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News and notes on guns in America

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Democratic leaders meet on June 8, 2020, to unveil a new police reform bill. [AP Photo/Manuel Balce Cenet]

Daily Bulletin: What’s in the Democratic Police Reform Bill

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WHAT TO KNOW TODAY

Democrats in Congress propose sweeping police reforms. The Justice in Policing Actproposed by House and Senate Democrats, aims to combat excessive force and racial bias in policing. The Congressional Black Caucus took the lead on drafting the legislation. Here’s what it would do: 

  • Curb “qualified immunity,” which shields police from being sued for their actions on the job
  • Incentivize state attorneys general to independently investigate deadly force incidents, which are often handled internally by police departments
  • Create a national database of police misconduct and use-of-force incidents
  • Ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases, like the one that led to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville, Kentucky, EMT, in March
  • Require state and local police departments that receive federal funding to ensure that their officers wear body cameras
  • Restrict the transfer of military equipment, like weapons and explosives, to police departments
  • Provide grants to train police departments in de-escalation tactics.

But leading party members are resisting a push to “defund the police.” While the idea is gaining traction on the left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said budgeting decisions should be left to cities and states. Other Democratic leaders called it a distraction or counterproductive. Through a spokesperson, former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee came out against calls to defund the police while expressing support for wide-ranging reforms.

New York lawmakers pass a first wave of police reforms. Defying powerful police unions, the Legislature advanced bills to ban chokeholds and require the special prosecutor’s office to investigate police killings. On Tuesday, lawmakers are expected to pass several more measures, including one to repeal a controversial law that shields the disciplinary records of police officers. Related: The Denver Police Department changed its use-of-force policies. Officers may no longer use chokeholds, and they must file a report and alert their superiors any time they intentionally point a gun at someone.

Minneapolis elected officials want to disband the Police Department over brutality and racism concerns. It wouldn’t be the first big city to scrap its force. The Minneapolis City Council has yet to release a detailed plan for what the process of disbandment will entail — but there is some precedent. Camden, New Jersey, disbanded its police force in 2012, citing rampant crime and a police union that drove up salaries. A new force was formed in 2013, and new hires were retrained in de-escalation techniques and community policing to help build the trust of city residents. The city’s former police chief told The Trace in 2018 that measures like scoop and run — where officers drive gunshot victims to the hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance — helped build cops’ credibility among residents. In the five years after Camden rebuilt its force, homicides dropped 67 percent and many experts and community leaders have hailed the city as a successful reform case. Bloomberg’s Sarah Holder points out that the city’s community policing model resulted in three times the number of officers on patrol. Last week, the current police chief joined protesters in a march against police brutality.

Fatal shooting of Black man by N.J. police will go to grand jury. Maurice Gordon, 28, was killed by a New Jersey state trooper during a traffic stop on May 23. Gordon had been pulled over for speeding. When the officer asked him to move his vehicle to another spot on the road, his car wouldn’t start. The trooper invited Gordon to his car while he waited for a tow truck. There, the officer frisked him and made him wait in the vehicle, despite providing no information about the stop or giving any indication that he was under arrest, according to a lawyer for Gordon’s family. After Gordon got out of the car, a struggle broke out and the officer shot Gordon multiple times. Late last night, the state attorney general released audio and video from the incident. The traffic stop was Gordon’s fourth encounter with the police in 30 hours. The release of materials by the attorney general’s office included a 911 call from one of Gordon’s friends expressing concern for his “well being and whereabouts.” As required by New Jersey law for all police shootings, a grand jury will decide if criminal charges will be filed.

Off-duty soldier facing felony for bringing guns to Black Lives Matter rally. The 22-year-old officer stationed at Fort Drum in New York was detained along with several armed men at Sunday’s protest in Troy, New York. He was charged with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and faces up to 15 years. A police official commended officers “for averting what may have become a violent encounter.”

DATA POINT

Police shot and killed 110 people in May — the most in any month since The Washington Post began tracking fatal police shootings in 2015.