AP FACT CHECK: Democratic debate rhetoric under scrutiny

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten more Democrats jousted on a Detroit stage Wednesday in what was probably the last of the traffic-jammed, double-barreled presidential debates.

A look at the veracity of their rhetoric as the contenders fought not only to stand out to primary voters but to stay in contention for the winnowed-down debates to come:

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JULIAN CASTRO, former Obama administration housing secretary: “We need to ensure we have a national use of force standard and that we end qualified immunity for police officers so that we can hold them accountable for using excessive force.”

THE FACTS: Castro is incorrect to suggest that police officers can’t be held accountable for using excessive force. There’s no bar to prosecuting officers for acts of force and violence, though the standards differ for local and federal prosecution.

To the extent he’s suggesting that it is challenging to successfully prosecute a police officer, he is correct.

But that’s not because of qualified immunity but rather because of the tall burden of proof, particularly on federal prosecutors. The Justice Department brings criminal charges against police officers in cases when they can prove that the officer intentionally violated someone’s civil rights by using more force than the law allows. Department officials said they could not make such a case in the investigation Castro and other Democrats were discussing — the 2014 chokehold death of New York man Eric Garner.

Qualified immunity is a legal protection shielding public servants from legal actions for performing their jobs.

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KAMALA HARRIS, senator from California: “Right now in America, we have seniors who every day – millions of seniors – are going into the Medicare system.”

THE FACTS: It’s more like 10,000 people a day who turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, which offers coverage for hospitalization, doctor visits, prescription drugs and other services.

Medicare covers more than 60 million people, including disabled people of any age.

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JOE BIDEN: “We should put some of these insurance executives who totally oppose my plan in jail for the 9 billion opioids they sell out there.”

THE FACTS: The former vice president must have meant drug company executives, since insurance companies pay for medications — they don’t sell them.

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MICHAEL BENNET, senator from Colorado, in a message directed at President Donald Trump: “Kids belong in classrooms not cages.”

THE FACTS: The “cages” for young migrants at the border were built and used by President Barack Obama . The Trump administration has used them, too. He is referring to chain-link enclosures inside border facilities where migrants have been temporarily housed, separated by sex and age.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Colleen Long, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Calvin Woodward and Amanda Seitz contributed to this report.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

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