December, 2014 - Week 3
Two N.Y.P.D. Officers Are Killed in Brooklyn Ambush; Suspect Commits Suicide
by BENJAMIN MUELLER and AL BAKER
Two police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot at point-blank range and killed on Saturday afternoon by a man who, officials said, had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The suspect then committed suicide with the same gun, the authorities said.
The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. Mr. Brinsley shot several rounds into the heads and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons, the authorities said.
Mr. Brinsley, 28, then fled down the street and onto the platform of a nearby subway station, where he killed himself as officers closed in. The police recovered a silver semiautomatic handgun, Mr. Bratton said.
Mr. Brinsley, who had a long rap sheet of crimes that included robbery and carrying a concealed gun, is believed to have shot his former girlfriend near Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn, the authorities said. He made statements on social media suggesting that he planned to kill police officers and was angered about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
Authorities in Baltimore sent a warning that Mr. Brinsley had made these threats, but it was received in New York at essentially the same time as the killings, officials said.
The shootings, the chase, the suicide of Mr. Brinsley and the desperate but failed bid to save the lives of the officers — their uniforms soaked in blood — turned a busy commercial intersection on the Saturday before Christmas into a scene of pandemonium.
The manager of a liquor store at the corner, Charlie Hu, said the two police officers were slouched over in the front seat of their patrol car. Both of them appeared to have been shot in the head, Mr. Hu said, and one of the officers had blood spilling out of his face.
“Today two of New York's finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation,” Mr. Bratton said at Woodhull Hospital in Williamsburg, where the officers were declared dead. “They were, quite simply, assassinated — targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.”
“Officer Ramos and Officer Liu never had the opportunity to draw their weapons,” he continued. “They may have never even seen the assailant, their murderer.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, standing beside the police commissioner, said, “It is an attack on all of us; it's an attack on everything we hold dear.”
Mr. de Blasio said he had met with the officers' families, including Officer Ramos's 13-year-old son, who “couldn't comprehend what had happened to his father.”
Late Saturday night, President Obama condemned the “murder of two police officers in New York City,” noting that officers who serve their communities “deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal — prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”
The double killing comes at a moment when protests over police tactics have roiled the city and other parts of the nation. Since a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges in the case of Mr. Garner, a black Staten Island man who died after a police chokehold in July, protesters have filled the streets on numerous occasions. Those protests followed more violent ones in Ferguson, Mo., after there were no charges in the police shooting of Mr. Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
The mayor has taken care to praise officers' work repeatedly since the grand jury decision, but he has stressed the rights of protesters to express themselves and spoken of his personal experience instructing his biracial son, Dante, to “take special care” during any police encounters.
Some union leaders suggested the mayor had sent a message that police officers were to be feared. Cries for the police to use more restraint have been buttressed by historic drops in violent crime. The city has seen roughly 300 killings so far this year, a number so low as to be unheard-of two decades ago.
But the shooting on Saturday seemed reminiscent of decades past, when the city was mired in an epidemic of drugs and violence and, in 1988, a police officer was shot while he sat alone in his patrol car guarding the home of a man who had testified in a drug case. That killing shook the city, sparking an escalation in the war on drugs and an aggressive crackdown on violent crime. Mr. Bratton said that the attack on Saturday was the seventh time since 1972 that partners in the Police Department had been killed at the same time.
The killing seemed to drive the wedge between Mr. de Blasio and rank-and-file officers even deeper. Video posted online showed dozens of officers turning their backs to the mayor as he walked into anews conference on Saturday night.
“There's blood on many hands tonight — those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day," the head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, said outside Woodhull Hospital. He added, “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”
Mr. Brinsley, whose records indicate that he was born in New York, had been arrested several times in Georgia and Ohio. He was arrested on accusations of carrying a concealed weapon and stealing in Georgia, and in Ohio in connection with theft and robbery, among other run-ins with the police. His last known residence was in Georgia. Mr. Bratton said the suspect also had ties to East Flatbush, Brooklyn, but would not be more specific.
Earlier on Saturday, law enforcement officials said, Mr. Brinsley shot his former girlfriend in the stomach near Baltimore. She survived.
Mr. Bratton said investigators believed that after the Maryland shooting, Mr. Brinsley posted to an Instagram account that he was headed to New York to attack police officers and that the posting might be his last. Mr. Bratton lamented the timing of the warning from authorities. “The tragedy here is that just as the warning was coming in, the murder was occurring,” he said.
Mr. Bratton said that the Instagram posts reviewed by investigators, which he said had been widely circulated and may have been on the account of a girlfriend, revealed a “very strong bias against police officers.”
In the Instagram posting that was apparently written by Mr. Brinsley, he called the attack retribution for the deaths of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brinsley's sister, Nawaal Brinsley, said on Saturday that she had not seen her brother in two years. “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness,” she said when told of the attack. She said she did not remember hearing her brother express anger at the police.
Mr. Bratton said that Officer Liu had been a seven-year veteran of the force and that Officer Ramos had been an officer since 2012. Officer Liu, he added, had been married two months.
The shootings seemed poised to cool the protests of recent months. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been an outspoken backer of the protests in recent weeks, condemned the attack.
“Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,” he said.
The Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, worried that the attack would “tarnish” the campaign against police brutality that has swept the city.
“It's horrific to have someone intentionally shoot a police officer; it's the wrong message,” he said. “And that is not the message that many have been calling on when they talk about reform.”
The intersection where the shooting occurred, which is dominated by the Tompkins housing project across the street, is a spot where residents often see police keeping watch. The officers had been assigned to patrol the Tompkins Houses in response to an uptick in violence there this year, Mr. Bratton said.
The increased police presence had improved the neighborhood, some said. “It's changed and gotten better through the years,” said Felix Camacho, 40, an airport ramp agent who has lived for eight years on the block where the shooting happened. But other residents worried that the episode on Saturday would inflame relations.
More than 100 officers lined the hospital's exit ramp as the bodies of Officers Liu and Ramos were driven out in ambulances.
Anger at The Cop Killer - And The Police
In the Brooklyn neighborhood where two police officers were brutally murdered, not everyone was grieving.
by M.L. Nestel
Across the street from the hospital where two Brooklyn police officers were brought after being murdered, there were carnations and a makeshift memorial: a cardboard box and a handmade sign in marker reading, "R.I.P. NYPD." Hundreds of cops saluting as the bodies were rolled out with a full escort by highway patrol. Citizens were watching in shock from above on the subway station.
Throughout New York, the execution-style killing of these officers in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn has generated a near-universal sense of horror at the crime -- and sympathy for the victims.
"Now we have two families that's missing someone from the holidays," a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident told a local news station. "Where's your sense of humanity?"
But the scene outside Woodhull Hospital wasn't entirely supportive. "You're a bunch of killers," a passerby told cops standing sentry there, according to one police source. And short distance from the crime scene -- where a crowd was backed up by the police tape -- a few members of the crowd repeated "fuck the cops" within earshot of a Daily Beast reporter.
One 30-year-old local who gave his first name only as Carlos, didn't hear the fatal gunfire but saw the hysteria aftewards and walked to the police tape.
“A lot of people were clapping and laughing,” he said.
“Some were saying, ‘They deserved it,' and another was shouting at the cops, ‘Serves them right because you mistreat people!'” he said.
For Carlos, who walks his 10-year old daughter to school pass the police cruiser posted at Tompkins and Myrtle avenues, the double homicide—just a football field from his home of over a decade—was tragic.
“I walk my kid to school, passed that cop car everyday,” he said. “That's their post. What would people rather not have the cops here to keep us safe?”
“Nobody deserves this,” he added. “If they really wanted to get revenge they should have gone to Staten Island and found the cops that killed Eric Garner.”
Others seemed less sympathetic towards the police, and even seemed to resent that the cops didn't take as much notice of the area's other crimes. While violent offenses are dramatically down in Bed Stuy, pockets of violence persist here.
“Gunshots is usual for this neighborhood,” said Kenneth Otero, 30, who lives in a ninth-floor apartment across the street in Tompkins Houses, the housing projects Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were assigned to.
He says he heard the two shots that killed Liu and Ramos.
“I was watching ‘Daniel The Tiger' with my kid and I heard two shots like ‘boom-boom,'” he said.
But he believes the cops are going too far in the investigation of the murder of two of their own, with scores of cops and idling vehicles, and powerful spotlights turning the night of Tompkins Street into a surreal daylight.
“They've been here all day and now tonight,” he said. “This has happened before and it wasn't this big spectacle.”
Liu and Rafael were there to protect against the common criminality Otero mentioned. It is so common, that 22-year-old Yonas Tenayo was dodging bullets just the night before on her way home to her safer neighborhood of Clinton.
“Each day I walk through here,” she said, pointing to the slots of walkway through the monolithic hi-rises that loom over the area.
“Yesterday I was walking home at around 7 [p.m.] and I hear eight gunshots.
“I ran for my life,” said Tenayo, who is a home attendant for an autistic resident, but wants to transfer because of the crime.
“It's been three weeks,” she said. “But I don't want to be here anymore.”
Crime in NYC drops even as tactics draw criticism
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Even as New York's police department takes heat for its tactics in the outrage over the Eric Garner chokehold case, year-end crime statistics show two clear trends: low-level arrests are holding steady and overall crime continues to fall.
The numbers could be seen as an affirmation of Police Commissioner William Bratton's signature "broken windows" tactic, the idea that enforcing smaller crimes like fare beating and public drunkenness help prevent bigger crimes. It has come under intense scrutiny since the July in-custody death of Garner, who was stopped for the minor offense of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Historic drops in crime that continue today "didn't just happen," Bratton wrote in a recent op-ed piece defending the strategy he pioneered as commissioner in the 1990s. "They resulted from thousands of police interventions on the street, which restored order and civility across the five boroughs."
Even NYPD arrests for selling untaxed cigarettes are slightly up from last year. Numbers from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services show there were 515 misdemeanor arrests for the offense through mid-November, compared to 463 over the same period a year ago. And the pace of those arrests continued unabated even in the weeks since Garner's death.
Overall misdemeanor arrests are on track to be about the same as last year, when there were 227,380, most for drug offenses at 58,714. Through October this year, there have been 194,844 arrests, including 51,783 drug busts.
Through Dec. 14, overall serious crime had declined 4.7 percent compared to the same period last year, continuing a downward trend that started in mid-1990s. The murder total stood at 305, a 5.3 percent drop. Reports of robberies were down 14 percent and those of felony assaults dipped about 1 percent.
"Because of the broken windows approach, we are the safest we've ever been," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday after attending an NYPD promotions ceremony. "I lived through the 1980s and early '90s in this city. I don't want to go back there. I don't think anyone wants to go back there."
