NEWS of the Day - Dec 12, 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 ...


NSA: No better way to protect US than surveillance

by Lara Jakes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The NSA chief said Wednesday he knows of no better way his agency can help protect the U.S. from foreign threats than with spy programs that collect billions of phone and Internet records from around the world.

Pleading with the Senate Judiciary Committee to not abolish the National Security Agency's bulk-collection programs, Gen. Keith Alexander warned that global threats are growing — specifically in Iraq and Syria — that pose what he called "an unacceptable risk" to America.

"How do we connect the dots?" Alexander said, referring to often-hidden links between a foreign terror threat and a potential attack on the U.S. "There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots. ... Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do."

The committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said it was troubling that the government was sweeping up millions, if not billions, of Americans' records. He has proposed legislation to prohibit the NSA from the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, and said Wednesday that he was concerned that Americans' Internet records also were vacuumed up before the program ended in 2011. That program now focuses only on people who live outside the United States — which could include Americans living abroad.

Alexander acknowledged the privacy concerns that have dogged the NSA since leaker Edward Snowden revealed the programs in June. And he said the NSA was open to talking to technology companies for a better solution without compromising security.

"It's like holding onto a hornet's nest," Alexander said. "We're getting stung."

But, "If we let this down I think we will have let the nation down," he said.

Leahy's proposal has broad bipartisan support, especially in the House, where it is being pushed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who was the chief congressional architect of laws that gave the government broad surveillance powers in the days following the 2001 terror attacks.

But lawmakers who oversee U.S. intelligence agencies have proposed more modest reforms that call for greater oversight of the NSA and the creation of penalties for people who access classified information without authorization. Their plan has the support of most congressional leaders and Obama administration officials who are resisting deep cuts to intelligence authorities.

The vast differences between the two proposals have so far stymied Congress from passing an NSA overhaul this year, despite dwindling public trust in U.S. intelligence systems that have underscored the demand for change. Additionally, Silicon Valley is escalating pressure on the White House to curb the surveillance programs. A coalition of eight major Internet companies lashed out on a website and in an open letter printed Monday in major newspapers as part of an effort by the companies to limit potential damage from the NSA revelations that threaten the technology industry's financial livelihood.

The coalition included Twitter Inc., LinkedIn Corp., AOL Inc., Google Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Together, the group is immersed in the lives of just about everyone who uses the Internet or a computing device.

Alexander took pains to underscore that the NSA is not listening in on Americans' phone calls or reading their Internet messages without court approval. Currently, the NSA is monitoring about 200 phone numbers for FBI scrutiny, compared with about 300 for all of 2012, Alexander said.

The American people have been told that all of their phone records are relevant to counterterror investigations," Leahy said. "Now they are told that all Internet metadata is also relevant, and apparently fair game for the NSA to collect. This legal interpretation is extraordinary."




South Side man leaves prison after conviction is overturned


Stanley Wrice noticed two things late Wednesday morning after he was released from the Pontiac Correctional Center after three decades behind bars.

“The size of the cars, I can't believe how small they got, and everyone has these phones,” the 59-year-old Wrice said as his lawyers laughed during the car ride back to Chicago.

A day before, Wrice was sent into giddy daze when Cook County Judge Richard Walsh overturned his conviction and granted him a new trial for a brutal 1982 gang rape.

“I was relieved. I was happy that it happened. I feel good, really good right now,” said Wrice, who said he was forced to confess to the South Side crime after he was tortured by a pair of detectives working under now-disgraced Area 2 Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

Wrice testified earlier this week that then-Detective John Byrne whacked him with a flashlight while Byrne's partner Peter Dignan beat him with a 20-inch piece of rubber.

Both Byrne and Dignan invoked the Fifth Amendment at Wrice's evidentiary hearing.

Wrice, who was sentenced to 100 years in prison, said he was bitter and angry during the first 20 years of his incarceration. But he said his strong faith helped him keep hope that someone would take his claims seriously.

“I believe God was listening, that's what I kept in my mind and heart,” he said.

Seeing Byrne and Dignan in court after 31 years wasn't too difficult, Wrice said.

“It felt good to look at them in the face and know they couldn't beat me. They couldn't get their hands on me,” he said.

