March, 2015 - Week 3
ISIS calls on backers to kill 100 U.S. military personnel
WASHINGTON - Islamic State has posted online what it says are the names, U.S. addresses and photos of 100 American military service members, and called upon its "brothers residing in America" to kill them.
The Pentagon said after the information was posted on the Internet that it was investigating the matter. "I can't confirm the validity of the information, but we are looking into it," a U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday.
"We always encourage our personnel to exercise appropriate OPSEC (operations security) and force protection procedures," the official added.
In the posting, a group referring to itself as the "Islamic State Hacking Division" wrote in English that it had hacked several military servers, databases and emails and made public the information on 100 members of the U.S. military so that "lone wolf" attackers can kill them.
The New York Times reported that it did not look like the information had been hacked from U.S. government servers and quoted an unnamed Defense Department official as saying most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.
The Times quoted officials as saying the list appeared to have been drawn from personnel mentioned in news articles about air strikes on Islamic State. The group's forces control parts of Syria and Iraq and have been targeted in U.S.-led air strikes.
The posting, addressed to disbelievers, Christians and "crusaders" in America, included what the group said were the names, military service branch, photos and street addresses of the individuals. The posting includes the military rank of some but not all of those named.comm
The case for preventative policing
by Randall Aragon
FAIRBANKS — To me, “traditional policing” uses the following principles when a citizen is in need of assistance relating to crime: call the police, send a car and make an arrest. This is how many police agencies continue to police. Does it work? Yes; however, the cliché regarding the “revolving door” relating to criminals continuing to operate over and over again after being arrested and released, only to be rearrested, certainly turns off most citizens. The key solution to this dilemma is preventing the crime from initially occurring: this “preventive” philosophy is what preventive policing — also known as community policing — is all about. During my “chiefing” career, I personally have found it disturbing when my officers merely prepared a police report only to return several weeks later to take another report at the same location when there was a simple and reasonable solution that could have been initially implemented by the victim or neighbors that would have prevented the crime or entire incident from occurring.
The rationale for prevention in the form of community policing is important because the police already have “roadblocks” that hinder our catching criminals. Additionally, other factors (because of the nature of how crime is reported) also make it difficult to arrest perpetrators of crimes. Here are the factors that support implementing preventive policing/community policing:
1) Two-thirds of all crime occurs inside — that is, not visible to the police.
2) Most serious crimes are perpetrated within a short time frame; for example, the average armed robbery takes approximately 90 seconds.
3) Patrol officers intercept less than 1 percent of street crimes as they occur.
4) Even when police are notified of an on-going criminal activity, offenders are caught in less than 4 percent of reported crimes. Consequently, 95 percent of the time an individual will not be arrested by randomly patrolling police during or immediately after the commission of an offense.
5) Six percent of all criminals commit 70 percent of all crime.
6) The same 10 percent of locations within a jurisdiction generate approximately 65 percent of that jurisdiction's total calls for service.
7) Seventy-five percent of a jurisdiction's calls for service are cold; that is, the officer is being summoned to an incident that has occurred out of the presence of the victim. Of this balance of calls — the other 25 percent that I will label “hot” calls for service, calls where the victim was a witness and present during the crime — 50 percent of such victims wait five minutes or more before alerting the police.
Consequently, one does not have to build rocket ships to realize that law enforcement is already behind the “power curve” and must work on strategies for preventing the incident from occurring in the first place.
Conclusion: Preventive policing, also known as community policing, is necessary considering the impediments that block law enforcement/policing activities.
My advice: Work with our police department's community policing officers who are working diligently to develop proactive crime control solutions to prevent and control crime in your neighborhoods. Our agency has launched our effort in South Fairbanks; however, this is just the “tip of the iceberg,” as during the next few years we will be covering our entire city with this modernistic and “preventive policing” philosophy.
Chief Randall Aragon is the chief of the Fairbanks Police Department.
Dominican, US authorities rescue 29 sex trafficking victims including 20 minors
Victims as young as 14 years old
SOSUA, Dominican Republic — Twenty-nine sex trafficking victims were rescued in Sosua, Dominican Republic, March 11 following an international undercover law enforcement investigation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Office in Santo Domingo, the Dominican National Police, the Dominican Republic's Attorney General's Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Person's Unit and the Puerto Plata Prosecutor's Office conducted the investigation leading up to the rescue.
Twenty of the 29 victims are Dominican minors between the ages of 14 and 17. The remaining nine sex trafficking victims are adults. All of the victims are female.
The rescued victims, who are minors, are in the care of the Dominican Republic's Child Protective Services Agency.
As part of the investigation, seven Dominican nationals – two females and five males – were arrested. They're in local custody where they will serve one year of preventative incarceration while their cases are adjudicated. Prosecutors allege the traffickers knowingly transported the victims to what they believed was a “sex party.” They also knowingly arranged for the victims to perform sexual services for adults attending the fake party.
Those arrested include: Rubén Darío Sosa, Luis Manuel Martínez Castillo, Franklin Sánchez García, Rolfi Ismael Ventura, Manuel Emilio Martínez, Idalia Luciano Ferrera and Aniberca Castro Peña.
Law enforcement did not arrest any American citizens as part of this investigation.
The Puerto Plata Prosecutor's Office is prosecuting the Dominican nationals. If convicted, the defendants face up to 15 years imprisonment.
Operation Underground Railroad and International Justice Mission, both U.S. nonprofit organizations dedicated to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children, assisted with the investigation.
“We commend the government of the Dominican Republic and U.S. law enforcement for their commitment to eradicating the sexual exploitation of human beings,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James W. Brewster. “It's unconscionable that people, including children, are being sold for sex in the 21st century. The U.S. government will continue working with our partners both domestically and abroad to bring this evil practice to an end.”
Through its International Operations, HSI has 65 operational attaché offices in 46 countries around the world. HSI special agents work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies through a robust network of specialized, vetted units known as Transnational Criminal Investigative Units. Additionally, HSI brings personnel from host countries to the United States to train at the Department of Homeland Security Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.
TSA officers attacked with machete and wasp spray at New Orleans airport
by Ed Payne
A man armed with a machete and wasp spray stormed through a security area at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Friday night before being shot, authorities said.
Richard White, 62, was taken to a local hospital, where he underwent surgery, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand
The incident started when White entered a security checkpoint for Concourse B and began spraying Transportation Security Administration agents and bystanders with a can of wasp spray, a sheriff's office statement said.
White soon pulled out a machete from his waistband and began wielding it at agents and others in the area.
One of the agents blocked the machete with a piece of luggage as White chased him through a security checkpoint metal detector.
At that point, Lt. Heather Slyve of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office opened fire, shooting White in the chest, face and thigh.
One TSA agent was hit by a bullet fired by Slyve and was being treated for nonlife threatening injures, according to the TSA.
