California jail violence rises on reforms
by The Associated Press
County jails that account for the vast majority of local inmates in California have seen a marked increase in violence since they began housing thousands of offenders who previously would have gone to state prisons.
Many of the 10 counties that account for 70 percent of California's total jail population have experienced a surge in the number of inmate fights and attacks on jail employees, according to assault records requested by The Associated Press.
The spike corresponds to a law championed by Gov. Jerry Brown in which lower-level offenders are sentenced to county jails instead of state prisons. Some jails have seen violence dip, but the trend is toward more assaults since the law took effect on Oct. 1, 2011.
Brown sought realignment of the state's penal system in response to federal court orders requiring the reduction of prison overcrowding as the main way of improving medical and mental health treatment for state inmates. But the change has shifted many of the same problems the state had experienced to local jails.
Nearly 2,000 more jail inmates were assaulted by other inmates in the first year after the realignment law took effect, up about one-third over the previous year, the figures compiled by the AP show. Attacks on jail employees increased by 165 during the same period.
A rise in the level of violence in jails was likely to be inevitable under the law because of the higher number of additional felons being sentenced to counties.
Yet the increase significantly outpaces the overall growth in the jail population for the 10 counties surveyed during the same time period. On average, the combined population grew 14 percent through 2012 while inmate-on-inmate assaults rose 32 percent and inmate-on-staff assaults rose 27 percent.
By June, the 10 counties' jails held nearly 58,000 inmates, about 7,600 more than their rated capacity.
Beyond the realignment law adding to jail crowding, county sheriffs say it also changed the nature of the inmates they are overseeing.
“You're seeing a little more gang influence inside the jails and a little more violence,” said San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, whose county has seen attacks on jail employees more than double. “Certainly, the sophistication level of these inmates is different.”
Only those convicted of violent, sexual or serious crimes now go to state prisons, leaving so-called lower-level criminals to serve what can be yearslong sentences in local jails that were designed to hold offenders for no more than a year. Parolees who violate conditions of their release also now generally serve their time in county jails.
“The violence is just being transferred to the local facilities from the state system,” said Fresno County Assistant Sheriff Tom Gattie, who oversees the county's lockups.
Fresno County is one of several counties being sued by the same law firms that forced the state to reduce prison crowding, and for the same reasons. The county's jail population increased 78 percent between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2013, including a 40 percent increase since the realignment law took effect. Reports of inmate-on-inmate fights have increased 48 percent.
Linda Penner, a Brown appointee who is chairwoman of the California Board of State and Community Corrections, which is helping counties with the transition, said the realignment law has been “a game-changer” but said officials plan to design new training for county jail deputies next year.
In Sacramento County, assaults on jail employees soared 164 percent, the greatest percentage increase of any large county. Yet its jail population has not grown and remains near its rated capacity of 4,125 inmates.
In one such assault, Deputy Kenny Gouveia was trying to settle a dispute between cellmates in the Sacramento jail's psychiatric unit in July when he was attacked by a 26-year-old inmate.
“It was literally out of nowhere,” he said. “Suddenly I look at him and his eyes were dilated, and it's like, ‘Uh-oh.' The fight was on.”
The inmate slammed Gouveia's head against a food cart and was choking him despite the intervention of two other deputies. Gouveia was off work for five days while he recovered from cuts, bruises and swelling.
The AP collected statistics from the 10 counties with the largest jail populations through requests under the California Public Records Act after officials said there is no statewide database tracking inmate-on-inmate assaults. Of the 10 counties surveyed, eight had increases in their jail populations between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2013, while Alameda and Sacramento counties had declines.
Sacramento County was the only one to see a decrease in inmate-on-inmate assaults, while Alameda, Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties saw declines in assaults on staff.
Reports of inmate-on-staff assaults collected from 44 of California's 58 counties by the Board of State and Community Corrections show an initial three-month decline after the realignment law took effect, primarily because of a decrease in Los Angeles County. That has been followed by a steady increase. Reports through June 30 show a 26 percent increase in such assaults since realignment.
Simultaneously, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation saw a 15 percent drop in inmate-on-inmate assaults within state prisons, while attacks on employees dropped 24 percent as the prison population dramatically declined last year, according to statistics obtained through a separate public records request by the AP.
Los Angeles County, which houses by far the largest county jail population in the state, experienced a 44 percent increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults last year compared to an increase of 21 percent in its inmate population.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore attributed the additional 704 assaults to “sheer numbers.” The average daily jail population increased by more than 3,000 inmates since realignment, about 4,300 inmates over designed capacity.