Wrice's case is back up before Walsh on Thursday.

Wrice's attorneys weren't sure if assistant special prosecutors will pursue another trial against Wrice, but they noted that the rape victim, who never identified Wrice, and two of his co-defendants have since died.

Meanwhile, Wrice looked forward to a home-cooked dinner by one of his sisters. Reconnecting with family, which includes 10 siblings, three daughters and a son, is a priority, Wrice said Wednesday.

Wrice said he will also keep busy with his new job as an outreach program director for David Protess at the Chicago Innocence Project.

Wrice isn't sure what the job entails.

But he has plenty of time to learn.

In the meantime, Wrice's mouth watered thinking about the meal from Hackney's he planned to eat at a celebration party at his attorney Heidi Linn Lambros' house.

“I just want my cheeseburger,” Wrice said.



Rise Of Militarized Police Threatens Civil Rights, Community Well-Being

Problem-oriented policing is increasingly alienating the police from the communities they protect.

by Frederick Reese

It has been said that “if all you've got is a hammer, then everything will look like a nail.” Increasingly, a militarized, hostile police force has emerged in America, which has moved away from community-oriented policing and taken a hardened posture combatting crime — typically, without adequate reserve or consideration toward the communities affected.

With police departments relying on special weapons, tactics, SWAT techniques and militarized equipment for routine police work at an accelerating basis, for many, the modern American police is starting to resemble a municipal army.

In 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg boasted incorrectly, “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh largest army in the world.” (The seventh largest army in the world actually belongs to Russia, with 350,000 to 400,000 deployable troops, compared to New York's 33,000.)

However, with his own terrorism response center, mobilized strike units, paramilitary storm troopers and a citywide attitude of aggressively controlling the crime rate by any means necessary, it is understandable why Bloomberg would feel the way he did.

In an article for Community Policing Dispatch, the newsletter for the Justice Department's Community-Oriented Policing Services Office, Senior Policy Analyst Karl Bickel argues that the military attitude of modern policing belies the police's community role.

“Police chiefs and sheriffs may want to ask themselves—if after hiring officers in the spirit of adventure, who have been exposed to action oriented police dramas since their youth, and sending them to an academy patterned after a military boot camp, then dressing them in black battle dress uniforms and turning them loose in a subculture steeped in an ‘us versus them' outlook toward those they serve and protect, while prosecuting the war on crime, war on drugs, and now a war on terrorism—is there any realistic hope of institutionalizing community policing as an operational philosophy?” Bickel wrote.

The rise of SWAT

In 2007, Radley Balko, the author of the Cato Institute's “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America,” told a House subcommittee that there has been a detected 1,500-percent increase in the use of SWAT teams over the last two decades. These raids, which Balko placed at about 40,000 per year, have increasingly moved from being used in response of emergency situations beyond the control of the regular police deployments — as SWAT was envisioned to be used for when first implemented by former Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates in 1966 — to being used to service drug searches and arrests.

Since the 1981 passage of the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which encourages the military to share with and give local, state and federal police access to military facilities, equipment and training toward fighting the “War on Drugs,” the amount of military equipment that has flooded not just major police departments, but small town police departments, has been startling. Combined with a sense of hyper-paranoia since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and an increased investment in anti-terrorist funding and equipping of local agencies, the notion of the militarized police has went from rhetoric to a fact of life.

Recently, military surplus from the Iraq War, including 165 18-ton, armor-protected mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, has been distributed across the nation to sheriffs departments and agencies that do not have an immediate need for such equipment, including one going to the Ohio State University campus police and one going to the Albany County (NY) Sheriff Department, despite the MRAP being too heavy to be used on many of the county's bridges and roads.

“It's armored. It's heavy. It's intimidating. And it's free,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, justifying his department's adoption of the war vehicle.

Since 1990, $4.2 billion in military surplus has been distributed, according to The Associated Press. A disproportionate share of this has been found to have went to police and sheriff's departments with little crime and few officers.

In 2012, Keene, N.H., which only has had two murders since 1999, was slated to receive a Bearcat — an eight-ton armored personnel vehicle, until protests from local residents delayed the acquisition.

