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Jun 06 2020

D.C. Cops

You may have deduced from some of my past writing that I have sources who are pretty aware of the activities of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. I have not talked to any of them in months and never about this, all my information comes from the Funny Papers.

I’m careful to use Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department because there are like about 15 or 20 competing Law Enforcement/Police Departments operating there all the time of which the largest in most circumstances is the United States Parks Police- just call me Ranger. It’s like the old days in NYC when you had Housing Cops and Subway Cops and I don’t know, about half a dozen others.

Anyway most of them are under the direct control of some Cabinet Official or other to use as their private Army and don’t answer at all to D.C. City Government.

This was a problem for me because I like my sources and early reports of the Police Riot in D.C. indicated it was a generalized thing. This is technically possible because D.C.’s Home Rule Law specifically allows for Federalization of the Police Department, but it hasn’t happened yet. MPD (well, they also call it Metro) hasn’t participated in the violence at all.

Phew.

Trump administration considered taking control of D.C. police force to quell protests
By Peter Hermann, Fenit Nirappil, and Josh Dawsey , Washington Post
June 2, 2020

The Trump administration on Monday floated the idea of taking control of the D.C. police force, ratcheting up tensions between the White House and the District over how much force should be used to quell protests that have sometimes turned volatile.

The unprecedented request sent District leaders scrambling to head off what they regarded as tantamount to a government overthrow, and to the legal books to come up with a way to push back.

In the end, the federal government did not follow through but did invoke its broad powers over the District to send the National Guard onto the streets, along with military helicopters that flew over the city and menaced demonstrators, which the police chief said he “did not find helpful.”

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s administration on Tuesday confirmed the overture from the Trump administration, as the city entered a fifth day of demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The District of Columbia is a federal enclave governed by a mayor and city council, but the federal law granting self-governance allows the president to take control of local police officers in certain emergency situations.

Bowser (D), when asked generally about the provision granting the federal government such authority, said she would regard its use as “an affront to our limited home rule and to the safety of the District of Columbia.”

“I think you heard the president yesterday, that he wanted a show of force in D.C. . . . We all heard the ominous warning,” the mayor said in an apparent reference to President Trump’s statements about sending a federal force into the District and telling local leaders they should “dominate” unruly protests.

A takeover of one of the largest and most high-profile police agencies in the nation would have been yet another blow to a city fighting for statehood, forcing it to surrender control of all or part of a 4,000-member armed force to federal officials who do not answer to District residents and whose policies and practices differ from those of local leaders.

Bowser has repeatedly said she welcomes peaceful demonstrations and shares outrage over Floyd’s death. The mayor also this week expressed concern about outside police forces that are not accountable to her operating in the District.

Trump had signaled that he was prepared to take some kind of military action in cities roiled by protests over Floyd’s death. Although many of the demonstrations in Washington were peaceful, there were some instances of looting, property destruction, and rock and bricks thrown at police, who have made more than 300 arrests over three days.

Trump had sharply criticized the response by individual cities and states, accusing some governors of being “weak” and telling them they should “dominate” unruly protests.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, a nearly 30-year veteran of the force, declined to say what he would have done had he been forced to answer to Trump.

“We are living in unprecedented times,” the chief said. “I work for the mayor of the District of Columbia. . . . I feel comfortable that I’m doing the best job I can possibly do to protect this city.”

D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) called the White House proposal “nothing short of despicable” and said that had the president followed through, “I would certainly hope that the D.C. police officers would object and stand down.”

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said federalizing the D.C. force would “make things worse” on the streets. “My understanding is the crowd is larger tonight than it was last night, and that’s all about Donald Trump,” he said. “He’s provoking the protesters. He’s provoking America.”

Officials said staff at the White House and at the Wilson Building, which is the District’s city hall, began discussing a possible takeover before federal agencies, including the U.S. Park Police and the National Guard, forcefully cleared Lafayette Square on Monday evening.

The move, which played out before the president walked to a nearby historic church, was quickly criticized by Bowser.

Bowser, at a Tuesday news conference, did not directly address specifics of what she described as a “flurry of conversations” with officials in the White House and Justice Department over Trump’s desire to deploy the National Guard, military troops and federal riot police to the District.

She said she “absolutely” pushed back against those proposals.

