Martin Kaste

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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.

This year's tax season comes with an extra source of stress: Will you find out that scammers claimed government money in your name?

Unemployment benefits fraud was rampant in 2020 as the government rushed to send out COVID-19 relief. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General has estimated the amount of benefits stolen was at least $63 billion, based on earlier patterns of unemployment fraud. But a lot of the fraud is coming to light only now, during tax time.

The year of the pandemic was also the year of the gun. Shootings took off in almost every city, large and small. New York saw shootings double, and nationally, non-suicide gun deaths jumped about 25%, according to the independent Gun Violence Archive.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are dealing with the fallout of off-duty officers who took part in the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally that turned into a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol.

So far, more than 30 off-duty officers have been placed at the rally. In some cities, that fact has shaken confidence in the police.

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In the aftermath of Wednesday's siege of the U.S. Capitol, attention is turning to the nation's police: How many sympathized with what happened?

The acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, says "hundreds" of people may ultimately face charges related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, which interrupted a session of Congress and left five people dead.

Sherwin spoke with NPR's Martin Kaste in an exclusive interview Saturday evening about the multiagency investigation, the challenges officials face and what they'll be looking for.

"No-knock" search warrants, which allow police to force their way into a home with the element of surprise, have attracted criticism since the height of the "war on drugs" in the 1980s and 90s. But it wasn't until this year that the death of Breonna Taylor galvanized that criticism into a national movement to ban the raids.

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Nov. 3 promises to be an Election Day unlike any other, and public safety entities say they're preparing for tensions and the possibility of violence.

Poll workers are usually the first line of defense in case of disputes between voters, though they may be backed up by private security guards. Some local election authorities say they'll be adding guards, and Washington state's King County says it will post guards to ballot drop boxes that in other years have been unattended.

As U.S. law enforcement departments are accused of racist policing, one of the most common responses by the people in charge has been to have officers take "implicit bias" training.

The training usually consists of a seminar in the psychological theory that unconscious stereotypes can lead people to make dangerous snap judgments. For instance, unconscious associations of African Americans with crime might make cops quicker to see them as suspects.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced police will no longer require people to wear masks in public, unless the absence of a mask presents a "serious danger."

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.

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Medical rationing is not something Americans are accustomed to, but COVID-19 may soon change that.

The specter of rationing is most imminent in New York City, where the virus is spreading rapidly and overwhelming hospitals with patients.

According to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has 2,200 ventilators in its state stockpile. Current COVID-19 case projections suggest the state may not have enough of the machines, which help critically ill people breathe, as soon as next week.

Could it really be true that hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19-like symptoms actually dropped 20 percent last week in Washington, according to state numbers reported last night by the Seattle Times?

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."

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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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Over the last generation, gun rights have expanded in America, especially the right to carry firearms, both concealed and in the open. The big exception to this expanding gun culture has been New York City.

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Time now for All Tech Considered.

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