July, 2014 - Week 5
Community policing efforts make an impact in city neighborhoods
Wilmington Police Department Officer Fred Clark had to return to his car for one last piece of paper before he could continue on his way.
Reaching into the back seat of his cruiser, which was parked at Pender Avenue and 21st Street, Clark tore a couple stickers off a thick roll. Then he crossed the street to give them to a pair of young girls who had been watching his car.
"I feel like I'm running for mayor sometimes," Clark said after returning to the cruiser.
Clark, a 15-year veteran of the department, is the only officer dedicated solely to a community policing foot patrol, but a corporal will be assigned to the unit in the next two weeks. The foot patrols are just one way WPD uses community policing, with other initiatives including the downtown and public housing units, both of which have been touted as successes by department leadership in recent months.
WPD is considering how to expand these efforts because, officials say, of those successes.
"People respond very positively, and they like to see our officers, they like to talk to them, they like to see them out of their cars, they want to interact with our officers in our neighborhoods," Chief Ralph Evangelous said. "That whole perception of safety is huge, as well as the ability to glean information from them. You only get that by getting out and talking to people."
Recently, a man jumped into his beaten-up pickup truck and chased Clark down at 19th and Chestnut streets only to tell the surprised officer he appreciated seeing a police presence in his neighborhood.
Experts say community police officers such as Clark are vital to law enforcement.
"Treating the public with respect and listening to what they have to say is just as important, in the long run, as stopping and frisking suspicious individuals," said Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
But expanding WPD's community policing footprint will come with a price tag, and when finances tightened in the past, the department discarded similar efforts.
WPD's community policing
Broadly speaking, community policing uses non-traditional techniques to work with residents to untangle the conditions that lead to crime, according to the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
"People like to say it's not a project or program. It's a philosophy," said Dr. Jan Roehl, a consultant who has spent more than 30 years researching criminal and civil justice programs.
And officials say community policing has worked in parts of Wilmington. Take, for instance, the downtown district, which WPD defines as the area bordered by the Cape Fear River, the Isabel Holmes Bridge, Fifth Avenue and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
In 2009, there were 511 Part I crimes in that area, a category that includes murder, rape, assault and robbery, among others.
Since then, the number of crimes has fallen steadily, reaching 350 in 2013, the lowest number in 12 years, according to WPD data. Police attribute that drop in part to the creation of the Downtown Task Force, a partnership between WPD and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, in 2011.
That unit's success has led Evangelous and WPD to openly wonder whether the task force should be replicated. At June's city council meeting, Evangelous discussed targeting District 3, which is bordered to the north by Market Street, the east by Colonial Drive, the west by Fifth Avenue to Castle Street and then the Cape Fear River and to the south by Martin Street. The police department identified 10 hotspots for violent crimes citywide, and four of them fall within District 3.
To have the same success in District 3, according to WPD data, the department would need nine new officers, three new sergeants and one new lieutenant position, at an annual cost of $708,000. Equipping those officers and giving them vehicles would cost another $656,500.
The department has not asked city council for funding yet, as any requests will be based on the results of a staffing study done with COPS and Michigan State University. The staffing study is expected to be finished in the late summer or early fall.
Council did grant WPD permission to go ahead with a grant from COPS that would see the department receive more than $900,000 over three years to put eight officers in high-gunfire areas. After those three years are up, though, retaining those officers would cost about $500,000 per year.
Making it work
Community policing's reliance on funding was evident at June's council meeting.
"Initiatives are maintained and implemented based on available funding and staffing," read one slide.
In 2007, the city started an initiative requiring officers to spend at least one hour during each of their shifts walking around their assigned zones. That has become unrealistic in recent years, Evangelous said, because of high call volumes that are already straining WPD's officers.
"Incident policing is how we policed for several decades, and it's always easy to get back there because not a lot of self-initiated policing is done when you're driven by radio calls," Evangelous said. Community policing is "a constant work in progress and one that you have to continue to embrace. And the public wants it, they've made it clear that they want it."
Community policing extends beyond expensive initiatives, though. At its most effective, one expert said, it becomes a department-wide philosophy.
"The important point for management is to communicate the importance of community policing, problem solving, and respectful interactions by all officers, and providing them with training in these areas," Rosenbaum said.
"Talking about it is not sufficient. Officers need real skills and tactics to achieve these goals," he added.
Still, there are advantages to having a small unit focused on community policing instead of having patrol officers try to fit it into their schedules.
"In the past, some departments adopted generalist philosophies where every one of our officers are community policing officers," Roehl said. "When you have that generalist approach, it's kind of, 'They'll build partnerships and do problem solving in their spare time.'"
Talking to everyone
Clark, the Wilmington community police officer, doesn't have spare time. His whole day is spent walking through Wilmington's neighborhoods and talking to residents.
During a two-hour period on the afternoon of July 17, he paced around the Carolina Place and Ardmore neighborhoods, took a lap through the alleys in Forest Hills, checked on some abandoned houses downtown to make sure the homeless hadn't moved in and walked around the Long Leaf Mobile Home Park.
"Basically, I walk around and talk to everyone I see," said Clark, who has been on assignment since April in the neighborhoods north and west of Kerr Avenue, Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road that, when stitched together, make up the city's Northwest division.
At one point, Clark was strolling up the 1900 block of Church Street when a woman taking her groceries in spotted him coming toward her. She took a long glance at the officer, wearing his dark blue uniform outdoors in the middle of a 90-something degree afternoon.
"Are you just walking the beat or you walking for your health?" she said.
Clark laughed and said, "A little bit of both."
Then the woman told Clark that her neighbors make too much noise and can be heard clearly even over the whirring of a window air conditioning unit. He reminded her she should call 911 when there is a problem and, when she appeared satisfied, he told her to have a good day and went on his way.
"People just want to put a face to the badge," Clark said as he walked away, continuing his never-ending lap of the city.
Public Safety Director asks churches to do more for crime prevention
by Jennie Runevitch
INDIANAPOLIS - Public safety leaders are calling on local churches, asking for more help fighting crime in the city.
Some pastors say they're already doing a lot. They're out in the streets and inside sanctuaries with prayer and programs to help stop the violence that's gripped our city.
Still, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs said more is needed.
"I am not putting blame," he explained. "I'm not doing anything other than making a request to churches in our community to step up and help in a greater way."
Riggs cited an example. He said when he was going out raising money for this summer's jobs program for teens, the churches he approached chose not to donate.
"The money came from businesses. The money came from Department of Public Safety funds that we pulled out, some money that we have saved."
But pastors said that was only a portion of the funding and that many churches did contribute and helped to expand the jobs program this year.
"We were working with about $80,000+ this year," said Pastor James Jackson of Fervent Prayer Church.
Pastor Jackson also said the religious community has been fighting crime and its root causes right alongside city leaders.
"Personally, I know of a lot of churches who are serving the community, at-risk youth, transitional housing for women."
Director Riggs was quick to point out many churches are doing a lot with money, with outreach and with neighbors in need, but he said with violence prevention needed more than ever, more churches - on all sides of town - need to step up, too.
"And if someone finds that offensive, I am sorry but our communities and major social change began in the church," Riggs said.
"We all must do more," said Pastor Jackson. "This is a multi-year, multi-million dollar issue. We didn't get here in two years and we're not going to get out of it in two years."
The bottom line from both Public Safety and the church community: violence is not a problem that can be solved by one organization; it will take a lot of resources from a lot of people, so right now, Director Riggs is asking everyone to help even more.
Illinois man charged with putting needles in store meat
by Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY Mo (Reuters) - A 68-year-old Illinois man is in jail charged with food tampering after he allegedly inserted sewing needles into packages of meat at a grocery store multiple times in the past year, an official said on Friday.
Ronald G. Avers was charged on Thursday with seven violations of a federal law against tampering with packaged meat, according to court documents. He will be in court again on Monday for a detention hearing.
Six customers and one employee at the Shop'n Save grocery in Belleville, Illinois in suburban St. Louis reported finding needles in hamburger, roast or steak products between May 2013 and July 14 of this year, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.
One customer found a needle in her mouth and another customer reported getting stuck in the hand.
Avers, who owned a pickup bearing a disabled veteran license tag and shopped using a motorized scooter and oxygen tank, was seen on surveillance video handling meat products and putting them back on the shelves, the FBI said.
When police and the FBI questioned Avers outside the store on Tuesday, he admitted putting needles in meat, the FBI said. "Every now and then I would stick one in a hamburger," Avers told police, according to the affidavit.
Avers told investigators he didn't know why he put needles in the meat. "It was stupidity. I didn't want to hurt nobody," he was quoted as saying.