Several bystanders suffered minor injuries. Some ran into furniture, as they scrambled to get out of the way. One person was grazed in the arm by a bullet, Normand said.
Army probes alleged ‘Racial Thursdays': What is military's diversity record?
Two soldiers say that an Alaska unit took part in what was known as ‘Racial Thursdays,' a weekly event in which troops were allowed – and in some cases encouraged – to make racial slurs.
by Anna Mulrine
Washington — The Army is investigating allegations that an Alaska unit took part in what it called “Racial Thursdays,” a weekly event in which troops were allowed – and in some cases encouraged – to make racial slurs.
It had become something of a “tradition,” a black soldier told the Army Times. He had contacted the media because he thought the practice was wrong.
“It's degrading to soldiers,” said the staff sergeant, who requested anonymity. “We've had soldiers almost fight over the crap that's going on here.”
The US military has long been considered at the forefront of racial integration. In 1948, President Truman signed an executive order calling for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services.”
Despite “undeniable successes, however, the Armed Forces have not yet succeeded in developing a continuing stream of leaders who are as diverse as the nation they serve.” This was the conclusion of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, which was created by Congress to look into the topic and issued its final report in 2011.
“Racial/ethnic minorities and women still lag behind non-Hispanic white men in terms of representative percentage of military leadership positions held,” the commission noted.
It added that in the years to come, “Marked changes in the demographic makeup of the United States will throw existing disparities into sharp relief.”
In fact, the latest Pentagon numbers indicate that minority participation in the armed services is on the decline.
Today, about 1 in 5 Army soldiers is African-American, according to figures provided by the US Army, compared with nearly 27 percent in 1995.
In the Marine Corps, the proportion of African-American enlisted troops was 20 percent in 1985. Today, 30 years later, it stands at 11 percent. Of the 20,837 officers in the Marine Corps, 1,117 are African-American, according to Marine Corps figures provided to the Monitor. Of 81 general officers, five are black.
Across the military, the force is 16.6 percent black, greater than the 13.6 percent of the total US population who are African-American. But 10 years ago, in 2005, black troops made up 17.8 percent of the armed forces, according to a US military demographic report.
The number of African-American troops tends to be higher in support jobs such as cooks and mechanics, and lower in the combat positions, the profession that has traditionally offered the most reliable pathway to advancement in the military.
“Diversity is a source of strength for the Department of Defense, and is a key component to maintaining our highest state of readiness,” Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Defense Department spokesperson, said in a statement provided to the Monitor. “Our force comes from a diverse [populace], and certainly our military is better served when it reflects the nation it serves.”
To ensure diversity, it is “imperative that the Department focus its efforts on emerging talent to ensure that we successfully attract, recruit, develop and retain a highly-skilled” force, Lieutenant Commander Christensen added.
Fort Wainwright, Alaska, is the home of the battalion allegedly taking part in “Racial Thursdays” – the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Battalion. It says it's investigating the matter.
This is the same unit to which Pvt. Danny Chen belonged before he committed suicide in 2011 while deployed to the war in Afghanistan. He had told his family that he had been racially harassed and hazed.
A junior soldier in the 3rd Battalion backed up the story of “Racial Thursdays.” “The way it was put to me was it was a tradition among the guys,” the soldier, who also asked to remain anonymous, told the Army Times.
“Every Thursday, they wouldn't make you, you didn't have to participate, but they'd remind you.”
He said he didn't speak up, but he saw that the practice nearly sparked fights. “For the soldiers who are minorities, we don't want to be looked down upon or looked at as outcasts or traitors,” he said. “So we didn't open our mouths.”
“It's a shame that it's coming to this, but I'm not even making this up. I'm not making any of this up,” the staff sergeant told the Army Times. “Somebody needs to be relieved.”
US must release detainee abuse pics: judge
THE United States must release photographs showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, a judge has ruled in a long-running clash over letting the world see the potentially disturbing images.
by The AAP
US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein's ruling on Friday gives the government, which has fought the case for more than a decade, two months to appeal before the photos are released.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been seeking to make them public in the name of government accountability.
The Defense Department is studying the ruling and will make any further responses in court, spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins III said.
The ACLU has said the pictures "are manifestly important to an ongoing national debate".
The fight over the photographs reaches back to the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and invokes the images of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that sparked international outrage after they emerged in 2004 and 2006.
It's unclear how many photographs may exist.
The government says it has 29 relevant images from at least seven different sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it's believed to have perhaps hundreds or thousands more, Hellerstein said in a ruling in August.
He said some photos he had seen "are relatively innocuous while others need more serious consideration".
He has ruled any images released would be redacted to protect the identities of people in them.
Some photographs, taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse.
Some images show "soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees," then-Solicitor General - now Supreme Court Justice - Elena Kagan wrote earlier in the case.
The government has long argued releasing the photographs could incite attacks against US forces and government personnel abroad.
Tech glitch causes false notices to Oregon crime victims
A technical glitch on Friday evening caused an Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) notification system to issue thousands of alerts to crime victims that the perpetrators would soon be released, according to officials and the Oregonian newspaper.
The department said in a statement that its Victim Information Notification Everyday, or VINE system, malfunctioned during routine maintenance sending "numerous notifications to victims in error."
The statement added that contractor Appriss was working to repair the problem and would send out an alert to everyone who received a false notification.
"DOC and Appriss apologize for the erroneous notifications, and are committed to remedying the issue as soon as possible," the statement said.
The Oregonian, citing corrections spokeswoman Elizabeth Craig, reported that the system sent out around 8,000 erroneous alerts.
Local broadcaster KGW-TV reported that one notification said infamous convicted murderer Ward Weaver III, who was serving a life sentence following his 2004 conviction for killing two teenage girls, was slated for release.
"Instantly horrified," Brea Day told KGW-TV after receiving word that her cousin's killer was being released. "It's very upsetting."
The system allows victims and members of the public to track scheduled release dates for inmates of county jails and state adult and youth correctional facilities as well as those who are on community supervision.
Oregon launched the service in 2001, becoming the 11th state to do so, the statement added.
Ruling keeps NYC grand jury details secret
by COLLEEN LONGand TOM HAYS
NEW YORK -- A judge Thursday refused to release testimony heard by a grand jury that declined to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, finding that he hadn't heard a valid reason to make the secret information public.
The New York Civil Liberties Union and others had asked the court to order Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to release the grand jury's transcript, including the testimony of the officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo, and dozens of witnesses, detailed descriptions of evidence and other documentation.
A similar step was voluntarily taken by the prosecutor in Ferguson, Mo., when a grand jury there declined to indict an officer in the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Garner and Brown were black, while the officers involved are white. The deaths sparked nationwide protests about the treatment of minority-group members by law enforcement and a debate about the role of race in policing.
