NEWS of the Day - April 5, 2012
on some NAACC / LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - April 5, 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 Washington Times

5 former New Orleans cops sentenced in Katrina killings

by Cain Burdeau

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Five former New Orleans police officers were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms ranging from six to 65 years for their roles in deadly shootings of unarmed residents on a bridge after Hurricane Katrina.

Kenneth Bowen , Robert Gisevius , Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon were convicted of firearms charges in the shootings. Retired Sgt. Arthur “Archie” Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shootings, was convicted of helping orchestrate the cover-up.

Faulcon received the stiffest sentence of 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius each got 40 years while Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman received the lightest sentence at six years.

A federal jury convicted the officers in August 2011 of civil rights violations in the shootings on the Danziger Bridge and the cover-up.

Police shot six people, killing two, less than a week after the storm's landfall on Aug. 29, 2005. To make the shootings appear justified, officers conspired to plant a gun, fabricate witnesses and falsify reports.

The case became the centerpiece of the Justice Department's push to clean up the troubled New Orleans Police Department.

U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt heard hours of testimony earlier in the day from prosecutors, defense attorneys, relatives of shooting victims and the officers.



From Google News

Rochester Police Department outreach goes big and digital


Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard is taking his Policing in the Spirit of Service campaign out of RPD headquarters and into the community — and bringing the way the department receives feedback and complaints into the 21st century.

This week, Sheppard announced two tech-friendly ways the community can offer feedback: A smartphone application that makes commenting on a police officer as easy as a few touches on a screen; and a web page that sends comments and complaints directly to the chief's email inbox.

And 14 billboards and dozens more posters are being plastered across the city promoting Sheppard's themes of partnership between the department and community members.

“I don't think as an organization we should be afraid to have people give us feedback,” Sheppard said. “We shouldn't be afraid to have people complain. That's all the nature of the beast, that's how you get better.”

Modernizing the complaint and feedback process was long overdue, he said.

“The point I want to make internally is this: This makes it easy to get feedback. You don't have to go to Professional Standards Section all the time, you don't have to call the mayor's office. You don't have to call the chief's office. You can just push it.

“We want it easy.”

Real feedback in real time

The iPhone application, called My Police Department, features a photo of the Rochester police headquarters and offers a selection of options including “Submit a Tip,” “Department Contacts,” and “Questions and Feedback.”

Another option is “Commend an Officer,” but Sheppard said he has asked the software company who created the application to change it to read “Comment on an Officer” to make it less suggestive of providing positive feedback.

That change is in the works, he said.

“We want real feedback,” he said. The application is free, and a user can instantly send a comment regarding an officer's behavior, submit information — including photos — on a crime, and look up department phone numbers.

Anyone who leaves contact information will get a response.

“If you see an officer in the Upper East End or someplace, and you want to make a comment, good or bad, that's how you can do it right away,” Sheppard said.

The web page devoted to feedback on the RPD's website features a place to comment on the department and specific officers, and each one of the roughly 100 submittals sent in a five-month trial phase have gone directly into the chief's mailbox.

“When someone pushes send, it shows up it my mailbox, it shows up in one of my aide's mailbox, and one goes to Professional Standards Section, whether it's a complaint or a compliment it is handled the same way,” Sheppard said.

“I want to read them. I don't want things to be going on, people saying stuff that I'm not aware of,” he said.

The rollout of the two new conduits for comments comes six months after the city put together a commission to probe the way complaints against police are reviewed.

That commission was formed following several high-profile events that brought negative national attention to Rochester's department last year.

The 15-member commission is examining the way complaints are handled by the Civilian Review Board and the PSS and is making recommendations for improving the process.

City Council member Adam McFadden, who helped form the commission and said he has received hundreds of police complaints in his eight years on Council, called the process a “good step.”

“It's a good thing for me because I won't get the direct phone calls anymore,” he joked.

Typically a vocal critic of the department and consistent foil to Sheppard, McFadden credited the chief with repairing relations between the community and police that he said were fractured by the department's policy of Zero Tolerance.

“When they did that, they hired a bunch of young police officers, put them on the street and told them to go after everybody,” McFadden said. “That created a huge gap between the community and the police department. I think Shep is bringing that connection back.”

Cooperation between police and protesters at a recent march for gunned-down Florida teen, Trayvon Martin, was an example.

“It was a beautiful thing to see, the way the officers and the people handled themselves. You'd have thought we'd never had an issue with police in this community ever,” McFadden said.

Despite the likelihood that the new technology will increase the number of complaints against the department, the police officers' union said they support Sheppard's effort to make it easier for the community to offer feedback.

“We've always supported the reporting of legitimate concerns and complaints,” said Locust Club Executive Vice President Mike Gagliano. “That is one way the department can hold officers accountable.”

One concern, however, is that the ease and potential anonymity of the submissions could solicit “false and malicious” complaints.

“We would hope those people would be held accountable, as well,” Gagliano said.

Simple, consistent

In his first meeting with community members after taking control of the Rochester Police Department toward the end of 2010, Sheppard had a simple message: “We've got your back.”

Now that message is plastered across the city in letters several feet high on billboards featuring Rochester police officers. The civilians in the billboards are models, not actual Rochester residents, Sheppard said. Seven billboards are in place now, and seven more will be put up next month, said Jim Newton, vice president and general manager of Lamar Outdoor Adverstising, the company that donated the space valued at about $40,000.

There are two main target audiences with two main messages.

“One, we want to engage youth so some of the billboards will talk about ‘being on the same team.' We want youth to know we're not the enemy,” he said. “We're here to serve you, as well, we want to have relationships, we want to mentor we want you to tell us when there are problems.”

The other message is directed “toward everybody else: ‘We've got your back.' Our role is to protect people in this city,” Sheppard said.

The billboard campaign, and the chief's larger strategy for building connections to the community, will likely help ease tensions and create a better relationship, said McFadden and Doug Ackley, organizer of the Center for Teen Empowerment Rochester, which works directly with urban, often troubled, youths employing them to work directly on an issue that affects the community. The group helped create a report released last year that examined youth-police relations and evaluated the efforts taken — by police and youth and community groups — to improve those relations..

“There has been a shift in the mindset of the department,” said Ackley.

Since Sheppard announced that an officer's level of community involvement would be considered when promotions were handed out, Ackley said he has had several requests from officers to become involved with his group.

“A big part of what's happening is because he's made himself very accessible,” Ackley said of Sheppard. “Every time I turn around he's somewhere and when you have a police chief out there he is modeling a spirit of openness and that's important.”

The posters targeting the city's youth are also part of the department's recruitment plan, Sheppard said, which also includes the newly created Vanguard Academy in which about 100 city school students are being introduced to law enforcement as a profession.

“When we talk about engagement, if I talk to a kid at 7 years old and he says ‘I want to be a policeman' well, we're ahead of the game rather than 15 years later you try to tell him ‘hey, why don't you take the police exam?'” Sheppard said.

Sheppard joked that he patterns his message to his officers and the community after himself: “simple and consistent”

“You heard that from me the very first press conference I had — we've got your back. I don't want people to be confused at ‘What does he mean now?' And to do that you have to be consistent,” he said.