The decreases come at a time when the NYPD has dramatically scaled back its highly-disputed strategy of stop and frisk. A federal judge ruled last year the tactic unfairly targeted minorities. The total stops peaked at an annual high of nearly 700,000 in 2011 and are expected to be less than 50,000 this year.
But with stop-and-frisk waning, critics now question broken windows.
To some, stop-and-frisk and broken windows "are the same thing with a different name," said Deborah Wright, president of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.
Another critic, City University of New York School of Law professor Steve Zeidman, calls broken windows an outdated and flawed theory. The NYPD takes credit for the declines in crime each year even though larger factors like an aging population play a more significant role, he said.
"Would crime still go down if you stopped arresting people for loose cigarettes? Undeniably yes," he said.
The tactic was one of the reasons officers were at the corner store on Staten Island where Garner died. In an episode captured on video, officer Daniel Pantaleo wraps his arm around Garner and wrestles him to the ground. He died at a hospital after his cries of "I can't breathe" went unaided. A grand jury decided not to indict the officer, prompting mass protests and a public war of words between the mayor and head of the police officer's union, who says the mayor is throwing cops "under the bus."
Zeidman argues that any strategy that unnecessarily increases contact between police and civilians is a threat to community relations.
"The more you increase interactions, the more you increase the likelihood that something can go wrong," he said. "I really thought the Eric Garner case would be the tipping point that would put an end to it."
Most days in criminal court in Brooklyn there's a parade of arrestees "where the only allegation is that they walked through subway cars and because they didn't have ID on them, they get put in the system," said a public defender, Elena Roberts, who participated in a protest last week. "That doesn't really seem right to us."
The suspected offenders "are disproportionately minority men," Roberts added. "I know as a white woman, I'm afforded a certain privilege in my life and my activities that would never put me at risk for even being questioned for something so minor."
Philadelphia has a chance to implement real community policing
by David Kairys
If there is a fix for unnecessary police violence against young black men, or for police misconduct generally, Philadelphia should have it. Over the last half-century, periodic police scandals, usually involving corruption or abuse of civilians, have regularly been followed by reforms, including a reform currently gaining national attention - community policing. So it isn't surprising that President Obama's new task force on policing turned to Philadelphia's commissioner, Charles H. Ramsey, a well-known proponent of community policing.
The basic idea of community policing is to bring police and the communities they serve together to promote understanding, cooperation, and trust. Most departments embrace it in some way, perhaps because it comes with federal funding.
The various understandings fall into three categories: the methods, policies, and practices of day-to-day patrolling; communications and transparency; and attitude. Though communications, transparency, and attitude are important, community policing does not seem to mean much if the focus is not concretely on police methods.
The most significant measures regularly proposed are foot or bike patrols in high-crime areas, assigning officers to particular beats for substantial periods, and police "ministations" integrated into neighborhoods.
This approach has much to offer. Police gain cooperation, safety, and connection to the people they serve. Communities gain input into police policies and practices and hopefully some trust. Police who are integrated into a community are less likely to use unnecessary force, or to have force used against them, and their presence is a deterrent to crime. There are risks, but less than a status quo in which the community perception is of police as an occupying army.
It doesn't resolve everything. We cannot realistically expect any policing reform to eliminate or transcend the tensions between police and the communities they patrol.
Police enforce laws, but they are also the face and fist of social policies that result in extreme economic inequality and unemployment in communities often defined by race and poverty. The fallout has largely been left to the police, who are tasked with keeping order.
The Philadelphia experience with community policing goes back to the mid-1980s. And the pioneers and most significant practitioners were Police Commissioner Kevin Tucker and Mayor W. Wilson Goode.
In 1985, after an officer was killed, police went through the mostly Hispanic Spring Garden neighborhood and took into custody every Latino man on the streets or sidewalks. Federal lawsuits invalidated that sweep and a citywide one the same year of corners often used for drug dealing. (I was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in both cases.)
Those sweeps and the disastrous police bombing of the MOVE house in West Philadelphia led to Philadelphia's adopting community policing. Tucker and Goode established foot patrols and ministations throughout the city.
In 2007-08, the Community Policing Advocate Committee, which grew out of efforts opposing the Spring Garden sweep, urged the incoming police commissioner, Ramsey, to implement community policing.
Since then, Ramsey has encouraged dialogue and cooperation and provided innovative community-oriented policing in many ways.
But foot and bike patrols, which Ramsey publicly favors, are used only in some business areas, as a temporary first assignment for new recruits, and in districts only if requested by the district captain. Such beat patrols have not been our overall or major policing approach, certainly not near the extent during Tucker's tenure. And Ramsey has not established ministations, publicly saying he opposed doing so. Without these basic elements, it is hard to call these efforts meaningful community policing.
That was a lost opportunity in 2008. Six years later, Ramsey and the task force he co-chairs have a chance to revive and expand community policing. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others present an opportunity for reform, not just in Philadelphia but on a national stage.
David Kairys is a law professor at Temple University, author of "Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer," and a member of the Community Policing Advocate Committee
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Holder Statement on Assassination of Two New York City Police Officers in Line of Duty
Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement Saturday regarding the fatal shootings of two New York City police officers:
“I condemn this afternoon's senseless shooting of two New York City police officers in the strongest possible terms. This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty.
“On behalf of all those who serve in the United States Department of Justice, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the officers' loved ones and colleagues. I will make available all of the resources of the Department to aid the NYPD in investigating this tragedy.
"This cowardly attack underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens. As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past. These courageous men and women routinely incur tremendous personal risks, and place their lives on the line each and every day, in order to preserve public safety. We are forever in their debt.
"Our nation must always honor the valor -- and the sacrifices -- of all law enforcement officers with a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe. This means forging closer bonds between officers and the communities they serve, so that public safety is not a cause that is served by a courageous few, but a promise that's fulfilled by police officials and citizens working side by side."
In Memphis, Attorney General Holder Talks About Building Trust Between Communities and Law Enforcement
(Video on site)
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Memphis and held a roundtable discussion on improving the relationship between the city's people of color and local law enforcement.
In the wake of the recent police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and others, the President has called for an increased effort to help rebuild communities' trust in local law enforcement and the justice system. In that vein, the Attorney General will be holding similar discussions in a number of other cities across the country.
"We want to make sure that law enforcement acts in a way that people will perceive as being fair, and then, in fact, is fair."
-- Attorney General Eric Holder
Attorney General Holder also noted the inefficiency of policing on the basis of stereotypes, saying that this kind of policing will "draw you to places where you shouldn't be, and take you away from places where you, in fact, should be."
The discussion was held at the Lorraine Motel — the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968, and now the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. Attorney General Holder said the museum was the "perfect place" for this meeting, as "it's an indication of how far we've come, but it's also a reminder of how far we have to go." He also linked protesters across the country today to those who are memorialized in the museum — "people who made noise, who disrupted things, all with the hope, with the aim of making our great nation better," he said.
DHS Releases End of Year Statistics
WASHINGTON — As part of Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson's effort to enhance the manner in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects and reports statistics, today DHS released its fiscal year (FY) 2014 enforcement statistics from the DHS Office of Immigration Statistics, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In a continued focus by Secretary Johnson to promote transparency and timely reporting to Congress and the public, for the first time this year, ICE, CBP, and DHS's consolidated statistics are all being reported and released together.
In FY 2014, DHS conducted a total of 577,295 removals and returns, including 414,481 removals and 162,814 returns. ICE had a total of 315,943 removals or returns, and CBP made 486,651 apprehensions. These figures reflect the Department's commitment to border security and public safety by focusing on smart and effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of convicted criminals and recent border entrants. Owing in large measure to the rise in illegal migration from Central America this past year, both apprehensions and removals of Guatemalan, Honduran, and El Salvadorian nationals were up. Further, as ICE continues to refine its enforcement priorities to ensure that the agency focuses its resources on public safety and national security threats, 85 percent of ICE's FY 2014 removals and returns from the interior of the United States were of convicted criminals.
“DHS's 2014 year-end enforcement statistics demonstrate that our front line officers and agents continue to execute their critical mission in a smart and effective way, focusing our resources on convicted criminals and those attempting to illegally cross our nation's borders,” said Secretary Johnson. “This year's statistics are informed by a number of complex and shifting factors, most notably the 68 percent increase in migration from countries other than Mexico, predominately from Central America, and a 14 percent drop in Mexican migration since fiscal year 2013. The unprecedented surge of unaccompanied children and families last summer, as well as the increasing number of jurisdictions declining to honor ICE detainers, also impacted DHS enforcement operations. Notwithstanding these challenges, DHS components have adjusted and continue to successfully secure our borders and protect our communities.”
Key findings in FY 2014:
The Border Patrol made 486,651 apprehensions nationwide, nearly all of which were along the southwest border; 468,407 of those apprehensions were of individuals from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
98 percent of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations' (ERO) FY 2014 removals and returns met one or more of ICE's civil immigration enforcement priorities.
85 percent of all interior ICE removals and returns involved individuals who had been previously convicted of a crime; this number is up significantly from FY 2011 when it was just 67 percent.
The number of Mexican nationals that ICE removed or returned decreased, while the number of Guatemalan, Honduran, and El Salvadorian removals or returns increased.
State and local law enforcement declined to honor 10,182 ICE detainers, which required ICE to expend additional resources to develop and execute operations to attempt to locate and arrest at-large criminal aliens.
CBP Enforcement Efforts at and between Ports of Entry
The nation's long-term investment in border security continued to produce significant and positive results in FY 2014. Illegal migration, as defined by total Border Patrol apprehensions, continues to reflect an overall decline compared to the peak in 2000, when the Border Patrol reported 1.6 million apprehensions. This year, the Border Patrol reported 486,651 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 420,789 last year; the increase is largely attributable to the influx in unaccompanied children and family units in South Texas last summer. While Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexican nationals in FY 2014 decreased by 14 percent from FY 2013, apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico, predominately from Central America, increased by 68 percent.
Enforcement actions at ports of entry continued to yield important border security achievements. In FY 2014, CBP officers at ports of entry arrested 8,013 people wanted for serious crimes, including murder, rape, assault, and robbery. Officers also stopped 223,712 inadmissible aliens from entering the United States through ports of entry, an increase of more than 9 percent from FY 2013. Depending on the circumstances, these individuals were arrested, allowed to voluntarily return to their country of origin, or allowed to withdraw their application for admission into the United States. Inadmissibility grounds included immigration violations, and criminal and national security-related reasons. As part of these efforts, CBP identified 11,494 high-risk travelers who would have been found inadmissible and were prevented from boarding flights destined for the United States.
