LAPD, sheriff's deputies begin patrols at L.A. schools on Monday
by Barbara Jones
Police officers and sheriff's deputies who have simply cruised by elementary and middle schools in the past will add campus visits to their daily patrols beginning Monday, the first day that LAUSD students will be back in class since the Dec. 14 school shootings in Connecticut.
Officials from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies were finalizing plans Friday for how to deploy patrol officers, detectives and administrators for walk-and-talk stops at nearly 600 Los Angeles Unified campuses. Dozens of charters and private schools have asked for police visits, as well.
"At some point during the day, we'll be at every elementary and middle school and private school that has asked," said Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andy Smith. "They'll park and walk around and talk to kids and administrators and look at the school's safety plan.
"We want to reassure parents that we're doing everything we can to keep their children safe."
With LAUSD's 350-member police force already stationed at the district's 100-plus high schools, officials with the LAPD, the county Sheriff's Department and the dozen other law enforcement agencies that serve the sprawling district said they would assign officers to visit K-8 campuses.
While municipal police officers won't be on campus full time, as the school police are, the hope is that their presence will deter intruders and other threats at elementary and middle schools.
The beefed-up patrol plan was announced Dec. 17, three days after a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary and massacred 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn. During a press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the attack spotlighted the vulnerability of youngsters in a classroom setting.
"A barrier has been broken in our culture, and that barrier is the safety of our youngest residents," Beck said at the time. "It's all of our jobs to make sure that we resurrect that barrier and that our children are safe."
Smith said the goal is to have the same officers check in with each school so they can become familiar with the staff and students. There's no plan to pay the officers overtime, so the school visits will have to be squeezed in with their other duties.
Because LAPD doesn't have the manpower to assign patrol officers to every school, detectives and administrators will be taking up the slack.
"What we're hoping is that different entities can adopt a school," Smith said.
He and a couple of officers from his media relations division will check in with Main Street Elementary, for instance, while a crew from community relations will visit Maple Primary Center.
There's no estimate of how long the school patrols will last.
However, Steve Zipperman, the retired LAPD captain who now heads the Los Angeles Unified Police Department, sees a huge benefit in having law enforcement establish closer relationships with the K-8 schools in their communities.
School district police act as role models and mentors at the high schools where they're stationed and also are better able to handle problems because of their rapport with students and staff, he said. He sees the same kinds of possibilities for other law enforcement agencies and K-8 schools.
"Schools are the safest haven there is during the day," he said. "We can provide proper security for everybody so teachers can teach, administrators can run schools and students can learn."
California court overturns rape conviction because victim was unmarried, urge law change
LOS ANGELES -- California appellate judges urged legislators to update an arcane 19th century law, as the panel reversed the rape conviction of a man who authorities say pretended to be a sleeping woman's boyfriend before initiating intercourse.
The Los Angeles-based appeals court said that the 1872 measure doesn't give single women the same protections as their married counterparts in certain rape cases.
Julio Morales had been convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison, found guilty of entering a woman's bedroom late one night once her boyfriend had gone home and initiating sexual intercourse while she was asleep, after a night of drinking.
But a panel of judges overturned the trial court's conviction and remanded it for retrial, in a decision posted this week.
The victim said her boyfriend was in the room when she fell asleep, and they'd decided against having sex that night because he didn't have a condom and he had to be somewhere early the next day.
Morales pretended to be her boyfriend in the darkened room, and it wasn't until a ray of light from outside the room flashed across his face that she realized he wasn't her boyfriend, according to prosecutors.
"Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes," Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote in the court's decision.
The appeals court added that prosecutors argued two theories, and it was unclear if the jury convicted Morales because the defendant tricked the victim or because sex with a sleeping person is defined as rape by law.
The court said the case should be retried to ensure the jury's conviction is supported by the latter argument.
The decision also urges the Legislature to examine the law, which was first written in response to cases in England that concluded fraudulent impersonation to have sex wasn't rape because the victim would consent, even if they were being tricked into thinking the perpetrator was their husband.
Willhite noted that the law has been applied inconsistently over the years in California.
In 2010, a similar law in Idaho prevented an unmarried woman from pressing rape charges after being tricked into sex with a stranger by her then-boyfriend.
The judge called what happened "despicable" but said the state's law left the court with no choice. Idaho's law was amended to cover all women in 2011.
Morales' attorney Edward Schulman declined comment when reached by phone Thursday.
