Police Brutality in the United States

On Sunday, April 11th, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a police officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Wright was pulled over for a traffic violation and the police discovered a warrant for his arrest and tried to detain him. Kim Potter, a 26 year veteran of the police force, can be seen on video pointing a gun at Wright, but yelling “Taser.” She claims she thought she had her Taser in her hand, but instead shot a single bullet into Daunte Wright’s chest, killing him. Police left his body laying in the street for hours and would not give answers to Wright’s family. Ms. Potter has been arrested and faces charges of second-degree manslaughter. She has also resigned from the police force. Daunte Wright’s killing occurred not far from where George Floyd was killed last summer. Wright leaves behind a 2 year-old son and a girlfriend. Protests have been ongoing since last Sunday, demanding justice for Daunte Wright. Brooklyn Center’s City Council passed a resolution banning tear gas and other crowd control tactics on Monday, but police broke that just 15 minutes after the resolution passed. The Mayor put a curfew into place and the National Guard, which was in place for Derek Chauvin’s trial for murdering George Floyd, was deployed to the city - placing the city under military occupation. The National Guard was calling on public transportation to transport arrested protestors, but the Minneapolis Transit Union issued a statement refusing to do so in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

On March 29th, a Chicago police officer shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Body cam video, which was not released until Thursday, April 15th, shows a short foot chase followed by the police officer, Eric Stillman, shouting to Toledo to “drop it” - referring to a gun. Toledo is seen raising his hands, which are empty, before crumpling to the ground less than a second later after a single shot rang out. While Stillman claims he was faced with a life-threatening situation and had no other option, it is clear that Toledo was not holding a gun when the officer killed him. He has since been placed on administrative leave, but currently has no charges against him. Stillman has had four use-of-force reports and three complaints filed against him since 2017, but has never been disciplined. Toledo’s killing has renewed calls for police reform in Chicago and the public is demanding a quick and transparent investigation into the killing. Four years ago, the U.S. Justice Department found that the Chicago Police Department engaged in unnecessary foot pursuits that often ended in officers shooting someone, even unarmed individuals. Activists have long called for reform on foot pursuit policies, but nothing has been done. 

Police brutality in the United States is a public health epidemic. Police forces, which have their origins in this country as slave patrols, continue to be highly funded and touted as a way to protect citizens, but cause unnecessary harm and death to the people they are supposed to be protecting, particularly BIPOC. In 2019, there were 999 fatal police shootings. In 2020, there were 1,021 fatal police shootings. From the beginning of 2021 to the end of March, 213 citizens have been fatally shot by police. These shootings disportionately affect Black and Brown individuals. Black individuals are twice as likely to be killed by police compared to white individuals. The police institution is rife with systemic racism and it is clear that training will undo it. In order to help with public safety and improve public health and well-being, funding needs to be increased in areas such as housing, mental health, and community support and decreased in police departments. Individuals working for the state should not be killing the citizens they are supposed to be protecting - this is not acceptable. 

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CDC, FDA Pause Distribution of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Out of “Abundance of Caution”

Last week, the FDA and CDC recommended a pause on administering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a rare clotting disorder: cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). The pause is designed to give FDA and CDC officials time to evaluate data, determine whether the clotting disorder is indeed related to the vaccine, and develop clinical recommendations for treatment. The pause may range from a few days to several weeks while the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reviews available information.

Nearly 7 million people in the United States have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far, placing the potential incident rate for CVST at fewer than 1 in 1,000,000, based on the existing data. For context, an Oxford University study noted that the risk of developing CVST is “10 times greater following a COVID-19 infection than it is after a vaccination.” The CDC stresses that while the risk is extremely low, the pause “shows that safety monitoring systems, like the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, are working efficiently to detect unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse events.”

Individuals who’ve received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past three weeks and develop symptoms such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should seek urgent medical attention.

Most vaccination clinics that had planned to administer Johnson & Johnson have already switched to Moderna and Pfizer—including the Ingham County Health Department and Michigan State University. However, concerns remain regarding outreach to hard-to-reach people and populations. As a “one-and-done” vaccine that doesn’t need to be frozen, Johnson & Johnson was considered by many to be an ideal method to protect those who have less time available for appointments, who are not located near medical facilities with specialized freezers, or who are otherwise harder to reach, including seasonal workers, agricultural or migrant farm workers, rural communities, people experiencing homelessness, and individuals who may have limited means of transportation or paid time off. 

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MDHHS Extends Gathering and Mask Order

The COVID-19 surge in Michigan is continuing, with the state once again the worst in the nation for per-capita COVID-19 cases. Amid this situation, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new Emergency Order that extends COVID-19-related restrictions on gatherings and requirements for face masks through May 24th. In addition to extending existing restrictions, the order also requires that "a good faith effort is made to ensure that children aged 2 to 4 years wear a mask when participating in gathering" starting April 26th.

