You can argue your "very good reasons" all you want. No one believes you, even if they like you. Try explaining, for example, how your all-white neighborhood reflects your commitment to racial equality. I speak from shameful experience. When you don't want to tell people where you live, it's time to move.

There is one space in which white Americans should always be outspoken allies of Black people, and that is in the company of other white people. So often, our most uncomfortable moments are the most important ones.

For all of my 19 years as a columnist, there has been no rival for the hate mail about racism from people who look like me. The message, sometimes cloaked in Scripture but often just raw with rage, is always the same: You have betrayed your people.

If your primary requirement for love or camaraderie with another human being is a matching skin tone, your world is but a thimble bobbing on a wondrous sea. My mother would want me to pray for you, just as many of you claim to be praying for me. She'd want me to mean it, though, so I keep trying.

It's Thursday evening now, and my mind is full of the thoughts my students have bravely shared in this sad week of never-ending pain. I am slowed by the weight of their words, struggling to imagine what it is like to be them right now.

I do not know because I cannot know, in this whiteness of being. But for them, I will keep trying.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com

One Black Life Mattered, This Time

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Remember when three Black women proclaimed that Black Lives Matter? It was in 2013 after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. It seemed so essential and overdue for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to found a movement to defiantly claim what America had too often denied.

Yet it was controversial. The willfully blind countered with "All Lives Matter," as though saying that would make it so. Then, there were suggestions: "Don't you think it would be less divisive if the signs read 'Black Lives Matter, Too?'"

In all honesty, anyone who did not get it was not going to with the addition of one three-letter word. But then the world witnessed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That the doubters needed video evidence was infuriating, when Black and brown Americans had been bearing witness for hundreds of years. But communities craving visibility and justice welcomed the opened eyes and protests by all ages and races.

It was certainly never a sure thing that Chauvin would be found guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges, as he was. There was also video of the killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016 and Walter Scott in South Carolina in 2015. Yet in Castile's case, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty. And in Scott's case, after the first prosecution ended in a hung jury, it took a federal prosecution to gain a plea from former police officer Michael Slager — despite the evidence a brave citizen recorded of Slager shooting Scott in the back, taking aim while standing 15 to 20 feet away, and then throwing his Taser down to concoct a false story for his department to swallow and regurgitate as truth. (Another bit of mild relief this week as Slager's 20-year sentence was upheld.)

No wonder so many were holding our collective breath.

Unique Circumstances

It took the shock and trauma of Floyd's torture and murder in broad daylight, the look on the face of a white police officer showing the crowd that he was in charge, and a prosecution that cared enough to put in the work to get a conviction. The defense lawyer's characterization of Floyd as at once superhuman, able to rise up after he stopped breathing, yet so weak he literally dropped dead from preexisting conditions, and the crowd as frightening when they were the ones helplessly pleading with Chauvin, the man with the gun and the mace, fell flat this time.

In a startling change, police testified against one of their own, as if to say, it's him, not us. An acquittal for Chauvin would have truly proved police can get away with anything.

But the marches and protests will continue because it is about more than one trial and one officer. The case of Daunte Wright, shot and killed during what started as a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as the Chauvin trial was going on, was a reminder of that. And at those Black Lives Matter marches, a militarized presence by police contrasted with their light hand when confronted by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and insurrectionists anxious to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

Peaceful civil rights activists now praised as secular saints by liberals and conservatives alike — a litany that includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Fannie Lou Hamer — were once met with state-sanctioned violence. Some scenes in the present, at protests for justice, resemble the images from then, with tear gas lingering in the air and snipers on roofs.

Changes Afoot

It's true the Biden administration's Department of Justice seems to be taking that word "justice" seriously. Attorney General Merrick Garland is rescinding the ban on consent decrees that monitored local police departments, agreements President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed an infringement. Just this week, Garland announced a Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.

In my home state of Maryland, the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill that repealed the state's powerful Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Now Maryland has established new use-of-force rules, among other provisions on investigations and punishment, and civilians can weigh in.

Yet, in Florida, in what can only be described as a retreat to the bad old days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill brazenly targeting racial justice protesters that punishes protest itself with felony charges. At the signing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned newcomers to the state: "Don't register to vote and vote the stupid way they did up north and get what they got."

Ah, Florida. Come for the voter suppression, get arrested at a protest as a bonus.

