| NEWS of the Day - January 1, 2012
|on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From Los Angeles Times
Rash of arson fires continues, spreads across wider area
The attacks range from the Westside to Hollywood and from the San Fernando Valley south to Lennox. The Los Angeles police and fire departments lead a multi-agency campaign across the county.
by Andrew Blankstein, David Zahniser and Joe Mozingo, Los Angeles Times
January 1, 2012
A rash of arson fires in the dark of night set Los Angeles on edge over New Year's Eve, and authorities deployed hundreds of extra firefighters, patrol cars, undercover officers and helicopters to stop the attacks.
On Saturday night, firefighters rushed to multiple fires, quickly extinguishing a vehicle fire in a Hollywood carport and responding to another in the massive parking structure at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Those blazes followed at least 38 other suspicious fires between Thursday night and Saturday morning, making it the worst wave of arson since the 1992 riots.
"Whoever is doing this is really messing with people's lives," said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jamie Moore.
FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires
Most of the blazes were started on automobiles, but some spread to homes and apartments. The attacks ranged from the Westside to Hollywood and from the San Fernando Valley south to Lennox. By Saturday night, the Los Angeles police and fire departments were leading a multi-agency campaign across the county.
"We're pulling out all the stops," Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. "We're hoping that the person or people responsible will be brought to swift and complete justice."
Extra firefighters were reporting to stations across Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank and Glendale, while investigators set up a telephone hotline, interviewed witnesses and ran down tips. Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to a conviction in the case.
"We've reassigned detectives from Major Crimes Division and Robbery-Homicide, exclusively to find who's doing this," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "We've got dozens of detectives working around the clock."
Police arrested two people Friday on suspicion of lighting fires, but said they were not suspects in the arson rampage. Based on witness interviews, authorities said they were searching for a man driving a white and tan mid-1990s Lexus ES300. However, the large number of fires sparked over the two-day period led law enforcement sources to speculate that more than one arsonist was at large.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was open, said it's possible some of the blazes were the work of copycats.
The fires occurred when many people were enjoying the holidays with friends and family.
Sidni Appleseed Myles, 42, said she heard an explosion in the carport underneath her North Hollywood apartment about 2 a.m. Saturday.
Seeing the flames out the window, Myles ran outside in her nightgown with an out-of-town guest and her two teenage daughters, screaming, "Fire!"
The tenants dashed out to find four cars engulfed in flames that then reached to the balcony and ignited an outer wall of Myles' apartment on Colfax Avenue.
"You can't believe the inferno that was there. It was incredible," said her friend, Ray Carroll, a teacher from New Jersey.
"I'm just glad to be alive," said Myles.
Carl Lybecker, 32, who lived next door to the Colfax apartments, said it was sheer luck that no one was injured.
"The scary part is being so vulnerable in the middle of the night," he said. "These people woke up. But what if they were sleeping? What if they had been taking sleep medication?"
A few blocks away in Valley Village, Josh Mills and his wife were alarmed about the fires in their old West Hollywood neighborhood as they watched the news Friday evening. "I can't believe this," Mills said.
Then, as they slept around 2 a.m., someone pounded on their door and yelled, "Your car's on fire!"
At first, Mills thought it might be a ruse for a home-invasion robbery. But his wife looked out the window and saw flames under his BMW sedan parked on the street.
Mills, 43, ran into the cold night in his pajamas. A small fire was burning from what looked like a rag or newspaper under his engine. He thought about trying to kick it away, but decided it was too dangerous. In seconds, the fire spread beneath the hood. The front tires exploded "like bombs," then the back tires burst, he said. Within a few minutes, the car was consumed.
Fire officials declined to discuss how the fires were set, but Mills said arson investigators told him that the fire may have been started with Sterno fuel.
"It's the holiday season, goodwill toward men, and here's somebody who's definitely not understanding that," Mills said.
In Sun Valley, Steve Diaz, 26, and Michelle Villegas, 25, woke up around 2:20 a.m. after hearing windows shattering in their co-op apartment building. Villegas called 911 and then they struggled to find their way as smoke poured in.
"As soon as we went out, the heat burned your face," said Diaz, a lab technician.
Firefighters were already there and guided them to safety. But the couple lost their car, parked in the carport, and maybe their home. At least eight apartments, including theirs, were seriously damaged.
"I don't know that it's even sunk in yet, what's happened," said Diaz.
In all, 12 vehicles burned in the Valley early Saturday, three in the Wilshire Division of the LAPD, one on the Westside and one in Lennox, officials said. The night before, 21 fires broke out, mostly around Hollywood and West Hollywood. Authorities said a conservative estimate of property damage was $350,000.
Police asked people to leave lights on in carports and parking structures, and to report tips to 877-LAPD247 or 800-222-TIPS.
Man arrested with explosives at Texas airport
A man was arrested at a Texas airport Saturday after attempting to make his way through security with explosives, authorities said.
