Police have cut back on pursuits, but they remain dangerous
by Eric Hartley
Anyone who's watched TV news in California knows the drill: the fleeing car, the police cruisers in pursuit, the TV choppers overhead.
And everyone who's watched such a chase end with suspects in handcuffs, sometimes after crashing their car, has probably had the thought: That's so stupid. They always get caught.
Close, but not quite.
In a week that began with three televised chases in Los Angeles, one fleeing suspect showed it's possible to get away. On Monday evening, a man led police on a 50-mile pursuit through San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties before ditching a car in Pacoima and escaping into the neighborhood, in full view of TV news choppers.
Of 195 drivers pursued last year by L.A. County sheriff's deputies, slightly more than 75 percent were arrested - which suggests close to a quarter got away.
But nationally, about 98 percent of chases involving police helicopters end with arrests and without crashes, said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminology professor who has studied police pursuit.
It might not be evident after those three dramatic chases in three days, including one that ended in a shootout near downtown L.A. Tuesday night, but police here and around the country have tightened policies to limit chases.
In California, pursuits by all police forces declined by 14 percent between 2002 and 2011, according to the Highway Patrol, which compiles statewide numbers.
The policy changes reflect how dangerous pursuits are for the fleeing suspects and the police, as well as for everyone they pass along the way. Federal data, though incomplete because reporting is voluntary, suggest a third of those killed during police pursuits are innocent bystanders, Alpert said.
On Thursday, a jury convicted a Panorama City man of second-degree murder and evading police in a 2010 chase that ended in a fatal crash. Six-year-old Kayla Woods was killed as she played in her neighborhood, Lake View Terrace.
In 2002, a year when Los Angeles police chased more than 600 suspects, a 3-week-old boy lost his left arm after a car being chased by LAPD officers ran a red light and hit his family's SUV in Sylmar.
That pursuit might happen even under the current policy, since the officers were chasing a man believed to have stabbed someone moments earlier.
But injuries such as that led the LAPD to overhaul its policy in 2003.
In the department's official manual, officers are directed not to pursue people who fail to stop for a simple traffic infraction. But they can pursue those who appear to be driving under the influence, as well as those suspected of felonies or misdemeanors.
The rule directs officers to consider 10 factors, including road conditions, weather and whether there is "unreasonable risk" to the public, to officers or to people in the fleeing car.
"Every pursuit has a risk, and you've just got to balance the risk by the benefit," Alpert said.
He added that Tuesday's LAPD pursuit of a carjacking suspect and Wednesday's chase by the Sheriff's Department of suspects in a Santa Clarita bank robbery appeared reasonable.
The Sheriff's Department allows pursuits of people suspected of serious felonies, including major drug and violent crimes, but not for most misdemeanors or for people believed to have small amounts of drugs.
"The immediate apprehension of the violator is not more important than the safety of uninvolved bystanders, other motorists, or the Deputy," the department policy manual says.
Alpert started looking into police pursuits in the early 1980s.
"Back then, a lot of departments didn't have policies, and the norm was to chase them till the wheels fell off," he said.
A 1983 California Highway Patrol report, Alpert said, recommended officers keep chasing until suspects' cars stopped or crashed.
A few people who run get away, at least temporarily. But it's a high-risk proposition by any measure.
Nearly 30 percent of those who fled from L.A. sheriff's deputies last year crashed, said Deputy Glenn Callaway of the department's Risk Management Bureau. A dozen deputies crashed their cars, too.
The LAPD could not provide statistics on pursuits Thursday despite multiple requests.
Officers are trained in tactical maneuvers and high-speed driving, and they drive customized police vehicles. Fleeing drivers, often panicked and frequently drunk or high, have no such training or equipment.
"They drive over their head," Callaway said.
Most pursuits are short and never make TV. Of 5,508 pursuits last year in California, more than 76 percent were over within five minutes.
In addition to the possibility of a crash or being shot by police if they make an unwise move when they finally stop, drivers who flee risk jail time.
Evading an officer while driving carries a maximum of a year in jail in addition to punishment for any other crimes the person committed.
If the fleeing person shows "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," as those in lengthy televised chases almost always do, jail time of at least six months is mandatory.
