NEWS of the Day - August 8, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - August 8, 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

Judge sees 'different person' in Arizona gunman

TUCSON, Ariz. — Jared Loughner sat looking relaxed and attentive in a packed courtroom as he pleaded guilty to a deadly shooting rampage in an agreement with prosecutors that will send him to prison for life. He even cracked a smile when a court-appointed psychologist talked about the special bond that he formed with a prison guard.

His hair closely cropped, Loughner was not the smiling, bald-headed suspect captured in a mug shot soon after the January 2011 shooting. Six people had died and 13 others were wounded, including his intended target, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

He was not the man who rocked back and forth in court in May 2011 before blurting out, "Thank you for the free kill. She died in front of me. Your cheesiness."

The changes in Loughner's behavior while being treated and medicated at a federal prison in Springfield, Mo., led a judge to declare the 23-year-old competent Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns gave his blessings to a plea agreement that spares prosecutors and victims a potentially lengthy trial and appeal and allows Loughner to escape the death penalty.

The judge called Loughner "a different person in his appearance and his affect than the first time I laid eyes on him."

Loughner didn't talk to his attorneys or look around the courtroom during the two-hour hearing. He folded his arms in front of him and focused his gaze on the psychologist and judge as they did most of the talking.

His parents sat silently in the back row, but sobbed and embraced after their son left looking frail on his feet.

The prosecution and defense seemed eager to seal the agreement, a departure from previous marathon hearings. Judy Clarke, Loughner's lead attorney, gently guided him through a copy of the plea agreement on the table as the judge went through it. She declined to question the psychologist.

Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress, murder and attempted murder of federal employees, and causing death and injury at a federally provided activity. As part of the agreement, the federal government dropped 30 other counts.

"I plead guilty," he said in a low voice after the judge read each charge.

The agreement calls for a sentence of seven consecutive life terms followed by 140 years in prison, according to federal officials. Loughner, who will be sentenced Nov. 15, is ineligible for parole.

The agreement provided some relief to many victims and their families who filled about half the courtroom, some shedding tears as the judge recited names of the victims. Ron Barber, a former Giffords staffer who was wounded in the attack and later won election to her seat when she stepped down, watched from the front row.

"I truly believe that justice was done today. It is important to me that this individual never again is in a position in which he can cause harm to anyone else," Barber said outside the courthouse.

Gifford also welcomed the deal, saying in a statement with her husband, Mark Kelly: "The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery."

Giffords has undergone intensive therapy and made dramatic progress recovering from her brain injury, yet her movements and speech are still halting.

Susan Hileman, who was wounded in the attack, said nothing would return her life to what it was before and that she regretted Loughner didn't get treatment earlier. Hileman had taken 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to the Giffords event outside a supermarket, where the girl was killed in the shooting.

"This is so sad — a 23-year-old who's going to spend the rest of his life in a box. I feel empty. What I want, I can't have," she said. "This is closing the barn door after the horses left. This is too late."

Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist, testified that Loughner appeared to be a normal child and average student until he was 16, when a girlfriend broke up with him and a friend's father died. He was diagnosed with depression and landed at an alternative education program at Pima Community College his senior year after he showed up drunk for school one day.

He was enrolled at the Tucson college until September 2010, alarming his parents and friends with his increasingly erratic behavior, Pietz said. He became obsessed with the Constitution, wrote jumbled words on the chalkboard and a final exam, and yelled incoherently in class.

Loughner's parents told Pietz that their son once asked them if they heard voices. They worried that he would take his life.

Pietz recounted turning points in Loughner's recovery in prison: regular exercise; counseling sessions with three other inmates; and prison jobs rolling towels, T-shirts and socks, and stamping envelopes. He has been forcibly medicated for more than a year after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"He loves his jobs," she said.

Pietz said she found him competent in an April report, and added: "I think he's improved even more."

Clarke also avoided the death penalty for other high-profile clients, such as "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics in the late 1990s and Atlanta's Olympic park in 1996.

David Bruck, a close friend of Clarke since law school, said that it was a question whether Loughner could endure the stress of a trial. But, he said, the defense had no reason to challenge the finding.

