February, 2014 - Week 2
Arlington Police see increased calls
by KIRK BOXLEITNER
ARLINGTON — The Arlington Police Department is as busy as it's even been, thanks to the participation of community members, but at the same time, Arlington Police need that input from the community to keep them from being even busier.
Arlington Police officers responded to more than 15,000 calls to 911 for police services in 2013, which represents a 10 percent increase over 2012. Arlington Police officers likewise took action on an additional 7,500 incidents in 2013, besides their 911 calls. Arlington Police tend to receive the highest numbers of 911 calls between 2-6 p.m.
“Probably one of the biggest reasons for that increased call volume has been our campaign asking the public to call in whenever they see something suspicious,” Arlington Police Chief Nelson Beazley said. “We've made an effort to get business and home owners to engage with us, because we can't respond if we don't know what's happening.”
Although Beazley acknowledged an initial hesitance among Arlington citizens to call 911 for reasons other than immediately pressing emergencies, he sees the dramatically increased call volume as evidence that Arlingtonians are finally taking the police department's messages to heart.
“If it looks suspicious to you, it would probably look suspicious to us too,” Beazley said. “I'd rather our officers get called out for something harmless than find out later that we had a dozen vehicles broken into, or one of your neighbors' homes burglarized.”
Beazley doesn't want people to feel at all discouraged from calling 911, and has even characterized the increased call volume as representing more of a shift in his officers' duties than an escalation in their workloads.
“The true impact of these calls is that they've reduced our self-initiated or proactive policing, but our first responsibility is to respond to those calls,” Beazley said. “Which is why, again, we need the public's help, because their engagement is key to our success. You never know when a single tip might make the difference in a number of cases. The Gleneagle neighborhood has been very robust in communicating, among themselves and with us, about suspicious activities in their midst.”
With the personnel cuts in recent years, Beazley deemed the public's eyes and ears to be even more important of a resource to the police than ever before.
“Last year was our most challenging yet, but we still made great cases,” Beazley said. “Our reduction of panhandling has been a direct result of that sort of communication. It takes everyone's efforts, but you don't hear nearly as many complaints about panhandling anymore, because our citizens asked themselves what kind of community they wanted.”
Beazley likewise touted the Arlington Police detectives' 100 percent clearance rate of robbery cases, but agreed with Arlington Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield that this level of service comes at a cost.
“Every single city department has been hit by budget cuts, with the loss of 19 full-time employees and $2 million in funds,” Banfield said. “We can't continue to defer the costs of things like maintenance and equipment.”
Arlington Police Detective Sgt. Dan Cone has been on the force locally for the past 14 years, long enough to remember when Arlington Police still had a Pro-Act Team.
“If you have between two to three patrol officers covering an entire city this size at night, that's not that many,” Cone said. “That's when community involvement becomes invaluable. The solution to our transient problem in Smokey Point relied heavily on the businesses there, who signed trespass agreements with the city and no longer hold off on calling us if there's a problem. It resulted in a markedly different atmosphere in that area, and our anti-panhandling program was spun off from that.”
“The bottom line is, we can't do this alone,” Beazley said. “We need to continue to build relationships with the community, and the community needs to be involved in helping us. We can't do this by ourselves.”
Steps taken to improve Freeport's public safety
by Jim Gitz, mayor of Freeport
Last summer, the city developed a draft public safety plan. Its objective: our Police Department is partnering with residents and businesses for safer neighborhoods. While it was a "draft plan," it did not sit on a shelf and gather dust! We have already implemented many of its provisions.
Working toward goal 1 - "Creating Safer Neighborhoods" - we have employed three specific strategies. Under the "Neighborhood-Based Strategy," we reinstituted community policing and adopted a Problem-Oriented Policing Initiative (POPI) to target hot-spots. Likewise, we now license tobacco merchants and require operational security cameras in an attempt to curb illegal activity and cut down on teen smoking.
For our "Offender-Based Strategy," the Police Department is actively engaging past criminal offenders. We also have an information book with photos of active gang members and continually gather intelligence on gang activity. We are working closely with the Stephenson County probation and the Illinois Department of Corrections parole departments to ensure better communication and more effective program administration. Separately, the city has adopted an ordinance with minimum mandatory fines for repeat noise-ordinance violations.
In our last category, "Location-Based Strategy," the city has implemented a "zero tolerance policy" at locations with chronic issues. We are also working to improve street lights in areas that have long-standing visibility issues and are experimenting with LED lighting. The department is also conducting increased patrols in conjunction with state police during warmer months.
Under goal 2 - "Promoting positive youth behavior, accountability and family involvement" - the department has stepped up enforcement of the truancy ordinance and implemented curfew enforcement details twice weekly on a seasonal basis. We have also increased parental accountability for truancy and curfew violations.
Regarding goal 3 - "Developing Stronger Community Relationships" - the city is expanding the Neighborhood Watch program and coordinating with Crime Stoppers and The Journal-Standard to expand the rewards for information leading to arrests and to promote rewards for wanted persons. We are also expanding the Police Auxiliary and volunteer programs and reinstating the Civilian Police Academy. The first class will be this spring.
Goal 4 is to "Ensure Safer Housing." The city is stepping up building-code enforcement and tearing down dangerous and unsafe buildings so that our children have better housing and safer neighborhoods. We are also "knee deep" in implementing the Residential Rental Property Registration ordinance with its crime free housing provisions. Registration will commence in the near future.
To meet goal 5 - "Developing Stronger Interdepartmental Relationships" - the city staff now works interdepartmentally on fire, building, animal-control, nuisance, public-works and community-development issues for better coordination, shared information and mutual problem-solving. We are also seeking to dissolve the "silos" with county departments as well.
Our sixth and last goal is "Making Sound, Data-Driven Policy Decisions." The Police Department has begun implementing crime mapping and data analysis to plot crime and police calls for service. This will help to identify trends and assist the department in making good resource allocation decisions.
The overall goal? A better, safer, more prosperous city where every area is a neighborhood of choice. As an old adage holds, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." You can see the city's safety plan for yourself at the city's website: cityoffreeport.org. Comments are welcome.
R.I. law enforcement pursues uniform code of standards
by Katie Mulvaney
PROVIDENCE — There's a wave afoot in Rhode Island — a big blue wave, in fact.
Police departments throughout the state are embarking on the first-ever in-state accreditation process. That means departments will institute uniform practices on issues ranging from use of force, to when the police should record the questioning of a suspect, to what police officers should post online during their off hours.
So far, five police agencies have been accredited based on standards unveiled last year by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association. They are Warwick, Smithfield, Bristol, Cranston and the Rhode Island State Police. Providence and Middletown are nearing accreditation.
The aim is to lower the number of claims involving police practices and, as a result, the dollars paid out to cover settlements. At the same time, uniform standards that could improve officer safety would be applied statewide. That means, ideally, the questioning of a suspect charged with a capital crime would be videotaped in most circumstances from Central Falls to Narragansett.
“The beauty of it is it forces us to make sure all our policies are uniform,” said Middletown Police Chief Anthony M. Pesare, who helped spearhead the program four years ago and is now president of the chiefs association.
It's being welcomed by the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, which insures 32 police departments.
“We like the idea of uniform policies throughout the state,” said Paul F. Dutra, claims manager with the Interlocal Trust. “We all swim in the same pool when it comes to liability issues.”
Rhode Island joins 24 other states in establishing an accreditation process. Forty-three departments — including Brown University, the Capitol Police, the University of Rhode Island police and the state Airport Corp. force — have signed on to be accredited, according to Christine Crocker, executive director of the commission. Only Block Island, the Community of College of Rhode Island force and the Narragansett Indian Tribal Police have not agreed to participate.
Efforts to create a statewide accreditation process following the shooting death of Providence police officer Cornel Young Jr. fizzled, Crocker said. Young was off-duty when he was mistakenly shot and killed by two fellow officers in January 2000.
Federal accreditation, through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, can prove too costly for some departments as it can require building improvements and other big-ticket changes. Seven departments in Rhode Island have achieved federal accreditation.
The push to create a statewide process was renewed at Pesare's urging as a cost-effective alternative. The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association formally established the nonprofit Rhode Island Law Enforcement Accreditation Program two years ago. The initiative received seed money from the chiefs' association; the 100 Club, a police charity; and the state police, which contributed $50,000 in Google forfeiture money.
Crocker, a retired Cumberland police captain and federal assessor, was named executive director in 2012. Her role, in part, is to support and guide departments through the process.
The commission overseeing the program drew upon the work of other state programs, including New York, Massachusetts and Texas, in drafting its standards. It also relied on recommendations from state police departments and the attorney general's office.
The 200 standards released last year are designed to reflect industry best practices, Crocker said. They do not specify how the agency is to accomplish the requirements, and leave it to the departments to write their own policies. In some cases, model policies are being provided for guidance.
The standards include 12 specific to Rhode Island. A directive dealing with domestic violence training specifies that all sworn officers undergo a refresher course every three years.
Another addresses social media. It requires a chief's approval for any agency information released via social media and prohibits the revelation of any sensitive information.
Another dictates that the police use audio and visual equipment to record the questioning of suspects accused of capital crimes.
In some cases, departments will have to draft new policies entirely. In others, a policy will simply need to be tweaked or left as is.
The departments have three years to gain accreditation, a process that includes a mock audit in preparation for the formal review. The committee will randomly interview officers and assess paperwork to determine if the standards are being put into effect.
“It's not a rubber stamp. You have to do what you say you're going to do,” Crocker said.
Over the past year, the Central Falls Department administration has undertaken the painstaking process of reviewing its policies as it seeks accreditation. That analysis reveals areas in need of improvement, which often entails creating a form to bolster record keeping.
“This makes you work toward best practices,” Maj. Daniel J. Barzykowski said.
The entire 37-person force is alerted to any changes in policy and must indicate in writing that they have read and understand the change.
On a recent afternoon, Lt. John C. Carroll was reviewing a change in the vehicle-pursuit policy that changed the wording from deadly to lethal force. Carroll presented about a half dozen officers gathered in the roll-call room with a copy. Are there questions? he asked. There were none.
“It definitely keeps the officers accountable, the department accountable and the city accountable,” Carroll said. “The whole thing is about best practices.”
The department hopes to be ready for the mock audit in six to eight months. Barzykowski has reached out to Cranston and other departments in rewriting its policies.
“I'm optimistic,” Barzykowski said. “It's a feather in our cap for the city, our department and the officers.”
Carroll anticipates it will boost the caliber of practices statewide, and improve communication between departments.
“It's coming into the 21st century,” Carroll said. “Every department has been its own fiefdom.”
For years, police work was largely left to an officer's discretion and experience. Crocker recalls her former department in Cumberland having only 10 policies in place in the mid-1980s. In one instance, the department lost $250,000 in a legal case because it did not have a strip-search policy, she said. It has since received federal accreditation.
Accreditation provides the police “with the guidelines and training to make the best decisions,” she said. It ups the professionalism of the department.
It also helps in the prosecution of crimes, the police say.
“It benefits them by making our investigation more solid and more prosecutable,” Barzykowski said.