Avers said he did not put needles in meat at any other stores, the affidavit said.
The charges against Avers each carry up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, said a news release from the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Illinois.
California killer given additional death sentences
by BRIAN MELLEY
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chester D. Turner is no stranger to murder or the punishment that comes with it. He squeezed the life out of more than a dozen women during a decade of terror, and two juries decided he should die for his crimes.
So it was merely a formality Friday that Turner, already on death row for 10 murders, was given four more death sentences for what a prosecutor called the city's most prolific serial killing.
Turner, 47, looked straight at Judge Robert Perry as he handed down the penalty for the string of inner-city killings during the crack cocaine epidemic. As Turner was led from court, he cursed at the prosecution and said, "I'll be back."
Turner is one of at least three men blamed for a series of killings once thought to be the work of a solo killer dubbed the "Southside Slayer." More than 100 women in South Los Angeles were killed during the violent era when highly addictive crack made people desperate enough to turn to prostitution to support their habit or led to other crimes.
Turner was convicted of 14 of those slayings, plus the killing of a pregnant victim's fetus, from 1987 and 1998, making him the city's most prolific killer, prosecutor Robert Grace said.
Family members of the victims were relieved the case was closed. They joked and laughed as they rode the courthouse elevator with prosecutors after the brief hearing.
"It's judgment day," said Gwendolyn Cameron, whose sister Cynthia Johnson was a victim in the most recent case. "He got what he had coming. The sooner they execute him, the better we'll all be. He's a menace to society."
Turner was serving time for rape when genetic evidence connected him to 10 killings in South Los Angeles. The victims had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Their bodies were dumped in alleys, a burned-out garage and a portable toilet.
Most were suspected prostitutes, some were crack users and some were just snatched off the streets.
A grainy surveillance tape played at his first trial showed the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Turner in the act of killing Paula Vance, whose body was found at a vacant office building in February 1998.
Turner was convicted and sentenced in 2007 to death in those 10 cases, plus an additional term of 15 years-to-life for the death of the viable fetus.
Evidence emerged later that linked him to the killings of Elandra Bunn, 33, in June 1987; Deborah Williams, 28, in November 1992; Mary Edwards, 42, in December 1992; and Cynthia Annette Johnson, 30, in February 1997. All were choked to death, mostly by hand.
Another man, David Allen Jones, served 11 years for three of those killings.
Jones, a former janitor with the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, was freed after DNA evidence pointed to Turner and prosecutors determined Jones' confessions were coerced by police.
Defense lawyers acknowledged that Turner had sex with women in exchange for drugs, but they argued he wasn't a killer.
"He denies to this day that he killed anybody," defense lawyer Kieran Patrick Brown said.
After the death sentences were delivered Friday, Turner asked the judge why prosecutors had insisted on capital punishment after they once offered him the chance of life in prison without parole for the four murders. The judge didn't answer.
Outside court, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman explained that prosecutors had offered the plea deal before trial, but Turner rejected it.
"He's never taken responsibility for any of these crimes. So what are we going to do, give him four freebies? Those are four lives," Silverman said. "He's a remorseless animal."
"He's never taken responsibility for any of these crimes. So what are we going to do, give him four freebies? Those are four lives," Silverman said. "He's a remorseless animal."
Whether Turner is ever executed is another question.
There are 745 inmates on death row at San Quentin State Prison. More than 160 have been sentenced to die since executions were put on hold in 2006 because of court challenges over the lethal injection method.
Turner has been sentenced to die twice since then.
Medical Examiner Rules Eric Garner's Death a Homicide, Says He Was Killed By Chokehold
The city medical examiner has ruled the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father whose death in police custody sparked national outrage, a homicide, saying a chokehold killed him.
The medical examiner said compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner's positioning on the ground while being restrained by police during the July 17 stop on Staten Island, caused his death.
Garner's acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were contributing factors, the medical examiner determined.
A spokesman for Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, who's leading the investigation in the case, said his office had been contacted with the cause and manner of Garner's death but was waiting for the official death certificate and the autopsy report to be issued.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also said he received the medical examiner's report and that the department will continue to cooperate with district attorney's office. He has previously said he ordered a top-to-bottom redesigning of use-of-force training in the NYPD.
An amateur video taken during Garner's arrest shows a plainclothes police officer placing him in what appears be a chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. In the video, Garner can be heard multiple times gasping, "I can't breathe!"
After receiving the medical examiner's findings, Mayor de Blasio released a statement expressing his sympathies to Garner's family and said his administration will continue to work with the Staten Island district attorney and other authorities "to ensure a fair and justified outcome."
“We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other -- and that's a responsibility that Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously," he said.
De Blasio said he remained "absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won't happen again."
A day before the autopsy results were released, the mayor hosted a reform talk at City Hall in an attempt to ease tensions with communities of color in the wake of Garner's death. The discussion got heated as the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Bratton and told the mayor that his son, Dante de Blasio, who is black, would be "a candidate for a chokehold" if he weren't the mayor's son.
Sharpton said Friday that he and Garner's family would make a statement on the autopsy results Saturday at the headquarters of the National Action Network.
Garner's family members and Sharpton met with federal prosecutors last month to press for an investigation into his death. Sharpton said police violated Garner's civil rights while arresting him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, and that led to his death.
The U.S. attorney hasn't commented on the meeting with the Garners. Previously, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is "closely monitoring" the investigation into Garner's death.
Shortly after Garner died, one officer was stripped of his gun and badge pending an internal NYPD investigation and another was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two EMTs were suspended without pay after allegedly failing to provide CPR in a timely manner.
The president of the police officers' union expressed sympathy to Garner's family and friends and said that "police officers don't start their days expecting or wanting something like this to occur in the performance of their duties."
Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association went on to say, "We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred."
The case has incited calls for sweeping police department reform. New alleged chokehold videos have emerged in its wake, including one involving an alleged fare beater and another involving a pregnant Brooklyn woman who claims she was put in a chokehold when she questioned officers' requests to move the site of a barbecue.
In addition to running the National Action Network, Al Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC, which is owned by WNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal.
Obama on CIA's post-9/11 tactics: ‘We tortured some folks'
President Barack Obama made a rare acknowledgment during a Friday press briefing concerning the United States' past use of enhanced interrogation tactics in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values,” Pres. Obama said near the end of a nearly hour-long press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC.
The commander-in-chief made the comment as he fielded a question concerning John Brennan, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, in-between queries from journalists regarding the situations in Gaza, Ukraine and West Africa.
Earlier this week, Brennan admitted that CIA employees had, as alleged, spied on the computer usage of Senate Intelligence Committee staffers while they worked on a report concerning the agency's use of contentious interrogation tactics. The report, a 6,000-page study, has yet to be made public, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the chairperson of the intelligence panel, said it is “chilling” and will show “far more systematic and widespread than we thought.”
After acknowledging that the US had “tortured some folks” during Friday's briefing, Obama added: “That's what that report reflects.”
Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told The Daily Beast that “The American people will be profoundly disturbed about what will be revealed in this report.”
On his part, Pres. Obama added during Friday's briefing that “The character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy but what we do when things are hard.”
The word “torture” to describe the tactics used by the CIA is rarely used by government officials, but Pres. Obama has indeed condemned the agency's past abuses before. During an address last year at the National Defense University, Obama said that, in some cases, “I believe we compromised our basic values -- by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”
“So after I took office, we stepped up the war against Al-Qaeda but we also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted Al-Qaeda's leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law and expanded our consultations with Congress,” Obama said in that address from last May.
The president spoke of the report after being asked for his opinion of Brennan, who previously insisted that Sen. Feinstein was speaking erroneously when she said the CIA had spied on intelligence committee staffers.
“I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan initially countered the senator's claims.
On Thursday, McClatchy reported that an investigation conducted by the CIA's Office of Inspector General concluded that its employees “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and the intelligence committee. Brennan then responded by meeting with Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), the vice chairman of the committee, and “apologized to them for such actions by CIA officers as described in the OIG” report, a CIA spokesperson told McClatchy.
“I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said during Friday's presser.
Inmate was injected 15 times in botched execution
The state Corrections Department maintains that the death row inmate experienced no pain due to sedation.
Last week, Joseph Wood was put to death in Arizona. What should of been a routine execution for the Grand Canyon State went horribly wrong. Woods eventually died, but only after two hours of gulping and gasping for air.
State documents released Friday revealed that Wood was given 15 doses of a lethal drug cocktail before finally dying, NBC News reports .