"To say what someone else's mental capacity is always iffy. If the prosecution was still seeking the death penalty, the question of competency would have been raised by the defense," Bruck said.



Anti-crime effort faces skepticism in some areas of Detroit

by George Hunter

Detroit — In some city neighborhoods like the Grandmont Rosedale community, residents planned to turn on porch lights Tuesday as volunteers flooded the area for citizen patrols marking National Night Out, an event in which police and residents try to present a united front to thwart criminals.

In other areas, however, such community policing events are largely mocked.

"You can't even get the city to turn the streetlights on; nobody does that kind of stuff around here," said Artero Barcenas, a resident of Cobalt Street in Delray. "People watch each other, but they ain't watching out for each other. It's more like 'you looking at me?' — getting all bad."

The apathy and distrust of police in some Detroit neighborhoods contributes to the high crime rate, experts say. It's a mindset that Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee hopes to change as the city struggles with the prospect of fewer police officers due to severe budget cutbacks.

"It's a fact: The police need the community to be involved in order for us to do our jobs," Godbee said. "Too often, there's a rift between police and residents."

Muhsin Muhammad, president of the Grandmont Patrol, said some residents take an active role in trying to prevent crime, while others just complain.

"Like any other affair, you have the jawbones and the backbones," Muhammad said. "The jawbones will tell you how to do it, where to do it — but they don't do any work. The backbones do all the work. But someone has to take it."

Delray and Grandmont/Rosedale represent opposite ends of the community policing spectrum in Detroit. In some of the city's lowest income areas, where most residents don't own their homes, police are generally viewed as the enemy, said Dave Malhalab, a retired 23-year Detroit police veteran who patrolled Brightmoor, one of the city's most crime-ridden communities.

"In a lot of neighborhoods, there's a distance between police and residents," said Malhalab, who now operates the "Detroit Views" blog.

"In Warrendale, they work with the police and have an active radio patrol program," he said referring to the northwest Detroit community not far from Brightmoor. "But in some other neighborhoods, people don't feel a sense of ownership in their community. They feel disenfranchised, and aren't going to participate in these events."

Home ownership plays a big role in whether residents get involved with anti-crime efforts, Sgt. Eren Stephens said.

"If you own a home, you're vested in that community, but if you're renting a home where the landlord isn't keeping up the property, people can get discouraged," Stephens said. "There are some good landlords, but there are bad ones, too. I think when some people look outside (at rundown neighborhoods), they get frustrated. But we can't give up. We need everyone to do their part to make Detroit better."

National Night Out was started in 1983 by the National Association of Town Watch. Last year, more than 15,000 communities participated. The program aims to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate interest in anti-crime efforts, strengthen police-community relations, and send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized.

In Detroit, each precinct or district has events planned, such as a party at the Northwest District that will feature a car show, entertainment, food and refreshments.

"I've seen good representation at the Night Out parties we used to hold in the Sixth Precinct, but it was hardly representative of the entire precinct," Malhalab said. "We were a pretty densely populated area, but the amount of people who'd show up didn't reflect that. And it was usually the same people who did come, people who have had good experiences with the police.

"But for those who feel disenfranchised, a party isn't going to fix that," Malhalab said.

"Godbee closing the precincts for 16 hours added more fuel to that fire, and people now feel even less of a connection to the Police Department," he said about efforts to move more police to patrols.

Barcenas said he hardly ever sees squad cars cruising Delray.

"We're the forgotten neighborhood," he said. "We're by ourselves — the police don't patrol, and there's no community people patrolling. So you have to take things into your own hands. I stay up at night and watch the abandoned house next door to make sure nobody burns it down."

The lack of prompt police response also contributes to apathy toward events like National Night Out, Malhalab said.



San Francisco mayor announces antiviolence strategy

by John Coté and Heather Knight

On a night designed to draw together communities to curb crime, Mayor Ed Lee visited one of the most violence-prone areas of San Francisco on Tuesday and talked about kids and jobs.

He made no mention to the crowd at a National Night Out event in the city's Bayview neighborhood of his public announcement earlier in the day that he was dropping his consideration of a stop-and-frisk program. The controversial law enforcement technique is likened to racial profiling and is blamed for undercutting community policing, the approach the city has been trying to advance for years.

