Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement after the city council voted to strip about $3 million from the police department and reduce its size by up to 100 officers as part of a push to change policing in the city. Best is the latest police leader to depart amid widespread protests of injustice and brutality in policing nationwide following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Here are some significant developments:
  • Protesters in a Milwaukee-area community attacked a Black police officer who is on leave after he fatally shot a teenager in February, vandalizing his home and discharging a shotgun at his back door.
  • The 2018 arrest of an 8-year-old boy at a school in Key West, Fla., has gained new attention after a lawyer posted a video of the incident, which has gotten more than 2 million views online this week.
  • The Rev. Jesse Jackson has decried the acts of destruction in Chicago on Sunday night and Monday morning, saying they would cause civil rights icons to “cry together in shame.” He said in a tweet that such criminality must not overtake the goals of social justice.
August 11, 2020 at 7:51 PM EDT

Chicago police chief, officials clash with Cook County prosecutor over criminal justice reforms in wake of looting

CHICAGO — The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the police department sought felony charges in 25 cases out of more than 100 arrests made Monday amid a night of rampant looting in the city’s commercial center. Twenty-four have been approved.

The charges include, but are not limited to, aggravated battery of a police officer, criminal damage to property, unlawful use of a weapon and burglary/looting. All cases were in bond court on Tuesday.

“Cases continue to be reviewed and investigated by law enforcement and we will continue to file felony charges if appropriate,” Foxx’s office said in a statement.

Concerns about the effectiveness of progressive justice reforms on the city, county and state level in Illinois have surfaced since extensive looting early Monday left the city’s central business district devastated, as hundreds of people flocked downtown following reports on social media of a police shooting.

About 100 people were arrested, but it is not clear how many will be charged with felonies by Foxx, who was elected in late 2016 on a platform that addressed the criminal justice system as broken for how it unfairly punishes poor people and racial minorities. On Monday, Foxx told reporters that she stands by the reforms she has put in place, which include raising the standard for felony charges from a minimum of $300 to $1,000 in stolen goods.

That has frustrated Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, who since the unrest in June following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis has complained publicly that repeat offenders are being cycled through the court system because of low bail amounts and an inefficient electronic monitoring system.

A Chicago Tribune investigation found that Foxx’s office dropped all charges against nearly 30 percent of felony defendants during her first three years in office. During the same period under predecessor Anita Alvarez, the rate was 19 percent.

Foxx struck a defensive tone Monday and said that “all hands on deck means that rather than standing and pointing fingers, we work together.” She also said that the police department has been slow to bring her office felony cases. Of the 5,000 arrests made after Floyd’s killing through late June, only 29 percent were felony cases, she said.

“Our office is not in the arresting business. We get cases when they are brought to us,” she said.

City and state officials have said the system is broken. In a statement, Alderman Gilbert Villegas said that Foxx’s office “has unfortunately created an environment where criminals do not fear legal consequences.” He called for “immediate policy changes” in her office “to further compel the courts and our judges to address this public safety crisis immediately.”

Illinois Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican, agreed. On Twitter he said that “leaders at the city, state, and federal levels” need “to do everything they can to ensure those who perpetrated these crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Foxx’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Timothy C. Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, weighed in to defend the court’s bail practices, saying in a statement Monday that “while the case is pending, the court’s bail decisions must balance the right of the defendant to be presumed innocent with any evidence that the defendant would pose a real and present threat to the physical safety of any person.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday that she talked with Foxx about the importance of charging the looters with felonies. “There is always a tension that’s there” between both offices, she said. “What we are focusing on is not the tension, but how we can strengthen the partnership.”

“I know every police officer wants everything to be a felony, but it is up to the prosecutor to determine that. … There has been an evolution in the requirements,” she said. “We want to build the strongest case possible with as much evidence as possible and that’s what we will continue to do.”

Lightfoot said police are scanning hundreds of hours of video from city-owned and store-operated cameras to strengthen the cases they present to Foxx. “We are doing everything we can, sparing no resource, to bring [the looters] to justice,” she said.

