NEWS of the Day - March 15, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Day - March 15, 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 The Daily News


Washington state 3-year-old shoots himself to death, state's 3rd gun accident in 3 weeks


SEATTLE -- A 3-year-old scrambled out of his child seat after his parents stopped for gas early Wednesday, found a gun police say was left in the car by his father and fatally shot himself in the head.

The accidental shooting in Tacoma marks the third in three weeks in Washington involving young children, and the second death. The spate of gun violence is raising questions about the effectiveness of the state's gun laws and community awareness of firearm safety.

Tacoma police Officer Naveed Benjamin said the 3-year-old boy's death highlights the need for people to secure guns.

"It is incredible in light of the other ones," Benjamin said. "You would think people would take more care, not less."

Tacoma police said the boy's death came after his father put his pistol under a seat and got out to pump gas while the mother went inside the convenience store. The boy's infant sister, who also was in the car when the gun went off, was not injured.

The Pierce County medical examiner has identified the boy as Julio Segura-McIntosh of Tacoma.

Detectives questioned the parents and have called the shooting a tragic accident, Benjamin said. The father has a concealed weapons permit, and no charges have been filed, he said. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said that he is reviewing the case for possible manslaughter charges.

Washington does not have a law specifically concerning child access to firearms, but state law is very specific about carrying loaded pistols in vehicles.

A person with a concealed weapons permit may carry a gun in a car in Washington state, but is required to have it on his person. If they have to leave it in the car, the law says it must be locked and concealed from view.

The Wednesday shooting follows the death of the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer in Stanwood on Saturday when a sibling found a gun and fired while the parents were out of their car. And on Feb. 22, an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded in a Bremerton classroom when a gun fired inside the backpack of a 9-year-old boy as he put it on a desk.

The two deaths represent an uptick in the number of these tragic accidents, according to Washington state health officials.

About one accidental firearm death of a child each year is typical in the state, according to state health statistics gathered between 2007 and 2010, said Health Department spokesman Tim Church. During that same time, an average of nine kids 17 and younger ended up in the hospital because of an accidental shooting, Church added.

"You can't predict what children are going to do," Benjamin said. "You need to unload and lock it up if you're not carrying it. ... It's really not that hard to practice firearm safety."

A spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation said existing laws are enough to encourage gun safety, as long as the gun owners obey them.

"Responsible people will maintain gun safety whether there is a law or not; irresponsible people will ignore the law," said Dave Workman, senior editor of the group's publication, thegunmag.com. He said existing statutes, including child endangerment laws, were designed to prevent such tragedies.

Workman said what he can't figure out is why the two men left their guns in their vehicles when they were licensed to carry them.

"Most responsible gun owners, especially if they're licensed to carry, will keep their firearm with them," Workman said.

Twenty-seven states have some form of law to prevent child access to firearms, but Washington is not one of them. Such laws can include criminal penalties for adults who allow children to get their hands on guns, according to the San Francisco-based group Legal Community Against Violence.

State Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, expressed doubt that the Legislature could succeed at overcoming opposition from gun rights advocates to strengthen state gun laws.

He said a former state representative tried and failed for years to strengthen restrictions on firearms sales at gun shows.

"The forces that be wouldn't even support doing that. It's pretty strong from the gun lobby that they don't want to see any change under any circumstance," Hunt said.

Washington Cease Fire Executive Director Gregory Roberts responded to the latest shooting, saying, "We think guns are dangerous, but they are not treated as dangerous by our society or by laws or by our regulations," he said. "We regard guns as some sort of sacred object that should not be subject to regulation."

The Seattle organization is currently running a campaign of ads on buses urging people to think twice about owning guns. People with guns in their home or car are more likely to injure or kill a family member or loved one than to use it against an intruder, he said.

In Saturday's shooting, off-duty Marysville police Officer Derek Carlile had parked the family van near Stanwood City Hall, and he and his wife were out of the vehicle when one of their children found the loaded gun and fired. The shot hit 7-year-old Jenna Carlile, and the girl, the oldest of their four children, died Sunday at a Seattle hospital.

