NEWS of the Week - April, 2014 - week 3
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.


April, 2014 - Week 3



Columbine survivors find purpose 15 years later

LITTLETON, Colo. -- Fifteen years after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stalked the halls of Columbine High School in a murderous rampage, memories of that fateful day still echo across Colorado and the country.

Schools have tightened security, with more deploying metal detectors or armed guards. Police officers flood into shooting situations, rather than hanging back. School psychologists are trained to intervene more decisively when they encounter students with mental health challenges.

But while the killings that day prompted changes, the school itself continues to shape the minds of kids, none of whom were even there when the tragedy occurred on April 20, 1999.

Armed with guns and bombs, Harris and Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher, Dave Sanders, before committing suicide.

As he has every year since the shooting, Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis today will read the victims' names in the school to mark the moment everything changed. This will be the last time DeAngelis reads the names as principal. He's retiring in June.

Though he struggled with survivor's guilt, DeAngelis says his priest told him he was spared for a reason.

"If I would've left, I would've struggled," DeAngelis says. "I needed this place ... and they allowed me to fulfill something that needed to fulfilled, and that was to build this community back up."

In the years that followed, DeAngelis has been called upon to aid shooting survivors at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, sharing his experience and explaining how both big and little things can re-traumatize victims. At Columbine, administrators changed the fire alarm sound and stopped serving Chinese food in the cafeteria to avoid invoking the smells and sounds of that day.

"I always get asked is when do things get back to normal," DeAngelis says. "Well, you will have to redefine what normal is."



Washington D.C.

Klobuchar pushes for community policing legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Efforts are underway in Washington to help put more police officers on Minnesota streets.

The COPS Improvement Act of 2014 would reauthorize funding for the "Community Oriented Policing Services" program.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar reintroduced legislation last week.

In addition to grants so departments can hire officers, the bill would allocate money for new technology. It would also make the COPS office a permanent part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

"This COPS authorization is very important," Klobuchar said. "Every year we face some political winds that try to eliminate this program or mess with it and we don't want that to happen again. That's why we're working so hard as a team to get this done."

If the legislation is approved, the COPS program would be extended for the next six years.




Community policing connects Sioux City residents with police


SIOUX CITY | Community policing isn't new to Sioux City.

Residents across Sioux City are improving their neighborhoods by partnering with Sioux City police in the department's Community Team Policing program.

The department-wide effort fosters relationships between officers and communities they serve. Officers are assigned to districts across the city. Each is headed by a sergeant, who residents are encouraged to call if they see crime or want to discuss a neighborhood issue.

Residents can call officers about anything from gang problems and drug sales to parking complaints, code violations or blighted properties. Officers want to hear about anything that affects quality of life in the neighborhood, said Lt. Rex Mueller, Community Team Policing commander.

"While they're not necessarily law-enforcement functions, it allows us to get to know the communities we serve better and allow them to get to know the officers on a personal level," he said.

The program is advertised on billboards featuring sergeants' names, photos and cell phone numbers. Police also are active on Facebook and Twitter.

They also meet with cultural groups. Sioux City is increasingly diverse, with a sizable Hispanic population and growing Somalian and Ethiopian populations.

"We really want to be involved with any kind of groups in various cultural communities in the city, because some of these people are coming from other countries where their experience with police is very negative," Mueller said. "And we have to reach out to them and allow them the opportunity to know how different policing is in America."

Community policing began in Sioux City in the 1990s. Originally its own unit, the concept now includes the entire police force. All officers take part in the program.

"Now, rather than having a specific unit responsible for those functions, you have an entire department who participates in community team policing, which of course is building relationships and cooperation by requesting and allowing citizens to be more involved in the policing process," Mueller said.

Officials will unveil the newest community policing program, Safety Up, at a 7 p.m. town hall at the Sioux City Museum, 607 Fourth St., on April 24. Safety Up will help residents form community watch groups and be the theme of all Sioux City police crime prevention and outreach efforts.

"What was so unique about Sioux City is we have trained everyone in the Police Department on community policing," said Judy Darwin, board member of the Sioux City Neighborhood Network. "That concept has brought the officers to understand that there had to be that interaction between the resident, the taxpayer, and that officer."

Neighborhood Network volunteers have accompanied police officers to apartment complexes to let residents know about the program. By spreading the word, more residents can help with the effort and know to call police, Darwin said.

"We tell (police) what's not right, because we see the crime happening," she said. "We see who's responsible for doing what they're doing."

The partnership between resident and officers has paid off for Sioux City, Mueller said.

"I think that the trust-building work with the citizens and the proactive approach have, in my belief, impacted our crime rate and our response in a very positive way," he said.




Lowell's community policing on a roll thanks to Segways

by Rick Sobey

LOWELL -- Police officer Chris Smith is now one of the most popular people downtown. As long as you're not getting chased by him on his Segway.

"That's so cool! I want to try. Let me try it," said a passenger in a car on Merrimack Street, as Smith stood about 7 feet tall on his new mode of transportation, laughing at the request.

"It seems like everyone is smiling when they see it," Smith said on Tuesday, his second day riding it. "People are always coming up to me, just flocking to it, wanting to talk about it.

"Everybody wants to get on, but we're clearly not letting anybody on," he added.

Lowell police recently purchased two Segways. Smith is one of two officers now using them to patrol the streets during the day.

Smith said it's key to remain visible on his patrol downtown, which is accomplished by simply standing on the vehicle, he added. Measured at 6 feet tall, Smith is 6 feet, 10 inches while on the Segway.

"It has a huge height advantage," said Smith, 48, who's been with the department for 17 years. "It's like being on a horse for crowd control. For festivals, this will be great. And also for any typical stuff we respond to, like shoplifting and other calls."

After getting trained by a Segway representative during an afternoon last week, weaving through cones and watching videos, Smith said he quickly got the hang of it.

The scooters travel up to 12.5 mph, which is a sub-five-minute per-mile pace, Smith emphasized.

"Definitely faster than I can run," Smith said. "You can really fly on this. And you go as fast as you want without getting tired."

Unlike bikes, they can move through crowded pedestrian areas. And unlike cars, they can go anywhere, including alleys. The Segways, which cost $8,500 each with funding from the department's traffic account, are the larger versions with heavier-duty tires more suited for off-road use.

If the sidewalks are too crowded, then Smith said he uses common sense and rides in the road. But if there are potholes, he returns to the sidewalk.

In addition, the Segways have flashing red-and-blue lights and an anti-theft alarm. Officers are required to wear helmets, and civilians are not allowed to ride the vehicles.

Police Superintendent William Taylor said the vehicles are positive additions. Officers are more mobile and can see better, he said.

"It's a very good tool for the Police Department, and the officers really enjoy it, which is an added benefit," Taylor said on Tuesday. "They're very efficient vehicles, and it helps facilitate community policing, which is really key. The interaction between residents and police is a great thing.

Taylor said the "green" vehicles could last 5 to 10 years before being replaced. Segways run on a battery for six hours, then have to be recharged. Smith said he can write a report at the same time.

He expects to ride the Segway for most of his shift, but if it starts pouring out, he'd have to bring it inside, he said.

Smith and the other officer on the Segway, Tim Golden, will be training other officers to use them.

While many downtown on Tuesday shouted words of encouragement to Smith, not everyone is on board with Segways. Resident John Ruel, 53, said he doesn't see the need for them.

"Walking on foot is fine," Ruel said. "They can't move as fast as a human can, and they really can't chase somebody as well with it.

But resident Karen Mills, 60, said on Tuesday that cities should use more of them.

"They're awesome," Mills said. "They're an easy way to get around downtown, and they can maneuver alleys and small areas. It's a very positive thing, and I really like the positive thinking of the Police Department. We're very lucky to have these guys patrolling our streets."

Locally, the Everett, Barnstable and Manchester, N.H., police departments use Segways, and they're popular with officers in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.




Police raid LA Times building after threat reports

by Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Police took a man into custody Friday night inside the Los Angeles Times building after it was locked down because of a shooting threat report, the newspaper said.

The man was detained by police and removed from the building less than an hour after the threat report, the Times said. The man does not work for the newspaper but is connected to Vxi Global Solutions, which rents office space in the building.

Officers searched the building but found no weapon and the lockdown was lifted by 9 p.m., police Lt. Lonnie Benson said.

Police said the man was 28 years old, but did not immediately release his name.

A radio call went out at 7:26 p.m. notifying police that a text message sent from inside the building said there may be someone "about to start shooting," Detective Gus Villanueva told The Associated Press. The Times building is across the street from LAPD headquarters.

