NEWS of the Day - August 23, 2013
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...

Outgoing Director Robert S. Mueller III tells how 9/11 reshaped FBI mission

by Billy Kenber

When the first plane hit, on the pivotal day that would redefine the role of the organization he had just been appointed to lead, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III's thoughts turned to the weather.

“I remember .?.?. seeing the first plane go into the towers and thinking: ‘It's a beautiful day. Somebody really must have gotten off course to have the plane go into the towers,' ” he recalled this week.

The U.N. wants to secure “without delay” the Assad regime's permission for an investigation of the alleged site.

When the U.S. tries to influence the makeup of a foreign government, it can have a negative impact.

Soon after, Mueller had a conversation with President George W. Bush, who said, “We cannot let this happen again.”

Having started as FBI director exactly a week before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mueller found himself charged with reshaping the FBI from a domestic crime-fighting force into a counterintelligence service with a key role in combating terrorism.

“I love prosecuting cases, and I love doing investigations, particularly homicide investigations and the like, and that's why I became a prosecutor,” he said in a rare interview with journalists in his private dining room at FBI headquarters this week. “I did not expect to be spending my time preventing terrorist attacks.”

Now, after 12 years — his term extended with congressional approval beyond the normal 10-year maximum — Mueller, 69, is stepping down as America's top law enforcement officer. His last day will be Sept. 4.

“I think it took me a while to fully understand that the training that I had had .?.?. with the FBI, [the Drug Enforcement Administration] and others, which was to investigate criminal acts after they'd occurred, was not going to be the paradigm for the future,” he said.

The bureau expanded significantly after Sept. 11, investing in its intelligence program and information technology and opening 18 overseas posts.

More than half of the FBI's 36,000 employees have joined since 2001, and Mueller said many had signed up “expecting to protect the American public against terrorist attacks or cyberattacks.”

Mueller, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, works punishing hours and demands the same from his staff. He said there was a clear criterion on which to judge him.

“You have one metric, and that is preventing all attacks. .?.?. If there's one attack, you are unsuccessful,” he said.

By that measure, the FBI's record has been stained in recent years by April's Boston Marathon bombing and by the deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., in 2009.

Asked what he would consider to be his least-proud moment, Mueller cited those two atrocities. “I hate to lose people, and I would say you feel most pain from what happened in some place like Fort Hood or what happened up in Boston,” he said.

Mueller quickly continued: “That's not to say you could have prevented it, that's speculation, but the fact of the matter is, you sit down with victims' families, you see the pain they go through, and you always wonder if there's something more you [could have done to] prevent that from happening.”

The FBI chief, who has received a leather-bound highly classified briefing package almost every day for more than a decade, described what he sees as the most significant threats to the United States. These include homegrown “lone wolf” terrorists, like the men accused of carrying out the Boston and Fort Hood attacks, who are radicalized and self-trained over the Internet and “are much more difficult for us to identify and disrupt before an attack can take place.”

The outgoing director said he remains concerned about the possibility of another attack on a plane; a “weapon of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist,” including a cyber-weapon that could attack financial institutions or the energy sector; and the vacuum left behind by turmoil in Middle Eastern nations affected by the Arab Spring uprisings.

Some critics say the price of the FBI's focus on fighting terrorism has been fewer agents fighting violent and white-collar crime.

The U.N. wants to secure “without delay” the Assad regime's permission for an investigation of the alleged site.

When the U.S. tries to influence the makeup of a foreign government, it can have a negative impact.

Mueller acknowledged that counterterrorism would remain the first priority for some time, but he disputed the idea that the focus on terrorism had prevented the FBI from holding accountable those responsible for the 2008 financial crash. The bureau, he said, had followed the evidence when it was available.

He also offered a firm defense of recently disclosed National Security Agency surveillance programs, insisting that “the oversight, the handling [of] these programs has not been adequately addressed in the media and it has not been necessarily a balanced view.”

“The programs are tremendously important to protection not only from terrorist attacks but from other threats to the United States,” the director said.“And there have been occasions where, and very few I might say, where there has had to be some adjustment.”

Mueller said that leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden “have impacted, and [are] in the process of impacting, capabilities around the world,” but when asked to expand on this, he said simply: “No details.”

Mueller also used the roundtable with reporters on Wednesday to warn that the effects of the federal budget sequester are “hurting us badly.”

“We will be faced with having agents take time off next year with furloughs,” he said, “and that takes agents off the streets doing the kind of investigative work that is so essential to the American public.”

He said the choices forced by the sequester will be among the hardest decisions handed over to his successor, James Comey, who he called a “good friend,” an “excellent choice” and a “superb prosecutor.”

Asked if he will miss the job he has called the “best position in government,” Mueller was philosophical.

“Sure,” he said. “You know you miss it, but time has come. Time for somebody else.”




Police in Vegas say 'sovereign citizen' plot to kill officers thwarted

LAS VEGAS – A couple spent hundreds of hours over four months plotting to abduct, torture and kill Las Vegas police officers as a way to attract attention to their anti-authority "sovereign citizens" movement, police said.

