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Policing My Hometown Is a Labor of Love

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A California deputy chief explains the challenges of protecting the city he grew up in

We hear a lot these days about rifts between police and the communities they serve, especially in communities of color. I come from both worlds: I am a deputy police chief in my hometown of Salinas.

You read a lot about crime in East Salinas, but I’m proud to have grown up there. The city was different and smaller (about 80,000 vs. 155,000 today) when I was a kid. My family was typical; on both sides, I had grandparents from Mexico who came here to work in fields and packing sheds.

My schools—Fremont Elementary and El Sausal Middle—had an assigned police officer (an early version of today’s school resource officers). I made friends with those officers. Those relationships—and the fact I had strict parents whose rules kept me away from drugs and gangs—led me to consider law enforcement as a career.

After high school, I enrolled at Hartnell Junior College. The college had a campus safety program run by the Salinas Police Department; I enrolled in classes and patrolled the college, providing security services and parking enforcement. Before I graduated, I became a reserve deputy with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

After Hartnell, I was accepted to Fresno State but put my education on hold to pursue my career. I applied for jobs with the sheriff’s department and the Salinas police. The sheriff’s department offered me a job first, so I took it. After the academy and training, I worked in the King City substation, but I wanted to come home and work out of the Salinas station, which serves unincorporated areas like Castroville and Prunedale.

After time on patrol, I took a job as an investigator in the sheriff’s coroner division. I felt the pull of Salinas. I applied with the police department and was hired. I’ve done a number of different jobs—training officer, SWAT, detective, the gang unit—and found time to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Over the next 20 plus years, I was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, commander, and then, in 2013, I became one of two deputy police chiefs.

I work at staying grounded in the community. I’ve been on the board of directors of three local nonprofits—our own Police Activities League, Second Chance Youth & Family Services, and Sun Street Centers, a drug and alcohol abuse program.

The Salinas crime picture is complicated. Start with socioeconomic disadvantages, absentee parents, educational challenges, then add in the glamorization of gang lifestyles in music and movies, and the intrinsic desire of kids to belong to something. The gangs are better armed than they used to be, and the prison gang and drug cartel influences have made the problem even more challenging.

While the problem is real, the perception of violent crime in East Salinas has been overstated. Gangsters are a small number of people here. Most people are honest and hardworking and want a safe place to live, work, and raise a family.

In the police department, we are trying to use technology to work smarter and target the most violent individuals. The days of just driving around and trying to arrest gangsters are over. We rely on intelligence and statistical analysis to identify troublemakers. We combine that with place-based policing, as part of our overall violence reduction strategy.

This worked particularly well in the neighborhood of Hebbron, where two officers took care of quality-of-life issues and really got to know the people there.

Unfortunately, we had to temporarily shut down our place-based policing program—and all our other special units. We are more than 30 officers below our budgeted force. The attrition and retirement rates have been outpacing our hiring efforts.

Police recruitment and staffing are problems everywhere—and the recent media coverage of alleged police misconduct is not helping matters—but Salinas has special challenges. We’re just an hour’s drive from Silicon Valley, where police recruits can make three times the salary and not have to put their lives on the line.

I see hope in the improvements people are making in neighborhoods, the work that planners are doing to attract small businesses, the investment by Taylor Farms in its new headquarters downtown. If we can make Salinas peaceful and safer, the future could be very bright.

Right now, we’re focused on the fundamentals—and on building our ranks. We have 13 people in the academy and need more. Our goal is to better reflect the community we serve. We even have a grant for eight school-based police officers, and I’d love to have the people to staff it. I know firsthand the impact even one officer in one school can make on a kid in Salinas.

Dan Perez is a 30-year veteran of local law enforcement. He is the married father of three who enjoys photography and travel in his spare time. This essay is part of Salinas: California’s Richest Poor City, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME technology

We Need a Code of Ethics to Govern Digital Forensics

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Those involved with determining the relevance of digital evidence are sometimes ill-equipped to make such assessments

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am neither a digital forensics practitioner nor do I play one on television.

