Martin Kaste

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Deaths involving police have been greatly undercounted in the United States, and African American people die in such encounters at 3.5 times the rate of whites, according to a new analysis by public health researchers.

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Minneapolis voters will decide this November whether to end their city's police department, replacing it with a new "Department of Public Safety."

The city council last week signed off on language for a ballot question to change the city charter to create a new agency.

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To talk about what this verdict might mean for law enforcement going forward, we are joined by NPR's Martin Kaste, who has been talking with his sources in police forces around the country.

Hi, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

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One of the few silver linings to this pandemic is that in most places, there's been less crime.

"Calls for service are certainly down," says Sgt. Adam Plantinga of the San Francisco Police Department. "No open bars means there's fewer late-night brawls, and people are home more, so burglars are having a tougher time of it."

Police departments across the country are facing a new reality in the era of coronavirus. As familiar categories of crime fade, officers are being asked to handle unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable new assignments.

In mid-March, he was a cautionary tale for medical workers: an unnamed doctor in his 40s" with a case of COVID-19 so bad that he was near death.

Almost a month later, 45-year-old emergency physician Ryan Padgett is back in his home in Seattle, rebuilding his strength and marveling at how quickly the novel virus laid him low.

"This is very scary," he says. "That it's not only medically fragile patients, but young people can be cut at the knees and taken down by this."

As COVID-19 spreads, public health officials are telling people to stay home if they feel sick. But in jails and prisons, that's not an option.

Robert Greifinger is a physician who spent 25 years working on health care issues inside the nation's prisons and jails, and he says the "social distancing" advice we're all hearing right now isn't so simple behind bars.

"There are crowding issues, ventilation issues, security issues where people have to be checked and monitored fairly frequently," Greifinger says. "So it's really hard to do."

The Trump administration has revived the debate over "end-to-end encryption" — systems so secure that the tech companies themselves aren't able to read the messages, even when police present them with a warrant.

"It is hard to overstate how perilous this is," U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a speech last fall. "By enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield, the deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society."

Cybercrime is booming, and victims are often at a loss about where to get help.

In theory, Americans should report the crimes to the FBI, via its Internet Crime Complaint Center. In practice, the feds get hundreds of thousands of complaints a year, and have to focus on the biggest cases.

But the other option, calling the police, can seem even less promising.

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Time now for All Tech Considered.

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An annual survey that asks Americans about crimes they've experienced showed that the rate at which those surveyed said they had been raped or sexually assaulted nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018.

The 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), released Tuesday, is managed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Justice Department, and asks people if they've been victims of crimes — even if they didn't report them to police.

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Federal authorities charged a Seattle area tech worker with hacking Capital One, accessing millions of people's personal information. NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

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