| NEWS of the Day - February 11, 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
Crowding hampers L.A. County hospitals' handling of mentally ill
Psychiatric patients at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center often sleep on mattresses on the floor. A complaint to supervisors calls conditions 'dangerous and unsanitary.'
by Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
February 11, 2012
The psychiatric emergency services at two county-run hospitals are so overcrowded that mentally ill patients have to sleep on mattresses on the floor, health officials acknowledged this week.
The packed conditions at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center make it more difficult to de-escalate the emotions of patients who arrive at the hospital agitated and anxious, said Christina Ghaly, deputy director of strategic planning for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
"We fully agree this is not an optimal placement," Ghaly said Friday. "This is not the best way to care for patients. But at the county hospitals, we are at the mercy of who comes to our door."
Ghaly said the issue of overcrowding is not new and that county health officials recognize that something has to be done to accommodate more people.
Olive View has 12 beds in its emergency room set aside for psychiatric patients but typically houses about 20 and occasionally has as many as 30, Ghaly said. The hospital cannot add full-sized beds because of fire safety concerns. So, in addition to sleeping on the floor, patients are regularly housed in an overflow area or in interview rooms, she said.
Harbor-UCLA has space for 16 beds but on an average day has 20 psychiatric patients.
This week, a patient advocate sent a complaint to the Board of Supervisors, The Times and the federal government, saying that it was "dangerous and unsanitary" for patients to sleep on the floor.
"Psychiatric patients are being housed in appalling conditions at Olive View Hospital's psychiatric ward; hazards caused by severe overcrowding require immediate attention," the complaint read.
In response, Department of Health Services Director Mitch Katz said in a letter to the board that the hospitals receive more psychiatric patients than they were built for, but that they still provide a safe environment.
The county is taking several steps to address the crowding, Ghaly said. Officials ordered smaller beds for Olive View's psychiatric area so more can fit in the available space and they are trying to get a nearby mental health urgent care center designated as a facility that can take overflow patients.
Health officials are also improving training for law enforcement officials on determining which patients need to go to the emergency room. They are also trying to reduce the number of patients who cycle in and out of the emergency room and are trying to expedite the process for getting patients either discharged or admitted.
Advocates for the mentally ill said that crowding at the emergency rooms underscores a chronic problem of lack of funding for psychiatric beds across the state.
"Anybody sleeping on the floor is disturbing," said Jessica Cruz, executive director of the California chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "You can't get the right kind of care necessary."
Other hospitals also face space issues, said Sheree Kruckenberg, vice president of behavioral health at the California Hospital Assn. "I don't know of an ER in the state that doesn't have a similar problem," she said.
But a hectic and crowded emergency room is not the best place for patients with mental illness. "It exacerbates their symptoms and increases the opportunity for them to strike out," she said.
On immigration, 'amnesty' isn't a four-letter word
Under the Reagan administration, 'amnesty' wasn't a dirty word. It meant hope, dignity and a second chance for illegal immigrants. Why can't we do that again?
by Jack Shakely
February 10, 2012
In 1987, I started the Fund for New Americans at the California Community Foundation with the help of the Hilton, Irvine and Weingart foundations. The fund's purpose was to provide loans and services to illegal immigrants in Southern California who were seeking amnesty under provisions of President Reagan's Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
When Reagan signed the act into law, the word "amnesty" hadn't taken on all the negative connotations it has today. These days, especially during campaign season, amnesty is equated with "free lunch" or "get out of jail free"; it's a word uttered only by those who oppose the concept.
But 25 years ago, amnesty meant hope, dignity and a second chance for tens of thousands of Los Angeles-area residents. And in the many hours I spent observing English-as-a-second-language classes and immigration counseling sessions, what is only a nasty abstraction to many became very concrete to me. I saw the faces of amnesty, and it changed me forever.
To listen to its detractors today, you'd think amnesty was a free ticket to Disneyland handed out on street corners. But in 1987, the path to citizenship was difficult to navigate and, to many, prohibitively expensive.
If you had been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors, you were rejected. That at least was cut and dried. A far more difficult provision of the law required you to prove you had been in continuous residency in the United States since 1981.
Establishing a residency trail can be hard for any contemporary urban dweller, but for people constantly moving to follow low-paying jobs, or living hand to mouth in subsistence housing or with relatives or friends, proof of residency was arduous. Mail, rent receipts, electric bills, even grocery store and gas station receipts were used to prove that families and individuals were here continuously, albeit illegally, from some time before Jan. 1, 1982.
And once the necessary paperwork was collected, there was a financial kicker. Sponsors of the act were intent on amnesty-seekers paying a price, so a nonrefundable processing fee was attached. The cost was $185 for each adult and $75 for children, up to a family total of $445. That amount is a bit stiff even today, but in 1987 the minimum wage in California was $3.35 an hour. This meant that the maximum family fee was almost one month's pay for minimum-wage earners, and for many illegal immigrants, then and now, minimum wage is more dream than reality.