I am, however, a professor in, and former chair of, an academic department at a research university that houses a graduate program in computer (digital) forensics I helped design. In 2011, I cofounded a computer forensics research center at my university. Finally, for more than 10 years, I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses on professional ethics for criminal justice and digital forensics students.

These experiences helped me to identify a glaring issue in the field of digital forensics: a lack of professional and ethical standards governing practitioners. And as digital forensics gains prominence in the legal landscape, the lack of agreed-upon standards is a big problem.

What is digital forensics?

Digital or computer forensics involves the identification, recovery, analysis and presentation in court of relevant information taken from electronic devices such as computers and cellphones.

That information becomes digital evidence presented in court and designed to tie together people and events in time and space to establish causality for crimes or civil wrongs.

For example, imagine the police arrested a suspect on charges she murdered her husband by poisoning him. The police will seize and examine the suspect’s computer to uncover incriminating evidence such as the suspect’s history of visiting web pages that deal with poisons. Once retrieved, the prosecutor will likely introduce that evidence to gain a conviction.

Digital evidence is not trivial. If it leads to a conviction on criminal charges, the defendant may face prison time. In a civil case, it can lead to a defendant having to pay monetary damages. And the police officers, technicians and private contractors who testify in court about digital evidence can be the difference between justice served and justice denied.

The “Wild West” of digital forensics

In some ways, the digital forensics landscape resembles the “Wild West.” At least part of the reason for this is that digital forensics is not science-driven; instead, it is driven by its practitioners.

Those involved with determining the relevance of digital evidence are sometimes ill-equipped to make such assessments.

Problems, including inadequate training, use of outdated equipment, limited resources, few personnel and lack of a standardized protocol for analyzing digital evidence have all been documented. These shortcomings have led to evidentiary issues, improper conclusions by juries about digital evidence and doubtful outcomes. A good example would be the Casey Anthony trial, where improper analysis of her visits to websites dealing with murder was admitted as evidence.

Unlike DNA analysis, there’s no standardized protocol for identifying, recovering, or processing digital evidence. As a result, two different technicians at different crime labs might reach different conclusions about a particular piece of evidence because they used different equipment or had divergent training.

These problems have implications for justice being served.

First steps toward standards

Thankfully, the situation is changing as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) works to develop specific standards for analyzing digital evidence.

The courts have also begun paying attention to some of the legal issues involving digital evidence. For example, in Riley v California, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that police must obtain a search warrant before they can seize electronic devices suspected of containing digital evidence. This ruling makes it somewhat harder for police to seize and analyze personal devices involved in crimes.

Lack of a code of ethics for practitioners

Because the people who recover, analyze, process and testify about digital evidence are influential in court proceedings, they must be ethical in their dealings with the legal system.

However, the reality is this: not only is digital forensics the “Wild West” when it comes to protocols for processing evidence, there isn’t a code of ethics that governs the professional behavior of digital forensics practitioners.

Instead, various professional associations have created a hodgepodge of codes of ethics for members. Some of them are very detailed; others, not so much.

Unlike medicine or law, each of which has a single, overarching code of professional ethics enforced by the states, there is no comparable code that describes how a digital forensics practitioner should (or must) behave in his or her professional life.

The challenge of creating a code of ethics

Last May, I co-organized a two-day workshop on professional ethics and digital forensics that was funded by, and held at, the National Science Foundation (NSF). Academics, researchers and practitioners attended.

The workshop explored the need for a code of ethics and the contours of what such a code might include. We also examined hurdles to establishing a code, and existing codes from other professions that could serve as models.

The consensus among participants was that the need is great for a code of professional ethics that governs digital forensics practitioners. Participants shared examples of ethical issues that cloud the profession. Conflicts of interest. Vendors producing research on their own products and using that to influence agencies to adopt their product(s). Some practitioners’ lack of understanding of the mechanics of the software they use to process evidence (the “black box” problem).

