February, 2015 - Week 2
Denmark attacks: 'We have tasted the ugly taste of fear,' Prime Minister says
by Susanne Gargiulo and Holly Yan
Copenhagen, Denmark (CNN)After a frantic manhunt involving "all the country's police forces," Danish police say they've killed the man they believe is responsible for a pair of possible terrorist attacks that left two people dead.
"As a nation, we have experienced a series of hours we will never forget," Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said Sunday.
"We have tasted the ugly taste of fear and powerlessness that terror would like to create. But we have also, as a society, answered back."
The carnage began Saturday afternoon, when a gunman stormed a Copenhagen cafe where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks -- known for his controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammed -- was attending a free speech forum.
The gunman killed a 55-year-old man at the cafe and wounded three officers before fleeing, police said. The victim has not been identified.
About 10 hours later, someone approached two officers near a Copenhagen synagogue and started shooting, police said.
Just behind the synagogue, a young girl was celebrating her confirmation with a party of about 80 people, the Jewish Society of Denmark said.
The two officers were wounded and survived. But 37-year-old Dan Uzan, who was standing at the gate providing security for the party, was shot and killed, the Jewish Society said.
"The Jewish Society is in shock about the attack, but everyone's thoughts are first and foremost with Dan's family and friends, and with the wounded police officers and their families," the Jewish Society said.
How police found the suspect
Authorities pieced together surveillance images from across the capital and tracked the suspect's movements, Copenhagen police investigator Jorgen Skov said.
The footage shows the man going from the scene of a shooting to where he apparently abandoned a vehicle, and to a taxi cab.
"By interviewing the taxi driver, we got the address where he dropped off the person," Skov said. "We have been keeping that address under observation."
He said when officers tried to make contact with the suspect at the Copenhagen apartment on Sunday, the suspect opened fire. Police fired back, killing the gunman.
No officers were injured.
While the identity of the shooter was not released, Islamist extremists have made documented threats against Vilks. They've even placed him on a "wanted" poster in an al Qaeda magazine.
Free speech event turns fatal
The forum attended by Vilks at the cafe was interrupted by the sounds of dozens of gunshots.
"Everybody, of course, panicked in the room and tried to run," professor and satire researcher Dennis Meyhoff Brink said. "We were just hiding ... and hoping for the best."
Brink said he heard about 30 shots around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. He said he also heard someone yelling in a foreign language.
The attacker made it just inside the building but apparently got no farther, said Helle Merete Brix, a journalist and founder of the Lars Vilks Committee. The group supports the cartoonist, whose portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed angered many in the Muslim world.
Bodyguards returned fire, Copenhagen police said, but the gunman managed to flee.
"We are investigating this as a terror attack," Skov said.
Cartoon of Mohammed with dog's body
Vilks became a target after his 2007 cartoon depicting Mohammed with the body of a dog -- an animal that conservative Muslims consider unclean.
In a CNN interview later that year from his home in rural Sweden, Vilks said the drawing was calculated to elicit a reaction.
"It should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way," he said at the time. "If you insult one (religion), then you should insult the other ones."
Like Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier -- who was killed in the attack on that magazine's Paris offices last month -- Vilks was one of nine faces on a "Most Wanted" graphic published by al Qaeda's Inspire magazine for "crimes against Islam."
Others include a pair of Danish journalists who published 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed in the Jyllands-Posten newspaper; Florida pastor Terry Jones, who burned a Quran; and "Satanic Verses" author Salman Rushdie.
Because of that, Brix said, "there's no doubt" the Copenhagen event was targeted because of Vilks, who has "not been able to live a normal life" for years, according to the committee.
German carnival parade canceled because of terror threat
by The Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Police in the German city of Braunschweig have canceled a popular Carnival street parade because of fears of an imminent Islamist terror attack.
Police spokesman Thomas Geese said police received credible information that there was a "concrete threat of an attack" on Sunday's parade and therefore called on all visitors to stay at home.
Braunschweig's Carnival parade is the biggest one in northern Germany and draws around 250,000 visitors each year.
Geese said the parade was canceled only 90 minutes before its scheduled start and that "many people arriving at the train station were already dressed up and very disappointed -- but we didn't want to take any risks."
Carnival is celebrated in many regions of Germany with parades, music, revelers dressing up in costumes and dancing in the streets.
Fire destroys Islamic centre building in Houston in suspected arson attack and hate crime
by Lamiat Sabin
A building of an Islamic centre is destroyed after a suspected arson attack, that investigators believe could be a hate crime.
A fire broke out at around 5am on Friday at the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston, Texas, just two days after three young Muslims were shot dead in Chapel Hill, near the University of North Carolina.
The incident appears to be the latest attack on followers of Islam in the US following the murders of newly-wed couple Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
An investigation monitored by the FBI has been launched to find out how the blaze started in one of the three buildings at the centre, according to Reuters.
Computers and renovation materials were reduced to cinders and the roof started to cave in. No one was hurt in the attack.
Around $100,000 (£65,000) worth of damage was caused according to Ahsan Zahid – the 25-year-old son of the imam at the institute, where prayer sessions and events for children are often held.
Investigators and Houston Fire Department crews said that they suspect the fire was not an accident and that the centre was likely to have been the target of a hate crime.
The day before the attack, a man drove by the institute yelling, chanting Arabic phrases and repeating the name of Allah in a mocking way, Zahid said according to Reuters.
Earlier in the week, a man who had his face covered and was acting suspiciously had to be chased away from the property.
Zahid, in a video posted on the Quba Islamic Institute's Facebook page, said: “Now the investigation is going on, we want to make sure that we do not point fingers at anyone, blame anyone or spread hate towards any group, whether they be Muslim, whether they be non-Muslim, whatever they are.
“We want to love everyone, we want support and we want help and get better through this, inshallah.”
The suspect of the Chapel Hill shooting, Craig Hicks, was said to have been angered over a parking dispute.
However, commentators and family members of the victims said they believe the staunch self-proclaimed anti-theist was motivated by race and religion.
The father of the killed women said: “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime.”
Dallas police organize community coalition for policy input
by TRISTAN HALLMAN
If you put a bunch of Dallas business, civic and religious leaders together in a room, will they eventually produce police policy?
The Dallas Police Department is testing that theory, and is trumpeting it in its early stages as another victory for community policing.
Some officers are leery of the idea, concerned that the department isn't hitting enough sections of the city and will value input from amateurs over the opinions of those who actually do the job.
But police officials, grappling with national fallout from decisions by grand juries in other states not to indict officers involved in fatal encounters, say they're not pushing a new world order. Instead, they say they are simply getting more community input.
“This is definitely part of the community policing initiative,” said police community affairs manager Shawn Williams, who is coordinating the efforts. “We're seeing the need to hear more from the community. We're learning as we go, but this is a way to hear from the community. This is a good way to make sure we have a positive relationship.”
Williams said the group started meeting in late October — weeks before a Missouri grand jury declined to indict an officer for shooting an unarmed black teen, sparking waves of protests, including in Dallas.
The group has at least agreed on one thing so far: a name. They call themselves the Dallas Police Community Support Coalition. Williams said the group's quick action on a name shows they'll work well together.
There are about 30 organizations in the coalition. Among those in the mix are chambers of commerce from around the city, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Green Oaks Hospital and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Those groups make up seven committees: mental health and homeless, police policy, use of force, recruiting, training, officer well-being and youth outreach. Each committee has liaisons from the police command staff. The chairs of the committee also meet as an executive body.
Police Chief David Brown said he already talked individually to many of the people involved. Now, he's just having them all gather in a room and talk with one another, as well as to police.
“We have thought for a while that these interactions can offer the department great insight in the impacts of policy/procedures, training, and in turn provide an opportunity for the department to educate citizens about the department's efforts and challenges to protect the city,” Brown said in an email.
But the Dallas Police Association worries that the department is asking too few people for their input. Ron Pinkston, the association's president, said he has been trying to get his organization, the largest representative of the rank-and-file, as one of the groups on the committee. He has been rebuffed, he said.
“They don't want us giving input that the coalition can hear,” he said.
Pinkston said he doesn't believe the department is being transparent because officials are cherry-picking the groups they want. And they might not be the best people to make judgment calls about policing, he said.
“I would hope they're not going to be deciding policy,” he said. “To take input from the groups will be healthy, but we also have to educate them more as law enforcement.”
But Pastor Lynn Godsey, who heads the committee looking at use-of-force policy, said he has learned plenty so far. Godsey said his committee, which has met about six times, has attended training sessions for police in which they go through staged scenarios where they have to decide whether to use force.
Godsey, the director of La Coalicion de Lideres Evangelicos de Texas, an evangelical group, said he realized how difficult decisions are for officers, and how quickly they have to make them.
“My level of respect really goes up for these officers in what I'm seeing they have to deal with,” he said. “It's been really eye-opening.”
Still, the committee won't hold back its opinions, he said. And he is pleased that Brown is giving members the chance to weigh in on the use-of-force policy.
“The final decision is his,” Godsey said. “And it has to be because he is the chief. But I believe he's going to make some changes.”
Carl Raines, chairman of the Citizens Police Review Board and of the Southeast Dallas Chamber of Commerce, is on the policy committee, which is looking at body cameras, foot-chase policies and Taser policies.
He said the committee had some input tightening up the foot-chase policy, which police unions dislike in general.
Raines said he wants some officer input, but likes the idea of commanders receiving more citizen input since most decisions affect the general population, not just the Police Department.
“At the end of the day, what we want is a good department,” he said. “Every agency always needs additional tweaking and training. It's like in any business you're in, you're constantly evolving to a higher level of sophistication.”
Police reap benefits of positive interaction with community
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Inez White doesn't feel threatened by Bowling Green Police. Instead, she feels like she and others get a fair shake, something that didn't happen in her last hometown of Bainbridge, Ga.
"Back from where I'm from, they're guilty until proven innocent. Here, they ask how your day is going," White said about local police.
White, of Sheppard Court, is one of more than 1,475 residents living in property owned by the Bowling Green Housing Authority which has four neighborhoods - Summit View/Gordon Avenue, Phenix Place, Angora Court and Bryant Place.
Among the people she feels strongly that she can count on is BGPD Officer Jan Tuttle, who recently completed a three-year stint as the Residents Against Drugs, or RAD officer, assigned to the housing authority.
At a time when police agencies across the country are taking a pummeling in the court of public opinion after claims of police brutality lead to riots and/or protests in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, police here appear to be reaping the benefits of extensive community outreach, the result of constant retooling of community policing dating back to 1994.
"Whenever I've had to call, they're right on the money." White said. "I had some children who wanted to fight in my front yard, and I told them they couldn't fight in my front yard. ... I knew there wasn't no play fighting. Come to find out one of the boys pulled a knife.
"They took care of the problem," she said about the police.
In the early days of policing when officers walked a beat, the concept of community policing occurred by default, Bowling Green Police Chief Doug Hawkins said. The game changer was the police car.
"The police car created this artificial barrier between police and the community," Hawkins said. "It is a good and useful and valuable tool. ... Not intentionally did it create the barrier, but it created the barrier nonetheless."
Given that cars, and later computers and cellphones, became tools of the trade for police officers, agencies nationally had to come up with better ways to include the public in policing, Hawkins said.
"As good as the car is, as good as technology is and for all the things that the police car allows you to do, to be able to respond more quickly, to be able to respond over a broader area, it also took us away from that relationship that law enforcement had for years with the public," Hawkins said speaking in general terms about police agencies as a whole.
"And, so we had to retool, and in that retooling instead of being part of that walking beat mentality that created community policing, we had to re-engineer community policing into what we do today ... we have to have an intentional strategy to be able to engage the community," he said.
Beginning in 1994, the department began using a variety of methods to effect public engagement. Officers have lived in public housing communities here. Also, the department has a RAD officer in the housing authority, most recently Tuttle until December, and now Officer Mary Fields. BGPD offers a Citizens Police Academy and requires all command staff to participate in community volunteerism. Every school within the city limits has an officer designated as its liaison between the school and the police department.
During the hiring process, Hawkins, who has been chief for eight years, places a premium on good character, he said. The higher the quality of character, the less likely the department will have disciplinary problems and the more likely the department is to have people with a strong work ethic. Additionally, he talks to each officer to set the tone of his servant leadership philosophy "where we recognize" that officers work for and at the will of both our elected officials and the public they serve.
"If we ever forget our role in the public, that's when individual officers sometimes make poor decisions ... ," Hawkins said.
