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Michigan police release video of excessive force arrest

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(WESTLAND, Mich.) — Video shows Michigan police beating man Westland Police released body camera footage of an officer using excessive force against a man with a developmental disability.

A Michigan police officer was terminated from the force after an internal investigation found he used excessive force to arrest an alleged armed robbery suspect.

Westland police officers responding to a Jan. 16 report of a robbery of an Arby’s restaurant where the suspect allegedly said he had a gun and stole money before fleeing the location.

Body and dash camera footage obtained by ABC affiliate WXYZ showed officers chased after the unidentified man.

The man allegedly resisted arrest and did not react to the use of a stun gun, police said.

The body camera showed and captured the sounds of one of the multiple officers on the scene using a police baton to hit the man.

“It should be noted that there were multiple other officers involved in the arrest and each of them showed restraint in the apprehension of this suspect,” according to a press release issued by the Westland Police Department.

The officer accused of using excessive force was identified by WXYZ as Kristopher Landis.

The man who has autism, suffered permanent eye damage during the arrest, according to WXYZ.

A gun was not recovered and charges against the man are still pending, officials said.

A spokeswoman from Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said the man’s case was put on hold as a competency evaluation is being conducted.

“That is done to determine if the person understands the charges and is able to assist in his defense. He is evaluated by a doctor at the forensic center,” the spokeswoman told ABC News on Saturday.

Landis, who was hired in 2017, was placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation and ultimately terminated.

“It was determined that the officer used excessive force on the arrested suspect and that he did not adhere to Department policy or training,” police said. “When we learn of incidents that do not meet these standards we will continue to take appropriate action up to and including termination.”

Prosecutors were notified on June 4 and a criminal investigation was launched, police said.

“This entire incident is somewhat unique because there are dual criminal investigations taking place simultaneously. There is the robbery case, and there is also the incident surrounding the robbery arrest,” police said, adding, “in order to maintain full transparency during these concerning times, the Westland Police Department has now released the body camera footage.”

Request for comment from the police was not immediately returned on Saturday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Princeton removes Woodrow Wilson's name from public policy school

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alex_ugalek/iStockBY: ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — The board of trustees at Princeton University voted Saturday to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from the School of Public and International Affairs for the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies.”

“Identifying a political leader as the namesake for a public policy school inevitably suggests that the honoree is a role model for those who study in the school. We must therefore ask whether it is acceptable for this University’s school of public affairs to bear the name of a racist who segregated the nation’s civil service after it had been integrated for decades,” the university’s board of trustees said in a statement.

The board said that the question was made “more urgent by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks.”

Their deaths, the board said, “have served as tragic reminders of the ongoing need for all of us to stand against racism and for equality and justice.”

Wilson, a Democrat who served as the president of Princeton in the early 1900s and then served as the president of the U.S. between 1913 and 1921, re-segregated federal government workers, reversing decades of integration.

Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement Wilson’s segregationist policy took “America backward in its pursuit of justice.”

Student activists have protested the building’s name since 2015.

The building will be known as the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. A residential college, named the Wilson College, will also be renamed to the First College.

The university had previously intended to close the Wilson College and retire its name after the opening of two new residential colleges, which are currently under construction.

However, “rather than ask students in the College to identify with the name of a racist president for the next two years, the University will accelerate retirement of the honorific naming,” according to the board’s statement.

The renamings come as protesters across the country have called for the removal of monuments, statues and buildings related to historical figures with links to slavery or racism in the wake of Floyd’s death.

The statement from the board touched on the broader issue, saying it is important “we recognize the complexity of historical figures and that we examine the entirety of their impact on the world.”

The board noted that while Wilson’s name should not be on the School of Public and International Affairs, his achievements should be remembered in tandem with his failures.

The university’s highest honor for an undergraduate alum, the Woodrow Wilson Award, will keep its name.

The award was a gift, meaning it “took on a legal obligation to name the prize for Wilson,” according to the board.

“The steps taken yesterday by the Board of Trustees are extraordinary measures. These are not the only steps our University is taking to combat the realities and legacy of racism, but they are important ones,” Eisgruber said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Latino communities suffer as some states see record numbers of COVID-19 cases

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(NEW YORK) — Latino communities suffer as some states see record numbers of COVID-19 cases

Friday marked the third straight day of record high cases of COVID-19 nationwide. Twenty-nine states, including California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, are seeing cases rise and it’s clear once again the virus is not hitting all demographics equally.

