| NEWS of the Day - January 26, 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
Sterilized by North Carolina, she felt raped once more
Elaine Riddick was only 14 when the state decided that she was not capable of mothering children and quietly cauterized her fallopian tubes. The $50,000 now offered to her only makes her angrier.
by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times
January 25, 2012
Reporting from Raleigh, N.C.
Elaine Riddick was a confused and frightened 14-year-old. She was poor and black, the daughter of alcoholic parents in a segregated North Carolina town. And she was pregnant after being raped by a man from her neighborhood.
Riddick's miserable circumstances attracted the attention of social workers, who referred her case to the state's Eugenics Board. In an office building in Raleigh, five men met to consider her fate — among them the state health director and a lawyer from the attorney general's office.
Board members concluded that the girl was "feebleminded" and doomed to "promiscuity." They recommended sterilization. Riddick's illiterate grandmother, Maggie Woodard, known as "Miss Peaches," marked an "X" on a consent form.
Hours after Riddick gave birth to a son in Edenton, N.C., on March 5, 1968, a doctor sliced through her fallopian tubes and cauterized them.
"They butchered me like a hog," recalls Riddick, now a poised and determined woman of 57.
Nearly 44 years later, the state of North Carolina has proposed paying $50,000 each to compensate Riddick and other victims of its eugenics program. It's the first state to consider compensation for victims of forced sterilization — up to 65,000 in at least 30 states, according to most estimates.
Between 1929 and 1974, nearly 7,600 people were sterilized under orders from North Carolina's Eugenics Board. Nearly 85% were women or girls, some as young as 10. The state estimates that 1,500 to 2,000 of the victims are still alive.
The board's declared goal was to purify the state's population by weeding out the mentally ill, diseased, feebleminded and others deemed undesirable.
In a 1950 pamphlet, the Human Betterment League of North Carolina said the board was protecting "the children of future generations and the community at large," adding that "you wouldn't expect a moron to run a train or a feebleminded woman to teach school."
The pamphlet went on: "It is not barnyard castration!"
Riddick has endured a lifetime of humiliation and regret. She can barely control her outrage when she discusses what the state did to her — and what the state proposes by way of compensation and apology.
"Fifty thousand dollars?" she says, her voice rising. "Is that what they think my life is worth? How much are the kids I never had worth? How much?"
The $50,000 compensation recommended by the Governor's Eugenics Compensation Task Force on Jan. 10 must be approved by the state Legislature. If so, Riddick said, she will refuse it.
"Fifty thousand dollars isn't nearly enough to bury my pain," she says. "It's shut-up-and-go-away money."
She pauses, then says: "Am I still bitter? Of course I'm still bitter. The state wants me to lie down like a dog and just take it."
The traumatic events of 1968 have shaped and driven Riddick's adult life.
Dirt poor and pregnant, she dropped out of the eighth grade. After she gave birth, her son was put in her grandmother's care, and Riddick was sent to live with an aunt in New York.
At 18, she married a man she met there. When he discovered she had been sterilized, Riddick says, he abused her, calling her barren and useless. They later divorced.
Riddick struggled for years to shed the "feebleminded" label stamped on her public health records. She earned a high school equivalency and a degree in human services from a technical school in New York. For years, she was an office manager for a tax preparation company.
She traveled regularly to North Carolina to visit her son, Tony, and the boy went to New York every summer to spend time with his mother.
But the stigma of her forced sterilization still clings to her. Now remarried and living in Atlanta, she dreads returning home to Perquimans County in eastern North Carolina, where everyone knows the details of her wrecked childhood.
"What must they think, reading what the state wrote about me?" she asks.
Between 1929 and 1960, twice as many whites as blacks were sterilized in North Carolina, according to Eugenics Board records. But between 1960 and 1968, when Riddick was sterilized, twice as many blacks as whites were sterilized.
Riddick was 19 when she discovered, during a medical examination, what had happened to her. She was devastated, for she had always intended to have several children.
Outraged, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, which filed a lawsuit on her behalf in 1974. The suit accused the Eugenics Board, social workers and the local hospital of unlawfully depriving Riddick of her right to bear children.
Riddick became one of the state's first sterilization victims to go public. "Nobody knows the pain and humiliation I had to go through," she says.
Her pain deepened as the case dragged on. In 1983, a jury ruled in favor of the defendants. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Riddick's appeal.
In 2010, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue established the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. Riddick began traveling regularly to Raleigh to attend foundation meetings and, later, hearings of the compensation task force the governor appointed in March.