Housing authority Executive Director Abraham Williams said that overall, the police department here enjoys a good relationship with the people living in the 600 units that the housing authority operates. While he would like to see more community involvement from the department, such as a community advisory board for BGPD, he says officers treat the people at the housing authority apartments respectfully.
"I think they're doing a great job," resident Benji Barnett said. "I think all the officers treat the residents at the housing authority fair. They don't look down on us because we are low-income families. They treat everybody the same way."
The housing authority provides $30,000 annually to subsidize the RAD officer's salary.
"It costs us money, but that's the best money we can spend," Williams said. "When people move in with us, we promise them three things. We promise them it's going to be decent, safe and sanitary. We're going to keep our community grounds clean. Hopefully, with the assistance of the police, we're going to keep you safe."
When Williams took the helm in 1995, gang activity was present in the area of the housing authority like it is in government housing in other parts of the country. Between Williams - who runs a no-nonsense shop where residents are held accountable for their actions and trespassers are turned in to police - and officers assigned directly to the housing authority, gangs were run off in about four years.
As part of policing, the RAD officer gets to know the people living there. Williams believes that the three-year stint changes officers.
"These officers are so different. We've had the big tall ones. We've had the short ones. We've had the black ones," Williams said. "When they leave, they still feel committed to our communities. They still make sure they take care of our community. A lot of them have moved up ... and they know our community."
One officer enjoyed playing with the kids. Another frequently visited with residents at dinnertime and shared family meals, and another officer took a deep interest in the senior citizens living there.
"We've just had good guys over here," Williams said.
The RAD officer program makes residents "feel important," he said.
"They've got guys who care about them and who get to know them. I think Mary Fields is going to be excellent over here. Look at the young people who want to be officers now. They don't look at them as white officers, they look at them as their friends," Williams said.
Fields is a firm believer in public service. That's why she became a police officer. She has recently taken the RAD job, and Tuttle is back on a regular beat.
"All of us as officers come into the job wanting to help people and make a difference," Fields said. "And then somehow in the job we get lost in going from call to call and taking reports. We're so busy that we lose that interaction in the community that we are here to help. This position focuses on the community policing aspect of the job. And that's what I get to do. I get to go into the communities and talk to people. They get to voice their concerns to me, and I get to follow up and then go back and they can deal with me directly. I have the time and flexibility to do that."
Fields wants to use her position to make sure a child's first interaction with the police is positive. Rather than being there when a family member is arrested or speaking to someone who has been witness to a crime, Fields plans to interact with children as much as possible before she has to be there to answer a call for service. She also wants to bridge the gap between police and recent immigrants who have moved to this country from countries where police are corrupt.
Refugees from all over the world live in Bowling Green. In just the housing authority alone, 18 countries are represented.
"They are over here for a better way of life," Fields said. "A lot of different cultures are scared of the police. Hopefully, I can bridge that gap, too. If they need something, we want them to call."
Major Mike Delaney shares Field's interest in outreach to kids.
Delaney conducts several mentoring programs. One, Black Men United, provides black, male role models for at-risk young black males.
"It's important to me, but it's also important for the community to see police officers in the community," Delaney said. "That's one of the reasons I took this job. I wanted to help the community and be part of the community and be visible in activities like that so it's not just the police showing up when it's something bad going on.
"There's no way that we could effectively police this community without the help of people in the community and having partnerships with people in the community and gaining their trust and respect."
Delaney, a 17-year police veteran, is also interested in fostering the relationship between police, a historically white male profession, and the city's black residents.
"Over the years, the relationship between the police in general and the African-American community has not been positive, and the only way I could see bridging that gap is to be that change agent," he said speaking in general terms about the history between black residents and the police agencies who serve them.
One of Delaney's neighbors when he was growing up in Bowling Green was B.B. Davis, a black Kentucky State Police trooper.
"I saw him every day and the way he interacted in the community," Delaney said. "I thought even as a kid growing up, I thought that is something I would like to do.
"I sort of wanted to pay that forward."
Sgt. Josh Hughes volunteers on the Victory Hill Ministry church bus that carries economically disadvantaged children from Scottsville to the church on Wednesday night.
"I stay and hang out with the kids," Hughes said. "More than anything, I try to be a good role model for them and try to be a friend to them."
Some of the children on the bus have parents who are in prison. When they ask Hughes if he is a police officer, he simply says, "not right now."
"I feel like I'm really really blessed," said Hughes, the son of a minister. "I had a great father and a lot of great role models around me ... . I see kids who don't have that. I try to be that positive mentor that they may be missing somewhere else."
Volunteerism, the RAD program in the housing authority, scouting for character in new hires, Citizens Police Academy - all of those shape the lens through which the community sees police.
"We really are very intentional about the way we do police business," Hawkins said.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Holder Delivers Remarks at Medal of Valor Ceremony
Thank you, Karol [Mason], for those kind words – and for your outstanding leadership as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. I want to thank Vice President [Joe] Biden for hosting today's ceremony here at the White House; for his career spent in the service of this nation; and for his lifetime of unwavering support for the brave men and women who are entrusted with our safety.
And I'd like to extend a special welcome to all of the family members of our courageous Medal of Valor recipients who are here with us today.
Your love, your support, and your sacrifices, are deeply felt – not only by your loved ones, who serve on the front lines of our fight for public safety – but by all those in our nation whose lives are made better, safer, and brighter through their service. Each and every one of you has been an essential part of everything that our awardees have accomplished. And you share in the recognitions that we are about to bestow.
It is a great pleasure to join all of you, along with Karol, BJA Director Denise O'Donnell, and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, in celebrating this auspicious occasion. And it's a tremendous honor to stand among so many valued colleagues, distinguished public safety officers, and true American heroes – as we recognize the remarkable contributions of a courageous few; as we call attention to their inspiring individual efforts and collective accomplishments; and as we express our abiding thanks and deep appreciation for their bravery, their commitment, and their many sacrifices in the line of duty.
Every day, the American people call upon our public safety officials to respond to emergencies, to protect our loved ones, and to safeguard our nation against unrelenting challenges and evolving threats. Every day, we rely on these men and women to do the difficult and often dangerous work of protecting all that we hold dear – often without expressing the gratitude, and the respect, they so richly deserve.
And every day, these remarkable individuals answer our call without hesitation. They patrol neighborhoods defined by distress and distrust. They investigate crimes and assist victims. And they keep our communities, our homes, and our most vulnerable citizens safe from harm.
As the brother of a retired police officer, I know in a personal way how courageous these public servants are. I have seen the tremendous and often-unheralded sacrifices that they and their families are regularly called upon to make. And I have felt both the pride of seeing a loved one in uniform and the anguish of knowing they may be in harm's way – patrolling the streets, where every seemingly-routine encounter has the potential to take an unexpected turn.
These are all exceptional individuals. Every one of them deserves our deepest gratitude and boundless respect. Yet even among the outstanding field of public servants who perform these critical responsibilities, day in and day out – in communities across the country – there are some who stand out. And today, with these prestigious medals, we recognize these exceptional few for extraordinary valor – above and beyond the call of duty.
Among our honorees this morning are two officers who responded to the tragic, hate-motivated shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; seven agents who engaged dangerous suspects in Watertown, Massachusetts, following the bombing of the Boston Marathon; and five FBI agents who risked their lives in the heroic rescue of a 5-year-old child in a perilous hostage situation in Midland City, Alabama.
One officer's quick thinking and brave actions saved the life of a woman who had been abducted and viciously assaulted by an estranged boyfriend. One firefighter's resilience and ingenuity were essential in rescuing an elderly woman from a house fire – an act of daring, undertaken at great personal risk. One off-duty agent lost his life when he courageously confronted an armed felon who was attempting to rob a pharmacy. And one off-duty officer's bravery undoubtedly saved lives – while working at a local grocery store – when he intervened during another armed robbery, protecting customers and employees before being fatally wounded.
Some of the individuals we gather to honor saved the lives of their fellow officers. Some put their lives on the line to safeguard civilians and bystanders. And some gave what President Abraham Lincoln once called that “last full measure of devotion” in the performance of their duties, in defense of their fellow Americans, and in the service of their nation.
Each of these officers embodies the very best of what it means to be a public servant. And each of these award citations serves as a stirring testament – and a fitting reminder, at a time when this country is grappling with deep challenges involving public safety, law enforcement, and community engagement – that the work being done by those who guard our neighborhoods and protect our nation is exceptional, essential, and extraordinary. I am honored, and humbled, to call you partners and colleagues in the service of this country and the protection of its citizens.
And that's why I – and my colleagues at every level of the Justice Department – have been proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you over the last six years.
Beyond these honors, America owes you a debt that must be repaid not with words, but with actions. So I'm here today not just to pay tribute to some of our most remarkable officers – and to say “thank you,” on behalf of a grateful nation, for all that you do – but to pledge my strong and unwavering support as you and your colleagues continue to carry out your vital mission.
This is a commitment that the Obama Administration has maintained since the moment we took office – from our COPS Hiring Program grants to invest in community policing and keep more officers on the streets, to the VALOR Initiative I launched in 2010 to help prevent violence against law enforcement and increase officer resilience and survivability; from our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, which has helped purchase over one million protective vests since its inception, to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, which allowed us to provide support to every state and territory, and more than a thousand local jurisdictions, last year alone.
As we speak, my colleagues and I are also working tirelessly to empower our officers to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible – by working with law enforcement and community leaders to address tensions wherever they have been exposed.
Over the last few months, President Obama and I have announced a variety of proposals that will enable us to bridge these divides wherever they are found – from a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, to a historic new Task Force on 21st Century Policing – which will provide strong, national direction to the profession as a whole, on a scale not seen since the Johnson Administration. And I have been proud to travel across the country to engage directly with brave law enforcement leaders and concerned citizens in order to advance this work.
After all, we owe it to our courageous public safety officials to confront every threat they may face, to foster the trust that lies at the core of their efforts, and to honor all that they do to defend this nation and safeguard its people. So my pledge to you – here and now – is that the Justice Department's commitment to this work will only grow stronger in the days ahead.
Under the leadership of our outstanding Attorney General-nominee, Loretta Lynch – who has been a lifelong supporter of law enforcement – the department will continue to stand with you, to fight for you, and to fulfill our sacred obligations to America's finest. Wherever my individual path may take me in the months ahead, my personal commitment to this work will never waver. The bravery of those we honor today will never be forgotten. And the contributions of those we have lost will live on – in the work they did; in the lives they saved; and in the examples of valor and selflessness they set for generations to come.
I want to thank each of our Medal of Valor recipients, once again, for your extraordinary service. I am honored to stand with you in fulfilling the moral charge – and the enduring obligation – we share: to build the more perfect Union that our founders imagined, to create the more just society that all Americans deserve, and to make real the brighter future that you have all worked to create.
At this time, it is my great privilege to introduce another leader who has done much to advance this cause – a tireless public servant who has been a champion of law enforcement throughout his life and career. Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States – Joe Biden.
From the FBI
Law Enforcement and Race --
Director Cites ‘Hard Truths' and Calls for ‘Open Discussion'
FBI Director James B. Comey called on the nation's law enforcement personnel and the citizens they serve to participate in a frank and open conversation about the disconnect that exists in places like New York City and Ferguson, Missouri—and many communities across the country—between police agencies and many citizens, particularly in communities of color.
In a speech today at Georgetown University, Comey said the lethal police encounters involving Michael Brown and Eric Garner—both African-Americans—the ensuing protests across the country, and the assassinations of New York Police Department Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have put the fundamental relationship between police and their constituents at a crossroads.
“As a society, we can choose to live our everyday lives, raising our families and going to work, hoping someone, somewhere, will do something to ease the tension,” Comey said to the Georgetown students and faculty. “We can turn up the music on the car radio and drive around these problems. Or we can choose to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today—what it should be, what it could be, and what it needs to be—if we took more time to better understand one another.”
The speech, entitled “Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Race,” sought to move the ongoing debate about race and the character of law enforcement officers to a more productive footing, where police and citizens acknowledge a few elemental “truths” in an effort to better understand each other. The Director began by acknowledging law enforcement's own spotty history, including police bias a century ago against Irish immigrants—from whom Comey descended—and the FBI's surveillance of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups,” Comey said. “One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy is that the people we serve cannot forget it either. So we must talk about our history. It is a hard truth that lives on.”
Comey then raised the subject of the unconscious racial bias within all of us, but said it's how we behave in response to it that defines us. He said racial bias is no more prevalent in law enforcement than anywhere else. “In fact,” he said, “I believe law enforcement overwhelmingly attracts people who want to do good for a living. They don't sign up to be cops in New York or Chicago of L.A. because they want to help white people or black people or Hispanic people or Asian people. They sign up because they want to help all people.”
