NEWS of the Day - Dec 24, 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 ...


US moves troops in prep for more action in S Sudan

The U.S. is moving additional Marines and aircraft from Spain to the Horn of Africa to provide embassy security and help with evacuations from violence-wracked South Sudan.

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that the commander in Africa is getting the forces ready for any request that may come from the State Department.

The U.N. says about 1,000 people have been killed in a week of violence in the world's newest country.

A defense official said the extra forces moving to Djibouti will bring the total U.S. troops in the region to 150, with 10 aircraft, including Osprey helicopters and C-130 transport planes.

Of those forces, about 45 U.S. Army troops are in South Sudan providing security. The remainder are in Djibouti, where the U.S. maintains its only permanent military base in Africa.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Troops deployed last week helped evacuate Americans and other foreign nationals and provided security at the U.S. Embassy in Juba. Another couple hundred Americans remain in the country, the official said.

Three of the four U.S. troops injured Saturday when gunfire hit evacuation aircraft are stable and being sent to the military hospital in Germany, Warren said, while the fourth continues to get treatment in Nairobi, in neighboring Kenya. All were wounded in the lower body by small arms fire.




New Haven Officers Take Community Policing to Heart

New Haven Police Officers Elizabeth White and Allyn Wright have been walking the beat ever since they joined the force nearly two years ago.

“We were one of the first classes that came out under the new whole community policing concept. Right off of FTO, we started walking up in Brookside, before people even moved into Brookside,” said Officer White.

As each person moved in, the officers introduced themselves and started building relationships.

“We started off in the summer. We bought ice cream off the ice cream truck. The parents started to feel more comfortable with us. It's all through the kids,” said Officer Wright.

The officers say that focus on the children is what really solidified their place at Brookside and in Westville Manor.

“The kids have helped us a lot. It's usually easier. The kids like the police more than the adults do. Once you get a relationship with the kids and then their parents see how much they like you, the relationship you have with their children, it opens the parents up to you,” said Officer White.

Because the challenge the officers face is trying to build trust between the community and the police.

“Not everyone wants to talk to you, not everyone wants their kids around you, so it's just gaining their trust,” said Officer Wright.

It's also about being there when they need it most. In October, a 21-year-old man was shot in front of the children on the playground at Westville Manor.

“I was on extra duty, so I came out here. He was home. We both came up,” said Officer White.

The idea is to show the neighborhood they are the two officers who Brookside and Westville Manor can count on.

“We have a great relationship with the people up there. It's nice, you feel like it's home,” said Officer White.




Mass. police polishing image with kids through trading cards

An Essex chief comes up with trading cards featuring his officers' faces and stats.

by James Niedzinski

ESSEX, Mass . — Just over a year ago, 20 schoolchildren and six adults were gunned down at a Newtown, Conn., school, a horrible incident that reverberated in this coastal town.

Police Chief Peter G. Silva's first instinct was to send officers to Essex Elementary School, but school officials were hesitant about having an unknown police officer in the classrooms, suspecting that his presence would make children more anxious rather than less.

So Silva made it his mission to find a way to introduce children to members of the local force, so they would recognize a friendly face matched with a helping hand. The solution: Trading cards, a throwback to both old-time hobbies and community policing.

The collectible cards, not unlike baseball cards, offer a photo of a police officer on the front, and some statistics and personal information on the back.

For example, Silva's card says he joined the town force in 1988; he's also fond of the classic rock sounds of Chicago and Styx.

“This is a perfect opportunity to get the kids and the community involved with the Police Department,” Silva said.

He said talking with parents immediately after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown taught him that townspeople didn't know their local police as well as he thought. It was the same in the schools.

“They might know me, (Officer Rob Gilardi) and a few other guys, but they don't know everybody,” Silva said.

He hopes the cards allow officers, schoolchildren and their parents to become better acquainted.

