| NEWS of the Day - January 17, 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
Homeless make up growing number of California welfare recipients
Number of CalWorks families without a permanent place to live has grown by 98% in the last five years.
by Jason Song, Los Angeles Times
January 16, 2012
When Genivive Jones lost her job last year and started bouncing between friends' homes and motels with her toddler daughter, she inadvertently joined one of the fastest-growing groups of state welfare recipients: homeless families who receive aid known as CalWorks.
Over the last five years, the number of CalWorks families without a permanent place to live has grown by 98%. That's nearly four times the growth of non-homeless families who are also getting assistance.
The increase shows how difficult it is for people on the lower rungs of the financial ladder to improve their situation in the current tough economy, experts say, especially because the average amount that Los Angeles County families get from the state has shrunk from $560 a month three years ago to $490 last October.
"The largest growth has been at that level of need where people are at the ledge of homelessness," said Michael Arnold, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Grants could become even smaller if Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget passes. Brown wants to reduce CalWorks by about $1 billion.
"If some of these safety-net programs are cut, it will push a lot of people to homelessness," Arnold said.
Or, as Glendena Stephens, a caseworker who has been with the county for 45 years, put it: "The rents are so high and the grants are so small, it doesn't leave them with hardly anything. I've never seen anything like it."
Jones is fairly typical of CalWorks recipients, who are generally single mothers with young children. The 23-year-old had steady employment with a financial company before being laid off. After her savings ran out, she slept in a car and then lived with a series of friends before deciding she was better off on her own.
Since then, she's been staying at motels in the Gardena area while trying to get by on the $516 she receives each month while searching for work.
Jones has had to make several tough choices, including buying her 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Serena, a pair of pink Keds while making do herself with a six-pack of socks and a pair of thin rubber flip-flops.
"I make sure she has what she needs," Jones said during a recent meeting with her caseworker, Ani Muradyan.
As Serena colored, Muradyan went over options with Jones, including how to get a credit check and sign up for classes at a community college. Muradyan also scheduled an appointment for Jones at a local shelter.
"Do you think I'll be able to get a job?" Jones asked. "I hear Wal-Mart is hiring."
"That's a good place to start," Muradyan said.
Nearby, other caseworkers were also trying to find jobs for clients.
Raul Pasco emigrated from the Philippines to the United States with his two young daughters — Angela Rose, 4, and Keighdrine Roze, 9 — after being sponsored by his mother, a legal resident. But Pasco, who works in construction, has been unable to find a job and had to move out of his mother's home to a shelter in Lancaster after a family dispute.
Pasco was hoping to earn enough to send money to his girlfriend, who is the mother of his daughters, but "there's no work right now," he said.
Even though there are county offices near the shelter, Pasco takes the train into Los Angeles to meet with his case manager, Cameron De Cree.
"I like him; he works hard," Pasco said.
As De Cree went to find a colleague who had potential leads on jobs, one of Pasco's daughters asked him: "Are you going to get a job today?"
"Not today," Pasco said quietly. "But maybe soon."
A thorough review of L.A. County's jails
The Christopher Commission would be a good model for the L.A. County jail panel.
January 17, 2012
Los Angeles County's jails have been under federal oversight for more than 25 years, yet complaints of brutality persist. In the last two years alone, some 30 sheriff's deputies have been disciplined for beating inmates or covering up abuse. And last week, a federal probe led to criminal charges against one jailer, with more likely to follow. So what role can the special commission created late last year by the Board of Supervisors have in sorting out this mess?
As it begins its investigation, it would do well to review the work performed in 1991 by the Christopher Commission, which helped transform the Los Angeles Police Department and restore its reputation after the Rodney King beating. That commission focused on identifying the structural flaws in the department.
Similarly, the jails commission could determine whether the deputy culture inside the lockups is part of the problem. It could consider whether rookie deputies, whose first job out of the academy is as jailers, receive appropriate supervision. And it could identify the shortcomings that allow excessive use of force to go unpunished.
Just as important, the commission's members — four retired judges, a pastor, a police chief and an expert on jails — ought to ensure that their work is as public and transparent as possible. Already, some on the panel have suggested that deputies should be allowed to testify anonymously, or even be granted immunity from criminal prosecution. That's a bad idea. The commission has no authority to offer immunity. Moreover, even anonymous or compelled testimony could compromise the concurrent and ongoing FBI investigation.
