National board wants states to impose tougher drunk driving limits
by Ashley Halsey
States may consider lowering the standard for drunken driving to the level of a single dry martini after a recommendation Tuesday from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB wants state legislatures to drop the measure from the current blood alcohol level of .08 to .05, about that caused by a dry martini or two beers in a 160-pound person. The .08 standard might allow the same person to drive legally after two beers or a couple of margaritas, according to a University of Oklahoma calculator.
"The research clearly shows that drivers with a BAC above 0.05 are impaired and at a significantly greater risk of being involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "Our goal is to get to zero deaths, because each alcohol-impaired death is preventable. They are crimes. They can and should be prevented. The tools exist. What is needed is the will."
The NTSB has no authority to impose its recommendations but provides an influential voice in the setting of safety standards. The board's proposal got an immediate positive response from an organization of state highway safety officials.
"NTSB's action raises the visibility of drunk driving and we will consider their recommendations," said Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association, while underscoring that the group continues to support the .08 level.
Advocates for the beer and liquor industry reacted negatively to the recommendation.
"While obviously the NTSB doesn't make policy, states take their recommendations very seriously," said Sarah Longwell of the American Beverage Institute, which lobbies for the industry on the state and national level.
She denounced the recommendation as "terrible."
"Between .05 and .08 is not where fatalities are occurring. This is like, people are driving through Longwell said the average blood alcohol level in alcohol-related traffic fatalities is .16.
Almost 10,000 people are killed — and 173,000 injured — each year in drunk driving crashes, the NTSB said. Though improvements in auto and highway safety, as well as effective crackdowns on drunk driving, have seen a decline in roadway fatalities in recent years, about 30 percent of all deaths continue to be alcohol-related.
"Most Americans think that we've solved the problem of impaired driving, but in fact, it's still a national epidemic," Hersman said. "On average, every hour one person is killed and 20 more are injured."
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a insurance industry research group, confirmed Tuesday that the risk of impairment to driving can occur well before a drinker reaches the .08 level.
"We would expect some effect if states lowered the threshold to .05, but since no state has passed such a law, it hasn't been evaluated here," said Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research. "One difficulty in the U.S. is enforcement. Impairment begins well before the classic signs of impairment may become evident to a police officer, like a driver weaving. Since testing for impairment follows arrest, not the other way around, enforcing such a law would be a hurdle."
The NTSB said almost 440,000 people have died in accidents tied to drinking in the past three decades.
In findings released with its recommendations Tuesday, the NTSB said that alcohol levels as low as .01 have been found to impair driving skills, and that a level of .05 has been "associated with significantly increased risk of fatal crashes."
The board said a .05 limit would significantly reduce crashes and deaths.
In a recommendation made last year, the NTSB asked states to require ignition interlocks for all drivers convicted of drunken driving.
Longwell said the recommendation of a .05 limit for all drivers had implications for another emerging technology.
A prototype vehicle expected to begin testing later this year will be equipped with passive devices that eventually could be a standard feature in all vehicles, to test how much a would-be driver has had to drink.
"Where are they going to set this technology?" Longwell said. "They've been saying it's .08. Well, the question is, if you lower the legal limit, where do you set the technology in all cars?"
Authorities: Quabbin reservoir tests normal after trespassing arrests
by Laurel J. Sweet
State police are increasing their patrols at water supply facilities after seven people were found trespassing at the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown — but authorities said the primary drinking water source of Boston and 40 other communities is safe.
“As an extra precaution, water quality samples were analyzed at MWRA's lab yesterday and all came back normal,” said Ria Convery of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. “There is no evidence of any water quality issues at the Quabbin Reservoir following the trespassing incident.”
State police alerted the Springfield office of the FBI, which is investigating the five men and two women, who are from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.
“There was no evidence of terrorism or any crime committed beyond the trespassing,” said state police spokesman David Procopio.
