August, 2014 - Week 1
Police-Mayor Tensions Mount Over Chokehold Death
by TOM HAYS
Police have become increasingly at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio over the appearance he is taking sides against them after the chokehold death of a black suspect last month — a conflict that has prompted the city's top law enforcement official to do damage control by calling the mayor "very pro-cop."
What angered many was a recent forum in which the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the biggest critics of the New York Police Department, was seated alongside the mayor, a liberal Democrat, and the police commissioner as he lambasted law enforcement and suggested the mayor's mixed-race son would be a "candidate for a chokehold" if he were an ordinary New Yorker. The image was seized on by critics of the administration and plastered on the cover of the New York Post with the headline "Who's the Boss!"
"It is outrageously insulting to all police officers to say that we go out on our streets to choke all people of color as Al Sharpton stated while seated at the table right next to our mayor at City Hall," said Patrick Lynch, head of the powerful Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. Another union official, Ed Mullins of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, hinted at a work slowdown at the nation's largest police department.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani even weighed in, saying in a radio interview that de Blasio made a "big mistake ... setting up a press conference like that and putting a police commissioner in that situation. That's extremely damaging to the police commissioner, to keep up the morale of the police."
In recent days, emails have circulated among police officers showing a mock identification card with a picture of Sharpton and the title "Police Commissioner." The activist has shot back by claiming he has the ear of federal officials who have the authority to bring civil rights charges in the death of Eric Garner.
"It is time to have a mature conversation about policing rather than immature name calling and childish attempts to scapegoat," Sharpton said in a statement.
Police Commissioner William Bratton responded to the uproar by giving a series of interviews Friday defending his department's record on race and de Blasio's attitude toward the department.
"We are not a racist organization," Bratton told The Associated Press. "And I will challenge anybody despite their perceptions of police on that issue. This is a department that goes where the problems are — whether it's crime or disorder."
De Blasio, he added, "is very pro-cop. ... This is not an anti-police mayor."
The rift stems from Garner's arrest on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island. Amateur video appears to show an officer putting the asthmatic, 350-pound father of six in a banned chokehold after he refused to be handcuffed. He yells, "I can't breathe!" as several officers take him down.
A city medical examiner found that the 43-year-old Garner was killed by neck compression from the chokehold along with "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police." Asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors.
The finding increased the likelihood that the case will be presented to a grand jury to determine whether any of the arresting officers will face criminal charges. It also has fueled the biggest crisis yet for de Blasio, who took office this year vowing to achieve two goals that, at times, can be contradictory: He said he would drive down crime and repair strained relations between police and the community.
"Every law enforcement official, every officer has to serve the people in this city," the mayor said. "The vast majority of people in the NYPD take that very, very seriously. If some individuals don't, that's a problem for us because we need people to go out there and do our jobs and do them well."
Along with rank-and-file discord, Garner's death has forced Bratton to defend his devotion to the policing tactic called broken windows — the idea that going after smaller crimes such as selling loose cigarettes or public drinking helps stop greater ones such as assault and murder. Some lawmakers and experts say the decades-old theory no longer applies to a city with far less crime, unnecessarily puts nonviolent people at risk and fuels tensions in the city's minority communities.
"Serious crime has decreased dramatically in New York City in the two decades that broken windows policing has been in force, yet the causal connection between that drop and huge numbers of arrests for minor transgressions is unproven to this day," Steve Zeidman, a law professor at City University of New York, wrote in a recent op-ed piece.
Bratton has insisted that the NYPD will stick with the tactic. He also has defended the powwow with Sharpton.
"Whether you like Al Sharpton or not, he clearly is a spokesperson, particularly for African-Americans, and that is reality," Bratton said in the AP interview.
New police focus pays off
Big drop in Lowell 'quality of life' crimes
by Robert Mills
LOWELL -- Despite several high-profile shootings that put the city on edge, there was a 23 percent reduction in "quality of life" crimes tracked by Lowell police in the first six months of this year compared to last year.
Those statistics include a 14 percent decline in aggravated assaults, which include shootings.
Police Superintendent William Taylor said the decline includes a
whopping 46 percent decrease in motor-vehicle break-ins so far this year compared to last year, as well as a 27 percent decrease in robberies, and a 59 percent decrease in vandalism.
"Quality of life" crimes include aggravated assault, burglary, theft from motor vehicles, disorderly conduct, vandalism, robbery and shoplifting. Police commanders meet every two weeks in "CompStat" meetings to review data on crimes in Lowell, and track those crimes closely.
"These are the crimes that we measure in our biweekly meetings," Taylor said. "These are the crimes that affect neighborhoods."
Taylor credited his officers and a Police Department reorganization that he initiated for contributing to the decline by putting more police officers on walking and bicycle patrols in city neighborhoods.
The reorganization saw Taylor change the department's structure to free up 24 officers who are now assigned teams known alternatively as either "district response teams" or "problem-solving teams."
The city was previously divided into three sectors by police, with each sector overseen by a captain. Under changes implemented by Taylor, there are now just two sectors, one covering downtown, Centralville, Pawtucketville and the Acre, and another covering the Highlands, Back Central, Belvidere and South Lowell.
Each sector is further divided into two districts, and each of the city's four districts has its own "problem-solving team," that patrols on foot or by bicycle whenever possible. The teams patrol specific areas, at specific times, in response to trends in crime identified by crime analysts.
"This type of a significant drop is a direct result of the men and women of the Lowell Police Department working hand in hand with our community, making sure they're in touch with the problems that are affecting the quality of life for the people who live, work and play in the city of Lowell," Taylor said.
Taylor said the decline comes even though the reorganization and problem-solving teams remain a work in progress.
The new problem-solving units still don't have individual lieutenants overseeing them, but will soon. Taylor also plans to assign an individual crime analyst to each unit so the individual units can monitor crime and watch for trends in the neighborhoods where they're assigned on a daily basis.
Instead of the command staff meeting with crime analysts every two weeks to review when and where crimes are occurring, the problem-solving teams will work with a crime analyst on a daily basis to monitor crimes in their neighborhood, and to recognize emerging trends early enough to prevent more crimes from occurring.
Taylor said the problem-solving teams will also be working to build communication with both residents and neighborhood groups, so they can be aware of and respond to the concerns of those who live or work in neighborhoods around Lowell.
EFSC 911 Public Safety Academy Accepting Applications
by Space Coast Daily
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — The Public Safety Institute at Eastern Florida State College is recruiting for its upcoming 911 Public Safety Telecommunications Night Academy.
The program will run Monday through Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The deadline to apply for this part-time program is Sept. 4. Classes begin on Sept. 29.
FULLY ACCREDITED, LICENSED, CERTIFIED
The Public Safety Institute at Eastern Florida State College is fully accredited, licensed or certified through: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), The Florida Bureau of Fire Standards and Training (BFST), The Committee on Accreditation of Educational Programs for Emergency Medical Service Professionals (CoAEMSP), and the Florida Department of Health (DOH).
The mission of EFSC's Public Safety Institute is to provide quality training and education to current public safety practitioners and men and women entering the public safety and criminal justice fields, preparing them for today's workforce, to serve and safeguard their communities.
The Public Safety Institute is home to the Brevard Police Testing & Selection Center — a regional resource that tests and screens people pursuing public safety careers.
Brevard Police Testing & Selection Center is the primary point-of-contact for applicants wishing to attend the Law Enforcement Academy, receive Equivalency of Training evaluation or apply for inclusion in the county-wide employment pool.
Explore the EFSC's Public Safety Institute web pages to find specific application information that's customized for each program. Be sure to work with a program coordinator or advisor as you plan your program. Careers in public safety often require an increased level of background checks, testing and screening.
Be prepared for that increased scrutiny for our limited access programs because of Florida law and administrative code requirements about who's eligible to enter a public safety/law enforcement training program.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Obama Allows Limited Airstrikes on ISIS
by HELENE COOPER, MARK LANDLER and ALISSA J. RUBIN
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday announced he had authorized limited airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, scrambling to avert the fall of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and returning the United States to a significant battlefield role in Iraq for the first time since the last American soldier left the country at the end of 2011.
Speaking at the White House on Thursday night, Mr. Obama also said that American military aircraft had dropped food and water to tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped on a barren mountain range in northwestern Iraq, having fled the militants, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, who threaten them with what Mr. Obama called “genocide.”
“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried that there is no one coming to help,” Mr. Obama said in a somber statement delivered from the State Dining Room. “Well, today America is coming to help.”
The president insisted that these military operations did not amount to a full-scale re-engagement in Iraq. But the relentless advance of the militants, whom he described as “barbaric,” has put them within a 30-minute drive of Erbil, raising an immediate danger for the American diplomats, military advisers and other citizens who are based there.
“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq,” said Mr. Obama, who built his run for the White House in part around his opposition to the war in Iraq.
While Mr. Obama has authorized airstrikes, American officials said there had not yet been any as of late Thursday. In addition to protecting Americans in Erbil and Baghdad, the president said he had authorized airstrikes, if necessary, to break the siege on Mount Sinjar, where tens of thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority group closely allied with the Kurds, have sought refuge.
The aircraft assigned to dropping food and water over the mountainside were a single C-17 and two C-130 aircraft. They were escorted by a pair of F-18 jet fighters, the administration official said. The planes were over the drop zone for about 15 minutes, and flew at a relatively low altitude. They flew over the Mount Sinjar area for less than 15 minutes, Pentagon officials said, and dropped a total of 5,300 gallons of fresh drinking water and 8,000 meals ready to eat. Mr. Obama, officials said, delayed announcing the steps he intended to take in Iraq until the planes had safely cleared the area.
A senior administration official said that the humanitarian effort would continue as needed, and that he expected further airdrops. “We expect that need to continue,” he said.
The official said that as conditions in Iraq deteriorated in recent days, the United States had worked with Iraqi security forces and Kurdish fighters to coordinate the response to militant advances. The official said the cooperation had included airstrikes by Iraqi forces against militant targets in the north.
Kurdish and Iraqi officials said that airstrikes were carried out Thursday night on two towns in northern Iraq seized by ISIS — Gwer and Mahmour, near Erbil. Earlier on Thursday, The New York Times quoted Kurdish and Iraqi officials as saying that the strikes were carried out by American planes.