Charles Ryan, the state Correction Department's director, revealed that a total 750 mg each of Midazolam and Hydromorphone were given to the prisoner during his execution.
NBC Notes that the lethal cocktail is supposed to be 50 mg of midazolam and 50 mg of hydromorphone. This implies that Wood was given 15 times the normal dosage of the cocktail during Friday's execution.
Despite Wood's ordeal, the Corrections Department maintains that the death row inmate experienced no pain due to sedation.
“The records provided today show that Director Ryan, continually conferred with the IV team, and directed additional Midazolam and Hydromorphone to be administered ensuring the inmate remained deeply sedated throughout the process, and did not endure pain,” the Corrections Department said in a statement obtained by USA Today.
Chicago police say killings at lowest level since '63
by Fiona Ortiz
CHICAGO — Chicago's police superintendent said yesterday that the number of homicides had fallen to the lowest level in five decades so far this year as he sought to dispel the notion that America's third-largest city is the nation's murder capital.
Superintendent Garry McCarthy, appearing at a city council committee hearing, said crime has been dropping in recent years in Chicago. He also disputed allegations that his department has been manipulating crime statistics to make it seem like Chicago is safer than it really is.
“We have about one-third less crime in this city over the last three years,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy told council members that so far in 2014, homicides were down 7 percent from the same period last year, representing the lowest number for the period since 1963.
The latest data on the police website listed 203 murders through July 20 compared with 215 in the same period last year.
The Chicago metropolitan area does not have the highest homicide rate per capita in the United States — New Orleans and Detroit are higher, for example. But it has recorded the highest total number of homicides in recent years.
Chicago, a city of 2.7 million, reported 414 murders in 2013, down from 503 in 2012.
The Chicago Sun-Times carries a “shooting tracker” on summer weekends, mapping every incident of gunfire. The newspaper also runs a “homicide watch” with details on every murder in the city.
Is 'stop and frisk' -- or better community policing -- what Cleveland needs? Editorial Board Roundtable
Ward 2 Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed is well-known for his efforts to get the city more focused on stopping violent crime in Mt. Pleasant and other city neighborhoods. His campaign website boasts he's responsible for installing more than 140 surveillance cameras in his ward and hiring off-duty police officers to patrol.
Last week, Reed proposed adding "stop and frisk" -- or more precisely, "stop, question and frisk" -- to the Cleveland police arsenal of tactics.
The idea provoked a storm of protest from civil libertarians and minority groups, who noted that New York City's stop and frisk policies were torpedoed as unconstitutional by a federal court last year. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin found police unfairly and unreasonably targeted minorities and ordered the policy revamped under an independent monitor. Current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has discontinued it amid an ongoing debate about whether all the frisking -- an estimated 5 million stops over a decade -- contributed to a drop in crime.
Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris writes that Reed has again gotten a conversation started about an issue "highly relevant for the city," given a landmark 1968 Supreme Court case that found an urban frisking in Cleveland constitutional. In that case, known as Terry v. Ohio , the high court ruled 7-1 that an undercover Cleveland detective, Martin McFadden, who did the search -- and who had spent years walking the same downtown beat looking for shoplifters and pickpockets -- had a reasonable suspicion the three men he'd observed for a while and followed before stopping them and patting them down (finding weapons) were up to no good.
"The New York stop-and-frisk program, however, was highly racial, demeaning and deserved to have the plug pulled on it," Morris wrote in his column last week.
Morris cited four reasons why Cleveland should not adopt Reed's proposal: stop and frisk hasn't been shown to have worked; stop, question and frisk is "largely a distinction without a difference"; stop and frisk is too easily abused by police; it could victimize a sizable population in Cleveland of now-law-abiding men who carry guns for protection but whose felony rap sheets from a misspent youth mean they risk a return to prison if they are caught with a gun.
Has Reed started a worthwhile conversation about crime in Cleveland and how to revitalize community policing? Can stop and frisk play a role in ending the proliferation of illegally trafficked weapons if properly implemented and overseen? Or is it too easily abused by a Cleveland police force already viewed with suspicion in Cleveland's neighborhoods, where the sort of beat-walking cop of the 1960s who knew his streets and its residents is a distant memory?
Members of our editorial board members offer their individual thoughts and we welcome yours in the comments below.
Kevin O'Brien, deputy editorial page editor, The Plain Dealer:
Stopping, questioning and frisking someone without probable cause to believe that he has committed a crime or is engaged in the commission of a crime is a crystal-clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. No government has the authority to do that. Next case.
Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:
We -- all of us, everywhere in our country -- already live in what amounts to a state of constant surveillance. What's more, stop-and-frisk, unless there is truly robust probable cause, is inherently demeaning, and as the New York litigation demonstrates, disproportionately and wrongfully targets nonwhite citizens. Mr. Reed's idea is, or should be, a nonstarter.
Christopher Evans, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:
Here's a better idea: Demand the Cuyahoga County executive create a unit within the sheriff's department that targets federally licensed gun dealerships favored by straw and bulk purchasers. Atlantic Gun & Tackle in Bedford Heights is No. 1 with a bullet, according to firearms recovered and traced between 2010 and 2013 in Cuyahoga County.
Work the gun shows. Stop the illegal sales. Attack the supply chain.
Sharon Broussard, editorial writer, Northeast Ohio Media Group:
Adopting this failed, discriminatory policy -- in New York, it targeted black and Hispanic men and did not lead to an increase in arrests -- shows just how desperate Cleveland's leaders are for a solution to staunch the blood flowing in the city's bleakest neighborhoods. How about getting more officers out of their cars so they can talk to people, get to know the good and the bad guys and build up their credibility? Frisking people for guns is not the answer.
Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director, Northeast Ohio Media Group:
This belongs in the "grasping at straws" file but Reed is right about one thing: It is important to keep talking about gun violence in our cities and the ease with which criminals can get their hands on guns, in Cleveland and elsewhere. This is not simplistically pro-gun v. anti-gun. Let's put the accusations aside for once to find ways to improve the visibility and credibility of the police, to allow common-sense gun laws to take form and to pressure gun manufacturers to adopt technical innovations that make it hard to traffic illegally in weapons.
Police pursuits: Balancing catching bad guys with protecting innocents
More often than not, the driver is fleeing because he has something to hide — intoxication, narcotics, warrants, and other criminal activity
by Glenn French
Police work often has unintended consequences — unanticipated or unforeseen outcomes not intended by your lawful actions — we all understand to be part of the job. We accept this reality. We jeopardize our own safety and don't skip a beat to maintain law and order.
Police pursuits sometimes have unintended consequences (link) that most of us can relate to. We observe a traffic violation, attempt to stop the vehicle, and it takes off — that's a textbook start to many pursuits.
What we don't often consider is the unintended consequences of our actions and the burden that comes with it. Further, we must consider the fact that the communities we serve sometimes don't want to make that same level of commitment to keeping criminals in check as we do.
To Pursue or Not to Pursue
Deciding whether or not to pursue is a conundrum that cops face daily as they patrol the streets. Some agencies have removed the burden from the individual officers by eliminating police pursuits unless it's in pursuit of a known, dangerous felon. Some policies indicate that the officer must consider the risk versus the reward of the pursuit — I find this ridiculous, since most pursuits initiate from a simple civil infraction.
I'm familiar with several examples of instances over the years in which a pursuit led to tragic and unintended consequences. The most recent two occurrences have attracted a lot of attention and in one case the victim's family has hired a prominent attorney to seek restitution for the loss of their loved one. The attorney is even calling for criminal charges against the officer involved in the pursuit.
Attorneys love to vilify officers involved in fatal pursuits in an attempt to grab headlines. The news media obliges and sensationalizes the story. Sensational news reporting seems to sway the public into believing the only option is to outlaw police pursuits for most violators. The news doesn't have enough airtime to report all the traffic stops which occurred without incident.
So in a small way, society is changing their perspective on police pursuits as they are exposed mainly to just the police pursuits that didn't end well. But cops don't have a crystal ball to provide us with instantaneous intelligence on the driver who just committed a basic traffic law.
The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin for March 2010 indicated that one person everyday dies from a police pursuit. Furthermore, on average from the period of 1994-1998 a cop was killed in a pursuit once every 11 weeks.
However, where is the data indicating that NOT chasing an offender doesn't impact crime? How do you measure your agency's success if there is no data on crime which was prevented by stopping a criminal for a simple civil infraction?
In one incident, the offender was later apprehended and charged with multiple counts of controlled-substance delivery, second-degree fleeing a police officer, driving while licensed suspended, assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest. How can anybody determine if this known, dangerous drug dealer wouldn't have been the perpetrator of a drive-by shooting sometime in the future — perhaps killing an innocent person — if he didn't have an encounter with law enforcement due to a civil infraction?
