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August 28, 2014


Civil War Hero to Receive Medal of Honor, 151 Years Later


More than a century and a half after his death at the Battle of Gettysburg, a Union Army officer is being awarded the nation's highest military decoration.

President Obama approved the Medal of Honor for First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing, the White House announced Tuesday. Cushing was killed in action on July 3, 1863 -- at age 22 -- during the battle's third and final day, in the face of Pickett's Charge, a futile, deadly Confederate advance that threatened to turn the tide of the war.

Cushing served as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps for the Army of the Potomac.

During the battle, Cushing's battery took a severe pounding from the Confederate artillery, and Cushing was wounded in the stomach and right shoulder.

Despite his injuries, Cushing refused to leave the battlefield, commanding his men and defending his position on Cemetery Ridge against the charging opposition.

"The Confederate cannon sent volleys over the heads of their advancing troops into the Union lines," the Waukesha Freeman (Wisconsin) wrote in 1911. "Cushing and his neighbors replied with never ceasing spirit, in spite of a constant rain of shot and shell, with horses and men falling all around."

"Cushing was shot several times but kept on firing. He served his last round of canister, was struck in the mouth by a bullet and fell dead."

Cushing's efforts helped the Union Army to fight off the Confederate attack –- with the South forced to retreat, sustaining massive losses. The South would never advance that far north again, a flash-point in the Union's victory.

Cushing was one of 51,000 casualties of the battle. He was buried at his alma mater, West Point.

Morris Schaff wrote about Cushing in his 1907 book "The Spirit of Old West Point, 1858-1862."

"History will not let that smiling, splendid boy die in vain; long her dew will glisten over his record as the earthly morning dew glistens in the fields,” he wrote. “Fame loves the gentleman and the true-hearted, but her sweetheart is gallant youth."

Cushing was born in what is now Delafield, Wisconsin, and raised in Fredonia, New York. He graduated from West point in 1861.

Prior to Gettysburg, he participated in other major Civil War battles, including the Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg. He also trained volunteer troops in Washington and completed topographical work.

Cushing was one of four brothers to serve the Union during the Civil War.

Despite a marker erected to Cushing on Cemetery Ridge and a monument near his birthplace, the Medal of Honor eluded him. Descendants and Civil War buffs took up the cause in recent decades.

Congress granted a special exemption last December for Cushing to receive the award posthumously since recommendations normally have to be made within two years of the act of heroism and the medal awarded within three years. Cushing has endured a longer wait than any of the 3,468 recipients to receive the Medal of Honor.

Cushing's Medal of Honor will be awarded on Sept. 15. Other honorees announced Tuesday include Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, who fought in the Vietnam War.




'Serial Killer' Held After Seven Shot In LA

Police believe Alexander Hernandez fatally shot four people over five days, and left three others in a critical condition.

An man initially arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty has been accused of being a prolific serial killer in Los Angeles.

Alexander Hernandez has been charged with last Thursday's murder of Gildardo Morales, a pickup truck driver, in San Fernando.

The 34-year-old is also the sole suspect in a shooting on Sunday, where three people were killed - apparently at random - in the space of an hour.

However, police are yet to charge him with their deaths.

The alleged killing spree began last Wednesday, when a woman and a couple were left critically injured after being fired at in separate incidents.

There is no known connection between the victims, but a 70-strong task force in the LAPD linked the attacks after similar descriptions were made about the weapon and getaway vehicle used.

In a press conference, Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said Hernandez, from Sylmar, had been uncooperative since being taken into custody on Sunday evening.

When he was arrested, he had a pistol-grip shotgun in his possession which police believe may have been used in the attacks.

Even though Hernandez has only been charged in one of the killings, Chief of Detectives Bill McSweeney claimed the man "is and was a serial killer".

Investigators also claimed they were confident they had the right suspect in custody, telling the public they were no longer at risk.

Prosecutors have charged Hernandez with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and three counts of animal cruelty, as it is believed he also shot two dogs dead during his five-day spree.

He is due to be formally charged later today and remains on $1m (£600,000) bail. But as the charges against Hernandez could result in the death penalty, prosecutors plan to request that he is held without bail.

Investigators are now revisiting unsolved shootings in recent years, especially those involving similar descriptions of a shotgun and a gold-coloured SUV.

Hernandez has four prior convictions, some of which involved prison time. They included sentences for the possession of firearms and methamphetamine.




Social media solution to police and community relations

by Damali Keith

HOUSTON -- The shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri has certainly put a strain on relations between cops and the community. We've heard a lot lately about the problem but there is a "solution" on social media that's getting quite a bit of attention. Many posts circulating on social media that tackle a certain topic make you ask what makes him an expert but this particular post? “There's a better way of policing,” the Facebook page declares but you can rest assured this writer has the credentials to back up his words.