By Mark Guarino
August 11, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown praises state troopers for helping protect Portland courthouse

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) praised her state’s law enforcement officers for their work in Portland as their two-week rotation within the city ends Wednesday.

“I think there’s absolutely no question that by having Oregonians there, it has made a substantial difference in what is happening in downtown Portland,” Brown told reporters. “And, of course, getting Trump’s troops off of the streets of downtown Portland has substantially calmed things down.”

The governor rejected an offer from President Trump on Monday to redeploy National Guard troops to Portland’s streets. Brown’s spokesman, Charles Boyle, said in a statement previously provided to The Washington Post that there had been a “dramatic shift” in the protests since federal agents left the city. He also warned against any increasing violence just a day after protesters set fire to a police union headquarters.

Brown did not specifically address whether Oregon State Police will extend their deployment in downtown Portland and around the federal courthouse, the latter of which has been a flash point for months now. A spokesman for the state police confirmed to The Post that no determination has been made on what will happen after Wednesday.

By Brent Griffiths
August 11, 2020 at 3:34 PM EDT

Portland-area district attorney won’t prosecute protesters for nonviolent crimes

Multnomah County, Ore., District Attorney Mike Schmidt said Tuesday that his office will not prosecute protesters arrested on nonviolent charges.

Schmidt, who stepped into the role earlier this month, announced a policy that will decline to charge cases that do not involve deliberate property damage, theft or the use or threat of force against another person.

The announcement comes amid ongoing demonstrations over policing reform and racial justice, which have intensified in places such as Portland, Ore., which Schmidt oversees.

“If we leverage the full force of the criminal justice system on individuals who are peacefully protesting and demanding to be heard, we will cause irreparable harm to them individually and to our society. The prosecution of people exercising their rights to free speech and assembly in a nonviolent manner takes away from the limited resources that we have to prosecute serious crimes and to assist crime victims,” Schmidt said.

As a result, the district attorney’s office will drop a significant number of cases brought against protesters during demonstrations, which erupted in late May following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Although a spokesperson for the Schmidt’s office couldn’t confirm the exact number of cases that will be dropped, it expects the policy to affect the majority of non-bodily-harm misdemeanor cases — which make up more than 300 of the 550 total cases referred to the district attorney’s office from the demonstrations.

“As prosecutors, we acknowledge the depth of emotion that motivates these demonstrations and support those who are civically engaged through peaceful protesting. We will undermine public safety, not promote it, if we do not take action to bring about immediate change,” Schmidt said.

By Jessica Wolfrom
August 11, 2020 at 3:28 PM EDT

A small bird sheds its Confederate past

Sports teams, military bases and corporate logos aren’t the only things being renamed or recast during these days of racial reckoning. A little bird just got a new moniker.

After a concerted push, including by Black birders, the American Ornithological Society has changed the name of the McCown’s Longspur to the Thick-billed Longspur. The original honored John Porter McCown, a Confederate general who also led campaigns against Native American tribes.

The announcement late last week represented the first time the 137-year-old society has altered a name with a Confederate past. Two decades ago, the organization assessed the problems with the “Oldsquaw,” a vocal species of waterfowl that officially became the Long-tailed Duck.

The name was indeed problematic. Not only did it offer little description of the creature itself, a six-inch sparrow-like bird of gray, white, and chestnut hues that traverses grasslands from Colorado to southern Canada. It also immortalized a man who fought for slavery and warred with Native Americans — who surely were aware of the bird long before it was named after him.

New naming guidelines allowed Driver’s proposal to be accepted. In a July statement about avian nomenclature, the society said that uses of “harmful” English names such as McCown’s Longspur “unfairly demand tolerance from already marginalized people, creating an unnecessary barrier to the field of ornithology with clear downstream effects felt at multiple levels of our ornithological community.”

The issue, spokeswoman Christine Schmidt added Tuesday, “illuminated for us the need to address controversial names through a contemporary lens.”

By Zachary Lewis
August 11, 2020 at 2:11 PM EDT

Trump says NBA critics are ‘very nasty’ and ‘very dumb’

President Trump, who has been at odds politically with NBA players and coaches since taking office, said in an interview that aired Tuesday morning with Clay Travis on Fox Sports Radio’s “Outkick the Coverage” that he hadn’t heard their criticism of him, but added that he “wouldn’t be that surprised. Some are very nasty, very, very nasty and, frankly, very dumb.”