On the sidelines of the neighborhood gathering at Mendell Plaza next to the Bayview Opera House , Lee said he decided against trying stop and frisk - an idea he got from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg - after local clergy, civil rights leaders and city supervisors opposed it as divisive.

They "all felt that that would be a distraction because of the constant worry about racial profiling," Lee said. "I said, 'Well, I still have to get to the guns. I still have to have something that would really interrupt the way things are going.' "

The way things are going is a troubling spike in gun violence, primarily in the city's southeastern neighborhoods, despite an overall trend of declining violent crime.

Internecine gang feuding, particularly in Visitacion Valley, has led to a deadly summer, including four homicides last week.

That has brought about the mayor's new plan to combat gun violence that combines things the city was already doing - focusing on violent, repeat offenders - with planned-for new technology and a renewed effort to get young people jobs and formalize the role clergy will play as a conduit for gun drop-offs and information.

Lee announced his new strategy at Calvary Hill Community Church in the Bayview shortly before noon in a crowded, sweltering room filled with black ministers, heads of the city's criminal justice agencies, several members of the Board of Supervisors and other community leaders.

"We will not be implementing stop and frisk or a variation of that in San Francisco," Lee pledged, speaking more emotionally and passionately than the longtime city bureaucrat usually does. "We don't want that to be a distraction from the real reason we are here - we love our families and we love our kids."

He said City Hall offered 5,000 jobs to youths this summer, but that opportunities like those can mean little to the youths caught up in gang warfare.

"You can't give jobs to dead kids," he said.

His police chief, Greg Suhr, is crafting a list of about 200 youths and adults who are known to the police department because they are on probation or parole, and those people will be watched closely by police officers for any violation. Those who are subject to the city's gang injunctions forbidding known gang members from congregating in certain areas or from associating with other gang members will also be more closely monitored.

At the same time, the city will attempt to provide young people at risk of becoming the next victim or assailant of gang violence alternatives, partly through a new probation office in the Bayview that opened Aug. 1. Several city officials spoke of the importance of helping young people graduate from high school and obtain internships or jobs.

After the news conference, Lee rushed out, refusing to answer questions or to explain his decision to abandon his call for stop and frisk.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Bayview-Hunters Point and adamantly opposed Lee's push for stop and frisk, said she didn't know why the mayor had finally heeded calls to drop the controversial idea.

"I like to think he was listening and responding appropriately," she said. Suhr said he hasn't been given any extra money to implement the violence-prevention plan, but he said the $75,000 price tag for a new "predictive policing" Web-based computer system to monitor real-time crime data and predict when the next violence will occur falls within his department's current technology budget.

"We just need good, hard-nosed policing and the trust of the community to get it all done," he said.



From the Department of Justice

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention 2012 Summit

Washington, D.C. ~ Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Thank you, Mel, for your kind introduction and for reminding us of the vital work being done every day by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Let me also thank our partners at the Department of Education, and to Secretary Duncan, for hosting this summit and inviting me to participate.

It's a real privilege to be with you this morning. I know that many of you have been instrumental in efforts to raise awareness about bullying, as well as how to prevent it, how to intervene to stop it, and how deal with it once it's occurred. You remind us that bullying is not simply a part of growing up; that it's not just a matter of “kids being kids.” You remind us that it's unacceptable and it's wrong and that we all share in the responsibility to prevent it. And many of you are helping to give us the tools we'll need, the data we'll reference and the strategies we'll use as we seek to change policy and improve young lives.

I join you today not only as a representative of the Department of Justice but, like many of you, as one who is now or has been a parent, an uncle, or a godparent to children in elementary, middle or high school. And those experiences, coupled with the cases involving young victims of exploitation I prosecuted years ago as a federal prosecutor, have solidified for me a very straightforward idea – and it's one that I know you share: that in order for our young people to thrive, to blossom, to grow and fulfill their potential, they must be and feel safe – not just at home, but in school, on the playground, and online.

