After weeks of national protests since the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would encourage better police practices. But he made no mention of the roiling national debate over racism spawned by police killings of black men and women.
Trump met privately with the families of several black Americans killed in interactions with police before his Rose Garden signing ceremony and said he grieved for the lives lost and families devastated. But then he quickly shifted his tone and devoted most of his public remarks to a need to respect and support “the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe.”
He characterized the officers who have used excessive force as a “tiny” number of outliers among “trustworthy” police ranks.
“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” he said before signing the order, flanked by police officials.
Trump and Republicans in Congress have been rushing to respond to the mass demonstrations against police brutality and racial prejudice that have raged for weeks across the country in response to the deaths of Floyd and other black Americans. It’s a sudden shift that underscores how quickly the protests have changed the political conversation and pressured Washington to act.
But Trump, who has faced criticism for failing to acknowledge systemic racial bias and has advocated for rougher police treatment of suspects in the past, has continued to hold his “law and order” line. At the signing event, he railed against those who committed violence during the largely peaceful protests while hailing the vast majority of officers as selfless public servants.
Trump’s executive order would establish a database that tracks police officers with excessive use-of-force complaints in their records. Many officers who wind up involved in fatal incidents have long complaint histories, including Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with murder in the death of Floyd. Those records are often not made public, making it difficult to know if an officer has such a history.
The order would also give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices and encourage co-responder programs, in which social workers join police when they respond to nonviolent calls involving mental health, addiction and homeless issues.
Trump said that, as part of the order, the use of chokeholds, which have become a symbol of police brutality, would be banned “except if an officer’s life is at risk.” Actually, the order instructs the Justice Department to push local police departments to be certified by a “reputable independent credentialing body” with use-of-force policies that prohibit the use of chokeholds, except when the use of deadly force is allowed by law. Chokeholds are already largely banned in police departments nationwide.
While Trump hailed his efforts as “historic,” Democrats and other critics said he didn’t go nearly far enough.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, “One modest, inadequate executive order will not make up for his decades of inflammatory rhetoric and his recent policies designed to roll back the progress that we’ve made in previous years.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the order “falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of black Americans.”
Kristina Roth at Amnesty International USA said the order “amounts to a Band-Aid for a bullet wound.”
But Trump said others want to go too far. He framed his plan as an alternative to the “defund the police” movement to fully revamp departments that has emerged from the protests and which he slammed as “radical and dangerous.”
“Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy, and without safety, there is catastrophe,” he said.
Trump’s audience included police officials and members of Congress, and the order signing came after he met privately at the White House with the families of men and women who have been killed in interactions with police.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that many tears were shed at the meeting and “the president was devastated.” Trump listed the families’ relatives who died and said: “To all the hurting families, I want you to know that all Americans mourn by your side. Your loved ones will not have died in vain.”
White House adviser Ja’Ron Smith said it was “a mutual decision” for the families not to attend the public signing.
“It really wasn’t about doing a photo opportunity,” he said. “We wanted the opportunity to really hear from the families and protect them. I mean, I think it’s really unfortunate that some civil rights groups have even attacked them for coming.”
The White House action came as Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been rolling out their own packages of policing changes. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole African American Republican in the Senate, has been crafting the GOP legislative package, which will include new restrictions on police chokeholds and greater use of police body cameras, among other provisions.
While the emerging GOP package isn’t as extensive as sweeping Democratic proposals, which are headed for a House vote next week, it includes perhaps the most far-reaching proposed changes ever from a party that often echoes Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric.
It remains unclear whether the parties will be able to find common ground. Though their proposals share many similar provisions—both would create a national database so officers cannot transfer from one department to another without public oversight of their records, for instance—differences remain.
The Republican bill does not go as far as the Democrats’ on the issue of eliminating qualified immunity, which would allow those injured by law enforcement personnel to sue for damages. The White House has said that is a step too far. As an alternative, Scott has suggested a “decertification” process for officers involved in misconduct.
During the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder opened a series of civil rights investigations into local law enforcement practices that often ended with court-approved consent decrees that mandated reforms. Those included Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown and Baltimore following the police custody death of Freddie Gray.
Hours before he resigned as Trump’s first attorney general in November 2018, Jeff Sessions signed a memo that sharply curtailed the use of consent decrees.
Robert “Bob” Cook
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Beloit’s NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes is partnering with a Chicago pharmaceutical company on medicines that could treat patients with life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19.
NorthStar and Monopar Therapeutics announced Tuesday that they plan to develop hybrid medicines that pair antibodies with medical radioisotopes. The drugs would target and destroy a type of rogue human immune cell that is thought to cause severe lung and organ inflammation in some people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Jim Harvey, NorthStar’s chief science officer, said the two companies have filed for patents for drugs they believe could destroy cytokines, protein-based immune cells that can overtake the bodies of patients with weakened immune systems.