That being said, many police over time develop different flavors of cynicism—lazy mental shortcuts, Comey said, that we have to resist because they can lead to over-generalizing. “We need to come to grips with the fact that this behavior complicates the relationship between police and the communities they serve.”
Still another hard truth, Comey added, is the recognition and need to address the disproportionate challenges faced by young black men in struggling communities—inadequate education, jobs, and role models. Too often, he said, they inherit a legacy of crime and prison. “Changing that legacy is a challenge so enormous and so complicated that it is, unfortunately, easier to talk only about the cops,” Comey said. “And that's not fair.”
Comey said law enforcement needs to better “see” the people they serve. And to that end, he is urging police departments to provide the FBI, through our Uniform Crime Reporting Program, with better, more complete data, such as demographics and circumstances, which could shine more light on incidents where force is used by police or against them.
But the “seeing” needs to flow both ways. Citizens need to understand the difficult and perilous work of law enforcement. “If they take the time to do that, what they will see are officers who are human, who are overwhelmingly doing the right thing for the right reasons,” he said.
“We all need to talk and we all need to listen,” Comey said in closing, “not just about easy things but about hard things, too. It is time to start seeing one another for who and what we really are.”
Valentine's Day mass shooting plot foiled say police
Canadian police say they have foiled an alleged plot to commit a mass shooting on Valentine's Day in a public place.
A woman picked up at Halifax Stanfield International Airport in the East Coast province of Nova Scotia is among three people to have been arrested.
Officers say they found a fourth suspect, a 19-year-old male, dead at a local house.
Media reports suggest alleged plotters were on a chat stream and were obsessed with death, planning to commit suicide after killing as many people as possible.
Nova Scotia Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commanding Officer Brian Brennan would only say:
“I would classify it as a group of individuals that had some beliefs and were willing to carry out violent acts against citizens. But there is nothing in the investigation to classify it as a terrorist act.”
Police say the 23-year-old woman detained is from Geneva, Illinois in the United States.
Canada has been on alert since October's deadly attack at its parliament building in Ottawa.
Hate crime prosecutions rare in NC, often difficult to prove
Relatives of the three Muslim college students killed in North Carolina are pressing for hate crime charges against the alleged shooter, but legal experts say such cases are relatively rare and can be difficult to prove.
by MICHAEL BIESECKER
RALEIGH, N.C. — Relatives of the three Muslim college students killed in North Carolina are pressing for hate crime charges against the alleged shooter, but legal experts say such cases are relatively rare and can be difficult to prove.
Police in Chapel Hill say they have yet to uncover any evidence that Craig Stephen Hicks acted out of religious animus, though they are investigating the possibility. As a potential motive, they cited a longtime dispute over parking spaces at the condo community where Hicks and the victims lived.
Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
The FBI is now conducting a "parallel preliminary inquiry" to determine whether any federal laws, including hate crime laws, were violated in the case.
Search warrants filed in a court Friday showed Hicks listed a dozen firearms taken from his condo unit. The warrants list four handguns recovered from the home where he lived with his wife, in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when he turned himself in after the shootings. Warrants also listed two shotguns and six rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine, and a large cache of ammunition.
The case spurred international outrage.
"No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship," President Barack Obama said Friday in Washington. And in New York, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply moved" by the thousands attending the victims' funeral this past week.
Jordan's Embassy in Washington said its ambassador visited the families Friday. Yusor Abu-Salha was born in Jordan, as where her parents. The younger sister was born in the U.S.
Family members say all three were shot in the head, though police aren't saying exactly how the victims died.
"This has hate crime written all over it," said Dr. Mohammad Yousif Abu-Salha, addressing the funeral service Thursday for his daughters and son-in-law. "It was not about a parking spot."
To win a hate-crime conviction, however, legal experts say prosecutors would have to prove Hicks deliberately targeted those killed because of their religion, race or national origin.
North Carolina does not have a specific "hate crime" statute, though its laws cover such acts of "ethnic intimidation" as hanging a noose, burning a cross or setting fire to a church.
Colon Willoughby, who recently retired after 27 years as the top prosecutor for North Carolina's largest county, said he could remember only a handful of such ethnic intimidation cases. The reason, the former District Attorney for Wake County says, is that the defendants often already faced potential charges with stiffer criminal penalties than the comparatively light punishments carried by an ethnic intimidation conviction.
Hicks will likely face either the death penalty or life in prison if convicted of the murder charges, he noted, adding any evidence of motive would be important to prosecutors.
"'Hate crime' is really just another way of describing the motive for why a crime was committed," Willoughby said. "As a prosecutor, you want the jury to understand the motive for the crime and you would present the very same information ... look at his mindset, and use these things to prove motive."
Hicks, who was unemployed and taking community college classes, posted online that he was a staunch advocate of Second Amendment rights. Neighbors described him as an angry man in frequent confrontations over parking or loud music, often with a gun holstered at the hip. His social media posts often discussed firearms, including a photo posted of a .38-caliber revolver.
An avowed atheist, Hicks appeared critical of all faiths in Facebook posts.
Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols, with jurisdiction over the shootings, said he hasn't decided whether to bring any ethnic intimidation charges in the case.
Federal authorities could potentially bring separate civil rights charges against Hicks. Federal hate-crimes laws give prosecutors wide latitude to bring charges for violent acts triggered by race, ethnicity, religion or perceived sexual orientation.
In 2012 when statistics were last available for such a tally, law enforcement agencies nationwide reported 5,796 "hate crime incidents." It's unclear how many yielded criminal convictions.
Meanwhile, experts said it would be highly unusual for federal authorities to step in if state officials have already won murder convictions with lengthy prison time.
"If the investigation does not uncover any obvious bias, then it would be very difficult for the federal government to bring a case as well," said ex-federal prosecutor Kami Chavis Simmons, director of the criminal justice program Wake Forest University School of Law. "At either the state or federal level, proving a hate crime is a high burden."
Obama calls for collaboration in cyberthreat battle
by Joe Garofoli
President Obama, seeking to tamp down concerns about the growing number of cyberattacks, issued an executive order Friday urging businesses and government to cooperate better in quickly sharing information about online threats.
But privacy advocates and technology leaders remained wary about allowing more government into people's lives.
“Government cannot do this alone,” Obama said Friday at Stanford University before a gathering of business leaders and federal officials dubbed the Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. The only way to protect sensitive information is to have “government and industry working together, sharing information as true partners.”
Obama's order came after cyberattackers tapped in to customers' personal information held at Target, health insurer Anthem and Sony Pictures Entertainment. More than 100 million Americans have had their personal information compromised in some way, the president said.
The executive order encourages businesses to establish hubs where they could share information with one another about cyberthreats and to develop ways to share them quickly with federal officials. An executive order is intended to provide an outline of the president's policies to federal agencies, but it would have no power over private companies.
And with the GOP-led Congress showing little sign of approving any portion of Obama's agenda, the White House hopes that Friday's move can at least get the conversation started on a topic that touches nearly every American household.
Yet in trying to craft a solution, Obama faces people and industries with competing interests. And despite skepticism, several companies indicated Friday they would cooperate with the president's order.
Silicon Valley's often-libertarian tech entrepreneurs don't want government forcing them to divulge information. Civil libertarians are leery of federal government snooping. And consumers are thirsting for some protection after hackers have gained access to their credit cards.
Sony attack cited
Lisa Monaco, the National Security Council's cybersecurity expert, warned that unless government and businesses share more information about cyberthreats, “I worry that malicious attacks like the one against Sony Pictures Entertainment could become the norm,” referring to the release last year of confidential information about employees, executive salaries and unreleased films. The Obama administration said North Korea executed the hack to try to force Sony not to release “The Interview,” a comedy about an assassination plot against its leader, Kim Jong Un.
But cooperating with the government will be difficult for many companies, especially after former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden released documents detailing federal international surveillance operations in cooperation with foreign governments and some telecommunications firms.
More recently, the government and companies like Google and Apple have clashed over tech companies wanting to include encryption technology on mobile devices that would resist access. In a sign of that rift, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and top Google executive Eric Schmidt — long among Obama's top Silicon Valley allies — were conspicuous no-shows at Friday's summit just a few miles from their corporate offices.
And even though he spoke at the conference and supported Obama's call for cooperation, Apple CEO Tim Cook nonetheless warned, “History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where people are not treated equally.”
Jeh Johnson, U.S. secretary of homeland security, acknowledged the rift between business and government: “In this post-Snowden environment, we need to strengthen the dialogue.”
Obama said he envisioned the summit as a starting point to a better dialogue. The president tried to appear sympathetic to privacy concerns Friday, recalling his past as a constitutional law professor. He said he struggles with trying to balance government's role in protecting Americans from threats and guaranteeing that their privacy is not violated. “It's hard,” he said. “This cyberworld is the Wild, Wild West. And we're asked to be the sheriffs.”
Nevertheless on Friday, several companies, including Apple, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Bank of America, announced that they would support a new government-created framework of how best to share threat information with federal cybersecurity officials.
Several companies involved in transacting digital payments — including Square, Visa and Apple — announced that they would be ramping up security measures. MasterCard will spend $20 million on beefing up cybersecurity this year.
Cautious about sharing
But, as Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said, that didn't mean his company would be sharing sensitive patient information — only information about threats to accessing that information.
“I am not talking about sharing the actual content I am here to protect,” Tyson said.
Some privacy advocates and information technology analysts said that while consumers want sensitive information protected, they also want to be assured that “our information will not end up in the hands of the federal government,” said Nuala O'Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “This is about my personal data, and we should be protected.”
Mark Jaycox, a privacy expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, worried about creating more federal intervention “before the government has figured out its current information sharing systems.”
It's not clear that “information-sharing is the silver bullet,” said Gabe Rottman, a privacy expert with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The real concern is what happens when that information is shared — and with whom.”
After the summit, Obama was also scheduled to attend a fundraiser — tickets ranged from $10,000 to $32,400 — for the Democratic National Committee on Friday night in San Francisco before leaving Saturday for Palm Springs, where he has no official events scheduled.
Richmond Police Chief Testifying Today in Front of Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Police officials said the chief is giving a brief presentation on the department's history of building a community policing policy.
by Autumn Johnson
Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus is scheduled to testify today at the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing in Phoenix, Arizona. Lt. Andre Hill said the chief is giving a brief presentation on the department's history of building a community policing policy in the city.
“It's about where we've come from, from a violent crime perspective to where we are now and some of the programs and partners we've partnered with to achieve that,” Hill said. Hill said the task force would be asking speakers to help guide future Department of Justice policies and funding priorities. The department's policies have become the subject of media attention recently, including visits from the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and Katie Couric of Yahoo Global News.
Last year, Richmond reported fewer than 1,000 violent crimes, the first time the city has seen numbers that low since 1995, Hill said. According to statistics provided by the Richmond Police Department, violent crime has dropped 23 percent over the past ten years and property crime has dropped roughly 40 percent. Homicides have seen a significant reduction.
There were 38 homicides in 2004 compared to 11 in 2014, the lowest number in the past decade. Some crimes, like aggravated assault and rape have remained relatively constant. Burglaries are an exception to the trend and have increased over the past decade, according to the Richmond Police Department.
Obama Heads to Security Talks Amid Tensions
by DAVID E. SANGER and NICOLE PERLROTH
PALO ALTO, Calif. — President Obama will meet here on Friday with the nation's top technologists on a host of cybersecurity issues and the threats posed by increasingly sophisticated hackers. But nowhere on the agenda is the real issue for the chief executives and tech company officials who will gather on the Stanford campus: the deepening estrangement between Silicon Valley and the government.
The long history of quiet cooperation between Washington and America's top technology companies — first to win the Cold War, then to combat terrorism — was founded on the assumption of mutual interest. Edward J. Snowden's revelations shattered that. Now, the Obama administration's efforts to prevent companies from greatly strengthening encryption in commercial products like Apple's iPhone and Google's Android phones has set off a new battle, as the companies resist government efforts to make sure police and intelligence agencies can crack the systems.
And there is continuing tension over the government's desire to stockpile flaws in software — known as zero days — to develop weapons that the United States can reserve for future use against adversaries.
“What has struck me is the enormous degree of hostility between Silicon Valley and the government,” said Herb Lin, who spent 20 years working on cyberissues at the National Academy of Sciences before moving to Stanford several months ago. “The relationship has been poisoned, and it's not going to recover anytime soon.”