In addition, CBP officers and agents played a significant counter-narcotics role in FY 2014, seizing more than 3.8 million pounds of narcotics across the country.
For a comprehensive breakdown of CBP's FY 2014 enforcement efforts, please click here.
ICE Interior and Border Enforcement Efforts
In FY 2014, ICE removed or returned 315,943 individuals, 213,719 of whom were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States, and 102,224 of whom were apprehended in the interior of the United States. Eighty-five percent of ICE's interior removals and returns were previously convicted of a criminal offense; this number is up significantly from FY 2011 when it was just 67 percent.
ICE's 2014 removal numbers illustrate the agency's continued commitment to focusing on the apprehension, detention, and removal of criminal aliens and other immigration violators in the interior of the United States, and the removal of individuals apprehended by ICE and CBP while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States. Ninety-eight percent of ICE's FY 2014 removals and returns fell into one or more of ICE's civil immigration enforcement priorities.
This year, a number of factors and unique challenges contributed to ICE's total removals, and ICE's ability to adjust to these circumstances led to a sustained focus on criminals and public safety threats:
Shifting Migration Patterns and Demographics
In FY 2014, ICE was required to shift resources to effectively manage the influx of Central American family units and unaccompanied children illegally crossing into the United States in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in South Texas. ICE reallocated personnel and resources to address the challenges posed by this unprecedented migration.
Changing migrant demographics also impacted ICE removal operations. Most notably, removals to Central America increased while removals to Mexico decreased, which is consistent with changes to the apprehension demographics. Removals of non-Mexican nationals require additional detention capacity, efforts to secure travel documents from the host country, and the arrangement of air transportation. As a result, more time, officer resources, and funding are required to complete the removal process for nationals from Central America and other non-contiguous countries as compared to Mexican nationals apprehended at the border.
Increasing Jurisdictions Declining to Honor ICE Detainers
Another significant factor impacting removal operations has been the increase in the number of state and local law enforcement jurisdictions limiting or declining cooperation with ICE detainers, which is now more than 275 jurisdictions nationwide. ICE requests detainers to ensure that dangerous criminals and other priority individuals are not released from prisons or jails into our communities, and are instead transferred into ICE custody. When detainers are not honored, ICE must expend additional resources to develop and execute operations to locate and arrest at-large criminal aliens.
Refined Focus on Convicted Criminals
In recent years, ICE has refined its focus on identifying, locating, apprehending, and removing convicted criminal aliens who are at-large, which requires significantly more officers, time, money, and other resources as compared to those who are in a custodial setting. As a result, while overall removals may have declined, ICE has improved the quality of its removals by focusing on the most serious public safety and national security threats.
Reduced Use of the Alien Transfer Exit Program
The Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP) is an ongoing program that transfers Mexican nationals apprehended in one Border Patrol sector to another sector before removing them to Mexico. ATEP disrupts the smuggling cycle by physically separating aliens from the smuggling organizations that will repeatedly attempt to guide them into this country. In 2013 and 2014, ICE began reallocating limited resources away from ATEP to focus on the increasing number of Central American migrants and to effectively manage the influx of family units and unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, which has resulted in reduced ICE ATEP removals.
ICE's interior operations were further challenged by federal court decisions, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Rodriguez v. Robbins, which required bond hearings for all individuals detained for six months or longer, including those subject to mandatory detention. In many instances, individuals request a bond hearing once they reach 180 days in detention, and, if so ordered by an immigration judge, post bond. Once the individual's case is transferred to the non-detained docket, the immigration court process generally takes longer, thereby reducing the number of final orders of removal in the short term.
For a comprehensive breakdown of ICE's FY 2014 removal numbers, please see the FY14 report here.
DHS Reporting Improvements
Statistical reporting currently involves integrating immigration data from multiple DHS agencies. To process and track individuals from the point of encounter through removal, both ICE and CBP currently use multiple systems. Pursuant to Secretary Johnson's direction, DHS is working to improve processes to identify, track, and report immigration data consistently across the Department and with our federal partners.
To improve unity of effort, the Department will create a comprehensive capability to advance DHS's missions and transparently share information with stakeholders and the public. The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics is working with all DHS components to create the capability to collect, maintain, and report data reflecting the numbers of individuals apprehended, removed, returned, or otherwise repatriated. The Office of Immigration Statistics expects to release their detailed 2014 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics in the middle of next year.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Protect Myself from Cyber Attacks
What You Need To Know
The Department of Homeland Security plays an important role in countering threats to our cyber network. We aim to secure the federal civilian networks, cyberspace and critical infrasture that are essential to our lives and work.
DHS's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) is a 24x7 center responsible for the production of a common operating picture for cyber and communications across the federal, state, and local government, intelligence and law enforcement communities and the private sector.
The following preventative strategies are intended to help our public and private partners proactively look for emails attempting to deceive users into "clicking the link" or opening attachments to seemingly real websites:
Never click on links in emails . If you do think the email is legitimate, whether from a third party retailer or primary retailer, go to the site and log on directly. Whatever notification or service offering was referenced in the email, if valid, will be available via regular log on.
Never open the attachments . Typically, retailers will not send emails with attachments. If there is any doubt, contact the retailer directly and ask whether the email with the attachment was sent from them.
Do not give out personal information over the phone or in an email unless completely sure. Social engineering is a process of deceiving individuals into providing personal information to seemingly trusted agents who turn out to be malicious actors. If contacted over the phone by someone claiming to be a retailer or collection agency, do not give out your personal information. Ask them to provide you their name and a call-back number. Just because they may have some of your information does not mean they are legitimate!
Other practical tips to protect yourself from cyberattacks:
Set secure passwords and don't share them with anyone. Avoid using common words, phrases, or personal information and update regularly.
Keep your operating system, browser, anti-virus and other critical software up to date. Security updates and patches are available for free from major companies.
Verify the authenticity of requests from companies or individuals by contacting them directly. If you are asked to provide personal information via email, you can independently contact the company directly to verify this request.
Pay close attention to website URLs . Pay attention to the URLs of websites you visit. Malicious websites sometimes use a variation in common spelling or a different domain (for example, .com instead of .net) to deceive unsuspecting computer users.
For e-Mail, turn off the option to automatically download attachments.
Be suspicious of unknown links or requests sent through email or text message. Do not click on unknown links or answer strange questions sent to your mobile device, regardless of who the sender appears to be.
Advice about common security issues for non-technical computer users
Information about current security issues, vulnerabilities, and exploits
Weekly Summary of New Vulnerabilities
Stop. Think. Connect.
The Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign is a national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online.
Most people use passwords that are based on personal information and are easy to remember. However, that also makes it easier for an attacker to guess or "crack" them.
Although intentionally misspelling a word ("daytt" instead of "date") may offer some protection against dictionary attacks, an even better method is to rely on a series of words and use memory techniques, or mnemonics, to help you remember how to decode it.
For example, instead of the password "hoops," use "IlTpbb" for "[I] [l]ike [T]o [p]lay [b]asket[b]all." Using both lowercase and capital letters adds another layer of obscurity. Your best defense, though, is to use a combination of numbers, special characters, and both lowercase and capital letters. Change the same example we used above to "Il!2pBb." and see how much more complicated it has become just by adding numbers and special characters.
That Christmas day in 1914, something magical happened
With British and German forces separated only by a no-man's land littered with fallen comrades, sounds of a German Christmas carol suddenly drifted across the frigid air- Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (“Silent Night, Holy Night“).
Then, during that first Christmas day in World War I, something magical happened.
Soldiers who had been killing each other by the tens of thousands for months climbed out of their soggy, muddy trenches to seek a shred of humanity amid the horrors of war.
“Not a shot was fired,” Lt. Kurt Zehmisch of the 134th Saxony regiment wrote with amazement in his diary that Christmas.
On the other side of the front line, Pvt. Henry Williamson of the London Rifle Brigade was amazed by the goodwill among his enemies. “Yes, all day Xmas Day & as I write. Marvellous, isn't it?”
Few could be believe their eyes, especially on this mud-caked patch of Belgium and northern France where crimson poppies had long ago shrivelled in the cold.
Peace allowed for corpses to be recovered from the fields and given a proper burial. Fighting continued in many other places on the front line. But it was a momentary peace in a war that would last for nearly four more years.
Near one of the spots where British and German soldiers fraternised for the unexpected truce, a dark, dirt track veers off the road and meanders into the gloom of the woods.
There, a cleared space has the graves of British soldiers who died on December 19, 1914, in a battle as gruesome as it was insignificant, their dreams of a peaceful Christmas ignored and buried in the cold mud.
“There are a number of local attacks, which never make it into the history books, but which all cause a great loss among the troops,” said Piet Chielens, curator at the In Flanders' Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium.
The December 19, 1914, “Birdcage” attack occurred on a bulge of the German line about the size of a football field. Allied soldiers also had been thinking about Christmas, but for 80 of them it turned into disaster in an area where a warren of barbed wire had given the German defenders a huge advantage.
Mr. Chielens said that during those early days of the war both sides dug into the Flemish soil, with commanders “attacking without deep thought, without deep concern about the fate of their men.” The infamous “Birdcage” was one of those battles that made them realise that strategy wouldn't work.
With offensive artillery nearly non-existent and sometimes so wayward that it also was a threat to its own troops, soldiers were thrown into scenes where one machine gun could mow down a whole row of approaching men.
Some of the bodies found after the attack were so mangled they could no longer be told apart, and today the headstones of several casualties stand shoulder to shoulder to mark that horror.
“We no shoot”
Little wonder so many soldiers were pining for a glimmer of hope on Christmas Eve.
Frank and Maurice Wray of the London Rifle Brigade settled in to keep watch when they suddenly heard a German band in the trenches play songs “common to both nations,” they later wrote in an article. “Quite understandably a wave of nostalgia passed over us.”
At dawn, a German called out, “We good. We no shoot,” and the Wrays noted - “And so was born an unofficial armistice.” Men walked out, extremely apprehensive at first, many fearing some deadly trick. Then human warmth cracked the freezing cold.
Mr. Chielens said that at about 30 scattered points across many kilometres of Belgium, similar scenes occurred. Others happened across the Western Front, which ran from the North Sea to the Swiss border.
Apart from talk in a shared language or merely with hands and kindred eyes, the men exchanged gifts, using everything from bully beef and barrels of beer to small mementos. Some played football.
Despite the uplifting moment, commanders away from the trenches abhorred the softening of posture and fighting spirit. Cpt. Robert Hamilton of Britain's 1st battalion Royal Warwickshire noted - “I am told the general and staff are furious but powerless to stop it.”
