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Black Iowa police chief faces backlash after bringing change

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WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The first Black police chief in Waterloo, Iowa, is facing intense opposition from some current and former officers as he works with city leaders to reform the department, including the removal of its longtime insignia that resembles a Ku Klux Klan dragon.

Joel Fitzgerald says his 16-month tenure in Waterloo, a city of 67,000 with a history of racial divisions, is a “case study” for what Black police chiefs face as they seek to build community trust and hold officers to higher standards. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said the attacks were driven by misinformation and racism toward him and his boss, the city’s first Black mayor.

“I don’t think there’s been any police chief in America in a small- or medium-sized department that have endured this for the reasons I have endured it and I think the reasons have to do with race,” said Fitzgerald, who previously served as the chief of larger departments in Fort Worth, Texas and Allentown, Pennsylvania. “This is my fourth job being the first Black police chief. I’ve dealt with pushback in other places but never so overt. Never so nonfactual.”

Jacinta Gau, a University of Central Florida professor and expert on race and policing, said new, reform-minded chiefs always face backlash, and that is intensified when they are Black leaders of historically white forces.

“The power dynamic in America has always been that Black people are subordinate to white people. When Black people acquire leadership positions, that power dynamic is flipped on its head and white people who were comfortable with the status quo are now feeling very threatened,” she said.

The backlash against Fitzgerald has intensified since last fall when the City Council began pushing to remove the department’s emblem — a green-eyed, red-bodied, winged creature known as a griffin that had adorned patches on officers’ uniforms since the 1960s.

After a messy process, the council voted 5-2 last week to order the department to remove the symbol from its uniforms by the end of September.

It was the latest among several changes the department has made under Fitzgerald that have won praise from Mayor Quentin Hart, most City Council members and some community leaders — while angering the police union, retired officers and conservatives.

A white City Council member running to unseat Hart in November has portrayed herself as a champion of police while vowing to oust Fitzgerald if elected. A political action committee supporting her and other “pro-law enforcement candidates” called Cedar Valley Backs the Blue has attacked Fitzgerald and Hart on Facebook, claiming they are mismanaging the department.

Three of Fitzgerald’s predecessors as chief released a letter saying they were outraged at what the department had become under his leadership, claiming it was “imploding” and that morale had hit an all-time low.

Adding to the backlash is that Fitzgerald is an outsider to Waterloo with academic degrees some critics mock as elitist. He acknowledges “it didn’t look good” when news emerged that he was a finalist for chief openings in bigger cities during his first year.

Opponents have attacked everything from Fitzgerald’s salary — which is in line with similar chiefs in Iowa — to his off-duty trips to visit family in Texas, where his teenage son continues treatment for a brain tumor that was removed in 2019.

Last year, he took over a department that has long experienced tension with the city’s Black community, which comprises 17% of the city population.

Hart said Waterloo could have been a hotbed of racial unrest after George Floyd’s death given its history, but Fitzgerald helped ease tensions the day before he was sworn on June 1, 2020, in by meeting with protesters for hours to hear their concerns.

“It was a resetting of the clock moment,” Fitzgerald said.

Numerous changes soon followed: banning chokeholds, outlawing racial profiling, requiring officers to intervene if they see excessive force, and investigating all complaints of misconduct.

The Waterloo Commission on Human Rights called for the removal of the griffin emblem, saying it evoked fear and distrust among some given its resemblance to the KKK symbol.

But generations of Waterloo officers had seen it as a symbol of their vigilance. The Waterloo Police Protective Association, which represents officers, denied it had racist intent and mobilized against its removal.

Fitzgerald, one of a handful of officers of color in the 123-member department, said he was met with fierce pushback when he suggested the department rebrand itself voluntarily before the council acted.

Supporters of the griffin, including the Back the Blue group, framed its removal as an affront to officers.

“The beatdown of our police officers continues,” City Council member Margaret Klein, who is running for mayor, wrote on Facebook, citing the “devastating impact of removing the beloved 50-year patch design.” She has called for Fitzgerald’s resignation.

