| NEWS of the Day - July 28, 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 L.A. Daily News
Coast Guard seizes 8,500 pounds of marijuana 160 miles west of L.A.
by City News Service
SAN PEDRO - Officials seized about 8,500 pounds of marijuana in a bust on a vessel about 160 miles west of Los Angeles, marking a 50-ton milestone for waterborne marijuana seizures in Southern California and the Pacific Southwest border region this fiscal year, the U.S. Coast Guard announced today.
The more than 340 bales seized in the bust Wednesday is worth about $7.7 million, according to Capt. James Jenkins, commander of the Coast Guard's Los Angeles/Long Beach Sector.
Law enforcement officials have seen an increase in waterborne smuggling of illicit drugs from the U.S.-Mexico border as far north as Santa Barbara County, Jenkins said. The illegal cargo often arrives on small boats known as pangas, moving multi-ton loads of marijuana and illegal immigrants from Baja California, Jenkins said.
"Stopping these drugs from reaching our streets is a great accomplishment, but it's just the tip of the iceberg with respect to the impact on the drug trafficking organizations," Jenkins said.
"The money from marijuana trafficking fuels a wider cycle of drug smuggling, crime and violence. We need to do everything possible to stop these destructive, deadly organizations."
The 50-ton quantity, worth about $90.7 million, is the total of 56 seizures of marijuana-laden boats or abandoned loads of drugs since October 1, Jenkins said. This is four times the amount seized in the same area during the entire previous fiscal year.
From the L.A. Times
Anaheim expecting more police-shooting protests this weekend
An officer-involved shooting Friday was Anaheim's third in a week. Demonstrators plan protests near Disneyland on Saturday and at the Police Department on Sunday.
Anaheim is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend after police opened fire on a burglary suspect Friday, the third officer-involved shooting in the city in less than a week, though no one was apparently injured in the most recent incident.
Protests over police conduct have rocked Orange County's largest city since July 21, when police fatally shot an unarmed man, Manuel Diaz, 25, who they said was evading arrest. A day later, police shot and killed Joel Acevedo, 21; police say he fired on officers during a foot chase.
Friday's incident marked the seventh officer-involved shooting in Anaheim this year, five of which have been fatal. The city had four officer-involved shootings in 2011.
The shootings sparked four days of protest that culminated in a violent clash between 1,000 demonstrators and officers outside a packed City Council meeting Tuesday night. By the time it was over, 24 protesters had been arrested, 20 buildings damaged, seven people injured and dozens of less-than-lethal rounds had been fired to disperse the crowd, some of whom started fires in dumpsters and threw rocks at police.
Seeking to calm tensions, Mayor Tom Tait and other city officials met Friday with the FBI and U.S. attorney's office staff and asked them to look into the recent shootings.
In a statement after the meeting, the FBI said it would review evidence and reports by the Orange County district attorney's office to determine whether a federal investigation is warranted, though sources said that at this stage, the U.S. attorney's office and Justice Department are not initiating a civil rights probe.
The latest shooting occurred about 3:15 a.m. Friday, when police responding to a burglary call shot at the suspects but apparently did not injure anyone.
After chasing a possible suspect on foot, officers approached a man in a black pickup whom they suspected was an accomplice, Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said. The driver started the engine and accelerated toward one of the officers, who fired his weapon out of fear for his safety as the driver fled.
The incident came as demonstrators planned protests near Disneyland on Saturday and outside the Police Department on Sunday.
A group of about a dozen demonstrators gathered in Anaheim's Stoddard Park late Friday, holding up signs at passing cars.
Louisa Sanchez, who held a poster with the names of men and the dates they were killed by Anaheim police over the years, said she wanted greater accountability and better communication from the department, especially in dealing with shootings that are unjustified.
"They need to get rid of the bad cops," she said, identifying herself as a family friend of Acevedo. "They're not all bad, but the ones that are make them all look bad. "
Activists nationwide have mobilized online to organize marches and demonstrations in support of Anaheim protesters. The anti-establishment group known as Anonymous posted Anaheim Police Chief John Welter's address, phone number and other personal information on various Internet sites in protest over the shootings.
Meanwhile, Anaheim Councilwoman Gail Eastman found herself in hot water over remarks she made online celebrating the abrupt end to Tuesday's City Council meeting because of the violent protests going on outside City Hall.
Eastman posted comments on a private neighborhood message board after the council failed to take up two ballot issues that had been proposed for the November ballot — one establishing City Council districts instead of citywide seats and another requiring voter approval of hotel bed tax breaks for developers.
