March, 2015 - Week 1
Community policing initiative is bringing us together
On Friday, Goshen Police Chief Wade Branson and Mayor Allan Kauffman were guests at the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns' Mayors Institute in Indianapolis. The purpose of their trip was to talk about how cities like Goshen, with mostly white police forces, can improve community relations with a growing minority population.
What a worthy and important topic. Managing immigration is a polarizing and important political debate, but as a community made up of nearly a third of Latino residents, we must continually seek constructive and compassionate ways to live alongside each other.
BRANSON, WHO HAS BEEN a Goshen police officer for 30 years — the past six as chief — admitted to the gathering of Indiana mayors Friday that he hasn't always been receptive to reaching out to Goshen's Latino community, especially those who neither spoke English nor trusted police.
“I put a wall up,” Branson said. “I had to get it in my head: I'm here for the whole community.”
Which is why Branson, along with Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers participate in a community policing initiative that is also facilitated by Bienvenido Community Solutions and Goshen's Community Relations Commission. The goal: To foster trust and communication between local police and Latinos.
GILBERTO PEREZ JR. , is a key part of the initiative. Perez Jr. is president and chief executive officer of Bienvenido, as well as a professor of social work at Goshen College and a regional pastor for the Indiana Michigan Mennonite Conference. He told The Goshen News back in August of 2013 that meetings between police and Latino residents is a necessary community dialogue. We couldn't agree more.
“The initiative gives the Goshen Police Department an opportunity to explain some of those basic traffic stop things that may be different from where the Latino people are coming from, their particular country, whether it's Mexico, Central or South America,” Perez Jr. said. “That initiative creates space for people to openly ask questions of our law enforcement officials.”
This is not to say that Latinos should be above U.S. laws, traffic or otherwise, because they come from a different culture. As Sheriff Rogers noted at a meeting last year, officers can empathize, but ultimately, they are asked to enforce the law. We agree and this quest for understanding must be a two-way street.
GOSHEN STILL HAS a long way to go in improving its community relations with Latinos, but we are encouraged with the direction it is heading. That our police chief is offering advice to mayors around the state on community policing signifies how far we've come.
When a city and its police department aren't in racial tune with its population, dark days can lie ahead. Look no further than Ferguson, Missouri to illustrate that risk. We commend our community leaders for the work they're doing to make Elkhart County a better place to live for everybody.
Policing by fleecing in Ferguson and beyond
by Ruth Marcus
WASHINGTON – The most important thing to understand about the problems with the Ferguson, Missouri, police force is that they're not unique to Ferguson.
The investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, launched in the aftermath of a police officer's fatal shooting of Michael Brown, would be upsetting, infuriating — pick your adjective of outrage — if Ferguson were a one-off.
The 102-page report depicts a department — indeed, an entire city bureaucracy — more focused on raising revenue than protecting public safety. Ferguson used its police force and court system to make ends meet — on the backs of poor and minority residents.
As described in the report, Ferguson police, under pressure to bring in fines to boost the city's coffers, pile on multiple, often bogus, charges for minor infractions. Then they top that up with additional charges, fines, fees and even jail time for those who fail to pay, promptly and in full.
Police see residents, especially African-Americans, “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” the investigation found.
For example, an African-American woman parked her car illegally on a single occasion in 2007, receiving two tickets and a $151 fine, plus fees. Eventually charged with seven “Failure to Appear” offenses for missing court dates or payments on the fines, she was arrested twice, spent six days in jail, and paid $550. As of last December, seven years later, she still owed another $541.
Forget community policing. This is community fleecing, with an ugly racial element. African-Americans are disproportionately at risk for being stopped, searched, cited and arrested. Most disturbing, Ferguson citizens are at risk of being jailed — not for committing crimes or posing a danger to the community if released before trials but because they can't pay fines or post bond on arrest warrants for offenses as minor as traffic tickets.
“There have been many cases,” the Justice report noted, “in which a person has been arrested on a warrant, detained for 72 hours or more, and released owing the same amount as before the arrest was made.” When asked why time in jail is not tracked as part of a case, “a member of court staff told us: it's only three days anyway.”
Imagine if you were imprisoned for “only three days” over a parking ticket.
Debtors' prisons are — or are supposed to be — illegal in the United States. In a 1983 case involving an indigent defendant whose probation was revoked after he failed to pay a fine, the Supreme Court ruled that “punishing a person for his poverty” violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Since then, with local budgets under strain and the explosion of the private prison industry, there has been a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as a revenue-generating tool. As Sarah Stillman detailed in The New Yorker last year, private probation companies have become particularly aggressive in milking offenders with ever-mounting court fines.
“Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you're too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don't appear in court, by warrant fees,” Stillman wrote in the aftermath of Ferguson. “What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.”
In Montgomery, Alabama, a nonprofit legal group called Equal Justice Under Law settled a case challenging the city's practice of allowing those paying fines to “work” them off with jail time instead — $50 a day, plus another $25 daily if they agreed to perform janitorial services.
The group, along with ArchCity Defenders and the St. Louis University School of Law, sued Ferguson and a nearby municipality over their practices. The Justice report said Ferguson's ”prolonged detentions for those who cannot afford bond ... raise considerable due process and equal protection concerns. '
Last month, it took the unusual step of filing a “statement of interest” in another lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law against Clanton, Alabama, which sets fixed bail amounts for those charged with offenses, regardless of ability to pay.
“The criminal justice system should not work differently for the indigent and the wealthy,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.
Except it does-and not only in Ferguson.
From the FBI
The Cyber Action Team -- Rapidly Responding to Major Computer Intrusions
It can be a company's worst nightmare—the discovery that hackers have infiltrated their computer networks and made off with trade secrets, customers' personal information, and other critical data.
When such intrusions happen—and unfortunately, they occur frequently—the FBI can respond with a range of investigative assets, including the little-known Cyber Action Team (CAT). This rapid deployment group of cyber experts can be on the scene just about anywhere in the world within 48 hours, providing investigative support and helping to answer critical questions that can quickly move a case forward.
“Our goal is to provide information that can be actioned immediately,” said Special Agent Chris Lamb, a CAT member since 2007. “A lot of the evidence in a cyber intrusion may only be there for a little while,” he said. “The trail can get cold pretty quickly.”
Established by the FBI's Cyber Division in 2006 to provide rapid incident response on major computer intrusions and cyber-related emergencies, the team has approximately 50 members located in field offices around the country. They are either special agents or computer scientists, and all possess advanced training in computer languages, forensic investigations, and malware analysis.
“I call it speaking geek,” said Lamb, describing the skills CAT members must possess and maintain to be on the team. “You could compare it to an English speaker trying to learn Mandarin Chinese. You have to spend years immersing yourself in the language to become fluent. And then you have to keep practicing. But unlike Mandarin, which basically stays the same, the challenge for us is that the language of cyber is constantly changing.”
Since the Cyber Action Team's inception, the FBI has investigated hundreds of cyber crimes. More than 50 of those cases were deemed of such significance that the rapid response and specialized skills of the Cyber Action Team were required. Some of those cases affected U.S. interests abroad, and the team deployed overseas, working through our legal attaché offices and with our international partners.
“Our job is to very quickly understand what the bad guy did and why,” said Lamb, who works out of our Kansas City Division. “We make an initial assessment to determine what we know and what we don't know. Based on that assessment, we then call in other experts to fill whatever gaps we need to have filled.”
“Using cutting-edge tools, we look for a hacker's signature,” he explained. In the cyber world, such signatures are called TTPs—tools, techniques, and procedures. The TTPs usually point to a specific group or person. The hackers may represent a criminal enterprise looking for financial gain or state-sponsored entities seeking a strategic advantage over the U.S.
Either way, victim companies are often surprised by how much of their networks have been compromised—and for how long. Some intrusions are not discovered until months or even years after the fact.
Hackers have become so sophisticated that they can overcome even the best network security measures, he noted. “We tell victims that it sometimes doesn't matter how good your security is, the bad guys can still get in.”
Obama: Ferguson police ‘clearly a broken and racially biased system'
by Katie Zezima
COLUMBIA, S.C. — President Barack Obama said Friday that the Ferguson, Mo., police department engaged in a systemic pattern of racial discrimination, and that it can change or risk a lawsuit from the Department of Justice.
Mr. Obama, making his most extensive comments about a Justice Department report showing that the police department in Ferguson showed a pattern of racial bias and constitutional violations, said the department was “systemically biased” against African-American residents who were “stopped, harassed, mistreated, abused,” and bore the brunt of a city that attempted to use the criminal justice system as a way to make money.
The department is “clearly a broken and racially biased system,” Mr. Obama said a college campus in Columbia. “It was an oppressive and abusive situation.”
The president's visit to South Caroloina came the day before his historic trip to Selma, Ala., to mark the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when peaceful civil rights protesters attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery were stopped by police, brutally beaten, poked with cattle prods and shrouded in tear gas.
Some of the Ferguson incidents the Justice Department report cited include police using racial slurs, pervasive use of stun guns and flouting the constitutional rights of citizens. The department review made public a trove of racially and religiously insensitive emails, some of which cited Mr. Obama.
“What happened in Ferguson is not a complete aberration. It's not just a one-time thing. It's something that happens,” Mr. Obama said. People were outraged not only by a police officer's fatal shooting in August of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, he said, but because they had been putting up with these issues for years, and their complaints weren't believed. “We weren't just making this up,” he said.
Ferguson officials will likely have to enter into an agreement or negotiate a settlement with the Department of Justice to change their police and governmental practices; if they do not, the government can bring a civil rights lawsuit against the city on behalf of its citizens.
Mr. Obama said he stands “completely behind” the decision by Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in the audience in Columbia, not to charge former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Mr. Brown. “That was an objective, independent, thorough investigation,” the president said, when asked at a town hall event at Columbia's historically black Benedict College why Mr. Holder did not charge the officer.
Speaking to reporters after getting off Air Force One, Mr. Holder said the Department of Justice is “prepared to use all of the power that we have” to change the department. When asked if that could include dismantling the entire Ferguson police department, he said, “If that's what's necessary, we're prepared to do that.”
Mr. Holder said he was “shocked” by the practices that were uncovered toward the end of the investigation. “The notion that you would use a law enforcement agency, or law enforcement generally, to generate revenue — and then the callous way in which that was done and the impact that it had on the lives of the ordinary citizens of that municipality — was just appalling. Appalling,” he repeated. “And that is not something that we're going to tolerate.”
Mr. Holder said he believes that what happened in Ferguson was an “anomaly,” but he hopes that other departments “understand the intensity with which the feelings are felt at the federal government level to ensure that we use all the tools that we can to make sure that what happened in Ferguson is uncovered and simply does not happen in any other part of the country.”
At the White House last week, the president referenced the historic civil rights events that will draw him and many other officials to Alabama for this weekend's remembrance. “What happened in Selma was a quintessentially American experience,” he said.
On Friday, the president told the Benedict College crowd of 1,166 young people that he will discuss the “meaning of Selma for your generation,” in a speech that he has not yet finished. “It was young people who stubbornly insisted on justice, stubbornly refused to accept the world as it is and transformed not just the country, but transformed the world,” he said.
