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Ferguson News Guide: No Charges Expected for Policeman

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FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury's decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Six months after 18-year-old Michael Brown died in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department is close to announcing its findings in the racially charged police shooting that launched "hands up, don't shoot" protests across the nation. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

In this Nov. 25, 2014 file photo, police officers watch protesters as smoke fills the streets in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury’s decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Six months after 18-year-old Michael Brown died in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department is close to announcing its findings in the racially charged police shooting that launched “hands up, don’t shoot” protests across the nation. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal investigation of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, is expected to allege patterns of racial bias in the city’s mostly white department. But the probe, nearing release, is likely to stop short of charging the officer whose shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old touched off weeks of protests.

The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown led to two separate federal investigations: one looking at whether criminal charges should be brought against Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot the black teenager, and the other a broader examination of the city’s police department.

The results are expected to be made public in the coming days as Attorney General Eric Holder, who has made civil rights a cornerstone of his six-year tenure, prepares to leave the Justice Department.

Here’s a look at where things stand:

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THE FERGUSON POLICE DEPARTMENT

Holder has repeatedly signaled that federal officials have identified problems with the Ferguson Police Department. He’s said the agency was in need of “wholesale change” and that “deep mistrust” had taken hold between law enforcement and members of the community.

The federal investigation is focused on police use of force as well as stops, searches and arrests of suspects and the treatment of inmates at the city jail.

One sign of concern was a 2013 report by the Missouri attorney general’s office that found police were far more likely to stop and search black drivers than white motorists, though they were less likely to find contraband among the black drivers.

The Justice Department has undertaken roughly 20 similar investigations nationwide under Holder’s tenure, usually for allegations including patterns of excessive force and discrimination.

These investigations usually turn up substantial problems, and the Ferguson probe is expected to be no different.

The Newark, New Jersey, police department consented to an independent monitor last year after a federal report found officers used excessive force, routinely stopped people on the street without legitimate reason and stole property from civilians. The city of Cleveland is currently in negotiations with the Justice Department following a scathing report that found problems with record-keeping, accountability and the way use-of-force incidents are investigated.

Most such cases end with police departments committing to make changes, though the Justice Department can take cities to court if they don’t commit to reforms.

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THE POLICE OFFICER

The Justice Department is not expected to criminally charge Wilson.

To bring such a case, federal authorities would need to show that Wilson — who was cleared by a state grand jury in November — willfully deprived Brown of his civil rights by knowingly using more force than the law allowed.

That’s historically a heavy burden for prosecutors, particularly in shootings that occur during fast-unfolding encounters in which a police officer can reasonably claim that deadly force was needed to stop an imminent threat.

Wilson told a state grand jury that he feared for his life during the confrontation, which began after he directed Brown and a friend who were walking in the street to move to the sidewalk.

During a struggle, Wilson said Brown reached inside the driver’s-side window of his patrol car, struck him in the face and reached for his service weapon. Brown ran, and Wilson said he shot at him after the teenager charged at him. Some witnesses said Brown never posed a threat and was standing with his hands up before he was shot.

A grand jury cleared Wilson of wrongdoing, and he resigned days later.

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BEYOND FERGUSON

The shooting touched off weeks of “hands up, don’t shoot” protests in the streets of Ferguson and other cities. Along with the police chokehold death of a New York City man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes and the December killings of two New York police officers, the Ferguson case became part of a national conversation about race and policing.

The Missouri shooting and its aftermath also focused attention on how police departments use military surplus equipment and on whether more training is needed to help officers de-escalate situations. It accelerated a push for the use of body cameras by police departments nationwide and led to brainstorming discussions about how to build trust between officers and their communities.

President Barack Obama said Monday at the White House that the deaths of Brown and of Eric Garner in New York City exposed “deep rooted frustration in many communities of color around the need for fair and just law enforcement.” He spoke of a need for more cooperation, and a task force that he appointed is recommending more police training and better data collection on deadly force.

Holder, too, has called for more complete record keeping, including how often officers are themselves shot at.

FBI Director James Comey, in a blunt speech last month on race and law enforcement, said police officers may be informed by unconscious biases. He said, “We must better understand the people we serve and protect, by trying to know deep in our gut what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking down the street and encountering law enforcement.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee Applauds 2nd Round of Workforce Funding from COVID Community Care Act Legislation

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarding $121 million to 127 award recipients of the Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access Program.

