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News and notes on guns in America

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[AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh]

Daily Bulletin: Chicago Is Spending More on Policing Than Ever — Despite an Overall Drop in Crime

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

NEW from THE TRACE: Police budgets used to be untouchable. The ‘defund’ movement is changing that. “Defund the police” was a rallying cry and a policy prescription long before the killing of George Floyd ignited protests in all 50 states. But as demonstrations continue into a third week, the once-obscure idea has gained support with the public and a number of city leaders. The Trace’s J. Brian Charles reports on how cities are approaching defunding, from dismantling departments in their entirety to freezing spending on law enforcement.

Chicago is spending more on policing than ever, despite an overall drop in crime. That’s according to the nonpartisan Injustice Watch, which calculated that the city funded the police at a rate of $215 per resident in 1964. This year, the city is spending $600 per resident, according to an analysis of census figures and police budget appropriations. That’s more than double what Miami-Dade County spends. Crime has steadily declined in Chicago since its peak in the ’90s. At the same time, homicide clearance rates have dropped. Activists and some city leaders have called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reduce the police budget, but she has declined.

Portland, Oregon, scraps a controversial police unit to combat gun crime. City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has campaigned for the dissolution of the 35-officer Gun Violence Reduction Team for years, describing it as one of “the bureau’s most racially unjust units.” Mayor Ted Wheeler announced on Tuesday that the unit, which has a $4.8 million budget, would disband. Hardesty said she hopes the freed-up funds will go to Portland Street Response, an experimental program that utilizes community health workers to respond to non-emergency 911 calls.

Court denies qualified immunity to West Virginia police officers who shot Black man 22 times. A federal appeals court refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of Wayne Jones against the five officers who killed him in 2013. Jones, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was stopped by police in Martinsburg for walking in the middle of the road. Officers tased, beat, and placed Jones in a chokehold. He was then shot as he lay on the ground. Jones had a knife tucked in his sleeve. Reversing a lower court decision, 4th Circuit Judge Henry Floyd invoked the police killings of both George Floyd and Michael Brown in his opinion: “Although we recognize that our police officers are often asked to make split-second decisions, we expect them to do so with respect for the dignity and worth of black lives.” The judge added: “This has got to stop.”

NEW from THE TRACE: NRA put faith in attorney’s New York connections, court filing says. William A. Brewer III, hired in early 2018 as an outside counsel for the National Rifle Association, enjoys name recognition in the legal world. But does he have the clout to rein in the Attorney General of New York, who is investigating the group’s tax-exempt status? NRA boss Wayne LaPierre apparently thought so, according to recent court filings in which LaPierre is said to have touted Brewer’s “key relationships” in the state. Will Van Sant has the story.

Coronavirus shutdown stalls restraining order reporting to New Orleans police. Lawyers and victim advocates tell The Lens that since the Louisiana governor implemented a stay-at-home order in late March, some protective orders haven’t been entered into the state protective order registry, which law enforcement relies upon. Those restraining orders often come with gun prohibitions. Earlier this month, The Trace and The Lens reported that New Orleans judges have been failing to order people under protective orders to relinquish their guns, despite a state law that requires them to be disarmed.

Seven people were shot at a Philadelphia apartment complex. One person was killed in the hail of gunfire shortly before midnight on Tuesday. Police said they found 45 shell casings at the scene. “It sounded like it was a gun battle back here,” a resident said. Police haven’t made any arrests.

DATA POINT

The Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime has awarded $9.8 million for ongoing mental health care for students, families, employees, and first responders affected by the 2018 Parkland shooting. The funds will also reimburse Florida agencies that provided these services in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.