Additionally, on Monday, Governor Whitmer announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ban on most in-person office work will be extended by six months, though she hopes to lift it before that time. The order comes from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

COVID-19 MDHHS Epidemic order effective April 19 through May 24

[Quoted from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/coronavirus/4-19_Epidemic_Orderv4_722412_7.pdf]

Limits on attendance at residential gatherings.


Limits on attendance at non-residential gatherings.


“Gathering” means any occurrence where two or more persons from more than one household are present in a shared space. Incidental gatherings (where people do not mingle with others outside their group) are excepted. For more information on gathering rules, please see the FAQs.

Face masks are still required.

Retail and personal services

Recreation and entertainment

Outdoor stadiums or arenas

Food service

Exercise, fitness, and sports

To read the complete MDHHS April 16, 2021, Epidemic Order, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. Questions or concerns can be emailed to COVID19@michigan.gov.

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Voting Rights at Risk in Michigan

Republican-backed legislation regarding stricter voting laws is currently pending in the Michigan Senate. If passed, this bill would require every voter to submit a copy of their ID in an absentee ballot request, limit the hours voters can drop off their absentee ballot, prohibit return postage on absentee ballots, and restrict the Secretary of State from sending out absentee ballots to all registered voters. These measures severely restrict voting participation and would disportionately affect Black and Brown voters in the state. While Michigan republicans are saying that these laws make voting safer, this is no evidence that elections are currently unsafe or that voter fraud is a significant issue. These claims stem from lies spouted by Donald Trump about last year’s general election regarding voter fraud in absentee voting, despite the election being the “most secure in American history” according to Trump’s own officials. Governor Whitmer has made it clear that she will veto any bill that suppresses voter participation, but republicans have stated they will work around her by petitioning citizens. Laws enacted through popular vote by petition drives (requiring only 340,000 signatures) can bypass vetoes, and are difficult to reverse. The NAACP Detroit branch has already spoken out in opposition to the bills and is ready to push back on them when the time comes. Additionally, 39 major business leaders from Michigan companies, including the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, released a letter urging republicans to not pass laws that would disenfranchise Michigan residents through voter suppression. Michigan is not alone is seeing voter suppression bills pop up in the state legislature, with republicans in several key states around the country having introduced bills to limit voter participation, with a clear goal of disenfranchising Black and Brown voters. Voting is essential to democracy and suppressing voting participation is a violation of citizens’ rights. 

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No State Charges Against Police for Killing of Anthony Hulon

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced last Friday that she will not file charges against the Lansing police officers for the killing of Anthony Hulon in Lansing City Jail.

From the Attorney General's press release:

Michigan State Police conducted a complete and thorough investigation into Mr. Hulon’s death and submitted their findings to the Department of Attorney General for review and to determine what, if any, charges might be appropriate as a result of Mr. Hulon’s death.  Mr. Hulon’s autopsy revealed high levels of amphetamines and methamphetamines in his system at the time of his death.  According to the medical examiner, he also suffered from hypertensive and atherosclerotic disease, which contributed to his death.   

Assistant Attorneys General reviewed the Michigan State Police investigator report, all available Lansing Police Department police reports, the autopsy report and photographs, the medical records from Sparrow Hospital, a toxicology report, and over 40 hours of video. The Department of Attorney General found insufficient evidence to justify criminal charges against the officers involved.   

“The officers in this case did what they were supposed to do under the circumstances,” said Nessel.  “I realize that fact provides little comfort to Mr. Hulon’s family as they grieve the loss of their loved one.  Our job is to determine whether the officers’ actions constituted a criminal act, and we have found no evidence to support criminal charges.”

Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green said that "the next step is an internal review to examine the officers' actions and the department’s procedures, equipment and training systems regarding this incident."

Nessel also announced findings in the death of Paul Bulthouse in the Muskegon County Jail, indicating that charges will be filed against five people, including four Deputies.

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Michigan “Clean Slate” Expungement Applications Can Now Be Submitted

Starting April 11th, the new expungement process for many criminal offenses (part of the "Clean Slate Act") in Michigan went into effect. The new process allows people with misdemeanor marijuana offenses and those with many other types of non-violent misdemeanor and felony convictions to have the convictions removed from the public record so that they no longer appear in background checks and don't have to be disclosed on job applications, which is critical to allow people to move forward with their lives. Additionally, multiple non-violent felony and misdemeanors that occurred at the same time must now be treated as a single offense. 