A recent study from the Brookings Institution showed that adjusted for age, the average Latino in the U.S. is 2 1/2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the average white person. A new analysis from The New York Times showed the virus is spreading at more than double the rate in counties that are at least a quarter Hispanic.

For many, the combination of a language barrier and what critics say is a lack of forthcoming information from public health officials is contributing to the spiraling health crisis in communities across the U.S.

“What people are practicing is bad science. They are using their biases,” Dr. Jane L. Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, told ABC News. “Their predisposed beliefs about us make health care decisions that will not only hurt us, but it’s going to cost the system more, because bad medicine costs more than good medicine.”

“The health system now still uses one size fits all. And that’s not true,” she added. “We work in jobs where we’re going to be at risk and be at risk of exposure.”

Maximo Cabral may have gotten it from his work. The 35-year-old is originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, and has been living in Alabama for three years with his girlfriend and her two daughters. Cabral has been working on opening a small business delivering food.

“My year started off well because I became a U.S. citizen,” he told ABC News in Spanish. “But this virus arrived and it’s been bad for everyone.”

Five percent of Alabama’s population is Latino, but they make up 10% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

“I had an awful headache for three days. I didn’t think it was the virus,” he said. “I decided to get tested after my partner got tested and it came back positive. Then … I learned I had it.”

Cabral is connected to The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, which champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for Latino families in the state.

Delgado said it’s a disease that has struck the “soul and mental health well-being” of the Latino community.

“The pain is palpable, because when people have to make a decision between feeding their children or going to a job where they would be at risk, that creates a kind of mental health stress that only wears the individual down,” she said.

In California, Latinos make up 39% of the population, but 57% of COVID-19 positive cases, according to the state’s department of health.

“I grew up in LA. This is my community. The communities that we serve, the patients that we serve are really like my family,” Dr. Erika Flores Uribe, an emergency physician for Los Angeles County, told ABC News. “My parents are actually custodians in the LA County area. There’s a lot of questions that come up in terms of how do we practice physical distancing?”

Uribe said the community is grappling with less access to health care.

“LA County has seen an increased number in Latinx or Hispanic populations hit pretty hard with COVID-19,” Uribe said. “Our communities occupy a lot of essential workforce positions. This limits the capacity to do telework or to have paid sick leave. Culturally and financially our communities occupy multigenerational housing, so that makes it really difficult to isolate or quarantine.”

Isolation runs directly in contrast to the culture of these communities, Delgado said.

“Even when people have income and space, telling people to self-isolate is sort of in some ways countercultural,” she said. “It requires a lot of restructuring. And it’s very hard to do that. [Are] you gonna tell your abuela — grandmother — that, you know, she can’t eat with other people?”

In Maryland, Latinos make up only 10% of the population, but 24% of coronavirus cases, according to the state’s department of health.

There, Candida Garcia helps feed about 100 to 120 families with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

“These are people with limited resources. They live paycheck to paycheck,” she said in Spanish. “If they’re not working, they’re missing that loaf of bread at the table.”

Some families have lost their jobs, others have tested positive for the virus, Garcia said.

“That’s why I decided to help, because I saw the need for it,” she said.

In Utah, Latinos make up 14% of its population, but 43% of their coronavirus cases, according to its department of health.

Utah state Sen. Luz Escamilla said she started to have difficulty breathing but didn’t qualify for a COVID-19 test at first because her symptoms weren’t severe enough.

“Your body aches, I mean, everything — your neck, your back. That’s when my husband starts feeling sick,” she said. Three days later, “we were at the hospital, both of us. And within 48 hours, literally 48 hours from the time we tested, is when our results came back, both of us with a positive result on COVID-19.”

She took aim at the White House for its handling of the crisis, saying its actions have been “discriminatory” against Latino communities.

“If you are in the United States and you go for free COVID testing or treatment, it will not be held against you as a public charge,” Delgado said. “That doesn’t mean that people are not fearful. I mean, it’s very hard to trust the government given the way the government has treated immigrants over the last few years.”