Prior to the conviction, Schulman had argued Morales believed the sex was consensual because the victim responded to his kisses and caresses, according to the decision.
Hamilton man arrested in plot with 'cannibal cop'
by Alex Zdan
HAMILTON — A township man has been accused of arranging for New York's alleged “cannibal cop” to kidnap a woman, stuff her into a suitcase and deliver her to the Hamilton resident so he could rape and kill her.
Michael Vanhise, 23, was arrested yesterday by FBI agents, who said he negotiated the woman's abduction in a series of e-mails with Gilberto Valle, 28, a New York City police officer who was arrested in October on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
“Michael Vanhise engaged in conduct that reads like a script for a bad horror film, but fortunately, neither he nor his co-conspirators were able to act out the twisted conspiracies described in the complaint in real-life,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “His arrest ... is the second in this bone-chilling case, but we are not finished.”
Valle was accused of plotting to kidnap, torture, “slow cook” and eat women he tracked down, partly through alleged illegal use of law enforcement databases.
Vanhise was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping but not cannibalism. The alleged e-mail negotiations occurred in February and March of last year, officials said.
Vanhise allegedly comparison-shopped, asking other people via e-mail to kidnap, rape and murder different women and children.
In one instance, he sent a photograph and address of a child to potential conspirators, who said they were interested in abducting the youth, the FBI said.
The FBI called the Mercer High School graduate's alleged plot to kill the woman an act of “depravity.”
“Just make sure she doesn't die before I get her,” Vanhise allegedly wrote to Valle last February.
“No need to worry,” Valle wrote back, according to the complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
“She will be alive. It's a short drive to you. I think I would rather not get involved in the rape. You paid for her. She is all yours and I don't want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl.”
Valle sought $5,000 for the abduction and Vanhise tried to knock the price down to $4,000, officials said.
“Is there anything I can trade you that might knock down the price a bit,” he allegedly wrote in an exchange of e-mails.
Vanhise was rebuffed by Valle, who said “I am putting my neck on the line here,” the criminal complaint reads. Valle also sent Vanhise a picture of the Manhattan woman he intended to drug and bring to Vanhise's home, the FBI said.
During an FBI interview, the would-be victim said she knew Valle, but did not know him well.
“It is going to be so hard to restrain myself when I knock her out, but I am aspiring to be a professional kidnapper and that's business,” Valle wrote to Vanhise, according to the complaint.
“But I will really get off on knocking her out, tying her hands and bare feet and gagging her. Then she will be stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van.”
Valle's lawyer has argued his client's plans to abduct and eat women were a fantasy rather than real intention.
A woman who identified herself as Vanhise's aunt yesterday afternoon at the Hamilton home where Vanhise was arrested said family did not know where Vanhise had been taken.
“All we know is, he's cooperating,” she said.
Luz Torres lived a few doors down from Vanhise's city address, and said she remembered the young man living with a woman who was his wife or girlfriend.
“They were very quiet people. They just said ‘Hi,'” Torres said. “Her more than him. He was more serious.”
Vanhise was due to be arraigned yesterday in Manhattan federal court on $250,000 bail, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said.
Valle's trial is set to begin later this month.
Valle, a six-year police veteran, was arrested on Oct. 24, two days before the FBI searched Vanhise's home.
During the search, Vanhise allegedly admitted to FBI agents that he sent the e-mails.
The U.S. Attorney's Office described Vanhise as a Hamilton resident but public records list him as living on the 100 block of South Logan Avenue in Trenton.
His aunt said he resided at both addresses.
With grants, police want to improve quality of life in 3 neighborhoods
by Don Walker
Armed with two federal grants totaling $825,000, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Friday that his department is targeting three city neighborhoods in which officers would work with community organizations "to create environments for families to pursue the American dream."
Flynn told members of the Common Council's Public Safety Committee that, in addition to improving data that measures crime and disorder in the city, he wants to continue to work to improve city neighborhoods with a form of community policing.
The most recent grant totals $600,000 and will target the Washington Park neighborhood. The money will be used for police overtime, the hiring of three neighborhood organizers and money for research.
"It is a neighborhood that is at risk but has potential," Flynn said. He said he hopes the grant money will increase police effectiveness and build relationships in the neighborhood.
The second grant, officially announced last summer, totals $225,000. Called the Building Neighborhood Capacity Program, the grant will last 18 months and target the city's Metcalfe and Amani neighborhoods on the north side. The money will be used to provide training and technical assistance to faith-based, nonprofit and community organizations to improve education, housing, public safety and health services.