Working with immigration counseling centers in Pico Union and East Los Angeles and other Los Angeles agencies, the Fund for New Americans made more than 2,000 amnesty loans to almost 6,000 men, women and children. And although experts predicted that the default rate would be more than 25%, it was less than 5%, a figure that would put a smile on the face of any Beverly Hills merchant. Our borrowers often walked into the foundation offices in Mid-Wilshire clutching their monthly payment in their hands, eager to discharge their debt. They wanted to be American citizens and were willing to pay and do whatever it took.
Time has revealed that some provisions of the immigration reform act were flawed. Sanctions against employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants were only partially enacted and spottily enforced. The seasonal agricultural worker program, which offered illegal farmworkers a less rigorous residency requirement, became instead a last-ditch effort to avoid deportation and was riddled with fraud.
But a flawed or difficult path to citizenship is better than none, which is pretty much what we have now. Do we really think people will follow current law and go back to their country of origin for at least four years, uprooting their families and losing what little financial gains they have made, just to stand in a very uncertain line awaiting legal entrance? Are the best laws we can craft ones like Alabama's, which forces children to stay out of school lest they give away the status of their parents, which beggars businesses dependent on immigrant labor and which breaks up families? Approximately 11 million immigrants live without papers in our communities now. There's not enough money in the world to find and deport them.
If the United States truly is the shining city on a hill, is it any wonder it serves as such an irresistible beacon of hope? People will continue to come here, legally or not.
If you had seen the earnest faces of those struggling to become full-fledged, taxpaying citizens, as I did during the Reagan administration, it might change your definition of amnesty from an abstract dirty word to an ode sung by the better angels of our nature.
Jack Shakely retired as president of the California Community Foundation in 2005.
From Google News
Uzbek man guilty of plotting to kill President Obama
Feb 10 2012
by Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - A man from Uzbekistan living illegally in the United States pleaded guilty on Friday to terrorism and weapons charges involving a plot to kill President Barack Obama.
According to court evidence, defendant Ulugbek Kodirov believed he was acting on behalf of an Islamist militant group in his homeland and was plotting to shoot Obama while the president campaigned for re-election this year.
Kodirov 22, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama, to three charges as part of an agreement that spares him from a potential life sentence.
He still faced up to 30 years in prison and $750,000 in fines for providing material support for terrorist activity, being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and threatening to assassinate the president.
Four other charges against him were dropped, and mainly involved additional threats to kill Obama.
U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon set sentencing for May 17.
Kodirov came to the United States in 2009 to study medicine and his student visa was revoked in April 2010 after he failed to enroll in school, investigators said.
He "self-radicalized" through Internet research and sought like-minded individuals, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said.
Kodirov met a mentor he called "Emir," whom he believed to be a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an Islamist militant group the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
Kodirov conversed with the man and decided to kill the president, according to court evidence.
He determined that the upcoming 2012 campaign would be an opportune time to either shoot the president with a sniper's rifle or shoot him up close, according to evidence read by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Whisonant.
"He did not care if he got shot and killed as long as he killed the president," Whisonant said.
Kodirov was arrested in July at an Alabama motel where he had obtained a fully automatic machine gun and four hand grenades from an undercover agent. "He was attempting to obtain weapons and explosives that he intended to use to kill the President of the United States," Vance said.
According to his plea agreement, Kodirov also showed jihadist Web sites and videos on his computer to another individual and told that person he wanted to assist others in jihad overseas. He also had lengthy conversations with another person about killing Obama, and that person introduced him to the undercover agent.
Vance said members of the local Muslim community were instrumental in thwarting the threat to the president, but did not give specifics. "We have warm relations with the Muslim community - they also want a safe place to live and raise their children," said Vance.
Detroit trying 'Broken Windows' community policing
by Corey Williams
DETROIT (WTW) — Loitering, cracked windshields and broken taillights — at times overlooked by a Detroit police force often overwhelmed with assaults, robberies and carjackings — are being targeted along with other minor violations to stop more violent behavior at what some consider its source.
"Broken Windows," a decades-old method of community policing, is on an 18-month trial run in two parts of the city, according to Police Chief Ralph Godbee.
One of the authors of a 1982 magazine article spouting the benefits of saving neighborhoods by putting more officers on foot patrols and focusing on issues that might appear insignificant in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the nation is working as a consultant on the project.
There were 344 homicides in Detroit last year, compared with 308 in 2010. Through Feb. 5, 36 were committed in the city — six more than at the same time last year.
Murder, rape, assault, robbery and other violent crime decreased by 7,300 reports last year. But Detroit's violent crime per every 100,000 residents remains high because the city's population has dropped by about a quarter million over the past decade.