New York laws explicitly bar the disclosure of grand jury records without a court order. The case has increased debate over whether the laws should be revised to provide more transparency, particularly in the case of police shootings.
Civil-liberties lawyers had argued that the public needs to reconcile the widely watched video of Garner's July 17 death with the decision not to indict the officer involved.
But state Supreme Court Justice William Garnett wrote that the law required the New York Civil Liberties Union and the other parties who filed the lawsuit to establish a "compelling and particularized need" to release the grand jury minutes.
"What would they use the minutes for? The only answer which the court heard was the possibility of effecting legislative change," he wrote. "That proffered need is purely speculative and does not satisfy the requirements of the law."
The decision by the Staten Island grand jurors, he added, "was theirs alone, after having heard all of the evidence, having been instructed on law and having deliberated. Their collective decision should not be impeached by the unbridled speculation that the integrity of this grand jury was impaired in any way."
Donovan argued that the disclosure would damage the credibility of prosecutors seeking to assure grand jurors and witnesses that details of their participation would be kept from public view. After the grand jury's decision in December, he asked for a partial disclosure of details like the number of witnesses but not testimony or exhibits shown to jurors.
The judge also agreed with arguments by Donovan's office that secrecy was needed to assure witnesses that they would not be subjected to public criticism for their cooperation.
"This concern is particularly cogent in 'high publicity cases' where the witnesses' truthful and accurate testimony is vital," Garnett wrote. "It is in such notorious cases that witnesses' cooperation and honesty should be encouraged -- not discouraged -- for fear of disclosure."
Donovan said Thursday that his office would respect "and will adhere to Judge Garnett's well-reasoned decision."
The parties, which also include the Legal Aid Society, public advocate's office, New York Post and the NAACP, are appealing.
The New York Civil Liberties Union's legal director, Arthur Eisenberg, said the agency was disappointed that the court "has chosen to perpetuate secrecy rather than promote transparency."
He said, "In doing so, the court has reinforced the distrust many New Yorkers already feel toward the performance of the criminal justice system in this case."
Pantaleo and other officers had stopped Garner on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed. Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what he said was a sanctioned takedown move and not a banned chokehold.
The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard on the tape gasping, "I can't breathe." He lost consciousness and died later at a hospital.
Attorney Jonathan Moore, who represents Garner's family, said they were disturbed by the ruling.
"We think this grand jury process was deeply flawed," he said. "We think the ability for the public to see what that process was like would have been an important step in understanding what happened here."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has called for federal prosecution of the officer, also criticized the decision.
"If a video of a man being choked and saying 11 times 'I can't breathe' was not enough to go to trial, only a release of the grand jury minutes could explain to us why it was not," Sharpton said.
TSA Let a Convicted Felon Through PreCheck Lanes, DHS Watchdog Says
by Cassandra Vinograd
A convicted felon and former member of a domestic terrorist group was allowed to use expedited airport security lines last summer, according to the Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog.
The DHS Inspector General's Office said Thursday a whistle-blower flagged the incident as a "significant aviation security breach," prompting an investigation.
It issued a report saying that the traveler — who had convictions for murder and explosives offenses — had not applied for the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program but was selected for expedited security screening through the "risk assessment rules" in the Secure Flight program.
A security officer at the airport recognized the felon and alerted his supervisor, but was told to "take no action" and allow the passenger through the TSA PreCheck lane, the Inspector General's Office's report said.
"Mitigating and reducing passenger screening vulnerabilities is important to our nation's aviation security," Inspector General John Roth said in a statement. "Incidents like this highlight the need for TSA to modify their PreCheck procedures."
TSA Precheck allows passengers who have been pre-approved to keep on their shoes and belt, not remove their jackets, keep their laptops inside their cases, and not have to remove select liquids and gels from their bags.
The Inspector's General office said it had made two recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future and issued a classified report to the TSA regarding the need to modify PreCheck vetting and screening processes.
The TSA said in a statement that it "takes its responsibility for protecting the traveling public very seriously" and continues to enhance its "layered security approach."
All passengers, including those with TSA PreCheck marked on their boarding passes, are subject to "robust security," it said.
NAACP hosts Saturday forum on community policing
by Jeff Sturgeon
Roanoke's NAACP will run a public meeting Saturday on community policing, which reduces crime by building trust between citizens and police.
NAACP-invited police officials from the Roanoke Valley, community leaders and interested citizens will spend two hours in a Roanoke Higher Education Center meeting room beginning at 11 a.m.
Brenda Hale, who heads the local NAACP chapter, said FBI Director James Comey helped set in motion the event with his candid talk on police-community conflict and its causes on Feb. 12 at Georgetown University. In staging Saturday's forum, the Roanoke NAACP is responding to Comey's call for police-community connection through meetings, dialogue and sharing.
“We must work — in the words of New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton — to really see each other,” Comey said in a message intended for both law enforcement officers and people at large.
In that dialogue, police will will try to know “deep in our gut, what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking on the street and encountering law enforcement. We must understand how that young man may see us. We must resist the lazy shortcuts of cynicism and approach him with respect and decency,” Comey said in his message to police.
It goes both ways. In the dialogue Comey envisioned, citizens will find out what police see through windshields of squad cars and as they walk beats, he said. They will know the dangers faced on a typical overnight shift. “They need to understand the difficult and frightening work they [police] do to keep us safe. They need to give them the space and respect to do their work, well and properly,” Comey said.
The hope is that dialogue in Roanoke amid the tense national climate will help community policing flourish in the Roanoke Valley, Hale said.
Keith Wheaton, who chairs the NAACP's legal redress committee, said Thursday he expects representatives from the municipal police squads of Lexington, Roanoke, Roanoke County, Salem and Vinton and from the city sheriff's office.
The event will occur in room 212.
The NAACP welcomes “everyone seeking justice in the Roanoke Valley community,” Wheaton said. “We have [reserved] the biggest room down there.
Officials: Community policing good in theory but not possible in Anchorage now
by Kate McPherson
ANCHORAGE – A senior Anchorage police officer says some of the shootings and other violent crimes that have plagued the city this year could have been prevented if the Anchorage Police Department had an effective community policing program.
“And the reason I think it would have is perhaps we would've had the intelligence given to us before some of these issues got to this crisis,” said Acting Capt. Garry Gilliam. “If we had had those relationships in place, would those victims and witnesses given us more information? I would like to say yes.”
Gilliam says community policing opens the door to allow the public to network with the police department and allow the police department to gain the trust of the community. It also provides APD with good intelligence about what problems exist in particular neighborhoods.
Community policing has been used in Anchorage on and off for the past 15 years, but it's not a philosophy that APD currently uses citywide. Mayor Dan Sullivan supports the idea of community policing, but Sgt. Gerard Asselin, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association, says staffing levels have not reflected that aspiration.
