| NEWS of the Week
|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 ...
NOTE: To see full stories either click on the Daily links or on the URL provided below each article.
June 10, 2012
From the L.A. Times
Killings by police in L.A. County jump sharply
Local law enforcement officers fatally shot 54 people last year, nearly 70% more than the year before.
The first deadly encounter of 2011 came quickly for police in Los Angeles County, when an officer killed an armed burglar on the second day of the year. The last person to be killed by police that year was shot a few days after Christmas in Palos Verdes after he allegedly beat his elderly father and pretended to point a gun at officers.
Between these ill-fated bookends, 52 other people throughout the county were shot fatally by police throughout 2011 — significantly more law enforcement killings than the county typically experiences. Compared with the prior year, the 54 deaths amounted to a nearly 70% increase.
The high number of killings last year underscores a pronounced jump in the overall number of occasions in which officers fired their weapons at suspects. For example, the 63 shootings by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2011 were a nearly 60% increase over the previous year.
The rise in killings by police is all the more notable because it occurred at a time when the overall number of homicides in the area had fallen to historic lows. With 612 people killed in the county last year, nearly 1 in every 10 such deaths occurred at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The Times has analyzed autopsy reports from each of the 54 killings by police in L.A. County last year and identified elements that were common to many of them. The review also highlights the extreme, sudden dangers police can encounter in the field and may raise doubts about whether, in some instances, the officers were justified in their decision to open fire.
Florida's 'stand your ground' immunity hearings are unique
Many expect George Zimmerman's lawyers will eventually ask for such a procedure in the Trayvon Martin case. The hearings are unlike other criminal justice proceedings.
ORLANDO, Fla. — The nation's fixation on the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has led many to question whether an impartial jury could be found for the trial of his killer, George Zimmerman.
But it's possible a judge, not a jury, will decide Zimmerman's fate. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense, and many expect his lawyers will eventually ask for an immunity hearing under Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law.
Often described as a "minitrial" in which the judge serves as jury, such hearings are unlike other criminal justice proceedings.
The lawyers' roles are reversed, the burden of proof is low and the stakes couldn't be higher.
"If the judge dismisses the case, it's game over," says Eric Schwartzreich, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who has represented multiple "stand your ground" defendants since the law was passed in 2005.
From the FBI
Journey Through Indian Country
Part 2: Making an Impact on the Reservation
Snow swirled in New Mexico's high plains as Special Agent Mac McCaskill slowed his vehicle at the bottom of a hill on the Tohajiilee Reservation. He engaged the four-wheel drive before continuing slowly up the steep, bumpy track on his way to deliver a subpoena in a violent assault case.
McCaskill had driven an hour from Albuquerque on this 20-degree morning—typical of the distances that often separate agents from their cases in Indian Country—and now he was knocking on the door of a small wooden structure with one boarded-up window. On the hillside just beyond the dwelling sat a rusted trailer and an outhouse. A young woman holding an infant opened the door and told McCaskill the man he was looking for would be back later.
“On the reservation you can't just call someone because many people don't have a phone,” McCaskill said, explaining the challenges of investigating crimes in Indian Country. “Sometimes the best way to get anything done is to knock on doors.”
In the process of knocking on doors and talking to people, McCaskill and other agents working in Indian Country become not just law enforcement officers but advocates for justice and sometimes even role models.
June 9, 2012
From the L.A. Daily News
Gonorrhea growing resistant to drugs, WHO warns
GENEVA - A sexually transmitted disease that infects millions of people each year is growing resistant to drugs and could soon become untreatable, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
The U.N. health agency is urging governments and doctors to step up surveillance of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, a bacterial infection that can cause inflammation, infertility, pregnancy complications and, in extreme cases, lead to maternal death. Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea have a 50 percent chance of developing eye infections that can result in blindness.
"This organism has basically been developing resistance against every medication we've thrown at it," said Dr. Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan, a scientist in the agency's department of sexually transmitted diseases. This includes a group of antibiotics called cephalosporins currently considered the last line of treatment.
"In a couple of years it will have become resistant to every treatment option we have available now," she told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of WHO's public announcement on its `global action plan' to combat the disease.
Lusti-Narasimhan said the new guidance is aimed at ending complacency about gonorrhea and encouraging researchers to speed up their hunt for a new cure.
Texting teen drivers are an epidemic
Think your teen would never text while driving? More than half of high school seniors admitted in a government survey that they've done just that.
It's the first time the question was asked in a teen poll on risky behavior, and the finding comes amid a renewed federal crackdown on distracted driving.
