NEWS of the Day - August 25, 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 ...

50th anniversary March on Washington to focus on continued fight for civil rights


WASHINGTON — Alice Long planned months ago to use vacation time to travel from Huntsville, Ala., to the 50th anniversary events for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Long, a NASA administrative assistant, brought along her grandchildren to give them a close-up view of African-American and civil rights history that she said isn't being taught in schools.

“I'm here supporting this march because there are so many injustices in this country,” Long, 59, said on the eve of Saturday's march from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. “I'm very concerned about it because I have a 5-year-old grandson and a 13-year-old granddaughter.”

Marchers began arriving early Saturday to gather on the National Mall, many staking out their spots as the sun rose in a clear sky over the Capitol. By midday, tens of thousands had gathered on the National Mall.

Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, thanked those who marched a half century earlier. He said he would not be in office, nor would Barack Obama be president, without them.

“They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept,” Holder said.

Holder said the spirit of the 1963 march now demands equality for gays, Latinos, women, the disabled and others. Keeping with that theme, those in attendance represented a grab-bag of causes advocating gay rights, organized labor, voting rights and access to local post offices.

Organizers have planned for about 100,000 people to participate in the event, which is the precursor to the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, march. It will be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and King's son Martin Luther King III. After several speeches, participants will walk the half-mile from the Lincoln Memorial to the 2-year-old memorial.

Those in attendance arrived in a very different, post-9/11 Washington.

In 1963, people crowded the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and could get close to King to hear his speech. On Saturday, metal barriers kept people away from the reflecting pool.

Only a small group of attendees was allowed near the memorial. Everyone else has been pushed back and was watching and listening to the speeches on big-screen televisions. Police were stationed atop the Lincoln Memorial. There was a media area and VIP seating.

On the day of the anniversary, President Barack Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place King stood when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Obama will be joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Churches and groups have been asked to ring bells at 3 p.m. Wednesday, marking the exact time King spoke.

On Friday, a coalition of black leaders issued what they said is the 21st century agenda for the nation as it marks the watershed civil rights event that helped bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 1963 march drew some 250,000 to the National Mall and ushered in the idea of massive, nonviolent demonstrations.

The leaders named economic parity, equity in education, voting rights, health care access and criminal justice reform as national policy priorities.

National Urban League President Marc Morial said the agenda was “by no means a complete agenda” but one that can strengthen the unity among the coalition's members and a way to go forward in a new civil rights movement.

Throughout the buildup to the anniversary march, leaders have been acknowledging and honoring civil rights progress spurred by the 1963 march. But they also have bemoaned what they see as an attack on that progress since King delivered his stirring speech.

They cite the Supreme Court ruling that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act; persistent unemployment among African-Americans, which is about double that of white Americans; and the shooting death of unarmed black teenage Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Organizers of Saturday's march hoped this year's event would serve to inspire people again to educate themselves about issues they see as making up the modern civil rights struggle.

“It's very difficult to stomach the fact that Trayvon wasn't committing any crime. He was on his way home from the store,” Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, said Friday as she prepared to participate in the march. “Don't wait until it's at your front door. Don't wait until something happens to your child. ... This is the time to act now. This is the time to get involved.”



Departing FBI Chief Worries About Airborne Terror


The nature of terrorism has changed in Robert Mueller's dozen years as FBI director, but his concerns for the future are much the same as when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, merely a week after he'd taken over the bureau. As he wraps up his FBI tenure, Mueller worries that terrorists will once again target planes or finally pull off an attack using a weapon of mass destruction.

Mueller sees terrorism as a shifting landscape, evolving from Osama bin Laden's global brand in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks to the splintering threats arising in the fallout from the Arab Spring across the Middle East.

"Every one of these countries now has cadres of individuals who you would put in the category of extremists, violent extremists, and that will present threats down the road," Mueller said.

Mueller, the architect of the bureau's transformation into a terrorism-fighting agency, spoke to reporters at FBI headquarters this week.

The director's last day on the job is Sept. 4. His successor, former Justice Department official James Comey, will be on hand next week for the transition.