There isn't a simple solution when considering when to pursue or not to pursue. Some reports indicate that in Flint (Mich.) from 2005-2013 there were nearly 270 crashes occurring as a result of police pursuits involving various police agencies within its city limits. The data from those 270 crashes indicates two deaths occurred as a result of those police pursuit related crashes.
That data shouldn't minimize the loss of life as nobody deserves to die as a result of a police pursuit. The question from a societal perspective is, “Is that an acceptable number?”
There's no doubt that a family losing a loved one from a police pursuit won't agree that's an acceptable number, but what is?
The best resource to determine when to pursue and not to pursue comes from your department policies and the information as perceived by the officer at the time of the incident. A good arrest is soon forgotten, but unintended consequences are not.
It's our duty to enforce the laws to keep society from those whom choose to live lawless. If a person chooses to flee from the police, the unintended consequences are his responsibility.
Balancing Risk, Reward, and Unintended Consequences
How many times have you been involved in a pursuit stemming from a simple traffic violation? The reality is that most pursuits stem from a simple traffic violation. There are those who flee for the thrill of being in a police pursuit even though they have only committed a civil infraction. Another reality is that more often than not, the driver is fleeing because he or she has something to hide — intoxication, narcotics, warrants, and other criminal activity.
Holding fleeing criminals accountable for their actions is a small part of the solution. However, good police work is a larger part. There are times when terminating a police pursuit may be the better option.
This job is difficult at times. Making split-second decisions based on limited information is what we do and yet the people get to scrutinize our unintended consequences in a safe environment with as much time as they need to speculate how they would have reacted.
Until someone delivers a technology solution — or society becomes completely law abiding — police pursuits will remain a part of what we do. We just need to be mindful of the potential for unintended consequences.
About the author
Glenn French, a Sergeant with the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Police Department, has 22 years police experience and currently serves as the Team Commander for the Special Response Team, and Sergeant of the Sterling Heights Police Department Training Bureau. He has 14 years SWAT experience and served as a Sniper Team Leader, REACT Team Leader, and Explosive Breacher.
He is the author of the award-winning book “Police Tactical Life Saver” which has been named the 2012 Public Safety Writers Association Technical Manual of the year. Glenn is also the President of www.tacticallifesaver.org.
Glenn has instructed basic and advanced SWAT / Tactical officer courses, basic and advanced Sniper courses, Cold Weather / Winter Sniper Operations and Active Shooter Response courses, Tactical Lifesaver Course and others. Sgt French served in the U.S. Army. During his military tenure Sgt French gained valuable experience in C.Q.B., infantry tactics and explosive breaching operations.
George Zimmerman resurfaces in Florida, again in ‘security' mode
by Lindsey Bever
George Zimmerman is back in the news, once again in his role as a wannabe security officer.
Zimmerman, the ex-neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, was spotted by police just after midnight Monday sitting in his pickup with his dog behind a motorcycle and gun shop, Pompano Pat's, in DeLand, Fla., according to news reports.
Zimmerman told police, who questioned him, that he had permission from the owner, Pat Johnson, to work night security following a recent burglary, the Associated Press reported. But Tuesday, store manager Sam Porter said he had not been hired to do anything of the kind.
Johnson is running for mayor of DeLand. A spokesman for the shop claimed the Zimmerman story was “nothing more than a negative political campaign stunt” designed to smear the candidate's campaign.
“ANY and ALL reports made to the media or other agencies that Pompano Pat's or its Corporate President Pat Johnson hired George Zimmerman as a ‘Security Guard or Night Watchman' are 100% false. Our company and its founders learned of his recent sighting from mass media reports,” Pompano Pat's spokesman Tim Franklin said in a statement sent to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “Our company and its founders were appalled and disgusted to learn a politician would use the death of a 17-year-old to further their political career. This stunt establishes an all new low in Florida Politics.”
That was a reference to Mayor Bob Apgar, Johnson's challenger. Apgar told the News-Journal that police video footage, which is public, documents Zimmerman telling police officers he was there with the owner's okay.
“Mr. Zimmerman made statements to police that would indicate he was there with my opponent's knowledge,” he told the newspaper. “I am just perplexed, that with such a video out there, that someone can think someone can fabricate something relative to this encounter with Mr. Zimmerman by police who were on patrol.”
In addition, DeLand police Deputy Chief Randel Henderson sent out a statement Tuesday saying: “Every indication illustrates that Mr. Zimmerman was at the store with the knowledge of the owner.”
Police did not issue Zimmerman any citations Monday because there “was no evidence to support that a crime had occurred or was about to occur.”
Johnson confirmed he knows Zimmerman but told WKMG-TV he did not hire him to handle security.
“I didn't okay it. I didn't know about it. I didn't authorize it. I didn't pay for it,” he said. “He had just watched Facebook and the news and just took it upon himself to come up here and sit.”
“I sent him a text message telling him not to come back to the store anymore,” he added.
To fight crime, police need to be closer to the residents they protect
It doesn't take much imagination to understand how community policing can make residents feel safer. Rather than only responding to calls or riding around in a patrol car, officers become a welcome fixture in the neighborhood. It's an old-school idea, really – the beat cop, a healthy cross between law enforcer and friendly confidant.
Walking or riding a bicycle makes it much easier for a police officer to meet the people he or she is assigned to protect, to win their trust and to be able to spot when something isn't quite right.
Wilmington has tried versions of community policing several times before. But it takes a consistent, ongoing commitment to make it work. It isn't enough to respond to cries for better protection in high-crime areas with a promise to assign officers to work more closely with residents. It has to become part of the police department's culture.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous points to the success of the department's increased focus on downtown crime as evidence of what community policing can do. The downtown effort included a number of facets, including increased patrols when the bars close and surveillance cameras. Violent and serious crimes have decreased.
A similar effort has targeted crime in public housing, and the chief wants to try the same approach in other parts of town where crime is highest. But it costs money. An officer in a patrol car can cover a lot more ground than one on foot, but it also creates an air of inaccessibility. In some neighborhoods, the only time residents see an officer is when there's trouble.
Done correctly, community policing can make residents more comfortable talking with the police and offering tips about possible criminal activity. Likewise, children in those neighborhoods grow up with a view of the police officer as a helper, a friend, a protector, as opposed to a badge and a gun.
The Wilmington City Council has agreed to allow the department to apply for a grant through the federal COPS grant that would pay part of the cost of hiring eight officers for areas where gunfire has become all too common. The grant would fund the officers for three years; after that the city would assume the entire expense.
But Evangelous wants more officers to target other problem areas. In all, his wish list would cost city taxpayers the equivalent of 2 to 3 cents on the property tax rate. Given other financial constraints – including the Honorables' action eliminating the privilege tax, which will cost Wilmington $1.7 million annually – it remains to be seen whether taxpayers are willing to take on that added expense.
The city council knows that the crime rate also comes with significant costs, and those costs should be part of any discussion. If spending some money now can translate into safer communities and lives saved, all city residents will benefit.
For his part, the chief also can lay out plans to do more “community policing” with the force he has. After all, that's really how policing should be done.
Texas Department Of Public Safety: ‘It's Not Rocket Science' To Secure Border
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic state lawmakers questioned Tuesday what Texas will gain by committing more than $4 million a week to pump up border security amid a surge of immigrant children illegally crossing into the U.S., since all sides agree the minors pose little criminal or national security threat.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry has announced the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border at a cost of around $3 million a week, saying that federal authorities have been overwhelmed and crime has spiked. He and other top Republicans, meanwhile, have also since last month authorized spending $1.3 million more weekly on increasing police presence on the border.
But some members of a state House committee studying the budgetary impact of border security questioned the wisdom of the law enforcement surge if the focus wasn't on children.
“Since we're going to pay for it, and we've got to decide where it's coming from … what are we purchasing?” asked Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat. “And tell me, when will I know that this has been successful, when it has been worth the money that's been spent?”
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have poured into the U.S. illegally since October, most in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.
Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said federal authorities have been too distracted to cope with other types of crime — and that all forms of immigrants sneaking into the U.S. benefit dangerous smuggling gangs.
“Kids aren't criminals, but they're being moved across by criminals — and those criminals are the cartels,” McCraw told the committee, saying smugglers collect at least between $1,000 and $2,000 per child they help reach U.S. soil.