The 8-year-old Bremerton girl, Amina Kocer-Bowman, remained in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after nearly dying in the accidental shooting at Armin Jahr Elementary, where a classmate brought a handgun to class.

Authorities believe the boy took the .45-caliber gun from the glove compartment of a car while visiting his mother and her boyfriend at their home. He lives with an uncle.

AP newsmen Jonathan Kaminsky and Chris Grygiel contributed to this story.



LAPD, community vow to stop prostitution on Lankershim Boulevard

by Dakota Smith

Vowing to permanently wipe out prostitution along Lankershim Boulevard in Sun Valley, community leaders and police announced Wednesday new crime-fighting tactics for the commercial corridor that has been a magnet for sex workers.

Community groups will lead once-a-month night walks down the boulevard, part of an effort to take back their streets. Overhead lights are planned near Neenach Street to brighten the dark areas of the boulevard. And the Los Angeles Police Department is planning more 24-hour undercover stings to target the johns who cruise through the area.

"This is an all-out effort to stop this," said Capt. Joseph Hiltner, speaking at the site of Sun Valley Rentals, one of many local businesses affected by the streetwalkers. "Not only the prostitution but the victimization of prostitutes."

A Daily News story in February first highlighted the problem of prostitution along Lankershim Boulevard, detailing store owners' complaints about the constant presence of barely clad young women, pimps and johns.

Despite police efforts, including undercover stings and bicycle units patrolling the boulevard, the area remains one of the most heavily-trafficked neighborhoods for prostitution in San Fernando Valley.

"The problem hasn't abated to our satisfaction and not to the satisfaction of the community," Hiltner said Wednesday, adding that the LAPD is concerned about the public safety of the prostitutes, some of whom have reported being raped.

Last week, the department ran a sting in which female officers posed as prostitutes, resulting in the arrest of 34 alleged johns.

Local leaders expressed cautious optimism about the joint effort to drive away the prostitutes and pimps, saying they believed fewer women were working the boulevard since the recent sting.

Handing out fliers for an upcoming neighborhood walk down Lankershim Boulevard in April, Mike O'Gara, second vice president of the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council, said he's seen prostitutes outside his church during Sunday Mass.

"The problem has been around forever," said O'Gara, who worries the Lankershim Boulevard prostitutes will simply move down the street to another area.

Nevertheless, community involvement is essential, said Ayalet Feiman, a deputy city attorney and a neighborhood prosecutor who handles many of the prostitution arrest cases.

"In areas where communities mobilize, where people are more vocal and more involved," she said, "there's less prostitution."



Registered sex offender charged with teen assault

by The Associated Press

SANTA ANA - A registered sex offender has been charged with assaulting teenagers in Southern California library and airport bathrooms.

Orange County prosecutors say 23-year-old Robert Howard Claudio sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy in a Tustin county library bathroom on March 9 and an 18-year-old boy in a bathroom at John Wayne International Airport on Aug. 27.

Claudio was charged Tuesday with lewd acts on a child under 14, false imprisonment by violence and sexual battery by restraint, all felonies. He is also charged with misdemeanor battery.

He's in jail with bail set at $2 million.

Investigators say Claudio lured the 13-year-old boy into the bathroom and molested him.

He's charged with following the 18-year-old into an airport bathroom and groping him.



LAUSD board fires Telfair Elementary teacher charged with molesting four children

by Barbara Jones,

The LAUSD board voted Tuesday to fire Telfair Elementary teacher Paul Chapel III, nearly five months after he was arrested on charges of molesting four youngsters, including at least one who attends the Pacoima school where he taught for 13 years.

Chapel, 51, of Chatsworth, is charged with continuous sexual abuse of four youngsters - three girls and a boy - and with three counts of committing lewd acts against each of the four children. He has pleaded not guilty.

Chapel's case sparked outrage within the Pacoima community because the district failed to notify Telfair parents when he was arrested on Oct. 8. After the Daily News reported his arrest in mid-February, Superintendent John Deasy and school board member Nury Martinez held several meetings with parents to discuss their concerns.

The Daily News also reported last week that Chapel had been charged in 1987 with molesting an 8-year-old neighbor at his home in Simi Valley, where he lived at the time. That trial ended in a hung jury, and Chapel was transferred from Andasol Elementary in Northridge to Telfair.

