The Latest: Seattle police union pressed for reform

International

Demonstrators observe a minute’s silence in Canberra, Australia, on Friday, June 5, 2020 in memory of deaths in custody including George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Thousands gathered in Australia’s capital to remind Australians that the racial inequality underscored by Floyd’s death was not unique to the United States. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Labor group presses Seattle police union to acknowledge problem of racism.

— Tacoma, Washington, mayor orders firing of four officers for restraint death.

— Minneapolis to ban chokeholds by police, require officers to report illegal restraint.

— Four Indianapolis police officers off street after use of force during protest.

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SEATTLE — The Seattle area’s largest labor group says it will expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild later this month unless the union admits that racism is a problem in law enforcement and agrees to address that problem in negotiating its next contract with the city.

The Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council passed a resolution Thursday as protests continue in Seattle and nationally over the killing of George Floyd. The resolution attributes policing problems to systemic racism.

It called on the Seattle police union to acknowledge that or be thrown out of the umbrella group of more than 150 unions and 100,000 workers that wields tremendous power in greater Seattle politics. SPOG President Mike Solan declined to comment to The Seattle Times.

In tweets Thursday, the police union thanked people for increasingly peaceful protests and said officers and protesters are part of the same community “and there are people with loved ones, frustrations and hope for the future on both sides of the line.”

The labor council’s resolution specifically mentioned contracts between police and the city. It said the police union must participate in an effort “dedicated to promoting safety within our community and within law enforcement by addressing racism within SPOG … and ensuring that contracts do not evade legitimate accountability.”

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — About 250 people demonstrated peacefully outside the U.S. embassy in the Cypriot capital Nicosia to denounce what they said were the “social and racial inequalities” at the root of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.

Demonstrators wore masks and kept several feet apart in line with social distancing rules. They held placards reading, “We say no to racism, solidarity is our weapon,” and chanted slogans including “Power to the people, united we breathe.”

Police observed Friday’s hour-long protest from a distance as demonstrators knelt and held out clenched fists in a show of solidarity with protesters in the U.S.

The protest was organized by EDON, the youth wing of Cyprus’ communist-rooted party AKEL. EDON Central Committee member Christoforos Pittara decried what he called the endemic racial inequality that still plagues the U.S. and criticized President Donald Trump for resorting to racist rhetoric.

Pittara said justice for George Floyd isn’t enough and must be served for a “chain of murders” whose victims were not only African Americans, but the poor and dispossessed irrespective of race, creed or color.

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TACOMA, Wash. — The mayor of Tacoma, Washington, has told the city manager to fire four police officers following the death of a black man after police restrained him in March.

Mayor Victoria Woodards on Thursday night directed City Manager Elizabeth Pauli to fire the officers involved in the restraint of 33-year-old Manuel Ellis.

Her order comes as the country has been roiled by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Four Minneapolis officers have been criminally charged. Woodards said the Tacoma officers should also be prosecuted in the death of Ellis.

“The officers who committed this crime should be fired and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Woodards said in a statement aired live on Tacoma TV and Facebook. “I am demanding tonight that the Pierce County Sheriff review and confirm every action taken by each officer.”

The News Tribune reports the Pierce County medical examiner’s office ruled Ellis’ March 3 death a homicide caused by a lack of oxygen due to physical restraint. The newspaper reports methamphetamine intoxication and a heart disease were contributing factors.

Authorities have said Ellis appeared to be suffering from some sort of breakdown when they approached him. They said he attacked officers who were trying to calm him down.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Negotiators for the city of Minneapolis have agreed with the state to ban the use of chokeholds by police, and to require police to report and intervene any time they see an unauthorized use of force by another officer.

The moves are part of a stipulation between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which launched a civil rights investigation this week in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody. The City Council is expected to approve the agreement Friday.

The agreement, which will be enforceable in court, would require any officer, regardless of tenure or rank, to immediately report the use of any neck restraint or chokehold from the scene to their commander or their commander’s superiors.

Similarly, any officer who sees another officer commit any unauthorized use of force, including any chokehold or neck restraint, must try to intervene verbally and even physically. If they don’t, they’d be subject to discipline as severe as if they themselves had used the prohibited force.

The agreement also requires authorization from the police chief or a designated deputy chief to use crowd control weapons, including chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds. And it requires more timely decisions on disciplining officers.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Four Indianapolis police officers who were caught on video using batons and pepper balls to subdue two women at a protest over the death of George Floyd have been assigned to support duties pending the outcome of an investigation.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Aliya Wishner said the officers “have been reassigned to a support position while the investigation proceeds.” She said that reassignment does not involve them being placed on administrative leave.

Police Chief Randal Taylor and Mayor Joe Hogsett were expected to address that investigation and other issues stemming from last weekend’s unrest in Indiana’s capital during a news conference later Friday.

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ROME — The highest-ranking American cardinal at the Vatican says the killing of George Floyd has laid bare that the Christian principles of the U.S. Constitution aren’t being applied to blacks, and is evidence that divisive, demonizing language can kill.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who heads the Vatican’s laity office, told The Associated Press on Friday that the brutality of Floyd’s death at the hands of a white police officer was so unreal as to seem like it was a movie.

“We would never think that that could possibly happen,” Farrell said. “They are trained individuals who knew that in that position, that person was not going to survive.

“Now, what brings a person to that point?” he added. “We all have to ask ourselves: What has brought us to that point?”

Farrrell on Friday was presiding over a prayer service organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, a Rome-based Catholic charity that is close to Pope Francis.