The commission can rely on former officials for testimony, as the Christopher Commission did. It can also consult a wealth of public statements and documents. Robert Olmsted, a retired commander, told The Times last year that he repeatedly tried to warn Sheriff Lee Baca about shoddy use-of-force investigations and deputies who were forming aggressive, gang-like cliques. The commission could review reports from inmates, chaplains and civilians who say they witnessed or were subject to abuse, or consult attorney Merrick Bobb's reports to the Board of Supervisors that detail the department's troubled management of the jails.
Ultimately, fixing the jails is Baca's job. But though the commission's influence is extremely limited, its findings need not be.
From Google News
Boy, 10, suspected of fatally stabbing friend, 12
A 10-year-old boy is suspected of fatally stabbing a 12-year-old friend in the chest with a kitchen knife, authorities say.
The older boy died Monday afternoon at a hospital after he was taken from his friend's home in El Cajon, about 15 miles east of San Diego, said the San Diego County sheriff's department. The mother of the 10-year-old was at home at the time of the stabbing, according to the U-T San Diego.
Sheriff's officials have taken the 10-year-old into custody. Sheriff's homicide Lt. Larry Nesbit says "the case will be up to the juvenile justice system."
It remained unclear whether the boy had been booked into the juvenile detention system. The sheriff's office did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press, but said in a statement early Tuesday that the boys' identities would not be released because of their ages.
Neighbors say the 12-year-old boy lived in a nearby mobile home park but the two friends attended different schools.
A neighbor of the younger boy, 18-year-old Derek Gorton, told the newspaper he had emotional issues, and that something as small as tapping him on the shoulder the wrong way or losing at a video game could spark outrage.
"Even though he threw temper tantrums, we never thought he'd do anything like this," said Gorton.
Gorton's father, Brian Richeson, said the boy usually had verbal outbursts, but he hadn't seen him throwing things or hitting others. He praised the boy's mother, saying she had dealt with her son's problems head-on.
"She was the best mom I've ever met," Richeson told the U-T. "She knew how to take care of him if he was yelling and screaming."
Cincinnati holds gun buyback on King holiday
by Mark Curnutte
CINCINNATI – For the first time on the King holiday, a coalition of ministries and neighborhood groups here Monday held a different kind of anti-violence event: a gun buyback.
Organizers collected 50 operable guns of many types — handguns, rifles, shotguns and a couple of sawed-off shotguns in a two-hour gift-for-guns exchange at BLOC Ministries.
The bait: $100 gift cards from Kroger, Target, Walmart and Meijer. Private donations and religious congregations paid for the $5,000 worth of gift cards.
"We ran out of gift cards, not guns," said Arthur Phelps of the anti-violence group CIRV (Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence), one of the buy-back program's sponsors. "We had to turn people away."
The event was the first of its kind in the city since 2007 and was done in cooperation with Cincinnati police. Project Nehemiah's Ceasefire program, a ministry of the Church of the Living God, organized the event. Ceasefire also sponsors regular prayer caravans to sites of homicides.
Church pastor Ennis Tait said plans are underway to hold buyback events quarterly throughout the city. "Was today a success?" Tait asked. "Even one gun is a success."
Organizers timed the event to the King holiday. "The people of this community must unite as one and stand up against apathy and the violence that is destroying out city," Tait said. "We are honoring Dr. King and his fight for non-violence."
City Leaders Tackle Crime Prevention at Community Meeting
by Brittney Johnson
Monday the chief of police, city manager, head of the state NAACP and other community and church leaders shared a table at Covenant of Zion Cathedral and discussed how to cut down on crime in Little Rock.
Chief Stuart Thomas said, "You have an immediacy of awareness, you have social media and ways of communicating where, I think people are aware, they are aware of where they have been and they don't want to there again."
Keeping young people engaged was one of the major themes of the night. To that, panelists suggested churches stay open later and other community organizations invest in young people.
One of few teenagers who came to the meeting explained why he feels students get bored, including not having enough to do to keep them busy.
"It's not school, it's after school, that's why you see people doing drugs or selling weed, that's why people get bored," said Timothy McCuien from Germany.
In addition to engaging the youth, the panelists discussed public safety and economic development.
City Manager Bruce Moore says the city is working on developing a better reentry program to help people getting out of jail.
