OAKLAND, CA – While police chiefs around the country are being forced to stand down as they simultaneously face defunding and rising crime, one California top cop seems to be doing the exact opposite. Susan Manheimer is the interim Chief of Police in Oakland, but regardless of the “interim” tag, she appears to be taking a stand for the city that she and her officers have sworn to protect and serve.
Last weekend, there were three shooting deaths in the city over a 7 hour span.
Standing near one of the crime scenes, Chief Manheimer stated:
“We’ll make a stand against violence. It’s unacceptable. We’re seeing a ton of guns, but I will tell you, the fact that we are here with the community at this walk today shows that we are standing together.
We will interrupt this violence, and we will work with all of our communities so that Oakland does not continue to see that uptick.”
Manheimer said that she plans to increase the police presence in the east Oakland area in an attempt to curb the violence.
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) August 10, 2020
“The first killing happened just before 6 p.m. Saturday. A man was shot and killed at a bus stop on Lakeshore Avenue near Mandana Boulevard, not far from Lake Merritt and a bustling commercial district unaccustomed to such violence.
Several hours later, just after 10 p.m., a man was shot and killed near 72nd Avenue and International Boulevard in East Oakland.
After being shot in a car near 86th and Holly, the third homicide victim crashed into a neighbor’s yard. The car then caught fire.”
Two of the shootings happened in the district represented by Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid.
He spoke with the local news station via video conference.
“It’s just insane what we see going on,” said Reid, who has long supported the Oakland Police Department. “They’re employing additional resources out here, hopefully to address the increase in crime, and hopefully they’ll be some arrests made relatively soon.”
Reid, who is African American, also called on the members of the communities that he represents to get more involved in stopping the violence.
“With all the loss of life of young African American and young Latinos who are dying in my streets and being shot every day, I don’t see any demonstration to talk about those black and brown lives matters,” Reid said.
But, is it all rhetoric on Manheimer’s part?
Less than a month ago, she was saying the very same thing. Literally, the very same thing.
According to an article from July 16th, also published by KTVU, she said about the “uptick” in violence:
“There’s more deep dive to do,” Manheimer said. “Our initial responsibility is to do this call to action and let everyone know we are out there to interrupt this violence.”
The City of Oakland has deployed ShotSpotter Technology to detect gunfire in the multiple areas of town. The sensors cover more than 16 square miles.
So far in 2020, the technology has been activated more the 2,600 times, which is almost a 25% increase over the previous year. Police said they rely on ShotSpotter to count shootings, as nearly 86% of shots fired in the city are not reported.
Police also said that assaults with guns are also rising. In the first 6 months of 2020, there had been 180 reports of assaults with a firearm. If the departments estimates are correct about unreported gun crimes are accurate, the number of actual assaults could be closer to 1300 in just 6 months.
So, to what do police attribute this rise in violence?
They say it may be due to civil unrest, gangs and conflicting groups, as well as the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on communities of color.
“This crime trend, in terms of guns violence, has sparked nationwide. We are seeing those spikes and it really is post-COVID,” Manheimer said. “Over the past four or five years, we had cut our gun crimes in half.
Even this year, we were on a huge downward trajectory, in terms of gun violence, shots fired as well as homicides. It is really interesting to us, but it is really around this post-COVID era, and it could be a lot of things, but that is what we are focusing on.”
She continued to discuss the increase on a national level.
“Nationwide, New Orleans, Dallas, New York, Chicago, have seen as large, if not larger increases, as we have seen. And when they put it out, it is simply news to adopt and express.”
While she is right about the increase in violence across the country, we would argue that these are not simply news stories that are merely reported and nothing else.
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Here at Law Enforcement Today, we regularly report on the failings of elected leaders that refuse to do anything to reduce the amount of violent crime in their cities. Not only do we report on it, we beg these “leaders” to uphold their oaths and actually do something to protect the citizens that elected them.
Chicago, Illinois – The violent weekends keep transpiring within Chicago, with 27 people having been shot, seven of which fatally, since the evening of July 31st – and the weekend in question isn’t even over yet.
It’s also with little surprise that the month of July in Chicago saw a 139% increase in murders when compared to July of 2019.