The Times reported that the man said he had been depressed, didn't mind killing someone, showed a co-worker a bag of bullets and said he didn't want to go to jail.

The building at 1st and Spring streets has been headquarters of the Los Angeles Times since 1935.

Several other businesses and government agencies rent space from the Times in the building, including Vxi Global Solutions, which provides customer service and technical support by phone for other businesses. A message left for company representatives by the AP was not immediately returned.



From the FBI


The Gangs of Los Angeles -- Working to Make a Difference

When Special Agent Robert Clark speaks to an inner city school group or residents who live in Los Angeles neighborhoods overrun by gangs, he doesn't think of himself as an outsider.

“I don't see myself as separate from a lot of the people that I meet in the community,” said Clark, an assistant special agent in charge in our Los Angeles Division who supervises the Bureau's gang operations there. “I see myself as one of them, because I used to be one of them. I grew up in the inner city. I grew up in foster care. I grew up in places where violence was commonplace, and gangs, graffiti, and drugs were everywhere.”

For that reason, Clark is committed to dismantling violent gangs through rigorous law enforcement efforts. He is equally committed to helping young people avoid the gang life and empowering residents to take back their neighborhoods. Since coming to Los Angeles seven years ago, he has spearheaded several gang initiatives with community, civic, and law enforcement partners that go beyond merely arresting gang members and sending them to jail.

“I can relate so much to what these kids go through and the violence that they see,” Clark explained. “I was involved in some of that as a youngster, but I realized very early that it was not for me. Thankfully, I had some teachers that believed in me and made sure I stayed on the straight and narrow. They made sure that my life mattered.”

Growing up in a gritty section of Youngstown, Ohio, known then for its connections to organized crime, Clark's life could have gone either way. “My father was a nightclub owner,” he said. “He worked for the mob and ran nightclubs for the mob—girls, numbers, drugs, that whole life. That's what my father did. He was murdered when I was 12 years old. I was the last one to see him alive.”

A college scholarship to play football got Clark out of Youngstown; after college, he became a police officer and eventually joined the FBI. “I knew that my life had to count,” he said. “The impact my childhood had on me—how I grew up and the things that I was able to escape from—made me want to give something back.”

He is now in a unique position to do just that.

“I recognize that I can influence young people in gang neighborhoods,” Clark noted. “Most of these kids have never seen an FBI agent, much less an African-American FBI agent. When they see me, I want to stand as an example and tell them, 'You, too, can come from this environment and still succeed if you go to school and work hard. It doesn't matter what your situation is at home. It doesn't matter if mom or dad is not there, or dad's in prison, or whatever the case may be. You can achieve something.'”

“Robert takes great pride in his work and helping communities to heal and become whole,” said Cheryl Nalls, a Los Angeles Police Department detective who has worked closely with Clark in some of the worst gang neighborhoods in South Central L.A. “He is a passionate advocate,” she added, “and it's important for people in these communities to see someone like that.”

“I come to work every day to make a difference,” Clark said.




KC police arrest highway shooting suspect


"We have somebody in custody and that person has not been charged."

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte spoke briefly to reporters Thursday night, but said authorities have apprehended a man believed to be connected to at least a dozen Kansas City highway shootings.

The Kansas City Star reports about 30 officers carried out a search warrant at a residence in Grandview, Mo. Neighbors told the Star the man who lived at the home "kept to himself and would come and go at odd hours of the night."

Authorities also towed away a dark green Dodge Neon from the residence. A reporter for KSHB tweeted that the car matches the description of a "mysterious green sedan" seen by many of the shooting victims.

The arrest comes a week after police connected a dozen of nearly 20 highway shootings that date back to 2013. Authorities found a pattern of cars being hit near exit ramps or road splits. (Via KCTV)

Three people sustained non-life-threatening injuries before the last shooting was reported April 6. Chief Forte reiterated the suspect has not been charged and a name hasn't been released. Authorities plan to hold a news conference Friday to divulge more information.



New Jersey

Atlantic City police expand programs to reach out to the community


Atlantic City is putting police back in the Police Athletic League and a substation into one of the more troubled neighborhoods as part of a vast outreach planned to improve relations between the department and the community.

Police will sit down with residents Friday morning in the city's Westside for the first “Coffee with Cops.” It is one of several events meant to foster a partnership between the Police Department and residents. A version for students is “Pizza with Police.”

“These are things to gain the trust and a rapport with the community,” Police Chief Henry White said. “We need the community in order to prevent crime and also to help solve crime after it's occurred.”

In addition to the events, a long-discussed police substation will open in Stanley Holmes Village next month, at Kentucky and Adriatic avenues, White said. Officers on varying shifts will take over the former manager's officer after the complex's own security moves uptown.

The department-wide approach to community policing is being spearheaded by the five-officer Community Relations Unit, headed by Sgt. Monica McMenamin.

As officers went around with fliers announcing the Coffee with Cops, one resident noted, “Usually, when you guys are here, it's not good,” McMenamin said.

“We're trying to change that,” she told him.

Officers Bob Berg, David Hadley, Richard Hood and Kiyia Harris round out the Community Relations Unit, which will have an office in the PAL building.

“We're excited to have the police more involved with the PAL,” Executive Director Michael Bailey said.

Several officers want to sponsor kids to attend the PAL who can't afford it, along with mentoring them, McMenamin said.

Hadley — who used to head the PAL — said he wants to sponsor four or five children, and will challenge his co-workers to do the same.

“You're not going to get locked up,” Lamont Banks, 16, jokingly yelled as fellow 10th-grader Lamar Bruckler pushed Harris on a newly finished wooden go-cart the kids built from leftover deck wood of Recreation Department worker George Brown.

The teens said it was good to have the officers returning to the PAL.

“They get to know each other as people,” Bailey said.

Instead of fearing an officer, he said, a kid can point and say, “No, that's Officer Harris. She's my friend.”

The department hoped to have its Junior Police Academy held in the PAL building this summer, but the regularly planned program will already fill the area, so they are looking for somewhere else to hold the two, two-week sessions set to tentatively begin June 7.

Principals at the city's eight elementary schools will be recruited to choose fifth-graders that would likely do well in the program. Then, they will fill out applications, including writing an essay about why they want to join the academy.

Sitting down to lunch together earlier Thursday, the Community Relations Unit — minus Berg, who was working security for the mayor — ran off a list of upcoming events they hope to start, including track, a reading program and a baseball clinic hosted by Deputy Chief James Pasquale, who manages the Sand Sharks youth baseball team.

Hadley also said they are hoping to restart police trading cards, which were popular years ago. He still has a copy of his from about 20 years ago, which shows in his bio he had been on the force just 4½ years at the time.

“It's not work for me,” he said of his new assignment, which brings him back to the PAL where he worked for years. “It's different when it's a passion.”

The community policing will be part of everyone's work, White said. And, while the manpower will not allow for walking patrols, officers will be encouraged to park and walk on their beats.

The city is partnering with the Coalition for a Safe Community and the Atlantic City/Pleasantville Municipal Planning Board, which works to solve city problems from various angles.

“It's not just these programs we're doing with the young, it's our law enforcement agency partnering with the community and problem-solving,” White said. “The more trust the community has in us, the more confident they will be to share information and help us reduce crime in their neighborhoods.”



New York

Hell Square needs ‘broken bar' crackdown by police


Bill Bratton's return as commissioner of the New York Police Department brings with it his trademark “broken windows” policing policy. Bratton's strategy advocated for a hard-line approach on low-level crime and quality-of-life violations predicated on the belief that a “disorderly city is a dangerous city.”

The crack in Bratton's “broken window” strategy of the '90s is that this policy overwhelmingly targeted the poor and minorities — where a police record for petty crimes had such devastating long-term effects as risking housing and work eligibility among these groups. Now, in the Lower East Side's Hell Square, new-old Commissioner Bratton has a chance to fairly implement the “broken windows” style of policing that avoids the failures of past policy that may have disproportionately targeted minorities and the poor.

Currently, loitering and open containers in Hell Square is more lawful than in the Bronx or Bed-Stuy. A mere nine-block area, Hell Square is bounded by E. Houston, Essex, Delancey and Allen Sts. In this small section of New York, the city has created a destination playground for outsiders from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and college students to party and commit offenses that would get other New Yorkers ticketed in their own neighborhoods. The disparity in the implementation of the “broken window” policy — against the poor and minorities — should compel Bratton to address how lawless this section of the Lower East Side has become.