Escamilla agreed, saying, “There’s no trust. When you think about government coming and saying, ‘Hey, we’ll take care of you,’ well, I’m not sure that you feel that’s safe.”

She said some of her constituents are angry about closing the economy and being forced to wear masks.

“I just want you to think about the moment that you may be in a situation where you don’t know that you can have access to a ICU bed. Think about how scary that is. You feel sick,” she said. “You get COVID-19, but you don’t know [if] there’s gonna to be enough beds for you and your loved ones to walk into a hospital and get treatment. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Uribe agreed, urging the public to stick to the safety guidelines.

“[It’s important that] we wear face coverings if we’re gonna go out, wash our hands and practice physical distancing and stayed about 6 feet away from one another,” she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Amid calls for police reform, better training needed to handle mental health emergencies: Experts

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(WASHINGTON) — It’s a scenario that you’ve likely heard about from time to time.

Police are sent to respond to a call of a mental health emergency and in some cases, there are tragic results.

While some departments have implemented protocols to address these situations, sending in teams of experienced officers with special training, using police in these scenarios been called into question amid the larger conversation about law enforcement reform surrounding George Floyd’s death.

Some mental health experts warn that sending officers to calls involving severe suicidal thoughts or a person experiencing a violent psychological episode is not always the best solution.

Although officers are trained to handle tense situations, foiling a robbery or assault is not the same as someone who is in deep mental distress, according to Dr. Adwoa Akhu, a clinical psychologist and an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It can be terrifying and depending on how the police person shows up, it could escalate things or it can comfort it. It depends on how police officers present themselves,” she told ABC News.

A report issued this month by The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law found of the nearly 1,000 people shot by police officers in 2018, a quarter had a mental illness.

Akhu and other experts say some police departments are making progress with new training and specialized teams that are deployed to mental health emergencies, but there is still a way to go.

Ajima Olaghere, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Temple University, said a major roadblock for effective responses to mental health emergencies is the fact that there is no uniform policy across the nearly 18,000 police departments across the country.

“We can safely assume that there is a lot of variation in how police academies and police departments may train officers to respond to individuals in crisis,” she said in an email to ABC News. “Across this variation, there are differences in how crisis intervention training may be prioritized and institutionalized as an aspect of police services.”

Olaghere said that there has been some progress over the last couple of decades as some major police departments have been enacting reforms to better prepare their officers and other first responders to mental health emergencies.

In 1988, the Memphis Police Department unveiled a model known as the Crisis Intervention Team. Under CIT training, select officers receive a 40-hour preparation from mental health workers on how to handle persons with mental illness, dispatch operators are given training on how to spot an emergency call involving a person with mental illness and officers drop off the person at a centralized mental health facility instead of jail.

There are currently 2,700 CIT programs in use throughout the country, which represent about 15 to 17% of the nation’s police forces, according to the JAAPL report.

One of the departments that use CIT is the NYPD, which receives an average of 175,000 911 calls a year for “emotionally disturbed persons,” or EDPs, according to an NYPD spokesman. EDPs are defined by the NYPD as “persons who appear to be mentally ill or temporarily deranged and are conducting themselves in a manner in which a uniformed member of the service reasonably believes is likely to result in serious injury to themselves or others,” according to the department’s 2018 use of force report, the latest available.

The NYPD spokesman said that 15,000 officers have been certified through its CIT program since it started in 2015, and during emergencies involving an EDP, highly trained Emergency Service Unit (ESU) officers are deployed. If the situation involves a person who has isolated themselves and refused to comply with officers, the Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) will be requested, according to the NYPD spokesman.

In 2018, the NYPD used force in 1,400 EDP calls (about 0.8%), and in 80% of those instances, officers used the “lowest level of physical force,” according to the 2018 use of force report. A stun gun was used in 0.1% of the encounters, according to the report.

“Our patrol officers and supervisors work in tandem with our elite units to deescalate and offer quick and effective aid to those with behavioral health concerns,” the spokesman said in a statement to ABC News.

The NYPD spokesman added the department is always evolving and adapting its mental health response training and recruits are given training on de-escalation tactics.

Akhu, who helps the NYPD train its ESU and HNT units, said there is still a problem when it comes to other officers, who she said only receive a day of exercises about mental health issues. She said their basic training for emergencies might supersede the limited understanding of a mental health emergency. Officers in the ESU and HNT units, by comparison, get five days of training on mental health issues, she said.

