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The Defense Department's top leaders Thursday signaled an openness to remove prosecutorial decisions on sexual assault from the chain of command. But they voiced reservations about overhauling the military justice system for all serious crimes, as some senators are pushing in a recent bill. 

The Defense Department's top officer, General Mark Milley, said he is open minded to "significant and fundamental change" in the area of sexual assault and harassment but would want to see "some detailed study" before changes to the military justice system are applied to all serious crimes.

 

The remarks came in response to questions at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who has been pushing for years for changes to the military justice system to address the issue of sexual assault and harassment in the military. 

The military's most recent prevalence report issued in 2018 estimated that about 20,500 service members experienced a form of sexual assault, and the number of reported assaults has increased for the past nine years according to the department's 2020 report. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (R) looks on as U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) speaks at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on June 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act includes removing prosecutorial decisions from the chain of command for all serious crimes, including crimes of sexual assault. 

When reintroducing the legislation in April, Gillibrand said it was important to put all prosecutions of serious crimes into the hands of trained professionals in order to eliminate bias and to not create a separate system for sexual assault that could further ostracize victims. 

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on his first full day in the Pentagon stood up the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Military to study the problem and offer recommendations on how to fix it that Austin will deliver to President Biden. 

Austin in testimony Thursday said he will deliver final recommendations to Mr. Biden later this month, which will include the initial recommendation to remove prosecutorial decisions on cases of sexual assault from the chain of command so there is no potential bias when deciding. 

Gillibrand asked Austin if he would keep an open mind to large-scale changes to the military justice system as he reviews data on racial disparities in the system. He said he always has an open mind when faced with tough problems, but this commission is focused on sexual assault. 

The recommendation to remove prosecutorial decisions on sexual assault from the chain of command has historically faced resistance from military leaders. Milley, who has opposed the recommendation in the past, appeared to have evolved on the issue, telling reporters in April that he had an open mind because the problem is not getting better, and there's a lack of confidence in the system.

Austin has received feedback from the service secretaries on the initial recommendations from the commission that include reforming the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command, and some service secretaries expressed reservations, noting their concern that it will erode the authority of commanders. 

Gillibrand's legislation now has 66 co-sponsors as more senators of both parties have signed on in recent weeks, but the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Jack Reed remains hesitant on a massive overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

Reed, an Army veteran, has endorsed changing the role of military commanders in prosecuting service members on sexual assault charges but has not supported further changes. In a statement in May, he said the change involving sexual assault charges will be considered in the markup of the committee's annual defense bill this summer. 

News Source: CBS News

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Police Departments in Multiple Major Cities Wont Say If Gang Violence Is Increasing

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by Kaylee Greenlee

 

Police departments in several major cities would not say if gang violence in the region has increased in the last year, despite an overall increase in reports of violent crime.

Some police departments said the motive behind crimes isn’t always known while multiple others said they would not be able to provide any information unless a formal records request was submitted.

Over 1,600 violent crimes were recorded in 2021 and reported homicides were up 13% from last year in Washington, D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). The MPD does not publicly report instances of gang-related activity or offenses.

“We have seen an increase in gun violence in our city. It is not known, in all cases, what the motive is behind the violence,” a D.C. MPD spokesperson told the DCNF Tuesday. “Nonetheless, MPD is working tirelessly and building upon relationships with the communities we serve to make them safer.”

Law enforcement officials are preparing for a potential increase in violent crime over the summer as COVID-19 restrictions ease and people emerge from their homes, according to The New York Times. Homicides in major cities increased by more than 30% last year and were up another 24% at the beginning of 2021, the Times reported.

Overall, crime fell over 20% during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic and violent crime including shootings and homicides rose during the summer of 2020, EconoFact reported on March 30. It was unclear whether the pandemic had a direct impact on the increase in violent crimes that coincided with lifted restrictions and a summer of civil unrest.

“We are seeing an uptick in violent crime across the country, specifically gun violence,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, the Times reported. “People have been cooped up, they have been psychologically affected by this pandemic.”

Homicides in Los Angeles, California, rose 36%, from 258 to 351 in 2020, according to the Times. The LAPD would not say how many instances of gang-related offenses occurred without a formal records request submission and the most recent data available on their website is from April 2019.

Nearly 16,400 instances of gang-related crimes have occurred in Los Angeles, California, over the last three years, according to the LAPD. Offenses include nearly 500 homicides, more than 7,000 felony assaults and over 5,500 robberies.

More than 45,000 people belong to the region’s 450 gang organizations in Los Angeles County, known as the “gang capital of the nation,” according to the LAPD. Several of the groups have existed for over 50 years and focus on selling narcotics.

The Portland Police Bureau doesn’t track gang activity even though incidents of gang violence have increased in the Oregon city, the DCNF reported Thursday.

“In Portland, ‘gang violence’ is not a category of crime,” a department spokesperson told the DCNF Wednesday. “We investigate criminal activity. The terms ‘gang violence’ and ‘gang activity’ are phrases which could be variously defined.”

Around half of the 470 shooting incidents reported in 2021 were gang-related, police reportedly told the Associated Press on June 10. Homicides in Portland, Oregon, increased over 82% from 2020 to 2021, the Times reported.

The Austin, Texas, Police Department also would not release statistics or information regarding gang-related activity without a formal records request, a spokesperson told the DCNF Thursday.

“We have to adhere to the Public Information Act and cannot disclose specific stats and records without the request. The requests are tracked and data is recorded for the type of information being requested,” the Austin Police Department spokesperson said.

One person died and 13 others were injured after a shooting on Sixth Street in Austin, Texas, the Austin American-Statesman reported June 13. Two suspects were arrested in connection with the incident, one unidentified juvenile, and 17-year-old Jeremiah Roshaun Leland James Tabb, though their motive was unclear, according to the Austin Police Department.

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Kaylee Greenlee is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
 

 

 

 

 

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