The goal is to have each child in Essex Elementary School collect an officer's card by stopping by the police station on Martin Street or spotting an officer out and about in Essex.

Binders filled with plastic sheets to hold the cards are available at the station and were given out at the school recently.

As an added incentive, if a child collects all the cards, including administrative assistant Mary Elinor Dagle's wild card, he or she is entered in a raffle for a new bicycle donated by Silva and his wife. There will be other miscellaneous gifts and prizes along the way.

Schoolchildren can only ask for one card at a time, cannot trade or give away cards, and must present Silva with a completed set of cards for a chance at the bike.

And children are advised not to approach police in the course of duty – helping with a medical transport or car accident, for example.

Silva is optimistic that having children involved will also ultimately lead to adults getting to know their local police officers.

The community backed the program itself, Silva said, since nearly all of the money to pay for the card program came from donations. “I want to get everyone involved,” he said.

Permission slips, mostly to advise parents of the program, went home with Essex Elementary School pupils recently.

And parents and students are already showing interest, according to Principal Jennifer Roberts.

She said she also helped generate buzz at a recent Parent Teacher Organization meeting.

“(Permission slips) have been coming in steadily,” she said. “Feedback has been very positive.”

The program brings Sgt. Paul Francis back to his days as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer. Francis said when he was involved with DARE, children were more comfortable talking with police and a good rapport was established.

“Some people think all we do is make arrests,” he said. “There is so much more to it than that.”



Bill Bratton on both coasts

Inspired by a chapter on policing by leading criminologists Jeffrey Fagan (Columbia University) and John McDonald (University of Pennsylvania), the editors of the recently published volume New York and Los Angeles: The Uncertain Future , David Halle and Andrew A. Beveridge, along with Sydney Beveridge, take a closer look at the consequences of the recent New York mayoral race.

by David Halle, Andy Beveridge, and Sydney Beveridge

Incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has just chosen Bill Bratton as the city's Police Commissioner. Bratton returns to the top post he occupied from 1994 to 1996 where he played a critical role in police reform in New York, and then as Los Angeles Police Commissioner from 2002 to 2009. Bratton's stint in Los Angeles is a key reason why community-police relations there seem in better shape than New York's. Bratton achieved this in Los Angeles while also presiding over a massive drop in crime. It is this apparent ability both to reduce crime and improve community-police relations that will now be tested in New York where outgoing mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly argue that their Stop and Frisk policy, which critics argue has alienated many in the black and Latino community, is vital for keeping crime low.

How did Bratton get his Los Angeles results? For sure the reasons that crime has plummeted in both cities to levels not seen since the early 1960s are a complex mix, from changing police tactics to long-term demographic shifts to the ebbs and flows of drug epidemics. Still, Bratton introduced the famous COMPSTAT program in interestingly different forms in both cities, and this is one key reason for the differences in community-police relations. COMPSTAT uses geographical mapping of crime to make strategic decisions about officer deployment, and sets police division benchmarks for crime reduction. Under the NYPD version of COMPSTAT, each division captain was basically responsible for crime trends and for formulating a response in his or her police area. Performance was noted in monthly, central command staff meetings, but what was noted was primarily crime trends, and how to deal with these was left to local commanders.

When Bratton was appointed LAPD police chief in 2002, he instituted COMPSTAT Plus (i.e. the LA version). This created a centralized audit team of LAPD commanders, who then worked with each local police division to develop its own strategic plan to meet crime reduction goals. This was a sea change for the LAPD and also for COMPSTAT. Previous LAPD approaches to reducing crime, dating back to the 1960s Parker administration, relied on sending specialized units and tactical responses to local divisions. Never before had reducing crime focused on a locally based, community-wide approach that relied primarily on line-officers and command staff, in consultation with a central audit division. Los Angeles witnessed a significant reduction in crime rates after the implementation of COMSTAT Plus, as New York had under the original COMPSTAT (i.e. the version without a central audit), but the LAPD's central audit version injected a concern for local police-community relations since Bratton has long been an enthusiast of the “Broken Windows” theory of crime that argues that police should focus not just on serious crime but on the quality of neighborhood life including police-community relations. The claim is that in so doing serious crime will anyway be reduced. In implementing COMPSTAT Plus Bratton clearly felt that local commanders could not be trusted to implement a crime reduction program, including Broken Windows, without central intervention.