Chapel later moved to Chatsworth, where he was living with his adult son at the time of his arrest.

The arrests of Chapel and Miramonte Elementary teachers Mark Berndt and Martin Springer on molestation charges have fueled concerns by school board members about the process of notifying parents about suspected misconduct on campus. Several also have expressed frustration at the arduous process involved in firing teachers suspected of wrongdoing.



From the Washington Times

Teen's death shows perils of helium

Most people unaware of the risks associated with ‘huffing' vapors

Loriann and Justin Earp thought they were sending their daughter, Ashley Long, to the usual neighborhood sleepover when a popular party prank took her life. Ashley inhaled helium - something any 14-year-old girl might do to make her voice sound like a cartoon character - and died when the gas burst her lungs.

"Everything is good here, Mom, we're just hanging out, having fun," Ashley said early in the evening of Feb. 18, Mrs. Earp recalled. By 10:30 p.m., the Medford, Ore., family was in a hospital learning that Ashley died when she inhaled helium through a pressurized tank.

It is a common trick wherever helium-filled balloons are found, but it can have deadly consequences, according to Harvey Weiss, director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. The group will hold a news conference Thursday in Washington to highlight the dangers. Mr. Weiss said most people are unaware of the risks and of the culture of "huffing" - the abuse of household substances by inhaling their vapors.

"That is an abuse of helium, quite frankly, because they are not using it for a medical purpose," said Rose Ann Soloway, a clinical toxicologist at the National Capital Poison Center.

Helium is an inert gas, reacting with very little other elements. The danger to humans comes when helium displaces oxygen in the lungs.

"Inhaling helium starves the brain and other body organs of oxygen," Ms. Soloway said. The effects include a "fast heart rate, fast breathing rate, euphoria, low blood pressure, headache, dizziness, nausea, anxiety, irregular heart rhythms, heart attack, seizures, coma and death."

The lack of oxygen can also create a temporary high. But that is not because of the gas, but because users are not receiving any oxygen.

Thursday's news conference will kick off National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, an attempt to spotlight the abuse of household items when people "sniff" or "huff" the vapors, Mr. Weiss said.

The number of cases in which people require medical attention for inhaling helium remains relatively low, so low that the American Association of Poison Control Centers groups helium with other simple asphyxiates (gases that displace oxygen) in its National Poison Data System annual report.

The report found that 2,600 people called their local poison control center regarding simple asphyxiation in 2010. This group included people who came in contact with too much helium, and other gases such as carbon monoxide and methane.

The report shows that only 9 percent of those calls were for people who had intentionally inhaled, such as when someone put a helium-filled balloon or tank to their lips.

Of the 2,600 cases, 0.6 percent faced serious situations. Fifteen experienced life-threatening effects from the asphyxiation. Only three died.

But Ashley's death shocked her parents. They were told she was going to a slumber party at a neighborhood friend's house. But instead, she and her companions piled into the car of her friend's older sister, who proceeded to take the group of girls to her house, give them alcohol and marijuana, and bring out a tank of helium.

Ashley's parents say they never knew their daughter to experiment with alcohol or marijuana, recalling her as a girl who wrote Bible verses on her calendar and aspired to become a marine biologist. She was a girl who wanted to fit in and caved to peer pressure, they said.

Now, the parents say they want their daughter's story to serve as a cautionary tale. They have started a foundation, Ashley's Hope, to raise awareness about the dangers of helium.

"We are trying to make a difference so that other families don't have to go through this," Mr. Earp said.



Some air travelers over 75 will get break at checkpoints

Can keep shoes, light jackets on, skip pat-downs

CHICAGO — Some air travelers over the age of 75 will soon get a break at airport security checkpoints under a test program announced Wednesday that could allow them to keep their shoes and light jackets on and skip pat-downs.

The new guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration, which take effect Monday at four U.S. airports, are part of an effort to move away from its one-size-fits-all security procedures and speed lower-risk passengers through while focusing on those who may need more scrutiny. Similar changes were made last fall for travelers 12 and younger.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that led to tighter security, air travelers have criticized what they say is a lack of common sense in screening all passengers the same way, including young children and the elderly. That criticism grew louder in 2010 when the government began using a more invasive pat-down that involves screeners feeling a traveler's genital and breast areas through their clothing.