Flynn noted that Milwaukee was the only city in the country that received both grants.
He told aldermen that research and policing have demonstrated that the weakest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in a city are neighborhoods where there are little or no social controls. These neighborhoods have abandoned homes, transient residents and absentee landlords.
"They are unable to organize and advocate for themselves," Flynn said. "The challenge is to identify specific locations for specific interventions and create partnerships to deal with them."
Prompted by questions from Aldermen Jim Bohl, Joe Davis and Bob Bauman, Flynn said it was true that billions of dollars were spent beginning in the 1960s to address crime and poverty. "We learned how not to spend money," Flynn said. Now, he said, it's important to take a finite amount of money and identify specific neighborhoods "and force us to build relationships."
Flynn said his officers would work with Washington Park Partners as well as the Milwaukee office of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. There will also be money and support for the Washington Park neighborhood from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Helen Bader Foundation, he said.
Shootings involving police on the upswing in Florida
by Marisa Kendall
Fatal officer-involved shootings are becoming more common in Florida.
From 2000-06 in Florida, there was an average of 20 instances per year in which a police officer killed a felon. In 2007, that number jumped up to 60 and never returned to its previous level, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigates all officer-involved killings in the state. The deadliest year since 2000 was 2011 — there were 70 felons killed by officers. Those numbers account only for incidents where the officer was deemed justified in killing the suspect. Statistics for 2012 were not available.
Such a distinct increase is not evident in Southwest Florida, where the number of felons killed each year is too small to show much of a trend.
A shootout with a Lee County deputy left 21-year-old Joseph Blake Powell dead Friday morning in south Fort Myers — it was the second fatal shooting in a month that involved a Lee County deputy. There were at least four such shootings in 2012. There was one in 2011, three in 2010, three in 2009, and none in 2008 or 2007, according to FDLE reports.
“It most definitely is getting more dangerous for police out there,” said Walter Zalisko, a retired police chief who works as a consultant for the Fort Myers-based Police Management Consultants International. “Especially here in Florida. Everybody has a gun, whether you're possessing it legally or illegally.”
Nationally, officer-involved shootings dropped from 414 in 2009, to 387 in 2010, according to the FBI unified crime report. More recent numbers were not available.
Zalisko said part of the problem is violent offenders are not serving enough time in jail. There isn't enough room in the jails because so many people are locked up for minor offenses, he said.
Another problem is the rising popularity of community policing — a policing strategy that tries to form a partnership with the community instead of focusing solely on enforcement.
“The mentality is that police are mister friendly,” Zalisko said. “There's no respect now for the law enforcement authority, and more and more people are in a position to question that authority and to resist it.”
Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker has employed the community policing approach to tackle the city's rising homicide count. He assigned two new community officers to the Dunbar neighborhood — where many of the city's homicides take place.
Baker said the illegal guns and ammunition that flood the city streets is partly to blame for making life more dangerous for his officers. It's such a problem, Baker said he is surprised Fort Myers has not seen more officer-involved shootings recently.
There were no fatal officer-involved shootings in Fort Myers last year. There was one in 2011 and one in 2010.
“Almost every night of the week we are in foot pursuit of a gun, we are in foot pursuit of a burglar,” Baker said. “They're tussling with the officers. They want to fight the officers.”
The number of shots fired at each crime scene has also increased over the last five to eight years, making armed criminals even more dangerous, Baker said. He sometimes sees scenes where 30 or more spent shells litter the ground.
The Fort Myers Police Department authorizes its officers to use deadly force when they have reason to believe they or someone else is in danger of death or serious injury. Officers can also shoot to prevent the escape of a dangerous felon.
“At the end of the day,” Baker said, “it's going to be the protection of the citizens, the protection of the officer, and whether or not there's a threat.”
Baltimore police place focus on building faith-based ties
Activities such as "prayer walks" and outreach events expected to help department better reach the community
by Justin George
When drug dealers and prostitutes camped outside Eastern United Methodist Church last fall, the Rev. Lena Marie Dennis met with Baltimore police Maj. Melvin Russell and other faith leaders and came up with a unique plan.
The congregation would march around the church seven times, carrying banners, praying and proclaiming that they were taking back the block. It worked, Dennis said. Soon the dealers and hookers moved on.
On Friday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and Russell announced an effort to build faith-based partnerships across the city, which organizers hope will embolden worshipers to reach out beyond their walls. Police believe the initiative will also help improve relationships in communities that sometimes see them as a foreign and threatening presence.