The man was apprehended at about 9:30 a.m. after security officials noticed a suspicious item in a carry-on bag during an X-ray screening at Midland International Airport, the Transportation Security Agency said in a statement.
Officials closed down the checkpoint for an hour while security officers removed the item, the TSA said.
Tasa Watts, a spokeswoman for the city of Midland, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times that security officials discovered explosives in the luggage.
FBI spokesman Mike Martinez said in an interview that agents took a man into custody at the airport, but would not confirm that the man was carrying explosives. The agency is continuing to investigate the incident.
The TSA would also not confirm that the man was carrying explosives.
In L.A. County: Innocent but in jail
A Times investigation has revealed that more than 1,400 people over the last five years were wrongfully incarcerated.
January 1, 2012
Last week provided yet another reminder of just how serious the problems are in the Los Angeles County jails. As if reports of assaults on prisoners by sheriff's deputies were not disturbing enough, a Times investigation has revealed that more than 1,400 people over the last five years were wrongfully incarcerated. Some were held for days, others for weeks. All were cases of mistaken identity, in many instances made worse because protests of innocence were disregarded. In one case, a construction worker with no prior arrests said he was assaulted by inmates and ignored by deputies. In another, a man whose identity was stolen by his brother pleaded with deputies to check his wallet, where he kept a judge's order indicating that a warrant with his name on it had been wrongly issued. But his jailers refused. He was booked and his fingerprints scanned. Deputies found no matching prints, even though the warrant indicated that prints were on record, according to his lawyer. Yet he was held for days.
Those are cruel deprivations inflicted on innocent people, and they should spur Sheriff Lee Baca and his department to adopt safeguards for ensuring that they have the right people behind bars.
To be fair, the problem isn't limited to Baca's department. Similar mistakes occur in jails throughout the state. And in many cases, suspects who arrived at Los Angeles County jails had been arrested by other law enforcement agencies and undergone previous rounds of checks, including confirmations of name, date of birth and other identifying information used in warrants. What is clear, however, is that the department's rules for dealing with such claims are deficient.
The department's written policy requires that deputies investigate claims of innocence involving warrants issued by judges. But it does not set strict time lines or establish rules for handling such claims in cases that do not involve warrants. The Times' investigation concluded that deputies followed the rules in only a fraction of cases in which wrongfully jailed individuals were eventually released by courts. Baca has pledged to form a task force to investigate the problem.
That's fine, but the proliferation of task forces examining problems in the county jails there's already one looking into allegations of deputy abuse in an important sense misses the point. For years, monitors and others have highlighted failings in the management of the jails. What Baca needs now is not another task force to help him see what's wrong; it's to revisit the recommendations for improvement and aggressively implement them.
Norman Lear on fighting the good fight
The Occupy Wall Street movement has unleashed patriotic outrage. If you don't want to camp out or protest in the street, find another way to let your voice be heard in the new year.
by Norman Lear
December 30, 2011
I was recently shown a picture from one of the Occupy protests taking place across the country. It featured a young woman surrounded by police. She was the only protester in the picture, but she didn't seem intimidated. All by herself, up against the police barricade, she held a handwritten sign saying simply "I am a born again American."
I've never met this woman, but I think I know exactly what she's feeling.
I had my first "born again American" moment 30 years ago, when I was moved to outrage and action by a group of hate-preaching televangelists who were trying to claim sole ownership of patriotism, faith and flag for the far right. One of them asked his viewing congregation to pray for the removal of a Supreme Court justice.
I did what I knew how to do and produced a 60-second TV spot. It featured a factory worker whose family members, all Christians, held an array of political beliefs. He didn't believe that anyone, not even a minister, had a right to judge whether people were good or bad Christians based on their political views. "That's not the American way," he wound up saying. I ran it on local TV, and it was picked up by the networks. People For the American Way grew out of the overwhelming response to that ad.
One of the most encouraging things to happen in 2011 was the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is giving the entire country the chance for a "born again American" moment. In calling attention to the country's widening chasm between rich and poor, the Occupiers have unleashed decades of pent-up patriotic outrage against the systematic violation of our nation's core principles by the "say good-bye to the middle class" alliance of the neocons, theocons and corporate America.
To those many millions of Americans whose guts tell them the Occupy movement is on to something but aren't the sort to camp out or protest in the street, I say find another way to let your voice be heard in the new year. Work with others who share your passion for equal opportunity and equal justice for all Americans, and find ways to channel outrage into productive action. I'm betting you'll find, as I have over my nearly four score plus 10, that you'll form some of the most rewarding relationships and have some of the most meaningful experiences of your life.
I have been lucky in many ways. I was raised by my immigrant grandfather to treasure the freedom and opportunities America offers. I also learned early to fear the power of demagogues with megaphones, as an 11-year-old listening to the anti-Semitic ravings and attacks on President Franklin D. Roosevelt from radio priest Father Coughlin, the spiritual godfather of those who poison our airwaves and online forums today. By the time I was a teenager, I knew that the values of individual and religious liberty were worth fighting for, which is why I dropped out of college to enlist in the war against Hitler.