"It's finally quiet in the hood and I've had time to collect my thoughts," Eastman wrote. "In spite of how it happened, it was a big time win for all who opposed seeing that placed on the November ballot," adding later: "Tonight we celebrate a win with no shots fired!"
Eastman sent out an apology after her message was posted on local blogs and news sites.
From Google News
Police thwart possible attack after Md. man refers to Joker, makes threats
by Matt Zapotosky and Michael E. Ruane
Police said it was the ominous mention of the Joker, the threat to use guns and “blow everybody up” and the lingering memory of the massacre in Colorado a week ago.
It was the “totality” of ominous signals, investigators said Friday, that made them believe that Neil Edwin Prescott, of Crofton, was serious when he threatened mass murder at the Prince George's County business from which he was being fired.
“All of the elements were there to repeat what we've seen across the country,” Prince George's Police Chief Mark Magaw said.
It was the first phone call, the second phone call, “the increasing tenor of the threat .?.?. the demeanor,” Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski said.
“The message here is if you call your business, if you call a loved one, if you call anybody and you threaten to do harm, kill people, we're going to believe you,” he said.
Prescott remained at the Anne Arundel County Medical Center late Friday undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, as prosecutors weighed what charges, if any, to file against him.
As of Friday evening, he had not been arrested, and had not been charged with a crime, police said.
But when police went to take him into custody early Friday, they evacuated part of his apartment building, and moved in with a SWAT team, conflict negotiators and a search warrant.
Inside his third-level apartment in the 1600 block of Parkridge Circle, Prescott was detained without incident, and police said they found a small arsenal of weapons — more than 20 rifles, shotguns and pistols, and 40 steel boxes containing eight different types of ammunition.
Authorities are considering a number of state and federal charges.
The state charges, though, would be relatively minor because Prescott “didn't ultimately do anything except make the phone calls,” a law enforcement official said.
Other officials said agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are still probing the origin of Prescott's weaponry and he could face more serious federal gun charges if any turn out to be illegal. Police have determined that at least 13 were properly registered, Magaw said.
Police in Prince George's, where Prescott had worked, and Anne Arundel County, where he lives, said they believed they averted a catastrophe.
“We can't measure what was prevented here,” Magaw said. “But...we think a violent episode was avoided.”
According to police and investigative documents, Prescott had worked for a Capitol Heights branch of the government contracting company Pitney Bowes, but was in the process of being fired.
Pitney Bowes said in a statement that Prescott was an employee of a subcontractor to the company. He has not been on any Pitney Bowes property in more than four months.
The events began at 8 a.m. Monday, when Prescott's supervisor called Prescott about a job matter and during the conversation Prescott apparently said several times, “I am a joker. I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up,” according to the police affidavit for a search warrant.
Prescott also said he would like to see his boss's brains splattered on the sidewalk, the affidavit said.
The boss hung up, but Prescott called him back 15 minutes later and repeated his threats, adding, “it's kind of foolish for me to say this kind of things over [a] government phone,” according to the affidavit.
Prescott had already been fired, according to the affidavit, and the supervisor told police he feared for his life.
Prince George's County police were informed of the situation Wednesday, took the threats seriously and launched an investigation, officials said.
Authorities wrote in the affidavit that they believed Prescott was referencing the movie-theater shootings in Colorado when he called himself a joker — a character in the Batman movie the theater was showing.
Twelve people were killed and 58 others wounded during that rampage.
The connection, Magaw said, “is fairly obvious, and that's the way we took it.”
There was scant information available about Prescott on Friday. Police refused to identify him during an afternoon press conference at Prince George's police headquarters, although he had been identified in the search warrant for his home.
Magaw said that neighbors interviewed by police found him to be unstable, as did detectives.
Some neighbors on Friday said they knew little about him. No one answered his front door, where a strip of black electrical tape covered the peep hole.
One neighbor, Melissa Michaels, said police officers jumped out of the bushes near her apartment complex when she arrived home at 2 a.m. Friday.
She wasn't allowed to enter the building because a SWAT team was there. Her brother hadn't responded to the police when they evacuated part of the building. She was told to call him and tell him to remain inside “no matter what he heard.”
Michaels said she did not know Prescott, but did notice something peculiar about him recently: “He would get a lot of packages.”
She said UPS would leave packages by the main mailbox and she remembers that “he had five in one day, which I thought was weird.” The five packages came about two weeks ago, Michaels said.
