What would 4 more years of Trump or a Biden administration mean for policing and criminal justice?
The police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black citizens this year, and the sometimes violent protests that followed, have made the role of law enforcement in America an issue in a presidential race perhaps like never before.
But how would another four years of a President Donald Trump administration shape our criminal justice system? What would a Joe Biden presidency mean for the men and women of law enforcement and the people they're sworn to protect?
We tried this week to cut past all the talking points, political attacks and campaign bluster to see where the candidates stand on these issues and what they might do if victorious in next week's election.
Where Trump stands
Trump has spent the fall doubling down on the "law and order" message he first launched in June, just before his controversial photo opp outside St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square near the White House.
Among his proposals for a second term are providing an unspecified amount of federal dollars to hire more cops, increasing criminal penalties for assaults on law enforcement officers, prosecuting drive-by shootings as acts of domestic terrorism, and ending cashless bail.
His administration also has threatened to cut funding for cities that don't aggressively crack down on the kind of long-term, disruptive protests we've seen in Seattle and Portland.
On matters of police reform, Trump this summer signed an executive order to create a database tracking acts of police misconduct and offerings grants for police use-of-force training.
Critics say he didn't go far enough in choosing not to enact a full ban on chokeholds or "no-knock" warrants. And his Justice Department has scaled back on the Obama administration's use of consent decrees to provide federal oversight over police agencies accused of institutional prejudice.
While he's talked tough on crime, Trump also has backed measures to reform sentencing and reduce prison populations. He won praise from the likes of the ACLU for signing the bipartisan First Step Act in 2018. Highlights of the measure include shortening mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, easing the "three strikes" rule that imposed life sentences for repeat offenders, and giving judges more discretion when it comes to sentencing.
On the campaign trail, Trump's been able to tout the endorsement of several police organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police.
Where Biden stands
Let's get this out of the way first: Despite claims to the contrary, Joe Biden does not support defunding the police.
In the wake of Floyd's killing in Minneapolis, many on the left called for slashing police funding and redistributing that money to social services, education and other non-law enforcement purposes.
Biden quickly dismissed the idea and instead offered a plan to invest $300 million more in community policing programs.
"Every single police department should have the money it needs to institute real reforms like adopting a national use of force standard, buying body cameras and recruiting more diverse police officers," Biden wrote in an op-ed column published by USA Today in June.
The former vice president's criminal justice plan also calls for a $20 billion grant program offering states funding for programs that provide alternatives to incarceration, expanding funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, eliminating the federal death penalty; ending the federal government's use of private prisons, using the Justice Department to investigate discrimination by police and prosecutors, ending cash bail, and increasing prosecutions of hate crimes.
While many of his current proposals align with the agendas of reform advocates, Biden has been sharply criticized for his central role in the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994. The legislation, enacted during a surge in violent crime in the late '80s and early '90s, has been blamed for mass incarceration in the years since, especially for Black Americans.
During last week's second and final debate, Biden called the act "a mistake."
Biden has earned praise for co-sponsoring the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding for victim services, prevents use of past sexual behavior against complainants in a rape case, makes state protective orders enforceable nationwide, provides legal aid for survivors of domestic violence and created the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
Holiday season, holiday scams
With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of slowing and the holiday shopping season soon upon us, it's a good bet that many of us will be buying online more than ever over the next couple of months.
And that makes a new report this week from the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust all the more alarming.
According to the Online Purchase Scams Report 2020, the number of consumers who've lost money to an online scam has grown 71% since 2015.
"This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to social distance and increase their online presence, putting them at further risk of being targeted by these types of scams," said Steve Bernas, president, and CEO of BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Other key findings of the report: The promise of a great sales price was the top reason victims purchased a product and lost money, and those age 35 to 44 are most at risk of losing money to online purchase scams.
The platforms most reported by consumers who saw products and lost money were, in order, Facebook, Google, a direct merchant website, Instagram, and a pop-up ad in social media when actively shopping.
Some tips to avoid becoming a victim:
• If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
• Beware of fake websites. Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, search for contact information and read online reviews.
• Beware of making quick purchases while scrolling through social media. Scammers have access to tools they need to learn about your buying behaviors, offering up exactly what you want at enticing low prices.
• Use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods. Those who pay with a credit card or PayPal are less likely to lose money. Avoid paying by wire transfer, prepaid money card, gift card or other nontraditional payment methods.
• Be careful purchasing sought-after products. Scammers are offering the most popular products for the season at great prices.
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