Since then I have repeatedly seen Americans get off their couches to hold this country accountable to its stated values. They did it to fight for civil rights and the dismantling of the legal apartheid of Jim Crow; for the women's movement; for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. They have rallied to ensure that immigrants are treated with dignity and justice. All these efforts to overcome bigotry and institutionalized prejudice are still works in progress, but I am awed by the progress we have made.
Generations of Americans have worked to create a nation in which individual liberty can thrive alongside commitment to the principle that all members of a community should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and build a decent life for themselves and their families. In recent decades, that dream has been betrayed.
The religious right leaders who got me engaged in politics often portray such things as free expression and equal protection for all Americans no matter their race, religion or sexual orientation as anti-Christian and un-American, as symptoms of cultural decline. I couldn't disagree more. What strikes me as un-American are the greed, deception and systematic corruption that have infected politics, business and so much of our culture in recent years. Some of those with power and privilege have worked to create a system that continually reinforces that privilege and power, leaving ever-increasing numbers of Americans without reasonable hope for the kind of life their parents worked to give them.
Many Americans are in despair, and it has left them open to demagoguery and political manipulation. Blame gays, liberals, unions, immigrants or feminists for your family's struggles, for shrinking economic opportunity, for foreclosures and disappearing wages and benefits. Blame secularists or Muslims, or both, for the sense that our values have gone haywire.
A year out from the 2012 election, I am already tired of those who use the phrase "American exceptionalism" to reassert the far-right's claim that God, the Founding Fathers and any decent freedom-loving American must share their reactionary political agenda. I embrace the idea too that our nation should be a "shining city on a hill." We are the spiritual heirs to those Americans who struggled to end slavery and segregation, to end child labor and win safe conditions and living wages for workers, to enable every American to enrich his or her community and country by finding a place and a way to flourish in the world. We must make ourselves worthy of that legacy.
Call it the American dream, the American promise or the American way. Whatever term you use, it is imperiled, and worth fighting for. It is that basic, deeply patriotic emotion that I believe is finding expression bottom-up, small-d democratic expression in the Occupy movement. We can, and I would say must, fully embrace both love of country and outrage at attempts to despoil it. What better cause? What better time?
Television writer and producer Norman Lear founded People for the American Way.
From Google News
New horizons within reach for police force
TEACH THE PEOPLE
Confucius said, If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
When I read this, I think of where the Cincinnati Police Department is today and where I want to see it go and prosper in the future. My goals for the New Year and beyond are to continue providing strong leadership for the men and women of the CPD; provide an improved quality of life for all citizens of Cincinnati; expand partnerships with community leaders, local universities, clergy, neighborhood residents and corporations; as well as continued transparency from the CPD, thus inspiring the public's trust. We will work toward more effective and efficient management of department assets by developing a new work schedule for officers and applying the Computer Statistics (CompStat) model using technology and analysis to fight and prevent crime. We will further endeavor to incorporate cost-saving strategies we learn through a top-to-bottom evaluation of the department, while maintaining best practices.
Insight gained from past successes, together with hindsight gleaned from past failures, give us the foresight we need to develop successful strategies. My hope is that new strategies for old problems will light the way to navigate obstacles blocking success. Strategically we know public safety concerns are best addressed holistically, involving collaboration between the police and the community. We also know public safety needs are best addressed through partnerships with stakeholders of all ages and problem-solving efforts that provide a focused approach to crime reduction.
In 2012, CPD will enhance existing partnerships such as the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, Police Explorers Program, Cincinnati Police Activities League, Camp Joy Police Youth Live-In, Citizens on Patrol and the Citizens Police Academy.
New community policing initiatives will include the Chief's Police Advisory Board, which will meet with the police administration to serve as an information resource; the Ambassadors Football Team, consisting of police officers raising funds for local charities; the annual Community Summit, consisting of representatives from all 52 neighborhoods; and the Latino Community Partnership.
Our agenda for the New Year brings the development of new youth crime prevention programs. Such initiatives include the District Three Faith-Based Youth Initiative and the Children in Trauma Intervention Camp designed as a co-ed boot camp for seventh- and eighth-graders in partnership with Rothenberg Middle School. The Chief's Leadership Camp will take place at Camp Joy this summer. It is targeted at males 15-17 who are identified as leaders in their schools. The Youth Arts Collaborative seeks to partner with the region's art communities to create projects, awareness and opportunities for urban youths who might not otherwise experience this level of emotion and method of communication through artistic forms of expression.
As I look to the future and what it holds for Cincinnati, I am deeply encouraged by the tremendous work done on a daily basis by the men and women of the Cincinnati Police Department and the devotion by active community members who give so selflessly to their communities. These partnerships, along with new initiatives, will help the department reach its goals of continued and enhanced police community relationships, youth outreach and cost-efficient business practices.
James Craig is Cincinnati police chief.