“Even if there were a very strong desire, the staffing doesn't exist to do it,” Asselin said. “None of [the officers] have enough time to do the work that they are being given, for one. And two, the police department is actually not even assigning investigations that should be being conducted.”
Currently, there are 325 full-time sworn officers, similar to 2005 levels, and an additional 35 officers will complete training by the end of the year.
Sgt. Asselin says community policing is only successful if a patrol officer can dedicate significant time to the neighborhood he or she is assigned to, including being able to attend council meetings and regular meetings with homeowners and businesses.
“It's building what I would see as a collaborative relationship where it's not the officers versus the community — it's the officers, with the community, versus those who would try to commit criminal acts,” Asselin said. “Through the development of that relationship it has the tendency to also lower crime.”
Community Action Policing Team
Anchorage has a Community Action Policing Team that's made up of a sergeant and six officers. The team works on complex problems in certain neighborhoods, Fairview being the most recent.
“They've been engaged with the Fairview Community Council, several businesses in that area that have been plagued with the problems of chronic inebriates and specifically, Spirits of Alaska,” Gilliam said. “They know the drug dealers, they know the prostitutes in the area, they know them by name and face and they understand the problem, so when they are in that area they can see what is normal or abnormal from what they've been seeing for the past few months.”
But Capt. Gilliam says the CAP Team's work is different from the community policing that would be undertaken by patrol officers using their time in between responding to 911 calls. The problem is, there's no time.
“We do not have that kind of non-obligated time for our patrol officers: they typically go call to call to call,” said Gilliam, who's spent 32 years with APD.
Many of the candidates vying to be the next mayor of Anchorage say community policing is something they would like to implement as one of the solutions to the spike in Anchorage's crime rate. Sgt. Asselin says he's looking for a mayor who wants to develop a long-term strategy and vision for APD.
“It seems as though all of the discussion has been around how can we cut, cut, cut without an actual plan of where we are going to end up at,” Asselin said. “We are at an extremely reactive state; we do not have the ability to be proactive and that's really what community policing is about, is engaging community for proactive crime prevention and response efforts and we are exactly the opposite to that right now.”
Cincinnati police chief talks about community policing in St. Louis
by Chris mith
ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was a special guest at St. Louis University Wednesday. The chief was in St. Louis to talk about improving relationships between police and the communities they serve.
Blackwell was brought in to help officers interact with people in a positive and friendly is key.
Cincinnati had its own experience with civil unrest back in 2001, after a controversial police shooting.
Chief Blackwell says departments need to be transparent about mistakes and focus on building relationships for positive change to happen.
Chief Blackwell has been in his post for two years. He`s worked in law enforcement for more than 25 years.
He received his own cardinal's jersey from Fred Bird for visiting St. Louis today.
Unified police, fire, EMS recruiting strategy aims to diversify Cleveland safety forces
by Brandon Blackwell
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Department of Public Safety wants to unify recruiting efforts among the city's three safety forces by creating a team dedicated to seeking out candidates for police, fire and emergency medical services.
The preliminary strategy, unveiled Wednesday during a city council Safety Committee meeting, aims to bolster the number of minorities and women within the city's public safety ranks.
A proposed Recruiting Oversight Team -- to include personnel from police, fire and EMS -- would report straight to the safety director and would manage a handful of recruiting programs that include high school, college and community outreach.
"In order for us to be successful, we need the partnership of the community," Assistant Safety Director Barry Withers said during his presentation.
Withers outlined three recruiting goals: increase the quantity and quality of people interested in public safety work, boost the number of qualified women who apply for those jobs and reduce the disparity between the racial makeup of the safety forces and the city's population.
Councilman Matt Zone, who chairs the Safety Committee, was amenable to the proposal.
"It's in all of our best interests ... that we do targeted recruitment and make sure that our forces are representative of the people in our communities," Zone said.
Of the 2,654 employed by the city's safety forces, only 375 are women, according to statistics provided by Withers. The assistant safety director pointed out that the police force is 65 percent white in a city that is primarily black. Minorities -- black, Hispanic and other -- make up 25 percent of the fire department and 44 percent of EMS personnel.
Cleveland is more than 53 percent black, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The proposed strategy would do away with the current practice of assigning various personnel to recruiting duties for a specific testing cycle, Withers said. The recruiting efforts halt once recruits begin the exam process, he said.
Councilman Kevin Conwell asked how the plan would filter out officers like Timothy Loehmann, who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Loehmann was hired by Cleveland police after being rejected from numerous other police departments.
Police Cmdr. Ellis Johnson, who joined Withers, Safety Director McGrath and police, fire and EMS personnel at the meeting, explained that the recruiting process is separate from the testing and hiring processes. Police Chief Calvin Williams has said before that the department is reviewing its hiring process in the wake of Rice's death.
The recruiting plan is in its early stages. It is unclear how much it would cost -- or where the money would come from -- to implement the unified strategy.
Withers said his department is open to suggestions about recruiting strategies as it looks to "put some fat on this skeleton."
Letter to White House tested for cyanide
by David Jackson
The Secret Service is testing a letter addressed to the White House for traces of cyanide.
The Associated Press reports that an initial biological test came back negative, but another one had a "presumptive positive" for cyanide.
The letter never reached the White House; it was intercepted at another facility in Washington, D.C., where screening is conducted.
The website The Intercept reported that it obtained an law enforcement alert stating that "an envelope containing an unknown milky substance, in a container wrapped in a plastic bag, received at the White House Mail Screening Facility, tested positive for Cyanide."
The Intercept also reported that "the envelope listed a return address for a man who the alert says has a record with the Secret Service dating back to 1995, which includes sending a package covered in urine and feces. That person has sent multiple packages over the years; the most recent package was received on June 12, 2012, which contained mini alcoholic beverages."
"The Secret Service, which is responsible for the safety and security of President Barack Obama and his immediate family, said its investigation into the letter was continuing and it will have no additional comment on the matter.
"Suspicious letters often are sent to some of the country's leading politicians, including the president. Some test positive for hazardous substances while others include threats of death or other physical harm."
Fairbanks adopts community policing, aims to reduce crime
by Kate McPherson
FAIRBANKS – The Fairbanks Police Department has implemented a new community policing program with the goal of reducing crime in certain neighborhoods. Chief Randall Aragon calls it a philosophy — one that he's implemented successfully in other states, including North Carolina and, most recently, Texas.
“You can't build an effective rapport with the community looking through the windshield of your police car,” said Aragon, who took over the position in November.
He says community policing is a proactive approach that works alongside reactive policing, like responding to 911 calls.
“Call the police, send a car, make an arrest and it just continues that cycle,” Aragon said. “Call the police, send a car, make an arrest, you know you are putting a Band-Aid on the whole problem. It's not actually going to the root cause of what it is.”