Mr. Obama's cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, concedes there are tensions. American firms, he says, are increasingly concerned about international competitiveness, and that means making a very public show of their efforts to defeat American intelligence-gathering by installing newer, harder-to-break encryption systems and demonstrating their distance from the United States government.
The F.B.I., the intelligence agencies and David Cameron, the British prime minister, have all tried to stop Google, Apple and other companies from using encryption technology that the firms themselves cannot break into — meaning they cannot turn over emails or pictures, even if served with a court order. The firms have vociferously opposed government requests for such information as an intrusion on the privacy of their customers and a risk to their businesses. l
“In some cases that is driving them to resistance to Washington,” Mr. Daniel said in an interview. “But it's not that simple. In other cases, with what's going on in China,” where Beijing is insisting that companies turn over the software that is their lifeblood, “they are very interested in getting Washington's help.”
Mr. Daniel's reference was to Silicon Valley's argument that keeping a key to unlocking terrorists' secret communications, as the government wants them to do, may sound reasonable in theory, but in fact would create an opening for others. It would also create a precedent that the Chinese, among others, could adopt to ensure they can get into American communications, especially as companies like Alibaba, the Chinese Internet giant, become a larger force in the American market.
“A stupid approach,” is the assessment of one technology executive who will be seeing Mr. Obama on Friday, and who asked to speak anonymously.
That tension — between companies' insistence that they cannot install “back doors” or provide “keys” giving access to law enforcement or intelligence agencies and their desire for Washington's protection from foreign nations seeking to exploit those same products — will be the subtext of the meeting.
That is hardly the only point of contention. A year after Mr. Obama announced that the government would get out of the business of maintaining a huge database of every call made inside the United States, but would instead ask the nation's telecommunications companies to store that data in case the government needs it, the companies are slow-walking the effort.
They will not take on the job of “bulk collection” of the nation's communications, they say, unless Congress forces them to. And some executives whisper it will be at a price that may make the National Security Administration's once-secret program look like a bargain.
The stated purpose of Friday's meeting is trying to prevent the kinds of hackings that have struck millions of credit card holders at Home Depot and Target. A similar breach revealed the names, Social Security numbers and other information of about 80 million people insured by Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer.
Mr. Obama has made online security a major theme, making the case in his State of the Union address that the huge increase in attacks during his presidency called for far greater protection. Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama's homeland security adviser, said this week that attacks have increased fivefold since the president came to office; some, like the Sony Pictures attack, had a clear political agenda.
The image of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, shown in the Sony Pictures comedy “The Interview” has been emblazoned in the minds of those who downloaded the film. But the one fixed in the minds of many Silicon Valley executives is the image revealed in photographs and documents released from the Snowden trove of N.S.A. employees slicing open a box containing a Cisco Systems server and placing “beacons” in it that could tap into a foreign computer network. Or the reports of how the N.S.A. intercepted email traffic moving between Google and Yahoo servers.
“The government is realizing they can't just blow into town and let bygones be bygones,” Eric Grosse, Google's vice president of security and privacy, said in an interview. “Our business depends on trust. If you lose it, it takes years to regain.”
When it comes to matters of security, Mr. Grosse said, “Their mission is clearly different than ours. It's a source of continuing tension. It's not like if they just wait, it will go away.”
And while Silicon Valley executives have made a very public argument over encryption, they have been fuming quietly over the government's use of zero-day flaws. Intelligence agencies are intent on finding or buying information about those flaws in widely used hardware and software, and information about the flaws often sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market. N.S.A. keeps a potent stockpile, without revealing the flaws to manufacturers. l
Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter are fighting back by paying “bug bounties” to friendly hackers who alert them to serious bugs in their systems so they can be fixed. And last July, Google took the effort to another level. That month, Mr. Grosse began recruiting some of the world's best bug hunters to track down and neuter the very bugs that intelligence agencies and military contractors have been paying top dollar for to add to their arsenals.
They called the effort “Project Zero,” Mr. Grosse says, because the ultimate goal is to bring the number of bugs down to zero. He said that “Project Zero” would never get the number of bugs down to zero “but we're going to get close.”
The White House is expected to make a series of decisions on encryption in the coming weeks. Silicon Valley executives say encrypting their products has long been a priority, even before the revelations by Mr. Snowden, the former N.S.A. analyst, about N.S.A.'s surveillance, and they have no plans to slow down.
In an interview last month, Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, said the N.S.A. “would have to cart us out in a box” before the company would provide the government a back door to its products. Apple recently began encrypting phones and tablets using a scheme that would force the government to go directly to the user for their information. And intelligence agencies are bracing for another wave of encryption.
Community policing effort in Anaheim has some success — and some critics
by Erika Aguilar
The Anaheim Police Department had a rough year in 2012.
In July of that year, police shot and killed two Latino men during a single weekend. Residents of the low-income neighborhoods of Central Anaheim were furious. Protests erupted into violence that became a full-blown riot, including damage to local businesses.
It was a sign things needed to change.
Police Chief Raul Quezada, who was appointed in 2013, told KPCC last year that police fell short in interacting with the community. Since then Anaheim police have renewed an effort at community policing.
A KPCC reporter who spent time with officers and in the neighborhoods of Central Anaheim last month found that police have made some inroads with residents. But some relationships are still strained and concerns over profiling of Latino youth remain.
Before 2007, the department had as many as 20 officers on its community policing team, according to Lt. Tim Schmidt, one of the supervisors in charge.
But when the recession hit, hiring stalled and most community policing officers were put back on regular patrol. The department kept one community policing officer and one sergeant assigned to each of the four police districts.
“We didn't have any chance to do outreach or put officers in the neighborhoods,” he said.
Schmidt said the community policing team is now back up to 14 community police officers. In addition, the Anaheim City Council last year appropriated approximately $2 million per year to hire an additional 10 officers over a period of four years.
Theresa Smith began working with the police department on reforms after Anaheim officers shot and killed her son in 2009. She collaborates with youth groups in Anaheim and concedes that police are making an effort to forge relationships in the community. But she says officers are still too quick to judge young people.
“They'll just stop a young man because he's wearing a certain piece of clothing or he's with somebody and he's considered a gang member,” Smith said.
Citations for drinking
For the last six years, Officer Cezar Vasquez has worked in the Guinida Lane neighborhood. That's the same neighborhood where police killed a man in 2012.
Vasquez said the area is a hotspot for drug deals. Gang members loiter in parking lots or sit in cars. When he walks the beat, whistles ring out from the modest apartment buildings, signaling the cops are in the neighborhood.
There's also a homeless encampment behind a shuttered store front near an elementary school.
“All this foot traffic going back and forth, it doesn't make you feel safe in your own neighborhood,” Vasquez said.
He convinced the owner of a coin laundry to install a metal back door with a lock to keep drug dealers, buyers and homeless people from using the business as a go-between.
To eliminate the foot traffic and crime, police crack down on what Vasquez calls “quality of life issues” such as drinking in public, graffiti, loitering or code enforcement violations.
On a recent visit, Vasquez and a partner found two men sitting on upturned buckets in the parking lot of a market. A beer wrapped in a paper sack sits nearby.
In polite Spanish, Vasquez asks, "Sir, are you drinking in public?"
Vasquez says the residents don't like the public drinking -- and residents have been warned.
On this day one man is given a citation.
Later, a group of community police officers, wearing dark sunglasses, walk the neighborhood near East Lincoln Avenue and North State College Boulevard.
An officer stops an anxious 19-year old walking home from school.
“Do you live here,” she demands.
“How old are you?”
“What's your address?”
“What apartment number?
“Who do you live with?
“Where are you coming from?”
The nervous youth stammers out his apartment number; he says he lives there with his parents.
Police let him pass.
'Not soft on gang crime'
Asked about these interactions, Lt. Schmidt said community police officers have to make stops and contacts like this to learn the neighborhood and reduce gang crime.
Some neighborhoods have gang members who don't live nearby but come in to deal drugs or recruits kids to join their gang, he said.
“Community policing is not soft on gang crime,” Schmidt said. “You're building the intelligence base that tells you who the gang members are, who's trying to be a gang member or where they're hanging out.”
There's no precise way to measure whether community policing has been successful, said Susan Lee of the Advancement Project. Her organization was instrumental in helping the Los Angeles Police Department introduce community policing in Watts ten years ago.
The community-policing program in Watts has been touted as a national model. It's helped reduce violent and gang crime and accelerated investigations because residents are more willing to talk to police.
Lee said that when community policing is done right, residents should feel like interactions with police officers are reasonable.
“When folks get stopped on the street,” she said. “Is (there) trust by the community that those stops are being done in a fair and objective manner?”
Lee added not every police department should practice community policing the same way. But they all should have one thing in common:
“It's an attitude of going into the community and saying, ‘I'm not the expert,'” she said.
Most community residents told KPCC that relations between police and the neighborhoods seem to be going in the right direction.
"It was really bad like seven years ago," said food mart owner Jose Vasquez. "There's been a lot of murders and stuff like that. But now, it seems it calmed down."
FBI Director Faces 'Hard Truths' Of Policing Minority Communities
by Kenya Downs
There's a reason why new agents are required to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during their training, says FBI Director James Comey. It's the same reason he keeps on his desk a copy of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's one-page approval of a request to wiretap King: "To ensure that we remember our mistakes and that we learn from them."
In a speech on law enforcement and race Thursday at Georgetown University, Comey shared his thoughts on improving policing in minority communities. The director acknowledged there's a disconnect between federal and local law enforcement, and communities of color and said that debating the nature of policing is important.
"We can roll up our car windows, turn up the radio and drive around these problems," he said. "Or instead we can choose to have an open and honest discussion about what our relationship is today, what it should be, what it could be, what it needs to be if we took more time to better understand one another."
Comey disagrees with the notion of racial colorblindness, and said everyone carries racial biases that affect behavior. But he stressed recognizing these hard truths are important to creating effective relationships with vulnerable communities.
"We must speak the truth about our shortcomings as law enforcement and fight to get better," he said. "But as a country we must also speak the truth to ourselves. Law enforcement is not the root cause of the problems in our hardest hit neighborhoods."
More Than Training Needed
In a statement, the Center for Policing Equity applauded the director for his remarks: "We are proud to be a part of many of the initiatives Director Comey mentioned today, working alongside the Department of Justice, the Administration, and municipal police departments across the country to better equip our law enforcement officials."
Nicholas Manley, a graduate student at Georgetown, was impressed by the director's speech. He agrees that facilitating better relationships between police and communities of color require more than just better training.
"It's a two-sided equation," he says. "We also have a community that has grown up being told that the boogeyman is the man with the patch."
Manley also thinks improving minority outreach requires changes to FBI recruitment.
"I would like to hear him have a plan for how he's going to allow the average person to be employed by the FBI," he says. "Someone who grew up in the projects is not going to meet those requirements for law enforcement."
Does This Go Far Enough?
Twitter users shared their reactions using the hashtag #ComeyAtGU. Responses were mixed, with some saying the director's speech doesn't go far enough in addressing an often hostile presence by police in communities of color.
"Don't confuse 'community policing' with militarized police patrolling," Suzette Gardner tweeted.
Focus enhanced on community policing in Howard
by Luke Lavoie
H oward County police Chief Gary Gardner announced a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing the department's community policing Wednesday headlined by the creation of a new pathway patrol program and a new division with the department.
"It has long been my intention to conduct an evaluation of our community policing strategies to determine our effectiveness. What are we doing right? What could we do better? And, more importantly, what does our community think?," Garner said at a press conference held Feb. 11 at police headquarters.
Among the initiatives is the expansion of the department's Community Outreach section to a division, which Gardner said will include increased resources and personnel toward its mission focused in community policing.
Part of the new division will be a pathway patrol program, which Gardener said will be staffed by seven patrol officers likely working in two shifts, seven days a week. The officers will walk and bike the community's expansive pathway system – there are 93.5 miles of pathways in Columbia alone.
He said the program is not in response to any particular recent incidents on the pathways.
"We are trying to promote the atmosphere of safety in our paths," he said.
He added the department will rely on foot and bike patrols to start, but that the department could explore which could include segways, motorized scooters, etc.
The division will also include community liaisons, including a multi-cultural liaison officer, a senior citizen liaison officer, a youth services liaison officer and multiple community resource officers.
Gardner said he initially plans to use existing police officers and resources to staff the division.
County Councilman Calvin Ball, who also spoke Wednesday, said the council is considering a bill that would enhance community policing. The legislation asks that the department's Citizen Advisory Council, a group of citizens that meets weekly, to study emerging police technology and methods and present recommendations to the department.
