U.S. Senate Republicans pan Democrats on crime, say they’ll introduce their own bill

Durham hosting “ShotSpotter” community forums starting this weekend

Screen grab of Shotspotter technology (Video: Shotspotter.com)

This weekend the City of Durham will host the first of at least four community forums on the use of ShotSpotter technology to reduce crime.

ShotSpotter is a controversial tool used by police departments across the country to reduce gun violence. Sensors alert police when guns are fired, helping them respond faster. Microphones will be placed in a three-square-mile radius in Durham for the one-year pilot program. The first three months will be free. The next nine will cost $197,500.

The ShotSpotter website argues the sensors give police valuable data on how to manage their limited resources to deter crime and reduce violence. Critics, meanwhile, contend that the technology is often deployed in communities of color, which already are over-policed, and that program’s effectiveness is unknown and hasn’t been peer-reviewed.

Others have found serious issues with using ShotSpotter evidence in court, suggesting that innocent people can be sent to prison because of faulty technology or human bias overriding the gunshot detection algorithm.

The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department chose not to renew its ShotSpotters contract in 2016, stating that the results didn’t justify the cost.

ShotSpotter is projected to go live in Durham on Nov. 15, joining other North Carolina cities like Fayetteville, Goldsboro and Winston-Salem that use the technology. Durham officials will hold several community forums on the technology before then, beginning this Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10:30 a.m. at Camps Hills Recreation Center.

Per the city website, the community forums are scheduled for:

DISTRICT 1 PAC– TBD

DISTRICT 2 PAC– September 12, 2022 @ 6:00PM, Edison Johnson Recreation Center, 500 W. Murray, Durham, NC 27704

DISTRICT 3 PAC– October 8, 2022 @ 9:30AM, Lyon Park Community & Recreation Center 1309 Halley Street, Durham, NC 27707

DISTRICT 4 & 5 PAC– September 10, 2022 @ 10:30AM, Campus Hills Recreation Center, 2000 South Alston Avenue, Durham, NC 27701

MCDOUGALD TERRACE COMMUNITY– September 16, 2022 @ 2:00PM, Location TBD

DURHAM BUSINESSES AGAINST CRIME (BAC)– TBD

Don’t claim to support law enforcement if you demonize the FBI and IRS

A woman makes a peace sign before a line of police preparing to advance upon demonstrators after a rally by President Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center on Aug. 22, 2017. (Photo by David McNew/ Getty Images)

This may come as news to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and many of his fellow Republicans:  The Federal Bureau of Investigation is a law enforcement agency. So is the Internal Revenue Service.

Most people already think of the FBI as an elite policing agency. But the IRS also investigates crime beyond tax evasion and fraud. Organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal gaming, money laundering and public corruption are just a few examples.

Republicans, including Grassley, claim to be champions of law enforcement and horrified by violence in America.

In fact, at a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, most Republican senators entirely ignored or barely mentioned the actual focus of the hearing. Instead, they put on a show of how worried they are about violence and threats against police, judges, anti-abortion institutions and residents of certain cities that happen to be run by Democrats.

“The baseline is rising — higher rates of violent crime are becoming the new norm,” Grassley said. “Some of the main causes of this rise in violent crime are anti-police rhetoric, de-policing efforts, progressive prosecution, bail reform, defund the police movements. We talked about the crisis faced by law enforcement officers last week in this very committee in our hearing about attacks on police.”

This isn’t a new phenomenon, by any means. In Congress, it often appears that two or more hearings are happening simultaneously, with each party pursuing entirely separate and almost unrelated agendas. It’s probably fair, for example, to say some Democrats tend to be less concerned about vandalism of anti-abortion family planning centers and protests outside Supreme Court justices’ homes than they are about assassinations of doctors and health care workers who provide abortions.

What made this particular display so striking was that the hearing was supposed to be about threats, bullying and intimidation of elections officials and workers. As we heard during the Jan. 6 select committee hearings, some election workers targeted directly by former President Trump had to leave their homes for months because of threats and harassment.

One would think the security of elections and the people who enforce the laws and do the work of democracy would be, if not equally important, then at least of some interest to U.S. senators regardless of party. To make a long story short, it’s not. Read more

‘Defund the police’ slogan and anti-cop violence debated at U.S. Senate hearing

Rev. Barber calls for humanitarian delegation to free Brittney Griner 

Brittney Griner – Photo: www.change.org

At a press conference today, national civil rights and anti-poverty activist Rev. William Barber II called for the establishment of an interfaith humanitarian delegation that would travel to Russia to bring home Brittney Griner. 

Griner, a star WNBA basketball player who also plays for a team in Europe, was taken into custody in February after cannabis vape containers were found in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. 

She recently pleaded guilty in hopes of reducing her possible jail time. However, she now faces up to 10 years in Russian prison. 

At today’s event, Barber called for Russia to “quit using [her] as a political pawn” and for U.S. government entities to “secure her safe return” to the country. 

Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit advocacy organization for which Barber serves as president, is also promoting a Change.org petition (which currently includes more than 338,000 signatures) to its 2,500 clergy members that calls for the U.S. government to “do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely.”

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

During a recent prayer vigil in Washington D.C. in front of the Russian Embassy and Consulate, Barber and several other clergy members expressed interest in participating in a delegation that would travel to Russia if permission could be secured from both governments. 

At today’s event, Barber spoke about Griner’s pleas for President Biden and Americans to not forget about her and other American detainees. 

Barber stated that it spoke to her “moral fiber[s]” for thinking of others in the same situation during this time. 

“I would hope, as a pastor and as a father, that if the same thing was happening to my daughter that people would step up,” he stated. 

Inequitable marijuana laws

Rev. Barber acknowledged that while Griner’s return was important, there is irony in the U.S. government calling for her release. Repairers of the Breach has previously criticized the inequities of the U.S. legal and incarceration systems, especially when it comes to marijuana. 

The booming cannabis industry has legalized marijuana products in several states, but there are still people serving life sentences in the U.S. for marijuana-related charges. 

“We have been on the front lines of challenging the racism and the classism that exists within our own judicial system and mass prison industrial complex,” he stated. 

Barber explained, however, that “we can do both at the same time,” citing that government officials should be equally as vocal about the injustices in the U.S. 

As of now, the White House has not responded to the petition. Rev. Barber wanted to make sure the request was publicized and had widespread support first.  

 Repairers of the Breach plans on formally sending the petition to the Biden Administration this coming Monday. 

 “We can’t do anything without the Russian Embassy and The White House coming together,” Rev. Barber said. 

Aminah Jenkins is a rising senior at Meredith College in Raleigh and a summer intern at NC Policy Watch.