If “broken windows” are symbolic of unaccountability, then this is a community of “broken bars” with little-to-zero accountability. In the last five years, the escalation of low-level crimes in Hell Square — such as public urination, open containers (people drinking alcohol on the sidewalk and in public spaces), public intoxication, littering, verbal harassment, loitering, disorderly conduct, etc. — has increased discomfort and fear among neighborhood residents.

The accumulation of these incidents forces residents to retreat as a sense of neglect pervades the area. A reduction of community efficacy has resulted in more serious crime, such as grand larceny (often theft of personal electronics), felony assault (up 32 percent in the first quarter of 2014), drugs, vandalism, trespassing and violence, plus greater signs of incivility, perpetuating a spiral of neighborhood decay.

The rampant anti-social behavior resulting from high alcohol-outlet density in Hell Square demands a police policy shift from passive crowd control and traffic mitigation to active, real-time policing of crimes consistent with citywide policing of other neighborhoods.

To start fixing this community that is suffering “broken bar” neglect, we need to strictly enforce regulations against public urination and vomiting, open containers, public intoxication, littering, loitering, verbal harassment and disorderly conduct. Ticketing will send a message that the Lower East Side is no longer a place where negligent behavior is above the law.

Through hyper-focused concentration on enforcement centered around a zero-tolerance policy for minor offenses and disorderly behavior infractions, the negative impacts of alcohol saturation in this community can be significantly reduced. Moreover, police officers simultaneously must develop an understanding of which venues are the source of these issues, not just limit focus to the end result on the street. Once the root causes can be identified, responsible liquor license holders will be among the beneficiaries of a commercially and socially viable community.

Situating “broken windows” policing within the broader context behind community policing is the vision we see to help advance the changes necessary. The prevailing perception among residents is that we have been unable to exert any social control over our community, and seemingly have been left out of the process. And despite the strong police presence, enforcement is not addressing the immediate concerns and problems this community faces from high alcohol-outlet density at the hands of negligent operators and offenders.

Moreover, enforcement may not be familiar with the rules, regulations, stipulations or procedures needed to effectively address community concerns and safety, especially regarding particularly bad operators.

One solution is Bratton's “conscious uncoupling” with the '90s version of “broken windows” toward a modern implementation of the policy: one that emphasizes police integration into communities, developing trust and a working partnership between enforcement and residents to solve problems and crime. This approach will decrease the assumption by police that anyone in a particular area is a potential criminal. But at its base level, “broken windows” policing has to take a blanket approach toward all low-level crimes in all parts of the city, treating all offenders equally.

A strong relationship between residents and police officers is paramount to reversing the current course. We advocate for having officers that patrol the neighborhood get to know residents in order to help solve problems. Under the leadership of new commanding officer Joseph Simonetti at the Seventh Precinct, there is an opportunity for police and community collaboration to directly address immediate problems and persistent crimes, promoting a lawful environment for all members of this community.

Reliance on the city's 3-1-1 quality-of-life complaints hotline cannot substitute for the community policing needed in Hell Square. The 3-1-1 system separates the community from government agencies, delaying resolutions to nonemergency, yet urgent, problems. In this data-driven system, there is no accurate way to truly measure the needs of a community or hold government agencies and / or businesses accountable for resolving issues and conflicts. By redirecting the police focus toward community safety and quality-of-life infractions, any disconnect between data and actual conditions on the ground will be self-correcting.

Past strategies have failed, and trust in our governance has eroded. As liquor licenses ballooned, overtaking an entire community, low-level crime has become epidemic. Licensing without emphasis on strong and consistent enforcement is a recipe for the social disorder found in Hell Square. Reversing this community's blight will only succeed if residents and the local police precinct establish a trusting, working relationship.

We need the collective will and participation of these three parties — residents, all business owners and the police — with substantive support from the New York State Liquor Authority and our elected officials. By marrying “community policing” with “broken windows” policing, all of us working together — residents, responsible liquor license holders and non-alcohol businesses — can restore social order and create an opportunity for a sustainable future that allows for economic diversity and a livable community.

Boyd is founder, Lower East Side Dwellers



New York

Yonkers police face difficult, dangerous job

by Charles Gardner

A recent Journal News report would lead the average reader to believe that allegations made in lawsuits against members of the Yonkers Police Department are factual in nature, with little response from the department. This is not an accurate portrayal.

Police work in today's complicated world is a very difficult and dangerous profession. Officers are frequently called upon to engage in enforcement actions, often involving violent or emotionally disturbed individuals and sometimes requiring the use of physical force to maintain public safety. These types of encounters leave police vulnerable to allegations of misconduct and lawsuits against the department. It is important to note that allegations made in many of these lawsuits are ultimately found to be untrue; any implication of guilt of accused officers or lack of response by the department does not present a fair and balanced view.

In my opinion, multiple negative comments from attorneys representing plaintiffs in lawsuits against the department do not provide an objective account. The department is unable to comment on active litigation.

Although I am not at liberty to discuss specific personnel-related matters or comment on ongoing litigation against the department, I would like to provide another perspective on the matter.

Over the past several years the Yonkers Police Department has engaged in a number of programs and initiatives that have reduced citizen complaints, lawsuits, overall crime and improved our relationship with the community.

As indicated in the main article, community leaders acknowledge that "complaints have dropped and continue to drop." Citizen complaints have steadily decreased over the past three years, with excessive force complaints reduced from 25 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. That is a significantly low number for a department that responds to more than 120,000 calls for service and arrests over 6,000 people each year.

The article also reported that the payout per Yonkers officer, for legal matters related to misconduct cases, was low as compared to other area departments. As compared to 2012, lawsuits involving members of the department have fallen approximately 17 percent. The department is also in the process of improving our procedures for monitoring and tracking lawsuits filed against department members.

We continue to make strides in crime reduction with overall major crime in the city of Yonkers down 20 percent in the past two years and Yonkers remains one of the safest cities in the country as compared to cities of similar size and population.

We believe our diversified community policing efforts such as our youth police initiative, re-entry program, police community councils and expanded use of social media have contributed to the aforementioned reductions.

The progress we have made is due to the sacrifices, hard work and dedication of the men and women of this agency who, under very difficult conditions, continue to serve and provide quality police services to the people of Yonkers. We are a progressive, professional New York state-accredited police department made up of dedicated individuals who deserve our support. I am extremely proud of them and proud to be their commissioner.

The writer is commissioner of the Yonkers Police Department.


An April 6 Journal News report – "Behind the Badge: Abuse of Power?" – focused on a series of lawsuits claiming misconduct against two Yonkers Police Department officers.

The report included a main article, "Lawsuits: 2 Yonkers cops menace suspects, public," that detailed complaints against the officers. The report also documented the cost of police misconduct lawsuits, and provided summaries of 18 complaints against officers; half the cases were pending.




Yuba-Sutter Public Safety: Program for aging drivers

by Monica Vaughan

The California Highway Patrol will provide a program to address issues facing senior drivers, including gradual incremental effects on vision, flexibility and response times.

The Age Well Drive Smart program will address those issues and more to help older drivers drive safer and drive longer.

The event will be at Summerfield Senior Living, 1224 Plumas St., Yuba City, at 9 a.m. April 29.

Seniors, caretakers and families are encouraged to attend.

Call the Yuba Sutter area CHP to reserve a seat at 674-5141.



The Traffic Ticket Racket and Its Erosive Effect on Community Policing

by Lorraine Devon Wilke

I fought the law and the law didn't show up in traffic court the other day, so my case was summarily dismissed. Oh, happy day... sort of.

After paying the $367 fine up front, taking two days out of my life to show up, respectively, for my initial appearance then, months later, the court date, my case was dismissed because, as the judge announced from the bench, "the officer involved either has no recollection of the events or was unable to attend." I was then told I could expect my $367 back in eight weeks time and that was it -- debacle over. I was shuffled from the court house and left standing in the glaring sun of a now much brighter day and thought to myself: what a racket.

I am not generally a rabble-rouser. I believe in the law, in following (most) rules, showing respect for authority, being a responsible citizen, and practicing good manners. This has not always been easy, particularly during a trying era of my life when I came head-to-head with a darker side of police authority than I'd been previously aware ("Loudly Against the Language of Racism"). But once distanced from that era, and living a life that made me less a target in the eyes of police (read the piece; you'll get the reference), I reverted back to my more neutral/positive stance about law enforcement in general. I took note of the various successes in community policing efforts around the country, taught my son the importance of respecting authority (with hopes he retains that wisdom), and when I got my previous traffic ticket about 15 years ago (a "no left turn during certain hours" violation), I 'fessed to my infraction, paid my dues, and humbly did my time in traffic school. A good citizen.

