| NEWS of the Day - January 9, 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
Iran sentences American man to death in CIA case
An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state radio reported Monday.
From the Associated Press
January 9, 2012
An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state radio reported Monday.
Iran charges that as a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati received special training and served at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan before heading to Iran for his alleged intelligence mission.
The radio report did not say when the verdict was issued. Under Iranian law, he has 20 days to appeal.
Hekmati, 28, was born in Arizona. His family is of Iranian origin. His father, who lives in Michigan, said his son is not a CIA spy and was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when he was arrested.
The U.S. State Department has demanded his release.
The court convicted him of working with a hostile country, belonging to the CIA and trying to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism, Monday's report said.
State convicts arrive in L.A. County with costly mental illnesses
Newly released state prisoners are arriving in Los Angeles and other counties with incomplete medical records and mental illnesses that have officials struggling to provide treatment.
by Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
January 8, 2012
As California begins shifting supervision of thousands of newly released state prisoners to local probation agencies, ex-convicts are arriving with incomplete medical records and more serious mental illnesses than anticipated. And mental health officials are scrambling to provide appropriate — and often costly — treatment.
"At the start, every day ... there was a crisis," said Dr. Marvin Southard, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. "There was somebody we didn't know what to do with."
In some cases, he said, released inmates have had to be immediately transferred to hospitals or residential centers for psychiatric care.
A new state law designed to reduce prison crowding and cut costs requires that certain nonviolent convicts serve their time in county lockups rather than state prisons. It also makes counties — rather than the state parole agency — responsible for supervising such inmates after their release.
The transition, called "realignment" by Gov. Jerry Brown, has raised well-publicized concerns among law enforcement officers across the state, as they try to accommodate more inmates in already crowded local jails. But realignment also presents less-visible challenges for local probation and mental health officials dealing with an influx of patients with drug and alcohol addictions, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.
Mental illness and drug addiction are common in California prisons, where more than half of inmates report a recent mental health problem and two-thirds report having a drug abuse problem, according to a Rand Corp. study. Many don't receive the treatment they need while incarcerated and may skip care once released, said the study's author, Lois Davis.
"If you have individuals struggling with depression and anxiety ... they are going to have a much harder time linking to services," she said. "It limits their ability to find a job and reunite with their family, and they will be at greater risk for recidivism."
Roughly 3,300 people have been released to Los Angeles County so far. The probation department is expecting about 6,000 more. County mental health officials estimated that about 30% will require mental health services and about 60% will have drug addictions.
Continuing treatment after inmates are freed is essential to preventing them from relapsing, having mental breakdowns, ending up in hospitals or landing back behind bars, officials said.
"We took it very seriously from the start," said Reaver Bingham, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Probation Department. "We knew that if we didn't address those risk factors, people would revert to what they know, and that is committing criminal activity."
Realignment, which began Oct. 1, has been bumpy. Many released inmates came without comprehensive medical records. It was up to the patients to pass along information about their diagnoses and medications to probation and mental health staffers. When county workers requested mental health records from the state, they often were told to get the information from individual prisons.
Communication has improved, but getting complete medical and mental health records remains difficult, officials said. One complication: Prisoners can block the transfer of records.
"A lot of it depends on the inmates' attitude at the point of the release — do they want to be treated more or to be left alone?" said Don Kingdon, deputy director of the California Mental Health Directors Assn.
Kingdon stressed the importance of counties having complete information on prisoners before they are released to local supervision. "That can create a problem in the community if they release prisoners and they have mental health needs and you didn't know," he said.
California prison officials "made a whole lot of effort to make the [transition] be as smooth as possible," said Denny Sallade, deputy director of the state's Division of Correctional Health Care Services. But inmates may be in one mental state when they leave the prison and another when they arrive in the community, often because they stop taking their medication along the way, she noted.
The inmates also may turn down help once they arrive. In Los Angeles County, about 30% of the released state inmates seen by mental health staff refused to either meet with clinicians or be referred for treatment.
Bingham, of the probation department, said the state has tried to address problems. "If we can be successful in Los Angeles County, we can be successful in the rest of the state," he said.
But county officials are warning there may not be enough resources to accommodate former inmates in need of supervision. The state allocated $18 million to Los Angeles County to pay for mental health and substance abuse treatment and other social services. But the money isn't guaranteed to continue past June.
"Supervisor Mike Antonovich is very concerned about the inadequacy of realignment funding to effectively rehabilitate this population, which includes costly mental health services, housing and supervision," said his justice deputy, Anna Pembedjian. "It all boils down to resources."