Announced on July 27, these awards are funded with resources from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act that Lee led through her COVID Community Care Act.  This reflects the second of two funding opportunities announced in May 2021 for community-based efforts to hire and mobilize community outreach workers, community health workers, social support specialists, and others to increase vaccine access for the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities through high-touch, on-the-ground outreach to educate and assist individuals in getting the information they need about vaccinations.

The first round of funding, which was administered in June, included an $11 million award to the Public Health Institute in Oakland and a $9.5 million award to the Association of Asian/Pacific Community Health Organizations in Berkeley. Three Oakland based organizations, the Public Health Institute, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases, and Safe Passages, are recipients of this round of funding, bringing the total funding brought to organizations in CA-13 to nearly $23 million.

“We are facing another inflection point in this pandemic. We must make meaningful investments in getting everyone vaccinated—especially communities of color and medically underserved communities,” said Lee.  “I worked hard in Congress to invest in trusted messengers at the community level to build confidence in vaccines and COVID-19 prevention efforts. This is a much-needed continuation of that work, and we’ll see over a million dollars of investment on the ground in our own East Bay community.

“Our Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Native American member Congresswoman Sharice Davids, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone, Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro deserve credit for their hard work and support in getting this across the finish line in the American Rescue Plan.  We can see that the work of House Democrats is making a real-life impact on the ground for communities.  This is an important step, but we must continue our work to dismantle systemic racism in our public health system and ensure that vaccines are equitably and adequately distributed.”

The purpose of this program is to establish, expand, and sustain a public health workforce to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.  This includes mobilizing community outreach workers, which includes community health workers, patient navigators, and social support specialists to educate and assist individuals in accessing and receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.  

This includes activities such as conducting face-to-face outreach and reaching out directly to community members to educate them about the vaccine, assisting individuals in making a vaccine appointment, providing resources to find convenient vaccine locations, assisting individuals with transportation or other needs to get to a vaccination site.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Commentary

Whitewashing History and Suppressing Voters Go Hand in Hand 

There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

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There’s been a lot of news about the Democratic legislators in Texas who fled the state to prevent Republicans from pushing through sweeping new voter suppression laws. Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to have them arrested to force them to attend a special session of the state Legislature.

Now it turns out that voter suppression is not the only “special” project Abbott has in mind. He and his fellow Republicans are pushing a far-reaching “memory law” that would limit teaching about racism and civil rights.

Abbott already signed a bill last month restricting how racism can be taught in Texas schools. But he and other Republicans in the state don’t think it went far enough. The Republican-dominated state-Senate has voted to strip a requirement that white supremacy be taught as morally wrong. Also on the chopping block: requirements that students learn about civil rights activists Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

It’s not just Texas. Just as Republicans are pushing a wave of voter registration laws around the country, they are also pushing laws to restrict teaching about racism in our history, culture, and institutions. CNN’s Julian Zelizer recently noted that such laws downplay injustices in our history and lead to teaching “propaganda rather than history.”

Here’s a good example:  Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the new legislation is meant to keep students from being “indoctrinated” by the “ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.” If Patrick really believes it is a “ridiculous” idea that racism was embedded in our Constitution from the start, he has already put on his own ideological blinders. And he wants to force them onto teachers and students.

Some of these state memory laws specifically ban teaching that causes “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.” As educators have noted, that’s a recipe for erasing and whitewashing history.

“Teachers in high schools cannot exclude the possibility that the history of slavery, lynchings and voter suppression will make some non-Black students uncomfortable,” history professor Timothy Snyder wrote in the New York Times Magazine. Those laws give power to white students and parents to censor honest teaching of history. “It is not exactly unusual for white people in America to express the view that they are being treated unfairly; now such an opinion could bring history classes to a halt.”

Snyder also explained how new state “memory laws” are connected to voter suppression. “In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult,” he wrote. “The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

“The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful,” he explained. “This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.”

As I wrote in The Nation, far-right attempts to suppress honest teaching about racism is meant to “convince a segment of white voters that they should fear and fight our emerging multiracial and multiethnic democratic society” and to “help far-right politicians take and hold power, no matter the cost to our democracy.”

That’s also what voter suppression bills are designed to do. We cannot tolerate either of these assaults on democracy.

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