The president weighed in on a number of sports issues during the coronavirus pandemic, offering his opinion on whether there should be a college football season and how other sports have fared as they have begun play. He praised golf, for example, but lashed out at the NBA.

In games since the NBA season resumed, players and coaches have knelt during the national anthem, worn “Black Lives Matter” shirts and replaced the names on their jerseys with messages about police brutality and social injustice. More than 300 players — with a few exceptions — have locked arms and knelt before games inside the bubble at Disney World.

Trump believes that is hurting the NBA. “I think basketball is not working because of the way they treated our flag and anthem,” he told Travis.

By Cindy Boren
August 11, 2020 at 12:55 PM EDT

Oregon lawmakers further restrict use of chokeholds by police, corrections officers

A law further restricting the use of chokeholds by police passed the Oregon legislature by a large majority Monday night. It requires that the officers give those they are questioning “a verbal warning and reasonable opportunity” to comply before using physical force only cases of “self defense.”

The lawmakers defined chokeholds as “impeding normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure on throat or neck.” The new law — known as HB 4301also requires officers “to consider alternatives to physical force.

Earlier this summer, the Minnesota legislature also passed a ban on chokeholds and neck restraints in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in May. Many cities and states have launched legislation to end the practice in recent months as the country grapples with its legacy of racism.

These forms of restraint have been a heated topic both among police, who say they need them to gain control of aggressive or resisting suspects, and those working to end police brutality, who say they are disproportionately used on Black people. The issue became a subject of wide public debate with the death of Eric Garner in 2014 after a police officer was accused of choking him.

The term “chokehold” is often used in mainstream discourse to refer to any neck hold. Most of Europe already bans chokeholds. The new laws come amid a wave of protests across the country after the death of Floyd, which have spurred a national conversation about racism and police brutality.

“I wish that I didn’t have to come here and bring a bill like this. I wish I didn’t,” said Oregon state Sen. James Manning Jr. (D) during the debate, which was held during a special session.

Some Republican lawmakers said, however, they wish they could have vetted the issue more. The law was heard under coronavirus restrictions, and critics said that did not allow lawmakers and others enough time to debate or voice concerns.

“I think this issue should have waited to the next long session where we have weeks and weeks and months to vet these types of policies,” Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. (R) said.

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
August 11, 2020 at 11:42 AM EDT

Protesters allegedly attack Wisconsin police officer linked to three fatal on-duty shootings

Protesters in a Milwaukee-area community attacked a Black police officer who is on leave after he fatally shot a teenager in February, vandalizing his home and discharging a shotgun at his back door, according to police and the city’s mayor.

Police said a group of 50 to 60 people gathered outside a home where Joseph Mensah, an officer with the Wauwatosa Police Department, was staying over the weekend. Police said Mensah tried to establish a dialogue with the group “but was ultimately physically assaulted outside of his home.” After going back inside, armed protesters went to the back door, and one shot a round at the house shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Police arrived and dispersed the crowd, according to a department statement.

“All City of Wauwatosa employees support the right to peacefully protest,” wrote Sgt. Abby Pavlik, a police department public information officer. “Further incidents of vandalism or violent behavior will be dealt with on a situation by situation basis.”

On a Facebook page attributed to Mensah, there was what appeared to be an account of the incident, saying that protesters came to his girlfriend’s home on Saturday night and attacked him while he was unarmed.

“We were both assaulted, punched and ultimately shot at several times,” the Facebook post says. “A shotgun round missed me by inches. … The irony in all of this is that they chanted Black Lives Matter the entire time, but had zero regard for any of the black children that live there or me a black man. ”

A lawyer who represents Mensah did not respond to requests for comment.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee), who attended the protest, was challenging the accounts from Mensah and the police department, saying the claims of violence were not accurate. He told the Journal Sentinel that Mensah provoked the protesters before there was any physical altercation and that no protester fired at Mensah.