Since June 18, McCraw's agency has launched an “operational surge,” meaning more helicopters, armed boats and police on the border. Citing security reasons, he wouldn't disclose how many troopers were involved but said that it had so far cost more than $5.8 million, including $4.4 million in trooper overtime pay.
McCraw said that during the surge, the number of detained immigrants of all ages crossing into the Rio Grande Valley had declined 45 percent. The current surge is scheduled at least until January, but McCraw said he'd hope to continue it until it's impossible to sneak across the U.S. border between established border crossings.
“Can the border be secured? Absolutely,” he said. “It's not rocket science; it's math. … You can secure it with sufficient numbers.”
Still, Democratic Rep. Donna Howard of Austin said she was “a little confused about how we're going to be determining success” if Texas was trying to slow all illegal border crossings and other criminal activity — rather than focus on the current spike in children.
“The children are really not a factor at all?” she asked. McCraw responded: “It brought focus to how many children can come so easily across.”
The committee's chairman, Arlington Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen, countered that there's been “way too much focus on the children” and that other criminal activities on the border have been overlooked.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. John Nichols of the Texas National Guard said his forces would focus on deterring illegal border crossings and other crimes — and wouldn't be “dealing with the children at all” except to turn any they encounter over to Border Patrol.
Perry repeatedly asked President Barack Obama to deploy the National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border before issuing the order unilaterally, meaning Texas will have to cover the costs. The state, though, hopes Washington will eventually reimburse it.
Nichols said that though his forces have no indication of how long they will be deployed, they've planned to be on the border a year.
On a conference call with New Hampshire reporters Tuesday, Perry was asked how long he'd be willing to keep National Guard troops on the border even if the federal government never picks up the tab.
“That's a question . of when you want to leave the battlefield,” the governor said. “We're going to spend whatever we need in the state of Texas to protect our citizens. That's what we expect, and that's what we will do.”
Concerned that refugee children will compromise public safety, Pa. lawmakers ask Washington counterparts for help
by Ivey DeJesus
Nearly two dozen state legislators on Tuesday expressed concerns about public safety to Pennsylvania Congressional members over the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee children from Central America who have been given shelter - or are about to be - across the state.
In a letter signed by 19 other Republican lawmakers, Representatives Tim Krieger (R-Delmont) and Rob Kauffman (R-Chambersburg) urged members of Congress from Pennsylvania to take action to protect public safety from any potential dangers stemming from the approximately 500 unaccompanied minors who have been given temporary shelter in Pennsylvania.
The lawmakers wrote that they are concerned that some of the children could be affiliated with criminal gangs.
"We are writing today to ask that you give serious consideration to this potential safety concern and that you take action to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth," the letter says.
Since October 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has taken into custody more than 57,000 unaccompanied children who crossed into Texas, fleeing extreme violence in their countries. The majority of the children are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The children will be processed in the immigration system; some of them will qualify for refugee protection, others will be sent back to their countries.
The state lawmakers asked their Washington counterparts provide information to officials, law enforcement and residents of communities housing the children so that "preparations can be made for any potential public safety threats."
"On behalf of our constituents, we also ask that you report back to us regarding processes and penalties that will apply to unaccompanied minors who leave the custody of their family, facility, shelter or home without permission. What steps will be taken to retrieve these individuals and to ensure that they do not escape again?" they write.
Several residential organizations have in recent weeks announced they had either accepted or were preparing to accept the children and provide them with temporary shelter while they await their immigration hearings. Among the groups are the Bethany Children's Home in Berks County and the United Methodist Home for Children in Mechanicsburg.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Tom Corbett also expressed concerns that the influx of immigrant minors could pose a health hazard to state residents.
"That they've had all their immunizations and so forth because we have a strong concern on that," Corbett said. "From a humanitarian standpoint you want to make sure these kids get taken care of but they need to be returned to their country of origin."
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11th Congressional District) has for months been critical of the Obama Administration's handling of the border crisis.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Methodist Church in the Harrisburg region, Bishop Jeremiah Park, of the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church, has urged Christians to put politics aside and show compassion toward the children.
U.S. Says Russia Tested Cruise Missile, Violating Treaty
by MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON — The United States has concluded that Russia violated a landmark arms control treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile, according to senior American officials, a finding that was conveyed by President Obama to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in a letter on Monday.
It is the most serious allegation of an arms control treaty violation that the Obama administration has leveled against Russia and adds another dispute to a relationship already burdened by tensions over the Kremlin's support for separatists in Ukraine and its decision to grant asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.
At the heart of the issue is the 1987 treaty that bans American and Russian ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles capable of flying 300 to 3,400 miles. That accord, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, helped seal the end of the Cold War and has been regarded as a cornerstone of American-Russian arms control efforts.
Russia first began testing the cruise missiles as early as 2008, according to American officials, and the Obama administration concluded by the end of 2011 that they were a compliance concern. In May 2013, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department's senior arms control official, first raised the possibility of a violation with Russian officials.
The New York Times reported in January that American officials had informed the NATO allies that Russia had tested a ground-launched cruise missile, raising serious concerns about Russia's compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or I.N.F. Treaty as it is commonly called. The State Department said at the time that the issue was under review and that the Obama administration was not yet ready to formally declare it to be a treaty violation.
In recent months, however, the issue has been taken up by top-level officials, including a meeting early this month of the Principals' Committee, a cabinet-level body that includes Mr. Obama's national security adviser, the defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of state and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Senior officials said the president's most senior advisers unanimously agreed that the test was a serious violation, and the allegation will be made public soon in the State Department's annual report on international compliance with arms control agreements.
“The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the I.N.F. treaty not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” that report will say.
In his letter to Mr. Putin, delivered by the American Embassy, Mr. Obama underscored his interest in a high-level dialogue with Moscow with the aim of preserving the 1987 treaty and discussing steps the Kremlin might take to come back into compliance. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a similar message in a Sunday phone call to Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
Because the treaty proscribes testing ground-launched cruise missiles of medium-range, the Kremlin cannot undo the violation. But administration officials do not believe the cruise missile has been deployed and say there are measures the Russians can take to ameliorate the problem.
Administration officials declined to say what such steps might be, but arms control experts say they could include a promise not to deploy the system and inspections to demonstrate that the cruise missiles and their launchers have been destroyed. Because the missiles are small and easily concealed, obtaining complete confidence that the weapons have been eliminated might be difficult.
NATO's top commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, has said that the violation requires a response if it cannot be resolved.
“A weapon capability that violates the I.N.F., that is introduced into the greater European land mass, is absolutely a tool that will have to be dealt with,” he said in an interview in April. “It can't go unanswered.” Mr. Obama has determined that the United States will not retaliate against the Russians by violating the treaty and deploying its own prohibited medium-range system, officials said. So the responses might include deploying sea- and air-launched cruise missiles, which would be an allowable under the accord.
Republican lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the administration for dragging its feet on the issue. Ms. Gottemoeller, the State Department official, has had no discussions with her Russian counterparts on the subject since February. And Mr. Kerry's call on Sunday was the first time he had directly raised the violation with Mr. Lavrov, State Department officials said. Administration officials said the upheaval in Ukraine pushed the issue to the back burner and that the downturn in American-Russian relations has led to an interruption of regular arms-control meetings.
The prospects for resolving the violation were also uncertain at best. After Ms. Gottemoeller first raised the matter in 2013, Russian officials said that they had looked into the matter and consider the issue to be closed.
The Russians have also raised their own allegations, a move that American officials believe is intended to muddy the issue and perhaps give them leverage in any negotiations over compliance. One month after Ms. Gottemoeller raised the American concerns, the Russians responded by pointing to the United States plans to base the Aegis missile system in Romania.
The Aegis system, which is commonly used on warships, would be used to protect American and NATO forces from missile attacks. But the Russians have alleged that it could be used to fire prohibited cruise missiles.
When Mr. Kerry spoke with Mr. Lavrov on Sunday, the Russian foreign minister cited Russia's concerns over “decoys.” That may have been a reference to Russian charges that the targets that the United States uses in antimissile tests are an I.N.F. treaty violation. American officials regard that allegation, about the issue of the Aegis system and complaints about the use of targets, to be spurious.
An underlying concern of the Obama administration in dealing with the Russians is that the Kremlin may not be wedded to the I.N.F. agreement. During the George W. Bush administration, some Russians officials argued that the treaty should be dropped so that the Kremlin could augment its military abilities to deal with threats on its periphery, including China and Pakistan.
In a June 2013 meeting with Russian defense industry officials, Mr. Putin described Mr. Gorbachev's decision to sign the accord as “debatable to say the least,” but asserted that Russia would uphold the agreement. Even some American conservative analysts say that in pursing the compliance concern, the United States should not provide the Kremlin with an opportunity to back out of the agreement.