Then came this ticket. Frankly, it was one of those events that give police a bad name: a chicken shit speed trap that's designed to raise money for the city and has little to do with actually protecting and serving its citizens or keeping its streets safe. I'm omitting the city's name -- less important than the point (it's in Los Angeles County) -- though I have a feeling this sort of civic pettiness goes on everywhere.

The speed trap? A cadre of motorcycle cops sits perched at the bottom of a wide and widely traveled street in this anonymous town, right where the speed limit abruptly drops from 45 to 35 mph, and just as drivers cross that boundary, and before they can fully reduce their speed by 10 miles (something only safely done with gradual braking), the police swoop down like leering crows, one by one, to pick off as many drivers as they can. At times I've driven by this trap and it looked like a convention was in town, so many cops and drivers off to the side of the road! But, of course, they're not there every day and you forget. So on the day of my vehicular ado, I was simply driving safely with the flow of traffic -- a few miles over the presumed 45 mph posted speed limit -- and it was only as we, the "flow of traffic" caravan, came into the speed change zone that I saw the convention in blue and, BAM, it was too late.

The young cop who pulled me over swaggered up to my car like a character from Reno 911 and made it immediately clear how this was going to go. Unwilling to entertain any discussion of the entrapping nature of the... trap (of course, being a wise woman with a grasp of "trigger words" I did not actually use the words "entrapment" or "speed trap"), he proceeded to whip out his ticket book whilst giving me an unnecessary lecture on safe driving (I'm a very safe driver; just ask my friends!). When I asked (pleaded) if he could just issue a warning ticket, hoping to tap into his inner good cop, the conversation when something like this:

Police (sneering): Right. And what do you think my captain would do if I showed up without issuing you a ticket?

Me (hopefully): Um...maybe think you're a considerate cop?

Police: Naw, you need to take responsibility for your criminal actions.

Me (edge creeping into my voice): Criminal actions!?

Given that it was the end of the month, as well as the comment about his captain's expectations, I suspect there was a quota issue at play, but adding in the hyperbole of "criminal actions," there was no doubt I was going down and down I went, to the tune of $367. The mitigating circumstances of this particular ticket -- as opposed to the clear-cut nature of the last -- convinced me before I pulled away from the curb, watching in the rearview mirror as my guy and his buddies-in-blue ambushed other unsuspecting drivers, that I was going to fight this one. The code he cited makes no mention of speed limit (only the safety of driving conditions) and since I could prove my verifiable compliance with the listed safety items (weather, visibility, condition of road, etc.), I felt confident of my case but, damn, it was time-consuming! And it was during the months involved that I came to hear from so many others about their similar, often petty, sometimes wholly unnecessary, and always very expensive run-ins with traffic cops.

It came up in conversations -- in stores, at the hair place, while waiting in line -- the countless examples of average citizens pulled over for traffic violations that seemed picayune and punitive, particularly in comparison to the unlimited supply of authentically bad drivers whipping around at 90 mph, road-raging through lane changes, texting madly while driving through intersections, all with not a cop to be found. The types of violations I heard about were, instead, decidedly minor ones: the college student ticketed for not holding her stop long enough; the mother who pulled from a freeway exit into the wrong lane because of a stalled car in front of her; the young hairdresser who was badgered and bullied by cops after being stopped at the same speed trap I was and having an unpaid parking ticket (they actually impounded her car). In fact, after posting about my experience on social media, I heard from more people than will likely read this article, with the winning anecdote coming from a woman who got a ticket for a broken taillight despite the fact that the cop could see her car had just been seriously vandalized (smashed windshield, broken locks, side window gone). She put months into fighting the ticket and her cop didn't show up either. Small, time-wasting victories, these.

Whether or not lower income people are disproportionately impacted by traffic tickets (as was suggested to me by some), the way the system is rigged is punitive to everyone. You are given a ticket and expected to show up to sign in and plead (this can take hours), but even if you plead "not guilty" and are prepared to fight your case in court (which no one does unless they authentically believe they have good case), you are obligated to pay the fine upfront, which clearly flies in the face of "not guilty" logic. Then that money sits in the city's coffers for what could be up to a year with postponements, giving them a hefty interest income while you're out your hard-earned dollars. To add insult to injury, even if you win or your case is dismissed they give themselves eight more weeks of interest income before refunding your fine. Imagine the millions... it's a racket, I tell ya, a racket!

When I grumbled about this to the teller taking my money, he just shrugged and said, "It's the law. You don't like it, change the law." Good idea. Because when a college student taking care of her grandmother and working a job while she goes to nursing school has to ask for community service because she simply can't afford to pay upfront the ridiculous cost of a ticket to which she's pleading not guilty, there is something seriously cold-blooded about the system.

But beyond the money angle, the, perhaps, bigger, more consequential issue is how all this petty policing is impacting the community's view of their law enforcement personnel. At a time when mayors and police chiefs are giving press conferences to announce larger, hopefully more compassionate police forces out there connecting and collaborating with neighborhoods and local citizens to reduce crime and raise affinity between the two factions, how does a cabal of snarky young cops on motorcycles ticketing drivers at a speed change point create good will? How does bullying and terrorizing a scared young girl with an outstanding parking ticket engender positive perspective? How does picking off average drivers making minor mistakes for mitigating reasons inspire a sense of rapport with local police? The fact is, it doesn't.

What it does do is create a metastasizing pool of largely unspoken resentment towards those we should respect and look to for protection and service. It makes citizens angry and mistrusting of the police. It creates a climate in which average, every day people (i.e., not criminals) begin to view law enforcement as an arbitrary, sometimes illogical, too often punitive force that appears to care little about the impact they have on good people leading good lives despite the occasional lapse in traffic protocol.

As I sat in the courtroom prior to the dismissal of my case, I took note of the three officers there to defend their tickets. While the beleaguered ticketed, people who'd taken time off work, time from families, just time , sat tense and silent, the three in blue were off to the side laughing, giggling, heads together chattering about one thing or another. I was struck by the disparity of tone. I would have had much more respect for them if they'd sat waiting as quietly and courteously as we all were.

There are two things that need attention here: one; the laws regarding holding the money of ticketed citizens need to be amended (no one pleading "not guilty" and going to court should have to pay the fine upfront OR post-win/dismissal, money should be refunded immediately), and, two; the the traffic divisions of police departments, likely everywhere, need in-service programs to teach the following:

1. Sensitivity training in how to deal with those they choose to stop and ticket: The swaggering, bullying tactics too often employed are deeply counterproductive. The cop sets the tone: he's respectful, the driver will generally remain respectful.

2. Better practices regarding how, why and when to give tickets: Traps set at speed reduction points are just obnoxious and transparently petty.

3. A clear reason and purpose to actually give a ticket: It was only last December that the Los Angeles Police Department settled traffic ticket quota lawsuits for $6 million. Clearly citizens (whose taxes paid that settlement) are paying attention.

I know - most people know - that being a cop anywhere, particularly in a big city, is a profoundly difficult and dangerous job, one that demands tremendous courage and taxes the emotional stamina, faith, and compassion of almost anyone doing the job. I've known several cops personally and the erosion of good will they come to after years of dealing with the very worst of humanity is real and very understandable. But still...

There is also the completely avoidable erosion of good will toward cops. Most people driving cars on the streets of any city or town are simply decent folk living their lives: trying to get to work, pick up their kids from school, take their girl to a movie; bring groceries home from the store. They're not "criminals" and they're not out to consciously break a law. If you are going to stop them, dear traffic cop, for being a few miles over the speed limit, for not holding their stop long enough, or making some other move you think was misguided, do so like a thinking, feeling professional. Don't bully them, don't terrify them, don't be compelled by quotas, and don't issue the ticket if ultimately you feel a compassionate urge not to. While you can't do much about the ridiculous money racket end of this industry, you can change the way in which the process is conducted. Your tone, actions, and good sense can go a long way toward building and sustaining good will in the community, rather than eroding it. This is a form of community policing that should be just as encouraged and applauded by mayors and police chiefs as any other kind. In fact, they might be surprised to discover just how much the traffic division impacts the attitudes of citizens toward their police.




