Murray names advisor for police issues
The mayor-elect chooses a law enforcement advisor with community policing experience and ties to the city's federal police reform monitor.
by Bill Lucia
With a police chief search and federally mandated police department reforms high on his priority list, Mayor-elect Ed Murray named a transition team advisor on Thursday who has decades of law enforcement experience and ties to Seattle's police reform monitor, Merrick Bobb.
The mayor-elect's law enforcement and public safety advisor, Bernard K. Melekian, currently runs a consulting firm called The Paratus Group. But from 2009 until earlier this year, he was the director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). He also spent 13 years as the chief of police in Pasadena, California.
Murray's decision to find an experienced advisor on police issues fits with his campaign promise to focus on reform of the Seattle department. Current Mayor Mike McGinn at times resisted some of the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to force reforms, which are being conducted under Bobb's oversight.
“Barney Melekian has rich and extensive experience in law enforcement at all levels of government, in academic research and as a consultant in the private sector,” Murray said in an emailed statement.
From 2004 until at least 2008, Melekian worked as a senior advisor at the Police Assessment Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides governments and police departments with law enforcement-related reviews, oversight assistance and research. Merrick Bobb is the executive director of the organization.
Seattle hired Bobb last year to monitor the implementation of a "consent decree" between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice. The consent decree, which McGinn eventually embraced, outlines steps that the city's police department must take to curb the use of excessive force by officers. While running for mayor, Murray said he'd like to see this reform process move more quickly.
Along with advising Murray on law enforcement and public safety issues, Melekian will also be responsible for setting up a police chief search process. The mayor-elect has said that he wants to move swiftly to select a replacement for interim chief Jim Pugel, who took over when former chief John Diaz retired earlier this year.
“I view the selection of police chief as the most important decision I make over the next four years as mayor,” Murray said in his statement. “We need a clearly defined search process that attracts excellent candidates, ensures candidate confidentiality and engages our communities.”
COPS, the federal program that Melekian headed up, provides grant funding and information to support community policing. “I've always believed that community policing at the end of the day was really nothing more than building relationships and solving problems,” Melekian said in 2010 interview with D.C. Public Safety Radio.
During Melekian's time as the chief of the Pasadena Police Department, the city saw a decline in the number of gang-related homicides. The nonprofit run by Bobb and the Vera Institute of Justice conducted a 2006 study that looked at community policing practices that Melekian spearheaded in the city. “The PPD, under the leadership of Chief Bernard Melekian,” the report said, “has embraced community policing and committed itself to reducing crime as well as improving police-community relations.”
Melekian and Bobb worked together on at least one Police Assessment Resource Center report in 2008, which examined the use of deadly force by officers in the Denver Police Department.
Also known as a leader on mental health issues, Melekian, according to the press release announcing his position at COPS, served on the National Criminal Justice and Mental Health Consortium in 2002 and has received an Anne B. Kennedy Award from the Pasadena Mental Health Association.
Police profiling subject of New Haven meeting
by Rich Scinto
NEW HAVEN -- There is a new way for people to file a complaint when they feel they have been racially profiled during a motor vehicle stop, but so far no one has taken advantage.
Police officers in the state began passing out cards during motor vehicle stops about two months ago that provide information on how people can file a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Since then, there hasn't been a single complaint filed with the office, said Mike Lawlor, under secretary for criminal justice policy and planning under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The CHRO and other organizations held a town hall-style meeting Wednesday night in the city to provide people with information and discuss racial profiling during motor vehicle stops. The new process is part of the revised state Alvin W. Penn Act.
Those who want to file a complaint have 180 days from an incident to do so. The CHRO office for complaints from Greater New Haven can be reached at 203-805-6530.
Panelist New Haven Assistant Chief Archie Generoso said his department realizes the community feels strongly about the issue. “Perception is reality,” he said.
That perception affects a police department's ability to do its job in a number of ways, he said. If the only time a person interacts with the police is during a motor vehicle stop and there is a perception that they are being racially profiled, it will lead to animosity.
New Haven's department has a reinvigorated commitment to community policing and its officers are out in the community more often and not simply running from call to call, he said.
For Cheshire, the number one quality of life violation people talk about is for motor vehicle violations, said Chief Neil Dryfe. He said often people don't grasp the situation of being a police officer in a suburban community.