If someone is injured, the maximum sentence is seven years. And if someone is killed, it's 10 years.
Thursday's conviction in Kayla's death came a day after three bank robbery suspects were arrested following a bizarre pursuit that included them throwing money out their windows and bystanders scrambling for the cash. Police said it was fortunate no one was seriously injured; an LAPD officer had his foot run over by a car but was expected to be fine.
In an even more dramatic chase on Tuesday, officers pursued a man wanted in a carjacking that day and a slaying in July. The suspect, 24-year-old Ian Schlesinger, crashed into another car near downtown, got out and fired at officers with a rifle. They fired back, critically injuring him. No officers were hurt.
Most drivers, especially those familiar with the post-O.J. Simpson era of televised chases in L.A., pull slowly to the curb whenever police lights come on behind them. But the faint hope of getting away, along with sheer panic, may help explain why some people continue to run from the police.
A 19-year-old Winnetka man, Abdul Arian, was shot dead by LAPD officers in April after he ran a red light in Northridge and led them on a pursuit to Woodland Hills.
It's not clear whether that pursuit fell within department guidelines, which bar pursuit for traffic infractions or for reckless driving that begins only when an officer tries to pull someone over.
Police said Arian made 911 calls as he drove saying he had a gun and threatening that officers were "going to get hurt." He then got out of his car on the 101 Freeway, pulled out something that looked like a weapon and repeatedly extended his arms into what police called a "shooting stance." It turned out to be a cellphone.
Unlike some who run from police, Arian was not drunk or on drugs. He did not have a weapon in his car.
"He ran a red light and he panicked," a relative said the day after he died.
Arian's family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and police in June, saying officers shot him 120 to 150 times. No trial date has been set.
From Google News
Ambassador's killing: US scrambles to rush spies, drones to Libya
WASHINGTON: The US is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the US ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country, and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources.
The CIA has fewer people available to send, stretched thin from tracking conflicts across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
And the Libyans have barely re-established full control of their country, much less rebuilt their intelligence service, less than a year after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
The US has already deployed an FBI investigation team, trying to track al-Qaida sympathizers thought to be responsible for turning a demonstration over an anti-Islamic video into a violent, coordinated militant attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three other embassy employees were killed after a barrage of small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars tore into the consulate buildings in Benghazi on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, setting the buildings on fire.
President Barack Obama said in a Rose Garden statement the morning after the attack that those responsible would be brought to justice. That may not be swift. Building a clearer picture of what happened will take more time, and possibly more people, US officials said on Friday.
Intelligence officials are reviewing telephone intercepts, computer traffic and other clues gathered in the days before the attacks, and Libyan law enforcement has made some arrests. But investigators have found no evidence pointing conclusively to a particular group or to indicate the attack was planned, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, adding, "This is obviously under investigation."
Early indications suggest the attack was carried out not by the main al-Qaida terror group but "al-Qaida sympathizers," said a US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
One of the leading suspects is the Libyan-based Islamic militant group Ansar al-Shariah, led by former Guantanamo detainee Sufyan bin Qumu. The group denied responsibility in a video Friday but did acknowledge its fighters were in the area during what it called a "popular protest" at the consulate, according to Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a private analysis firm that monitors Jihadist media for the US intelligence community.
The US had been watching threat assessments from Libya for months but none offered warnings of the Benghazi attack, according to another intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about US intelligence matters.
Senator Susan Collins questioned whether the consulate had taken sufficient security measures, given an attempt to attack the consulate in Benghazi a few months ago.
Carney said that given the 9/11 anniversary, security had been heightened.
"It was, unfortunately, not enough," he said.
That paucity of resources also applies to the intelligence officers available to monitor Libya on the ground.
With ongoing counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, as well as the civil war in Syria, the CIA's clandestine and paramilitary officer corps is simply running out of trained officers to send, US officials say, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deployment of intelligence personnel publicly. The clandestine service is roughly 5,000 officers strong, and the paramilitary corps sent to war zones is only in the hundreds, the officials said.
Most of the CIA's paramilitary team dispatched to Libya during the revolution had been sent onward to the Syrian border, the officials said.