“For the United States to declare that we are pulling out of the treaty in response to what Russia has done would actually be welcome in Moscow because they are wrestling with the question of how they terminate,” Stephen Rademaker, a former Bush administration official, told the House Armed Services Committee this month. “We shouldn't make it any easier for them. We should force them to take the onus of that.”
Asbury Park police unit taps into community to help fight violent crime
by Ashley Peskoe
ASBURY PARK – The members of the police department's Narcotics and Gang Unit have become accustomed to receiving mixed responses when they drive through the southwest portion of the 1.4-square-mile city.
Some young kids smile or wave at bulletproof vest clad officers, while the mere sight of the officers' unmarked patrol car is enough to scatter known drug dealers or gang members from where they were hanging out on the sidewalk.
But not all of the known drug dealers or gang members run – some stick around to say hello or engage in a short conversation with the officers, while others simply stare at their greeting.
Regardless of the responses they get, Sgt. Amir Bercovicz, a 20-year veteran of the city's police force who has worked with the unit on and off since 1998, said police officers in the Narcotics and Gang Unit - also known as the Street Crimes Unit - interact with the community, know the players and gather intelligence.
“Most of the time we're conducting investigations. We're going around watching what's going on,” Bercovicz said, noting that the officers were not undercover. “We start to put together a picture.”
On May 15, partnering with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Tactical Narcotics Team, the unit extended its operations to working seven days a week, which it had not done in at least a year and a half.
“You have good experienced cops who work well together and know what they're doing,” Bercovicz said.
Driving through portions of the city where trash litters many front yards and collects in street corners, Bercovicz pointed out known drug dealers and gang members, calling them by name. He drove with the car windows down, to help him see, smell and hear everything going on around him.
As Bercovicz was slowly driving by one home, a woman who was sitting on the front steps waved hello, and he got out of his car to speak with her. A baby in the woman's lap reached for Bercovicz and proceeded to fall asleep with his head on Bercovicz's shoulder.
Unlike the patrol units who bounce from call to call, the Narcotics and Gang Unit focuses on the city's most troubled neighborhoods. The unit uses its experience to build relationships in the community, which officers said lead to tips to help tackle the violent crime in the city.
“Street crimes – it's a very unique beast,” Bercovicz said.
Change in Tone
On a seemingly quiet weekday afternoon recently, members of the unit were at a basketball court near the Asbury Park Gardens apartment complex talking to people shooting hoops – some of the young men even offered to start a pick up game with the officers – when the cordial tone between officers and the residents quickly changed.
Two officers noticed a white car drive by and they had information that a man wanted for allegedly threatening someone with a gun was supposed to be in a car fitting the description of the one that drove by.
Bercovicz and Officer Antonio Martinez immediately jumped in a car and headed to get a better look. With the unmarked police car behind it, the driver of the white car ran a stop sign. Moments later, the officers attempted to pull the car over near Jefferson and Atkins streets.
But before Bercovicz could get his car in park, the man they were looking for, wearing a white tank top and red and black athletic shorts, sprinted out from the back seat, leading police on a foot chase. A woman nearby yelled to other people standing on the street that the man had run right out of his shoes.
“He took flight,” another bystander said.
Backup was called and Quamere Smith, 23, of Asbury Park, was found within minutes, hiding in one of the apartments at Asbury Park Gardens, Bercovicz said.
Smith was charged with criminal trespassing, resisting arrest and terroristic threats and taken to the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township in lieu of $75,000 bail, jail records showed. A gun was not found.
Police then cleared the courtyard of the housing complex as a group of young men criticized an officer, blaming the Asbury Park patrolman for an incident he was not involved in that had happened in another state. He also claimed he could be a better police officer.
Less than an hour after Smith was apprehended, a fight broke out behind another housing unit in the area. The Narcotics and Gang Unit and patrol officers descended on the area, which smelled of bleach.
Women were yelling that someone threw the chemical during the fight. The crowd dispersed and officers told everyone to go home or leave the area.
Bercovicz said the fighting typically ignited between two housing units in that area and was not unusual.
Challenges and New Initiatives
Asbury Park has been grappled with gun violence in recent years, with four out of the six homicides in 2013 involving guns. More than 85 percent of the 91 non-fatal shootings in the city from 2008 to 2013 also remain unsolved.
Despite the violence, in the past 12 months the Narcotics and Gang Unit has taken 144 guns off the street, Deputy Chief Anthony Salerno said. The police department also faces challenges, he said, including staffing levels and not having enough police cars.
“Given the fiscal constraints placed on the city, our budgets are tight,” Salerno said. “We're trying to do the best we can with the limited resources we have.”
Four additional police officers are expected to be sworn in on Friday.
Salerno said that before he extended the Narcotics and Gang Unit's operations to seven days a week on May 15, there was one homicide, five people shot and 11 confirmed shots fired from January to May 14.
Since May 15, there was one person shot and one confirmed shots fired call, he said.
“There is a direct correlation to violent crime and the amount of street level policing we do in our Narcotics and Gang Unit,” Salerno said, adding that there is still work to be done.
On Friday, Salerno also instructed the unit to show an increased presence throughout the city, particularly the southwest side where the majority of violent crime occurs, and enforce quality of life crimes.
“We want everybody to get the message that there's a lot of law enforcement here and the guns don't belong here,” Salerno said before the initiative.
The expansion of the Narcotics and Gang Unit is among several initiatives Salerno has implemented since being promoted to deputy chief in May, including walking patrols in the southwest section of the city, adding a detective to each shift who has had prior experience in the unit and tripling the number of patrol cars in problem areas of the city.
“We're not going to give up, we're not going to slow down and we're not going back to one unit as long as I'm in charge of that police department,” Salerno said. “We're going to continue to have seven days a week coverage [of the Narcotics and Gang Unit] and we're going to do whatever it takes to eradicate gangs in Asbury Park and violent offenders.”
Washington handgun ban unconstitutional, judge rules
by Kathleen Hennessey
A federal judge struck down the nation's last complete prohibition on carrying guns outside the home, declaring the District of Columbia's strict handgun ban unconstitutional.
The ruling by a judge in New York, announced late Saturday, is the latest blow to the decades-long gun law in the nation's capital, which is plagued by violent crime. In a landmark decision in 2008, the Supreme Court struck down the district's handgun ban, establishing for the first time a personal right to own a weapon under the 2nd Amendment.
Senior District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., a former Army colonel appointed to the court by President George H.W. Bush, ruled that the right to a weapon extended outside the home both for residents and visitors to Washington.
Going well beyond the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller, Scullin found that carrying arms outside the home for self-defense fell within the legal definition of the right to bear arms enunciated in the 2nd Amendment.
In the Heller case, the Supreme Court did not address whether the 2nd Amendment allowed someone to carry a weapon outside the home. The high court has repeatedly turned down invitations to decide that issue.
Scullin, who presides in Syracuse but was assigned the case by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., relied heavily on U.S. appellate court rulings striking down public carry bans in San Diego County and Illinois.
Four plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights advocacy group, challenged the District of Columbia ban when it was rewritten following the Supreme Court ruling. The revised law allowed police to issue gun permits for self-defense inside the home.
That process effectively prohibited nonresidents from obtaining permits and limited an individual's right to self-defense, according to the plaintiffs, who challenged the law in 2009.
The case stalled in the crowded federal court system but was eventually assigned to Scullin with the goal of speeding up the process.
Although Scullin found that Washington's law violated 2nd Amendment rights, he said the government could place “some reasonable restrictions” on the carrying of handguns, such as bans in public schools, age restrictions and mental health requirements.
Such measures amount to a “proper balance” between gun rights and public safety, he wrote in the 19-page opinion. A gun owner may simply decide not to enter a school, he said, and would experience “a lesser burden” on the right to self-defense.
Scullin did not stay enforcement of his ruling pending an appeal, leading gun rights groups to assert that it was now legal to openly carry a handgun in Washington. The city is expected to seek a stay of the ruling from Scullin or a federal appeals court.
Policing Chicago 2.0
by Don Rose
Chicago's toll of 82 shootings over the July 4 weekend, resulting in at least 17 deaths, made international news, reinforcing our reputation as the nation's murder capital. It is even possible, as a Chicago Magazine investigation found recently, that the number of killings has been under-reported by reclassifying and even ignoring certain killings not due to gunfire.