Former Houston Mayor Lee Brown was also the police chief in Houston, in Atlanta during the dozens of child murders and Police Commissioner in New York City at the peak of the cocaine epidemic. Brown was appointed Drug Czar by president Clinton and he even put policies in place in South Africa improving police relations with the public there.

No wonder his Facebook post about solving the strain in Ferguson is getting so much attention. In it, Brown says Community Policing is the answer to the problem. "It's a concept we implemented, in fact, pioneered here in Houston. When I went to New York as police commissioner there I took it there. It worked in both places,” explains former Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown. Brown says Community Policing isn't simply setting up a sub-station in a neighborhood but an entire restructuring.

"You recruit under the spirit of service, not adventure. You train to solve problems. You train to get along with people. You train to prevent crimes. We started by issuing values. Values guide policy. It guides everything you do. For example, one of our first values was we value human life more than we value anything else,” says Brown.

One suggestion he has for Ferguson? Mayor Brown says suiting up in riot gear and military vehicles certainly isn't good for a police department's relationship with the community. "We saw that back in the 1960's. (Is that effective?) No. In the long run it creates major problems,” Brown adds.

Houston Psychologist Dr. Andrew Brams says dressing in combat and coming up against the community is like declaring war. "It's basically saying we're different than you. We're going to take control and power over this. The more you approach it that way the more you show we're not for you we're against you,” explains Dr. Brams.

Mayor Brown says when departments have community policing, officers work in one area of the city and get to know the people, business owners and kids in that community and are recognized by the department for doing so. "You reward people (officers) for their ability to solve neighborhood problems, their ability to reduce crime,” says Brown. When officers know the people in the community it not only improves relations, according to brown, it also cuts down on crime. "Basic human nature, basic psychology of human beings,” smiles Brown.

Psychologist Dr. Andrew Brams agrees. “It's just like in a relationship between two people because you're dealing with the people versus the department that's supposed to take care of that community and when there's a lack of trust, feelings of betrayal,” then, says Brams, there is unrest but Brown says it doesn't have to be if departments would simply adopt Community Policing.

"You have to understand it's not a program. A program you can plug in and unplug. Community policing is a philosophy of policing,” Brown explains.

Dr. Lee P. Brown's Facebook Community Policing post can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/lee.brown.5458498/posts/10201906118049718

Find Dr. Brams at: www.drandrewbrams.com





Public safety may require counseling skills

While attention recently has focused on issues of militarization of police forces, efforts of law-enforcement officers to deal daily with mental-health and behavioral conditions also need attention.

Enforcement of criminal statues is a primary responsibility of law-enforcement officers, but these officers also frequently find themselves dealing with situations in which persons with mental-health conditions or who have other special needs pose safety concerns for those around them.

This is particularly true since deinstitutionalization has become the standard for mental-health systems, and those with mental-health issues are among residents of local neighborhoods and the homeless population.

Other persons with special needs such as those with autism may have communication difficulties that may create concern among those whom they encounter.

While calling law-enforcement officers may not be the best alternative in regard to restoring a sense of security and well-being in such situations, for some it may seen the only alternative.

We commend the efforts of local law-enforcement agencies, such as the Murfreesboro Police Department, to provide additional training for their officers, so they will have the tools necessary to deal with such situations.

In some cases, we wonder if some institutions such as schools and those that have responsibilities for care of the aging should have persons appropriately trained, so they do not need to call law-enforcement officers to intervene.

We have seen in the community examples of multidisciplinary teams at work to deal with problems of child abuse and sexual abuse in all age groups.

Discussions recently have focused on creation of a "veterans court" to help address the problems that who have served their country in the military face, including mental health problems.

While such a court would have a role after the intervention of law-enforcement officers, we hope its creation would help to create and provide awareness of programs that would prevent such incidents from becoming part of the criminal-justice system.

A federal review in underway in regard to issues involving the relationship between the U.S. military and local law-enforcement agencies, but we think a priority for this community is providing the necessary resources, so those with mental-health or behavioral conditions do not have to become part of the criminal-justice system.

We commend the officers who now have to face such situations on a daily basis.

The opinions in this space represent a consensus of discussion by The Daily News Journal Editorial Board.




Teach kids the dangers of setting fires

by Maranda

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) Each year in this country, fires set by children are responsible for more than 100 fire deaths, nearly 1,000 painful burn injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss, according to the United States Fire Administration. Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 49,300 fires involved children misusing fire occurred throughout the United States. Children are often the victims in these fires. While curiosity about fire is natural, fires set by children are dangerous and deadly.