Los Angeles, like most counties around the state, is already stretched thin after years of budget cuts and may not be equipped to close gaps in health and social services for the newly released inmates, said Davis, of Rand. To help defray some costs, counties across the state are working to enroll the eligible released prisoners in public programs such as Medi-Cal.
Counties are at the very early stages of understanding how to make realignment work, especially for those former inmates with mental illness, Davis said. "It is going to be a challenging time for the next couple years," she said.
Gary Sinise plans benefit to build home for wounded Marine
Actor Gary Sinise, who played a soldier in the movie "Forrest Gump" who loses his legs in Vietnam, plans a benefit concert to raise money to build a home in Temecula for a Marine from Camp Pendleton who lost his legs and right arm in Afghanistan.
Sinise, now starring in TV's “CSI New York,” is set to address the Temecula City Council on Tuesday. The concert tentatively would be March 1 at Town Square Plaza and feature Sinise's Lt. Dan Band, named for his character in “Forrest Gump.”
The Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation plan to build a specially equipped home for Marine Lance Cpl. Juan Dominguez, who was wounded in Sangin, Afghanistan, in October 2010.
The two foundations have built several such homes for wounded veterans.
The concert, Sinise said in a statement, will “recognize the heroism, sacrifice and dedication Juan has displayed.”
Sinise is involved in a number of activities supporting U.S. troops, including a recent visit to Naval Medical Center San Diego to meet with Marines and soldiers who have had limbs amputated.
Providing that the Temecula council approves the benefit, tickets will be available at www.temeculatheater.org or at (866) 653-8696.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio stays in the spotlight
The Arizona sheriff is a lightning rod for both sides in the debate over the nation's irrational immigration system.
January 9, 2012
It was no surprise to learn last week that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., will seek reelection. The 79-year-old sheriff has shrugged off lawsuits, investigations and allegations that he practices unconstitutional policing that routinely violates the rights of Latinos. Arpaio regards all of that as a political campaign led by those who seek to use him "as the whipping boy for a national and international problem." So why not run?
In one sense, Arpaio is right. Congress' failure to provide a comprehensive fix to the nation's irrational immigration system has fueled widespread frustration among Republicans and Democrats alike. Federal inaction has prompted a wave of Arizona-style state laws that prescribe new immigration duties for police. Yet few state or local agencies have been so reckless in their use of those expanded powers as Arpaio's. He may be the product of a broken federal system, but he's also proof of why local law enforcement should not step into the breach.
While Arpaio runs his own troubled border patrol, he's neglected the actual duties of his office: A U.S. Department of Justice report concluded that his deputies failed to properly investigate 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation cases. His aggressiveness has bordered on vengeance: A grand jury is considering whether the Maricopa Sheriff's Department's anticorruption team illegally pursued cases against Arpaio's critics, including judges and other officials. And his fidelity to the law itself has been questioned: A federal judge issued legal sanctions against the sheriff last month for destroying evidence related to a class-action lawsuit.
Arpaio bears sole responsibility for his excesses and arrogance. But federal officials have helped create the conditions for Arpaio to exploit. Lax border enforcement stoked anger in Arizona, and recent efforts to patrol the area more closely came only after the fact. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has properly contested state efforts to take over immigration enforcement but has failed to advance a program of its own. And Congress has shown even less leadership. Over the last three years, federal lawmakers have revealed an appalling unwillingness to assert their authority over immigration, opting instead to just assign more money for enforcement efforts.
The people of Maricopa County will decide whether they still want their controversial sheriff. Representatives in Washington should make sure those people don't think they need him.
From Google News
Pleasantville Police Urge Community Spirit
Chief Love encourages community members to be comfortable with officers.
by Sarah Studley
Even during these colder months, you may notice Pleasantville police officers frequently patrolling the village on foot.
In an effort Chief of Police Richard Love calls "community policing," patrol officers are often assigned to walking tours.
"We are working with the community to prevent crime," he explained. "We also want people to be comfortable with police officers and be able to work with us and try to be on the same page."
The initiative has helped Police Officer Erin Holly, the department's most recent addition, become acquainted with Pleasantville quickly.
"It's been great," she said one month and four days into her new role. "Everybody has been so nice—even when you are on calls, people want to work with you."
Holly, who previously worked with the Mount Vernon Police Department, said she has been pleasantly surprised by the attitude of youths' in the community.
"Teenagers have been really receptive and respectful," she said, noting she often takes the time to explain to them why they are asked to move or quiet down when police receive complaints.
"It helps them understand," she said. "People are very courteous."