Texting and cellphone use behind the wheel is "a national epidemic," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday.
"We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said at a Washington news conference to announce pilot projects in Delaware and California to discourage distracted driving.
In the survey, about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors acknowledged they did the same thing.
From the Washington Times
Suicides are surging among U.S. troops
WASHINGTON — Suicides are surging among America's troops, averaging nearly one a day this year — the fastest pace in the nation's decade of war.
The 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan — about 50 percent more — according to Pentagon statistics obtained by the Associated Press.
The numbers reflect a military burdened with wartime demands from Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken a greater toll than foreseen a decade ago. The military also is struggling with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and other misbehavior.
Because suicides had leveled off in 2010 and 2011, this year's upswing has caught some officials by surprise.
The reasons for the increase are not fully understood. Among explanations, studies have pointed to combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.
June 8, 2012
Neighborhood watch programs, security services, and police privatization
Though private security has an important role to play in community safety, it should not usurp the government's responsibility to maintain order and protect our communities
Private security is big business. Estimates suggest that private security guards outnumber police in the US by a 5:1 ratio. The Department of Justice believes that “at least two million persons are ... employed in private security in the United States.” In the United States alone, customers spend nearly $35 billion each year on private security services. Globally, the numbers are staggering, approaching nearly $100 billion annually.
In an unpredictable and unstable world, experts believe this number will only increase. Unable to meet all demands, public law enforcement agencies have explored private sector alternatives in lieu of increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars. Both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice have embraced some of these public / private partnerships as a logical outgrowth of community policing. However, a dependency on private security instead of public law enforcement, over time, could erode the hard-won trust between communities and the officers who are sworn to protect and serve.
Looking at the history of law enforcement in America, it's clear that private security firms have played a role since at least 1855. That's when Allan Pinkerton founded the now-famous private security company.
While many in the United States fear our health care system may become like the British, apparently many in Britain fear something similar for their public law enforcement agencies. Debate has emerged recently in Great Britain because of large-scale proposals to privatize many responsibilities typically assigned to patrol officers.
D.C. Council votes to limit reach of federal effort aimed at illegal immigration
Federal officials on Tuesday launched a controversial program in the District that targets illegal immigration, but not without a fight from some city officials who argue the effort undermines trust between police and local immigrant communities.
The program, Secure Communities, requires that arrestee fingerprints collected by local governments be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so the federal government can identify illegal immigrants and potentially move to detain or deport them. All other localities in the metropolitan area have been participating.
But the D.C. Council on Tuesday quickly voted to limit the program's reach, saying it could discourage immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses from working with police, ultimately making the city less safe.
Secure Communities calls for local jurisdictions to hold a suspected illegal immigrant who has been arrested for 48 hours so ICE can interview the detainee and decide whether to seek deportation.
The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill to detain only those who have been previously convicted of a “dangerous” crime and only for an additional 24 hours beyond the time they would otherwise be held. Under the legislation, the city would hold people only if the federal government paid for the additional day of incarceration. And it would prohibit city officials from participating in a “generalized search of or inquiry about inmates” conducted by federal authorities. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is expected to sign the bill.
From Google News
Downriver communities are dealing with synthetic drugs in variety of ways
Synthetic marijuana — which goes by names such as K2, Spice — is being snuffed out across the Downriver area.
Allen Park is expected to start the process of adopting an ordinance banning the sale of the products at a City Council meeting Tuesday. Councilman Angelo DeGuilio is expected to present a resolution to ban the sale of those substances. Per the city charter, ordinances must have three public readings before they can be adopted.
Public safety officials are strongly in favor of banning the products. Police Chief James Wilkewicz already has started checking to see the availability of K2 in the city. He stopped in at various stores that were likely to sell the products, such as smoke shops and gas stations.
“Two days ago, I went out and stopped in about 12 different stores just to see how widely available it is,” he said Thursday. “Only one of those stores was selling it.” Wilkewicz said the store had three varieties, one of which appeared to be aimed at children with a picture of cartoon character Scooby-Doo.
He said the store owner said he was selling the products “because they aren't illegal,” and that he would continue until the police brought him a letter showing that it was. When The News-Herald Newspapers stopped at the store, the product was not on shelves. No one in the store could confirm if they had stopped selling it or if it was simply out of stock.
June 7, 2012
From the L.A. Times
Brazil workers exploited as modern-day Amazon slaves
Brazil's slavery victims are promised work and find themselves toiling in brutal conditions for little or no pay in the Amazon. A culture of impunity persists.
