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Politics Floyd Probe Echoes Barr's Oversight of Rodney King Case

00:10  01 june  2020
00:10  01 june  2020 Source:   online.wsj.com

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Mr. Barr ’ s defenders pointed to his first stint as attorney general, when the acquittals of four white Los The Justice Department intervened, charging the officers with violating Mr. King ’s civil rights. Mr. Floyd ’s death has echoes of the death of Eric Garner, who died after an officer on Staten Island

Attorney General William P. Barr echoed the claim. The death of Mr. Floyd and the unrest it has provoked has tugged at painful memories in Los Angeles of the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the riots that occurred the next year after the acquittal of the four police officers involved in the case .

a group of people standing in a parking lot © John Minchillo/Associated Press

The Justice Department’s civil-rights investigation into the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody puts Attorney General William Barr at the center of a high-profile, racially charged flashpoint reminiscent of one he handled in his first stint as attorney general in the 1990s.

Mr. Barr oversaw the department’s response to the videotaped police beating of Rodney King that ultimately led to the Los Angeles riots in 1992, when Mr. Barr was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

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Barr said last month he would examine the “genesis and conduct” of the Russia probe , adding that he believed the Trump campaign was “spied” on and wanted to ensure it was “adequately predicated.” Those remarks drew fire from Democrats, who accused him of advancing a conspiracy theory.

There is a dreadful familiarity about the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd , by white police officers in Minneapolis last Monday. Floyd ’ s final moments were videoed from a bystander’ s phone. He repeatedly pleads for mercy.

When a state jury acquitted three officers in the beating, and failed to reach a verdict on a fourth, Mr. Barr quickly reminded an anguished public that the Justice Department was still pursuing a federal civil-rights investigation—one that led to charges against the officers and convictions of two of them for violating Mr. King’s rights. 

In the intervening years, Mr. Barr has complained about what he views as a rise in disrespect toward police, warning in one speech that communities that fail to defer to law enforcement “may find themselves without the police protection they need.”

Mr. Barr has called the video of Mr. Floyd’s encounter with police, in which an officer is seen kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he pleads for help, “harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing,” and said the criminal-justice system would address holding the officers accountable. Local prosecutors have already charged the former officer who restrained Mr. Floyd, Derek Chauvin, with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

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A moment that changed me – the Rodney King police acquittal | Lola Okolosie. Read more. Kings , reportedly a romantic drama set against the mayhem, stars Daniel Craig and Halle Berry. New police chiefs, civilian oversight , better training and other reforms have changed the LAPD, which used to be

This photo of Rodney King was taken on March 6, 1991, three days after police officers beat him savagely. Another contributing factor: The same month as Rodney King ' s beating, a Korean store owner in South Los Angeles shot and killed a 15-year-old African-American girl named Latasha

“Justice will be served,” Mr. Barr said Saturday, while also blaming violent protests throughout the U.S. on radical leftists, vowing to prosecute people he described as “anarchic and far-left extremists,” who incited the rioting.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, says many in the civil-rights community are skeptical.

“For me, it’s the outcome more so than the words,” Mr. Johnson said. “If we can see evidence that matches the words of a thorough investigation, that would be encouraging, but this administration has not demonstrated true efforts that would match an outcome that’s reflective of the words.”

Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department launched dozens of investigations into troubled police departments to assess whether they were systematically violating the civil rights of minorities, and reached court-enforceable consent decrees mandating changes in a number of them. The Trump Justice Department has curtailed those types of wide-ranging investigations, saying they hurt police morale, lead to increases in crime and represent an inappropriate use of federal power.

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Barr announces federal civil rights probe into… CDC cites evidence of limited early spread… Demonstrators protested against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd , a 46-year-old unarmed black man who died in police custody on Monday.

George Floyd Protests Live Updates: Fury and Frustration in Cities Across U. S . Police cars were set ablaze, stores were looted and fires raged in at least 75 cities as mayors declared curfews and the National Guard was deployed. Protests also reached the gates of the White House.

Mr. Johnson said that, in addition to the Justice Department civil-rights investigation, a broader investigation into Minneapolis police could be helpful in mending relations between law enforcement and the community.

The Justice Department has taken a number of steps officers have embraced, such as the formation of a commission whose aims include “addressing the need to promote public confidence and respect for the law and law enforcement officers.”

Law-enforcement groups that work closely with Mr. Barr said police should have no expectation of preferential treatment. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Barr personally directed strongly worded public announcements in the Floyd case, including a Thursday news conference.

“In all of our dealings with Barr he has been totally fair. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t willing to come down on someone who has done wrong,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, which, like other major law-enforcement organizations, has condemned the police treatment of Mr. Floyd.

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The incident on March 3 received more publicity than the average case of police misconduct because by chance it was filmed by an onlooker. A video copy has been shown over and over on television across the country. Mr Bush said yesterday that the incident had shocked him.

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Mr. Barr, through a spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed for this article.

In pursuing a federal civil-rights investigation into police officers, the Justice Department has a tough task ahead. To convict, prosecutors face a standard of proof that requires them to establish that the officer willfully violated Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights—meaning that he knew that his conduct was against the law and acted anyway.

The probe will dovetail with the investigation at the state level, but will focus on the officers’ intent. Federal authorities will look at evidence such as whether Minneapolis police training specifically forbids the maneuver used on Mr. Floyd and whether the officers lied in reports of the event, which could speak to willfulness.

The Justice Department conducted a similar investigation after Eric Garner’s death in 2014 when a New York City police officer placed him in a deadly chokehold. The department last year decided not to charge the officer with federal civil-rights violations after a five-year investigation that was started under the prior administration; some prosecutors who worked on the case didn’t believe there was enough evidence to prosecute the officer successfully.

In the King case in 1992, friends of Mr. Barr said he took a personal interest. He chose Wayne A. Budd—the son of the first black police officer in Springfield, Mass., and the department’s No. 3 official—to oversee the investigation. When riots erupted, Mr. Barr dispatched 2,000 federal officers to the city to tamp down the violence, which he attributed to gangs.

Two of the four officers were found guilty of civil-rights violations in federal court in April 1993 and sentenced to 2½ years in prison, after Mr. Barr had left office following Bill Clinton’s election victory in 1992.

Write to Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

Joe Biden has met relatives of George Floyd .
USA-ELECTION-BIDEN: Joe Biden has met relatives of George Floyd © Reuters / JOSHUA ROBERTS JOE BIDEN MEETED NEAR GEORGE FLOYD NEW YORK (Reuters) - Le Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke for over an hour on Monday with family members of George Floyd, and his words of compassion "mean a lot" to them, lawyer said. Relatives of this 46-year-old American black man who died during his arrest by the Minneapolis police.

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