However, just because participants agree a code of ethics is needed doesn’t mean there aren’t significant hurdles to overcome with creating one. What specific behavior would be covered? What themes would the code address (for instance, “fairness,” “trust,” “justice”)? What agency or organization would enforce the code? (Suggestions included NIST or the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).) To whom would the code apply? All practitioners involved with digital evidence or just those processing it?

Moving forward

To raise awareness and continue working to create a code of ethics, this academic year we plan to replicate the workshop at various professional meetings including those of the Southern Criminal Justice Association, AAFS and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

We will also reach out to leaders in the AAFS and the American Bar Association for help with developing the code.

As digital evidence becomes more common in legal proceedings, ensuring that practitioners have the strongest professional ethics is not only sensible, it is imperative.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s Lawyer Readies for Email War

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jae C. Hong—AP Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to a home care worker during a roundtable discussion on home care in Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 2015.

Longtime Hillary Clinton ally and lawyer David Kendall is a legal mastermind now entering a highly political arena

Born into a family of Quakers, David Kendall had a birthright claim to be a conscientious objector when the draft was instituted during the Vietnam War. But while he opposed the war, he couldn’t in good faith claim to be a pacifist, those who know him say. So as a student at Yale Law School at the time, he did two things instead: he dove into researching how the draft lottery worked, eventually co-writing a book on the subject, and he enlisted in ROTC, taking a commission as 2nd Lieutenant.

Kendall didn’t end up deploying overseas, but his experience with the draft is as good a place as any to begin understanding the man Hillary Clinton has turned to once again for legal help, this time defending her use of personal email as Secretary of State. Liberal, intellectual and relentlessly committed to the fight, the affable Kendall, who has known the Clintons since their time together at Yale and who defended Bill Clinton during his impeachment, is once again preparing to go to war, whether he has to or not.

Increasingly, it looks as if he will. This week, the Intelligence Community Inspector General told Congress that two of the emails that were stored on Clinton’s unclassified, private email server contain information that should have been classified at the highest level, Top Secret, because they were derived in part from secret overhead eavesdropping platforms like satellites or drones. The IG says there are hundreds of other emails containing classified information in the stash of 55,000 the State department is reviewing from Clinton’s server. Most threatening of all, the hard-headed investigators at the FBI are conducting an inquiry into how classified information made it into unclassified settings. This week, the FBI took possession of both Clinton’s server and thumb drives containing copies of the emails that Kendall had been holding for safekeeping.

For Clinton, the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, the developments are a thicket of political, bureaucratic and legal challenges that threaten to stall her campaign and further damage her trust with voters. For Kendall, the challenge is to deliver his expertise in a context where legal fallout is only half the battle.

In one sense, Clinton and Kendall are well matched. Both excelled at law school and they sought out each others’ advice early in their careers. Kendall called her when he needed a contact in Arkansas, where she worked as a young attorney while Bill Clinton pursued politics. And she called Kendall when she needed advice from D.C., where he had joined Washington’s premier litigation firm, Williams and Connolly, after clerking for Supreme Court Justice Byron White and specializing in death penalty appeals at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York.

It was when the Clintons arrived in Washington with the baggage of the Whitewater investigation that they really reconnected with Kendall, however, hiring him to defend them against accusations of improper business dealings. And when Clinton found himself needing to prepare for grand jury testimony in the Monica Lewinsky investigation four years later, it was Kendall who prepared him. “His job was to make sure there was never a criminal charge against the president,” says one member of Bill Clinton’s legal team, and “his preparation [of Clinton for the grand jury testimony] will go down as one of the best ever.”

Legally that is certainly true, but Clinton is dogged to this day by the aura of deceit that settled around his narrow, evasive, answers about his relationship with Lewinsky. “When you’re asked a question in a deposition,” Kendall said later as he defended the president’s narrow testimony in the Lewinsky case, “You ought to respond specifically to the question. You ought not, if asked your name, to give your name and address.” That discipline and control delivered Bill Clinton from the danger of a criminal charge and helped earned Kendall the highest praise from allies and opponents alike in the world of Washington litigation.