In response to COVID-19, those patients’ immune systems appear to create “cytokine storms,” in which legions of rogue cells attack healthy body cells instead of the virus causing the infection.
Harvey said drugs that pair antibodies with radioisotopes have been used for more than two decades in treatments that target and destroy certain body cells. But the drugs NorthStar and Monopar seek to develop would be designed specifically to invade cytokine cells.
“We’re taking an antibody and we’re putting a therapeutic radionuclide on that antibody to target those really, really sick patients,” Harvey said. “These are the ones that are unable to fight infection on their own, the 15% of people that end up in the intensive care beds around the world and around the country.
“If you look at that same population, that 15% is where the vast majority of the (COVID-19) deaths are coming from. These are the people that need a treatment.”
The two parts of the drug would act in tandem to locate rogue immune cells, get inside them and destroy them, Harvey said.
NorthStar is among the first companies in the U.S. to launch domestic production and distribution of medical radioisotopes used in medical testing. The new partnership with Monopar comes as the pharmaceutical industry scrambles to develop vaccines for COVID-19, which is reported to have killed about 114,000 people in the U.S. since February.
Harvey said NorthStar believes a parallel course—the development of a treatment—is needed because it could take time, perhaps a few years or longer, before workable vaccines are created and approved for use.
In the meantime, people will continue to get infected with COVID-19 or other strains of coronavirus.
“This is not a vaccine,” he said. “We’re working toward a true therapeutic because, regardless of how many different vaccines might come on the market that could be successful, there will always be these types of inflammatory respiratory diseases that don’t respond to vaccines. COVID-19 just happens to be the current one that everyone’s so familiar with, but it’s causing so many deaths.”
Chandler Robinson, CEO of Monopar, said the two companies first must determine which medical antibodies could pair best with radioisotopes. Harvey said part of the task, too, will be to find out which type of radioisotope—and what dosage—will be effective in stemming the damaging immune response caused by cytokine storms.
Harvey said it’s too early to lay out a timeline for a new COVID-19 treatment because it would face the same regulatory hurdles as any new drug.
“There will be some development work. There will be some clinical trials. There will be an evaluation by the FDA and necessary trial results before there’s an approval,” Harvey said.
“You can’t predict how long the FDA will review that type of an application. They could come back and say, ‘This is absolutely beautiful, stamp of approval,’ or they could come back and say, ‘We need some more data.’ But we hope that we’re speaking in terms of a very short number of years.”
Milton residents will get their say on raising backyard chickens and bees.
The Milton City Council approved Tuesday the drafting of ordinances that would allow city residents to keep chickens and bees.
Public hearings will be held when the proposed ordinances return to the council for a first reading.
The idea of allowing urban chickens in Milton is not new, City Administrator Al Hulick said. An urban chickens ordinance came before council in 2015 but failed during the first reading.
An urban beekeeping ordinance has not been considered before, he said.
Hulick said the idea of a beekeeping ordinance has been brought to city staff’s attention in the last few years “a handful” of times.
Council member Larry Laehn “prompted the conversation” by researching the topic and providing the council with a draft of what he thought might be appropriate, Hulick said.
Laehn said he thought suggestions offered in the example ordinance were in keeping with Milton’s environmental and quality of life philosophies.
The draft would allow the keeping of honeybees, which, Laehn said, are a nonaggressive species.
Council member Bill Wilson said he thought the idea was “generally a good thing” but cited potential dangers posed to residents with allergies.
Council member Theresa Rusch said when she first learned there would be discussion about an urban bee ordinance, she asked herself: “Are you guys nuts?”
She, too, worried about people with allergies being stung by bees but contacted a beekeeper and was persuaded to consider the topic, she said.
“We can educate people of the benefit of bees and pollination … one-third of our food supply comes from pollination,” she said.
The council discussed the pros and cons of allowing urban chickens.
Council member Lynda Clark said when people learn she is on council, they ask: “Can I have a chicken?”
“I think it’s time to bring it up again,” she said.
Wilson asked if coops would be considered structures. He noted city code allows up to three disconnected structures on a city lot.
Director of Public Works Howard Robinson said the city does not count doghouses as structures and thought chicken coops would be viewed similarly.
Rusch said she had some concerns about urban chickens, asking: ”Would we have a chicken inspector?”
She said she anticipated complaints associated with “smelly droppings,” noise and the attraction of rodents.
Without conscientious daily maintenance, she said, the animals could bring lice and mites.
“What happens if a chicken is ill, and what happens when they begin to age, will that be dealt with through euthanasia?” she asked.
Laehn said he had been in conversations with Milwaukee officials, who told him they’ve had an urban chickens ordinance for several years.
“They said they had very little problems with people who raise chickens,” and “people who raise chickens are very good at taking care of them,” Laehn said.
About feces, Laehn said: “I’d argue that we have more problems with dogs and cats.”
His draft would limit each property owner to four hens and not allow roosters.
“Homegrown eggs are really good for people health-wise,” Laehn said.