While the militants are not believed to have surface-to-air missiles, they do have machine guns that could hit planes flying at a low altitude, said James M. Dubik, a retired Army lieutenant general who oversaw the training of the Iraqi Army in 2007 and 2008.
“These are low and slow aircraft,” General Dubik said. At a minimum, he said, the United States must be prepared for “some defensive use of air power to prevent” the militants from attacking American planes, or going after the humanitarian supplies.
For Mr. Obama, who has steadfastly avoided being drawn into the sectarian furies of the Middle East, the decision raises a host of difficult questions, injecting the American military into Iraq's broader political struggle — something Mr. Obama said he would not agree to unless Iraq's three main ethnic groups agreed on a national unity government.
The decision could also open Mr. Obama to charges that he is willing to use American military might to protect Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities but not to prevent the slaughter of Muslims by other Muslims, either in Iraq or neighboring Syria.
But the president said the imminent threat to Erbil and the dire situation unfolding on Mount Sinjar met both his criteria for deploying American force: protecting American lives and assets, and averting a humanitarian disaster.
“When we have the unique capacity to avert a massacre, the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” he said.
Mr. Obama has been reluctant to order direct military action in Iraq while Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki remains in office, but in recent weeks there have been repeated pleas from the Kurdish officials for weapons and assistance as ISIS militants have swept across northwestern Iraq. The militants, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, view Iraq's majority Shiite and minority Christians and Yazidis as infidels.
Deliberations at the White House went on all day Thursday as reports surfaced that administration officials were considering either humanitarian flights, airstrikes or both.
Shortly after 6 p.m., the White House posted a photo of Mr. Obama consulting his national security team in the Situation Room. To his right was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Watching from across the table were Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and her principal deputy, Antony J. Blinken. On the wall behind them, the clock recorded the time: 10:37 a.m.
Mr. Obama made only one public appearance, a rushed visit to Fort Belvoir, Va., where he signed into law a bill expanding access to health care for veterans. But aides suggested he might make a statement Thursday night. Before getting into his limousine, Mr. Obama was observed holding an intense conversation with his chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, stabbing his finger several times for emphasis.
Later, Mr. McDonough telephoned the House speaker, John A. Boehner, to inform him of the president's plans, and other White House officials spoke with lawmakers — all in an effort to avoid bruised feelings like those that followed the prisoner swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Administration officials said on Thursday that the crisis on Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq had forced their hand. Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, according to Unicef, while as many as 40,000 people have been sheltering in the bare mountains without food, water or access to supplies.
Still, offensive strikes on militant targets around Erbil and Baghdad would take American involvement in the conflict to a new level — in effect, turning the American Air Force into the Iraqi Air Force.
“The White House is going to recognize that the need to commit air power to Iraq, even for a purely humanitarian mission, is going to open them up to greater criticism for their disengagement from Iraq,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “So they will do their damnedest not to get further involved in Iraq because that would just further validate those criticisms.”
Ever since Sunni militants with ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, on June 10, Iraqis have feared that Baghdad, to the south, was the insurgents' ultimate goal. But in recent weeks, the militant group has concentrated on trying to push the Kurds back from areas where Sunnis also live along the border between Kurdistan and Nineveh Province.
It has taken on the powerful Kurdish militias, which were thought to be a bulwark against the advance, and which control huge oil reserves in Kurdistan and broader parts of northern Iraq. An administration official said the United States would expedite the delivery of weapons to the Kurds.
For Mr. Obama, the suffering of the refugees on the mountainside appeared to be a tipping point. He spoke in harrowing terms about their dire circumstances, saying thousands of people were “hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.”
“They're without food, they're without water,” he said. “People are starving. And children are dying of thirst. These innocent families are faced with a horrible choice: descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.”
WHO declares Ebola outbreak a global health emergency
by Kim Willsher
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is an international public health emergency that needs an extraordinary response to stop the disease from spreading further, the World Health Organization declared Friday.
Margaret Chan, head of the WHO, said the often-fatal disease was spreading in nations that did not have the resources to deal with it and called for "international solidarity," though she acknowledged that many countries would probably not be hit by the outbreak.
The current wave of cases, which began in March, is the largest and longest in the history of the disease. The WHO issued similar emergency warnings for a swine flu outbreak in 2009 and for polio in May this year.
"Countries affected to date simply do not have the capacity to manage an outbreak of this size and complexity on their own. I urge the international community to provide this support on the most urgent basis possible," Chan said at a news conference in Geneva.
Earlier this week, the WHO set up a committee of experts to establish the gravity of the Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea and spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The death toll is reported to have topped 900 people. Between Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, a total of 108 new cases as well as 45 deaths were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the WHO. The total number of cases stands at more than 1,700, with a fatality rate of about 50%.
Last week, Chan met with the presidents of the affected countries and launched a $100-million joint-response plan to bring the disease under control.
"Experiences in Africa over nearly four decades tell us clearly that, when well-managed, an Ebola outbreak can be stopped," Chan said in a statement after the meeting.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its Ebola response Thursday to the highest level and recommended against travel to West Africa.
There is currently no licensed vaccine or treatment for the disease. Two American medical missionaries infected with the Ebola virus are being treated with experimental drugs after being flown to the U.S., and appear to be showing signs of improvement.
The WHO made several recommendations, including for countries not currently affected, but said there should be no "general ban on international travel or trade" to the affected nations. It added that the public should be given "accurate and relevant information" on the outbreak as well as measures they can take to reduce exposure to the disease.
"States should be prepared to facilitate the evacuation and repatriation of nationals (e.g., health workers) who have been exposed to Ebola," the WHO said in a statement.
Remains from Jonestown tragedy found in Delaware
by James Queally
The cremated remains of nine victims of the 1978 Jonestown massacre, a mass suicide in Guyana, were discovered inside a former funeral home in Delaware on Wednesday, state officials said.
Members of the Delaware Division of Forensic Science and the Dover Police Department conducted an excavation at the Minus Funeral Home after 38 small containers were discovered inside, according to a police department news release issued yesterday.
All but five of the sets of remains, which were cremated between 1970 and the '90s, were clearly marked, police said. Nine of the containers were linked to victims of the 1978 mass suicide, which left more than 900 people dead of cyanide poisoning.
The Division of Forensic Science took possession of all remains from the site and is working to identify those remaining, the release said.
Cpl. Mark Hoffman, public information officer for the Dover Police Department, said the funeral home went out of business in 2012, and the land was purchased by a bank. A bank employee recently discovered 38 sets of urns on the property, sparking the investigation.
Hoffman said many victims of the Guyana massacre were flown back to the United States by way of Dover Air Force Base, though it was not clear how the remains then made their way to the funeral home.
“The assumption is that they were probably contracted out as unclaimed remains, but there's no information to validate that yet,” Hoffman said.
The mass killing was orchestrated by the Rev. Jim Jones, who ordered members of his People's Temple cult to consume a cyanide-laced drink on Nov. 18, 1978.
How Ohio Enhanced its Public Safety Services with a Reduced Budget
Ohio is integrating all components of public safety intelligence into all disciplines for a safer state.
by John Born
In the world of decreasing budgets, Ohio has found a way to dramatically improve our public safety services through an investment in intelligence analysts while integrating existing resources in law enforcement, emergency management, homeland security and public safety. While many states have intelligence centers and some have 24-hour operations, Ohio merged its Emergency Management Agency (EMA) analysts, criminal intelligence analysts, homeland security analysts, school safety and threat analysts into one public safety mission.
The potential of integrated intelligence in public safety has never been more promising. By employing methods focused on communication, intelligence gathering and analysis, agencies devoted to public safety can make quicker, more informed and efficient decisions to help analysts save lives.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) has adopted integrated intelligence into its daily functions with the Critical Information and Communications Center, known as the Hub, supervised by Ohio State Highway Patrol (OHSP) commanders in Columbus. It incorporates all components of public safety intelligence — intelligence support, strategic intelligence and analytical intelligence — while also integrating the law enforcement, homeland security and emergency management disciplines of public safety. Ohio has benefited immensely from this integration since the Hub's creation in 2011, and agencies that follow suit will be at the head of public safety's future.
In September 2012, an officer investigating an act of arson at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg Township, Ohio, shared surveillance video of the suspect and photos of the suspect's vehicle with the Hub. Through the work of intelligence analysts and communications staff, the tip was quickly transformed into intelligence that led to the suspect's arrest.
An analyst created a bulletin and disseminated it to other agencies and partners, one of which received a tip — a name of a man possibly from Indiana. That tip was sent back to the Criminal Intelligence Unit, under the Hub.
Searching through various databases, the analyst discovered the man was from Indiana, where he worked as a truck driver. She also found his wife and called her. The wife hadn't heard from her husband in a couple of days, but she said he was off his medication and she was worried about his capabilities.
This launched a full-scale investigation. Analysts determined the location of the suspect's employer and identified his truck's location when he crossed back into Indiana. Police deployed to his trucking station, and upon his arrival, arrested him on the spot. A search of the suspect's vehicle yielded an assault rifle, more guns and arson materials.
The work of intelligence analysts informed law enforcement officers in the field, who focused their efforts where they'd be most effective — resulting in not just the apprehension of a criminal, but also the prevention of more crimes.
At ODPS, integrated intelligence is applied to public safety at the Hub, a round-the-clock operation consisting of the Highway Patrol's watch desk, Criminal Intelligence Unit and statewide dispatch center. The Hub offers constant communication between analysts with data at their fingertips and the officers and other end users who need it to help determine the best course of action in a given scenario.
The Hub was designed to replace a slow system of command and control. Instead of using a pyramidal approach to communication demanding information be passed up a chain of command before decisions can be made, it uses a shape like the hub of a tire; The communication center sits in the middle and anyone requesting information can contact it directly.
Analysts manage and share information proven to be relevant, reliable and actionable with law enforcement, homeland security and emergency management units within ODPS to support operational duties. After those units close for the day, their phone lines direct to the Hub, meaning many facets of public safety have coverage at all hours.
The Hub is unique because it provides a centralized point of contact to collect and disseminate critical information and expedite the deployment of assets during a critical incident, and its services are offered at no charge.
When ODPS first applied integrated intelligence to public safety through the Hub, the goal was enhanced drug interdiction efforts. That endeavor has been successful. Using information provided by the Hub, OSHP succeeded in identifying drug trafficking routes and knocking them off course.
