NEWS of the Day - January 14, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - January 14, 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


San Francisco County sheriff charged with domestic violence

Five days after he was sworn in as sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi is also charged with child endangerment and dissuading a witness, the result of a fight with his wife, a former Venezuelan telenovela star.

by Maria L. LaGanga, Los Angeles Times

January 14, 2012

Reporting from San Francisco -- Five days after he was sworn in as San Francisco County sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi was charged Friday afternoon with misdemeanor domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness, the result of a New Year's Eve fight with his wife, a former Venezuelan telenovela star.

In announcing the charges against Mirkarimi, 50 — a former county supervisor who is now one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officers in San Francisco — Dist. Atty. George Gascon said police are investigating the possibility that Mirkarimi may have been involved in earlier incidents of spousal abuse.

Gascon also said that a judge was signing an emergency protective order that would bar Mirkarimi from his home and prohibit any contact between him and his wife, Eliana Lopez, and their toddler son, Theo.

The order also would require Mirkarimi to give up all his firearms within 24 hours. Gascon said that he is "not aware of any" other sheriff in California who cannot carry a gun.

"While this case involves a high-profile elected official, we are treating this case as we would any of the hundreds of domestic violence cases we review and charge each year," Gascon said. "While I do not relish having to bring charges against a San Francisco elected official … it is my solemn duty to bring criminal charges when the evidence supports such action."

About the same time Gascon announced the charges at a packed news conference, Mirkarimi and Lopez held their own briefing at his City Hall office, where he vowed to fight the charges.

"We must allow the system and its investigation to proceed accordingly," Mirkarimi said. "We believe that these charges are very unfounded."

Appearing slightly stunned, Mirkarimi said he was "confident that in the end we will succeed in showing the missteps" of the investigation. Asked if he would step aside while the case proceeds, he said he has "no intention of leaving.… We'll prove that we are right."

Lopez has hired an attorney, is not cooperating with the investigation and has not spoken with the district attorney's staff. She was more strident Friday than her husband, repeatedly calling the charges "unbelievable."

"As I've said before, I don't have any complaint against my husband," Lopez said. "We are together and we are fine. We are going to fight this. This is my family, my husband and my son.… This is completely wrong."

The incident came to light after Lopez confided to a neighbor about a New Year's Eve fight with Mirkarimi. The neighbor, Ivory Madison, photographed and videotaped a bruise on Lopez's arm, texted with Lopez about the incident and later called police.

Madison, who co-hosted an October fundraiser to benefit Mirkarimi's run for sheriff, declined to turn over the messages and photos to authorities, saying Lopez had asked her not to. But investigators seized the materials after serving a search warrant.

Gascon would not discuss specifics of the incident, except to say that "we feel very comfortable based on the evidence presented that we have sufficient evidence" to obtain a conviction.

He acknowledged that "a case is always stronger if the victim is willing to testify," but he said that it is "very common for victims to be uncooperative in domestic violence cases," either because they fear retaliation or the consequences to the family.

Two big questions are what effect the incident would have on Mirkarimi's ability to function as sheriff and what damage it would do to his political career as one of the clearest progressive voices in this famously liberal city.

When he was sworn in Sunday, Mirkarimi caused widespread anger by appearing to take the investigation lightly and dismissing the allegations of spousal abuse as "a private matter, a family matter."

With Lopez and Theo by his side, he declared that he was "sorry that a cloud hangs over what should be a very special day for Eliana, me and my entire family and all of you who worked so hard. They and you deserve better. But you know what? Clouds break, and the possibilities shine through."

Under city law, Mayor Ed Lee can charge Mirkarimi with official misconduct, temporarily suspend him from office and name an interim sheriff. The suspension would promptly be followed by written charges and notification of the Ethics Commission and Board of Supervisors.

After an arrest warrant was filed for Mirkarimi on Friday evening, Lee said that he now must review the options available under the City Charter while ensuring that he does not "take steps that undermine the integrity of the criminal justice proceedings underway."



