Friday, June 12, 2015

House amendments for police reform

The House was in session until almost 2am last night (Wednesday) discussing the 2016 NDAA, which I learned later Obama has threatened to veto regarding a disagreement with Republicans over ending sequestration, which is hilarious because Republicans love to hate it. (Rigell, McCain, McCain talks sequestration in relation to catfish).  Sequestration was discussed a lot in confirmation hearings for both Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

There were many different amendments, (this is just some of them) discussed and voted on, but I want to discuss here recent police body camera amendments, some from last night and others recently passed.

I wrote about body cameras last month, discussing the business side that is not discussed much in the news.

Just as a reference here are all the votes for the current House of Representatives.

For daily references to votes and amendments click here for the Republican CloakRoom

OK, now for the policies.

Here is text of the amendment.

The text is very general in my opinion, basically just supporting the work police do and the role body cameras could play, referencing a study from England's Cambridge University.

Rachel Levinson-Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice told me that it was a good point and important that this was in there
(3) encourages State and local law enforcement agencies to consider the use of body-worn cameras, including policies and protocols to handle privacy, storage, and other relevant concerns.
Rachel will participate in an event discussing privacy policy and police body cameras on June 25th.

She also found redacted body camera footage from Seattle PD as part of a pilot program.

It looks like they're experimenting with different styles and levels of redaction.

Additionally, Rep Hank Johnson introduced two amendments, one regarding transfer of MRAPs to local police, and one to prohibit transfer of flash-bang grenades to local police. (Turns out like Tasers which kill, flash-bangs are also lethal weapons).

Here Rep Johnson discusses the amendment, which according to voice vote fails, and the recorded vote is postponed.

On June 2, Rep Joaquin Castro introduced an amendment to HR 2578 (see my post on CJS here) related to funding police body cameras And then there is Rikers prison in New York.  Last week Kalief Browder committed suicide, who was imprisoned at Rikers for 3 years with no charge, accused of stealing a backpack.  He was released in 2013, but had attempted to kill himself several times before. Democracy Now! interviewed journalist Jennifer Gonnerman, who wrote about him last year for the New Yorker.
Then there is Mayor de Blasio, who after the death of Kalief finally promised reforms that he should have done last year when the story of Kalief first made news.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says a young man who committed suicide after he was imprisoned for three years at Rikers Island jail without charge did not die in vain. Kalief Browder was just 16 years old when he was jailed at Rikers without trial on suspicion of stealing a backpack. He maintained his innocence, but was only offered plea deals while the trial was repeatedly delayed. The case was finally dismissed. On Saturday, Browder took his own life at the age of 22. Speaking at a news conference, de Blasio mourned him.
Bill de Blasio: "There is just no reason he should have gone through that ordeal, and it’s a tragedy and it has touched so many of us and it’s going to lead to change. I wish we had not lost him. This is a tragic loss, but once his story became public it caused a lot of people to act, and a lot of the changes we are making at Rikers Island right now are a result of the example of Kalief Browder. So I wish, I deeply wish we hadn’t lost him, but he did not die in vain."
And now with the attention focused on Rikers, there are more stories.

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