Hart said the debate over the griffin missed the bigger picture. He said the department has undergone a “complete paradigm shift,” adopting a community policing model that has been popular.

“Decency and respect, that’s what I want. But I’m pro-law enforcement,” said Hart, who was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017 and 2019.

The Back the Blue group has labeled Hart a “radical mayor” and released an anonymous survey taken by half the current officers and dozens of retirees showing all 98 believed Fitzgerald was the wrong man for the job. Officers complained that they didn’t feel supported by the community or the administration.

“It’s sad and it’s pathetic but this is what’s going on at the Waterloo Police Department,” said group chairman Lynn Moller, a retired investigator.

Fitzgerald said officer morale is a national problem and Waterloo has eight vacancies after some officers retired or left for other jobs. He proposed a strategic plan to improve morale and hire more officers in coming years.

City Council member Jonathan Grieder said Fitzgerald had been slandered by people claiming to love the police.

“We are grappling with the very real issues that have long been embedded of race and force and policing,” he said. “I get that some people have never had to reckon with that until now. I get that it’s uncomfortable.”



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India tests nuclear-capable missile amid tensions with China

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NEW DELHI (AP) — India has test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,125 miles) from an island off its east coast amid rising border tensions with China.

The successful launch on Wednesday was in line with “India’s policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no first use,” said a government statement.

The Agni-5 missile splashed down in the Bay of Bengal with “a very high degree of accuracy,” said the statement issued on Wednesday night.

Beijing’s powerful missile arsenal has driven New Delhi to improve its weapons systems in recent years, with the Agni-5 believed to be able to strike nearly all of China.

India is already able to strike anywhere inside neighboring Pakistan, its archrival against whom it has fought three wars since gaining independence from British colonialists in 1947.

India has been developing its medium- and long-range nuclear and missile systems since the 1990s amid increasing strategic competition with China in a major boost to the country’s defense capabilities.

Tension between them flared last year over a long-disputed section of their border in the mountainous Ladakh area. India is also increasingly suspicious of Beijing’s efforts to heighten its influence in the Indian Ocean.

Talks between Indian and Chinese army commanders to disengage troops from key areas along their border ended in a stalemate earlier this month, failing to ease a 17-month standoff that has sometimes led to deadly clashes. India and China fought a bloody war in 1962.



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Friedman, Dodgers facing decisions on FAs, Bauer this winter

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andrew Friedman is headed into an offseason filled with crucial decisions involving the Los Angeles Dodgers’ big-name free agents, a rebuild of the starting rotation and Trevor Bauer’s future with the team.

As always, Friedman is guided by the ultimate goal of the monied Dodgers, saying, “The number one objective is to put ourselves in the best position to win in 2022.”

After coming within two wins of reaching the World Series for the fourth time in five years, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations defined the team’s postseason as “our struggle to consistently score runs.”

“We needed someone to step up and pull an Eddie Rosario,” Friedman said, referring to the Atlanta Braves left fielder who was named MVP of the NL Championship Series.

“After we made the Trea Turner deal, in my opinion, one through eight, it was the deepest and best lineup I’ve been around. But it didn’t quite play like that over those two months. It was a little bumpier than I would’ve expected,” he said Wednesday. “Figuring out the why of that is the hard part.”

The turbulence began well before the postseason.

Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Bauer went on paid administrative leave in early July under MLB’s joint domestic violence and sexual assault policy. MLB is conducting its own investigation and has yet to announce any findings. Bauer, through his representatives, has denied any wrongdoing.

Asked if Bauer will pitch for the team again, Friedman said they remain in the same position as before.

“It’s being handled by the league office,” he said. “Whatever they decide, we’ll have to figure out from there what makes the most sense for us.”

If MLB suspends Bauer, it could create a domino effect on the team’s payroll plans.

“The extent of it, I don’t know yet,” Friedman said.

