Last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a package of bills passed by the state legislature that place additional restrictions on police and reduce the limited legal immunity and protections of privacy that cops have long enjoyed in order to help enable them to maintain law and order. Al Sharpton, a provocative and divisive figure in New York race relations for more than 30 years, said that Cuomo was “standing with us when no one else will.”
The bills were strongly opposed by a coalition of New York law enforcement unions. The Police Benevolent Association, for example, claimed that one of the new laws making public all complaints about police is unfair to the accused officers. One of the new laws remove the so-called 50-A privacy restrictions, which shielded the disciplinary records of police officers from public scrutiny.
Other new laws criminalize the use of chokeholds to subdue someone resisting arrest, and automatically make the state attorney general the independent prosecutor in cases when an unarmed civilian is killed by police. They also require all police officers to wear body cameras, and to promptly report any incident in which an officer fires a gun in the proximity of a civilian. Another new law declares it a crime for anyone to make a false race-based 911 call asking for a police response.
Cuomo signed a separate executive order mandating state funding cuts for any local police department which fails to comply with the reforms the governor has mandated by next April 1. He then warned, “We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it, and reform themselves.”
The anti-chokehold bill was named the “Eric Garner Act” in memory of the black man who died in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer in Staten Island. The governor was joined for that signing ceremony by Garner’s mother and Sharpton.
Sharpton was also present at a second Cuomo signing ceremony for the other laws, along with Democrats State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Sharpton said that Cuomo “has raised the bar. To give the executive order he has given—let’s be clear, there’s no governor in this country that has said what he has said this morning… he has many ways done things that even I would not expect.”
He called Cuomo’s executive order a “model for where we ought to be dealing with 21st-century civil rights. This is a new model that all other 49 governors should look at.” Sharpton also said that when the governor warned that New York state will hold back funds if police departments don’t make the change, it shows that Cuomo “means it.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF “REVEREND AL”
Sharpton first became notorious in the late 1980s for organizing racially provocative black protests in the NYC neighborhoods of Howard Beach, Queens, and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where black men were attacked and eventually killed by mobs of white youth.
Sharpton also made incendiary false charges in the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which a black teenage girl from Wappingers Falls, New York, lied to police about having been tortured and attacked by white defendants, including (Jewish) assistant district attorney for Dutchess County Steven Pagones. After the alleged crime against Brawley was exposed as a hoax by a grand jury investigation, Pagones successfully sued Sharpton and was awarded a $65,000 judgement for libel. The jury found that Sharpton had knowingly made seven false defamatory statements against Pagones and his fellow defendants.
THE CROWN HEIGHTS POGROM
Sharpton is most notorious in the Jewish community for his prominent role in instigating the August 1991 Crown Heights pogrom.
After a Jewish driver accidentally struck and fatally injured a black child in the street, Mayor David Dinkins allowed black rioters to take their revenge by terrorizing the local Chabad community for the next four days. On the first night of the riots, a mob of about 20 young blacks attacked Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Chabad graduate student from Melbourne, Australia. He was beaten, stabbed and suffered a fractured skull, but before he died of his wounds, Rosenbaum identified 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson as his assailant in a police lineup.
Nelson was tried as an adult for Rosenbaum’s murder, but Sharpton organized black community support for his defense. After a jury found Nelson not guilty, Sharpton arranged a widely publicized party to celebrate the acquittal, which to this day is viewed bitterly by leaders of the Jewish community as a serious miscarriage of justice. It took another 12 years and two more trials before Nelson was convicted of having violated Rosenbaum’s civil rights, and Nelson finally admitted in federal court that he was the one who had fatally stabbed him.
A TRAGEDY IN HARLEM
In December 1995, Sharpton played a key role in organizing black protests against Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-run clothing store on Harlem’s 125th Street, because the black church which owned the property had ordered the Jewish store manager, Fred Harari, to evict a black subtenant who was running a record shop on the premises.