Mr. Obama said people must also come together now, and not get caught up in concerns that the system is rigged or that people's attitudes won't change. “That's not what the folks in Selma did; they had the confidence to change things,” he said.
At least 95 members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez, will be on hand for the Selma anniversary event. Mr. Obama will make the trip with first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters.
Mr. Obama said Friday that the struggle for civil rights is not over. “Part of what I want Malia and Sasha to understand is that this an unfinished project,” he said on the Tom Joyner radio show earlier Friday. “There is work to be done right now. .... It is a glorious task we are given to continually try to improve this country of ours. And we shouldn't shy away from that work, and we shouldn't be complacent about it.”
Ohio terrorism suspect wanted to shoot Obama in head
by Fox News
A man accused of plotting an attack at the U.S. Capitol said in an interview with an Ohio television station if he hadn't been arrested he would have gone to Washington and shot President Obama in the head.
Christopher Lee Cornell called into WXIX-TV in Cincinnati from a Kentucky jail and confessed to being a supporter of the Islamic State terror group and said he planned to kill government officials in retaliation for U.S. strikes on ISIS.
The station aired part of the interview Friday night, hours after Cornell's attorney argued unsuccessfully in court that it could violate the defendant's right to a fair trial.
Cornell, asked by the interviewer what he would have done had he not been arrested in January, said he would have taken one of his guns, "I would have put it to Obama's head, I would have pulled the trigger, then I would unleash more bullets on the Senate and House of Representative members, and I would have attacked the Israeli embassy and various other buildings."
Corner repeatedly identified himself as a Muslim in the interview. He said he wanted to carry out the attacks because of "the continued American aggression against our people and the fact that America, specifically President Obama, wants to wage war against Islamic State."
"They might say I'm a terrorist, but you know we see American troops as terrorists as well, coming to our land, stealing our resources and killing our people, raping our women."
Cornell said that supporters of the group are in Ohio and are in every state.
“We're more organized than you think,” he said.
A federal indictment charges Cornell with attempted murder of government employees and officials and solicitation to commit a crime of violence. Both charges carry possible sentences up to 20 years upon conviction.
Cornell was arrested outside a gun shop near his home on Jan. 14 after the FBI said he bought two M-15 assault weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition. The FBI said in court documents that Cornell planned to "wage jihad" by attacking the Capitol with pipe bombs and shooting government officials and employees.
Cornell was coerced and misled by "a snitch" trying to better his own legal situation, his father said.
Nation's mayors advise Pres. Obama's taskforce on community policing
Washington, D.C. -- Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson testified recently before the seventh listening session of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing in Washington, D.C. on a panel focused on Labor and Management Relations.
Freeman-Wilson, who chairs a U.S. Conference of Mayors' Working Group of Mayors and Police Chiefs, also officially submitted a copy of the Mayors' recommendations on improving community policing titled Strengthening Policing-Community Relations in America's Cities.
Last month, the USCM Working Group unveiled its recommendations following a four-month review of policing policies and best practices nationwide, during a community policing session at the Conference's 83rd Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. That session, which can be viewed at www.usmayors.org, included Director of White House Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry E. Abramson; President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing Co-Chairs Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University Professor Laurie Robinson; and Task Force Executive Director and U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Office Director Ronald L. Davis, and was moderated by USCM President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.
The full report is available at www.usmayors.org/83rdWinterMeeting/media/012215-report-policing.pdf, and the recommendations are grouped into the following topic areas of focus:
1. Building police-community trust;
2. Improving police department practices;
3. Assuring timely and accurate communications;
4. Conducting independent investigations;
5. Addressing racial and economic disparities;
6. Providing national leadership
“We believe that improving police/community relations is not solely a law enforcement responsibility. The entire community – business, the not-for-profit community, civic and social organizations, the faith community, police, and government at all levels – must be involved to assure not just public safety, but justice and, equally important, a sense of justice in the community,” said Mayor Freeman-Wilson during her testimony (full text at www.usmayors.org ).
“We need to look at policing from various perspectives as we work to create a climate that allows the police to do their jobs.... As mayors, we have to embrace this opportunity to create a dialogue that will serve our cities for generations to come – a dialogue about race-relations and poverty, and about how we in government will engage the community every day of the year – including those days when the police must be involved.”
The Conference's Mayors and Police Chiefs Working Group was formed by USCM President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson following the tragedy in Ferguson and an October meeting in Little Rock, AR where nearly 100 mayors and police chiefs met to discuss different community-policing strategies, lessons to be learned from the situation in Ferguson and ways to build trust between law enforcement and city officials. The group was charged with developing a series of recommendations to improve policing in America.
Mayor Johnson, who participated in the first public listening session of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, said, “Mayors stand at the crossroads of their communities. We are the leaders best positioned to bridge the gaps in trust and understanding our residents, all of whom want what is best for our cities.”
Understanding Islam Is Essential to Community Policing
by Vincent J. Bove
All who adhere to the great religions of the world understand that faith, hope, and charity are sacrosanct.
Human beings experience these virtues throughout their lifetimes as well as pain, trials, and anguish.
For those who believe, faith allows individuals, families, society, and the international community to blossom despite life's challenges.
Faith gives people answers to the meaning of life. It provides a guide to conscience and our actions, demanding that respect, goodness, and tolerance are expressed for every member of the human family.
The true hallmark of any person who proclaims a life of faith is manifested through honoring the dignity of every human person.
Moral Code: The Heart of Humanity
In the life of faith, a moral code is exemplified by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This moral foundation is essential for not only believers but for every human person. It urges respect for humanity and especially compassion for all wounded by the trials of life.
The golden rule requires acts of charity by every person including
• Feeding the hungry
• Giving drink to the thirsty
• Clothing the naked
• Sheltering the homeless
• Visiting the sick
• Burying the dead
• Visiting the imprisoned
A Call for Dialogue
There are destructive tensions throughout the world. Dialogue must remain an antidote to the venom of war, conflict, violence, ignorance, and misunderstandings.
For those who represent the great faiths of the world, especially Christians, Muslims, and Jews, dialogue is expressed through respect, dignity, and charity. Dialogue has the power to build harmony for faith-based communities—as well as for nonbelievers—fostering social justice, moral values, freedom and liberty.
America is a land filled with churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples with the responsibility to intensify dialogue through faith-based communities. Our bill of rights proclaims that freedom of religion is sacrosanct. Therefore, we have the moral foundation to cultivate human rights, religious freedom, and peaceful coexistence.
Our nation must be the catalyst for resolving misunderstandings between nations and faiths that include intolerance, racism, injustices, ignorance, wars, and violence.
Community Policing, Cultivating Dialogue
Law enforcement and communities throughout the United States have recently experienced controversies crystallizing the importance of community policing.
The community policing philosophy is misunderstood if only perceived as a crime prevention mechanism. It also has the capacity and responsibility to build cohesiveness not only with race relations but also with all faith-based communities.
During my community policing initiatives over the last 20 years, I have experienced outstanding dynamics between law enforcement and faith-based communities. These were witnessed not only through invocations and benedictions at law enforcement events by leaders from every faith but also through ironclad partnerships.
One example that comes to mind is an event coordinated by the North Jersey Regional Crime Prevention Officers Association and hosted by Fairleigh Dickinson University.
It featured Sohail Mohammed, a dedicated Muslim and respected attorney who delivered an insightful presentation to law enforcement and community leaders titled “Understanding Islam and the Muslims.”
Sohail Mohammed demonstrated how the Muslim communities throughout New Jersey forged strong ties to police, the FBI, government officials, and religious leaders from other faiths. I attended another event, as a guest of the FBI that exemplified this collaboration.
Sohail's presentation included practical demonstrations of Muslim customs-enhanced law enforcement/community bridges by understanding the pillars of Islam. These pillars—faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage—complement the teachings of every faith-based community. The speaker enlightened attendees with information on the Prophet Muhammad, the Holy Quran, sayings of the prophet, and Ramadan.
Forged partnerships with the entire community, based on America's sacred principle of freedom of religion, is the strength of our country and hope for the future.
The ideals of community policing are critical to reawakening the nation by igniting dialogue, enhancing respect, and cultivating partnerships with law enforcement agencies and communities throughout America.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. He is recipient of the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information see vincentbove.com.
Key findings in the DOJ report on Darren Wilson
Report says there were no credible witnesses who incriminated Wilson and whose accounts were consistent with prior statements
by Holbrook Mohr and David A. Lieb
WASHINGTON — A federal investigation that cleared a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer for killing Michael Brown concluded that the physical evidence and credible witnesses all bolster the officer's account that he feared for his life when he fatally shot the black 18-year-old.
The Department of Justice released an 86-page report Wednesday summarizing its reasons for not charging former officer Darren Wilson, who is white, with a federal civil-rights violation for the Aug. 9 shooting that sparked protests in the St. Louis area and across the nation.
"Multiple credible witnesses corroborate virtually every material aspect of Wilson's account and are consistent with the physical evidence," the report said.
It added: "Based on this investigation, the Department has concluded that Darren Wilson's actions do not constitute prosecutable violations."
That mirrors the determination of a St. Louis County grand jury, which decided in November not to bring state criminal charges against Wilson. Here's a look at some of the key findings in the federal report:
Wilson first encountered Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, walking in the middle of a Ferguson street, just minutes after a report of a robbery at a nearby convenience store. According to Wilson's testimony, after he told the two to move out of the street, he realized they matched the description of the robbery suspects. The Justice Department report says that police dispatch recordings and Wilson's radio transmissions show that he was aware of the theft and had a description of the suspects as he encountered Brown, who was carrying stolen cigarillos.
After the initial encounter, Wilson backed up his police vehicle and confronted Brown. A struggle ensued. The Justice Department report says that Wilson and other witnesses stated that Brown reached into the police SUV through an open window "and punched and grabbed Wilson." The report says that is "corroborated by bruising on Wilson's jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown's DNA on Wilson's collar, shirt and pants, and Wilson's DNA on Brown's palm."
Grabbing For Gun
Wilson testified that Brown reached for his gun during the struggle in his vehicle. The report says Wilson fired two shots from the vehicle. Brown was shot in his hand. It says autopsy results and the trajectory of the bullets back Wilson's account. The report says skin from Brown's palm was found on the outside of the police SUV door, and Brown's DNA was also found on the inside of the driver's door. That would "corroborate Wilson's account that during the struggle, Brown used his right hand to grab and attempt to control Wilson's gun," the report says. It adds: "The evidence establishes that the shots fired by Wilson while he was seated in his SUV were in self-defense."
After the initial shots, Brown ran away from Wilson's vehicle. The Justice Department report says Brown was not shot in the back, because there were no entrance wounds there. At some point, Brown stopped and turned around. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up in a sign of surrender— an assertion that became popular among protesters. The federal report notes that there are varying accounts of what Brown was doing with his hands. But the report concludes: "There are no credible witness accounts that state that Brown was clearly attempting to surrender when Wilson shot him."
Wilson testified that after Brown stopped running, he turned around and began charging back toward the officer. Wilson said he feared for his life as he then fatally shot Brown. The federal report says all the credible witness accounts "establish that Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson shot him." The report says the physical evidence — namely, blood stains on the road — also confirms Brown moved toward Wilson. It adds: "The evidence establishes that the shots fired by Wilson after Brown turned around were in self-defense."