“It's a concept the attorney general has always supported,” said Gerald J. Coyne, deputy attorney general. An evidence room that meets accreditation standards is a more reliable evidence room, he said.
Coyne acknowledged that the standards will become tools prosecutors can use to show that police are using best practices in investigating a crime. Likewise, defense lawyers will be able to challenge evidence when the standards haven't been met.
“This is a great example…of what we can do because of our small size,” Coyne said. “It shows that when people work together, you can accomplish a lot in this state.”
Pesare agreed: “A lot of people worked very hard to do this. I think it's a wonderful accomplishment for the law enforcement agencies.”
It also benefits the cities and towns, he said. “Everyone wants their department to be as professional as it can be. At least now there are standards.”
Public safety vs. individual rights
The issue before the court is simple — should police be able to pull drivers over based on an anonymous tip of reckless driving?
by MATTHEW T. MANGINO
Violence on America's highways has been dubbed “road rage.” Irate motorists have reacted to tailgating, slow driving and lane cut-offs with fists, clubs and even firearms. But, depending on the outcome of a recent case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, revenge on the roadway may be just a phone call away.
The issue before the court is simple — should police be able to pull drivers over based on an anonymous tip of reckless driving?
The government argues yes. Reckless driving is often the result of driving under the influence, and keeping the public safe outweighs the inconvenience of a traffic stop.
The defendants argue no. Police should be required to corroborate the tip by following the driver and observing reckless driving.
In 2008, the California Highway Patrol was alerted about a reckless driver. Based on the tip, officers stopped a pickup truck in Mendocino County occupied by Lorenzo Navarette and his brother Jose Navarette.
The officers did not observe the truck being operated erratically. However, the police searched the truck and found more than 100 pounds of marijuana.
A MATTER OF RIGHTS
The defendants argued that the traffic stop violated their constitutional rights, based on a Supreme Court ruling that anonymous tips alone are not sufficient for police to stop and search an individual. In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that an anonymous tip can support a detention only when it is detailed and predictive and provides sufficient reliability to support reasonable suspicion.
Ten years later, in a case out of Florida, the court ruled that police could not stop and search a teenager at a bus stop based only on an anonymous tip that he had a gun. The court reasoned that police must have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity may be underway before they can search a suspect — without more, an anonymous tip does not amount to reasonable suspicion.
Reasonable suspicion is the same standard used to justify the police tactic known as stop and frisk, which has made headlines in New York City. The standard is the result of the 1968 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Terry v. Ohio. The Supreme Court ruled that police may stop, frisk and question an individual if there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual may be involved in criminal activity.
In dismissing the Florida gun case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg worried that letting police act based on uncorroborated anonymous tips would make it too easy for grudge-holders to use police as their instrument of revenge, wrote Dominic Perella at MSNBC.com.
At the time, the government argued for an exception for firearms due to their inherent dangerousness. A tip about a gun should automatically justify a search.
Ginsburg disagreed: “Such an exception would enable any person seeking to harass another to set in motion an intrusive, embarrassing police search of the targeted person simply by placing an anonymous call falsely reporting the target's unlawful carriage of a gun.”
In the Navarette case argued in January, defense attorney Paul R. Kleven insisted that “officers acting on anonymous tips must corroborate the tips' assertion of illegal conduct, as well as the identifying details, before making a stop, whether that tip involves erratic driving, illegal gun possession or any other allegation of misconduct.”
According to the McClatchy News Service, Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly raised the possibility of malicious tipsters spreading false information. “What if the call is ... he didn't have his seat belt on?” Roberts asked.
Lawyers for the state of California argued that a public safety threat justifies stopping and searching a vehicle based on an anonymous tip. Such a tip may provide the means to prevent an imminent violent act or stop and ongoing criminal enterprise.
In an age where identification is needed to board a plane, use a credit card and, in some places, vote — shouldn't police be required, at a minimum, to corroborate the allegations of an anonymous tipster?
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. and a former district attorney for Lawrence County in Western Pennsylvania. His book, “The Executioner's Toll, 2010,” is due out this summer.
Flagstaff police face SB1070 changes
by MICHELLE McMANIMON
Flagstaff Police Department has been forced to change its immigration enforcement policy.
Under the new policy, officers are now allowed to ask victims and witnesses of crimes about their immigration status in accordance with Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB1070.
Police Chief Kevin Treadway said despite the changes, he does not expect that to happen.
“I firmly believe there will be no change in our enforcement of SB1070 as a result of the change to the policy,” Treadway said.
A model policy that incorporated the immigration enforcement requirements of SB1070 was adopted almost universally by police agencies across Arizona in September 2012. FPD was one of the few exceptions.
Treadway decided to add two sentences to the policy addressing SB1070's “stop and ask” requirement. The first sentence prohibited officers from asking about the immigration status of victims and witnesses of crime. The second prohibited immigration status inquiries for individuals who contact the police department to make complaints about officers or express concerns about the department's performance.
“A public trust and our investment in community policing for the past 25 years here at the Flagstaff Police Department resulted in us wanting to assure our community that if you need us, you can contact us, and you don't have to fear that you're going to end up being picked up by (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” Treadway said.
The sentences did not appear to conflict with the SB1070 requirement to ascertain the immigration status of suspects stopped, detained or arrested by police, and the city attorney at the time did not raise any concerns.
“The additional language in our policy felt legal,” Treadway said. “It felt like there was nothing wrong with it.”
HANDS WERE TIED
Then, in 2013, an advocacy group in Tucson tried to get the Tucson City Council and Tucson Police Department to adopt FPD's policy. When the Tucson City Attorney's Office reviewed the policy, it released an opinion saying the policy was illegal.
The Flagstaff City Attorney's Office conducted a formal review and determined that FPD's policy conflicted with clauses in SB1070 that prohibit local officials, agencies or governments from preventing the full enforcement of federal immigration laws or restricting law enforcement's ability to obtain information regarding the immigration status of any individual.
“The city of Tucson provided us with some policy language that their Police Department may adopt,” said the Flagstaff City Attorney's Office in a statement to the Daily Sun. “After reviewing that language, we decided it was an improvement over our current language in relation to compliance with the requirements of SB1070. The language also allows our Police Department to set appropriate parameters on officer discretion.”
Treadway said his hands were tied.
“As the chief of police, whenever it's brought to my attention that one of our policies is illegal, unethical or unconstitutional, I have no choice but to change that policy,” Treadway said.
Treadway struck the two sentences he had added in 2012 and replaced them with the following:
“The need for community trust and cooperation is an essential component of effective policing and public safety. In furtherance of this principle, victims and witnesses of crime and individuals who contact this agency to express concerns about our performance or file a complaint should not be the focus of immigration inquiries and should be encouraged to cooperate in the reporting and investigation of crime and complaints.”
The new policy also “strongly” encourages officers to refrain from making immigration status inquiries during consensual contacts with juveniles, victims and witnesses of crime, and adds protections for juveniles suspected of criminal activity. However, the decision to ask about a juvenile, victim or witness's immigration status is left to the discretion of the police officer.
COMMUNITY MEETING HELD
Treadway held a meeting with leaders of the local Latino community before instituting the new policy in January. As a result, he is trying to form a citizens' liaison committee to work with the Police Department on enforcement issues relating to SB 1070. He also held a public forum at Killip Elementary School last week, and he has made copies of the new policy available in English and Spanish.
“Overall, we thought that it was great that the police were reaching out to us to explain what the old policy was and what their new policy entails,” said Coconino Hispanic Advisory Council Chairman Frank Moraga.
He said some community members have raised questions about whether some officers might abuse the new policy, but he has not seen much of an outcry from the community.
“We realize what the bind is,” Moraga said. “A lot of police feel that SB1070 really can cause problems as far as community policing and building that trust with the community. We understand the challenges that they have.”
Moraga was also impressed with Treadway's announcement that he planned to bring in a local immigration attorney to help train officers on immigration-related law enforcement issues.
‘COOLING' EFFECT FEARED
Immigration attorney Ezequiel Hernandez, who has worked closely the American Civil Liberties Union on investigating the effects of SB1070, said FPD has done better than any other law enforcement agency he has encountered when it comes to reaching out to the Latino community. He said the problem is not with FPD, it is with the law.
“SB1070 was created to deal with the issue of undocumented immigration by attrition,” Hernandez said. “SB1070 today, in 2014, has not worked for that. It didn't do anything to decrease or increase (undocumented immigration). What it did is, it forced police departments to deal with this issue, which they don't want to deal with.”
Hernandez said every police chief he has met in Arizona has told him they do not like having to enforce the state's controversial immigration law. He is not worried about FPD officers using the new policy to abuse victims, but he said he is worried it will have a cooling effect on victims and witnesses of crime.
“If you are a battered woman who is undocumented who needs to call the police, the first thing that you make sure you don't do is deport yourself, so it is more likely that person will not reach out,” Hernandez said.
It is a fear Treadway shares.
“I remain very concerned, with this piece of legislation, that there will be victims who need our help in the community and are afraid to contact us, Treadway said. “I continue to be concerned that we may have witnesses of criminal activity who are afraid to let us know.”
'Public safety issue': Reps approve phone ban for drivers
by MIKE FAHER
BRATTLEBORO -- State Rep. Valerie Stuart believes Vermont drivers should not use hand-held cell phones, and she can cite statistics to support her argument.
But Stuart, D-Brattleboro, also has a personal reason for backing a ban on such activity: She recalls an incident several years ago in which her sister-in-law was sideswiped by a "distracted driver who was merrily talking away on her cell phone."
"The only thing that stopped Caryn's car from careening into oncoming traffic was slamming into the guardrail at the end of her tailspin," Stuart recalled. "The person driving the other car just kept on driving."
That's one reason why Stuart was among a large majority of state House members voting this week in favor of H.
62, which seeks to prohibit "the hand-held use of a portable electronic device while driving."
Support was not unanimous -- Rep. Matt Trieber, D-Rockingham, was among those opposed. Also, the bill's fate in the Senate and in the governor's office -- if it gets that far -- is uncertain.
But advocates say there is strong public support for the measure, which would bring Vermont in line with laws in some other states.
The Governors Highway Safety Association says 12 states along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. In the Northeast, bans have been enacted in New York and Connecticut.
State Sen. Bill Doyle's 2012 Town Meeting survey, which included data from 148 towns and cities in Vermont, showed that 76 percent of respondents believed drivers should be prohibited from using cell phones while behind the wheel.
"Vermont should follow the lead of other American states and countries on this critical public safety issue," Stuart said. "There is no place in civil society for a supposed ‘right' that has the potential to do great public harm and, at the very worst, take another human being's life."
The bill, she notes, exempts "hands-free" use of electronic devices.
The measure also allows use of a hand-held device to call for assistance in an emergency situation, and it allows hand-held communication among law enforcement or emergency-service personnel.
On Friday, the House added further amendments including exemptions for "activation or deactivation of hands-free use as long as the device is in a cradle or otherwise securely mounted in the vehicle" and for hand-held use while operating a farm truck or farm machinery.