During the demonstrations, Sharpton inflamed the anger of protesters by declaring, “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper [Harari] can expand his business.” Soon thereafter, a black protester entered the store with a gun and flammable liquid, shot several of the customers and set fire to the store, resulting in the death of seven of its employees due to smoke inhalation, and the shooter, who killed himself. Sharpton, characteristically, denied any personal responsibility for the tragic loss of life.
Sharpton was also active in politics, having run unsuccessfully in 1988, 1992, and 1994 in primaries for the Democrat US Senate nomination in New York, and in the 1997 primary for nomination as mayor of New York City.
Sharpton gradually gained a greater measure of political respectability and was eventually recognized as a senior leader of the black community by the Obama White House and the mainstream media. Today he is an outspoken advocate for Black Lives Matter, and, as always, is quick to exploit and inflame every racially divisive incident to further his own agenda.
Sharpton’s participation in a signing ceremony for legislation intended to make it harder for police to carry out their duty to uphold law and order and to condemn them for racism seemed quite appropriate. In a nod to Sharpton, Cuomo said he wanted to “applaud the advocates who have been calling for this for years… which results in today and the changes we are making today.”
“The truth is this: Police reform is long overdue, and Mr. [George] Floyd’s murder [by Minneapolis police] is just the most recent murder. This is not just about Mr. Floyd’s murder. It’s about being here before—many, many times before.
“It is about a long list that has been all across this country that always makes the same point—injustice against minorities in America by the criminal justice system. . . Today is about enough is enough.” Cuomo blasted the “systemic discrimination and injustice in this nation” which dates back to the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and the beating of Rodney King in 1992.
In an interview with CNN, Cuomo said, “What we want to do is take the dialogue that you’re seeing on the streets and now make it productive. We did it with Reverend Sharpton, who’s been involved in a lot of these protests over the years. And his expression was the right one: demonstration, legislation, reconciliation. The demonstration and the protest is not the end. It’s the means to get people’s attention so you can now sit down and do the systemic reform.”
CUOMO AND DE BLASIO SENDING MIXED MESSAGES
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was also eager to support and protect the protesters who flouted the rules of social distancing in their demonstrations, by exempting them from any inquiry about their protest activities by those who will be doing contract tracing for new cases of coronavirus. For the past three weeks, Cuomo and de Blasio have been sending a mixed message, warning protesters that coronavirus remains a very real threat to public health, and strongly advising all who attended demonstrations to get tested for the infection. But they are also being careful to avoid saying anything that might discourage maximum participation in the demonstrations, which promote the radical Democrat political agenda.
On May 8, the mayor announced his “test and trace” program, in which the city will hire hundreds of workers to identify anyone who may have come into close proximity of someone who has newly contracted the coronavirus. Over the weekend, a spokesman for de Blasio clarified that as part of tracing procedure, “No person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest.” Instead, the workers will ask Covid-positive individuals general questions to help them “recall ‘contacts’ and individuals they may have exposed.”
Tracers will then ask about “close contacts” defined as being within six feet of another person for at least 10 minutes. It’s then up to tested individuals to decide whether to volunteer that those close contacts occurred during one or more of the protests, the mayor’s spokesman said.
CHALLENGES OF CONTACT TRACING
The New York State Health Department has also been careful to hedge its position on the sensitive question of how to do contact tracing with participants in public protests who have tested positive for Covid-19. Health Department spokesman Jonah Bruno said, “We’re working with New York City to balance the public health priority while also protecting personal privacy, as we seek to ensure a thorough contact tracing program that helps us contain the Covid-19 virus and monitor any fluctuations in the infection rate as we continue reopening New York.”
Dr. Patrick Kachur, a professor at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a former CDC official, said that contact tracers always have to be careful in asking an infected person about their contacts to avoid alienating them with overly intrusive questions.
“Contact tracing requires a strong level of trust between the interviewer and the person they’re talking to,” he said. “It’s important to not ask questions that will impede your ability to do the best job you can.”
For example, Kachur cited previous efforts to do contact tracing to track the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis, the flu and the Zika virus, when investigators were careful not to ask the people they were interviewing about their immigration status.
Dr. Kachur also raised the inherent difficulty in asking a person to identify their close contacts at protests attended by thousands of strangers, he said.