Protesters upset about Brown's shooting have emphasized that he did not have a gun. But the Justice Department says that alone is not a reason to charge Wilson. The report notes the struggle at the vehicle and Brown's subsequent movement back toward Wilson. "Although, with hindsight, we know that Brown was not armed with a gun or other weapon, this fact does not render Wilson's use of deadly force objectively unreasonable," the report says. "Sufficient credible evidence supports Wilson's claim that he reasonably perceived Brown to be posing a deadly threat."
The report describes eight witnesses who it says gave credible accounts corroborating Wilson's assertion that he acted in self-defense. By contrast, the report says there were no credible witnesses who incriminated Wilson and whose accounts were consistent with prior statements, physical evidence and other witnesses. It says portions of Johnson's testimony about his friend's shooting were inconsistent with prior statements and physical and forensic evidence.
The Justice Department says some witnesses were reluctant to come forward because of their personal safety. One woman finally agreed to meet investigators in a library parking lot. Another man refused to comply with a grand jury subpoena or give a formal statement, citing a fear of reprisal should the neighborhood learn that his testimony corroborated Wilson's account instead of the "hands up" narrative. Yet another woman blocked her door with a couch in an attempt to avoid being served with a grand jury subpoena.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Holder Delivers Update on Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri
I would like to take the next few moments to address the two investigations that the Justice Department has been conducting in Ferguson, Missouri, these last several months. The matter that we are here to discuss is significant not only because of the conclusions the Department of Justice is announcing today, but also because of the broader conversations and the initiatives that those conversations have inspired across the country on the local and national level. Those initiatives have included extensive and vital efforts to examine the causes of misunderstanding and mistrust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve; to support and strengthen our public safety institutions as a whole; and to rebuild confidence wherever it has eroded.
Nearly seven months have passed since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That tragic incident provoked widespread demonstrations and stirred strong emotions from those in the Ferguson area and around our nation. It also prompted a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Missouri and the FBI seeking to determine whether this shooting violated federal civil rights law.
The promise I made when I went to Ferguson and at the time that we launched our investigation was not that we would arrive at a particular outcome, but rather that we would pursue the facts, wherever they led. Our investigation has been both fair and rigorous from the start. It has proceeded independently of the local investigation that concluded in November. And it has been thorough: as part of a wide-ranging examination of the evidence, federal investigators interviewed and re-interviewed eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information and independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.
This morning, the Justice Department announced the conclusion of our investigation and released a comprehensive, 87-page report documenting our findings and conclusions that the facts do not support the filing of criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson in this case. Michael Brown's death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.
This conclusion represents the sound, considered, and independent judgment of the expert career prosecutors within the Department of Justice. I have been personally briefed on multiple occasions about these findings. I concur with the investigative team's judgment and the determination about our inability to meet the required federal standard.
This outcome is supported by the facts we have found – but I also know these findings may not be consistent with some people's expectations. To all those who have closely followed this case, and who have engaged in the important national dialogue it has inspired, I urge you to read this report in full.
I recognize that the findings in our report may leave some to wonder how the department's findings can differ so sharply from some of the initial, widely reported accounts of what transpired. I want to emphasize that the strength and integrity of America's justice system has always rested on its ability to deliver impartial results in precisely these types of difficult circumstances – adhering strictly to the facts and the law, regardless of assumptions. Yet it remains not only valid – but essential – to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily.
A possible explanation for this discrepancy was uncovered during the course of our second federal investigation, conducted by the Civil Rights Division to determine whether Ferguson Police officials have engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of violations of the U.S. Constitution or federal law.
As detailed in our searing report – also released by the Justice Department today – this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized; a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents.
A community where local authorities consistently approached law enforcement not as a means for protecting public safety, but as a way to generate revenue. A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents. A community where this harm frequently appears to stem, at least in part, from racial bias – both implicit and explicit. And a community where all of these conditions, unlawful practices, and constitutional violations have not only severely undermined the public trust, eroded police legitimacy, and made local residents less safe – but created an intensely charged atmosphere where people feel under assault and under siege by those charged to serve and protect them.
Of course, violence is never justified. But seen in this context – amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices – it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg. In a sense, members of the community may not have been responding only to a single isolated confrontation, but also to a pervasive, corrosive, and deeply unfortunate lack of trust – attributable to numerous constitutional violations by their law enforcement officials including First Amendment abuses, unreasonable searches and seizures, and excessive and dangerous use of force; exacerbated by severely disproportionate use of these tactics against African Americans; and driven by overriding pressure from the city to use law enforcement not as a public service, but as a tool for raising revenue.
According to our investigation, this emphasis on revenue generation through policing has fostered unconstitutional practices – or practices that contribute to constitutional violations – at nearly every level of Ferguson's law enforcement system. Ferguson police officers issued nearly 50 percent more citations in the last year than they did in 2010 – an increase that has not been driven, or even accompanied, by a rise in crime.
As a result of this excessive reliance on ticketing, today, the city generates a significant amount of revenue from the enforcement of code provisions. Along with taxes and other revenue streams, in 2010, the city collected over $1.3 million in fines and fees collected by the court. For fiscal year 2015, Ferguson's city budget anticipates fine revenues to exceed $3 million – more than double the total from just five years prior. Our review of the evidence, and our conversations with police officers, have shown that significant pressure is brought to bear on law enforcement personnel to deliver on these revenue increases. Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue – starting with fines and fine enforcement – the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining and promoting public safety. And a wide variety of tactics, including disciplinary measures, are used to ensure certain levels of ticketing by individual officers, regardless of public safety needs.
As a result, it has become commonplace in Ferguson for officers to charge multiple violations for the same conduct. Three or four charges for a single stop is considered fairly routine. Some officers even compete to see who can issue the largest number of citations during a single stop – a total that, in at least one instance, rose as high as 14 . And we've observed that even minor code violations can sometimes result in multiple arrests, jail time and payments that exceed the cost of the original ticket many times over.
For example, in 2007, one woman received two parking tickets that – together – totaled $152. To date, she has paid $550 in fines and fees to the city of Ferguson. She's been arrested twice for having unpaid tickets, and spent six days in jail. Yet she still – inexplicably – owes Ferguson $541. And her story is only one of dozens of similar accounts that our investigation uncovered.
Over time, it's clear that this culture of enforcement actions being disconnected from the public safety needs of the community – and often to the detriment of community residents – has given rise to a disturbing and unconstitutional pattern or practice. Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them. According to the Police Department's own records , its officers frequently infringe on residents' First Amendment rights. They interfere with the right to record police activities. And they make enforcement decisions based on the way individuals express themselves.
Many of these constitutional violations have become routine. For instance, even though it's illegal for police officers to detain a person – even briefly – without reasonable suspicion, it's become common practice for officers in Ferguson to stop pedestrians and request identification for no reason at all. And even in cases where police encounters start off as constitutionally defensible, we found that they frequently and rapidly escalate – and end up blatantly and unnecessarily crossing the line.
During the summer of 2012, one Ferguson police officer detained a 32-year-old African American man who had just finished playing basketball at a park. The officer approached while the man was sitting in his car and resting. The car's windows appeared to be more heavily tinted than Ferguson's code allowed, so the officer did have legitimate grounds to question him. But, with no apparent justification, the officer proceeded to accuse the man of being a pedophile. He prohibited the man from using his cell phone and ordered him out of his car for a pat-down search, even though he had no reason to suspect that the man was armed. And when the man objected – citing his constitutional rights – the police officer drew his service weapon, pointed it at the man's head, and arrested him on eight different counts. The arrest caused the man to lose his job.
Unfortunately, this event appears to have been anything but an isolated incident. Our investigation showed that members of Ferguson's police force frequently escalate, rather than defuse, tensions with the residents they encounter. And such actions are sometimes accompanied by First Amendment violations – including arresting people for talking back to officers, recording their public activities, or engaging in other conduct that is constitutionally protected.
This behavior not only exacerbates tensions in its own right; it has the effect of stifling community confidence that's absolutely vital for effective policing. And this, in turn, deepens the widespread distrust provoked by the department's other unconstitutional exercises of police power – none of which is more harmful than its pattern of excessive force.
Among the incidents of excessive force discovered by our comprehensive review, some resulted from stops or arrests that had no legal basis to begin with. Others were punitive or retaliatory in nature. The police department's routine use of Tasers was found to be not merely unconstitutional, but abusive and dangerous. Records showed a disturbing history of using unnecessary force against people with mental illness. And our findings indicated that the overwhelming majority of force – almost 90 percent – is directed against African Americans.
This deeply alarming statistic points to one of the most pernicious aspects of the conduct our investigation uncovered: that these policing practices disproportionately harm African American residents. In fact, our review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias.
Between October 2012 and October 2014, despite making up only 67 percent of the population, African Americans accounted for a little over 85 percent of all traffic stops by the Ferguson Police Department. African Americans were twice as likely as white residents to be searched during a routine traffic stop, even though they were 26 percent less likely to carry contraband. Between October 2012 and July 2014, 35 black individuals – and zero white individuals – received five or more citations at the same time. During the same period, African Americans accounted for fully 85 percent of the total charges brought by the Ferguson Police Department. African Americans made up over 90 percent of those charged with a highly-discretionary offense described as “Manner of Walking Along Roadway.” And the use of dogs by Ferguson police appears to have been exclusively reserved for African Americans; in every case in which Ferguson police records recorded the race of a person bit by a police dog, that person was African American.
The evidence of racial bias comes not only from statistics, but also from remarks made by police, city and court officials. A thorough examination of the records – including a large volume of work emails – shows a number of public servants expressing racist comments or gender discrimination; demonstrating grotesque views and images of African Americans in which they were seen as the “other,” called “transient” by public officials, and characterized as lacking personal responsibility.
I want to emphasize that all of these examples, statistics and conclusions are drawn directly from the exhaustive Findings Report that the Department of Justice has released. Clearly, these findings – and others included in the report – demonstrate that, although some community perceptions of Michael Brown's tragic death may not have been accurate, the widespread conditions that these perceptions were based upon, and the climate that gave rise to them, were all too real.
This is a reality that our investigators repeatedly encountered in their interviews of police and city officials, their conversations with local residents, and their review of thousands of pages of records and documents. This evidence pointed to an unfortunate and unsustainable situation that has not only severely damaged relationships between law enforcement and members of the community, but made professional policing vastly more difficult – and unnecessarily placed officers at increased risk. And today – now that our investigation has reached its conclusion – it is time for Ferguson's leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action. Let me be clear: the United States Department of Justice reserves all its rights and abilities to force compliance and implement basic change.
The report from the Justice Department presents two sets of immediate recommendations – for the Ferguson Police Department and the Municipal Court. These recommendations include the implementation of a robust system of true community policing; increased tracking, review and analysis of Ferguson Police Department stop, search, ticketing and arrest practices; increased civilian involvement in police decision-making; and the development of mechanisms to effectively respond to allegations of officer misconduct. They also involve changes to the municipal court system including modifications to bond amounts and detention procedures; an end to the use of arrest warrants as a means of collecting owed fines and fees; and compliance with due process requirements. Ensuring meaningful, sustainable and verifiable reform will require that these and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight in order to remedy the conduct we have identified, to address the underlying culture we have uncovered, and to restore and rebuild the trust that has been so badly eroded.