Anne Arundel County Police Major Ed Bergen said police visited Prescott on Thursday at home.
They “met with him, talked with him, had a conversation with him, and that's when officers were able to document what was on the T-shirt and what he was wearing,” Bergen said. His T-shirt had the logo, “Guns don't kill people, I do,” Bergen and the affidavit said.
Police kept Prescott under surveillance while they planned the operation to take him into custody.
“We ramped it up based on the intelligence, the behavior that was gathered from the interview, the T-shirt," Bergen said.
Seattle reaches police reform deal with government
by Laura L. Myers
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle officials and the Department of Justice reached a sweeping agreement on Friday to refine the use of force by police officers under a plan to be overseen by an independent, court-appointed monitor.
The settlement, which grew out of a federal investigation of the city's police department, will allow the city to avoid a civil rights lawsuit that U.S. officials threatened to bring over complaints of excessive force by officers.
Such a lawsuit would have put Seattle, considered one of the most liberal cities in the nation, among only a handful of municipalities singled out for police misconduct lawsuits by the federal government.
Instead, Seattle police will operate under a far-reaching plan that covers use of force, police stops and work bias.
The city's police were criticized in 2010 for the shooting death of an American-Indian woodcarver who appeared to pose no threat. A Department Of Justice report in December 2011 said Seattle police in the previous two years had displayed a pattern of using excessive force.
The agreement, which followed months of negotiations between city officials and the U.S. government, calls for both sides to jointly select a monitor within 60 days to oversee implementation of the plan.
"Today the real work begins, the agreement we have reached belongs to everyone in Seattle," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division.
"I come here with a very deep reservoir of optimism."
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said he was pleased with the deal. "This city is committed to eliminating bias," he said. "We do have a lot of work ahead of us."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state in 2010 asked the Justice Department to probe Seattle police, citing a half-dozen incidents of excessive force, particularly against minorities. In one case, video showed a Latino man lying prone on the sidewalk when he was kicked, the group said.
The agreement is expected to last five years, but the city may ask the federal court to terminate it before that date if Seattle's police department have been complying with it for two years, McGinn's office said.
Under the plan, the department will revise its use of force policies and enhance training, reporting and supervision, Justice Department officials said. It will also develop a team that will roll out to probe serious uses of force.
Officials will also create a civilian oversight board called the Community Police Commission. And the police department will provide guidance to officers to prohibit stops of people when officers lack reasonable suspicion.
Talks on a settlement had bogged down over the anticipated costs of implementing a Justice Department proposal, which a city memorandum estimated would run roughly $41 million for the first year alone.
The memorandum had described those expenses, including $18 million to develop and implement training programs and $11 million for new city positions, as "prohibitive."
McGinn declined on Friday to give an exact cost for implementation of the plan, but said he estimates it could be $5 million a year.
The settlement followed voluntary police reform pacts in recent years with several other big cities, including Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Several other large municipal police forces remain under federal review.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder placed the New Orleans Police Department, accused of widespread abuses, under the scrutiny of a federal monitor for at least four years.
2 troopers charged in 100-mph caravan escort
by SAMANTHA HENRY
TRENTON — Two state troopers charged Friday with records-tampering turned a state highway into a "virtual speedway" when they gave a caravan of luxury cars a high-speed escort, taping over their own license plates to conceal their involvement, the attorney general said.
"No one is above the law," Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said. "We will not tolerate officers who endanger the public they are sworn to protect."
Administrative charges also were brought against four other members of the state police in connection with a high-speed escort in 2010, and a fifth trooper for his handling of a ticket issued to the driver of a Lamborghini clocked at 116 mph, also in 2010.
Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry and Trooper Joseph Ventrella sought to conceal their involvement in the March escort, which reached speeds exceeding 100 mph, by using black electrical tape to alter their plates, the attorney general said.
Nassry also is accused of instructing other drivers in the caravan of high-performance vehicles to conceal or partly conceal their license plates using tape or other means.
By hiding their plate numbers, the drivers were able to speed through tolls on the Garden State Parkway without paying, the attorney general said, creating what he described as a "mirage."
Chiesa said putting the tape on the plates shows "they intended to conceal their involvement in conduct that they knew was wrong."
The unauthorized escort had "turned our highway into a virtual speedway, placing countless motorists at risk," Chiesa said.
The attorney general said the time limit had expired to issue any tickets to the motorists involved in any of the high-speed caravans. He added that he did not anticipate any of the drivers would be charged in the ongoing investigation.