“I don't think there's any place in the country where you can say, ‘That isn't a likely terrorist target,'” said Jim Massery, government sales manager for the Bearcat's manufacturer Lenco, in justifying why a town of 23,000 needs anti-terrorism equipment. “How would you know? We don't know what the terrorists are thinking. No one predicted that terrorists would take over airplanes on Sept. 11. If a group of terrorists decide to shoot up a shopping mall in a town like Keene, wouldn't you rather be prepared?”

A heavy hand

Many experts argue that the availability of a heavily-militarized response team would only encourage police departments to use it. On July 2008, Prince George's County, Md. Sheriff's Office intercepted a package of marijuana at a delivery service warehouse and completed the delivery in disguise. The Sheriff's SWAT team raided the home, belonging to Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, handcuffing both the mayor and his mother-in-law and holding them at gunpoint for hours. The package, incidentally, was addressed to the mayor's wife. The SWAT officers shot Calvo's two Labrador retrievers, whom Calvo and his wife loved as children.

In an episode that has became a modern urban legend, it was revealed that no one at the Calvo residence was involved in drug dealing, as it was discovered that two drug smugglers used uninvolved innocent people to be the addressees in drug shipments. The fact that an improper search warrant was used in the case, the lack of a background investigation, the use of excessive force during the raid, and the notion that the sheriff refused to apologize for the gross act of misconduct led to Maryland being the first and only state in the Union to order each of its police departments to report on how often and why SWAT is used.

In Maryland's first SWAT report in 2009, SWAT teams were deployed in Maryland roughly 4.5 times a day, with SWAT being deployed in Prince George's County at least once a day. In a Baltimore Sun analysis, only 6 percent of SWAT dispatches were in response to barricades, bank robberies, hostage takings and other emergency situations that are part of SWAT's original mission. More than half of Prince George's County's SWAT dispatches were for misdemeanor and non-serious felonies.

The cost of a hardened stance

A spokeswoman for the Prince George's County Police asserted that the police assume the presence of weapons for every case, necessitating a tactical entry. But many feel that this hardening of the police — including the regular wearing of battle dress, carrying of assault weapons and the “act first and ask questions later” attitude — represents a trend in homeland security since 9/11 toward seeing everyone as a potential enemy. In taking this attitude, lives are jeopardized.

As chronicled recently in the press:

•  Aiyana Mo'nay Stanley-Jones, age 7, was shot in the head by a Detroit Special Response Team team officer in 2010. The team raided the wrong apartment, used a flash-bang grenade that set the blanket covering Aiyana on fire and kicked in unlocked doors. The theatrics were thought to be for the purposes of the A&E “The First 48” film crew that was shadowing the team.

“They had time,” a Detroit police detective told Mother Jones. “You don't go into a home around midnight. People are drinking. People are awake. Me? I would have waited until the morning when the guy went to the liquor store to buy a quart of milk. That's how it's supposed to be done.”

After two debunked stories from the reporting police officers, the shooting officer was indicted on involuntary manslaughter.

•  In Fort Collins, Colorado earlier this year, two SWAT teams were deployed to shut down an entire neighborhood for four hours to search for a man suspected of stealing a bicycle and a cart full of merchandise from a Wal-Mart store. A reporter standing outside the command post of the two-street search radius was asked to move “out of the line of fire” by a sheriff's deputy in full body armor.

•  In 2008, Connecticut's Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team — while serving a drug warrant on Ronald Terebesi — shot and killed an unarmed Gonzalo Guizan. Guizan was shot six times by an officer who was confused from the use of flash-bang grenades. Despite hesitations from at least two of the officers for the seemingly excessive force, the raid was allowed to carry on — in part due to flawed and uncollaborated intelligence from an informant.

•  Chicago teenagers Thomas and Darren Russell, despite cooperating with SWAT officers in 2009 in response to a search warrant, were held at gunpoint and were forced to watch an officer shoot their dog. The teenagers asked permission to place the dog outside before the search. Thomas Russell was arrested for resisting arrest, but was found not guilty. The city and the police involved were forced to pay $333,000 to the Russell family in compensation.

“I suppose that maybe the ‘it needs to get worse before it will get better' good news, here,” Balko told Vice. “As governments at all levels continue to expand the list of crimes for which they're willing to send the SWAT team, we'll inevitably see these tactics used against more people with more clout and stature to push for reform. It's an unfortunate bit of realpolitik, but it's undoubtedly true.”

