Tag Archives: Sweeping

Capitol Police officers have quit, morale is low and the sweeping reforms seen as necessary to prevent another attack remain elusive

The mere shock of the event, and the criticism that followed, has pushed the US Capitol Police Department to make some quick changes — rank-and-file officers now get daily intelligence alerts on their cell phones. New tactical gear like helmets, batons and goggles have been purchased. And two former department leaders have been hired as security consultants to streamline improvements.
But the sweeping reforms that are widely seen as necessary to prevent a similar attack remain elusive, especially an operational and cultural overhaul of the department that some believe will take years to achieve, if it can happen at all.
“They need a radical restructure. They need to decouple it from any political structure whatsoever,” said Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who negotiated the bipartisan agreement for an independent commission that was blocked by Republican leaders.
“They’ve definitely made strides in the right direction,” Katko said. “But they’re nowhere near where they should be.”
Morale remains low among Capitol Police officers, who say they’re stuck working longer hours amid dwindling ranks. More than 75 officers have left since January 6, at a rate of about three per week, according to union leaders.
“We’re losing guys left and right,” said one officer, who like others interviewed for this story requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of the US Capitol Police. “The young guys don’t want to be here and the old guys who are eligible are just rolling out.”
As a result, the department has already exceeded its overtime projections for the fiscal year, which doesn’t end for another three months, according to a Senate aide.
Capitol Police still lacks a permanent leader following Chief Steve Sund’s resignation after January 6. And political fighting in Congress has stymied efforts to give the department millions of dollars in new funding — and establish an independent commission to investigate what led to the attack.
Last week House Democrats voted over the objections of all but two House Republicans to create a new Select Committee, which will examine Capitol security failures in addition to the circumstances leading up to the attack. It’s unclear though what, if any changes that will lead to.
Meanwhile, threats against lawmakers are up significantly in 2021, and over the past few weeks, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued warnings of the potential for summer violence tied to conspiracy theories that Trump will return to the presidency in August. There have also been reports that the fencing surrounding the Capitol may come down as early as July 8.
Capitol Police in riot gear face off against a group of pro-Trump protesters after removing them from the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
At a recent roll call meeting for rank-and-file officers, the department’s new intelligence director was asked what preparations were being made in response to the conspiracy theories being shared online — and whether they could prompt pro-Trump supporters to once again descend on the Capitol. According to one source who described the meeting, the response was that nothing was being done yet, but the situation was being monitored — which the person said felt like status quo.
“What are we going to do different once the fence comes down?” said another officer. “We haven’t made any changes to prepare for it — zero — that’s what I’m worried about.”
A Capitol Police spokesperson declined to grant interviews with Capitol Police leadership for this article and did not answer specific questions submitted by CNN. Instead, the department pointed to a statement released Tuesday morning about the changes that have been made following January 6.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman attends a press briefing about the security incident at the U.S. Capitol on April 2, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Capitol Police said it has beefed up training for riots and other scenarios, provided additional protections for lawmakers outside of Washington and is in the process of setting up field offices in California and Florida. It also says it’s ramped up critical incident response planning, purchased new equipment for officers and improved communication with rank-and-file officers related to intelligence.
“Throughout the last six months, the United States Capitol Police has been working around the clock with our congressional stakeholders to support our officers, enhance security around the Capitol Complex, and pivot towards an intelligence-based protective agency,” wrote acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.

Politics has held up funding

The same political debate that has tainted most discussions of the January 6 attack has also mired down additional funding for Capitol Police. House Democrats passed a $ 2 billion supplemental funding bill for Capitol security over the objections of Republicans — who raised issues with some of the line items, like a rapid response force coming from the National Guard.
In the Senate, the bill has languished, and lawmakers may slide it into the annual congressional spending process, where new spending decisions can often be kicked months into a fiscal year before a deal is reached.
Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who chairs the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee that funds Capitol Police, released a fiscal 2022 spending bill that would give Capitol Police an $ 88 million funding boost compared to the current budget, though it’s $ 15 million below the administration’s budget request, which would allow for the hiring of new officers and civilian officials for Capitol Police.
But that funding could still be months from being approved.
“There’s so much we need to do comprehensively, and it takes time, but most of it starts in the bill,” Ryan said in an interview. “I’m not happy about where we are. We’ve got to be moving a lot quicker.”