Also, he mentioned the city is working on an ordinance that will help city businesses get preference over outside businesses when seeking city contracts to stimulate the local economy.
As for public safety, the police chief says the city is gearing up to hiring nearly 60 new officers, revamp patrols and introduce more community policing programs, all to be paid for with proceeds from the sales tax.
Former police officer provides glimpse behind men in blue
by Y.C. Orozco
David M. Sullivan has been a retired police officer for more than a decade, but he still thinks like a cop.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Sullivan retired after more than 25 years in the Air Force and - looking for a different direction - ended up on the streets of Dallas, Texas - in uniform.
Sullivan loved life as a street cop and calls himself “very pro-police.”
The basis for his new book, The Police, the Public and Crime: Police/Politics/Community/Justice, takes a full and sometimes critical look at the culture of police institutions in U.S..
Neither a white-wash nor a sentimental journey about his life in blue, Sullivan's book takes the reader into the nuts and bolts of how police departments can be compromised by outside forces.
The book explores the dynamics within a structure where politics, within and outside that community can compromise departments and individuals. His sidebar topic is how those compromises, in turn, shape the public's perception.
Since he retired from the Dallas Police Department, Sullivan has paid close attention to what goes on in big city and small town departments. His experience in Dallas informs much of his views.
“Officers are disappointed with the Dallas Police Department just like officers are disappointed with the Houston or Pasadena police departments,” he said. “But do you know what they do everyday? They go out there everyday and do their best, every single day and then come back day after day.”
Sullivan's sometimes critical analysis is rooted in his personal experience working alongside officers, getting to understand their lives and living that life.
“When I was out there everyday there were two things: coming back and the end of the shift, and making sure I protected constitutional rights of everybody I came in contact with, including criminals,” he said.
Politics, Sullivan believes, was the often the biggest obstacle in staying true to those goals.
“The average police officer on the streets doesn't realize the politics involved,” he said.
Larger city departments find the line between law/order and politics harder to separate, Sullivan said.
“In bigger cities, if the politician wants something, he's going to get it,” he said.
That is the main reason, he said, why the average police chief has a limited stay in one department.
“The average police chief in the United States doesn't even last five years on the job before he goes off somewhere else and part of the reason is the politics,” Sullivan contends. “He thinks he's going to tell them what they want to hear, but when he gets in there He'll be able to do things they way he wants. He finds out he can't do it because the politicians are telling him what to do with every step.”
When Sullivan uses the word politician, he doesn't relegate the term to conventional politicians, but to the politicians within a department's power structure.
“I wrote the book because I was frustrated when I retired,” he said. “Those in the (department) power hierarchy don't listen to anybody: the command staff is up here by themselves and the rest of the department is down there. Often, they're not interested in what a police officer has to say. It's all about what they want to do. The police chief, the depute chief, the assistant chief – they have a set thing in how they want to do things. Through community policing, I learned that they are out of touch with what is going on below.”
Sullivan's book details various examples of how politics trickles down to the street and how the officer is as much a victim of poltics as the public; he writes about the “blue wall of silence” and the role departments can play in the public's negative perceptions and the changes in police culture throughout the years.
When Sullivan retired from the Air Force, he wanted to learn about life as a cop because law and order was something he had. While he displays a critical eye on the hierarchy, Sullivan also developed a life-long respect to the officer on the beat, a life still misses. In his stories and recollections and criticisms, those officers are more often than not, the heroes of his book.
“They overlook politics because the citizen is their main concern,” he said.
Sullivan's book is available online.
As grant money dwindles, police chiefs fear rise in crime
by ELIZABETH BEWLEY
WASHINGTON -- Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen says his department would be "in dire straits" without the nearly $1.8 million it has received through the federal Community Oriented Policing Services program.
The program has allowed Lebanon to hire or keep 15 officers since 1995. That accounts for more than one-fifth of the city's 72-member police force.
But funding cuts mean COPS grants won't be easy to come by this year. And experts say the program, deemed wasteful by conservative critics, may soon be gone for good -- a possibility that leaves Bowen and other Tennessee police chiefs fearing a rise in crime.
Congress cut COPS funding by 66 percent in 2012, to $200 million from $586 million.
