We’re still a long way away from meaningful police reform

New reporting indicates qualified immunity may be off the table, which would be a blow to civil rights groups. Plus: The shirt I’ll turn to this fall when I get bored with sweaters and sweatshirts.

The White House hosted some special guests in May: Members of George Floyd’s family, who were on hand to meet with President Joe Biden and lobby Congress to pass a comprehensive police reform bill named after their beloved relative. “It was a remembrance of what happened to my brother,” Philonise Floyd said of the meeting. According to Brandon Williams, George Floyd’s nephew, the president told the family “he wants the bill to be meaningful and that it holds George’s legacy.”

Biden also wanted the bill passed by Memorial Day, if you think back to the remarks he gave a month earlier moments after the officer who killed Floyd was convicted:

George Floyd was murdered almost a year ago. There’s meaningful police reform legislation in his name. You just heard Vice President [Kamala Harris] speak of it. She helped write it. Legislation to tackle systemic misconduct in police departments, to restore trust between law enforcement and the people that are entrusted to serve and protect. But it shouldn’t take a whole year to get this done.

Fast forward nearly four months. Not only has Congress missed the president’s deadline but also the several self-imposed targets from lead negotiators on the bill — Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California.

And it looks like we’ll be stuck in this holding pattern for the foreseeable future.

Marianne Levine and Nicholas Wu at Politico reported yesterday evening that the negotiators are no longer considering changes to qualified immunity, the principle that protects officers from most civil suits. The doctrine was introduced by the Supreme Court in 1967 that shields on-duty officers from liability for their misconduct — even if they break the law — unless they violated clearly established law. Republicans argue that eliminating this protection would harm police recruitment; Democrats are demanding that police officers be liable for serious misbehavior.

This would cross a red line for progressive Democrats like Rep. Cori Bush who was inspired to run for office after protesting the killing of Michael Brown, another Black boy killed by a white police officer. South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, previously indicated they’d be open to a proposal on police reform that didn’t eliminate qualified immunity, arguing incremental progress is better than nothing. Spokespeople for Booker, Scott and Bass did not respond to a request from The Supercreator for comment by press time.

The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March, a month after Rep. Bass introduced the bill and more than two full months before Biden’s proposed cutoff point. In addition to limiting the qualified immunity defense, the bill would also lower the criminal intent standard — from willful to knowing or reckless — to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution and grant administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice in pattern-or-practice investigations. Additionally, it would establish a framework to prevent and remedy racial profiling at all levels of law enforcement and limit the unnecessary use of force and restricts the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds. A national registry to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct and new reporting requirements would also be created if the bill were to become law.

But the legislation has been languishing in the Senate since spring, as Congress focuses on passing the president’s Build Back Better economic agenda and the administration contends with another coronavirus surge and an international crisis in Afghanistan. And while Sen. Scott his own police reform bill last year, as Politico’s Levine and Wu noted, Democrats blocked it on the Senate floor, arguing the legislation didn’t go far enough. It’s reasonable to assume if nothing gets done on the issue this year, then it’ll be stalled through next year’s midterms. Unless the death of another Black body at the hands of police spurs enough seasonal solidarity that inspires lawmakers to act with a sense of urgency.

If you look at polling, however, public opinion is squarely against qualified immunity. A Pew Research survey conducted in July 2020 found that two-thirds of Americans say that civilians need to have the power to sue police officers to hold them accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force, even if makes the officers’ jobs more difficult. (If you’re curious, here’s the racial breakdown: Eight in ten Black adults, three in four Hispanic adults and 60 percent of white adults favored getting rid of the problematic police shield.) In another poll around the same time by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank founded by one of the Koch brothers, and YouGov, 63 percent of Americans said they supported eliminating qualified immunity. And in a statement from May of this year, the Major Cities Chiefs Association — an organization of 79 police chiefs, commissioners, and sheriffs representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada — embraced the idea of updating the standard that would effectively remove qualified immunity as a defense for officers accused of police misconduct or excessive use of force.

As I wrote in June, this issue is significant to critics of the police because civil lawsuits — usually paid by the city and subsidized by taxpayers — are often the only meaningful recourse for victims’ families since police officers are almost always shielded from criminal prosecution:

Since 2015, the 20 US cities and counties with the biggest police departments have paid over $2 billion since 2015 for alleged misconduct and civil rights violations, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis in 2020 by Scott Calvert and Dan Frosch. During this period, New York City, the nation’s largest police department, has paid more than $1.1 billion in settlements. Chicago is second at about $253 million. Los Angeles County has paid out more than $238 billion. “Cities are effectively using their residents to mortgage police violence — a proposition that may grow less and less palatable as families’ finances are depleted by other circulating disasters,” Brentin Mock wrote last summer for Bloomberg.

