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Newsletter: A blueprint for police reform

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and other members of Congress at a news conference to unveil policing reform.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and other members of Congress at a news conference to unveil policing reform and equal justice legislation.
(Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call via AP)

Congressional Democrats have revealed an ambitious police reform bill, but where it goes from here is difficult to say.

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A Blueprint for Police Reform

Responding to the nationwide protests calling for change after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, House Democrats have unveiled a legislative blueprint for reforming policing policies.

The bill, led by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, includes reforms making it easier to sue police officers for misconduct in civil court and to prosecute them for criminal behavior. It would prohibit the use of chokeholds and certain no-knock warrants by police nationwide, and give the Justice Department civil rights division subpoena power to investigate local police departments.

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The bill also mandates the use of body cameras, bans the transfer of certain military equipment to police departments and creates a national database disclosing the names of officers with a pattern of abuse. And it would make lynching a federal crime, which was blocked by GOP Sen. Rand Paul last week.

Not included in the bill is any nod toward the idea of “defunding the police” or reallocating police budgets toward other social services such as housing and mental health or substance abuse treatment, which some activists have called for.

But without significant support from the Senate-majority Republicans, any legislation passed by House Democrats is unlikely to go very far beyond the House chamber.

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It is likely to be a campaign issue, though, and polls show that voters have swung sharply toward the belief that racism remains prevalent in America’s police departments — a view Trump said he rejects.

On Monday, Joe Biden spent an hour in a private meeting with Floyd’s family in Houston and stood with them in demanding police accountability. Trump also made clear where he stands, meeting with law enforcement officers and saying “99.9 — let’s go with 99% of them — [are] great, great people, and they’ve done jobs that are record-setting.” Trump has also found a new theme: accusing Biden of undermining public safety.

“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden said in a CBS interview. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain standards of decency and honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.”

Arrested for Peacefully Protesting

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Troubling videos of police violence against protesters have drawn complaints and at least one lawsuit in Los Angeles, but the experiences of peaceful demonstrators who were arrested en masse have been less documented.

The accounts that emerged in interviews with Times reporters share many elements: police surrounding and arresting people with no notice, sometimes before curfew sounds, ignoring pleas to let them go home, and holding them for up to 12 hours, releasing them miles from their cars or homes in the early-morning hours and telling them to make their own way home.

And while law enforcement officials say they will offer various forms of leniency for these protesters, advocates say they were just exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

More About the Movement

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— In Houston, thousands of mourners paid their respects to Floyd at a church in his native Houston, and as friends, former classmates and teammates prepared for his third and final funeral today, they reflected on how little has changed in his old neighborhood: the Third Ward. Meanwhile, Los Angeles was among the cities where memorials were held amid calls for fundamental changes in policing.

Louisville demanded justice after police fatally shot Breonna Taylor. Instead, it lost another black life.

— The L.A. Police Department instructed officers not to use carotid restraints, chokeholds that restrict or block blood flow to the brain, pending a review by the city’s Police Commission, while the L..A. County Sheriff’s Department said it had restricted use of such restraints to when a suspect’s actions threatened someone’s life or serious bodily injury.

— Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles say they support a movement to eliminate the Los Angeles School Police Department, a force of about 400 that serves the L.A. Unified School District and accounts for about $70 million of the district’s $7.9-billion budget.

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A Perilous Balancing Act

With businesses reopening and people beginning to get back to old routines, Los Angeles County is entering a perilous phase of the fight against the coronavirus: trying to boost the battered economy without sparking new outbreaks.

One concerning sign is that the coronavirus transmission rate in the county — the California epicenter of COVID-19, with more than 2,600 deaths — appears to be climbing again. The increase was reported after the county allowed many retail stores, restaurants and churches to reopen with social distancing rules and as more people left their homes for parks, beaches and hiking trails.

Officials said it will take a few weeks to see if the calculated rate of disease transmission has actually increased, causing hospitals to see more coronavirus patients. But authorities also say it is still possible to strike the right balance between reopening society and strict safety rules.

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More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California counties that have been allowed to accelerate their reopening of their economy, including L.A. County, could decide to reopen movie theaters as early as Friday, according to new state guidelines.

Child-care businesses were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19-related shutdown. But as states and businesses begin to reopen, the missing link may be a lack of care options for parents returning to the workplace, experts say.