Mensah was suspended with pay after the February mall parking lot shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole. Mensah has said in online posts that he was suspended “without cause” and that there is evidence proving he did nothing wrong. His brother wrote in a gofundme campaign to raise money for legal counsel that he has been “unjustly accused” of wrongdoing and that he wants to get back to “serving the community.”

Mensah was involved in two other fatal on-duty shootings within the past five years, according to the Journal Sentinel. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office determined the shootings of Antonio Gonzales and Jay Anderson Jr. were in self-defense and were justified.

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said in a statement on the city’s website that various groups have protested in the city demanding that Mensah be fired and that he and other city officials have “always supported and protected the right to peaceful protest." He said he was meeting with city officials to ensure Mensah’s safety.

McBride said the incident “was not a peaceful protest; it was criminal behavior. If the perpetrators of this criminal behavior are identified, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

McBride, who was elected this year, wrote in June that like most American communities, “Wauwatosa has a sorrowful legacy of racism, matching the American legacy of oppression that stretches back 400 years. In recent times, we have done much to undo that legacy, but we have much more to do. As Mayor of Wauwatosa, I apologize for our history of racism and pledge that Wauwatosa will be in the vanguard of positive change.”

By Donna Owens
August 11, 2020 at 11:04 AM EDT

Coalition of Black civic groups intends to mobilize voters, tackle suppression

A coalition of Black civic groups intends to mobilize voters and tackle potential voter suppression issues ahead of the November election, with plans to ensure that Black voters have the information they need to vote by mail, vote early or navigate physical polling sites.

In a virtual conference Monday, Unity ‘20 partners, including the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the National Urban League, the National Action Network, the National African American Clergy Network, the NAACP and other national and state-based groups, discussed the importance of voting and being counted fairly in the 2020 Census, as well as the disproportional dangers that the novel coronavirus has presented to Black communities.

“There is a tsunami of challenges that are adversely impacting our communities’ ability to vote without barriers,” said Melanie Campbell, president and chief executive of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, a civil rights and social justice organization headquartered in D.C. “We are coming together at this historic moment, because we are in a state of emergency.”

The collective efforts come amid concerns during the recent primaries in Georgia, Wisconsin and other states, where hundreds of polling places were closed or consolidated in part because of poll worker shortages. Further, Black voters were among those who experienced long lines, extreme wait times and challenges with voting by mail.

The groups have begun a campaign to ensure that Black voters are armed with information. It will include the New Era Foot Soldiers for Democracy — a national Black poll worker and poll monitor recruitment drive — and #RuVoteReady, a public awareness initiative using social media and field outreach to prepare Black voters with voter assistance and protection information to vote by mail, early vote or vote at the polls.

By Donna Owens
August 11, 2020 at 9:52 AM EDT

Self-proclaimed Va. KKK leader who drove car through protest found guilty of assault but not hate crimes

A self-proclaimed Ku Klux Klan president in Virginia was found guilty of intentionally driving into a racial justice protest but not of the hate crimes that were later added by the Henrico County, Va., commonwealth’s attorney.

A Henrico General District Court judge on Monday found Harry H. Rogers guilty of four misdemeanor assault charges and two additional property crimes in the incident at the protest outside Richmond in June. The judge sentenced Rogers to 12 months each on the six misdemeanor charges.

Hate crimes were added to the charges after a lead investigator in the case said KKK paraphernalia, including a robe and a Klan bible, was found inside Rogers’s residence and in his car.

Prosecutors used cellphone data to show the suspect stalked the Lakeside Avenue site before the scheduled protest, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor. They played a Facebook Live video where Rogers said he was proud of driving through the group.

Rogers hit three people and damaged a bike, local news teams reported.

“We want to be very sensitive to the types of crimes we’re dealing with and when we truly believe that a sentencing enhancement should in fact be imposed,” Taylor said. “I would like to think that for the citizens of the commonwealth, and certainly the citizens of Henrico, that any time anybody is acting in a hateful and vengeful manner that the sentencing enhancement would be appropriate.”