The Hub's functions evolved after OSHP's achievements. Integrated intelligence has been used in Ohio to fight human trafficking, enhance the efforts of emergency management analysts and improve school and workplace safety, as well as assisting law enforcement all over the state.
Integrated intelligence separates into three categories: intelligence support, strategic intelligence and analytical intelligence.
Intelligence support backs up the front-line forces. It's the logic behind the broken windows theory and CompStat; When intelligence supports on-the-ground functions, crime rates fall. Gathering information and processing it into intelligence allows law enforcement to understand who, what, where and when, helping them better determine effective asset deployment.
Analysts at the Hub receive information from the public through calls to Ohio's #677 tip line, as well as from Facebook and a public email account. The Hub takes the information, changes it into a usable format and sends resources to appropriate locations.
This intelligence-led policing technique is nothing new. Information gathering helps reduce crime by allowing officers to act preventively, rather than reactively. Law enforcement can come to understand the motivations and methods of the individuals who commit criminal acts and deploy resources accordingly.
Strategic intelligence is the process of connecting dots and finding patterns. The Hub primarily assists three ODPS divisions — Highway Patrol, Emergency Management and Homeland Security — in putting information into useful formats, so further steps can be as informed as possible. The Strategic Analysis and Information Center (SAIC), a fusion center within OHS, is vital to strategic intelligence in Ohio. SAIC and the Hub are separate operations, but they work together and the Hub receives SAIC's calls after hours.
OHS has made use of information sharing through the SAIC since 2005 in an effort to investigate terrorism and support the national intelligence community. The SAIC is one of 78 centers in the National Fusion Center Network, created through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice and Office of National Intelligence, and is designated by the governor as Ohio's primary fusion center.
OHS is made up of 17 sectors, interconnected by the SAIC to share information and work together.
OHS also produced the Safer School Initiative, accomplished by the Threat Assessment and Prevention Unit for the 2014-2015 school year. It brings together several disciplines within the fusion center, analytical and threat assessment processes, plus partnerships with both the private and public sectors. The goal is to create a circle of protection for students and faculty and serve as a resource for law enforcement, local schools and the Ohio Department of Education.
The unit receives information from a 24-hour tip line used to report threats that could jeopardize school or workplace safety. Sometimes the proper response might be to contact law enforcement; conversely, letting the school or parents know of the problem may be best. Either way, the round-the-clock nature of the unit gets information to the right place — and quickly — to prevent as much violence as possible.
Analytical intelligence is the byproduct of strategic intelligence. Analysts create a product with the intelligence produced, which can be strategic, conveying anticipatory information, or tactical, recommending how to reduce the possibility of violence and crime when proceeding. The product is a written communication, often called a “bulletin,” conveying the analytical outcome that was reached.
EMA has benefited from the Hub's products, for both the near and future term. A near-term product might focus on a storm system brewing in Colorado that will likely impact Ohio in a week. Future-term reports are more predictive in nature; an analytical product can be developed to look ahead at something like propane supply for the upcoming winter to help determine if counties might run short.
The Hub can provide specific information during an event that helps construct a product of either kind. Oftentimes, when liaisons or safety teams deploy across the state to help out in a crisis, they have to get moving before they have a full assessment of what's occurred. With the Hub, information can be pulled together while the team is in transit and sent to them electronically or directly to the location where they're headed.
Analysts at the Hub have specialties in homeland security, criminal intelligence or emergency management, but are cross trained so all personnel can handle large-scale events. By the time personnel arrive at an incident, there's enough information for the team to be briefed.
Other divisions utilize strategic or tactical products written by the Hub to aid in deploying resources more efficiently.
Police chiefs or superintendents interested in creating a center like the Hub are taking steps to make our country safer. Breaking the bank isn't necessary. In Ohio it was done during an $11 million budget reduction by repurposing positions and moving officers from general headquarters into roles in the field.
At the start, there was just a concept, not a specific way operations had to look. Nobody was sure whether troopers or police officers on traffic stops or the EMA would really use the resources, so it was built small. To everyone's surprise, demand for Hub resources quickly outpaced the services it could provide. From 2011 to 2012, requests for the Hub's services grew by 208 percent. Two analysts were hired initially. In 2014, there were 25.
The potential of integrated intelligence in public safety is limitless. Ohio's Hub has already expanded greatly, from a center for communications to an effective intelligence operation. From catching traffickers to arsonists to petty criminals, there's no question that coordinated efforts yield better results.
Through the application of integrated intelligence, public safety efforts in the U.S. will be smarter, faster and more effective with an approach that includes all components of integrated intelligence into all disciplines of public safety, ultimately leading to lives saved. The effectiveness of each boot on the ground can multiply significantly, and the effectiveness of assets already existing will increase dramatically.
John Born is the director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Mayor promotes public safety plan with visit to preschool
by Liz Gelardi
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mayor Greg Ballard toured an elementary school to promote the public safety plan he introduced last week. The plan calls for up to $50 million to fund early childhood education.
Mayor Ballard joined IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee for a classroom visit. They walked around the brightly colored hallways and stopped in a room full of energetic preschoolers. The mayor's plan stresses preschool as a way to reach kids early on, with the goal of keeping them on the right path later in life.
“I think it's very important that we try to reach every at-risk kid in the city that we possibly can,” said Mayor Greg Ballard.
The preschool program would give out scholarships to 1,300 children per year. The mayor has proposed paying for it by eliminating the homestead tax credit. City finance officials said eliminating the tax credit would free up $25 million. Critics worry getting rid of the credit will take money away from schools.
The United Way would manage the program and seek matching funds for every dollar spent, bringing the total up to $50 million. The money would be spent over five years.
“We also know that many of our students enter kindergarten behind and so anything that we can do to ensure that we're building those skills especially prepare students to be reading on grade level by grade three, we believe is a sound investment,” Dr. Lewis Ferebee, IPS Superintendent.
Recent violence has intensified calls to address crime in Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard's plan also proposed hiring 280 police officers by raising the public safety tax. FOX59's Liz Gelardi asked the mayor how his overall plan addresses crime now.
“We are addressing crime now, I don't think there's much question about that. The police have been doing a great job, the technology they're using, the data that they're using is very strong. They know exactly who they want to go after so all that is happening as we speak,” said Mayor Ballard.
Public Safety Commission supports proposal to ban cellphones in cars
by Shelton Green
AUSTIN -- Talking, texting or using a cellphone in a car, even if it's stopped at a red light, took a step closer to becoming illegal in Austin on Monday night.
Austin's Public Safety Commission approved a recommendation made by a special committee assigned to look at how to stiffen the 'No Driving or Texting' ordinance already on Austin's books.
It's already illegal to text and drive in Austin, but officers say that's tough to enforce.
The special committee recommended to the Austin City Council that it become illegal to talk, text or use a cellphone behind the wheel of an operating car, even if it's not moving.
The only exceptions in the proposal are emergencies and commercial drivers can use two-way radios.
Drivers would be allowed to pull into a parking lot and put the car in park to use their cellphone.
The City Council is holding a public hearing on the issue at its next meeting, Aug. 7. City leaders are expected to vote on the issue Aug. 28.
City Council public safety chair calls for grand jury, blasts police union heads in Garner case
by Erin Durkin
The City Council's public safety chair called for a grand jury to be quickly empaneled against the cops involved in the death of Eric Garner.
The city medical examiner ruled last week that the death was a homicide, caused by a chokehold by the officers who were trying to arrest Garner in Staten Island on suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes.
“With the Medical Examiner's report in hand, I would urge Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. to move forward with empaneling a grand jury to fully review the events that led to the death of Mr. Garner,” said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx), chair of the public safety committee.
“A full, thorough and formal criminal investigation of this horrific incident by the appropriate legal authorities is essential and it is my hope that by following such a process the Garner family can receive the justice they so clearly deserve.”
She also blasted the union heads who Tuesday defended the officers involved in Garner's arrests, denying they used a chokehold and calling the medical examiner's report political.
“Unfortunately rather than encouraging a constructive dialogue meant to enhance public safety for all of our City's residents, several union officials who represent New York City's law enforcement community recently made deeply troubling, disturbing and counterproductive comments that will only serve to divide this City,” Gibson said.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 57th Annual Meeting and 13th State Criminal Justice Network Conference
Philadelphia ~ Friday, August 1, 2014
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Norman [Reimer], for those kind words – and for your exemplary leadership as Executive Director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It's a pleasure to share the stage with you this morning. And it's a great privilege to stand with dedicated leaders like NACDL President Jerry Cox and so many distinguished jurists, passionate public servants, members of the defense bar, and engaged citizens.
I want to thank this organization's entire leadership team, staff, and membership for bringing us together this morning – and for everything this group has done, in the 57 years since your founding, to help expand access to justice; to strengthen the rule of law; and to draw America's legal system ever closer to the values – of equality, opportunity, and justice – that have defined our profession, and shaped this nation, for more than two and a quarter centuries.
Since 1958, the attorneys and staff of NACDL have exemplified the finest traditions of service and advocacy, striving to ensure justice and due process for those who stand accused of crime and misconduct. You've long stood at the forefront of our efforts to improve the administration of justice for all litigants. And you've worked tirelessly to educate practitioners, the public, and the judiciary about matters ranging from mass incarceration to the indigent defense crisis – consistently standing up and speaking out for populations that are too often overlooked and too often underserved.
Especially today, as we commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 – a landmark measure President Lyndon Johnson signed into law half a century ago this month to codify the Sixth Amendment right to counsel – it's appropriate that we pause to reflect on the invaluable contributions, and the many sacrifices, that this Association's members and so many others have made to ensure equality under the law. But it's just as important that we mark this anniversary, and honor the legacy of the Supreme Court's historic decision in Gideon v. Wainwright , by recommitting ourselves to the work that remains unfinished – and the significant challenges now before us.
As we speak – more than five decades after Gideon , and 50 years after the Criminal Justice Act established a framework for compensating attorneys who serve indigent federal defendants – millions of Americans remain unable to access or afford the legal assistance they need. Far too many hardworking public defenders are overwhelmed by crushing caseloads or undermined by a shameful lack of resources. And it's clear that, despite the progress we've seen over the years, a persistent and unacceptable “justice gap” remains all too real. It poses a significant threat to the integrity of our criminal justice system. And meeting this threat will require bold action and renewed efforts from legal professionals of all stripes.
