NEWS of the Week - March, 2014 - week 1
on some LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Week

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view. We present this simply as a convenience to our readership.


March, 2014 - Week 1


Assange: More U.S. secrets will be leaked

The Wikileaks founder tells a U.S. audience, via video feed, that NSA spying revelations have caused people to reassess government's role.

by Adam Satariano

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who has disclosed classified data about U.S. military and diplomatic efforts, said the group would be releasing a new batch of secret information.

Assange, speaking through a video feed Saturday to a crowd of more than 3,000 at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, said he wouldn't share details about the timing or contents.

“I don't think it's right to give the perpetrator the heads up,” said Assange.

After years of celebrating startups with new social-networking tools for posting personal information, South by Southwest is taking a more critical look at the privacy consequences of sharing that data. Edward Snowden, the government contractor who leaked documents disclosing spying by the National Security Agency, speaks on Monday through a video link.

Assange, 42, said the disclosures about NSA spying are causing people to reassess the role of government in a world where more personal information is stored online. He said the U.S. agency is losing the public-relations battle since Snowden's revelations about gathering data from companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. The disclosures show a “military occupation” in the Internet's “public space,” he said.

He said the release of classified information is critical to better understanding what the government is doing in secret.

Assange currently lives in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid arrest in relation to a sexual assault investigation. He has denied the charges.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier that there needs to be a balance between transparency and security because the government information being disclosed could put lives at risk.



New Jersey

Rutgers students say they feel unsafe; campus police say public safety presence is increasing

Campus police: Safety presence is increasing

by Bob Makin

NEW BRUNSWICK — In the wake of the Feb. 15 slaying of Billy McCaw, the alleged mugging of a Rutgers student on March 1 on Richardson Street and misinformation being disseminated about patrol parameters of Rutgers University police, some university students say they are worried about their safety.

Off-campus housing needs better street lighting, and more patrol cars should be canvassing streets beyond Easton Avenue, the students said.

McCaw, a 22-year-old former Rutgers student, was found beaten to death outside 28 Hartwell St., three blocks from Easton Avenue and seven blocks from the university's College Avenue student center.

“I don't feel safe walking back to my apartment at night,” said Brittany Regner, a senior environmental business major from Baltimore, who lives beyond Easton. “Strangers make me feel unsafe. The university could make me feel safer by having more security off campus.”

Students' safety concerns recently were heightened when the New Brunswick Today website incorrectly reported that campus police no longer will be patrolling the city. Authorities responded by saying that the patrols not only remain intact but have been increased by the city in the neighborhood where McCaw was killed.

Regner said she also was concerned that the university didn't alert students of McCaw's death, even though he once was a student there.

McCaw had transferred to Kean University in Union and was back visiting friends in the city when he was killed.

“I feel like we weren't informed about something that happened two streets behind me,” Regner said. “Once you cross over Easton, it gets dangerous. There's nothing — no restaurants or nightlife anymore.”

Leah Haines, a junior art history major from Saddle River, added, “The lighting off-campus, the streets are not very well lit, especially if you're not near one of the hospitals or Easton Avenue. Everywhere else is very, very dark.”

Julia Jurist, a friend of McCaw's from his Rutgers days and a graduate student in the university's education program, said she was furious that the university never made an official statement about McCaw's death.

“People live right in that house where he was found,” said Jurist, a Senior Street resident raised in Millburn. “People live right next door to the house where he was found who go to Rutgers. It's considered commuting, but it's not really. Students live all around this area, and they should care more about the safety of their students, regardless of where they live.”

But students should realize that they are attending college in a city and should take appropriate precautions, said Marissa Ranft, a senior human resources major from Mount Arlington now living on Duke Street, three blocks beyond Easton Avenue from the College Avenue campus,

“It's not very dangerous typically,” she said. “When you go out at 2:30 in the morning, you take the risk, but during the day, it's fine. When you go to Rutgers, it's a big school with a lot of people. The bigger the school, the more danger there could potentially be. And it's in a city, so there's more crime typically in a city. But you know that going in.”

Rutgers' response

Rutgers University Student Affairs responded to McCaw's death by offering grief counseling and other support services to students, spokesman E.J. Miranda said. The Dean of Students, Campus Mental Health Services, Student Life, and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs continue to work together to provide assistance to individuals or groups of students seeking support, Miranda added.

In addition, the city has increased police presence in the Hartwell Street area and — with the assistance of the campus and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office — led a neighborhood canvas that distributed 1,500 fliers and Crime Stoppers cards, Rutgers Police Chief Kenneth Cop said. The Prosecutor's Office also is offering rewards to help capture McCaw's killer.

Regner countered that in the two years since she has lived near Hartwell, she has seen police patrol practically vanish. She said she hasn't seen increased patrol since McCaw's death.

“I feel at a lot of times, there isn't enough patrol and safety on the streets at night, especially directly off campus,” added Sarah Conforti, a senior pre-law major from Franklin Lakes living on Sicard Street.

“When I was walking back home from a night out at one of the bars the other night, there was a huge group of about 75 students, and a huge brawl broke in a Rutgers parking lot,” Conforti added. “I don't know if it was students and people who live here locally. After the fight broke out, all of a sudden RUPD got involved. I feel like they anticipate and wait for something to happen, instead of actually patrolling and preventing conflict.”

Rutgers takes the safety of the university community very seriously and works with the New Brunswick Police Department to make Rutgers a safe environment in which to live, work and study, Cop said.

The Rutgers and New Brunswick police departments provide police coverage for the Rutgers community at all times, he said.

“The RUPD has implemented numerous programs, services and methods to protect students, staff and faculty,” Cop said.

They include increased public safety presence in the College Avenue area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during the school year in an effort to deter criminal activity and provide additional public safety response if the need arises, the chief said.

Upon request, public safety personnel provide escorts to students, faculty and staff who wish to be accompanied to their vehicle, campus residence or the university's mass transit system, Cop said. About 2,700 security cameras with recording capability monitor the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses, he added.

“The cameras serve both as a deterrent to crime and an investigative tool in the event of an incident,” he said.

Uncomfortable with crime

According to Rutgers' crime statistics (available at http://rupd.rutgers.edu/RUPD_files/NB Crimes.pdf), 45 forcible sex offenses, 43 aggravated assaults, and 258 burglaries and robberies took place between 2010 and 2012 on and off campus or on public property in New Brunswick and Piscataway. No homicides were reported, but a Rutgers student was murdered in 2011 in Union County.

Jurist said McCaw wasn't her first Rutgers friend to be attacked. Two years ago, a friend was robbed at gunpoint and beaten in his dorm room on Busch campus in Piscataway, she said. He subsequently left the school while dealing with emotional and physical issues related to the incident, Jurist said.

“He no longer goes to school here because he feels unsafe,” she said, adding that New Brunswick police caught the perpetrator. “He was reimbursed for anything that was stolen from him, so now he feels some justice, but it's still deeply affected his life.”

Cop said he wasn't aware of an alleged March 1 mugging of a Rutgers student on Richardson Street, and city police could not respond with documentation at press time. But several students confirmed the incident and expressed concern about it.

“On Saturday night, a man was jumped outside my house, two blocks off campus on Richardson Street between Wyckoff Street and Easton Avenue, right by St. Peter's University Hospital,” Haines said. “I always thought that was a very safe area to live. Knowing that someone was jumped right outside my house, I find it very uncomfortable.”

Ryan Fontanazza, a junior supply chain management major from Butler, added, “I never feel 100 percent safe, but definitely more safe on the Rutgers property than when you're back in the off-campus housing area of New Brunswick.”

Students take precautions

Haines, Conforti and several other Rutgers students said they take precautions by not walking alone, especially off campus at night.

“As a female student, I don't walk anywhere alone at night,” Haines said.

“I feel safe when I'm walking in groups, but I would never walk alone,” Conforti added.

Sophomore housemates Gavidov Hochsztein and Alison Billet, both from Teaneck but now living behind the College Avenue student center, said they often walk together to better ensure their safety.

“In terms of keeping safe, I exercise my own caution,” Hochsztein added. “The university police make me feel safe when I see them. Otherwise, I try not to be stupid.”

Sam Seelenfreund, a freshman business major from Teaneck living in a College Avenue Campus dorm, suggested that campus and city police print out and distribute safety literature directly to all students.

Campus police provide safety information at http://rupd.rutgers.edu/crimetips.shtml and annually publish “Safety Matters” at <http://publicsafety.rutgers.edu/rupd/RUPD_files/NB Crimes.pdf>, Cop said. “Safety Matters” is sent to the entire new Brunswick/Piscataway campus community by email, he said.

Campus police also work with the Office of Student Affairs to educate students about how to lessen their chances of being a victim of crime, Cop said.



Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Ticket purchase adds to mystery

by Jethro Mullen and Jim Clancy

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) -- Two people who traveled on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight under the passports of an Italian and an Austrian citizen appear to have bought their tickets together.

The tickets were bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht at identical prices, according to China's official e-ticket verification system Travelsky. The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together.

The new information adds to the mystery that has enveloped the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the passenger jet that disappeared over Southeast Asia early Saturday on its way to Beijing.

Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian whose names were on the passenger manifest both had their passports stolen in Southeast Asia in recent years.

The two tickets booked with China Southern Airlines both start in Kuala Lumpur, flying to Beijing, and then onward to Amsterdam. The Italian passport's ticket continues to Copenhagen, the Austrian's to Frankfurt.

Authorities say they are investigating the identities of some of those on board who appear to have issues with their passports.

But for the anguished family members of the 239 people on board the Boeing 777-200ER, the agonizing wait goes on.

Big questions far outweigh the few fragments of information that have emerged about the plane's disappearance.

What happened to the plane? Why was no distress signal issued? Who exactly was aboard?

The passenger jet, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, may have changed course and turned back toward Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian military officials said at a news conference Sunday.

But the pilot appears to have given no signal to authorities that he was turning around, the officials said, attributing the change of course to indications from radar data.

Huge search

Altogether forty ships and 22 planes were scouring a portion of the South China Sea on Sunday for any sign of where the flight, operated by Malaysia's flagship airline, might have gone down, Malaysian authorities said.

The large, multinational team is focusing its efforts near the Gulf of Thailand, part of the South China Sea that lies between several Southeast Asian countries.

The area in focus, about 90 miles south of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island, is the same one as where a Vietnamese search plane reportedly spotted oil slicks that stretched between six and nine miles.

Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the report of the oil slicks, which came from Vietnam's official news agency.

Late Sunday afternoon, Vietnam sent a boat to investigate a "strange object" spotted by a Singaporean search plane in the area, said Hung Nguyen with Vietnamese National Search and Rescue Committee.

As the search continues, relatives of those on board the plane continue to await news of the fate of their loved ones.

Among the passengers, there were 154 people from China or Taiwan; 38 Malaysians, and three U.S. citizens. Five of the passengers were less than 5 years old.

