| NEWS of the Day - February 24, 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
'Sovereign citizen' movement now on FBI's radar
The Homeland Security Department has ranked the movement as a major threat. Its members reject the law, and some kill police.
by Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau
February 23, 2012
Reporting from Washington
With the FBI pounding on his door, and his wife and two children barely awake, Shawn Rice allegedly strapped on a bulletproof vest, grabbed a semiautomatic pistol and stepped out his back door on Dec. 22.
But dozens of FBI agents and local police had surrounded the ranch house in Seligman, Ariz., about 80 miles west of Flagstaff, and the only nearby cover was knee-high sagebrush. Rice ducked back inside, and warned the FBI to keep away.
After a tense 10-hour standoff, Rice, 49, was arrested. He now sits in a Las Vegas jail awaiting trial on federal money-laundering charges.
But it wasn't Rice's alleged offense alone that prompted the FBI's interest.
According to court papers, Rice was involved in the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that has attracted little national media attention but which the FBI classifies as an "extremist antigovernment group." So-called sovereign citizens argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, and some refuse to recognize the authority of courts or police.
Since 2000, members of the movement have killed six police officers, and clashes with law enforcement are on the rise, according to the FBI. The deadliest incident came in 2010, when a shootout with a member left four people dead, including two police officers, during what began as a routine traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark.
Since then, in a notable shift in policy, federal officials have stepped up their attention on sovereign citizens.
"We are focusing our efforts because of the threat of violence," said Stuart R. McArthur, a deputy assistant director in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division.
In two recent unpublished studies, the Homeland Security Department and the National Counterterrorism Center ranked the sovereign citizen movement as a major threat, along with Islamic extremists and white supremacists. The FBI assigned a supervisor to coordinate investigations of the movement last year.
"This is a movement that has absolutely exploded," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization based in Montgomery, Ala., that tracks domestic terrorists and hate groups. More than 100,000 Americans have aligned themselves with the sovereign citizens, the center said.
Adherents cite a patchwork of beliefs, including that the U.S. is essentially under martial law, that some U.S. constitutional amendments are invalid, and that dollars have been illegitimate since the U.S. Treasury went off the gold standard during the Great Depression.
Most important, some followers believe they are entitled to use armed force to resist arrest and fight police.
The FBI also is investigating followers for alleged mail fraud and harassment of federal officials through nuisance lawsuits and property liens. Such cases are clogging courts in every state, said Casey Carty, who heads the FBI's sovereign citizen unit.
Until recently, federal officials had steered clear of any extensive focus on right-wing extremist groups. In 2009, some members of Congress complained after a Homeland Security Department report warned that such groups might seek to recruit disaffected military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as others. The report highlighted several groups, including the sovereign citizen movement.
Bowing to the criticism, Homeland Security officials gutted the office that had focused on right-wing extremism. They also canceled planned presentations and shelved a reference guide that the office had produced to inform local police about the movement.
"The topic had become too politically charged," said Daryl Johnson, who headed the team that wrote the 2009 report.
That changed after the West Memphis shootout with Jerry Kane Jr., a sovereign citizen proponent who had traveled the country offering $100-a-head seminars that taught spurious ways to avoid paying taxes, among other movement tactics.
Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joseph, were killed in the shootout. Also killed was Police Sgt. Brandon Paudert, son of the local police chief, Bob Paudert.
Paudert had never heard of the sovereign citizen movement until that day. Now retired, he has spoken to more than 75 law enforcement groups around the country warning of its danger.
Paudert remains angry that Kane wasn't identified as potentially armed and dangerous in the FBI-run database that local police normally access for warrants and other data when they stop a vehicle. He wants the FBI to change the database to flag known sovereign citizen adherents.
"If we had that, [my son] would have immediately called for backup," Paudert said. "He would be alive today."
Number of deportation cases drops by nearly a third, report says
The drop recorded in the last three months of 2011 may reflect the administration's plan to focus its deportation efforts by weighing discretionary factors, including whether the person is a veteran, came to the United States as a child or is a college student.
by Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times
February 24, 2012
The number of deportation cases filed by federal immigration officials dropped by nearly a third in the first three months of the fiscal year, according to a report by the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
The drop recorded in the last three months of 2011 may reflect the Obama administration's plan to focus its deportation efforts by weighing a variety of discretionary factors, including whether the person is a veteran, came to the U.S. as a child or is a college student, according to the report. But experts said it's too soon to say if deportations overall will decline.
From October through December, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiated 39,331 deportation cases in immigration court, down from 58,639 the previous quarter, the report says. Filings are typically lower during the holiday months, but even adjusted for the seasonal drop-off the numbers are significantly lower, according to the authors.