For details, visit the Attorney General's "Expungement of Criminal Offenses in Michigan" page:

Maryland Repeals Its Police Bill of Rights

Maryland has become the first state to repeal its police bill of rights. In 1972, it was the first state to pass such a bill, and 20 more states have adopted similar laws since. The bill provided the police with special rights, preventing communities from holding officers accountable for misconduct. Among other things, it prohibited civilian oversight, allowed officers to wait 10 days before being interviewed after being involved in a shooting (contrary to US Justice Department recommendations), and allowed complaints against officers to be expunged from their records. Adrienne Jones, Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, tweeted "Now, for the first time in our nation's history, the rights of officers will not be held above the rights of individuals, and policing in Maryland will be transparent and citizen-centered." The legislature overturned a veto by the Governor to pass the bill. Those opposing the bill feel it is "anti-cop." The measure was named after Anton Black, a 19-year old Black man killed by Maryland police in 2018. In addition to the repeal, new laws that will prevent juveniles from serving life sentences, enforce law enforcement body cam usage, ban no-knock warrants, and more have been passed by the legislature despite having been vetoed by the governor. 

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Addiction, Stigma, and Racism in the Chauvin Trial

This past Tuesday, Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney unsurprisingly brought up George Floyd’s history of substance use and the fact that he had fentanyl in his blood at the time of his death, in an attempt to vilify and make the case for this substance being the cause of his death. This is far too often seen in our society and criminal justice system: weaponizing stigma against those who use drugs, particularly against BIPOC individuals.

For some familiar with George Floyd’s story, none were surprised that his history of substance use was used against him to justify his death. Addiction medicine experts have also been clear: the cause of death was not overdose. They are also well aware of reasons why such portrayals are used, not only to falsely attribute a persons’ death to drugs in this situation, but to dehumanize and turn others against the victim. 

Not only is this portrayal inaccurate, but it is also harmful and brings up an important intersection of addiction, medicine, and criminal justice. There is data that suggests that while opioid use disorder (OUD) prevalence is similar for Black and White adults in the U.S., Black adults are 35 times less likely to be prescribed buprenorphine, which is one of a few evidence-based medications used for treating OUD. This drug is a crucial tool to help prevent relapses and fatal overdoses, and evidence shows that there are clear disparities in equitable care for OUD. In a pandemic where drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed, BIPOC communities have seen the greatest surges, particularly due to oppressive systems which have led to lower availability of evidence-based substance use treatments in addition to continued discrimination within treatment programs, to name a few causes. Organizations such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) have put out policy statements requesting the advancement of racial justice in addiction to medicine to address some of these inequities, however this is only one of many inequitable systems that disproportionately continue to harm BIPOC communities and individuals. 

The fear of policing and threat of murder is one of many reasons Black Americans may not seek the help that they need, especially during a pandemic. With situations such as those used in the Chauvin trial, that fear is exacerbated and will continue to be so, and may be worsened depending on the verdict of the trial. Regardless of whether George Floyd used substances before his death, it does not justify his murder, nor should any other illness. Rather than having police use lethal force against people and  using drugs to justify their deaths, we must extend help, empathy, and address the stigma and inequities in criminal justice and in medicine if we are to help those with substance use disorders and prevent overdose deaths.

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Worldwide Death Toll From COVID-19 Passes 3 Million People

More than 3 million people have now died from COVID-19 worldwide. The pandemic first became known in February, 2020, and total deaths passed 1 million on September 28th, 2020 (7 months later) and 2 million on January 15th, 2021. One million people have now died in the last three months alone, and that number rises daily. While vaccines are helping to reduce the spread in many places, the emergence of new variants of the virus, combined with states and countries loosening restrictions on gatherings and eliminating mask requirements are offsetting the gains.

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Biden Administration Announces No Increase Refugee Cap, Then Reverses Course

On Friday, the Biden administration went back on a campaign promise to increase the refugee cap of 15,000 people per year, a historically low number set by the Trump administration. Trump consistently lowered the limit every year, which had been over 200,000 when the Refugee Act of 1980 took effect, and was 85,000 people per year in 2016. When campaigning, Biden had said he would dramatically increase the number, and proposed a limit of 62,500 people earlier this year. Immediate blowback caused Biden to quickly change course and announce that the number would be increased, but the administration announced that the 62,500 goal was "unlikely."

Trump's restrictions on refugees was largely viewed as being tied to efforts to keep BIPOC out of the United States. Between 2010 and 2021, approximately 375,000 refugees came to the United States from Asia, 170,000 came from Africa, and 27,000 came from Latin America and the Caribbean. In contrast, 28,000 came from Europe (a continent that is predominantly White). In 2020, the largest number of refugees came from Burma and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Michigan Attorney General Warns About COVID-19 Scams

On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned about vaccine scams "offering a reward in exchange for personal information." The warning notes that "The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), in collaboration with a number of other federal agencies, recently issued alerts to the public due to an increasing number of victims receiving email and/or text messages after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine."

"In the messages, people are prompted to participate in a fraudulent post-vaccine survey with the promise of cash or a prize upon completion. The bogus surveys are reportedly asking victims to pay for shipping and handling in order to receive a prize that is never delivered."

The Intellectual Property Rights Center has indicated that "No post-vaccine surveys are being conducted by Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson" and "Any emails or text messages that purport to be sent on behalf of these companies seeking personal financial information are illegitimate and fraudulent as these companies would never request an advanced payment for shipping or other expenses."

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):