Stuart said a colleague in the House, a former driver's education teacher, cited statistics showing that cell-phone use plays a role in 6 percent of all crashes nationally. Those crashes account for 330,000 injuries, cause 2,600 deaths and cost taxpayers $43 billion.
She also cited a Virginia Tech study claiming that cell phone use is the No. 1 cause of driver inattention. And Stuart said cell phone usage has the same effect as a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level in impeding a driver's reaction time.
But Trieber opposes Vermont's proposed ban as it is currently written, saying it is both too restrictive and too vague.
He's not convinced that cell phone usage causes accidents. And if cell phones are so dangerous, Trieber asks, why should the state ban only hand-held use?
"Studies are just not there on this particular subject," he said. "There's no difference for safety ratings for drivers whether they're using hand-held or whether they're using hands-free."
Trieber, who was one of 11 House members voting against the bill during a preliminary roll-call vote Thursday, also said the "language of the bill was way too broad as far as what devices it was banning."
"Could we be banning things we actually don't want to ban -- GPS devices and things like that?" Trieber asked.
He said he supports Vermont's current ban on text-messaging while driving. But Trieber also adds that "cell phones are a convenient scapegoat. People do all sorts of irresponsible things while driving."
In other legislative news related to Windham County and its lawmakers:
-- A bill guaranteeing paid sick time for all Vermont workers was approved by the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee.
Rep. John Moran, D-Wardsboro, is vice chairman of that committee. He has championed guaranteed sick leave and other causes that he believes will promote greater economic equality.
"Our committee is now looking at prevailing wage, which deals with minimum pay requirements for contractors who receive state or federal funding," Moran said.
"The wage is set at the average compensation for equivalent work in a given geographical setting," he added. "Proposed legislation seeks a level playing field in competitive bidding, particularly for Vermont business facing out-of-state, low-paying competitors."
-- Supporters of more-stringent limits on political giving had another chance to push the issue in the House when the legislative body was forced to make a technical change to the state's recently approved campaign-finance statute.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, complained about "the lack of real limits on large donations and the lack of required disclosure about the employer and occupation of large donors" in the current law.
But an attempt to amend the statute failed on Thursday. Among a minority supporting that revision was Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D-Brattleboro; and Rep. Tim Goodwin, a Weston Independent who represents several Windham County towns.
When the technical matter comes up in the Senate, Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith said he will attempt to "revisit the campaign-finance issue."
The Townshend-based Democrat railed against the law as it was approved earlier this session, including the statute's allowance of "unlimited contributions from parties to political candidates."
"The technical-corrections bill is amendable in the Senate, and so the Senate will have a chance to restore lower limits on what can be contributed to political parties and to actually put a limit on the amount that can be contributed by a party to a candidate," Galbraith said.
-- Galbraith also noted that the Senate has voted to repeal a series of abortion restrictions that were deemed outdated and unconstitutional.
One such provision reportedly called for 20 years' imprisonment for assisting a woman with an abortion if she died as a result. The penalty decreased to a decade in prison if the woman survived.
"We are repealing a Vermont abortion law from the early part of the last century that is clearly unconstitutional, hasn't been valid for decades and that not even the right-to-lifers support," Galbraith said.
-- The House on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that allows courts to deny parental rights to perpetrators of sexual assault when that assault results in a pregnancy.
The bill came about last year when two Brattleboro Union High School students researched the issue and lobbied for introduction of legislation.
The bill (H.88) was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
-- Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, said his House Human Services Committee is doing "due diligence" in hearing detailed reports from the state Agency of Human Services -- "the largest agency in state government."
"One of the tasks we take most seriously is when a child can no longer live with their family of origin and must be placed in foster care," Mrowicki said.
"A trend in foster car is kinship care -- placing children with extended family. And within that group, more and more children are being placed with grandparents," Mrowicki said.
"We continue to look into this and ascertain the unique needs of grandparents. Children can thrive in these situations, but there are difficulties when grandparents are pressed into raising their grandchildren when they thought they'd be closer to retiring."
From the FBI
The Gangs of Los Angeles
Part 1: Innovative Approaches to a Serious Problem
At 5 a.m., the command post in our Los Angeles Division was buzzing with activity. It would be a day of reckoning for nearly two dozen members of MS-13, the violent street gang that over the years has brought drugs, murder, and misery to countless Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Before the sun came up, teams of FBI agents and their partners from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began making arrests. In short order, the large video monitors in the command post started to show the words “in custody” next to the images of the subjects—many of whom were wanted on federal drug charges and were the gang's leaders, or “shot callers,” in the parlance of the street.
In Los Angeles—often referred to as the gang capital of the world—it was just another day for the men and women of the FBI who work to protect the community from hundreds of area gangs. But locking up these criminals is only part of the story. Together with our law enforcement and community partners, the Los Angeles Division is taking a leadership role in the fight against gangs with innovative programs designed to bring healing as well as justice to neighborhoods ravaged by violence and intimidation.
“You can't arrest your way out of the gang problem,” explained Robert Clark, an assistant special agent in charge in our Los Angeles Division. “Looking at the statistics prior to 2007 and in the seven years since I've been here,” he said, “there's been upwards of a 300 percent increase in arrests, but the gang problem still exists.”
Clark and others considered new approaches. “Where could we bring our resources and our like ideas to really have an impact in the community?” he asked. “FBI agents and local police officers can't be everywhere. That's why it was important that we build relationships in the community. Those relationships are essential to solving crimes.”
Understanding firsthand the challenges facing gang-plagued neighborhoods based on his own childhood growing up in the inner city of Youngstown, Ohio, Clark spearheaded three initiatives that are making a difference in Los Angeles. In the coming weeks, FBI.gov will chronicle those programs, which are helping to empower communities, reduce the crime rate, clear unsolved murder cases, and aid in intelligence-gathering efforts that allow the Bureau to monitor gangs with an international reach such as MS-13.
The programs include:
Operation Save Our Streets Task Force, established in 2010 in partnership with the LAPD to solve gang-related homicide cases;
The Community Impact Initiative, in which law enforcement personnel and other volunteers return to neighborhoods after gang busts to clean alleyways of trash and graffiti, working alongside residents and property owners; and
The Homicide Library project, a joint initiative between the FBI and the LAPD that is digitizing thousands of paper-only murder investigation files for use in a searchable system that will help solve more cases.
“Thanks to the hard work of many, many people,” Clark said, “we have been able to take these ideas and implement them and measure their success. We have been able to take murderers off the streets,” he added, “and just as importantly, we are helping to improve the quality of life in communities where residents often felt forgotten or ignored.”
From the FBI
Protecting Aircraft from Lasers -- New Program Offers Rewards for Information
Today the FBI announced a program aimed at deterring people from pointing lasers at aircraft—a felony punishable by five years in jail—and rewarding those who come forward with information about individuals who engage in this dangerous activity.
“Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. “It is important that people understand that this is a criminal act with potentially deadly repercussions.”
The new initiative—which includes a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of “lasing”—will run for 60 days in 12 FBI field offices where laser strikes against aircraft are prevalent. A key part of the program is reward money: The Bureau will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.
“Laser pointers are legal and certainly have legitimate uses,” said George Johnson, a federal air marshal who serves as a liaison officer with the Bureau on laser issues. “Used in the wrong environment, however, they can be very dangerous.”
When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. Those who have been subject to such attacks have described them as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.
Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been a more than 1,000 percent increase in the number of incidents with these devices, which can be purchased in stores or online for as little as a few dollars. Last year, 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported—an average of almost 11 incidents per day. And it's estimated that thousands of attacks go unreported every year.
“We hope that more public awareness about this issue will lower the instances of laser strikes,” Johnson said. “We also want to encourage people to come forward when they see someone committing this felony—one that could have terrible consequences for pilots and their passengers.” As of December 2013, the FAA has documented at least 35 incidents where pilots required medical attention after a laser strike.
Interfering with the operation of an aircraft has long been a federal crime, but the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 specifically made it a federal felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft. The new law lowered the threshold for prosecution, Johnson said, “and the trend is on the rise for jail time in these cases.” Last month, for example, a 23-year-old California man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for aiming a laser pointer at a Fresno County Sheriff's Office helicopter. Court records showed that the man deliberately tracked and struck the aircraft.
The 12 FBI offices participating in the new program are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the Washington Field Office.
If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI office or dial 911.
Immigrants Getting Better At Fighting Deportations
WASHINGTON (AP) — Immigrants facing deportation are increasingly finding success in immigration courts, according to a new analysis of court data.
Nearly half of immigrants facing deportation have won their cases in the last year, according to the Transactional Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which collects and studies federal prosecution records.
The government has been losing more deportation cases each year since 2009.
The analysis published Thursday does not say how many deportation cases Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose lawyers represent the government in immigration courts, successfully appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The government can appeal immigration court rulings to the Board of Immigration Appeals, part of the Justice Department.
Since the start of the 2014 budget year in October, immigration judges ruled in favor of immigrants in about half of the 42,816 cases heard, TRAC reported. In 2013 the government won about 52 percent of the cases.
Immigrants in California, New York and Oregon have been most successful recently, while judges in Georgia, Louisiana and Utah have sided more often with the government, according to TRAC.
“ICE's enforcement strategies and policies are designed to prioritize its resources on public safety, national security and border security threats,” said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen. “ICE continues to focus on sensible, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and those apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.”
Immigration supporters accuse the Obama administration of deporting too many people, but Republicans say the president is too lenient on immigrants living in the country illegally. Nearly 2 million immigrants have been removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Barack Obama.
It's unclear what has prompted judges to side with a growing number of immigrants fighting to stay in the country. Immigration laws have not changed in recent years, but the Obama administration has changed how it enforces immigration laws.
In 2011, the government reviewed hundreds of thousands of cases pending in immigration courts. The effort was designed to curtail the backlog of more than 300,000 pending cases. Tens of thousands of cases were eventually dismissed, but there are now more than 360,000 cases pending, according to TRAC.
And the Obama administration has since issued policy orders directing immigration authorities to exercise discretion when deciding which immigrants living in the country illegally should be deported. Then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said discretion should be used for immigrants who didn't pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In 2012 Obama also created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to allow tens of thousands of young immigrants living in the United States illegally to apply to stay in the country for up to two years and get a work permit.
Kathleen Campbell Walker, an El Paso, Texas, immigration lawyer, said it may be too soon to know what the TRAC data means for immigration enforcement. She said immigration court backlogs mean cases now being heard by immigration judges could be years old. And though immigration laws have not changed in recent years, some immigrants may be more successful in arguing that they should be allowed to stay in the country based on those discretion memos.
“The true implications of these numbers are murky and people shouldn't jump to conclusions yet,” Walker said.
Obama pledged during both of his presidential campaigns to overhaul the country's immigration laws.
The Democratic-led Senate passed a wide-ranging bill last year but similar legislation has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.
Last month, House Republicans announced immigration principles that touched on both border security and the fate of the more than 11 million immigrants thought to be living in the United States illegally. A week later, however, House Speaker John Boehner said it would be difficult for an immigration bill to pass this year.
“The American people, including many of our members, don't trust that the reform we're talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference earlier this month.
