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How US cities’ police reform attempts led to pay bumps for officers | US news

Voice Of EU



In response to a wave of protests against police killings of Black people in 2014, the newly elected New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced an array of policing reforms focused on increasing community trust.

He reorganized the NYPD around “neighborhood policing”, assigning officers a neighborhood-level beat, increasing the number of police community meetings and appointing some cops as community liaisons. The mayor and city council also added 1,300 new officers. In 2017, the NYPD also rolled out a pilot of its body-camera program, one of the first department-wide programs in the country.


What is the Overpoliced, underprotected series?


Overpoliced, underprotected is a series focused on police violence in the US following one of the largest-scale uprisings in history. 

A year on from the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, there are demands both inside the government and from grassroots movements to end the systemic racism and lethal force that has been embedded in police culture for centuries. 

But with stark differences in approaches to reform and revolution, and the continued power of police unions, achieving sweeping change faces more obstacles than ever.

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The reforms were a boon for the NYPD rank and file: the body cameras led to a 1% salary hike negotiated with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the city’s largest police union, in 2016. And a 2017 contract between NYC and the union added another 2.25% pay increase for all NYPD police officers, called a “neighborhood policing differential”, whether or not they participated in the program. Overall, it meant a near 12% raise over five years.

After last year’s protests following the death of George Floyd, there has been increasing scrutiny across the country about widely promoted policing reforms that come with salary hikes for officers, largely thanks to police unions suggesting that reforms are onerous and that criticism has made their jobs dangerous. These reforms are advertised as ways to increase community trust, but the raises can be costly to cities – and their taxpayers – and there’s little evidence they are related to additional community work.

Advocates, who increasingly support redirecting police funds to other agencies, said it also demonstrates how reform, in the form of increased training and equipment, can be counterproductive. These critics propose instead redirecting law enforcement funds to community efforts outside the police force.

“It’s an example of the ways in which promises of reform or oversight just end up with the public spending more on policing,” said Michael Sisitzky, a senior policy counsel with NYCLU, told the Guardian.

New York City’s department of labor, which handles negotiations with police unions, said at the time of negotiations that the “neighborhood policing” pay bump was paid for by reducing pay for new hires. While it’s not clear that the raise had anything to do with neighborhood policing, it was separate from a 9.3% raise in the same contract, and the mayor insisted it would support his new approach to policing.

The union probably didn’t have much leverage to hold back neighborhood policing, which had been in place for years prior to the contract raise. But they could have potentially protested against body cameras by tying the city up with lawsuits, experts said. In fact, a 2015 PBA complaint filed with the Office of Collective Bargaining and obtained by the Guardian alleged that in rolling out its pilot body camera program the city violated collective bargaining laws. According to the complaint, the program “fundamentally alters the terms and conditions of employment of police officers by substantially modifying, among other things, their privacy, safety, duties, evaluation procedures, hours, wages and workload.” The complaint was dropped as part of negotiations over the 2017 contract.

The union has leverage in contract negotiations with the city for several reasons. It had been working with a lapsed contract for five years when they negotiated the 2017 contract. In New York state, under the Taylor law, if negotiators can’t come to terms on a new contract, the old contract is still in effect, including any provisions the city might want to change. “The union has time on its side because they can hold out and not sign on the contract,” said Daniel DiSalvo, a political science professor at City College of New York who studies labor unions.

And while it may seem intuitive that unions have their backs against the wall during periods of heightened protest, the opposite can be true. “The police are kind of in an advantage,” DiSalvo said. “Paradoxically, the hostility of the national environment can be leveraged by labor.”

The PBA, and police unions across the country, can use the heightened criticism of police to portray their jobs as thankless and increasingly dangerous, despite the fact that NYPD line-of-duty deaths have been trending down for decades. The PBA keeps a running toll on its website of attacks on police officers, including vehicle damage and online threats. In recent weeks, the PBA head, Pat Lynch, has blamed anti-police rhetoric for the death of a police officer in a hit-and-run as well as a spike in retirements.