Immigration officials said they have not had the opportunity to review the data to verify their accuracy but added that the numbers don't fully encompass the ways in which a person can be deported. The report, said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen, is focused only on submissions for deportations made to immigration courts.
"It ignores the fact that ICE regularly removes individuals without going through formal [immigration court] proceedings utilizing voluntary, administrative, expedited and stipulated removals as well the reinstatement of old removal orders," she said.
From October through early February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 121,780 people from the country, according to the agency.
Immigration officials said a review of 300,000 deportation cases announced by the Obama administration in August is well underway and tens of thousands of cases have been reviewed.
Congress has provided enough funds for the ICE to deport about 400,000 people annually, and the administration has said it intends to focus those resources on cases deemed high-priority, including those involving national security, serious felons, individuals with lengthy criminal records, known gang members and others who pose a threat to public safety.
"We're being smart about how we enforce the law. We're doing it in a way that makes sense and in a way that uses tax dollars effectively," said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. "Law enforcement has to have set priorities because the American public doesn't want us to just arrest the first 400,000 people we can remove. Why arrest the first 400,000 people when you can arrest those who are threats to the community?"
The proportion of filings during the period that sought deportation on grounds of alleged criminal activity was 14%, down from nearly 16% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011. Those numbers led the report's authors to say there is little evidence cases are being better targeted toward serious criminals. But agency officials strongly disputed that notion as based on incomplete data.
"As it has done in past reports, this report focuses only on the technical reasons why an individual is legally removable from the US and ignores the criminal history that triggered the decision to seek the person's removal," Christensen said.
The number of convicted criminals deported by the agency nearly doubled last year. So far, 52% of those removed this fiscal year are convicted criminals, Christensen said.
The report's analysis is based on case records obtained by the data research center under a Freedom of Information Act request made to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the nation's immigration courts.
Some immigration attorneys said they have started to see a change in the types of cases the government pursues.
"It's too early for me to say it's a trend," said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney and former trial attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "But it is something I didn't necessarily get in the past.
"Before, if you had these Dream Act students and we wanted to keep them in the U.S., I'd have to go to a congressman and beg for a private bill. Now I can just go to a deportation officer who has the case and say, 'You know this person falls within these prosecutorial discretion guidelines. You don't really want to deport them, do you?' And they'll agree with you. That is a sea change."
Onward online privacy
Initiatives by the White House and the California attorney general are good starting points.
February 24, 2012
Responding to a steady drumbeat of privacy violations online, the White House proposed a privacy bill of rights for Internet users Thursday that could give them more say over how personal information is collected and used. The initiative is a good starting point, as is a new effort by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris to require companies developing applications for smartphones and tablet computers to disclose their privacy policies. But they also highlight how tricky it is to set rules that guard sensitive personal information without hindering innovation or quickly becoming obsolete.
The "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" offers a sensible set of principles for online privacy, calling on Web companies to minimize their collection of personal data, help users make informed choices about the information they reveal, and not use personal data for new purposes without the user's consent. The point is to set privacy standards without telling companies how to meet them. That flexibility is indispensable, considering how rapidly technology is changing online.
One challenge is how to enforce those principles. The White House wants to put them into law, and that's a good idea — provided that lawmakers resist the urge to require or ban specific technolgies. Until then, the administration plans to work with industry groups and other interested parties on an optional code of conduct that will be legally enforceable. Why any Web company's legal advisers would allow it to agree to such a code is a mystery, especially if there's no guarantee that its competitors or disruptive new entrants will.
Nor will the principles stop privacy abuses online. Consider the first fruit of the initiative: an agreement by a coalition of major Web companies to give Web users a "do not track" button in browsers to block some advertisers from following their movements online. Although the button could make it harder for ad networks to personalize the ads people see online, it won't stop a company from assembling and selling revealing portraits of its users based on the things they see and say on all the sites run by that company. The company would simply have to disclose what it's doing.
Ultimately, however, a disclosure-based approach may strike the best balance. Federal law already provides safeguards for sensitive personal information, such as health and credit data. The Federal Trade Commission and California prosecutors have the power to crack down on companies that make misleading statements about their privacy policies. And pressure from users has forced companies such as Facebook and Google to be more protective of other types of personal information they collect. Like Harris' move, the White House initiative will not only give consumers a bit more control over their information, but also shine more light on what companies are doing with it so users can make better choices.