Changes on the margins

Meanwhile, Capitol Police leaders have tried to implement operational and cultural changes. For example, one Capitol security official said there’s been an effort to better use intelligence to drive operations.
The department has also increased communication with law enforcement partners, according to a congressional source familiar with the USCP, and it is now working with private vendors to obtain open-source social media information to track threats, the source said.
Officers who spoke to CNN say they now receive daily email updates on their cell phones, for instance, including about demonstrations planned and intelligence. Some, however, have questioned how useful the updates have been.
“We’re inundated with updates now,” one officer said.
There have also been some extra training sessions, officers say, including how to hand-cuff people hit by a taser. One officer told CNN most of his training occurs online. Another officer described walk-throughs for Senate and House chamber evacuations.
Capitol Police said Tuesday that its Civil Disturbance Unit, which was on the frontlines on January 6, has increased training for riots and less-than-lethal exercises, conducted a joint exercise with the National Guard, and sent CDU officials to train in Seattle and Virginia Beach.
Terry Gainer, a former US Capitol Police chief and Senate sergeant at arms, said that while intelligence sharing with rank-and-file officers is a positive sign, there’s a lot more that needs to be done to help a police force still struggling with the physical and psychological trauma of January 6.
“When you’re still working long hours and there’s a lot of change going on and people are wondering ‘When are we going to get a new chief? Is there going to be some independent commission? Are some of the members going to stop pretending this didn’t happen?’ All of that weighs heavy,” said Gainer, who is also a CNN contributor.

Fixing the command structure

US Capitol police officers in protective riot gear walk by the fenced perimeter of the U.S. Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 29, 2021.
The Capitol Police Board has spent the past few months searching for a new chief. A selection could come as soon as this month, said the congressional source. Until then, the department will continue to be led by Pittman, who replaced Sund as acting chief after he resigned January 7.
Not long after Pittman took over, officers’ frustrations spilled into public view as members of the Capitol Police force issued an overwhelming vote of no confidence in their leadership in February.
Capitol Police union leader Gus Papathanasiou told CNN he was hopeful that a new police chief will “change things around,” but he echoed the frustrations of officers that not enough has been done.
“I think it’s just the same as it was on January 5, if not worse,” he said.
Katko, the Republican congressman, said he wants to see the structure of Capitol Police leadership changed altogether. The Capitol Police chief reports to a police board that includes Congressionally appointed House and Senate sergeants at arms and the Architect of the Capitol.
The police board’s response as the January 6 riot unfolded fell under particular scrutiny, as the Capitol Police chief could not unilaterally request assistance from the National Guard.
“If it’s a police force, you’ve got to have a command structure that’s commensurate with law enforcement and security,” Katko said. “I think it’s as bad as I’ve ever seen at any law enforcement agency anywhere. We’re asking them to do extraordinary things with zero guidance.”
Senate Rules Committee leaders Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation in June to expand the chief’s authority to request National Guard assistance in an emergency and to compel the Capitol Police Board to appear together in front of Congress — something that hasn’t happened since 1945.

Dealing with online threats

Capitol security officials say that even with additional threats toward lawmakers, the notion Capitol Police would be surprised again on the scale of January 6 remains remote. However, officers said they’d like to see more credence given to the threats that have swirled on far-right channels online.
One Capitol security official stressed that a rise in Internet threats — which can ebb and flow in a single afternoon based on a media interaction or a viral trigger — shouldn’t prompt Capitol Police to leap into overdrive.
The official said Capitol security leaders are watching August closely to see if anything builds into any kind of activity, though cutting through the noise remains a challenge.
“We have to be careful about assuming a tremendous rise of threats communicated via internet equates to a comparable rise in the threat,” the official said. “It’s hard for me to imagine being taken by surprise by another mob the size of the one January 6.”

Author: Whitney Wild, Jeremy Herb, Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel and Katie Bo Williams, CNN
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Dyson fans warned about dangerous vacuum cleaner scam sweeping the UK

A number of UK residents have started to receive emails claiming to be from well-known high street stores, like Currys PC World, congratulating them on winning a Dyson vacuum cleaner. If you’ve recently bought something from Currys PC World – or simply logged onto their site to check out the latest Bank Holiday deals – there’s a good chance you might assume this prize draw is the real deal. The email includes a prominent “Get Started” button that supposedly takes you through the process to redeem the prize.

Unfortunately, it’s all a scam.

Currys PC World isn’t dishing out free Dyson vacuum cleaners at the moment. The email has been crafted to try to steal your bank details. To do that, the fraudulent Currys PC World giveaway team ask for a small £1 charge to cover the cost of delivery of your prize. If you input your credit or debit card details, this information is passed directly to the cyber crooks behind the email scam – enabling them to start their own shopping spree behind your back.