As the brother of a retired police officer, I know that the overwhelming majority of America's brave men and women in law enforcement do their jobs honorably, with integrity, and often at great personal risk. I have immense regard for the vital role that they play in all of America's communities – and the sacrifices that they and their families are too often called to make on behalf of their country. It is in great part for their sake – and for their safety – that we must seek to rebuild trust and foster mutual understanding in Ferguson and in all communities where suspicion has been allowed to fester. Negative practices by individual law enforcement officers and individual departments present a significant danger not only to their communities, but also to committed and hard-working public safety officials around the country who perform incredibly challenging jobs with unwavering professionalism and uncommon valor. Clearly, we owe it to these brave men and women to ensure that all law enforcement officials have the tools, training and support they need to do their jobs with maximum safety and effectiveness.
Over the last few months, these goals have driven President Obama and me to announce a series of Administration proposals that will enable us to help heal mistrust wherever it is 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, federal support to law enforcement at every level, on a scale not seen since the Johnson Administration. These aims have also led me to travel throughout the country – to Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and San Francisco – to convene a series of roundtable discussions dedicated to building trust and engagement between law enforcement, civil rights, youth and community leaders from coast to coast.
As these discussions have unfolded, I have repeatedly seen that – although the concerns we are focused on today may be particularly acute in Ferguson – they are not confined to any one city, state, or geographic region. They implicate questions about fairness and trust that are national in scope. And they point not to insurmountable divides between people of different perspectives, but to the shared values – and the common desire for peace, for security, and for public safety – that binds together police as well as protestors.
Although dialogue, by itself, will not be sufficient to address these issues – because concrete action is needed – initiating a broad, frank, and inclusive conversation is a necessary and productive first step. In all of the Civil Rights Division's activities in Ferguson – as in every pattern-or-practice investigation the Division has launched over the last six years – our aim is to help facilitate and inform this conversation; to make certain it leads to concrete action; and to ensure that law enforcement officers in every part of the United States live up to the same high standards of professionalism. It is clear from our work throughout the country—particularly the work of our Civil Rights Division—that the prospect of police accountability and criminal justice reform is an achievable goal; one that we can reach with law enforcement and community members at the table as full partners.
Last August, when I visited Ferguson to meet with concerned citizens and community leaders, I made a solemn commitment: that the United States Department of Justice would continue to stand with the people there long after the national headlines had faded. This week, with the conclusion of our investigations into these matters, I again commit to the people of Ferguson that we will continue to stand with you and to work with you to ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented. And even as we issue our findings in today's report, our work will go on.
It will go on as we engage with the city of Ferguson – and surrounding municipalities – to reform their law enforcement practices and establish a public safety effort that protects and serves all members of the community. It will go on as we broaden this work, and extend the assistance of the Justice Department to other communities around the country. And it will go on as we join together with all Americans to ensure that public safety is not a burden undertaken by the brave few, but a positive collaboration between everyone in this nation. The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding. And in the days ahead, the Department of Justice will stay true to my promise, vigilant in its execution, and determined in the pursuit of justice—in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community across the United States.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Finds a Pattern of Civil Rights Violations by the Ferguson Police Department
The Justice Department announced the findings of its two civil rights investigations related to Ferguson, Missouri, today. The Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14 th Amendments of the Constitution. The Justice Department also announced that the evidence examined in its independent, federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown does not support federal civil rights charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
“As detailed in our report, this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them. Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson's leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action. The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource-intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding.”
“While the findings in Ferguson are very serious and the list of needed changes is long, the record of the Civil Rights Division's work with police departments across the country shows that if the Ferguson Police Department truly commits to community policing, it can restore the trust it has lost,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “We look forward to working with City Officials and the many communities that make up Ferguson to develop and institute reforms that will focus the Ferguson Police Department on public safety and constitutional policing instead of revenue. Real community policing is possible and ensures that all people are equal before the law, and that law enforcement is seen as a part of, rather than distant from, the communities they serve.”
Attorney General Holder first announced the comprehensive pattern or practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department after visiting that community in August 2014, and hearing directly from residents about police practices and the lack of trust between FPD and those they are sworn to protect. The investigation focused on the FPD's use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; and treatment of detainees inside Ferguson's city jail by Ferguson police officers.
In the course of its pattern or practice investigation, the Civil Rights Division reviewed more than 35,000 pages of police records; interviewed and met with city, police and court officials, including the FPD's chief and numerous other officers; conducted hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews, as well as participated in meetings with community members and groups; observed Ferguson Municipal Court sessions, and; analyzed FPD's data on stops, searches and arrests. It found that the combination of Ferguson's focus on generating revenue over public safety, along with racial bias, has a profound effect on the FPD's police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal law. The department also found that these patterns created a lack of trust between the FPD and significant portions of Ferguson's residents, especially African Americans.
The department found that the FPD has a pattern or practice of:
Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The department found that Ferguson Municipal Court has a pattern or practice of:
Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14 th Amendment's due process and equal protection requirements.
Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson's unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson's most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty.Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver's license, employment, or housing.
The department found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court:
The harms of Ferguson's police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans and that this disproportionate impact is avoidable.
Ferguson's harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.
The findings are laid out in a 100-page report that discusses the evidence and what remedies should be implemented to end the pattern or practice. The findings include two sets of recommendations, 26 in total, that the Justice Department believes are necessary to correct the unconstitutional FPD and Ferguson Municipal Court practices. The recommendations include: changing policing and court practices so that they are based on public safety instead of revenue; improving training and oversight; changing practices to reduce bias, and; ending an overreliance on arrest warrants as a means of collecting fines.
The Justice Department will require that the recommendations and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight. The Justice Department has provided its investigative report to the FPD and in the coming weeks, the Civil Rights Division will seek to work with the City of Ferguson and the Ferguson community to develop and reach an agreement for reform, using the recommendations in the report as the starting point.
The federal criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sought to determine whether the evidence from the events that led to Brown's death was sufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Wilson's actions violated federal civil rights laws that make it a federal crime for someone acting with law enforcement authority to willfully violate a person's civil rights. As part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed physical, ballistic, forensic, and crime scene evidence; medical reports and autopsy reports, including an independent autopsy performed by the U.S. Department of Defense Armed Forces Medical Examiner Service; Wilson's personnel records; audio and video recordings; internet postings, and; the transcripts from the proceedings before the St. Louis County grand jury. Federal investigators interviewed purported eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information. Federal prosecutors and agents re-interviewed dozens of witnesses to evaluate their accounts and obtain more detailed information. FBI agents independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.
The standard of proof is the same for all criminal cases: that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, unlike state laws, federal criminal civil rights statutes do not have the equivalent of manslaughter or a statute that makes negligence a crime. Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so. After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute. The family of Michael Brown was notified earlier today of the department's findings.
Due to the high interest in this case, the department took the rare step of publicly releasing the closing memo in the case. The report details, in over 80 pages, the evidence, including evidence from witnesses, the autopsies and physical evidence from the analysis of the DNA, blood, shooting scene and ballistics. The report also explains the law as developed by the federal courts and applies that law to the evidence.
Grassley OJJDP Probe Widens, Implicating 6 States, 2 Territories
by Gary Gately
WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, has widened his inquiry into whistleblowers' claims of fraud and mismanagement in the awarding of grants from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).
The federal juvenile justice grants went to states and territories that allegedly incarcerated foster children, runaway youth and other vulnerable juveniles in violation of federal law.
In addition to the states and territories named in the inquiry so far, Grassley's office said in a news release, “The alleged mismanagement may extend to many more states and could date as far back as 1986.”
“Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention grants were designed to protect at-risk youth,” said Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in the news release.
“Any failure to administer this program is a failure to those that it was intended to serve. Unfortunately, the alarmingly high prevalence of alleged failures and the department's own responses to those allegations suggest systemic mismanagement that must be corrected. These kids and young adults deserve and depend on accountability from government.”
In a seven-page letter Friday to Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, Grassley outlined allegations by whistleblowers that oversight failures may have led to unlawful OJJDP grants to Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
In a January letter, Grassley demanded that Mason, who heads the Office of Justice Programs, respond to whistleblowers' claims that OJJDP had knowingly violated federal law by giving millions of dollars in grants to Wisconsin and four other states or territories that incarcerated runaway youth, foster children and other “vulnerable minors” in violation of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). The four were not named.
The law contains four “core requirements” states and territories must comply with to earn OJJDP grant money: deinstitutionalization of status offenders, those who commit acts that are offenses only because of their status as juveniles, such as skipping school; addressing disproportionate minority contact (DMC) with the juvenile justice system through detailed plans aimed at reducing it; removal of juveniles from adult jails within prescribed time limits; and separation of juveniles from adult inmates when the juveniles are in adult facilities.
The latest letter said whistleblowers also had alleged that two states, Illinois and Rhode Island, had improperly received full grant funding despite failing to comply with the DMC requirement.
Starr Stepp, a Justice Department spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Grassley plans to offer reforms to the OJJDP grant program in the JJDPA reauthorization bill in response to the whistleblowers' allegations, Tuesday's news release said .
Requirements and claims
Under the JJDPA, Grassley's letter noted, OJJDP is required to reduce a state's JJDPA grant funding for a given year by 20 percent for each core requirement violated in the previous fiscal year. The letter also pointed out a state is to receive no JJDPA funds for the year following a violation unless it meets one of two criteria, which include showing “subsequent, substantial compliance with the requirement(s) it was violating.”
An OJJDP employee, who had previously worked as the agency's JJDPA liaison for Virginia, admitted he knowingly submitted fraudulent data on behalf of the state in its annual applications for JJDPA grants, Grassley said. It “was widely believed among the states that OJJDP does not verify data reported by the states,” Grassley said in his letter.
A whistleblower had claimed that in 2005 Virginia reported to OJJDP it had only seven lock-ups in the entire state, when there may be 70 in Northern Virginia alone, the letter said. According to the OJJDP website, the state has received full JJDPA funding every year since 2006.
“Such reports seem to underscore whistleblowers' core allegation that OJJDP knowingly allows states to receive JJDPA funds to which they are not entitled, and that this lack of compliance monitoring is common knowledge among the states,” Grassley wrote in the latest letter.
The senator's letter also contained these allegations:
Tennessee violated the core requirement that forbids states to incarcerate status offenders after adjudication. In Knox County, Tenn., alone, status offenders have been incarcerated hundreds of times, according to a law school professor who operates a clinic that represents status offenders in Knox County courts. The professor wrote to OJJDP Administrator Robert L. Listenbee Jr. about these concerns on Nov. 6, 2013, but “OJJDP was unwilling to receive documentation of these alleged violations,” Grassley wrote.