“We don’t want armed military, we don’t want any of those things on D.C. streets,” the mayor said.

The White House did not dispute the mayor’s account.

It also has an explainer about that “Home Rule” thing I mentioned.

Because of the city’s unique status as a federal district, the D.C. National Guard is appointed by the president and can be deployed without the consent of D.C. officials. In states, that power rests with the governor.

The 1973 Home Rule Act, which granted the District limited autonomous authority, contains provisions for the “emergency control of police” via a federal takeover of the D.C. police.

To invoke that act, the president would have to determine that “special conditions of an emergency nature exist which require the use of the Metropolitan Police force for federal purposes.” The takeover may last up to 48 hours and may be extended with approval of the members of Congress that oversee District affairs, the act states.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has researched the District’s home rule provisions, criticized the language as overly broad and said it gives the federal government wide latitude in defining an “emergency.”

So, like who are all these Stormtroopers in Riot Gear?

The Story Behind Bill Barr’s Unmarked Federal Agents
By GARRETT M. GRAFF, Politico
06/05/2020

Few sights from the nation’s protests in recent days have seemed more dystopian than the appearance of rows of heavily armed riot police around Washington in drab military-style uniforms with no insignia, identifying emblems or name badges. Many of the apparently federal agents have refused to identify which agency they work for. “Tell us who you are, identify yourselves!” protesters demanded, as they stared down the helmeted, sunglass-wearing mostly white men outside the White House. Eagle-eyed protesters have identified some of them as belonging to Bureau of Prisons’ riot police units from Texas, but others remain a mystery.

The images of such heavily armed, military-style men in America’s capital are disconcerting, in part, because absent identifying signs of actual authority the rows of federal officers appear all-but indistinguishable from the open-carrying, white militia members cosplaying as survivalists who have gathered in other recent protests against pandemic stay-at-home orders. Some protesters have compared the anonymous armed officers to Russia’s “Little Green Men,” the soldiers-dressed-up-as-civilians who invaded and occupied western Ukraine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Donald Trump Thursday demanding that federal officers identify themselves and their agency.

To understand the police forces ringing Trump and the White House it helps to understand the dense and not-entirely-sensical thicket of agencies that make up the nation’s civilian federal law enforcement. With little public attention, notice and amid historically lax oversight, those ranks have surged since 9/11—growing by roughly 2,500 officers annually every year since 2000. To put it another way: Every year since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has added to its policing ranks a force larger than the entire Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Nearly all of these agencies are headquartered in and around the capital, making it easy for Attorney General William Barr to enlist them as part of his vast effort to “flood the zone” in D.C. this week with what amounts to a federal army of occupation, overseen from the FBI Washington area command post in Chinatown. Battalions of agents were mustered in the lobby of Customs and Border Protection’s D.C. headquarters—what in normal times is the path to a food court for federal workers. The Drug Enforcement Administration has been given special powers to enable it to surveil protesters. It is the heaviest show of force in the nation’s capital since the protests and riots of the Vietnam War.

As large as the public show of force on D.C.’s streets has turned out to be— Bloomberg reported Thursday that the force includes nearly 3,000 law enforcement— it still represents only a tiny sliver of the government’s armed agents and officers. The government counts up its law enforcement personnel only every eight years, and all told, at last count in 2016, the federal government employed over 132,000 civilian law enforcement officers— only about half of which come from the major “brand name” agencies like the FBI, ATF, Secret Service, DEA and CBP. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which serves as the general academy for federal agencies who don’t have their own specialized training facilities, lists around 80 different agencies whose trainees pass through its doors in Georgia, from the IRS’ criminal investigators and the Transportation Security Administration’s air marshals to the Offices of the Inspector General for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Railroad Retirement Board. Don’t forget the armed federal officers at the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement, whose 150 agents investigate conservation crime like the Tunas Convention Act of 1975 (16 USC § 971-971k) and the Northern Pacific Halibut Act of 1982 (16 USC § 773-773k).

Let’s not forget those guys from the NOAA. They’re uniformed members of the Armed Forces so there are probably some Posse Comitatus issues.