During Mueller's tenure, terrorists were thwarted in their efforts to bring down a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001, a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas in 2009 and U.S.-bound cargo planes carrying printer cartridge bombs. But the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured hundreds in April and the 2009 shooting that killed 13 and injured more than 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, are powerful reminders that the protective net against terrorism is not infallible.

"I always say my biggest worry is ... an attack on a plane," Mueller said. "And secondly, it's a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist and that includes a cyber-capability that trumps the defenses that we have."

He also sees the risk of a cyberattack on a financial institution or on a sector such as energy "where we do not have sufficient barricades or preventive capabilities."

Mueller's initial foray into the world of counter-terrorism came more than two decades ago with the attack on Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Scotland in 1988.

"I spent lot of time on that investigation over at the Department of Justice" and "still spend time with the survivors of that horrible, horrible disaster," said the director.

As he has in recent congressional testimony, Mueller defended the National Security Agency's classified surveillance programs.

"I am fairly comfortable and confident that we are doing things the way the American public would expect us to," said Mueller. He said the NSA programs are "tremendously important to the protection, not only from terrorist attacks, but from other threats to the United States."

Regarding the disclosures of classified information by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, Mueller said "they have impacted" criminal investigations and are "in the process of impacting capabilities around the world." He declined to give any details.

Mueller made the comments the same day that a new round of revelations about the surveillance showed that the NSA scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications annually over three years by Americans not connected to terrorism. He spoke to reporters before those details were made public.

In the interview, he declined to comment on prospects that Congress might restrict the surveillance programs or require greater disclosure about the details of the programs.

Looking back, Mueller says he didn't expect to be focused on terrorism when he took the job that has consumed the past 12 years of his life in law enforcement.

Mueller says he thought he would be overseeing the kinds of cases he had worked on as a federal prosecutor — organized crime, narcotics, public corruption and white-collar crime.

"I had in my own mind some ideas about where the bureau needed to go and then a week later we had Sept. 11," Mueller said. "I did not expect I would be spending my time preventing terrorist attacks." For the FBI, "it's not what we want to do, or like doing, it's what the American public expects us to do."

The FBI often succeeded in that goal but not always.

"I would say you feel the most pain from what happened at some place like Fort Hood or what happened up in Boston," Mueller said. "That's not to say that 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 whether there isn't something more" that could have been done.




Community policing is this cop's M.O. ...

Every police department runs community policing programs like neighborhood-watch groups and DARE. But departments often forget that community policing isn't a program — it's the way officers treat and interact with people every day.

It's police officers living in the city they work in, understanding the blocks they patrol, and knowing the people who live there. If you want to know how it's done, ride with Officer Melvin Woods of the Toledo Police Department.

The 30-year veteran was awarded the Meritorious Service Award from Chief Derrick Diggs last year, one of the department's highest honors, for actions that led to the arrest of two armed-robbery suspects. But he's also a cop who will take groceries to a hungry family and listen to a young man beef about police brutality.

Cops and journalists have one thing in common: A lot of people don't like them. That's especially true in neighborhoods that police target, such as Toledo's Beat 620, a central-city sector that includes Dorr Street and Detroit Avenue and leads the city in shootings.

In the hood, police are often regarded as intruders who abuse their authority and push people around. When police focus on a high-crime area, people who are just standing around can get rousted.

It happens everywhere. TPD says it doesn't detain or frisk people without probable cause. But in New York, a federal judge just ruled that police were illegally stopping and frisking men of color, noting that in 88 percent of the stops, officers didn't make an arrest or issue a ticket.

Police chiefs understand that if residents don't trust police officers, departments won't get the information they need to prevent crime and solve cases. Officer Woods, 62, knows that respect goes a long way in working with people. It's one reason he's rarely had to call for backup.

“If you respect people, they respect you, even if you're taking them to jail,” he said. “People know I'm going to do my job, but they also know that I'm not going to harass them.”

Mr. Woods grew up in Toledo and still lives in the city. He believes, as I do, that police officers should live in the city they serve, even though residency laws are no longer in effect. In Toledo, nearly half the force probably lives outside the city.

