Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

US protests: ex-Atlanta officer who killed Rayshard Brooks granted bail

Meanwhile, Adidas HR chief resigns after criticism from black employees

The former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks can be free on bail while his case is pending, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

Fulton County Judge Jane Barwick set bail of $500,000 (Dh1.8m) for Garrett Rolfe, who faces charges including felony murder in the killing of Brooks, a 27-year-old black man. The shooting by the white officer happened against the backdrop of demonstrations nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism.

Appearing via teleconference because of the coronavirus, lawyers for Mr Rolfe argued that he is a native Georgian with strong ties to the community who is not at risk of fleeing or failing to show up for court, and is not a danger to the community.

A prosecutor argued that Mr Rolfe, 27, had committed an unjustified fatal shooting and was a flight risk and might intimidate witnesses.

Brooks’s wife, Tomika Miller, sobbed throughout an emotional plea to the judge, asking her not to grant bail.

“I say no to it,” she said. “I say no because, mentally, I’m not able to handle it.”

The judge thanked Ms Miller, noting that her appearance required a lot of bravery, but said she found that Mr Rolfe met the conditions required for bail. The judge said he “is not a flight risk and I do not believe he is a danger to the community”.

The conditions of his bail include wearing an ankle monitor, complying with a curfew, surrendering his passport, not possessing any guns and having no contact with victims, witnesses or Atlanta police officers.

New York

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that he and lawmakers had agreed on a $1-billion (Dh3.67bn) shift in the city budget, as New York grapples with multibillion-dollar losses because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city council met on Tuesday, with a midnight deadline to pass a budget before the fiscal year that begins on Wednesday.

Protesters want money moved from policing to community and social programmes, saying the shift would advance racial justice and curb a police force that the activists say has been given too much power.

The cuts would come from cancelling the next police recruiting class of nearly 1,200 new officers, slashing overtime spending, redeploying officers from administrative functions to sustain patrol levels and moving responsibility for school crossing guards and some homeless outreach from police to other city agencies.

Money would go instead to education, social services in communities hit hard by the virus, and summer youth programming for more than 100,000 young people.

The bulk of the cuts are being made to the city police department’s capital budget, including cancelling plans to build a new police precinct in Jamaica, Queens, and instead using the money to build a community centre nearby.

The city is also planning to shift some police capital funding to install broadband internet in public housing complexes.

“This is real redistribution. This is taking resources and putting them where they’re needed most with a particular focus on our young people,” Mr de Blasio said.

The NYPD budget is now about $6bn, plus several billion dollars more in shared city expenses such as pensions.

Adidas

The head of human resources at Adidas stepped down after a group of black employees called for an investigation over her handling of racism at the company, which she had described last year as "noise" only discussed in America.

The German sportswear company said Karen Parkin was leaving Adidas after 23 years in mutual agreement with the supervisory board, effective June 30.

Chief executive Kasper Rorsted is taking over her role on an interim basis.

"It has become clear to me that to unify the organisation it would be better for me to retire and pave the way for change," said Ms Parkin, 55.

Earlier this month, Adidas rebuffed criticism from a group of employees that asked the supervisory board to investigate Ms Parkin's approach to racial issues, noting that she had apologised and was working on the diversity issue.

Ms Parkin was appointed to the Adidas executive board in 2017, the first woman to join the company's top leadership since 1993. Her departure leaves five white men at the helm of the German company.

Adidas has admitted that it has not given enough credit in the past to the many prominent black athletes and celebrities – like James Harden and Kanye West – as well as black employees and consumers who have helped make it successful.

It made a series of commitments this month, including that black and Latino people will fill at least 30 per cent of all new US jobs, with a target for them to make up 12 per cent of US leadership positions by 2025.

This week, Adidas and its Reebok subsidiary joined the growing number of companies boycotting social-media advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

“Racist, discriminatory, and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society,” the company said.

Colorado

Several police officers in suburban Denver have been placed on paid leave during an investigation into photos that were taken near a memorial for Elijah McClain, who died last summer after three white officers stopped the black man as he walked down the street and one put him in a chokehold.

The interim police chief of the city of Aurora, Vanessa Wilson, said on Monday night that the suspended officers were “depicted in photographs near the site where Elijah McClain died”. She did not provide more details about what the images show or how many officers were on leave.

The photos reportedly involve officers re-enacting the restraint that preceded McClain’s death.

The two photos were taken near where police stopped the 23-year-old McClain on August 24, 2019, as they responded to a report of a suspicious person walking down the street wearing a face mask.

An officer reported the photos to the department’s internal affairs division Thursday. Ms Wilson said she learnt of the investigation that day and ordered investigators to make it their top priority.

McClain’s death generated new attention after the death of George Floyd stirred worldwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality.

Demonstrators shutting down a main highway in the Denver area, in protest against the death of Elijah McClain and police injustice in Aurora, Colorado. Reuters
Demonstrators shutting down a main highway in the Denver area, in protest against the death of Elijah McClain and police injustice in Aurora, Colorado. Reuters

In McClain’s case, police body-camera video shows an Aurora officer getting out of his car, approaching Mr McClain and saying: “Stop right there. Stop. Stop … I have a right to stop you because you’re being suspicious.”

As other officers join to restrain McClain, he begs them to let go and says: “You guys started to arrest me, and I was stopping my music to listen.”

Aurora police said McClain refused to stop walking and fought back when officers tried to take him into custody. The officers used a chokehold – a tactic recently banned in several places after Floyd’s death.

In the video, McClain tells officers: “Let go of me. I am an introvert. Please respect the boundaries that I am speaking.”

Paramedics administered 500 milligrams of a sedative to calm him down, police said. He was on the ground for 15 minutes as several officers and paramedics stood by. McClain, a massage therapist and self-taught violinist, suffered cardiac arrest and was later declared brain-dead and taken off life support.

A forensic pathologist could not determine what exactly led to his death but said physical exertion during the confrontation likely contributed.

The investigation was completed on Monday and the results, including the photos, will be made public after police officials give a review and Ms Wilson makes a decision on how to respond. The chief’s decision could be appealed by the officers under investigation, which would delay the results being released.

The three officers who stopped McClain did not face any criminal charges after an investigation by the district attorney, but Governor Jared Polis directed the state attorney last week to reopen the investigation and possibly prosecute them.

Updated: July 1, 2020 12:27 PM

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