"We will research and evaluate the best practices and what works best here in Howard County to ensure we have the best technologies and are a model community for public safety," he said.
We don't have many of the challenges neighboring counties and states have, but we can always improve," Ball said.
Among the things they will study are officer body cameras, technology that has come into the national spotlight following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last year.
"I look at that as another tool for us to consider," Gardner said of the cameras. "Is it for every agency? Every community? I don't know, and I don't know what's in store here for Howard County."
Ball mentioned specifically a review of the county's community resource officers, which are stationed in small satellite officers across the county.
Linda Lee Hickerson, chair of the citizen committee, said the group is eager to "delve more deeply into the issues" of community policing.
In his opening remarks, Gardner alluded to recent events across the country, specifically mentioning Ferguson, where police tactics and a lack of community trust "have been brought into question."
"We are very fortunate in Howard County to have a strong relationship with our community," he said. "We have not had those problems in Howard County. Relationship building must be a continuous effort, even in the best of times."
Public Safety Committee Discusses Body Cameras for Officers
The Tompkins County Sheriff's Office is continuing to look at the possibility of getting body cameras for officers. On Jan. 10, the Tompkins County Legislature's Public Safety Committee discussed the issue, hearing a report from Sheriff Ken Lansing and Undersheriff Brian Robison.
Lansing told the committee he supports the use of body cameras, which he believes would enhance officer safety and capture an actual record of situations and events. But he added that it is critical to have a policy in place regarding how such cameras will be used—including the information technology aspects—before units are purchased and the program is implemented. The sheriff said he has consulted with the sheriffs from Schuyler and Niagara Counties, where body cameras are already being used, and is reviewing rules and regulations from Niagara County, where the cameras have been in use for about three years.
Undersheriff Brian Robison agreed that for this equipment, development of the policy must be the first step. “This is an emerging issue, emerging technology,” with no standard best practices in place, he said. Needed to be addressed in policy are issues such as storage and retention of the data and procedures for how and when the cameras are to be used. Robison also noted that camera use must comply with surveillance policies under federal and state law. He said he believes the county may be able to coordinate with the City of Ithaca on policy development, since the City is in the process of procuring body cameras for Ithaca Police Department officers. He said that secure cloud-based data storage is one data option.
Committee members agreed that having consistency in the body camera program countywide would be desirable, and that the interagency Law Enforcement Technology Shared Services (LETSS) group—in which county and city information technology and all law enforcement agencies are represented—would be the proper venue to coordinate the program.
Sheriff Lansing will return to the committee with a draft policy by its April meeting, with the aim of having a program ready to implement by summer.
In light of recent tragedies the Dept. Public Safety is reminding families to practice escape plans with kids
by NBC News
ST. PAUL, Minn --- Seven people, including two children, have died in house fires this year compared to five at this time last year.
The winter months are historically a dangerous time for residential fires in Minnesota.
With plenty of cold weather yet to come, State Fire Marshal Bruce West reminds families to stay safe and prevent tragedy in their homes.
"Escape options, planning and practice keep people alive in a building fire," West said. "Children can be taught to get out and stay out if parents plan and practice with them often."
Here are some important tips for your fire safety and escape strategy:
*Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, test alarms monthly and replace the batteries twice a year.
*Alarms should be replaced based on manufacturer recommendations.
*Draw a diagram of your home. Mark windows and doors and plan two ways out of each room.
*Teach your kids to crawl low if they see smoke.
*Plan an outside meeting place — like the front yard — for everyone in your home.
*Practice your escape plan with every family member.
*Make sure kids know the sound of a smoke alarm and what to do when it goes off.
*If you're staying somewhere away from home, know how to escape there, too.
*Treat smoke alarm activations as an emergency, and get out of the home or building and stay out until the all clear is received.
22 cops, firefighters receive Medal of Valor
This year's ceremony honored individuals who committed acts of valor between 2011 and 2013
by Josh Lederman
WASHINGTON — Police officers and firefighters who helped save lives in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin were honored with the Medal of Valor in a White House ceremony Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden draped the purple and yellow striped ribbons around the necks of 20 public safety officers, and presented medals to the families of two officers killed while responding to armed robberies. The two were off-duty at the time.
"You're a rare breed," Biden said. "You're all crazy. We love you for it. We need you. You are the best thing we have going for us."
Two people were dead on the ground outside the Sikh Temple in August 2012 when Lt. Brian Murphy and Officer Savan Lenda of the Oak Creek Police Department arrived on scene.
The suspected gunman was fleeing. Murphy pulled his gun, but the suspect fired first, hitting Murphy in his throat, legs and hand. When Lenda arrived on the scene and shot the suspect, the shooter crawled out of view and killed himself.
Lenda sent fellow officers to help Murphy, but the lieutenant waved them away and insisted they help those still inside the temple. The White House said the two officers' actions helped save the lives of many.
Boston and the surrounding area were in a state of panic in April 2013 because the suspects in the marathon bombing remained at large. The fateful night when Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev carjacked a vehicle before a dramatic confrontation with police is well known.
Less well known were the contributions of seven officers and firefighters from Watertown, Massachusetts, who received the medal from Biden.
Despite heavy weapon gunfire and reports the brothers were throwing explosives, officers and firefighters who responded helped protect the lives of those in uniform, the White House said. Tamerlan died as a result of the incident; Dzhokhar was apprehended 20 hours later.
Attorney General Eric Holder said this year's medals were particularly poignant at a moment when the country is grappling with "deep challenges" in the relationship between law enforcement and their communities.
"Beyond these honors, America owes you a debt that must be repaid not just with words but with actions," Holder said.
The Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for public safety officers who risk their own safety to save or protect others. This year's ceremony honored individuals who committed acts of valor between 2011 and 2013. A total of 95 medals have been handed out since Congress created the award in 2001.
Also receiving the medal:
—Five special agents from the FBI's Alabama-based hostage rescue team, who rescued a 5-year-old abducted from a school bus in 2013.
—Sgt. Daniel Hutchinson, Weber County, Utah, who was shot three times but still rescued two fellow sheriff's deputies in a shooting.
—Officer Michael Keith, Knoxville, Tennessee, who used his shirt to beat back flames from a car, then pulled a state trooper to safety just before the vehicle exploded.
—Former Fire Chief John Curly, Bellmore, New York, who broke a burning building's window with his bare hands to rescue an unconscious woman inside.
—Special Agent John Francis Capano, New York, who was killed while confronting a suspect during an attempted robbery attempt.
—Sgt. Bradley Alan Wick, Duluth, Minnesota, Police Department, who shot and killed a convicted felon after an armed robbery and car chase.
—Clifton P. Lewis, Chicago, who was off-duty when he was shot four times and killed while confronting two masked gunmen at a grocery store.
—Sgt. Michael Darrell Brown, Brevard County, Florida, who helped save a woman whose estranged boyfriend was attempting to stab her to death.
—Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez, Los Angeles, who was five months pregnant and off-duty when she rescued a teenager from drowning at the bottom of a muddy lake.
Police History: How snipers became part of policing
As police SWAT teams evolved in the 1970s, they added skilled negotiators and long distance precision shooters to enhance their life-saving capabilities
by Lt. Dan Marcou
The roots of the long-distance sniper extend back to the days of the archers. These warriors were loved by their compatriots — but despised by their enemies — because they could inflict many casualties from great distances.
When they were captured, they often had their middle finger amputated before they were exchanged so that they could not use the bow with such deadly efficiency ever again.
Because of this practice, when deployed on a battlefield, archers would often give the “archer's salute” to their adversaries by raising the middle finger of the drawing hand to show that it was still intact. Then they would in unison let fly a deadly volley. This is a legend, not a proven fact, but an interesting legend nonetheless.
The birth of the modern sniper occurred in our own Revolutionary War. Our forefathers possessed special equipment, tactics and skills, enhanced by today's snipers.
They carried the “Kentucky Long Rifle,” which was ironically made in Pennsylvania. Its “rifled,” barrel allowed a bullet to spin long, straight and true.
Timothy Murphy was a sniper who changed history. At the pivotal second Battle of Saratoga, American Colonel Daniel Morgan observed British General Frazer rallying troops. Morgan pointed out the troublesome General and called for Murphy to “do your duty.”
Murphy climbed a tree, and made his calculations for “Kentucky windage,” as well as the drop of the bullet. The distance was estimated by some to be 500 yards. Murphy fired and Frazer dropped from his horse. Frazer's second in command immediately came forward and Murphy needed no further directives. He shot him from his horse also. These impossible shots deeply demoralized the enemy and helped lead to an American victory, which convinced the French to enter the war on the side of the Americans.
During the Civil War, Hiram Berdan recruited a regiment of sharpshooters that were selected for their extraordinary skills. These soldiers were issued Whitworth, or Sharps rifles equipped with scopes. They dressed in green for camouflage. The “First US Sharpshooters” were so effective that often an entire battery of cannons would be directed to fire upon one well-placed Union Sniper.
The World Wars
During both World Wars, men and even women with exceptional marksmanship skills were designated as snipers by all armies. They developed the ability to secretly move into tactical positions of advantage. These soldiers were able to hit targets with great precision from great distances.
The most deadly of these snipers was the Russian, Vasily Zaytzev, who helped turn the tide of the war in the Battle of Stalingrad. During the war, he was credited with killing 3000 of his enemies. Zaytzev's female counter-part, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, had 257 confirmed kills. She was particularly effective at stalking, and is credited with killing 36 Nazi snipers.
In 1961 the United States Marine Corps officially directed Edward James Land to develop, the Marine Sniper Corps. Land recruited and trained men like “Chuck” Mawhinney, who had 103 confirmed kills, and another 216 probable kills.
Land's most famous protégé was Carlos Norman Hathcock II.
In Vietnam, Hathcock was known not only for his 93 confirmed kills, but his ability to apply sniper-craft to achieve success in the framework of missions. Hathcock was often sent in after high-value targets and succeeded in eliminating them time and time again, while avoiding detection by the enemy. The North Vietnamese came to know him as “White Feather,” and put a bounty on his head.
The attempt by the North Vietnamese to eliminate Carlos led to his making the most famous sniper shot in modern history. “The Cobra,” was sent to kill Hathcock and to draw him out, the Cobra shot and killed soldiers in the base Hatcock was at. Carlos went out after the Cobra and the deadly dance commenced.
As the maneuvering progressed, Carlos finally spotted the glint of glass in the sunshine. He aimed and fired, killing the Cobra instantly. Upon inspection it was discovered that the Hatcock's round had traveled through the enemy sniper's scope, without touching the sides and into the eye of the Cobra.
Law Enforcement Snipers
In the 1960s — as a direct result of urban violence — SWAT was developed. It was the brain child of Darrel Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department. SWAT was designed to be a hand-picked group of volunteers who were highly skilled, motivated, and trained to solve the most dangerous police problems. SWAT teams eventually were formed all over the country.
As teams evolved, they added skilled negotiators and long distance precision shooters to enhance their life-saving capabilities.
Police snipers were embraced by the teams because:
1. They placed themselves in a key hide to gather intelligence on what was occurring. The information they passed along to officers in charge and team leaders in real-time, assisted in the planning and decision-making at critical incidents.
2. Snipers were able to notify teams of not only an impending sudden assault, but also an impending sudden surrender.
3. Even though they rarely shot, when they did their shots were nearly always precise.
4. Their precision shooting did not inflict collateral damage.
5. They provided an effective protective over-watch to tactical operations.
6. Their actions often minimized casualties in situations where there was great potential for many casualties. For example on July 18, 1984, James Huberty killed 21 and wounded 19 in a San Ysidro McDonalds. His deadly rampage was finally stopped by one shot from a sniper.
7. Snipers have proven themselves to be highly disciplined officers, who train themselves vigorously.
8. Even though police snipers are quietly utilized every day in the United States, most never fire their rifles except in training.
About the author
Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor , and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou
Police Body Cameras – No Cure for Criticism
by Paul Grattan Jr.
Body-worn police cameras are a hot topic lately. Several highly-publicized incidents recently have led to a wave of anti-police protests and rhetoric. In turn, jurisdictions have scrambled to implement use of the technology or to expand their existing programs. Manufacturer orders have soared, with large jurisdictions which had been slow to adopt the cameras, like LAPD and NYPD, finally joining the ever-growing number of police agencies that use them.
The benefits for police are profound. Body-worn cameras aid in officer safety, police and civilian accountability, and enhance evidence gathering and prosecutions – to name a few. Sure, they come at a cost – both financial and logistical, but officers and department heads far and wide are enjoying these benefits.