25th December 1917
All that would change soon enough, and the 1914 truce would not be repeated.
Once British Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had heard of it on Dec. 27, 1914, he wrote in a confidential memorandum that “this is only illustrative of the apathetic state we are gradually sinking into.” He threatened disciplinary action to avoid a repeat.
“It was certainly remembered by the Army commands because around Christmas in 1915, 1916, 1917, they see to it that there is no such thing as a truce possible because then the shelling will be deliberate and very intensive.”
One thing did continue .. the relentless killing.
Next to a monument in Ploegsteert to mark football playing at Christmas is the Prowse Point Military cemetery. Amid the 225 dead, three headstones from the 27th Battalion Australian infantry stand out.
Date of death? “25th December 1917.”
NYPD suspends officer seen punching teen
by Fox News
The New York Police Department suspended a police officer Friday who was seen in a video punching a 16-year-old who was under arrest.
The teenager was arrested for allegedly attack another person with a cane in Manhattan Monday, MyFoxNY.com reports .
The video shows officers trying to get the teen in handcuffs. An officer in plainclothes approaches the boy and strikes him while the teen is being held by other officers.
A woman in the background yells, “Stop, get off of him,” while another woman is heard saying the boy is only 12-years-old.
The police department's internal affairs division is investigating the incident. Police have said the boy is 16-years-old.
"The incident is under review and the allegations have been referred to our Internal Affairs Bureau," the NYPD said in a statement. "Additionally, this individual was arrested with two others for assaulting another identified person with a cane."
The NYPD was also under fire again Friday night as protesters clogged city hall.
One side of the protests yelled chants that the NYPD is racist; while another side supported the NYPD and said without them society would fall into chaos.
Mayor Bill de Blasio met with activists early Friday calling for a special investigator to reopen the case. De Blasio said he listened to the ideas, but did not agree with all of them.
State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert After Australia Attack
The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert Friday in the wake of the deadly lone-wolf attack in Sydney, Australia, earlier in the week. The attack, which left two hostages and the attacker dead, "is a reminder that U.S. citizens should be extra cautious, maintain a very high level of vigilance, and take appropriate steps to enhance their personal security," the travel alert said.
State Department and intelligence officials said that there is no specific threat to Americans travelling abroad, but they are concerned that Monday's violence could inspire copycat attacks. The State Department warned that terrorists may not only focus on government buildings and officials, but might also target public places like "shopping areas, places of worship and schools, among other targets during or coinciding with this holiday period." The 17 hostages held in Monday's attack in Australia were held in a cafe. "U.S. citizens abroad should be mindful that terrorists groups and those inspired by them can pose unpredictable threats in public venues," the State Department said. The alert is set to expire on March 19, 2015.
Huntsville Police “Blue Notes” do community policing through song
by Beth Jett
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – From Minneapolis, to Cleveland, and maybe Birmingham, protestors are expected to show up in popular shopping areas this weekend to speak out about what they see as racism in the country.
In Huntsville, four black police officers are communicating messages of peace through song and they're in high demand.
Miles away from where people are staging “die-ins” in response to black citizens fatally shot by white police officers, there's music.
The “Blue Notes” of the Huntsville Police Department take the stage at the Southeastern Intercultural Academy on Blue Spring Road and, well, wing it.
“It's the Christmas concert and we didn't know any Christmas songs… how bout that?” laughed Officer Eric Newby, a member of the “Blue Notes.”
They describe themselves as a gospel singing group who have found a unique way to do their job.
“[It's] community policing through song,” said Lt. Jeffery Rice.
Newby explained the reaction of people who see the group perform. “They have a perception of you at first that is broken down once we start singing.”
They know, right now across the country, there is tension over the relationship between police officers and the public. Their take on it is this:
“Bad experiences have happened, but that's not every officer,” said Officer Gerald Johnson, another member of the group.
Rice agreed and put it this way: “We all can grow, we all can do better, we all have to work with one another for a common goal and that is to have a good honest community where people feel safe.”
Between the four members, they have 70 years of experience serving and protecting the public in Huntsville.
They believe the department has a good relationship with its citizens.
“We don't know most of the, some of the people that we deal with, so it's not a personal thing with them, it's just part of what we have to do as law enforcement officers,” said Officer Gerald Johnson, another member of the group.
And the officers ‘wing it' when they go on calls, trying to keep things safe and happy for everyone.
The Blue Notes don't charge to perform. They are in high demand during the holidays.
To request them, contact Tamara Doyle c/o Captain Presley at (256) 427-7157 or email: email@example.com
Community policing: Engaging citizens in public safety initiatives
In any community, crime is only one aspect of public safety. Rarely can police or city officials solve public safety problems alone. In Springfield, we are continually working together to address a variety of problems. Public safety is no different. Together, we are making a strong effort to identify, reduce, eliminate and prevent problems that impact community safety and order.
This is community policing, which is a philosophy the Springfield Police Department has worked under for many years. With a focus on collaborating with the community, this philosophy serves as a guide for daily operations and functions.
The Springfield Police Department offers a variety of programs and services that encourage citizen engagement in public safety initiatives. Neighborhood Watch, Apartment Watch and Business Watch are successful programs that have empowered homeowners, tenants and business people to create safer environments in which they live and work. In addition to coordinating these programs, Crime Prevention Officers perform commercial and residential security surveys using established Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles. Crime Prevention Officers also present programs on topics including robbery prevention, domestic violence, drugs, residential security, and personal safety.
Police Area Representative (PAR) officers, designated by zone to each area of Springfield, have allowed citizens to feel a direct connection the department – a person to reach out to with concerns about neighborhood crime problems. These officers use problem-oriented policing to produce long-term solutions to the problems of crime or decay in communities. They work with residents to identify the causes for problems, and then develop responses to those problems. In most cases, the responses developed through problem-oriented policing are joint police-community actions, which also involve participation by a variety of other departments within the City of Springfield. By doing this, the PAR officers are able to resolve long-standing neighborhood issues, thereby avoiding an escalation of those specific incidents.
By working together, the police and the community can reduce the fear and incidence of crime, and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods citywide. By working together,we can mobilize the efforts and resources of the police, the community and local government. For more information about how to get involved with the Springfield Police Department, visit www.springfieldmo.gov/SPD or the department's Twitter or Facebook page.
Obama Announces Historic Revamp of US-Cuba Relations
by VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama announced a major shift in U.S. relations with Cuba on Wednesday, after the country's communist leaders released Alan Gross, an American who had been imprisoned there for five years.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, in simultaneous speeches from Washington and Havana, said they had exchanged American and Cuban prisoners each had held for years. They will also open a path to increased economic and travel ties between the two countries, ending more than a half-century of diplomatic isolation borne in the Cold War.
"Isolation has not worked. It's time for a new approach," Obama said, in explaining the move toward normalizing relations. "I believe this contact will do more to empower the Cuban people."
In lauding the move, Castro said, "We have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations" with the U.S.
He said, "This decision by President Barack Obama deserves respect and recognition by our people," but he also called for a complete end to the U.S. economic blockade.
The two leaders talked by phone for more than 45 minutes on Tuesday, the first substantive presidential contact between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.
Later Wednesday, Gross made a short statement in Washington. He said he had learned of his impending release on Tuesday. He said he was happy to be home and that he was thankful for all those who worked for his release.
Obama said Gross and a man described as "one of the most important (U.S.) intelligence agents" were exchanged for three Cuban intelligence operatives who had spent more than a decade in U.S. prisons.
Talks for Gross' release lasted about a year, with the Vatican playing a significant role, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Wednesday.
Both Obama and Castro thanked Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, in starting a dialogue between the two countries.
The Vatican replied on Wednesday that, in recent months, Francis had written letters to both leaders, inviting them to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations” between the two countries.
Number of Death Sentences and Executions at 20-Year Lows
by NBC News
The number of executions in the United States hit a 20-year low in 2014, a dip driven in part by lethal-injection drug shortages and legal battles stemming from botched procedures. Thirty-five death-row inmates in seven states were killed last year, the lowest number since 1994, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. Executions peaked in 1999; there were 98 that year.
Oklahoma's bungled execution of Clayton Lockett in April and the protracted lethal injection of Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January brought attention to new drug protocols adopted by a number of states after some manufacturers stopped selling their products to put inmates to death. Investigations and lawsuits from other inmates have led to delays for others on death-row, although the pace hasn't slowed in Texas or Missouri.
Richard Dieter, the center's executive director, said as some of the litigation is resolved, the number of executions may rise next year — but he thinks that trend is temporary. Death sentences hit a 40-year low last year and have been in steep decline for the last two decades, plunging from 315 in 1994 to about 72 in 2014. "The realization that mistakes have been made, that innocent people are still being freed, has made juries hesistant," Dieter said. "They are willing to convict but not sentence to death. There is a demand for perfect proof, and so prosecutors are taking more plea bargains."
Seven death-row inmates were exonerated last year, the most since 2009.
A majority of Americans still support capital punishment. In a May poll by NBC News, 59 percent said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35 percent said they are opposed. That reflects the erosion of support since the 1990s, when more than 70 percent backed executions.
The rush-job conviction of 14-year-old George Stinney Jr., exonerated 70 years after execution
by Lindsey Bever
In March 1944, deep in the Jim Crow South, police came for 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. His parents weren't at home. His little sister was hiding in the family's chicken coop behind the house in Alcolu, a segregated mill town in South Carolina, while officers handcuffed George and his older brother, Johnnie, and took them away.
Two young white girls had been found brutally murdered, beaten over the head with a railroad spike and dumped in a water-logged ditch. He and his little sister, who were black, were said to be last ones to see them alive. Authorities later released the older Stinney – and directed their attention toward George.
“[The police] were looking for someone to blame it on, so they used my brother as a scapegoat,” his sister Amie Ruffner told WLTX-TV earlier this year.
Weeks later, on June 16, 1944, he was executed, becoming the youngest person in modern times to be put to death. On Wednesday, he was exonerated.
Stinney's case has tormented civil rights advocates for years.
He was questioned in a small room, alone – without his parents, without an attorney. (Gideon v. Wainwrigh, the landmark Supreme Court case guaranteeing the right to counsel, wouldn't be decided until 1963.) Police claimed the boy confessed to killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, admitting he wanted to have sex with Betty. They rushed him to trial. After a few hours of testimony and 10 minutes of deliberation, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to die by electrocution – “until your body be dead in accordance with law. And may God have mercy on your soul,” court documents said. His court-appointed attorney never sought an appeal.
At the time, 14 was the age of criminal responsibility. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons it was unconstitutional to execute someone for a crime committed while younger than 18.