The CIA normally hires extra people to make up for such shortfalls, often retired special operators with the requisite security clearance, military training and language ability. But the government mandate to slash contractor use has meant cutting contracts, according to two former officials familiar with the agency's current hiring practices.
To fill in the gaps in spies on the ground, the US intelligence community has kept up surveillance over Libya with unmanned and largely unarmed Predator and Reaper drones, increasing the area they cover, and the frequency of their flights since the attack on the consulate, as well as sending more surveillance equipment to the region, one official said.
But intelligence gathered from the air still needs corroboration from sources on the ground, as well as someone to act on the intelligence to go after the targets.
The Libyan government, though it claims it is eager to help, has limited tools at its disposal. The post-revolution government has been slow to rebuild both its intelligence capability and its security services, fearful of empowering the very institutions they had to fight to overthrow Gaddafi. They have made a start, but they lack a sophisticated cadre of trained spies and a large network of informants.
"The Libyans in just about every endeavor are just learning to walk, let alone run," said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official and author of the book "Intelligence and US Foreign Policy."
"There is confusion and competing elements within the new provisional government which complicates the task of creating new institutions, including the intelligence service," he said.
"There are still some aspects of the intelligence services that still work," says Barak Barfi of the New America Foundation think tank, including eavesdropping on cellphone calls and spying on computer traffic using equipment from the Gaddafi era. Barfi spent months with members of Libya's transitional government as they tried to rebuild the nation's services and infrastructure.
But the Libyans have not yet even taken full command their own security services almost a year after Gaddafi's fall, Barfi said. That's given the tens of thousands of militiamen who helped overthrow Gaddafi the time they needed to organize and seek new targets, especially Western ones, he said.
3 colleges get bomb threats
In Texas and N.D. and a smaller school in Ohio, tens of thousands of students were evacuated.
by Jim Vertuno
AUSTIN, Texas - Thousands of people streamed off three college campuses Friday after bomb threats prompted officials to issue evacuation orders for schools in Texas, North Dakota, and Ohio.
The campuses of the University of Texas at Austin and North Dakota State University in Fargo had been deemed safe by early afternoon, and authorities were working to determine whether the threats were related. A third evacuation order for much-smaller Hiram College in northeast Ohio was issued hours later, but lifted Friday night after a sweep found nothing suspicious.
Hiram officials posted a statement on the college's website saying the school had received a bomb threat that it was "taking seriously." Police confirmed the evacuation, and the statement said crews with bomb-sniffing dogs were checking all buildings on the campus about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland, where about 1,300 students are enrolled.
The threats on the much-larger campuses in Texas and North Dakota ended as false alarms after tens of thousands of people followed urgently worded evacuation orders.
Both of those campuses emptied at quick but orderly paces Friday morning, though students acknowledged an air of confusion about what was going on. The threats coming as violent protests outside U.S. embassies in the Middle East also stirred nervous tension among some students, and Texas officials acknowledged that global events were taken into account.
The first threat came about 8:35 a.m. to the University of Texas from a man claiming to belong to al-Qaeda, officials said. The caller said bombs placed throughout campus would go off in 90 minutes, but administrators waited more than an hour before blaring sirens on the campus of 50,000 students and telling them in emergency text messages to immediately "get as far away as possible."
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said about 20,000 people left the Fargo school's campuses as part of an evacuation "that largely took place in a matter of minutes." FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said NDSU received a call about 9:45 a.m. that included a "threat of an explosive device."
Police and school officials said the evacuation was as organized as could be expected, with one campus employee describing people as "being North Dakota nice."
Also Friday, Valparaiso University in Indiana increased security and posted a warning to students on its website after a vague threat was discovered scrawled in graffiti.
The FBI and local authorities searched the campus but found nothing suspicious. A university spokeswoman said classes and activities would go on.
City to get more cops, gunshot locator system
Seattle will soon have a gunshot locator system, new video equipment for police cars and 10 new officers if the 2013-14 budget is passed as proposed.
Mayor Mike McGinn proposed the budget saying public safety is a top priority for the community and it's a top priority for me.
