Letter to the Editor
Police can not do it alone. Business, education, civic clubs, all across the community spectrum, It Takes A Village to Raise A Child. The most important element of a successful Community Policing Initiative is one citizen who knows the issues their community faces and stays alert to what is going on around them.
The power of the cellphone kicks in if anyone sees a child in distress or senior citizen all manner of community life improves if everyone would join a Community Policing Initiative in their community. Hartford, New Haven, the whole state mobilized to know the issues and stay alert in a pro-ctive prevention effort ready to make the 911 call if anyone is in danger.
Michael Cluney, Mansfield
Kid Protection Network
Getting Police Out of Immigration Enforcement
A new bill in Boston would limit local officers' cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program.
by Stephanie Kraft
Should local police have to enforce immigration rules against undocumented people not implicated in criminal acts?
A drive is on in Massachusetts to free state and local law enforcement from having to cooperate with certain aspects of the federal Secure Communities program, which targets people for deportation.
According to an American Friends Service Committee tally of Department of Homeland Security data, 200 people have been deported since the federal government started up the program in Massachusetts last year, and 62 percent of them had no criminal histories.
A bill, Senate 1135/House 1613, filed at the request of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action and a coalition of community groups, would limit the responsibilities of police in the Bay State to targeting people who are 18 or over, have been sentenced to five years or more in prison, and have not been released by a state court.
The bill—called, like similar bills elsewhere, the Trust Act—also requires that when people are detained by police, they be given lawyers before being turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) officials. And the costs of detention would have to be paid by the federal government.
Among the supporters of the bill from the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation are Sen. Denise Andrews and Reps. Ellen Story, John Scibak, Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Aaron Vega and Ben Swan.
The bill was modeled at least in part on a policy developed by the Amherst police department in 2011, according to Just Communities of Western Massachusetts, a project of Springfield-based Western Massachusetts Jobs With Justice. The Amherst PD directive emphasizes that “it is not within the mission of this department to enforce immigration laws.”
Hence, says the directive, signed by Chief Scott Livingstone in August, 2011, “If ICE or another federal agency come into our community to effect an arrest warrant on an individual, and request our assistance... this assistance... would be limited to locating an address, keeping the peace and [controlling] traffic if necessary.”
The directive also states: “Skin color, language, accent, or other individual traits shall not be considered an element in building reasonable suspicion or probable cause, unless these descriptions are pertinent in developing a suspect, such as when we rely on witness or victim recollection of a suspect....A person's right to file a report, participate in police-community activities, or otherwise benefit from police services shall not be continent upon citizenship or immigration status.”
The 2011 version of the directive came about “because of a lengthy dialogue with the immigrant community and those that work on their behalf and their concerns about how we would address issues with ICE,” Capt. Jennifer Gundersen, head of the Amherst PD's community policing program, told the Advocate. “Even before August of ‘11, we still had a strong policy that limited work that we did with the ICE. If there was a sweep, our involvement would be assisting in traffic control or keeping the peace, but we don't conduct sweeps.”
The Northampton City Council also passed a resolution in 2011 stating that the city, “to the extent permissible by law, shall not participate in federal law enforcement programs relating to immigration inforcement, including but not limited to, Secure Communities...”
The resolution adds, “Municipal employees of Northampton, including law enforcement employees, shall not monitor, stop, detain, question, interrogate, or search a person for the purpose of determining that individual's immigration status.”
In Amherst, the policy was developed partly to aid the community policing effort by encouraging immigrants to trust local law enforcement. Undocumented status makes people ripe to become victims of many classes of crime; the Amherst directive, for example, mentions that undocumented people often have money on them or in their homes because it's difficult for them to deposit it in banks. This makes them ripe for robberies they may be reluctant to report for fear of deportation, just as they are often reluctant to report wage theft, substandard working conditions—or sexual abuse.
Just Communities offered this quote from Alicia Morales, who emigrated to Springfield from Guatemala: “For months I was abused at work by my boss. He would grab me, and it would leave bruises all over my body. He would tell me, ‘Go ahead, call the police. You don't matter. They won't help you.'”
In other parts of the country, communities and states have resisted aspects of the Secure Communities program. In Santa Clara County, Calif., county commissioners voted not to cooperate with the part of the program that asks local law enforcement to hold people in custody for an extra 48 hours after they would normally be released so the ICE can investigate their immigration status. Contra Costa County, Calif., which has had an exceptionally high rate of non-criminal deportations, now has a policy limiting local law enforcement's cooperation with the program.
The Secure Communities program was started up in 14 jurisdictions by the George W. Bush administration in 2008 and then expanded gradually. Gov. Deval Patrick and other Massachusetts officials objected to its introduction in Massachusetts in 2012, as did the governor of New York when the program was started up there last year, but Washington gave the states no choice.
ICE defends the program, which, it says, since 2008 has removed more than 135,000 convicted criminals from the U.S., including 49,000 violent felons. Opponents say the program also targets people guilty of nothing but overstaying their visas or missing court dates with the ICE.
The Connecticut state legislature passed a form of the Trust Act in June, as did the District of Columbia last year. Also last year, the California state legislature passed a form of the Trust Act, informally known as the “anti-Arizona law,” but the law went back to the drawing boards after the governor demanded changes. New York City has also restricted its cooperation with immigration officials attempting to detain people who are not charged with serious offenses.•
Oak Park Police to Host Free Youth Basketball Camp
Largely successful within the community, camp serves 80 kids, in its 20th year.
by Cate Flahardy
Oak Park police officers may do a great job protecting and serving the residents of Oak Park, but some are taking that responsibility even a step further. Every year, a team of officers from the department's community policing division hosts a youth basketball camp—and it's free to any Oak Park child between the ages of eight and 14. This year marks the camp's 20th event.
“We started it as an initiative to connect with youth in Oak Park, and over the years it has really grown in popularity,” says Commander Ladon Reynolds of the department's community policing division. “Since we first launched the camp, it has more than doubled in size.”
The division created the camp as a way to connect to youth in Oak Park.
“Any opportunity to engage youth is an opportunity that should be taken,” Commander Reynolds says. “The camp gives the young people the opportunity to see officers outside the preconceived role that they play. The officers engage the kids as mentors and develop relationships. And it's reciprocal. It's positive for the kids, the officers and for the community as a whole.”
The camp, which is held at the West Cook YMCA (255 S. Marion St., Oak Park) from Aug. 12 to Aug. 16, includes one-on-one and group instruction, team play, full court games, contests and awards. The camp's morning session, which runs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., coaches Oak Park kids between the ages of eight and 11. An afternoon session, which runs from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., coaches kids between the ages of 12 and 14. Registration is required. For more information, call 708.358.5519 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Police record license plates by the millions
by ANNE FLAHERTY and CALVIN WOODWARD
WASHINGTON—You can drive, but you can't hide.
A rapidly growing network of police cameras is capturing, storing and sharing data on license plates, making it possible to stitch together people's movements whether they are stuck in a commute, making tracks to the beach or up to no good.
For the first time, the number of license tag captures has reached the millions, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union based on information from hundreds of law enforcement agencies. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely, saying they can be crucial in tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts, finding abducted children and more.
Attached to police cars, bridges or buildings—and sometimes merely as an app on a police officer's smartphone—scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and pinpoint their locations, uploading that information into police databases.
Over time, it's unlikely many vehicles in a covered area escape notice. And with some of the information going into regional databases encompassing multiple jurisdictions, it's becoming easier to build a record of where someone has been and when, over a large area.
While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to use GPS to track a car, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions.
The ACLU says the scanners are assembling a "single, high-resolution image of our lives."
"There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the organization. The group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to any crime.
Although less thorough than GPS tracking, plate readers can produce some of the same information, the group says, revealing whether someone is frequenting a bar, joining a protest, getting medical or mental help, being unfaithful to a spouse and much more.
In Minneapolis, for example, eight mobile and two fixed cameras captured data on 4.9 million license plates from January to August 2012, the Star Tribune reported. Among those whose movements were recorded: Mayor R.T. Rybak, whose city-owned cars were tracked at 41 locations in a year.
A Star Tribune reporter's vehicle was tracked seven times in a year, placing him at a friend's house three times late at night, other times going to and from work—forming a picture of the dates, times and coordinates of his daily routine. Until the city temporarily classified such data late last year, anyone could ask police for a list of when and where a car had been spotted.
As the technology becomes cheaper and more widespread, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. The federal government has been a willing partner, offering grants to help equip departments, in part as a tool against terrorism.
Law enforcement officials say the scanners are strikingly efficient. The state of Maryland told the ACLU that troopers could "maintain a normal patrol stance" while capturing up to 7,000 license plate images in a single eight-hour shift.
"At a time of fiscal and budget constraints, we need better assistance for law enforcement," said Harvey Eisenberg, assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.
Law enforcement officials say the technology automates a practice that's been around for years. The ACLU found that only five states have laws governing license plate readers. New Hampshire, for example, bans the technology except in narrow circumstances, while Maine and Arkansas limit how long plate information can be stored.
"There's no expectation of privacy" for a vehicle driving on a public road or parked in a public place, said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, a spokesman for the Mesquite Police Department in Texas. The department has records stretching back to 2008, although the city plans next month to begin deleting files older than two years.
In Yonkers, N.Y., just north of New York City's Bronx, police said retaining the information indefinitely helps detectives solve future crimes. In a statement, the department said it uses license plate readers as a "reactive investigative tool" that is only accessed if detectives are looking for a particular vehicle in connection with a crime.
"These plate readers are not intended nor used to follow the movements of members of the public," the department said.
Even so, the records add up quickly. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, the population is 250,000, but the city collected more than 2 million plate images in a year. Because the city keeps records for five years, the ACLU estimates that it has some 10 million on file, making it possible for police to plot the movements of most residents, depending upon the number and location of the scanners.
The ACLU study, based on 26,000 pages of responses from 293 police departments and state agencies across the country, found that license plate scanners produced a small fraction of "hits," or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle had been found.
In Maryland, for example, the state reported reading about 29 million plates between January and May of last year. Of that number, about 60,000—or roughly 1 in every 500 license plates—were suspicious. The main offenses: a suspended or revoked registration, or a violation of the state's emissions inspection program, altogether accounting for 97 percent of alerts.
Even so, Eisenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney, said the program has helped authorities track 132 wanted suspects and can make a critical difference in keeping an area safe.
Also, he said, Maryland has rules in place restricting access. Most records are retained for one year, and the state's privacy policies are reviewed by an independent board, Eisenberg noted.
At least in Maryland, "there are checks, and there are balances," he said.