Idaho reported in 2009 that none of its lockups held any juveniles, contradicting information from the Boise and Jerome police departments. An OJJDP compliance monitor also reported that not all 85 lockups could have reported data to the state on the number of juveniles held. A revised compliance monitoring report revealed violations of the core requirements on status offenders, removal of juveniles from adult facilities and separation of juveniles from adults when they are held in adult facilities. Nonetheless, Idaho has received full JJDPA grant funding every year since 2006, except for fiscal year 2012. That year, the state's funding was reduced by 20 percent for status offender violations.
A whistleblower alleged Illinois has not complied with the DMC requirement since 2008 even though it has received full JJDPA grant funding since 2006. The whistleblower found a “serious deficiency” in Illinois DMC programs and determined funding should be reduced as a result. The Office of General Counsel in DOJ's Office of Justice Programs agreed, but Listenbee overruled both determinations “without providing a legitimate justification,” Grassley wrote. The whistleblower also alleged Listenbee had recently instructed OJJDP staff to issue a “blanket pass for all states regarding the DMC requirement” by notifying them they will not be found out of compliance with the requirement. OJJDP said in an Oct. 28, 2014, letter that it had stopped finding DMC noncompliance in 2013 and would continue to do so until a new DMC compliance tool was developed, Grassley wrote.
In Rhode Island, whistleblowers alleged during one year that all the state had to do was arrange for a single meeting with a local NAACP chapter to demonstrate DMC compliance, Grassley wrote. His letter did not specify the year but said the single meeting “would seem to fall short of the statutory requirement that a state seeking to satisfy the DMC requirement must submit a detailed plan outlining programs, projects, and activities aimed at ‘reducing the disproportionate number of juvenile members of minority groups, who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.'”
Each year since 2006, Puerto Rico has not complied with core requirements on removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups and separation of juveniles from adult offenders in adult facilities. Puerto Rico's JJDPA funding had been reduced for these violations each year. But partial funding should have been allowed only if the territory had shown “subsequent, substantial compliance with the non-compliant requirements” or agreed to spend 50 percent of the partial funds to achieve compliance. “Whistleblowers allege that OJJDP employees who raised these issues internally were removed from duty or prompted to look the other way,” Grassley said in his letter. He noted Puerto Rico's funds had been frozen in 2013 but later unfrozen — a decision allegedly made in part to cover the salary of a JJDPA liaison in Puerto Rico who is married to an OJJDP employee.
Ferguson shows how a police force can turn into a plundering ‘collection agency'
by Terrence McCoy
Of all the harrowing stories buried inside the Justice Department's report on the Ferguson Police Department, one of the most illustrative begins with an illegally parked car. The year was 2007. And a Ferguson officer who noticed the illegally parked vehicle issued its driver, an African American woman, two citations and a ticket for $151.
To the driver, who had bounced in and out of homelessness, the fine was draconian. She couldn't pay it in full. So over the next seven years, the woman missed several deadlines and court dates. That tacked on more fees, more payment deadlines, more charges. She ultimately spent six days in jail. All because she didn't park her car correctly. As of December 2014, the woman had paid the city of Ferguson $550 resulting from a $151 ticket. And she still owes $541.
The Ferguson police and courts have come under broad criticism for discriminatory practices. Eighty-five percent of people subjected to vehicle stops are African American, according to the report. Ninety percent of people hit with citations are African American. Ninety-three percent of people arrested are African American. But despite the racial overtones, other mechanisms are in play that that go back centuries.
This, as the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in a tweet , is “plunder made legal. … Municipal employees in Ferguson report sound more like shareholders. Gangsters.” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called it a system “primed for maximizing revenue” — one that now basically serves as a “collection agency” instead of “a law enforcement entity focused primarily on maintaining public safety.”
“The new Department of Justice report depicts a system in Ferguson that is much closer to a racket aimed at squeezing revenue out of its population than a properly working democracy,” wrote George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell in the Monkey Cage blog, which runs in The Washington Post. Ferguson city employees, from the police chief to the finance director, collaborated to generate revenue through tickets and fees, according to the Justice Department. As described in the report, Farrell and others pointed out, Ferguson is reminiscent of medieval Europe, when gangster governments collected “tribute” and bamboozled the subject population at every turn.
Here's the Ferguson Police Chief Jackson writing to the city manager: “Municipal Court gross revenue for calendar year 2012 passed the $2,000,000 mark for the first time in history, reaching $2,066,050 (not including red light photo enforcement.)” The city manager was thrilled. “Awesome!” he wrote. “Thanks!”
And here's a police captain, in March of 2012, writing to the Ferguson city manager to boast of record collections to the tune of $235,000. “The [court clerk] girls have been swamped all day with a line of people paying off fines today,” he wrote the city official. “Since 9:30 this morning there hasn't been less than 5 people waiting in line and for the last three hours 10 to 15 people at all times.” The city manager was, again, overjoyed at the revenues bolstering city coffers, lauding the police and court staff for their “great work.”
The staff also patted themselves on the back for charging more for petty offenses than other municipalities. “Our investigation found instances in which the court charged $302 for a single Manner of Walking violation; $427 for a single Peace Disturbance violation; $531 for high Grass and Weeds; $777 for Resisting Arrest; and $792 for Failure to Obey, and $527 for Failure to Comply, which officers appear to use interchangeably,” the Justice Department found.
And when people couldn't pay, they were arrested. Around 21,000 people live in Ferguson. But in 2013, the city's municipal court issued a staggering 32,975 arrest warrants for minor offenses, according to Missouri state records. “Folks have the impression that this form of low-level harassment isn't about public safety,” Thomas Harvey of ArchCity Defenders, which explored the practices in a report last summer, told NPR. “It's about money.”
And it goes beyond Ferguson. “For months,” the St. Louis Post Dispatch said, "the municipal courts of St. Louis County have fended off accusations by activists and law professors that they are modern-day debtor's prisons.”
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III, responding to the report, said the city has already begun reviewing the way it imposes and collects fines, noting it had approved an ordinance capping the revenue it gets from court fines and fees at 15 percent, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The tacit agreement between a police force and citizenry is that fines and taxes, while onerous, pay for necessary protection. It's a process that often works well. But if it's abused, it can “qualify as our largest examples of organized crime,” wrote Columbia University's famed social scientist Charles Tilly, cited by Farrell. They take money and offer protection in an agreement that can work quite nicely, but frequently doesn't.
“The word ‘protection' sounds two contrasting tones,” Tilly wrote. “One is comforting, the other ominous. With one tone, ‘protection' calls up images of the shelter against danger provided by a powerful friend … With the other, it evokes the racket in which a local strong man forces merchants to pay tribute in order to avoid damage — damage the strong man himself threatens to deliver.”
Or in Ferguson's case, either you pay this ticket for having high grass, or you'll pay more money still and ultimately go to jail. Pay to protect yourself from the harm inflicted upon the woman who illegally parked her car.
“Consider the definition of a racketeer as someone who creates a threat and then charges for its reduction,” Tilly wrote, citing how European states first formed during the early 1600s. Venice, for example, was inhabited by both merchants working the ports and a government with questionable motives. “Governments' provision of protection, by this standard, often qualifies as racketeering,” he wrote.
The City of Ferguson works in a similar way. It strives to extract an ever-increasing amount of revenue from people who can't afford to give another dime. “City, police, and court officials for years have worked in concert to maximize revenue at every stage of the enforcement process, beginning with how fines and fine enforcement processes are established,” the Justice Department report said.
The amount of revenue siphoned through citations rose 56 percent between 2011 and 2014 — from $1.4 million to $2.3 million — which netted the city a tidy tribute. So when the chief of police reported that his team had “beat our next biggest month in the last four years” in revenue collection, the city manager had one reaction.
“Wonderful!” he said.
NYPD to test community policing program in Manhattan and Rockaway, putting cops on streets to get 'to know the life of a neighborhood up close'
by Erin Durkin
Cops will be assigned exclusively to small neighborhood sectors and get time off from responding to 911 calls in upper Manhattan and Rockaway precincts under a new community policing program being launched by the NYPD.
The department is looking to set aside a third of each cop's shift so that they won't have to respond to 911 calls – instead spending the time getting to know the neighborhood and its residents, NYPD brass said at a City Council hearing Tuesday.
“There is…a huge advantage in a police officer being assigned to the same geographic location every day and getting to know the life of a neighborhood up close,” said Deputy Commissioner Susan Herman, who holds a newly created position dedicated to “collaborative policing.”
The program, which will launch in the next one to two months, will be tested out in the 33rd and 34th precincts in upper Manhattan and the 100th and 101st in the Rockaways.
Each precinct will be divided into three or four neighborhood sectors. Patrol officers will be assigned to one of the neighborhoods and be expected to stay entirely in that area for their full tour of duty.
During the time they're taken away from responding to 911 calls, they'll attend community meetings, visit schools or follow up on previous incidents, Herman said.
She said that would help them identify public safety problems that need attention, like a school that needs more safety patrols or a closed community center that has left kids on the street getting into trouble.
“You can't get an understanding of those kind of local conditions unless you are off the 911 response for a certain period of time,” Herman said.
Each sector will also have “neighborhood coordination officers” who work entirely on community policing activities.
Officials said hope to expand the program to other parts of the city if it works well in the test areas. They say the try-out can be paid for within the current budget.
Council members generally welcomed the program, but questioned if it would be possible to launch with the NYPD's current headcount. The Council has been pushing to hire 1,000 new cops, which Mayor de Blasio has so far rejected.
“I believe this is a resource issue that we can help solve by putting in what the Council's been asking for, 1,000 more cops,” said Councilman Steve Matteo (R-Staten Island).
He also cautioned cops should not back away from the controversial strategy of enforcing against minor offenses.
“My concern is that we make sure…these new initiatives don't reduce Broken Windows and that paramount is public safety,” he said.
NYPD officials also said they're starting a number of other programs, including one called “Project Reset” that will send 16- and 17-year olds arrested for the first time for non-violent misdemeanors like graffiti or shoplifting to counseling instead of court. It was launched a few weeks ago in the 25th precinct in Manhattan and 73rd in Brooklyn.
Another effort will pair cops with social workers to find homeless people on the subway who have committed minor violations and offer them shelter instead of arrest.
And the city will open a new mental health center where cops can bring mentally ill people and substance abusers who have committed violation-level offenses for treatment instead of arresting them.
Residents question APD's community policing efforts
by Beth Walton
ASHEVILLE – Minister James Lee and residents of area public housing communities walked out of a Citizen's Police Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday evening, saying their opinions weren't being listened to and they weren't being treated with respect.
Lee, of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, has been pushing for improved relations between minority communities and police for months. He and about eight others went to the meeting to talk about ways residents of subsidized housing can be more involved in decision making as it relates to community policing.
The group was specifically interested in how funding is allocated to support Asheville Police Department's public housing unit. A grant that covers the cost of half the unit will end in May. Residents wanted to know how and if the city will continue its funding and if they will be involved in the financing discussions.
The conversation comes just weeks after residents and law enforcement announced a need to improve minority relations and policing locally.
Kendra Latham, who serves on the Residents Council of the Asheville Housing Authority and lives at Pisgah View Apartments, said relationships between police and residents need to be improved before looking at program expansion.
"That's the specific reason why we are here," she said. "You want to police our neighborhoods stronger, but when our kids see police officers with guns the size of their arms — my daughter she runs and hides."