The administration has made several immigration policy changes in recent years and during his State of the Union address last month, Obama pledged to keep using his authority to address a variety of issues that Congress hasn't addressed.
Hanover Park police see historic drop in crime
by Katlyn Smith
For the fourth straight year, Hanover Park crime statistics fell to a historic low — a major selling point for a blue-collar community working to bring commercial developers to town.
The police department released figures today showing a 20 percent decrease in the number of major crimes logged last year.
Since the early 1970s, police are required to track serious offenses and report the so-called “Part I” crimes to the FBI.
Last year, there were 384 of those crimes in Hanover Park, a record low since the department started keeping tabs and a drop of nearly 100 offenses from 2012. The village also saw a dramatic decline in the number of robberies — by almost 70 percent.
Officials credited community policing and an embrace of social media that opened up new avenues for residents to send tips to officers.
“Our commitment to working with the community to reduce crime seems to be paying off,” Police Chief David Webb said.
The latest tally helps attract new residents and new business, officials say.
“I'm really excited about our future,” Mayor Rodney Craig said. “I think we've turned a corner.”
The figures come as the village searches for a buyer for the Hanover Square shopping center and developers for vacant land north of Lake Street.
“It does directly work toward the image the village puts forward,” Community and Economic Development Director Shubhra Govind said. “A lower crime rate is always something that presents a more positive image, which in turn helps business recruitment and retention.”
Meanwhile, the department continues to launch initiatives that have cops working with residents to spot problems. In December, the police station began holding classes that landlords must complete to secure rental licenses.
During the training, police encourage landlords to conduct background checks on new tenants and give pointers on how to make apartment complexes safer. Under an ordinance approved last April, landlords also must put wording into leases that gives them the power to evict tenants involved in criminal activity.
The department plans to run the eight-hour courses four times a month. Officials acknowledge it could take a few years to see the results, but they aim to stamp out drugs and gangs in rental properties.
Hanover Park had one gang-related shooting reported in 2011 and none in the last two years.
“We are reactive, but we're trying to be more proactive,” Deputy Chief Tom Cortese said.
Forging ties with the Hispanic community remains a focus for officers. The department received a $10,000 state grant to train parishioners from the village's largest Spanish-speaking church to become volunteers for CERT, or Community Emergency Response Teams. By spring, St. Ansgar Roman Catholic Church congregants will be able to better assist police in putting on big events.
“It helps build trust,” Cortese said. “They're getting to see what we do.”
The reductions in crime are part of a new chapter for a department that overhauled its patrol beats and hired more officers in the aftermath of four murders and a wave of violent crime in spring 2009.
“That's in our rear view now,” Webb said.
A Useful Civic Tool
by Kevin Wilkes
Kevin Wilkes was a member of the Borough Council in Princeton, N.J., from 2008 to 2012, when the community ID was implemented. He served as police commissioner for his last three years in office.
On a snowy night in January 2010, a Hispanic victim of assault was beaten into a coma on the street in Princeton. There were no witnesses and he had no means of identification on his person. As he lay motionless in the hospital our police detectives spent more than a week trying to determine his identity. It would have been preferable to have our detective resources aimed at finding his attackers.
We came to learn that he was an undocumented immigrant – working as a day laborer in our community. He was known to some, but invisible to civil authorities. He had a valid Guatemalan passport but was afraid to carry it lest he lose it – so it was safely stored in his apartment.
As we scrutinized this issue, we realized that a neighborhood in the center of our town was largely opaque to our police department. In a town that values community policing and asks our officers to know our residents on their streets, we realized we were failing our mission in the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood, where many Guatemalans live. In addition to improved bilingual outreach, another immediate solution was to institute a community ID card, obtainable by all Princeton residents, regardless of age, ethnicity and nationality.
The program, approved by the municipal council, police department and county Prosecutor's office, was managed by the nonprofit advocacy group Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund. To qualify, one has to show one existing photo ID – such as a driver's license or passport – and proof of residency – such as a lease or utility bill with your name listed and pay $10. As an added benefit, the identification card lists important additional personal information that standard government ID's do not carry, such as someone to notify in case of an emergency and important medical conditions and restrictions.
We realized that other municipal departments would find the card useful; our recreation department, library, subsidized transit services, senior resource center, human service department, local hospital and health clinics all need to determine that you are who you say you are and that you are eligible for specialized resident services or discounted rates. The Community ID provided another means of gaining access to these services.
Some protested our action – “Let ‘em get a driver's license” we heard. But not everyone has a driver's license; Princeton has the highest percentage of residents who walk to work in New Jersey.
The program is almost four years old now, we have had no problems of any consequence, other than less overall participation than we would have liked. Government ID cards of any sort have traditionally been a tough sell in America.
Citizens can now become members of Gary/IUN Police Academy
by Carmen M. Woodson-Wray
Although the application process for new participants is months away the current class of Gary residents and the Indiana University Northwest and the City of Gary police department are getting to know each other better through the Citizens Police Academy.
The program, in its second year of operation, offers a free 10-week class to local citizens and their community's police officers to help them learn more about each other and develop a strong relationship between the departments and the neighborhoods they serve.
The purpose of the academy is to provide citizens with a working knowledge of their local police departments and law-enforcement activities. Officers from the IU Northwest and City of Gary Police Departments aim to help residents make informed judgments about the departments and their activities. Simultaneously, the academy serves to educate the police department about the issues and concerns of the community.
Camille Chester of Gary participated during the first year of the program. She said the most important thing the program teaches is what police officers deal with. She added, “When you finish the program you have a better understanding of what's going on with the police and become more informed as to what the police system is like.” Chester said by taking the class it taught her how to be a better precinct committeeperson. She said, “As a precinct person it has taught me how to communicate with the police, how to make my precinct better and how I can teach those in my district.”
Community police departments often call on citizens for assistance with various projects. Graduates of the Citizens Police Academy go through character evaluations, background checks or may be called on for assistance by the police department. Citizens often serve as valuable community resources for local officers.
Sergeant Melvin Blakeley, Jr. is the facilitator/instructor for the Indiana University Northwest Police Department, who said both he and the Gary Police Department instructor focus on different areas of police work. He added, “Some of the topics we teach are use of force, patrol procedures, criminal investigations and the legal system. The instructors also include a combination of lectures, demonstrations, tours and hands-on activities.”
The program also includes the history of each department, the criminal justice system, crime scene processing, legal concepts, community policing/crime prevention, legal concepts, uniformed patrol procedures and information regarding the K9 unit.
Residents who are at least 18 years old or those who work in Gary can enroll in the program. The academy meets weekly with a limit of 25 participants. Everyone who completes all of the sessions is given a certificate of completion.
Although participants of the Citizens Police Academy receive training in numerous police-related subjects, the graduates are not prepared or encouraged to participate in any real police services.
The deadline to apply for the next class which takes place in January 2015 is Friday, Dec. 20. To apply contact Commander K. Rice at (219) 881-7422 or Sgt. Melvin Blakely at (219) 980-7222.
Concealed-weapons ruling an assault on public safety
California's long-standing effort to reduce gun violence by largely outlawing the packing of guns in public places has come under serious challenge. A divided panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that its restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The good news is that this 2-1 ruling is not the final word. It will be put on hold while the full appeals court decides whether to review it.
Also, it must be emphasized that this decision is an outlier among circuit-court reviews of concealed-weapons laws in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
"There's no precedent to this court's decision that there's a right to carry a concealed weapon, especially without any need or cause," said Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Under California law, applicants had to show good cause and good moral character to obtain a permit. Permits were at the discretion of local sheriffs and police chiefs. The rigor of the review varied from area to area, and the standards were generally tougher in urban areas, for good reason.
"I have a problem with guns, because I see what they can do in the hands of people who shouldn't have them," said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, who said the permit-screening process was "long and arduous" by design in the city - and properly so.
The notion that our communities are safer when larger numbers of people of varying levels of training and temperament are packing deadly weapons defies common sense - and volumes of research on the subject.
As Lowy noted, the fatal shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis in notorious Florida cases are merely two high-profile examples of what can happen when guns are within reach when emotions flare and judgment evaporates.
Suhr brought up another factor that can impair judgment: alcohol or drugs. His officers, for all their training in weaponry and handling of tense confrontations, are prohibited from having their guns with them anytime they're drinking off duty.
"It just makes sense," Suhr said of the policy.
It does. The prospect that millions of Californians could be armed without vetting, without good reason and without restrictions is a clear public safety hazard. The Second Amendment is not absolute and has room for reasonable restraints on concealed weapons, as other courts have concluded. It is now up to the full Ninth Circuit to reaffirm this basic building block of public safety.
Pres. Obama: Cybersecurity Framework is for National Security, Economy
by Elizabeth Leigh
The White House has issued a draft framework on cybersecurity for the critical infrastructure community, a set of guidelines President Barack Obama believes will safeguard civil rights, national security and the economy, Fedscoop reported Wednesday.
“Our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property,” Obama said in a statement.
“Although the threats are serious and they constantly evolve, I believe that if we address them effectively, we can ensure that the Internet remains an engine for economic growth and a platform for the free exchange of ideas,” he added.
Dan Verton writes the administration hopes the 39-page document will help encourage long-term and continuous collaboration between the public and private sectors
The National Institute of Standards and Technology authored the guidelines that offer companies broad standards to address possible vulnerabilities in their systems
NIST Director Patrick Gallagher hinted in October that Congress will eventually play a role that may help spur adherence but stressed that achieving the framework's goals is not dependent on the former.
“From the beginning, the president envisioned this as a voluntary effort that would be based on consensus standards and industry best practices to the extent possible,” Gallagher said, adding, “We wanted to make sure this was something that was flexible and able to be tailored to the needs of individual businesses.”
New Ypsilanti police chief says 'borderless policing' key in tackling crime
by Katrease Stafford
Criminals have no boundaries and neither should police agencies in Washtenaw County, according to new Ypsilanti Police Chief Tony DeGiusti, who said borderless policing will be one of his greatest priorities.
DeGiusti officially stepped into his new role Monday, replacing retired Chief Amy Walker.
Although the role just became official, he's been working with other police agencies within the county, such as the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office and the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety, to improve their relations over the past several months.
"I subscribe to kind of like a no-boundaries or borderless policing," DeGiusti said. "I don't see why because there's line on a map that we pay attention to that. Criminals don't , so we need to change the way we think about things and the way we operate.
"In the past I know there's been a lot of across the board, not necessarily with Ypsilanti, but there's some territorialism of 'This is my town and this is how we do things' and I think we need to break away from that. You can't let pride or hubris get in the way of getting the job done."
The high-profile homicide of EMU football player Demarius Reed and other violent crimes have in some ways, forced the county's policing agencies to work more closely together. DeGiusti said moving forward, he wants to continue the collaborations that have been highly successful.
"I think we've gone beyond where we've ever been before with the collaborative efforts we have going on," DeGiusti said, adding that he regularly communicates with EMU Chief Bob Heighes and Sheriff Jerry Clayton. "We're looking at even more things. There are more collaborative efforts coming."
