The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search
News

Firefighters air grievances at South Hill meeting

Nearly a year after members of the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department ousted longtime fire chief Rosser Wells, members of the department say he and town officials are harassing them…

VERY SPECIAL LADIES AT MMMG

Mecklenburg supes get draft budget plan for $240.5 million, but no tax hike


Sports

Comets slip past Bassett

Pick up 1-0 victory in a pitcher’s duel

Community


Opinion


A&E

Opinion

Measures of justice

SoVaNow.com / April 21, 2021
I don’t have anything special to add to the conversation in the aftermath of Tuesday’s guilty verdict for the racist Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, except to express the same emotions that so many others have articulated more gracefully than I’ll ever manage — relief, gratitude, joy leavened with sadness, and a small measure of hope. Hope that with this one jury decision, set against the tragedy and atrocity of George Floyd’s death, America has moved one step closer to the ideals expressed by the Founders, that all people are created equal, endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ....”

Listening to the news while putting this edition of The Sun together, the topic of the George Floyd Act kept coming up — a bill pending in Congress that would reform police practices and overturn patently absurd judicial rulings that, as a practical matter, make it virtually impossible for innocent individuals or their family survivors to seek legal redress for wrongful actions by law enforcement. “Wrongful” would remain a standard requiring a high burden of proof to clear, but under the current system, persons seeking redress through civil action — never mind criminal conviction — must surmount nearly impossible obstacles. Changing this state of affairs is one of the goals of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, H.R. 7120, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year. President Biden promised Floyd’s family on Tuesday that he would ensure passage in the Senate and sign the bill into law. I hope he’s right. We’ll see.

A fact sheet summary of the bill, compiled by the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), is excerpted below. My read on the legislation is this: I don’t see where any of the provisions of HR7120 as outlined below are particularly objectionable, and this legislation shouldn’t pose a threat nor create significant hardships for the tens of thousands of honest, dedicated, fair-minded and courageous cops who protect and preserve public safety every day in America. The George Floyd Act contains many overdue provisions to curb police abuses, racially motivated or otherwise, and as with the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin, would ultimately serve to uphold and strengthen public faith in law enforcement. Officers of the Minneapolis Police Department who testified against Chauvin during his weeks-long trial are among the heroes responsible for Tuesday’s guilty verdicts, and we all should be grateful for their contributions to this fortuitous outcome. Anyway, here are the highlights of the George Floyd Act. A fuller version is available online at judiciary.house.gov.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 will:

Work to End Racial & Religious Profiling

• Prohibits federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling.

• Mandates training on racial, religious, and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.

• Requires law enforcement to collect data on all investigatory activities.

Save Lives by Banning Chokeholds & No-Knock Warrants

• Bans chokeholds and carotid holds at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning chokeholds.

• Bans no-knock warrants in drug cases at the federal level and conditions law enforcement funding for state and local governments banning no-knock warrants at the local and state level.

• Requires that deadly force be used only as a last resort and requires officers to employ de-escalation techniques first. Changes the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was “reasonable” to whether the force was “necessary.” Condition grants on state and local law enforcement agencies’ establishing the same use of force standard.

Limit Military Equipment on American Streets & Requires Body Cameras

• Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.

• Requires federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.

• Requires marked federal police vehicles to have dashboard cameras.

Hold Police Accountable in Court

• Makes it easier to prosecute offending officers by amending the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct. The mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242 will be amended from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard.

• Enables individuals to recover damages in civil court when law enforcement officers violate their constitutional rights by eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Investigate Police Misconduct

• Improves the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creates a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.

Empower Our Communities to Reimagine Public Safety in an Equitable and Just Way

• This bill reinvests in our communities by supporting critical community-based programs to change the culture of law enforcement and empower our communities to reimagine public safety in an equitable and just way.

• It establishes public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches. These local commissions would operate similar to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Change the Culture of Law Enforcement with Training to Build Integrity and Trust

• Requires the creation of law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations based on President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century policing.

• Creates law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices.

• Studies the impact of laws or rules that allow a law enforcement officer to delay answers to questions posed by investigators of law enforcement misconduct.

• Enhances funding for pattern and practice discrimination investigations and programs managed by the DOJ Community Relations Service.

• Requires the Attorney General to collect data on investigatory actions and detentions by federal law enforcement agencies; the racial distribution of drug charges; the use of deadly force by and against law enforcement officers; as well as traffic and pedestrian stops and detentions.

• Establishes a DOJ task force to coordinate the investigation, prosecution and enforcement efforts of federal, state and local governments in cases related to law enforcement misconduct.

Improve Transparency by Collecting Data on Police Misconduct and Use-of-Force

• Creates a nationwide police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.

• Mandates state and local law enforcement agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, age.

Stop Sexual Assault in Law Enforcement Custody

• Makes it a crime for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with an individual who is under arrest, in detention, or in custody. Incentivizes states to set the same standards

***

A few other notes before we sign off:

Halifax County High School suffered a grievous loss last week with the sudden passing of JROTC teacher Gregory Scott, one of the school’s beloved figures among students and the faculty. Others knew him far better than me, but I interviewed 1st Sgt. Scott a couple of years ago and was enormously impressed by his sense of commitment and caring for the kids in his program. The Halifax County High School JROTC is truly one of the signature undertakings of the entire county school system, and like Superintendent Mark Lineburg, I very much hope it continues in Scott’s absence. But it’s hard to imagine it ever being the same ....

Bertha Jane Dunavant, who died April 15 in a fall down a stairwell while on vacation at the beach in Emerald Isle, N.C., was a kind and lovely presence throughout my childhood growing up in the Town of Halifax. Married to Halifax Council member Jack Dunavant, Bertha Jane truly was the sort of person about whom a negative word was never said. Just a dear, dear person in every way, a special quality recognized and cherished by all who knew her. Say whatever you will about husband Jack — and we’ve said a lot in this space — it’s hard to imagine that his many positive contributions to Halifax County, as scourge of uranium mining and industrial hog farming, would have ever happened without Bertha Jane at his side. Our condolences to the Dunavant family and Bertha Jane’s countless friends.

Finally, I’d encourage everyone to read the terrific Viewpoint letter about Wayne Lewis, written by his old baseball teammate, Alan Parham of Mills River, N.C. I enjoy watching baseball, but didn’t play it much after a season in peewee ball trying to hold down the hot corner. It sure was too hot an assignment for me! Anyway, Parham does a wonderful job of relating the exploits of his late friend (Mr. Lewis died April 14) and opening the reader’s eyes to the world of Halifax County baseball in the mid-1960s. Just a very enjoyable remembrance. Check it out.







Sports Coverage

See complete sports coverage for Halifax and Mecklenburg counties.