USC scholarship supports community policing in LAPD

Four officers receive a newly established award

by Andrea Bennett

Alma Burke, a Los Angeles Police Department homicide investigator and supervisor, said she found her calling after spending her youth defending her brothers against crime on the way to school in Santa Ana, Calif.

“It was always unpredictable, and we never knew who was going to go after us for money,” Burke recalled. “It was then that I knew that I wanted to be a police officer, and protect others and remove the fears of a child.”

Part of the community

In her 18 years of service with the LAPD since then, Burke has taken the interests and needs of the community to heart.

“Community-based policing is not just a buzzword; it's a way of life.”

It is this commitment to the community that helped Burke earn a newly established scholarship for the USC Executive Master of Leadership (EML) program, which emphasizes leadership skills that foster inclusion and collaboration.

Four local officers are the first recipients of the USC-LAPD Scholarship, which is awarded to officers who demonstrate a commitment to community-based policing.

The scholarship provides half the tuition for the EML program at the USC Price School of Public Policy. About a third of the EML students are in public service, a third in the private sector and a third in nonprofit organizations.

Now in its seventh year, the EML is already recognized internationally as one of the outstanding graduate degree programs in leadership.

Bob Denhardt, professor and director of the program, noted that the new scholarship fund will “help to develop advanced leadership capabilities among the university's partners in law enforcement as it does in many other fields.”

The university established the scholarship this year in appreciation of the LAPD and in recognition of the department's long history working alongside the university to ensure safety in the neighborhoods surrounding USC.

Positive interactions

Officer Jackie Orellana, another scholarship recipient, said she has already seen a shift in how she perceives her work in the gang and narcotics division since she started the program at USC.

“I used to have a narrow, myopic mindset that ‘I'm just a cop,' but now I evaluate things more broadly and see myself within the organization,” she said. “It changes the dynamics of those I work with and the way I behave.”

A single mother of four, Orellana, like Burke, gravitated toward law enforcement at an early age.

“I grew up at 6th and Alvarado, which was a low-income, high-crime area, and there were negative views of police there,” she recalled. “But I had very positive interactions with police and knew that was what I would do someday. As police, we have to build trust with the community.”

Burke said her community-based approach was put to the test when she led the team of detectives that solved the senseless killing of two USC graduate students in 2012. She called the apprehension of those responsible “the most gratifying moment of my career.”

Orellana said the scholarship builds upon the partnership and mutual appreciation between USC and the LAPD. It will also create more community-minded leaders on the force.

“I am part of a larger community that will continue to serve USC students as a whole by continuing my education. By allowing officers to have this scholarship to pursue this degree, USC is changing the way they do police work and how they interact with the community,” she said.




Greenfield Police Department: 'Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety'

by Conor Berry

GREENFIELD — They say offensive linemen are the NFL's unsung heroes, the players who keep quarterbacks safe while going largely unrecognized themselves.

The same could be said of police dispatchers, the behind-the-scenes players who ensure the safety of the region's men and women in blue. And the Greenfield Police Department is saying just that: "Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety."

These civilian employees provide the lifeline or bridge connecting crime victims to police officers, the "kind voice in the middle of the night" during medical calls and "the calm voice of reason" during times of crisis, according to a Facebook post by Greenfield police, who aim to ensure that dispatchers get the respect they deserve.

The recognition comes during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which runs from April 13-19 and is a chance to thank dispatchers for the help they provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Telecommunications personnel who work in the public safety field are honored annually during the second week of April. The week-long recognition period provides a window to "celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public," says APCO International, the world's oldest and largest organization of public safety communications professionals.

Dispatchers may not confront armed suspects or enter burning buildings, "but the difficulty of their profession is profound," according to Greenfield police officials. "Dispatchers are expected to know everything, see the future, and provide instant access to information, with 100% accuracy, all from a darkened room sitting in front of computer screens and talking to voices that belong to faces they will never see," the post goes on to say.

Greenfield police officials tell students of the department's annual Citizen Police Academy that "dispatching is the most difficult public safety job there is – and it's not even a job, it's a calling."

Just down the road in Deerfield, police officials are also recognizing the good work of dispatchers.

"The members of the Deerfield Police Department would like to recognize the dispatchers at Shelburne Control and all the local dispatch centers that we regularly interact with," says a post on the department's Facebook page. "They are a major player in everything that we do to serve and protect the Town of Deerfield and its inhabitants."

In Springfield, there are more than two dozen police dispatchers who work for the city, home to the region's biggest and busiest police force.




Ohio introduces public safety app for smartphones

April 12--As the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing approaches it is important to emphasize the public's critical role in solving that case.

Tips from the public in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing led to the arrest in that horrific incident. To that end, the Ohio Homeland Security has released the new Safer Ohio Phone App, which includes the "See Something, Send Something" feature, to further engage the public in contributing to a safer Ohio.

The new app is being released in time for potential use with the numerous spring and summer large-scale events across Ohio beginning this month. By using this function the general public is able to report suspicious information or activity and send photos to Ohio Homeland Security analysts. The application is available at no cost on both Android and Apple devices.

"The public's reporting of suspicious activity is one of our best defenses against terrorist threats and our greatest resource to building resilience," said Director John Born, Ohio Department of Public Safety. "An aware and engaged public that understands what constitutes unusual and suspicious behavior is essential to protecting our communities. And this function of the application gives citizens one more way to share this vital information."

The application provider, My Mobile Witness, uses patent-pending privacy protection software for safeguarding the integrity of tips and citizen's personal information. The system allows law enforcement or Ohio Homeland Security analysts to engage citizens without tracking one's location or storing personal information. Submitted tips are immediately removed from the mobile device and purged from the My Mobile Witness system once delivered to Ohio Homeland Security for analysis.

A tutorial illustrating the application can be viewed HERE.

As always tips can be submitted to Ohio Homeland Security at 1-877-OHS-INTEL or for emergencies, call 911.



New York

Was It Justice or Politics That Killled NYPD Muslim Spy Unit?

An NYPD unit tasked with spying on the city's Muslims was publicly killed Tuesday, just days after a legal ruling that upheld its legal basis. So what gives?

New York is the country's largest city and one of its most progressive but since 2001 it's also been at the forefront of some of the most aggressive and controversial anti-terrorism tactics. Yesterday, city officials announced the end of one of those major tactics: targeted spying on Muslim communities.

But there's some strange timing going on here. For one thing, New York's liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio was in favor of the surveillance program before he was against it. Then, there's the fact that the decision to end the spying program comes just days after the Justice Department ruled that it was a legal practice. More on that in a bit, first some background on the program itself.

Officially, the spying was done under the auspices of the NYPD's “Zone Assessment Unit.” Muslims in New York City saw their mosques, restaurants and, in some cases, student associations infiltrated by undercover NYPD officials and confidential informants who took notes on overheard conversations, television programs that were playing, nationality of store owners and customers, and anything else that NYPD officials thought gave them a flavor for what was happening in the city's cloistered immigrant communities that catered to Muslims from the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

The Associated Press first reported on NYPD spying in 2011, in a series of articles that later were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. The series culminated in a 2013 book by those reporters, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, arguing that the labor-intensive and intrusive tactics were also not effective.

Justin Elliott at Pro Publica also questioned the NYPD's claims that its anti-terrorism tactics helped ward off more than a dozen terrorist plots, as was claimed by police officials. Setting aside that debate, the politics of ending what critics called “muslim spying” weren't as easy or palatable in New York City as observers might think. As Michael Powell noted in an unrelated television interview, New York City is progressive … as long as everything is functioning.

But the criticisms made of the spying program weren't heeded by the Justice Department when it reviewed racial profiling rules for a similar FBI program that used ethnic mapping to focus intelligence and recruit informants. According to the Daily News , the Justice Department's ruling, “should once and for all settle the debate about whether what's been wrongly labeled “Muslim surveillance” should continue under Bill Bratton.” Just days after its legality was upheld by Attorney General Eric Holder that surveillance program is being publicy buried, so what gives. As usual in New York, this is about politics.

Bill de Blasio's meteoric rise from fourth to first place in last year's mayoral race was predicated on a few simple facts: addressing New York's out of control income inequality (who doesn't want someone richer than them to pay a little more?) and, electing someone as far away as possible from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who earned a lot of resentment from New Yorkers after extending term limits to stay in office.

