| NEWS of the Day - July 26, 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 Google News
Businesses raided in nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs
by Donna Leinwand Leger and Yasmeen Abutaleb
Police and federal agents raided dozens of businesses suspected of selling drugs such as "K2" and "Spice" in nearly 100 cities Wednesday as part of the first-ever nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs.
The drugs, often marketed as herbal incense or bath salts, mimic highs from cocaine, marijuana and LSD and remain widely available in convenience stores, smoke shops and online despite a July 9 federal ban.
• In Columbus, Ohio, a drug task force raided three shops and a convenience store, seizing hundreds of packets of K2 and Spice, and arresting two people, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said. The packets of chemical-coated herbs sold for $35, Scott said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration raided a business in Worthington, Ohio, that agents believe supplied the stores, he said.
• In Duluth, Minn., federal agents executed search warrants at a shop called Last Place on Earth, which is suspected of selling the synthetic drugs, said Jeanne Cooney, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis.
Duluth Police called the store an "ever-evolving nuisance." Police said they have had a big increase in calls involving use of synthetic drugs around the shop.
"For the last 16 months, problems with synthetic drugs and the behaviors around the Last Place on Earth downtown has been a major concern for our citizens, business community and the police department," police said in a written statement.
Federal agents and local police also cracked down on businesses in Tampa, Upstate New York, and a dozen gas stations and convenience stores near Pittsburgh. In Texas, the DEA executed search warrants at 14 smoke shops in Rio Grande Valley cities, including Brownsville and South Padre Island .
Many states banned the substances after a surge in calls to poison control centers about people sickened by the drugs. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 6,138 calls about the drugs in 2011, up from 304 in 2010. Since then, calls to the centers have slowed. Poison control centers logged 1,717 in the first six months of 2012.
The National Association of Convenience Stores warned its more than 148,000 member stores to take the product off shelves once the federal ban took effect, spokesman Jeff Lenard said.
Storeowner Mustafa Jamal, who owns a Sunoco gas station with a convenience store in Richmond, Va., said he immediately removed synthetic drugs from the store.
"The day it was banned, the entire thing was thrown out of the building," Jamal said. He has received offers from manufacturers for other synthetic products they claim are legal, but he said he rejected them for fear of running afoul of the law.
Many stores, however, did not heed the warning. In Ohio, where the state outlawed the drugs before the federal ban, police in Columbus executed 16 search warrants at many of the stores in May, Scott said. "We let them know you need to quit it," he said.
A few weeks later, undercover officers visited the stores, Scott said.
"Sure enough, they were at it again. There's plenty of money to be made," Scott said. "This time, we're making arrests."
Attorney General Eric Holder's speech to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
by Eric Holder
Thank you, Assistant Chief Bryant, for those kind words; for your leadership as First National Vice President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; and – most of all – for your exemplary service to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police over the past three and a half decades. I'd like to congratulate you on your upcoming installation as NOBLE's next President. And I'd particularly like to thank President Ship, Interim Executive Director Akers – and NOBLE's entire executive board and staff for their stewardship of this organization's critical mission, and for all they've done to bring us together for this important annual training conference and exhibition.
As a result of your leadership, especially in recent years, NOBLE has made great strides in expanding its reach – and rallying new allies, supporters, and partners to the cause of ensuring equity, accountability, and fairness in the administration of justice – for communities both large and small – across the country. As the “conscience of law enforcement,” you've consistently lent your collective voice – and played an indispensable advocacy role – in advancing opportunity and promoting diversity at every level. As public servants on the front lines of our nation's struggle against crime and violence, you've proven your dedication to the highest standards of integrity – and your commitment to the citizens you've sworn to protect. And – in the sacrifices you make every day you wear the badge; the threats you face as you work to ensure public safety; and the selfless actions you routinely take to improve – and even save – the lives of those around you – you've demonstrated a relentless drive not merely to make arrests or facilitate successful prosecutions – but to achieve, as this organization always has, “justice by action.”
That's why it's such a privilege to be with you this afternoon in Little Rock – and a pleasure to be among so many old friends, close colleagues – and, of course, all of this year's distinguished award winners and scholarship recipients. I am honored to join NOBLE members from across the country in congratulating each one of you, and celebrating your remarkable achievements. And I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in this room for your service to the American people, your engagement with one another, and – especially – your steadfast partnership with our nation's Department of Justice, as we move to confront the challenges – and seize the possibilities – that lie ahead. On a personal note, I want to say thanks – this organization and its members have had my back, in recent weeks and always.