ACAILANDIA, Brazil — After months of chopping down trees in the forest without pay and living on rice, beans and dirty water, Gil Dasio Meirelles decided he had to escape from the remote clearing in the middle of the vast Brazilian Amazon.
But he would have to make his way alone through dense foliage, a place where a man can lose his bearings and find himself lost amid a constant, menacing buzz of jungle creatures.
"Three other workers helped me come up with the plan," he said. "But they got scared and backed out. They thought that if the armed guards didn't shoot us in the back, we'd be lost and starve in the jungle."
He knew he had to take his chances, or die trying.
Meirelles was one of tens of thousands of Brazilians living in what critics call modern-day slavery, mostly in the Amazon jungle, where ranch owners are the law of the land.
From the Washington Times
N.J. Muslims file federal suit to stop NYPD spying
WASHINGTON — Eight Muslims filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in New Jersey to force the New York Police Department to end its surveillance and other intelligence-gathering practices targeting Muslims in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The lawsuit alleged that the police activities were unconstitutional because they focused on people's religion, national origin and race.
It is the first lawsuit to directly challenge the NYPD's surveillance programs, which were the subject of an investigative series by The Associated Press since last year. Based on internal NYPD reports and interviews with officials involved in the programs, the AP reported that the NYPD conducted wholesale surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods, chronicling daily life including where people ate, prayed and got their hair cut. Police infiltrated dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds more.
Syed Farhaj Hassan , one of the plaintiffs, stopped attending one mosque as often after he learned it was one of four where he worships that were included in NYPD files. Those mosques were located along the East Coast from central Connecticut to the Philadelphia suburbs, but none was linked to terrorism, either publicly or in the confidential NYPD documents.
Hassan, an Army reservist from a small town outside of New Brunswick, N.J., said he was concerned that anything linking his life to potential terrorism would hurt his military security clearance.
Nearly 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords are published by hackers
Almost 6.5 million encrypted passwords for the professional networking site LinkedIn were published on a Russian hackers' forum, the company said Wednesday.
“We can confirm that some of the passwords that were compromised correspond to LinkedIn accounts,” Director Vicente Silveira wrote in a blog post. “We are continuing to investigate.”
The company, which boasts 161 million users in 200 countries, said it has no immediate indication that hackers had compromised its systems, but advised its users to change their passwords immediately.
Although the e-mails and user names associated with the passwords were not included in the posting, “it is reasonable to assume that such information may be in the hands of the criminals,” said Graham Cluley of United Kingdom-based Sophos Security.
“Russian hackers are about to pillage and plunder,” wrote one worried user on the site in response to news of the disclosure.
From Google News
Stop-and-Frisk Policing Criminalizes Youth
Last year in New York City, police stopped and interrogated black men and boys between the ages 14 and 24 a total of 168,126 times. The total population of black men and boys aged 14 through 24 in New York City is 158,406, which means the total number of stops exceeds the total number of black men and boys living in the city.
On Father's Day, a group of civil rights activists, civil liberty advocates and outraged community members will march silently down the streets of New York City to protest the outrageous abuses of stop-and-frisk policing in our nation's most diverse city.
Such policing is a wholesale violation of civil rights. The program has seemingly given law enforcement carte blanche to stop anyone they please. This has led to hundreds of thousands of innocent people – a majority of whom are people of color – being harassed and humiliated by the police sworn to protect them.
Last year, 87 percent of people stopped under stop-and-frisk were African American or Latino, while those groups represented just 59 percent of the New York City's population.
June 6, 2012
From the Washington Times
U.S. sees ‘degradation' of al Qaeda organization
No successor seen after death of No. 2
A U.S. drone strike has killed a top al Qaeda operative, and the White House said Tuesday that the terrorist group was left with “no clear successor.”
Abu Yahya al-Libi , described as the second-ranking operative in al Qaeda , was hit by a drone attack on a house and was taken to a hospital, where he died. Pakistani intelligence sources told Reuters that the strike was carried out Monday.
The White House, as is its practice, would not confirm a drone was used in the attack but verified al-Libi 's death.
“He served as al Qaeda's general manager, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. He said the killing was part of the ongoing “degradation” of al Qaeda's ranks by U.S. forces and allies.
“There is now no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibilities,” Mr. Carney said. “Al-Libi 's death is a major blow to core al Qaeda, removing the No. 2 leader for the second time in less than a year.”
