Jun 5, 2020

Axios AM

Good Friday morning.

💻 Please join us at 12:30 p.m. ET today for "An Epidemic of Inequality," a live virtual event about the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, moderated by Axios executive editor Sara Kehaulani Goo and White House editor Margaret Talev.

  • They'll talk with Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.
  • Register here.
1 big thing: Policies that could help fix policing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

George Floyd's death has reignited the long and frustrating push to reform a law enforcement system whose systemic flaws have been visible for years, Axios' Stef Kight and Sam Baker write.

  • Why it matters: Solving these problems will require deep political, structural and cultural changes, experts and advocates say. But they point to a handful of specific policy changes that, while not a cure, would make a difference.

Allowing lawsuits: There’s a growing movement, across ideological lines, to end the legal doctrine known as "qualified immunity," which makes it all but impossible to successfully sue police officers.

  • "I really do think that this doctrine is the cornerstone of our culture of near-zero accountability for law enforcement," said Jay Schweikert, a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Transparency: 23 states and Washington, D.C. do not publicly release disciplinary records for law enforcement officers — in some states, such as New York and California, all personnel files are confidential, according to a 2015 project by WNYC.

  • There's no public register of officers who have been fired or forced to resign due to misconduct.
  • New York is considering changes that would make more information public.
  • And the San Francisco district attorney announced a resolution that would prevent the police and sheriff's department from hiring officers with a history of misconduct.

Limiting the use of force: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called on lawmakers this week to pass a bill that would limit law enforcement's ability to use force.

  • New Jersey's governor and state attorney general also announced they will expand the state's use-of-force database.
  • Former President Obama urged all mayors to review use-of-force policies.
  • Joe Biden has called for a federal ban on chokeholds.

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2. Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd
Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

Many protests were more subdued for a second night as marches turned into memorials for George Floyd, who was the focus of a tribute in Minneapolis that included celebrities, politicians, civil rights advocates — and calls for meaningful changes in policing and the criminal justice system, AP reports.

  • At the first in a series of memorials for Floyd, the Rev. Al Sharpton said: "[S]tand up in George's name and say, 'Get your knee off our necks!'"
  • Mourners stood in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was held under an officer's knee.
Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

Around the country, protesters said the quieter mood is the result of the new and upgraded criminal charges against the police officers, and a more conciliatory approach by police who have marched with them or taken a knee.

  • Despite the shift in tone, protesters have shown no sign that they are going away, and are emboldened to stay on the streets to push for police reforms.
A peaceful protest in the rain last night. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
3. Caught on tape: Buffalo police shove 75-year-old

Photo: Mike Desmond/WBFO via AP

In this image from video provided by NPR station WBFO, a Buffalo police officer shoves a man who walked up to police yesterday. The man fell, hit his head on the pavement, and was bleeding as officers walked past to clear Niagara Square.

  • The man is in serious but stable condition, and suffered a concussion and lacerations.

Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person "was injured when he tripped and fell," WIVB-TV reported (via AP).

  • Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station that an internal affairs investigation was opened.
  • Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended two officers last night.
Via Twitter
4. Districts jettison school police officers

Portland, Ore., on Tuesday evening. Photo: Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP

A bunch of big cities are rethinking the presence of school resource officers as they respond to the concerns of thousands of demonstrators — many of them young — who have filled the streets night after night to protest the death of George Floyd, AP's Gillian Flaccus reports.

  • Portland Public Schools, Oregon's largest school district, yesterday cut its ties with the Portland Police Bureau.
  • Other urban districts — including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Denver — are considering doing the same.

Nationwide, 43% of public schools had an armed law enforcement officer present at least once a week in the 2015-2016 school year, the most recent stats available.

  • Critics of the concept say the officers' presence can lead to the criminalization of students, particularly students of color, who may be labeled as troublemakers for using a cellphone or other minor infractions.
5. RNC expands convention search across Sun Belt

2016 Republican convention in Cleveland. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

The RNC is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene report.

  • The cities under consideration include Jacksonville, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, and possibly New Orleans and Savannah.
  • The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.

The main consideration, per a source involved in the internal conversations, is: "Can we make sure the president has the event he's hoping for?"

All but New Orleans are in states with Republican governors.

  • Jacksonville is the only of those cities led by a Republican mayor. It's an appealing option to many RNC officials, but there's a concern about the availability of hotel rooms.
  • Dallas has an abundance of hotel rooms, venue space and Republican donors.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP lawmakers are aggressively pursuing the event, sources said.

The bottom line: President Trump wants a "gathering of people like in 2016" — and a contrast with more cautious Democrats.

6. Data du jour: The toll of the virus
Graphic: N.Y. Times. Used by permission.

In the jobs report coming this morning, the U.S. unemployment rate likely shot up to almost 20% in May, a new post-World War II record. Reuters

7. Cities retool public transit to lure riders back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

After months of distancing, the idea of being shoulder-to-shoulder again in a bus or subway terrifies many people, requiring sweeping changes to public transit systems for the coronavirus era, Axios' Joann Muller writes from Detroit.

  • Why it matters: Cities can't come close to resuming normal economic activity until large numbers of people feel comfortable using public transportation.

San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system has one of the most detailed plans for service resumption.

  • It's making trains longer to limit passengers to 30 people per train car — the ideal number it determined to allow sic feet between passengers.
  • It will offer hand sanitizer at every station, and sell $5 personal hand straps for riders to use and take home for cleaning after each trip.

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8. NYT vs. Cotton vs. itself
Via Twitter

After N.Y. Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and editorial page editor James Bennet issued long defenses of the publication of an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that sparked internal outrage, the paper said last night that it was a mistake after all.

  • Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, said in a statement that an internal review "made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards."
  • "[W]e’re planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes, to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish."

The op-ed, "Send In the Troops," called for use of the military as part of "an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers."

  • Dozens of Times employees protested on social media. Many journalists tweeted this condemnation: "Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger."
  • Factions of journalists dunked on each other on Twitter, with op-ed editor and writer Bari Weiss tweeting that the fracas was fueled by an underlying generational/ideological "civil war inside The New York Times."

🍿 "More than 160 employees planned a virtual walkout" for today, the paper reported, and a town hall is scheduled.

9. 📊 Trump slides double digits with evangelicals, Catholics
In March, nearly 80 percent of white evangelicals said they approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing, [Public Religion Research Institute] found. But by the end of May, with the country convulsed by racial discord, Mr. Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals had fallen 15 percentage points to 62 percent, according to a PRRI poll released Thursday.
That is consistent with declines that other surveys have picked up recently. Among white Catholics, the same poll also found that his approval has fallen by 27 points since March.
— "Trump’s Approval Slips Where He Can’t Afford to Lose It: Among Evangelicals," by the N.Y. Times' Jeremy Peters (subscription)
10. 1 smile to go: Casinos reopen

Photo: John Locher/AP

After 78 days without gambling, Las Vegas casinos began to reopen yesterday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

  • At Caesars Palace, social distancing allows "just three players at blackjack tables, four at roulette wheels and six at craps tables."
  • Masks aren't mandatory for guests. But showgirls at the Flamingo each "wore a matching orange mask and carried a sign thanking guests for practicing social distancing when asking for photos. No side hugs this time."

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