But the challenge Kendall faces in representing Hillary Clinton is that the context of her email scandal is not just legal. Her goal of becoming president, and indeed the hopes of the Democratic party for retaining the White House, are piggybacking on her defense in the email case. When it comes to matters unrelated to the law, Kendall is less well-versed. “His lack of being involved in the political process,” says the former member of Bill Clinton’s legal team, and the fact that “he’s never been in government,” are both challenges to his ability to advise Clinton.

On the legal issues relating to the handling of classified information, Kendall has recent experience. Kendall represented David Petraeus, the former CIA chief, who pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials and was fined $100,000. The case resulted from Petraeus improperly sharing classified information with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Kendall led the negotiations that produced the plea deal, which angered FBI agents who thought Petraeus had misled their investigation into the matter.

Hillary Clinton so far appears not to be in the same kind of trouble Petraeus got himself into. But the news that two of Clinton’s emails may contain Top Secret information makes Kendall’s legal defense more complicated. The presence of classified emails does not in itself mean Hillary Clinton broke the law, or even President Obama’s rules regarding the proper protection of classified materials. Generally speaking under the laws criminalizing misuse of classified information, one is guilty only if one “knowingly” removed and intentionally retained secrets improperly. None of the emails contains markings indicating they contained secret information, the Inspector General and other officials have repeatedly said.

But communications intercepted via satellite or other overhead collection means are so closely protected that they have their own law 18USC798, with even tighter rules and higher penalties. That law makes it a crime not just to knowingly mishandle such secrets, but also to use them “in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States.” That in turn, says a senior intelligence official familiar with the case, means the FBI’s investigation into the handling of the classified materials “will go way beyond what the intelligence community’s Inspector General ever would do.”

Kendall declined to be interviewed for this article and the Clinton campaign did not return email messages asking for comment for it. The campaign has said her use of a private server and the discovery of classified information on it are being amplified by the political agendas of Republicans on Capitol Hill and on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

That is no doubt true but it doesn’t make the job of defending her position any easier. Kendall will have his hands full as he attempts to juggle the legal interests of his client and the political reality she has to operate in. “He’s an incredible lawyer, he writes brilliantly, and he works harder than anyone else,” says Kendall’s old colleague from the Bill Clinton impeachment. “Whether he’s successful in the rough and tumble of the public arena is another question.”

TIME

Federal Government Says It’s Unconstitutional to Ban Sleeping in Public

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Such bans could violate citizens' Eighth Amendment rights

The U.S. Department of Justice says that banning people from sleeping in public could be a violation of their constitutional rights.

The Washington Post delved deep into a statement of interest filed by the Justice Department in a case out of Boise, Idaho. In Boise, lawmakers enacted a ban on sleeping in public—something the Justice Department says could be in violation of a person’s Eighth Amendment Rights.

“Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity — i.e., it must occur at some time in some place,” the Justice Department argues. “If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.”

The strong statement comes amid a flurry of laws that ban sleeping or camping in public, even as shelters across the U.S. struggle to maintain enough beds to shelter those without a place to call home.

Read more at the Washington Post

TIME Connecticut

Connecticut’s Highest Court Overturns Death Penalty

11 men on the state's death row would no longer be subject to execution orders

(HARTFORD, Conn.) — Connecticut’s highest court has overturned the death penalty in the state, saying it’s unconstitutional.

Thursday’s ruling could mean that the 11 men on the state’s death row would no longer be subject to execution orders. Those inmates include Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who were sentenced to die for killing a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

The state had passed a law in 2012 to repeal the death penalty only for future crimes.

The ruling comes in an appeal from Eduardo Santiago, whose attorneys had argued that any execution carried out after repeal would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Santiago faced the possibility of lethal injection for a 2000 murder-for-hire killing in West Hartford.

