AUSTIN – If she sees a crime being committed, Ishia Lynette is more likely to call her father than police.
Her reluctance to turn to law enforcement for protection stems from growing up half black and half Mexican in El Paso, Texas, and witnessing her African American father arrested – twice – for minor traffic violations and relatives harassed by police.
“From very early on, I was fearful of the police,” said Lynette, 30, who now lives in Austin and works with the Austin Justice Coalition, which advocates for police reform and accountability. “I can’t think of a time when I called the police unless it was very necessary — like a murder.”
Global protests in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death have called for massive overhauls of police,with some groups demanding that American cities defund police departments. Many law enforcement agencies embrace a mission to “protect and serve” but the debate over police brutality and funding has raised questions about just who these departments keep safe.
Police departments have a long history of violence and aggression toward many minority communities in the U.S., including Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ and Black Americans, creating a deep mistrust of police that has resulted in many minority communities already under-using police departments because they are reluctant to call them for help.
Police relations in black communities have been at the center of worldwide protests, ever sinceFloyd, 46, who is black, was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis by officers after being accused of passing a fake $20 bill at a grocery store. In a video of the encounter, Floyd gasped for breath as officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes while three other officers looked on.
Other minority groups, such as Latino and LGBTQ Americans, have also faced decades of strained relations with police and are hesitant to call on them, according to experts, activists and studies.
Recent cases include:
- Tony McDade, a 38-year-old transgender man, was shot and killed by Tallahassee police two days after Floyd was killed.
- Mike Ramos, 42, who was shot and killed in April by Austin police after they answered a call of people doing drugs in an apartment complex parking lot. Police later said he didn’t have a gun.
- Earlier this month, California Highway Patrol officers repeatedly shot Erik Salgado, 23, after a traffic stop. His pregnant girlfriend survived but was severely injured.
Fear of police in African American communities could be traced back generations to “slave patrols” that worked with sheriff’s departments across the South to capture and terrorize runaway slaves, said David J. Thomas, a criminologist at Florida Gulf Coast University and retired veteran police officer. Through the years, departments have attempted reforms – such as hiring more minority officers – but those efforts have fallen short of restoring confidence to black communities, he said.
The Department of Justice under Barack Obama launched a series of lawsuits and consent decrees on police departments known to have civil rights violations. But those efforts all but vanished under President Donald Trump, he said.
“There’s nobody that oversees local law enforcement when they run amok,” Thomas said. “Law enforcement without oversight is a very dangerous thing.”
Alexander Weiss, an expert on police staffing who has helped reform police departments in major U.S. cities, said that distrust of police — especially after publicized incidents of police brutality — often leads to minority communities refusing to call police for help, further endangering those neighborhoods.
A study by his consulting firm in February in Baltimore showed that white, affluent areas of the city called on police more than twice the number of times as neighborhoods populated by minority groups.
“It’s one of the biggest challenges here,” Weiss said.
A 2013 PolicyLink/University of Illinois at Chicago study revealed that 32% of U.S.-born Latinos would rather tell a church or community leader about a crime than law enforcement. That number rises to 50% for foreign-born Latinos.
“The Latino community is mistrusting and actually fearful of some of the police in their communities,” said Claudia Ruiz, a policy analyst with UnidosUS, a Washington-based Latino advocacy group. “Latinos have some of the lowest reporting statistics in the U.S.”
One of the biggest barriers in improving relations and avoiding civil rights violations in Latino communities is lack of good data, Ruiz said. Local law enforcement agencies often include race but not ethnicity in arrest records, a discrepancy UnidosUS is lobbying Washington to fix, she said.
“It’s very hard to call for changes in how law enforcement interacts with Latinos when the data is not complete,” Ruiz said.
Blacks and Latinos are not the only groups that have complained of police mistreatment. In 2017, a New York federal judge approved a settlement that protected Muslims and others from New York Police Department investigations into political or religious activity. The agreement stemmed from lawsuits that accused the NYPD of illegally surveying Muslims in the wake of the 911 terrorist attacks.
To repair mistrust between police and minority communities, police officials have been bolstering training among their ranks and encouraging more hiring of minority officers, said Cindy Rodriguez, president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Her group offers training to departments around the U.S. that encourage inclusiveness, both inside and outside of agencies, she said. Rodriguez said she’s also encouraged by NLPOA’s growing size: In the past four years, the group has welcomed 600 new members and grown by 12 chapters.
Those minority officers go into neighborhoods and bridge a lot of gaps, she said.
“That’s how you gain the trust,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going into the community and doing things.”
The modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. began with a response to police brutality: the 1969 Stonewall riots. Violent street demonstrations erupted on the streets of New York City after an early morning police raid on June 28, 1969, at the Stonehall Inn in Greenwich Village, a popular hangout for the area’s gay men and lesbians. Today, popular LGBTQ Pride events are held toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.