1st charge filed in FBI probe of L.A. sheriff's deputy misconduct

The case involves former Deputy Gilbert Michel, who admitted smuggling a cellphone and other contraband into Men's Central Jail for an inmate who promised him $20,000.

by Robert Faturechi and Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times

January 14, 2012

Federal prosecutors filed their first criminal charge in the ongoing investigation of deputy misconduct in the Los Angeles County jails, saying that an ex-guard has agreed to plead guilty to felony bribery and is cooperating with the FBI.

The case involves former Deputy Gilbert Michel, who admitted smuggling a cellphone and other contraband into Men's Central Jail last year for an inmate who promised him a total of $20,000. Michel, 38, didn't know that the inmate was an informant helping the FBI and that the person who eventually handed him money was an undercover agent.

Federal officials on Friday declined to detail the information Michel has provided. But the Sheriff's Department has acknowledged that Michel implicated several other jailers in "improper" uses of force against inmates. Michel spoke to investigators at least twice over the last few months, beginning in September, according to court papers.

U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. said Friday that the investigation into alleged brutality and other misdeeds by L.A. sheriff's deputies is continuing. The FBI probe has looked into claims that deputies carved racist initials into one inmate's head and broke the jaw of another inmate, among other allegations.

"Obviously it's important that corruption and any criminal misconduct in any law enforcement agency get rooted out, not just for public safety but, frankly, for the sake of the organization," he said.

Discovery of the smuggled cellphone by sheriff's officials sparked tensions between the department and the FBI last year. Michel's involvement in the federal sting was first reported by The Times in September and helped spark intense public scrutiny of how the Sheriff's Department has managed the nation's largest jail system.

Sheriff Lee Baca initially condemned the tactics of federal investigators, accusing them of breaking the law and creating a serious safety breach inside the jails. Since then, he has toned down his criticisms and agreed to cooperate with federal agents as they examine allegations of inmate abuse and other deputy misconduct inside his jails.

The sting that ensnared Michel began when the FBI's informant inside Men's Central Jail approached several deputies about smuggling in a cellphone in return for cash, according to federal court documents filed Friday.

The informant, who is not named in the records, let it be known he had access to large sums of cash that he illegally obtained. He gave some deputies — the exact number was not specified — a telephone number to follow up on his offer. Michel called the number on July 7 and left a message, the court records said. The documents do not say whether any other deputies also called.

The informant agreed to pay Michel $700 when he was given the cellphone and an additional sum once the inmate had received it, according to the documents. On July 20, Michel met an undercover FBI agent at a parking lot near Vermont Avenue and the 105 Freeway in South L.A. and was given the phone and the money.

The informant used the phone to contact his federal handler but could only do so while Michel was on duty, the court records said. Before the end of the deputy's shift s , the inmate returned the phone to Michel so that the deputy could charge it.

The informant, the documents show, told the deputy he would have his associate give Michel $2,000 every time the deputy gave the inmate the phone. The informant promised a total of $20,000 in a cashier's check as long as the deputy continued to bring the phone and other contraband, including cigarettes and written messages, federal authorities said.

At an Aug. 4 meeting, the undercover FBI agent gave Michel an additional $800 to give the telephone and a written note to the inmate, court records show. The deputy explained that he was owed far more, given what the inmate had promised, according to the documents.

Four days later, the scheme unraveled when sheriff's deputies discovered the cellphone among the inmate's belongings. Sheriff's investigators interviewed Michel, who admitted bringing the phone as well as cigarettes and a lighter to the inmate but denied bringing in other contraband, Baca said last year.

Along with the phone, sheriff's deputies also discovered a handwritten note listing names of deputies among the inmate's possessions. Baca said the informant had been gathering the names of deputies thought to have used excessive force against inmates.

Baca suspected the inmate was compiling the list for the FBI. Later, agents showed up at Michel's home and tried to "flip him" — get him to work for them as an informant, Baca said in the interview last year.

In a letter to an L.A. County supervisor, Baca said Michel also "made statements which implicated him, along with several other jail employees, as having participated in four prior unreported incidents of improper uses of force."

Federal prosecutors have demanded a large volume of documents on deputies and others working in the jail, including reports of force used on inmates, since 2009.

Michel is expected to plead guilty to one count of bribery next week. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

According to court papers, Michel must turn over any documents he has to federal authorities and testify before a grand jury and in any trials that might result from the investigation.