TIME Civil Rights

Prison Escape Prompted Inmate Beatings

FILE - In this June 15, 2015, file photo, corrections officers watch an intersection in front of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from the prison June 6. Sweat was captured on Sunday, June 28; Matt was shot and killed Friday June 26. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Mark Lennihan—AP Corrections officers watch an intersection in front of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., on June 15, 2015.

Officers are said to have beat prisoners while handcuffed, choked them, and slammed them against walls

The escape of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat in June launched a weeks-long manhunt that drew national attention.

Now, a New York Times report on Tuesday says the escape also led to a “campaign of retribution,” with inmates along the same block of units as Matt and Sweat being subject to violence that included beatings while handcuffed, chokings, and head slams.

Sweat and Matt’s housing area—called the “honor block” as it was an earned privilege for prisoners who had exhibited good behavior—was especially targeted, with many inmates being moved from the Clinton Correctional Facility to other prisons. Some were placed in solitary confinement, a reversal of the prison conditions they had earned, despite there being no confirmed link between other prisoners and the escapees.

Sixty inmates have filed official complaints with Prisoners’ Legal Services, a group that assists inmates with their legal rights. The Department of Corrections’ Office of Special Investigations has also become involved.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME Race

President Obama Feels ‘Great Urgency’ a Year After Ferguson

Obama says he feels a "great urgency" regarding race and police brutality in an interview with NPR

President Obama took the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting death by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., to say that he felt “a great urgency to get as much done as possible” before he leaves office. He dismissed criticism that he tabled race issues in his first term “because other things had to be dealt with first, other ground had to be covered first … for political reasons.”

“That I don’t buy,” Obama said in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Weekend Edition Sunday. “I think it’s fair to say that if, in my first term, Ferguson had flared up, as president of the United States, I would have been commenting on what was happening in Ferguson.”

Obama noted that heading into his second term has allowed his “passions” to take precedence. “I’ve been around this track now for a while,” he told Inskeep.

 

TIME cities

What’s Changed in Ferguson a Year After Michael Brown—and What Hasn’t

Looking back on the anniversary of a deadly shooting

Sunday marks one year since white former police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., sparking weeks of often-violent protest and a still-running national debate about race and police use-of-force.

A grand jury opted not to indict Wilson, who recently gave his first extensive interview in months, saying he’s “not going to keep living in the past.” Activists are using the anniversary weekend to stage what they promise will be peaceful protests and vigils. Police are on alert for any sign that the anniversary could bring renewed violence.

But as the town tries to move on, what has changed and what hasn’t? Here’s a where-are-they-now guide to some of the people and issues on the ground.

Darren Wilson

Wilson, no longer with the police force, lives somewhere in St. Louis County. His exact location remains a closely-guarded secret amid continuing threats. Supporters have raised more than $500,000 for his legal defense and protection, but Wilson still hasn’t been able to find work, according to a profile in The New Yorker. “It’s too hot an issue, so it makes me unemployable,” he told the magazine.

A grand jury declined to indict him in the shooting, and federal investigators cleared him of any wrongdoing under federal law.

The people in charge

Michael Brown’s death briefly turned a number of city and state officials into household names. A year later, some remain in office after surviving the tumult of a national spotlight. Others have resigned and disappeared.

Captain Ron Johnson, who rose to prominence as an official face of calm amidst the tensions, remains in his position at the Missouri State Highway Patrol. County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, criticized for his handling of the grand jury process, also remains in his position.

Other law enforcement officials have had a tougher time keeping their jobs. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, for instance, has withstood countless calls for his resignation and even a recall campaign. Knowles said he would remain in his position to continue “bringing us together, moving us forward.”

But Thomas Jackson, the Ferguson Police Chief, resigned following a scathing federal report. He said the city needed “to move forward without any distractions.” Other Ferguson police officers and city officials also resigned after the Justice Department report found they had sent racist emails.