Holly said she even prefers to be on a first name basis with locals, which was apparent as Pleasantville Cleaners' Joseph Lifrieri greeted her as Erin on a cool afternoon.
"It's good to know the officers," he agreed. "It's good they are nice and talk to people."
Love said community policing is important because, "Preventing crime starts out on the community level."
When residents feel comfortable with the police, they are more likely to report suspicious activity, he added.
The chief said the department wants kids in the community to be comfortable approaching officers as well, while Holly pointed out a close relationship can lead to opportunities to explain to youths, "what's crime and what's not crime."
Neighborhood Watches Welcomed By Cops
by Brent Frazier
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Nashville's police chief said 2011 saw the lowest homicide rate in 45 years. He's attributing that, in part, to community policing.
"We have over 500 neighborhood watch groups," Chief Steve Anderson shared with the press last weekend at the grand opening of Madison's new police precinct.
The president of the local Fraternal Order of Police welcomes the additional sets of eyes.
"You won't ever be able to put enough police officers in every neighborhood to catch every criminal and everything going on," said Sergeant Robert Weaver. "We've got to have that community support! It's vital to what we do."
Community policing is also a concept relatively-new Hendersonville Police Chief Mickey Miller is trying to drive home.
Hendersonville homeowner Robbie Green is the coordinator of her neighborhood watch group, founded two years ago.
"I think it's a great idea," Green said, adding that a series of home burglaries is what prompted the group's inception.
"And we just decided that we've been here for a long time. And, with the new shopping centers and things that are coming into the area, we're going to have to be more vigilant with what's going on in our neighborhood," Green shared.
Hendersonville keeps careful crime stats, too, but did not share with NewsChannel 5 its homicide rate from last year.
In Metro Nashville, 2011 saw 51 homicides, according to Chief Anderson, the lowest since 1966; 2010 saw 60 homicides; and the year before that had 80 homicides.
Chief Anderson has a goal, for 2012, to see the homicide rate down into the 40s.
Illinois rules force many cities to drop auxiliary police units
Dec. 30 marked the end of an era for the Milan Police Department.
Milan Police Chief Mark Beckwith said that new training rules for auxiliary police in Illinois have forced the disbanding of the city's auxiliary unit that for 42 years added police presence to the streets during times of floods and festivals, windstorms, snowstorms, parades, concerts and city events.
“The unit was truly community policing in every sense of the word,” Beckwith said.
Many of the auxiliary officers worked in other careers but wanted to give back to the community, he said, while students used the job to gain experience to be a police officer or to decide whether they wanted a career in law enforcement.
But they all cared about serving their community in some way, Beckwith said.
Some of those auxiliary officers now work full-time for Rock Island, Moline, Davenport and other area police agencies. Others have made law enforcement careers in such large cities as Dallas and Atlanta.
On Dec. 31, Illinois required all auxiliary police officers to complete the 400-hour mandatory basic law enforcement training course that regular officers complete.
While Beckwith is saddened by the lost of the auxiliary, he said he understands the state's concerns because of insurance coverage.
“Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society,” he said. People are ready to sue quickly and (city insurance policies are) not going to cover officers who have not completed the training, he added.
While the city would like to pay for the training of the auxiliary, budget concerns prevent it, he said. And while there was a time when future officers could pay their own way through the training course, that is no longer allowed, he said.
Rock Island disbanded its auxiliary force a few years ago when John Wright was chief.
“We were seeing a lot of the legislation coming down as far as the training mandates, and we couldn't support our program based on those changes,” Rock Island Deputy
Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen said.
“The changes were becoming so restrictive and how (auxiliary officers) had to be supervised, it just wasn't feasible to maintain the unit in terms of both time and cost,” VenHuizen said.
Several of Rock Island's current officers started in the city's auxiliary program, he added.
“It provided some beneficial training and gave you some idea of the individual you were going to get,” VenHuizen said.
Wright, who retired from the Rock Island Police Department in 2010, said that 20 years ago the auxiliary officers were more involved with sworn officers as supervisors.
But that changed over time, and before Rock Island disbanded its auxiliary, many of those officers rode with officers infrequently because they were working full-time jobs, he added. “They could only put in so much time,” Wright said.
In Iowa, the Scott County Sheriff's Department maintains an active reserve unit, Sheriff Dennis Conard said.
“During last winter's blizzard, reserve deputies volunteered over 200 hours,” Conard said of the unit. “When Obama was here, 300 hours. Every Friday and Saturday night, two reserve officers are out in a squad car as a supplement to the deputies already out there.