A need for change

The reality of this trend is that the increased use of military equipment is only exacerbating the militarization of the police and not causing it. Many, including Balko, feel that this problem-oriented policing, which is increasingly alienating the police from the communities they protect, can only be solved by returning the police to the communities. That type of community-based policing will help to break down the animosity that exists between the public and the police.

Other reforms, including transparency in the use of force, removal of laws and challenges that prevent victims of botched raids from seeking damages, rescinding of asset forfeiture policies, tightening of search warrant requirements and strengthening civilian review boards will not only safeguard the public, but prevent the escalation of violence from increasingly endangering responding officers.

Taken with the alleged surveillance of American citizens, the injustices in drug prosecutions, and the nation's hardened stance on immigration, the militarization of the police reflects an “overcriminalization” of America.

“A hammer is necessary to any toolkit,” Chase Madar wrote for Mother Jones. “But you don't use a hammer to turn a screw, chop a tomato, or brush your teeth. And yet the hammer remains our instrument of choice, both in the conduct of our foreign policy and in our domestic order. The result is not peace, justice, or prosperity but rather a state that harasses and imprisons its own people while shouting ever less intelligibly about freedom.”




Durkan tells citizens panel that its police-reform role is limited

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan tells the Community Police Commission to focus on its own duties as the Department of Justice and the city of Seattle move to adopt court-ordered police reforms.

by Mike Carter

Two weeks after a federal judge denied a citizens commission's request to intervene in Seattle's court-ordered police reforms, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan apologized to its members if they have felt steamrollered and said reform efforts cannot succeed without their work.

But Durkan, in a no-nonsense exchange with Community Police Commission (CPC) co-chairs Lisa Daugaard and Diane Narasaki, reminded them Wednesday that they are not a party to the civil-rights settlement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over findings of police abuses, and that the process will move forward.

She suggested the commission focus on its own duties under the consent decree.

“What you say matters,” Durkan told the commission. “But it's important to know where and when to push. We will take the pushing and shoving, but as the Department of Justice we will fight to maintain a two-party agreement.”

Durkan urged the commission to refocus on its mission of community engagement and reviewing the Seattle Police Department's accountability system as outlined in the memorandum of understanding between the DOJ and the city that established the CPC.

Daugaard and Narasaki have both complained that that role is too limiting and have adopted a broader view of CPC's job to include providing suggestions and input in areas where the DOJ does not believe it should have a voice.

The CPC, for example, has urged the court to push back a number of deadlines so it could have additional say in policies addressing police use of force and biased policing — the issues that led to the DOJ's investigation into the Police Department in the first place.

The DOJ opposed that effort, and last month U.S. District Judge James Robart denied the CPC's motion to formally intervene in the case, citing concerns that it might slow the process of reforms. He invited them to participate, however, as a “friend of the court.”

Durkan — who was accompanied by two attorneys from the DOJ's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. — said implementing the court-ordered reforms does not lend itself to the often soul-searching process embraced by Seattle officials.

Daugaard argued that the CPC's role is “crucial” to ensuring community “buy-in” to the reforms. She said that, without CPC involvement, the communities aren't being adequately heard.

That brought a sharp response from Durkan: “You don't own the community,” she said. “And you are not the only people getting community input.”

Daugaard pointed out that the DOJ, the city and the court-appointed monitor were meeting Wednesday to discuss biased-policing and in-car video policies — both of vital importance to the CPC — and that the CPC was not invited.

The monitor, Merrick Bobb, has commissioned a survey of public perceptions of the Police Department.

Narisaki reminded Durkan that the commission was late being set up and that many of the deadlines in the settlement agreement were established before the CPC ever met. After decades of complaints over police abuses, she said, the communities “are hungry” for reforms.

“But there is cynicism, too,” that is being fed by a perception that the communities aren't being given an opportunity to be heard.

“We are going to demand some recognition and respect,” Narisaki told Durkan, and that should include the courtesy of extending some deadlines.

“We were told to be independent, and maybe we've taken that to heart more than some people are comfortable with,” Narasaki said.