What To Know Today

Justice Department launches civil rights investigation into Minneapolis police misconduct. Such investigations were all but abandoned during the Trump administration, and last summer ex-Attorney General Bill Barr declined to call for one in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. “Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in his announcement. The mayor and all but one member of the Minneapolis City Council released statements praising the probe. Looking forward: If a pattern and practice investigation reveals widespread systemic failures and abuses in policing, it can lead to a consent decree, whereby the federal government and a local police department agree on a series of reforms. Garland last week overturned a Trump administration near-ban on consent decrees, which the Obama DOJ utilized on 14 occasions, including in Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson, Missouri.

Understanding the generational divide in community violence outreach. In a recent must-read interview, Marlon Peterson, a staunch critic of the criminal justice system, offers his vision of a reimagined public safety system. It’s a fascinating look at the progressive end of the police reform debate, but also offers a unique perspective on how community-led violence programs — and the people who run them — age. Peterson helped launch a New York chapter of Cure Violence, perhaps the most visible national intervention program in the U.S., which deploys outreach workers to de-escalate street conflicts:

  • On the need to rebrand: “I also think Cure Violence has to be aware that it needs to be able to constantly rebrand itself. When I came home a decade ago, Cure Violence was cool. After a while, you just some old dudes, and it’s not as effective. It doesn’t speak to what young people are dealing with now… That’s another reason why violence interrupters need to be able to be moved up and out into other and bigger things.”

Columbus, Ohio, leaders, advocates question need for fatal use of force against 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. The teenager was involved in a violent encounter with other girls, leading to a 911 call about an attempted stabbing. A responding officer shot her four times within seconds of arriving on the scene. Officer body-worn camera video was released, but family members and other leaders are questioning the use of force. “We must push for a new culture in Columbus where guns are not the final answer to every threat,” read a statement from the City Council president. “Was it necessary to shoot? Couldn’t officers have used another option to defuse and de-escalate?” said the president of the Columbus Urban League. 

Washington State sends bill limiting open carry to governor’s desk. The Senate advanced a measure that would apply to firearms in the Capitol complex and any permitted events statewide, including protests. Democratic Governor Jay Inslee is expected to sign it. Armed protests were common in Washington last year, and two post-election demonstrations on the grounds of the Capitol in Olympia led to shootings. An opposing force: Four Republican-led states this year have moved to make it even easier to carry weapons in public with the enactment of permitless carry laws.

A police officer who gave to the legal defense fund of the Kenosha shooter was fired. People have contributed more than $500,000 to support Kyle Rittenhouse, who faces murder charges for killing two protesters during demonstrations in Wisconsin in August. Last week, a leak at the crowdsourcing platform GiveSendGo revealed that an officer who worked for the Norfolk Police Department in Virginia had contributed $25, saying in part in his accompanying messages: “God bless. Thank you for your courage.” The Norfolk police chief fired the officer after a short investigation, saying the donation violated department policy.

Data Point

55 points — the difference between Democrats (73 percent) and Republicans (18 percent) who consider gun violence to be a “very big problem,” according to a new poll. The gap has grown steadily and is 19 percentage points wider than in 2016. [Pew Research Center]