For many, they are seen as a natural progression from other tools that have been commonplace for some time. In-vehicle camera systems have aided law enforcement for decades. A body-worn option is therefore a logical enhancement to an existing method. While the newer technology confronts us with additional challenges like coordinating evidence retention, storage, backup, and security concerns, and policy changes – these challenges are far from insurmountable.
But what happens after the cameras are in widespread use? Those in public service are wise enough to understand that an enhanced view of police encounters will hardly pacify the harshest and loudest of police opponents. Criticisms that once centered on why agencies were slow to use body-cams will only move toward any number of reasons that such cameras failed to tell the full story in favor of a particular agenda.
While the future of law enforcement is likely to involve more video technology, the future will also include a great deal of debate about its use. Those who see the cameras as a boon for police accountability, for example, are at the same time wary of their intrusiveness on the public.
Thinking forward, it's easy to imagine the questions that will continue to arise. At what point for example, will one camera be sufficient? How long before persistent critics suggest multiple viewing angles, or demand that camera activation be tied electronically to other officer actions, such as un-holstering a firearm, or using a Taser? Police body cameras will hardly stymie the most vocal opponents.
Effective law enforcement will always include disagreements about police encounters with the public, and personal body camera footage will not likely diminish this. Agencies should anticipate a substantial number of new questions and accusations related to body-cams. Police leaders can mitigate this with careful research, policy planning, and collaboration with government and community partners at all levels.
Body-worn cameras certainly have enough positive attributes to warrant an agency's careful and individual consideration. However, given that a segment of the population will never be satisfied with the level of visibility and accountability they provide, jurisdictions must avoid knee-jerk reactions that affect body-worn video implementation and policy. Lawmakers and police agencies need to prudently consider privacy concerns, policies regarding the availability of video recordings, and internal policies concerning their use (including related disciplinary matters). Only then can we be reasonably confident that the adoption of this technology is being done with appropriate research and planning, rather than in an attempt to appease the inappeasable.
Paul Grattan Jr. is a sergeant and 14 year veteran of a large metropolitan police department. He is a graduate of the 254th session of the FBI National Academy, and holds a bachelor's degree in Criminology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Paul is the proud father of a son and two daughters, with whom he shares his experience via his blog, One Police Project. Born and raised in Long Island, NY, he comes from a family with a long history of public service. Paul now lives with his wife and three children in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. You can contact him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @NYGrattan. For more information on One Police Project, visit onepoliceproject.com.
Killed American hostage was among those U.S. tried to free in July raid
The small Arizona town where Kayla Jean Mueller grew up began gathering in grief Tuesday upon learning that the 26-year-old aid worker who traveled the world on a quest to help others died while in the hands of Islamic State militants.
A small memorial on the courthouse plaza began to grow rapidly as word spread that Mueller's death had been confirmed.
The Islamic State group reported Friday that Muller, whose 18-month captivity had largely been kept secret in an effort to save her, had died in a recent Jordanian airstrike targeting the militants. On Tuesday, her parents and U.S. officials said they were now certain of her death, although officials said they could not confirm how she died.
"What a fine, fine woman and a tribute to Prescott," said 15-year resident Tina Nemeth. "It's just so sad, it really is, and everyone feels exactly the same. It's a shock it hit Prescott. We're not that big of a town."
The former territorial capital of Arizona has only recently begun to recover from a devastating 2013 wildfire that claimed the lives of 19 members of an elite firefighting squad. Stickers featuring the fire crew's logo and bearing the number "19" are still fixed to vehicles all around the town of 40,000 people.
The mountain town's picturesque courthouse lawn is still recognizable to some outsiders as the site of the dramatic martial-arts fight scene in the 1971 film "Billy Jack."
On Tuesday, it was filled with members of the media waiting to hear from Mueller's family, which lives about 10 minutes away at the end of a winding dirt road. Sheriff's deputies have blocked the road since Friday.
"We are heartbroken to share that we've received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, said in a statement released earlier. "Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace."
President Barack Obama said Mueller, who assisted humanitarian organizations working with Syrian refugees, "epitomized all that is good in our world."
"No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla's captivity and death," the president said.
The White House said Obama had spoken with Mueller's parents and offered his condolences and prayers.
Mueller is the fourth American to die while being held by Islamic State militants. Three other Americans — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig — were beheaded by the group.
Journalist Austin Tice disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria's civil war. It's not clear what entity is holding him, but it is not believed to be the Islamic State group or the Syrian government, his family has said.
Mueller was taken hostage in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in Syria. Her identity was long kept secret out of fears for her safety.
An attempt to rescue Mueller and other American hostages occurred in a July 4 raid previously disclosed by the Pentagon. U.S. special forces commandos conducted a predawn raid on a prison in Raqqa, Islamic State's stronghold in Syria.
But the mission was unsuccessful because hostages, which included Mueller as well as Foley and Sotloff, already had been moved from the site.
“We never stopped trying to get her,” said a defense official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “We never lost that focus.”
Obama confirmed Tuesday that Mueller was one of the hostages Delta Force commandos attempted to rescue in a raid on an oil refinery facility in northern Syria in summer 2014. The two dozen commandos arrived after the hostages had been moved, Obama said.
“I deployed an entire operation — at significant risk — to rescue not only her but the other individuals who had been held, and probably missed them by a day or two,” Obama said during an interview with BuzzFeed News.
Obama said the U.S. has a commitment to devote “enormous” resources to free American hostages anywhere in the world.
Jordan, which has launched a barrage of strikes in recent days in retaliation for the gruesome killing of one of its pilots at the hands of the militants, disputed the group's report of Mueller's death.
In the U.S., there was growing certainty that the claim from IS about the airstrike was false. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Jordan's airstrikes had targeted an IS weapons compound near the group's stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria that had been targeted before, and that there was no evidence of civilians in the area ahead of the strike.
Added a U.S. intelligence official: "She was not killed in that airstrike."
Mueller's parents released a letter Tuesday that their daughter had written them while in captivity. In the undated letter, Mueller said she was, "in a safe location, completely unharmed."
"I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me," she wrote. "I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes."
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. was "unshaken" in its resolve to defeat the Islamic State, a group he called an "ugly insult to the civilized world."
SYMPATHY FOR MUELLER'S FAMILY
Excerpts of statements released by members of Arizona's congressional delegation regarding the reported confirmation of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller of Prescott, Arizona:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.
"I am heartbroken for the Mueller family at the loss of their beautiful, beloved daughter, Kayla. The thoughts and prayers of the people of Arizona, America, and the civilized world are with the Mueller family at this terrible hour. Kayla devoted her young life to helping people in need around the world, to healing the sick and bringing light to some of the darkest and most desperate places on Earth."
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-Ariz.
"The death of Kayla Mueller - a Prescott native - can be laid squarely at the feet of ISIL. She deserves to be remembered for dedicating her life to the service of others. I join so many across Arizona and around the globe in offering my deepest condolences to Kayla's family. The best thing Congress can do now is authorize the mission against ISIL to let our allies and our adversaries know that we are united in our resolve."
REP. ANN KIRKPATRICK, D-Ariz.
"Today, the news of Kayla Mueller's death is felt around the world, but there is nowhere it cuts deeper than here at home in Arizona. Kayla grew up here, played in our playgrounds, studied at our schools, and volunteered in our community. But she didn't stay here - she was compelled by compassion to work in faraway places devastated by war and violence. "
REP. KYRSTEN SINEMA, D-Ariz.
"I am saddened by the news that the Mueller family has lost their daughter, Kayla. I join all Arizonans and all Americans in sending our thoughts to their family and the entire community of Prescott. "Kayla committed her life to the causes of peace and global justice. Her work on behalf of humanitarian causes will never be forgotten and her legacy of love and generosity, even in the face of terror, will be forever remembered."
REP. PAUL GOSAR, R-Ariz.
"Arizona, as well as our nation, has lost a piece of its heart_an ambassador of good will. But this nation never relents, and it never gives up. The American people must be resolved now to bring justice to Kayla's captors. We must put an end to this monstrous violence based on intolerance. We must endeavor to remain brave and strong in the face of those who wish to terrify, just as Kayla did."
REP. MATT SALMON, R-Ariz.
"Kara Mueller demonstrated the best that America has to offer the world. Her tireless dedication to alleviating suffering and seeking peace for all will be forever remembered. Only the most malicious of enemies would seek to capture and threaten such a person for their own gains. This is the enemy we face today."
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA, D-Ariz.
"This tragedy further emphasizes that the reign of terror brought by ISIS must be stopped, once and for all. While the United States must support efforts to end the madness, only a coordinated response led and fully endorsed by Arab nations in the region will stop the bloodshed. Kayla placed herself in harm's way to alleviate suffering where it was happening most. Her death underscores the profound need for Arab nations to unite and fight for the peace she gave her life to help bring to their region."
Data portals, community policing boost department's transparency
I believe it is important for our citizens to have an idea of the many functions we perform and the output from those activates.
Recently, police agencies around the country have been put under a microscope.
Everything from their processes to their actions has been scrutinized by the general public. Although some of this scrutiny may not be above board, the vast majority of it is notable.
Much of the time, the underlying request from the public is transparency. At times, complete transparency may be restricted for very real and legal reasons. A couple of examples would be undercover investigations and cases involving juveniles. Many times, the public is more interested in general information.
In that vein, the City of Lakeway Police Department has now put much more data on our city website. Under the police section of our main site, on the left-side column, we have created three new informational portals.
The first portal is the traffic data portal. This feature provides information such as where traffic stops are occurring and what citations are being issued. All of this data is now available and will be maintained monthly.
The second portal is the crash data. Here, one will find a heat map that was generated by our crime analyst, Mike Olsen. The crash reports that have been generated over the past few years are now plotted on the map. The user can see how many crashes have occurred on particular streets or in certain intersections. The data also includes the officer's opinion for the crash as indicated on the crash report.
The third portal is the department's performance measures and statistics presentation. This section has information and data about the wide range of department activates.
This informational offering to our public is one small way to provide better service and improve our communication. I believe it is important for our citizens to have an idea of the many functions we perform and the output from those activates.
Our ability to engage our public is an area of interest that I continually look for ways to improve. For instance, after discussions with some citizens, it became apparent that we should find a resource to allow them to see what reported criminal activities occurred in their neighborhoods. We now offer a link from our police webpage to Crime Reports.
This program plots the reports taken by our officers in the various areas of our city. It also offers an anonymous tip feature to allow for information to be sent to the police department without having to reveal your identity. We have found this feature to be quit beneficial for collecting information about criminal activity in our area.
For the first time, our officers will carry with them a small handbook to give out to our youth who may need some inspiration or a message of hope for their future. The Handbook for Success, authored by local resident William Hyche, which includes a foreword from me, is tailored for youth and young adults who may need some guidance down a path for success. We are excited about the opportunity to engage the mind of some of our young citizens and partner with them in a way which can be beneficial for both parties.
Along with these informational outlets, we also offer opportunities to engage our officers and department staff at a more intimate level through local events.
For the past two years, we have offered a safe venue for our local families with kids to attend to celebrate Halloween. The Fright Fest event, held in collaboration with Lake Travis Fire and Rescue and the Lakeway Regional Medical Center, included a haunted house, vendors and much more. Last year, it is estimated that we hosted approximately 4,000 visitors to this safe and fun family venue. We will continue to offer the Fright Fest event along with other events such as National Night Out.
In 2002, we hosted our first citizens police academy. The citizens police academy was created to bridge the gap between the community and the police. We discovered that education was the key in creating understanding and cooperation. Once citizens understood the how and why of police operations, they were more supportive, trusting, and helpful to the police department. Most importantly, however, was not the “how” and “why” elements, it was the “who” element.
Academy attendees forged personal relationships with our staff and officers. This relationship created a sense of “our” police department, instead of “the” police department. These relationships led to amazing cooperative achievements and a very high level of trust. However, decisions were made recently to try other means to engage our community, so the citizens police academy has been put on hold to try other initiatives.
We hope that the aforementioned electronic platforms, the book and the community events will provide exchange and relationship-building opportunities to our community. It is through these avenues that we may clarify the methods and means by which we carry out our mission.
We recognize that keeping our community safe requires us to partner with our citizens and businesses. It is our desire that these new communication tools, and the others that follow, will continue to promote a healthy working relationship with our citizens and thus a safer city.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Delivers Remarks at Oakland Law Enforcement Community Meeting
Thank you all for being here. I particularly want to thank Congresswoman [Barbara] Lee, Mayor [Libby] Schaaf, and Chief of Police [Sean] Whent for welcoming me to Oakland today, as well as our outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Melinda Haag, for her help in pulling together this important meeting.
