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Employment of police officers in the U.S. will increase in 2023 after years of decline, a study shows

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police departments across the U.S. are reporting an increase in officer numbers for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 killing of George Floyd, which a study shows led to a historic exodus of officers.

According to 214 law enforcement agencies that responded to a survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), more sworn officers were hired in 2023 than in any of the previous 4 years, and fewer officers resigned or retired overall.

Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and increased scrutiny of law enforcement.

As more officers left, many departments needed to reallocate strained resources, taking them away from investigative work or coping with quality-of-life issues equivalent to abandoned vehicles or noise violations, to deal with the rise in crime, and in some cases, shortages meant slower work. police officers claim that response times are reduced or limited to responding only to emergencies.

“I just think the last four years have been particularly difficult for American policing,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF, a nonprofit police think tank based in Washington. “And our study shows that we are finally starting to turn into a corner.”

However, in line with Wexler, individual departments are recovering at different rates, noting that many still struggle to draw and retain officers.

Overall, the career “isn’t completely eliminated yet,” he said.

The Associated Press left phone and email messages with several unions and police departments asking about hiring increases.

The study shows that while there have been more sworn officers in small and medium-sized departments than in January 2020, staffing levels in large departments are still greater than 5% below their employment levels then, even with year-over-year increases in 2022– 2023.

The study also found that smaller departments with fewer than 50 officers proceed to face higher attrition and retirement rates.

Wexler said the survey only asked about numbers, so it’s hard to say whether these officers are leaving for larger departments or leaving the career altogether. He also found that smaller departments, which make up 80% of agencies nationwide, were underrepresented in the responses PERF received.

Many larger departments have raised officer pay or began offering incentives equivalent to signing bonuses for knowledgeable officers who’re willing to transfer, something smaller departments cannot really compete with. At least a dozen smaller departments have disbanded, leaving the municipalities they once served counting on state or county police for help.

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However, even some of the highest-paid large departments still struggle to draw latest employees.

“I don’t think it’s all about money. “I think it’s about how people view their work and feel like they’re going to be supported,” Wexler said. “You have departments on the West Coast that are paying six-figure sums but still see significant hiring challenges.”

In addition to salaries and bonuses, many agencies are re-examining their application requirements and recruitment processes.

Wexler believes some of these changes make sense, equivalent to allowing visible tattoos, reconsidering the importance of past financial problems and faster background checks for applicants. However, he warned that PERF doesn’t support lowering training or candidate standards.

Maria “Maki” Haberfeld, chair of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says departments have focused an excessive amount of on officer numbers. He worries that some are lowering educational requirements and other standards to increase the number of officers, relatively than trying to search out the best people to police their communities.

“Policing is a real profession that requires more skill and more education than people can understand,” she said. “It’s not about tattoos or running a mile in quarter-hour. “It’s really more about emotional intelligence, maturity and split-second decision-making without the use of lethal force.”

Haberfeld also cautioned that any personnel gains made through incentives could easily be erased, especially since officers, including some in combat gear, were seen breaking up protests against the war between Israel and Hamas at universities across the country.

“In policing, it takes decades to move forward and a split second for public attitudes to deteriorate,” she said.

The PERF study showed an overall decline in layoffs of greater than 20%, from a high of almost 6,500 in 2022 to fewer than 5,100 in 2023. However, they’re still higher than levels at the starting of the pandemic in 2020, when several greater than 4,000 officers resigned in all corresponding departments.

As with employment growth, the rate of decline in retirements tended to depend upon department size. In 2023, fewer people retired in large departments than in 2019, barely more retired in medium-sized departments, and increased salaries in small departments. The study found a sharp decline in resignations in large agencies with 250 or more employees and in mid-sized agencies with 50 to 249 officers.

In addition to increases in pay and advantages, improved retention could be partly attributed to a change in the way some public officials view their public safety departments, Wexler says.

“It was only a few years ago that we moved from public discourse about defunding the police to public officials realizing that their employees were leaving,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s been a radical change among political leadership.”


This article was originally published on : thegrio.com
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Crime

Maryland Governor Wes Moore intends to issue over 175,000 pardons for marijuana convictions

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is predicted to sign an executive order on Monday authorizing clemency for greater than 175,000 people convicted of marijuana charges, the governor’s office said.

Authorities describe these pardons as the most important within the history of state pardons to date. His office said the governor’s actions on paraphernalia cases make Maryland the primary state to take such motion.

According to The Washington Post, which first reported the order on Sunday evening, the pardons will clear charges of possession of small amounts of marijuana for about 100,000 people.

Moore plans to sign the manager order Monday morning on the state Capitol in Annapolis within the presence of Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Maryland in 2023 after voters approved a 2022 constitutional amendment with a 67% vote. Maryland decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use on January 1, 2023. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.

“The Moore-Miller Administration is committed to promoting social equity and ensuring the fair and equitable administration of justice,” the governor’s office said. “Because the use and possession of cannabis is no longer illegal in this state, Marylanders should not continue to face barriers to housing, employment or educational opportunities based on convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal.”