This conference presents an important chance to explore new ideas, to share knowledge and expertise, and to formulate recommendations on what each of us can do to improve the relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. It's an occasion for reflecting on the progress that NOBLE has helped to bring about over the last three and a half decades, and seeking ways to carry these efforts into the future. And it's a time to recommit ourselves to the fundamental promise that has always animated America's law enforcement professionals – the promise enshrined not just in this organization's mission, but in our nation's founding documents: the pursuit of “equal justice under law.”
This was the singular ideal that – more than half a century ago, just a short distance from where we gather today – led a group of nine courageous African-American students to brave bigotry and threats of violence in order to realize the spirit of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board decision, and integrate Little Rock Central High School. It was the driving force behind the efforts of pioneers and ordinary citizens alike, who, throughout the last century – here in Arkansas and across the country – risked and too often gave their lives to ensure civil rights, and equal protection, for every American – regardless of race, creed, or color. And it was the shared vision that – in 1976 – brought together a group of concerned, frustrated, but ultimately hopeful law enforcement executives, and drove them to found an organization that would strive to translate their beliefs – and their values – into concrete action.
Since that moment, NOBLE has helped lead the fight to protect the American people from crime and violence, to secure our communities, and to make certain that all citizens have the chance to improve their lives and fulfill their dreams. From its earliest days, this organization has been a force for innovation in increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement practices, while calling attention to the needs of those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Over the years, you've worked tirelessly to expand community outreach and training, to provide mentoring and scholarship opportunities for our nation's young people, and to secure the rights of the most vulnerable among us.
I know I speak for my colleagues and counterparts at every level of the Justice Department – and across the Obama Administration – when I say I'm profoundly grateful for the contributions you've made – and the innovations you champion on a daily basis. Despite the many obstacles – and historic budget challenges – we've all faced in recent years, law enforcement executives have proven your capacity for positive results, and your ability to stretch every precious taxpayer dollar.
There's no question that NOBLE has much to be proud of. Yet we must also recognize that – for all the progress we've made, and despite the extraordinary work that so many of the people in this room are leading – troubling inequalities persist, significant challenges remain, and crime – particularly violent crime – continues to afflict too many communities and steals too many young lives. That's why – in addition to celebrating all that you have achieved in the last year – this afternoon, I'm here to reaffirm the Justice Department's commitment – and my own – to encouraging diversity across your ranks, protecting your safety, and supporting and strengthening your work in every way possible.
For me, this work has always been much more than a professional obligation. It is a personal priority. As Attorney General, and as the brother of a retired Port Authority officer, I've come to understand the sacrifice, and the valor, that characterizes the work of our law enforcement leaders. I've witnessed the tremendous impact that your efforts can have. And I am proud of all that my colleagues and I are doing to provide the support that so many departments desperately need – and of our efforts not only to keep officers on the beat, and help them do their jobs more effectively – but even to expand law enforcement employment opportunities for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of this Administration's commitment to get Americans back to work – and the President's determination to stand with military service members and returning veterans – I am pleased to report that, since 2009, the Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS – Hiring Program has awarded a total of $1.5 billion to create or protect 7,000 jobs in local law enforcement. This year alone, the Justice Department will distribute over $111 million in grants to save or create jobs for roughly 800 officers across America – including nearly 200 who will be saved from layoffs, and more than 600 military veterans who will be hired as new law enforcement officers.
Through this type of direct assistance – and thanks to other funding streams made available under flagship grant programs like Byrne-JAG – we're working comprehensively to save jobs, to help close budget gaps, and to expand access to the resources you need. When it comes to issues like procedural justice, we're shining a light on the latest cutting-edge research. We understand – as all of you do – that public confidence in the fairness of law enforcement activities and operations can increase the likelihood that community members will accept legal outcomes, comply with the law, and even assist in investigations. That's why we're making efforts to highlight effective community outreach efforts – and to help local officials ensure that all Americans are treated fairly in the eyes of the law.
It's also why we're striving to promote the kinds of evidence-based strategies, programs, and information-sharing tools that can enable authorities at all levels to analyze and share the practices best suited to addressing specific crime problems. Through our Officer Safety Working Group – an initiative led by the Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance and the COPS Office – we're providing a platform for studying crime trends and disseminating critical information among policemen and women on the front lines. We're making it easier to target crime “hot spots,” neutralize threats, and identify suspects before making contact. And – as I announced just yesterday – in cities like Philadelphia and Oakland, we're demonstrating our ability to “surge” federal resources in response to alarming increases in local homicide rates – and working with local leaders to build capacity, gather and analyze intelligence, and even help plan and execute sophisticated law enforcement operations.