As my predecessor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, reminded a gathering of legal professionals 50 years ago next week, it's incumbent upon us to ensure that “the scales of our legal system measure justice, not wealth.” That's why this Administration – and this Justice Department in particular – is committed to doing everything in our power to address the indigent defense crisis. Over the last four years, in spite of sequestration and other deep budget cuts, the Department of Justice has committed more than $24 million in grants, initiatives, and direct assistance to support indigent defense work around the country. The President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2015 would do even more in this regard. And thanks to the hardworking men and women of the Department's Access to Justice Initiative – an office I launched over four years ago to improve access to counsel, increase legal assistance, and bolster justice delivery systems – we're working closely with state, local, tribal and federal officials, as well as members of the bench and bar, to extend our outreach efforts; and to broaden access to quality representation in both the criminal and civil justice systems.
Last summer, we took a significant step forward by filing a Statement of Interest in a class action lawsuit – Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon – asserting that the federal government has a strong interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions are fulfilling their obligations under Gideon . In December, in a pivotal decision, the U.S. District Court found that there had, in fact, been a systemic deprivation of the right to counsel – and mandated the appointment of a public defender supervisor to monitor the quality of indigent defense representation. These and similar efforts will help us meet our constitutional and moral obligations to administer a legal system that matches its demands for accountability with a commitment to due process. And they are only the beginning.
Moving forward, we must continue to come together – across aisles that divide counsel tables and political parties – to ensure that America has a criminal justice system that's worthy of its highest ideals. To make certain that those who pay their debts to society have fair opportunities to become productive, law-abiding citizens. And to empower justice professionals to meet 21 st -century crime challenges with 21 st -century solutions.
With this goal in mind – one year ago – I launched a new “Smart on Crime” initiative, which includes a series of targeted, data-driven reforms that are designed to advance these goals. Since that time, my colleagues and I have implemented a range of meaningful changes – by increasing our focus on proven diversion and reentry strategies; by making criminal justice expenditures both smarter and more productive; and by moving decisively away from outdated and overly-stringent sentencing regimes.
I want to be very clear: we will never stop being vigilant in our pursuit of justice and our determination to ensure that those who break the law are held rigorously to account. But years of intensive study – and decades of professional experience – have shown that we will never be able to prosecute and incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.
As you know, the Smart on Crime initiative has led us to revise the Justice Department's charging policies with regard to mandatory minimum sentences for certain federal, drug-related crimes – so that sentences will be determined based on the facts, the law, and the conduct at issue in each individual case. This means that the toughest penalties will now be reserved for the most serious criminals. Over the last few months – with the Department's urging – the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken additional steps to codify this approach, amending federal sentencing guidelines for low-level drug trafficking crimes to reduce the average sentence by nearly 18 percent. Going forward, these new guidelines will impact almost 70 percent of people who are convicted of these offenses. And last month, the Commission voted to allow judges to apply these revised guidelines retroactively in cases where reductions are warranted.
Now, some have suggested that these modest changes might somehow undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to induce cooperation from defendants in federal drug cases. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.
Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory minimum sentence. As veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys surely recall – and as our U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, John Vaudreuil, has often reminded his colleagues – sentencing guidelines essentially systematized the kinds of negotiations that routinely took place in cases where defendants cooperated with the government in exchange for reduced sentences. With or without the threat of a mandatory minimum, it remains in the interest of these defendants to cooperate. It remains in the mutual interest of defense attorneys and prosecutors to engage in these discussions. And any suggestion that defendant cooperation is somehow dependent on mandatory minimums is plainly inconsistent with the facts and with history.
Far from impeding the work of federal prosecutors, these sentencing reforms that I have mandated represent the ultimate expression of confidence in their judgment and discretion. That's why I've called on Congress to expand upon and further institutionalize the changes we've put in place – so we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation while saving billions of dollars and reducing our overreliance on incarceration.
Beyond this work, my colleagues and I are also striving to restore justice, fairness, and proportionality to those currently involved with our justice system through an improved approach to the executive clemency process. In April, the Department announced new criteria that we will consider when recommending clemency applications for President Obama's review. This will allow us to consider requests from a larger field of eligible individuals – who have clean prison records, who do not present threats to public safety, and who were sentenced under out-of-date laws that are no longer seen as appropriate.
I'm pleased to report that we've already established an extensive and rigorous screening mechanism. We've facilitated efforts to engage assistance from pro bono attorneys, including many in this bar. We have detailed a number of lawyers within the Justice Department to temporary assignments in the Pardon Attorney's Office. And we've taken important steps to establish a process by which we will consult with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the trial judges who handled each original case – so we can evaluate every clemency application in the appropriate context.
I am particularly grateful for the assistance of dedicated criminal defense attorneys in and beyond this room – as well as nonprofit lawyers – who have stepped forward to answer the call for experienced pro bono counsel. As our process unfolds, these associated groups, including NACDL, and individuals – who stand more than a thousand attorneys strong, and call themselves “Clemency Project 2014” – will work with incarcerated people who appear to meet our criteria and request the assistance of a lawyer.
Your efforts in this regard – and your partnership in strengthening our criminal justice system across the board – have been in keeping with the most critical obligation entrusted to every member of our profession: not merely to represent clients or win cases, but to see that justice is done. Every day, in courtrooms from coast to coast, criminal defense attorneys take on cases that are fraught with difficulty and often controversy – because you understand that, for our criminal justice system to function at all, every accused individual must have effective representation. And every defendant's right to due process must be guaranteed.
Yet with the integral role that defense attorneys play in our justice system comes a tremendous responsibility: to uphold the highest standards of conduct in every single case. Prosecutors and defense lawyers can agree that we all must act in good faith in discovery, including refraining from alleging discovery violations as a routine practice. Our overburdened court system is ill-served by such unfounded tactics. And the interests of justice demand that legal professionals look to their ultimate obligations: to strengthen the system as a whole; to address the disparities and divides that harm our society; to confront conditions and choices that breed crime and violence; and to harness innovative tools – and new technologies – in effective and responsible ways.
Over the past decade, we've seen an explosion in the practice of using aggregate data to observe trends and anticipate outcomes. In fields ranging from professional sports, to marketing, to medicine; from genomics to agriculture; from banking to criminal justice, this increased reliance on empirical data has the potential to transform entire industries – and, in the process, countless lives – depending on how this data is harnessed and put to use.
With programs like CompStat – the New York City Police Department's management tool, which has been replicated and deployed in a number of police departments across the country – we've seen that data gathering can lead to better allocation of police resources. On the federal level, we know that the development of risk assessments has, for years, successfully aided in parole boards' decision-making about candidates for early release. Data can also help design paths for federal inmates to lower these risk assessments, and earn their way towards a reduced sentence, based on participation in programs that research shows can dramatically improve the odds of successful reentry. Such evidence-based strategies show promise in allowing us to more effectively reduce recidivism. And ultimately, they hold the potential to revolutionize community corrections and make our system far more effective than it is today – by better matching services with needs; by providing early warnings whenever supervised individuals stray from their reentry plans; by incorporating faster responses from probation officers to get people back on track; and by yielding feedback and results in real-time.
It's increasingly clear that, in the context of directing law enforcement resources and improving reentry programs, intensive analysis and data-driven solutions can help us achieve significant successes while reducing costs. But particularly when it comes to front-end applications – such as sentencing decisions, where a handful of states are now attempting to employ this methodology – we need to be sure the use of aggregate data analysis won't have unintended consequences.
Here in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, legislators have introduced the concept of “risk assessments” that seek to assign a probability to an individual's likelihood of committing future crimes and, based on those risk assessments, make sentencing determinations. Although these measures were crafted with the best of intentions, I am concerned that they may inadvertently undermine our efforts to ensure individualized and equal justice. By basing sentencing decisions on static factors and immutable characteristics – like the defendant's education level, socioeconomic background, or neighborhood – they may exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system and in our society.
Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant's history of criminal conduct. They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place. Equal justice can only mean individualized justice, with charges, convictions, and sentences befitting the conduct of each defendant and the particular crime he or she commits. And that's why, this week, the Justice Department is taking the important step of urging the Sentencing Commission to study the use of data-driven analysis in front-end sentencing – and to issue policy recommendations based on this careful, independent analysis.
At the state level, data-driven reforms are resulting in reduced prison populations – and importantly, those reductions are disproportionately impacting men of color. We should celebrate this milestone – a turning point – and hope that front-end applications can also result in both public safety and racial justice. Careful study of the issue is warranted.
We are at a watershed in the debate over how to reform our sentencing laws. A generation ago, the “truth in sentencing” movement of the 1970s and 80s sought to mete out equal sentences across the board, but sent the prison population soaring. By contrast, the idea of sentencing defendants based on risk factors may help to reduce the prison population, but in certain circumstances it may run the risk of imposing drastically different punishments for the same crimes. Neither approach may, by itself, provide the answer. Instead, policymakers should consider taking the good parts of each model. The legacy of the truth-in-sentencing era is the lesson that the certainty of imposing some sanction for criminal behavior can indeed change behavior. And the “Big Data” movement has immense potential to make the corrections process more effective and efficient when it comes to reducing recidivism rates. A blending of these approaches may represent the best path forward.
Of course, whatever the outcome of this debate, there's no doubt that these are complicated questions that implicate extraordinarily difficult issues. We seek – and we are bringing about – nothing less than a paradigm shift in our approach to criminal justice challenges. Ultimately, we're striving to turn the page on an era, and an approach, that relied on incarceration over rehabilitation; that emphasized punishment over outcomes; and that too often discounted the ability of our justice system to prepare criminal defendants to reenter their communities as productive members of society. Through the Smart on Crime initiative, we have already achieved a tremendous amount. As we move forward together, my colleagues and I will continue to rely on leaders like you to advance, to hone, and to grow this work.
This morning, as I look around this crowd of passionate professionals and dedicated public servants, I cannot help but feel confident in our ability to do just that; to develop smart solutions to the toughest problems we face; to protect the rights of everyone in this country, no matter their salary or their skin color; and to further enshrine the ideals of American justice into the annals of American law. The very existence of organizations like NACDL reminds us that – no matter how complex the challenges or how contentious the debate – there will always be men and women who do not shrink from the responsibility to bring this country closer to its highest principles and deepest values.
