This is a curated selection of highlights from Crime Story Daily this week.
On the criminal justice policy front: Pieces from Newsweek and the New York Times outline “top cop” Kamala Harris’s record of “policing the police.” In recent months, with a growing consensus building behind police reform, Harris has emerged as a prominent voice on issues of police misconduct. But she has struggled to reconcile her calls for reform with her record on these same issues during a long career in law enforcement, over which she developed a reputation for deference to police and for yielding to the status quo. And a piece from The New Yorker focuses on Minneapolis, where, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, city officials pledged to “end policing as we know it.” In July, five city-council members introduced a ballot measure to amend the city charter to allow for a radically different approach to public safety. But last week, the city’s charter commission refused, by a 10-5 vote, to allow the measure on November’s ballot, effectively delaying any action on the proposal until 2021. Now, the future of police “defunding” in Minneapolis – one of the most liberal constituencies in the country, and the epicenter of the mass protest movement – remains unclear.
In muckraker/watchdog reporting: A piece from The Marshall Project focuses on the US Marshals Service and its role in spreading COVID-19. Marshals are responsible for moving people into, out of, and among far-flung federal prisons, handling most long-distance transfers and newly sentenced prisoners. But whistleblowers say Marshals are not wearing masks, enforcing social distancing, or properly testing the prisoners in their care. In recent weeks, federal prisoners infected with the coronavirus have been shipped as far as Puerto Rico and shuffled around federal lock-ups in a handful of states, putting vulnerable inmates, prison staff, and their communities at risk. And a piece from Mother Jones focuses on Lexipol, a company that provides policy and training manuals to more than 8,000 public safety agencies around the country, including as many as 95% of law enforcement agencies in California. Lexipol markets itself as a way to decrease cities’ liability in police misconduct lawsuits, claiming that agencies that use its policies are sued less often and pay out smaller settlements. Critics say it accomplishes this with vague, permissive rules that meet bare-minimum legal requirements rather than holding officers to a higher standard.
In complex crime storytelling: The New York Times profiles Susan Burton, an advocate for formerly incarcerated women in Los Angeles, as she races against the clock to shelter those freed early because of the pandemic. And a piece from The Counter follows inmates at the Muskegon Correctional Facility in Michigan as they plan and prepare – using only “flimsy plastic knives, a single microwave, and empty popcorn bags” – a celebratory feast honoring the life of George Floyd.
And in culture/true crime: The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast follows currently and formerly incarcerated members of the Rikers Debate Project as they prepare to argue over one of the most critical topics of the day: defunding the police. The Texas Observer presents the winners of the 2020 Insider Prize, an annual essay contest for incarcerated writers in Texas. And The Nation interviews writers Victoria Law and Maya Schenwar, co-authors of the new book Prison by Any Other Name.