From Google News
More remains linked to 'Speed Freak Killers' found in Northern California
More human remains were recovered Thursday near the Northern California site where two victims of a convicted serial killer were recently found, authorities said.
Crews using cadaver dogs located the remains after expanding a search area near the Calaveras County community of San Andreas, said San Joaquin County Sheriff's spokesman Les Garcia.
Investigators have been searching the area after Wesley Shermantine led authorities to the site earlier this month. The search area is on property that Shermantine's family once owned.
Authorities are investigating if the newly found remains are from another victim of Shermantine and Loren Herzog, dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" for their killing spree in the 1980s and 1990s. Garcia said the remains will be sent to the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services for analysis.
Shermantine has also led authorities to a well in San Joaquin County where investigators have found hundreds of human bone fragments.
Shermantine began disclosing where victims were buried after bounty hunter Leonard Padilla offered him money for the information.
Shermantine was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death. Jurors found Herzog guilty of three murders, but those convictions were later overturned after a judge determined his confession was illegally coerced. He instead struck a plea deal on one count of voluntary manslaughter and was paroled in 2010.
Herzog died in an apparent suicide last month, hours after receiving a call from Padilla to warn him that Shermantine planned to reveal the burial locations.
Using maps roughly drawn by Shermantine from his San Quentin State Prison cell, authorities first searched a remote Calaveras County property once owned by his family and found two sets of human remains. Tests have confirmed they belong to Cyndi Vanderheiden, 25, who disappeared in 1998, and Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, who disappeared in 1985.
Shermantine was convicted of both murders in 2001, and Herzog's voluntary manslaughter plea was for Vanderheiden's death.
Dunbar stands up to violence
Group gets together to try and change attitudes.
The Dunbar community is in an uproar.
Fed up up with finding its young dead on the sidewalk surrounded by crime scene tape, and aware the Fort Myers City Council and Police Department don't have all the answers, Dunbar is taking matters into its own hands.
The main message when the Dunbar Neighborhood Watch got together Thursday evening – a message yelled numerous times from the podium throughout the night – was that it's up to parents to make absolutely sure their kids don't go down the wrong path. As master of ceremonies Ron Matthews said, a child's options are either to enter the workforce or prison – or end up dead.
The community also called on God to help families help themselves. They prayed that their children – many of whom stood on stage in braids and bright-colored shirts – would be kept safe from violence, and they prayed for the souls of those for whom it is already too late. Representatives from FMPD, the Lee County Sheriff's Office and the city of Fort Myers attended and received prayers as well, but neighborhood watch members who took the podium made it clear the responsibility to create change lies within the community.
“Our children are wrong a lot of the time, but we don't want to take that responsibility to say that they are. We want to leave that to Fort Myers' finest,” Mary Cosby said, gesturing to the law enforcement officers present. “Just like we need their help, they need ours.”
“I have been at a funeral singing every Saturday for the past two months. And our children are dying senselessly,” Cosby added.
Chevela Jones, a victims' advocate with FMPD, read off the names of the 18 people killed by local violence since February of last year. Her voice broke by the 10th name.
Family members of those on the list were then asked to stand up and receive a gift bag in front of the room. Janet Fable, 48, of Dunbar, cried as she received hers.
“I cry every day,” she said.
Fable lost her 29-year-old son, Anthony Scott, last month. His wife, Mary Scott, found him fatally shot in a car in the woods near Blake Street and Evans Avenue.
The worst part is not knowing what happened, Fable said. Police have not given her any information on possible suspects. Until the person responsible is put in jail, her other four children will continue to stay away from the house, afraid the shooter will come back, Fable said.
“What did we do?” she asked, tearing up.
Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker said by taking responsibility, Dunbar Neighborhood Watch is on the right track to preventing more deaths.
“This is the type of message that needs to be delivered,” he said. “We are all an intricate part of getting it done.”
Baker, who has been attending these types of community outreach events since 1998, said he has seen them create a noticeable change in community attitudes. It may not come immediately, but five or 10 people at a time, the pool of people grows who will not tolerate violence, he said.
An encouraging twist to Thursday's Dunbar Neighborhood Watch meeting was its high male attendance, Baker said. In past years, mostly mothers and grandmothers showed up, but the father-figure involvement is essential in raising children to tell right from wrong, he said.
“This is a nice turnout compared to what we usually have,” Matthews told the audience of almost 100 people in the Dunbar Community School auditorium. “Guess what? The place should be packed.”
Matthews promised those attending Thursday that change would come. Dunbar will lower the crime rate and bring businesses back to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard – including the long-vacant McCollum Hall, he said.
“We're going to do it ourselves,” Matthews said.