If all those on board the flight are found to have died, it will rank as the deadliest airline disaster since November 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a New York neighborhood, killing all 260 people on board and five more on the ground.

Passenger manifest questioned

A fuller picture of what happened may not become available until searchers find the plane and its flight data recorder.

"We have not been able to locate anything, see anything," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director general of civil aviation in Malaysia, told reporters Sunday.

Confusion over who exactly was on the plane has drawn particular attention, notably the case of the Italian and Austrian passports.

The passport mystery raised concerns about the possibility of terrorism, but officials cautioned that it was still too early to arrive at any conclusions.

A U.S. intelligence official said that no link to terrorism had been discovered so far, but that authorities were still investigating.

Another possible explanation for the use of the stolen passports is illegal immigration.

There are previous cases of illegal immigrants using fake passports trying to get into Western countries. And Southeast Asia is known to be a booming market for stolen passports.

Interpol database

Malaysian authorities have been in contact with counterterrorism organizations about possible passport issues, Malaysia's transportation minister Hishamuddin Hussein said.

He didn't specify how many potential passport issues there were, saying authorities are looking at the whole passenger manifest.

The U.S. government has been briefed on the stolen passports and reviewed the names of the passengers in question but found nothing at this point to indicate foul play, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Of the two passports in question, the Italian one had been reported stolen and was in Interpol's database, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes said, citing sources at Interpol.

Additionally, no inquiry was made by Malaysia Airlines to determine if any passengers on the flight were traveling on stolen passports, he said. Many airlines do not check the database, he said.

Rahman, the Malaysian aviation official, declined to say whether the airline or Malaysian authorities had checked the database.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced late Saturday that a team of its investigators was en route to Asia to help with the investigation, the agency said.

Disappearing during cruise

But there is a precedent for a modern jetliner to fall from the sky while "in the cruise" and lay hidden for months, according to CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

On June 1, 2009, Air France flight 447 was en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris' Charles de Gaulle International Airport when communications ended suddenly from the Airbus A330, another state-of-the-art aircraft.

It took four searches over the course of nearly two years to locate the bulk of flight 447's wreckage and the majority of the 228 bodies in a mountain range deep under the ocean. It took even longer to find the cause of the disaster.

In May 2011, the aircraft's voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered from the ocean floor after an extensive search using miniature submersible vehicles.

It was not until July 2012 that investigators published their report, which blamed the crash on a series of errors by the pilots and a failure to react effectively to technical problems.




Serial killer? Alexandria cops link killing of Virginia music teacher to two other murders

Ballistics tests show the gun used to kill Ruthanne Lodato, 59, in her Alexandria home may be the same weapon used to kill Ronald Kirby last year and Nancy Dunning in 2004.

by Joe Kemp

The mystery gunman who fatally shot a music teacher and wounded her caretaker at a northern Virginia home last month may be the same killer wanted for two other high-profile murders, police said.

Ballistics tests show that the bullet that killed Ruthanne Lodato, 59 — who was shot when she opened the door of her Alexandria home Feb. 6 — was likely fired by the same gun that killed a local transportation officer last year and the wife of a sheriff ten years ago, police said Thursday.

“The similarities and unusual nature of all three shootings occurring in Alexandria required the police department to consider the possibility that all the cases are linked together,” Police Chief Earl Cook told reporters, according to ABC News.

Cook said investigators were looking for more evidence to connect the November killing of Ronald Kirby and the 2004 murder of Nancy Dunning — both of whom were shot inside their homes.

“We will stay on these cases,” he said, according to NBC Washington. "We have never given up.”

The caretaker who survived the shooting at Lodato's house managed to give investigators a description of the gunman — an older, balding man with a beard, police said.

The unidentified woman was shot in the arm as Lodato — a longtime piano teacher in the Washington — was gunned down at the front door of her home.

Cook warned that it was too early to determine if they were dealing with a serial killer, because they couldn't say for sure the same gun was used in each of the three murders.

Nancy Dunning, a real estate agent and wife of a sheriff, was shot and killed in her Alexandria, Va., home in 2004.

And there was no other evidence to suggest a common motive, Cook said.

The FBI is helping cops chase each lead, hundreds of which have been phoned in by tipsters over the past few weeks, Cook said.

Our plea today is not just for the Lodato case, Cook said. “Please keep your information coming.”



Criticism over Border Patrol's deadly force policy

by Abbie Alford

The U.S. Border Patrol chief released a portion of what has been its secretive use of force guidelines amid a critical report on how agents investigate shootings and use of force tactics.

On Friday, Chief Michael Fisher issued a memo clarifying current use of force and tactic policies involving moving vehicles and rock throwers.

A report by the non-profit Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has been public for months but the Los Angeles Times obtained the entire report without redactions through a leak.

The Los Angeles Times reports the independent review found agents would throw themselves in front of moving vehicles to justify a shooting or would shoot rock throwers out of frustration.

"They are putting a lot of people in jeopardy. Not only the driver of the car but they hit the car and the driver flips over, there may be other people around," said Enrique Morones.

He is the founder of the border rights group Border Angels and doesn't want undocumented migrants to throw rocks or use dangerous force when crossing the border but also wants agents to have better training.

The Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council believes PERF misinterpreted its use of force tactics.

"No agent is going to purposely put themselves in front of a vehicle or close the distance in front of a rock thrower just to use deadly force," said NBPC Vice Pres. Shawn Moran.

Last month a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a rock thrower who was a Mexican National and entered the country illegally in the White Cross area of Otay Mountain Range.

In November, cell phone video captured an organized group of Mexican Nationals mob the San Ysidro Port of Entry attacking agents with rocks and water bottles. Agents fought back with non-lethal force, using pepper ball guns.

"It could have gotten out of hand and I've seen the Border Patrol act inappropriately and I've seen them act appropriately," said Morones.

In the leaked report the L.A. Times reports PERF looked at 67 shootings from 2010 to 2012 and 19 resulted in the death.

Chief Fisher issued a memo reminding agents of its use of force police saying unless an agent feels threatene, they should avoid shooting their gun at moving vehicles and rock throwers depending on the size of the rock or object.

"If the agent feels like they're in danger and they may be killed or grievously injured they have the right to use deadly force and nothing Border Patrol put out today changes that," said Moran.

The NBPC president says any changes to the Border Patrol use of force policy would need NBP Council approval and members do not plan to change itt.

The Mexican Ambassador to the United States Eduardo Medina Mora issued a statement:

"The publication of the directive on the use of tactics and techniques of the Border Patrol as well as the policies on the use of force on the border released today by the DHS, CBP and ICE is a step towards transparency and a signal of openness that we welcome. The Government of Mexico is carefully analyzing the documents published today with enormous interest and we reaffirm our commitment to work with the Department of Homeland Security as well as all other agencies in charge of border control operations which are so essential for both our nations."




Thibodaux public housing residents miss community policing

by Jacob Batte

While residents of Thibodaux Housing Authority properties would like to see a community policing program return, city officials said crime is down in public housing thanks to a targeted approach to criminal activity.

However, City Councilwoman Constance Johnson claims there's a lot more crime in these areas than residents have reported.

“They say crime is down here. It's a lie,” Johnson said. “This is an area where crime is high. But the bottom line is that it was under control under the community policing program. Once that program stopped and didn't cover this area, then all sorts of illegal activities started.”

The community policing program started in the early 1990s in an effort to prevent crime. The Housing Authority paid less than $200,000 in federal money for five full-time officers to be assigned to 126 east-side units on Eagle Drive, Dove Lane, Louis Streams Circle and South Barbier, Bobby and Pelican streets; and 70 west-side units on Federal Circle, Stadium Drive, East Park Avenue and Lee and Iris streets.

But the program was dismantled about three years ago because of a lack of money.

Almost immediately after he took office in 2011, Mayor Tommy Eschete said his finance director told him the program should be dropped because the Housing Authority had gotten about $50,000 behind in its payments.

“The previous mayor told me to write it off, but the auditor told me you cannot write it off,” Eschete said.

The Housing Authority survives primarily on federal money and rent, but federal cuts were made in 2011, said Harry Becnel, the authority's executive director.

The city agreed to scale back to two officers, but Becnel said he wasn't confident there was enough money and the program ended.

“We didn't know how much money we were going to get and how long that was going to help,” he said.

The program also wasn't needed any longer, Chief of Police Scott Silverii said.

In the five years prior to Silverii's 2011 appointment as chief, police were called to the Midland and Government Circle areas 1.2 times per day, representing 3 percent of the Police Department's calls.

That number, without the community policing program, has dropped to 0.77 calls per day under the Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety program Silverii started.

This approach involves increasing officers in areas where crime and accidents are happening.

Thibodaux Police Department statistics in the Midland and Government Circle areas show crimes against persons — which include assault, battery and theft ­— are down 43 percent and 50 percent, respectively, while property crime is down 35 and 12 percent.

Johnson disagrees with those numbers and said she believes the community policing program was stopped because of the city's disdain for police Capt. Calvin Cooks, who is suing Eschete and Silverii for allegedly scheming to ruin his career for political gain.

“The mayor has put politics ahead of public safety because of the political promises and pay back that was made by him and the chief of police,” Johnson said. “The reason those constituents haven't reached out to them is because they don't feel comfortable going to them. I wouldn't keep anyone from anyone that's trying to help them.”

Cooks worked with the program for more than a decade and served as director of the Police Department's housing division for several years but wasn't part of the program when it ended, said police spokesman David Melancon.

Residents say the program was effective because the officers assigned to the area got to know the people who lived there. That allowed the officers to more easily recognize people who didn't belong in the neighborhood. Officers also did background checks on new people they came across.

Now, many residents say they are unsure whether the crime is coming from outside or from within.

Betty Walker, who has lived in the Midland area 31 years, said the biggest crime increase she's noticed involves illegal drugs.

“If you're sitting out you can see the young boys exchanging drugs in the parking lot across the street and sometimes right outside my house,” Walker said.

While residents said they believe many officers do care, they fear some don't put as much effort into situations that take place in public housing.

Silverii denies that.

“The Police Department absolutely cares and is absolutely engaged in the community,” Silverii said.

Johnson contends Eschete and Silverii simply aren't concerned.

“If something is dear to your heart, why haven't you gone out to those citizens?” she said.

Silverii points to the Tent Talk neighborhood meeting series and Night Out Against Crime as events held by the Police Department to reach out to the community.

“Because we don't hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,' does that mean we don't care? No, we show we care by maintaining public safety,” he said.



Destroyer Heads for Black Sea Amid Crimean Crisis

NAPLES, Italy — A U.S. guided-missile destroyer is bound for the Black Sea in what the Navy calls a routine visit unrelated to events in Ukraine.

The USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with about 300 sailors on board, departed Greece early Thursday, said a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in Naples.