De Blasio took office with a progressive mandate and promises to reform New York law enforcement policies and make them more responsive to minority concerns. But the public safety issue de Blasio focused on wasn't Muslim spying. It was the controversial stop-and-frisk tactic. The reasons was simple, stop-and-frisk was the high profile cause that grabbed headlines. Regular reporting on frisking was required under city law; professors had reams of data to study and analyze; and local lawmakers from majority-minority districts had countless constituents who were the victims of this policy. And in a Democratic primary, those constituents would make up a decisive number of votes.

The targets of Muslim spying had much less ammunition at their disposal. There was hardly any data to analyze — the surveillance programs were, by design, kept from public disclosure. Most information gleaned about the program came from leaks, primarily to Apuzzo and Goldman. Politically, Muslims were a fraction of the voting bloc in New York, and had no real recognizable spokesperson. The only Muslim elected official in New York City — Councilman Robert Jackson of Harlem — questioned the program, but hardly made a sustained effort to be seen as the face of its opposition.

De Blasio himself initially backed the NYPD as the first wave of Associated Press stories were published. In April 2013, de Blasio told me “I spent a lot of time with Commissioner Kelly reviewing the situation. I came to the conclusion that the NYPD had handled it in a legal and appropriate manner with the right checks and balances.” He also said he wanted to “constantly monitor” them to make sure “it was done right.”

By October, after more AP stories, de Blasio was standing in front of “Muslims for de Blasio,” and publicly distinguishing between his policies and Ray Kelly's, telling reporters that spying would have to be based on “specific leads” and not done “on a wholesale basis.”

When de Blasio appointed Bill Bratton as the city's police commissioner, he might as well have announced the end of Kellys' surveillance program too.

After the AP stories first appeared in 2011, Kelly defended the program as necessary and accused the outlet of inaccuracies and biases and, later, ginning up stories to promote their forthcoming book. No corrections were ever run. The series won a Pulitzer Prize. (And, in an ironic twist, the Rupert Murdoch-owned TV operation b ought the rights to the book, despite the vicious attacks it got on the editorial pages of a Rupert Murdoch-owned paper.)

Years earlier, Bratton had his own short-lived Muslim controversy but he handled it very differently than Kelly did. To observers, he began to look like the opposite of Ray Kelly.

In 2007, as police commissioner in Los Angeles, Bratton sent Michael Downing, the LAPD's commanding officer for Counterterrorism and Special Operations, to testify at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. Downing said, “We probably have over 700,000 American Muslims throughout the Los Angeles region but we don't really know where they live, or what they do or how they're structured” and “We have great outreach and we've got great relationships, but the idea here is to actually map out, to find out where the Pakistani Muslims live, the Somalians, the Chechnyans, the Jordanians.”

Sixteen days later, Bratton held a press conference to announce there would be no mapping.

He said “it would have required shared cooperation between the Department and members of the Muslim community” and, to the surprise of no one, that cooperation simply wasn't forthcoming. At the time, Bratton sought to ameliorate the tension between the LAPD and Muslims. At a private meeting, he assured them that the LAPD would be their partner, not their antagonist. According to one attendee, Bratton told them, “We will never do anything to the Muslim community, we will only do things with the Muslim community.”





Community policing with a twist

Community policing can take on all sorts of forms, from the assignment of a resource officer to Gloucester High School to the popular citizen police academy programs that are now in their third editions under Chief Leonard Campanello and Lt. John McCarthy.

But the idea of community policing, or Police Department outreach, will take on yet another format tonight, when Campanello and other officers participate in a “Tip-a-Cop” benefit for Massachusetts Special Olympics that runs from 5 to 10 p.m. at Giuseppe's restaurant at the west end of Main Street.

The primary benefactor, of course, will be Special Olympics, which will reap the donations from diners' tips for the participating officers' service. But more subtle gains should also come through the opportunity for the officers, including the chief, to interact with residents in a comfortable, informal social setting — and vice versa.

The benefit event will include more than dining and conversation. Musical guests will include local singer-songwriter Allen Estes, and an anticipated, yet-to-be-named trio that threatened to steal the show at last September's Downtown Block Party. That's right, with Giuseppe's own Joe Thomas on keyboards and City Councilor Greg Verga on bass, Campanello is expected to reprise his role of belting out a few Bruce Springsteen songs — for the right benefit tips, of course.

All of this should indeed provide some lively entertainment, and it's for a good cause. But it also offers residents a chance to get to see and know their police officers, and their chief, in a different light.

Let's hope this event draws the support it deserves — and you might like the music.




Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith Says 1st "Call-In" Showed Promise In Halting Violence

by Hollie Webb

Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith spoke about the Violence Reduction Initiative to the Chattanooga Kiwanis Club, saying during the first "call in" of 13 young Chattanooga men with violent records, a mother of a shooting victim pleaded with them to stop the violence.

The men were called in as a part of Mayor Andy Berke's initiative to greatly reduce violent crime. They were asked to listen to police and community leaders speak.

These particular young men were selected after studying two years of data; it was discovered that the same names were connected to much of the crime and that only a few people were actually driving the violence.

Mr. Smith, a former principal of Howard High School, said at first some of the men thought it was a trick.

However, he said, "At the call in, the message that the young men heard was simply 'Stop the shooting.'"

He continued, "They heard from Brenda Johnson, a lady who had lost her child to this violence...She said, 'I don't know who killed my son, it could have been one of you, but I forgive whoever killed my son. Just don't let another mother go through this.'"

Mr. Smith said the room became "so quiet you could hear a pin drop."

He said the men were also shown a power point regarding the police investigation of the shooting death of another young man, Deontrey Southers. He was only 13 years old when he was killed by members of a gang shooting into his home with AK-47s. Mr. Smith said the gang members had intended to shoot his mother's boyfriend.

Police showed these young men that because of the data collected for the VRI, every member of the gang involved had been arrested. Mr. Smith said, "We took all of them off the street, all will be serving federal time."

Mr. Smith said, "We told them, 'We want to help you. We want you to stay safe, alive, and out of prison, but you have to stop the shooting.'" He said these men would be offered help in getting GEDs and job training.

At the end of the presentations, Mr. Smith said he had never seen anything like what happened next. He said, "All 13 men stayed to talk with the mayor and community folks."

He said, "Guys were saying one after the other, 'I didn't know the community even cared about me.'"

He also said all of the 13 had done "their best to walk away from what they were doing."

Founder and CEO of A Better Tomorrow, Inc. Richard Bennett also spoke, saying his organization was an outreach program for at-risk youth.

Mr. Bennett said, "Long after any administration leaves Chattanooga, A Better Tomorrow will still be here."

He said out of the 312 children and juveniles mentored through his program who were already repeat offenders, none of them went back through the system.

Mr. Bennett described his past as a former gang member himself, saying it was only starting a relationship with God that allowed him to change.

He said, "I don't mind giving my testimony because the pain of that testimony makes you who you are today."

He also pointed out that people are often scared of those different than them. He said, "We have people fearful of things they don't know...We're afraid of the perception of those people. But once you meet some of those people, you'll meet some awesome people."

He said many people saw clothing or hairstyles such as dreads and were immediately nervous, but that talking to people with "a different perception" could "change your life."

He said, "I'm looking for you all to hear us and get involved in any capacity God tells you to do."



South Carolina

Boy, 5, shoots, kills girl, 7, at birthday party thinking it was toy gun: Kids with guns

by John Luciew

By all accounts it was yet another tragic accident involving children with firearms. In this case, coming from Gaston, S.C., the setting was a weekend birthday party.

A five-year-old boy got permission from his mother to get his toy gun from the trunk of a car to play with. No one seemed to know that a real, loaded gun also was in the trunk.

The boy accidentally shot and killed a seven-year-old girl while trying to get his toy gun from the car. The real gun belonged to the boyfriend of the boy's mother. The boy is believed to have touched the trigger of the loaded weapon while it was still in the trunk. All this, according to the Associated Press.

After the gun went off, the bullet passed through the car and hit the girl in the chest. Fragments from the shot hit another 5-year-old boy in the arm.

Both injured children were taken to a local hospital. The girl was declared dead. The boy's injury is not life-threatening, police said. The deceased victim has been identified as Juliet Lynch, according to published reports.

"When he was fooling around trying to get his toy gun out, he accidentally pulled the trigger of the real gun while it was in the trunk," said Lexington County Sheriff James Metts.

"They took somebody from me that was so precious. That little girl came in my room, always slept with her momma, she loved me and I loved her," Lynch's mother was quoted as saying by WLTX-TV.

Background according to Business Standard:

This is the latest incident involving children who accidentally shoot someone or die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Earlier this month, a two-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 11-year-old sister while playing with a handgun in Philadelphia.