Beyond these efforts, the Department also has taken a lead role in increasing officer safety by administering a groundbreaking program known as the VALOR Initiative – which was launched in 2010, and is designed to help prevent violence against law enforcement officers and increase officer resilience and survivability by providing training in techniques for identifying, approaching, preventing, encountering, and neutralizing violent confrontations – including ambush-style assaults. Since its inception, more than 5,200 law enforcement professionals have received VALOR training in 33 sessions nationwide. As a result, it's clear that the Department's commitment to turn back the tide of violence – and meet increased threats with renewed vigilance – has quite simply never been stronger.
For over a decade, our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program has been providing equipment that's critical in preventing injuries and fatalities among policemen and women – and the National Institute of Justice has helped ensure that this equipment meets the highest industry standards. Last year alone, we awarded more than $24 million to help nearly 5,000 different jurisdictions purchase more than 188,000 protective vests. And these investments are already proving their worth. Throughout 2011 – and in the first six months of this year – the lives of at least 47 law enforcement and correctional officers were saved by bullet- and stab-resistant vests. At last count, 24 of those individuals were wearing protective vests purchased – in part – by federal funds administered through this program.
Block by block, city by city, and department by department – we've shown that, together, we can make a powerful difference. Despite extraordinary budget constraints and increasing demands, NOBLE members have proven that it's possible to do more with less. Through deeper engagement with the Department of Justice, and in close partnership with a wide range of federal, state, local, and tribal stakeholders across the country, I'm confident that NOBLE will continue to lead the way in devising and implementing new approaches for combating violent crime, keeping criminals off the streets, and reducing illegal gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled activity.
Of course, none of this ever has been – or ever will be – easy. And as we come together today, there's no question that many of the challenges we face are unique – and even unprecedented. There's no denying that evolving threats, and unforeseen obstacles, will continue to throw up roadblocks to our continued success.
But, especially this afternoon – as we look toward the future we must build; as we recommit ourselves to the ideals that have always guided this organization; and as we lift up the enduring principles that underlie our criminal justice system, drive our pursuit of equal justice, and once rallied this community, and this nation, around those brave “Little Rock Nine” – I firmly believe there's no goal that's beyond our reach, and no achievement that can elude our grasp. I am deeply grateful for your continuing dedication to public service and civic engagement. I am honored to count each of you as a colleague – and a critical partner – in taking our joint efforts to a new level. And if, as they say, what's past is prologue – then I am certain that there's good reason for confidence in where your efforts must – and surely will – lead us in the months and years ahead.
Once again, thank you for all that you do – and for the opportunity to be with you this afternoon. I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come. Thank you.
Police Officer: ‘Black People Could Care Less About Me, Until They Need Me'
by Kirsten West Savali
As part of our police brutality series, NewsOne delves behind the Blue Line to speak with Officer Nicalle Edwards, a police officer with the DCHD Police Department in Dallas, Texas, to examine the intricacies of the law enforcement and Black civilian relationship. Here, her honest answers prove that Blue often trumps Black and that distrust — and anger — dwell on both sides of the badge.
NewsOne: What led you to law enforcement?
Officer Nicalle Edwards: Ah! The age-old question. The truth? My mother married a man who beat us and molested me. I vowed to never be a victim again. I want to save some child that can't save his/herself. So yes, I became a cop to make a difference. It may be a cliche, but as the young people would say, “It's real talk.”
NewsOne: Do you ever feel compelled to speak out about police brutality? If not, why not? If so, how?
Officer Edwards: Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with any police brutality cases. It is not as prevalent as you might think. The few cases that I've seen from neighboring departments have been dealt with expeditiously. I hold myself and my fellow officers to a high standard, and I personally don't have an issue with reporting behavior that is unbecoming of an officer.
NewsOne: Police brutality is something that is rampant in the Black community. It is a fact that there is a long history of it — maybe not in your department, but around the country. Are you suggesting that police brutality occurs primarily because of Black citizens, not the police?
Officer Edwards: I'm not saying for one minute that cops are not responsible for the negative stigma that surrounds us. Cops are ever evolving, just like the world. Cops are a reflection of its community. I can honestly say that times are changing…in a positive way. Police officers are required to get more education and citizens are also becoming more knowledgeable of the criminal justice system, which bridges the gap of ignorance.
NewsOne : How can the negative attitudes many police officers have toward Black people be changed?