More than a dozen funeral directors held a motorcade of hearses recently to bring attention to the rising number of murders.
Detroit's crime problem is even raising the alarm in Lansing. Gov. Rick Snyder said this past week that he'll give details next month on how putting more resources into the Michigan State Police and funding a summer jobs program for inner-city youth and additional programs to help the chronically unemployed — including former felons — find work will help lower crime rates.
And along with using the "Broken Windows" methodology, Godbee is moving dozens of officers from desk and other indoor duties to outdoor patrols to help change how police respond to crime.
"Every one of my available resources, all we do is put them in a scout car, have them listen to a radio and then, when they get a call, they go," Godbee said. "That's not policing. ... They're not engaged in the community and problem-solving in changing some of the street-level dynamics that contribute to an environment and a belief that everything goes in Detroit.
"I get complaints about the kids playing basketball in the street and won't move when cars are coming by; loud music complaints; the home on the block that seems to be the skip house that people hang out at; the open air narcotics dealings, some street level prostitution. Those are the things communities ... want us to pay attention to. But when we get so caught up in just responding to calls for service and we don't free up resources to deal with those issues, then things continue to spiral out of control."
That spiral is at the core of "Broken Windows" by George Kelling and James Wilson. The magazine article and corresponding theory claim crime is more likely to occur in blighted areas often ignored by police and the people who live there. Increased police presence and enforcing things such as vagrancy laws helps maintain stability in those neighborhoods.
Traffic stops can turn up guns stashed in cars. Misdemeanor citations may lead to apprehending people sought on felony warrants.
But Ron Scott, head of the nonprofit Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, believes the policy gives some officers license to abuse their authority.
"It sounds to me like zero tolerance," said Scott, a frequent critic of the police department. "To pull people over for circumstances which are trivial at best does not do anything to resolve larger social issues. It makes the assumption that everyone is a criminal."
Bill Bratton put the theory to the test in New York City and Los Angeles and believes it will work in Detroit. Bratton was New York's police commissioner from 1994 to 1996 and police chief in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009.
"The people committing the minor crimes are also committing the serious crimes," said Bratton, chairman of Kroll, a global risk management company.
After six years in Los Angeles, violent crime had dropped about 33 percent. Homicides were down more than 40 percent.
As Transit chief in New York, Bratton said police in 1990 and 1991 cracked down on vagrancy and turnstile jumping to lower reported crime in the city's massive subway system. By stopping fare evaders before they got on the trains, officers were able to keep more serious crime from being committed, he said.
"There were beggars on every train, sleeping all over the place; graffiti, panhandlers demanding you give them the tokens when they open the gates for you," Bratton said. "If you don't weed your garden, the weeds are going to kill your flowers."
Kelling, on loan to Detroit from the New York-based Manhattan Institute for Policy Research where he is a senior fellow, visits Detroit twice each month.
"The fear is caused by the disorder," Kelling said. "There's a lot of abandoned houses, a lot of areas that look to be quite despairing. You have a cluster of very nice homes and then you get three blocks of homes that may make it or may not make it, but they're right at the edge. The policing issue is how much do you invest in those areas that are at the tipping point and how much do you invest in the areas that have been largely destroyed. I think those are policy decisions Detroit is facing up to."
RPD to hold safe community meetings to better engage residents
by John V. Ciani
Ridgecrest, Calif. —
In an effort to help residents become more engaged in reducing crime in the city, the Ridgecrest Police Department is planning a series of safe-community meetings.
“During the past few years, we've managed to reduce the crime rate significantly,” said Capt. Paul Wheeler. “That's not only accomplished by hard work by the police department, it's accomplished by the cooperation and the assistance of the community.”
He said he reviewed the 2011 statistics and identified five areas with more problems than others.
“We're planning a series of about five meetings, and they're going to start in a couple of weeks,” he said.
Wheeler said the purpose of the meetings is to inform the public of what the trends are in their particular areas and how to protect themselves from the trends.
“We're also reinforcing that we're there to help them, that they don't have to become victims, and how to be good witnesses,” he said.
Chief Ron Strand said the plan for the meetings is more in response to Assembly Bill 109 than budget concerns.
“We're looking the influx of the state releasing 6,000 prisoners, and the change of where they're going to incarcerate people and the sentencing laws,” he said. “Paul indentified certain areas where we've had more thefts, more animal-control calls and more situations. Our outreach is to tell people how to hide their targets, keep their doors locked. We're trying to get to the average citizen and to educate them on when to report crimes, how to protect their property better. We want to maintain a safe community. The reality is the city is having financial problems. The responsibility of this agency is to maintain the safety of the community regardless of what happens.”
“We can't do it by ourselves,” Wheeler said. “This is community policing at its best. This is not a meeting to specifically recruit neighborhood watches. This is an information meeting on crime trends, target hardening and how to be a better citizen.”