As we drove down Avondale, Indiana, and Belmont avenues, Officer Woods pointed to former drug houses that were now either boarded up, razed, or abandoned. The area was drug infested in the 1990s, he said.

“You saw people coming here for all over the region — Perrysburg, Findlay,” he said. “Back then, kids were hustling, trying to make money. Today, they're shooting each other over territory.”

More police is only part of the answer, Mr. Woods said. At Savage Park, he noted a closed swimming pool. “You have to have more activities for young people,” he said. “And some jobs.”

Mr. Woods was born in Mississippi, but moved to Toledo with his family when he was 6 years old. He graduated from Scott High School. His father was an ironworker.

As a hobby, Mr. Woods drag-races his 1969, 875-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro. But a street cop is all he ever wanted to be.

As he patrolled, Mr. Woods frequently stopped and talked. A man on Dorr Street stared warily at Mr. Woods' approaching squad car. When he saw the driver, he broke out in a smile and waved.

Unemployment in this neighborhood probably exceeds 50 percent. I see the same resignation and lack of hope here as I did on Detroit's east side. People almost have to hustle just to make it.

Outside the MLK Kitchen for the Poor on Vance Street, Mr. Woods listened patiently to a young man who said he was stopped without cause while driving on Nebraska Avenue. He said an officer told him to shut the (bleep) up, took his keys, and threw them at his car. Mr. Woods gave him a phone number and told him to go to the Public Safety Building and file a complaint with the Internal Affairs division.

“Melvin has been around awhile and knows the people on the street,'' said Harvey Savage, Jr., executive director of the MLK Kitchen. “He has a heart for them.”

Responding to a call last January, Officer Woods found Faith Dashner depressed and suicidal. She and her husband, Pete, were broke and unemployed. One of their three children, Cathy, 8, told Mr. Woods that she had not eaten in four days.

The next day, on his day off, Mr. Woods went to a Kroger store, bought $150 worth of groceries, grabbed some frozen steaks and chicken from his freezer, and took the food to the Dashners' trailer.

“What else am I going to do after seeing that — go home, eat, and then go to the casino?” he told me. “If I can spend money on that, I can help another human being.”

On the day I rode with Officer Woods, he took me to the Dashners' home, where Faith and Pete were getting ready to go out and collect cans for gasoline money. One of the children came over and held Mr. Woods' hand.

“I call him my guardian angel,” Mrs. Dashner told me. “I had no food in the house. He helped us, big time.”

This family will never look at a police officer the same way again.

“Mel really cares about his community,'' said TPD spokesman Sgt. Joe Heffernan, whom Mr. Woods broke in as a rookie in 1997. “He embodies the balance of compassion and enforcement that we want to see in an officer.”

Urban police departments don't need more community policing programs. They need more officers like Melvin Woods, who have earned the community's trust and respect.




Police manpower decreases in most Washtenaw County agencies, and crime largely follows suit

by Kyle Feldscher

Violent crimes increased in the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office jurisdiction despite the number of deputies growing by more than 7 percent from 2003 to 2011, statistics show.

The increase in crime comes with an influx of more than 10,000 new residents, according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Reports of violent crime went from 307 to 430 in the WCSO's jurisdiction during that time frame, according to the FBI.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton , in office since 2009, said the amount of violent crime has trended down during that time. Statistics from the FBI show 450 total violent crimes in 2009, 461 in 2010 and 430 in 2011.

Even though staffing has remained relatively constant from 2003 to 2011, the WCSO is still below ideal levels in most areas, he said. An added issue is an increase of more than 10,000 people living in the sheriff's office jurisdiction.

“I think we're holding our own,” he said. “In most categories, we've trended down (since 2009).”

The sheriff's office is one of the few jurisdictions that saw a dramatic increase in violent crime from 2003 to 2011, and also one of the few that grew. A look at crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that six out of the 10 Washtenaw County police agencies shrank from 2003 to 2012.

MLive Media Group took a look at crime statistics and police manpower changes from 2003 to 2011 at police agencies around the state in a series of stories published Sunday.