The ship is scheduled to train with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces for an unspecified period of time, conducting joint maneuvers and landing aircraft on ships. The spokesman, Lt. Shawn Eklund, said the visit is unrelated to Russia's recent incursion into Ukraine.

“Truxtun's operations in the Black Sea were scheduled well in advance of her departure from the U.S.,” he said.

The Truxtun is part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which recently entered the Mediterranean and is training with regional navies before continuing to the Middle East. The group also includes Carrier Air Wing 8, the destroyer USS Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Philippine Sea.

The destroyer will join the USS Taylor as the only two U.S. vessels inside the Black Sea during a period of heightened tensions. The Taylor, a guided-missile frigate, remains moored in Samsun, Turkey, after it ran aground in February.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet is at the center of the country's operations in Ukraine, where Russian soldiers continue to surround Ukrainian military bases.

Other U.S. warships remain in the region on scheduled deployments. A group of amphibious ships with an embarked Marine expeditionary unit also recently entered European waters. The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, which counts roughly 4,000 sailors and Marines, is training with regional navies before continuing to the Middle East.




'Arctic Blast' block party seeks to strengthen relationships between Kalamazoo police, community

by Rex Hall Jr

KALAMAZOO, MI MarQuan White had never met a Kalamazoo Public Safety officer until Thursday when two of them approached him as he got off his school bus, fresh from a day at Linden Grove Middle School.

They were there, the 12-year-old said, to extend an invitation to him and other children to a block party, the Eastside Neighborhood's “Arctic Blast.

“It was fun, I liked it,” Marquan said later, after taking part in a scavenger hunt and racing a Public Safety officer in a potato sack race.

Marquan attended Thursday's event at Kalamazoo's Rockwell Park with his mother, Shawndra and a younger brother and sister. The family was among many who took part in the Arctic Blast, an event aimed at building relationships between police and community members.

Hot chocolate, coffee and doughnuts were provided at the gathering, which was organized by KDPS, the Eastside Neighborhood Association, Vanguard Ministries and Aviators, a local community development advocacy group.

In addition to the scavenger hunt, children at the event were able to take part in a snowball toss, basketball, bubbles, sledding, hockey, doing a hula hoop and snow golf.

Several youth also took part in a tug of war with several Public Safety officers. The children, with the help of some adults, including Pat Taylor, executive director of the Eastside Neighborhood Association, came out on top.

Thursday's Arctic Blast was similar to a Halloween block party Public Safety hosted in October in the Edison neighborhood. Sgt. Matt Elzinga, of Public Safety's Community Policing Unit, said the agency plans to host more of the events in the future in other city neighborhoods.

“It builds a sense of community and it shows a police officer in a different light,” Elzinga said. “… We may not see it now but what we do today, I think, we're going to see pay off huge later on.”

Vanguard Church pastor Esteven Juarez said events like the Arctic Blast are meant to help break down stereotypes “on both sides of the street” and “build a true community.”

“That's the biggest thing, to build authentic community,” Juarez said. “… It's important that we come together in a collaborative effort … That breaks down walls, stereotypes and the barriers that separate us.”



South Carolina

Orangeburg city police, people see face-to-face sessions brewing better relationships

by Richard Walker

An Orangeburg woman wanted to know how she can get police to patrol her neighborhood.

The answer given during Orangeburg's first Coffee with a Cop meeting Wednesday is to call the law enforcement agency that covers your neighborhood.

“That is actually the goal of Coffee with a Cop, to offer communication between the public and this agency,” Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Chief Wendell Davis said.

The Coffee with a Cop meeting hosted by ODPS is designed to bring together three Cs: community, cops, and, of course, a cup of coffee or two.

The face-to-face sit-down was held Wednesday morning at the John C. Calhoun Drive McDonald's, where about 25 officers were available to discuss community concerns.

It was a casual atmosphere. For most. Some said before Wednesday the coffee sit-down was a ploy to serve warrants. Police said that wasn't the case. No one was arrested.

You didn't have to actually sit down with an officer. Some received their counter order and asked a quick question on their way out. But if you had time, you could sit down with officers for the entire two hours of the event.

Questions about patrols and case progression were brought up by residents. Cpl. Mitch Jackson said many times residents aren't sure what to do, for example, if they are victims of crime or want more police presence around their property.

“The easiest thing to do is call and ask,” he said.

Some folks did turn around at the door at the sight of so many officers. But that was only a few, and most others joined in.

Peter Lee of Orangeburg said he'd read about the Coffee with a Cop initiative. He likes the idea of partnering with law enforcement to address community issues. Residents live in it, police protect it, so Lee feels residents should do their part to help.

“We should support them like they support us,” he said.

Orangeburg resident William Johnson said the idea of sitting down with an officer is a positive step toward building relationships. Many times the public perception of law enforcement is negative because of a traffic stop or other contact with police.

But the Coffee program shows the community that police are here to listen to what concerns the community most, Johnson said.

“It let's the community know the public safety officers are attainable,” he said. “All you have to do is reach out.”

Officers say Johnson hit the nail on the head. The program is designed to bring residents and law enforcement together in a setting other than a traffic stop or an investigation during which police may seem too focused to listen.

Capt. Ed Conner said the program removes those work-related obstacles that may prevent an officer's approachability.

“One of the most important things about this is we don't have any barriers, (like) taking an incident report or statement,” he said, “as opposed to talking about important issues in the community.”

The program started a few years ago in Hawthorne, Calif., where officers were trying to come up with a way to better address community concerns. It's since spread across the United States, with events going on just about daily.

Coffee with a Cup was introduced to Orangeburg after a training class last month by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Community Policing Services. The one-day class in Charleston informed attending agencies from around the country about the benefits for both the officers and residents in their jurisdictions.

Davis said the coffee shop conversations are to show a resident that his or her concern isn't too small or too large to address.

With the success of Wednesday's event, plans are in the works for another in a few months.

“While we believe we have a really good connection, we always want to improve it,” Davis said. “Even if you try to maintain some level, in a sense, you're going backward. We want to go forward.”



From the Department of Justice

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the African American History Month Celebration Marking the 50th Anniversary of 1964 Civil Rights Act

Thank you, Chief Judge [Richard] Roberts, for those kind words; for your leadership from the bench; and for your many years of service to our nation – both as a District Court Judge and as a former prosecutor. It is a pleasure to be with you today. And it's an honor to join so many distinguished jurists, devoted public servants, and committed public safety officials in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – and rededicating ourselves to the struggle for equal rights and equal justice that has defined this country since its earliest days.

It's a special privilege to share the stage with Deputy Marshal [Kirk] Bowden, who, as we've just heard, stood on the literal front lines of this fight during a critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement – at a time when young students, law enforcement officials, National Guardsmen, and brave citizens risked their lives to integrate historic institutions across the Deep South. The courage, and the sacrifices, of people like James Meredith, Deputy Bowden – and others who stood with them on that fateful day in 1962 – helped to transform our nation for the better. The victories they achieved made countless others possible. And just a year after Deputy Bowden and his colleagues helped secure the integration of the University of Mississippi – at great cost – other brave law enforcement officials, Justice Department leaders, and federalized National Guard personnel helped a remarkable young woman named Vivian Malone – who would much later become my sister-in-law – to peacefully step past Governor George Wallace, along with another brave young person, James Hood – to become the first African American students to enroll at the University of Alabama.

Like all who are old enough to remember those days, I will never forget the turmoil, and the violence, that characterized the Civil Rights era – as millions of people braved dogs and fire hoses, billy clubs and baseball bats, bullets and bombs, in order to secure the rights which were theirs as Americans. Thanks to their sacrifices, their leadership, and the relentless optimism of pioneers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and so many others – the 1960s was a time of great challenge, but also great promise, for our nation. And among the signature achievements of that tumultuous decade – a decade defined by tragedy as well as hope; by bitter loss as well as remarkable progress – few were as important, or as impactful, as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed this landmark law – 50 years ago this coming July – he recognized it as a watershed moment. Although its adoption did not put the issue of equal justice to rest – or settle the cause of civil rights, once and for all – it marked an inflection point in our history. It gave those who sought fair treatment a renewed sense of hope. And it reaffirmed their determination to keep fighting for the brighter future that all of our citizens deserved.

In the years that followed, this struggle – to secure what President Johnson once called the “dignity of man and the destiny of democracy” – would lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a range of other reforms, both large and small. Together, these changes altered the course of the 20th century. And they led our nation's Department of Justice to take an active role in defending the civil rights to which everyone in this country is entitled – work that remains among our top priorities today.

In many ways, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 continues to stand at the heart of our ongoing efforts – providing critical protections against discrimination and disenfranchisement for members of every sector of society. But it's far from the only tool we have for advancing the cause of justice under law; for ensuring both fairness and rigor in all of our enforcement activities; and for securing the basic promise of equality that was codified in our founding documents – and must drive our ongoing efforts to make this fundamental truth not only “self-evident,” but protected by the law.

We can be proud of all that the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, of which Chief Judge Roberts was once a member, has done to advance this struggle in recent years. Since 2009, the Division has filed more criminal civil rights cases than at any other time in our history, including record numbers of police misconduct and human trafficking cases. Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009, we are improving our ability to hold accountable those who commit bias-motivated acts of violence. We're working, under the Defending Childhood Initiative and the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, to combat bullying and harassment, to protect America's young people from violence and abuse, and to partner with allies like the Department of Education to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.” And in a variety of ways – from our neighborhoods and workplaces, to our housing and lending markets; from our boardrooms to our border areas; from our military bases to our voting booths – my colleagues and I are using every resource at our disposal and every tool within our reach to stand against all forms of discrimination.

This means taking appropriately aggressive action to enforce key civil rights protections and, where necessary, to call for additional legislative remedies. But it also means standing vigilant against those who would roll back the progress of the last half-century. Particularly since last June, when a narrowly split but deeply divided Supreme Court invalidated a critical part of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Division has been focused on reallocating resources to enforce all federal voting protections that remain on the books. The Justice Department has filed suit to challenge voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina. And I am personally committed to working with Congressional leaders from both parties to refine, and to strengthen, new voting rights legislation that's being debated on Capitol Hill.

Fortunately, all of this is only the beginning. And if today's leaders – and especially today's lawyers – hope to build on the legacy of those who made the Civil Rights Act and other extraordinary advancements possible, I believe we must do much more than simply prevent the unraveling of the progress with which prior generations have entrusted us. Moving forward, we must continue to expand the fight for civil rights and equal justice – by seeking new ways to address unwarranted disparities, to combat disenfranchisement, and to address the evolving threats of our time. And we must begin by ensuring that America has a criminal justice system that's worthy of its highest ideals; that those who pay their debts to society have fair opportunities to become productive, law-abiding citizens; and that 21st century criminal justice challenges can be met with 21st century solutions.