“There’s definitely a concern that state and city officials have, that the protests could be a place where transmission occurs,” Kachur added, but suggested that obtaining contact tracing information may be inherently less important in that environment because the risk of virus transmission “is lower than household and other community contacts.”
IS THERE A NEW CORONAVIRUS SPIKE COMING?
It would certainly be a political embarrassment to both de Blasio and Cuomo if those demonstrations, which both of them have heartily endorsed, lead to a sharp spike in new coronavirus infections, and the deaths from the disease of some of those individuals that would follow. The percentage of positive test results for Covid-19 among New Yorkers has fallen from its high on March 31 of 69% to a low of just 2% on June 8. It is hard to tell how much of that dramatic drop is due to the decline in new infections and how much is due to the broad expansion of criteria for determining who among the general population is eligible to be tested.
Since the number of people being tested in the general population is being aggressively expanded, any increase in the percentage of tested people coming back positive would be a sign that the virus is spreading more rapidly again. That could either be due to the gradual relaxation of the lockdowns, or to the increased risk of virus exposure during the ongoing demonstrations, or, more likely, a combination of both.
Public health experts tend to dismiss the significance of any one-day spike as the likely result of a statistical anomaly. The experts prefer to identify changing infection trends by closely following three-day averages of test findings. Late last week, the average of positive test results climbed from the 2% low set on June 8 to 3%. That got the attention of public health experts, but the upward trend is still too small and too brief for them to sound the alarm about a new spike.
Meanwhile, Cuomo and de Blasio are having more difficulty in trying to come up with reasonable answers to growing questions from the media about the visible increase in the number of New Yorkers who have been ignoring the social distancing guidelines in public, even when they are not engaged in political protests.
CUOMO THREATENS A NEW LOCKDOWN
Even as Cuomo reported at his Sunday news conference in Albany that the number of coronavirus deaths reported in the city the previous day had fallen to a new low of just 23, compared to the April 8 peak of 799, he threatened to “reverse” the reopening progress in areas including parts of Manhattan and the Hamptons resort areas at the eastern end of Long Island, where many food and entertainment businesses have been widely reported to be failing to enforce the social distancing rules on their patrons, required of them as a condition of their permission to reopen.
Cuomo noted that these businesses can lose their liquor licenses for breaking social-distancing rules, and added, “I am warning today in a nice way: consequences of your actions. We have 25,000 complaints statewide. I’m not going to turn a blind eye to them. They are rampant and there’s not enough enforcement. I am not going to allow situations to exist that we know have a high likelihood of causing an increase in the spread of the virus.”
The governor referred to photos of New Yorkers celebrating the end of nearly three months of lockdown by congregating in trendy Manhattan bars and restaurants in the more fashionable neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side, and Hell’s Kitchen, which are not supposed to be serving customers on their premises yet.
The current lockdown requirements are not consistent around the state. Because New York City suffered, by far, the biggest spike in Covid-19 deaths, it had to wait longer than other parts of the state to begin the reopening process. As a result, New York had to wait until June 8 to enter Phase 1 of the four-stage process, which allows for the resumption of construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade and some retail curbside pickup. The rest of the state is already in Phase 2, which permits restaurants to offer limited outdoor dining, and increases the maximum permitted capacity of reopened businesses and religious establishments. Mayor de Blasio has said that New York City will not be able to enter Phase 2 until July at the earliest.
CUOMO WARNS LOCAL OFFICIALS “DO YOUR JOB”
At his Sunday news conference in Albany, and on Monday at the Mario M. Cuomo bridge spanning the Hudson River about 25 miles north of New York City, Cuomo warned local government officials to “do your job” of enforcing the social distancing and mask wearing regulations, or else he will be forced to intervene and shut down those areas where the violations continue. “If we have to close, then people are going to hold you accountable,” the governor added.
Cuomo also noted complaints by citizens that many police officers are also flouting the state health department guidelines by going around with uncovered faces in public. The governor said, “It’s a very bad signal when you see police people who are not wearing a mask and not following the law.”