“You are the lucky online winner of a brand new Sweepstakes Dyson Vacuum entry for FREE! It will only take a minute to receive this fantastic prize,” one example of the scam email promises.

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DHL, Hermes and other parcel delivery text scams are on the rise

A few variations of this scam are currently circulating in the UK, with some versions promising a free MacBook Pro or Nespresso Coffee Machine as the prize. Needless to say, all of these are fake and are designed to use the same £1 delivery charge to get access to your bank details.

Speaking about the recent email, Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, told Express.co.uk, “Consumers in the UK need to be on the lookout for unexpected emails from Currys PC World to avoid being scammed by a bogus competition. The email looks genuine and includes all the official logos and lettering you would expect to see from the electrical giant.

“If you follow the Get Started link to claim sought after rewards such as a Dyson vacuum cleaner or a Nespresso coffee machine – you will be asked to fill in a questionnaire. This will allow hackers to steal your information for identity theft purposes and further phishing campaigns. Some versions of the phishing email have been forwarding the recipient to a page that asks for a £1 delivery fee to post the prize. If payment details are provided, the victim will be providing their address and banking details to criminals.

“While this is a sophisticated phishing scam that successfully impersonates the popular brand, there are some clues that it is not legit. If you look carefully you will see that the emails are coming from [email protected] and not an official corporate email account. As is always the case, if something appears to be too good to be true then it is probably a scam.”

If you’re reading this article a little too late and you’ve fallen for one of these growing number of email scams, you need to act fast.

First up, report the scam to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. If you’ve entered your payment details into a website or online form that you believe was set-up by hackers, you should contact your bank to flag the mistake. This ensures they will be on high alert for any potential fraud. It also means they can provide you with a new card if they believe the details are already compromised.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed

Justice Department announces sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis after a former officer was convicted in the killing of George Floyd there, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday.

The decision comes a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, setting off a wave of relief across the country. The death prompted months of mass protests against policing and the treatment of Black people in the U.S.

WATCH | AG Merrick Garland announces DOJ probe in Minneapolis police

The Justice Department was already investigating whether Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights.

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said.

SEE ALSO: What do the charges against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death mean? What’s next after conviction?

The new investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” – examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing – and will be a more sweeping probe of the entire police department and may result in major changes to policing there.

It will examine the use of force by police officers, including force used during protests, and whether the department engages in discriminatory practices. It will also look into the department’s handling of misconduct allegations and its treatment of people with behavioral health issues and will assess the department’s current systems of accountability, Garland said.

It’s unclear whether the years under investigation will begin when Floyd died or before. Garland said a public report would be issued, if the department finds a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. The department could also bring a lawsuit against the police department, which in the past have typically ended in settlement agreements or consent decrees to force changes.

The Minneapolis Police Department is also being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is looking into the department’s policies and practices over the last decade to see if it engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said city officials “welcome the investigation as an opportunity to continue working toward deep change and accountability in the Minneapolis Police Department.” The city council also issued a statement supporting the investigation, saying its work had been constrained by local laws and that it welcomes “new tools to pursue transformational, structural changes to how the City provides for public safety.”

MORE: Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, manslaughter in George Floyd’s death

Floyd, 46, was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $ 20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

The centerpiece of the case was bystander video of Floyd, handcuffed behind his back, gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was about 9 1/2 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd’s breathing had stopped and he had no pulse.

Floyd’s death May 25 became a flashpoint in the national conversation about the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement and sparked worldwide protests.

At trial, Chauvin’s defense attorney persistently suggested Chauvin’s knee wasn’t on Floyd’s neck for as long as prosecutors argued, suggesting instead it was across Floyd’s back, shoulder blades and arm.

The decision to announce a sweeping Justice Department investigation comes as President Joe Biden has promised his administration would not rest following the jury’s verdict in the case. In a Tuesday evening speech, he said much more needed to be done.

“‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away.”

The Justice Department had previously considered opening a pattern or practice investigation into the police department soon after Floyd’s death, but then-Attorney General Bill Barr was hesitant to do so at the time, fearing that it could cause further divisions in law enforcement amid widespread protests and civil unrest, three people familiar with the matter told the AP.

Garland said the challenges being faced “are deeply woven into our history.”

“They did not arise today or last year,” Garland said. “Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait.”