"I've never been helped by the police," she added. "My children are scared by the police."
Residents discussed using funding to invest in improved diversity and racial sensitivity training for officers. Others called for the reallocation of resources to support more community based programs. Several asked how police were making their communities more safe. One woman questioned whether a public housing unit was necessary at all.
"We're just like any other community," Pisgah resident IIndia Pearson said, adding that the presence of a separate public housing unit further segregates communities and depresses residents.
"What are you doing for us?" she asked.
Hillcrest Apartments resident Calvin Allen said his community has been victim to frequent shootings, but not enough arrests. "What good is this all doing?" he said.
The Public Housing Unit has 10 officers patrolling 11 areas in the city, Interim Chief Steve Belcher said at the meeting, which was attended by about 30 people. These neighborhoods have Asheville's highest rates of crime, he said.
Sgt. Mike Lamb said APD's work in public housing communities has resulted in arrests and safer communities.
Belcher also discussed a litany of public programs intended to improve relationships between the community and the police, including police training, minority recruitment strategies and public outreach.
The department recently led a citywide graffiti clean up, he said. Officers also accompanied 160 students from Asheville City Schools to a Battle of the Bands and College Recruitment Fair in Atlanta in January. Further, APD is making inroads with its Coffee with a Cop program and the Citizen's Police Academy, he said.
APD hopes to hire a new public information officer soon, Belcher added. "We can only do so much at a time," he said. "We are all on the same direction. We just need to figure out how to get there."
Sgt. Brien Griffen gave an overview of community policing and APD's commitment to low income and minority communities.
Community policing builds relationships and trust, he said. It allows officers to be proactive problem solvers.
In order for it to be successful, the community has to take ownership of the program, he added. It's a partnership.
After the presentation, two community members noted that there were no people of color displayed on the PowerPoint, which included a slide specifically discussing policing in Hispanic communities.
Throughout the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, residents and police went back and forth on the effectiveness of the public housing unit.
At one point, Belcher said everything is perception.
Latham responded, "I'm living it, so it's not perception for me."
It was after this exchange that Lee and others left. Before walking out, Lee told the committee their body language was discouraging. Body language is just as powerful as words when building relationships, he said.
The 13-member committee, which includes representatives from the general public, the City Council, the Community Relations Council, APD and the Housing Authority, is set up to mediate conflict and advocate for ways to improve relationships between law enforcement and the community.
They were rolling their eyes and sighing, Lee said outside the conference room."It's all very off putting. They are discounting our reality," he said.
Latham agreed. "It's just pointless, like we can't try to explain to them how we feel," she said. "We're here being cordial and transparent, and its feels like nobody is giving us respect or hearing what we have to say."
Belcher wouldn't comment on the effectiveness of the meeting. "I think we need to focus on the bigger issue," he said. "That we need to continue to talk."
Federal report highlights LAPD community policing amid Skid Row shooting
by Erika Aguilar
A federal report on best practices for policing highlights strides the Los Angeles Police Department has made in building trust and accountability in some neighborhoods, but the praise comes as the department tries to explain why its officers shot and killed a homeless man on Skid Row.
Los Angeles police officers on Sunday shot and killed an unarmed, homeless man on Skid Row while responding to a robbery call. Police said the man grabbed an officer's gun during a struggle.
The following day, the White House released an interim report by the 21st Century Policing Task Force, which was charged with making recommendations on how to change police culture to build better relationships with communities.
“Law enforcement cannot build community trust if it is seen as an occupying force coming in from outside to rule and control the community,” the report states.
The task force was formed in December in response to the national debate on policing after officers in Ferguson, Los Angeles, New York and Cleveland killed young African-American men.
In the federal report, the Los Angeles Police department's community policing teams in Watts and East Los Angeles were highlighted for building on-the-ground relationships with public housing residents. Officers there are assigned to community policing teams for five years and are offered more pay, according to the federal report.
Los Angeles also earned a mention for its civilian oversight board.
But shootings like the one on Skid Row expose the remaining rifts between police and communities.
Criminology professor Elliot Currie of the University of California, Irvine said having multiple policing programs is a good start, but the goal is for police departments to implement relationship-based policing across the board.
“What we want is for these not to be considered as scattered programs that we implement within a police department that's otherwise unchanged,” Currie said. “But that we slowly shift the whole conception of what a police department is.”
Currie said the successes of one policing program can't be instantly implemented in another community but should rather be tailored to address each neighborhood's needs.
The federal report also recommends that police departments around the country involve members of their community, such as residents or social workers, in developing training for officers.
“It makes perfect sense,” Currie said. “If we want to deal with these situations in a more effective and less destructive fashion, one of the things we need to do is stop thinking of them as just police and just criminal justice problems.”
Currie said most of the report's recommendations aren't new, however more powerful people, like the President, are now supporting them publicly. That's new, Currie said.
Sunday's shooting on Skid Row was caught on cellphone video and has been viewed more than six million times on YouTube, drawing international attention.
Authorities haven't confirmed whether the man killed had been diagnosed with a mental illnesses, but Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck was quick to explain the mental health training and programs his officers receive.
The officers involved in the shooting are assigned to the department's Safer Cities Initiative, launched in 2005, to respond to crime on Skid Row.
“It is one of the most challenging policing environments in the country, said law enforcement consultant and retired Anaheim officer Joe Vargas.
Vargas said Skid Row is particularly unique because it is a dense area of unsheltered people who have limited access to health care, welfare and abuse treatment programs. Therefore, it requires its own unique policing strategy and community partnerships.
“There's too much of a burden placed upon police to be the answer to these,” he said. “Really what police officers do is they deal with the symptoms of other things that are going wrong in those communities.”
Beyond community policing
by Vidda Crochetta
Our nation's police departments' primary objective has to be enforcement of existing law as enacted by the various state and federal legislatures.
What latitude is exercised by each department is affected by a dizzying array of various community and police departmental circumstances. There is no template except that which falls back upon established law.
In a real sense, the Executive Summary and therefore the full report of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to the White House Task Force on Community-Police Relations (January 2015) is putting the cart before the horse.
The summit participants "outlined three conceptual elements of building community police relationships. The report defines those elements (as) communication, partnerships, and trust."
However, the lack of confidence in those three elements actually begins with the legislatures. The legislative branches are in fact the disconnect hurdle that is the most difficult to overcome. There are three distinct elements of lawmaking that cannot be addressed by community-policing — the victimless crime statute syndrome, faith-based moral lawmaking and the judiciary's failure to remain independent of the legislature.
It isn't community integration policing that the community needs. It is an independent judiciary that can identify and overturn laws that do more harm than good and are subject to undue political, corporate and religious influence and interests, not common law.
Without the reform and possible overturn of current unjust victimless crime laws, the intimate intent and goals of benign community policing violate the separation of our innate privacy and community life.
Once an enforcement integrative community is established it will set a precedent not easily amended.
Police are not and should not be community social-behavioral workers. Diverse enforcement is a very recognizably different official responsibility that carries an inherent and alienable danger in getting too close to the private lives of people in the conduct of their individual freedoms and interests.
When a community cannot secure for itself the rights and freedoms of self-determination to insure their happiness and tranquility, a state of unsound union will always exist.
South Cushman neighborhood talks safety at community policing meeting
by Dorothy Chomicz
FAIRBANKS — A vocal and diverse crowd of about 90 people met with members of the Fairbanks Police Department on Tuesday night to identify the top concerns of the residents of South Fairbanks.
The community and neighborhood watch kickoff meeting at the J.P. Jones Community Center was hosted by police as part of Chief Randall Aragon's new community policing program. The program aims to decrease crime and increase community involvement by strengthening communication between police and citizens. The area of town known locally as “South Cushman” was chosen as the first neighborhood for the community policing program because it historically has been a high-crime area.
Aragon gave the assembled crowd a brief explanation of community policing and introduced the two officers assigned to the South Cushman area. The neighborhood is bounded by Lathrop Street, Airport Way, South Cushman Street and the Mitchell Expressway, and for the purposes of the program was divided into a northern half and a southern half, with Officer Rick Sweet assigned to the area south of 23rd Avenue and Officer Robert Johnson assigned to the streets north of there.
Officer Rick Sweet started his assignment last month and began knocking on doors of people who has previously approached the police department and indicated they wanted to talk. Sweet said the main concerns expressed so far have to do with traffic and drugs and some property crime. Those on the western side of the south-South Cushman area seem to be most concerned with vehicles speeding through the neighborhood and running stop signs. Residents of the eastern side of the area report more foot traffic from transients or bored youth. People on both sides of the neighborhood expressed concerns about apparent drug use and property crimes, Sweet said.
Sweet reassured the crowd that he truly is there to help and get to know the residents, not to mark them for future investigation.
“If you're going to stick out a hand, it can't be something where you're going to get bit. How good of a program would that be if we come back and bust in your door and arrest you? That's not what this is about. What it's about is coming down here, identifying problems and working those solutions with everybody. You're going to be as much of the solution as I am,” Sweet said.
Aragon asked the assembled community members to voice their concerns. Each item was listed in on a large sheet of paper and tallied up until the top three were identified. Comments from the crowd were often greeted with applause or heartfelt murmurs of approval. One woman in a purple velvet pants suit and a raspberry-colored beret drew giggles when she stood up and told Aragon what she thought the neighborhood needed.
“I would like to see the policemen walk instead of riding in their cars,” the woman said. “I would like to see the streets widened and have sidewalks. Another thing is I'd like to see all these high trees cut down.”
The same woman drew even more laughter later in the evening when she rose to her feet and gave Aragon one last piece of her mind.
“I would like to know why we can't we have a grocery store in this area,” the woman said, pounding her cane on the floor for emphasis. “We need a grocery store!”
One woman said she'd had two burglaries at her home and another told of her son being accosted by a group of kids who tried to take his shoes. An elderly lady said she was troubled by the amount of gun shots she hears, while another woman said she was afraid to walk in her neighborhood.
Others spoke of their fear of the police.
“They're not respectful, they're not patient, they don't give a person any leeway. The minute they stop you, you're a criminal and that's the way it is,” one woman said.
A man seated near the front of the room identified himself as a long-time resident and said he didn't think the South Cushman area was particularly dangerous or crime ridden.
“It seems like this ideology is expanding to the point where it's creating this great fear. I don't even lock my doors on many occasions because I'm not afraid of where I live — if I did I would move out. I don't see very many business leaving this community, because if they were losing money in their businesses I think they would move out. So I think there is some solidarity in this community,” he said.
Rodney Gaskins, the executive director of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, told the crowd he had first-hand experience with community policing program.
“Growing up in the '60s and the '70s in D.C. I was raised and taught by my community not to trust the police, until community policing came to my neighborhood and I saw the same officer every day. There would be a little crap game or something going and he would come over and just talk to us and not arrest us, because we weren't doing anything drastic. It started to develop a trust between the police and my generation, my community,” Gaskins said.
Aragon nominated Gaskins to head a new neighborhood watch program and asked several others prominent community members to serve as block commanders.
After a show-of-hands vote, the top three neighborhood concerns were identified as drugs, at 28 votes, speeding, with 18 votes, and respect by the police coming in a close third with 17 votes.
