There are a lot of things that can be done now, unilaterally, by House Democrats, by states and by cities, immediately.

Excerpt from Dave Sirota, TMI

(There is) a lot of power to actually do something right now. 

So…exactly what can they do? Here are ten kinds of things — and many of them can be done unilaterally by House Democrats, by states and by cities, and they can be done immediately, not at some unspecified time in the distant future:

1. For the love of God, stop trying to give Trump more police power.

In the lead up to the protests, Democratic congressional leaders had been pushing to fortify Trump’s police powers. Yes, that’s right: They have repeatedly — and at times stealthily — worked with Republicans to try to reauthorize the Patriot Act in a way that would strengthen Trump’s warrantless surveillance power. Boosted by groups like Demand Progress, progressive Democratic lawmakers have thankfully helped temporarily stop the reauthorization for now — but Pelosi has been actively trying to revive the legislation. Giving Trump more police power as he promises to violently crush protests is insane. Stop. Just stop.

2. Do not pass a Pentagon spending bill that would fund Trump’s military invasion of American cities.

During the Iraq War, Democratic lawmakers gave speeches demanding an end to the conflict, and then turned around and cast votes to pass appropriations bills that funded the war. Now we face the prospect of Democratic lawmakers issuing press releases telling Donald Trump to not militarily invade America, and then potentially turning right around and voting for the spending bills to fund that invasion. That would be absolutely unacceptable. House Democrats can halt the annual Pentagon appropriations bill, and write various restrictions into it preventing any resources from being used by the president to deploy troops into American cities, without the explicit consent of Congress. They can also amend the Insurrection Act. In 2006, Congress expanded that statute, which Trump would rely on to domestically deploy the military. Congress can now go the other way and reform that law in ways that reduce Trump’s ability to start a civil war in the United States. 

3. Call Trump’s bluff, use his own plan to defund the police — and launch investigations.

Trump recently proposed federal budgets cutting funding for local police departments. Democrats control the House that must pass a federal budget. Democrats could just sign onto the president’s own past proposals, and begin the process of defunding the police. They could also use their House majority to hold televised hearings spotlighting police abuses, and to issue subpoenas to fully investigate the situation in various cities. And, of course, they could also use all of these budget and oversight powers in legislatures, mayor’s offices and city councils to do the same at the state and municipal levels. 

4. Stop giving military-grade weapons to local police departments.

Research has shown a link between police violence and the use of the Pentagon program that provides excess military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. Democrats right now have the power to restrict or fully eliminate that program. They could do it during the upcoming reauthorization of the NDAA, which is the overarching legislation that governs what the Pentagon can and cannot do. Or they could do it on the must-pass, annual Pentagon spending bill. In fact, they already have the legislative language to do that — it was tried by some House Democrats in 2014, but Democrats helped the GOP-run House kill it back then. Now that the Democrats control the House, they could just pass it.

5. Fire the bad police chiefs and deescalate.

Democratic mayors can fire police chiefs whose police departments are out of control. If you see rampant acts of police violence, as we’ve seen in cities across the country, and you see your Democratic mayor standing by the police chief, then your Democratic mayor is complicit. Your Democratic mayor could instead do what Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer just did after a police shooting there. Your Democratic mayor can also order police to halt their antagonistic expressions of martial power — the unnecessary flaunting of heavily armed law enforcement and the chest-thumping displays of police power are just heightening tensions. Mayors could instead follow the lead of Newark’s Ras Baraka — the New York Times reports that his police force has “made a tactical decision not to position police officers in military-style gear along the route” and so far, the city has not seen the kind of violent clashes that we’ve seen in other population centers. 

6. Prosecute the bad cops.

Democrats control many district attorneys offices and 22 state attorney generals offices. We’ve heard a lot about police mass arresting peaceful protesters — we’ve heard much less about whether or not the Democratic Party will use the prosecutorial authority it has to charge police officers for their brutal acts of violence. 

7. Restrict the National Guard.

Democratic governors have the power to use the national guard to militarize the situation in their states. But until Trump federalizes the National Guard, they also have the power to carefully restrict or demobilize the national guard’s actions and activities.  

8. Pass legislation restricting the police and ending immunity.

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna has a bill to change use-of-force standards at the federal level, so that under the law, violence must officially be a last resort in police conduct. As he notes: “the current legal standard gives nearly unfettered discretion to police over their use of force, as long as they claim to perceive a threat, even if there were other available options to de-escalate the situation.” There is also new legislation by independent Rep. Justin Amash to end the so-called “qualified immunity” standard that shields police officers and public officials from punishment for violating Americans’ constitutional rights. The House could pass both of these bills, and Democratic state legislatures could pass their own versions of these bills as well.