“We see that any time there is a call for reform this urge to recast themselves as the underdog, people who face insurmountable challenges,” Sisitzky said.

Officials, meanwhile, argue the pay raises are mutually beneficial to the police and public. “The parties reached a successful agreement that provided for modest increased compensation in exchange for management’s right to use body cameras throughout the NYPD,” Robert Linn, the city’s chief labor negotiator at the time, told the Guardian. “I think there should be a model as to how to provide 21st-century policing.”

Pay bumps for reforms are not isolated to NYC, and other examples have raised criticism: in Las Vegas, the police union negotiated a 1% salary increase for officers wearing body-worn cameras. The police department charges $280 an hour for members of the public to view the footage.

In Nassau county, Long Island, the local branch of the PBA is in negotiations after union members rejected a $3,000-a-year salary increase for officers who wear body-worn cameras. A final contract may include an even higher pay bump, despite opposition from activists. According to an analysis by Newsday, the $3,000 salary increase would add $5.7m to the county’s budget. The same analysis found purchasing the cameras would cost only $1.3m, and storing data would cost between $342,000 to $5.2m depending on the plan.

Frederick Brewington, a Long Island civil rights attorney who recently served on the county’s police reform taskforce, said: “Asking officers to be more accountable and to be better members of the society that they’re intending to service, that doesn’t mean you get paid more for doing the thing you swore you were going to do when you took the oath.”

Emily Kaufman, a social worker and organizer with the racial justice collective of Long Island United, said: “Police shouldn’t get paid to wear part of their uniform, this isn’t additional training, this isn’t a specialization, they don’t get trained to wear their badge.” Kaufman says she’s less angry at the union – whose job it is to fight for pay increases for their members – than county officials who go along with it with little protest.

In New York City, the future of the police budget depends on decisions being made in the next few months. Amid a 77% increase in shootings over the previous year – consistent with an uptick in violence across the country during the pandemic – De Blasio has signaled the budget will increase. The mayor also rolled out a policing plan that could be adopted by the next mayor, to be elected this fall. And all five of the city’s police union contracts have expired, so the cost of those reforms will also be the responsibility of the next mayor.

The Guardian contacted Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, the two leading candidates as of recent polling, for comment. Yang did not respond, but a spokesperson for Adams sent a statement saying that he would be pursuing his own reform plan as mayor with a focus on transparency and diversity. The statement did not include comment on officer raises or union negotiations and both Yang and Adams do not support defunding the police.

In a heated recent city council hearing the New York City police commissioner, Dermot Shea, argued that any cuts to the NYPD budget would lead to more crime. “Our neighborhood policing model of proven crime-fighting policing works when we have the necessary tools and resources,” Shea said. “When tools are taken away there are real-world consequences.”

But with no data provided by the mayor that neighborhood policing has helped the city, advocates are still wary.

“Any attempt to get more transparency around police practices has the potential to funnel more money and resources into these police agencies,” Sisitzky said. “Maybe the answer is not to focus on that type of reform, but rethink the scope and function of police departments and police officers.”

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The Ukraine war in maps: Ukrainian forces battle to recover Snake Island | International

Voice Of EU



May 13 | The battle for Snake Island

The all-out attack that Russian troops deployed at the beginning of the offensive in Ukraine did not leave out maritime control of the Black Sea: the Kremlin’s naval force soon took up positions the island of Zmiinyi, also known as Snake Island and located around 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of Odessa and 40km (25 miles) from the Romanian coast. The first map of the conflict published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) on February 25 showed it under Russian control even then. In a statement in February, the Ukrainian Navy said that the invaders had destroyed infrastructure on this island of one square kilometer. A comparison of satellite images captured before the invasion and in recent days shows that the destruction of the main building occurred between May 6 and 7.