"By moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security and applying some intelligence-driven and risk-based security models, TSA is looking at how this works for passengers," agency spokesman Jim Fotenos said.

The change in guidelines will be introduced at a limited number of security lanes at Chicago's O'Hare International, Denver International, Orlando International and Portland International. Those airports were chosen because they have a higher percentage of travelers 75 and older, Mr. Fotenos said. He said the rules will be relaxed indefinitely at the four airports with the intention of expanding elsewhere if it is a success.

Two passengers in their 80s traveling separately through New York's Kennedy Airport in November complained that they were effectively strip-searched.

One was made to remove a back brace so it could be X-rayed. The other said she was humiliated when two female screeners made her lower her sweat pants so they could examine her colostomy bag. The TSA has disputed parts of their accounts while acknowledging that screeners violated rules by asking to examine their medical devices.

In another incident that sparked outrage, a 6-year-old girl was reduced to tears after screeners frisked her at New Orleans airport in March 2011 - a scene recorded on video and posted on YouTube.

To reduce the number of pat-downs given to children and the elderly, screeners in the test programs are being told to send those passengers through metal detectors or walk-through imaging machines multiple times to capture a clear picture as well as to use more explosive trace detection tools such as hand swabs, according to the TSA.

"The TSA recognizes that the vast majority of air travelers present no risk to aviation security," Mr. Fotenos said. "But it's how we identify those [travelers] and expedite the process that we're working on right now."

Removing shoes during checkpoint screening has been a common complaint among airline travelers since security was increased after an al Qaeda operative tried to set off a bomb built into his shoe on an American Airlines flight in December 2001.



From Google News

New York State Set to Add All Convict DNA to Its Database


ALBANY — New York is poised to establish one of the most expansive DNA databases in the nation, requiring people convicted of everything from fare beating to first-degree murder to provide samples of their DNA to the state.

On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers were putting the finishing touches on a deal to establish a so-called all-crimes DNA database, a move that is supported by all of the state's 62 district attorneys and 58 sheriffs, as well as 400 police chiefs. New York already collects DNA from convicted felons and some people convicted of misdemeanors, but prosecutors say collecting DNA from all people convicted of misdemeanors will help them identify suspects of more violent crimes, and, in some cases, exonerate people wrongly accused.

“Every single time we've expanded the DNA database, we have shown how effective it is in convicting people who commit crimes, and we've also shown that it can be used to exonerate the innocent,” said Richard M. Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission.

Mr. Cuomo has made expansion of the DNA database a top priority for the year. His spokesman, as well as Lisa Hurst, a forensic DNA consultant with the firm Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, said New York would be the first state to require all criminals to submit DNA samples. The spokesman declined to comment on the state of negotiations, but a senior administration official said negotiators were “very close” to a deal.

Lawmakers and officials briefed on the negotiations said the deal under discussion would allow defense lawyers, as well as prosecutors, access to the database. But they were still discussing the parameters of that access, and whether the database would be accompanied by other criminal justice measures intended to reduce wrongful convictions, as sought by the defense bar.

The developing agreement on the DNA database would be part of a series of pacts that would resolve many of the key outstanding issues in the legislative session this year, including the state's budget for the next year, new political districts for state legislators and a new pension plan that would reduce retirement benefits for future public employees.

“We have the parameters of a deal,” Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said of the DNA bill that he is sponsoring.

Negotiations are moving at an unusually brisk pace in the capital, as Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers face two sets of deadlines: a federal court has demanded an update on the Legislature's redistricting progress by Thursday, and the governor and legislators are required by law to have a new budget in place by April 1.

New York's DNA database was created in the mid-1990s but applied only to those convicted of a limited number of crimes; the data collection has been expanded three times since then by the Legislature, most recently in 2006. Currently, DNA samples can be collected from people convicted of fewer than half of the crimes codified in state law, including all felonies and some misdemeanors. The measure would expand that to require that a DNA sample be submitted by all convicted criminals.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., an advocate for expanding the database, wrote in a recent opinion article that taking DNA samples from those convicted of low-level crimes had proved to be effective. He said that since the state allowed prosecutors to collect DNA from individuals convicted of petty larceny, investigators had been able to identify people linked to 48 murders and 220 sexual assaults statewide.