DeGiusti said police agencies across the county are being faced with dwindling resources and working together in the future will continue to be key.
"How do we continue to multiply our ability to do more with less?" DeGiusti said. "That is something we're working on."
DeGiusti said the three agencies are working to create a task force that would police areas throughout the city. The task force would resemble the group of officers and deputies that have been designated to patrol the troubled Leforge area.
Those joint patrols have been fruitful and have resulted in arrests in the past several weeks.
"The focus is going to be more general in nature instead of just the Leforge area," he said. "We've done a really nice job in the Leforge area and I think we've cleaned it up quite a bit and we'll still be there, but maybe not as much as a consistent basis. We're going to try to get around to some of the other densly populated student areas."
DeGiusti said about 8 percent of the city's crime happens in the Leforge area.
"There are other areas in town that we need to address and really it's not even in little pockets," he said. "You really want to do it in an all community approach. You just want to have a town that is as crime free as possible."
Increasing staffing levels to offset overtime
DeGiusti said increasing the number of officers within the department will be key moving forward. At one point, the department had around 51 employees in 2006-07 fiscal year.
That number included the emergency dispatch service, which has since been contracted through the county; some civilian workers and other positions that have since been eliminated.
"Everybody is in the same boat," he said. "Everyone is working with fewer numbers."
The department recently hired four new officers, bringing its current total to 26. DeGiusti said the goal is to get to 31.
The hiring will help alleviate some of the "burnout" issues that have faced the department and allow the city to get the police overtime budget back under control.
From 2006 to Nov. 8 of 2013, the city paid $2,596,916 in overtime costs to the department, according to numbers compiled by The Ann Arbor News based off of previous budgets.
In December, the city increased the budget to $450,000, which was a $100,000 increase from the original $350,000 budgeted amount.
"A lot of the overtime is structural in nature," DeGiusti said. "We're looking at doing some structural changes to the department."
DeGiusti said he's considering rearranging the command structure in a way that would reduce some of the overtime costs.
"That's where the increase in staffing and some restructuring modification can help out with the overtime problem and the burnout," he said. "Exactly how that's going to look in the end, I'm not sure. But, conceptually, that's where we're headed."
DeGiusti said the department will likely never go back to what it was in terms of staffing, but he believes the force will continue to be able to handle its volume of work.
A police officer averages 570 calls for service per year, according to Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) benchmarks. According to 2013 data, Ypsilanti police officers average 800 calls per year.
"Adequate staffing is kind of a relative term," he said. "I could use as many people as the city's willing to give me, but I think we'll have enough to do what we're tasked to do right now."
Tackling issues that matter to the community
DeGiusti said being a police chief isn't just about working to get criminals off the street. He said reaching out and connecting to the community is a priority.
"We're trying to re-engage in some of the things that we did in the past that I think is important," he said. "Some of the community policing pieces are important."
DeGiusti said in the past the CoPAC, Community Policing Action Council, was heavily involved in the community.
"It's something that needs to be revitalized," he said. "We're going to work very diligently on that."
DeGiusti also plans to re-establish the department's Citizens Police Academy and soon, the downtown district will have a dedicated Downtown Development Authority Officer.
"We're going to have a DDA officer when the staffing gets to a certain point," he said. "That downtown district will have a person that can actually engage with the business community and take care of the downtown area district problems."
DeGiusti said his vision for the department is simple: "To deliver the best possible services we can with the resources we have to try and create the least amount of crime and greatest sense of safety and quality for life for people that live here."
To accomplish that, DeGiusti said community outreach will play a larger role. DeGiusti said often, he's seen young teenagers or adults who are constantly cycled throughout the criminal system. DeGiusti said he hopes to invoke a "all disciplines approach" throughout the community and city to impact change.
"It becomes a revolving door if you don't do anything when you have that person in the system," he said.
DeGiusti said he believes in restorative justice if it's done the right way.
"Taking a 14-year-old kid and just running him through the system over and over again, that doesn't solve the problem," he said. "Once you have that person, what do you do? Do you put them in a situation where it just gets worse or do you find some way to refocus their energy with something positive to get them back on the right track?
"That's the goal. Everyone says that, but how do you do that? Those are some real big challenges and once again, that's something that the police can't do themselves."
DeGiusti said he's exploring some ideas, including getting Ypsilanti officers back into local schools, but he was hesitant to share them prematurely.
"Funding for things police related is very difficult to get anymore," he said. "The dollars have tightened up."
Community policing as a model is very labor intensive, but that doesn't mean it can't be done in some form, DeGiusti said.
"One of biggest things is going to start with me," he said. "I can't be a person that's going to sit in the office all day and not know what's going on. I have to be out in the public and I have a few ideas about how to get out there. I have to be the type of person that is approachable and that people will trust."
Mapping out the future
Moving forward, DeGiusti said he wants to establish a five-year strategic plan to outline the department's goals and needs.
DeGiusti said this won't just include what he believes though. He plans to issue a survey, soliciting responses from residents.
"Everyone needs a map," he said. "We want to know exactly what it is we want to accomplish. A goal without a deadline is a wish."
DeGiusti said he hopes to hear where residents would like to see the department in five years.
"It has to be a broad approach," he said. "People from every socio-economic level, whether it's a student, someone that's been living in town for 50 years, someone that makes $100,000 or someone that makes $10 an hour. It has to be everyone. A lot of that is going to be through outreach. It's going to be us getting out of the car to interact and not using the cars as mobile offices."
Police credit citizen help, deployment as factors in Evanston crime drop
by Bob Seidenberg
Strategic police deployment tactics along with cooperation from citizens appear to be paying off in Evanston.
Evanston Police believe the two are factors in a nearly 10 percent drop in serious crime in 2013 – the biggest drop since 2010.
At a recent City Council meeting, police reported roughly a 20 percent drop in robbery and aggravated batteries.
In addition, burglaries were down by 15 percent over the previous year and Part 1 crimes, index crimes that are of a more serious nature, showed an approximately 9 percent drop overall.
Crimes that fall in the Part 1 category include murder, criminal sexual assault, robbery, burglary, aggravated battery/aggravated assaults, motor vehicle theft, theft and arson.
Police are increasingly making use of technology and information tools in making deployment decisions, said Police Chief Richard Eddington.
“Getting cops on the dots has an impact on the quality of life in Evanston,” said Eddington, addressing officers at a recent deployment meeting.
Eddington said two numbers that stand out to him are the 227 less victims of Part 1 crimes than a year ago, and the police clearance record of all four homicides.
In conjunction with more scientific application of police resources, the chief emphasized that police “are continuing relations with the community – where people call us when they see something wrong.”
Police have seen increasing use of a Text-a-Tip program started a few years. It encourages people to provide information to police, which, in turn, helps police deploy resources.
The department also is emphasizing community policing – directing foot patrols and problem-solving teams into areas affected by crimes of violence, said Cmdr. Jay Parrott, department spokesperson.
“By having those officers out there, we're building relationships with community members,” he said.
The department numbers were fairly even for motor vehicle thefts. The city saw one more homicide in 2013 and six more criminal sexual assaults.
However, those crimes usually have a greater story behind them because of their highly personal nature, said Parrott, briefing alderman at the Jan. 27 City Council meeting.
On deployment, police look at crimes being committed to ascertain “if we can develop intelligence or leads for specific offenses, Parrott said, “especially ones where there appear to be a developing pattern.
“And those incidents where there is violence or the possibility of violence occurring, that's where we direct our resources.”
Public safety officials prep for bomb threats at CVCC training
by TIFFANY STEVENS
Thirty miles away from New York City, Robert Alpaugh watched the World Trade Center towers crumble.
"We actually watched the second plane hit and both towers fall," Alpaugh said "And that's something that's driven me for a number of years. If we're that close and that's a target, we need to prepare for it."
Along with other members of the Morris County Sheriff's Office, Alpaugh responded to the terror attack, eager to provide any assistance possible. But without a plan that matched the chaos, his New Jersey team had no clear direction.
"At that point our response was so early on, we really didn't have a handle on what was going on yet," Alpaugh said. "They were still trying to get (the scene) under control."
That experience has been a driving factor for Alpaugh, a retiring detective sergeant who works as a New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology contractor for first responder training events.
Alpaugh featured as a major speaker during a training session hosted by Chattahoochee Valley Community College Tuesday and Wednesday, specifically targeting public safety response following an explosion. The event was funded through the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Management Agency; it was sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), as well as New Mexico Tech.
Representatives from more than 20 public safety agencies across Alabama and Georgia — including Auburn Police Division Chief Paul Register, Columbus Fire and EMS Chief Jeff Meyer and Opelika Fire Department Chief Terry Adkins — came together during the two day event to share strategies on how to respond best to catastrophic bombing events.
Much of the program focused not just on how to respond to a bombing event, but how to prevent one by looking at potential targets within the community.
"Basically, we have to understand who would want to detonate a device in your community," said Connie Blackford, a TEEX training specialist. "We look at that type of individual historically and we also look at your community and say 'If I had one device, where would I detonate it?'"
The training included a simulated scenario that allowed agencies to test their existing emergency response strategies and collaborate with neighboring departments. Such exercises play a crucial part in making sure resources are allocated effectively during straining situations, Blackford said.
"This is a great way to network and understand each other's roles," she said. "The day of the event is not the time to introduce yourself. We need to know each other and train with each other. It'll be chaotic, but it can organized chaos."
Representatives from area civilian and military hospitals were also able to gain information about how best to handle a dramatic influx of patients during a disaster, as well as how to handle injuries caused by explosions.
Alpaugh hopes that by creating strategies for agencies to work cohesively, communities will be better prepared for potentially devastating events, whether man-made or natural. Incidents like bombings are a potential hazard that he said he fears most American cities are not prepared for.
"Do you think in Jerusalem they're talking around the dinner table about how to respond to a bombing incident? Do you think that that's an average conversation happening Phenix City?" he said during one of Wednesday's lectures. "Here we tell our children to be careful of hot stoves and talking to strangers. I think it's a mindset that we as a community are going to have to get into."
Nearly 4,000 laser attacks annoyed, injured U.S. pilots last year
by Rene Marsh and Ben Brumfield
Pulsating light bursts into the cockpit of a plane thousands of feet in the air, filling it with seething brightness, and blinding the pilot and copilot.
What sounds like a cheap reenactment in a hokey UFO reality show has become everyday reality in the United States.
Laser attacks on aircraft occur an average of 11 times a day, the Federal Aviation Administration says.
Powerful handheld lasers are affordable and widespread, and some people are making sport of shining them up into passing aircraft. The trend seems to be catching on.
There were 3,960 such strikes reported last year, the FAA says. That's up from 283 in 2005.
But reporting of these crimes has also caught on, which has contributed to the rise in official numbers.
Still, hundreds of attacks go unreported and remain uncounted.
The FBI wants them to stop and is offering reward money for tips leading to the pranksters.
And it's making some arrests. Though it takes work to track down the source of the laser, it can be done with a helicopter, a dispatcher and squad cars.
The FBI has posted YouTube video of one such bust.
It has detained mostly teenage boys and men in their 30s, who face a possible five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
And the FBI is not the only one posting a bounty on them.