Even in the face of great trial and challenge, despite criticism and public scrutiny, you have for nearly six decades remained faithful to your mission to ensure justice, foster integrity, and promote the fair administration of our criminal justice system. I thank you, once again, for your inspiring commitment to these efforts. I applaud your dedication to principled and inclusive leadership of America's legal community. And I look forward to all that we'll achieve together in our ongoing efforts to deliver on the promise of equal justice under law.
Do you know the number of people listed in US government's database of terrorism suspects?
by NYT News Service
WASHINGTON: About 20,800 United States citizens and permanent residents are included in a federal government database of people suspected of having links to terrorism, of whom about 5,000 have been placed on one or more watch lists, newly disclosed documents show.
The documents are briefing materials about accomplishments in 2013 by the Directorate of Terrorist Identities, a component of the National Counterterrorism Center, an interagency clearinghouse of information about people know ..
The government's use of such lists has led to several controversies. After the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by a Nigerian terrorist on Dec. 25, 2009, it emerged that the man had been included in a broader terrorism database but had not been put on the no-fly list. The Obama administration made it easier to add names to the list after that bombing attempt.
But civil libertarians have also raised concerns that the standards for being put on such a list, which fall short of what is needed to convict someone of a crime and send him to prison, are murky. In June, a US District Court ruled that the process for getting off such a list was inadequate and violated Americans' due process rights.
The Intercept has been best known for publishing documents about surveillance leaked by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J Snowden. But the newly disclosed documents could not have come from Snowden because they refer to events after he finished downloading documents and left the United States in the spring of 2013.
For example, before the Chicago Marathon in October 2013, the documents said, analysts examined all the people in the database who had a driver's license in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, but decided that "no one warranted further scrutiny by the FBI before the race."
Much of the document relates to efforts to fill in missing data. After the April 2013 attack at the Boston Marathon, the National CounterterroCounterterrorism Center set out to fill gaps involving biometric markers like fingerprints of the Americans on various watch lists, adding facial images for 370 people and fingerprints for 163. It obtained the information from driver's license images and from the Department of Homeland Security, it said.
The center also used "clandestinely collected travel data" provided by the CIA to fill in gaps about international travel of people in the database, it said.
Readers debate whether community policing effectively combats gun violence
by Linda S. Mah
KALAMAZOO, MI — The Kalamazoo Gazette editorial on Sunday discussed the recent spike in gun violence in Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley approach to the recent spate of shootings.
The most recent incidents, all occurring between July 23 and July 27: 19-year-old Christopher Adams was fatally shot on Mount Olivet Road, two men were shot on the city's North Side and four people were injured near the campus of Western Michigan University. Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said.
Hadley told the Kalamazoo Gazette that he's still formulating his department's strategy to address the outbreak. But he argued that an aggressive, indiscriminate show of police force in high-crime neighborhoods was not the answer to the violence.
Instead he said he remains committed to a philosophy of targeting specific individuals who cause problems and "embracing the rest of the community," a practice often referred to as community policing. Even in high-crime areas, he said, public safety has more potential allies than enemies, and it's important to keep the general population on the side of police.
Readers debated the approach with some saying that the social issues in high crime areas are driving the violence. Some questioned whether gun violence is even a problem in the city. Police should focus on stopping illegal gun activity and not worry about lawful gun owners.
Some of the comments include:
broncofan: People do not want to consider this, but this is a moral problem with a total lack of regard for life. It is not a gun problem, unless you want to talk about how easy it is for criminals to get guns. There are towns in rural America in which almost every teen boy (and girl) owns firearms but yet there are no gun crimes; people are taught how to use and respect guns and not to freak out about them. Most of the kids in these towns are taught by their FATHER. This is an issue about life, warped views of respect, a readily accepted criminal lifestyle, glorification of violence, and way too many inner city boys growing up with only criminals for role models.
chukch: It would be interesting to ask the city of Portage and other surrounding areas how they contain youth violence. I'm quite sure it's educational and activities of various forms. The investing of money from all aspects within their communities. Free handouts are okay, but youth aren't interested in the one-trick- ponies as a life-cycle.
MI39678: Teach respect for human life along with non-violent conflict resolution skills as strategies to countering this trend. Strengthen family ties and community bonds, and provide educational and employment opportunities through a revitalized economy to relieve societal and individual stresses. Don't depend only on the government and laws to make the difference. Charity begins at home, and so does social change.
2inkazoo: It is very hard to have any desire to be cooperative after many negative experiences with KDPS including the dispatchers who are rude & condescending half rhe time. What I hold onto is my belief that it is not just a law enforcement problem. ...For me, there are many community leaders who have been silent which leaves me wondering why? I didn't realize saying "Gun violence is unacceptable and I'm going to do what I can to stop it" was so difficult to say.
Jaelge: Measured, thoughtful response? How about training, education and motivation for law abiding citizens pertaining to safety awareness, home security and personal self defense, not necessarily precluding training and licensing for concealed weapons permits. There is no logical reason that only police and criminals remain the only ones with the privilege and advantage of being armed.
NYC jail routinely violates rights of teen inmates: DOJ
by Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Department of Correction has routinely violated the constitutional rights of male teenagers at the Rikers Island jail complex through a "culture of violence" that relies on beatings, the federal government said in a report released on Monday.
The U.S. Justice Department said the multiyear probe had found a pattern of "conduct and practice" pervading the sprawling Rikers detention facility that violates the rights of young inmates.
For adolescents, Rikers is a "broken institution," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District.
"It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails," Bharara said in a joint statement with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
There was no immediate comment from the city's Department of Correction or from Mayor Bill de Blasio, to whom the report was addressed.
On an average day in 2013, Rikers housed 682 male inmates aged 16 to 18 years old. The majority are awaiting trial, either denied or unable to afford bail. Many of the male teenage inmates are particularly vulnerable because just over half of them have a mental illness, investigators said.
Bharara said the inmates' treatment seemed "more inspired by 'Lord of the Flies' than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention," referring to William Golding's 1954 allegorical novel.
Bharara said his office had not yet launched any legal action in connection with the report.
The report recommended that the city house adolescent inmates somewhere other than Rikers Island, which is located in the East River between the boroughs of Queens and the Bronx.
It also urged the city to increase its use of surveillance cameras, revise its use-of-force policy and create a zero-tolerance policy for staff who fail to report suspicious behavior by officers.
Jail guards at Rikers too often resort to blows to the heads of young inmates, the report said. On any given day in 2013, up to 25 percent of adolescent inmates were in solitary confinement, which sometimes lasted for months at a time, it said.
For example, on Dec. 16, 2013, more than half of the teenagers in solitary confinement were sentenced to punitive segregation for 60 days or more, officials said in the statement.
The main union for the city's correction officers said the Correction Department had been "plagued with mismanagement for years" and that it welcomed some of the report's suggestions but defended some uses of force.
"There may be a few that react with what you might think is excessive force," Norman Seabrook, president of the city's Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, said in a statement, "but in defense of an officer being assaulted by an inmate, a Correction Officer must use whatever force is necessary to terminate the assault."
Dora Schriro, who was the Correction Department's commissioner during the period that was investigated and is now the commissioner of Connecticut's emergency services department, did not respond to a request for comment.
Toledo Mayor Keeps Water Advisory in Place for Now
by John Seewer
A water ban entered its third day in northwest Ohio on Monday as Toledo's mayor extended the advisory, even as the latest tests suggested the city's tap water was probably safe.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said early Monday he's keeping in place an advisory against drinking or using the water pending additional tests. The ban has left hundreds of thousands of residents scrambling for water for drinking, cooking and bathing
Collins said at a 3 a.m. news conference Monday that it was his decision to keep the advisory in place at least into the morning hours, even though latest test results suggest the algae-induced toxin contaminating Lake Erie has probably dissipated to safe levels.
Collins said two tests have come back "too close for comfort." He plans another update Monday morning.
The city council was to review the test results at its regularly-scheduled meeting later Monday.
Ohio's fourth-largest city warned residents not to use city water early Saturday after tests at one treatment plant showed readings for microcystin above the standard for consumption, most likely from algae on the lake. The advisory affected more than 400,000 residents in northwestern Ohio and southwestern Michigan. Ohio Gov. John Kasich declared a state of emergency.
Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur criticized officials for not releasing the test results to the public over the weekend.
She tweeted on Sunday that the state and federal branches of the Environmental Protection Agency "should make public what it knows about Toledo water. The public has a right to know. Transparency is essential."
Worried residents told not to drink, brush their teeth or wash dishes with the water descended on truckloads of bottled water delivered from across the state. The Ohio National Guard was using water purification systems to produce drinkable water.
Water distribution centers were scheduled reopen at 8 a.m. Monday.
Oliver Arnold, of Toledo, loaded up on bottled water Sunday so that he could give baths to his six children, including 4-month-old twins. "We're going through a lot. I know by tomorrow, we're going to be looking for water again," he said.
Some hospitals canceled elective surgeries and were sending surgical equipment that needed sterilized to facilities outside the water emergency, said Bryan Biggie, disaster coordinator for ProMedica hospitals in Toledo.
In southeastern Michigan, authorities were operating water stations Sunday for the 30,000 customers affected by the toxic contamination.
Drinking the water could cause vomiting, cramps and rashes. But no serious illnesses had been reported by late Sunday. Health officials advised children and those with weak immune systems to avoid showering or bathing in the water.
Amid the emergency, discussion began to center around how to stop the pollutants fouling the lake that supplies drinking water for 11 million people.
"People are finally waking up to the fact that this is not acceptable," Collins said.
The toxins that contaminated the region's drinking water supply didn't just suddenly appear.
Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup color in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets.
In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a satellite image showing a small but concentrated algae bloom centered right where Toledo draws its water supply, said Jeff Reutter, head of the Ohio Sea Grant research lab.
The bloom was much smaller than in past years and isn't expected to peak until early September. But instead of being pushed out to the middle of the lake, winds and waves drove the algae toward the shore, he said.
"Weather conditions made it such that bloom was going right into the water intakes," said Reutter, who has been studying the lake since the 1970s, when it was severely polluted.
The amount of phosphorus going into the lake has risen every year since the mid-1990s.
Almost a year ago, one township just east of Toledo told its 2,000 residents not to drink or use the water coming from their taps. That was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake.
Researchers largely blame the algae's resurgence on manure and chemical fertilizer from farms that wash into the lake along with sewage treatment plants. Leaky septic tanks and stormwater drains have contributed, too. Combined, they flush huge amounts of phosphorus into the lake.