The gunshot locator could be helpful in addressing gang crimes, though investigators still face problems with witnesses and gang members refusing to cooperate in fear of gang retribution. In 2008, four juveniles were killed in what police said were gang-related attacks, and those are among several gang-related shootings and assaults that remain unsolved because witnesses refuse to help.
The 10 additional police officers will bring the total number sworn officers to 1,310, up from 1,300 in 2012. McGinn said the additional positions will allow SPD to continue meeting or exceeding the outcomes in the Neighborhood Policing Plan, and help continue the emphasis patrols launched in 2012 in response to violent crime.
There have been 23rd homicides in Seattle this year three more than all confirmed homicides in 2011 and 2010 , respectively. The previous years homicide counts were on pace with 1950s numbers, and Seattle's homicide rate is still far lower than comparably sized cities.
The new officers will cost about $1 million per year. Seattle police officers, which are negotiating a new union contract, are already the highest paid in the state, not including educational incentives.
The gunshot locator system will cost $950,000 over two years for installation and operation, McGinn's office said. The City will install up to 52 mobile gunshot locator units near hot spots, with each having a minimum 600-foot radius range and each having the ability to stream video.
Those locators can be moved in response to special events or changing crime patterns.
The units can determine if a gunshot has occurred within 4/10ths of a second, pinpoint the location to within a 50-foot radius and determine the caliber of weapon that was fired with a 90 percent accuracy rate, according to McGinn's office.
Police say some current mobile data terminals are nearing the end of their useful life and would be replaced with the proposed budget. That budget also adds staff to analyze crime data
The budget proposal allocates $5 million annually to implement the 20/20 reform plan and to implement the settlement agreements with the Department of Justice. McGinn's office noted the full scope of the costs will not be known until the monitor and Community Police Commission, both requirements of the Settlement Agreement, are in place. Both are expected to be named later this year.
Complete details of the 2013-14 budget will be unveiled by McGinn Sept. 24.
SPD is looking for a few good citizens
The Superior Police Department is launching its Citizen Watch Groups next week.
by Maria Lockwood
The Superior Police Department is launching its Citizen Watch Groups next week.
A series of meetings take place throughout the city to inform citizens about the new program.
Residents can sign up to be part of a watch group in their neighborhood at these events. Superior's Citizen Watch will be similar to Citizen Patrol initiatives in Duluth, according to Superior Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste.
Beste got to see the Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol in action when she lived in the area.
It does make a difference when you're seeing them, she said. There are people out there who care looking out for you. It gives you a sense of comfort.
Pam Kleinschmidt has been part of the Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol for years.
We train people to be the eyes and ears for the police department, she said.
Meeting as a group helps members hone their skills. They learn what to look for, what to report and where to report it usually by dialing 911.
We've grown from a handful to more than 100, said Kleinschmidt, captain of the Lincoln Park group. We have the largest group in the city of Duluth.
Members patrol the district in vehicles or as they stroll through the area making personal contact with their neighbors. But they can also keep the neighborhood safe from their porch or living room.
You don't have to do anything except report to 911 anything that concerns you, Kleinschmidt said, whether you see it strolling around the neighborhood or out your window.
Citizen Patrol members sometimes act as diplomats or liaisons to the community, helping with noise or garbage issues.
We are an information clearing house, so to speak, Kleinschmidt said.
By policy, no one carries weapons on patrol.
Our members are just content to be good neighbors, to help the community stay safe and just look out for each other, Kleinschmidt said.
The Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol even has an office set up along West Superior Street. Kleinschmidt is there three days a week to answer questions.
I do it because I'm retired and I think this is a great way to give back, she said.
About 25 people have contacted Beste about being part of Superior's new Citizen Watch Groups. They and anyone else interested in getting involved can learn more at next week's meetings. The police department asks residents to attend any one of the meetings to be part of crime prevention in their neighborhood:
Belgian Club, 3931 E. Second St., 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday.
Room 270 of the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St., 5-7 p.m. Tuesday.
Bryant Elementary School, 1423 Central Ave., 5-6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Conference Center B Room C-108 at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, 600 N. 21st St., 5-6 p.m. Thursday.
Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 1924 Wyoming Ave., 10-11:30 a.m. Sept. 22.