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PARIS — France’s top security official ordered an investigation Friday into racist, sexist and anti-LGBT messages allegedly posted by police in a private Facebook group.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner asked the Paris prosecutor’s office to look into the messages and the group, according to an Interior Ministry official.

Castaner promised earlier this week to be “unforgiving” toward racist comments among police forces, at a time when George Floyd’s death in the U.S. has ignited protests around France and worldwide about police violence and racial injustice.

The website Streetpress published a string of messages Thursday that it said were posted in a private Facebook group for French police officers. The site acknowledged it is unclear whether the authors were actual police officers or those pretending to be.

Some of the reported comments mocked young men of color who have died fleeing police, or a singer who has denounced police violence.

Separately, six police officers in the Normandy city of Rouen are under internal investigation over racist comments in a private WhatsApp group. Both incidents have prompted public concern about extreme views among French police.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Thousands of protesters marched for the seventh consecutive night in Portland to decry the death of George Floyd.

Damian Lillard of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers walked at the front of the crowd arm-in-arm with young demonstrators as they crossed a bridge over the Willamette River and made their way to a large riverside park for a rally and speeches.

Hours later, several hundred people splintered off and set fires, engaged in street racing, threw projectiles and pointed lasers at officers’ eyes.

Police used a sound device that emits loud, high frequencies to deter those people. Twelve people were arrested.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump invoked George Floyd’s name as he delivered remarks trumpeting the latest unemployment numbers, which showed the U.S. economy unexpectedly adding 2.5 million jobs last month.

Trump mentioned equal justice under the law means everyone needs to receive fair treatment. He referenced Floyd, whose death in police custody has sparked protests across the world.

Trump says, “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,” adding: “This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”

Trump is also calling an improving economy “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations” and the African American community.

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MINNEAPOLIS — A man with George Floyd says his friend didn’t resist arrest and tried to defuse the situation when officers began screaming at Floyd.

Maurice Lester Hall, a longtime friend, was a passenger in Floyd’s car when police approached him on May 25 while responding to a call about a possible use of counterfeit money. Hall told the New York Times that Floyd was trying in his “humblest form to show he was not resisting arrest in no form or way.”

Hall, 42, was arrested Monday in Houston on outstanding warrants.

He has been interviewed by Minnesota authorities and is a key witness in the state’s investigation into the four officers who apprehended Floyd. All four officers were fired and charged, including Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.

Hall told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the situation escalated and police grabbed Floyd, put him in a squad car, dragged him back out and then “jumped on the back of the neck.”

Hall says Floyd was crying out for help because he was dying. He says he’ll always remember seeing the fear in his friend’s face.

Hall didn’t know Floyd had died until the next day, when he saw the bystander video.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Two state lawmakers say a Florida deputy used unnecessary force by smashing a woman’s window, causing a cut on her face, after she stopped alongside a group of demonstrators protesting police abuse and later refused orders to get out of her car.

Body-cam video released by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando shows Wednesday’s incident, which caught the attention of protesters who shouted at deputies, “What did she do?”

The video shows the deputy pulling the woman over in a nearby parking lot, where he shouts “Get out of the car!”

When the woman asks why through her partially rolled-down driver’s side window, the deputy says “Do you want to go to jail? Seriously? Either get out of the car or you’re going to jail.”

The deputy later explains that she had committed a traffic violation by stopping next to demonstrators in the street. The woman says she wasn’t doing anything wrong.

“Your choice. I’m trying to be nice,” the deputy says, then reaches through her window to open the door. The woman tells him to stop and rolls up the window on his arm. He then smashes it with his baton, shattering the glass before handcuffing her and putting her in a squad car.

“I’m bleeding, I need an ambulance,” she later repeats, spitting blood from her mouth onto the pavement after he calls to get her medical help.

Sheriff John Mina described the incident as “troubling” at a news conference on Thursday, adding that an internal inquiry had been opened.

Two Democratic state lawmakers from Orlando, Rep. Carlos Smith and Rep. Anna Eskamani, criticized the deputy. Smith called it “disgusting behavior” in a tweet, saying the deputy “unnecessarily escalates the situation from 0 to 1000 in seconds over a stupid traffic violation.”

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s county attorneys want to give the state attorney general the authority to handle all cases of police-involved deaths.

The Minnesota County Attorneys Association voted Thursday in transferring that power during an emergency meeting, which included Attorney General Keith Ellison. The attorney general is leading the state’s case against the four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death instead of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

State lawmakers would need to pass legislation during this month’s special session to give the attorney general the ongoing authority.

The county attorneys are also calling on the Legislature to provide additional funding to the state Attorney General’s Office and create a unit within Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate police killings of civilians.

“If this is the path the Legislature and governor choose to take, my office will accept the responsibility,” Ellison said. “But it must come with resources sufficient to do the job thoroughly and to do justice in the way Minnesotans have a right to expect.”

Ellison is one of 18 Democratic attorneys general who are asking Congress to grant their offices “clear statutory authority under federal law” to investigate “unconstitutional policing by local police departments” in their respective states, the Star Tribune reported.

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council is preparing to vote on changes to the city’s police department in response to the death of George Floyd.

City leaders and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights are working out an agreement for a temporary restraining order to force some immediate changes and set a timeline for the state’s civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.

The council meets Friday afternoon. If the council approves the agreement, the order would require court approval.

The state human rights department opened a civil rights investigation into allegations of racial discrimination by the police department on Tuesday. The investigation into policies, procedures and practices seeks to determine if the force has engaged in systematic discriminatory practices toward people of color and ensure that any such practices are stopped.

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Follow more AP stories on the George Floyd protests and reaction at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd

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