“If there's a parade, you're usually going to see reserves doing traffic control,” he said. “That includes the Bix, Turkey Trot and Tugfest.”
Conard started his career as a reserve officer while studying law enforcement at St. Ambrose University, Davenport.
About five years ago, the state mandated training that a reserve deputy must complete, he said.
Scott County worked with community colleges to provide the classroom work, after which the reserve cadets performed in-service training with the Sheriff's Department to complete their certification.
Would-be reserve deputies pay for their own training initially, Conard said.
“If they give me one year of service after the training then we will reimburse them their training expenses,” he added.
“In today's world of litigation and legal issues, standardized training is not a bad idea,” he said.
Despite record homicides, violent crime drops
by James Lu
New Haven's murder count reached a 20-year high last year after a grisly 2011 that saw 34 homicides. Although city and police officials admitted the homicide rate — 10 higher than the 2010 figure — was concerning, they pointed to improvements in the city's overall rate of violent crime in recent years as an indication of continued policing efforts. Officials and community leaders agreed that there is no simple explanation for the Elm City's uptick in murders, but several new strategies have been implemented to bring the rate down in the future, coinciding with the arrival of new New Haven Police Department chief Dean Esserman, who was sworn in Nov. 18.
“The homicide rate in 2011 was clearly unacceptable and it's something that the city and the police department are going to focus efforts on in 2012,” said City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton '04. “The new chief has been tasked with reducing the homicide rate and the rate of violent crime in the city and we're optimistic that his efforts will be successful.”
The Elm City reached its final murder count for the year after two fatal shootings in as many days. NHPD officers responded to a report of a shooting at 50 Houston St. around 12:50 a.m. on Dec. 23. There, they found 27-year old Joseph Zargo of West Haven with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and pronounced dead shortly afterward.
The next day, the city's Shotspotter system reported several gunshots at 332 Norton St. around 9:45 p.m. Officers at the scene found Antonio Holloway, 19, with a gunshot wound to the chest outside 335 Norton St. Holloway was taken to St. Raphael's Hospital and pronounced dead at 3:51 a.m Christmas Day.
While NHPD spokesman David Hartman agreed that the number of murders in the city last year was unacceptably high, he said the homicide count was simply “the most visible figure” and not necessarily reflective of the city's overall crime situation.
According to data released Dec. 20 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Elm City saw an 11 percent drop in violent crime in the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010.
That data, from the FBI's preliminary analysis of nationwide crime statistics from Jan. 1 to June 30, counted homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults as violent crimes. In New Haven, the number of robberies rose from 338 to 350, the number of rapes dropped from 30 to 25 and aggravated assault cases fell from 585 to 460. Property crime in the city also fell 11 percent.
Hartman explained that the data, which follows a 9 percent drop in total violent crime between 2009 and 2010, suggested that homicides do not accurately represent the city's overall picture of crime. He added that past homicide records have not reflected the number of people killed, but rather the number of homicide investigations launched. In December, the NHPD went through its records for the past 30 years and recalculated homicide statistics to represent the actual number of murder victims. While the NHPD website shows 34 homicides in 1991 — the previous peak in homicides — Hartman explained that this figure reflects 34 investigations into incidents that year in which a total of 36 people were murdered.
The causes of violent crime in today's New Haven — which include economic hardship, lack of education and a revolving prison population — are different from the gang-related violence that took place in the early 1990s, said Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners.
Gerald Antunes, who until this year served as Ward 12 alderman and vice-chair of the city's public safety committee, and Donald Morris, head of the Brotherhood Leadership Summit, local anti-violence group, agreed that these violent crimes can only be combated with a holistic, community-focused approach.
Antunes said Esserman is spearheading these efforts, which involve putting cops back on walking beats in local neighborhoods and interacting with the community to obtain information to prevent crimes.
Despite the city's renewed efforts to fight violent crime, Yale administrators have sought to reassure those in the University community of the city's saftey.
University President Richard Levin noted that many of last year's murders were drug related or had to do with the city's youth gangs, and did not necessarily threaten the general population. Still, that is only “small comfort,” he admitted, given the homicides took place in local neighborhoods.
“There are many aspects of life in New Haven that are far improved from 20 years ago,” said Levin, who took office in 1993. “Downtown is notably safe; there's far more people living in the downtown area overnight.”
Both Levin and Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins stressed Yale's partnership with the city in fighting crime. The YPD “will always be the NHPD's strongest partner,” Higgins said.
The new year has opened with a spate of shootings. Four people were shot late Saturday and early Sunday, three of whom suffered non-life threatening wounds and the other of which remains in a serious condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital.