Asylum seekers at Southwest US border double
by BRIAN SKOLOFF
PHOENIX (AP) Requests for asylum in the United States along the Southwest border have more than doubled over the last three years as immigrants seek legal entry into the country by claiming fear of persecution back home.
That's according to figures released Friday by the federal government.
The Department of Homeland Security says the number of so-called credible fear claims at the border reached nearly 15,000 by the end of June, with three more months to go in the fiscal year. That's compared with about 7,000 such claims for the entire 2011 fiscal year.
The numbers represent what's known as "defensive" applications where foreigners who are outside the U.S. arrive at ports of entry seeking asylum. They don't include additional asylum requests filed by immigrants who are already in the U.S. The department says those figures aren't available.
Black police officers discuss challenges, changes
by JENNY WAGNER
BEAVER, Pa. (AP) Several years ago, Andre Davis and his wife were driving home from a concert in Pittsburgh.
The couple had seen Luther Vandross at the Civic Arena.
At a red light on Route 65 north between the city and the Beaver County line, Davis then a beat cop found himself across the intersection from a police cruiser stopped in the opposite lane.
When the light turned green, Davis proceeded through the intersection. The cruiser made a U-turn and pulled over his vehicle.
The fairly young, white officer told Davis, who is African American, that he pulled him over for a "white line thing." There was no alcohol involved, Davis said, and he and his wife didn't understand the justification for the traffic stop.
Davis opened his wallet to retrieve his driver's license, and the officer saw his badge inside.
"His whole demeanor changed and we were sent on our way," said Davis, who is now chief of the Aliquippa Police. "But I was thinking, had I not been a law enforcement official, that could have gone south for me."
It's interactions like this that have helped Davis over his 27-year career to foster better relationships between law enforcement and the Aliquippa community, both black and white.
"But that's some of the stuff that you live," Davis said. "So I am able to kind of relate to some of the situations that come into play when dealing with the community, as far as them feeling that there's no connection with the white officers."
Last week, black leaders in law enforcement from all over the country gathered in Pittsburgh for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives' 37th annual National Training Conference and Exhibition. The organization was formed by a group of officers in 1976 to address crime rates in largely black, urban communities.
The four-day conference offered workshops and events focused on helping leaders address the challenges that they and their departments face, such as reducing discriminatory policies, recruiting minority police officers and building better relationships with the community especially young people.
These challenges are not unique to black members of law enforcement, but black leaders and officers often face unique challenges in their careers.
NOBLE member and Beaver Falls Police Chief Charles Jones has been an officer with the department since 1994 and has served as chief since 2008. As the department's only black officer, Jones said he has faced not only the demands of being a police officer, but also a black police officer throughout his career.
"I have a unique set of challenges that other officers probably won't be exposed to and have to deal with," Jones said.
Jones said former and current city officials, as well as the 17 other members of his department, have always judged him based solely on his character and his abilities, which "really meant a lot to me."
"That's at least one challenge that I don't have to face," Jones said. "They look at me and treat me as the chief of police and not the black chief, so I think that's very important."
But other times, African-American officers may encounter prejudice in their work.
"I think I do face challenges, such as someone judging you based on your race before they really know what you're about or your abilities or your background," Jones said.
Davis said he's been criticized in the past about becoming a police officer when dealing with blacks involved in crimes or violence.
"You have people that say, 'Why are you siding with them?' or idiotic things just to justify their behavior," Davis said. "They try to make you feel guilty about your position or your job."
Patrolman Nate Smith , who works part time in both Ambridge and Baden, said he has noticed that respect and relationships between police and the public in general, has changed over the years.
"I remember growing up and every person in the community respected law enforcement and police officers. . I feel like now there's not that same respect that was there," said Smith, a native of Pasadena, Calif. "Regardless of race, color, creed, it's not there."
Davis said it's important to break down the barriers that exist between police and community and create new, positive relationships.
"In the relationship I think African-American men get a perception of white officers from negative incidents that they see, maybe in other venues or municipalities, or on TV," Davis said, adding that instances of mistreatment throughout history also play a role.
"That seed was planted there and over the years I think it just got watered and grew," Davis said. "But there are terrific white officers and sympathetic white officers. They don't look at white and black, they just look at right and wrong."
New racially charged incidents between police and communities often bring up old feelings on both sides and keep barriers in place, Davis noted.
A recent clash between Pittsburgh police and an African-American teacher after a community meeting in the city's Homewood neighborhood caused mixed reactions.
"You have your situations and incidents that turn people off and they keep that seed of resentment in their hearts no matter who it is," Davis said, "but I think if people open their hearts on both sides that we can really make some progress."
Even President Barack Obama spoke about race relations recently, sparked by the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. He touched on ways he thinks things can get better including changes in legislation and law enforcement. During an appearance last week on "The Tonight Show," Obama talked more about his speech and the issue with host Jay Leno:
"(W)hat I wanted to try to explain was why this was a particularly sensitive topic for African-American families, because a lot of people who have sons know the experience they had of being followed or being viewed suspiciously," Obama said.
"And so what I'm trying to do is just make sure that we have a conversation and that we're all asking ourselves are there some things that we can do to foster better understanding, and to make sure that we don't have laws in place that encourage the kind of violent encounter that we saw there that resulted in tragedy," Obama explained.
One of the things Davis, Jones and other local department leaders have done is encourage community policing strategies.
Davis said that lately, there has been a heavy focus on community policing, and most grant funding, especially from the government, has a community policing requirement built in.
Smith said community policing has proven to be beneficial in his work. He often parks his car and goes on foot patrols during his daylight shifts in Ambridge and Baden.
"You separate yourself from the community by sitting in a police car with the windows up," Smith said. "Policing isn't just riding around in a police car, it's actually getting out and interacting with the community."
From neighborhood crime watch groups to outreach in schools, many local municipalities also have programs to foster better relationships between police and the community, especially the young people.
"You start creating those rapport-building relationships when they're young because they identify you when they're older," Davis said.
Working with young people is also helpful in recruiting new police officers especially minorities, which are underrepresented in police departments, both locally and across the country.
Jones said his officers do great work, but he would love to be able to hire an African-American male or female in the department.
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, 75 percent of the residents in Beaver Falls are identified as white and about 20 percent are identified as African American or black. As the only African-American police officer, Jones represents only 5.5 percent of the city's department.
"I think a police department should reflect your community," Jones said. "If your community is diverse, I think your police department should be diverse."
But the reality is that Jones and others haven't seen many minorities apply for the jobs.
"You definitely have to be prepared to deal with the challenges in this position," Jones said. "You definitely have to have your heart in the job to do this and I just think a lot of African-American males ... it's not all of them, but I think a lot of them take a look at the challenges that they would have to deal with and say, 'I'm not really prepared to deal with that.'"
Smith, who is the only black officer working in either of his departments, said he's talked with lots of young men, white and black, about a career in law enforcement.
"I feel the biggest issue with young African-American men or young minority men is that in western Pennsylvania, the mentality for so long was police officers were white, so I think it wasn't even something that they saw as an option," Smith said. "Once they realize it, it's not hard for young African-American men and minorities to get a job (as a police officer) in western Pennsylvania, they just don't apply."
Davis said having minority officers only further helps the police in relating to community members.
"Hey, me, myself, I'm just a poor kid from Fifth Avenue in Aliquippa that was able to make it and be somewhat successful in doing so because of what I have been through and what I was shielded from and protected from," Davis said. "Even some of the bad guys that I would hang out with growing up would steer me in a different direction."
Davis said one of the most important things he learned about police work was from former Aliquippa police chief, the late William Alston.
"He told me, 'This job is very easy, you just have to treat people the way you would want to be treated,'" Davis said.
And Davis knows how he would and would not want to be treated.
"I think me being an African-American police officer, I think I can relate more because I lived that struggle as far as growing up and not basically having a father in my life," Davis said. "I was raised around a bunch of women and so I think me being an African-American chief or leader, I think . I'm more sympathetic to certain situations involving not only African-American men or people, but just people in general."
New local policing initiative helps cops track marijuana, money
by Jim Masters
EAST CHICAGO | A new local policing initiative is being credited after police confiscated 11 pounds of marijuana, two loaded handguns and $12,000 following a traffic stop in area of Guthrie and Deodar streets Thursday evening.
Officer Hector Rosario, a member of the East Chicago Police Department's STOP Team, stopped Timothy Pearson, 34, and Kevin Rhodes, 40, at about 5:50 p.m. Rosario saw Pearson inside the car and knew a warrant was out for his arrest.
Rhodes, who also had warrants, was taken into custody with Pearson. Police reported confiscating a bag of marijuana from inside the vehicle.
Police Chief Mark Becker said Pearson's warrant was a result of a traffic stop earlier in the week with his 16-year-old daughter in the car, when police found a quantity of marijuana inside. Pearson was later released, and Lake County subsequently issued an arrest warrant for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Later Thursday night, East Chicago police executed a search warrant at 4016 Grand St., where they believed Rhodes lived. There, police found the drugs, guns and cash along with several suspected stolen television sets, Becker said.
A woman at the home, 34-year-old Adrian Paynes, was taken into custody.
For what appears to be a street level drug operation, this is a significant amount of marijuana and cash, said Becker, adding that the legality of the guns is being checked.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has joined the investigation and is determining whether to file superseding federal charges against Pearson and Rhodes.
Becker said the department has received numerous calls from residents about drug dealing activity in the city's Indiana Harbor neighborhood, and he put the STOP Team on the case.
People were fed up and wanted it stopped, he said.
The STOP Team was created in April as a patrol-based initiative in which officers handle any and all public safety issues that may arise, drug activity notwithstanding. The officers are also charged with community outreach responsibilities to build public trust.
Through July, over the course of three and a half months, the STOP Team executed nearly 800 traffic stops and made 137 arrests, according to Becker.
The activities of this team, coupled with the diligence of all of our officers and support personal, are very much responsible for our 18 percent reduction in violent crime during the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period of 2012, he said.
Nation's judges say federal budget cuts risk public safety
by Chuck Goudie
August 16, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- "Public safety is at risk" in Chicago and across the country because of federal budget cuts to the judiciary. Those are the words of new Chicago Chief Judge Ruben Castillo in a scathing letter he and other judges have sent to Congress.
READ: Letter to congressional leaders from chief federal judges
In an unusual and rare public criticism of one of the other branches of government, Castillo is among those who have blasted Congress for cutting its funding.
There was no trial or witnesses but the verdict is in Friday night, and nearly all of the nation's chief federal judges say Congress is guilty of nearly starving the United States court system and endangering the public.
But Friday night, the recently-sworn in Castillo is among 87 top district judges who sent this letter to congressional leaders, citing grave concerns over possible new government budget cuts.
Castillo and other judges saying they've already had to "slash our operations to the bone" and that "cuts have created an unprecedented financial crisis, adversely affecting all facets of court operations."
"Funding cuts to the judiciary have& put public safety at risk... and a second year under sequestration will have a devastating, and long lasting, impact on the administration of justice in this country."
Chicago administers more justice than almost anywhere in the United States. On average, 50 new cases are filed here every work day-nearly 13,000 a year. There are 22 district judgeships and all seated judges have full caseloads.
But according to chief federal judges, court support staffing is at its lowest since 1999, despite many more cases being filed.
And that they say is resulting in less crime deterrence and detection; a lack of response to criminal activity and more illegal weapons and drugs menacing the public.
The I-Team reported in December that sequester cuts might force federal furloughs and the closing of the Dirksen courthouse every Wednesday.
"With an 18 percent cutback, which is one of the proposals on the table right now, we do not make salaries, and we would be forced to take many furlough days," Thomas Bruton, Northern District of Illinois Clerk of the Court said on Dec. 19, 2012.
That didn't happen then, but the red flag is being unfurled and forced shutdowns could happen judges say if Congress doesn't increase judiciary spending when it returns next month.
Congress has to cut some kind of spending deal in September before the next fiscal year starts October 1.
A bill that cleared House and Senate committees includes a slight increase in the judiciary budget, but there is no guarantee that will actually pass.