Michel's attorney, Robert E. Brode, said Friday that his client's cooperation could keep Michel from spending any time behind bars.

Though this is the first charge to be filed as part of the FBI's probe, Michel is the second deputy to be charged this week in connection with smuggling contraband to inmates. Henry Marin, 27, was indicted Tuesday in state court on charges of bringing drugs into a jail and of conspiracy in a scheme to smuggle heroin, hidden inside a bean-and-cheese burrito, into a courthouse jail. He pleaded not guilty.



Natalee Holloway justice? Joran Van der Sloot gets 28 years

Natalee Holloway is a name likely to haunt a generation of U.S. parents. The teenager from Mountain Brook, Ala., went to Aruba in 2005 as part of a senior high school trip to celebrate her graduation -- and was never heard from again. Many believe she was killed by Dutch national Joran Van der Sloot or, at the very least, that he knows what happened to her.

Van der Sloot was sentenced Friday in Peru to serve 28 years in a prison for fatally beating another young woman, Stephany Flores, 21, in his hotel room in Lima. It's unusual for such a murder case in a foreign land to make headlines in America. But U.S. media have covered this case because it gives a bittersweet measure of solace to the grieving Holloway family -- and to all parents who can feel their suffering.

Flores and Holloway's parents never met. But Flores possibly met her end while trying to help Natalee Holloway's family.

Investigators have long believed that Van der Sloot violently turned on the Flores after she found something, perhaps a clue, related to Holloway on his computer.

Flores' murder took place May 30, 2010. That's precisely five years to the day that Holloway was seen leaving a nightclub in Aruba with Van der Sloot and two other men on May 30, 2005.

After that night, Holloway vanished.

Her disappearance made international headlines and triggered a massive, multiagency search that included sifting the bottom of the ocean floor off Aruba in a bid for clues.

Over the years, Van der Sloot has told law enforcement officials, as well as the media, conflicting stories about Holloway. In one scenario, he politely dropped Holloway off at her hotel. In another, he left her, alone, on the beach after she collapsed. He also claimed at one point that he sold her into sexual slavery. And, of course, he has said that he had nothing at all to do with Holloway's disappearance.

While U.S. authorities did not have the jurisdiction to charge him in Holloway's disappearance, they have not given up hope that he will someday be forced to face charges in a U.S. courtroom.

In another turn of events, Van der Sloot allegedly contacted Holloway's mother, Beth, and promised to reveal everything about his daughter's disappearance -- in exchange for $250,000.

The FBI, which became involved in the alleged 2010 extortion plot, set up a sting to capture Van der Sloot. But he fled to Peru with a down payment of several thousand dollars that was wired to him as part of the negotiations.

In a sad coincidence, Holloway's family was in court this week for a previously scheduled hearing. The matter? A formal declaration of her death, necessary so that her parents can tend to matters related to the teen's meager estate.




Challenging eyewitness evidence

The Supreme Court this week made it harder for criminal defendants to challenge one of the most common flaws in the criminal justice system: the use of mistaken eyewitness evidence.

January 13, 2012

The Supreme Court this week made it harder for criminal defendants to challenge one of the most common flaws in the criminal justice system: the use of mistaken eyewitness evidence. The 8-1 decision needlessly narrows the ability of judges to suppress eyewitness testimony marred by inconsistency or other indications of error, leaving the task of evaluating the reliability of such evidence to juries.

Statistics show that 76% of 250 convictions overturned since 1989 because of DNA evidence involved mistaken eyewitness identification. A host of factors can lead to mistakes. Most are attributable to manipulation by the police, such as lineups or photo arrays in which the suspect is grouped with people who look nothing like him. There is also evidence that a witness has a harder time making a correct identification when he and the suspect are of different races.

Courts, legislatures and police departments admirably have taken steps to prevent officers from unduly influencing witnesses. For example, 21 police departments in California conduct "blind" photo lineups, in which the person administering the viewing doesn't know who the suspect is. Perhaps most important, the Supreme Court has ruled that judges may suppress eyewitness testimony before trial if there is evidence that police "have arranged suggestive circumstances leading the witness to identify a particular person as the perpetrator of a crime." This is an important safeguard because jurors tend to give too much weight to eyewitness testimony, even if the judge advises them that it can be fallible for various reasons.