In one case prosecuted by Mr. Vance's office, DNA from the butt of a cigarette smoked by Lerio Guerrero while he was being questioned for trespassing in Brooklyn last year linked him to a 1998 rape. Mr. Guerrero had been arrested several times in the interim, but none of his convictions were for crimes serious enough to warrant that he give a DNA sample.

Prosecutors also argue that the database could be used to exonerate the wrongfully convicted by matching DNA in their cases to someone else. But the defense bar has argued that courts sometimes place onerous restrictions on gaining access to evidence after a conviction and has, therefore, urged the Legislature to make it easier for defense lawyers to get evidence and run tests against the database.

“New York has a demonstrated problem with eyewitness misidentification and false confessions leading to wrongful convictions,” said Stephen Saloom, the policy director of the Innocence Project. “Any legislation that ignores the recommendations of those who've studied these issues is ignoring the heart of wrongful conviction reform needed in New York State.”

The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, has pushed to allow defendants access to the database. “We need to see fairness in terms of discovery, in terms of a defendant or a, quote-unquote, wrongfully convicted person,” he said.

The Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he was not opposed to access provisions, as long as it was “done in a very tight and controlled way.” Senator Skelos did say he was against including broader so-called wrongful conviction protections in the bill, like videotaping interrogations.

Some in the Assembly, led by Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, have been pushing to include as part of the DNA bill a measure that would make it a violation, rather than a crime, to possess very small amounts of marijuana in public view, but it was not clear whether that provision would make it into the final language.

“There's absolutely no justification for expanding the database and simultaneously including illegitimate misdemeanor marijuana arrest convictions that are racially biased and fatally flawed,” he said.

The discussions over the DNA database are running alongside quickening budget negotiations. As part of his spending plan, the governor is proposing to give newly hired public workers across the state, including in New York City, the choice between a less generous pension plan than is available to current employees or a defined contribution plan, which is similar to a 401(k)

But the senior administration official said the governor was now prepared to drop the 401(k) option, which has been a lightning rod for criticism from labor unions, so long as legislative leaders agreed to his proposal to create a new pension tier that would provide reduced retirement benefits for future workers.

Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers were also pursuing a compromise on redistricting that would allow legislative leaders to put in place their proposed district maps for the Senate and Assembly, but would create a bipartisan commission to redraw the state's political map in the future, beginning after the 2020 census.




State DNA database should not replace community policing

To the Editor:

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference at the state Capitol to announce broad support from law enforcement for the DNA Databank Expansion Bill. This bill, which was nearing approval Wednesday, would require the collection of DNA from people convicted of the most minor misdemeanor-level offenses. Cuomo argues that the bill will, in addition to solving more crimes, exonerate innocent New Yorkers who are accused or have been wrongfully convicted of crimes.

The New York State Bar Association wants to go a few steps further to protect people from wrongful convictions. NYSBA recommends videotaping interrogations, improving police lineups, strengthening a prosecutor's obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence, and giving those who have pleaded guilty an opportunity to later seek a DNA test. With these additions, this legislation could have a far-reaching and positive effect on public confidence in our system of criminal justice.

Far more fundamentally, we have to view all of these advances in forensic science, technology and modern management and accountability tools we have made available to law enforcement in a larger context. The typical police car rolls around the city, crammed with technology. That car is deployed to crime hot spots identified by computer crime-mapping systems. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealafeld III has said that police officers patrol today in high-tech offices from which they are unwilling to emerge and interact with the public on the street. All these advances are great. But they come at the cost of the loss of any sense of partnership between the police and the community. Our emphasis over the past two decades on science, technology, statistics and business model management techniques has eclipsed a once-vibrant movement toward community policing.

All of these resources, along with advanced management and accountability tools like the New York City Police Department's widely influential Compstat program, mean very little to people who live in the neighborhoods most heavily impacted by crime, drugs and violence. What is best for them is a resurgence of the community policing movement. That is a movement that the state of New York has never embraced or encouraged.