Environmental groups and water researchers have been calling on Ohio and other states in the Great Lakes region to drastically reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing into the lake. Ohio lawmakers this past spring took a step toward tackling the algae problem when they enacted a law requiring most farmers to undergo training before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields. But they have stopped short of mandating restrictions on farmers.
The International Joint Commission, an advisory agency made up of Canadian and U.S. officials, said last year urgent steps are needed to reduce phosphorus applied to fields, suggesting among other things that states ban the spread of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.
That report came after a state task force in Ohio called for a 40 percent reduction in all forms of phosphorus going into the lake.
Agriculture industry groups have been asking farmers for more than a year to reduce phosphorus runoff before government regulators step in and impose their own restrictions.
"We're clearly showing progress," Reutter said. "You have to decide for yourself whether you think it's fast enough."
In Michigan, Detroit's 4 million-user water system gets its water from Lake Huron and the Detroit River. In the face of the Toledo water crisis, Detroit officials plan to review their contamination procedures Monday, water department Deputy Director Darryl Latimer told The Detroit News. He said it was unlikely Detroit would face a problem like Toledo's.
"The system is tested every two weeks for blue-green algae," Latimer said. "We haven't seen the precursors for this type of toxin."
Man Who Shot Chokehold Video Arrested on Gun Charge
The man who shot a video of a fatal police chokehold had been arrested on a gun charge, police say.
Ramsey Orta, 22, was arrested Saturday night on Staten Island, blocks from where Eric Garner died in police custody, and charged with criminal possession of a weapon.
Orta shot the video of an officer using a chokehold to restrain Garner on July 17. Garner died shortly thereafter, and his death was ruled a homicide Friday by the medical examiner's office.
Police said plainclothes officers from a Staten Island narcotics unit saw Orta stuff a silver, .25-caliber handgun into a 17-year-old female companion's waistband after they walked out of the Hotel Richmond. Police called the location, on Central Avenue, a "known drug prone location."
Police said Orta had a previous weapon conviction that prohibited him from possessing a firearm.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal critic of police tactics in Garner's case, said Orta's arrest had no bearing on calls for justice.
"If you're a policeman you're trained to deal with crime, you're not trained to commit a crime," Sharpton said. "The chokehold is illegal."
Sharpton and Garner's widow have called for an arrest in his death.
Police say an unloaded semi-automatic weapon was recovered from Orta. It was reported stolen in Michigan in 2007. They say Orta is in a hospital being treated for a medical condition.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement that the arrest “only underscores the dangers that brought police officers to respond to a chronic crime condition in that community."
Orta's wife believes the arrest was a setup.
"It's not fair," said Chrissie Ortiz. "And it's obvious. Once they ruled this a homicide, now you all of a sudden find something on him? C'mon. Let's be realistic. Even the dumbest criminal would know not to be doing something like that outside. So the whole story doesn't fit at all."
It wasn't clear if Orta had a lawyer.
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.
Rick Perry says youths crossing the border is a 'side issue'
by Leigh Ann Caldwell
As migrant children continue to cross the border into the United States, dominating the immigration debate this summer, Texas Gov. Rick Perry says that's a sideshow and maintains that the real issue at the border is the wave of criminals who have crossed over it.
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, said Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" that politicians in Washington "have to deal with the immediate crisis right now," referring to the migrant children border crossings. But Perry said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, mostly into Texas, is a "side issue."
Numerous politicians have said the 62,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed into Texas is a humanitarian crisis. The situation is overloading holding facilities and taxing the immigration system -- all of which is costing an additional hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars.
Perry, meanwhile, said he is "substantially more concerned about" criminals crossing a porous border.
"That's the real issue here, and one that all too often gets deflected by the conversation about unaccompanied minor children," he said Sunday.
Criminal border-crossers is a theme Perry has been hitting since he announced in late July that he would send up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border to help "combat" crime.
He restated that position Sunday in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. "We'll continue to do what we have to do to keep our citizens safe," he said.
Once again, he said that criminals in the United States illegally are responsible for 3,000 homicides and nearly 8,000 sexual assaults since 2008.
But PolitiFact Texas fact-checked the statistics and concluded that the statement "is both incorrect and ridiculous." Perry told Crowley he stands by those statistics.
Perry sending National Guard troops to border
Perry's crime statistics have been debunked, the rate of undocumented immigrants crossing the border is at its lowest since the early 1980s and most other politicians are focused on the fact that more than twice as many migrant children crossed the border this year than last. So why is Perry focusing on criminals?
Republican strategist Ana Navarro, whose job it is to analyze and craft Republican political strategy, said she has "no idea" why Perry is focused on crime. "I had a hard time following his train of thought," she added.
But Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez said Perry focuses on the criminal component of the border issue because it is one component of the larger problem at the border.
"The (Obama) administration's weak stand over the past six years produced an environment where exactly this type of crisis unfurls," she said.
Perry, whose term is up this year, is considering another run at the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. His previous White House campaign was crippled partly because of the Republican voter base's displeasure with a law he signed more than a decade ago giving children of undocumented immigrants in-state college tuition.
In addition to violent criminals, Perry indicated Sunday that terrorists are using a porous southern border to enter the United States. His statement was backed up by Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who said on "State of the Union," that "we believe (people who) are connected in some way with terrorist organizations at least having the understanding ... it is a weakness in our national security."
It's the same argument that was made after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and spurred the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and doubling the amount spent on border security and border patrol agents.
Perry's focus, however, has evolved over the course of the debate over migrant youths.
Just one month ago, during a congressional hearing held near the border, Perry sounded a different tune. He lectured members of Congress that they need to work with President Barack Obama to address the influx of unaccompanied minors.
"The President has bypassed Congress -- and maybe he could and should, I don't know, I'm not going to wade in -- but this is the one time that I really think the President does need all of you, Democrats and Republicans alike, to be working with you and reaching out," he said on July 3.
But since then, Perry has chosen to focus solely on the need for greater border security and protection to tamp down on crime and illegal border crossings, even though the total number of undocumented immigrants has mostly declined.
While the number of youths has more than doubled in just one year, the total number of immigrants had continued to drop over the past eight years to about 400,000, compared with about 1 million each year from 1983 until 2006.
By focusing only on border security, Perry safely toes the Republican position and is in line with many Americans.
On the issue of immigration since the migrant youth crisis, polling shows Americans' priorities have shifted. According to a July CNN/ORC poll, 51% now say the government's focus on immigration policy should be formulating a plan to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants rather than dealing with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here.
But the issue of children is more complicated. The same poll found contradictions in people's opinions. While 54% of respondents supported spending "several billion dollars" to care for the children while they waited an immigration judge, 62% of the same people surveyed also supported a bill that would make it easier to deport them.
Public Safety accepting applications for safety academy
by Teddy Kumala
If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a police officer, the Aiken Department of Public Safety is accepting applications for its third annual Citizens Public Safety Academy, which will begin in September.
The nine-week program is held each Thursday beginning Sept. 11 and gives participants an overview of Aiken Public Safety's functions and operations. Each Thursday session lasts from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and focuses on a different aspect of public safety, from basic patrol functions and criminal investigations to fire fighting and use of force.
Participants get hands-on knowledge and experience about a public safety officer's job, according to Lt. Ben Harm, who said the program has been a “resounding success” for the agency.
“We do not train anybody to be a police officer or firefighter,” Harm said. “We're introducing them to what we do and how we do it.”
The class will be limited to about 18 spots, Harm said. Anyone interested in participating must complete an application and have it submitted by Aug. 22.
A criminal-background check will be conducted on all applicants, and any applicant with a felony conviction or extensive criminal background will not be accepted. Applicants must be 18 years old or older to participate.
Applications are available at Aiken Public Safety headquarters, 251 Laurens St., or online at http://bit.ly/1o2MNUt
For more information, call Harm at 803-644-1905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Safety and the Need for a Culture of Leadership Consciousness
Police, firefighters and other emergency responders occupy a special position of trust in their communities. They need to always be aware of the impact of their behavior.
by Samuel Johnson Jr.
The response to crises such as the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings or the landslide that collapsed a Baltimore street this spring inevitably elevate the consciousness of the public to the professionalism and courage of police, firefighters and other first responders. But sometimes a different kind of consciousness is raised. Corruption or lawless behavior by public-safety personnel, such as the shootings and looting by New Orleans police officers following Hurricane Katrina or, more recently, the beating of a woman on the shoulder of a freeway by a California Highway Patrol officer that was caught on video by a passing motorist, can undo all of that goodwill in a moment.
For the public, the emergency-management and public-safety professionals serving in our communities often are the most visible manifestations of government. Their uniforms and badges remind us of the decision these individuals have made to put service before self. But as visible symbols of government, they also have an important role of community leadership that brings the responsibility to model behavior that is beyond reproach.
That's why is should become the duty of every member of the public-safety profession to support and work for a sustainable culture of leadership consciousness -- an awareness that the authority granted to those who work in public safety also confers a special responsibility to provide a positive model within the community.
Public-safety and emergency-management personnel are some of the most highly trained professionals in America's workforce. They receive hundreds of hours of instruction to meet initial certification requirements and countless hours of continuing education to maintain these credentials. The goal is for that training to become second nature, enhancing their efficiency and survival chances during stressful situations.
So, you may ask yourself, how is it that incidents such as those that occurred in New Orleans and on that California freeway can occur within an institution built on discipline and self-control? The answer is that amid all the training public-safety workers receive in how to take action in the face of danger and chaos, less continuing attention is given to awareness of the implications of their actions and behaviors. In the end, the goal is a simple one: As former Baltimore police commissioner Leonard Hamm once told a police academy graduating class, "Do what's right in the face of what's wrong."
Leadership consciousness requires that members of the public-safety profession at all levels honestly examine their own thoughts and beliefs while never losing sight of the visibility and impact they have. Leadership is not about the title that one holds in a public-safety organization; it's about the influence all members of the profession have on the people they serve. From the person on the front line providing emergency-response services to the person at the top of the organizational chart, each individual needs to remember that every move he or she makes and every action he or she takes will be watched and critiqued.
As Sir Robert Peel, the British statesman and home secretary who is credited with helping create modern concepts of law enforcement, put it in 1829, "The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior, and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect." That is a true today as it was in Peel's time.