Being able to easily access data on motor vehicle stops will help determine whether there is a racial profiling problem in a town, he said. It could also potentially be used to vindicate an officer from allegations.
Data on police motor vehicle stops had been compiled for years, said Ken Barone, a project staff member at Central Connecticut State University. The problem was that until recently it was done by paper and resulted in an inefficient system.
Another problem was that the older system compared racial data on stops in a municipality to the entire municipality's population, Barone said. It didn't take into account how some places, especially a city like New Haven, have a number of people who either drive through the city or drive to work in the city. The new system is electronic and does a much better job of calculating those variables, Barone said.
Part of that discussion touched on the East Haven Police Department, in the wake of officers being found guilty of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Latinos.
Emma Jones, mother of Malik Jones, a man killed by an East Haven police officer following a chase, was a panelist and recounted her son's fatal encounter with police and the court cases that followed.
She said you don't have to look at text book studies about racial profiling and that it is a reality. “I want it to stop,” she yelled, which was followed by a round of applause from the audience.
The Rev. James Manship, who had filmed East Haven officers inside an East Haven Latino-owned store and was subsequently arrested, was an audience member at the CHRO meeting. During trials for the East Haven officers, Manship testified that he made dozens of trips into East Haven to try and monitor police activity.
A member of the audience said during public comment that Manship was full of hate and should be arrested on anti-stalking laws. He also referenced the issue of ATV use on public roads in East Haven and said that people scream discrimination when they are stopped.
Manship didn't immediately respond after a moderator said questions should be directed to the panel. Generoso said both New Haven and East Haven police departments have a no-chase policy for ATVs because it is a danger to public safety to pursue them.
He also mentioned a recent incident in East Haven where three out-of-town ATV riders were arrested. Two were white and one was a juvenile whose name and race wasn't mentioned in a report.
Manship himself became an alleged victim of a dirt bike rider in New Haven. He was allegedly spit on while filming the rider.
Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll: Police work shouldn't be treated like a game
by Galen L. Carroll
Chris Ricci and Kimberly Humke submitted an idea (Sunday, Issues & Ideas) for the city of Modesto to become the training ground for other police departments throughout California, like free agency in baseball.
Let's examine their idea. In order to save money, they propose that the city spend more than $100,000 to recruit, select, background and train a new officer, which is a process that takes approximately one year before that officer is even ready to hit the streets as a solo officer. That's not even mentioning that only about 1 percent of all applicants make it through the hiring process.
One of the biggest expenses for a police department is the initial hiring and training of officers. Hypothetically, let's say the Modesto Police Department hired 10 officers under the Ricci-Humke plan. That is a million-dollar investment for the first year and we have not yet increased the level of protection in the city.
We then have four years left to get a return on our investment. During those four years, the city of Modesto continues to train and accept the liability as officers learn the job and become more proficient. About the time the officer is proficient and has a true grasp of the job, we send him or her away and start over. Does that sound like a solid business strategy?
If Ricci and Humke would like to see how effective this strategy would be, all they have to do is talk to the Stanislaus County sheriff. Due to cuts, the Sheriff's Department is not able to attract and hire enough deputies to fill vacancies, let alone retain them long enough to get a return on their investment.
The next area Ricci and Humke fail to account for is that the police officers serving this community have a stake in this city. Most officers live in or have family in Modesto. Ricci and Humke propose that the police department abandon all efforts in community policing because officers can be tossed away and trained quickly.
Plain and simple, the men and women of the Modesto Police Department do an incredible job trying to keep the citizens of the fifth most violent city in California safe. To undercut the work they do every day by comparing what they do to a game is incredulous.
Baseball is a game in which the mediocre player makes millions per year. If a ball player makes an error, it is counted as a stat. If a pitcher throws an errant pitch, it may forward a runner. If an officer makes a mistake, it can mean someone gets hurt, a crime is not investigated properly, the wrong person goes to jail or the city is liable.
Finally, if we were to compare the staffing levels of the Modesto Police Department to other jurisdictions in the state, it would be equal to the MPD fielding six players on the baseball field rather than the required nine. Given what our six players are being asked to accomplish, I would rather have well-trained, experienced officers with institutional knowledge out on the streets protecting the city and guiding the young officers we are able to bring on board, rather than being a training ground.