Brown, a Democrat, called the pardons “certainly overdue as a nation” and “an issue of racial equality.”

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“While the pardon will apply to anyone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, it unequivocally, without any doubt or qualification, has a disproportionate impact – in a good way – on Black and Brown Marylanders,” Brown said “The Post”.

According to a summary from the governor’s office, the manager order will impact greater than 150,000 convictions for easy possession of cannabis, which may also include greater than 18,000 convictions for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

Pardons reflect the variety of convictions. For some people, multiple conviction could have been pardoned in the course of the trial.

A pardon won’t end in anyone being released from prison.

The governor’s office said that after Moore signs the pardon, the Maryland court will make sure that each individual electronic record is accomplished with an entry indicating that the governor has pardoned the sentence. This process should take roughly two weeks.

The governor’s order also directs the state Department of Corrections to develop a process for entering an individual’s criminal record when pardons are entered, a process expected to take roughly 10 months to complete.

A pardon absolves people of guilt for a criminal offense and so they wouldn’t have to take any motion to receive a pardon.

A pardon is different from an expungement. Although the court will note within the case file that the offense has been pardoned, it’ll still appear on the case file. Expungement is the method by which a conviction is destroyed and completely faraway from the general public record, requiring a further step.

This article was originally published on : thegrio.com
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Ozy The media went from screaming to outrage. Its founder, Carlos Watson, appeared in court

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NEW YORK (AP) – For nearly a decade, Ozy Media has projected a picture of recent media success.

The company boasted big-name interviews, an Emmy-winning television show, a vibrant festival of music and concepts, and impressive numbers to exhibit to potential investors – until it collapsed in 2021 amid doubts about its audience size, profitability and fundamental integrity .

These doubts at the moment are at the middle of the federal criminal trial. Founder Carlos Watson and Ozy are fighting charges of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Even after many other public and court hearings for Silicon Valley corporations that went from screaming to damage, it’s hard to forget the moment of Ozy’s downfall, when co-founder Samir Rao impersonated a YouTube executive to talk concerning the company to potential investors.

Lawyers for Watson and Ozy blame any false statements solely on Rao, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and identity theft. The defense also argued that prosecutors would criminalize common entrepreneurial bloat and single out Watson, a black founder in a tech world where there are disproportionately few African-American executives.

“I am not now and never have been a ‘fraudster,'” he said last 12 months when the costs were brought against him.

Prosecutors and Rao, their star witness, say Ozy straddled the road between hopeful hype and brazen fraud.

“We told so many lies to so many different people,” Rao testified after the struggling company produced rosy financial results in a desperate attempt to lure investors and stay afloat.

The hope was to enable “a diverse audience to consume hopefully a different, more meaningful type of content,” he said. But “survival within the bounds of decency, honesty and truth has evolved into survival at all costs and by any means necessary.”

“New and Next”

Ozy was founded in 2012 on the Millennial-friendly premise of providing a fresh, sophisticated but not cookie-cutter approach to politics, culture and more – what it calls “new and next” – while amplifying minority and marginalized voices.

The son of two South Florida teachers, Watson graduated from Harvard and Stanford, worked on Wall Street, founded and sold a test preparation company and anchored MSNBC. According to Rao, he fathered Ozy after which recruited Rao, a former colleague from the world of finance, after a probability meeting at a Chipotle restaurant in Silicon Valley.

Ozy debuted a web site, newsletters, and with a bang: former President Bill Clinton was one in all the primary interviewees. The company has expanded into podcasts, events and tv programming, winning a 2020 Emmy for Watson’s “Black Women OWN the Conversation” on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The annual Ozy Fest in New York’s Central Park has attracted big names, from John Legend to pre-presidential Joe Biden.

Testimony shows that the corporate acquired many major advertisers, clients and grants. But behind the scenes, prosecutors say, Ozy began to bleed in 2018 and resorted to lies.

“I don’t know where his numbers came from.”

The company told a possible investor that it “ended 2017 with approximately $12 million in revenue,” but gave its accountants a figure of lower than $7 million. The disparities widened through the years, reaching as much as $53 million compared to $11 million in 2020, according to testimony and documents presented throughout the trial.

Meanwhile, Ozy steadily delayed paying suppliers and rent, borrowed against future receipts to obtain expensive advances, and had difficulty paying salaries, former vp of finance Janeen Poutre testified.

The defense portrayed the scramble for money as a growing problem for a successful startup.

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“Ozy Media did not defraud its investors or anyone else,” said company attorney Shannon Frison.

Watson lawyer and Harvard Law School professor Ronald Sullivan Jr. he said his client “believed every number he gave to every investor.” Sullivan suggested that revenue figures may vary depending on whether or not they represent “in-kind” income, equivalent to promoting trading at one other outlet.

Poutre testified that auditors rarely agree to count such revenues and she or he didn’t think Watson was all the time honest.

“I don’t know where his numbers came from. I know where my numbers came from,” she said.

Fake emails and voice masking

The alleged programs went beyond questionable numbers.