For the next two months, 11 U.S. cities and San Juan, Puerto Rico, are offering up to $10,000 for information leading to arrests.
Attacks are particularly common in New York and Los Angeles, and they often obstruct the work of the targeted pilots.
"When a laser light flashes across the cockpit, it's about 25% brighter than a flashlight flashing in your face. So what that does is, that can cause temporary incapacitation," said Stephen Woolery, an FBI agent pursuing laser pranksters.
But the consequences can be much worse than just annoying.
A pilot coming in for a landing at JFK two years ago radioed the tower right after an attack.
"We just got lasered up here," he said. "Two green flashes into the cockpit. It caught the first officer's eye."
A direct hit can burn the cornea, and that has put pilots in the hospital.
So far, no laser strike has been known to cause a pilot to crash an aircraft.
But the FBI fears it is only a matter of time.
New Ashfield police chief to build on community outreach
by DIANE BRONCACCIO
ASHFIELD — Interim Police Chief Diane Wilder is no stranger to town residents. She has been serving with the Police Department for the past four years.
Wilder, a Leyden native, had served with police departments in Charlemont and Whately before she was hired in Ashfield by then-interim Police Chief John Cotton.
Both Cotton, a retired Williamsburg police chief, and his successor Patrick Droney worked to rebuild public trust in the department, following a scandal involving an earlier police chief in 2009, who was accused of inappropriate behavior. Wilder, who was hired to work 30 hours per week, says the Police Department is now in good shape.
She wants to continue building public trust and to broaden ties with the community.
“It's been going very well — a pleasant surprise, once I got past the nervousness of ‘being chief,'” she said. “My priorities are to keep the trust-building with the public and to bring a lot more community policing into the town.”
For instance, Wilder is hoping to organize a bike rodeo for school children this summer, as a way to teach them safe bicycling practices. “You set up a course to look like a street, with stop signs and other road signs. It teaches them to be courteous,” she said.
Wilder would also like to revive the town's participation in “National Night Out,” which is a kind of take-back-the-night against crime.
“But in rural areas, it's more like a street fair,” says Wilder. She said “stomp out bullying” was the theme of Ashfield's last National Night Out, in 2012, and the event included hot-air balloon ascents, a bounce house and dunking booth, a pie-eating contest and music. She said there was a bus to transport older residents so that they could participate.
Former Chief Droney started a Christmas “Stuff the Cruiser” campaign, in which residents donate Christmas toys to be given to local families in need. Wilder has been the officer who takes the cruiser to be filled to the Neighbor's Convenience Store parking lot, giving out coffee and doughnuts in exchange for the toys. Wilder said she plans to continue that tradition.
Most recently, the police chief has been interviewing candidates for two reserve police officer positions. Wilder said the town wants to bring the police department up to six part-timers, including herself, “so we can have more coverage of the town.”
Wilder and her husband live in Buckland, where they have seven horses.
Detroit suburb to sign agreement on police changes
GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Officials in a Detroit suburb where five police officers were suspended for their roles in videos in which a black man is seen singing or chanting plan to sign an agreement about department changes.
A statement on behalf of Grosse Pointe Park says the city plans to sign an agreement Wednesday partnering with U.S. Justice Department, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and local groups to "increase policing reforms."
The city says the Justice Department and the Department of Civil Rights will help train officers in the latest strategies in community policing. The city also is signing a resolution reaffirming a commitment to diversity as well as human and civil rights.
Videos were posted on the Motor City Muckraker news website. Suspensions were announced last year after a police investigation.
Police Investigate Potential Witness Intimidation in JCC Armed Robbery Case
by Gregory Connolly
James City County Police are working to squash the potential for gang activity that stems from a suspected witness intimidation incident last month.
The police hosted a community meeting Monday in Grove, where the armed robbery of a 16-year-old Jamestown High student occurred Dec. 22 along Pocahontas Trail. That case yielded the arrests of a 16-year-old boy from Newport News and 20-year-old James City County resident Antoinne Leshun Watson, who are accused of robbing the Jamestown High student at gunpoint for an undisclosed amount of money.
The victim said he knew both alleged robbers.
Maj. Stephen Rubino of the James City County Police Department said one of the alleged robbers was in court last week. Several other people showed up and sat in the courtroom, and the victim, who was supposed to be at the hearing, did not show up.
“The individuals in the courtroom didn't make any comments or say anything threatening, but it was suspected there may have been an effort to intimidate the victim,” Rubino said.
An attorney from the Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth's Attorney's office spoke with the group in the courtroom. Someone from the group told the attorney they were there to support a friend.
The victim in the case also reported to the Jamestown High School student resource officer that after the January arrest, some people on a school bus were calling him a “snitch” and a “rat” as they rode to Jamestown High School one morning.
“There's no indication that the people on the bus were affiliated with the suspects from the robbery,” Rubino said. “They may have been friends with him, but I'm not aware of any affiliation beyond that.”
Police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the robbery and any other parties that might be involved.
Rubino said police are committed to the safety and security of victims and witnesses in court cases.
He said this recent activity — which prompted the meeting in Grove — is because police are seeing some indicators of the potential start of gang activity.
“We don't have a gang problem,” Rubino said. “We're very proactive in our education and enforcement efforts.”
Police also mentioned potential drug activity and possession of firearms by children at the meeting Monday. Rubino said the firearms and drugs are a “blanket statement” pertaining to information police have received rather than specific incidents.
“The main message of the meeting last night is that we want to work in collaboration with the community to solve any problems,” he said. “If anyone has any concerns or they witness any criminal activity, we ask they notify us and we'll work with them to help solve problems.”
Several officers attended the meeting, including Acting Chief Brad Rinehimer, the patrol officers who work in Grove everyday and several officers from the Community Services Division of the department. Throughout the meeting, they repeatedly stressed the importance of the community reaching out to police to discuss concerns and crime, citing that communication as a hallmark of community policing.
Anyone with information to share with the police may do so by using the anonymous tip line at 259-5176.
Merrimack ranked 19th safest city in America
by KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
MERRIMACK — For the second year in a row, Merrimack has been named one of the top 100 safest cities in America.
“Community policing is a priority for us. The police department is part of that larger puzzle,” said Chief Mark Doyle of the Merrimack Police Department.
Being ranked as the 19th safest city among the nation's top 100 ranked communities in America is a huge accomplishment, and many people and organizations deserve to be recognized — not just local law enforcement, said Doyle.
The newest ranking from Neighborhood Scout, a neighborhood research site developed by Location Inc., uses FBI crime data statistics and population numbers of communities with more than 25,000 citizens.
“When we look at crime prevention as a mission of the police department, we understand that we cannot undertake it ourselves,” said Doyle. It is a team effort by the police force, local school district, civics groups, youth organizations, town officials and more, he said.
According to Neighborhood Scout's website, Merrimack's crime index is at 81, with 100 being the safest. With a total of six violent crimes (one robbery and five assaults) and 223 property crimes (33 burglaries, 181 thefts and 9 motor vehicle thefts), a total of 229 crimes were reported last year, according to the website.
“My chances of becoming a (violent crime) victim in Merrimack: 1 in 4,268,” says the site, adding the average in New Hampshire is about 1 in 532.
Merrimack is the only New Hampshire community listed in the newest ranking, but Doyle says that does not mean that other Granite State towns and cities are not deserving of the honor.
“We see successes collectively in law enforcement in New Hampshire, and we all share very similar beliefs and philosophies,” said the chief, adding the local police force is aiming to be ranked the safest community in America next year. In 2013, Merrimack, with 25,606 residents, was ranked 34th on the list.
“There is a lot of energy when they see these recognitions from an independent organization. It sends a good message that we are here to help and work together,” said Doyle.
With 38 police officers, six support staff and 10 dispatchers working for the Merrimack Police Department, Doyle says they all should be proud of the ranking. He explained, however, that ongoing efforts by the department's community service division should be highly praised.
Because of its dedication and commitment, and that of many local citizens, there are 22 neighborhood watch groups in Merrimack with about 55 street signs indicating that watch groups are active in the community, Doyle said.
Merrimack's ranking is based on the total number of crimes per 1,000 residents, including crimes such as burglary, theft, homicide, rapes, burglaries and aggravated assaults, according to the Neighborhood Scout website.
“Once we have this complete and accurate count of crimes for every city in the nation, our analysis takes the total crimes for each city with 25,000 or more people, and divides them by the population of the city, divided by 1,000. This establishes a total crime rate per 1,000 population that is used to compare every city,” the site says.
Franklin, Mass., is ranked No. 1 on the Neighborhood Scout list for the second year in a row.
LAPD Rolls Out "Predictive Policing" to Prevent Crime
Like something out of the sci-fi story, "Minority Report," the LAPD deploys "predictive policing"
by Gordon Tokumatsu
(Video on site)
Sonia Moran has been pleasantly surprised by the increased police patrols in her Pacoima neighborhood lately.
She may be noticing the results of a new approach at preventative law enforcement ...being tried here by the lapd. it's called "predictive policing."
In predictive policing, computer algorithms take data from specific kinds of crime -- burglary, auto theft and car break-ins -- then map them out for officers. Areas with the most such crimes will get more attention by cops on the beat ...who can actually see them in 500-square foot "boxes."
LAPD Capt. Sean Malinowski says officers are trying to prevent crime.
"We're trying to prevent that crime or deny the criminal the opportunity to commit the crime in the first place," he said.
But some community activists, such as Pete White, worry about how predictive policing will be administered in communities of color. Commanders, after all, admit that they want officers to make contact with people in those high-crime zones.
It's part of the reason, they say, that burglaries have plunged more than 20 percent in the area.
Malinowski believes that officers and community members “in the box” are more likely to interact.
Because they're out of the car and they're looking for symptoms of crime.
But White wonders if officers will react to this new crime-fighting tool the same way in less-wealthy South LA as more-wealthy Pacific Palisades.
Predictive policing appears to be here to stay, police say. Tuesday morning, the civilian oversight Police Commission gave commanders the green light to continue a limited city-wide roll-out as long as those crime rates keep dropping.
Court Gives California More Time to Ease Prison Crowding
by IAN LOVETT
LOS ANGELES — In what amounts to a legal and political victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, a panel of three federal judges ruled on Monday that California can have two more years to reduce severe overcrowding in state prisons, a decision that gives the governor time to pursue a strategy of using rehabilitation programs to reduce head counts.
The ruling is the latest development in a long-running lawsuit over severe overcrowding in the state prison system. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court upheld an order to reduce the prison population, agreeing that dire conditions compromised the health and safety of prisoners and violated their constitutional rights against cruel and inhuman punishment. Since then, California officials have repeatedly sought extra time to address the problem.
But Monday's ruling comes with new conditions: The judges will appoint a compliance officer with the power to release inmates if the state misses interim deadlines for easing the overcrowding. And even as they granted more time to comply with the court order, they criticized the state's efforts to delay the release of inmates, who remain packed into prisons at more than 144 percent of capacity.