The septet, who a state trooper came upon parked in two cars at 12:30 a.m. yesterday morning, said they were chemical engineers and recent college graduates. They told the trooper they wanted to see the Quabbin because of their career interests, according to state police spokesman David Procopio.
“The Commonwealth Fusion Center was notified of the incident and provided with the identification of the seven individuals,” Procopio said in a statement. A preliminary background check for warrants and Interpol Wanted Persons turned up no warrants, detainers or advisories and the group was allowed to leave.
“Further investigation is being undertaken because of the late hour when they were observed, their curious explanation for why they wanted to see the reservoir, and the fact that they were in an area marked no trespassing,” Procopio said.
Procopio said the individuals live in Amherst, Cambridge, Sunderland, Northampton and New York City.
Quabbin water is tested continuously for its biological, chemical and physical properties, Convery said, adding, “any abnormalities are detected immediately.”
A court date for the trespassers has not been set, according to the court clerk's office, which was still waiting on paperwork this morning.
Two community policing programs open application process
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright recently announced that both COPS Hiring Program and Community Policing Development Programs have opened their application process.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright recently announced that both COPS Hiring Program and Community Policing Development Programs have opened their application process.
"I urge every community make an effort to complete and submit an application for these two programs," said Rep. Cartwright.
"Both programs are aimed at helping to make our communities safer and I encourage local municipalities to contact my office (570-341-1050) if they have any questions or need help completing the application."
COPS Hiring Program (CHP)
The application period for the 2013 COPS Hiring Program (CHP) is now open. Applications for this year's CHP solicitation must be completed and submitted by 7:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 in order to receive consideration.
CHP is a competitive grant program that provides funding directly to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies having primary law enforcement authority for the hiring or re-hiring of additional officers to impact their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts.
Under Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 CHP, awardees may receive up to 75 percent of the approved entry-level officer salary and fringe benefit costs, with a minimum 25 percent local cash match requirement and a maximum federal share of $125,000 per officer position over a three-year grant period.
Grant funds may be used to hire new, full-time sworn officer positions, to re-hire officers who have been laid off, or to re-hire officers who are scheduled to be laid off on a specific future date as a result of local budget cuts.
As in the past, CHP requires that each position awarded be retained with local funds for a minimum of 12 months at the conclusion of 36 months of federal funding for each position.
Priority consideration will be given to agencies that use their CHP funding to hire either school resource officers or military veterans and those targeting to reduce homicide.
FY2013 CHP funding is limited, and all awards are subject to the availability of appropriated funds and any modifications or additional requirements that may be imposed by law.
For detailed information on CHP program requirements, application instructions, FAQs and more, please visit the CHP page on the COPS website at www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=2367.
If you have questions about the CHP application process, please contact the COPS Office External Affairs Division at 202-514-9079.
Community Policing Development (CPD) Program
The Community Policing Development (CPD) program is now open and applications must be submitted by 4:59 PM EDT on Friday, May 24, 2013.
Police aim to build relationships via 'community policing'
by Ian Stepleton
What do you think of when you hear the word “police?”
A badge? A squad car? Maybe your last ticket?
Ripon Police hope to change that image, and replace it with a new one:
As part of an ongoing effort to help citizens get to know the department, the Ripon Police Department has started a “community policing” initiative.
The goal is to build relationships between specific officers and businesses, as well as residents, within a given part of the city.
This, as well as other recent programs held by the department, also aim to rectify what police leadership see as a sort-of PR problem.
It's not that people think badly of the department — it's that they don't know the department.
“Last year, at about this time, we sent out a survey,” Capt. Bill Wallner said. “... A couple things came out of that, that were pretty glaring. One is that it reflected the perception we are not being as attentive to the business community with face-to-face- contacts.”
Another was that people generally don't know much about their city's police department.
The new Community Policing Initiative aims to rectify both problems.
“Basically, we want officers to be involved with the community,” Wallner said. “We want to improve that contact with the community. A lot of times, the only contact people have with officers is them driving by, or a traffic stop.
“What we've done is basically divided the community into five districts.”
Read the full story in the May 16, 2013 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.
Support our police officers and partner with them to build safer communities
by Tom Wetzel
While driving my cruiser down the road, I noticed one of our police officers standing in a sewer. All I could see of him was his head and his chest as he was handing something to another officer who was assisting him. Curious what they were up to, I turned around to learn that they were rescuing little goslings who were trapped in the sewer. Once reunited with their mother -- who at first went after the officer in the sewer -- the birds were safely on their way, as were the officers. For these two officers, it was just another day of "protecting and serving" -- to even our little feathered friends. The disparity that police officers can experience in their daily tours of duty can be quite interesting. Years earlier, the officer in the sewer had entered a room during a SWAT call to help rescue a woman held hostage by a gunman.
As Americans watch police officers throughout the country remember fallen peers during memorial services Friday, including our own parade, we should look for ways to develop a deeper relationship between the "server" and the "served." That will help make our neighborhoods safer places to live, which, in turn, can help reduce our officers' exposure to harm.
From a police perspective, departments and officers can embrace an empathetic model of policing which can have a huge impact on strengthening that critical relationship. An empathetic police model of service is essentially an enhancement of community policing in general and starts at the hiring process, is developed during training and continues throughout an officer's career through a culture of professionalism and trust. Caring about those we serve to make going "above and beyond" the norm is what the empathetic police model is all about. Think about the New York City police officer who used his own money to buy a downtrodden man a new pair of boots this past winter and you will get the idea. Empathetic policing is the officer who drives down a street looking for bad guys, but also contemplates how certain crime prevention tactics could make the local playground a safe place for kids to be. It is a model of policing that has an officer arrest a juvenile for a crime and later follow up with the parents to see how things are going for the kid. The officer will do this because he actually cares and realizes that keeping at-risk children on the straight and narrow will pay dividends later for the entire neighborhood, as well as make the officer's job safer. It is a style of policing that I noticed in a peer who had bought some Hot Wheel cars to have on stock for little boys who may have to deal with him or other officers even though they did nothing wrong.
This model of policing is not akin to policies, mandates and standardizations but instead flows from the Golden Rule, our nation's Judeo-Christian ethic and an appreciation that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. It allows officers to arrest prostitutes while not acting haughty when speaking to them. It involves catching a burglar and later wondering how his own life would have turned out if he walked in the shoes of one who had a fatherless childhood mired in suffering, neglect and abuse. Empathetic police work is doing a job that values justice and doesn't make excuses for criminal behavior but doesn't forget that we're all human and deserving of clemency when appropriate.
This model of police work is not designed to make officers soft or drop their guard when dealing with people. Police work is a dangerous business and officers have to remain alert and firm. It is not a replacement for sound tactics and control measures designed to protect officers. Done well, an empathetic model of policing can build a lifetime of trust which is a vital component for successful police work.
For those who are "served," supporting your police officers can take many forms. Holding us accountable and demanding professionalism are important steps that can be accomplished through having your elected officials ensure more transparency by purchasing cruiser cameras as well as more open communication channels with police leadership so that complaints or problems can be addressed swiftly. Also, supporting good pay and benefits to include attractive retirement plans for those who serve helps in the recruitment of bright and brave candidates. The old adage of "you get what you pay for" is applicable when trying to attract individuals who will risk their lives to protect you. And understand that police officers are human beings prone to the same mistakes and temptations as everyone else, and when they error to include applications of force, it is not necessarily some ingrained prejudice that caused it but may be just messing up under stress. And when the media put a lot of focus on a particularly bad officer or department, remember that there are about 800,000 police officers in the country. Those singled out aren't representative of good law enforcement personnel.
By finding more ways to work together, our public servants in blue and those they serve can begin to make real long-term relationships of trust and confidence and make our country a model of safety for the entire world.