The danger of fire is greater than ever because of the high number of petroleum-based building materials. Fires burn quicker and hotter and smoke is more toxic than in the past because of these materials. In the hands of juveniles, fire can be deadly. Whether the child or adolescent was playing, experimenting or purposely setting fires, firesetting is extremely costly.

The misuse of fire has many variables including age, motivation for firesetting behavior, type of fires set, ignition materials used to set the fire, and the child's understanding and limitations of fire. Firesetting behavior is usually “a cry for help” and may be a symptom of a problem manifested through stress and crisis in their lives. The stress or crisis experienced by juveniles may include abuse, bullying, a recent separation or divorce of parents, home foreclosure, moving to a new community, or the death of a pet or loved one.

Why Do Kids Set Fires?

Youth firesetting or the misuse of fire by children isn't necessarily arson. The best way to understand why children set fires is to look at their motivations for firesetting. For most young kids, the motive is experimentation and curiosity. Motives can involve curiosity, thrill-seeking, willful intent to cause destruction, or by children who suffer from mental or emotional problems.

There are four common factors that influence firesetting behavior among children and adolescents. These factors impact all types of firesetting and include:

Easy access to ignition materials. Easy access to ignition materials often proves deadly for children who start fires. In many homes where a child has been involved in starting a fire, the child easily discovered the ignition source or already knew where it was located and how to obtain it.

Lack of adequate supervision. The lack of adequate supervision is a factor that can influence all ages of firesetting among children and adolescents. Parents are often shocked to discover their child has engaged in firesetting over a prolonged period of time.

A failure to practice fire safety. A failure to practice fire safety is a factor that often affects children and their parents in the following ways:

Young children often lack understanding of the dangers associated with firesetting and safety rules about fire.

Older children and adolescents may not have received school-based fire safety education about the dangers of the inappropriate use of fire, penalties for such behavior, and direction on what to do if a fire occurs.

Parents or caregivers may not be aware of the significance of youth firesetting, appropriate fire safety education, penalties, or what actions to take in the event a fire occurs. They may not be aware of local youth firesetting prevention and intervention programs.

Easy access to information on the Internet. Information regarding firesetting, designing explosives, and how to do tricks with fire is a problem that demands attention. Technology has made explicit media available to youths on many dangerous and often illegal activities. They are able to experiment with fire or incendiary materials and instantaneously post results for the world to see and oftentimes replicate.

Parents, caregivers, and public educators, whether they are from the fire department or the school system, can build an informed foundation by teaching fire safety at an early age. Teach children of all ages that fires, even small ones, can spread quickly.

Myths and Facts Concerning Children and Fire

Myth: A child can control a small fire
Fact: Most fires start small, but can become uncontrollable quickly.

Myth: It is normal for children to play with fire.
Fact: It is not normal for children to play with fire. Curiosity about fire is normal. Use of fire without an adult's knowledge, approval, or supervision is dangerous.

Myth: Firesetting is a phase children will outgrow.
Fact: Firesetting is not a phase. If a child is not taught fire safety, the firesetting can get out of control easily. It is a dangerous behavior.

Myth: If you burn a child's hand, he/she will stop setting fires.
Fact: Purposely burning a child's hand is child abuse and is against the law. The reason behind the firesetting must be discovered and addressed.

Myth: If you take a child to the burn unit to see burn survivors, he/she will stop misusing fire.
Fact: Going to the burn unit only instills fear, and does not teach a child anything about fire safety. More importantly, we need to be sensitive toward burn survivors who are trying to recover emotionally and physically from their burns.

It is important to understand myths concerning children and fire. Children need to be educated about fire and have their motives understood so that proper interventions can be used to stop the firesetting behavior.

Teaching Children Fire Safety

The most critical message for children to learn is that lighters and matches are tools, not toys! Parents and caregivers should never use lighters, matches, and fire for fun; children will mimic you, and when they do it unsupervised, tragic events can result. Praise your child for practicing responsible behavior and showing respect for fire. Set a good example for safe use of fire.

•  Always supervise young children.

•  Never leave lighters or matches within reach of children. Keep lighters and matches out of reach in high, locked cabinets.

•  Use child-resistant lighters, but remember that they are not child proof.

•  Instruct young children to inform an adult if they find lighters or matches.

E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire & Safety reminds you if you suspect your child is setting fires, you are not the only parent ever to face this problem. Contact your local fire department immediately or visit www.kidsandfire.org for a list of youth fire prevention programs in the greater Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas.

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