In and around D.C., there are more than a score of agency-specific federal police forces, particularly downtown where protests have played out over the past week, nearly every block brings you in contact with a different police force. A morning run around the National Mall and Capitol Hill might see you cross through the jurisdictions of the federal U.S. Capitol Police, the Park Police, the National Gallery of Art police, the Smithsonian Office of Protective Services, the Postal police, Amtrak police, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing police, the Supreme Court police, the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, the Government Publishing Office police, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. (Only recently did the Library of Congress police merge with the Capitol Police across the street into one unit.) Run a bit farther and you might encounter the FBI Police or the U.S. Mint police. And that’s not even counting the multistate Metro Transit police and the local D.C. Metropolitan Police.

The public has little understanding or appreciation for the size of some of these agencies, each of which has its own protocols, training, hiring guidelines and responsibilities. On the lighter side, few tourists know, for instance, that the National Gallery of Art—home to some of the world’s most famous artwork—has a shooting range for its police tucked away above its soaring central rotunda. On the darker side, the roughly 20,000 federal prison guards known formally as the Bureau of Prisons—whose riot units make up a sizable chunk of the officers imported to D.C. and who represent the single largest component of federal officers in the Justice Department—are concerning to see on the streets in part because they’re largely untrained in civilian law enforcement; they normally operate in a controlled environment behind bars with sharply limited civil liberties and use-of-force policies that would never fly in a civilian environment.

There are more gun-carrying agents employed across the federal government by inspectors general—the quasi-independent watchdogs responsible for rooting out fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars—than there are ATF agents nationwide; the roughly 4,000 inspector general agents nationwide, in fact, is roughly equivalent to the entire size of the DEA. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ police department, who guard the nation’s veteran hospitals, facilities and cemeteries, is larger than the entire U.S. Marshals Service.

Beyond those 132,000 federal civilian law enforcement, the U.S. has tens of thousands of military law enforcement officers, including military police units and investigators like the 2,000 agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the 1,200 agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service or the 900 agents of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.

More broadly, though, many federal agencies exist with little sustained oversight and continue to struggle with training, recruiting and use of force incidents. The Department of the Interior’s Park Police, one of the agencies that has served as the front ranks of the riot security in Lafayette Park, has long been one of the capital region’s most troubled law enforcement entities, with complaints and questions about its use of force and even a five-year-long lawsuit over the firing of its police chief after she complained about inadequate staffing. (This week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who thanks to the District’s odd nonstate status finds herself in the odd position of not controlling the police forces patrolling her own city, blasted the U.S. Park Police and officers from the Secret Service—normally tasked with guarding the White House and foreign embassies in D.C.— for clearing Lafayette Park Monday night to allow Trump to walk across the street for a photo op at St. John’s church.) The Federal Protective Service, which oversees security at 9,000 federal buildings across the country, has been reorganized and reshuffled numerous times since 9/11, rarely spending more than a few years in the same box on DHS org charts. And after a hiring surge caused it to lower recruiting standards, CBP has struggled with a decade of rampant crime and corruption in its own ranks— so much so that for most of the past decade, a CBP officer or agent was arrested on average every single day— and its use of force has been widely criticized, even by professional policing organizations. (For a period of time during the Obama administration, the FBI actually declared CBP’s corruption was the nation’s biggest threat at the border.)

The Bureau of Prisons has been dogged for years with questions about its management, training and tactics. Amid the protests in Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd, a federal inmate also with the last name Floyd (no relation) died this week in an encounter with guards in New York City after being pepper-sprayed in his cell.

Similarly, watchdogs have complained for years about the odd status of the U.S. Marshals Service, a federal agency with roots in the frontier and Wild West that today is in charge of protecting courts and judges, securing federal prisoners and hunting fugitives. The national service is still led across the country by 94 local politically appointed marshals whose posts are handed out as favors, not because of their law enforcement acumen. (The Boston Globe once famously surveilled for 10 days the U.S. marshal in Massachusetts, appointed after a stint on the security detail of the state’s governor, and found he worked an average of only four hours a day.)

Remember what I said about Cabinet Officers having their own Private Armies?