Last August – in a speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco – I announced a new “Smart on Crime” initiative that's dedicated to these goals, and is already allowing us to take meaningful steps forward. Under this initiative, I mandated an important change to the Justice Department's charging policies to ensure that stringent mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal, drug-related crimes will now be reserved for the most serious criminals. My colleagues and I are increasing our emphasis on proven diversion programs – such as drug rehabilitation and community service initiatives – that can serve as effective alternatives to incarceration. And we are investing in data-driven reentry strategies – and evaluating the unnecessary collateral consequences imposed by certain convictions – to enable formerly incarcerated individuals to stay on the right path and out of the criminal justice system.

Three weeks ago, at Georgetown University Law Center, I called upon state leaders and other elected officials across the country to take another important step in this regard – by restoring voting rights to those who have served their terms in prison or jail, completed their parole or probation, and paid their fines. We've seen over the years that the permanent disenfranchisement of these individuals is unwise and unjust. We know that it is also counterproductive, undermining the reentry process and perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated people. The reality is that felony disenfranchisement policies are not only extremely outdated – they echo troubling policies that were enacted more than a century ago, during a time of post-Civil War repression. And they continue to have a disproportionate impact on America's communities of color.

Clearly, it's well past time for us to declare – together – that the free exercise of our fundamental rights must never be subject to the lingering effects of flawed or unjust policies. Even more broadly, it's time to affirm – once and for all – that the basic promise of our justice system must never hinge on the quality of, or access to, legal representation for those who need it.

That's why I believe that, as every jurist and legal professional in this room knows all too well, it is not just unacceptable – it is shameful – that half a century after the Supreme Court declared, in Gideon v. Wainwright, that every person charged with a serious crime has the right to an attorney – far too many Americans still struggle to gain access to the legal assistance they need.

It is shameful that, in far too many places, extraordinarily dedicated public defenders face crushing caseloads without the support they need to do their jobs.

And it's shameful that – while the federal public defender system has consistently served as a model for success – a recent study shows that only 21 percent of reporting state systems and just over a quarter of county-based offices have enough attorneys to meet caseload guidelines.

Today's Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to help address this indigent defense crisis – including through the Access to Justice initiative I launched in 2010 to increase access to counsel and legal assistance, and to improve the justice delivery systems that serve people who are unable to afford lawyers. In recent years, our ability to offer support to state and local providers has been constrained by sequestration and other budget shortfalls that have necessitated deep cuts at every level of government. But the bipartisan funding agreement that President Obama signed into law – just last month – will finally restore the Department's overall funding to pre-sequestration levels. And I am pleased to report today that the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 will address the need for additional resources for indigent defense programs throughout America – which must remain a top priority even, and especially, when budgets are tight.

I call upon state and local leaders to step forward and do their part in ensuring that we can live up to the full promise of Gideon. And I urge legal professionals across the country to do everything they can do help guarantee that adequate legal representation is seen not as a luxury for those who can afford it – but as a basic American right.

After all, neither the Department I lead, nor the Administration in which I am privileged to serve, will be able to bring about this and the other changes we seek on our own. Just as we have done throughout our history, this nation will continue to rely on passionate citizens to drive us forward. And we will depend upon leaders like all of you to use your unique skills, training, and experience – at the highest levels of our legal system – to bring our country closer to the values of our forebears and the promise of our founding.

Five decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we can reflect with pride on the progress that this critical measure, and so many others, have made possible over many years of struggle and sacrifice. But even the most sweeping legislation cannot, by itself, wash away the deeply ingrained disparities that millions of Americans continue to face. Despite all that's been achieved, a great deal of work remains before us. We cannot yet be satisfied. We cannot afford to become complacent. And we must seize this opportunity to expand on the legacy of inclusion, equality, and justice we've inherited.

Although much remains to be done, I am confident that, with your continued leadership, with your steadfast support – and with the courage and determination that has always defined the very best of America's legal community – we will forge the stronger, more just, and more accepting society that we, and our fellow citizens, deserve. I am proud to count you as colleagues, and as partners, in this important effort. And I thank you, once again, for the chance to discuss this work with you today; for your dedication to the cause of justice that remains our common pursuit; and for your commitment to honoring our past by building the brighter future we seek.



From ICE

"Securing the Homeland – ICE" exhibit opens at Crime Museum in DC

WASHINGTON — The Crime Museum today unveiled a new exhibit entitled "Securing the Homeland – ICE," offering insight into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its efforts to promote homeland security and public safety through the enforcement of more than 400 federal laws governing homeland security, customs, trade and immigration.

The exhibit educates the public on the role and work of ICE. Museum guests will have the opportunity to read about some high profile ICE cases, learn about the impact of counterfeit goods on U.S. security, understand how ICE protects our homeland and test their knowledge of ICE at the Crime Museum.

"This exhibit provides ICE with a new venue to showcase how the dedicated men and women of this agency work to keep our nation and its people safe every day," said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. "As we protect America from the cross-border crime and unlawful migration that threatens public safety, we hope to inspire people to join our team and help us keep our nation safe."

A variety of items that ICE has confiscated are among the artifacts in the exhibit, along with uniforms and part of the agency's history. Some highlighted objects include:

Reproductions of the 9/11 hijackers' passports and other 9/11 artifacts

Drug smuggling paraphernalia and drug tunnel digging tools

Seized counterfeit goods including fake Super Bowl tickets and merchandise

A stuffed bear and a highway road sign that helped special agents solve cases and rescue endangered children

"Our mission at the Crime Museum is to educate, utilizing interactive and entertaining experiences," said Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer of the Crime Museum. "We are pleased to team with ICE to present this informative exhibit that underscores the role the organization plays in public safety on a daily basis."

"Securing the Homeland – ICE" at the Crime Museum is scheduled to run through summer. The museum is located at 575 7th Street, NW (between E and F Streets) in downtown Washington, D.C., less than a block from the Gallery Place Metro Station.

Regular business hours are Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call (202) 621-5550 or (202) 870-2343 to verify daily hours, or visit: www.crimemuseum.org



US, Canadian authorities seek whereabouts of suspected Ecstasy dealer

DETROIT – U.S. and Canadian authorities request information regarding the whereabouts of a fugitive suspected to be the ring leader of a large-scale narcotics and weapons smuggling operation that spanned both countries.

In October 2013, Khaophone Sychantha, 32, aka Kao, whose last known residence was Lakeshore, Ontario, was charged in a four-count federal indictment with distribution of a controlled substance following a Detroit Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) investigation.

According to public records in Canada and the United States, Sychantha, a dual citizen of Canada and Laos, is the suspected ring leader of a drug-smuggling organization which supplied millions of Ecstasy pills and hundreds of pounds of marijuana to several distributors located in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia and New York. Sychantha has also allegedly directed individuals to smuggle millions in bulk cash, guns, cocaine and heroin from the United States into Canada. He absconded before formally answering to the October distribution charges.

The October 2013 charge was the latest in a series of charges and convictions against Sychantha and his associates in both Canada and the United States. Since 2002, federal and Canadian authorities have arrested and convicted more than 25 individuals who were allegedly directed by Sychantha.

Although Sychantha was last living in the Lakeshore, Ontario-area, he has been known to maintain residences in other parts of Ontario including Windsor, LaSalle and Toronto. Sychantha also has strong ties to the United States in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and abroad in Mexico, Laos, Hong Kong and Thailand, but authorities believe he may still be residing in the Midwest or southern Ontario.

"We are urging the public to provide any and all information they have about this man's whereabouts because we know firsthand how powerful public input can be in our investigations," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit, which leads the Detroit BEST. "Simply put, we want him off the streets."

Last fall, HSI Detroit issued a public appeal for information about a suspected child predator and within 36 hours, the man was in custody.

HSI requests anyone with information about this person contact the agency immediately, in one of two ways:

•  Call the HSI Tip Line, which is staffed 24 hours a day.

•  (866) 347-2423 from the United States & Canada

•  (802) 872-6199 from anywhere in the world

•  Complete an online tip form at www.ice.gov/tips

All tips will remain anonymous.

Law enforcement authorities urge the public not to intervene if they come into contact with Sychantha, as he is considered to be armed and dangerous.

The Detroit BEST, established in 2009, identifies, investigates and dismantles transnational criminal organizations and cross border criminal activities, which create vulnerabilities in public safety and national security on the shared northern border between the United States and Canada.

The taskforce is composed of 19 member agencies including HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations and Office of Border Patrol; the Michigan National Guard Counterdrug Task Force; the Michigan State Police; the Detroit Police Department; the Trenton Police Department; the Troy Police Department; the Canada Border Services Agency; the Ontario Provincial Police; the RCMP; the Windsor Police Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; U.S. Coast Guard Sector Detroit; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations Division; the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office; the Port Huron Police Department and the County of Macomb Enforcement Team.



From the FBI

The Gangs of Los Angeles
Helping to Heal Communities

Driving along the streets and alleyways of Baldwin Village—known as “The Jungle” and historically one of the most violent gang neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles—homicide detective Cedric Washington can recall in detail the many gang-related shootings and murders he has investigated there. In his 17 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, he has learned a hard truth: “It's too easy to become a victim here.”

But Washington also sees something else in Baldwin Village. Beyond the violence and the victims, he sees a restored neighborhood taking shape. Part of the credit for that goes to an FBI program he helped establish. It's called the Community Impact Initiative, and it's designed to work after law enforcement puts gang members behind bars.

The program brings together law enforcement personnel and volunteers from a variety of government, business, and community organizations to work alongside residents and property owners to clean up alleyways, paint over graffiti, and install security cameras—all to help residents stake a new claim on their neighborhoods.

“A few years ago, we were arresting dozens of gang members at a time,” said Robert Clark, an assistant special agent in charge in our Los Angeles Division. “That was impactful, but then someone said: ‘You arrested X number of gang members. How did that improve the quality of life in that particular neighborhood?'” The question, he remembered, “caught us flat-footed, because for law enforcement, it usually stops at the numbers—the arrest statistics. We realized there was more that we could do.”

Clark, Washington, and others organized the first community impact day after a major gang takedown in Baldwin Village and enlisted more than 100 volunteers to donate time and materials. “The city has existing programs to mitigate trash and graffiti,” Clark said, “so we partnered with them as well.”

The result of that and a second cleanup effort was that “children were able to return to the playground,” Clark said, “and people could walk to the shopping areas and feel safe.”

With gang members in jail, the crime rate went down—and stayed down. “Because of our law enforcement action and the community impact piece,” Clark said, “we've been able to maintain a double digit reduction in the crime rate in Baldwin Village.”

The Community Impact Initiative has now become a regular part of the Bureau's anti-gang operations. “After the bad guys have been arrested and removed,” Clark said, “we roll back into those communities within 90 days with our volunteers.”

That causes residents to view law enforcement in a different way. “Some folks think all we do is arrest people,” Clark said. “A lot of people in these neighborhoods feel ignored and forgotten. But then they see us working with them to improve where they live.”