Cuomo also said that he had personally called some of the owners of the businesses which have been the subjects of the complaints to let them know they were going to be watched by state inspectors who would close them down if they allowed the violations to continue.
CUOMO SHOWS OFF HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Cuomo staged the news conference on Monday at the 3.6-mile-long span named after his father, which replaced the old Tappan Zee Bridge as the part of the New York State Thruway which connects Rockland County to Westchester County. The new double-span bridge was opened to vehicular traffic in 2017 at a total cost of $4 billion, but the governor moved the press conference there Monday to mark the opening of a separate pathway that makes the bridge crossing accessible to pedestrians and bikers.
The previous Wednesday, Cuomo held his daily news conference at the newly completed Terminal B arrivals and departure hall at LaGuardia Airport, which cost $5.1 billion. Cuomo claimed credit for the five-year, $8-billion project to totally rebuild the airport, which has long been despised by travelers as the worst in the country. He claimed that the new airport is now 80% complete and will be fully opened next year.
Cuomo has turned his daily press conferences, which ostensibly focus on the fight against Covid-19, into televised opportunities to congratulate himself on his accomplishments as governor, lecturing his critics and explaining the wisdom of his policies to a national audience.
DE BLASIO’S INCONSISTENCIES
De Blasio has been vaguer in response to questions from reporters about what he intends to do about the growing number of social distancing violations as crowds gather in the streets outside and inside popular bars and restaurants across the city.
The mayor initially said that he was a little confused by the question, and then promised, “We will go back to enforcing on bars and restaurants as we were many times, very effectively.”
De Blasio obviously does not have the political stomach to clamp down on protesters or city business which flout the Covid-19 guidelines. For example, he ordered the NYPD not to interfere with a black protest rally at which an estimated 15,000 people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder on Eastern Parkway in front of the Brooklyn Museum Sunday.
However, the mayor apparently has no qualms about imposing his hypocritical Covid-19 policies on the Jewish community. On Monday, city workers were seen welding shut the iron gates to the Middleton Playground in the heart of the Williamsburg Jewish community, to prevent neighborhood children from playing there now that the pleasant early summer weather has arrived.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS CHALLENGE THE LOCKDOWN ORDERS
But the community’s patience is wearing thin. Some Brooklyn Orthodox Jews are no longer willing to be pushed around by the mayor and the governor without pushing back. Elchanan Perr, Daniel Schonborn and Mayer Mayerfeld joined with two upstate Catholic priests to file a lawsuit in federal court last week accusing the two New York elected officials and New York Attorney General Letitia James of an “unprecedented abuse of power” in keeping houses of worship closed for fear of spreading the virus, while permitting mass protests to ignore the same anti-Covid-19 rules. According to a statement by the plaintiffs’ attorney, the elected New York officials “exploited the Covid-19 pandemic” to create “a veritable dictatorship” with their lockdown rules and employed a “blatant double standard” that violated the plaintiffs’ right to worship.
“These orders, both the emergency stay-home and reopening plan declarations, clearly discriminate against houses of worship,” the statement continues. “They are illegally content-based, elaborate, arbitrary and pseudo-scientific.”
“Why is a large worship gathering deemed more dangerous than a mass protest, full of shouting, arm-waving people in close proximity to one another?” asked the lawyer, Christopher Ferrara, who is associated with the not-for-profit Thomas More Society. “It is time to end New York’s experiment in absolute monarchy.”
The special social distancing rules set for houses of worship limiting them to just 10 congregants are clearly discriminatory against religious Jews, the lawsuit notes. “The synagogue prayers required by their religion must have a minimum quorum of ten adult males (age thirteen or older), called the minyan. [Under these rules] a young man could not attend his own bar mitzvah … or a bride-to-be her own wedding, or a newborn his own circumcision, nor could plaintiffs themselves attend such services unless they were part of the minyan.”
In reply, lawyers for Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James claimed illogically that the current restrictions for houses of worship are “content neutral and generally applicable and exist solely to protect public health.”