9. Repeal and block anti-protester laws, and pass state protections.

A recent PEN America report shows that 15 states have passed anti-protester laws and “nearly a third of all states have implemented new regulations on protest-related activity in the past five years.” Democrats in legislatures and governorships can work to repeal these laws, and block similar new laws. They can also be proactive by using their majorities in blue states like New York to pass packages of much-needed reforms designed to bring accountability to local police departments

10. Stop taking money from police associations.

Among the reasons Democrats haven’t already used their power to protect civil liberties and create stronger accountability is the influence of money — specifically, the very large sums of money that flow into state and local politics from police associations that oppose real accountability. New York Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris is one of a number of lawmakers who is now saying they will reject this money, and donate the money they have taken and use it to protect protesters. This should become a national trend. 

Again, this is not a comprehensive list. However, it is a reminder that while Trump is the central threat to American liberties right now, we should not believe the Democrats’ current narrative that portrays themselves as innocent bystanders. They are in a position to actually deliver on their electoral promises to do whatever they can to oppose Trump.  If they don’t use the power they have right now, they are complicit.


Colorado Democrats unveil sweeping police accountability bill in response to George Floyd’s death

The legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as Wednesday in the Colorado Senate and comes in response the death last week of George Floyd at the hands of police in MinneapolisPUBLISHED ONJUN 2, 2020 5:31PM MDTPOLITICS AND GOVERNMENTPRIMARY CATEGORY IN WHICH BLOG POST IS PUBLISHEDJesse Paul@jesseapaul

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Democratic state lawmakers on Tuesday began to unveil a sweeping bill aimed at increasing law enforcement accountability in Colorado by collecting racial profiling data, ensuring officers hold each other accountable and making it easier for the public to file lawsuits against police.

The measure, which could be introduced as soon as Wednesday, also would beef up how law-enforcement involved deaths are investigated, prevent problematic officers from moving to different police departments and sheriff’s offices, and require agencies to use body cameras while giving them guidelines on how and when to release footage.

The legislation is expected to be introduced Wednesday in the Colorado Senate and comes in response the death last week of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. Tuesday was the sixth straight day of protests in Denver in response to Floyd’s death.

“This is not a new conversation. Many of my colleagues have been talking about various aspects of police reform for years,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat who will be one of the prime sponsors of the bill. “And, quite frankly, it’s a travesty that it takes such a catastrophe that’s happening across the United States, and in many of our own backyards, (for the legislation to happen).”

Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, speaks to reporters outside the Colorado Capitol on June 2, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The legislation was formally announced on Tuesday before hundreds of people gathered outside of the state Capitol to demonstrate. Garcia was joined by state Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat who is slated to be another prime sponsor of the measure, and other leading Democrats.

“We are still finalizing some of the language,” Garcia said.

Gov. Jared Polis, speaking at a news conference, on Tuesday expressed a willingness to work on a measure addressing police accountability.

Law enforcement and district attorneys in Colorado are anxious about the introduction of such a wide-ranging bill when the legislature only has a matter of weeks to iron out the details and get it passed.

The Colorado General Assembly returned last week from a two-month pause because of the coronavirus crisis and it set to adjourn before the end of June.

“Law enforcement and prosecutors have various concerns over the breadth and the sweeping nature of all the element of this bill,” said Tom Raynes, who runs the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. “Almost any section of this bill could be a two to three to four month conversation in itself. There’s wariness of jamming this through in five to seven days.”

Raynes said there are parts of the legislation, which he has seen a draft of, that prosecutors could be amenable to. But, he said, there are elements of it that are nonstarters.

Herod said she has met with the law enforcement community about the measure, but that their opinion isn’t a deal breaker.

“I want to be clear that I don’t need to ask their permission to run a bill forward,” she said. “I am a state representative. It is my job to represent the community.”

State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, speaks to reporters outside the Colorado Capitol on Wednesday, June 2, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Garcia said it’s clear the time to act is now.

“Why would you not want greater accountability or transparency in your police department?” he said. “We haven’t done enough soon enough.” 

One aspect of the bill that law enforcement does support is a section that would require officers to intervene if their comrades use unreasonable force against a member of the public. Violators would face criminal prosecution.

The ACLU of Colorado is endorsing the measure, touting its unveiling on its social media channels.

“It’s a very significant change,” said Denise Maes, the ACLU of Colorado’s public policy director. “Colorado is in a good place, but we can’t pretend that there isn’t more progress to be made.”

Herod said she would like to include a clause in the measure creating a statewide investigation force to be house in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and which would investigate law enforcement complaints and deaths at the hands of sheriff’s deputies and police officers. Herod said she was still in talks with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, about that aspect of the legislation.

“The Attorney General’s Office has been engaged with the sponsors of the criminal justice reform bill to ensure it improves peace officer training, provides greater accountability and restores trust in law enforcement,” Weiser’s spokesman, Lawrence Pacheco, said in a written statement.

Another part of the new bill would change Colorado’s so-called “fleeing felon law,” which allows officers to use deadly force against people they suspect are fleeing the commission of a felony. The legislation would change the law to limit the use of deadly force only when there is an imminent threat of a suspect using a weapon as part of their escape.

Garcia said the details of the bill are still being worked out and it’s subject to change.


