NEWS of the Day - January 3, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - January 3, 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


Dead body indentified as suspected Mount Rainier gunman

The manhunt is over -- authorities have confirmed that the body found Monday at Mt. Rainier National Park is that of Benjamin C. Barnes, the gunman suspected in the fatal shooting of a park ranger a day earlier.

Barnes, 24, an Iraq war veteran who is also suspected in an earlier shooting at a New Year's Eve party near Seattle, was spotted face down in the snow by an overflying aircraft near Narada Falls in the park.

Narada Falls, one of the park's most popular tourist destinations, lies adjacent to Mount Rainier Highway--most likely unpopulated at the time because the park has been closed for the past two days due to the shooting.

It took snowshoe-clad searchers some time after the aircraft sighting to reach the body and confirm the identification, park spokeswoman Lee Snook said.

"All that I know is it has been confirmed as Benjamin Colton Barnes, and he is the suspect that we have for the death of Margaret Anderson," Snook told the Los Angeles Times. "But they're still investigating. They still have the park closed, and I'm sure there's lots of loose ends that remain to be taken care of."

FBI officials also confirmed Barnes' death but said they could not immediately discuss how he died. A further release of information is pending, spokeswoman Ayn S. Dietrich said.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said it is likely Barnes died of exposure. When found, he said, Barnes was wearing only jeans, a T-shirt and one shoe.

Meanwhile, officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near the base of Mount Rainier, confirmed that Barnes served as a private first class with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq and was granted a general discharge under honorable conditions in November 2009 after facing criminal charges for driving under the influence and transporting a privately owned weapon improperly.

Barnes' parents, contacted in California, said they did not want to discuss the case.



L.A. arson suspect is 24-year-old Hollywood man

Los Angeles police on Monday afternoon booked a 24-year-old man on suspicion of arson after an L.A. County sheriff's deputy detained him in connection with a string of more than 50 deliberately set fires

Booking records identified the man as Harry Burkhart, a Hollywood area resident. He is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail at the Inmate Reception Center in downtown L.A.

No new arsons have been reported since the suspect was taken into custody, but police stressed that the investigation was ongoing.

The fires have caused $2 million in damage, authorities said.

At a news conference Monday, officials said the arson task force is sifting through about 100 clues in the case.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said : "I feel very good that we've got the right guy. [The suspect] had the right stuff in his van, and we are confident in the arrest.''

According to law enforcement sources, Burkhart has been involved in a dispute with federal immigration officials.

Burkhart appears to have been battling the U.S. government over the immigration status of his mother.

The Los Angeles Police Department is in communication with federal immigration officials concerning the dispute, the law enforcement sources said.

LAPD detectives found materials inside Burkhart's minivan that could have been used to set fires, the sources said. All of the sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

The man was detained near a drugstore at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Sunset Boulevard early Monday morning, according to a witness to the incident.

Several sources said Burkhart is believed to be the same person seen in a surveillance video released by police Sunday, when authorities pointed to the individual as a "person of interest" in the case.

The suspect was taken into custody following a morning of arson fires across the Hollywood area Monday. Eleven fires were reported in two hours, beginning at 1:30 a.m.; most were burning cars and carports in apartment complexes, police and fire officials said.

A total of 53 "fires of concern" have broken out in the Los Angeles area since Friday, possibly the work of one arsonist.

Of those fires, 45 occurred in the Los Angeles area, another nine were in West Hollywood, and one was in Burbank, Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, wrote in a post on LAFD Alert, the department's blog.



Reserve deputy who arrested arson suspect 'a true hero'

As hundreds of law enforcement officers looked for the suspect in a string of arson fires Monday, the lawman who spotted him was a reserve deputy who works as a real estate attorney in Beverly Hills by day and occasionally helps patrol West Hollywood at night.

"He is a true hero," says Sheriff Lee Baca of Shervin Lalezary. "He works for $1 a year."

Baca said the reserve deputy, who qualified in December to ride a car solo, was beyond his eight-hour shift when made the "arrest of his career."

PHOTOS: Arson fires

Lalezary spotted Harry Burkhart's Dodge Caravan on Sunset Boulevard shortly before 3 a.m. and quickly realized he was the suspect at center of a massive arson taskforce manhunt. Officials had been looking for the minivan for several hours.

"It was a great relief to know people can sleep -- be they officers, firefighters, the residents of West Hollywood as well as me" said Lalezary. He said he could not discuss specifics but said that he had Los Angeles Police Department officers covering him when he approached the minivan.

At a press conference Monday, Lalezary received much applause. His family was looking on.