Families of Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams sue Cleveland and police over chase, shooting
by John Caniglia
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The administrators of the estates of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams — who were killed after a car chase and shooting Nov. 29, 2012, in which Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at a mangled Chevy Malibu — sued the city, its police department and officers in federal court Thursday in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The suit in U.S. District Court in Cleveland claims officers used excessive force, supervisors failed to rein in officers during the chase and top administrators provided inadequate supervision and training to officers regarding the department's policies and practices.
Elizabeth Goodwin, the administrator for Williams' estate, and Debra Bodnar, the administrator for Russell's estate, are seeking an undetermined amount of money, plus reforms in the police department. Though the court was closed on Thanksgiving, attorneys filed the suit electronically.
The lawsuit identifies a number of city officials, including Mayor Frank Jackson, Police Chief Michael McGrath and Safety Director Martin Flask, and police officers involved in the chase and shooting. The lawsuit is the latest chapter in year-long legal saga that seeks to determine what took place when 60-some police cruisers chased Russell and Williams for more than 20 miles to the parking lot of Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland and the gunfire that followed. The suit says the pair did not have a gun with them during any part of the pursuit.
The civil complaint not only addresses the individual officers' conduct, but also the systemic failures of the police department.
"This tragedy of two unarmed people who were shot and killed unnecessarily would not have happened but for the pervasive failure of control, supervision and monitoring of the police department,'' said attorney Terry Gilbert, one of several attorneys who brought the suit.
Maureen Harper, a spokeswoman for the city, said in a statement: "As with any legal matter, we will review it and address the issues raised by the lawsuit through the legal process.''
Patrick D'Angelo, the attorney for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said Russell and Williams would be alive had they stopped.
"But that doesn't end the conversation,'' he said. "I believe the facts will reveal that the use of deadly force in this case by all officers was legally justified. The driver of the suspect vehicle attempted to drive over at least three officers who were on foot. He was using his vehicle as a deadly weapon.
"That coupled with the previous broadcasts and the behavior of the occupants of the vehicle during the course of the pursuit — taking into account the totality of the circumstances and the rapidly unfolding events and the limited time frame in which the officers had to make decisions — it will show the officers acted appropriately and within the law.''
On the chase, D'Angelo said, the officers acted correctly. He disputed a claim in the lawsuit that alleges officers and supervisors "failed to inquire, assess and broadcast orders as critical events unfolded during the pursuit.''
"Officers have been trained by their field-training officers not to interfere or chime in during a pursuit, as it might affect what an officer is trying to say,'' D'Angelo said. "There were several times when Officer David Siefer told other officers to let him handle it and stay off the air. There is a reason why all these officers didn't all call in at once.''
The Nov. 29 chase began downtown after officers believed someone had fired a gun from Russell's 1979 Chevrolet Malibu SS. In fact, the suit claims, it was not a gun shot but the car backfiring.
The chase zigzagged through Cleveland for about a half hour and ended in a middle-school parking lot in East Cleveland. During the pursuit, officers believed the gunfire had continued and, at one point, they reported that the car had rammed a police cruiser.
Once at the East Cleveland school, 13 Cleveland officers fired 137 bullets at Williams, 30, and Russell, 43. One officer, Michael Brelo, fired so many rounds, he had to reload his weapon at least once, according to documents and interviews.
The 59-page lawsuit details the chase and the gunfire that followed it. It also alleges multiple missteps by administrators, supervisors and officers. The suit claims that supervisors failed "to de-escalate" the events by permitting the pursuit to continue beyond the city's two-police car limit. It also said supervisors allowed unmarked cars to enter the pursuit and jockey for the lead position, a violation of city policy.
The suit said the officers involved in the shooting failed to assess the situation, especially after a pause in the gunfire occurred. The civil complaint said neither Williams nor Russell was a threat to the officers.
The lawsuit said Williams was struck by 24 bullets; Russell was struck by 23. The document said the department has a practice that allows police officers "unfettered discretion when responding to officers who needed, or who were perceived to need, assistance.''
In October, city administrators disciplined 63 officers for their roles in the chase that reached speeds of 125 mph. A few months earlier, a handful of administrators were punished for the pursuit. Administrators said the officers failed to follow city procedures, including asking permission to join the pursuit. The supervisors were accused of giving few instructions to officers and failing to monitor and coordinate the officers, according to court documents.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury is investigating the 13 officers who fired the shots into Russell's car. Much of the case pending before the grand jury stems from an investigation by agents of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. After the investigation, DeWine declared the chase and shooting as a "systemic failure" of the police department. The U.S. Justice Department also is investigating the department's use of force.
"Command failed, communications failed, the system failed," DeWine said.
In June, Jackson blasted DeWine, saying the attorney general's statements tainted the due process for the officers involved in the case and for the victims. The mayor said DeWine's statement absolved the officers of any culpability. He also ripped DeWine for releasing documents on the case.