The chief says community policing is about building a strong trusting relationship with citizens, so that they feel more comfortable talking with officers. At the same time, officers have to want to get involved.
“You've got to have an officer that has the ability to solve problems, that wants to solve problems, that embraces the philosophy and is energetic,” Aragon said.
Officer Rick Sweet was the first out of the 47 sworn officers to volunteer for the new community policing position.
“You start knowing the personalities, you get to know the people who are living and transitioning in the area,” Sweet said.
He's assigned to a neighborhood in South Fairbanks that is known to have drug dealing and addiction issues as well as a property crime rate 38 percent higher than the rest of the state, according to Fairbanks police. Sweet now uses the time that he's not responding to 911 calls to meet with people in South Fairbanks.
“I like the interaction with people,” said Sweet, who spent 26 years with the U.S. Army, including a mission in Iraq with the special police transition team.
He says that team had a similar philosophy about building positive relationships between local police and the community.
Building relationships at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission
Sweet has started to build relationships with community groups, like the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.
“The main goal of it is to get police officers to talk to people living and transitioning through the area, so that you have a common face to come to,” Sweet told a group of men eating in the cafeteria. “It's a longer-term solution to help what's going on, and so that there is a trust that builds between us, and anyone who lives in the area.”
The executive director of the Fairbanks Rescue Mission, Rodney Gaskins, says he's excited about the new partnership and the potential it has to give people in the South Fairbanks area a voice.
“This isn't a bad area, these aren't bad people; it's just that you have bad apples,” Gaskins said. “No one wants to be afraid in the place that they live.”
Gaskins says the main problem in South Fairbanks is the lack of trust and confidence residents have in police.
”You could drive down the street and you could see drug dealers there and the neighbors won't report them because they are afraid,” said Gaskins, adding that many people think the police will tell the drug dealers who turned them in. “So when the law enforcement community comes and shows themselves as trustworthy, and reinforcing a positive relationship, I think that it's going to be a win-win situation.”
Officer Sweet says part of finding a solution to the community's problems is spending time with people when he isn't focused on serving a warrant or responding to a disturbance.
“That you're not coming here to arrest someone,” Gaskins said to Sweet during their meeting at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.
An old philosophy
Community policing isn't a new concept. Gaskins remembers growing up in Washington, D.C. in the late-60s when community policing was in full swing.
“The policeman from my neighborhood was named Officer Lott, and that was 40 years ago. I still remember this guy, we would have basketball tournaments and he would show up,” Gaskins said.
For community policing to work, it has to have support from the very top. Chief Aragon says he's committed to expanding the program and already has two more officers who have gone through the additional training and are ready to start.
“There's really not a whole lot of manpower involved, that's a myth,” said Chief Aragon, adding that many officers in his department have enough spare time to make community policing work.
Chief Aragon expects crime statistics to increase in South Fairbanks over the next two years as more people come forward to work with police on the problems of drug and property crimes. However, Aragon says the number of incidents should then start to decrease.
At the end of the day, the community has to want to be involved.
“Having those people who live here being not afraid to say, ‘Hey, I saw something strange happen' or ‘every time I'm driving to work I see these same people on the street and they are dealing drugs,'” Sweet said.
“That way they take back the community and we are seen as somebody who is going to help,” he said.
Community policing strategies need to take into account police and residents' different perceptions of neighborhood crime.
by Rachel Stein and Candace Griffith
Do police officers and residents have different perceptions of crime and cohesion in urban neighborhoods? In new research, Rachel E. Stein and Candace Griffith find resident observations of neighborhood measures are relatively consistent across three urban neighborhoods in a Midwestern city. Police perceptions of their relationship with residents and the close-knit structure of the community, however, are more positive in the primarily white neighborhood that has an active crime prevention program. The results suggest that what officers see on the “surface” of the neighborhood is driving overall perceptions, while underlying problems are secondary. Differences between resident and police perceptions can influence the success of crime prevention strategies employed in community policing.
The successful implementation of community policing programs is dependent on police and residents understanding the needs in their communities. The trend of community policing programs in the U.S. represents a move away from the traditional centralized police force, toward a proactive strategy to curb crime. Community policing programs focus on building relationships among community members and between the neighborhood residents and police officers. The goal is for police officers to work with members of the community to identify problems and work together to solve these problems. The networks and community cohesion that results serve to lower the incidence of crime in the neighborhood.
The crime prevention strategies associated with community policing would be most useful in high crime neighborhoods, but residents in these areas are the most resistant to such programs. Residents in high crime areas generally distrust the police and do not see the benefit of community programs. Neighborhood residents are likely to consider the programs implemented by police departments ineffective to control crime problems in the community. One reason for this is that residents' perceptions of the neighborhoods are grounded in their everyday lived experience, while the viewpoint of police officers is characterized as that of an outsider.
Our research is the first to explore residents' perceptions of the neighborhood and perceptions of police officers across three neighborhoods in a Midwestern city—Mountain Top, Shoreline, and Saints Village, where we surveyed 267 residents and over 35 police officers. The three neighborhoods are classified as high crime and highly disordered neighborhoods. They are relatively similar across population demographics; however, Shoreline is the only neighborhood with a majority white population as compared to a more heterogeneous population in Mountain Top and Saints Village. The goal of our descriptive analysis is to identify patterns across neighborhoods and recognize differences in the perceptions of residents and police officers.
Residents' perceptions are what we would expect in high crime neighborhoods. Residents report moderate levels of neighborhood cohesion and moderate levels of fear of crime across all three neighborhoods. The majority of residents report crime is a problem in their community. We find a larger proportion of people who live in Saints Village consider crime to be a problem as compared to the other two neighborhoods. This is not unexpected, as Saints Village is most at risk of crime and disorder according to the demographic characteristics of the population. The community members have a low median income, a high rate of unemployment, and a large proportion of the neighborhood is comprised of renters—representing a transient population. The population in Saints Village also has a high percentage of males and a large proportion of adolescents. All of these characteristics are indicative of high crime areas.
We might expect police perceptions of the neighborhoods to reflect the same pattern, identifying Saints Village as the most problematic crime-ridden area. This, however, is not what we find. The police officers report Saints Village and Mountain Top share similar characteristics. The majority of officers identify both of these neighborhoods as high crime areas characterized by poor relationships between police officers and residents. In contrast to resident perceptions, the Shoreline neighborhood is unique according to the police surveys. In fact, officers report residents in Shoreline represent the most cohesive community. Over half of the officers also report they feel respected and have a good rapport with the residents in Shoreline.
In efforts to explain the pattern in police responses, we first turn to the demographic composition of the neighborhoods. All of the neighborhoods in this study are characterized as high crime and high disorder areas; however, Shoreline is the only neighborhood in this study with a majority of white residents. The effect of race on neighborhood crime is often linked to elements of inequality or neighborhood disorganization, but the perception of a causal link between race and crime still stands. The police perceptions of Mountain Top and Saints Village as unsafe and characterized by poor relationships between police and residents suggest race might be a factor.