August 23, 2016

May 6, 2022

Areas burnt by earlier attacks

Visible structural


May 7, 2022

May 8, 2022

Area of attack

on helicopter

(shown in video)

British intelligence warned last Tuesday that if Russian troops consolidate their position on the island, deploying air defense cruise missiles, they could control the northwest portion of the Black Sea. The permanent Russian settlement on Snake Islands entails sea, land and air control of that entire area, military strategy expert Oleh Zhdanov told the BBC.

The strategic importance of the islet, which grants control over maritime traffic in the port of Odes, is enough to justify the ongoing struggle for it. The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed that it destroyed several planes, helicopters, drones and a landing craft in the early hours of Sunday morning during a Ukrainian attempt to recapture the island. Ukraine claimed that it only attacked Russian troops deployed there. British intelligence stated that Ukraine has used drones to destroy Russian anti-aircraft defenses and supply ships, stranded after the invaders retreated to the Crimean coast following the sinking of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Helicopter destroyed on Snake Island, in a video shared by the Ukrainian army on Sunday.Reuters

The sensors of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites have made it possible to observe hot spots on the island which, in the context of war, can be associated with attacks. These indications of attacks have been recurrent since last February, and particularly intense during the last weekend, coinciding with a video of an attack on the island.

The proximity of Zmiinyi to NATO coasts has not prevented it from becoming a battlefield in the conflict. Armand Gosu, a professor of Russian Political History at the University of Bucharest, explained to Efe news agency that Moscow categorically dominates the Black Sea: “There is a huge military imbalance. Its ships patrol international waters without restriction, which has allowed the Russians to block a maritime outlet from Odessa,” he said. This blockade stifles Ukrainian sea exports that are essential to defend the coastal town from a hypothetical Russian siege like the one suffered by Mariupol.

March 8 A heat source can be seen in the northeast of the island, probably as a result of an attack, as well as a plume of smoke. The area inside the box contains most of the facilities.

March 23 Two weeks later, the Sentinel 2 satellite captured a new hot spot in a nearby area.

May 7 Once again a heat source can be seen, coinciding with a great column of smoke detected by satellites and shown earlier.

May 9 The last available image shows no hot spots, but the island’s vegetation has been largely burnt down as a result of the confrontation.

May 10 | Russian progress

In the two and a half months since the start of the Ukraine invasion, the Russian offensive has changed strategies: at first it sought to take control of the major cities, then focused its efforts on the separatist region of Donbas and on securing the borders. Since then, the frontline has moved in line with modest but systematic Russian advances that have only met with resistance at a spot that’s been highly militarized since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula. The change in the frontline can be seen in the following maps, which show the situation on the ground every two weeks since Russia changed its strategy on March 25. The red color shows areas under Russian control, which have been expanding for the last month and a half.

Donbas is an area covering around 52,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Costa Rica. It is divided into two oblast (administrative units) – Donetsk and Luhansk. Along the northwest, it borders the Kharkiv region, home to the city of Izyum, which is the starting point for Russia’s attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders holding the frontline. From there, Russian troops have been trying to advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the military headquarters and de facto capital of Donetsk, although they have had limited success.

March 24

When the Kremlin’s troops announced that their target was eastern Ukraine, they were already controlling much of Donetsk, Luhansk and the area extending to Kharkiv.

April 8

Two weeks later, the situation on the front had barely changed after a reorganization of the invading troops except in the area of Izyum, the new Russian center of operations.

April 22

The siege of Mariupol, which made Ukrainian defenders retreat to an industrial site, allowed Russia to free up troops to cement control over the northern end of the city.

May 8

Despite Ukrainian counterattacks that are gaining back territory near Kharkiv, the areas under Russian control increasingly encircle the Donbas border

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that the Kremlin’s forces near Izyum are regrouping and resupplying before resuming offensive operations in the southeast and southwest.

In the south of the country, near Crimea and the Black Sea, there is a similar situation: slow but constant Russian advances and reinforced positions in places like Kherson, which was swiftly captured in the early days of the invasion. Ukrainian counterattacks have barely made a dent on Russian forces, who have increased the territory under their control week after week. Moscow has been concentrating anti-aircraft and missile systems in the northern area of Crimea, said the ISW. This could be a prelude to resume offensive operations towards Zaporizhzhia and Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine.