A second, highly relevant difference between the two cities has to do with the monitoring of consent decrees, which also revolves around variations in central monitoring, though in this case from the courts. The quality of police-community relations has long been a key issue in both cities, and accusations of unconstitutional policing have resulted in major civil litigation, with both cities operating under consent decrees. Still, as Fagan and MacDonald argue, a key reason the NYPD seems to have reduced abuses less under the consent decree than its LA counterpart is that the NYPD, unlike the LAPD, was not subject to court-ordered monitoring of its behavior during this period. In 2009, Los Angeles emerged from nine years under a consent decree. In lifting the decree, the US District Court Judge noted: “The LAPD has become the national and international policing standard for activities that range from audits to handling of the mentally ill to many aspects of training to risk assessment of police officers and more.” The LAPD has entered into new partnerships with various community organizations, and in recent polls nearly eight percent of LA residents expressed strong approval for the performance of the department. Remarkably, this included 76 percent and 68 percent of the black and Latino respondents, respectively.

New York City, by contrast, emerged from the Daniels civil legislation and consent decree from 2003 to 2007, which did not involve court-ordered monitoring of the NYPD's behavior. The NYPD became immediately mired in three new lawsuits alleging racial discrimination and a pattern of unconstitutional street stops. The NYPD has intensified its spectrum of Order Maintenance Policing tactics, including trespass enforcement in public housing, street stops (also known as “Stop and Frisk”), and misdemeanor marijuana enforcement. All three approaches have led to litigation against the NYPD. The divided response of the City's diverse communities to the Stop and Frisk program, the centerpiece of the NYPD strategy, shows the depth of the breech between citizens and police along racial lines. In a recent poll, white voters approved 59 to 36 percent, while disapproval was 68 to 27 percent among black voters and 52 to 43 percent among Hispanic voters.

Bill de Blasio made criticism of Stop and Frisk a centerpiece of his mayoral campaign, and had nothing positive to say about the practice. Interestingly, Bratton now insists that Stop and Frisk is integral to effective policing. He says he will not abandon the policy, but operate it in a manner more respectful of blacks and Latinos and more often in white neighborhoods than under Commissioner Kelly/Mayor Bloomberg. He has not said so, but it seems likely that NYPD police behavior will be centrally monitored under Bratton to a far greater extent than it has been. The challenge, of course, is to keep New York's crime rate low while reducing the widespread hatred of the police among black residents especially. We will see what new COMPSTAT and other initiatives he implements in that effort, perhaps setting precedents for policing in cities nationwide.

A second challenge facing Bratton is getting on with his new boss. Bratton's first stint as New York's Commissioner ended when mayor Giuliani fired Bratton out of jealousy because Bratton appeared on the cover of Time magazine for his achievements in reducing New York crime. Bratton and Giuliani both have notoriously large egos. Still, de Blasio's tolerance here remains to be tested.

In New York and Los Angeles: The Uncertain Future, Fagan and McDonald conclude their chapter by writing, “Many citizens in New York City, including those most heavily policed, await the next mayor and police commissioner to see whether a new era of reform can begin that includes citizen trust and satisfaction as an outcome as equally worthy of addressing as the crime rate.” Hold on for a fascinating ride.

David Halle is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also an adjunct professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center and the author of America's Working Man: Work, Home, and Politics among Blue-Collar Property Owners and Inside Culture: Art and Class in the American Home . Andrew A. Beveridge is Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. Sydney Beveridge is Media and Content Editor at Social Explorer, Inc.