Stinney's initial trial, the evidence – or lack of it – and the speed with which he was convicted seemed to illustrate how a young black boy was railroaded by an all-white justice system. During the one-day trial, the defense called few or no witnesses. There was no written record of a confession. Today, most people who could testify are dead and most evidence is long gone.
New facts in the case prompted Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen to throw out the conviction on Wednesday – 70 years after Stinney's execution.
“I can think of no greater injustice than the violation of one's Constitutional rights which has been proven to me in this case,” Mullen wrote.
The case has haunted the town since it happened, but garnered new attention when historian George Frierson, a local school board member raised in Stinney's hometown, started studying it some years ago. Since then, Stinney's former cellmate issued a statement saying the boy denied the charges. “I didn't, didn't do it,' ” Wilford Hunter said Stinney told him. “He said, ‘Why would they kill me for something I didn't do?' ”
In 2009, an attorney planned to file statements from Stinney's family members, but waited because he heard a man in Tennessee, who was not related to Stinney, could offer an alibi for the youth. The man never came forward. It reportedly delayed the new trial, but didn't stop it.
“South Carolina still recognizes George Stinney as a murderer,” defense attorney Matt Burgess told CNN earlier this year. “We felt that something needed to be done about that.”
New details started to emerge. Stinney's family claimed his confession was coerced, and that he had an alibi that was never heard. That alibi was his sister, now Amie Ruffner, 77. She said she was with him at the alleged time of the crime, watching their family's cow graze near some railroad tracks by their house when the two girls rode over on their bicycles.
“They said, ‘Could you tell us where we could find some maypops?' ” Ruffner remembered them saying, according to WLTX-TV. “We said, ‘No,' and they went on about their business.”
Stinney was accused of murdering the two girls while they picked wildflowers.
Stinney's family fled their home. His brother, Charles, who is now in his 80s, said in a statement they never came forward because they were afraid.
“George's conviction and execution was something my family believed could happen to any of us in the family. Therefore, we made a decision for the safety of the family to leave it be,” Charles Stinney wrote in his sworn statement.
Earlier this year, the case picked up speed. At a hearing in January, Stinney's family demanded a new trial. This week, Mullen heard testimony from Stinney's brothers and sisters, a witness from the search party that discovered the bodies and experts who challenged Stinney's confession. A child forensic psychiatrist testified Stinney's confession should have never been trusted.
“It is my professional opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the confession given by George Stinney Jr. on or about March 24, 1944, is best characterized as a coerced, compliant, false confession,” Amanda Sales told the court, according to NBC News. “It is not reliable.”
Still, some argued Stinney's admission of guilt was clear.
At the time a law enforcement officer named H.S. Newman wrote in a handwritten statement: “I arrested a boy by the name of George Stinney. He then made a confession and told me where to find a piece of iron about 15 inches long. He said he put it in a ditch about six feet from the bicycle.” Few other documents from that time, including a trial transcript, exist.
James Gamble, whose father was the sheriff at the time, told the Herald in 2003 he was in the back seat with Stinney when his father drove the boy to prison.
“There wasn't ever any doubt about him being guilty,” he said. “He was real talkative about it. He said, ‘I'm real sorry. I didn't want to kill them girls.' “
Indeed, just 84 days after the girls' deaths, Stinney was sent to the electric chair. Today, an appeal from a death sentence is all but automatic, and years, even decades, pass before an execution, which provides at least some time for new evidence to emerge.
Stinney was barely 5 feet tall and not yet 100 pounds. The electric chair's straps were too big for his frail body. Newspapers at the time reported he had to sit on books to reach the headpiece. And when the switch was flipped, the convulsions knocked down the large mask, exposing his tearful face to the crowd.
Frierson and Stinney's family maintained that they never wanted a pardon.
“There's a difference: A pardon is forgiving someone for something they did,” Norma Robinson, George Stinney's niece, told the Manning Times. “That wasn't an option for my mother, my aunt or my uncle. We weren't asking forgiveness.”
Instead, they sought what's called a “writ of coram nobis.” It means, in essence, mistakes were made.
Maine agency wants to bar public access to certain information in 911 calls
Officials hope to shield records related to domestic violence or sexual assaults, but an attorney is wary of restrictions that limit oversight of police.
by Scott Dolan
The Maine Department of Public Safety wants to change state law so the public would no longer have access to certain records from 911 calls related to domestic violence, sexual assaults or personal medical information.
“An Act To Protect the Privacy and Dignity of Persons Calling E-9-1-1 for Help” has not yet been drafted into a bill. But the department's goal is to block disclosure of some personal information that the public can now access, department spokesman Stephen McCausland said Wednesday.
“It would shield certain 911 information from public dissemination, particularly extraordinarily personal information they receive involving three areas – sexual assaults, domestic violence and personal medical information – usually given by the caller in very traumatic times,” McCausland said.
State law now prohibits public release of audio recordings of 911 calls, but permits access to written transcripts in many circumstances. The state can withhold transcripts if authorities convince a judge that disclosure could compromise an active criminal investigation or legal proceeding.
The proposed bill follows two cases in which the Portland Press Herald sued the state for access to 911 transcripts.
In August, a Superior Court judge ordered the state to give the Press Herald the transcript of a 911 call from the wife of a Windham man who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in April.
In November 2013, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the state's longstanding, blanket practice of withholding 911 transcripts in homicide cases and opened the door for future requests to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
The high court also ordered the state to release three 911 transcripts to the Press Herald in a shooting case involving a Biddeford landlord. James Pak is accused of killing two teenagers and wounding an adult minutes after police left the apartment where officers had investigated a tenant-landlord dispute involving Pak and the victims.
McCausland said the department's proposal is not a response to the Press Herald's court victories. He said the department is looking to tighten “loose ends” in the current language of the law.
He said the bill would not change state law related to homicides, which are addressed under a distinct section of criminal law, but would focus on “lesser” criminal cases and incidents.
McCausland said no particular incident or 911 call prompted the department's proposal, and that department managers came to the decision collectively. He could not immediately identify incidents or cases that raised their concerns.
Sigmund Schutz, the attorney who represented the Press Herald in its public access cases last year, said the Department of Public Safety has bypassed the usual process by proposing legislation rather than presenting its concerns to the state's Right to Know Advisory Committee.
“My suspicion is, this is a reaction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision, that this is an effort to pare back the public's right to know about the E-9-1-1 system,” Schutz said.
He said any restriction of public access would reduce public oversight and the public's ability to hold police agencies accountable.
Questions have been raised recently in the national media about whether police have responded adequately to reports of sexual assaults on college campuses. Similar questions could come up in Maine, Schutz said.
“I would say that rape and domestic violence are not minor incidents and we should have just as much oversight of the 911 system when someone is sexually assaulted or a victim of domestic violence as when someone is murdered,” he said.
Schutz noted that state law already prohibits the release of personal medical information.
State Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, co-chairman of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said he expects that whatever bill is drafted will be presented to the Judiciary Committee, rather than his committee. But he said he would vote against such a measure.
“I don't see the advantage of secrecy, unless there is a reason that can be justified to a judge,” said Dion, a lawyer who is a former Cumberland County sheriff and Portland police officer.
State Sen. Linda Valentino, a co-chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Federal judge: Obama immigration actions 'unconstitutional'
by Fox News
A federal judge has declared parts of President Obama's immigration executive actions unconstitutional, in the first court opinion to tackle Obama's controversial policy changes.
In an opinion filed Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab, in Pennsylvania, said Obama's immigration actions are invalid and effectively count as "legislation" from the Executive Branch.
"President Obama's unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is unconstitutional," the judge wrote.
The opinion, though, is unique in that it did not come in response to a challenge to Obama's immigration policy announcement. It is unclear what impact, if any, the opinion might have other than to rally critics and fuel momentum behind other lawsuits.
Rather, Schwab issued his opinion in response to a criminal case against Honduran illegal immigrant Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, who was previously deported in 2005 -- and was caught in the U.S. again earlier this year.
He already has pleaded guilty to "re-entry of a removed alien," but the court subsequently examined the impact of Obama's immigration actions on the case.
For that review, Schwab left open whether the actions might apply to Juarez-Escobar but determined the executive actions themselves were unconstitutional.
He wrote that the action goes beyond so-called "prosecutorial discretion" -- which is the "discretion" the administration cites in determining whether to pursue deportation against illegal immigrants.
Obama's policy changes would give a reprieve to up to 5 million illegal immigrants, including those whose children are citizens or legal permanent residents and who meet other criteria.
Schwab, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that this "systematic and rigid process" applies to a "broad range" of enforcement decisions, as opposed to dealing with matters on a "case-by-case basis."
Further, he wrote that the action goes beyond deferring deportation by letting beneficiaries apply for work authorization and allowing some to become "quasi-United States citizens."
He also cited Obama's argument that he was proceeding with executive action after Congress failed to act on comprehensive immigration legislation, and countered: "Congressional inaction does not endow legislative power with the Executive."
The Justice Department downplayed the significance of the opinion.
"The decision is unfounded and the court had no basis to issue such an order," a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement. "No party in the case challenged the constitutionality of the immigration-related executive actions and the department's filing made it clear that the executive actions did not apply to the criminal matter before the court. Moreover, the court's analysis of the legality of the executive actions is flatly wrong. We will respond to the court's decision at the appropriate time."
Critics of the administration's policy, though, hailed the opinion.
"The President's unilateral executive action suspending the nation's immigration laws for roughly five million illegal aliens has received its first judicial test, and it has failed," John Eastman, law professor at Chapman University, said in a statement.
Other direct legal challenges to Obama's immigration actions, including one by two-dozen states, remain pending before the federal courts.
The latest opinion was first reported by the Volokh Conspiracy blog.
Court-appointed panel to monitor Los Angeles county jails
REUTERS -- A court-appointed panel will begin to oversee the Los Angeles County jail system, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday, as part of a settlement to a 2012 class-action lawsuit that alleged sheriff's deputies beat inmates.
The agreement requires the sheriff's department to adopt an action plan to drawn up by the three-person panel, aimed at reforming its use-of-force policy and give further training to its jail deputies, the civil rights group said.
"For decades, the sheriff's department has run the jail without any accountability or transparency," Peter Eliasberg, legal director of ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement.
"This agreement addresses those problems by establishing clear policies and practices the department must implement."
Newly elected Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said he supported the settlement and that his office had already undertaken numerous reforms.
"I welcome the opportunity to work together with the designated experts, the court and others to implement these changes," McDonnell said in an emailed statement.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the agreement was approved by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The news comes a week after a plan to create a separate civilian oversight panel for the troubled department was approved by county leaders.
