Key developments in police-communities tension

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2014 11:41 PM
Key developments in police-communities tension

The killings of two unarmed black men by white police officers in Missouri and New York this summer touched off protests and a national debate over police conduct that intensified after grand juries declined to indict the officers.

Tensions escalated further after two New York City police officers were killed last weekend by a man who suggested in online posts that their slayings were in retaliation for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. The gunman committed suicide.

Some key developments in the aftermath:

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MAYOR, POLICE UNIONS MEETING

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio met privately Tuesday with the leaders of the New York Police Department's unions, aiming to mend a rift with rank-and-file officers that has threatened to overwhelm his first term.

While administration officials characterized the meeting as the beginning of a process to heal wounds opened by protests about police conduct and the fatal shooting of the two NYPD officers, union leaders struck a more cautious note, saying that "only time will tell" if relations would improve.

"Our main concern is the safety of our police officers of every rank on the streets in the city," said Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers.

Lynch has been one of de Blasio's fiercest critics, saying the mayor had "blood on his hands" after the brazen daylight ambush of the two officers in their patrol car.

De Blasio's press secretary said the meeting "focused on building a productive dialogue and identifying ways to move forward together."

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MORE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS KILLED BY FIREARMS IN 2014

The number of law enforcement officers killed by firearms jumped by 56 percent this year and included 15 ambush deaths. But gun-related police deaths remain far below historic highs and lower than the average annual figures in the past decade, according to a report released Tuesday.

The annual report by the nonprofit National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found that 50 officers were killed by guns this year. That's far higher than the 32 such deaths last year but the same as 2012 figures.

In all, the report found that 126 federal, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014. The all-time high is 156 in 1973.

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CHIPOTLE APOLOGIZES

Two Chipotle chief executives apologized to New York police officers who were greeted by a restaurant employee making the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture popular with protesters.

Co-CEOs Steve Ells and Monty Moran said in a statement Monday that the employee's action appeared to be spontaneous. They said it happened at one of their Brooklyn restaurants on Dec. 16 when a group of nine police officers entered. They said the officers were not refused service but chose to leave after encountering the gesture while in line.

The executives said appropriate actions had been taken toward the crew member but wouldn't discuss what those actions were.

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MISSOURI CHIEF: MAN SHOT BY OFFICER HAD GUN

An internal police investigation confirmed an 18-year-old pointed a gun at an officer who shot him to death in a convenience store parking lot in suburban St. Louis last week, officials said Tuesday.

Berkeley Police Chief Frank McCall said several witnesses told police that Antonio Martin pointed the gun at the officer.

The officer was responding to a shoplifting report Dec. 23. McCall said Martin matched the description of the suspect.

Renewed protests followed the shooting, which was the third of a black suspect by a white officer in the region since Brown was killed by a police officer in neighboring Ferguson on Aug. 9.

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SKEPTICISM IN CLEVELAND

A top official with the Cleveland branch of the NAACP says he has no confidence the city will make changes within its police department without federal oversight.

The U.S. Department of Justice this month issued a blistering report saying a 20-month investigation found a pattern and practice of Cleveland police officers using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.

The city and the department have begun negotiating the terms of a consent decree. A federal judge must approve it, and an independent monitor will oversee it.

Michael Nelson, an attorney and NAACP leader, says he's not sure Cleveland will voluntarily make changes and thinks the final agreement between the city and the Department of Justice should remain in place for years.

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PENNSYLVANIA POLICE: WE DID WHAT WE HAD TO DO

Police in suburban Philadelphia said a man who threatened to kill officers in an online video tried to run them down in a car and they shot him dead Tuesday. They said he appeared ready to accelerate at officers manning a blockade and wouldn't get out of the car.

Police said the man was wanted for threatening to kill police and FBI agents in the video.

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said the officers feared for their lives and "did what they had to do."

Police said they began following the man after he left a Clifton Heights home. They said he was ordered out of the car but reversed into a police vehicle.

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LOS ANGELES SHOOTING

Two men opened fire on a police car patrolling a tough part of Los Angeles, but the two officers inside were not injured and one was able to shoot back, authorities said Monday. One suspect was later arrested and the other was on the loose.

Police have not yet determined a motive for Sunday night's shooting in South Los Angeles — an area plagued by gang violence — but said there were no indications it was linked to other attacks on police.

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INDIANA RALLY

More than 200 people showed their support for police officers during a rally Monday in Evansville, Indiana. People in the crowd held signs reading "Thank You," ''United We Stand" and "We support you" while politicians urged citizens to support law enforcement.

City Councilwoman Missy Mosby said she helped organize the rally because she's concerned about the morale of Evansville and Vanderburgh County police officers following protests against police killings of unarmed black men.