States battle pushback after wave of police reforms – Boston News, Weather, Sports


The national race and policing reckoning that followed the death of George Floyd — with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee to his trachea — sparked a torrent of state laws aimed at fixing policing.

More than two years later, this torrent has slowed down.

Some of the initial reforms were changed or even rolled back after police complained that the new policies were hampering their ability to catch criminals.

And while governors of all but five states have signed police reform laws, many have also given police more protections. More than a dozen states have only passed laws aimed at strengthening police oversight and expanding police accountability; five states have adopted only new police protections.

States collectively approved nearly 300 police reform bills after Floyd’s May 2020 killing, according to analysis by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland. The analysis used data from the National Conference of State Legislatures to identify legislation enacted since June 2020 that affects police oversight, training, use-of-force policies and mental health deviations, including crisis intervention and alternatives to arrest.

Numerous liability laws have addressed themes present in Floyd’s death, including the use of body cameras and requiring police to report excessive force by co-workers. Among other things, the police rights measures gave officers the power to prosecute civilians for violating their civil rights.

North Carolina, for example, has passed a general law that allows authorities to charge civilians if their conduct would have interfered with an officer’s duty. But he also created a public database of officers who have been fired or suspended for misconduct.

In Minnesota – where the reform movement was sparked by a chilling video showing Floyd’s death at the knee of officer Derek Chauvin – the state legislature has enacted changes to police accountability, but they fall far short of what Democrats and activists were looking for.

The state has banned neck restraints like the one used on Floyd. It also imposed a duty to intervene on officers who witness a colleague using excessive force, changed rules on the use of force and created a police misconduct database.

But during this year’s legislative session, Democrats were unable to overcome Republican opposition to new limits on no-knock warrants, even after a Minneapolis SWAT team in February entered a downtown apartment while serving a search warrant and killed 22-year-old Amir Locke. – old black man.

In Minneapolis, voters rejected a 2021 “defund the police” ballot initiative that would have replaced the department with a redesigned public safety unit with less reliance on armed cops.

Similar dynamics unfolded across the country. Some examples :

– Days before the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s murder, Washington’s Democratic governor signed into law one of the most comprehensive police reform programs in the nation, including new laws banning the use of chokeholds and warrants strike ban.

Police had argued that some of the reforms went too far and would interfere with their ability to catch criminals. The refoulement did not stop after the new laws came into force.

Earlier this year, lawmakers struck down some provisions, making it clear that police can use force, if necessary, to detain someone fleeing pretrial detention for investigation. Police must always exercise “due diligence”, including de-escalation techniques, and cannot use force when detainees comply.

Carlos Hunter, a 43-year-old black man, was shot and killed by police in 2019. His sister, Nickeia, said it was disheartening to see some of the laws changed after years of reform efforts.

“Everything that the reforms in place have done good, they will try to undo in 2023,” she said. “They try to reverse every gain that has been made.”

— On paper, the policing reforms passed in Nevada in 2021 seemed expansive.

The public would get a statewide use of force database containing information about deadly confrontations with police. Law enforcement has been mandated to develop an early warning system to flag problem officers. And officers were to defuse situations “when possible or appropriate” and use only “objectively reasonable” force.

A year later, a lack of funding and a lack of monitoring have blunted the impact of the reforms.

The database does not yet exist. The early warning system was not clearly defined, so some police departments said they had made no changes. And many law enforcement agencies already had de-escalation language in their use of force policies.

“If you want my opinion, it was mostly welfare legislation that somewhere along the lines of someone thought they were making a huge difference,” said Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro, an area outside of Reno. “It’s down and mirrors.”

– In Mississippi, where 38% of the population is black, there is little political appetite for police reform – and Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane is candid when explaining why.

“The general feeling among my constituents in southern Mississippi is that we need to support the police and thank them for the work they do because crime is on the rise and it stands between us and the criminal element,” did he declare.

But there are those who see the need to act.

Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives when Floyd was killed. It has seen states across the country pass a wide range of police reforms while no police accountability measures were approved in Mississippi.

“It’s disappointing,” Dortch said.

– Virginia, once a reliable conservative state, flexed its new Democratic muscle after Floyd’s death, passing a sweeping package of policing reforms. Among them: legislation banning the use of chokeholds and no-hit search warrants.

A key part of the reform package was a bill to establish a new statewide framework giving mental health clinicians a lead role in responding to people in crisis – rather than rely on the police. The law is named after Marcus-David Peters, an unarmed black man who was shot dead by a Richmond police officer in 2018 during a psychiatric crisis.

Advocates hoped the new law would minimize police involvement in emotionally charged situations that they may not be sufficiently trained to handle and which could end with disastrous results.

Five pilot programs began last year in various parts of the state, but some supporters of the law were disappointed when an amendment approved by the Legislative Assembly earlier this year gave localities with populations of 40,000 or less the possibility of withdrawing from the system.

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