Another unique feature of Shoreline is this neighborhood was the only community with an active federally funded crime prevention program in place at the time of data collection. The presence of the program can contribute to the positive perceptions held by police officers. Residents in neighborhoods with crime prevention programs are more likely to be supportive of the police. This is especially true in communities where whites compose a greater proportion of the population, as in Shoreline. This reflects the greater number of officers who indicate that they have a positive relationship with residents; however, it is important to note that the program does not reduce residents' perceptions of problems in the neighborhood.
Successful crime prevention strategies can only be implemented when police officers and residents work together to identify problems in the neighborhood. Police officers need to move beyond their outsider perspective of the neighborhood to understand the underlying needs of the community. A training program that incorporates multicultural awareness represents an effective strategy for officers to recognize different perspectives of neighborhood residents. This type of training can also help the officers establish the legitimacy of the police force in the community. Legitimacy is the first step for police to take the lead and help residents who view crime as a big problem and have high levels of fear of crime mobilize to community action.
This article is based on the paper, ‘Resident and Police Perceptions of the Neighborhood' in Criminal Justice Policy Review.
Rachel E. Stein - West Virginia University
Rachel E. Stein is an Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. Her research is focused on opportunities that lead to crime and victimization. She has published several research articles using hierarchical linear models to explore cross-national multilevel opportunities of victimization; her recent work explores neighborhood crime and fear of crime using broken windows and collective efficacy theories.
Candace Griffith – West Virginia University
Candace Griffith is a Visiting Assistant Professor at West Virginia University in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her research focuses on the civilian involvement in law enforcement activities, focusing on border issues and community policing.
Police cameras have unexpected cost
Agencies nationwide may not have considered the cost of storing data from the cameras -- a cost that could equal millsions of dollars. Inland agencies have yet to encounter cost issues rising elsewhere
by DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The jury is still out for Inland law enforcement agencies embracing body-mounted officer video cameras on a related issue surfacing across the country: the cost of storing data from the cameras.
The Associated Press reported that the rush to outfit police officers with body cameras after last summer's unrest in Ferguson, Mo., threatens to saddle local governments with steep costs for managing the volumes of footage they must keep for months or even years. This conclusion is based on contracts, invoices and company data reviewed by the wire service.
The storage expenses — running into the millions of dollars in some cities — often go overlooked in the debates over using cameras as a way to hold officers accountable and to improve community relations.
Yet those costs can have a significant effect on city and county budgets, and in some cases may force police chiefs to choose between paying officers on the street or paying yearly video storage fees.
Some Inland departments, such as Beaumont, are just dipping their toes in the body camera water. That department, with only three motorcycle officers regularly using the cameras and most of its officers relying on dash-mounted car cameras, is not spending big money on data storage.
Others, including Rialto, are more heavily invested.
That city's police force was one of the first in the country to embrace body cameras in 2011. All 103 of its sworn officers now wear the cameras under terms of a contract due to expire in the next year.
That contract provides just under 3 terabytes (a terabyte is the equivalent of 1,000 gigabytes) of data storage by TASER International, the company made famous by selling stun guns used by police as nonlethal weapons.
When the contract expires, Rialto police Sgt. Josh Lindsay said, the city will have to decide how much data it wants to store under a different pricing system: a more expensive system that provides immediate cloud access and a cheaper cold storage system that would require about 24 hours' notice to access data.
The cost of the cold storage system would be “pennies on the dollar” compared with immediate access, Lindsay said.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department had budgeted $200,000 for storage for the 165 cameras that it purchased for deputies working out of the Jurupa Valley station. When bids came in “far in excess” of that amount, a news release said, the department re-wrote the proposal to obtain bids more in line with the budget.
Upland will be studying in the next year how much data it will need to store and how much that will cost, said Lt. John Moore.
“We are just in the infant stage of trying the cameras out and putting together a policy,” he said.
For the past three months, 18 cameras have been in use by the department's field supervisors and training officers on a trial basis.
Ontario's contract with TASER provides five years of storage management for $33,000 a year, Detective Bill Russell said. That provides 22,000 gigabytes of storage.
New York City gunshot detectors installed in most violent neighbourhoods
NEW York officials have taken an innovative approach to stopping violent crime in some of the city's most dangerous neighbourhoods.
To tackle shooting incidents, the city has installed outdoor microphones so that police can detect the location of gunshots with greater ease.
The company behind the technology, ShotSpotter, said the microphones will be able to triangulate a gunshot as soon as it occurs.
This information is then transferred to police officers in real-time so they can immediately respond to the crime.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was excited to be implementing the technology as it would revolutionise policing.
“This new gunshot detection system is going to do a world of good in going after the bad guys,” he told Fox.
“When something happens, we're going to know about it instantly. The ShotSpotter goes online today in The Bronx, and next week in Brooklyn.”
The technology comes as the NYPD has reported a 22 per cent increase in shooting incidents this year to date.
ShotSpotter is already implemented in more than 90 cities across the globe.
Chattanooga Police Begin Community Policing Projects
Chattanooga police say a new program is part of an effort to fix problems a deems most important in their area.
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher says people have noticed that the department is moving towards this new way of policing.
"People ask me how I got more cops, but we have fewer cops than we did six months ago," Chief Fletcher said."It feels like we have more cops because we are engaging people in partnerships."
Officer Zack Crawford is one of seven officers helping to impliment a project that is part of a new community policing program.
"The first thing I did was reach out to the community and see what the community needed," Crawford said.
Crawford says he found a disconnect in the process of getting domestic violence victims help, so he put together a form that officers will use when they respond to that kind of case.
"Domestic violence is one of those crimes of opportunity that leads to other crime, and it might be something that if we can stop domestic violence now, then the kids wont have to grow up in it, and the kids won't do it later on in their lives as well."
The process Crawford created will allow officers to evaluate if a victim is at high risk for future incidents.
"Basically how this is going to be used is a referral system, and after it is filled out they would call and refer and the Partnership or Family Justice Center will follow up," Crawford said.
Another project CPD is working on involves getting rid of vacant houses- an attractive spot for criminals to congregate or hide.
Emerson Burch says he's helping CPD located and get rid of around 25 abandoned houses in his neighborhood.
"One of the key components of the house that is just kind of concerning is you'll find the doors that are open there's a hole in the back of the house," Burch said as he described the abandoned home one block away from his house.
Burch says he appreciates the efforts police made to act as a liaison between neighbors and public works experts who can address the issues.
"I'd say my personal perspective has shifted in the last few months from viewing the police as an enemy or someone who would catch me speeding or catching me rolling through a stop sign to really respecting their roll in a community a lot more," Burch said.