I also want to thank all of the assembled law enforcement, faith, student, and community leaders for joining me to talk about the work that's underway here in Oakland – and the important steps that we must take together to reduce crime while building community trust.
It is a privilege to join you in advancing this discussion this afternoon, and to have the opportunity to help shine a light on the remarkable work you perform each and every day.
I'd particularly like to recognize the tireless efforts of the men and women of the Oakland Police Department, who stand on the front lines of our work to improve public safety.
I know I speak for my Justice Department colleagues, and for everyone here, when I say that the bravery this work requires – and the dangers that are inherent in it – are never far from our minds.
As the brother of a retired police officer, I know in a deeply personal way how courageous these public servants are. I have seen the tremendous and often-unheralded sacrifices that they and their loved ones are routinely called upon to make.
I have also seen the destructive consequences that too often accompany any loss of trust between our brave law enforcement officers and the communities they are entrusted to serve and protect.
Recent events have cast a stark light on rifts that have emerged throughout the country. And that's why I've been traveling the nation in recent months to hold roundtable discussions – like this one – aimed at bringing people of all backgrounds and perspectives together to restore trust where it has been eroded, and to build trust where it never existed.
I am especially mindful, as we gather today, of the devastating and barbaric attack that we suffered in New York City in December. The terrible losses of Officers [Wenjian] Liu and [Rafael] Ramos – members of New York's finest – shocked the nation. They serve as tragic reminders of the dangers that all of our officers regularly face. And this incident has lent new urgency to our ongoing, national conversation.
Over the past six years, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and other components, the Department of Justice has taken significant steps to provide our law enforcement officers with access to the tools and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. Going forward, we will continue to make good on our deep commitment to building understanding and cooperation between our officers and the communities they serve.
Before we open today's discussion, I'd like to provide you all with a brief update on some of the constructive steps we're taking to do just that, to help address these urgent issues in cities and towns across America, and to advance this broad, inclusive dialogue at the national level.
We cannot squander this opportunity to have the kind of dialogue - I think - is needed to begin the kind of change we need in this nation.
In December, the Administration took a series of actions to take this commitment to a new level – by improving the way local authorities acquire equipment from the federal government; by proposing investments in body-worn cameras, expanded training, and additional resources for facilitating community engagement; by strengthening guidance on profiling by federal law enforcement agents conducting law enforcement activities; and by convening a new Task Force on 21 st Century Policing – led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson – to examine ways to promote effective crime strategies while building public trust.
Ultimately, all of these efforts will advance the cause that brings us together today – promoting safer, more effective law enforcement for the people of Oakland, and for millions of others throughout the country.
The people of this great city deserve an outstanding, world-class police force that works alongside local residents to protect public safety. Oakland's brave officers deserve the cutting-edge tools, the very latest training, and the steadfast support they need to do their jobs with maximum safety, efficacy, and fairness.
As this work unfolds, I want you to know that the Justice Department will continue to rely on your leadership, your expertise, and your unique perspectives to help ensure that we can bridge longstanding divisions between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
This is a great community that has, I think, shown itself to be a leader of so many things on the national level.
In partnership with you, and through the leadership of U.S. Attorney Haag – who will be our lasting presence on the ground here in Oakland, helping to drive these efforts forward – I believe we can all be confident in where this work will take us.
I am eager to hear from all of you on how we can best achieve these goals. I appreciate your guidance and engagement. And I look forward to everything we'll accomplish together in the critical days ahead.
Building Trust Between Law Enforcement and the Communities they Serve and Protect
Over the last several months, I have been fortunate to travel across the country to convene a series of roundtable discussions aimed at strengthening and fostering enduring relationships between America's brave law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
These discussions have brought together diverse groups of local leaders, police officials, civil rights advocates, United States Attorneys, students, faith leaders, and community members to examine what we can do to restore trust wherever it has been eroded – and to build trust in places where it never existed. The resulting conversations – in Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia – have been challenging, enlightening, and often deeply moving. And each has been vitally important in enabling the Justice Department to take this important, national dialogue to a new level.
I recently continued this effort in Oakland and San Francisco, California. In Oakland, I was proud to join a group of over 50 leaders and engaged citizens in an inclusive conversation about the challenges they've faced throughout the metropolitan area, as well as the promising work that's underway to address those challenges. In San Francisco, I had the privilege of visiting the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club, where I spoke with a small group of local teenagers and a number of courageous police officers and academy recruits from the San Francisco Police Department.
Over the course of these constructive conversations – and all of the others I've convened – I have been struck not by some of the divisions that have emerged, but by the remarkable commonalities. I have been moved to hear from valorous police officers, who risk their lives every day to secure their communities, as well as parents who express very real concern about the safety of their children.
In every one of these roundtables, as passionate, engaged people have come together to advance a positive dialogue and confront lingering mistrust, it has been clear that citizens of all perspectives are bound together not only by common values, but common aims: safer streets, stronger communities, and enhanced protections for all. That's why the Justice Department is continuing to fulfill these aims not only with discussion, but with sustained and deliberate action.
Through our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and other components, the Department is making good on its pledge to provide law enforcement with access to the tools and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. With the launch of our National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, we're striving to strengthen the partnerships between community members and law enforcement professionals at every level of government.
At the same time, at President Obama's direction, the Administration is taking a range of steps to improve the way we equip our law enforcement agencies, to invest in body-worn cameras and cutting-edge training, and to better facilitate broad-based community engagement. Through the President's groundbreaking Task Force on 21st Century Policing, we're bringing law enforcement leaders and experts together to provide strong, national direction on a scale not seen in nearly half a century. And going forward, we intend to continue to use every tool at our disposal to enhance our capacity to combat crime while restoring public trust.
I strongly believe that, by engaging in forthright and action-oriented discussions, we can make real and effective progress in advancing the cause of justice in communities across the country. Although my time in the Obama Administration will soon draw to a close, my personal commitment to this work will remain steadfast. Thanks to everything I've heard from the remarkable citizens and police officers I've met in recent weeks, I am confident in where this vital work will lead us. And I'm optimistic about the transformative results that we will achieve together in the days ahead.
Another Voice: To address policing crisis, Cuomo should refocus on community policing
by Terry O'Neill
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's seven-point response to the national civil rights crisis in police/community relations is a start, but unfortunately far from enough. It is scattershot and peripheral to the essential problem.
People of color are fed up with the way that they are treated by police officers – police officers who have come to think that the oppressive tactics they have deployed in communities across the nation are, in fact, good policing.
The civil rights crisis that erupted with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year has its genesis in New York City. In 1994, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton debuted his data-driven COMPSTAT program. Cops were sent chasing after statistical crime hot spots.
By the end of the 1990s, Bratton's “cops-on-the-dots” tactic had gone viral throughout the nation. Police agencies large and small had learned to generate crime statistics that made their political masters look good.
Foreseeably, this had its downside. In New York City, it has become increasingly evident that the need to produce ever-declining crime numbers has generated relentless pressure extending down through every echelon of the Police Department. Precinct commanders who don't produce the desired numbers find their careers dead-ended.
To drive numbers down, serious crimes, including sexual assault, have been routinely downgraded and victims discouraged from filing complaints. Officers are given quotas that they have learned to meet by stopping and frisking young men of color and writing people up for trivial violations.
These ubiquitous policing tactics have turned police agencies into numbers-driven enterprises that have lost touch with those sectors of the community most affected both by crime and heavy-handed policing. Crime numbers may be going down, but public dissatisfaction with police is skyrocketing.
Prior to the age of Bratton, there was a vibrant community policing movement that aspired to genuine partnership between police agencies and community stakeholders. Bratton dismissed this as “social work” and turned his attention to his computer crime maps. He forgot the dots on those maps are people – most often people of color.
If Cuomo really wants to confront the major civil rights issue of the day, he will find a way to spark a resurgence of the community policing movement.
His proposal to spend $50 million on a new Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services has potential. In minority communities, leaders of the faith community are generally the most respected and effective leaders. The governor's proposal can empower them and they can in turn partner as equals with police and other municipal agencies to work together to improve quality of life in their neighborhoods.
Terry O'Neill is director of the Constantine Institute Inc.
Community policing a go after Lima City Council approves budget
by Craig Kelly
LIMA — With both the backing and funding of Lima City Council, the Lima Police Department can now implement its plan to bring Community-Oriented Policing back to the city.
With the exception of councilmen Jesse Lowe II and Derry Glenn, who were not at the meeting, Lima City Council unanimously approved its $89 million budget during Monday's meeting, including more than $220,000 to hire three new police officers to replace more experienced officers who will assume new positions as community police officers, along with funding a new sergeant position to oversee the operation. Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin anticipated it would be about six to eight months before community-oriented policing would be in place.
For Martin, this is a very positive first step in fostering positive relationships between the community and law enforcement.
“We are very pleased,” he said. “Even though it won't be to the same scale as it was back in the late 1990s, it's good to bring those positions back because there is a trust gap between the police and much of the community, and we do have a responsibility to try to help bridge that gap. The neighborhood officers will be a big step in getting that done.”
The Lima Police Department, along with the Lima Fire Department, was also the topic of discussion during a report from Police Maj. Jim Baker on other community outreach efforts in which the department is engaged, from working with athletic programs to the “From Red to Blue” program in local schools, encouraging children to consider careers in law enforcement. Fire Inspector Chris Jackson also reported on efforts to recruit minorities into the Fire Department.
“We haven't done nearly as good of a job as we should be doing on getting word out on what we're doing,” Martin said. “We have a lot of good things going on, especially outreach within the schools.”
Along with passing the budget, the council also approved the sale of $4.37 million in bonds for a variety of capital investments, including construction of the Westminster Water Line project, installing a new generator in the Lima Hall of Justice and the Lima Municipal Building, purchasing a cargo van and sport utility vehicle for the Lima Fire Department, three SUVs, an unmarked car and four police cruisers for the Lima Police Department, purchasing a new street sweeper and paying for lighting and fencing improvements to Simmons Field.
Mayor Hodges discusses community policing on MSNBC
by Libor Jany
Mayor Betsy Hodges appeared on national television Sunday to talk about police-community relations in Minneapolis, an issue that vaulted the first-term mayor to national prominence last fall following a highly publicized dispute with the city's police union.
Melissa Harris-Perry introduced Hodges as a guest on her eponymous show on MSNBC by mentioning #Pointergate, the Internet firestorm that followed police union chief John Delmonico's controversial comments in a TV news story questioning the mayor's support of police officers.
Hodges said on Sunday:
"Minneapolis, like every other city in the country, has been grappling with these issues. What we have in our city, though, is a chief and a mayor both who are committed to strong community policing and doing what's needed to make sure we are working together on behalf of public safety.”
Hodges, who says she and Delmonico have settled their differences, told Harris-Perry that the two are now “working together to make something like that real."
When pressed for specifics on what officials were doing to regain public trust, Hodges pointed to a recently-released U.S. Department of Justice report calling for the Minneapolis Police Department to overhaul its system for identifying and weeding out problem officers – "to make sure that issues get caught before they become problems," as she put it.
Of the department's Community Service Officer program, she said:
"That's the best ladder into the police department that we have for minority communities, for low income folks, and we're having a lot of success there, especially at a time when we're hiring a lot, given all the retirements that are happening."
Six Views of Community Policing
Ed. Note: The Long Beach Police Department has taken steps recently to improve relations with the communities it serves. The move comes in the wake of nationwide protests that followed killings by police officers of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo. and New York. In January, LBPD Police Chief Robert Luna appeared at a community forum in central Long Beach to assure residents his department is “concerned” about relations with the community. But amid a backdrop of complaints over racial profiling and use of excessive force, many question whether enough is being done to repair ties. VoiceWaves spoke to six community residents and activists about their views.
Michael Brown, 36, helped launch the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, a national movement that aims to put the spotlight on police violence targeting African Americans. He says when it comes to community policing, there needs to be more accountability.
“The community should have control over who polices them and actually hold these people accountable,” Brown said. That would include the ability to force out officers involved in shootings such as in Fergusson, Missouri last August.
“When these officers shoot somebody, why can't we have their name? That doesn't make any sense,” Brown said. “You have to put structures together that people actually believe in.”
Residents can also protect themselves by knowing their rights, Brown suggested. “Knowledge is always power … You don't have to acquiesce and you don't have to be trampled over.”