Officer Edwards: The only way any racist's attitudes will be changed is through education and experience. The state of Texas mandates that all police officers attend Cultural Diversity training at least once every training cycle. This class is supposed to teach racial sensitivity, but what it boils down to is upbringing. If you were raised to be a racist, all of the training in the world won't help you.
NewsOne: What is the best way to deal with rogue cops?
Officer Edwards: The best way to deal with a dishonest officer is to obtain that officer's badge number and department info, then make a report to his/her supervisor. If you feel like that officer's actions were criminal, you may need to contact a lawyer or the District Attorney.
Now to play devil's advocate, ask yourself this, “Did my actions warrant his/her response? Did I comply with the ‘legal' commands of the office (for example: promptly produce identification, proof of insurance, etc.)?”
NewsOne: Are there any ways we can learn to possibly diffuse combative situations when they happen (between law enforcement and civilians)?
Officer Edwards: When approached by a law enforcement official, remain professional at all times. In most cases, your behavior determines the outcome of an encounter. When responding to a call, the attitude of a suspect sets the tone of the exchange.
Let me give you an example: You are speeding (20 miles over the limit). I stop you and approach the vehicle. You roll down the window. I introduce myself, tell you why you were stopped, and ask for your driver's license and proof of insurance.
You respond by promptly producing said documents. I ask where you are going and you explain that you are running late for work — all the while remaining polite.
After running a check of your criminal history and current warrants, it is determined that you have an outstanding warrant for a traffic citation in a nearby city. Because you were civil and polite, I'd use officer's discretion and give you a warning and not arrest you for your outstanding warrant.
This would be an ideal call .
Now let's say I approached your car and you jumped out cursing, because you are pissed that you were stopped.
This call is going to go very differently .
Depending on your actions, you may be maced or tasered. You are definitely going to jail on that warrant and you may have some new charges. Your car will be towed and your day will be spent in intake, instead of work.
The truth of the matter is that most violent encounters with the police take place because suspects become belligerent, combative, and uncooperative .
The media has a funny way of highlighting the officer's response: omitting the incidents that led up to the suspect being subdued. This is a big reason the community fears the police.
NewsOne : What can residents do to empower themselves against negative officers in their community?
Officer Edwards: Become active in the community, attend your town hall meetings, vote for your leaders, become familiar with the officers that patrol your neighborhoods, report inappropriate conduct, and be visible.
NewsOne : Do some police officers feel they are above the law?
Officer Edwards: Again, I can only speak for what I've seen…I have never seen an officer who thought that he/she was above the law. The state of Texas has a way of reminding us that “you too will go to jail.” If you are an officer who breaks the law, justice is just as swift.
NewsOne: Are you ever afraid when doing your job because of the reputation that police officers have?
Officer Edwards: I am forever mindful that I live in a bubble, because of my chosen profession. I'm okay with that. I try my best to practice what I preach. I live by the laws that I enforce. In saying that, I realize that I'm a rarity. I perform my duties as if I am on camera, always aware of my audience. I have been in Internal Affairs more times than I can remember, but each time I've escaped unscathed, because I remain professional. I am not “all cops” and I refuse to be burdened with negative perceptions. Like I always say, You hate the police, until you need the police.
NewsOne: Being a Black woman, do you feel any conflicting emotions when looking at the police brutality that runs rampant in Black communities?
Officer Edwards: As I said before, I haven't experienced police brutality in any community. I have, however, experienced brutality from the community. I have been kicked, hit, punched, scratched, bit, and spit on… by the community .
I have even been shot at, on several occasions, just because of the uniform that I wear. I can recall being asked to work an off-duty job at an apartment complex that had been taken over by the city because of its high-crime rate and the number of 911 calls.
When I arrived, I stepped out of my personal vehicle and stood beside two fellow Black officers. About 30 seconds later, we heard gunshots. The Black community that we're there to serve and protect, was trying to kill us. Talk about police brutality. The Black community didn't care that we were Black or that I was a woman.
On Sunday night, three Dallas PD officers were shot at in a drive-by while attempting to break up a fight outside of a night club. They were trying to keep the peace and the community was not having that.
A few months ago, one of my friends was driving home from work in his personal vehicle, and someone shot at him on the freeway. They left a hole in his rear glass, but thank God, not in his head.
This is what I think of when you speak of police brutality . My job is dangerous and most Black people couldn't care less about me… until they need me .
I've been in law enforcement for 11 years total. I've been a police officer for 5 years. You have no idea the weight of the badge. Yes, you have those who abuse their authority, but you have those who go to war on these streets every day, but we get overshadowed by the jackass that hit Suspect one too many times.