The Dodgers began the season with eight starters and tried to get through the postseason with just Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and 20-game winner Julio Urías. The lack of depth was exposed by the team’s decisions to use Scherzer in relief in Game 5 of the NL Division Series and Urías out of the bullpen in Game 2 of the NLCS that left both pitchers tired in their later starts.

“We’re got a really good group of young starting pitchers coming,” Friedman said, citing Mitch White, Andre Jackson, Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Landon Knack. “Gives us a really strong foundation of depth.”

Friedman and the front office have decisions to make on such key veterans as Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Kenley Jansen and Chris Taylor, who will become free agents after the World Series.

“We’ll do everything we can to keep as many of this group together,” Friedman said, “but not standing in the way of a great opportunity and I’m sure there will be for different people.”

Kershaw, the 33-year-old three-time Cy Young Award winner, reinjured his left arm not long after returning from over a two-month absence for the same issue and wasn’t available to pitch in the postseason.

“He just wants to feel good again and get to the point where he’s healthy,” Friedman said.

Kershaw has spent his entire 14-year career in Los Angeles, where he’s been the longtime face of the franchise.

“There’s something nostalgic and great about Kersh playing for one team and winning another championship and having a parade,” Friedman said.

Offseason moves would be impacted if no agreement on a collective bargaining agreement is reached before the current deal expires Dec. 1.

“We need to be prepared accordingly,” Friedman said.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports





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Senators have heated exchanges with AG Garland over DOJ school board memo

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Senators have heated exchanges with AG Garland over DOJ school board memo



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Drinking Coffee Has Some Super Benefits—Here Are 4 Health Perks of Your Morning Cup

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Drinking Coffee Has Some Super Benefits—Here Are 4 Health Perks of Your Morning Cup



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Nor'easter has New England bracing for floods, power outages

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Nor'easter has New England bracing for floods, power outages



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Trump Jr. Gets A Reality Check After Comparing U.S. To Communist Czechoslovakia

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Donald Trump Jr. was ridiculed this week after he likened shortages of certain products in the U.S. under President Joe Biden to living in communist Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.

Trump Jr. made the remarks during conversation Saturday on Newsmax with Sebastian Gorka, a right-wing media personality and former aide to Donald Trump.

Gorka asked Trump Jr. to discuss the “empty shelves” and backlog of cargo ships in California due to supply-chain issues, given his “perspective” as someone who, “as a child, traveled behind the Iron Curtain and saw real socialism.”

“When conservatives say, ‘They’re socialists. The Democrats have gone radical,’ this isn’t an exaggeration, is it? You’ve seen it, Don,” Gorka added.

Trump Jr.’s mother, Ivana Trump, grew up in Czechoslovakia before moving first to Canada and then the U.S. in the 1970s. He told Gorka his Czech grandparents wanted him to understand the “freedoms and blessings we have here” in the U.S.

“So I traveled with them there every summer, you know, six, eight weeks. I’ve waited in those bread lines,” said Trump Jr., whose father was estimated to be worth more than $1 billion in the 1980s. “We’re starting to see the empty shelves that I experienced then in communist Czechoslovakia in the ’80s in America right now.”

Grocery stores in the U.S. are having problems stocking certain products due to the coronavirus pandemic, a worker shortage and shipping congestion at the Port of Los Angeles.

Some social media users and conservative media personalities have shown images of empty shelves to attack Biden over the supply-chain issues. However, some of these images have turned out to be photos from years ago.

Trump Jr. was slammed on social media for the absurd comparison. A number of people also pointed out that last year, at the peak of the pandemic during the Trump administration, shelves in stores across the country were stripped bare of certain essentials and people lined up for miles in their cars or for blocks on foot to get aid from food banks.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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How a pro-Trump “command center” at a hotel near the White House fueled January 6 efforts to block election certification

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How a pro-Trump “command center” at a hotel near the White House fueled January 6 efforts to block election certification



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