Still, given the history, Brown is skeptical about improved relations between police and the African American community.
“Black people in this country have never had a good relationship with the police and that is not by accident. That is by design,” he said.
The Police Commander
LBPD Commander Paul LeBaron remembers the rampant property crimes that once plagued the eastside, the division he oversees.
Though crime was high, he says, many people refused to call the police. So LeBaron began attending community watch meetings, where he spoke to residents and learned that many were too embarrassed to call, thinking the police had betting things to do.
“Please bother us. Let us come and respond.” That was the mantra he formed after this experience. Not long after, 911 calls began coming in and crime rates soon fell.
Le Baron credits that in part to the more than 100 community watch groups that formed during his tenure.
“It's the community's opportunity to organize and address the issues,” LeBaron said. Meetings are run by residents, and happen on people's front lawns, living rooms, or in community centers.
Despite the successes, however, LeBaron is aware of the challenges that remain, including the bad press that comes with police interactions gone awry.
“We can take ten steps forward, but one negative interaction will cause us to go 100 steps back,” LeBaron said.
Long Beach City College student Corleone Ham, 20, says youth of color are most often the targets of profiling, and that if anything, LBPD officers need more training on how to interact with youth.
“If [an officer has] a problem with me, they shouldn't approach me in a way that makes me feel defensive. I think that's basic communication skills,” Ham said.
He added that he knows a number of students on gang injunction lists even if they're not affiliated with a gang. “Being placed on the [list] is detrimental to them trying to get a job,” Ham explained.
The 'Black Guy with a Hoodie'
Robert Howard, 34, says in his younger days he was often pulled over, at least once a week. These days it happens less often, though the 6-foot-4-inch Howard – with tattoos down both arms and dressed in Jordans and a hoodie – says it's still an unnerving experience.
“As they approach the car, I see that they're uncomfortable. I see that they have their hand over their holster. They seem fearful of me, and I'm naturally uneased by their presence,” Howard said.
Howard believes implementing a “restorative justice” approach to community-police relations could help lower tensions, but says part of the work has to come from the community.
“Police officers are human beings with families, with personal lives and personal traumas. We need to break down some of these biases against police. That starts on both sides.”
“Let's face it. The police-community relationship is forever a work in progress. It's the nature of the beast,” said Grant Boyer, a professor of Administration of Justice at Long Beach City College.
Boyer served as a street cop with the LBPD for 20 years. He also served on the Citizen's Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and recalled the controversial event that led to the creation of the CPCC.
In 1989, Don Jackson, a former police sergeant from Hawthorne, went driving in Long Beach with an undercover NBC camera crew to document incidences of profiling targeting African Americans.
When an LBPD officer pulled Jackson over, a scuffle ensued with the officer later slamming Jackson's head through a plate glass window. The camera crew caught the whole thing.
“That image went … on the front page of every newspaper in California. The reputation of this law enforcement agency was lower than pond scum,” Boyer said.
The CPCC came soon after, allowing citizens to issue complaints and have commissioners conduct subsequent investigations. It was the first step in opening up channels of communication that Boyer says is central to building trust.
As an example, he points to Academy training, where cadets are put face-to-face with local residents “with an axe to grind” who then unleash on the would-be officers with complaints about policing.
“Academy training has come a long way but, you know, there's always room for improvement,” Boyer said.
It was a cold, rainy day in 2012 when Yusnei Garcia, 25, was driving her son home from the doctor. She heard about a local sheriff's deputy who allegedly had gone rouge, profiling and pulling over undocumented Latina mothers by Roosevelt elementary school.
Turns out she herself would be pulled over by that same deputy. “I was really nervous. He asked why I didn't have a driver's license. I told him I'm not from here,” Garcia recalled.
“Well, your loss is someone else's win,” the deputy allegedly said. (Similar statements involving the same officer were compiled in a report prepared by the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles).
Garcia's car was impounded, and she later lost her job at a Los Angeles catering business. She had no way to make the trek out there anymore.
Garcia says being undocumented makes relying on the police difficult.
“I don't like the police being at my house because my husband's also undocumented. We are scared something might happen … What if they come pick us up?” said Garcia. “I try not to call them.”
This past Wednesday was the first time Garcia had ever called 911. Her son was having asthma problems.
Garcia doesn't believe all police officers or sheriff deputies are bad apples. But she does have a request for those who cause trouble. “Just because we look Latino, don't stop us,” she said. “We drive because we need to. To go to work or to take our kids to school.”
Wilmington neighborhood gives thumbs up on community policing efforts
A Wilmington neighborhood says it has proof that one of Mayor Dennis Williams' crime fighting initiatives is making an impact.
Browntown residents in Wilmington believe the community policing, which Williams claims will be a key to cleaning up Wilmington streets and some of the city's crime infested neighborhoods are showing positive results.
"When it comes to community policing for us, it is a mechanism that we have at our disposal to really get at some of the crime element," said Bernadette Evans who leads about twelve block captains in the Browntown neighborhood.
Over the weekend, Evans who considers the community police like the "Navy Seals", organized a gathering in the wake of a shooting that left a man wounded on February 2 in Browntown. According to Evans, the neighborhood has made great progress thanks to community police efforts. However, she reports police officers were recently pulled off the streets to monitor hot spots in the City under "Operation Disrupt".
"Without community policing, if someone tells me something, there's no place to send it. So the issue just fester, grows. We're not trying to become the next shooting gallery," Evans said.
Now things are different. Evans, neighborhood residents and city officials make themselves more visible by setting up shop at the corner of Cedar and Anchorage Streets. The goal is their visibility and they hope that sends a message to those thinking about doing crime there. Residents chose the location a few blocks away from the shooting on Marshall and Stroud Streets on Tuesday.
"We're watching as many pockets of Browntown as possible," Evans said.
Donna Faulkner, block captain of 9th Ave. who moved from Santa Barbara, California to Wilmington called the recent shooting an isolated incident that has put everyone on alert.
"That was the first time that I've heard some bad news like that in over a year," said Faulkner who doesn't count random break-ins in the neighborhood as part of the bigger crime problem.
Like Evans, Faulkner isn't too happy that community police officers were temporarily assigned to other areas, but Councilman Robert Williams, a retired officer offered an explanation.
"When you're under a crisis state as we've experienced in the last week or so, I think this is the right thing to do, you put everybody out there, you saturate the neighborhoods, you get the word out on the street that this isn't the place to come and do your dirty work," said Williams who represents the 7th District.
Bottom line, Browntown residents urge other neighborhoods to take a stand, hit the streets and embrace community policing that has produced positive results so far.
"Being an outsider, I've seen a dramatic difference between last year and this year because of the work that we have done as a community and working with the police officers," Faulkner said.
Daughter: Rockford Resident Arrested In National Terrorism Investigation Is Innocent
by Susan Stephens
The daughter of a Rockford woman accused of supporting extremist groups claims her mother was falsely accused. She says mother Jasminka Ramic doesn't stand with terrorism and would never send money to a terrorist organization.
Ramich and five others were indicted by the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis Friday. They are accused of funneling money to people in Bosnia and Serbia who then traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with known terrorist groups, such as ISIS and al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Ramich is charged with sending $550 to support the fighters and their families in 2013.
All six are natives of Bosnia and legal residents of the US. Three live in St. Louis, two in Illinois, and one in New York. The Ramics were in Germany and unaware of the indictment until a reporter contacted them. It's unclear if Ramic was arrested or has a lawyer.
The indictment is available here.
Fact checking what happens if Homeland Security closes
WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending for the Department of Homeland Security hangs in the balance as Congress fights over immigration matters in the agency's annual funding bill. Without action by Feb. 27, the department's budget will shut off.
To hear Democrats and many Republicans tell it, the result would be unacceptable risks to U.S. security at a time of grave threats worldwide. In reality, though, most people will see little change if the department's money flow is halted, and some of the warnings of doom are as exaggerated as they are striking.
“There are ghoulish, grim predators out there who would love to kill us or do us harm,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We should not be dillydallying and playing parliamentary pingpong with national security.”
In the view of some House conservatives, though, shutting off the agency's $40 billion budget for a time “is obviously not the end of the world,” as Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., put it, because many agency employees would stay at work through a shutdown.
Who's right, and what would the impact be if Congress were to let money for the department lapse?
Salmon and a few other conservatives are the only ones saying it publicly so far, but the reality is that a department shutdown would have a very limited impact on national security.
That's because most department employees fall into exempted categories of workers who stay on the job in a shutdown because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. Even in a shutdown, most workers across agencies, including the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Customs and Border Protection, would continue to report to work.
Airport security checkpoints would remain staffed, the Secret Service would continue to protect the president and other dignitaries, the Coast Guard would stay on patrol, immigration agents would still be on the job.
Indeed, of the agency's approximately 230,000 employees, some 200,000 of them would keep working even if Congress fails to fund their agency. It's a reality that was on display during the 16-day government-wide shutdown in the fall of 2013, when national parks and monuments closed but essential government functions kept running, albeit sometimes on reduced staff.
So what of the sometimes overheated rhetoric, often from Democrats trying to prove a political point?
“If this goes to shutdown,” Mikulski said, “this could close down ports up and down the East Coast, because if you don't have a Coast Guard, you don't have the ports. You don't have the ports, you don't have an economy.”
But if the department loses its money, the Coast Guard will stay in operation and so will the ports.
There would be one big change, though. Most workers would not get paid until the shutdown ends, a circumstance guaranteed to put pressure on members of Congress hearing from constituents angry about going without their paychecks.
Making employees come to work without pay is “a real challenge” for them, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday on CNN's “State of the Union.”
Workers at agencies funded by fees, instead of by congressional appropriations, would continue their functions while still drawing a paycheck.
It so happens that applies to the very employees charged with putting in place the immigration programs at the heart of the political dispute.
Fees pay the salaries of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services workers who would process applications from immigrants eligible to work lawfully in the country under President Barack Obama's immigration policies. Even though Republicans are so determined to shut down Obama's program that some are willing to risk Homeland Security money to do it, it would stay up and running with little impact in the event of a shutdown.
So who would stop working in a shutdown? Mostly administrative staff, including support workers at headquarters and personnel who do training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, employees involved in research and development, and those responsible for operating and maintaining the E-Verify system that allows businesses to check the immigration status of new hires.
State task force on police relations to meet locally tonight
Crawford death among events that have strained community relations.
by Mark Gokavi
Gov. John Kasich's statewide task force to review best practices for police officers will hold a public forum tonight at Central State University.
The 24-member Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations is holding meetings in Ohio before making recommendations to Kasich. Today's forum at CSU will be from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Paul Robeson Cultural & Performing Arts Center.
“The purpose of the task force is to develop strategies to help improve the important relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are charged with protecting,” said Karhlton Moore, executive director of Ohio Criminal Justice Services.
The work comes after multiple high-profile incidents that strained community-police relations. That includes the Aug. 5 officer-involved shooting death of John Crawford III of Fairfield, who was killed in a Beavercreek Walmart. Crawford was shopping in the store, holding an unboxed air rifle he picked up from a shelf and talking on his cell phone.
A 911 caller told dispatchers the man appeared to be pointing a weapon at people, and Beavercreek Officer Sean Williams shot Crawford to death seconds after encountering him in a store aisle. A grand jury did not indict Williams, who said he ordered Crawford to drop the weapon.
The task force is chaired by John Born, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and Nina Turner, former Ohio senator.
The five issues Kasich charged the task force with exploring are: best community policing practices; law enforcement training; standards for law enforcement interaction with the community; the criminal justice system and community oversight; and involvement in law enforcement.
Other members are: George Voinovich, former Ohio governor; Louis Stokes, former member of Congress; Eve Stratton, former Ohio Supreme Court justice; Brian S. Armstead, officer, Akron police; Phil Cole, executive director, Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies; Dr. Ronnie Dunn, Associate professor at CSU; Rev. Damon Lynch III, senior pastor at New Prospect Baptist Church; Bernie Moreno, president of The Collection Auto Group; Anthony Munoz, former Cincinnati Bengal; Amy Murray, Cincinnati councilwoman; Rev. George Murry, bishop at Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown; Michael J. Navarre, Oregon (Ohio) police chief; Ronald J. O'Brien, Franklin County prosecutor; Andre T. Porter, director at Ohio Department of Commerce; Tim Derickson, representative; Alicia M. Reece, representative; Sara Andrews, Chief Justice's designee; Tannisha D. Bell, Attorney General's designee.
Other forums are scheduled for Feb. 26 at University of Toledo and March 10 at the University of Cincinnati.