The Community Impact Initiative works because it builds relationships, Clark explained. “We have breakfast with residents and face-to-face conversations. They see that we care about their quality of life.” In return, residents are more willing to cooperate with law enforcement, which helps solve cases and adds to the reduction in crime.

“I've seen generations of young kids in these neighborhoods with such potential,” Washington said. “Then you fast forward and they're in gangs. But because of our enforcement efforts and the community impact days, Baldwin Village is getting better,” the detective said. And that gives him hope. “I can see the results of our efforts.”



The Gangs of Los Angeles
The Homicide Library

In a room at a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) facility, thick binders—most filled with more than a thousand pages of paper—are stacked in boxes on and under tables and piled from floor to ceiling. Each binder represents a murder victim.

Dubbed “murder books” by the LAPD, they hold the contents of individual homicide investigations, from witness statements and crime scene photos to autopsy reports. The FBI is helping to turn these paper-only books into a digital homicide library that will benefit investigators as well as the families of victims.

The project will take nearly 5,000 murder books going back to 1990 and digitize them for use in a system that will be fully searchable so that LAPD detectives—as well as FBI analysts and investigators—will be able to cross-reference and compare information in every case, something not currently possible.

“Not only will this help solve cases,” said LAPD Det. Cheryl Nalls, who is administering the project, “it will bring healing to the families of victims.”

Over the years, the LAPD developed a system where all paper material related to a homicide investigation is put into a binder. Each murder book has tabs where particular information is placed. That way, any detective inheriting a case understands how the paperwork is organized.

“The system works,” Nalls said, “but because it is paper only, the material in the binders is only useful to the investigator on that case. Potential leads involving other cases, victims, or subjects are locked inside the book.”

And when a homicide case is officially inactive for one year, it goes dormant and the murder book is placed into one of several retention files located at various locations within the LAPD's 21 geographical areas. The result is that hundreds of unsolved cases could potentially end up filed away and forgotten.

“The homicide library will change all that,” said Robert Clark, an assistant special agent in charge in our Los Angeles Division who worked with LAPD Capt. Nancy Lauer to launch the digital library idea. “Being able to search and cross-reference 20 years of homicide data on solved and unsolved cases is something that has never existed.”

Murder books are shipped to the FBI's Document Conversion Lab in Virginia, where each record in every book is scanned into a software system that allows for sophisticated searching and archiving. The Bureau will maintain the digital network.

“We are essentially digitizing the investigative process,” Clark said, which has intelligence value for the Bureau as well as the LAPD. Agents working other federal investigations or analysts looking for gang and murder trends, for example, will be able to use the system to add and extract information.

The LAPD has committed funds to create and maintain a physical space for the homicide library, where the murder books will be stored and made available to victims' families. They will be able to visit the library to find out the status of loved ones' cases, and perhaps offer new information that could help solve a case.

“We want to bring healing to families,” Nalls said.

About 1,000 books have been scanned and uploaded so far. Beta testing is underway, and Nalls says she hopes the system will be operational by the end of 2014. The homicide library project has been “a great innovation,” she said, “and a great partnership between the LAPD and the FBI.”



Obama Is Complicit in Suppressing the Truth About Torture

On his watch, the CIA has been permitted to keep secret a report on its own misconduct, even as misleading information was released to the public.

by Conor Friedersdorf

President Obama is complicit in suppressing the truth about CIA torture of prisoners. That's clear from the fact that the Senate intelligence committee's $40 million, 6,000-page torture report is still being suppressed 15 months after being adopted. It is made clearer still by a scathing letter that one member of the committee, Senator Mark Udall, sent the White House on Tuesday. Its claims are jaw-dropping.

Senator Udall wants the torture report released to the public as fully and quickly as possible. He is also interested in a separate CIA report about torture of prisoners.

His letter makes all of the following charges:

•  Lots of information already given to the public about the CIA's torture program, its management, and its effectiveness "is misleading and inaccurate."

•  The Obama Administration itself has declassified and publicly released torture information that "contains inaccurate characterizations of CIA programs."

•  The CIA's internal review of its torture program contradicts what it told the oversight committee.

•  The CIA is erecting "impediments and obstacles" to its overseers.

Finally, and perhaps most alarmingly, Udall cryptically writes to Obama, "As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy."

What does it mean for the CIA to take "unprecedented action" against its overseers? Senator Udall tells the president that he knows they share, "a commitment to transparency and the rule of law." That clearly gives Obama too much credit. On torture, Obama has violated the law. And his commitment to transparency is illusory–in fact, he has amassed a historically bad record on that issue.

But Senator Udall is correct when he writes that "the American people deserve a proper and accurate accounting of the history, management, operation, and effectiveness of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program." It remains absurd that Obama keeps allowing the very agency exposed in that report to vet and suppress it.



Over-Reliance on Solitary Confinement Is Inhumane, Counterproductive to Public Safety

by Jim Liske -- Chief Executive Officer, Prison Fellowship

Rick Raemisch, the new executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, volunteered to do something few would dare -- he spent 20 hours in "Ad-Seg," or solitary confinement, in one of his own prisons. He did it to better understand the effects of our national over-reliance on solitary confinement as a means of managing inmates.

There are tens of thousands of prisoners held in isolation in the United States. Solitary confinement is a widely used tool for maintaining order and safety in prisons, and sometimes there are no viable alternatives to keep prisoners from harming themselves or others. But when a prisoner stays confined 23 hours a day, with little human contact or stimulation for extended periods, it "can exacerbate symptoms of illness or provoke recurrence," according to "The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law." And whenever prisoners are released directly from solitary confinement back into the community with no intervening steps, it spells trouble for public safety. This runs contrary to the stated goals of our correctional systems. In Raemisch's own words, "our job in corrections is to protect the community, not to release people who are worse than they were when they came in."

The use of isolation is reaching a tipping point. Corrections officials, like those in New York who passed far-reaching reforms last week, are recognizing its limits. Congress is also taking an interest in the economic, mental health, and public safety consequences of prolonged solitary confinement. Earlier this week, Raemisch and other criminal justice experts testified in a hearing chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ranking member. Raemisch explained how Colorado has successfully scaled back its reliance on solitary confinement in recent years, pointing out that extended isolation is not only inhumane and counterproductive, but also far more expensive than holding a prisoner in the general population.

Justice Fellowship President Craig DeRoche, who leads the criminal justice reform and advocacy efforts of my organization, also called over-use of solitary confinement a "missed opportunity to break the cycle of crime." In other words, much of the time and money spent holding inmates in solitary confinement could be better used on mental health services and proven programming that prepares them to return to society.

How has solitary confinement come to be so over-used?

For decades, we have been asking the wrong question. As a tough-on-crime culture, we've been asking, "How do we keep 'bad people' out of our backyards?" As a result, the prison population has exploded, as has the reliance on measures that control rather than rehabilitate the incarcerated. We have tried to quarantine the problem at great human and financial cost; we have not resolved it.

I would argue that we need to ask a new question: How do we bring good neighbors home?

At its most basic level, crime isn't just about broken laws, but about broken relationships - a violation of the mutual trust and responsibility that allow a community to function. Indefinite solitary confinement does nothing to address the relationships that must be restored for prisoners to come home as good citizens and good neighbors. It only exacerbates their social dislocation.

To bring home good neighbors, we need to re-orient our correctional legislation and policies toward restoration and improved public safety outcomes instead of punishment. From the moment of an arrest, our jails and prisons should aim to prepare men and women for reentry into society, so that they are less likely to commit new crimes and harm new victims.

There is some debate about the safety consequences of widespread solitary confinement. In his testimony before the Subcommittee, Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation cited examples of states that have brought down the number of inmates in solitary confinement, while also noting corresponding drops in prison violence and recidivism rates after release.

At the very least, we need to know more about the consequences of this drastic and potentially harmful measure. At best, we need to develop alternatives to long-term segregation. We need to stop dumping the mentally ill into conditions that are known to aggravate their problems. And we need to recognize that, while sometimes necessary, solitary confinement is a blunt instrument best used sparingly. As Raemisch did when he donned a jumpsuit and tasted the effects of even brief isolation for himself, it's time for us to find a degree of empathy, and recognize that men and women behind bars are human like us, capable of a change that's most likely to come in community -- not solitary.

Jim Liske is president and CEO of Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families.



From the LAPD

Safely Surrender Baby Law

Save Lives of Newborn Infants at Risk of Abandonment

Los Angeles:   The Los Angeles Police Department reminds the public of the Safely Surrender Baby Law.  The law is intended to save lives of newborn infants at risk of abandonment by encouraging parents or persons with lawful custody to safely surrender the infant within 72 hours of birth, no questions asked.

Today, a newborn baby boy was surrendered at Los Angeles Fire Station 57.  The paramedics advised officers that a male walked into the fire station and handed them the newborn baby.  The male stated to the paramedics that the mother was unable to care for the child.  The child was transported to a local hospital and the Department of Children and Family Services was notified.

The Safely Surrender Baby Law (SSB) requires the baby be taken to a fire station, a public or private hospital, or other safe surrender site, as determined by the local County Board of Supervisors.
California Penal Code Section 271.5 protects surrendering individuals from prosecution of abandonment.

The Safely Surrender Baby Law states:

• A Parent or person in Lawful custody may surrender a baby within 3 days of birth

• Individuals surrendering baby are from child abandonment laws

• SSB does not require names to be given when baby is surrendered

• Parents may also reclaim baby within 14 days of baby being surrendered

SSB posters and brochures are available, free of charge, to requesting individuals and organizations. Visit www.babysafe.ca.gov/   for more information.

If you are looking for a safe surrender site dial 1-877-BABY-SAF (1-877-222-9723)



From the LAPD

An Alternative to Traditional Policing: A Letter to Repeat Offenders

Mission Hills:   The captain of LAPD's Mission Police Station has written a letter to a select number of repeat offenders who were arrested last year two or more times within the boundaries of the Mission Police Station in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.  The first two dozen of about 100 letters went out last Friday, hand delivered by uniformed police officers.

“It's a novel approach, and it really doesn't cost us much,” said Captain Todd Chamberlain, who authored the letter.  “If this letter just connects with a few of these repeat offenders, we may have saved dozens of persons from being victimized, reduced the drain on police response, and even helped the offender.”

The letter's purpose is meant to warn the most chronic offenders in the area, letting them know the police know who they are and what they're up to.  “The letter's not meant to threaten or shame,” Chamberlain explained.  “It's meant to be a fair warning, and what's more, to offer resources to help them reform.”

The back of the letter lists resources the recipients can approach for help in job counseling, gang intervention, drug and alcohol diversion, even tattoo removal.