In June, Riddick testified before the task force. A petite figure with close-cropped hair, she bent before a microphone, struggling to hold back tears as her son comforted her.
"I am not feebleminded — I have never been feebleminded," she told the task force. "They slandered me," she said of the Eugenics Board, which put her IQ at 75. "They ridiculed me and they harassed me."
A social worker threatened to take away her grandmother's state food rations if she did not sign the consent form, Riddick says.
Tony Riddick, now 43 and an entrepreneur in the eastern North Carolina county where he was born, says what the state did to his mother is a crime. "This is not sterilization," he told the task force in December. "This is genocide."
In a recent interview, Tony Riddick said he supported his mother's intention to refuse $50,000 in compensation.
"It's a political game, and it's an insult," he said.
North Carolina is one of about half a dozen states to acknowledge or apologize for sterilizations.
Dr. Laura Gerald, a pediatrician who heads the eugenics task force, said the five-person body sought to strike "a fair balance" between victims' rights and political realities when it approved the $50,000 figure on a 3-2 vote. (Two members voted for a $20,000 payment.)
Several victims requested $1 million in compensation, Gerald said in an interview. "On the other hand," she said, "there has been little political will for anything other than an apology."
Then-Gov. Mike Easley issued a one-sentence apology in 2002. He called sterilization a "regrettable episode" and assured victims that "we will not forget what they have endured."
Elaine Riddick says no apology can erase the fact that the Eugenics Board treated a 14-year-old rape victim like a criminal. She says she was provided no explanation and no follow-up care.
"Because of Elaine's inability to control herself, and her promiscuity — there are community reports of her 'running around' and out late at night unchaperoned — the physician has advised sterilization," the board reported, according to minutes unearthed by the Winston-Salem Journal in 2002.
The board went on: "This will at least prevent additional children from being born to this child who cannot care for herself, and can never function in any way as a parent."
The words still stab at Riddick. "I was just a child who was raped," she says, "and then the state raped me all over again."
Suspected Mexican Mafia, gang members held in San Diego
Street gangs are targeted as authorities make more than 100 arrests in a wide-ranging investigation into alleged racketeering, firearms trafficking and drug distribution.
by Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
January 26, 2012
Authorities arrested more than 100 suspected gang members and associates throughout San Diego County on Wednesday morning as part of a wide-ranging investigation into alleged racketeering, firearms trafficking and drug distribution coordinated by the Mexican Mafia.
Among those charged are two suspects believed to be high-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia, who are accused of overseeing the criminal activity, and 117 suspected members and associates of street gangs, who allegedly paid "taxes" to the prison-based organized crime group.
The charges were detailed in 17 indictments and eight criminal complaints filed by the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego. In early morning raids at homes throughout the county, federal and local officials arrested 104 of the defendants, including the suspected Mexican Mafia members. Fifteen suspects remain at large.
The arrests mark "one of the largest single takedowns in San Diego FBI history," said Keith Slotter, the FBI's special agent in charge in San Diego.
The Mexican Mafia has ties with thousands of gang members in Southern California, authorities said. The suspected members charged in Wednesday's case, Rudy Espudo and Salvador Colabella, allegedly demanded regular extortion payments from gang members who sold drugs in areas controlled by the criminal organization.
Street gangs from San Marcos in northern San Diego County to Chula Vista near the border were targeted in the investigation.
Death row inmate to North Carolina: 'Kill me if you can, suckers'
Danny Robbie Hembree considers himself a gentleman of leisure. He enjoys color TV, air conditioning and abundant food. He naps pretty much whenever he feels like it.
He also happens to live on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. But that's not a bad thing, he wrote in a taunting letter to his hometown newspaper, the Gaston Gazette.
In fact, Hembree wrote, the state of North Carolina has taken the "death" out of death row.
"Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!" Hembree gloated in his letter, portions of which were published by the Gazette on Tuesday.
Hembree, 50, was sentenced to death in November for suffocating a 17-year-old girl in 2009, and is also accused of killing two other North Carolina women. But no one has been executed in the state since 2006 because of legal challenges over lethal injections and whether a physician must oversee executions.
"Is the public aware that the chances of my lawful murder taking place in the next 20 years if ever are very slim?" Hembree wrote on lined notebook paper in what he described as an editorial.
Meanwhile, life is sweet. "Is the public aware I am a gentleman of leisure, watching color TV in the A.C., reading, taking naps at will, eating three well-balanced meals a day?" he wrote.