The day of Jackson's statement, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said: "Our investigation of this case continues, and the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) has not impeded it. The BCI investigation was thorough and professional, and I had no objection to letting the public see the facts. Police officers are public servants, and this is a matter of great public importance."
Russell was legally drunk at the time of the chase, and he and Williams had used cocaine prior to the pursuit, according to records.
A host of attorneys, including David Malik, Rick Perez, Gordon Friedman, Don Williams, Tyrone Reed, Gilbert and Paul Cristallo, represent the administrators of the estates and families of the victims.
From the FBI
Latest Hate Crime Statistics -- Annual Report Shows Slight Decease
The FBI has just released its hate crime statistics report for 2012, and the numbers show that we as a nation still have a way to go toward alleviating these crimes that have such a devastating impact on communities.
For the 2012 time frame, law enforcement agencies reported 5,796 hate crime incidents involving 6,718 offenses, down from 2011 figures of 6,222 incidents involving 7,254 offenses. Also during 2012, there were 7,164 hate crime victims reported (which include individuals, businesses, institutions, and society as a whole), down from 7,713 in 2011.
The data contained in Hate Crime Statistics, 2012 is a subset of the information that law enforcement submits to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. The full hate crime report can be viewed on our website, but here are a few highlights:
48.3 percent of the 5,790 single-bias incidents were racially motivated, while 19.6 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias and 19 percent from religious bias.
Of the 7,164 hate crime victims, 55.4 percent were victims of crimes against persons and 41.8 percent were victims of crimes against property. The remaining 2.8 percent were victims of crimes against society (like drug offenses, gambling, and prostitution).
39.6 percent of the victims of crimes against persons suffered simple assaults, while 37.5 percent were intimidated and 21.5 percent were victims of aggravated assault. (Law enforcement also reported 10 murders and 15 rapes as hate crimes.)
An overwhelming majority—75.6 percent—of the victims of crimes against property were victimized by acts of destruction, damage, and/or vandalism.
Of the 5,331 known offenders, 54.6 percent were white and 23.3 percent were black.
Recent Changes to Hate Crime Data Collection
Beginning in January of this year, new UCR data collection methods allowed law enforcement to get even more specific when submitting bias motivation information. For example, as a result of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, agencies can now report on crimes motivated by “gender identity” bias and “crimes committed by, and crimes directed against, juveniles.” And a federal directive enabled our UCR Program to expand and/or modify its data collection categories for race and ethnicity. (This enhanced 2013 hate crime data will be published in 2014.)
FBI's Role in Combating Hate Crimes
In addition to our annual hate crime report—published to help provide a more accurate accounting of the problem—the FBI is the sole investigative force for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. As a matter of fact, hate crime is the number one priority in our civil rights program, and during 2012, we opened some 200 hate crime investigations.
But in addition to our investigations, we also work closely with our state and local partners on their investigations—offering FBI resources, forensic expertise, and experience in identifying and proving hate-based motivations. We participate in hate crime working groups around the country to help develop strategies that address local problems. And we conduct training for local law enforcement, minority and religious organizations, and community groups to reduce civil rights abuses.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Working Together to Keep Shoppers Safe
by John Cohen
Every day, malls around the country work closely with DHS, FBI and state and local law enforcement to keep shoppers safe. This year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is partnering with a number of communities across the state of New Hampshire as part of our If You See Something, Say Something™ campaign and displaying materials encouraging shoppers to report suspicious activity to local authorities.
At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), homeland security begins with hometown security. We're all safer when everyone is alert and engaged, and that's what the Department's nationwide If You See Something, Say Something™ public awareness campaign is all about. Currently, DHS partners with a number of shopping centers, including the Mall of America, Walmart, Simon Property Group, and the Building Owners and Managers Association, to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities.
DHS, in partnership with the FBI, regularly communicates with our partners in federal, state, and local government, as well as in the private sector, about the threats facing our Nation. As part of this ongoing engagement, DHS works with the retail and shopping center industries to enhance security and increase preparedness. DHS also participates in training exercises with our retail industry partners to establish readiness while providing support and resources to their ongoing security operations.
Along with our partnership with the retail industry, DHS and the FBI continue to work together with the commercial facilities sector to increase the preparedness and resilience of public spaces. DHS offers a broad set of tools to help our law enforcement and private sector partners prepare for and mitigate potential threats, from our online active shooter portal to a recently announced pilot program that will provide local law enforcement with a platform for active shooter training.
We have seen the value of public vigilance in thwarting terrorism and crime time and again, so remember: if you see something that doesn't look right, report it to local authorities. When we each do our part, we are working together to keep our nation safe, one hometown at a time.
For more information about the If You See Something, Say Something™ campaign, visit here.