A Denver Police Department officer sprays pepper spray at a protester walking on Colfax Avenue near the state Capitol during the third day of protests against police brutality on May 30, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Complaints about police response to Denver’s George Floyd protests under investigation as demonstrations hit day 6

Denver’s independent law enforcement monitor says he is investigating more than 150 complaints. One officer has been fired for an Instagram post in which he said “let’s start a riot.”PUBLISHED ONJUN 2, 2020 4:09PM MDTPOLITICS AND GOVERNMENTPRIMARY CATEGORY IN WHICH BLOG POST IS PUBLISHEDJesse Paul@jesseapaul

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Denver’s police watchdog is investigating more than 150 complaints about officers’ response to protests following the death last week of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.

The concerns have been lodged with the city’s independent law enforcement monitor, who on Tuesday told The Colorado Sun that he is investigating. Additionally, several members of Denver’s City Council have asked for a broad review of officers’ use of force against demonstrators, which has included tear gas and less-lethal projectiles.

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“In the last 72 hours we’ve received over 150 complaints from members of the public related to police conduct during the demonstrations,” said Nick Mitchell, Denver’s independent monitor of the city’s police and sheriff departments.

Mitchell said a number of the complaints are regarding the same incidents, but his office has also fielded general concern from the public about police tactics.

“We’ve also gotten commendations for the police department associated with the demonstrations,” he said.

Police Chief Paul Pazen and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have said officers have responded with force only after being hit by rocks, water bottles and other items and in response to other unsafe behavior. 

But videos have shown and Colorado Sun journalists have witnessed police using force without provocation on demonstrators, who gathered on Tuesday for a sixth straight day.

Demonstrators clash with police at the Colorado Capitol on Saturday, May 30, 2020 during the third day of protests in Denver in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota. (Joe Mahoney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“Protests against police abuse should not result in more police abuse,” Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said in a letter to Denver’s independent police monitor and the city’s department of safety. “It appears that once the decision was made to shut down the protests, everyone present was targeted with the same level of violence, resulting in injuries, some requiring emergency care. At the very least, the excessive police response has caused trauma to an already traumatized and grieving community.”

Chris Hinds, a Denver city councilman, is also asking for a probe into police actions. 

“We need a full investigation of what happened in our community. Let’s look at those body cameras to see who did what,” Hinds wrote in an email to constituents.

Additionally, Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann has asked the city’s law enforcement leadership to talk to City Council about their use-of-force policy in crowd control situations. 

Denver police also launched an internal affairs investigation into an Instagram post from one of the department’s officers showing him and his comrades dressed in protective gear with a caption that read “let’s start a riot.” On Tuesday, they announced the officer, Thomas McClay, had been fired for violating the department’s social media policy. 

A Denver Police Department spokesman, in a statement to The Sun, said that its internal affairs unit “is investigating different complaints.”

The Colorado Sun asked Gov. Jared Polis if he had seen any troubling behavior by law enforcement during the protests and whether he would join calls for an investigation into the response.

“It’s my understandinding that the Denver Police Department has said they will investigate the tactics that they used during the demonstration,” Polis said at a news conference Tuesday. “I was very happy to see the Denver police chief join arm-and-arm with the protesters in solidarity.”

The Colorado State Patrol, which reports to Polis, is also investigating after one of the agency’s troopers fired a non-lethal foam round at a 9News reporter on Saturday night near the Capitol. 

The patrol says troopers didn’t know that they were firing on a reporter and that he was facing away from them at the time. The reporter, Jeremy Jojola, said on Twitter that he “was clearly with a photographer just after I went live with a large camera and light.” 

The State Patrol said it wants to work with the media to avoid a repeat incident and that it “has not nor will not target the media and we are committed to your safety.”

Polis, who had not publicly spoken about the protests until Tuesday, said he will make sure that the exact actions “are fully accountable to me” and vowed to hold people accountable if necessary. 

The governor said he hadn’t addressed the protests in person — he has released statements — because he has “really been focusing on listening mode.” Polis described Floyd’s death as a murder and said “we need to listen to the voices that are calling out for reform.” 

U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, whose office investigates police misconduct, said he is not reviewing officers’ actions. “Nothing has occurred to date, in this past week, that has given us cause to investigate or have concern,” Dunn said.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office would not confirm Tuesday if it was investigating the police response. 

On Monday night, police did not initially confront demonstrators even after they defied the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. It wasn’t until about midnight that a clash occurred.

In previous days, police and demonstrators began skirmishes much earlier. 

Protests have remained peaceful until dusk when violent clashes between police and demonstrators have broken out and lasted several hours. Organizers have pleaded with demonstrators to remain peaceful and non-destructive, but some have disregarded those requests. 

Buildings have been vandalized, stores have been looted and fires have been set. About 300 protesters have been arrested by Denver police.

Denver is under a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew until at least Friday as a result of the demonstrations. The Colorado National Guard and police from surrounding agencies have been called in to help respond. 

On Tuesday by 5 p.m., hundreds were already gathered at the Capitol. They were waving signs and chanting, calling for action to be taken to prevent police brutality.

Editors Larry Ryckman and Eric Lubbers contributed to this report.