L.A. to take guns from those accused of domestic violence
by Rick Orlov
A new way to deal with those accused of domestic violence was unveiled Wednesday, with the City Attorney's Office and Los Angeles Police Department seeking to remove guns from those accused of abuse.
“Once someone is arrested for domestic abuse, the LAPD will inform my office, and we will take steps to remove their guns,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said at a City Hall news conference. “Each week in the United States, nine women are killed by handguns. We can do better than that.”
Feuer said the new prosecution protocol developed by his office with advocacy groups over the past six months is designed to reduce the possibility of further violence.
Under current law, those accused of domestic violence are prohibited from owning a weapon. Violators could face additional criminal charges.
As part of the strategy, the City Attorney's Office will file criminal charges against those who still have weapons and launch an education campaign to help women understand their rights.
Assistant LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the LAPD has taken a leadership role in identifying those who own weapons.
“As we continue to see decreases in crimes, including domestic violence, it is the result of partnerships with people in law enforcement and victim advocates,” Moore said.
Feuer said gun violence has been one of his top priorities both as a legislator and prosecutor.
“When I became city attorney, I made it clear I would lead that effort,” Feuer said. “We have been looking at innovative ways to combat gun violence, including looking at the best practices in the nation.”
He added that the education aspect of the campaign is aimed at empowering females.
“No woman should ever feel as if she is alone when confronted with domestic violence,” Feuer said. “We are here to stand with you.”
Target Says Data Was Stolen From 40 Million Shoppers
by NICOLE PERLROTH
SAN FRANCISCO — Target confirmed Thursday morning that it was investigating a security breach involving stolen credit card and debit card information for 40 million of its retail customers.
Target's announcement came one day after a security blogger, Brian Krebs, first reported the breach. In a statement, Target confirmed that criminals gained access to its customer information on Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving and just ahead of one of the busiest shopping days of the year — and maintained access through Dec. 15.
Target said it had confirmed that its online customers were not affected by the breach, which appears to have been isolated to the point-of-sale systems in Target's retail stores.
Target said that cybercriminals had accessed customer names, credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates and three-digit security codes for 40 million customers who had shopped at its stores.
Immediately after discovering the breach, Target said, it alerted federal authorities and financial institutions, and is currently working with a third party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation.
Brian Leary, a spokesman for the Secret Service, which investigates financial fraud, said the agency was investigating.
Target advised its store customers to scan their credit and debit accounts for unauthorized transactions and check their credit reports.
“We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice,” Gregg W. Steinhafel, Target's chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
Point-of-sale systems have become a major target for cybercriminals in recent years. By breaching point-of-sale systems, cybercriminals can gain access to the so-called “track data” on credit and debit cards that can be sold, in bulk, on the black market and used to create counterfeit cards.
A similar breach affected Barnes & Noble stores last year. Last year, criminals also breached Global Payment Systems, one of the biggest card transactions processors. The biggest known security compromise to date was an attack at Heartland Payment Systems, another credit card processor, in 2009. Criminals used malware to break into the company's internal network and steal data for 130 million cards.
In such cases, security experts say a company insider could have inserted malware into a company machine, or persuaded an unsuspecting employee to click on a malicious link that downloaded software that gives cybercriminals a foothold into a company's systems.
Nearly two-year DOJ review of Spokane Police now underway
by Jacob Jones
As local officials remain deadlocked over the police ombudsman, the Spokane Police Department continues to undergo an in-depth Technical Assistance Review by the Department of Justice's COPS program — a "collaborative," nearly two-year process to evaluate the department's uses of force, internal investigations and cultural practices.
Police Chief Frank Straub and Mayor David Condon first announced the DOJ review last February. A review team with the COPS program made an initial visit in March, but because of funding delays, did not return to formally launch the review process until late last month.
Tawana Waugh, a senior program specialist with DOJ, says the COPS program has assembled a four-person team of community policing and law enforcement experts to evaluate the Spokane department. Waugh will manage the team from her office in Washington, D.C.
The team includes Waugh as its DOJ representative, along with law enforcement expert Blake McClelland, with the Phoenix Police Department; a representative from the data analysis nonprofit CNA Analysis & Solutions; and an additional research analyst. Waugh says other experts may be added as needed.
"We go in and do a comprehensive assessment," Waugh says, adding, "We are in the midst of the review as we speak."
Waugh says the team visited Spokane from Nov. 19-22 to make introductions and conduct initial interviews with police officials, community advocacy groups and other stakeholders. They also set up a document transfer system so the Spokane Police Department could electronically transmit thousands of pages of department records for review.
"The first phase is sort of the intake phase," she says.
Using the secure digital transfer, the SPD will send the DOJ case files for department policies, disciplinary decisions and four years worth of use of force cases. Waugh says the DOJ team will comb through a "sampling" of the more than 650 use of force-related case files to scan for any troubling patterns.
"We're looking at a four-year period from 2009 to 2013," she says, noting they will be looking to ensure local policies reflect "best practices."
Waugh expected the preliminary review process to take eight to 10 months. During that time, the team will analyze department records, conduct follow-up interviews with stakeholders, observe training sessions and put together an extensive report with findings and recommendations.
Spokane will be only the second city in the nation to undergo this type of DOJ review through the COPS program. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department went through the first such review last year, resulting in this 154-page report of 35 findings and 40 recommended reforms .
"The rubber hits the road, to be honest, when the report comes out," Waugh says.
At that point, the DOJ team will transition into assisting the Spokane Police with implementing the recommendations. That process involves another progress report after six months and a final report after a year.
Here's what the 65-page six-month update report looks like for Vegas, released in September.
DOJ officials say Straub was quite persistent in pursuing the review of the department. Straub says he invites the in-depth scrutiny and hopes their input will make for a stronger police department.
"With DOJ coming in, I think it's going to be interesting to see what they find," he says.
Tim Schwering, the recently named SPD Director of Strategic Initiatives, will serve as the department's local point person throughout the review.
Waugh indicated many individuals and community groups had expressed lingering frustrations stemming from the death of Otto Zehm in 2006. She says the DOJ will be looking for ways to overcome that community trauma.
"It has created, I would say, a big scar," she says.
During their recent visit, DOJ team members also observed a meeting of the SPD's Deadly Force Review Board and spoke with the police ombudsman about the ongoing debate over the authority of his office.
Waugh says she expects the DOJ team to offer some recommendations on strengthening the SPD's ombudsman model, which she described as a unique accountability measure.
"His current authority is very limited," she says. "I expect there will be recommendations regarding that process."
For now, the team will be combing through case files and crunching data on the department's recent history. Waugh says she expects team members to return to Spokane in February to start conducting their next round of interviews.