Violent crimes, as gathered by the FBI, are aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder and robbery. Property crimes are arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. This is often different than individual states' definitions of crimes.

Violent crime increased in the jurisdictions of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, Chelsea Police Department, Saline Police Department, University of Michigan Police Department and Pittsfield Township Police Department. For the most part, these increases were negligible, less than 10 reports. Property crime fell for every department from 2003-2011.

Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Milan and Northfield Township all saw their departments shrink by more than the statewide average of 9.52 percent. However, Milan and Northfield Township each only lost three officers during that period.

Deputies make do

Violent crime rose in every category but homicide in 2011 compared to 2003 in areas service by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

In the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office jurisdiction, rapes went from 61 reports to 82 from 2003 to 2011. In the same time period, robberies went up from 51 to 74 and reports of aggravated assault went up from 189 to 270, according to the FBI. Homicides went down from six to five from 2003 to 2011.

Clayton said staffing levels in the sheriff's office are above the minimum in each municipality served by deputies, but aren't ideal.

“Although we try to be proactive and do other things to engage the community in a way that changes the community to make it less receptive to crime, at a certain level of staffing you're still in reactive mode,” he said.

The fact that the total number of deputies now is higher than in 2003 isn't necessarily reflective of what happened during the 2003-2011 time frame. Clayton said the number of deputies decreased and then increased again, citing the fact that Ypsilanti Township once had as many as 44 deputies, dropped down to 31 and is now at 35.

He said deputies work hard to make sure people know the sheriff's office is responsive to their calls and wants to work with them to prevent crime.

"We like to talk about how numbers are important, but the perception people have about their community is equally important," he said.

Decreases in police and crime in Ann Arbor

The sheriff's office might have kept a fairly stable department from 2003 to 2011, but other departments have had to make do with much less.

The most dramatic decreases came in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, where those departments lost more than 30 percent of their full-time officers. However, both violent crime and property crime decreased during that time frame in those areas.

For instance, in Ann Arbor there were 299 violent crimes in 2003 but that number dropped to 266 in 2012 — a decrease from 3.2 violent crimes per 1,000 people to 2.3. This coincided with a decrease in full-time officers from 161 to 111 during that same time frame. Ann Arbor has 119 full-time officer positions in 2013.

Ann Arbor police Chief John Seto said there are a myriad reasons why crime goes up or down, but collaboration with other area police departments, using technology in effective ways and working with the community have all helped make AAPD officers more efficient in the last decade.

“Some of the initiatives we've done in collaboration with other areas and working with the community have had impact on the reduction of crime,” he said. “This county has a very good working relationship between all police agencies; we're often meeting and working together to solve crimes that have a big impact on statistics.”

Ann Arbor is the only Washtenaw County municipality with 2012 FBI crime statistics publicly available. The numbers used for other Washtenaw County jurisdictions are for 2011.

Smaller population, less bars impact decrease in Ypsilanti crime

In Ypsilanti, the number of officers shrank from 39 officers in 2003 to 26 in 2011, a 33.3 percent decrease, the largest percentage in Washtenaw County. But, crime also decreased.

The fall in crime also came with a decrease in population. There were 197 violent crimes reported in 2003 and that number fell to 162 in 2011, according to FBI stats.

However, the number of violent crimes per 1,000 people only fell from 8.6 to 8.3. That can be partly attributed to a decrease in population from 22,883 to 19,420, according to the FBI stats.

Detective Sgt. Tom Eberts said part of the reason Ypsilanti's violent crime numbers are down in the last few years is the decrease in bars in the city's downtown area.

“Back then we had more bars downtown and a lot more people out three or four nights a week,” he said, “which led to an increase in assaults, larcenies and robberies as well. (Those bars closing) is part of the reason why things like assaults have come down.”

Eberts said he and Chief Amy Walker spoke about the decrease in manpower and crime and attributed those drops to the falling population and relationships with the community, in addition to the decrease in bars downtown.

Ypsilanti residents are generally not afraid to call the police, and there's a good relationship between the police and many city residents, Eberts said. He mentioned neighborhood watch groups and volunteers who patrol neighborhoods as vital to the department's work.