But when nearly one in three middle and high school students report being bullied, and over half say they've witnessed bullying at school, we know that creating that sense of safety for our children won't happen automatically. It happens only to the extent individuals, both old and young, make conscious choices -- often through acts of personal courage and outreach -- to create atmospheres of tolerance, climates of trust, environments both virtual and real where young people need not as the song says, “hide themselves in regret, but love themselves and be set,” and accept that invitation to be who they truly are.

For Attorney General Eric Holder and those of us at the Justice Department, this is important work about which we care deeply. We care about it because while we've seen overall school violence decrease in recent years, bullying incidents – many with devastatingly tragic consequences – have become increasingly visible in the public eye.

We care about this work we because we know that a majority of our children – over 60 percent, regardless of race – are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse in their childhood – from brief encounters as witnesses to being direct victims themselves.

And we care about it because we know that some of that violence is linked to bullying. The research suggests that those who bully are more likely to grow up and abuse their partners, spouses or children. So when we talk about effectively protecting our young people from violence in the home, at school or on the streets, that conversation is incomplete if it fails to explore strategies to prevent and eliminate bullying .

I believe this work also matters because bullying, like youth violence, is not something that affects only those immediately involved; rather, it presents challenges that affect us all. When kids who are the targets of bullies show up in school, not ready to learn because they're too afraid – students who are more likely, the research suggests, to have lower GPAs or poorer standardized test scores – that's not just a challenge for the victim or his or her family; that becomes an education challenge.

And when those bullied children show up in doctor's offices and clinics suffering from anxiety or depression or a whole host of other issues, that becomes a health care challenge.

And when those bullied victims leave school and can't find jobs because they don't have the skills employers need because, as the research indicates, they're more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school, then that becomes a business community challenge.

And when those who bully come into contact with the criminal justice system as convicted defendants, as they're more likely to do, according to trends we see, then that becomes a law enforcement challenge.

So those single incidents of bullying are not events in isolation, one discrete from the other; they are like ripples in a lake that begin at a small center, emanating outward and growing in size, to touch shores unforeseen.

That's why we care about this issue and this work. And it's it why we've been actively engaged in efforts to prevent bullying.

In March of this year, for instance, the Departments of Justice and Education entered into a comprehensive consent decree with the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, requiring action by school officials after a DOJ Civil Rights investigation revealed that several students were skipping school, dropping out, even contemplating suicide because of severe harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. After entry of the consent decree, one student noted that the climate at school had improved, saying that he'd gone a month and a half without being bullied. “That has never happened before,” he said. “I see change coming, and I'm really glad about it.”

We've also awarded grants to eight cities and tribal communities, as part of Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative – grants aimed at developing strategic plans for comprehensive, community-based anti-violence efforts, including anti-bullying programs. In Boston, Massachusetts, for example, we're supporting work to implement state-wide school bullying intervention and prevention legislation. In Grand Forks, North Dakota, we're funding efforts to expand restorative justice services for youth involved with bullying. And in Portland, Maine, we're helping to train teachers and other school staff in bullying prevention strategies.

And the nation's U.S. Attorneys are also engaged in this work. Attorney General Holder often says our U.S. Attorneys are community problem solvers, not case processors, and over the last two years they've helped to raise the spotlight on bullying prevention by convening community meetings, interagency summits and town halls in places like Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland, Ohio; and next month, San Francisco, California.

Now, notwithstanding these efforts and all of the other progress we've made to elevate bullying prevention as an issue of national priority, our work is far from over. We must continue to stand up, to speak out, and to act in ways both big and small – public and private -- to reinforce the message that bullying knows no proper place.

We must continue to work because t oday, somewhere, there's a child who will feel the sting of a punch because the clothes he's wearing aren't cool; who will believe her difference is a detriment as she eats alone in a crowded school cafeteria; who will skip school another day to avoid a terrifying confrontation; or will contemplate suicide because nothing seems like it can hurt more than this moment of humiliation right now.

And for each one of those kids – children we know, children we love, children who more than a few of us here were at one time – for each of them we can't afford to be bystanders. And because of summits like this and commitment like yours, I'm confident that we won't.

Thank you for everything you do on behalf of our Nation's young people and thank you for inviting me to be with you this morning.