“Police officers who are trained as paramilitary may not recognize a mental health crisis and treat it as something else,” Akhu said.

Dr. Jennifer Skeem, a professor of psychology at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, who has researched police mental health reforms, agreed and said this stems from the general stigma against mental illness in the country.

Although CIT training has shown some successes, Skeem said it should not be sole solution to improving mental health emergency responses.

“It’s been reduced to this idea that you give 40 hours of training to this team and they’re ready to answer mental health calls,” she told ABC News.

Skeem said police departments should come up with new tactics and strategies to address these problems. Most importantly, they should expand the use of programs that have been established in some precincts where psychology professionals are deployed to handle those emergency calls that involve mental health.

The NYPD has Co-Response Teams, which pair two officers with a city Department of Health & Mental Hygiene clinician to emergency calls that involve a person with mental health issues.

Two years ago, the Dallas Police Department, Dallas Fire-Rescue Department and Parkland Hospital created the Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team or RIGHT Care where specially trained paramedics, police officers, and mental health professionals are deployed to emergency mental health calls in four ZIP codes.

A mental health clinician is staffed in the city’s 911-call center and coordinates with the team.

Jason Evans, a spokesman for Dallas Fire-Rescue, said last year RiIGHT Care received over 4,000 calls and the unit helped 3,377 patients connect to appropriate care. Parkland’s psychiatric emergency room admissions from those ZIP codes decreased by 20% after the program’s first year, according to the hospital.

The departments are making a push with the city council to expand the program to other parts of the city, according to Evans.

“In the first two years we feel the program has been doing great,” he told ABC News.

Skeem said researchers are currently studying the effectiveness of this program, but in general, having cooperation between trained mental health professionals and law enforcement is a step in the right direction.

“That will help build a bridge between the police, community and other agencies,” she said.

In the meantime, Skeem said it is vital that law enforcement agencies focus training on mental health problems and the use of effective de-escalation tactics to crack down on the stigma and avoid any use of force.

“A lot of these reforms or model programs have been developing already. I hope this creates the human, political and agency will to implement the strategies that are quite different,” she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Church warned to stop claiming COVID can be eliminated with air filtration

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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBY: ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS

(PHOENIX) — The attorney general of Arizona issued a warning letter to a megachurch that claims its air filtration system “kills 99 percent of COVID within 10 minutes.”

Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent the letter to Phoenix’s Dream City Church on Thursday, saying that their claim — which Brnovich said was not backed by any science — may be illegal.

“In the absence of scientific evidence regarding COVID-19 specifically, statements suggesting that a product could provide nearly guaranteed protection from COVID-19 infections create a misrepresentation or a false promise. Misrepresentations and false promises are illegal under A.R.S. § 44-1522,” Brnovich wrote.

The church, which can seat 3,000 people, had also claimed “when you come into [the church’s] auditorium, 99 percent of COVID is gone” and “you can know when you come down here, you’ll be safe and protected,” according to his letter.

Dream City Church, which has six other locations, made some of the claims in a Facebook video ahead of hosting President Donald Trump this week. The video has since been removed.

Dream City Church did not immediately respond to ABC News for comment. However, before the warning letter was sent, they issued a statement saying they used the words COVID and coronavirus interchangeably.

“Our statement regarding the CleanAir EXP units used the word COVID when we should have said Coronavirus or COVID surrogates,” the church said. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus, of which there is more than one.

The church’s air filtration system was purchased from Clear Air EXP, Brnovich said.

Brnovich sent a cease-and-desist letter to Clean Air EXP the same day, demanding the company stop advertising air purification systems with suggestions the systems neutralize COVID-19.

He said that the company has and continues to advertise that its air filtration products eliminate 99.9% of “airborne coronavirus surrogates.”

In a statement posted on the Clear Air Exp website, the company reiterated that claim.

“Our coronavirus surrogate testing results are significant for the future of clean air,” the company claimed.

Brnovich said the message is not based on scientific research or public health authority certification, and that the message implies Clean Air EXP’s products can prevent the virus’ transmission and infection.

An expert who spoke to ABC News said the public should be skeptical of any technology that claims to eliminate all airborne viruses and especially COVID-19.

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