Through the years, new laws and police practices have improved police reaction to LGBTQ rights, but widespread harassment and discrimination still exists in the community at the hands of police, said Avatara Smith-Carrington, a law fellow at Lambda Legal, a New York-based organization that supports LGBTQ rights.
And people in the LGBTQ community who are also black or brown often receive even harsher treatment from police, Smith-Carrington said. Many of them are reluctant to call police to report crimes for fear of being harassed themselves, Smith-Carrington said.
In a 2012 study released by Legal Lambda, 73% of those surveyed reported having some face-to-face encounter with police over the previous five years and 21% said police had been hostile toward them. Another 14% of respondents reported being verbally assaulted by police, according to the study.
One gay man in the study reported being called a homophobic slur and beat up by police in Washington, D.C., then charged with assaulting them and forced to plead guilty to being under the influence of his HIV medication.
The recent protests sparked by Floyd’s death are a good opportunity to shine an equally bright light on LGBTQ rights, Smith-Carrington said.
“The beauty of this movement right now is that it’s elevating and amplifying the harm that happens to communities of color,” they said. “These same incidents of violence at the hands of police also happen to LGBTQ people across the spectrum.”
In Austin, Brenda Ramos, Mike Ramos’s mother, has been speaking at rallies drawing thousands of protesters following Floyd’s death, raising awareness of police brutality on people of all races and colors.
“My son, Mike, my baby, was shot and killed by Austin police officer Christopher Taylor one month ago. I cried every day,” she said at a May 31 gathering alongside parents of other slain victims. “Now, I’m in this terrible heartbreaking club. It’s a club of mothers of black Americans who have been murdered by police.”
Lynette, the Austin activist, said she doesn’t agree with completely abolishing police but does think many of the millions of dollars that go into paying for more officers and weapons could be better used toward eradicating homelessness, improving mental health and overall empowering communities historically weary of police.
“We will keep having the same issue as to how minority communities interact with police until we can build that trust back up,” she said. “At this point, it’s gone.”
Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis.
Accept.inc secures $90M in debt and equity to scale its digital mortgage lending platform
A lot of startups were built to help people make all-cash offers on homes with the purpose of gaining an edge against other buyers, especially in ultra-competitive markets.
Accepti.inc is a Denver-based company that is attempting to create a new category in real estate technology. To help scale its digital mortgage lending platform, the company announced today that it has secured $90 million in debt and equity – with $78 million in debt and $12 million in equity. Signal Fire led the equity portion of its financing, which also included participation from existing seed investors Y Combinator and DN Capital.
Accept.inc describes itself as an iLender, or a “technology-enabled lender” that gives people a way to submit all-cash offers on a home upon qualifying for a mortgage.
Using its platform, a buyer gets qualified first and then can start looking for homes that fall at or under the amount he or she is approved for. They can purchase a more expensive home, but any amount above what they are approved for would have to come out of pocket. Historically, most buyers don’t know that they will have to pay out of pocket until they’ve made an offer on a specific home and an appraisal comes under the amount of the price they are paying for a home. In those cases, the buyer has to cough up the difference out of pocket. With Accept.inc., its execs tout, buyers know upfront how much they are approved for and can spend on a new home “so there are no surprises later.”
SignalFire Founding Partner and CTO Ilya Kirnos describes Accept.inc as “the first and only iLender.”
He points out that since it is a lender, Accept.inc doesn’t make its money by charging buyers fees like some others in the all-cash offer space.
“Unlike ‘iBuyers’ or ‘alternative iBuyers,’ Accept.inc fronts the cash to buy a house and then makes money off mortgage origination and title, meaning sellers, homebuyers and their agents pay no additional cost for the service,” he told TechCrunch.
IBuyers instead buy homes from sellers who signed up online, make a profit by often fixing up and selling those homes and then helping people purchase a different home with all cash. They also make money by charging transaction fees. A slew of companies operate in the space including established players such as Opendoor and Zillow and newer players such as Homelight.
Since its 2016 inception, Accept.inc says it has helped thousands of buyers, agents and sellers close on “hundreds of millions of dollars” in homes. The company saw ”14x” growth in 2020 and from June 2020 to June 2021, it achieved “10x” growth in terms of the size of its team and number of transactions and revenue, according to CEO and co-founder Adam Pollack. Accept.inc wants to use its new capital to build on that momentum and meet demand.
Pollack and Nick Friedman met while in college and started building Accept.inc with the goal of “turning every offer into a cash offer.” The pair essentially “failed for two years,” half-jokes Pollack.
“We basically became an encyclopedia of 1,000 ways the idea of helping people make all-cash offers wouldn’t work,” he said.