That measure was a bid to tackle thorny issues facing the jail system, the nation's largest, such as allegations of excessive force and poor management.
Debate over policing practices has grown amid nationwide protests in recent weeks following a New York grand jury's failure to indict a police officer earlier this month in the chokehold death of an unarmed man.
That decision was reached shortly after a grand jury in St. Louis, Missouri declined to criminally charge an officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is edging closer to a federal consent decree for court oversight of its jail system, after the U.S. Department of Justice found the treatment of mentally ill inmates violated their constitutional rights.
A separate federal probe into prisoner abuse and other misconduct in the jail system led to the conviction of several current and former sheriff's deputies for trying to block the investigation.
Terrorism insurance program set to expire after bill blocked in Senate
by Fox News
A bill that would extend a program meant to help insurance companies cover Americans in the event of terrorist attacks was blocked Tuesday night in the final hours of the Senate session.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act has been the subject of considerable debate with some advocates warning of dire consequences if Congress fails to act, such as the cancellation of the Super Bowl. Others argue the free market would step in and take care of any problems.
With the Senate not acting, the bill now will expire Dec. 31 and can only be renewed after the 114 th Congress is sworn in next year.
The measure had passed in the House last Wednesday by a 417-7 vote.
The program was enacted in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks led the private market for terrorism insurance to collapse.
The legislation is considered important to economic sectors such as construction, real estate, hospitality and major sports leagues, which fear crippling insurance costs if the program expires and rates skyrocket — or the market for terrorism insurance collapses altogether.
Under the law, the government covers 85 percent of losses after the first $100 million in damages from a terrorist attack. The government has never paid out under the law, and terrorism insurance is less costly, but the hoped-for revival of private-sector alternatives has failed to occur.
"Sadly, terrorism will be an ongoing threat to our nation for the foreseeable future, so it is vital that we remain prepared," House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said. "The cost of terrorism still looms large, and acts of terrorism are uninsurable risks that could sink our insurance markets without this program."
The blocking of the bill puts thousands of jobs at risk, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., claimed late Tuesday.
"We hope that next year, the House Republican leadership will work with us in the same bipartisan way that the Senate did when we passed a [terror insurance] bill 93-4,” he said in a statement.
The bill was blocked after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., wanted a provision added to the measure to permit states to opt out of the multistate licensing system. He vowed to block any request to expedite a floor vote on the bill and did so Tuesday.
LA to be first city to equip all cops with body cameras
by JC Torres
The event surrounding Ferguson and similar cases have led citizens to be more aware, wary, and even more critical of the use of police power in the enforcement of the law. In order to protect not only citizens but law enforcers as well, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan to equip LAPD officers with body cameras. These cameras will provide the evidence that might be needed in confrontations between police officers and the public and to prevent, or at least deter, tragedies like Ferguson from happening again.
This LAPD body cam project is no small undertaking. It involves a total of 7,000 cameras to equip all LAPD officers. For the meantime, however, the mayor and the police department have signed a contract that will get at least 800 of these Axon cameras to be distributed first to patrol office and specialized details. The $1.5 million needed to put this plan into action was reported to have been raised privately.
The LAPD has been conducting test of these video cameras for almost a year now with pretty much positive results. Areas where officers have started wearing them have seen a reduction of complaints against officers and the need to use force. Of course, this is immediately correlated to the police being more careful with how the resolve situations and the public being more aware of "big brother".
This move to equip police with cameras isn't limited to Los Angeles, of course. Police departments across the country are starting to test similar new approaches to law enforcement. But if the LAPD manages to raise more funds, both private and public, the city might claim the distinction of being the first major city to deploy that many cameras on police officers.
Jersey City community policing is coming -- probably
by Earl Morgan
Community policing is coming. It's become a virtual inevitability after President Barack Obama pledged approximately $263 million in federal funds for police training and community policing.
Obama announced that $50 million of the money will be used to purchase body cameras for police departments across the country. The balance will be utilized for community policing and, yes, more training. It's hard to imagine any mayor or governor turning up their nose at the idea of snagging a share of those federal bucks.
Unless you've been living in a cave, the grand jury exonerations of police officers involved in deadly force fatalities have set off more than 100 days of constant protests that have people asking, what is going to heal things?
However, there are police departments and individual officers who are already ahead of the curve by making the effort to know the communities they protect. Officers like Lou DeStesano and Saida Simmons, who work out of Jersey City's East District. This odd couple of DeStesano, a white guy, and Simmons, a black woman, stroll down the Lafayette section's main drag, Pacific Avenue, and they elicit smiles and hellos. People come up to shake their hands, to chat with them and generally enjoy their presence in the neighborhood.
I met these in the officers by the Morris Canal Community Development Corp., where I happen to be when they dropped by to say hello to the nonprofit agency's director, June Jones, and her staff; I've watched them as they went about their business, patrolling their beat on foot or in their squad car.
Anyone with doubts about the efficacy of community policing should spend time just observing this unlikely pair of officers go about their business.
Observe the familiarity they have with area residents. You get the feeling that should they have to confront some bad guys on their beat, the community will have their backs. Isn't that what community policing is -- or should be about?
Staying with the concept of community policing, six months ago, Jersey City Public Safety Director Jim Shea and his former police chief responded to an idea I expressed in this space to bring community people from high crime areas together with police officers. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham and myself were invited to speak to a room full of cops and I'm thankful for that experience.
Merchants, block association presidents, school teachers, etc. could be added to a list of residents to meet and greet police recruits, or indeed, working cops.
Hopefully Shea and the department might consider making these meet and greet sessions a permanent feature of departmental training to help build bridges of understanding.
Over 120 Pakistanis, mostly children, killed in Taliban high school attack
by Jibran Ahmad
(Reuters) - At least 126 people, most of them children, were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen stormed a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, taking hundreds of students hostage in the bloodiest insurgent attack in the country in years.
Troops surrounded the building and an operation was underway to rescue children still trapped inside, the army said.
Hours into the siege, three explosions were heard inside the military-run high school, and a Reuters journalist at the scene said he heard heavy gunfire.
Outside, as helicopters rumbled overhead, police struggled to hold back distraught parents who were trying to break past a security cordon and get into the school.
Bahramand Khan, director of information for the regional Chief Minister's Secretariat, said at least 126 people were killed and 122 wounded.
"It may rise," he said, adding that more than 100 of the dead were school children. A local hospital said the dead and wounded it had seen were aged between 10 and 20 years old.
The hardline Islamist Taliban movement immediately claimed responsibility.
"We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females," said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. "We want them to feel the pain."
It was not clear whether some or all of the children were killed by gunmen, suicide bombs or in the ensuing battle with Pakistani security forces trying to gain control of the building.
HOSTAGES STILL INSIDE
An unspecified number of children were still being held hostage in the school, a provincial official said, speaking some three hours after the siege began.
The Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to topple the government and set up a strict Islamic state, have vowed to step up attacks in response to a major army operation against the insurgents in the tribal areas.
They have targeted security forces, checkpoints, military bases and airports, but attacks on civilian targets with no logistical significance are relatively rare.
In September, 2013, dozens of people, including many children, were killed in an attack on a church, also in Peshawar, a sprawling and violent city near the Afghan border.
With the rescue operation under way, the situation remained fluid, with contradictory reports about what was happening inside the school and witness accounts difficult to come by.
"An army doctor was visiting us teaching us about first aid when attackers came from behind our school and started firing," one student told Pakistan's Dunya Television.
"Our teachers locked the door and we ducked on the floor, but they (militants) broke down the door. Initially they fired in the air and later started killing the students, but left the hall suddenly.
"The attackers had long beards, wore shalwar kameez (traditional baggy clothes) and spoke Arabic."
The army said five Taliban militants had been killed and that they were searching for any remaining gunmen. The Taliban had earlier said they had sent six insurgents with suicide vests to attack the school.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said he was on his way to Peshawar.
"I can't stay back in Islamabad. This is a national tragedy unleashed by savages. These were my kids," he said in a statement.
"This is my loss. This is the nation's loss. I am leaving for Peshawar now and I will supervise this operation myself."
Military officials at the scene said at least six armed men had entered the military-run Army Public School. About 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside.
"We were standing outside the school and firing suddenly started and there was chaos everywhere and the screams of children and teachers," said Jamshed Khan, a school bus driver.
3 dead, including gunman, in Sydney siege
by KRISTEN GELINEAU
SYDNEY (AP) — The deadly siege began in the most incongruous of ways, on a sunny Monday morning inside a cheerful cafe in the heart of Australia's largest city. An Iranian-born gunman burst in, took 17 people hostage, and forced some to hold a flag with an Islamic declaration of faith above the shop window's festive inscription of “Merry Christmas.”
It ended after midnight with a barrage of gunfire that left two hostages and the gunman dead, four others wounded, and a nation that has long prided itself on its peace rocked to its core.
After waiting 16 hours, police stormed the Lindt Chocolat Cafe early Tuesday when they heard gunfire inside, said New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
A loud bang rang out, several hostages ran from the building and police swooped in amid heavy gunfire, shouts and flashes. A police bomb disposal robot also was sent into the building, but no explosives were found.
“They made the call because they believed that at that time, if they didn't enter, there would have been many more lives lost,” Scipione said.
The gunman was identified as 50-year-old Man Haron Monis, who once was prosecuted for sending offensive letters to families of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monis had “a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability.”
Scipione wouldn't say whether the two hostages who were killed — a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman — were caught in crossfire, or shot by their captor. Among the four wounded was a police officer shot in the face.
One of the victims was Sydney lawyer and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson.
“Katrina was one of our best and brightest barristers who will be greatly missed by her colleagues and friends” Jane Needham, president of the New South Wales Bar Association, said in a statement.
Officials rolled one gurney out of the cafe carrying what appeared to be a man draped in a blood-soaked sheet with a bloody handprint in the center. Paramedics also carried away a woman with blood-covered feet.
“I can only imagine the terror that they've been through,” Scipione said. “They are very brave people who in many cases were just buying a cup of coffee and they got caught up in this dreadful affair. We should reflect on their courage.”
The prime minister also reflected on how an ordinary day turned terrifying.
“There is nothing more Australian than dropping in at the local cafe for a morning coffee, and it's tragic beyond words that people going about their everyday business should have been caught up in such a horrific incident,” Abbott said.
While Monis' motivation for the attack was still unclear, Abbott confirmed he was “well-known” to state and federal authorities.
Last year, he was convicted and sentenced to 300 hours of community service for using the postal service to send what a judge called “grossly offensive” letters to families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.
At the time, Monis said his letters were “flowers of advice,” adding: “Always, I stand behind my beliefs.”