— Terrance J Kelly (@tjkelly03) August 2, 2020
Of the victims killed so far this weekend, police say one was a 9-year-old boy. George Bady, founder of Stop The Violence, stated that children are beginning to get scared to walk outside of their homes in Chicago:
“They are very scared; they are scared to come outside, they are scared to sit in their front rooms now, some scared to go outside because they might not make it back home.”
Dawn Valenti, who functions as a community activist and local motorcycle enthusiast, is among those sick and tired of seeing children get gunned down in the city. Valenti gathered with some other local bikers on August 1st to discuss the ongoing violence impacting kids in the community:
“We care. we want the city to know that we are here, as a motorcycle community we are tired of watching kids die.”
Ashake Banks knows all to well about the pain that comes with losing a child, as her 7-year-old was murdered outside of her home back in 2012:
“Guys came through the gangway and shot my baby in the back. She died in my arms.”
The mother spoke of how seeing all these children get senselessly murdered is beginning to make her “numb”:
“I am numb. The (see) news every day, I am a victim advocate. I have to come to the shootings, the 3-year-old, the 13-year-old, the 3-year-old baby…All the kids are in the right place at the right time; it is the shooters in the wrong place.”
Chicago’s most recent shooting reportedly took place on August 2nd at around 6:00 a.m. nearby the 2300 block of South Kolin Avenue. CPD responded to ShotSpotter notification where they had discovered two men who’d been shot inside of a vehicle. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Police have not released many details on the recent shooting, and Area 4 detectives are said to be working the case.
During the early morning hours of August 1st, five people were shot within the 100-block of North Laport Avenue. Of the five people shot, a 23-year-old man was struck multiple times in the body and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at West Suburban Hospital.
The four other victims were described as just two men and two women, and reportedly all remaining four are in good condition. Police were said to have made two arrests in that case, as they were spotted fleeing from the scene of the shooting.
Looking at the shooting numbers for the entire month of July, there was a reported 406 shootings incidents in that month alone in Chicago. When stacked up against July of 2019, that year there were 232 shootings.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago Sees 139 Percent Increase in Murder Rates
— John~💋Kiss My Bot (@John_KissMyBot) August 1, 2020
Even honing in on the entire period between January 1st up until the 31st of July this year, murder overall has increased 51% when compared to 2019 during the same exact timeframe.
Yet when Mayor Lori Lightfoot was confronted about the increase in shootings and murder in Chicago – she blamed surrounding states for having lax guns laws:
“Our gun problem is related to the fact that we have too many illegal guns on our streets, 60 percent of which come from states outside of Illinois…We are being inundated with guns from states that have virtually no gun control, no background checks, no ban on assault weapons — that is hurting cities like Chicago.”
Except every single state within the country has background checks for purchasing a firearm – because they’re federally mandated.
Furthermore, while 6 out of every 10 illegal firearms in her city come from outside of Illinois, that’s still 4 out of every 10 that come from within the state anyway and citing either is seemingly pointless – because 10 out of every 10 illegal guns in Chicago are being utilized by people disregarding that oh-so effective gun control.
It’s the same story right now in Denver.
The number of murders happening in Denver are far surpassing that of 2019 with regard to the to-date homicides for the current year.
There’s been an increase of over 40% of murders in 2020 when comparing where the city was at last year – and police in the city aren’t commenting on what may have caused the increase.
47 murders from January-July in a Denver. That’s 14 more than last year at this time.
The reason for the uptick isn’t clear, but neighbors near one recent fatal shooting say they’ve noticed an increase in violent crime. https://t.co/RcYqtnzYA9
— Rachel Skytta (@RachelSkytta) August 2, 2020
Between January through the end of July in 2019, Denver had a total of 33 murders occur within the city – during that same time period in 2020, the city has seen 47.
Eduardo Machado, a local Denver resident, offered his take on what’s happening in the city as of late:
“Unfortunately, a lot of stuff has been happening. A lot of violence and crime in the neighborhood.”
Not far from where Machado lives, the most recent murder took place on August 1st within the 3300 block of West Virginia Avenue. During that incident, five people were reportedly shot while attending some sort of gathering, and a male juvenile died as a result of his sustained wounds.