March 24

April 8

April 22

May 8

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Every drop is precious: the Mexican women saving water for their villages | Global development

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Amazon: Violence in Colombia putting “the lungs of the world” at risk | International

Voice Of EU



Flying through the Amazon jungle, the pilot, a former Brazilian colonel, descends from 1500 to one thousand meters above sea level to approach the majestic Puré River.

The Puré crosses the border between Colombia and Brazil, a site that has become strategic for illegal mining and drug trafficking. In its channel more than 30 mining vessels can be seen from the colonel’s plane – tirelessly working to extract gold, illegally, from its waters.

In 2015 the National Parks of Colombia built a cabin called Puerto Franco in honor of the researcher Roberto Franco, the first to discover isolated indigenous peoples in Colombia, people who during the last centuries have decided not to have any contact with Western civilization. From the air, only remains of the cabin built in honor of Franco can be seen. Illegal armed groups burned it down during the pandemic.

This cabin had a very important purpose: to protect the isolated indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon. Indeed, in the depths of the Amazon jungle, very close to Puerto Franco, live the Yuri, an indigenous group that lives in voluntary isolation.

The Río Puré National Park was created for their protection and along with it the most remote cabin in Colombia. Park ranger Luis Rivas, 70, a traditional expert from the Cubeo ethnic group, lived here, charged with keeping illegal miners, drug traffickers and guerrillas away from the isolated indigenous people.

Puerto Franco cabin, after being burned by illegal armed groups in Río Puré, in December 2021.
Puerto Franco cabin, after being burned by illegal armed groups in Río Puré, in December 2021.PNN Río Puré

One night, in the midst of the pandemic, Rivas dreamed that he was in danger and asked Parks officials to remove him from the area. When he reached the nearest town, he caught Covid-19 and died. Some time later, officials from the National Parks found out about the destruction of Puerto Franco during a flight over the Puré River. Since the pandemic they have been unable to access protected areas in the Amazon due to threats from illegal groups that now dominate this territory.

The rangers of this national park, like those of nine others in the Colombian Amazon, which covers almost 15 million hectares, had to leave their territory from one day to the next. “We had to send a plane and get everyone out. There was no time, they threatened us,” says a former National Parks official who prefers not to give his name for fear of reprisals from the guerrillas. This former official believes that these threats respond to the implementation by the Government of the Artemisa strategy, a program to stop deforestation in the Amazon.

In 2020 Colombia was the most dangerous country for the second year in a row for environmental defenders. According to the British NGO Global Witness, 65 environmental leaders were murdered.

Although this crisis has been brewing for decades, it has worsened since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas in 2016. “The organizations that try to protect the Amazon have come into conflict with the interests of these powerful groups. and, as a consequence, they have increasingly become targets of attacks”, explains Juan Carlos Garzón, a researcher at the Ideas for Peace Foundation.

“I am threatened by the guerrillas,” says anthropologist Arturo, 45, who prefers not to give his real name precisely for this reason. He has walked through the Amazon region with a security detail since he reported to the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition in 2020 that the Carolina Ramírez guerrilla group arrived one day at the park cabin where he worked and told them that they had to leave. “They told us that they had declared war on Parks and that they did not want uniformed whites in the protected areas,” he recalls.

An indigenous Ticuna, in the Colombian Amazon jungle.
An indigenous Ticuna, in the Colombian Amazon jungle.Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

The guerrillas stole their gasoline, cameras, computers and all the material they used to study the terrain. “They only left us a small motorized boat to get out,” says Arturo, who decided to leave as soon as he could when he saw his life in danger. Since that time two years ago, whenever he has tried to return, so have the threats. Indigenous officials remained in charge of the parks while Arturo tried to continue leading the projects as best he could from a distance.