Even worse, police are still killing people at the same rate as before Floyd was murdered, indicating that officers are unafraid of being held accountable by the status quo:

Data from Mapping Police Violence showed that there were only six days through the first four months of the year in which police across America didn’t kill anyone. Through May 21, 89 Black people were killed by police. (Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people and 1.3 times more likely to unarmed when killed by the police.)

As negotiations continue, Sen. Scott has floated the idea of a skinny version of their bill but there’s no word yet on what could be left out. If a bill is ever signed into law by President Biden though, the ceremony will have at least one additional guest: Bridgett Floyd, George’s sister, who didn’t attend the first meeting with the rest of the family. “That’s when I’ll make my way to DC,” she said in May. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.


Coronavirus

The US reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday. We’re averaging 769 per day over the past month, the highest figure since mid-April. [Anurag Maan and Kavya B / Reuters]

Related: 46 out of 50 states have experienced double-digit growth in COVID-19 hospitalizations. This fourth surge has been fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant and hesitancy or flat-out resistance among unvaccinated Americans. [Frances Stead Sellers, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Hannah Knowles and Derek Hawkins / WaPo]

52 percent of workers favor vaccine mandates. The percentage of those strongly in favor has increased seven percent since May. [Jeffrey M. Jones and Sangeeta Agrawal / Gallup]

Politics

WV Can’t Wait — a progressive group of candidates from various parties and ideologies — launched a website to support a challenge to Sen. Joe Manchin’s reelection in 2024 or find a replacement should he retire. The West Virginia Democrat is the most prominent so-called centrist in the Senate and opposes some of the party’s most transformative legislation. [Steven Allen Adams / The Journal]

The board of a small Texas school district voted 5-1 to add masks to its dress code to bypass a ban on mask mandates by Gov. Greg Abbott, who tested positive for the virus yesterday. “The Board believes the dress code can used to mitigate health issues and therefore has amended the [Paris Independent School District] dress code to protect our students and employees,” the district said. [Phil Helsel / NBC News]

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona announced the state would refuse to provide $163 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to public school districts with mask mandates in place. “Safe recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in a statement that makes no damned sense whatsoever. [Paul LeBlanc and Andy Rose / CNN]

Business

Amazon surpassed Walmart in total sales. “Amazon isn’t always the best place to shop, but it is winning by mastering everything but the shopping.” [Shira Ovide / NYT]

Technology

Facebook released a report of the most-viewed domains, links, posts and pages from the second quarter of 2021. The company hopes to counter the narrative that far-right pages and accounts dominate the site in the US and will release new reports on a quarterly basis going forward. [Issie Lapowsky / Protocol]

Apple will delay the launch of its new SharePlay feature in iOS 15. SharePlay allows users to watch movies and TV shows in sync over FaceTime, collaborate on Apple Music playlists and share their screens; in June, Apple promoted the feature as one of the leading features of iOS in June. [Chance Miller / 9to5Mac]

Spotify rolled out its new format that combines spoken work commentary with music for its global community of creators. “Music + Talk” allows creators to reproduce the experience of listening to a DJ or music critic share their perspective and is available through Spotify’s podcasting software Anchor. [Sarah Perez / TechCrunch]

Culture

Billboard and Logitech announced a new monthly chart of media creators who are driving music consumption. The Song Breaker Chart, which will drop on the second Tuesday of each month, is the first of its kind to give credit to creators for helping songs break into the charts through memes and dance challenges originated or amplified by the creators. [Billboard]


Read All About It

Dean Obeidallah at MSNBC on why Republicans aren’t the champion of Afghan women’s rights:

Look, nobody is saying the GOP and the Taliban are equally bad. But in just the past few months, we’ve seen Republicans champion measures to deprive women of freedom over their own bodies, as well as oppose laws to protect women from violence and ensure that women are paid the same wages as men. And they’ve done so, at least in part, to impose their religious beliefs on all others.

[…]

If the GOP wants to show that it is sincerely concerned with the rights of the women in Afghanistan, it can start by first championing the human rights of women in the U.S. But instead, it is doing all it can to prevent gender equality while oppressing women based on its members’ extreme religious beliefs. Sound familiar?

Jacquelynn Kerubo at The New York Times on what gentrification means for Black homeowners:

The history of racial exclusion, segregation and inequality in real estate has made homeownership for Black people signify much more than basic shelter and financial stability. “There are absolutely unique ways that the Black homeownership experience is different from other experiences,” said Jacob William Faber, a professor of sociology and public service at New York University.

“Black people and Black communities have been excluded from the opportunity to build wealth, and that’s why passing their homes along to a family feels so important,” he added. “There’s so much history that it’s not just a financial transaction. It’s a cultural transaction. And it’s a familial transaction.”