Machado was familiar with the home that played host to the fatal shooting, noting that it was a residence frequented by people as it was known for being a party house:
“I heard the gunshots, came out and saw people running.”
The Denver local described the scenery of the crime while it played out, detailing how two vehicles appeared to have unleashed gunfire – with some of that gunfire hitting his own van parked outside while his mother was sleeping inside the home:
“I was just protecting my mom, pretty much. I’d rather take the bullet than have her die. It’s unfortunate that we have to live in this reality.”
Police still have yet to release the identity of the juvenile victim who died as a result of that shooting.
Meanwhile, in Aurora, Colorado, authorities said that demonstrators pushed down a fence, threw fireworks and other harmful objects at police officers, broke windows at the courthouse, and started a fire inside the courthouse on July 25th.
According to CBS4, the protests were part of an effort to seek justice for Elijah McClain, who died last year after an altercation with Aurora Police. By 8:45 p.m., the Aurora Police Department had declared the protest an unlawful protest.
In a tweet, the Aurora Police Department said:
“Protesters are now throwing objects, shining lasers, and shooting large fireworks at officers. Everyone needs to leave the area immediately. If you remain, you are subject to arrest.”
According to the police, protesters tore down wood covering windows and used the wood as shields so they could continue to violently protest. They broke windows to get inside the courthouse and started at least one fire.
While the majority of the protestors were peaceful, a group decided to hijack the message tonight & cause major damage to the courthouse & courtyard.
— Aurora Police Dept.🇺🇸😷 (@AuroraPD) July 26, 2020
More than 2o windows at the courthouse were broken. The fire that was set was extinguished by 9 p.m. and it did not appear to spread anywhere else inside of the building. Again, the police made announcements telling protesters to leave the area.
According to authorities, most of the protesters who vandalized the courthouse were wearing masks and one of the security cameras was covered with a plastic bag, making it difficult to identify the people involved.
About an hour later, just before 10 p.m., protesters moved away from the Aurora Municipal Center and blocked the Alameda Parkway. Earlier in the evening, according to Sentinel Colorado, multiple people were injured after shots rang out and in unidentified driver plowed through a crowd of demonstrators.
The shooting occurred after a Jeep, which police later impounded, drove through hundreds of protesters walking down Interstate 225. According to police, at about 7 p.m. the blue Jeep surged into hundreds of protesters in the northbound lanes of I-225.
A witness to the mayhem, one of the protesters, Natalie Lebesma, said that a driver in a white truck pulled quickly in front of the Jeep, ramming it and keeping it from plowing into more people. Allegedly, a protester pulled out a gun and appeared to be aiming it at the Jeep, but instead shot another protester in the leg.
Police confirmed that one person was shot in the leg and another later drove themselves to a local hospital with a graze wound after a person fired multiple shots into a crowd. The Aurora Police are investigating the shooting allegation.
Someone else showed up to the hospital with a graze wound.
The vehicle was towed and we are investigating that incident.
— Aurora Police Dept.🇺🇸😷 (@AuroraPD) July 26, 2020
Police contacted the driver of the Jeep shortly after the incident. The Jeep has since been impounded, but the driver has not been arrested. Both injured individuals from the gunshot wounds remain in the hospital with non-life threatening injuries in stable condition.
According to ABC7, police have released photos describing the person of interest in the shooting during the protest on I-225. The photos were provided to the police by a witness. Anyone with any information, photo, or video evidence is asked to contact the Aurora Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP.
UPDATE: DO YOU RECOGNIZE THIS MALE?
This male is a person of interest that shot 2 people yesterday on I-225.
— Aurora Police Dept.🇺🇸😷 (@AuroraPD) July 27, 2020
According to Fox 31, the Aurora Police Department has officially launched an investigation into the driver of the Jeep that rammed into the crowd of protestors on I-225. Police said that after driving through the crowd of protesters, the driver of the Jeep pulled off at East 6th Avenue and Billings Street.
He sought out and located officers that were investigating a separate, unrelated crash at that location. He was questioned by the officers and the Jeep was impounded for evidentiary purposes. According to reports from authorities, the preliminary investigation indicates that the driver was scared and drove through the crowd after protesters surrounded his vehicle.
The driver claims that the protesters were striking his car and yelling at him.