— L.A. County health officials want you to get tested for the coronavirus if you’ve been to a protest or any large gathering where people haven’t worn masks.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

June 9 is known as Donald Duck Day, a celebration of the character. In 1984, L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley issued a proclamation honoring the 50th anniversary of Donald’s first screen appearance. According to a Times story, “The mayoral recognition is just a small part of a yearlong celebration that may make Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee seem like a minor event.” The photo below is from one of many events that year.

“Donald is a character very much into one-upmanship,” Jack Lindquist, Disney executive vice president of marketing, told The Times. “So we wanted him to have one-up on Mickey Mouse, whose 50th birthday was a national event.”

Donald Duck
May 21, 1984: Disney’s Donald Duck sets his footprints in concrete in the courtyard at Mann’s Chinese Theatre.
(Con Keyes / Los Angeles Times)
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CALIFORNIA

— Prosecutors say two former Orange County sheriff’s deputies have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in an evidence booking scandal that could imperil thousands of criminal cases.

— Authorities say an Air Force sergeant and leader in an elite military security force was armed with homemade bombs, an AR-15 rifle and other weapons and had a desire to harm police when he launched a deadly attack on unsuspecting officers in Santa Cruz County.

— In three weeks, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Riverside has gone from having zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 993, the worst coronavirus outbreak to hit the state prison system to date.

Yosemite National Park will reopen Thursday, but don’t expect to spontaneously show up for a visit.

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NATION-WORLD

— The U.S. economy entered a recession in February as the coronavirus struck the nation, a group of economists stated. That ended the longest expansion on record.

—Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ response to the Floyd protests is in the spotlight as she is being vetted as one of Biden’s vice president possibilities.

French police will no longer be allowed to use chokeholds during arrests. The interior minister banned the immobilization technique after it came under renewed criticism after Floyd’s death.

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China has toned down calls by nationalists to strike Taiwan while the U.S., which many presume would come to the island’s defense, is hobbled by the pandemic and social strife. That hasn’t stopped it from taking provocative actions.

— A decade ago, a famed art and antiquities collector hid a bronze chest filled with gold, jewels and other valuables worth more than $1 million in the Rocky Mountain wilderness. He says it’s now been found.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Jordan Peele, Ava DuVernay, Gabrielle Union, Taika Waititi, Kumail Nanjiani, Seth Rogen and more Hollywood voices are demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician who was shot and killed in her home by police.

— How does L.A.'s racial past resonate now? #BlackLivesMatter’s originator and five writers discuss its legacy.

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— Martial arts icon Bruce Lee has been celebrated, idolized and imitated by millions of fans across the world for decades, yet many still don’t know the man behind the myth. A new ESPN documentary “Be Water” humanizes the behind-the-scenes battles he fought.

— These fans of “The Bachelor” are fed up. Why? Eighteen years. Forty seasons. Just one black lead.

BUSINESS

Comcast unveiled $100-million plan to support social justice and equality over three years, making it the latest major media and entertainment company to pledge financial action amid nationwide protests against police brutality.

— Once again, SpaceX has scrapped its plan to build its Mars spaceship at the Port of L.A.

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SPORTS

— Three-time Major League Baseball All-Star Kevin Youkilis is among those calling for the University of Cincinnati to remove Marge Schott’s name from its baseball stadium. The former Cincinnati Reds owner was repeatedly suspended by the MLB and forced to sell controlling interest in the team because of her racist statements.

Golf might seem perfect for the coronavirus outbreak, with large clubhouses, open space and fresh air. But even it needs changes as the PGA tour restarts.

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Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— Change that begins on the streets must be followed up with voter action, especially with a slew of reforms at stake, The Times’ editorial board says.

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— The LAPD won’t stop traumatizing black Angelenos until it abandons its “warrior culture,” civil rights lawyer Connie Rice writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Minimalism was pushed as a path to enlightened living. But if the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it’s that our clutter has its purpose. (The Atlantic)

— The power of top NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes saying “Black Lives Matter.” (The Undefeated)

ONLY IN L.A.

“Landing zone” might sound more at home on an Air Force base, but at Faith & Flower restaurant in downtown L.A., there are now 17 of them. After weeks of trying to figure out how to maintain physical distancing and minimize interaction between staff and customers in a post-coronavirus-shutdown world, owner Stephane Bombet created the zones so that dishes, utensils and more could be exchanged. How do they and other measures work? Read on.

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Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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