Police Chief Garry McCarthy vigorously denies the charge and both he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel constantly point to the fact that despite the headline horrors, actual murders keep going down and the rate has declined to that of the 1960s. Nevertheless, citizens of the South- and West-side African American neighborhoods feel no safer regardless of what the statistics say.
So what's wrong here?
Obviously, as many black and Latino community leaders iterate, we need a massive infusion of jobs, job-training and other programs to keep kids out of gangs and end the hopelessness so many feel about their lives and futures. But as we all know, the jobs are not there, the city is teetering on going broke and this Congress is not going to provide either funds for programs or new jobs in highway or infrastructure reconstruction.
However, some actions can be taken. What follows will be familiar to regular readers, but bears repeating until we get them.
First we must institute genuine community policing in the hotspot neighborhoods. Emanuel falsely says dispatching more beat cops constitutes community policing. Similarly, Daley's CAPS program was not. True community policing takes time, training and commitment.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice manual, “Establishing and maintaining mutual trust is the central goal of the first core component of community policing—community partnership. Police recognize the need for cooperation within the community. In [the past] fight against serious crime the police have encouraged community members to come forth with relevant information. In addition, police have spoken to neighborhood groups and worked with social agencies and taken part in educational and recreational programs for school children…. So how do the cooperative efforts of community policing differ from the actions that have taken place previously? The fundamental distinction is that in community policing the police become an integral part of the community culture and the community assists in defining future priorities and in allocating resources. The difference is substantial…”
If we want the police to establish confidence within the communities and obtain vital citizen cooperation rather than a code of silence, the department must finally end its own code of silence wherein even the good cops protect the 5 or so percent of brutal and miscreant officers. Emanuel took a baby step in this direction by agreeing to release citizen complaints about police.
Nonetheless, police are viewed more as an army of occupation and often feared more than gang gunmen. The politicians who propose calling in the National Guard would exacerbate the situation.
Insanity is repeating the same old thing and expecting different results. If McCarthy and Emanuel don't make the necessary changes outlined here, they will continue lamenting more and more killings—and qualify for the nuthouse.
Residents, law officers march to stop gun violence // photo gallery
by JENNIFER HARWOOD
PANAMA CITY — Eleven killings during the past eight weeks propelled a group of almost 50 people forward in a march to take a stand against the surge of gun violence around Panama City.
Residents along the route from Glenwood Community Center to the A. D. Harris Learning Village trickled out of their homes Saturday morning to watch the mixture of concerned residents and law officers chant anti-violence messages and sing hymns of hope as they passed.
“We can't afford to be complacent anymore,” said Janice Lucas, a spokeswoman for the event.
The march assembled a large core of stakeholders. An afternoon rally also had been scheduled, but was canceled because of concerns about security and the addition of more resources for a future event.
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen spoke at the end of the march from the law enforcement side of the recent violence.
“If we're not afraid to walk down this road, we should be brave enough to call and say someone is trying to sell dope to my child,” McKeithen said.
He repeated the importance of using public demonstrations as a springboard to following through with community efforts to curb violence, given that such events sometimes stir the pot.
McKeithen later described the collective struggle to identify personal and community circumstances that contributed to the recent shootings. He said stress had been mounting for residents and law officers as they look to one another for quick answers.
“It's not going to get solved overnight” he said.
No one spoke more passionately than 29-year-old Jeremy Ponds. Born and raised in St. Andrews, Ponds serves on the executive committee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Ponds returned to his hometown in light of the shootings to help comfort the families of the victims he knew growing up and spread the message that retaliation is not the answer.
“We were once upon a time a close-knit community. I never imagined growing up here we'd have these problems,” he said in an interview.
In his speech, he urged demonstrators to shift the mindset by using positive language and loving words to communicate about solutions.
“A majority of everyone here raised me,” he said as he motioned to the crowd.
Ponds said things have changed from the “old school” values, when parents and neighbors were not afraid to get into the business of children playing in the streets.
“I thank God that I was able to stay out of that type of trouble,” he said. “We need more mentorship and reaching out to these young people.”
John Haley, executive director of operational support services for the Bay District Schools, echoed Ponds' point that young people lacking financial resources need other outlets for income besides selling drugs and other illegal activities.
Another prevailing theme was the need for more education on conflict resolution and anger management in public schools.
“We want to make sure we know from a school perspective what we need to do to keep our children safe,” Haley said.
Haley said brainstorming sessions already have taken place on how to build conflict resolution into the curriculum. One idea for consideration is to give violent offenders the option of conflict education before facing a blemished record and consequences from the administration.
Most of those involved in recent killings had been young adults in their 20s. Because most of them had not been out of high school more than a few years, Haley said the victims and their families still had ties to the school district. He hopes to see a new trend of constructive problem solving come out of all the attention the violence has received.
“This is a movement that's got to be for the long-haul,” Ponds said.
Lucas said the march was a part of a “fast-growing organic response.”
“We wanted to give the people that are hurting a chance to come out and demonstrate a demand for peace,” she said.
“We need to have something for our youth to put their attention toward,” added Toni McGee of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church.
With so many alarmed by the recent violence, McGee is helping form an informal network of residents called the Concerned Citizens of Bay County.
“It's important to let the families of those who have been killed to know that we do care about them,” McGee said. “We're here to give the citizens a voice.”
Exclusive: Feds Struggling to Cope With Medical ‘Breakdown' at the Border
by Jim Avila
The federal government is so overwhelmed by the current tide of migrants crossing the border It can't provide basic medical screening to all of the children before transporting them – often by air – to longer-term holding facilities across the country, ABC News has learned.
The director of refugee health in the federal Health and Human Services Department “has identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes at the Nogales, Arizona, facility,” according to an internal Department of Defense memo reviewed by ABC News. The “breakdown” a systemic failure of the handoff of these children between CBP and HHS.
Inside the government, officials are sounding alarms, fearing that they and their teams who come in contact with the sick children face potential exposure to infectious diseases from chicken pox to influenza, including rare cases of H1N1, more commonly called swine flu.
Two unaccompanied children were flown from Nogales to California despite having 101-degree fevers and flu-like symptoms, according to the Department of Defense memo. Those children had to be hospitalized.
The memo said pointedly that officials in charge of moving the immigrants from Border Patrol processing centers to Health and Human Services facilities are “putting sick [fevers and coughing] unaccompanied children on airplanes inbound for [Naval Base Ventura County] in addition to the chicken pox and coxsackie virus cases.”
The document said three other kids were in the ICU at local hospitals in California, and two of them were diagnosed with strep pneumonia.
Less than a week later, that same Ventura Naval Base suffered an outbreak of pneumonia and influenza among the unaccompanied minors inside the shelter.
“Preliminary reports indicate that several unaccompanied minors in the shelter had become ill with what appears to be pneumonia and influenza,” according to a statement from the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services.
HHS told ABC News the children were supposed to be screened for sickness before leaving the Border Patrol screening centers.
“When the children arrive at U.S. border stations,” the ACF statement read, “they are screened for health problems and given medical treatment if needed.”
But, according to the memo ABC News reviewed, “Curi Kim [the HHS director of the Division of Refugee Health] has identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes at the Nogales, Arizona, facility. The [unaccompanied children] were initially screened and cleared upon entry into that facility with no fever or significant symptoms. They were not however re-screened and cleared for travel and placement at a temporary shelter.”
While confirming to ABC News the outbreak occurred, HHS would not respond to inquiries about the DOD memo showing sick children were knowingly sent to Naval Base Ventura prior to the outbreak.
“My biggest concerns are with the health of these children,” said Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor. “They are victims going through incredibly stressful circumstances and some will have health issues that need to be treated. Some come from countries that don't vaccinate against pneumonia or meningitis. They need those vaccines. Some come from countries where it is flu season. They need that vaccine, too. The big health risks are among these children, not to our communities.”
Once kids are in HHS custody they receive exams and vaccinations, and are screened for tuberculosis, according to ACF, but more serious illnesses such as meningitis and polio are of little concern for causing an outbreak.
“Children from this region of the world participate in comprehensive childhood vaccination programs, similar to the United States, and are generally well protected from most vaccine-preventable diseases,” ACF said in a statement.
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras each have rates of vaccination against preventable illnesses such as polio, tuberculosis, measles and pertussis consistent with the United States, according to the World Health Organization.
Immigration crisis: Tuberculosis spreading at camps
by Todd Starnes
Are the thousands of illegal immigrant kids housed in detention facilities happy and well fed -- or are they living in disease-infested compounds shrouded in secrecy?
