What To Know This Week

DHS issues alert on the “heightened threat” of violent extremism. A National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin warns of the risk of violence from domestic actors motivated by conspiracy theories, anti-government sentiment, and anger over the 2020 election results and COVID-19 restrictions. The alert, which extends through April, says the attack on the U.S. Capitol could embolden violent extremists to target elected officials and government facilities. Meanwhile, the last 24 hours saw a number of parallel developments on the extremist front:

  • California man arrested with arsenal after allegedly threatening attacks on Democrats: Federal prosecutors charged the man with possessing five pipe bombs. In a search of his home and business, officers seized thousands of rounds of ammunition and 49 firearms, some of which agents said may be machine guns. They also recovered text messages in which he allegedly threatened violence against prominent Democrats and Twitter. The suspect, Ian Benjamin Rogers, had a decal of the far-right Three Percenters militia on his vehicle and wanted a “war” to keep Trump in office, an FBI agent said in an affidavit.
  • Militia leader pleads guilty in plot to kidnap Michigan governor: Ty Garbin, one of 13 men facing federal and state charges related to the alleged plot, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and pledged to fully cooperate with authorities. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges — including weapons violations — and offered the possibility of a sentence reduction.
  • Oath Keeper indictments: Three members of the far-right militia group, who were charged last week with conspiracy for their role in the Capitol attack, have been formally indicted in D.C. federal court.

D.C.’s gun laws → less violence at the Capitol insurrection. So argues Second Amendment legal expert Jacob Charles. Washington, D.C.’s unusually strict laws require firearms to be registered with local police. “Opponents of gun regulation often argue that restrictions on firearms in certain places or spaces only harms law-abiding citizens because criminals don’t obey the law,” Charles writes. “But the failed coup attempt shows that some criminals actually do obey gun laws. And the existence of those laws helped ensure that the tinderbox ignited January 6 at the Nation’s Capital wasn’t more lethal and destructive.”

Police reform task force issues first set of recommendations. The bipartisan Council on Criminal Justice’s Task Force on Policing — made up of experts from police departments, their unions, activists, politicians, and criminal justice reformers — called for mandates that officers intervene when they witness excessive force, an end to choke holds, and restricting the kind of no-knock raids that precipitated the shooting death of Breonna Taylor last March. 

Another promising experiment in reducing policing shootings. So-called point-and-report policies that require officers to document when they pull their service weapon have gained traction in some cities, but remain rare. Writing in the journal Injury Prevention, criminal justice researchers looked at the effect of Dallas’ implementation of a point-and-report policy in 2013. It was associated with a 15 percent reduction in police shootings in the ensuing five years, they argue. The study also observed a nearly 80 percent reduction in cases where officers shot someone they mistakenly believed to be armed.

Data Point

700 — the number of police accountability bills introduced in 36 states and Washington, D.C., last year. A new database from the National Conference of State Legislatures tracks the current laws regulating policing in areas including use of force standards and officer training. [NCSL]