Other projects officers have put in place focus on solving burglary problems along with building stronger community relations.
Police say their goal is to eventually assign every incoming officer a community project.
Law enforcement continues to develop ‘Community Policing' program
by Jeron Rennie
ALBERT LEA, Minn. – In an effort to create better relationships with residents and hopefully prevent crime, the Albert Lea Police Department is working with the community.
Each officer is responsible for a certain area of the city. They break the city into three districts as part of the “Community Policing” program. Each of those districts is divided into six sub districts.
It has been almost a decade since the idea came about and the police department is continuing to grow the program.
“Throughout the years, those relationships have grown and fostered from very minimal to, in some sub districts, very positive relationships between officers and the citizens within that sub district,” said Deputy Director JD Carlson with the Albert Lea Police Department.
Depending on where people live, they reach out to a certain officer with questions, concerns or ideas for the police department. That officer will also make stops in the area to keep in touch.
“We have officers that are very good and energetic with public speaking and we have other officers that are very good with training opportunities,” Carlson said, “We're focusing on our individual strengths and really trying to strengthen the relationships that we already had.”
He said they have a team of officers that continue to build on this program and work to improve the police department as a whole.
For more information on the program and how it works, visit the city's website.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell to train officers near Ferguson on community policing
St. Louis workshop starts on Tuesday
by Taylor Mirfendereski
ST. LOUIS, Missouri -- Cincinnati's top cop thinks the nation's police can learn a thing or two from his department's lessons on civil unrest.
"Relationships have to be built before the fire starts," said Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell.
Blackwell is expected to share that message and more in a class for Missouri police officers Tuesday in St. Louis. Officers from about two dozen Missouri police departments will attend the law enforcement training workshop, "Community Policing: Building a Partnership." Dozens more are expected to join by Internet.
His presentation will be held just about 20-minutes outside of Ferguson -- the city marked by the aftermath of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Competing bills aim to regulate police cameras
by The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State lawmakers are looking at how to regulate the use of body cameras by police in Michigan as more agencies across the country equip their officers with the devices.
One bill that appears to be gaining traction would prohibit the release of certain video from police body cameras, making most footage taken in places defined as private exempt from disclosure under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake, said he wants to prevent embarrassing or invasive releases of footage that have occurred in other states from happening in Michigan. He said sometimes police are called to investigate incidents where people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in their home or car, but no criminal activity is occurring. Police called to investigate a suspected break-in might capture private details of a person's home, for example, but there might not actually be a robbery occurring. The release of that footage could be invasive, Runestad said.
He said he's worked with groups including the state attorney general's office, the Michigan State Police and the American Civil Liberties Union to find bill language with a "balanced approach between privacy concerns and law enforcement concerns."
Runestad's bill would provide guidelines for local police that choose to use body cameras, he said.
That bill's chances appear better than another that would require local police to use the devices.
The measure from Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, a Detroit Democrat, would call for Michigan State Police to provide reimbursements for local police using body cameras, but it's unclear where state police would find the money for that.
Robinson said she thinks the state could come up with the funding.
"What value does a human life have? That's what we have to say to ourselves," she said.
Rep. Kurt Heise, a Republican from Plymouth and chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said he doesn't plan on taking up the bill for discussion any time soon. It would be difficult to mandate local use of the cameras without a funding source, he said, not to mention the local resources needed to update, monitor, repair and upgrade the cameras.
"It's great to say that everybody should have one, but it's a much different story when you look at the price involved and the technology behind it," Heise said.
Meanwhile, some local police are moving forward with the body cameras. Grand Rapids is buying 200 body cameras for police and some officers in Detroit are testing them.
Jefferson County sheriff presses for more community-oriented policing
by Charlie Bermant
PORT HADLOCK — Armed with a new report from a consultant assessing the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff David Stanko says he is pleased with the department's effort toward bringing deputies closer with their constituents.
“We are a guardianship organization,” the three-month sheriff said. “We are here to serve the community.”
“The way to change that culture is to get out with the people, like having coffee with the cop, and having officers and deputies involved with the Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce.”
Stanko just received a report from DeVore and Associates LLC, a Twin Falls, Idaho, consultant who assessed the Sheriff's Office in its efforts to create a community policing environment.
The report, which Stanko secured for the price of his per diem expenses, suggested opening communications with the citizenry through planned meetings, participation in civic groups and enhanced communication techniques, he said.
One recommendation was to hire more female deputies when openings occur and assigning them to patrol duties.
The department currently has two women on patrol — Chief Civil Deputy Kelli Greenspane and Deputy Barbara Garrett — along with two female corrections officers.
Stanko said the next anticipated deputy vacancy will be the result of a retirement in January.
At that time, he will make a special effort to recruit women and minorities, he said.
The report also suggested that the department develop a stronger media presence.
Law enforcement agencies view the news media as adversaries when [they] should be considered allies “to disseminate important information regarding department activities, meetings, problem-solving activities, crime and problem trends, the types of assistance needed from citizens, and even the complexities of modern policing,” the report states.
One of the initial community-policing efforts was the first of three weekly “Coffee With a Cop” sessions at the Chimacum Cafe last Wednesday.
Although only four people showed up, “we had some nice discussions,” Stanko said.
“We'll do two more of these and then offer them at other locations such as the Bayview [in Port Townsend].”
Upcoming Coffee With a Cop Events will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday and March 25 at the Chimacum Cafe, 9253 Rhody Drive, also at 2 p.m.
Stanko, a former Rotary Club president before his election as sheriff last fall, has assigned deputies to become members of local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and sends someone — often himself — to weekly Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce meetings.
He also has begun Blue Courage Guardianship Training, a series of leadership workshops as well as critical incident training at which schools are instructed about preferred tactics should an incident occur.
The department also has established a presence in the Chimacum and Quilcene school districts, with one deputy operating out of the Quilcene campus and others visiting Chimacum regularly to play basketball with the kids, Stanko said.
He has identified mental health challenges in the county and is in the process of assembling a citizen advisory board that will provide input to the Sheriff's Office.
With all the scheduled training, the department will become more effective and empathetic, he said.
“We had that fatal accident that was tremendously emotional,” Stanko said of a March 6 crash on Center Road.
“A 77-year-old woman whose leg was severed,” the sheriff said, “and you have officers treating her with empathy and respect, making sure she got the best care possible.
“You go from that call and then deal with a lady who has just lost her cat or her dog.
“How do you show proper empathy to her when you've just been through an emotional event?”
The answer, according to Stanko, is training officers on how to deal with the public during emotionally charged situations.
“A lot of our offenders have mental health problems, so our deputies need to understand how to deal with them,” Stanko said.
Stanko said the department will benefit from outside evaluations, such as the community policing assessment report conducted by DeVore in January.