"Most of our churches have a tremendous amount of credibility," Batts said.
The commissioner recently promoted Russell to lieutenant colonel, in large part on the reputation he built by working with ministers, rabbis and priests as the leader of the Eastern District. He's heading a newly created unit responsible for working with spiritual organizations, businesses and former inmates re-entering society.
In East Baltimore, Russell said he learned years ago that police can also help churches build community rapport.
An assistant pastor himself, Russell said he was taken aback by a drug dealer he spoke with who told him that many saw churches as no better than crack or heroin peddlers. The perception was that churches sucked up the community's money through tithes and offerings but gave nothing back.
As relations between residents, religious leaders and police improved, Russell said, the difference was clear.
Home to 47 homicides in 2007, the Eastern District has historically been recognized as one of the city's most violent. Russell took command of the district in 2008, and the homicide count dropped to 38. In 2011, it was down to 28.
Last year, Russell said, the total number of shootings declined for the third consecutive year, but the district saw 37 killings. That was the most in any city police district, a reminder of the difficulties that the new unit will face, even with successful community cooperation.
Jim Nolan, an associate professor at West Virginia University who focuses on crime and social control, said partnerships with places of worship are an effective long-term strategy, especially in cities. Pastors often provide police with the emotional pulse of communities, which can help officers decide the best methods to reach often distrustful residents.
"When police act as if neighbors need to be dependent on them to protect them, they come up with their own strategies, which involve a lot of arrests and sweeping the corners," said Nolan, a former Wilmington, Del., police officer. "But many neighborhoods don't like the police and don't want them to come."
As part of the initiative in Baltimore, police are hoping to strengthen information-gathering on the streets, something Batts said could have helped control gang skirmishes that flared up last fall and resulted in a string of shootings and killings.
About 25 faith leaders attended Friday's initial meeting at the Humanim nonprofit center in the American Brewery building. After an opening prayer, attendees tackled an agenda that included relationship-building, ways to support released or paroled prisoners and "increasing prayer and serving beyond the church walls."
Police hope the meetings continue monthly and even more frequently on smaller scales between neighborhood religious leaders and the police commanders who oversee the same blocks.
The move toward strengthening the bonds between police and faith leaders was just one facet of a new "community policing division" that Batts created last month as part of a broad reshuffling of the agency's command staff. Batts, who took over the department in the fall, tapped new leadership for four patrol districts and the homicide unit and created units focused on community relations and gangs.
The community unit, which will be paid for and staffed using existing department resources, has "reached out to every single denomination," Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. "Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, every one of them."
While partnerships with Baltimore police and churches aren't new, Batts found Russell's work with congregations in the Eastern District exemplary and wanted to replicate it citywide. The commissioner said he knows the value of churches for police from his time as a police chief in California.
"It has worked for him in his area," Batts said, "and it has worked for me in Oakland and it worked for me in Long Beach."
Early on in East Baltimore, Russell asked some of the 120 places of worship in his district to "come outside of those [church] walls," reaching out to drug houses or homes marked by repeated domestic violence.
Pastors bought in and began "prayer walks" that broke down communication barriers between residents, police and churches. Residents began sharing prayer requests and their needs with church members, who passed on those requests to police walking beside them. Police could then call on various nonprofit and governmental services for help.
"What you began to see was transformation in the community," Russell said.
The Rev. Rodney Hudson, pastor of Ames Memorial United Methodist Church in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, is hoping for positive results citywide. He already works closely with Western District officers, sharing information and holding joint community meetings.
"As a faith leader, I view police as having special God-ordered authority to keep peace and order," he said.
That's crucial in a neighborhood such as Sandtown, he said, where he's seen the effects of violent family disputes spill into his church. On one occasion, he ministered to the families of a murder suspect and victim in the same crime — a tough situation.
Just as police can help him, he said, he can help officers and detectives understand neighborhood and family dynamics.
How Do I Protect Myself?
The UMOIS Latina Resource Center helps protect and assist abused women who may fear for their lives.
by James Gutierrez
(Audios on site)
Dayana Garcia , her little sister, Brenda , and their cousin, Claudia , used to sneak up the back staircase of their parents' home barefoot, making sure not to wake up any adults.
“We would go dancing, stay out past (curfew) and have to sneak back in,” Brenda Garcia says with a smile. “Those stairs were so loud we would hold our high-heels trying not to laugh.”