California's death penalty: Unusual but not cruel

Capital punishment in California should be streamlined, not abolished.

by Charles Johnson

January 3, 2012

With a drug cocktail that puts death row inmates to sleep, California's capital punishment can hardly be said to be cruel — but it is so unusual that death row inmates in the Golden State routinely die of old age or by suicide. When, or more likely if, justice comes, it doesn't come cheap. By some estimates, it costs $100,000 a year per prisoner to keep California's 718 inmates alive on death row, thanks in part to the endless, often frivolous appeals brought by inmates and death penalty opponents. If capital punishment is prohibitively expensive, it is because those professionally seeking to abolish it have made it so.

Even death penalty supporters, such as Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court, have given up. "I don't think it is working," the newly appointed chief justice told The Times last week. California's death penalty requires "structural change, and we don't have the money." Still, Californians need a "merit-based discussion on its effectiveness and costs." But the chief justice ignored why that load continues to mount: death penalty opponents.

Death penalty foes have seized on the cost issue for their latest attempt at killing it off. Led by Natasha Minsker of the ACLU of Northern California, they are gathering signatures to put the so-called SAFE California initiative on the November 2012 ballot. Minsker's co-written report, "California's Death Penalty Is Dead," concedes that it is the appeals process that clogs the courts, noting that "death penalty trials cost up to 20 times more than trials for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.... Taxpayers are legally required to pay for numerous appeals in death penalty cases, unlike cases involving life without possibility of parole, where the prisoner gets only one taxpayer-funded appeal."

Only 13 death row inmates have been executed since Californians voted, by a 2-to-1 margin to reinstate capital punishment in 1978, over the objections of then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who had previously vetoed it. Californians, like most Americans, like the death penalty and favor it by roughly the same margin they did in 1978. Support softens when life without parole is considered as an alternative, perhaps because of expense issues. Nonetheless, according to a Field Poll in September, 68% of Californians support capital punishment.

One mark of its popularity is how often it is meted out. For all the supposed blood lust of Texans, where more inmates are executed (and more cheaply), California's jurors are twice as likely to sentence criminals to death. According to a Cornell University study, this is because Texas' death penalty sentencing criteria are far more objective than California's; juries in states with "subjective" death penalties — where they take into account heinousness, for example — are twice as likely to impose the death penalty than are states with stricter guidelines.

That subjectivity gives inmates, activists and lawyers just enough wiggle room. Take Robert Alton Harris, the first Californian executed in 25 years. Harris admitted to murdering two boys because he wanted their car for a crime spree. He even finished off the Jack in the Box burgers they were eating. But Harris' lawyers spent 13 years dragging out his appeals. Or consider Randy Kraft, convicted in Orange County's costliest trial of murdering and mutilating 16 young men. Among his contentions on appeal, he has argued that execution would force him to "actively participate in his own killing," violating his 1st Amendment religious protections. Kraft, suspected in 67 killings, has become a champion bridge player on death row.

In 2006, federal District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel stayed Michael Morales' execution. Morales admitted to killing 17-year-old Terri Winchell in 1981. She was stabbed, strangled, knifed and hammered. Fogel stayed Morales' execution on the grounds that the three-drug method of execution might — there was a .001% chance — cause Morales pain. He worried that California's execution team was too poorly trained, the execution chamber too dimly lit. The state hired two anesthesiologists to administer the drugs and to guarantee that Morales would feel no pain, but the doctors balked, saying their involvement would violate their Hippocratic oath.

Thus capital punishment in California remains in limbo until September 2012, the soonest the Brown administration and death row inmates' attorneys will be ready to review the state's new procedures. Candidate Brown promised to "vigorously enforce the law," but Gov. Brown will probably wait to see the November ballot initiative's results first.

Meanwhile some lawsuits countering the death penalty have gone from frivolous to farcical. One, filed against the Food and Drug Administration, argues that California's drug supply of sodium thiopental for executions was improperly obtained abroad. It's the FDA's job, the lawyers say, to make sure that even death penalty drugs are safe and reliable.

Those invented dangers don't concern serial wife-killer Jerry Stanley, who after living on death row for 28 years has volunteered to be executed using the three-drug protocol, despite Fogel's apprehensions. "I am willing to be the experimental guy to see whether or not they work," Stanley told The Times. Despite having recently been ruled competent by a judge, Stanley cannot decide how he should meet his end — thanks to what he calls the lawyers' gravy train that stands between him and execution. "I disagreed with trying to get me life when I deserved the death penalty," Stanley says of his court-appointed attorneys 30 years ago. In so arguing, Stanley displays rare sanity in the capital punishment debate.

"There is a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and does this quite seriously and honestly," noted Nietzsche, writing in "Beyond Good and Evil."

The voters may test whether we have reached that point, but in any case, we are close to it. Pity California.