Oh, and he also receives free government healthcare, he pointed out.
The man who prosecuted Hembree, Gaston County Dist. Atty. Locke Bell, was not amused.
"He's sitting down there looking at the law and laughing," Bell told the Associated Press. "He's been sentenced to death. He shouldn't be watching color TV." Hembree's execution should not be delayed, Bell said.
Bring it on, Hembree wrote: "I am a man who is ready to except [sic] his unjust punishment and face God Almighty with a clear conscience unlike you cowards and your cowardly system."
And lest readers dismiss Hembree as a complete sociopath, note that moments after he was convicted in November, he blew a big kiss to his mom.
From Google News
Police to start walking beats
by Tom Stanley-Becker
January 26, 2012
Two months into his tenure as New Haven Police Department chief, Dean Esserman released his plan for returning New Haven to a community policing model in a meeting Wednesday evening at the Wexler-Grant Community School in Dixwell.
Esserman explained to a crowd of Dixwell and Newhallville residents that his community policing plan will include officers walking beats in the city's neighborhoods by next week, two new officer training programs — one conducted in Meriden and the other in New Haven — later this spring, and the addition of 40 to 50 officers to the police force by the spring. Along with Esserman, the NHPD's Newhallville and Dixwell district managers and other officers were present. Aldermen from Wards 19, 20, 21 and 22 also spoke to the crowd.
“There is real excitement around the idea of community policing coming back to New Haven,” moderator Scott Marks, co-founder of the New Haven-based nonprofit organization Connecticut Center for a New Economy, said. “In the 1990s, when community policing was in effect, there was a 40 percent drop in crime. A relationship needs to be built between the police and the community.”
In a press conference after announcing his new role as chief in November, Esserman hinted at his aim to return to Elm City to a community policing model of law enforcement. Esserman's plan draws on the strategy he helped craft in New Haven in the 1990s, which fell out of favor by the 2000s. Since then, many residents and city officials have publicly lamented the demise of a community policing model.
Ward 20 Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn said voters with whom she spoke during the last aldermanic election said their key concerns were crime, the lack of youth centers and jobs. She said dignity and respect must be shared between the NHPD and residents to ameliorate these problems. Among others, Ward 21 Alderwoman Brenda Foskey-Cyrus said community policing will allow residents to get to know their policemen better.
“I want to bring the old 1990s policing style back — it worked,” Esserman said. “Now, the relationship between the community and the police department is not working well. We lost our way.”
With the reintroduction of walking beats, Esserman promised to walk through Newhallville himself. He said once officers finish their training they will go right to walking beats. He added that cops' beepers will be replaced with Blackberries to foster better communication with residents.
During the public portion of the meeting, residents raised concerns about poor lighting on streets, violence and drug prevention, the presence of police officers in neighborhoods, the need for more youth centers and services, and the NHPD's use of Tasers. Newhallville resident Edwina Hall said she belives the city and the NHPD have no plan to address the violence and crime in the city, which she claimed is centered in Newhallville. Unsatisfied with the walking beats plan, she said Newhallville has poor lighting, adding that she is afraid to walk in the area after 6 p.m.
In response to the many questions about the use of Tasers, Esserman said that every deployment will be examined more extensively by an NHPD “use of force” committee of supervisors. Esserman stressed that New Haven will be handling Taser incidents according to a book of national standards that he helped write.
While residents said they often find their local substations — NHPD-owned buildings located in different neighborhoods — empty, Esserman said he encourages neighborhoods to staff them so that police officers can walk the streets. He added that district managers will come in and out of the substations. According to NHPD district managers in Newhallville and Dixwell, officers will be walking beats from 3 to 11 p.m. in Newhallville and at flexible times in Dixwell.
Prior to taking the position of NHPD chief in November, Esserman ran the Providence, R.I. police department.
Camden chief outlines policing plan
Thomson wants foot, bike patrols
by KEVIN C. SHELLY
CAMDEN — Community policing — with officers patrolling on bikes and walking beats in the same area every day — is a central aim of the metro police proposal, Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said Wednesday.
Speaking at the first of a series of public-safety meetings with city residents, Thomson said he plans to assign 63 percent of all uniformed officers to community policing, should the plan go forward. The city currently has no officers assigned to community policing, although a 40-member quality-of-life unit deals with neighborhood issues on a citywide basis, he said.
Thomson also said he expects the proposed metro division would have 420 sworn officers. The current police force, hit hard by layoffs last year, typically can muster around 240 officers, the chief said.