The 100 recipients were pared down from over 8,500 arrests in the Mission Area in 2013.  Police first looked at every person arrested more than once.  “That left us with nearly 1000 persons, so we had to cut deeper,” Chamberlain added.  So the list included only those person arrested twice or more for any crime, and at least one time for a Part I crime, the major crimes like theft, murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, and car theft.

The final criterion dropped the list to about 100 persons, whose total of arrests amounted to about 2 percent of all arrests for the year.

The list included persons like these:  a 26-year-old man whose eight arrests included assault, theft, and drunkenness; a 30-year-old woman arrested twice for burglary, once for robbery and drug possession; a 24-year-old woman arrested 7 times for crimes including drug possession, domestic violence and theft; a 59-year-old man arrested for drunkenness, theft and disorderly conduct for a total of eight arrests.  All arrests occurred in one year and just within the Mission Police Station boundaries.

“I look at this letter as an alternative approach to traditional policing, which we've done for decades,” Chamberlain explained.  “It's in a similar vein to our Operation Cease Fire, which addresses violent gang crime.  If this letter even shows half the benefits of Operation Cease Fire, it will be a great success!”

Captain Chamberlain can be reached for interviews at (818) 838-9980.  During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247).  Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).  Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to www.lapdonline.org, and click on "Webtips” and follow the prompts.



Volunteering in national parks: Jobs you can do in 2014

by David and Kay Scott

Whether you're a recent retiree with time on your hands or a traveler in search of an opportunity to give back, consider volunteering at one of America's 401 national park units. You won't be paid, but you'll enjoy new acquaintances, wildlife in its natural habitat, sparkling night skies -- and a sense of performing a meaningful service.

The National Park Service (NPS) actively recruits volunteers to assist in necessary aspects of operating its parks, monuments, seashores, battlefields, and more. Volunteers have become increasingly important in light of tight budgets faced by our country's national parks. Whether you are handy at fixing things, friendly and outgoing with strangers, or just enjoy the great outdoors, the National Park Service almost certainly has a place for you.

Volunteers are sufficiently important that the National Parks Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program was enacted in 1970 to facilitate volunteer assistance. Each year tens of thousands of individuals volunteer millions of hours of their time while working side-by-side with National Park Service employees. Volunteers staff campgrounds, maintain trails, provide information in the visitor centers, and offer natural history programs for visitors. Many volunteers live near a park and work only a few hours a week, sometimes for special events when extra help is needed.

Often volunteers commit to several months of what is essentially full-time employment. Yellowstone, for example, uses about 700 volunteers a year according to Bob Fuhrmann, Yellowstone's Young & Volunteer Program Manager. This sprawling park with geysers, mud pots, and canyons is a great place to spend two or three months.

Some people essentially become full-time volunteers by moving among parks throughout the year, often taking several weeks off to enjoy their travel between jobs.

If you have an RV, consider serving as campground host in one of the many national park units with campgrounds. These parks frequently need volunteers to serve in these roles.

Some national park units offer housing -- often quite modest -- for volunteers willing to stay for the season. Others offer free RV sites with hookups. In either case, the park generally expects a volunteer to work 32 hours per week. Because available housing is limited, the chance of landing a volunteer position improves for those who can live in their own RV. And even in parks with temporary housing, such as in Alaska's Denali National Park, it can be more available in winter than in summer.

Current volunteer openings include:

•  Badlands National Park (South Dakota): Naturalist (Jan. 6–June 13) and Night Sky Program volunteer (May 12–Aug. 29).

•  Big Bend National Park ( Texas): Campground host (May 1–July 31) and visitor center host (May 1–Oct. 31).

•  Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah): A visitor and resource volunteer for activities related to conservation, visitor info, and backcountry activities (June 1-Sept. 1).

•  Curecanti National Recreation Area (Colorado): Campground host (May 11–Sept. 7).

•  Grand Portage National Monument (Minnesota): Interpreter for living history program (May 26–Sept. 1).

•  Great Sand Dunes National Park (Colorado): Interpretive assistant (April 30–Sept. 20).

•  Lassen Volcanic National Park (California): Visitor center assistance (May 1–Oct. 31) and campground host to help with trail management (June 1–Dec. 31).

•  Mount Rainier National Park (Washington): Thirteen volunteer opportunities ranging from campground hosts to working with a butterfly project (June 1-Sept.15).

•  Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri): Campground host (May 10–Oct.15).

•  Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona): Interpretation and visitor center assistance (March 1–Sept. 30).

•  Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan): Campground host (June 16–Sept. 30).

So where do you begin? Consider location and weather. Perhaps you live in the Southeast and need relief from the summer humidity. If so, check for volunteer openings in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, or parts of Texas and California. If you're interested in escaping the cold winter, check for opportunities in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas.

Additional information about volunteering in America's national parks is available at nps.gov/getinvolved/upload/vip_brochure.pdf. A listing of volunteer openings by park unit or by state is available at nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm. A map with locations of all National Park Service units is available at http://hfc.nps.gov/carto/PDF/NPSmap2.pdf. Volunteer postings are not always complete or up-to-date so it is wise to contact individual parks and inquire about volunteer opportunities.




31 years after double homicide, families hope arrest brings closure

Theresa Supino is charged 31 years after two people were found murdered.

by Regina Zilbermints

NEWTON, IA. — On the morning of March 3, 1983, a foreman at a horse ranch arrived at work and found two employees brutally murdered.

For years, the case remained a mystery. Until Monday.

Thirty-one years to the day since the horrific discovery of the bodies of Steven Fisher, 20, and Melisa Gregory, 17, both of Newton, an arrest was made in the case.

Law enforcement authorities charged Theresa Supino, 53, of Altoona with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Fisher and Gregory. Supino and Fisher had been married but were separated at the time of his death. Fisher had been dating Gregory.

A candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of Gregory's and Fisher's deaths had already been planned for Monday in Newton. About 50 people braved the frigid temperatures to attend.

“There's what's called forgiveness, and I've done that,” said Lisa Gregory, Melissa Gregory's sister. “And we're glad justice could be done.... On the other hand, there are now other families that are in mourning as well.”

The bodies of Fisher and Gregory were found on the morning of March 3, 1983, at the Copper Dollar Ranch, northwest of Newton, according to the Jasper County sheriff's office. Both worked at the ranch part time. Fisher was a mechanic, Gregory groomed horses.

Both had such severe head trauma that authorities had to use dental charts and fingerprints to identify them. The brutality of the attack initially led police to believe the pair had been shot in their heads, according to news reports at the time.

A medical examiner ruled the deaths homicides.

Altoona police on Monday arrested Supino at her Altoona home. She remains in the Jasper County Jail on a $400,000 bond.

“For the last 31 years, the deaths of Steven and Melisa have weighed heavy on the Fisher and Gregory families, this sheriff's office and many in Jasper County,” Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said Monday.

“Since the bodies of Steven and Melisa were discovered, the Jasper County sheriff's office, with the assistance of the Newton Police Department, the Jasper County attorney's office, the office of the State Medical Examiner and the Division of Criminal Investigation, have continued to work to bring justice for Steven and Melisa.”

Halferty declined to provide any information on what evidence they uncovered that led them to Supino's arrest.

Family and friends held a vigil Monday night for Gregory and Fisher, an event planned prior to Supino's arrest.

“It can be a celebration, but right now, I think we just want to be in that moment of knowing they were our sister, a brother, a father,” said Lisa Gregory, 50, of Newton. “It's something that, yes, we have been waiting for a long time, but in another word, it's happiness, but it's also sadness.”

In 1983, Supino was known as Theresa Fisher and was married to Steven Fisher, said Halferty.

They had two children but were separated at the time, according to archived stories. Several of the vigil's attendees expressed sympathy for Supino's two children.

“We all know Terri and her kids,” said Kim Springer, 46, of Newton. “My heart goes out to her family… to find out your mother has done it.”

Many at the vigil also praised Halferty's dedication in continuing working the case.

According to the Newton Daily News, Halferty knew Gregory from junior high school. He started pursuing the case with renewed vigor when he was in the position to do so, which was in 2003.

At last year's 30th anniversary vigil, Halferty told the crowd that he would continue to investigate the case.

“It hit too close to home for him to let it lie,” said Shaykirya Farland, 36, of Newton. “His efforts will never go unrecognized.”




New Top Cop's Big Choice: Crime Response or Crime Prevention

by Liam Dillon

The city of San Diego received international acclaim in the 1990s for its approach to policing, thanks to a method that focused on preventing crime and building community trust rather than just responding to incidents. Shelley Zimmerman, who is expected to be approved as the city's new chief Tuesday, knows about that legacy as much as anyone.

Before her ascension, Zimmerman served as assistant chief for neighborhood policing, a position created to manage the strategy, known as problem-oriented policing or community policing. That position saw her passing out candy at a Mount Hope YMCA's Halloween party and touting the number of community meetings SDPD officers attend.

Zimmerman's predecessor, William Lansdowne, focused on something else.

Lansdowne emphasized speedy response times. Under Lansdowne, SDPD analyzed a massive amount of crime data to deploy cops to probable hot spots. Lansdowne oversaw San Diego's lowest crime rates in a half-century, but also let some policies to prevent officer misconduct and racial profiling fall by the wayside.

Deciding which approach to embrace will be one of the biggest decisions of Zimmerman's tenure. Will she prioritize crime response like Lansdowne or crime prevention like the chiefs before him? (My old colleague Keegan Kyle shed great light on Lansdowne's philosophy and SDPD's history.)

Zimmerman was unavailable for an interview last week. A department spokesman said she plans to talk to the media soon. In the meantime, her statements on the department's community policing record don't offer much clarity.

Zimmerman responded to our 2011 piece on Lansdowne's philosophy in an op-ed. She called our assertion that SDPD had moved away from community policing a “bizarre conclusion” that was “fundamentally flawed and does not reflect reality.” Yes, she said, the department had prioritized staffing patrol officers over community relations officers. But all officers had benefitted from 15 years of community policing training and community members had taken over the projects police officers used to lead, she said.

“The accessibility of our department has never been greater because the outreach today takes place throughout our entire city,” Zimmerman wrote.

Just a little more than a year later, however, Zimmerman was saying something different. SDPD proposed a $50 million-plus, five-year plan to hire dozens of new cops and civilians workers and invest in technology and equipment. Lansdowne said the whole point was to restore previous reductions in community policing, which Zimmerman had argued hadn't been reduced. Lansdowne also called Zimmerman “the genius” behind the five-year plan.

In a July 2012 City Council committee hearing, Zimmerman said the effort would allow officers to be more proactive. She lamented that the department had fewer officers dedicated to addressing quality-of-life issues. And the community wasn't happy.

“We are getting an earful,” Zimmerman said. “It's because we did have a prior level of service that the community and ourselves, we enjoyed. That wonderful working relationship that we have with the community. They're telling us, and each community is different, that we're not responding as quickly.”