David Allen Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman attended training sessions about sovereign citizen philosophy, shopped for guns, found a vacant house and rigged it to bind captives to cross beams during interrogation, and recorded videos to explain their actions and why officers had to die.

At every step, police said Thursday, an undercover officer was with them, documenting and recording the alleged plot.

Newman, 67, of Las Vegas was a bit nervous, according to a police report. She asked at one meeting to unplug the television because she thought authorities could use it to listen to their conversations.

Brutsche 42, an ex-con child sex offender from California, practiced stalking Newman, posing as a police officer and putting a gun to her head to take her into custody, the report said.

The SWAT arrests of Brutsche and Newman this week at their apartment about three miles east of the Las Vegas Strip, scuttled a carefully planned operation to draw the world's attention to the sovereign citizen cause, Las Vegas police Lt. James Seebock told reporters. He characterized the case as a domestic terror plot.

"They were furthering their 'sovereign citizen' ideology by committing criminal acts toward law enforcement," Seebock said. "The suspects believed that once the first kidnapping and execution was accomplished, they would be compelled to keep repeating their actions, kidnapping and killing multiple officers."

Federal authorities regard sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists. Authorities have linked sovereign citizen groups with violent confrontations in recent years, including deadly police shootings in Louisiana and Arkansas.

In Louisiana last year, police said that at least some of the seven people arrested after a shootout that left two deputies dead and two others wounded had links to a sovereign citizen group.

In Arkansas in 2010, a father and son identified as sovereign citizen followers shot and killed two police officers before being killed by authorities in a separate shootout.

Brutsche and Newman were held Thursday at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas pending court appearances on charges including conspiracy to commit murder and attempted kidnapping. It was not immediately known if they had lawyers.

Police said the investigation began when the unidentified undercover officer befriended Brutsche and Newman in April.

Authorities haven't released video evidence, but the 10-page police report states that every one of the 30 meetings with the undercover officer was recorded by audio or video.

"We need to arrest the police and take them to our jail and put them in a cell and put them on trial in a people's court," Brutsche said July 9, according to the arrest report. "If we run into the position that they resist, then we need to kill them."

During a tour of gun stores the next day, Brutsche said that what they were planning was going to be big, "and that they would really get a large following once they started because of the publicity," the report said.

Police said that when Brutsche was arrested, he denied that police had authority to hold him.

Newman told a KLAS-TV reporter in a jailhouse interview Thursday that she didn't really think Brutsche was serious about kidnapping and killing police, and that officers overstepped their authority in arresting her.



How to Stop Violent Crime Without Stop and Frisk

Surely there are methods for reducing violent crime that don't require indiscriminately throwing innocents against walls.

by Conor Friedersdorf

Stop and Frisk's potential for "harassment, abuse and systemic discrimination" makes Ross Douthat sympathetic to its critics. "In a city as safe as New York has become, there should be room to weigh the costs and benefits of different policing tactics," he writes, "and at the very least the Bloomberg administration needs to do more to answer the skeptics who question the link between this specific policy and the city's overall success combating crime." But he isn't yet convinced that it ought to be abandoned. "New York's relatively low incarceration rate does make a powerful case for the Bloomberg approach, since the social costs of stop-and-frisk are much lower than the costs of mass incarceration," he continues. And "it's also important for would-be reformers to have a clear sense of what that success (in New York and nationally) has meant for the average citizen's odds of being victimized. Thanks to two decades of falling crime rates ," the chance a city dweller will be the victim of robbery, rape or assault has been halved, he estimates.

As a would-be reformer who wants Stop and Frisk to end, I'd like to emphasize that I am also fully cognizant of how salutary the nationwide drop in violent crime has been (though the very fact that it is a nationwide drop suggests Stop and Frisk isn't its source). In fact, I think violent crime is so terrible that, even with the drop, I favor taking additional aggressive steps to reduce it even more. I just don't happen to think massive 4th Amendment violations and racial profiling are appropriate options, regardless of efficacy, any more than it would be an appropriate option to increase the ease of convicting criminals by lowering the burden of proof or tracking all city dwellers with ankle bracelets. If we're going to incur costs to fight crime, they shouldn't come at the expense of core liberties, and they shouldn't be born almost entirely by ethnic minority groups.

Thankfully, there are other promising options that could reduce crime while spreading the costs more equitably and without violating the Constitution. Here are some ideas:

•  Hiring additional police, assigning experienced officers to high crime areas, and actual community policing are all more expensive than using a smaller force to indiscriminately throw black and brown people against walls and search them with "reasonable suspicion" so dubious that more than 80 percent turn out to be innocent. I'd say the additional cost is worth bearing.

•  There's strong evidence that speedy punishment for the guilty has a significant deterrent effect. So spending more on courts, prosecutors and public defenders might show dividends, and more quickly and reliably punishing parole and probation violations would almost certainly be useful.

•  Infrastructure improvements as varied as better lit streets and air-conditioned community centers open late in dangerous neighborhoods during the summer seem like they're worth trying.

•  Kevin Drum makes a very compelling case that we're crazy to not be spending more on lead abatement.