Dayana, 24, who loved to dance, was brutally killed, allegedly by her estranged husband, on Jan. 3, 2012 in her backyard. Almost one year later, Jose Luis Discua-Bados remains at-large while Dayana's family is still desperately searching for justice and healing.
In 2011, 40 people lost their lives from domestic violence in Wisconsin – the lowest total in six years (2006), according to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Yet there have been a number of high-profile deaths this year in Milwaukee. For women on Milwaukee's South Side, UMOS's Latina Resource Center stands ready to serve any woman experiencing domestic abuse. The center reached out to the family of Dayana Garcia within a week of the tragedy.
Pilar Hernandez , Garcia's grandmother, witnessed the horrifying murder from the downstairs flat; she watched as Discua-Bados, an illegal Honduran immigrant, struck Garcia with a two-by-four and then stabbed her repeatedly. “(Pilar) felt so guilty that she couldn't do more,” Brenda says. “She couldn't even go to the funeral and had to ask my brother to tell Dayana that she was sorry.”
Brenda recalls how she and her sister spent the early morning of Christmas day – just a week before the attack – at the district 12 Police Station begging for protection.
“While we were at the station, he was stalking her house,” Brenda says. “They said we could call ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) or go get a restraining order downtown. They told us they couldn't do anything for us that night.” Dayana's cousin Claudia Rosete , 27, tells how Dayana loved spending Christmas with family and her newborn son, always full of laugher and joy.
“After she got married and had Omar, that light of hers went dim and more dim,” Claudia says. “She always wanted a family for her son and for herself and that's what she was fighting for.”
Mariana Rodriguez , Program Manager at the Latina Resource Center, says the organization's services continue to expand as people in the community utilize the center's wide range of services. Last year there was an 80 percent increase for services offered while the center helped 1,800 adults and children.
It was fear that drove Dayana and her sister Brenda to spend the earliest hour of Christmas day at district 12 and that fear can be paralyzing. The center works hard to combat fear with education and new skills.
“We've had cases where sisters come in and say ‘my sisters in an abusive relationship,'” Rodriguez says, “but, we can't force anyone to seek help.”
Rodriguez says giving family members or friends the information on domestic violence and alerting them to services such as the Latina Resource Center can make a big difference.
The center says women may delay taking action because they they fear for their safety from the abuser, they worry about how to support themselves or are concerned about the custody of their child. “It's not about helping a client or victim understand they're a victim because they know, they know,” Rodriguez says with authority. “What they struggle with is, ‘how do I protect myself? How do I protect my children?'”
All of the programs offered (approximately 10 total) are free of charge. The center operates on a strict and ethical framework where the confidentiality of its clients is the number one priority.
The center is a branch of the much larger UMOS – United Migrant Opportunity Services – that operates in many states nationally. The center's programs range from those handling sexual assault, domestic violence, children's group for those who have been sexually assaulted and abused, a survivors group and other services aimed at the unique challenges of the Hispanic population in Milwaukee.
Statistics from the WCADV's 2011 Homicide Summary show that a woman is six times more likely to be killed after ending/leaving an abusive relationship, and if the abuser has made homicidal threats that risk increases up to 15 times.
Brenda and Claudia are doing all that they can to prevent this from happening to another sister, cousin or woman in Milwaukee. “The reason why I'm going out in public and agreeing to these interviews is because I hope that Dayana's story can prevent this from happening to someone else,” Brenda says. “I obviously want justice for my sister, but if her story can save someone's life, that'd be great.”
Twelfth District Supervisor, Peggy Romo West contacted the family once she heard of Dayana's story. She has worked closely with Brenda and Claudia since their first meeting on Romo West's front lawn where her and her daughters were building an altar to honor the memory of Dayana. Since that meeting the women have combined their efforts to participate in Milwaukee's Bride Walk Against Domestic Violence and the near South Side's Dia de los Muertos Parade.
On Jan. 5, one year and two days after Dayana lost her life, Brenda, Claudia and Peggy are organizing a day of action for Dayana. As many as 60 volunteers are planning on driving around the Midwest – everywhere from Illinois to Northern Wisconsin – passing out WANTED posters and media packets. There is also a 'Justice for Dayana' Facebook page as well as multiple fundraisers planned for the coming months.
Brenda says that closure is something that seems impossible at the moment.
“I want healing every single day. I wish I could be okay but in reality we are going through it every single day. Everything we do for her is a reminder that she is gone.”