Having more officers would change the way the short-staffed department works, said Thomson. He said his officers now are too often “clerks in squad cars” who take reports after crimes have occurred, rather than preventing them in the first place.
The state, county and the city are developing a plan that would make community policing a reality, but details have not been made public, said the chief. Officials previously have said the plan calls for Camden to be policed by the metro division of a county-run police department. No suburban towns have expressed an interest in joining the county-run force.
Camden's police department lost 168 officers to budget cuts a year ago, about half of the force. It has since rehired nearly 100 officers, and more than 90 percent of officers are currently assigned to poststhat put them on the city's streets, Thomson said.
Crime has worsened since the police cutbacks took place, Thomson said. He said shooting incidents rose by 68 percent last year and armed robberies grew by 104 percent. He said the city had reduced open-air drug markets down to about 140 in the past few years, but the number has climbed to around 175 due to fewer officers.
About 25 people attended the session in a meeting room at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
Ralph Roberts likes the fact that the city has a plan and is holding public meetings. But the city's retired chief fire marshal said it remains unclear if “all entities can be satisfied” and if the plan is “doable.”
Roberts also said he did not hear any concrete details during the meeting about how the proposal will get paid for, or if current police will face layoffs or cuts in wages and benefits.
Mayor Dana Redd said during the meeting that the state has a large pool of laid-off officers who might be available for the metro division.
Leaders of the city's police union have said they will oppose the plan, which they have labeled as union busting. No one from the union's leadership attended the meeting.
Failure to tell police about child abuse would be a felony in bill
by Ed Anderson
Failure to report an act of child abuse would become a felony crime under legislation filed for the March 12 session of the Louisiana Legislature by a New Orleans lawmaker.
Senate Bill 4, by Democratic Sen. J.P. Morrell, would set a maximum fine of $10,000, a jail sentence of five years or both for violators.
Morrell said his bill is an outgrowth of the ongoing investigation of sexual abuse involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of abusing young boys for years without being reported.
"There is no judgment call here," Morrell said. "If you know about it and don't report it, you can be charged with a felony."
State law now requires teachers, counselors, clergy, social workers and others to report suspected child abuse to police or face up to six months in jail or a $500 fine. Senate officials said Morrell's bill is the first statute that would apply to any citizen who witnesses abusive acts and fails to report them.
Morrell also has filed Senate Bill 3 to add the murder of a person during the illegal sale of meth, crack cocaine or heroin to the list of crimes punishable by life in prison. It would be classified second-degree murder, which is now defined as the killing of another during a rape, arson, aggravated burglary, armed robbery or a litany of other crimes.
Morrell said that could include the death of an addict who bought drugs from a dealer if the death can be linked to the drugs sold, as well as a killing during the transaction itself.
"It is hard to argue that selling crack, heroin or meth does not result in someone's death," Morrell said. "What I am proposing ... is that we up the ante on all drug dealers throughout the state. This will give DAs another tool. ... The prospect of life in prison is a scary prospect" even to streetwise drug dealers.
So far, 31 bills have been filed for the legislative session: 13 in the Senate and 18 in the House. The deadline for retirement-related bills is Friday; all other pre-filed bills must be in by March 2.
Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, has filed Senate Bill 5 that would allow jurors in state criminal trials to take notes during the proceedings. Murray said that jurors in state civil court matters and in all federal trials in the state can take notes and refer to them during deliberations but juries in state criminal prosecutions cannot.
Murray's bill also would allow the jury instructions now read by the judge to be taken into the jury room.
To ensure the confidentiality of jurors' notes, Murray said, court personnel at each recess would collect them and return them when court reconvened. When the trial is over, the notes would be destroyed, according to Murray's bill.
Murray said that a constituent requested the bill after she had served on a jury in New Orleans and concluded that "justice would have been better served" if jurors could take notes as the case unfolded.
Other bills filed include:
- House Bill 15 by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, to allow off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons into bars if they are "not consuming alcohol." State law bans firearms in bars but allows bar owners and police officers on official business to have them.
- House Bill 18 by Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, to set a one-year minimum sentence for the crimes of aggravated battery, second-degree battery and aggravated second-degree battery for anyone who commits those crimes against a disabled veteran or an active member of the military. The general battery laws authorize a range of punishments from zero to 15 years. Morris' bill would require at least one year to be served if the crime is committed against a disabled vet or active military personnel.
- House Bill 4 by Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, to set a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years in prison for anyone convicted of owning or selling a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Subsequent offenses would call for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years.