From Google News


PRINCETON: Classes help visitors connect with U.S. culture

by Victoria Hurley-Schubert

Princeton Township police have partnered with the YWCA to introduce visitors from other countries to American culture and customs as part of the department's community outreach.

They do so through semi-intensive, two weeks of classes for visitors to the United States that focuses on personal safety, the safety of Princeton and motor vehicle rules.

A stop at police headquarters includes a talk with Sgt. Michael R. Cifelli, Community Services Bureau, who answers questions that range from what education and training are needed to become an American police officer to how to deal with a mugger.

For Sgt. Cifelli, this is one of the highlights of his job.

”I take the time because I feel it's important for people to understand that the police in general are more than the men and women you see writing tickets and making arrests,” he said. “I take the time especially with foreign visitors because in many cases the police in their native countries are worlds apart from what the police in the United States are in terms of our jobs and how we interact with the community. I get to see the realization in many of the visitors that the police are real people that like to take a positive role in their communities.” The time where they could talk with Sgt. Cifelli in a small group and have all their questions answered offered great comfort to the travelers.

”I came to America for the first time, and I've been here about five months and I didn't know anything about American life,” said Min Young Park, a South Korean visiting scholar staying in Princeton while studying how people learn a foreign language at Rutgers University. “I learned about American culture and American life. It may be a simple thing, but I want to ask someone if it is OK to go out at night. And I have two children, so can I keep them home alone or do I need a gun? I worried that Americans have guns. I have many questions, but when I come here I ask the sergeant.”

During her first year as the new director of the YWCA Princeton's English as a Second Language (ESL) program, Paula Rossi received telephone and email requests for short-term classes for people visiting friends and relatives in the area.

”At the time, the ESL program did not offer anything that would accommodate the needs of students who were here for short periods and wanted to practice American English and experience the culture of the United States,” said Ms. Rossi.

To meet the need, Eileen Mannix, an ESL teacher at the YWCA, developed a curriculum to answer the questions and provide information about American customs and way of life. The program included conversation, writing, grammar and most importantly, field trips.

Students are taken to Princeton Public Library, the Princeton University museum, police officers at the Princeton Township police departments and the Princeton Township First Aid and Rescue Squad, and enjoy a meal at a typical diner.

”Chief (Robert) Buchanan asked me to host the group as a favor to Eileen Mannix, with whom he was already acquainted,” said Sgt. Cifelli. “The police department was looking to help present a positive image in the community, and with this we were able to accomplish both.”

The visit to the police station has been a hit and really helps ease the students minds.

”There have been many questions about safety and this gives the students an opportunity to ask them,” said Ms. Mannix.

For many students, policing is done very differently — without the strong focus on community policing that is key in the way Princeton Township police conduct business — in their home countries and police are not viewed as the pillars of the community as they are in America.

”I understand better the role of New Jersey police,” said Vitor Nakano, a Brazilian staying in Trenton while visiting family and improving his English. “I learn about their background of the police and I understand the relationship of the police officer and the population.”

Ms. Mannix said learning police are in the community to assist people is an important idea that many foreign visitors do not understand.

”It's important for visitors to know we have a good relationship with the police so that you are not afraid to go to police for help, she said.”

Mr. Nakano, who snapped lots of photos during the police department tour, found the YWCA through Google and searching English as a second language.

The ESL program has welcomed visitors from Brazil, China, France, Japan, Italy, Poland, Spain, South Korea and Taiwan. It runs about $12/hour plus any admission fees for field trips. The winter break class, which ran two sessions in December, cost $360 and was scheduled to meet demands. ”It was good to compare how the police department is in the United States with Brazil police department because I'm a lawyer and for me it's very important to know how this is working,” said Tatiana Ferreira, a visitor from Brazil staying in Lawrence during a two-month holiday. “A long time ago I saw a movie where the girl went to Princeton University and for this I researched about Princeton University and the Princeton city.”

In addition to class time, students are encouraged to enrich their ESL experiences by attending other free activities for enrolled students.

”Conversation groups facilitated by community volunteers are offered during the week and Rosetta Stone is available in the computer lab,” said Ms. Rossi. “Some of our visitors have taken advantage of the offerings and have customized their language immersion experience.”

As a result of the success of the short-term visitors ESL class, a new full-term class was designed to meet the needs of newcomers, said Ms. Rossi. The course is designed for those with an academic background in English with reading and writing who have difficulty with or need more practice in listening and speaking.

The ESL program offers more than 40 classes in the fall and spring terms and about 10 classes during the five-week summer program. The classes generally run for 12 to 18 weeks depending on the length of the term and are designed for the student to attend for the full term.