News Roundup

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a “comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence and other violent crime” ahead of the summer months when major cities often experience increased gun violence.  Among other things, the administration’s press release says that local governments will be able to use American Rescue Plan funds to hire law enforcement officers, prosecute gun traffickers, and invest in new law enforcement equipment and technology.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

Crime Plan Reactions.  In a broadcast this week, the PBS News Hour got two perspectives on the Biden Administration’s effort to reduce violent crime.  Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor to President Biden and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, touted what he characterized as historic investment in community violence intervention programs as well as increased funding for job training for formerly incarcerated people.  Richmond also noted that the plan would help address budget shortfalls that have forced some communities to reduce law enforcement services.

Offering a critical perspective on the plan, DeRay McKesson, a co-founder of the group Campaign Zero which aims to eliminate police violence, welcomed the efforts to crack down on gun trafficking by focusing on manufacturers and dealers but said that increasing funding for law enforcement was unlikely to result in safer communities.  McKesson also criticized what he saw as the administration’s failure to tighten oversight of ATF and Border Patrol.

APD.  There have been many stories in the local news over the past year about the Asheville Police Department’s struggle with personnel departures.  Earlier this month, the department announced that it would stop responding immediately to reports of certain lower-level crimes so that it could improve response times to more serious incidents.  This week the New York Times picked up on the story and discussed the issues facing the department with Chief of Police David Zack.  The story notes that many officers do not feel supported by the community and that low pay has compounded the problem.  Zack told the Times that seven officers joined the department in December and that six of them already have quit.

Wilkins.  The News Roundup previously noted that Brindell Wilkins, who has been suspended as Granville County Sheriff, was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with an incident in 2014 where he allegedly advised someone to kill a former deputy. WRAL reports that Wilkins recently was indicted on additional counts of obstruction of justice and failing to discharge duties of his office.  The new charges relate to activities of the sheriff’s office drug unit and the approval of gun permits.

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