Tom Wetzel is a suburban police lieutenant, certified law enforcement executive and SWAT commander.
Some In Oakland See Choice Between Police Reforms and Public Safety
by Amanda Stupi
The Oakland Police Department seemed to be specializing in chaos last week.
On May 3, a scathing report was issued by Thomas Frazier, the court-appointed overseer charged with ensuring that the department complies with long-delayed reforms stemming from a 10-year-old federal lawsuit. Five days later, the department's consultant Bill Bratton was supposed to release his plan for improving OPD's crime reduction efforts. Instead, Police Chief Howard Jordan retired. Two days after that, his interim replacement, Anthony Toribio, was himself replaced by Deputy Chief Sean Whent after Toribio stepped down, taking the much lower rank of captain. And when Bratton's plan was finally released, it called out some significant shortcomings in the department -- like there being only one part-time investigator assigned to 13,000 burglaries.
As if three chiefs in three days wasn't enough, some observers say the person truly running the department is Frazier, the federal overseer whose main priority is not necessarily public safety but making sure that the department complies with constitutional policing procedures mandated by the reform agreement.
On yesterday's Forum with Michael Krasny, Geoff Collins, a former member of Oakland's Community Policing Advisory Board, voiced concerns about the competing priorities:
If there was any doubt in anyone's mind last week, the week of the three chiefs should have ended it. Tom Frazier and Robert Warshaw [a court-appointed monitor] are in complete control of this department. And that's fine ... but is Tom Frazier accountable to the citizens of Oakland for public safety? We know he's accountable to the judge for compliance. And I believe the concern in the community right now is when you have this rampant crime, you have this good plan put forward by Bratton and Wassserman ... where will commissioner Frazier's emphasis be? Will it be on the compliance issues? Will it be on supporting the Bratton plan?
Matthai Kuruvila, who has been covering the OPD for the San Francisco Chronicle, said that city officials and community advocates think that meeting federal reforms and public safety are not at odds. But he said that it's the police officers themselves who need to be convinced of that:
If you talk to Oakland police officers, a number of them say they're afraid to do some of these basic elements of policing because they're afraid to get into the crosshairs of the compliance director."
--Matthai Kuruvila, SF Chronicle
""If you talk to Oakland police officers, a number of them say they're afraid to do some of these basic elements of policing because they're afraid to get into the crosshairs of the compliance director. There's clearly a lack of training and development of these officers -- Bratton has identified it, Frazier has identified it -- about how to do policing properly and not get in the crosshairs. What you've seen instead is arrests and stops going down.”
For his part, John Burris, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in the reform agreement, thinks there is no conflict between lawful policing and public safety:
"The NSA [Negotiated Settlement Agreement] was based upon the best practices of policing. OPD command staff was part of that process in putting it together. I've never understood why police officers have found it so difficult to be in compliance with the terms of the NSA and best practices. I don't know what that complaint is all about because it has nothing to do with preventing them from doing their job. It is true that they're being looked at, that they're being held accountable, but in terms of how to be a good police officer, there's nothing in the NSA that prevents them from doing that."
I've never understood why police officers have found it so difficult to be in compliance with the terms of the NSA and best practices." --John Burris, civil rights attorney
Burris went on to say that the department's major problem is "how they treat the people in the community. It's called basic respect."
The Chronicle's Kuruvila, however, thinks that Oakland residents are split on what police priorities should be. "There's this incredible tension right now within Oakland about people who both see, want and are clamoring for more police, and people who are worried about how they'll be treated by them," he said.
Collins, the ex-member of the Community Policing Advisory Board, said the blame for the perceived dichotomy between public safety and compliance with the mandated reforms predates the city and department's current leadership.
"We've been at this through a succession of police chiefs and city administrators and council members, who have been responsible for not following through with this," he said. "This is not just about the officers. In many ways they become the victim of a functional breakdown at the government level for the past 10 years."