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
August 11, 2020 at 8:32 AM EDT

The Rev. Jesse Jackson: 'Robbing & looting in Chicago was humiliating’

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has decried the acts of destruction in Chicago during rioting late Sunday night and into early Monday morning, saying such violence would cause civil rights icons to “cry together in shame.” He said in a tweet that criminality must not overtake the goals of social justice.

“This act of pillaging, robbing & looting in Chicago was humiliating, embarrassing & morally wrong. It must not be associated with our quest for social justice and equality,” Jackson wrote.

Jackson plans to hold a news conference to make a “moral appeal in response to looters” today at the headquarters of his nonprofit RainbowPUSH Coalition in Chicago.

He added the late civil rights icons Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and former Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) “cry together in shame.”

“The brazen looting along Magnificent Mile and the South Loops must not be confused with the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said.

Chicago police reported widespread looting and vandalism after a police-involved shooting on the South Side on Sunday. Police said there was misinformation about the shooting — it was not fatal, and police said it involved a shootout with a suspect — and argued it was an attack on the city rather than a civil rights protest.

“This was not an organized protest, rather this was an incident of pure criminality,” Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said at a briefing. “This was an act of violence against our police officers and against our city.”

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
August 11, 2020 at 8:21 AM EDT

Body-cam video shows an 8-year-old Florida boy arrested at school

The 8-year-old boy slumps so far into his seat that the police officer’s body-camera footage only captures the top of his head.

“You know where you’re going? You’re going to jail,” the Key West police officer says in the video.

The officer then instructs him to stand up and place his hands on a metal cabinet in the hallway of his elementary school for a pat down. Quivering with tears, the boy puts his hands behind his back, but his wrists are so slight that the handcuffs keep slipping off.

Abandoning the cuffs, the officer tells the boy to put his hands in front of him as they escort him to a police car parked outside.

The boy’s 2018 arrest for allegedly hitting a teacher in his Key West, Fla., school, received renewed attention this week, when body-camera footage of the incident attorney Ben Crump posted online went viral on Twitter. The two-minute clip had gotten more than 2 million views as of early Tuesday.

The Key West Police Department defended the conduct of its officers in a brief statement.

“Based on the report, standard operating procedures were followed,” Key West Police Chief Sean T. Brandenburg told the Miami Herald.

Amid mass protests this year, interactions between police and minors have drawn increased scrutiny. Last week, police in Aurora, Colo. apologized after officers ordered four Black children at gunpoint to lie facedown, handcuffing two of them, after mistakenly pulling over their car. In February, footage of an Orlando police officer arresting a 6-year-old girl using a zip tie ignited national outrage. The officer was fired for violating policy.

By Jaclyn Peiser
August 11, 2020 at 8:20 AM EDT

Seattle police chief retires after vote to trim up to 100 officers, $3 million from the force

Hours after the Seattle City Council voted to strip about $3 million from the police department and reduce its size by up to 100 officers as part of a push to fundamentally change policing in the city, Police Chief Carmen Best announced her retirement.

Best, the city’s first Black police chief, leaves after months of turmoil that made Seattle a focal point for national protests against police brutality and racial injustice. In a letter to Seattle police officers, Best, 55, called the decision “difficult” but said: “When it’s time, it’s time.”

“I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times,” she wrote in the letter, which the Seattle Times republished. “I look forward to seeing how this department moves forward through the process of re-envisioning public safety.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), who opposed the city council’s police cuts, which also would have trimmed Best’s pay, said she was disappointed in the chief’s decision to retire.

“I regret deeply that she concluded that the best way to serve the city and help the department was through a change in leadership,” Durkan wrote in a letter to police officers.

Best is the latest high-profile police chief to leave her post amid the mass protests that have roiled the nation since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May, joining at least a half dozen other leaders from cities including Louisville, Portland, Ore., Nashville and Atlanta. Unlike many of those other chiefs, she wasn’t forced out by her mayor or city council.

Instead, Best’s retirement came after the Seattle City Council took a cue from protesters who have made defunding the police a central tenet of their movement. The council’s final moves, though, were far more modest than the demands of Black Lives Matter activists to redistribute 50 percent of the police department’s funds toward community programs.

By Tim Elfrink