Under the Trump administration, Cabinet officials have come under scrutiny for using the government’s law enforcement agents as a sort of Praetorian Guard: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned amid scandals that included his unprecedented 20-agent round-the-clock security detail, who picked up his dry cleaning and moisturizing lotion; Education Secretary Betsy Devos is protected by a detail of U.S. marshals at a cost of roughly $500,000 a month, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is under investigation after a whistleblower complained he was using his Diplomatic Security Service agents to pick up Chinese food or look after his dog. Even obscure Cabinet secretaries who could pass all-but unnoticed on any street in the country now warrant security: Want to be the special-agent-in-charge of guarding the Agriculture secretary? The Executive Protective Operations Division of the USDA’s Office of Safety, Security and Protection is hiring right now!

Concerningly, under the Trump administration, many of these agencies have been rudderless— overseen by rotating series of acting officials. More than half of all federal civilian law enforcement right now is being led by temporary acting officials, everything from ICE and CBP to DEA. (That calculation doesn’t even count the thousands of special agents in inspectors general offices that have recently seen an administrationwide purge of the government’s watchdogs.) The Bureau of Prisons was being overseen by an acting director last summer when Jeffrey Epstein managed to commit suicide while supposedly under strict monitoring. The DEA, with its special temporary powers for the protests, is currently led by an acting administrator who has been on the job for just days.

Such leadership voids are not solely a recent problem of the Trump administration: Thanks to pressure from the National Rifle Association on Republican lawmakers about the agency’s firearms investigations, the ATF has had a Senate-confirmed director for a total of only two years since 2003. Last month, the Trump administration withdrew its most recent nominee to be ATF director, Chuck Canterbury, a former police union leader who had been deemed by Republican senators as too liberal on guns. (Yes, you read that right: The former head of the Fraternal Order of Police was considered too liberal for the GOP.)

The proliferation of federal officers across government— and the proliferation of watchdogs watching those government agencies— means that you might one day be woken up by a SWAT team-style raid by the Department of Education or the EPA. And the number keeps growing: Congress was surprised when the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction—known as SIGAR—began procuring its own ammunition, flashing lights and body armor for its special agents. Just like its laws, there are too many federal agents for the government to keep track of.

The bulk of the Brown Shirted Fascists who Roited this week in D.C. were National Guardsmen, you know, just like Kent State. Virgina, Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina refused to Federalize so they got them from Georgia and Texas instead. D.C. has it’s own National Guard Units but they’ve never been under District control and are under investigation for abusing their Helicopters to threaten and harrass peaceful protesters, especially the Red Cross marked Evac Chopper (but then again we float Howitzers over MSF Hospitals for hours and shell them to pieces).

They also flew in Units of the 82nd Airborne and there was somewhat of a scandal about packing Bayonets, but they’re standard issue and your pack is inspected before you get on the plane. You might not want to get on the plane so this would be a good excuse but it’s not like they just send you back to the Barracks as if you had forgotten your toothbrush. If you’re lucky a month or two scrubbing the Latrine with it until everything shines like a mirror.

Or you could get a year or two in the Stockade.

The good news is they’ll be sending most of them home, so I feel a little less like we’re going to have a coup d’etat in the next 20 minutes but I am not much relived.

Well, except about my sources. I’m glad they were miles away from this.

Pentagon disarms guardsmen in Washington, D.C., in signal of de-escalation
By Paul Sonne, Fenit Nirappil, and Josh Dawsey, Washington Post
June 5, 2020

The Pentagon has told the District of Columbia National Guard and guardsmen from other states who have arrived in the nation’s capital as backup not to use firearms or ammunition, a sign of de-escalation in the federal response to protests in the city after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, according to officials familiar with the decision.

The Defense Department, led by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, appears to have made the decision without consulting the White House, where President Trump has ordered a militarized show of force on the streets of Washington since demonstrations in the city were punctured by an episode of looting Sunday. Trump specifically had encouraged the National Guard to be armed.

Initially, a small group of the guardsmen deployed in the city had been carrying guns while standing outside monuments, but the bulk of the forces, such as those working with federal park police at Lafayette Square in front of the White House, didn’t carry firearms out of caution. Now, all of the roughly 5,000 guardsmen who have been deployed or are deploying to Washington have been told not to use weaponry or ammunition, according to four officials familiar with the order.

“The whole purpose behind that was a purposeful show of de-escalation,” said one U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an order that hasn’t been made public yet. “We’re here, but we’re walking things down.”