But what if flaws in eyewitness identification aren't the result of police action? That was the issue in the case decided this week. The decision upheld the conviction of a New Hampshire man arrested in a parking lot late at night carrying two car-stereo amplifiers. A woman in a nearby building reported seeing a "tall black man" looking into cars; she then pointed out Barion Perry to police officers. Later, however, she was unable to identify Perry from a photo array. The judge refused to exclude her identification, leaving a judgment on its reliability to the jury.

Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that judges shouldn't be able to suppress eyewitness testimony in cases like Perry's because the purpose of suppression is to deter police from manipulating eyewitness identifications. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a broader and more convincing justification for excluding inconsistent or otherwise suspicious eyewitness testimony. The "driving force" of previous decisions wasn't deterrence of police misconduct, she said, but ensuring that eyewitness testimony was reliable to avoid a miscarriage of justice. It's disappointing that her view didn't command a majority of the court.



From Google News


4th homeless man in month killed in S. Calif.

January 14, 2012

Police detained a man in connection with the latest stabbing death of a homeless man in Orange County as a task forced investigated if there were any links to the slayings of three other homeless men, believed to be the work of a serial killer.

The dead man was found between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday near a fast-food restaurant at the intersection of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway in Anaheim, police said.

Witnesses followed a man who ran from the restaurant parking lot and led police to him, Anaheim police Deputy Chief Craig Hunter told the Orange County Register. He was taken to the Anaheim Police Department for questioning.

Police set up a massive containment area at the crime scene in a search for the killer and scoured nearby neighborhoods, including a mobile home park, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A task force of law enforcement officers from Anaheim, Placentia, Brea, Orange County Sheriff's Department and the FBI was formed to investigate the killings of three other homeless men found stabbed to death in north Orange County since mid-December.

James Patrick McGillivray, 53, was killed near a shopping center in Placentia on Dec. 20; Lloyd Middaugh, 42, was found near a riverbed trail in Anaheim on Dec. 28; and Paulus Smit, 57, was killed outside a Yorba Linda library on Dec. 30.

Police suspect all three were victims of a serial killer. It was not known if the latest death was connected to the other killings, but the Times said the task force is investigating any possible links.

Authorities did not release any information on the man they took into custody. The Register said they declined to speculate if he was behind the earlier homeless slayings, but Hunter acknowledged that "in a very general sense" he matched the physical description of person suspected in the killings.

Police have released grainy photographs captured from surveillance video that show a male suspect dressed in dark clothing. A white, late-model Toyota Corolla is also a vehicle of interest.

Police and advocates have been urging those living on the streets to head inside or buddy up in the wake of the killings.

Earlier Friday, the Orange County sheriff's deputies union announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.



Predictive policing is not 'Minority Report' ...at least not yet

Using computer algorithms, 'predictive policing' estimates where certain types of crime may occur, in a similar way that meteorologists forecast weather

by Lance Eldridge

Intelligence-led policing, an umbrella concept which includes “predictive policing,” could help move police departments beyond the increasingly outdated Community Policing model and toward a more-professional approach that envisions crime suppression and control as the most important result of good police work. The premise of “predictive policing” is that human behavior is predictable , which opens the door to computer-assisted techniques that can forecast subtle patterns of specified criminal activity.

Though at first blush it appears that intelligence-led policing and “predictive policing” are the same, they are, in fact, slightly different. According to David Sklansky of the University of California at Berkley, “[t]he main distinction between intelligence-led policing and predictive policing is that predictive policing claims to be more ambitious and more technologically sophisticated...” In other words, “predictive policing” may be more aggressive in its application of intelligence-led policing techniques, a distinction that may be more obvious in theory than practice.

Let's also be clear at the outset. “Predictive policing” isn't predictive. Using computer algorithms it estimates where certain types of crime may occur, in a similar way that meteorologists forecast weather or seismologists estimate earthquake aftershocks . No crystal balls, necromancy, witchcraft, prophecy, or freakish “precogs” — only inputs, outputs, and informed analysis of criminal patterns, not individual criminal behavior.