___

Forliti contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author AP

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

Sweeping legislation to overhaul state’s electricity market

The Texas Senate on Monday unanimously approved a sweeping bill that would overhaul the state’s electricity industry and infrastructure, including mandating that power plants prepare for extreme weather[2] and outlawing risky indexed retail electric plans[3].

Senate Bill 3[4], filed by Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner[5] of Georgetown, now heads to the Texas House where its prospects are uncertain. Members in the lower chamber will take up a series of related, standalone bills on Tuesday.

“There were a multitude of failures,” Schwertner said from the Senate floor Monday, referring to the massive power outages[6] during the deadly winter storm[7]. “And we’re fixing the problems.”

SB 3 would require all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to make upgrades for extreme weather — a process known as weatherization. Most power generators and gas facilities were not equipped to handle temperatures that dipped into single digits last month.

Natural gas regulators and industry groups have claimed that the majority of the problems that caused a shortage of natural gas during the storm — which worsened the problems for power plants — was caused by power outages[8], and suggested that winterization of the natural gas supply system was unnecessary. The Senate bill reflects that concern, leaving it to the Texas Railroad Commission, the regulatory body that oversees the state’s oil and natural gas industry, to decide what upgrades natural gas fuel facilities would have to make.

The bill does not address funding to pay for the mandated upgrades. However, other pieces of legislation in the Texas House have been proposed with various funding mechanisms. Experts say the process of retrofitting the state’s power plants for winter could be difficult[9] and costly, but not impossible, depending on the types of upgrades eventually mandated by regulators.

The bill would also ban indexed retail electric plans, whose rates fluctuate based on the cost of wholesale electricity. Customers in Texas who purchased indexed electric plans, like Griddy — which has since declared bankruptcy[10] — saw astronomically high bills in the weeks following the storm due to a massive spike in wholesale electricity prices[11].

Senate Bill 3 would also create a statewide emergency alert system[12] in the event of future blackouts and would create the Texas Energy Reliability Council, modeled after a currently voluntary board by the same name. Known as TERC, the board coordinates state energy regulators, electricity generators and the natural gas fuel industry to ensure reliable gas distribution for electricity. SB 3 would formalize the body and require it to meet twice a year.

Senators tacked on a handful of floor amendments, including a provision that would give the Texas Public Utility Commission six months to draft weatherization rules. The PUC regulates the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s main power grid. The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and natural gas industries, would be required to draft weatherization rules within six months upon completion of a map, detailing Texas’ natural gas supply chain to “designate priority service needs during extreme weather events.”

Both the PUC and Railroad Commission would also be required to conduct on-site inspections to ensure compliance.

Another key provision of the bill would shift some of the financial burden of ancillary services, which help ensure the continuous generation of power to the electricity grid in the ERCOT market, to renewable energy providers, an amendment proposed by state Sen. Kelly Hancock[13], R-North Richland Hills.

Some power plants or large users of power, such as oil refineries, offer to either increase the supply of electricity to the grid or decrease the demand for electricity for a certain price in a day-ahead market. ERCOT, the grid operator, purchases those guarantees to ensure extra power resources could quickly become available if there are any unexpected interruptions to the grid.

Currently, the costs of the services are distributed among customers. But some lawmakers say that the increasing amount of wind and solar generation could require ERCOT to buy more of these services, and argue that renewable power companies should bear the burden of the additional costs.

Hancock told The Texas Tribune that the provision was intended to be a “small tweak” to “level out the peaks and valleys” in market prices that he said are created by cheap and intermittent wind and solar power generators.

The Advanced Power Alliance, a wind and solar industry group in Texas, called proposals to assign the costs to wind and solar power generators an “unnecessary, discriminatory policy,” in a statement issued last week[14].

Disclosure: Advanced Power Alliance has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here[15].

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ prepare for extreme weather (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ risky indexed retail electric plans (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ Senate Bill 3 (capitol.texas.gov)
  5. ^ Charles Schwertner (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ massive power outages (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ deadly winter storm (www.texastribune.org)
  8. ^ caused by power outages (www.texastribune.org)
  9. ^ could be difficult (www.texastribune.org)
  10. ^ which has since declared bankruptcy (www.texastribune.org)
  11. ^ massive spike in wholesale electricity prices (www.texastribune.org)
  12. ^ statewide emergency alert system (www.texastribune.org)
  13. ^ Kelly Hancock (www.texastribune.org)
  14. ^ statement issued last week (poweralliance.org)
  15. ^ list of them here (www.texastribune.org)

Shawn Mulcahy and Erin Douglas