The White House was not involved in the decision, a senior administration official said. Trump has encouraged the National Guard to be armed as a show of force.

So it probably pisses him off a bit.

Good.

Trump’s response has included not only deploying guardsmen, as the mayor requested, but also calling up guardsmen from other states, amassing active-duty forces at sites outside the capital for possible operations and bringing in other federal law enforcement officials from agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons and Customs and Border Protection to patrol the streets. Bowser has decried the fact that some of those federal agents have not been wearing identifying uniforms or badges.

The situation grew particularly tense after helicopters from the D.C. Guard began doing military maneuvers to disperse protesters in the streets — including what’s known as a rotor wash, when a helicopter flies low to the ground to kick up air as a show of force.

Trump’s insistence on a militarized response in the nation’s capital has led to strains with Esper. The defense secretary announced publicly Wednesday that he wasn’t in favor of using the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops, even as the president threatened to invoke it.

Esper also said he was sending home some of the 1,600 active-duty troops outside Washington but later stood down on that decision after meeting with Trump. On Thursday, the administration said some of those troops would indeed be leaving.

Trump has battled with Esper about the military this week, with the president seeing the strong force in Washington as a deterrent to unrest but the Pentagon worrying about the militarization of the response. In particular, Trump had a heated conversation with his defense secretary about the possible use of the 82nd Airborne, the unit whose members Esper had partly sent home, according to the senior administration official, who said the president was unlikely to dismiss the defense secretary despite the tension.

It wasn’t clear whether the Pentagon was responding to pressure from the D.C. municipal government in its decision to disarm guardsmen. Bowser has been calling publicly for the guardsmen to be disarmed but has also pushed for disarming them in private conversations with federal officials, according to an official familiar with the matter.

In a letter sent to Trump on Thursday, Bowser informed the president that she had ended the city’s state of emergency and requested that he withdraw all extraordinary federal agents and military assets from the nation’s capital, explaining that the city was equipped to handle “large demonstrations and First Amendment activities.”

“I continue to be concerned that unidentified federal personnel patrolling the streets of Washington, D.C. pose both safety and national security risks,” the mayor wrote. “The deployment of federal law enforcement personnel and equipment are inflaming demonstrators and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans.”

Bowser posted a copy of the letter on Twitter on Friday and wrote: “I request that @realDonaldTrump withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from our city.”

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) has opened an inquiry into whether the federal government had the legal authority to call National Guard troops from other states into the District. In particular, he had asked the White House, the Pentagon and the Justice Department in a letter Thursday whether out-of-state Guard units brought into the city would be armed.

The mayor has repeatedly said she did not request assistance from other states. But Trump has brought or is bringing about 3,900 guardsmen from Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah to the city, in addition to the roughly 1,200 already activated in the D.C. National Guard.

The addition makes the number of guardsmen Trump has called to the city roughly equivalent to the number of U.S. forces deployed to Iraq. The district has a population of about 700,000.

Military leaders at the Pentagon are aware of the risks of armed guardsmen stepping in to a role traditionally played by police in an American city. In 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard who were called in to help control Vietnam War protests at Kent State University opened fire on demonstrators, killing four students and wounding nine others. The situation prompted outrage nationwide and precipitated a crisis for the American military and its standing with the public.

What did I tell you about Kent State?

Mayor Bowser has her revenge though-

Washington, DC paints a giant ‘Black Lives Matter’ message on the road to the White House
By AJ Willingham, CNN
Fri June 5, 2020

Washington, DC is painting a message in giant, yellow letters down a busy DC street ahead of a planned protest this weekend: BLACK LIVES MATTER.

The massive banner-like project spans two blocks of 16th Street, a central axis that leads southward straight to the White House. Each of the 16 bold yellow letters spans the width of the two-lane street, creating an unmistakable visual easily spotted by aerial cameras and virtually anyone within a few blocks.

City workers began painting “black lives matter” in yellow paint on Friday on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.

The painters were contacted by Mayor Muriel Bowser and began work early Friday morning, the mayor’s office told CNN. Bowser has officially deemed the section of 16th Street bearing the mural “Black Lives Matter Plaza,” complete with a new street sign.

You really should click through to see the pictures.

Oh, and she lit it up with Floodlights last night too.