So, in addition to the very thoughtful improvements to the governor's bill that the bar association has recommended, I urge that the governor and the New York State Legislature take this opportunity to re-purpose the state's local assistance to law enforcement programs to emphasize community policing. Without the sense of trust and partnership that community policing engenders, all of this science and technology will never meet its fullest potential.

Terry O'Neill is director of the Constantine Institute, Inc., an Albany-based group that addresses public safety issues.




CrimeStoppers: Benefits of improved police-community relations

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Lt. James Perez

Crime Prevention efforts reduce polarization that sometimes exists between police and citizens.

Community Policing, Neighborhood Watch, CERT teams, and McGruff programs build a bridge that enables residents and law enforcement to communicate, collaborate, and work together to build safer, more caring communities.

When trust is established between law enforcement and the community, members of the community are often more forthcoming with helpful information and potential investigative leads. Calls for service may initially increase due to a more “open” line of communication. Everyone wins when law enforcement are able to do their jobs more effectively. I have often said that the level of service that any community receives is a direct result of positive involvement between police and the citizens it serves.

Community residents have much to gain when they work side by side with law enforcement. There are better information exchanges and they gain a better understanding of law enforcement.

Improved relations allow community residents to have more trust and less fear of police, safer community and have less tension and conflict. A positive relationship with the police results in increased safety for children and seniors. It can also help in a quicker resolution to crime.

A community that embraces its police and a police officer that respects the community will results in a safer community. We should all work toward a common goal of providing an appealing, secure and happy town that we can all enjoy.

Crime stoppers focus is on crime prevention. Articles written by Lt. James Perez discuss real crimes that plague communities. The goal is to instill security minded thinking that will keep residents safe.



From ICE

ICE opens its first-ever designed-and-built civil detention center
New facility in Texas opens today for low-risk, minimum security adult male detainees

KARNES CITY, Texas — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) announced on Tuesday the opening of its first-ever designed-and-built civil detention center, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) overall detention reform program.

The Karnes County Civil Detention Center is a 608-bed civil immigration detention facility, designed to house adult male, low-risk, minimum security detainees. The detainees who will be housed at Karnes will first be carefully screened to ensure that they do not pose a threat to themselves or others, and are not a flight risk.

"This civil detention center represents a first in the entire history of immigration detention," said ICE Director John Morton. "Karnes and others like it are one part of an ICE detention reform program that is sensible, sustainable and attentive to the unique needs of the individuals in our custody."

The civil detention facility model allows for greater unescorted movement, enhanced recreational opportunities and contact visitation, while maintaining a safe and secure atmosphere for detainees and staff.

In December 2010, ICE entered into an intergovernmental service agreement with Karnes County. The GEO Group Inc. was responsible for developing the center, in addition to operating the center as it opens its doors. This contract represents a significant milestone in the agency's long-term effort to reform the immigration detention system, prioritizing the health and safety of detainees in our custody while increasing federal oversight and improving the conditions of confinement within the system.

ICE's detention reform efforts call for putting detention centers in strategic locations that maximize detainee access to local consulates and pro-bono legal services, reduce detainee transfers within the detention system and increase overall operational efficiencies, allowing for a reduction in detainees' average length of stay in ICE custody.



From the Department of Homeland Security

Announcing the Creation of FEMA Corps

Washington, D.C., March 13, 2012

Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, discusses the new partnership between AmeriCorps' Corporation for National and Community Service and FEMA. The new partnership is designed to strengthen the nation's ability to respond to and recover from disasters while expanding career opportunities for young people.

Along with our partners at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which sets the foundation for a new generation of emergency managers. FEMA Corps leverages a newly-created unit of 1,600 service corps members from AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery.

The full-time residential service program is for individuals ages 18-24, and members will serve a one-year term including a minimum of 1,700 hours, providing support working directly with disaster survivors. The first members will begin serving in this August and the program will reach its full capacity within 18 months.

The program will enhance the federal government's disaster capabilities, increase the reliability and diversity of the disaster workforce, promote an ethos of service, and expand education and economic opportunity for young people.