Well, it depends on who you ask.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seems to think the children coming across the southern border are remarkably healthy. It's a sentiment shared by BCFS -- the Texas-based agency formerly known as Baptist Child & Family Services contracted to run camps at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
More than 7,000 children have been processed through the two camps, according to a BCFS official. They allege that only 119 children have been treated for lice, 22 for scabies, and one for the H1N1 Flu. BCFS says the most common illnesses seen at Lackland are fever, headache, upper respiratory cold and ingrown toenails.
However, at least a half dozen anonymous sources, including nurses and health care providers who worked at Lackland, allege that the government is covering up what they believe to be a very serious health threat.
Several of my sources tell me that tuberculosis has become a dangerous issue at both the border and the camps.
"The amount of tuberculosis is astonishing," one health care provider told me. "The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick. The tuberculosis is definitely there."
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, M.D. says state health officials have seen only three cases of tuberculosis, the Associated Press reports. One of my sources with close ties to the Texas HHS tells me all three cases were reported in Austin.
However, nurses at Lackland in San Antonio, said they know of at least four teenagers in their camp who have tuberculosis.
"The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick," the source told me. "The tuberculosis is definitely there."
My source said there are children showing classic tuberculosis symptoms -- spitting up blood, a constant cough and chest pain.
BCFS officials deny that any child at Lackland has been diagnosed with TB and the state health commissoner downplayed the health threat. While confirming their had been three cases of TB, Lakey said it was not unusual, the Associated Press reported.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at New York University's Langone Medical Center and a Fox News A Team medical contributor, said tuberculosis appears to be spreading through several counties in southern Texas. He told me that some counties are reporting twice the usual average number of cases.
"Some of the tuberculosis that comes from Central America is drug resistant," he told me. "It's not easier to spread but it is harder to treat. I'm concerned about that."
And while, TB is not that easy to spread, he warned that all those children living in close quarters could be a ticking time bomb.
"It is a disease that needs to be carefully monitored and screened for -- something that is not possible under the current circumstances," Siegel said.
HHS released a statement neither confirming nor denying what the nurses are telling me: "When unaccompanied children come into the Department of Health and Human Services program, they are given a well-child exam and given all needed childhood vaccinations to protect against communicable diseases,” the statement read. “They are also screened for tuberculosis, and receive a mental health exam. If children are determined to have any communicable disease or have been exposed to a communicable disease, they are placed in a program or facility that has the capacity to quarantine."
This is the same HHS that previously denied there were any cases of scabies. They make it sound as if there are very few health problems among the illegals. They even downplay the lice epidemic -- just 119 “officially confirmed” cases.
“They are lying,” one nurse told me. “We treated that many kids with lice on a given day. We would put 20 kids in front of us – 10 in each row. You could see the bugs crawling through their hair.”
Another former staff member told me it was like working in a giant emergency room.
“They had children in the infirmary that had been there several days,” the former staffer told me. “You were on your feet nonstop. They had chicken pox, measles, and there was a concern strep was spreading.”
BCFS denied any of the children had the measles. They said public health authorities “have inspected our facility and had access to freely converse with our medical staff and children.”
Health care providers tell me the Lackland facility is like a giant orphanage. And while lice and scabies abound -- they warn that the bigger problem lurking is tuberculosis.
"Lice and scabies are fixable," a nurse said. "TB is the real problem here."
It's impossible to know the full extent of the communicable diseases that have come and are coming across the border. Nurses and other care givers tell me they've been told to keep their mouths shut. Those caught divulging information are subject to immediate dismissal -- and all my sources said they were told they could also be arrested.
BCFS won't even allow random inspections of their facilities by the media or members of Congress.
Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstein was denied access last week to the HHS facility at Fort Sill – another facility run by BCFS.
“There is no excuse for denying a federal representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” the congressman said in a statement.
Bridenstein said he was told that unannounced visitors are not allowed – even if they are elected officials – and that he would have to make an appointment to visit the facility.
“What are they trying to hide?” he asked. “Do they not want the children to speak with members of Congress?”
He was told to come back for a pre-arranged and heavily scripted dog-and-pony-show tours -- but those events were fact-free fact-finding missions. I'd say the congressman has a better chance of getting into GITMO.
BCFS blames HHS for the shroud of secrecy. Sources within the organization tell me they've been ordered not to talk to the media and not to let anyone inside the camps.
In spite of everything my sources are telling, a BCFS representative describes the facility at Lackland as a place where children are happy, well-fed and engaged in daily activities.
Meanwhile, several San Antonio pastors who dropped by unannounced at the Lackland camp, have shared with me a rather unsettling discovery. The ministers told me the facility was under heavy guard from security personnel.
To be honest, we have no idea what's going on at that fenced facility but I have a feeling it's not good.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."
Will Immigrants Make You Sick?
by Peter Lipson
The current immigration “problem” has got people fired up. Protesters are yelling at buses full of American kids, accusing undocumented child immigrants of every imaginable ill deed, from stealing jobs to using scarce resources to spreading disease.
The first two can be argued, the last not so much. Travelers from abroad can bring in some unpleasant illnesses whether or not they are immigrants. The actual risk is has been mendaciously bantered about by some politicians.
Two factors have already lowered borders that once held back the spread of some infections: rapid global travel and trade, and climate change. Global travel helped spread the HIV virus, and trade brought West Nile virus to the U.S.. Trade can also spread food-borne illnesses like infectious diarrhea, but so can domestic foods. Few would argue that travel and trade should be eliminated as a method of disease control, although we can certainly develop precautions based on experience. Climate change is helping nasty diseases such as Dengue Fever and Chikengunya make their way into the U.S., and other than closing the borders completely it's not clear to me how halting immigrant children at the border helps mitigate the danger.
Screening immigrants for vaccine-preventable diseases is a good policy and allows for vaccination for susceptible people, however many recent outbreaks of diseases like measles and mumps have been imported by Americans traveling abroad and returning to communities with poor vaccination rates. Vaccination of Americans is a priority for both domestic and imported risks.
Dr. Marc Siegel's piece on the Fox News website is typical of the hyperbolic and frankly incorrect, ignorant, and inflammatory rhetoric from the right. He harkens back to the early 20th century when immigrants where excluded from the country for medical reasons. No doubt many of these were good choices, but disease was an excuse often used by nativists and eugenicists to exclude ethnic groups they disliked. The Johnson Immigration Act of 1924 leveled fines against steamship lines that allowed in any alien afflicted with idiocy, insanity, imbecility, feeble-mindedness, epilepsy, constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholism, tuberculosis in any form, or a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease.
That's pretty broad and open to a lot of subjective judgement.
Siegel calls out some specific diseases he thinks Central American immigrant children are importing. Scabies is an unpleasant skin disease caused by small mites that burrow into the skin. It's relatively common in the US, especially among people living in crowded and un-hygeinic conditions, but it is not confined to any particular socio-economic class. It requires prolonged skin-to-skin contact for transmission, but can also be transmitted from inanimate objects. The mites can only live for a few days off the body, so object-to-person transmission (“fomites”) is not very efficient.
He also calls out drug-resistant tuberculosis. This dangerous disease is thankfully still relatively rare in the US. Imported cases are a concern, but Central America is not a hotbed of TB.
Scabies and TB are most efficiently spread in crowded conditions, like those immigrants are held in if not sent out into the general population. Keeping immigrants confined increases the risk of these diseases.
Siegal also mentions a few vanishingly rare diseases such as Hansen's Disease (leprosy), another not-easily spread infection.
Ignorant and/or mendacious accusations like these inflame fears and hatred but do little to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Most of these diseases are social, not individual problems and require social solutions. One of these is to completely close our borders to immigration, travel and trade. Since this is insane, a better policy is to screen recent immigrants for important contagious diseases and see that they get vaccinations and proper treatment, including, if needed, isolation from crowded centers. Educating and vaccinating our own people is also essential.
Disease is a lousy excuse for excluding whole classes of people entering the US and fanning those flames simply incites fear and hatred.
Immigration Advocate: Sick Children Not Receiving Medicine At Detention Center
ARTESIA, N.M. (AP) — Immigration advocates who were allowed to visit a New Mexico detention center say women there are complaining that children aren't getting proper medical care and people are being deported before they can see a lawyer.
Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have not responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the allegations, which echo complaints advocates have been voicing for weeks about the treatment of people accused of crossing into the country illegally to escape drug gangs and poverty in Central America
Tannia Esparza, executive director of Young Women United, says the women she visited in Artesia Tuesday told her children with coughs and diarrhea aren't receiving medicine. She also says women told her pregnant detainees were targeted for swift deportation.
Esparza visited the Artesia complex Tuesday with representatives of other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Mexico Immigration Law Center.