Samuel Johnson Jr.
Samuel Johnson Jr., is the regional training and exercise coordinator in the Baltimore Mayor's Office of Emergency Management.
Criminals, Victims and the Black Men Left Behind
by Carla Murphy
The first time Jeremy Berry got shot it was late March 2012 and he called himself trying to help a homey from his block. Berry, about 5'9”, slim in build, lives in the Roseland section of Chicago's South Side. He jumped into a fistfight, first with his hands and then throwing a brick. When Berry missed his target, the guy “upped a gun” and shot him. He spent a week in the hospital and three months recovering at his aunt's house. The bullet remains in his right butt cheek.
The second time Berry got shot, it was June 2013 and he was hanging outside on the corner, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” A basketball game with young men from another block in Roseland soured when a player from Berry's block complained of a stolen watch and money. Berry didn't participate in the tit-for-tat retaliations that followed, but that didn't matter. He lived on the block, so he was included automatically as a target. One bullet hit a friend of his in the neck—he survived—and another tore through Berry's chest. He stayed longer in the hospital this time, about nine days, and he spent two-and-a-half months recovering at a friend's home. He also got a gun.
All together, the physical recovery from both shootings leached seven months from Berry's life. “I got myself shot that first time,” Berry says, speaking in the Southern-tinged drawl of the black Midwest. “After the second time, I felt like I had to protect myself.”
And, he admits, he wanted revenge.
“But God took me off the street to teach me to turn the other cheek. Everything happened for a reason. God is never late, ” Berry says, lapsing into the church-speak he uses whenever conversation glints at his future. It's not the prosperity gospel, though. This stretch of S. Michigan Avenue, 20 minutes by bus from the last stop on the el train, is storefront church territory. Berry's mantra is the half praise, half plea of the survival sermon.
At 22 years old, Berry has been homeless since turning 17 and largely unemployed since graduating from high school. He likes to work with his hands and began working on cars when he was 9. Now, older adults in the neighborhood look out for him, offering him odd jobs like cutting grass or household repairs. When a kind offer appears, or when need and Chicago's winter winds overtake his pride, he couch surfs around the neighborhood. At one point in his life, he dabbled in selling drugs.
Berry is a poster child for young, black men who're at risk of getting killed. Yet, even though he has been shot twice in 15 months, he is not a poster child for crime victims—not in a society that too often demands innocence as a prerequisite for a compassionate response.
Despite a two-decade decline in violent crime nationwide—homicide, in particular—pockets of sustained violence remain in many urban neighborhoods. The fear of becoming a victim today is less a citywide threat, more a neighborhood one in poor sections of places like Chicago, New Orleans and St. Louis, and smaller cities like E. St. Louis, Camden and Baton Rouge, too. In May, President Obama's “My Brother's Keeper” initiative for boys and men of color issued a progress report that highlighted homicide as the leading cause of death for black males ages 10 to 24. But like much discussion about violence and black men, the report contained less detail about the much larger number of victims of violent crime who, like Berry, survive the assaults. What happens to them?
In the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, for every gunshot homicide there are roughly six non-fatal shootings caused by assault. Unlike homicides, however, non-fatal shootings and their impact on the health, educational, social and economic outcomes of survivors, families and their communities are vastly understudied. Yale University sociologist Andrew Papachristos reviewed six years of Chicago Police Department data, running through September 2012, and found that one in 200 black men are victims of a non-fatal shooting each year. That's 12 times the city average. Further, they are concentrated in specific neighborhoods; roughly 70 percent of these victims can be found in small networks comprising less than 6 percent of Chicago's population. The data suggests neighborhoods full of the walking wounded.
Yet, in Chicago, advocates, parents and service providers told Colorlines that there are little to no victim services available for these wounded men—to the point that victims, their families and communities are shouldering alone the financial and psychic costs of crime. There does exist a national apparatus for helping people affected by violent crime recover—an $11 billion fund Congress established to support crime victims. But young black men have largely fallen through the cracks of these programs, in part because law enforcement often serves as arbiter of who's a deserving victim and who's not, deciding who gets aid and who must fend for themselves.
Service providers in Chicago also say the lack of an organized response aimed at black male victims is a lost opportunity to stop the cycle of violence. The hours and days following a shooting mark a singular point of vulnerability and are therefore a sweet spot for intervention. Failing to respond in that moment not only wastes the opportunity, it also pushes young men even further off the grid and into the only system that will have them: criminal justice.
“People don't think of African-American males as being victims of violence,” says Waldo Johnson, an associate professor of social work at the University of Chicago, who has studied the health of black men and boys on Chicago's South Side for 20 years. “People think of young black males as the ones who perpetrate violent crime, and if they are victims, then that's part of what they experience while doing things they shouldn't be doing.”
For the past several summers, Chicago has predictably made national headlines for its gun violence. The city has not disappointed this summer. “At Least 40 Shot In Chicago Weekend Wave of Violence,” The Huffington Post declared in mid July. That came two weeks after the long July 4th weekend, in which more than 80 people were shot, 16 fatally.
As in other cities, popular attention and compassion homes in on homicides, particularly when dramatized by the loss of an obvious innocent. When 11-year-old Shamiya Adams was killed by a stray bullet in mid July, it brought a kind of selective attention to the 40 other people shot that same weekend. Dozens of people were shot over the July 4th weekend, but news media focused most intensely that week on 17-year-old Marcel Pearson, who was killed just days before college orientation.
Jeremy Berry is not that kind of victim. A self-described C student in high school, he almost didn't graduate. Like many victims of violence, losses of various kinds began at home. His stepfather died when he was 12, his father when he was two. His mother is addicted to drugs, as is one of his older brothers. Two more brothers are in jail, another is in and out of lockup.
One weekday afternoon, over duplicate orders of pancakes and extra portions of country ham at one of the Roseland neighborhood's few operating businesses, Berry and his friend since childhood, Dominique Harris, 23, describe how normal it is to get shot at around here.
“Our whole block been shot,” Harris says. “A good chunk of ‘em,” qualifies Berry, the more reserved of the two. Harris was shot himself last August.
As they eat, above their heads a mock rifle hangs from the ceiling, welcoming customers to The Ranch Steakhouse. Images of movie gunslingers Clint Eastwood and Gene Autry line fake wood-paneled walls. Animal prey speak to the man-and-his-gun theme. Young antler ceiling lamps and a stuffed pheasant perch diagonally across from a diptych of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. “45 Years Later,” reads the message above King. Above Obama: “At Last.”
“You can ask for a show of hands in a classroom of 35 kids and have the vast majority know somebody who was shot or somebody who was shot and killed,” says Susan Johnson, a senior minister at Hyde Park Union Church and executive director of Chicago Citizens for Change, which is home to Chicago Survivors, a crisis response team serving families of homicide victims, aged 26 and under.
When beginning Chicago Survivors four years ago, Johnson and her team surveyed a single block in a neighborhood just south of Hyde Park, the University of Chicago's leafy home base. Of 22 single-family homes, 12 had lost an immediate family member to violence. Eight of those households had lost more than one.
“[This] is so contrary to the way that I grew up or the way that any previous generation grew up,” Johnson says. “I think it's hard for us to absorb what it means to be saturated with that level of violence.”
James Doherty is head of trauma surgery at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago. He sees much of the damage from gunfire. Advocate Christ is one of five trauma centers serving the South Side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. It is the main trauma center for most of the expansive South Side and where Berry and Harris were treated in 2013. Last year, 90 percent of Advocate Christ's 386 gun shot victims were black men. Seventy-five percent were under 30 years old and 80 percent were either uninsured or on Medicaid. Given an estimated mortality rate of 10 to 15 percent, roughly 80 percent of Advocate Christ's gunshot victims likely returned to their South Side neighborhoods last year.
“In terms of the volume of trauma and severity of injuries we're seeing, this is definitely a serious public health issue,” Doherty says. Asked whether he'd call it a crisis, he adds, “I'd be careful calling anything a crisis because it implies it's on someone's radar and resources are being mobilized.”
Thirty years ago Congress did in fact mobilize resources to help people deal with the consequences of violent crime. The initiative has done little, however, to help men like Berry and Harris, or neighborhoods like Roseland.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) passed in 1984, tucked into President Ronald Reagan's omnibus anti-crime package. By drawing only on fees and fines assessed to people and corporations convicted of federal crimes, along with private dontions, the law established dedicated funding to help individuals recover from violent crimes.
There are two funding streams, one for assistance and one for compensation. The latter is most well known to the general public, and it allows individuals to apply to state agencies for direct reimbursement of the cost of things like counseling, medical care, funerals or even travel costs to receive treatment. The victim assistance fund, on the other hand, typically flows through state agencies to nonprofit organizations that serve their communities or a particular population of victims. According to Department of Justice guidelines, each of VOCA's priority areas—domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and “previously underserved” crime victim populations, however a state defines them—must receive 10 percent of annual funding. That leaves another 60 percent to be distributed according to the needs of each state.
In addition to VOCA, each state operates its own state victim assistance and compensation programs. These programs are jointly funded by VOCA and by the states, which charge their own fees and fines to people convicted of crimes in state courts. And some state programs, including Illinois, draw significantly on taxpayer dollars, too.
Over the past decade, this entire apparatus has been critiqued consistently by victim advocates for serving far too few survivors and families. For example, 6.8 million people, mainly in urban areas, become victims of violent crime annually. In 2012, victim assistance from VOCA reached nearly 3.4 million people, or just under half. The numbers for victim compensation, on the other hand, are far lower. According to a June 2014 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, all of the nation's victim compensation programs reimburse about 200,000 people each year, so just under 3 percent of crime victims.
Johnson, of Chicago Survivors, helps parents and siblings of homicide victims to immediately apply for victim compensation. She says a big problem is the central role law enforcement plays in the process. In Illinois, victim compensation is administered through the attorney general's office. Claims analysts make crucial recommendations about who should get compensation to the Court of Claims, which ultimately approves or denies applications. Sources familiar with the process told Colorlines that both the analysts and the judges rely heavily on police reports to help determine whether a victim or his family will receive compensation.