New escort procedures are now in place, including "clear instructions on observing posted speed limits," Chiesa said.
Nassry, an assistant station commander and 25-year-veteran, on Thursday took full responsibility for the escort and submitted his retirement papers. He denied through his attorney taping his plates and asked for leniency for Ventrella, whom he said was simply following orders and has been on the force only six years.
Nassry and Ventrella's attorneys both denied their clients engaged in any criminal wrongdoing. Ventrella's attorney, Vincent K. Nuzzi, said his client never taped his license plate and only participated in the caravan on his supervisor's orders.
"He's the lowest guy in the chain of command, given a direct order to do this stuff, and given that direct order by somebody authorized to give him the order," Nuzzi said of Ventrella.
Both Nassry and Ventrella were charged with fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records. Nassry also faces a second charge of third-degree tampering with public records.
Nassry had agreed to participate in the escort because of his friendship with Brandon Jacobs, a former member of the New York Giants, now with the San Francisco 49ers, who was part of the caravan, Nassry's attorney, Charles Sciarra, said Thursday.
Witnesses who emailed the state Turnpike Authority reported seeing the caravan, escorted by two state police vehicles, traveling down the parkway at speeds over 100 mph, weaving in traffic and forcing some motorists to speed up to get out of the way. Its participants included members of a New York driving club.
Nassry, 47, and Ventrella, 28, were suspended in April.
State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes announced Friday that new guidelines on state police escorts cover authorization and review procedures and rules of conduct, including observing posted speed limits and avoiding passing lanes.
Fuentes and Chiesa referred Friday to the 2012 escort as "unauthorized," but state police have refused previous requests from news organizations to provide a copy of their prior policy on escorts, and did not make a copy of the new policy available.
In the administrative charges announced Friday, two state troopers were charged with unsafe driving and improperly conducting an escort, and two supervisors were charged for improper supervision relating to a similar 2010 high-speed escort of luxury cars. One trooper was charged administratively with improperly handling a speeding ticket during the incident. Fuentes said all five troopers, who were not named as they are subject to an internal agency hearing process, are likely to face unpaid suspensions.
The investigation into the escorts also led to a major shake-up of state police brass, with the reassignment of 10 state police commanders.
Both Chiesa and Fuentes emphasized that the state police regularly conducts lawful escorts for legitimate reasons and insisted the two incidents were isolated.
"This is a public safety issue, plain and simple," Chiesa said. "Thankfully, thankfully nobody was hurt."
Investigating crime in rural areas
by Lance Eldridge
Deputy Gary Nichols has worked in Moffat County, Colorado for 28 years. In January 2012 he won the Colorado Cattlemen's Association Officer of the Year for 2011.
He received the recognition in part for his role, with strong support from State Brand Inspector Brad Ocker, in a months-long investigation of a local rancher that ended with a variety of cattle theft- related criminal charges and a financial cost to cattle owners of somewhere between $67,000 and $100,000 — numbers that equal some serious bank robberies.
The investigation spanned an area of 15,000 acres — 23 square miles, an area about the size of Boulder or Ann Arbor — of open range with nine different victims and covered incidents that occurred over a four-year period. In the course of the investigation he discovered twenty-nine re-branded cattle, which is similar to changing a vehicle's VIN in an auto theft case.
Continue reading Investigating crime in rural areas
Policing Mayberry: Misconceptions about 'rural' cops
Television often portrays a rural lifestyle similar to that found on the Andy Griffith Mayberry RFD television series
by Lance Eldridge
Though the majority — some estimates say 80 percent — of the population of the United States live in urban or suburban areas, small towns remain a choice among nearly 45 million people. Jobs, family, lifestyle, low population density, a desire to live outside the urban cluster, an interest in raising children in what may be perceived as a community less vulnerable to the ravages of gangs and drugs, or the freedom to “cling to ... guns or religion...” have drawn many to small, rural communities.
Many of these small communities — though the definition of “rural” remains as diverse as the organizations trying to capture the numbers — have organizations that serve the public's law enforcement needs.
The officers, deputies, and troopers — from village cops to and wildlife/conversation officers to state patrolmen — who work in these areas labor under the wrongheaded stereotypes of popular culture. Television often portrays a rural lifestyle similar to that found on the Andy Griffith Mayberry RFD television series, and the officers as quaint characters indistinguishable from either Andy or Barney. The grittier and purportedly more realistic dramas are saved for the urban crime stories.