The lawyers for Mayor de Blasio had the chutzpah to argue that demonstrators had not received an “exemption,” and that the rules prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people are still in effect. “The fact that the City has temporarily relaxed its enforcement of the gathering limitation in the context of the protests out of a need to balance public safety concerns with public health concerns, does not undermine the neutrality or general applicability of the gathering limitation,” de Blasio’s lawyers argued, effectively conceding that the City is selectively administering the rule in a grossly discriminatory fashion.
DEMOCRAT LEADERS A USING DOUBLE STANDARD
The blatant hypocrisy displayed by Cuomo and de Blasio with regard to their conflict of interest between promoting street protests and fighting Covid-19 is far from unique. Indeed, it has been widely shared over the last three weeks by other Democrat elected officials in states and major cities.
For example, in the middle of May, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser extended her Covid-19 lockdown order through June 8. But on June 6, she issued a tweet encouraging city residents to participate in mass protest gatherings, accompanied by a photo showing off the slogan, “Black Lives Matter” painted in big yellow letters down the center of a DC street. Then she issued a press release announcing a delay in the reopening schedule due to spike in coronavirus cases in the city, after two weeks of protests that she had encouraged. It said that “DC Health has confirmed that a new peak was detected in the data, resetting the Districts Phase One count to nine days of sustained decrease.”
Black Florida congresswoman Val Demings, who is reportedly on Joe Biden’s short list for vice presidential nominees, tweeted on June 8 that she had appeared at a “Healing and Hope Rally” the previous evening “to speak with our community as America grieves [for George Floyd].” Two days later she condemned President Trump for announcing plans to hold “mass rallies in Florida and elsewhere as we experience a resurgence in Covid cases [as] irresponsible and selfish.”
Trump senior White House advisor Stephen Miller writes that Democrats want the American people to believe “that this pandemic is caused by some magical woke virus, one which somehow skips those who have the right politics. What it actually does is raise the suspicion that Democrats and progressives have wanted to keep the economy shut down and people at home as long as possible to affect the outcome of the November election. Your job and your family or your church. . . are not important. Our joining in large crowds to protest is. . .
“Democrat activists and politicians themselves created this situation. They encouraged the world to disregard lockdown and people will now follow their lead, no matter how much they are scolded by the media.”
RACIST DEMOCRAT ROOTS
The historical record reminds us that the systemic racism in American society that today’s Democrats love to complain about has its roots in the post-Civil War Democrat party. Democrats prevented the blacks in the South from exercising their right to vote for almost a century with discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Southern Democrats supported the acts of violence and intimidation against blacks, including public lynching carried by the Ku Klux Klan. Democrat President Woodrow Wilson deliberately re-segregated federal government agencies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt blamed immigrants for “congestion and racial prejudices to our large cities,” and ordered 175,000 Japanese-American citizens to be removed from their homes and confined to internment camps during World War II.
Prior to 1964, a group of segregationist Southern Democrat senators, led by Lyndon B. Johnson, successfully blocked all attempts to pass civil rights legislation through Congress.
At the same time, liberal historians tend to gloss over the fact that it was a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who made the highly controversial decision to free the slaves of the South during the middle of the Civil War by convincing Congress to approve the Emancipation Proclamation.
Over the next 30 years, it was national Republican party platforms, not those of the Democrats, which affirmed the “sovereign right of every lawful citizen, rich or poor, native or foreign born, white or black, to cast one free ballot in public elections, and to have that ballot duly counted,” and specifically condemned the “inhuman outrages perpetrated upon American citizens for political reasons in certain Southern States of the Union.”
NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN 50 YEARS
Most likely, the real source of the still festering racial problems in America’s urban centers is the fact that, with few exceptions, virtually all the major cities whose police forces have been accused of systemic racism have been run for decades by liberal Democrat mayors, some of whom are black themselves, and many of whom, in recent years, have appointed black police chiefs.
Despite decades of Democratic political domination, and numerous promises of reform, cities like Baltimore, Chicago, and Minneapolis continue to struggle with deep-seated hostilities and isolated acts of inexcusable violence by police officers against members of the minority communities.