Aurora’s Interim Chief of Police, Vanessa Wilson said in a statement:
“I not only find great concern with someone making the decision to drive their vehicle toward protesters on the interstate, but that someone in the protester group opened fire, recklessly shooting two people.”
Chief Wilson said that they will be working with the District Attorney to discuss the appropriate charges to bring against the driver as well as working tirelessly to identify the shooter(s) on the interstate.
Colorado to strip its police force of qualified immunity: Countless officers discussing resigning.
June 20, 2020 – Editor note: Law Enforcement Today has received countless messages over the past few days from officers in Colorado. Many have asked for resources finding police jobs out of Colorado – many others have said they plan on leaving the field altogether.
This is just the beginning. Here’s why.
COLORADO – New criminal justice reform has been passed to the governor’s desk in Colorado, and it tightens the screws on law enforcement officers across the state.
The Denver Post reported this comprehensive package in the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.
As of Friday, June 19, the legislation has been signed into law.
Colorado Gov. Polis has signed SB-217 into law, ending qualified immunity for police, heavily restricting use of tear gas/projectiles on citizens, introducing criminal charges for cops who don’t intervene in excessive force cases + much more.
All a direct result of protests. pic.twitter.com/Hus6sNB37r
— Alex Burness (@alex_burness) June 19, 2020
Denver civil rights attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said:
“This is, in my estimation, the largest single advancement of individual civil rights and liberties for Coloradans in a generation.”
The bill is sponsored by Senator Leroy Garcia, Senator Rhonda Fields, Representative Leslie Herod. Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and the American Civil Liberties Union worked together with Colorado legislators to draft the bill.
In this bill, SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity, choke holds are banned, along with a few additional key enhancements:
- Deadly force must be used as a last resort
- No rubber bullets can be used
- Body cameras must be turned on during interaction with the public
- Qualified immunity is not a defense in the civil action
- A Statewide database must be created
This bill, which takes effect July 1, 2023, according to the drafted proposal, adds more burdens on law enforcement officers across the state of Colorado.
Colorado passes sweeping police reform bill that holds cops accountable for excessive force https://t.co/mKI41rvNZB
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 20, 2020
While raising the use of force threshold in certain cases, it also removes qualified immunity should the officer commit a crime, as deemed by this new law, in the course of his or her duty as a peace officer.
SB20-217 places the burden of civil lawsuit settlements on law enforcement officers if they allegedly violate any part of this new law, and states:
“[The] peace officer is personally liable for 5% of the judgment or $25,000, whichever is less, unless the judgment is uncollectible from the officer, then the officer’s employer satisfies the whole judgment.”
Across the nation, the demands to “defund” law enforcement have gained momentum, and in some places, department budgets have been impacted or they are forecast to be impacted. SB20-217 takes a great deal of control and consideration out of the hands of local law enforcement and puts it in the hands of the state.
It is unclear where the funds for the body cameras will come from, or the new database as required in this new proposed law. You can read the bill in its entirety here.
Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager, the chair of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, said in a statement:
“Many of the policies included in Senate Bill 217 are already in place at the local level, but we are glad to have statutory support for changes that law enforcement can implement uniformly statewide. We look forward to continued partnership with our communities and the Legislature to ensure policing in Colorado is transparent and fair.”
One such piece of language in this bill is the requirement of officers to have a “legal basis” for making a “contact.”
The bill states:
“A peace officer shall report to the peace officer’s employing agency that information that the agency is required to report to the division of criminal justice.”
That Colorado would respond to the protests by passing such a substantial bill into law was far, far from a given. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how it happened and why it’s such a radical departure from business as usual at the Capitol. https://t.co/fK8e3shl8V
— Alex Burness (@alex_burness) June 20, 2020
It should be noted, law enforcement officers have always been required to have reasonable suspicion, or as stated here, “a legal basis,” before initiating contact with a person, unless the contact was solely consensual, in which case the person could simply walk away if they so choose.
Sponsors of SB20-217 worked with law enforcement agencies and the ACLU to craft what they believe to be one of the most aggressive reforms in law enforcement. We would tend to agree.
Many cities are working on similar police reform, but Colorado is the first to announce a piece of legislation removing qualified immunity from officers heading to the governor’s desk for signature.