However, he recently decided to leave his post: the situation, he says, was becoming more and more frustrating. Arturo was part of a group of park rangers who brought a report to the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in which they asked to be recognized as victims of the armed conflict, considering that the guerrillas “took us out under threat and everything was abandoned. I feel very powerless,” he says.

Arturo wonders, what did National Parks do with those who are threatened for trying to take care of a territory that belongs to everyone?, although in truth he knows the answer: nothing. According to official data, 12 park rangers have been killed between 1994 and 2020.

The deputy director of National Parks of Colombia, Carolina Jarro, explains that at the moment they are under very strong pressure from illegal mining, a business that they estimate represents close to three billion Colombian pesos in profits for criminal groups each year. The proceeds, moreover, are used to launder the resources obtained from drug trafficking: “Attempts have been made to control illegal mining in the Puré River because the uncontacted indigenous groups are there,” explains Jarro, citing the burning of the Puerto Franco cabin.

The deputy director also notes that the guerrillas do not stop at threatening the park rangers, saying that they have stolen material from the organization that the rangers need to do their work. “Groups outside the law prefer not to have anyone to see what happens, that’s why they kicked us out,” Jarro says

Two illegal dredgers (facilities whose purpose is the extraction of minerals found under water. In this case, gold), on the Puré River, in the Amazon.
Two illegal dredgers (facilities whose purpose is the extraction of minerals found under water. In this case, gold), on the Puré River, in the Amazon.Camilo Rozo

Although officials are currently unable to be inside the parks full time, they are using remote sensing technology to monitor activity in these protected areas. “We can see when the guerrillas build a house, when they create a road. Thus, we can file criminal complaints about the damage that is being done. We have not abandoned the place, we have to go out for protection. But we are always watching,” Jarro says firmly.

Jarro has worked as an official in a park in the Amazon region for the last 10 years. A trained sociologist, she climbed the ranks of the administration before becoming head of a specific area, the name of which she cannot reveal due to the threat from the guerrillas. Its mission has been to protect a group of indigenous people who emerged from isolation some years ago, only to be enslaved by the miners and rubber tappers who exploited the area’s resources. Now, many of these indigenous people, from the Nukak ethnic group, are highly resistant to contact: “In the beginning, it was the indigenous people themselves who negotiated with the guerrillas so that they would let us enter and work with the communities. There was never a bigger problem.”

However, after the peace process, everything changed. “The guerrillas held me hostage for two days, and after that they told me that I couldn’t set foot in the park again,” says Juana.

The government’s response: Militarize

The only solution Colombia’s national government has come up with has been to militarize these protected areas via a program known as ‘Operation Artemisa’.

In 2020 President Duque said in an interview with the World Economic Forum that “our strategy for fighting deforestation is a combination of carrot and stick. We’re fighting against illegal activities that destroy the tropical jungle. At the same time, we’re building up nature-based solutions. In the past two years, we have been able to reduce the rate of deforestation by 19%.” Duque has since said his government is aiming for a 30% reduction overall.

This month the Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, announced that 10,000 million pesos will be invested in the military bases of La Pedrera and Tarapacá for the control of illegal mining and the fight against drug trafficking.

Esperanza Leal Gómez is Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Colombia. She says that protecting environmental leaders is the responsibility of the whole Colombian state, which must guarantee conditions for workers in the National Parks so they can “operate…without putting their lives in danger.”

Panoramic view of the Puré river, border between Colombia and Brazil.
Panoramic view of the Puré river, border between Colombia and Brazil.
Lucía Franco (EL PAÍS)

Gómez explains that the park rangers are not only essential for the conservation of the environment, but that they keep those at bay who want to exploit it: “The most latent threat is the dispute over territory between various illegal armed actors and civilians, who are being left unprotected.”

The director of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Colombia, Sandra Valenzuela, agrees. “As long as these threats continue, the national parks, their park rangers and uncontacted indigenous people will be in danger. Colombia must find a way to guarantee security and ensure the survival of the lungs of the world.”

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