Monis later was charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual assault of a woman in 2002. He has been out on bail on the charges.
“He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability,” Abbott said. “As the siege unfolded yesterday, he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult. Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence.”
“This is a one-off random individual. It's not a concerted terrorism event or act. It's a damaged-goods individual who's done something outrageous,” his former lawyer, Manny Conditsis, told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.
Flags were lowered to half-staff on the landmark Harbour Bridge as Australians awakened to the surreal conclusion of the crisis. The state's premier expressed disbelief that the attack could happen in Australia — a place he dubbed “a peaceful, harmonious society which is the envy of the world.”
“In the past 24 hours, this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined,” Premier Mike Baird said. “The values we held dear yesterday we hold dear today. They are the values of freedom, democracy, and harmony. These defined us yesterday, they will define us today, they will define us tomorrow.”
The siege began about 9:45 a.m. in Martin Place, a plaza in Sydney's financial and shopping district that was packed with holiday shoppers. Many of those inside the cafe would have been taken captive as they stopped in for their morning coffees.
Hundreds of police flooded the city. Streets were closed and offices evacuated. The public was told to stay away from Martin Place, site of the state premier's office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the headquarters of two of the nation's largest banks. The state parliament house is a few blocks away, and the famous Sydney Opera House also is nearby.
Throughout the day, several hostages were seen with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the window of the cafe, with two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith, written on it.
The Shahada, which translates as, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger,” is considered the first of Islam's five pillars of faith. It is pervasive throughout Islamic culture, including the green flag of Saudi Arabia. Jihadis have used the Shahada in their own black flag.
Channel 10 news said it received a video in which a hostage in the cafe had relayed the gunman's demands. The station said police requested they not broadcast it, and Scipione separately asked media that might be contacted by the gunman to urge him instead to talk to police.
Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the flag's inscription was a “testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.”
In a show of solidarity, many Australians offered on Twitter to accompany people dressed in Muslim clothes who were afraid of a backlash against the country's tiny Muslim minority of some 500,000 people in a nation of 24 million. The hashtag #IllRideWithYou was used more than 90,000 times by late Monday evening.
Seven Network television news staff watched the gunman and hostages for hours from a fourth floor window of their Sydney offices, opposite the cafe.
The gunman could be seen pacing back and forth past the cafe's windows. Reporter Chris Reason said the man carried what appeared to be a pump-action shotgun, was unshaven and wore a white shirt and a black cap.
Some of the hostages were forced up against the windows.
“The gunman seems to be sort of rotating these people through these positions on the windows with their hands and faces up against the glass,” Reason said in a report. “One woman we've counted was there for at least two hours — an extraordinary, agonizing time for her, surely, having to stand on her feet for that long.”
“When we saw that rush of escapees, we could see from up here in this vantage point the gunman got extremely agitated as he realized those five had got out. He started screaming orders at the people, the hostages who remain behind,” he added.
Reason later reported that staff brought food from a kitchen at the rear of the cafe and the hostages were fed.
As night set in, the lights inside the cafe were switched off. Armed police guarding the area outside fitted their helmets with green-glowing night goggles.
“This is a very disturbing incident,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.”
Lindt issued a statement saying it was “profoundly saddened and deeply affected about the death of innocent people.”
“We are devastated by the loss of their lives and that several others were wounded and had to experience such trauma,” said the statement from the Swiss company Lindt & Sprugli. “Our thoughts and feelings are with the victims and their families who have been through an incredible ordeal, and we want to pay tribute to their courage and bravery.”
Australia's government raised the country's terror warning level in September in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL. Counterterror law enforcement teams later conducted dozens of raids and made several arrests in Australia's three largest cities — Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. One man arrested during a series of raids in Sydney was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.
The Islamic State group, which holds a third of Syria and Iraq, has threatened Australia in the past. In September, its spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.
One terrorism expert said the situation appeared to be that of a “lone wolf” making his own demands, rather than an attack orchestrated by a foreign jihadist group.
“There haven't been statements from overseas linking this to extremist groups outside the country — that is quite positive,” said Charles Knight, lecturer in the Department of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Australia's Macquarie University. “The individual or individuals involved didn't kill early, which is part of the pattern of some recent international attacks. ... It seems to be shifting more into the model of a traditional hostage situation, rather than the sort of brutal attacks we've seen overseas.”
Providence forum explores how to improve police-community relationship
by Alisha A. Pina
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Youth Build Providence teacher Marco McWilliams asked what he should have said to his students of color after they told him a cop searched and harassed them for sitting on a corner.
A mother of two, Claudia Castellanos, emphasized that Providence police should fully embrace community policing by getting out of their cruisers and off their horses to interact with the residents they are sworn to protect and serve.
Sal Monteiro, from the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence, said the mentality of some city officers — the ones who chose Providence because “that is where the action is” — needs to be changed.
The three were among nearly 200 people who attended a community forum Monday at the South Providence Recreation Center. The event was held jointly by multiple neighborhood and minority groups with the state and Providence police.
The event, named New Beginnings Community Outreach Forum: A Follow-up to the Ferguson Decision, referred to one of two recent incidents where unarmed black men were killed by white officers. Grand juries did not indict officers in either case, sparking protests nationwide — including in Rhode Island.
“There are no VIP seats here,” co-organizer Kobi Dennis, founder of Project: Night Vision, which has after-hour programs for teenagers, said at the start of the event. “… Today is just simply a time to have a conversation, and we hope to move forward with this conversation.”
The forums, said Dennis, began in 2010 for the police and community organizations to talk about race, violence and any other issues having an impact on Rhode Island. He said they have had about two meeting a year and thinks Monday's discussion is the eighth gathering.
“The fact that Feguson happened,” said Dennis, “that didn't spark this…. We need help building bridges.”
Dozens of officers sat with the adults, youth, monks, clergy, state officials, city leaders and neighborhood leaders — of all colors — on the gymnasium bleachers. More people stood, waiting for a microphone to be heard.
One held a sign, “Stop abuse of authority.”
The topics discussed included increasing diversity on police forces, racial profiling in Rhode Island and changing the criminal-justice system. One speaker asked why some officers chose their profession.
When Castellanos asked about community policing, Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr. said the department is fully involved with the model but lost critical staff with budget cuts. He said 52 new officers will help them become a “better agency.”
“We are committed to policing neighborhoods fairly and effectively,” said Clements. “Sometimes when we move in to enforce [the law], it becomes questionable and that's why we are here.”
He said the relationships with local police are far better today than they were 12 and 15 years ago, but “we can we do better, absolutely….”
In answering why he became an officer, State Police Cpl. Ken Jones said he lived in Memphis, Tenn., before spending 12 years in the Marine Corps and 18 years as a trooper.
“In spite of the history of Rhode Island and the United States, I do believe that you are judged based on what you do, your character,” he said. “I was always told it doesn't matter what you look like, what you have, it only matters what you do. I want people to see me not as an African-American. I want them to see me as a good trooper. We come from all walks of like.”
The conversation will continue Saturday from 12 to 3 p.m. with a panel discussion — Racism, State Oppression, and the Black Community: Ferguson & Beyond — the Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad St. City Councilwoman-elect Mary Kay Harris will moderate the talk.
Pridgen proposes ‘listening tour' on police-community relations
by Susan Schulman
Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen Monday said he'd like to see the Brown administration conduct a “listening tour” to learn how city residents and stakeholders view the Buffalo Police Department.
The request is included in a resolution Pridgen filed with the Council that also asks that the police department compile detailed statistics on complaints against police officers. The statistics, the resolution states, should include such things as location of alleged incidents and the race of the person making the complaint as well as the race of the officer being accused of being abusive.
Pridgen said the data should be made available, upon request, to the Council's Police Oversight Committee. The committee, he said, also should have access to data on the number of complaints against individual officers, and the disposition of those cases.
The data, along with public comments from the listening tour, also should be used to determine what, if any, reforms are needed within the police department operation.
Pridgen said his resolution is not meant to suggest that the Buffalo Police Department is in trouble and, in fact, praised the department's community policing efforts.
“I am not saying we have a Ferguson. We don't,” Pridgen said, referring to Ferguson, Mo., where a white officer recently shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.
“I want us to be proactive. I want us to be a model,” Pridgen said.
Mayor Byron W. Brown declined to comment on the specifics of Pridgen's resolution, but did say that his administration is already conducting a listening tour of sorts.
As part of that, Brown is hosting a public forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Mount Olive Baptist Church, 701 E. Delavan Ave. Others expected to be represented at the forum include Concerned Clergy Coalition of Western New York, the Buffalo Police Department, the FBI, state police, the Erie County Sheriff's Department, Erie County District Attorney's Office and the Buffalo Commission on Citizens' Rights & Community Relations.
The purpose of the forum is to have “a continued dialogue on ways to build respect, trust and confidence between the community and local law enforcement,” according to a statement issued by the mayor's office.
Brown noted that in the past few years, the Buffalo Police Department has reinstituted community policing techniques. There are now community policing officers in all district precincts, and monthly community meetings at all district precinct houses, he said. In addition, the department recently began a door-to-door community survey in which residents are being asked for their ideas and concerns, if any, about city police.
“At a time like this, it's easy to be reactive and not recognize all that is being done,” Brown said. “We are going to be very thoughtful in our approach so as we go into 2015, as we upgrade police policies, practices and training, we want to do so in a way that makes a difference for all citizens and is cognizant of the difficult and dangerous job police do.”
Ohio Depts of Education and Public Safety introduce new tip line to schools
The line is free for all Ohio public and private schools
by CORY YORK
The Ohio Departments of Education and Public Safety are providing a new way for students and parents to report an incident and stay anonymous.
The incidents include bullying, suicide prevention or a threat of mass violence.
Each tip will be analyzed by a special unit in the Ohio Department of Homeland Security.
John Charlton of the Department of Education says it is important each call gets personal attention and that the right group is contacted.
"These are professionals that have been trained. I think that they will analyze each of the calls that come in but I think in most situations people will air on the side of caution. Will there be times when law enforcement be called out when not necessary? That may happen. However, that's better than when no one being called out when someone should have been called out."
Charlton says the line is not meant to compete with plans implemented by local districts. He says it is a way to have a universal system to protect students.
The line will be free for schools to use.
Students and parents can make tips either by phone or text.
Schools can visit click here to register.
Sydney siege: Police don't know gunman's motivation
by William M. Welch and Jane Onyanga-Omara
More than 10 hours after a gunman took control of a cafe in central Sydney, seizing an unknown number of hostages, Australian police said Monday they still don't know his motivation.
Five hostages fled the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Martin Place, in the heart of the city's financial and shopping district, Monday. An undisclosed number of hostages remain in the cafe.