At least two dozen other cities have announced some degree of police reform in the past few weeks.
While Colorado attempts to strip qualified immunity from its police, the Supreme Court has recently said they will do no such thing.
Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s recent report on that.
At least the Supreme Court is still on the side of law and order…at least for now. The high court on Monday refused to give reconsideration to immunity from lawsuits, otherwise known as qualified immunity, given to police officers as well as other public officials who are accused of misconduct.
The decision by the justices not to hear cases on qualified immunity during their next term comes on the heels of the George Floyd death, who died in police custody last month in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death has led to some peaceful protests across the U.S., but also a large number of violent riots that led to looting and widespread damage in cities from New York to Los Angeles.
Over recent years, the court has set a rather high bar for the pursuit of lawsuits stemming from official misconduct. MSN reports that in order to do so, an officer’s conduct must violate “clearly established” laws or constitutional rights, which courts have found seldom happens, specifically because almost every allegation is different.
Judges in lower courts, however as well as legal experts from both sides of the political spectrum have questioned the principle of qualified immunity, which they claim creates an impossible standard for victims to meet, and which they claim offers near “blanket immunity for those accused of misconduct.”
Ironically, one of the most conservative justices on the high court, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the decision not to hear a new case on the doctrine. The case involved a burglar who had surrendered and was bitten by a police dog.
“I have previously expressed my doubts about our qualified immunity jurisprudence,” he wrote. “Because our…qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text, I would grant this petition.”
Chief Justice John Roberts typically prefers smaller steps to big changes in court precedent. The fact that the court refused to hear this particular case is not necessarily an indication that it may not revisit qualified immunity down the road and either abolish it completely or scale it back significantly.
Prior to the most recent event in Minneapolis, justices had considered numerous petitions involving qualified immunity for public officials.
For example, the case cited above involved a man in Tennessee who was sitting with his hands in the air when he was bitten by a police K9.
Yet another case involved a 10-year-old Georgia boy who was shot while in his backyard while police were pursuing an unarmed criminal suspect.
Finally, in the third incident in California, police who were searching for a known gang member used tear gas grenades to try to flush the man out, as opposed to using a house key that provided to them by his ex-girlfriend.
The ACLU chimed in about qualified immunity, highlighting both the court’s decision on police accountability and the responsibility of Congress to abolish the doctrine.
David Cole, national legal director for the ACLU said, “We have seen the deadly consequences play out on the streets, and Black Americans have largely paid the price. Recent events demonstrate the urgent need for Congress to stand up for the rule of law and abolish qualified immunity—for anyone acting under color of law—to close the loophole allowing government officials to escape accountability for violating constitutional rights.”
The conservative leaning Supreme Court has been generous to police and public officials and has offered significant leeway where their conduct has come into question.
- This past February, the court ruled that the family of a Mexican teenager shot and killed by the U.S. Border Patrol cannot seek damage because of the border that was between them (agents were on U.S. side, teenager on Mexican side).
- In 2017, the court ruled officials from the Bush administration could not be held liable for the detention and harsh treatment of illegal immigrants in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- In 2015, the justices said that California police were entitled to immunity after they forcibly entered the room of a woman with a mental disability and shot her.
A University of Chicago Law School professor, who specializes in qualified immunity, found that 30 cases spanning three decades showed that the Supreme Court had only found that official misconduct violated clearly established law only two times.
Thomas, clearly the court’s most conservative member has said that the qualified immunity doctrine has no historical basis, and in a 2017 case, he said the court routinely substitutes “our own policy preferences for the mandates of Congress.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who represents the liberal wing of the court said in 2015 that the court’s “one-sided approach to qualified immunity transforms the doctrine into an absolute shield for law enforcement officers.”
House Democrats have proposed eliminating qualified immunity in its recent criminal justice reform bill, called the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill comes on the heels of the George Floyd case.
Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to introduce their own proposal in the coming weeks. That bill is expected to address use of force, de-escalation tactics and improvements to federal data collection. That portion is expected to mirror part of the Democrats plan which is looking to create a national database to log police misconduct complaints. Qualified immunity has not been mentioned in any discussion of Republican plans.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said that the elimination of qualified immunity for police is a “non-starter” for President Trump.
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