In October last year, a babysitter in Vidor, Texas, was charged after a five-year-old toddler she was looking after fatally shot himself with her gun.

And once again we must ask, how can these senseless tragedies involving kids with guns be prevented?




Instructor: Texting-and-driving simulator key to improving public safety

by Hannah Sawyer

Eighty percent of all crashes involve distracted driving

Distracted driving is nothing new. Patrick Sheehy once drove off a cliff while adjusting his radio.

He survived, but it taught him a lesson about how dangerous operating a vehicle can be.

Eighty percent of all crashes involve distracted driving, Sheehy, now a team leader for Unite's Arrive Alive Tour, said. And increasingly, the distraction is caused by cellphones.

The Arrive Alive Tour visited Penn State York, and gave students a chance to try a texting-and-driving and drunken-driving simulator. A health and wellness organization, Unite offers driver education courses at high schools and colleges across the U.S., Sheehy said.

About five years ago, the Arrive Alive Tour added the texting-and-driving simulator to address a growing public safety crisis, he said. Thirteen teenagers die every day in texting-related crashes and officials now consider it a bigger hazard than drinking and driving.

On Tuesday, Travis Hamberger, 21 and a sophomore, tried to type a message while driving a Jeep that was hooked up to a computer simulator program. Before he was able to hit send, he struck a pedestrian, which would have meant a mandatory 10-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter had it actually happened.

"It definitely changed my perspective," Hamberger said. Using your phone requires you to constantly take yours eyes off the road.

Simulator programs are essential to making drivers understand the impact that impaired and distracted driving has on their ability to operate a vehicle safely, Sheehy said.

"People don't like to be told what to do, but if you get to experience it yourself," he said, "I think it's extremely effective."



From the FBI

Advice for U.S. College Students Abroad -- Be Aware of Foreign Intelligence Threat

Three years ago, Glenn Duffie Shriver, a Michigan resident and former college student who had studied in the People's Republic of China (PRC), was sentenced to federal prison in the U.S. for attempting to provide national defense information to PRC intelligence officers. (See sidebar for more on the case.)

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 280,000 American students studied abroad last year. These experiences provide students with tremendous cultural opportunities and can equip them with specialized language, technical, and leadership skills that make them very marketable to U.S. private industry and government employers.

But this same marketability makes these students tempting and vulnerable targets for recruitment by foreign intelligence officers whose long-term goal is to gain access to sensitive or classified U.S. information. Glenn Shriver—prodded by foreign intelligence officers into eventually applying for U.S. government jobs—cited his naivety as a key factor in his actions.

The FBI—as the lead counterintelligence agency in the U.S.—has ramped up efforts to educate American university students preparing to study abroad about the dangers of knowingly or unknowingly getting caught up in espionage activities. As part of these efforts, we're making available on this website our Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story video, which dramatizes the incremental steps taken by intelligence officers to recruit Shriver and convince him to apply for jobs with the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. We'd like American students traveling overseas to view this video before leaving the U.S. so they're able to recognize when they're being targeted and/or recruited.

How do foreign intelligence officers routinely interact with students?

•  Foreign intelligence officers don't normally say they work for intelligence services when developing relationships with students—they claim other lines of work.

•  Intelligence officers develop initial relationships with students under seemingly innocuous pretexts such as job or internship opportunities, paid paper-writing engagements, language exchanges, and cultural immersion programs.

•  As relationships are developed, the student might be asked to perform a task and provide information—not necessarily sensitive or classified—in exchange for payment or other rewards, but these demands grow over time.

•  Intelligence officers might suggest that students—upon completion of their schooling—apply for U.S. government jobs (particularly for national security-related agencies).

What can students to protect themselves while studying abroad?

•  Be skeptical of “money-for-nothing” offers and other opportunities that seem too good to be true, and be cautious of being offered free favors, especially those involving government processes such as obtaining visas, residence permits, and work papers.

•  Minimize personal information you reveal about yourself, especially through social media.

•  Minimize your contact with people who have questionable government affiliations or who you suspect might be engaged in criminal activity.

•  Properly report any money or compensation you received while abroad on tax forms and other financial disclosure documents to ensure compliance with U.S. laws.

Above all, keep your awareness level up at all times. “A keen awareness,” said Glenn Duffie Shriver in a warning to other students, “is the most powerful weapon [against being recruited].”

And when you return to the U.S., report any suspicious activity to your local FBI office . You can also contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate while abroad.



Sub Being Deployed in Flight 370 Search


Search crews have stopped seeking “pinger” signals in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, instead deploying an underwater vessel to the southern Indian Ocean in a process officials describe as painstakingly slow.

Angus Houston, retired Australian air chief marshal, who is head of the joint agency coordinating the search for the missing jetliner, discussed the updates at a news conference today. Houston said the Bluefin-21 will be deployed, creating a sonar map of the area to chart any debris on the sea floor.

Crews had picked up a series of underwater sounds in the past two weeks that were consistent with an aircraft's black boxes. But the black box pingers only have battery life for about a month, and given the plane's March 8 disappearance, officials believe too much time has passed for any new signals.

"We haven't had a single detection in six days, and I guess it's time to go under water," Houston said.

Officials are hoping to find the black boxes in order to understand what happened to the jetliner, which disappeared with 239 people on board.

Houston warned that the switch to the submarine remains a slow process. The Bluefin-21 will take 24 hours to do each mission, including two hours to dive, 16 hours to search the bottom, then two more hours back up and four hours to download data.

Additionally, the sub will need up to two months to canvass the latest underwater zone. The deepest the sub can dive is 15,000 feet , the depth from which the signals were coming.

Search crews will continue scouring the area for visual debris, with 12 planes and 15 ships involved in today's efforts.




Man arrested in Kansas Jewish community shootings reportedly longtime Ku Klux Klan leader

by Lindsey Bever

The 73-year-old man accused of going on a deadly shooting spree Sunday at Jewish facilities in Kansas has been identified as a former ‘grand dragon' of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The shootings took the lives of three people before he was arrested.

Two of those shot were at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. The other was at the Village Shalom Retirement Center. Both are located in Overland Park, Kan., south of Kansas City.

The shootings occurred about 1 p.m. central time a day before Passover, the eight-day holiday in which Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery in Egypt.

The Kansas City Star said that the gunman fired at five people Sunday afternoon, but he missed two of his targets, who were not injured. Police said the man had not only a shotgun but also a handgun and possibly an assault weapon.

According to the Star:

Matt Davis, who lives near Valley Park Elementary where police arrested Miller, was shopping with his son for a suit for his upcoming bar mitzvah when he heard about the shooting. Davis was outside the school when Miller was hauled off.

The man was smiling.

‘I was wondering, Why is the guy smiling when he's being arrested,' said Davis, whose daughter was inside the Jewish Community Center when the shooting occurred in the parking lot. She and the hundreds of other people inside the center were not injured.

Rabbi Herbert Mandl, chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, told CNN that the shooter was shouting neo-Nazi slogans as he was taken away. Mandl also said he was asking people whether they were Jewish before he fired. And KCTV reported he was yelling “Heil Hitler” during the arrest.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a respected activist organization that tracks hate crimes and racist activities, said the man arrested and identified by police as Frazier Glenn Cross is actually Frazier Glenn Miller. Miller, the SPLC said, founded and ran the Carolina Klan before he was sued by the SPLC “for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans.”

He later founded another Klan outfit, the White Patriot Party, which put him in violation of the terms that settled the suit brought by the SPLC. He was found in criminal contempt in 1986 and served six months in prison. He moved underground while out on bond and was caught in Missouri with other Klansmen with a reserve of weapons, the SPLC stated.

The next year, he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge. He was indicted for plotting to obtain stolen military weapons, and for planning robberies and the assassination of the SPLC founder Morris Dees. As part of a plea deal, he testified against other Klan leaders and received a five-year sentence. He served only three years, the SPLC stated.

In 2010, Miller ran for the U.S. Senate, and in 2006, he ran for the U.S. House, inciting fear among voters when his ads urged whites to “take the country back” from Jews and “mud people,” according to news reports.

Frazier Glenn Cross was booked into the Johnson County jail after 8:30 p.m. Sunday on suspicion of premeditated first-degree murder, according to the booking report.

A public records search shows he has used both names. And in a statement released Sunday night, the SPLC said it was able to identify Cross as Miller after a telephone conversation with his wife, Marge. She told the SPLC Miller had gone to a local casino Saturday afternoon. He called Sunday to tell her his winnings were up.