Aragon handed out his business card, encouraged people to call him with any other concerns they might have and promised the crowd he would be back for another meeting in April to assess the program's progress.
The Limits of Community Policing
by Alyssa Aguilera and Alex S. Vitale
We share many of the recent concerns about overly aggressive, discourteous, and unlawful policing that have been raised in the last several months. Every day hundreds of mostly poor and non-white New Yorkers have unwanted and problematic interactions with the police including unjustified stops and illegal searches, frequent issuances of summonses for non-criminal behavior, and harassment and intimidation by police. Therefore we applaud the holding of a hearing Tuesday by the Public Safety Committee of the New York City Council on improving policing. There is a need for major reforms in how policing is conducted in New York City.
We are very concerned, however, that the leadership of both the NYPD and the City Council are proposing to add 1,000 police officers to the NYPD headcount under the guise of expanding community policing. Too often, community policing means more intensive and invasive policing of minor disorderly behavior that serves to criminalize mostly people of color without dealing with the underlying causes of this behavior like poverty, homelessness, problematic drug use, mental health issues, and more.
The majority of New Yorkers are not actively engaged in the political life of their local neighborhood. Some may be politically active in other venues, others may be focused on national or international concerns, and most are caught up in the daily struggles of home and work.
Part of the problem with so-called community policing lies in the nature of community. Those who are active in community affairs are not always representative of the full diversity of views and experiences in our many neighborhoods. Community Boards and Precinct Community Councils tend to be populated by long-time residents, those that own rather than rent their homes, business owners, and landlords. The views of renters, youth, homeless people, and the most socially marginalized are rarely represented in these bodies.
Community policing tends to turn all neighborhood problems into police problems. Across the country, community police programs have been based on the idea that the community should bring its myriad of concerns about the condition of the community to the police, who will work with them on developing solutions. Invariably, however, the range of community problems extends far beyond serious crime. Why should the police necessarily be the sole or even lead agency in developing strategies to address community concerns about disorder and public safety?
One of the most frequent concerns of neighborhood residents is the presence of low level drug dealing and use. This generates a tremendous number of calls to 311 and 911. Enhancing the ability of police to respond to these community concerns will just further criminalize people involved with low level drug use and sales. The failed "War on Drugs" strategy of criminalizing these activities has done nothing to reduce the availability and negative effects of drugs on individuals or communities, has produced substantial negative collateral consequences for those arrested, and has been a major drain on city resources. The cost of running each bed at Rikers Island comes to over $150,000 a year; money better spent on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and jobs programs.
There is extensive research that shows that most complaints that "community representatives" take to the police are about "quality of life" problems rather than serious crime. People tend to raise concerns about local disorderly conditions such as noise and traffic, or public behaviors they find annoying such as small-time drug dealing, prostitution, and any gatherings of young people. More intensive police attention to these "community" concerns will invariably lead to further unnecessary and counterproductive harassment and criminalization of many of New York's poorest and most vulnerable.
As an example, at a recent 67th Precinct Community Council meeting in Flatbush, Brooklyn the main complaint of community members was the regular presence of homeless people in and around businesses at the corner of Church and Nostrand Avenues. Some of these people had obvious mental health problems and others panhandled for money for subsistence purposes. The local police commander pledged to respond to these concerns but acknowledged limited capacity and resources to do so. Increased police responsiveness to these complaints, in the absence of new services, will lead to the harassment and arrest of these people in the name of community policing. This is not the kind of improved policing we need.
To the extent that police need to be involved in managing quality of life community concerns, it should be restricted to responding to truly dangerous conditions. The police could also play a role as gatekeeper to enhanced services, such as how Seattle's Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program diverts low-level drug offenders and sex workers to social services instead of jail. For too long the city has over-relied on the police as first responders to a range of community concerns that might better be dealt with through other city agencies. The police primarily have punitive tools at their disposal, such as arrest and the use of force. What is needed instead are responses that are less punitive and provide real pathways out of addiction, joblessness, homelessness, and poor health.
We do want the police to be more courteous, professional, and respectful, but expanding the ability of police to respond to community concerns will lead to more criminalization of people trying to survive when their most basic needs are not being met. Therefore, we oppose any increase in the number of police at this time and instead call on the City Council to use whatever resources it would have used to increase the headcount of the NYPD to instead invest in supportive housing, harm reduction programs, evidence-based drug treatment, and health services that can play a much more positive and sustained role in reducing very real community concerns about disorder and public safety.
Community Policing In Cedar Rapids
by Fox 28
Police and community leaders are greeting new recommendations for law enforcement agencies with both optimism and urgency.
On Monday, the eleven member Task Force on 21st Century Policing made recommendations to President Obama on changes needed in many of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. The President appointed the task force after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the chocking death of Eric Garner in New York. The recommendations cover everything from training to outreach programs, but much of the report boils down to trust.
President Obama says it's clear in some towns people simply do not trust their local police departments. Community leaders in the corridor say it's exactly what they've been working very hard to change. Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman says he's proud that the men and women in his department have practiced community policing to build a bond with their neighbors long before the recent events drew national attention.
Chief Jerman says the Police Citizens' Academy is the crown jewel of the effort. It allows people to sign up for a ten week, behind the scenes look at what police go through for their jobs. The participants learn how to process a crime scene, watch police dogs in action, fire guns on the shooting range and learn how to drive a squad car through an obstacle course.
Jerman says add that to satellite police offices, officers in the schools and even the recent addition of “Coffee with a Cop” and it can make a big difference, “ When you establish positive relationships with members of the community, it establishes that trust factor, that the community trusts its police officers and trusts its police department. Most importantly it helps us prevent crimes. We would much rather be proactive and prevent an incident from occurring.“
During demonstrations late last year in Iowa City and Waterloo however, it became clear some people are still angry. Some of the protesters expressed concerns about racial profiling and charged that we live in a country where young black men can be killed by police without consequences.
Diversity Focus Executive Director Chad Simmons says he does not believe the outrage was directed at local officers. He says some very positive discussions are happening right now, sparked originally by the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, three years ago this week.
Simmons says the efforts by area law enforcement are definitely a step in the right direction, but he says it's also critical for police to remember the vast majority of people they see on the streets every day are not criminals, “ The community wants to be policed in a very different way. We can really make this the kind of place where people come because our relationship with police is so positive. Anytime that the community and law enforcement can spend time with each other when there is not an emergency, is going to help us improve the relationship when there is one. “
Simmons says look for more partnerships as soon as this week to build that bond between police and teenagers in the corridor. Chief Jerman adds that the next round of the Citizens' Academy begins later this month and he encourages anyone with the time to sign up and start an ongoing conversation with officers.
Community Policing Task Force Has Recommendations for Schools, Too
by Evie Blad
The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing delivered its recommendations on strengthening relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect to the White House today. Those recommendations, detailed in a 115-page interim report, include many that apply to schools and the way police interact with students.
Many of those recommendations will sound familiar to those who pay attention to school climate debates: School police shouldn't be involved in routine discipline, officers should work to build positive relationships with young people, and there should be a multi-sector approach to tackling youth justice issues, the report says.
President Obama created the task force through an executive order as part of a series of actions taken in response to unrest following the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last summer. The group—chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University Professor Laurie Robinson—included law enforcement representatives, community leaders, academics, and youth leaders.
The group gathered testimony from all sorts of stakeholders and researchers, including many who will be familiar to those in school climate circles. They included: Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers; Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project at Indiana University, who is known for his research on school discipline disparities; and members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
Here is a bit more detail about some of the report's school-related recommendations.
Law enforcement agencies should "create opportunities in schools and communities for positive, nonenforcement interactions with police."
"For example, Michael Reynolds, a member of the Youth and Law Enforcement panel at the Listening Session on Community Policing and Crime Reduction, told the moving story of a police officer who saw him shivering on the street when he was six years old, took him to a store, and bought him a coat," the report says."Despite many negative encounters with police since then, the decency and kindness of that officer continue to favorably impact Mr. Reynolds' feelings towards the police."
Law enforcement should collect and analyze data "disaggregated by school and non-school contacts."
This data, which should include information on frisks, searches, summons, and arrests to help identify trends and the effectiveness of policies, the report says.
Policies should address needs of at-risk children.
"Communities should adopt policies and programs that address the needs of children and youth most at risk for crime or violence and reduce aggressive law enforcement tactics that stigmatize youth and marginalize their participation in schools and communities," the report says, citing "an explosion of knowledge about adolescent development and the neurological underpinnings of adolescent behavior" that has emerged in the last decade.
"These findings have raised doubts about a series of policies and practices of 'zero tolerance' that have contributed to increasing the school-to-prison pipeline by criminalizing the behaviors of children as young as kindergarten age," the report says. "Noncriminal offenses can escalate to criminal charges when officers are not trained in child and adolescent development and are unable to recognize and manage a child's emotional, intellectual, and physical development issues. School district policies and practices that push students out of schools and into the juvenile justice system cause great harm and do no good."
Law enforcement should not be involved in routine school discipline matters.
As officers work to protect schools, they should also work to draft memomoranda of understanding with districts to ensure clear boundaries in their interactions with students so that discipline issues can be left to administrators and educators, the report says. The National Association of School Resource Officers has supported such recommendations in the past.
The recommendation is accompanied by this testimony from a student about an encounter with a school-based police officer during his freshman year of high school.
"As I walked down the hall, one of the police officers employed in the school noticed I did not have my identification badge with me. Before I could explain why I did not have my badge, I was escorted to the office and suspended for an entire week. I had to leave the school premises immediately. Walking to the bus stop, a different police officer pulled me over and demanded to know why I was not in school. As I tried to explain, I was thrown into the back of the police car. They drove back to my school to see if I was telling the truth, and I was left waiting in the car for over two hours. When they came back, they told me I was in fact suspended, but because the school did not provide me with the proper forms, my guardian and I both had to pay tickets for me being off of school property. The tickets together were 600 dollars, and I had a court date for each one. Was forgetting my ID worth missing school? Me being kicked out of school did not solve or help anything. I was at home alone watching Jerry Springer, doing nothing."
Police should partner with schools to help improve discipline policies and practices.
"Education and criminal justice agencies at all levels of government should work together to reform policies and procedures that push children into the juvenile justice system," the report says.
Law enforcement agencies should encourage schools to adopt alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, such as counseling and restorative justice, through a collaborative process that involves students, families, and community members, the report says. Those strategies should involve youth in decisionmaking to strengthen their voice and social-emotional skills, the report says, listing as examples restorative practices, youth courts, and peer interventions.
And agencies "should work with schools to create a continuum of developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences for addressing ongoing and escalating student misbehavior after all appropriate interventions have been attempted," the report says.
States Face Correctional Officer Shortage Amid A Cultural Stigma
by Miles Bryan
More than 1.3 million people are incarcerated in state prisons in this country, and keeping those prisons running requires tens of thousands of corrections officers. But right now, some states are facing major staffing shortages.
Much of this shortfall is because of the strong economy, but recruiters also are struggling with the job's cultural stigma.
Cadets at Wyoming's Department of Corrections Training Academy are practicing how they'll handcuff prisoners; in a few weeks this scenario will be very real, but right now everyone is pretty relaxed.