Revise Missouri's Criminal Code to protect public safety


For the past eight years, Missouri's prosecutors have been leaders in the effort to revise the Criminal Code. In recent years, we partnered with the Missouri Bar to tackle the revision of the Criminal Code because we know it is the right thing to do.

The Criminal Code Revision that is currently being debated in the General Assembly modernizes antiquated statutes, harmonizes numerous duplicate provisions, and gives us an important new tool in the form of a fifth felony class. We endorse this revision, and we would not do so if it didn't promote public safety. Take the following examples.

It has the strongest approach to assault crimes ever seen in Missouri's history. Those who commit violent felonies will have their punishments increase on their second offense, not their third offense as in current law.

Habitual drunk drivers will be treated as dangerous felons and will have to serve 85 percent of their time in prison before being eligible for parole. Currently, a drunk driver who kills his passenger in a crash can receive no more than seven years in prison. This revision will allow that same drunk driver to spend a decade behind bars.

Missouri's laws relating to child sex abuse are strengthened and will give us more tools to put child molesters in prison.

We endorsed this bill as a package because we know that it strikes the right balance between violent and non-violent offenses. We continue to stand by this endorsement.

The House and Senate versions differ in some respects on drug crimes, but there is no decriminalization of drug offenses. As prosecutors, we believe both versions maintain and promote public safety and accountability with respect to drug crimes.

This project has been thoroughly vetted, perhaps more than any other single piece of legislation. For four years, a team of veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys labored line-by-line over the entire body of Missouri's criminal law and crafted a draft based upon consensus and practical application to modern reality in the criminal justice system.

The draft was reviewed and endorsed by both the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Missouri Bar. Throughout the summer and fall of 2012, a special joint interim committee conducted public hearings on the draft.

During the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Jolie Justus and Rep. Stan Cox each filed versions in the two chambers of the Missouri General Assembly. Each bill was again the subject of new public hearings in the judiciary committees of each chamber. In an overwhelming show of bi-partisan support, the House of Representatives passed its version last year by a vote of 150-7.

This past fall, the Senate Judiciary Committee held yet another interim hearing on the bill.

Thus far in 2014, the drafts have again each received new hearings in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Both committees have voted the versions out and they are now poised for debate on the floor of each chamber.

Twenty-five public hearings have been held on the Criminal Code Revision in the Missouri Legislature. Prosecutors, the Missouri Bar, public defenders and victim advocates have testified in support of this bill numerous times. It is safe to say that no other piece of legislation in recent memory has been so thoroughly vetted by the General Assembly.

Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell encouraged the General Assembly to tackle this project in her recent State of the Judiciary Address.

Without doubt, the size of the bill is daunting. That's why the legislature has correctly taken the measured approach of numerous hearings and two sessions to consider the matter. However, the time has come to pass the bill. When legislators consider the bill, they should consider the confidence a majority of their colleagues and their elected prosecutors have placed in the original drafting process and the legislative vetting process.

This Revision gives us the tools we need to keep violent criminals off the street longer, and to allow us to be more efficient with respect to true non-violent offenses.

The bottom line is that Missouri's prosecutors stand by this revision. On behalf of Missouri citizens, Missouri's prosecutors need this revision. Those who would stand with us in protecting the public and seeking justice should support this revision.



The PTSD epidemic in our most violent neighborhoods

by Michelle Chen

To confront the effects of community violence, we must treat psychological trauma too

It has become a media cliche to compare neighborhoods plagued by gun violence to war zones. The combat metaphors range from children caught in the crossfire to explosions of gang warfare to SWAT-like police teams patrolling the streets. But behind the bleak imagery lies the hidden collateral damage of people's tender psychological wounds: It's an epidemic of trauma-related stress in the hospitals, schools and living rooms of these beleaguered communities.

A recent investigation by ProPublica highlights a study of hospital patients in inner-city communities in Atlanta that revealed rates of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) symptoms comparable to those seen in veterans of the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. At least 1 in 3 respondents reported that at some point in their lives they had experienced PTSD symptoms — an array of stress responses including flashbacks, persistent feelings of fear or shame, a sense of alienation and aggressive behavior. (The nationwide PTSD rate is about 7 to 8 percent, with generally higher rates among blacks and women.)

In another study on Chicago's Cook County Hospital — which tends to thousands of gunshot victims each year — more than 4 in 10 patients screened showed symptoms of PTSD, with an even higher rate among those wounded by guns.

The prevalence of these psychological ripple effects suggests that in some neighborhoods, nearly every family is touched by traumatic violence. Beyond the direct victims of shootings and assaults, those affected include the loved ones of survivors — who struggle to help family members cope with, for example, a spouse's debilitating panic attacks or a child's unrelenting nightmares. And they typically carry this weight within a landscape rife with poverty, often without a hospital, much less a psychiatrist's office, nearby.

Among the most trauma-ridden neighborhoods are impoverished communities of color where inequality fuels hopelessness. That drives vulnerable youths deeper into violence, both as victims and as perpetrators. Studies on youths (PDF) have traced PTSD symptoms back to forms of violence — from street shootings and police chases to sexual assault — that have become routine in rough city neighborhoods.

The troubles facing this population are well known. President Barack Obama recently launched a charity-based program to help young men of color “beat the odds.” Yet many of the conventional approaches to “saving” disadvantaged youth continue to emphasize overcoming the odds and personal responsibility over structural change to social environments.

A survey by the Family-Informed Trauma Treatment Center of so-called inner city kids — who are disproportionately black and Latino — revealed that more than 80 percent (PDF) have experienced “one or more traumatic events.” And their struggles tend to deepen over time because of a lack of accessible culturally appropriate mental health treatment.

According to a 2012 report (PDF) from the Office of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, trauma experienced early in life could more than double “the risk and severity of post-traumatic injuries and mental health disorders.” This could in turn harm youths' long-term development, leading to problems in adulthood, such as anxiety disorders and drug abuse . The most impacted neighborhoods are arguably those where gun violence is routinely dismissed — by politicians and media alike — as an intractable status quo. (After the Sandy Hook shooting, public concern over guns exploded in part because the massacre took place in a relatively privileged Connecticut suburb.)

It's not surprising that urban violence traumatizes civilians the same way war affects soldiers: Seeing friends gunned down on the way to school is at least as traumatic as watching comrades perish on the front lines. But when the violence ricochets across a community's fundamental institutions of family, work and education, the cumulative social stress has more insidious effects, undermining people's ability to work or care for their children. Meanwhile, these embattled communities are often isolated from critical mental health care resources. Studies have found major racial disparities in the quality and availability of mental health care, with whites tending to receive better care for issues like depression and anxiety.

Although statistically, blacks and Latinos may face significantly higher risks of exposure to certain traumatic experiences, including childhood maltreatment and, in some cases, war-related trauma, people of color suffering from PTSD are overall less likely than their white peers to seek treatment. The potential barriers are complex and interwoven — basic socioeconomic gaps plus a lack of services nearby; cultural factors such as a general discomfort with formal, white-dominated medical systems or stigma around mental illness (PDF); not to mention, for many immigrants, language barriers.

So in communities where structural hardships drive people into crisis — where concentrated poverty and anemic social service systems lead to family breakdown and social unraveling — people often land in emergency rooms. There are no other social supports. Or they might be shunted into the prison system , where institutional isolation furthers trauma.

According to the National Association for Mental Illness, some 70 percent of youths in state and local juvenile justice facilities suffer from mental health problems (PDF) — part of a broader trend of prisons and jails becoming warehouses for the mentally ill. These youths are in many cases cut off from mental health care and from their communities and families; an untold number will be released back into society as hardened, unstable adults. Aggravating the crisis in communities (PDF), state mental health programs lost more than $4 billion in funding from fiscal year 2009 to 2012 — a cost passed down to the hospitals and courtrooms that ultimately must absorb the burden.

Stopping these cycles of trauma starts with an acknowledgment of community violence not as a mere crime problem but rather as a collective social trauma — both a public health scourge and a moral issue. Holistic solutions could include integrating PTSD screenings of injured patients into the routine treatment process at hospitals or ensuring that children are screened for symptoms through school-based clinics. For people who may have little contact with any health care system except in emergency situations, this might be the only chance to identify people who need treatment early on as well as to measure the overall needs for services across a community.

A more comprehensive anti-violence strategy would focus on every intersection between violence and community life, working with local residents, community groups, schools and health agencies to build resilience against a turbulent social climate.

Many community groups are intuitively building new support systems. Although these programs tend to operate independently — despite some funding from Washington, the implementation of programs is largely directed by state and local agencies — they fold into a broader effort to deal with violence as a public health issue. Even social supports (PDF) that do not directly address violence, such as youth development initiatives in schools and community-based education and employment programs, can stabilize families and help them overcome everyday stressors. In Chicago, community groups and social agencies developed family-based therapy programs that treat children and caregivers in tandem, effectively reducing youths' overall exposure (PDF) to community violence.

Local activists have recently taken action on their own, for example, by campaigning for a trauma center on Chicago's South Side, so people can receive care in the areas hardest hit by gun violence. Similarly, youth activists with Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, have resisted gun violence and pushed back against a punitive criminal justice system through youth-led conflict mediation and community education programs on gang involvement and mental health.

The chaos that seems to haunt so many urban neighborhoods does not start with the pulling of a trigger. It represents the fallout of decades of underinvestment in neighborhoods where schools, health care and social services are chronically deprived — the brutality of the everyday, with no bullets, just innocent targets.

Whether they're in the hospital or behind bars, people who experience these collective traumas should not be treated as acute cases but as casualties of a systemic kind of violence, the pathological inequalities that leave few visible scars but fester below the surface. To treat those wounds, we need more than political prescriptions of getting tough on violence or self-help for teens. Community trauma is part of a lifelong plight. And it is our collective responsibility to stop the bleeding.

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times and associate editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica's WBAI and Dissent Magazine's Belabored podcast, and studies history at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.




Former Springfield Police Chief recommends return of Police Commission: Viewpoint

Former Springfield Police Chief

As our community struggles to regain our full identity post Control Board, important decisions have been made that will impact the future of Springfield. Perhaps the most important is the matter of the governance of our Police Department. I submit this review of our history to assist the decision makers in their efforts.

Entry Level Hiring History/Castro Beecher:

The Springfield Police Department, like other big Massachusetts cities, had a problematic history of police personnel hiring practices. This was due in part to the Massachusetts Department of Personnel Administration testing process that was resolved by the Castro-Beecher decision of the mid1970's and resulting in one-to-one minority hiring. Today this change in entry level hiring gives Springfield a police force that reflects the many people of our community.

Community Mistrust and Misunderstanding:

Until the late 1970's the Department was largely white officers. For decades before and during the mid 1990's the Springfield Police Department had a poor relationship with the Community and had a history of what our African American and our minority communities considered racist acts

CECP and Community Policing:

In the early 1990's former Mayor Markel and private citizens formed a group called the Citizens for Effective Community Policing (CECP) to support a change in the city's Police Department to Community Oriented Policing. This change in policing led to increased safety in urban areas in the USA such as Boston and New York while improving police-community relations. The change was police driven in other cities.