“Defendants have continually failed to implement any of the measures approved by this court and the Supreme Court that would have safely reduced the California prison population and alleviated the unconstitutional conditions of medical and mental health care in the prisons,” the judges wrote.
Until Monday's ruling, California had until April to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity from 144 percent; now, it has until the end of February 2016.
Had the judges refused to extend the deadline, Mr. Brown had planned to spend about $20 million this fiscal year and up to $50 million in the next to house prisoners in out-of-state facilities. California currently houses about 8,900 inmates in other states, and Monday's order prohibits the state from adding to that number.
Now, instead, Mr. Brown has proposed spending $81 million in the next fiscal year for the rehabilitation programs intended to reduce the recidivism rate and help bring the prison population down over time. “The state now has the time and resources necessary to help inmates become productive members of society and make our communities safer,” Mr. Brown said.
Darrell Steinberg, president pro tem of the California Senate, had pushed for a solution to overcrowding that included a focus on reducing recidivism. More than 60 percent of inmates released from California prisons wind up back in custody within three years, according to the State Corrections Department. “We want to fundamentally redirect resources from just locking people up to reducing recidivism by investing more in mental health, substance abuse and re-entry,” Mr. Steinberg said.
But lawyers for the plaintiffs — who include two classes of prisoners, one with serious mental conditions and the other with serious health conditions — criticized the delay. “This extension means two more years of suffering for inmates that should not have been granted,” said Michael Bien, a lawyer for some inmates.
Mr. Bien said that to keep the prison population from continuing to rise, California would have to reform its sentencing laws. The state has agreed to consider establishing a commission to recommend reforms of state penal and sentencing laws, according to Monday's court order. But Mr. Bien criticized that agreement because it was nonbinding.
Still, the decision to grant an extension was not only a legal win for Mr. Brown, but a political win. It allows him to delay any major release of inmates until after his re-election campaign this year, although he has not yet announced whether he will run.
“It's one issue that's off his plate and off the radar until 2016, which is after the election,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. “How is a Republican going to hit on a politician who wants to keep these guys in jail a little longer?”
SCPD's Safety Up program deserves community support
In our view, one of the strongest attributes of our local police department is its commitment to building ties with residents through a strategy commonly known as community policing.
In myriad ways, the Sioux City Police Department seeks to proactively address public safety issues by strengthening communications and forging partnerships with citizens.
Programs made available to the public by the department include seasonal safety tips; bicycle safety tips; DNA kits for parents; the DARE anti-drug program for middle school students; presentations on active-shooter incidents for organizations, businesses, schools and government agencies; identity theft; safety for in-home care providers; conflict resolution; safety checks for homes and businesses; and more. The department holds town hall meetings and attends and supports neighborhood coalition meetings.
One of its most recent efforts is a local program called Safety Up. Essentially, it's an effort to breathe new life into the Neighborhood Watch concept.
We support this initiative and strongly advocate for community involvement.
For a variety of reasons, the once-vibrant Neighborhood Watch program has declined, here and elsewhere. At one time, Sioux City had 386 active Neighborhood Watch units, but today that number has dwindled to the point where the SCPD is "starting from scratch" with Safety Up, Police Chief Doug Young told us.
Patterned after Neighborhood Watch, Safety Up is about citizens taking an active role in watching and listening for suspicious activities where they live or work and keeping police informed. Any concerned resident or community organization can take steps to create a Safety Up group. A watch unit can include a block, neighborhood, apartment complex or business area.
"Being safe in our homes is one of the most fundamental rights of all citizens," according to Young. "Together, we have a better chance of making that happen."
One important note we wish to stress: Safety Up units "are not vigilantes," as emphasized in program literature provided by the SCPD. In other words, partner with the police by providing information, but leave actual law enforcement to the trained professionals.
We have long believed in the value of community policing programs and citizen participation in them, and in the importance of neighborhood coalitions. This isn't about only public safety and building relationships between citizens and police, it's also about creating a spirit of togetherness and belonging, establishing and nurturing an overall sense of pride and improving overall quality of life. That's important no matter where you live within our city.
We understand societal changes over the last few decades have introduced new dynamics and challenges into our communities and neighborhoods, but we believe the fundamental principles and goals of Neighborhood Watch remain sound and valuable.
We would like nothing more than to see a rebirth of Neighborhood Watch in Sioux City, so we encourage residents to get involved in the Safety Up program, as well as to take advantage of SCPD's overall wealth of community policing initiatives. We commend our police department for its vigorous dedication to public outreach.
If you want to know more about Safety Up or other community policing programs, visit the SCPD's website or facebook page, or call 279-6411.
Data Drives New Patrol Initiative for Colorado Police
by Ryan Severance
Pueblo police have begun using the data-driven approach DDACTS to address crime and traffic safety.
If you live in the area of South Prairie and West Northern avenues you may have noticed an increased police presence.
On Feb. 3, Pueblo police began using a data-driven approach to crime and traffic safety, or as they call it, DDACTS.
The goal of the program is to improve community policing, which involves a working relationship between police and the community.
In a nutshell, DDACTS is an operational model that integrates location-based crime and traffic crash data to determine the most effective methods for deploying law enforcement and other resources.
DDACTS is an asset for departments with increasing demands, limited resources and competing demands for services, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Baltimore Police Department is one of the first departments to adopt DDACTS.
Since it began the program, police have seen an 18 percent drop in burglary, 29 percent drop in robbery, 35 percent drop in auto thefts and a 2.5 percent decrease in crashes, according to a report by the NHTSA.
Through the analysis of previous crimes and traffic accidents in Pueblo over the past four years, the Pueblo Police Department decided to deploy the first phase of its DDACTS initiative in the 0.54 square-mile area surrounding the intersection of South Prairie and West Northern.
This half-mile area accounts for roughly 4 percent of citywide crime and 6 percent of citywide traffic accidents, according to information sent out by Sgt. Eric Gonzales with the PPD.
"The goal of the Pueblo Police Department's DDACTS model is to reduce crime, improve traffic safety, reduce the number of serious injury and alcohol-related crashes, and to more efficiently use data analysis to deploy patrol and other police resources," Gonzales said in a statement.
The initiative includes increasing police presence in the half-mile area the program is operating in.
Police said the program is paying dividends so far. As part of DDACTS, police recently received information from a local business about a woman who stole items.
There is no indication as of now whether police plan to expand on the use of the program to other areas.
City to drop appeal in stop/frisk lawsuit
by Rich Bockmann
Borough President Melinda Katz said she supported Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to drop the city's appeal to the federal stop-and-frisk case.
“It is critical that we restore trust and faith in every community in this city and begin to repair relationships,” she said. “With effective community policing, New York can remain the safest big city in this country, while serving all of its residents with respect.”
Calling it a “defining moment” for the five boroughs, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week his administration was dropping the appeal filed by his predecessor in the city's long-running stop-and-frisk case, laying the groundwork for a court-appointed monitor to oversee reforms to the NYPD for three years.
“This is a defining moment in our history. It's a defining moment for millions of our families, especially those with young men of color,” de Blasio said at a news conference in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, which along with Queens neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, Corona and Jamaica had experienced historically high levels of stops under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12 years in office.
“And it will lay the foundation for not only keeping us the safest big city in America, but making us safer still,” de Blasio added. “This will be one city, where everyone's rights are respected and where police and community stand together to confront violence.”
The city's police unions still have a stake in the case, and they have until Feb. 7 to respond to the city's motion to drop the appeal.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the union still views the ruling with skepticism but did not say whether or not it would pursue further legal action.
“We continue to have serious concerns about how these remedies will impact our members and the ability to do their jobs,” he said. “Our goal is to continue to be involved in the process in order to give voice to our members and to make every effort to ensure that their rights are protected.”
In the city's agreement with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the civil rights group that filed the lawsuit, the independent monitor appointed to oversee reforms to the NYPD's practices will watch over the department for three years, given the city substantially complies with the reforms.
The monitor and the police will reach out to communities in a series of forums to seek input on the process.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he was confident he could keep the city safe without relying on unconstitutional stops.
“We will not break the law to enforce the law. That's my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live or what they look like,” he said. “Those values aren't at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.”
The battle over the Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policies — which supporters argue have been instrumental in bringing crime rates down to historic lows — stretches back to the waning days of the 1990s, when the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging stop-and-frisk in the wake of the fatal shooting by police of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx.
In 2003, Manhattan District Judge Shira Scheindlin oversaw a settlement agreement in the case that required the NYPD to document individual stops, and in the following years the numbers skyrocketed.
The legal advocacy group in 2008 filed a federal class-action suit against the city, and last August, following a nine-week trial, Scheindlin found the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk to be unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. She appointed an independent monitor to oversee reforming the department.
Soon after the Bloomberg administration, which ardently disagreed with the ruling and accused Scheindlin of bias, appealed the decision and late last year the Second Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the judge's orders and removed her from the case.
Should the appeals court grant the city's motion, it will be up to the newly appointed district court justice, Judge Analisa Torres, to decide whether or not to approve the settlement.
American terror suspect possibly targeted for drone attack
by KIMBERLY DOZIER
WASHINGTON — An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say, and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.
The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he's a U.S. citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a task it hasn't completed.
Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama's new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House.
Two of the officials described the man as an al-Qaida facilitator who has been directly responsible for deadly attacks against U.S. citizens overseas and who continues to plan attacks against them that would use improvised explosive devices.
But one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided over whether the man is dangerous enough to merit the potential domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a crime or trying him, and the potential international fallout of such an operation in a country that has been resistant to U.S. action.
Another of the U.S. officials said the Pentagon did ultimately decide to recommend lethal action.
The officials said the suspected terrorist is well-guarded and in a fairly remote location, so any unilateral attempt by U.S. troops to capture him would be risky and even more politically explosive than a U.S. missile strike.
Under new guidelines Obama addressed in a speech last year to calm anger overseas at the extent of the U.S. drone campaign, lethal force must only be used "to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." The target must also pose "a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons" — the legal definition of catching someone in the act of plotting a lethal attack.
The Associated Press has agreed to the government's request to withhold the name of the country where the suspected terrorist is believed to be because officials said publishing it could interrupt ongoing counterterror operations.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the classified drone targeting program publicly.
House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., complained last week that a number of terrorist suspects were all but out of reach under the administration's new rules that limit drone strikes based on the target's nationality or location. Two of the U.S. officials said the Justice Department review of the American suspected terrorist started last fall.
The senior administration official confirmed that the Justice Department was working to build a case for the president to review and decide the man's fate. The official said, however, the legal procedure being followed is the same as when the U.S. killed militant cleric and former Virginia resident Anwar al-Awlaki by drone in Yemen in 2011, long before the new targeted killing policy took effect.
The official said the president could make an exception to his policy and authorize the CIA to strike on a onetime basis or authorize the Pentagon to act despite the possible objections of the country in question.
The Justice Department, the Pentagon and the CIA declined to comment.
If the target is an American citizen, the Justice Department is required to show that killing the person through military action is "legal and constitutional"— in this case, that the Pentagon can take action against the American, as the administration has ruled him an enemy combatant under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a resolution Congress passed a week after the 9/11 attacks to target al-Qaida.
Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said there is a school of thought that the Obama administration's drone policy is "lawless."
"Why should the Justice Department issue the execution warrant for anyone abroad? The fact that they give extra scrutiny only because he's an American exacerbates this negative impression," O'Connell said.
U.S. drones have killed four Americans since 2009, including al-Awlaki, who the administration said was actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the three other Americans were killed by drones, but were not targeted. The three are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a native of Denver who was killed in Yemen two weeks later; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.
The case has galvanized congressional opponents of Obama's plan to transfer drones from the CIA to the Defense Department. Before the plan was announced, either CIA or Pentagon drones could go after terrorist targets, even if they were U.S. citizens. The CIA could also fly drones in areas where host countries might object. But by law, the Pentagon can only strike in war zones, in countries that agree to U.S. counterterrorism action or in lawless areas like parts of Somalia where that government's security forces cannot reach. Even then only al-Qaida-linked suspects can be targeted.
"It is very clear that there have been missed opportunities that I believe increase the risk of the lives of our soldiers and for disrupting operations underway," Rogers said last week.
U.S. officials said both Senate and House appropriators have blocked funding to transfer the CIA's stealth RQ-170 drone fleet to the Pentagon. Some lawmakers want the White House to come up with a fix for targeting suspects in areas where the Pentagon is banned from operating — either by leaving some part of the CIA operation running or by granting the Pentagon authority to strike covertly despite the location — meaning they could legally deny the operation.
Lawmakers like Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have also objected to the shift to the Pentagon, arguing that the CIA has more experience flying drones.
Meeting aimed at building trust between police and Latinos
by SCOTT WEISSER
GOSHEN — Around 40 people gathered at Goshen's Iglesia Menonita Del Buen Pastor Sunday afternoon. Some of them wanted answers.
One question: How can a traffic stop by local police lead to deportation? The short answer: It all depends on whether the driver winds up in jail.Sunday's meeting at the South Sixth Street church took place as part of a community policing initiative. The joint effort between law enforcement agencies, Bienvenido Community Solutions and Goshen's Community Relations Commission is designed to build trust and foster communication between local police and Latinos.
Attendees first met in two groups to share their experiences and voice their questions. Gilberto Perez Jr., head of Bienvenido Community Solutions, said the idea was to build a sense of trust among themselves.
Then it was time for Goshen Police Chief Wade Branson and Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers to sit in with the groups, listen and provide information. Police procedures during traffic stops was a topic of interest.
One question: Why do police officers ask personal questions?
“Some of the questions may sound personal, but (the officer) is trying to figure out who you are,” Branson said. One thing the officer may be trying to determine is whether there's a warrant out for the person.
The chief also said honesty is the best policy.“What would you think if you ask your children questions that they don't answer?,” Branson said. “That they're trying to hide something.”
No Social Security number? Just tell the officer you don't have one, Branson said.
The chief also said Goshen police don't communicate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when they stop someone.
“Ninety percent of people who are stopped for driving without a license are given a ticket, and they go to court,” Branson said. “That information is sent to Indianapolis to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles... Some people, if they have multiple charges other than driving without a license, will probably be taken to jail.”
According to what Rogers said to the entire group later in the session, “taken to jail” could lead to the involvement of federal agencies.A woman told the sheriff there have been many incidents where the local issue of a traffic stop somehow became an issue of deportation.
“We have congregation members who have been deported,” she said.Rogers said that when someone is jailed, they are booked and fingerprinted. The fingerprints are sent to the Indiana State Police, and that agency archives them.
“The FBI has access to those fingerprints,” the sheriff said. The FBI and ICE have made an agreement that they collaborate with each other. It has nothing to do with the sheriff's office. It has nothing to do with the chief of police.
“So when the prints are forwarded to the State Police, which is by state law, then that agreement is utilized at the federal level. The next thing we know is that there's a detainer on someone for an immigration issue, and we continue to hold that person.”
Immigration enforcers have a set amount of time to pick up the detained person. If the inmate bonds out or is released at the local level — and ICE doesn't pick the person up within that timeframe — “We cut them loose,” Rogers said.
Rogers also noted that when undocumented immigrants are cited into court, nearly all of them pay their fines.
" They don't want to cause any trouble,” he said. “I get that.”One woman — her comments translated by church pastor David Araujo — told Rogers about a challenge faced by some local Hispanics.“
Many of us in the community are undocumented,” she said. “It's important for us to be able to go to work and meet our obligations.”
The woman said Goshen lacks adequate public transportation, adding, “Sometimes we carpool.”
“We're in a situation that requires a little more understanding of why we drive without our license,” she said.
“I think police empathize with that,” Rogers responded. “However, we are also asked to enforce the law.”
Police department's use of technology keeps public informed
by John Hutto
On Jan. 30, I had the pleasure of hosting a community discussion about the implementation of body-worn cameras, or BWCs, for use by uniformed police officers. I bring this up, as it serves to illustrate one of the many things that make Fort Collins great.
Regardless of the topic, members of our community are passionate and eager to engage in a dialogue. In a diverse community, the likelihood of satisfying everyone on every issue is remote. What is important is that all have a voice. The policy for BWCs illustrates this. We have done a tremendous amount of work to get to this point. Fort Collins Police Services has been using BWCs for the past 18 months, and their use has proved to be invaluable. I am confident that our BWC program and policy are state of the art in policing, and I look forward to their continued beneficial use.
FCPS now has a full presence on Facebook and Twitter and can be found at twitter.com/FCPolice and www.facebook.com/fortcollinspoliceservices. In addition, I have my own Twitter account, @FCPSChief. We are using Facebook and Twitter to get relevant and timely information on public safety topics out to you. This media also serves as a way for you to make comments and ask questions of us. A cautionary note: Facebook and Twitter are not monitored 24/7 and should never be used to report any type of emergency situation.
Additionally, FCPS is now using a statewide Sex Offender Tracking and Registration, or SOTAR, website. SOTAR is a very powerful tool that enables you to stay informed about registered sex offenders residing in Fort Collins. You can create an account on SOTAR (www.sotar.us) and be alerted when a registered sex offender moves within a chosen radius of user-specified locations, such as home, school or church. This tool enables you to perform searches in a variety of ways and includes a mapping feature. SOTAR is but one information source available at fcgov.com/police. On our website, you will find a wide variety of topics to keep you informed, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to log on and explore. A link to SOTAR can be found at the bottom of our website.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about a few of the ways that Fort Collins Police Services is using technology to keep you informed and provide service to our community.
John Hutto is the Fort Collins police chief.
Camden K-9 holds state record for nabbing suspects
by Andy McNeil
A giant Build-A-Bear with teeth.
That's how Camden County Police Sgt. Zsakhiem James describes his K-9 partner, Zero.
When the black Czech shepherd joined the department in August 2007, Camden hadn't had a K-9 patrolling its streets in a dozen years.
Residents, as James recalled, were shocked. But as they walked along Mount Ephraim Avenue Thursday, it was clear the city has embraced the dog and his 43-year-old handler.
Passersby greeted the pair, yelling out Zero's name. Wide-eyed school children shuffled up the icy sidewalk to pet him — something the dog loves.
Yet there are two sides to Zero. There's the playful pooch who rolls on his back at the command “cute and cuddly,” and the tough-as-nails law dog with 66 apprehensions — the most in the state.
Zero broke the previous record of 64 held by a retired Atlantic City police dog when he nabbed a stolen car suspect hiding in a wooded area behind an Admiral Wilson Boulevard gas station in November.
“Its hard to imagine that such great extremes of personality can exist within Zero, until you meet him in person,” said Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson.
“In the same day, he may battle a violent criminal to the ground like Robo-dog and hours later get his belly scratched by preschoolers like Lassie.”
Zero, who turned 10 on New Year's Eve, got his first “collar” at an unusual location — outside the former Fraternal Order of Police hall on Federal Street.
The hall had been rented out for a party that turned into a brawl, and at least one of the revelers was determined to fight the officers who responded. Zero promptly put a stop to that.
“When Zero took him down, the guy let out a scream,” James recalled. “Everyone instantly decided they no longer wanted to fight with the police.”
James said the pair's most memorable apprehension — a take-down by bite — came in 2010, when they were called to an East Camden home where a man who had stabbed someone in the neck with scissors was hiding.
Police searched the house top to bottom, but couldn't find the suspect.
Zero's nose led the officers under blown-in insulation in a crawl space above them — and the suspect didn't make things easy.
Instead of surrendering he battled with Zero, James and another officer in the darkened space. Then the sheet rock ceiling James had mistaken for a floor gave way.
“Zero fell through the ceiling and fell onto a bed,” the officer remembered. “(He) bounced off the bed, landed on the floor and went to re-engage.”
James eventually knocked the suspect from the ceiling and Zero captured him after the man had jumped down the stairs and ran outside.
“That guy helped make Zero's reputation,” his handler noted. “The next time we went out to that area, we didn't have to use the same force.”
Approaching a possible drug set on Chase Street in Whitman Park Thursday, it was clear Zero's reputation preceded him. A group of young men hurriedly walked away after one announced the “devil dog” was coming.
“That's the first time I heard that one,” James chuckled.
The gregarious, linebacker-size sergeant recalled a guy once saying he'd rather get shot again than bit by Zero a second time.
As a reward for each bust, the dog gets a 20-piece McNugget meal to “get the taste of bad guy out of his mouth.”
While Zero's steel-trap jaw often gets the attention, his tracking ability can't be ignored. He can sniff out lost children or Alzheimer's patients.
He once found 600 Oxycontin pills in a floor vent at a North Camden grocery store — a place with plenty of distracting smells for a dog.
James, a 21-year veteran and former detective, explained the path to becoming a K-9 handler is arduous, but well worth it.
“It's the only other thing in police work that you have to go back to an academy to do.”
James and Zero completed 16 weeks of patrol academy and another 10 weeks of narcotics training.
The sergeant explained obedience is key and the trick to maintaining it is incorporating training in both work and play. The dog, James said, is like a light switch, so obedient he goes to the bathroom on command.
“K-9 and handler, it's a unique bond — that's your buddy,” the officer noted. “He's with you and he loves you even when you're having a bad day.”
Born and raised in Camden, James has a personal stake in turning the city around and “putting the neighbor back in the 'hood.”
For him, one of the most gratifying parts of the job is interacting with children both in schools and on the streets.
“If we can win the hearts and minds of the children, then we win the future,” he insisted.
Thomson pointed out the force will soon add four more police dogs to the K-9 unit with help from a federal grant.
“Our foot patrols have made tremendous strides with our community policing efforts and I can't wait to build greater momentum with the addition of more four-legged officers.”
The K-9 unit currently has one other dog, Achilles, a 4-year-old black Czech shepherd who is the spitting image of Zero. With seven apprehensions, Achilles has been on the streets for about a year with Officer Allen Williams.
“There's a joke … they call him “Point 5” — Zero's “Mini-Me,” James said of Achilles. “He's going to have a good, healthy career.”
James believes Zero, now 70 in human years, has a year or two left of police work in him.
The officer looks forward to the day he can let Zero retire and become a “big, fat house dog.”