In the mid-1960s, pent-up black rage at unfair treatment by police in the urban ghettoes of many large northern cities exploded into the violence of the “long hot summer of 1967.” Black rioters virtually destroyed the black neighborhoods of Newark and Detroit, and did considerable damage in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tampa, Birmingham, Chicago, New York City, Milwaukee, Rochester, Toledo, and Minneapolis, where the death of George Floyd at the hands of local police has touched of a new round of race riots 53 years later.
The riots in more than 150 American cities that summer brought sweeping political changes, including the election of a generation of new black urban Democratic leaders, but for the most part, the underlying problems between local police and the economically deprived minorities stuck in the urban ghettoes of those cities were never resolved.
When the newly elected black mayors and the black police chiefs they appointed sought to solve the problem by ordering their cops to cut back on enforcement in minority communities, the result was an explosion in violent crime which frightened a generation of middle-class white residents into fleeing the cities for the safer suburbs. That left the poorer blacks stuck in their economically depressed and more dangerous illegal drug-ridden neighborhoods.
After half a century, not much has changed. In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of the previous summer’s riots. It concluded, “To some Negroes, police have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression.” In 2015, a Justice Department report on the Baltimore Police Department in the aftermath of the death of a 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody concluded that “the relationship between the Baltimore Police Department and many of the communities it serves is broken.”
GIULIANI AND BRATTON FOUND THE ANSWER
The solution to the problem was actually developed in New York City by Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani, when he hired William Bratton as chief of police in 1994. Bratton applied the concept of community-based policing, including enforcement of quality-of-life offenses and the sophisticated use of data analysis to target crime hot spots in urban neighborhoods.
New York City’s crime rate started to fall dramatically. Violent felonies were reduced by 70 percent. As street crime declined, so did the incidence of police misconduct. In 1991, at the peak of the city’s crime wave under Mayor David Dinkins, police officers fired their guns 307 times. Giuliani’s successor as mayor, Michael Bloomberg, wisely continued the successful community policing policies. In 2010, in a much safer city, police fired their guns less than 100 times, and last year, there were only 52 such incidents, an 83 percent decline from 1991.
But Bloomberg’s successor, the extreme liberal-progressive Bill de Blasio, campaigned for election as an outspoken critic of the NYPD, and has since largely undermined the relationship of mutual trust that Giuliani and Bloomberg worked so hard to build up between city government, the NYPD and New York City’s minority communities.
BLACK AMERICANS BOUGHT OBAMA’S RACE-BASED NARRATIVE
New York City was not an isolated case. The Obama administration and liberal Democrats promoted a narrative which claimed that local police forces across the country were tainted by racism, which was why urban minorities felt oppressed.
Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, publicly argued that racist police departments disproportionately and unfairly targeted young blacks and led federal investigations to uncover the hidden racism embedded in local police departments across the country. Even though statistical evidence failed to show a disproportionate targeting of blacks by violent cops, it’s clear that many African Americans came to believe the Obama administration’s narrative, that they were the victims of inherently racist policing establishment.
That narrative enabled Democrats and their media allies to divert attention away from the real source of the problem—the deep-seated corruption and incompetence of Democrat officials who have dominated American urban politics, mostly without any serious competition from Republicans, for generations.
CHICAGO’S CRIME MELTDOWN
Take Chicago, which has had an unbroken string of Democrat mayors since 1931, and which elected Obama’s former White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as mayor in 2011.
In October 2014, a 17-year-old black youth, Laquan McDonald, was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on a city street. The initial report claimed that McDonald was walking erratically down the street, carrying a knife, and had lunged at the police officer. Testimony from witnesses contradicted that narrative, but Chicago police refused numerous requests to release available videos of the incident, to avoid a possible scandal which could hurt Emanuel’s chances to win a difficult reelection campaign. Only after Emanuel won re-election in April 2015 was video evidence released that showed McDonald walking away from the cop when he was shot at least 16 times. The officer was eventually arrested, tried and convicted of second-degree murder, but Emanuel refused outraged calls from Chicago’s minority communities for his resignation.