Even after Chauvin's conviction, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm from Senate Republicans for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though polls suggest public support for provisions such as bans on chokeholds, limits on no-knock warrants, and data collection that would prevent bad police officers from moving to different jurisdictions without leaving a trail.

Anyone who was paying attention knows that Chauvin was one ten-minute video taken by a stalwart 17-year-old away from returning to his beat, charged up on new resentments.

A Black life may have mattered, this time. But many of us have yet to exhale.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Let's End Police Traffic Stops That Bring Needless Tragedy

Driving has gotten much less dangerous over time, thanks to new safety features in cars, better highway design and a decline in drunk driving. But that's no solace to motorists who face dangers of a different kind — not when they are driving, but when they are stopped on the side of the road.

Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African American, was fatally shot by a police officer in Minnesota after being pulled over for an expired license tag. In Virginia, Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino Army officer, was pepper-sprayed after being stopped for lacking a rear license plate — though a temporary plate was affixed to his rear window.

Jenoah Donald, a 30-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a Kentucky sheriff's deputy who had pulled him over for a broken taillight. And it's impossible to forget Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African American, who died in 2015 in a Texas jail after being stopped for failing to signal — and was arrested for refusing to put out her cigarette.

A lot of factors figure in these deadly incidents. Police commonly have a tendency to target Black and Hispanic drivers for minor traffic offenses, and some cops are overly aggressive or inept in dealing with these motorists. Curing such failings has proven to be a difficult task.

But one solution is hiding in plain sight. None of the violence visited upon people during police traffic stops would have occurred if there had been no police traffic stop. Instead of focusing entirely on restraining cops in these situations, we should try to keep them out of these situations.

Life was different until vehicular infractions became the province of police officers. "Before the 20th century, the average American seldom came under police scrutiny," writes Columbia law professor Sarah Seo, author of Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom. "Ironically, the rise of the automobile — that embodiment of personal freedom — vastly expanded the police's powers over everybody who drove or rode in a car." Cops pull over 50,000 cars every day, 20 million per year.

Someone has to take responsibility for administering traffic laws. But there is no compelling reason for armed police to confront individuals over petty errors and trivial transgressions. It creates unnecessary hazards for cops and for those they stop.

It also invites discrimination. Various studies indicate that cops are more likely to stop Black and Hispanic drivers than white ones and more likely to search their cars — even though they are more likely to find contraband with white drivers.

In a 2013 Gallup Poll, 24% of Black men aged 18 to 34 said they had been unfairly treated by police in the last 30 days. The New York Times reported that Philando Castile, who was shot to death by a cop in Minnesota in 2016, was pulled over 49 times in 13 years — typically for minor infractions.

Contrary to myth, traffic enforcement is not a good method of catching crooks and curbing crime. In Chicago, these stops yield contraband in only 1 in 555 cases.

A 2018 study of Nashville, Tennessee, by the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law found: "Traffic stops do not appear to have a significant impact on long-term crime trends. As the number of traffic stops declined between 2012 and 2017, crime rates remained quite flat." And, "Traffic stops also do not appear to have any effect on crime in the short-term."

Unpleasant experiences breed distrust and hostility toward cops among African Americans and Hispanics. The simplest way to prevent such incidents is to remove police from the picture whenever possible.

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently proposed that New York City police cease making routine traffic stops. "Armed police officers are not needed for traffic enforcement," her report concluded, "particularly when the underlying conduct in question is not criminal, such as a broken taillight, speeding, or not wearing a seatbelt."

More use of speed and red-light cameras could greatly reduce the incidence of police-driver encounters, while promoting road safety. Unarmed traffic monitors could document minor violations by photo or video and mail citations to offenders; they could also make stops when necessary. Cops could be reserved for instances of dangerous driving.

In every traffic stop, the driver and the police officer face the risk of being killed, and too often, the risk becomes a reality. Why not take both out of the line of fire?

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Minnesota Cop Who Shot Daunte Wright In Traffic Stop Charged With Manslaughter

By Nick Pfosi and Gabriella Borter MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The white suburban police officer who fatally shot a young Black motorist during a traffic stop in Minnesota, igniting three nights of civil unrest, was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday, a day after the officer turned in her badge. Daunte Wright, 20, was pulled over on Sunday in Brooklyn Center, just outside Minneapolis, for what police said was an expired vehicle registration, then struggled with police and was shot to death by officer Kimberly Potter, 48, who drew her handgun instead of a Taser in what officials called an accid...