Community Policing became a citizen initiated and supported change in policing Springfield. Former Mayors Markel & Albano, mainly through their appointed Boards of civilian Police Commissioners, championed it. Albano's Police Commission in 1996 was the most diverse commission in our history. There were two Hispanic men, one African American woman, one white man and one white woman. This commission promoted a Police Chief who championed Community Policing.

Resistance at the top:

This citizen led change to Community Policing occurred despite resistance from many top police commanders in Springfield. Many top commanders wanted to retain traditional line style command that limits or eliminates community involvement. In traditional line style command decision-making was always reserved for those in the top command. To their credit, the patrol force and their union supported community policing.

Years of hard work by brave rank and file police officers and a number of command staff supervisors ensued. Many community members, our clergy and our business community worked hard to accomplish this huge task. Our City Council supported this effort. Beat Management Teams truly impacted the delivery of services in their neighborhoods. So did the cops on the beat.

With the evolution of Community Policing in Springfield meaningful change occurred for the police and community. Springfield was a safer city. Together we lowered the toll of gun violence and saved many lives. Our homes felt safe and we were not afraid to walk our streets. Many of these gains are now being minimized and lost due to the changes made by the State Control Board.

Dept. Of Justice Investigation into Policies and Practices of the SPD:

A litany of complaints by the minority community was published in the Springfield newspapers but was largely unresolved. The death of Benjamin Schoolfield in a traffic stop followed by what became known as a “ham party” became a catalyst for the Community to act, calling on the Department Of Justice for help.

In 1996 the Department of Justice engaged in a multi-year investigation of the policies and practices of the Springfield Police Department in response to the community complaints.

•  The roots of police mistrust in Springfield are due to both alleged police misconduct over the decades and misunderstandings of police rules and practices.

•  Community Policing, the Police Commission, and hard work by our police officers alleviated much of the misunderstanding.

•  Citizens took part in the governance of their streets and their cities in meaningful ways.

•  Being governed by a civilian Board of Police Commissioners became an integral part of the reform strategy for the Springfield Police Department

•  The supervisor and staff of our Springfield Police Academy assumed leadership in the reform efforts.

•  New rules, regulations and policies made procedures more clear to both the police and the community.

•  The DOJ initially requested a consent decree, and later modified that request to a monitoring agreement.

•  5 years later the DOJ dropped those demands due to reforms made under former Mayor Michael Albano's administration and his Police Commission.

•  Implementation of a consent decree or a monitoring agreement would have lasted for many years and cost this city millions of dollars.

•  A consent decree or monitoring agreement would have disgraced this city and created economic harm to our citizens and our business community.

I recommend that the mayor, the city council and the citizens of Springfield support the return of the Police Commission to oversee policy and practices and employment decisions. Assignment of officers should be left strictly to the police professionals. One option could allow the top cop to also be a member of the Board of Police Commissioners. We should embrace the power of the citizenry and make our decisions in the light of day.




Petaluma police plan community meeting


The Petaluma Police Department is hosting a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss crime and trends in Petaluma.

The hourlong meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Petaluma Community Center on North McDowell Boulevard.

Chief Pat Williams will give a presentation on the status of crime and safety and discuss the community policing concept.

Residents will have an opportunity to ask questions and meet the officers and supervisors assigned to their policing districts.

Police invite residents, business owners and people who may work in Petaluma to attend, Lt. Tim Lyons said.




Waterville police to meet with residents about reporting crime

The City Councilor set up two meetings after she got a flurry of calls from constituents who saw reportable things, but didn't know how to report them.

by Amy Calder

WATERVILLE — If you witness a drug deal in your neighborhood, should you call the police? What about if you see your next door neighbor involved in a domestic dispute? If you do call police, must you have give your name?

Those are some of the questions City Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, hopes police will help answer at community meetings set for Monday, March 10, at the Muskie Center on Gold Street.

One session will be noon to 2 p.m., for older people and those who likely are home during the day; another session will be 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Child care will be available during the evening session.

Rancourt-Thomas, who lives in the city's South End, said she received a flurry of calls for about two weeks straight from residents she represents, saying they had seen a variety of incidents, including a marijuana deal, domestic abuse and pit bull terriers running loose, but they were not sure how to report them.

“I called (police Chief Joseph Massey) and said a lot of people are afraid to report crimes,” Rancourt-Thomas said. “Is there something we can do — maybe set up informational meetings with police? I think a lot of people are afraid to report crimes because they don't want neighbors to think it's them. Joe said that'd be a great idea. It's for the whole city. It isn't just for the South End.”

South End Neighborhood Association coordinator Jackie Dupont got on board, as did City Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, Rancourt-Thomas said. Dupont will take notes at the meetings and Bushee arranged for child care for the evening session.

Rancourt-Thomas emphasized that the meetings are for people who live anywhere in the city.

“Everyone's welcome, and they can bring their questions and hopefully, we can resolve issues,” she said. “It's to make the whole city better for the citizens of Waterville.”

Deputy police Chief Charles Rumsey said the meetings are an opportunity for police to get together with residents and talk about neighborhood safety, address concerns they may have and answer questions. Police also will discuss the kinds of information residents can pass on to police if they witness a crime and report it.

Any time a group of citizens wants to meet, police see it as an important opportunity because community policing is about working together, Rumsey said.

He said Massey and several members of the Police Department will attend the sessions.




Lexington officials continue seeing disturbing trends with heroin use, overdoses

by Justin Madden

Emergency crews from the Lexington Division of Fire responded to four calls last month about individuals who overdosed on heroin. Firefighters were able to save three of the four by giving them a shot of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, an antidote that can reverse the effects of opiate drug overdoses. The fourth person died, said Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason.

More often firefighters are responding to calls about overdoses, and Narcan shots are being administered — and saving lives.

Last year, Lexington Division of Fire Battalion Chief Brian Wood said the department administered 843 Narcan shots, which are used to reverse an overdose. The department operates on an unconscious/unknown protocol allowing emergency crews to give the shot to those who are passed out. The number of heroin related cases were unknown, but Woods thinks at least 90 percent of the 843 shots were heroin-related.

Still, Lexington's battle with heroin overdoses persists, and officials are concerned about the potency that is on Lexington streets.

"We picked up some young adults in affluent neighbors and others in the street," Wood said. "It appears that (heroin) may be more fatal ... You don't know what you're taking."

Wood said dealers have started to lace the drug with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate. He said he has not seen the enhanced heroin in Lexington, but doesn't doubt it has made a toe-hold in the city.

The Associated Press reported last month that 80 people had died across the country in recent weeks after injecting heroin laced with fentanyl, a narcotic that is typically administered to people in chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients.

Fentanyl is also used as an anesthetic. It is considered 80 times more powerful than morphine and can kill by inhibiting breathing.

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said his office tests for fentanyl among other abusive drugs. But, so far, he has only seen the drug in prescription medicine.

"When you have something that's unknown it's like Russian roulette," Ginn said. "When someone buys (heroin) they don't know the purity of it. They don't know if it's been mixed with something; they have no idea. But with pills, especially prescription, they know exactly what they're taking. It's in dosages."

Mason agreed: He said when heroin users buy the drug, many are unaware of how pure it is, because it changes from dealer to dealer.

Mason said the city is dealing with a purity count between 50 and 60. The purer it is, the stronger — and more deadly — it is.

The city finished 2013 with 44 heroin related deaths, according to statistics from Ginn.

There have been three heroin overdose deaths in the first two months of 2014. That's a slower pace than last year when there were nine heroin-related deaths this same time of year. But Ginn said they are awaiting testing results for eight to 10 deaths that could also be heroin-related.

In the first six months of 2013, there were 28 heroin overdose deaths in Lexington, six more than in all of 2012 and more than five times as many as two years ago.

Mason said much of the city's heroin is being transported down the I-75 corridor, but he's unsure of where the drugs are coming from before they hit the highway.

"It's something that's not going away," he said of heroin overdoses. "We're seeing volumes of heroin coming into the community."

The resurgence of the dangerous street drug, which rose to prominence in the 1970s, began significantly increasing in Fayette County in 2012. But overdose deaths have been noticed since 2007.

There were no heroin deaths in Lexington from 2002 to 2006, and there was one in 2007, according to figures from officials. There were one to five heroin overdose deaths each year until 2012, when there were 22.

The excessive usage of heroin in the city came after Kentucky's ability to crack down on the abuse of painkillers with House Bill 1 that was passed a few years ago. The bill placed greater restrictions on access to prescription opioid medicines. When the pills became harder to get and therefore more expensive on the street, addicts turned to heroin as their drug of choice, officials have said.

The vast majority of people who were addicted to prescription drugs are now looking for opiates.

"With any type of addiction, they're going to do what they can do to get that high," said Kentucky State Police spokesman Paul Blanton. He praised legislators for tougher laws governing prescription pills but said, "the people with the illegal prescription pills are also selling the heroin."

Blanton said for years the problem for addicts was the availability of prescription pills, and now pills are harder to buy, so they're switching over to heroin.

Heroin, which is generally snorted, smoked or injected, comes in three different colors — black, white and beige — and is cheaper than prescription pills. Mason said Lexington has seen the use of white powder — the purest form.

A single 80 milligram pill of the painkiller Oxycontin can sell for $80 to $100. With heroin, dealers sell one-tenth of a gram, Mason said. A bag generally costs $9 or $10.

As heroin passes through drug dealers on the street, they "cut it" — crushing up an additive, like vitamins, and mixing it with the heroin to dilute it. This makes the product weaker and gives the dealer more to sell.

About a week ago the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Kentucky of Public Health released a report that showed a decrease in prescription pill overdoses and emergency room visits but a huge increase in heroin overdoses from 2011 to 2012. There were 1,031 overdose deaths in 2012 and 6,496 overdose emergency visits compared to 1,022 and 6,492 in 2011. Pharmaceutical opioids remained the primary cause of overdose deaths.

The same report attributed benzodiazepines for the primary cause for emergency department visits and hospitalizations in 2012, but decreased from 939 in 2011 to 856 in 2012. Heroin overdoses skyrocketed in 2012 with 129, up from the 42 heroin-related deaths recorded in 2011.

Last year, officials formed a task force to devise a strategy to overcome the punishing blows that heroin has laid on the city. Then, the task force reported heroin-related arrests were up 57 percent over all of 2012. There were 160 arrests from Jan. 1 through July 11, 2013, compared to 102 for 2012 and 8 in 2011.

Mason said the task force hopes to update the city on its recent findings next month.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said police have teamed up with the community, Drug Free Lex and other organizations to fight the heroin epidemic.

"I think what we're doing different is the education we're doing on heroin," she said.