Police went to her home Sunday night to tell her Miller was arrested for the shootings.

Miller is a longtime anti-Semite. His Web site, with the headline, “Hey Whitey, Why Don't You And Your Friends Build Your Own White Club? It's Not Against The Law To Be White, Yet,” features photos of “white power” marches and radio interviews.

During a segment on an African American radio talk show, he told the host: “I just started [Carolina Knights] with three men … and by the time they threw me in prison six years later, I had built the largest white activist organization in the United States with over 5,000 strong.”

According to the SPLC, Miller claimed he read his first racist newspaper, called The Thunderbolt, in the 1970s. According to Miller, within two minutes, he knew he “had found a home within the American White Movement. I was ecstatic,” the SPLC reported.

Family members of two of the three people killed in Sunday's shootings have identified them.

Will Corporon issued a statement saying his father, Dr. William Lewis Corporan, and nephew, 14-year-old Reat Griffin Underwood, were killed outside the community center in Overland Park, The Associated Press reported. Both victims were Christian.

Police haven't released the name of a woman or girl who was killed minutes later in an attack at a Jewish retirement community a few blocks away.

“I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation,” President Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “While we do not know all of the details surrounding today's shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking.”




‘Bully' suffers jeers, name-calling himself

by Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND — An Ohio man sentenced by a judge to spend yesterday wearing a sign reading “I AM A BULLY” at a busy suburban Cleveland intersection was greeted by a boisterous stream of honking car horns, jeers and insults.

Edmond Aviv, 62, clad in a hat and dark sunglasses, sat slumped in a green plastic chair holding the cardboard sign that is punishment for his treatment of a neighbor, whose husband suffers from dementia, and her seven children, several of whom have disabilities and use wheelchairs.

His sign reads: “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.”

Among the many people who stopped to see Aviv serve his sentence was Alex Simmons, 21, a former neighbor who said Aviv would call out racial slurs to people passing by.

“Parents told us to stay away from the house. He would just stand on the porch and just call us names,” Simmons said, adding, “Justice had been served.”

Aviv was accused of calling the neighbor, Sandra Prugh, “Monkey Mama” as she held her adopted, disabled African-American children and of smearing dog feces on their wheelchair ramp.

The harassment went on for 15 years in the Cleveland suburb of South Euclid, Prugh said in court documents.

Aviv pleaded no contest to fourth-degree disorderly conduct in March. South Euclid Municipal Judge Gayle Williams-Byers sentenced him to spend five hours yesterday wearing a placard that must be readable from 25 feet away.

The judge also sentenced Aviv to 15 days in jail, seven months' probation, 100 hours of community service, anger-management classes and mental-health counseling, according to court records.

A probation officer was on hand yesterday to protect Aviv and make sure he served out his sentence.

“I didn't do this,” Aviv said to a reporter who asked if he was sorry.

As he spoke, someone in a passing car yelled an insult at Aviv.

Prugh said Aviv has spit on her, tried to run down her wheelchair-bound daughters and directed spotlights at her windows at night, according to court documents.

Last year, authorities discovered Aviv had cut a hole in his garage wall and was using a fan to blow kerosene fumes into Prugh's back yard.

Aviv must also publish a letter of apology to Prugh in a local newspaper.




Block watches help keep eyes on the neighborhood

Block watch leaders hope to spread program

by Nick Bechtel

MARION — Community leaders are hoping to fight what they believe is an increase in crime within the city by encouraging the creation of more block watches.

Pat Akers, an active participant in the Citizen's Police Academy Alumni Association, said she would like to start more watches like the one in her neighborhood

“We need some block watches in Fairpark,” she said. “We want to get more started.”

Pat's husband, Mike, described the program as a more general “know your neighbor” type of setting.

“We have a lot of people here in town that live on a block all their lives, and they don't have any idea who lives next door,” he said.

He said he once saw an ATV stolen out of a neighbor's yard in broad daylight.

“The neighbors watched it and said nothing,” he said.

He said most of the thieves in their area are “snatch and grab” types.

Lisa Powell, a neighbor to the Akers, said she saw an increase of alleged drug activity, vandalism and thefts from vehicles occurring in her area about a year and a half ago. She now serves as captain of a block watch that covers Grand, Uhler and Seffner avenues. About 100 homes are involved in the the watch, which she calls the GUS Watch.

“Another lady had started things, and she moved out in the late fall,” she said. “It had kind of died off, and we wanted to resurrect it to keep the neighborhood aware of what was going on.”

Powell said the group meets once a month and releases a monthly newsletter to keep the public up to date. Pat Akers said not all area block watches are that involved but said many meet several times year to keep up-to-date.

Mike Akers said those in the block watch programs “begin to see patterns” of criminal activity in their communities and better work to deter most of the crime.

“If somebody is really determined to commit a crime, they'll commit a crime,” he said. “But this is about making yourself a hard target.”

A sign outside the Akers' home alerting potential thieves that the area is a block watch community may make them one of the toughest targets in the city

“It publicizes that we're watching,” Powell said.

The block watch program is one of the many community policing projects leaders at the Marion Police Department would like to increase across the city over the next few months.

When asked about the impact community policing in Marion, Lt. Jeff Clewell quoted Sir Robert Peel, former British Prime Minister who created the modern concept of the police force: “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

“The community has to be involved with us,” Clewell said. “The police department cannot resolve all issues. We need the support of the public.”

He sees block watches as a part of that community support.

“We don't have the manpower to put a cop 24 hours (a day) in a specific neighborhood,” he said. “Block watches are generally smaller areas. If they are neighborly and looking out for each other then it helps us out.”

Although there was no research or data to back his claims, Clewell was confident that Marion-area block watches are preventing crime because of an increased presence.

Pat Akers and Clewell both mentioned some block watch groups have themed months that focus on securing property and reducing crime.

Clewell said he wants to get the CPA more involved in the community. The CPAAA currently serves the community by maintaining the child ID program, making vacation home checks and assisting officers in ride-alongs.

Anyone interested in creating a block watch in the area can call the Marion Police Department at 740-387-2525. Pat Akers said she would be willing to answer any questions about block watches by emailing: blockwatchlady@gmail.com

Mike Akers said anyone who has “ever been infuriated by the idea that somebody would break into your house or steal something out of your yard” should find out information.

“If you don't do it, nobody else will,” he said.





Public safety is city's core duty

Businesses, including gas stations, should not have to bear the responsibility of policing Detroit

The senseless recent beating of Steven Utash by a Detroit mob has prompted broad reaction from the Detroit community. But the response to these kinds of incidents from city government should be to increase its police presence and prevent crimes, not penalize businesses who have provided help in solving them.

The Detroit City Council unanimously approved an ordinance last week that requires gas stations to install surveillance cameras in strategic locations to record criminal activity.

While the measure had been discussed since last year, it was hastened to passage by the enormous outrage over Utash's beating.

The ordinance states cameras must be placed strategically and must have high resolution. Additionally, if a station has had three or more separate crimes in the past licensing year, it must acquire additional mobile security patrols approved by the Police Department to renew their license.

But private security measures aren't the answer in a city besieged by crime. Public safety is one function for which city government is responsible.

Many businesses may choose to install security cameras for the their own protection, or to lower insurance costs. Others might not be able to afford the cost of installing and maintaining a system.

The reality in Detroit is that private businesses have already filled the large gaps left by the city's shrunken Police Department. Quicken Loans downtown has a virtual command center with monitors stationed all over downtown. Security guards watch the live feeds.

Businesses in Corktown are banding together to buy protected private parking lots to address car break-ins. And the Detroit Crime Commission, funded by private philanthropy, is stepping up to provide strategic law enforcement initiatives.

Even in the Utash incident, the only camera available was privately owned and placed by a nearby Clark gas station. Many other gas stations have similar cameras.

Councilman Andre Spivey said the Clark gas station's cameras were poorly placed, so the faces of the thugs beating Utash couldn't be clearly seen.

But at least they have a camera, which was the only lead to catching the criminals.

To say the businesses aren't doing their part to protect themselves and their customers is offensive. They shouldn't have to rely solely on their own feudal-style defenses to do business in Detroit.

The ordinance also requires the videos must be given to law enforcement within an hour of a crime being investigated.

The City Council is focusing on the wrong subjects in this trend of mob-initiated crime. It should work to bolster the city's own Police Department. Businesses shouldn't be penalized for the department's failure.