The investigations

The Department of Justice launched two separate investigations following the shooting. The first, conducted in coordination with the FBI, investigated the shooting itself and whether Wilson’s decision to shoot Brown violated federal civil rights law. That investigation, which concluded in March, corroborated Wilson’s account of the incident and cleared him of any legal or civil rights violations.

The second investigation, which also concluded in March, looked at the Ferguson Police Department’s practices more broadly. Federal authorities found patterns of racial bias that included unwarranted arrests of blacks and use of excessive force. The city has since been in negotiations with the Justice Department to enter into a so-called consent decree, which would create formal guidelines for reform.

The local economy

Many local businesses boarded up in the weeks and months following the fiercest riots, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from local business development groups has kept most from closing permanently. They may not be flourishing, but they are surviving. In the first weeks following the clashes between protesters and police, the St. Louis Regional Business Council offered interest-free grants to dozens of local businesses, said Kathy Osborn, the group’s executive director—places like bakeries, restaurants and flower shops that might have otherwise closed their doors.

While small businesses may be getting by, the local government faces tough choices thanks to a sharp decline in revenue. Income from tickets—the DOJ report found systemic targeting of minorities as a means of raising revenue—is expected to fall by $1 million from the 2013-2014 budget to the 2014-2015 budget. The city’s total operating budget is about $14 million, Reuters reports.

TIME justice

California Court Gets One Step Closer to Deciding Uber’s Fate

An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.

Lawyers argued over whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as one class

For Uber’s lawyers, the case heard before theirs in a San Francisco courtroom on Thursday may have looked like a harbinger of future woes.

California Northern District Judge Edward Chen was going over the details of a $227 million settlement that FedEx, a 44-year-old company with close to the same value as 6-year-old Uber, agreed to pay earlier this summer. That payout should end an argument over whether FedEx misclassified 2,100 drivers as independent contractors in California and thus denied them benefits that employees get like overtime pay, reimbursed expenses and meal breaks. Soon Uber’s lawyers would be before the same judge arguing about the same classification question — with respect to about 75 times that many drivers.

At stake in a suit that could shape the future of the on-demand and sharing economies was the question of whether 160,000 Uber drivers in California can be treated as a single class. Uber’s lawyers argued that they cannot, that there is no such thing as a “typical” Uber driver and that it would make more sense for each driver to bring their own case — an expensive undertaking that most drivers likely wouldn’t pursue.

On the other side was Boston-based lawyer “Sledgehammer Shannon” Liss-Riordan, who spent a long, heated afternoon arguing that three Uber drivers should be able to stand in for all current and former drivers in the state. If Chen sides with her when he rules in the coming weeks, that would make this single suit potentially worth billions and capable of setting a precedent that sends other startups reeling to revamp their business models.

Following in Uber’s tracks, a long string of startups have shaped their business models around treating drivers or couriers or cleaners as independent contractors rather than employees. That’s a much cheaper proposition but it requires that companies give up control. While contractors legally can’t be told when or how to work, they also don’t have to be paid minimum wage or given money for the gas they use on the job. Uber doesn’t have to shell out any payroll taxes for independent contractors or pay them workers’ compensation.

Liss-Riordan, who was given her nickname by American Airlines skycaps after winning them a six-figure settlement in a wage-and-hour case, argue that Uber is really an transportation company using technology to pose as mere software licenser in order to save money and unfairly compete. The company exercises the kinds of control that employers do, she has argued, setting the rates that drivers earn per mile, telling them which models of cars they can drive and kicking them off the platform for getting low ratings.

In the arguments over the diversity of Uber drivers in California, questions arose about what all the drivers want — and whether it matters. Theodore Boutrous presented some 400 declarations from drivers who said they loved being contractors, that they didn’t want their status to change, that they cherished the freedom that their status affords them. If they were employees, “the business model would have to change,” Boutrous warned, “and there would be rigid schedules and this flexibility and this autonomy couldn’t exist.”