"We have not yet confirmed it is a terrorism-related event," New South Wales state police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said. "We're dealing with a hostage situation with an armed offender."
The incident began at around 9:45 a.m local time. As the siege entered its 12th hour Monday night, a number of questions remained unanswered.
Police would not say how many hostages were inside the cafe, what they believed the gunman's motives might be, whether he had made any demands or whether the hostages who fled escaped or were released.
Scipione told a news conference that if people were being contacted by hostages, "we would ask them to ensure the man inside speaks to police."
He said he was not in a position to go into details about "who is in there, and how many are in there."
Three people ran out of the cafe six hours into the hostage crisis. About an hour later, two women wearing aprons with the Lindt chocolate logo fled the cafe into the arms of heavily armed police officers.
Television video shot through the cafe's windows showed several people with their arms in the air and hands pressed against the glass, and two people holding up a black flag with the Shahada, or Islamic declaration of faith, written on it.
Kathryn Chee, who works at the cafe, told ABC News she had planned to arrive at work early when her mother told her the news of the incident.
She said she saw pictures on TV of hostages with their hands against the windows.
"Straight away, there were three people that I knew....my heart just sank," she said. 'It's just a little cafe, we have regular customers, people we know their orders…we're already making their order before they get to the counter."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged Australians to go about their business as usual in a speech from Canberra on Monday.
"Our thoughts and prayers must above all go out to the individuals who are caught up in this," he said.
He earlier said the events may be "politically motivated.''
New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn earlier said negotiators were talking with the gunman.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that th e gunman forced hostages to call multiple media outlets to outline his demands, and that the hostages also posted his demands on their social media accounts.
Police have asked that media outlets do not report the gunman's demands, the newspaper reported.
It added that earlier on Monday, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said police were "firming up" whether an "improvised explosive device" was involved.
The standoff gripped downtown Sydney, shutting down government offices, public transit and schools as it dragged through the day.
The normally busy and crowded business district of the city was on virtual lockdown with hundreds of officers on the scene.
Seven Network television news staff watched the gunman and hostages for hours from a fourth floor window of their Sydney offices, opposite the cafe.
The gunman could be seen pacing back and forth past the cafe's four windows. Reporter Chris Reason said he carried what appeared to be a pump-action shotgun, was unshaven and wore a white shirt and a black cap.
Network staff counted about 15 different faces among hostages forced up against the windows.
St. Vincent's hospital spokesman David Faktor said a male hostage was in satisfactory condition in the hospital's emergency department. He was the only one of the freed hostages to be taken to a hospital, and Scipione said he was being treated for a pre-existing condition. Police said they had no information to suggest any hostages had been hurt.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird told the news conference on Monday evening that there would continue to be an exclusion zone around Martin Place on Tuesday morning local time, and that people who work there should work from home.
Australia raised its terror warning level in September in response to a domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. At the time, one man arrested during a series of raids in Sydney was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State leader in Syria to behead a random person in downtown Sydney.
Meanwhile in Belgium on Monday, four armed men entered an apartment in the city of Ghent.
Police, who blocked off a wide perimeter around the area, said it was still unclear whether they had taken any hostages.
Dick Cheney: I'd use harsh interrogation tactics 'again in a minute'
The former Republican Vice President remained firm in his belief that brutal, 'enhanced interrogation' techniques on detainees after 9/11 were the right thing to do.
by Adam Edelman
Dick Cheney said he would do it all again.
The blunt former veep on Sunday aggressively defended the brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the 9/11 attacks, defiantly maintaining that they helped protect the homeland.
“We've avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States. And we did capture Bin Laden,” he said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “I'd do it again in a minute.”
Cheney, despite accusations to the contrary, said the CIA “very carefully avoided” torture in its enhanced interrogation techniques, which, according to an investigative Senate report released last week, included waterboardings, beatings, extreme stress positions and forced “rectal feedings” and “rectal rehydrations.”
“Torture, to me is an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York City on 9/11. There's this notion that somehow there's moral equivalence between what the terrorists and what we do. And that's absolutely not true,” Cheney said.
"(Torture) is what 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11,” he added. “There's no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation.”
Former Bush adviser Karl Rove also defended the controversial tactics, specifically saying that “rectal rehydration” was necessary to nourish detainees on hunger strikes — even though the Senate report said they were subjected to the brutal procedure without “documented necessity.”
“Let's get the rectal feedings out (of the discussion),” Rove said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There are in this report nine references on 14 pages to rectal feeding. In four of those five it is discussed as being a result of a hunger strike by the detainee.”
Rove also claimed that then-President George W. Bush knew about the harsh techniques and even authorized their use.
“He was briefed and intimately involved in the decision,” Rove said, citing Bush's 2010 memoir, “Decision Points.” “He made the decision … he was presented, I believe, 12 techniques, he authorized the use of 10 of them, including waterboarding.”
The Senate report stated that the CIA kept the White House in the dark about the use of the techniques.
Meanwhile, a growing number of pols across both major parties continued to speak out against the use of torture.
Meanwhile, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a vocal opponent of torture and, himself, a survivor of it, reiterated his belief that the moves by the CIA constituted torture.
"I said these things are torture. They're in violation of the Geneva Convention and the convention against torture," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation.”
“I urge everyone to just read the report,” he added. “You can't claim that tying someone to the floor and have them freeze to death is not torture. You can't say 183 times someone is waterboarded.”
Community forum focuses on police relations
by ZIVA BRANSTETTER
From an 18-year-old college freshman to a 93-year-old veteran, speakers at a community forum Sunday agreed that racially motivated policing is a problem in Tulsa and elsewhere.
“They tell you that in the ‘60s, Martin Luther King solved everything, that we are living in a post-racial era,” said Terryce Boxley, a Tulsan and freshman at the University of Oklahoma. “Being a young person and seeing this with my own eyes, I can't be complacent. ... We have to do something about this.”
About 100 people turned out for “Not in My City II” at the Crown Hill Auditorium, 1821 E. 66th St. North, to discuss ways to address what they see as a growing national problem. The forum is the second of three planned by the Tulsa Community Business Group, a grass-roots organization formed to support entrepreneurs and develop community leaders.
Atoria Jordan, a spokeswoman for the group, said the forums were inspired by deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City, and Jeremy Lake in Tulsa. Brown and Garner were killed in encounters with on-duty police officers.
A former Tulsa police officer, Shannon Kepler, is awaiting trial in the shooting death of Lake, Kepler's daughter's boyfriend.
Grand juries returned no indictments against officers in the deaths of Brown and Garner, sparking protests in cities across the country. Protests also were held after Cleveland, Ohio, police shot and killed a 12-year-old boy who was holding a toy gun.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in cities including Washington, D.C., Saturday to call for actions addressing what they see as systemic and racially motivated police misconduct.
Many black speakers at the forum told stories of being stopped by police for no apparent reason.
“I've been stopped three times just walking,” said Tony Brinkley, who said he spent 20 years as a coach.
Brenda Barre was one of several speakers who said police officers should live in the areas they police, or at least inside city limits.
“They don't know anything about us. I live in the community, OK?” said Barre, who worked as a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School for 30 years.
Barre said policymakers should put more money into education than they do into prisons, which disproportionately lock up minorities.
“We pay $58 a day for private prisons and we pay $9 to $12 per day for public education. We need to change that,” she said.
Frank Lowery, 93, said residents must demand changes in policing but also in other parts of the justice system.
“Judges are one of those areas I've always felt we should do something about. ... We as citizens need to be attentive to the law ourselves.”
Other speakers, including Twan Jones, noted that to make changes within government, residents must communicate with policymakers. He said a commission that started under former Mayor Kathy Taylor was continued by Mayor Dewey Bartlett and offers people an opportunity to talk to police about their concerns.
“We have a commission that meets every other month. The chief (Chuck Jordan) is always there. ... We do have the chief's ear,” Jones said.
Ideas compiled by organizers of the forum included requiring body cameras on law enforcement officers, developing community policing programs, requiring officers to live in the city, improving cultural sensitivity training for police officers, teaching young people about civics and government, and developing an advisory board of young people.
Area police cautious about body cameras
by ZACK McDONALD
PANAMA CITY — A large majority of Bay County law enforcement agencies do not use body cams, and several local leaders express a skeptical outlook on using the technology.
Of the local police agencies contacted, only in the Mexico Beach Police Department have authorities taken steps to implement police body cameras, but a bill introduced into the Florida House of Representatives would require body cameras for all Florida police officers who primarily are assigned to patrol duties. While some Bay County law enforcement leaders reacted more positively toward using technology to enhance public service, most preferred to await more definitive research.
Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin also expressed a concern for costs, beyond the common cost of about $450 per camera.
“We are always looking at technology that will enhance our operations,” he said. “Equipping officers would entail working the researching, ‘trial and error' testing and funding of a system into the budget, as there will be infrastructure, storage and maintenance costs associated with the units as well.”
Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said they also are looking into the cost of the cameras.
“Although the use of body cams is authorized, currently each officer that wishes to utilize them must do so at his or her expense,” he said. “Protecting the rights of our citizens and officers has always been among our highest priorities. Because this technology is such a useful tool in protecting those rights, and in law enforcement in general, we are currently in the process of evaluating the cost of purchasing and maintaining such equipment.”
However, in reaction to the national debate that has been fueled by fatal incidents in New York and Missouri, President Barack Obama proposed spending $263 million to increase the use of the cameras and to take other steps, such as expanding law-enforcement training. The money is supposed to mitigate the cost for departments with funding concerns.
While 76 percent of News Herald readers who participated in an online poll have said they preferred the use of the body cams, local leaders cautioned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to the current national debate of police force and the public.
“At this point, I do not believe this is a critical issue for the Bay County Sheriff's Office, and I will not force changes based on issues and events in other cities and involving other law enforcement agencies,” said Sheriff Frank McKeithen. “Hopefully our recent participation in the LEAD Coalition will help address any issues we encounter between our law enforcement and our citizens.”
Concerns of rights violations also are an issue of local law enforcement.
“There are concerns related to privacy — both citizen and officer,” said Springfield Police Chief Philip Thorne. “… I am not necessarily opposed to the use of cameras, but I also do not believe it prudent to emotionally jump on a bandwagon. I want to ensure that nothing my agency does violates any citizen rights; puts the officer, agency or city at liability risk, or administratively begin operating in a way that is burdensome.”
McKeithen urged being skeptical of the motives of some who support body cameras.
“Let's not also overlook the sudden urgency, which not only comes from some concerned citizens with good intentions, but also certain businesses and vendors who stand to profit from exploiting such an emotional event,” he said.