[…]

He added that the problems associated with gentrification, “such as rising costs of living, increased police harassment, political and social displacement, aren’t caused by Black homeowners.” They are caused, he said, “by forces that move property, like speculative real estate purchasing, the consolidation of rental properties, zoning laws, mortgage markets. All of these things are far more influential than the individual homeowner.”

Kate Arnoff at The New Republic on how Democrats responded to the latest United Nations climate report with business as usual:

Responding in his own way to the IPCC report’s release on Monday, centrist New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer tweeted, “The science is clear—if we want a planet that is inhabitable for future generations we must act NOW to protect our air, water, & climate. This is something that we should all be able to agree on.” And yet by Friday he was rallying eight fellow House Democrats to block what may be this country’s last best shot at passing something called climate policy in the next decade: the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation. In a letter, the group said it would refuse to support that reconciliation plan unless there was first a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. (Under pressure from progressives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged not to bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to a vote until the Senate moves ahead with the reconciliation budget.) Among those joining Gottheimer’s effort is Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, who on Monday tweeted, “The U.N.’s recent climate report underscores the urgency of the climate crisis, but there is still time to act. We can—and must—have the courage to take steps to mitigate the climate crisis.” It doesn’t take much for a politician to claim they care about climate change, or believe scientists who say it’s getting really bad. Getting them to act as if that’s true is much harder.

Terry Nguyen at Vox on how free college became a perk for American workers:

These education benefits are not solely altruistic; they’re part of a greater corporate effort to attract and retain workers, who have left their jobs at record rates this year. Many are leaving customer-facing roles that require them to manage unruly, aggressive customers while enforcing pandemic safety guidelines, and are migrating to industries that might offer better conditions, hours, and perks. To coax workers back, major employers have promised to increase wages and improve benefits, promising pay bonuses, retirement plans, and, in the case of companies like Target and Walmart, the opportunity to receive a free college or vocational degree.

[…]

While the option is convenient, most employers select degrees from institutions that align with their own internal careers, which might not always serve the personal interests of all employees. In some cases, workers may have more limited options and have to pay out of pocket if they choose to pursue an in-person program (although they can apply for reimbursement). The online degrees offered are typically in fields vetted by the employer for specific internal career paths, generally related to business, science, or technology.

[…]

It’s too early to tell how beneficial these corporate-sponsored programs might be. The initiatives are fairly new and managed by private companies, so there is limited data available for researchers to establish concrete conclusions. They do, however, appear to benefit low-income students and adult workers without existing undergraduate degrees, who don’t have the money or time to attend school while working full-time. For them, finishing college without debt could be life-changing.

Chasity Cooper at Chicago Tribune on why red wine and tacos are the perfect pair:

Perhaps it is the flawless alliteration that has made tacos and tequila such a marketable pair, but there remains room for improvement. The answer? Red wine.

Margaritas are the default drink of choice because they are light, refreshing and acidic — all qualities that can help to cut through smokiness, fattiness or spiciness wrapped in a corn or flour tortilla.

But red wine has the depth to go up against the robust flavors of the best tacos. I enjoy tacos where the meat (chicken, seafood, carne asada) plays the lead role, with simple accouterments like cilantro, onion and salsa enhancing the flavor. For lovers of spicy-hot foods like me, red wines offer a nice balance of acidity and fruit.

Craig Jenkins at Vulture on Willow Smith:

Willow Smith is an oddity in music, and not just because of the pedigree. She’s only 20, but she has been releasing music on Roc Nation for over a decade. 2010’s headbanger “Whip My Hair” yielded a platinum RIAA certification for the singer-songwriter just after her tenth birthday, and if she wanted, she could have pursued big child-acting roles like her older brother, who fronted the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid and also starred alongside Will in The Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth. Willow took a few roles but appeared to lose interest. She turned down the lead in the Annie remake Jay-Z and her father were producing in 2011 (a gig picked up by Quvenzhané Wallis), joined Kendall Jenner’s modeling agency, and also got to work on new music, making gorgeous, emotionally intelligent songs that — unlike Jaden’s genial, star-studded projects, which express his exquisite taste and unfailing understanding of what’s hip in mainstream rap but also leave you wishing for more than imitation — feel unmoored from anything else her label is selling. Willow’s tracks feel less like formal songs and more like private conversations, diary entries, and stray thoughts.


Michael’s Pick

Madewell Garment-Dyed Work Shirt in Burnt Soil ($85): When I get bored with my fall uniform of crewneck sweaters and sweatshirts with skinny pants in a few months, I’ll turn to one of these mechanic’s shirts for a rugged change of pace.