Database-Dependent Approach

This approach is likely more useful in large departments with multiple but unlinked databases that supervisors and administrators now use to track and report past criminal behavior and request future resources. Smaller departments lacking technological resources may find themselves using less sophisticated, manual techniques.

Using “predictive policing” models, supervisors can allocate current police resources in anticipation of criminal activity. In essence, it takes a large amount of data and, with proper analysis, transforms information into actionable intelligence.

In 2009, spurred on by the tragedy of 9/11, and building on the experience of William Bratton's popular and sometimes controversial CompStat program, the National Institute of Justice awarded grants to seven large departments to pioneer “predictive policing.” These departments were the LAPD, DC Metro, Chicago PD, Shreveport, LAPD, Boston PD, the Maryland State Police, and the NYPD.

Other, smaller departments, to include Santa Cruz (Calif.) and Richmond (Va.) worked on similar “predictive policing” projects, apparently with little support from Washington.

Though the results from the seven large departments are not readily available, some initial results have appeared promising in Santa Cruz and Richmond, at least according to proponents:

• As early as 2003, police in Richmond used a “predictive policing strategy” to respond to the expectation of gunfire in the city during New Year's Eve. As a result of police deployment based on the analysis, complaints were reportedly down 47 percent and the number of recovered weapons was up 246 percent.

• In July 2011, the Santa Cruz PD reported a 27 percent drop in the number of reported burglaries as a result of their directed patrolling tactics.

Unnecessary Rhetorical Barriers

However, proponents — who are often also responsible for implementation — may overstate the effectiveness or obscure results behind carefully crafted language. A lot of tax dollars are at stake and to admit that the program produced less than decisive results may go against the grain. In fact, overselling the idea could lead to understandable objections from officers and civil libertarians alike.

Much of the talk of effectiveness concerns better using “limited” police resources, all of which may rightly resonate with managers and leaders but not necessarily patrol offices. Influencing this sort of change in a department is a difficult endeavor and takes time to implement if leaders want to limit turmoil.

Attendees and presenters at “predictive policing” symposia, working groups, and “advanced analytic” seminars appear to work hard to ensure the language is chock-full of jargon which may make many officers wary of the concept. When supporters use such terms as a “paradigm shift in policing,” or assert that “predictive policing” will “take policing to the next level,” or even refer to “stakeholders,” the proponents may be unintentionally creating unnecessary rhetorical barriers to officer acceptance.

Many experienced officers will rightly see that “predictive policing” may simply reflect the results of officer intuition. “It's in the remaining 10 to 15 percent where police intuition may not be quite as accurate” where the program would be most effective, at least according to Jeffrey Brantingham, a UCLA anthropology professor who is assisting with LAPD's program.

The Department of Justice, which has been responsible for funding Community Policing, law enforcement's sacred cow for the last twenty years - maintains that “predictive policing” complements Community Policing. However, in University of California-Berkley Prof. David A. Sklansky's informed view, intelligence-led and “predictive” techniques could well return policing to a more professional model without the myriad problems encountered in the 1960's. Quoting an “influential backer” of intelligence-led policing, Dr. Sklansky argues that no longer will a “community's concerns... trump an objective assessment of the criminal environment.”

Leaders don't want to lead an evolution and intelligence-led policing is not revolutionary, but evolutionary. It won't change what officers do, but may change when and where they do it. So long as the crime suppression objectives are clear, and building on the partnership aspects of Community Policing, intelligence-led policing may well be an important and necessary step to getting police performance on track for the twenty-first century. Overselling the idea now could well backfire, creating hesitancy and skepticism from rank-and-file officers that could slow the idea's adoption. That would be an unfortunate loss of an opportunity to leverage modern technology in a way that furthers effective law enforcement.

About the author

After having completed more than 20 years of active military service, Lance Eldridge retired from the US Army and is currently a patrol officer in Craig, Colorado. While in the military, he held leadership positions in a variety of organizations and has written extensively about US military strategy operations, and history. He is a graduate of the US Army's Command and General Staff College and the Norwegian Staff College. He holds a Masters Degree in History and a Masters Degree in Strategic Intelligence. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in national security strategy, European regional security, US history, and terrorism.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not of his or any other law enforcement agency.