The team went through Y Combinator in the winter of 2019 and that’s when they created the iLender concept. In the iLender model, the company uses its cash to buy a house for buyers. Once the loan with Accept.inc is ready to close, the company sells back the house to the buyer “at no additional cost or fees.”
“Basically what we learned through those two years is that you have to vertically integrate all of your core competencies, and you can’t rely on third parties to own or manage your special sauce for you,” Pollack told TechCrunch. “We also realized that if you’re going to build a cash offer for anyone who could afford a mortgage, you’ve got to make it a full bona fide cash offer that closes in three days as opposed to a better version of what existed. And you have to own that, and take the risk that comes with it and be comfortable with that.”
The benefits of their model, the pair say, is that buyers get to be cash buyers, sellers can close in as little as 32 hours, and agents “get a guaranteed commission check.”
“Our mission is that everyone should have an equal chance at homeownership,” Friedman said. “We not only want to level the playing field, we want to create a new standard.”
Buyers using Accept.inc win 6-7 times more frequently, the company claims. With its new capital, It also plans to double its team of 90 and enter new markets outside of its home base of Denver.
SignalFire Partner Chris Scoggins believes that Accept.inc is different from other lenders in that its focus is on “winning the home, not just servicing the loan, with a business model that’s 10x more capital-efficient than other players in the market.
“The team is driven…to level the playing field for homebuyers who today lose out against all-cash offers from home-flippers and wealthy individuals,” he added. “We see an enormous opportunity for Accept.inc to become the backbone of the future of mortgage lending.”
Apple’s AirPods Max fall to a new all-time low of $489 at Amazon
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With good looks, quality construction and great natural sound, Apple’s AirPods Max headphones tick all the right boxes, but they’re mighty expensive at $550. However, you can now pick up a pair from Amazon at $490, the lowest price we’ve seen yet. That’s still not inexpensive by any means, but it’s a substantial savings on high-end headphones that only came out seven months ago.
With an Engadget review score of 84, the AirPods Max earned a spot in our list of the best headphones you can buy. They look and feel great thanks to the aluminum and metal design, breathable mesh fabric and large earcups. A rotating crown and dedicated button let you switch between ANC and and regular modes, and it’s easy to switch seamlessly between iPhones, Macs and iPads. They offer hands-free capability with Siri, and you can go for up to 20 hours between charges with both ANC and spatial sound enabled.
AirPods Max offer a more natural sound experience than other headphones, with bass that’s not overcooked. Active noise cancellation quality is right up there, though not quite on par with Sony’s WH-1000XM4 ANC headphones. And they support Apple’s Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio on iPhones, iPads and Macs right now, and will come to Apple TV this fall. The main drawback is that they won’t stream Apple’s new lossless audio.
Still, they deliver in nearly every other area and are especially useful for folks with Apple devices. $60 is a substantial discount for an Apple product this new, so if you’re interested, it would be best to act soon.
Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.
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Visa to acquire open banking platform Tink for more than $2 billion
Visa has announced plans to acquire Tink for €1.8 billion, or $2.15 billion at today’s exchange rate. Tink has been a leading fintech startup in Europe focused on open banking application programming interface (API).
Today’s move comes a few months after Visa abandoned its acquisition of Plaid, another popular open banking startup. Originally, Visa planned to spend $5.3 billion to acquire the American startup. But the company had to call off the acquisition after running into a regulatory wall.
Tink offers a single API so that customers can connect to bank accounts from their own apps and services. For instance, you can leverage Tink’s API to access account statements, initiate payments, fetch banking information and refresh this data regularly.
While banks and financial institutions now all have to offer open banking interfaces due to EU’s Payment Services Directive PSD2, there’s no single standard. Tink integrates with 3,400 banks and financial institutions.
App developers can use the same API call to interact with bank accounts across various financial institutions. As you may have guessed, it greatly simplifies the adoption of open banking features.
300 banks and fintech startups use Tink’s API to access third-party bank information — clients include PayPal, BNP Paribas, American Express and Lydia. Overall, Tink covers 250 million bank customers across Europe.
Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Tink operations should continue as usual after the acquisition. Visa plans to retain the brand and management team.
According to Crunchbase data, Tink has raised over $300 million from Dawn Capital, Eurazeo, HMI Capital, Insight Partners, PayPal Ventures, Creades, Heartcore Capital and others.
“For the past ten years we have worked relentlessly to build Tink into a leading open banking platform in Europe, and we are incredibly proud of what the whole team at Tink has created together,” Tink co-founder and CEO Daniel Kjellén said in a statement. “We have built something incredible and at the same time we have only scratched the surface.”
“Joining Visa, we will be able to move faster and reach further than ever before. Visa is the perfect partner for the next stage of Tink’s journey, and we are incredibly excited about what this will bring to our employees, customers and for the future of financial services.”
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