•  Increased rewards for tips about illegal guns and helping police to apprehend murderers and rapists (especially where there is physical evidence) could also help police to catch criminals.

•  "Developed by the criminologist David M. Kennedy, focused deterrence is in many ways the opposite of stopping and frisking large sections of the population. Beginning with the recognition that a small cohort of young men are responsible for most of the violent crime in minority neighborhoods, it targets the worst culprits for intensive investigation and criminal prosecution. Focused deterrence also builds up community trust in the police, who are now going after the real bad guys instead of harassing innocent bystanders in an effort to score easy arrests. This strategy was responsible for the dramatic decline in Boston's homicide rate during the 1990s. In 2004, Mr. Kennedy and his colleagues successfully adapted it to combat violent open-air drug markets in the West End neighborhood of High Point, N.C."

I'm open to being persuaded that alternatives to any of these suggestions would be a better use of resources, so long as they don't rely on indiscriminately harassing orders of magnitude more innocent people than guilty people. Stops of innocents by police should be rare misunderstandings, not a daily reality for blacks and Hispanics in certain neighborhoods of major cities.

There is one more big change I'd like to see tested. Given my druthers, I'd reorient the criminal justice system so that violent crime costs more, in relative and absolute terms, than it does today. I'm appalled by the percentage of citizens who are incarcerated, and very much favor reforms, including better conditions in juvenile lockup, a push to stop all prison rape, and the end of insanely long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. There are all sorts of sentences I'd commute. Continuing to incarcerate non-violent offenders in service of a hopeless war on drugs is foolish.

But I retain one law-and-order impulse: if you break into someone's house with a weapon, or drag a woman into the bushes and rape her, or hold someone up at knife point, or clock someone with a tire iron, or beat them up and steal their wallet, you are someone who ought to be locked up for a long time. There are lots of non-violent crimes that should be punished. Still, what I want to do is draw a bright line around violent crimes and say, "This, especially, will not be tolerated."

"The initiation of force will not stand."

That means shifting massive resources away from drugs and toward violent crime. (The DEA employs 11,000 people. How far do you think the murder rate would fall next year if starting today they were rechristened the Homicide Prevention and Investigation Task Force? Would we come out ahead in lives?)

It means looking at our prison system, and deciding, okay, there are ways to punish people that don't involve paying their room and board while they socialize with a network of other criminals -- let's take advantage of technology, rehabilitate folks whose transgressions aren't dangerous, and save the expensive cages for those who perpetrated or attempt to perpetrate violent crimes, even after they've been shown that every incentive -- from the chance of getting caught to the speed of trial to the length of incarceration -- makes violence an extremely foolish choice.

America will always have criminals, and resources should always be directed toward fighting even nonviolent crimes. But it would be nice if criminals or would be criminals had it in the back of their heads that, whatever mischief they perpetrate, any hint of violence just isn't worth committing. What if they were incentivized to avoid it at all costs? There would still be violent crime.

There will always be violent crime.

But might there be much less of it?



New York


Return to Community Policing

by Delores Jones-Brown -- former New Jersey prosecutor, professor of law, police science and criminal justice administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

“A large reservoir of good will was under construction when I left the department in 1994. It was called community policing. But it was quickly abandoned for tough-sounding rhetoric and dubious stop-and-frisk tactics that sowed new seeds of community mistrust.”

That was Raymond W. Kelly speaking six years after his tenure as Mayor David N. Dinkins's police commissioner and two years before resuming the post under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Since then, he seems to have forgotten his hard-won lesson.

Crime began to decline in New York City in 1990 under the community patrol officer program, which assigned officers to beats, worked with community members to identify and resolve problems, gave officers autonomy to creatively respond to the needs of the community and let officers serve as an information exchange link between the department and the community.

Kelly continued to work with this approach in his first stint as police commissioner, from 1992 to 1993, and crime continued to decline.

In 1994, under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the police introduced the COMPSTAT system, which made police reports and statistics the main source of crime information and used shaming and coercion as the primary mechanisms to motivate police performance. Stop and frisk became more widely used, a policy Kelly continued when taking office again under Mayor Bloomberg in 2002.

But a large body of research has found much evidence that these broadbased approaches are less effective than more focused models of policing. In 2004, the National Research Council found that community policing had helped reduce crime while maintaining police legitimacy, and that activities like stop and frisk had little lasting or meaningful benefits.

Success has been shown with models that focus on hot spots of crime, and on serious repeat offenders; that target people known to be involved in gang activity or violent drug markets; and that have the police and members of the community jointly identify specific locations, activities or actors as sources of crime or disorder. The geographic scope of such approaches are narrow — a particular building, block or corner—and they deal with specific individuals about whom the police have already gathered evidence of guilt.

Academics are loath to attribute crime declines to policing strategies because the causes of crime are multi-faceted and mundane things like shifts in population and the economy can be more predictive of crime than anything else. In addition, criminologists have long established that the bulk of crime in any location is typically committed by a small number of active repeat offenders. The evidence is strong that focused, community-based approaches are demonstratively more effective at correctly identifying and apprehending such individuals than even a refined version of stop and frisk and that they should be the focus of police activity.