In an attempt to get Ozy a bank loan in 2020, Rao falsified the deal by saying that Winfrey’s OWN network had renewed “Black Women OWN The Conversation” for a second season. When the bank needed information directly from the net, Rao arrange a fake email account for the actual OWN executive and used it to provide the bank with “transaction background.”

Rao told jurors that Watson verbally approved the charade. Jurors saw a text message from Watson urging Rao to “be brave and do this,” but “that” was not specified. Ultimately, witnesses said, there was no loan or extension of this system.

Rao’s infamous phone rang the next 12 months when Ozy was searching for an investment from Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs. He falsely claimed that YouTube was paying for Watson’s eponymous talk show. When Goldman’s bankers wanted confirmation, he downloaded a voice-modifying app and talked to them while posing as a YouTube executive.

But the bankers were wary, as the actual YouTube executive soon discovered, and Watson told the board of Goldman Sachs and Ozy that his co-founder had suffered a mental breakdown.

The investment fell through, but Goldman Sachs continued to advertise with Ozy after the episode, Rao said.

Rao told jurors he was taking antidepressants but was not having a mental health crisis when he called. Rao said Watson was present and gave him instructions via text messages.

“I’m a huge fan of Carlos, Samir and the show,” reads one in all the texts, which Rao explained when Watson prompted him with a line for his fake persona to say. Watson then urged, “use the right pronouns. You are NOT OZY” – amongst other messages.

– You’re a liar, aren’t you?

Watson’s lawyer said the Ozy founder stumbled upon Rao’s scam, was outraged and signaled him to hang up.

The defense emphasized that Rao drafted a 2021 letter – ultimately unsent – in which he stated that the phone ruse was entirely his doing. Rao told jurors he wrote it to protect the corporate.

Defense attorneys labeled him an incompetent executive, a confessed fabricator and a confessed criminal who falsely implicated Watson in hopes of avoiding prison for his own crimes.

“So, Mr. Rao, you are a liar, aren’t you?” Sullivan asked during last Friday’s hearing.

“Unfortunately,” Rao replied, “I told many lies during my time at Ozy.”

This article was originally published on : thegrio.com
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Crime

Questions and sadness remain at the door of the apartment where a deputy killed an American airman

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WASHINGTON (AP) – At the doorway of the apartment where Florida’s deputy president shot and killed Senior Airman Roger Fortson, a small shrine grows, containing tributes from an Air Force unit struggling to manage along with his loss.

There is a long picket board, anchored by two pairs of aviator’s wings, and a black marker where mourners can leave prayers and memories for the 23-year-old.

One of the guests left an open Stella Artois beer. Others left combat boots, bouquets and an American flag. On either side of the door are 105mm and 30mm shell casings, like the ones Fortson used as a gunner on the unit’s AC-130J special operations aircraft – the empty 105mm cartridge is stuffed with flowers.

Then there’s the quarter.

In keeping with military tradition, quarters are left quietly and often anonymously if one other service member was there at the time of death.

The 1st Special Operations Wing, Florida Panhandle, where Fortson served, took a break from normal duties on Monday to process his death and “reflect members’ attention inward, lead small group discussions, enable voices to be heard and engage with teammates.” the statement reads. Wing said in a statement.

In the week since Fortson was shot, a heated debate has erupted on multiple online forums: Did the police have adequate housing? The caller reported a domestic disturbance, but Fortson was alone. Why would the deputy shoot so quickly? Why would police kill a service member?

There are also questions on whether race played a role in Fortson being black and echoes of the police killing of George Floyd.

Fortson was holding a legally owned gun when he opened the front door, nevertheless it was pointed at the floor. Based on body camera footage released by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff’s deputy only ordered Fortson to drop his gun when he shot him. The sheriff didn’t disclose the deputy’s race.

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“We know our air commandos are receiving increasing media attention and conversation about what happened,” Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said last week in a message to unit commanders.

He urged these leaders to listen and seek to grasp their soldiers: “We have grieving teammates who have been through various adventures.”

In 2020, after Floyd’s death, then-Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright wrote an emotional note to his troops about police killings of black men and children: “I’m a black man and I occur to be an Air Force master sergeant. “I’m George Floyd… I’m Philando Castile, I’m Michael Brown, I’m Alton Sterling, I’m Tamir Rice.”

At the time, Wright was one of the few black military leaders, including now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr., who said they needed to handle the assassination and its impact on them.

“My best fear is just not that I will probably be killed by a white policeman (imagine me, my heart starts racing like most other black men in America after I see those blue lights behind me)… but that I’ll get up and discover that one of our black airmen was killed at the hands of a white policeman,” Wright wrote at the time.

Wright, who’s now retired, posted a photo on his personal Facebook page Thursday of Fortson standing in matching flight suits along with his younger sister.

“Who am I… My name is SrA Roger Fortson,” Wright wrote. “That’s what I used to be all the time afraid of. She prays for his family. The young king of RIH.

On Friday, many members of Fortson’s unit will travel to Georgia to attend his funeral, with a planned flyover of AC-130 special operations aircraft.

“You were taken too soon,” one other senior airman wrote on a picket board outside Fortson’s front door. “Without justice there is no peace.”

This article was originally published on : thegrio.com
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