Instead, Emanuel established a review board headed by Lori Lightfoot, a black woman who was then president of the Chicago Police Board, to recommend necessary police reforms. In the end, the recommended changes were largely superficial, and left the existing Chicago police bureaucracy in place.
Lightfoot ran for mayor in 2019 and was elected on a promise to complete the unfinished job of reforming the police. After the violent crime rate in the city spiked, Lightfoot came under criticism in Chicago’s minority communities for not being tough enough on crime. She responded with a brute force strategy, flooding crime-plagued Chicago neighborhoods with extra cops, but so far it hasn’t succeeded in bringing down the violent crime rate.
During the last weekend in May, while the rest of the country was being rocked by the protests and looting in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Chicago suffered the deaths of 25 people by gunfire, and another 85 wounded. On Sunday, May 31, 18 people were shot to death within 24 hours, making it the most violent day in Chicago since 1961, which is when the University of Chicago Crime Lab began tracking those statistics.
BALTIMORE’S FAILED MAYORS
The same pattern took place in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015. When violent riots broke out, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a black woman, ordered police to stand aside to allow vandals to run free, looting and burning in minority neighborhoods. Eventually, Republican Governor Larry Hogan was forced to declare a state of emergency and send in the National Guard to restore order.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s later explanation that “While we tried to make sure that [protesters] were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well,” created such a political uproar that she decided not to run for reelection. A subsequent Justice Department investigation into the cause of the Baltimore riots found that the city’s black police commissioner had permitted his cops to make unconstitutional stops and seizures and use excessive force.
Baltimore’s next mayor, Catherine Pugh, another black woman, was the city’s eighth consecutive Democrat mayor since 1971. She also ran on a promise to restrain the local police, but as she ordered Baltimore police to withdraw from its minority neighborhoods, the crime rate spiked. The annual number of murders in the city, which began at 197, soared to more than 300.
Pugh was forced to resign in 2019, after just two and a half years in office, after it was learned that she had pressured the University of Maryland Medical System to spend $500,000 to buy a book she had written for distribution to Baltimore schoolchildren. She eventually pled guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion and was sentenced to three years in prison.
THE PROBLEM WITH MINNEAPOLIS POLICE
In 2017, the Minneapolis Police Department hired a black police chief, Medaria Arradondo, who was unable to keep his pledge to institute broad reforms because of strong resistance from the politically powerful Minneapolis police union. Arradondo has announced new plans to overhaul police accountability, promising major reform to a system he called antiquated. He decided last week to pull out of contract negotiations with the police union and wants to restructure the contract to provide more transparency to the public.
The root of the problem was explained by former Minneapolis chief of police Robert Olson to a Reuters reporter two years ago. “During recessions, [the city] would give the union management rights in lieu of money,” Olson said. “We’re not talking about just one union contract. We’re talking about incremental changes in contracts over years that accumulated, Suddenly, there’s all of these hoops [to jump through], which makes it far more difficult for [police] chiefs to sustain discipline.” Because unions are so deeply embedded in the city’s Democrat-dominated political landscape, it has been impossible for police officials to respond adequately to years of complaints from the city’s minorities.
The reaction of Democrat Mayor Jacob Fry to the violent riots which broke out in Minneapolis has badly hurt the morale of many Minneapolis cops. According to local media reports, based on sources within the police force, at least seven Minneapolis police officers have already quit, and others are in the process of resigning, over a lack of support from senior police department and city officials.
These include Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender, who claims she has assembled a veto-proof majority of the council members who are willing to vote to disband the city’s police department completely, overruling the objections of Mayor Frey.
The Minneapolis police department is currently under civil rights investigations by both the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the FBI, related to the death of George Floyd.
Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder has downplayed the reports of mass resignations, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “There’s nothing that leads us to believe that at this point the numbers are so great that it’s going to be problematic.”
On Sunday, radical Democrat congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose district includes part of Minneapolis, told CNN that the Minneapolis Police Department is suffering a crisis of credibility and needs to be dismantled.
“You can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root,” she said. “What you can do is rebuild. And so this is our opportunity, you know, as a city, to come together, have the conversation of what public safety looks like, who enforces the most dangerous crimes that place in our community.”