Stanko said all the recommendations in the report are possible, although finding the money to support their implementation could be difficult.
The department is planning an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 2, during which time visitors can tour the office and the jail, at 79 Elkins Road in Port Hadlock.
The community policing report is not currently on the department's website, www.jeffersonsheriff.org, but will be posted there in the near future, Stanko said.
To contact the Sheriff's Office, phone 360-385-3831.
Stanko's direct email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Watchdogs target cellphone snooping
by TONY SAAVEDRA
Police nationwide are secretly tracking cellphones, using the Sting-Ray surveillance device to capture personal information about suspects and others – often without court approval, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
There are few if any restraints on the shoe box-sized device, which provides law enforcement officers with three pieces of information: the number of the cellphone making a call, the number of the phone being called and the exact location of the caller. All of that is collected without the knowledge of the cellphone company or the customer.
Or the courts, according to the ACLU.
The civil liberties union has filed suit against the Anaheim Police Department and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, according to Jessica Price, a staff attorney for the ACLU.
The only Inland agency using the device, Price said, is the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. She said the department, which is not targeted by the lawsuit, told the ACLU that it paid $420,000 in 2006 for the device.
The Sheriff's Department wrote in an email response Thursday that it “possesses and uses such a device, which is called a cell-site simulator.”
“The device is used to locate a person's known cellular device, pursuant to and in full compliance (with the) law, to further the department's investigative and public safety responsibilities,” the statement said. “It is used in special cases to locate felony suspects and/or missing or kidnapped persons.”
Price said use of the device, commonly referred to as a StingRay – the name of the most commonly used version – poses privacy issues because it fetches information from all cellphones more than a mile away.
“It is picking up people who they are not actually targeting,” Price said. “It is telling police their location. That is particularly concerning because that can tell you whether they are on the street, which may be fine, or if they are in their car, at their work or if they are in their homes. People keep cellphones on all day and even near them when they sleep.
“That (device) is sending signals into people's homes to find out where they are in their household when the police shouldn't even be interested in that information.”
Though a court order might be required to collect such information from a land line, police using the StingRay device aren't required to go before a judge.
One StingRay model, which the ACLU says is not typically sold to law enforcement, also can pick up conversations and text messages.
Price said the ability of the devices to listen in on phone conversations or read text messages is disabled when they are sold to law enforcement agencies.
“Basic information it gets is the exact location of the cellphones nearby, what the phone number is of those cellphones and who they are calling and who is calling them,” she said.
“We know, for example, if they are looking for someone in a deserted area, like in a forest somewhere, they could use it if a person has a cellphone with them,” Price said.
Are tougher penalties in heroin deaths needed?
by Christian Sheckler
As much of Michiana faces a steady rise of fatal heroin overdoses, some area law enforcement officials say harsher penalties against people who supply deadly batches of the drug could help fight the epidemic.
But others have mixed feelings about the idea, and its future is unclear, as a bill that would add the new penalties to Indiana law stalled after the proposal failed to win a committee hearing at the Statehouse this legislative session.
The proposal, House Bill 1295, authored by Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-Osceola, would have created a new Level 3 felony crime of manufacturing, financing or delivering any amount of heroin that causes the death of a user.
An aggravating factor, such as causing death, can already raise manufacturing or dealing at least 5 grams of a drug such as heroin to a Level 3 felony or greater, but under Wesco's bill, dealing even tiny amounts of heroin could lead to a long prison sentence.
For example, someone who provides a user with less than a gram of heroin could normally face as little as six months in prison, with a maximum sentence of 2½ years. But if the user dies, the dealer could serve as many as 16 years under Wesco's proposal.
"What I like, if that becomes law, is it could have the same effect as delivering alcohol to a minor who dies, so at a minimum, you take some responsibility for your illegal act," said St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter. "If you do let someone die, you're hit with significant time."
Such a law could be used to prosecute drug dealers, but it also could be used against friends or acquaintances who casually provide heroin, then abandon users when they suffer fatal overdoses, Cotter said. He said he was disappointed Wesco's bill did not move in the legislature, but that he hoped discussions about the idea would continue.
In January, the bill was referred to the Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, but it was not heard in committee, essentially killing it for this year unless some of its provisions are folded into Senate legislation.
The discussion comes as several northern Indiana counties, including St. Joseph and LaPorte, are facing an ever-mounting death toll linked to heroin and related opiate painkillers.
In St. Joseph County, 19 people died from heroin overdoses in 2014, the highest total in at least six years. LaPorte County recorded 17 fatal heroin overdoses last year, up from 14 in 2013.
Wesco said he hopes to move the legislation again in 2016, but the new heroin penalties still face questions from some law enforcement officials.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill, for one, said it's unclear if the separate felony is necessary, or if prosecutors can already pursue similar penalties by using aggravating factors or charging drug dealers with crimes such as reckless homicide.
"It becomes a question of whether we already have legislation that allows us to take this kind of action," Hill said.
And if the penalties for supplying deadly heroin were to become law, local police would need to dedicate much more time and manpower to investigating fatal overdoses, said Mishawaka police Division Chief Dan Gebo, who heads the department's detective bureau.
Traditionally, Gebo said, it has taken his department perhaps two hours to respond to a fatal overdose and close the case, normally categorizing it as an accident. Under Wesco's proposal, an overdose investigation could take a month, he said.
"You go to the scene, you see a needle sticking in a guy's arm, you find out it's heroin, it has the signs of an overdose -- we mark it as an accident," he said. "Now, we'd have to take it a step further and find out where the heroin came from."
Tracing a fatal dose of heroin back to its source can be a daunting task, police and prosecutors said, largely because of difficulties in finding evidence and witnesses. In many cases, detectives would need to search for leads in the victim's cellphone or social media pages, Gebo said.
"Whenever there is an overdose situation, there is at least a cursory investigation to determine what happened," Hill said. "But a lot of time you're going to get a dead end because your main piece of evidence has just died."
South Bend Police Chief Ron Teachman refused to discuss the legislation with The Tribune.
"I have already made my feelings known to several elected officials, thank you," Teachman wrote in an email when The Tribune invited him to speak about the issue for this article.
He did not elaborate on what he told the elected officials or which elected officials he spoke with.
Lt. Matt Blank, a St. Joseph County police spokesman, said this week the department agreed with the need to fight the trend of deadly overdoses, but it had no position on the legislation itself.
"Anything we can use to help stem the tide of these numbers of overdoses we're getting is welcome," he said. "It's hard to say how effective and helpful it would be for us unless it becomes law."
Despite the questions raised by some law enforcement officials, Wesco said the stricter penalties could act as another deterrent against dealing heroin or giving it to friends.
"There could be value so that it's very clearly stated in law that, hey, you may be providing a lesser amount of heroin, but recognize that if the person using the heroin dies from it, you're going to be charged with a higher felony level," he said.