Liss-Riordan countered by offering a declaration from her paralegal, who had called about 50 of those drivers to ask if they understood the stakes. “They didn’t realize they could be reimbursed for expenses,” she said. “They didn’t really understand what this was about.” Chen questioned Boutrous’ claim that their flexibility would have to evaporate if they were reclassified, saying those drivers may have been under the impression that things would have to change rather than be within Uber’s discretion to change.

A growing group of startups who began their lives using the contractor model are reverting to more traditional employment, saying that they’re willing to pay the extra costs to have more direct control over their workers and their process. Curtis Lee, CEO of on-demand valet company Luxe, says that they hope that as employees their valets will be more likely to stick around and be more dedicated to the company. They still will not be required to work a minimum or maximum amount of hours as employees, he says, though they will start scheduling them in shifts. Lee also says that he doesn’t think the conversion is right or fair to force on every company. “For Uber, it’s a totally different situation,” he says.

Boutrous spent his day arguing that point, cataloging how some the 160,000 have agreed to 17 different terms of agreement, some of which forbade them from driving for other companies like Lyft while their Uber app is on (which many drivers do). He detailed how some have used Uber to start their own small businesses while others turn on the app just a few hours per week. While some of them do rely on Uber to make a living, others use it for a little extra cash or to make their car payments. “These are real live human beings who vary widely,” he says. “It’s a hornet’s nest.”

The day ended with Chen inviting the lawyers for the two remaining cases on the docket to approach the bench. Like Liss-Riordan, both of them were arguing cases against Uber, involving issues like how the company conducted background checks. Boutrous stood and reintroduced himself as the counsel representing the company in case after case. If Chen rules that the 160,000 drivers can go ahead as a class, that might make Uber more seriously consider settling that suit amidst its own hornet’s nest of legal troubles.

TIME justice

Federal Reform Plan Could Bankrupt Ferguson, Councilman Warns

Requests alternative that won't "financially ruin the city"

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — As the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death nears, a Ferguson city councilman says the U.S. Justice Department’s proposal to reform policing and municipal courts in Ferguson could bankrupt the St. Louis suburb.

Councilman Brian Fletcher didn’t say exactly what parts of the plan he and others on the council find unacceptable. But Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the council unanimously agreed to request more time from the federal government to find an alternative that won’t “financially ruin the city.”

Sunday marks a year since Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer who was later cleared by both a local grand jury and the DOJ. But a separate Justice Department investigation of Ferguson’s justice system found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police.

Statewide, Gov. Jay Nixon requested Thursday that a state commission and the Missouri Department of Public Safety update law enforcement training standards focusing on tactical training, fair and impartial policing and the physical and mental health of officers — something that hasn’t been updated since 1996. He wants proposals by Dec. 1.

When asked whether Ferguson was the catalyst for the new standards, the Democrat said: “Clearly, there has been a great deal of attention on Missouri in the last year. We have a responsibility to set the standards … We have an obligation to stand up and lead. We are going to do just that.”

Since Brown’s death and the racial unrest that followed, sales tax revenue and fines and fees collected in the predominantly black suburb have declined. Ferguson also has had to pay out large severances to its former police chief and city manager, who both resigned in March after the DOJ report was released.

Ferguson Councilman Wesley Bell described the Justice Department’s plan as a typical bargaining tactic.

“The DOJ didn’t expect us to accept their first proposal. This is just part of the negotiations,” said Bell, elected to the council in April. “That’s all. You want $200. You ask for $400.”

Mayor James Knowles III told the newspaper that bargaining continues and no vote has been taken on the proposal. He also said no council member was authorized to speak on behalf of the city.

Messages left Thursday by The Associated Press for Fletcher, Bell and Knowles were not immediately returned.

Bell said Wednesday the city had acted in good faith since the DOJ report was published, noting that Ferguson already has hired a new municipal court judge and interim police chief Andre Anderson. Both are black.

“My approach is that we are not negotiating against the DOJ,” he said. “We are negotiating with. Because we all want the same thing.”

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