These cadets are in high demand, here and across the country. Wyoming is currently 20 percent short of its correctional staff, and Michigan, Kansas , Texas and other states face similar shortfalls.
New recruit Carlos Galan says he ended up joining Wyoming Corrections by chance, after his job as a food service manager dried up.
"I was out of a job — I had to get out of my comfort zone," Galan says.
Galan says he has always wanted to work in law enforcement.
He grew up in Southern California, and in the backseat during his parent's commute, he says, "you saw the highway patrol training academy there, so that sparked my interest in getting into law enforcement."
But it never crossed his mind, Galan says, that he would want to be a corrections officer at a prison someday.
That's not what recruiters hope to hear.
Lt. Aaron Blair, an instructor at the academy and a former corrections officer, says most of the cadets he gets see the job as a stepping stone to a police or sheriff's department — or as just a job, not a career.
"Law enforcement on the street, they get far more interaction with the good part of society," he says. "We know, going in those gates every day, we're dealing with convicted felons. It can wear on a person, become very dark."
Blair says corrections officers do far more than babysit inmates. Cadets here will learn a conversation technique called verbal judo, along with restraint training.
But he says when recruits picture the job, they still see the infamous prison guard villain from the movie Cool Hand Luke.
"The guy with the sunglasses, holding the shotgun — a knuckle-dragger, I guess," he says.
Blair and prison officials in other states say raises would help make the field more competitive — nationwide, the average starting wage is about $15 an hour.
Some states are offering recruitment and retention bonuses, but for now, every shift has to be covered. That has officers working a lot of overtime; in Kansas, Oklahoma, and other states with severe shortages, overtime is mandatory.
Leann Bertsch with the Association of State Correctional Administrators says that's a problem.
"They're not meant to not have days off, they're not meant to work extraordinarily long shifts," she says. "That creates dangerous situations."
Oklahoma, for example, has a correctional officer shortage of about 33 percent — and the highest inmate homicide rate in the country.
Bertsch's group has fought for more funding for corrections, but she says legislators often prioritize law enforcement that's closer to home.
"They're working behind the walls, behind the fences, and oftentimes the policymakers who are setting the compensation for correctional officers don't appreciate the difficult nature of their jobs," Bertsch says.
David Fathi, director of the ACLU's National Prison Project, says high vacancy and turnover rates often do correlate to more violent incidents.
"We need to look at this as a public-safety position every bit as much as police officers and firefighters," he says.
And Fathi says safety isn't the only thing lost when prisons run short on manpower.
"They feed the prisoners, take them to the medical clinic, take them to the recreation yard. So if you don't have enough officers, every aspect of prison operation breaks down," Fathi says.
And unless something changes, the risk of breakdown will continue to grow. After declining slightly for a few years, the U.S. prison population was going up again by the end of 2013.
NYC Council to hold hearing on police-community relations
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK - (AP) -- Relations between New York City's police department and communities of color, long at a simmer, boiled over last summer when Eric Garner was captured on video screaming "I can't breathe!" as he was placed in a fatal chokehold by a NYPD officer.
That moment led to months of protests, which multiplied and swept across the city following a grand jury decision not to indict the officer. In the weeks that followed, two police officers were killed by a gunman who had paid tribute to Garner on social media, and the rank-and-file police appeared to be in open revolt against Mayor Bill de Blasio.
A tentative truce between the mayor and police unions has taken hold and the protests have died down, but the underlying issues of the tension are at the heart of City Council hearings that will begin Tuesday.
"The City Council is proud to support our police officers who already do tremendous work," City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement to The Associated Press, "and by identifying strategies and tactics which build trust we can continue to keep crime low and New Yorkers safe while also building a more fair and just city."
The Public Safety Committee hearings will focus on improving the relations between police and communities of color, which have felt for years that they drew an inordinate amount of NYPD attention even as crime continued to fall. Many who lived in those sections of the city felt victimized by years of the police tactic known as stop-and-frisk, which allowed police to stop anyone believed acting suspicious.
The use of stop-and-frisk has fallen, but some lawmakers may ask about another police strategy known as "Broken Windows," which emphasizes cracking down on low-level offenses as a means to preventing more serious crimes. Police Commissioner William Bratton is arguably the nation's chief proponent of "Broken Windows" policing.
Bratton is not expected to attend the initial hearing, instead sending high-ranking officials in his place.
The Council itself, which is dominated by Democrats, factored into some of police union leaders' unhappiness with City Hall. Several council members participated in a "die-in" to protest the grand jury decision and Mark-Viverito wore an "I Can't Breathe" T-shirt.
The council aims to use the hearings to discuss means of better involving the community in police work. Vanessa Gibson, the chair of the Public Safety Committee, said Monday that "community policing provides a bridge for officers to better understand the neighborhood and people they have been sworn to protect" but acknowledged that there is a "wide spectrum of opinions" on how to dissipate the current tension.
Aides to council members also said the hearings will discuss some of the criminal justice reforms proposed by Mark-Viverito in last month's State of the City address, including creating a citywide bail fund to assist low-risk, non-violent offenders pay small bail amounts, and the creation of a new Office of Civil Justice to make certain that low-income New Yorkers have access to legal representation.
She also proposed that some low-level violations, like jumping a subway turnstile, should warrant only summonses or desk appearance tickets instead of time in jail, a punishment she said falls disproportionally on black and Latino men. And the council also will discuss its proposal to hire 1,000 new officers, an idea de Blasio has yet to embrace.
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.
Justice Department to condemn racial bias in traffic enforcement, budgetary practices by police in Ferguson, Mo.: report
by Tobias Salinger
The U.S. Justice Department will slam the embattled Ferguson, Mo., police for disproportionately targeting African-Americans and using ticketing fines to fill city budget holes in a report that may be released as soon as this week, according to The New York Times.
The investigation by Justice Department officials, who have said they won't be charging white Officer Darren Wilson for civil rights violations in the August death of black teen Michael Brown, will give the police force in the St. Louis suburb the option of getting sued by the federal law enforcement agency or arranging a settlement with the feds, the Times reported.
Although the publication wasn't able to obtain the specific stats or the exact wording of the report in advance of its release, African-Americans made up 86% of the department's traffic stops in 2013 despite representing just 63% of the area's population, according to data from the Missouri attorney general that's cited in the Times story.
After cops pulled their cars over, blacks were two times as likes as whites to be searched, even as contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers' cars, the Times reported.
Federal investigators will also allege that the city of Ferguson's use of ticketing fees and related penalties as its second-highest revenue source after sales taxes provides a rationale for the continuance of the biased practices, according to the story.
The death of Brown, who was unarmed at the time he was killed, touched off nationwide protests and motivated the Justice Department probe. Officials at the agency were reportedly threatening a lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department last month.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III told the Times that city officials are trying to increase diversity on the police force and considering other efforts like the creation of citizen review board and a police youth program.
“The city of Ferguson is going to make its decisions based on what its residents and the people in this region feel is necessary to move us forward,” Knowles said.
Task Force Calls for More Police Body Cameras
Established by President Obama after last year's police killings, group sees need to connect officers and neighborhoods
by Gary Fields and Colleen McCain Nelson
A presidential task force on policing is calling for increased use of body cameras and other technology, and expanded efforts to connect officers with neighborhoods, among a list of proposals aimed at building trust between law enforcement and communities.
The recommendations will form the heart of the White House's response to the recent police killings of unarmed citizens, including last year's fatal shooting of an African-American teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo.
At the time, President Barack Obama said the incident in Ferguson had laid bare “a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.”
The president signed an executive order creating the Task Force on 21st Century Policing and asked the group to develop preliminary recommendations, including best practices for law enforcement and neighborhoods working together.
The task force's draft report, released Sunday, details dozens of recommendations aimed at building trust between citizens and police, improving policies and oversight, effectively using technology and social media, bolstering community policing, strengthening training and education for law enforcement and promoting the wellness and safety of officers.
The 76-page draft report calls on the president to support and seek funding for the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force that would make recommendations for overhauling the criminal justice system.
The recommendations range from broad objectives, such as urging law enforcement to consider the potential damage to public trust when implementing crime-fighting strategies, to more specific items such as making law enforcement data and department policies more readily available to the public.
The report recommended civilian oversight of police and called for the Justice Department's Community Oriented Police Services office to collect best practices for existing civilian review boards as well as provide help to cities to create such oversight panels.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with the task force on Monday to discuss prescriptions for ensuring that law enforcement and communities are partners in battling crime.
A final report is expected in April.
Law enforcement officials who have seen the recommendations said the ideas aren't likely to be controversial, and include some practices that have been discussed by law enforcement for years, such as sensitivity training for officers and striving to hire a diverse workforce.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police labor organization, declined to comment on the task force's recommendations but said the proposals under discussion—including the more widespread use of body cameras—have the support of law enforcement.
“If there is a way to use technology to make law enforcement better and safer for officers and citizens, we should employ it,” Mr. Pasco said.
The challenge, he added, will be in the implementation. “Technology is only a tool, not a panacea,” he said.
The report also suggested that law enforcement agencies work with the public to address the privacy and civil liberties concerns raised by the cameras before using the new technology. A list of specific proposals examined by the task force suggested the Justice Department help state legislative bodies write legislation governing the “acquisition, usage, retention and dissemination of data by law enforcement.”
The deaths last summer of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y.—unarmed African-American men who died at the hands of white police officers—sparked calls for police departments to deploy more body-worn cameras and spurred discussion about other non-lethal devices police might use. The two cases, which drew national attention, also opened a debate about the use of deadly force and prompted questions about police tactics and demands for reform.
Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder responded with a pledge to improve relations between police and minority groups.
In addition to launching the policing task force, the president also asked state lawmakers to fund body cameras and other community-policing initiatives, and he called for new standards to guide programs that equip local police departments with military gear.
The plan calls for the federal government to create a mechanism for investigating complaints and issuing sanctions in cases of the inappropriate use of equipment and tactics during mass demonstrations.
It also says cities and states should “refrain” from relying on tickets and citations for revenue purposes. At the White House last week, Mr. Obama met with African-American civil rights and faith leaders, who urged him to move forward with broad policy changes to improve policing. Ron Busby, president of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., which supports African-American Chambers of Commerce, said the association had a candid conversation with Mr. Obama about race, law enforcement and the way minority men are viewed in the U.S. Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, said a discussion with the president yielded cautious optimism that the task force's recommendations could bring needed changes.
“There's a significant degree of seriousness to this,” Mr. Morial said.
The policing recommendations were drawn from proposals focused on the theme of building trust and legitimacy for law enforcement. One of the proposed recommendations includes improving transparency of police actions. Another focuses on better training on the use of force, especially in high-risk communities.
Charles Wilson, national chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, said community policing is the foundation for closing the gap between police and the people they serve.
“Part of the problems between law enforcement and the community derive from a lack of transparency,” he said. “People have a strong interest in what we do and how we do it. Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn't fully explain our processes to them.”
Community policing will work toward that end, but all of a department's officers must be involved, he said.
“It means every officer in the department reaches out, talks to people in the community and tries to understand their issues and form the bonds we need to do our jobs.”