Over the next 25 years urban expansion, coupled with local financial concerns, could result in the gradual loss of some small community police departments through elimination or amalgamation with regional or state agencies.
Despite the population and resource pressures that will further the pace of urbanization, small rural community policing will remain an important part of our national fabric for the foreseeable future. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
|• roughly 75 percent of police departments serve communities of less than 10,000. They employ 14 percent of the nation's 765,000 sworn officers, or a little over 100,000 officers
• in 2004 45 percent of departments had fewer than 10 officers. By 2008 that percentage increased to 53 percent, employing six percent of the total officers nationwide
• of the 12,501 police departments nationwide, 11,048 agencies with 49 or fewer officers account for 123,614 officers
Sheriff's Offices show similar numbers. In 2008 approximately 2,358 departments had fewer than 49 deputies each, employing a total of 39,033 sworndeputies, approximately 21 percent of the nationwide number.
Many of these smaller communities (and large ones too, apparently) have looked towards decreasing or even eliminating some police services as a way to cut costs. One recent example of the latter is the southern Virginia town of Halifax, where roughly one-third of the town's $900,000 budget is consumed by law enforcement expenses.
Some politicians may not appreciate the services their local police force provides. One Halifax councilman, Jack Dunavant, is probably not alone when he expressed a demeaning attitude towards his town's police. He recently told the press: "I think our police department is somewhat redundant at this point. They help old ladies and if somebody falls and that sort of thing. But we've got a stoplight so you don't have to direct traffic anymore."
While some small communities such as Halifax may be looking to decrease their law enforcement expenditures criminals have continued to act out regardless of community size.
In the 1990‘s it was a common belief that rural crime was less frequent and less violent than in urban areas. Recently released FBI data tells a slightly different story. The statistics suggest that the well-publicized national drop in crime rates has not been uniform across communities. Small communities (25,000 and less) have seen a more modest decrease (with the exception of forcible rape) than many larger communities.
What's most striking is that communities with a population of 10,000 to 24,999 have seen their murder rates increase 9.2 percent while communities of under 10,000 have seen a whopping 18.3 percent increase. In other words, as Joseph F. Donnemeyer of the Ohio State University has recognized, though “rural areas today have less crime than their urban counterparts, they also have more crime than they did in the past, and their crime problems are serious.” An increase in gangs and illegal drug use are just two of the challenges facing rural law enforcement departments.
What's even more alarming is that officer deaths in communities of 10,000 or less are high, second only to those in large urban centers. This mirrors similar date from 1988 to 1997 where the rate of officers killed in rural areas was greater than that for large urban enclaves.
Rural and urban policing are clearly different and often urban solutions are shoehorned efforts to solve rural crime problems. Newly minted small town police chiefs, some of whom have come from metro areas, are recognizing the diversity and distinct and unexpected challenges in rural policing. As they have discovered, officers and deputies working in isolated, rural environments often encounter their own unique problems, to include
|• the lack of immediately available backup officers
• encountering friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors at crime scenes as victims, suspects, and witnesses
• limited peer interaction
• comparatively lower pay than their urban counterparts
• longer periods of inactivity
However, there are also distinct advantages in working in a smaller, rural department. With fewer calls for service officers have time to act on crime prevention and more thoroughly investigate the crimes that do occur. Though officers probably respond to more than their fair share of barking dog and civil complaints, these contacts allow them to hone interpersonal skills and develop relationships that may prove useful in the future. Though the number of patrol officers vice investigators / detectives is not readily available, it would be safe to conclude that in many smaller jurisdictions patrol officers perform, from time to time, investigative duties that look more like detective work. See the sidebar for an example.
The loss of any of these small town departments is an unfortunate result of political paralysis and a sign of our economic times. The officers and deputies that work in these communities often face and resolve problems that are not present in larger urban areas. This does not make them any less of a professional, but does set them apart in a field increasingly crowded by large urban and suburban departments.
Rural policing is no longer Mayberry, and maybe it never was.
About the author
After having completed more than 20 years of active military service, Lance Eldridge retired from the US Army and is currently a patrol officer in Craig, Colorado. While in the military, he held leadership positions in a variety of organizations and has written extensively about US military strategy operations, and history. He is a graduate of the US Army's Command and General Staff College and the Norwegian Staff College. He holds a Masters Degree in History and a Masters Degree in Strategic Intelligence. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in national security strategy, European regional security, US history, and terrorism.