At today's event, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, remarked:

...[FEMA Corps], helps communities recover, it trains young people, helps them pay for college, and it doesn't cost taxpayers an additional dime. Whether you're a young person looking for work, a member of the community that's been hit by a flood or a tornado or just a citizen who wants your tax dollars to be spent as wisely as possible, this is a program you can be proud of. This is really government at its best.

And it's part of the president's larger vision for an America built to last. Today, so many of our young people have shown that they're willing to do their part to work hard, act responsibly and contribute to their communities. But in tough economic times, it's up to all of us to make sure that their hard work and responsibility still pays off.

We have to preserve what President Obama has called the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can make it if you try, if you fulfill your responsibilities and you make a contribution. During the event, Secretary Napolitano described the program:

First and most important, it will help communities prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters by supporting disaster recovery centers, assisting in logistics, community relations and outreach, and performing other critical functions.

We know from experience that quick deployment of trained personnel is critical during a crisis. The FEMA Corps will provide a pool of trained personnel, and it will also pay long-term dividends by adding depth to our reserves -- individuals trained in every aspect of disaster response who augment our full-time FEMA staff.

Second, the Corps will help us make the best use of taxpayer funds as we bring in FEMA Corps members at a significantly lower cost.

Third, FEMA Corps will provide participants with critical job skills and training. Emergency management is a growing field, much larger than FEMA alone. The recent high school and college graduates entering this program will emerge with the training and the on-the-ground experience that provides a clear pathway into this critical profession.

And finally, this Corps -- it encourages and supports the ethic of public service tapping the energy and dedication to helping their communities that we see among so many young adults today. Many here today, myself included, know that a career in public service presents opportunities and rewards far beyond paychecks. The new initiative will promote an ethos of national service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services. Once trained by FEMA and CNCS, members will provide support in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors, to supporting disaster recovering centers, and sharing valuable disaster information with the public.

Robert Velasco, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, spoke about this new chapter in national service:

By opening up new pathways in emergency management, this partnership will give thousands of young people the opportunity to serve their country and gain the skills and training they need to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow. This is a historic new chapter in the history of national service that will enhance our nation's disaster capabilities and promote an ethic of national service while achieving significant cost savings for the taxpayer. Deputy Administrator Serino discussed the importance of FEMA Corps:

People have asked, why is this important? Looking into the eyes of survivors, looking at communities that are devastated, having young people that can step up and help out in the time of a disaster who are trained will make a difference in people's lives. That's why we're doing this.

As we continue to move forward and we look for opportunities to be more efficient, to look for opportunities to get young people involved in government, to get young people involved in service to their country, [we] will make a difference. We've had the opportunity to work with CNCS in AmeriCorps in the past, and this is broadening that -- expanding it, so we have the opportunity to bring this talented, young, will-be-trained workforce to help our staff.

They are augmenting our reservists, augmenting our full-time employees. This will be an opportunity for us to strengthen our nation's disaster response capabilities, create pathways for young people and really help the ethos of national service. Mayor Walter Maddox, Tuscaloosa, Ala. also attended today's announcement, and from the perspective a mayor of a town still recovering from a major disaster last year, the mayor expressed his excitement about the new agreement:

This new partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service will be crucial in supporting cities, counties and states in their time of need. I commend FEMA and CNCS for understanding that to effectively respond during a crisis, we have to extend beyond political, geographical and even bureaucratic boundaries to ensure all resources are made available to the citizens we serve. To recap, the purpose of the program is:
  • Strengthening the Nation's Disaster Response Capacity: The partnership will provide a trained and reliable resource dedicated to support disaster operations, while enhancing the entire emergency management workforce.
  • Creating Pathways to Work for Young People: By providing training, experience, and educational opportunity, the partnership will prepare thousands of young people for careers in emergency management and related fields.
  • Promoting an Ethos of National Service: The partnership will strengthen our nation's culture of service and civic engagement by mobilizing corps members and community volunteers to provide critical disaster services.
  • Modernizing Government Operations to Improve Performance: By working together, CNCS and FEMA will advance the President's management goals of working across government, managing across sectors, and promoting efficiency.
To learn more about the new program, visit the AmeriCorps website or our FEMA Corps page