With a smaller budget, COPS will no longer provide grants to install security equipment in schools or to prosecute sexual predators who target children, according to Corey Ray, spokesman for the program at the Justice Department.
The bulk of COPS money this year -- between $100 million and $140 million -- will go toward hiring new police officers, Ray said. That's a steep reduction from last year's $238 million hiring fund.
Officials haven't yet determined which local agencies will get grants this year, Ray said, but COPS will be a "smaller program geared toward specific projects."
Tennessee law enforcement agencies have received nearly $220 million in COPS grants since 1994, when Congress created the program in an effort to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets.
In cities like Lebanon, where a nearly $2 million budget gap threatened police jobs in 2010, officials say the grants are crucial.
The city's police department received $878,696 in 2010 to pay salaries and benefits for four police officers. Without the grant, those officers might have been laid off to help bridge the budget gap, said Bowen.
The COPS program will fund the positions for three years. The city must fund them for a fourth under program rules.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it's made our city a safer place," Bowen said.
Bowen has worked with local legislators and the National Association of Chiefs of Police to prevent the program's elimination, which he said would be "devastating."
The Metro Nashville Police Department has received $25.5 million through the program since 1995, allowing it to add 407 officers.
The department received an $8.7 million chunk of the $1 billion reserved for COPS in the 2009 economic stimulus package.
COPS will pay the salaries and benefits of Nashville's 50 new officers until October. Metro Police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said the department plans to keep the officers permanently.
"Without a doubt the federal grants have enhanced Nashville's safety through the years," she said. "But we try not to depend on them."
Metro Police applied for but didn't receive COPS funding in 2011, Mumford said.
Conservatives targeted COPS for possible elimination last year, listing it among programs that could be scaled back or killed to save $100 billion in the fiscal 2011 budget.
It survived that attempt but is still at risk as Congress sharpens its focus on cutting spending.
Not all conservative Republicans oppose the program.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood and 69 other House Republicans voted with Democrats last February to restore COPS funding after the Republican budget plan proposed eliminating it.
Critics like David Muhlhausen of the conservative Heritage Foundation say the Founding Fathers never wanted Congress to get involved in local law enforcement -- a philosophical argument embraced by many tea party-backed freshmen.
"It's the responsibility of state and local governments to fund police officers," Muhlhausen said. "Eventually the program's going to go out of business because the federal government cannot afford to be everything to everybody."
Muhlhausen said his research has shown that COPS has had little or no effect on crime rates.
Clarksville Police Chief Al Rivers Ansley disagrees.
Increasing the size of local police forces through the program "definitely makes a difference in the crime rate," he said.
His department received nearly $1.9 million in COPS grants in 2010, allowing him to hire 12 new officers. Since 1995, Clarksville has received $5.1 million to hire 56 officers.
Ansley said Clarksville's ratio of police officers to residents was well below the national and Southeastern averages when he became chief in 2007. The grants have helped raise the number of officers from 234 to 271 in the last four years, he said.
"You can look at other cities across the country and see cities that are losing public servants and law enforcement, and those cities suffer from higher crime rates," he said.
A Justice Department report published in October said layoffs and furloughs at local law enforcement agencies could harm public safety.
More than a third of the local law enforcement agencies that applied for COPS grants last year reported budget cuts of more than 5 percent, the report said. It predicted that some 12,000 police officers would be laid off by the end of 2011.
Bowen, the police chief in Lebanon, says funding cuts couldn't come at a worse time.
"You have more people out of work who are economically strained, which means they're out committing more crimes," he said.
While crime statistics in Lebanon appear to have improved in 2011, he said, they're still higher than before the recession.
"The longer this economic strain goes on, the more you will need more officers out there," he said.
Contributing: Raju Chebium, Gannett Washington Bureau
|Top Tennessee agencies receiving COPS funds, 1995-2011:
-- Memphis Police Department: $30.9 million
-- Metropolitan Nashville Police Department: $26.6 million
-- City of Chattanooga: $15.9 million
-- City of Knoxville: $14.7 million
-- Knox County Sheriff's Department: $6.9 million
-- Tennessee Bureau of Investigation: $6.9 million
-- Jackson Police Department: $6.7 million
-- City of Clarksville: $5.1 million
-- Rutherford County Sheriff's Department: $4.6 million
-- Blount County Sheriff's Department: $4.2 million
Source: U.S. Justice Department