Eberts said he doesn't believe more crimes are going unreported as staffing has decreased.

Walker has also worked on scheduling officers during the more active times for police, generally during the night shifts.

“We've got a lot of people working really hard here, and we solve a lot of crimes,” he said. “And, some of it is with the help of the community, and community policing comes into play there.”

Changes in crime and policing

Population changes can definitely have an impact on crime, said Matt Harshberger , Pittsfield Township public safety director.

Pittsfield Township police stayed relatively stable since 2003, actually hiring more officers between 2003 and 2011, going from 26 to 38 officers. Harshberger said that number is 40 in 2013 and attributed the constant level of police staffing to a public safety-specific reserve fund that the department has used.

However, despite this stability, violent crime rose from 2003 to 2011 — from 64 reports in 2003 to 84 reports in 2011, according to the FBI. During this time frame, Pittsfield Township grew from 31,970 residents to 34,637 residents, which meant violent crimes per 1,000 people only rose from 2.0 to 2.4 during that time.

“Yes, it would,” Harshberger said when asked if increasing population could be an explaining factor for this increase. He added, “There's always an ebb and flow with crime statistics, up and down.”

Harshberger added that he usually discusses crime trends as reported through Michigan Incident Crime Reporting. To view a PDF of the township's trends for the last five years through this system, click here.

Both Harshberger and Seto said some of the major changes in policing during the ast 10 years center around technology and the theory of community-based policing.

Seto said Ann Arbor officers have been more efficient in recent years because squad cars come equipped with Mobile Data Terminals. These computers allow officers to file reports, do their daily activity logs and write tickets from their cars during their shifts as opposed to working on hours of paperwork.

“That's one of the changes that has helped us to be more efficient,” he said.

Working together and striking a balance

Ann Arbor and other area departments are also on the Court and Law Enforcement Information System (CLEMIS), which allows many departments to have common systems for police reports and share information much easier. Officials said this allows departments to identify hot spots for crime in their jurisdictions and target their resources there, while also working with other departments on investigations.

There are also countywide police collaborations, such as the SWAT team, crisis negotiation team and mobile field force team.

This collaboration frees up more officers for other duties within their own jurisdictions, Seto said. Partnering with the community, doing the same boots-on-the-ground discussion with residents that has always been expected of investigators, has had a major impact as well, Harshberger said. In Pittsfield Township, officers have been working more and more with community organizations to specifically target their concerns since his arrival in 2009, he said.

“There has been a significant increase in dialogue about problems in the community that we have been more responsive toward,” Harshberger said.

Clayton said the sheriff's office has been working on engagement as much as enforcement in recent years, which has greatly helped investigators.

Among those strategies is partnering with landlords, Clayton said. He said working with the landlords helps keeps potentially problematic tenants out of properties and keep communities safe.

“We have to be smart about how we deploy our resources, but we also have to be smart about who we partner with,” he said.

Engaging neighborhood watch groups, finding out what residents expect from deputies in regards to the WCSO's visibility in the community and working with other departments are other ways the sheriff's office works to partner with the community, Clayton said. He added that many home invasion arrests made by deputies have come from concerned neighbors calling in suspicious activity.

Seto said a balance between community interaction and data gathered by better technology can really help departments.

“The use of technology has to be balanced with the community-policing approach,” he said. “You can't have one without the other. You can have all the technology in the world, but if you can't work efficiently with the community or you don't have that community trust, it's going to be less impactful.”



FEMA Corps to train people for disaster response

The Associated Press

VICKSBURG, Miss. -- About 210 young adults are arriving in Mississippi on Monday to begin training for disaster preparation, response and recovery. The FEMA Corps members are coming from across the U.S., and they'll be sent work where needed nationwide.

The group is a new unit within the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.

FEMA Corps members will be in Vicksburg to receive training and some certifications from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. When they're finished, they'll be sent around the U.S. to support FEMA operations. They could work directly with disaster survivors, coordinate supplies, assess damage of public facilities or share information with the public.

The FEMA Corps members are between 18 and 24 years old, and they're making a 10-month service commitment.