Eligibility rules for victim compensation vary by state, but two broad guidelines, in practice, bar many young, black male victims of violent crime. One guideline comes from VOCA itself, which directs states to consider whether victims cooperate with police and prosecutors' investigations—a complicated proposal in high crime neighborhoods with tense police-community relations. The other guideline comes up at the state level. Illinois' victim compensation statute requires a victim not have contributed in some way to his or her own injuries through “his own wrongful act.” According to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, whose members are the administrators of state programs, most states have a similar rule.
“Typically the biggest problem that we have is that somewhere there is a police document that associates the victim with gang affiliation,” Johnson says. Sitting across the heavy oak table in her church's upstairs office, the tinkle-voiced, white grandmother of three makes a face. “It can be that the crime is a gang-related crime, but the victim is an innocent victim. And we don't see that disassociation made in the police write-ups. So then the victim of the crime gets tainted with that, and then the victims compensation will be denied.”
“Some of these people are fathers and have children,” she adds.
Whether a Chicago police officer's report should weigh so heavily in determining victim compensation is a fair question. Nearly every Chicagoan interviewed in the course of reporting this article, on and off the record, from service provider to victim to parent to clergy, described police-community relations as no less than horrible. The city has a long rap sheet for tolerating police misconduct, including torture. All but one service provider also challenged the conventional wisdom that most of Chicago's gunshot victims belong to gangs. And some questioned the philosophy behind a victims program that penalizes any victim of violent crime. A few work closely and well with the Chicago Police Department in a bid to improve relations. But they're also aware that, as Johnson says, Chicago's 50-year history of racist policing is “a big burden to overcome.”
“Police don't see us as innocent,” Harris says. “They see us as a gangbanger. They see us on the block, they could care less if somebody die.”
Berry argues that labeling everyone a gang member overlooks why violence is actually happening. “It's people on the block that's all different gangs,” he says, rattling off a burst of acronyms for each set. “They all rocking with each other. It's all about what block you're on. It's a block thing. And everybody wanna be tough. People out here killing each other for nothing. It ain't even over money.”
Berry and Harris both say they applied for victim compensation following their shootings—Berry after his first, only. But Ann Spillane, chief of staff in the attorney general's office, says the office has no record of a claim for Harris. Berry, she said, filed a claim for two bills. One bill, for his ambulance service, was paid directly to the vendor. His hospital bill, however, was not reimbursed. The hospital never verified to the state that it followed proper billing procedures for indigent care, as is required by law, so the claim had to be rejected. “[Victims are] going through a difficult part of their lives [and] the law does require a fairly significant amount of documentary support,” says Spillane. “There can be some back and forth and it can be frustrating on both sides.”
Spillane also acknowledged that police reports play a role in recommending whether a claim is approved. “We do review the police report. But we also go to great lengths to look at other sources,” she says, including talking to victims and victim advocates. “We do make sure that we're being thorough and that we're talking to the victim and getting all the underlying records to make sure we understand what happened and we are fair and balanced as we can be while we're complying with the law. Our goal if at all possible is to make sure the victims get compensated.”
The Costs of Violence
In Harris's shooting, the bullet missed his heart by centimeters, he was told. After leaving the hospital, he says, “I couldn't even wash myself up. I was temporarily handicapped for like a month and a half. After, I got some strength and started to breathe better. But I couldn't lift anything. I couldn't do anything I needed to do. Bending over tying my shoes, I needed help putting on my pants. I was sweating constantly. I had to keep a towel.”
While recovering, he lost two jobs. One was on-call security for events like Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago and the other, a parent leader in a community group for young parents. For the past six years, Harris has been a stepfather to his girlfriend's 7-year-old son.
Between the two of them, Berry and Harris owe tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills—excluding the portion not already written off by hospitals or covered by Medicaid. Berry can't pin down the exact cost. It is too big to comfortably express.
“They be sending 500-something-dollar bills, $600 bills, all types of bills,” Harris jokes, shaking his head. “They showed me every time I pulled up for morphine.”
A long list of barriers got in the way of victim compensation helping Harris and Berry pay these bills. But that may not be the biggest way the victim services apparatus has failed to impact their lives. The biggest failure may lie in the near absence of funding for community groups that could provide Harris and Berry the counseling and support they need to heal and, for those who need it, to interrupt retaliations in neighborhoods like Roseland. Advoacte Christ Hospital's Doherty, a self-described middle-aged white guy, says people like him are not “credible messengers.” Such messengers do exist, but they are powerfully overwhelmed and underfunded.
“I've known Jeremy since he was about 15-years-old,” says Diane Latiker, founder of the community group Kids Off the Block. “He was—is—an awesome young man. Whenever I had a conversation with him it would be on a different level. He was very smart.”
Latiker coached basketball when Berry was a teen, and he would stop by the courts to play. Eventually he began to talk. Given his difficult home life, he had a lot to talk about. Gun violence and block conflicts cut those sessions short, however. He stopped seeing her after his second shooting.
“The guy who shot me lives in Miss Diane's area,” Berry says. So he and Harris stopped going over there, to avoid more trouble. “We don't want Miss Diane getting shot.”
“And we don't wanna get shot neither!” Harris says. “Just when we ride pass they be showing us little gun signals.”
“I be a little sad sometimes not being able to talk to her though,” Berry admits.
Without Latiker in his life, Berry was left with no consistent emotional support or mentorship. To this day, no older adult has asked Berry, he says, about either of his shootings, the impact they've had on his life, what his needs may have been immediately after recovery, how the shootings interfered with plans to work, to earn enough money to give a little something to friends who offer him shelter during the Chicago winter.
Latiker, nominated a CNN Hero in 2011 for her work with Roseland's youth, had to close the doors to her center for several weeks this summer due to lack of funding. “It's mainly because of the population I work with,” she speculates, meaning, low-income boys and young men who may either belong to a gang, know someone in a gang or live in an area known for gang violence. Kids Off the Block began in her apartment and it has survived for eight years mainly because of individual donors. “With all the exposure we've received—and we've gotten a lot—we've still not been able to get funding.”
Latiker is familiar counsel for Roseland's boys and young men, including many who have been shot or otherwise victimized. But Kids Off the Block does not describe itself as a victims program—and Latiker never thought to describe it as such, either. She knew of victim compensation programs through conversations with her young men and their families, but until this reporting she had never heard of victim assistance grants for nonprofits. It's indicative of a sizable knowledge gap between organizations actually doing the work of victim assistance in neighborhoods dense with gun violence and federal and state victim assistance programs.
According to the state attorney general's annual list of grantees, during the past two years, the only organization with potential to overlap with young, black male victims that received funding from Illinois' state-funded victim assistance program was Parents Against Gangs. When asked about groups servicing young, black male crime victims, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office said this was the only group to apply that focused on “gang related violence.” Founded in the Cabrini Green housing project in 1987 by Betty Major-Rose, following the murder of her daughter, Parents Against Gangs has since 1991 supported and counseled the families of homicide victims, most of whom are young, black and male. But even this group doesn't work directly with male survivors. Major-Rose has long wanted to expand to do so, but hasn't had the capacity.
“Immediately after victimization is the most crucial point for intervention—and you can't deal with just one person, you have to take the family as a whole,” she says. “They're at their most vulnerable. They're ready to listen, ready to receive what you have to say and do for them. I've seen it for myself.”
But Major-Rose's road-tested lessons are her own. Parents Against Gangs has an annual budget of $20,000, plus whatever comes out of Major-Rose's personal checking account, and a small roster of volunteers and family. Her husband is a substance abuse counselor and their two daughters, both of whom are now in psychology doctoral programs, help out. Their catchment area, she says, is all of Chicago.
Meanwhile, Legal Assistance Foundation Chicago was the only Chicago-area nonprofit with potential to reach young, black male victims to recieve funding from the state's VOCA portfolio during the last fiscal year. A multi-service agency that provides legal assistance to the poor, the organization helps crime victims to apply for compensation.
Cure Violence (formerly, Ceasefire) is likely the largest and best-known program whose work, though not defined as victim services, regularly puts them in contact with young, black male victims of violent crime. In fact, as its model is to interrupt violence, Cure Violence long ago began partnering with trauma centers like Advocate Christ to gain immediate access to victims and their families. According to the group's CFO, they have never received funding from either the state's victim assistance fund or through VOCA.
“Because Cure Violence is not a law enforcement program, we can't qualify for these Department of Justice grants that are specifically written for law enforcement programs,” says Charles Ransford, Cure Violence's head of research and policy. “It's victims who are not comfortable working with police.”
Forgiveness, and Healing
The yawning gap between young black male victims of violent crime and victim services nationally is known. In a May 2013 report, the first comprehensive review of victim assistance in 15 years, the Department of Justice identifies young men and boys of color as an underserved population. Among its recommendations, the report calls for more solid research into their needs, as well as a fresh look at how services are delivered, including whether, for example, victim services' volunteer-dependent model can effectively reach underserved populations. And My Brother's Keeper's May 2014 report recommends integrating public health approaches to violence prevention—approaches like the one Cure Violence uses—into the dominant and punitive criminal justice model.
Diane Latiker is wary that the investment needed for Roseland's young African-American men and boys will come. She knows one young man who was shot three times in the same month, after all. He's just one of many with similar experiences and to her, the outside world keeps on turning. She describes an acute abandonment felt by leaders in lower income neighborhoods, from Camden to Flint to Roseland, for whom violence has not gone away.
“The whole community is hurting. Sick. And there's no way to go,” Latiker says. “You live there. You can't afford to move out. You can't afford to keep the lights on. There are lines for the food pantry. You tell a young man like Jeremy to get a job, straighten his life up. But society won't give him that opportunity. He has been trying and every door is shut.”
Harris doesn't like the 4th of July anymore. It's the firecrackers. “I'm jumping and diving like it's a shot, all kinda crazy stuff,” he says. “I'm paranoid.”
A father and a boyfriend, he's anxious to work. He wants to marry and have a family. “I don't want to be a flirtin' man. I got six sisters, I don't need too many problems.”
The gun Berry started carrying after he was shot the second time got him in trouble again last September. Police arrested him—his first time—on a felony weapons charge. So he found shelter last winter in Cook County Jail and other penal institutions. He's been out since March.
“You gotta have patience, man. When doing time, I always tell myself, ‘There's always gonna be a better day from the day right now.' I always say, ‘He has a blessing with our name on it. You gotta stay out here and be patient.'
“Everybody [out here] need to stop thinking they tough and go to church and learn how to forgive, man. Y'all want God to forgive y'all so you gotta learn how to forgive people.”