Homeland Security unveils new Canadian border strategy
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new strategy for enhancing security along the U.S.- Canada border that seeks to deter and prevent terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration while encouraging and safeguarding the flow of lawful trade and people.
The Northern Border Strategy calls for Homeland Security “to improve information sharing and analysis” within the department and other government partners, and to enhance coordination with Canada . The department said it also will deploy technologies to aid joint security efforts and continue to update infrastructure to facilitate trade and travel.
The strategy is the first department-wide plan to guide its policies and operations along a border that Sen. Joe Lieberman , Connecticut independent and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee , said in 2011 was “grossly underprotected” when it comes to terrorists, drug smugglers and other illegal activity.
The new strategy says the 5,525-mile border with Canada is the “single-greatest security threat” for terrorists and other violent extremists to get into the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano said the report provides “a unifying framework for … enhancing the security and resiliency along our northern border while expediting legitimate travel and trade with Canada .”
From Google News
Hunger Among Latino's Disproportionately High
Latinos living in the United States are more than twice as likely to be at risk of hunger than white, non-Hispanic households according to Feeding America, a network of food banks that provide food and groceries to nearly six million people each week.
“Map the Meal Gap” provides data on food insecurity at the county and congressional district level. “Food Insecurity” is a term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to describe the lack of access to enough food to lead a healthy life.
“Many of the figures and findings about Latinos living at risk of hunger in our nation are truly upsetting,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “We are especially concerned about children.
“Sadly, nearly 1 in 3 (29 percent) of Latino/Hispanic children in the U.S. live in families served by the Feeding America's network of 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, as compared with nearly 1 in 9 (11 percent) of white, non-Hispanic children,” Escarra added. “We know that lack of adequate nutrition can have devastating consequences for children. It can not only stunt their growth, but it can also result in delayed cognitive, physical and emotional development.”
Mason City police chief: Community involvement will cut crime
MASON CITY — Police Chief Mike Lashbrook told City Council members Tuesday night community involvement is the most effective tool for crime prevention.
“Even if we put a couple of more officers on the street, I can't really say that would have much of an impact. It's the community — the person on the block — who can help us,” he said.
Lashbrook said he wanted to address the council and the community in light of public concerns over recent violent crimes. He said there is no predictability to violent crimes so they can't be anticipated.
“The drug problem in Mason City is all over town. And the homicides we've had the past four years, there isn't any pattern to them. They're all different,” said Lashbrook.
Just as he emphasizes community involvement with police, the police department has taken many steps to reach out into the community, he said.
He said patrol assignments are made so officers can become familiar with particular areas and get to know the people.
China Studies US to Revamp Police Force
China is spending more than ever before in an attempt to upgrade its domestic police force, but it may also be seeking to change its approach to law enforcement by looking to the United States for ideas.
U.S. law enforcement officials and experts who have advised China on its police force say Beijing is looking to update an antiquated system plagued by outdated crime reporting methods, outmoded equipment and vehicles and a lack of trust with the people.
“They're really trying to make a professional police force as opposed to just hiring someone, giving them a uniform and putting them in the neighborhood and saying ‘defend the party,'” said Sergeant Erik Branson of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., who has been to China to speak with law enforcement officials there about U.S. tactics.
Branson said Chinese Embassy officials approached him after seeing an article about his role in helping clean up a crime and drug-infested park in Washington.
China's police force is highly centralized and not divided along local, state and federal levels as it is in the United States. In China, the Ministry of Public Security is responsible for day-to-day law enforcement. But Branson said the officials he spoke with were less interested in the federal system and more interested in local policing, like how he patrolled on a bicycle and developed good relations with members of the community who, in turn, served as his “eyes and ears” on the ground.
June 5, 2012
From the L.A. Daily News
L.A. County supervisors to repeal 1942 resolution supporting internment of Japanese Americans
George Takei was only 5 when, during World War II, soldiers rounded up his Japanese-American family and sent them to internment camps.
The man iconic as Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek" now looks back on that time with anger and sorrow.
"We were imprisoned behind barbed wire fences when there were no charges, no trial," he said. "Our only crime was looking like the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor."
Seventy years later, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hopes to make amends.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will move Wednesday to repeal a board resolution passed a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor that urged President Franklin Roosevelt to proceed with internment.
From the Washington Times
Vietnam opens 3 MIA search sites
Move announced at exchange of U.S.-Viet soldiers' personal effects
HANOI, Vietnam — In a poignant postscript to war, the writings of an American soldier describing the carnage and exhaustion surrounding him before he was killed more than 40 years ago were seen for the first time when Vietnamese officials traded his letters for the diary of a Vietnamese soldier.
Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh delivered the letters to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in Hanoi on Monday. Mr. Panetta, in turn, gave Mr. Thanh a small maroon diary that had been taken from the body of a Vietnamese soldier by an American soldier who then had brought it back to the United States.
Defense officials said the Vietnamese had used the letters by Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty as propaganda.
“I felt bullets going past me,” Sgt, Flaherty, from Columbia, S.C., wrote to someone named Betty. “I have never been so scared in my life.”
To his mother he wrote, “If Dad calls, tell him I got too close to being dead but I'm O.K. I was real lucky. I'll write again soon.”
Cuomo proposes reducing pot penalty
Seeks to reduce number of arrests on stop-and-frisk
ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday proposed cutting the penalty for public possession of a small amount of marijuana, a change in state law that could defuse some criticism of the New York Police Department's “stop-and-frisk” policy in minority communities.
With three weeks remaining in the legislative session, the Democratic governor said his bill to reduce the criminal misdemeanor to a violation with a fine up to $100 would save thousands of New Yorkers, disproportionately black and Hispanic youths, from unnecessary arrests and criminal charges.
“There's a blatant inconsistency. If you possess marijuana privately, it's a violation. If you show it in public, it's a crime,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It's incongruous. It's inconsistent the way it's been enforced.”
The stop-and-frisk policy, he noted, could force those detained to display even small amounts of marijuana to the police officer, Mr. Cuomo added.
“The marijuana is now in public view. It just went from a violation to a crime,” he said.
From Google News
Albemarle County Police to Switch to Community Policing Approach
In efforts to take a more proactive approach to dealing with crime, the Albemarle County Police Department will be switching to community policing.
The Albemarle County Police Department wants you to get to know your local policeman. The county is switching how it assigns police officers to daily shifts by moving to a geo-policing or community policing approach.
The idea is to get officers more deeply involved in a small community, building trust with residents, and to prevent crime before it happens.
“Instead of a reactive approach to fighting crime and addressing crime issues, this is a more proactive way of looking at crime problems and dealing with criminal activity and crime trends,” said Lt. Peter Mainzer of the Albemarle County Police.
June 4, 2012
'Community policing' working, Waynesboro chief says
WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- Yolanda Hart wants her son to grow up thinking of the police as his ally, not his enemy.
“People around here have a hard time trusting the police,” she said. “But I want Jamal to think different.”
Hart, a resident of Magnolia Acres, in the past a high-crime area for Waynesboro, said her 3-year-old son often will play catch with one of the patroling officers who drop by a few times a day.
“They (the officers) are good about talking to the kids,” she said.
Her opinion is why Waynesboro Police Chief Alfonzo Williams says his community policing initiatives are working.
After taking the post in February 2011, Williams said he immediately put programs into place that directly resulted in a drop in crime in the area. Some of those include putting more officers on patrol, creating a citizen's police academy and a citizens on patrol program.
“We had an aggressive plan,” he said. “We came in and worked that plan.”
From the FBI
Journey Through Indian Country
Part 1: Fighting Crime on Tribal Lands
Driving along a remote dirt road on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico recently, a rancher crested a ridge and noticed two animals intent on something in a nearby ditch. As he approached, one of the scavengers loped away—the other looked up, its mouth glistening with blood. The rancher guessed one of his sheep had been attacked, but he soon discovered something much different: the discarded body of a murder victim. It was going to be another busy day for our agents in Indian Country.
By law, the FBI is responsible for investigating the most serious crimes within Indian Country—homicide, child sexual assault, and violence against women among them. The numbers of such offenses are striking: approximately one out of every four violent crimes prosecuted federally by the Department of Justice occurs on Indian reservations.
Investigating crimes on native lands poses a unique challenge for FBI personnel and their law enforcement partners. Working in Indian Country, as we call it, often means operating in isolated, forbidding terrain where cultural differences abound. Some older Native American people, for example, do not speak English. Dwellings may lack electricity or running water. On many reservations there are few paved roads or marked streets. Agents might be called to a crime scene in the middle of the night 120 miles away and given these directions: “Go 10 miles off the main road, turn right at the pile of tires, and go up the hill.” In some areas, crime scenes are so remote that cell phones and police radios don't work.
Investigators must also deal with the emotional strain of the work—the brutality and frequency of the crimes can take a toll.