NewsOne: Historically, the Black community has been unable to trust the legal system or those sworn to protect it. You mentioned what civilians should do, what can officers to do foster healthier relationships with the Black community?
Officer Edwards: Community policing is something that we as law enforcement officials have implemented over the years. Community policings, in essence, is a collaboration between the police and the community [and the community] identifies and solves community problems.
With the police no longer the sole guardians of law and order, all members of the community become active allies in the effort to enhance the safety and quality of neighborhoods. The expanded outlook on crime control and prevention, the new emphasis on making community members active participants in the process of problem solving, and the patrol officers' pivotal role in community policing require profound changes within the police organization. The neighborhood patrol officer, backed by the police organization, helps community members mobilize support and resources to solve problems and enhance their quality of life. Community members voice their concerns, contribute advice, and take action to address these concerns. Thus, building great relations between the community and police.
While Officer Edwards offers insight in to the inner-workings of law enforcement as it should be, there is little acknowledgement of law enforcement in the Black community as it is , showing that the same race does not indicate kinship between civilians and police.
Clearly, we need to be able to empower ourselves against forces that are empowered and given license to kill us.
Check back with NewsOne as we present a call-to-action designed to combat the violence in our communities. Violence that comes from both in front of and behind the Blue Line.
From the FBI
‘Play How You Practice'
FBI's WMD Training Workshop Tests Massive Response
On May 18, a carrier ship bound for the Port of New Orleans left a Caribbean nation weighted with 12,000 tons of ammonium nitrate. Intelligence later revealed that two of the ship's crew members were on terrorist watch lists. Meanwhile, a few miles outside New Orleans, police received a report of someone suspiciously circling a chemical plant in a car while taking pictures.
What may have appeared at first to be isolated incidents were actually parts of an elaborate drill to test how well local, state, federal, and even international emergency responders would coordinate and communicate in the fog of an unfolding terror plot. The mock scenario, which played out in a day-long tabletop exercise in New Orleans last May, was a cascade of escalating disasters that involved the revelation of the plot, multiple shootings, a chemical leak, hostage-taking, and the release of nuclear radiation. The object of the exercise was to overwhelm the region's elaborate web of responders and investigators and force them to turn a critical eye to how prepared they are for a real disaster involving weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs.
“We are training to identify what the WMD threat is around the critical infrastructures and around our key resources,” said John Perren, assistant director of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate , which sponsored the three-day training workshop. “What we do is we identify what our roles are, what our responsibilities are, and how we bring that to the table as a force-multiplier to handle this WMD.”
The workshop is a prime illustration of the WMD Directorate's mission, which is to prevent a weapon of mass destruction—chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive—while at the same time preparing to respond to one. The preventive pieces, or countermeasures, include creating and nurturing relationships with experts in the field—scientists, law enforcement partners, the private sector—so they know how to recognize suspicious activity and how to report it.
“Together, we form strategic partnerships,” said Perren, who attended the training. “We identify the gaps. We identify the vulnerabilities. Together, we develop a plan—a mitigation—to address that vulnerability or that gap.”
New Orleans provided a challenging backdrop—it has one of the country's busiest ports and other critical infrastructures like chemical and power plants that would set off a disruptive ripple effect if attacked. The city, which weathered the real-life disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is host to the 2013 Super Bowl. Workshop participants, including attendees from the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense, along with scores of state and local agencies, said the mock scenario helped them refine their preparedness plans.
“It opens everyone's eyes to what the threats and hazards are,” said Lt. Eric Acosta, a fire safety officer at a port outside New Orleans. “And everyone knows everyone so it's not like, ‘Who's he?' when something happens.”
That was a key take-away from the training—having strong working relationships in place makes for a smoother response to any emergency, whether it's with first-responders or company CEOs. It's why the FBI has designated WMD coordinators in its 56 field offices—to knit a fabric of connections in their respective regions.
“You play how you practice,” said Stephanie Viegas, a special agent and WMD coordinator in our Miami Field Office, who attended the workshop. “The time to get to know each other is not when something's happening. It's having meetings together, going over each other's operational plans, getting together, and training together so we have the opportunity to recognize and address any gaps.”
In the mock terror scenario, each escalating event prompted a round of questions over who was supposed to do what. Could it have been prevented?
“What keeps me up at night is not what I know—it's what I don't know,” said Perren. “And that's why we do these things; to establish trip wires to find out what we don't know.”