LACP - NEWS of the Week - March, 2015
on some LACP issues of interest


NEWS of the Week

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view. We present this simply as a convenience to our readership.


March, 2015 - Week 4



Boston hero cop shot in the face, fellow officers kill shooter: police

by Kerry Sullivan

Boston city police officer John Moynihan was shot in the face at point blank range by a black assailant. As the man, later identified as Angelo West, 41, ran away, Moynihan's fellow officers shot and killed him.

Police Commissioner William Evans spoke in a press conference about the shooting.

“Our officers did what they had to do,” the police commissioner said.

He called for calm in the predominantly black community in Roxbury, the neighborhood in Boston where the shooting took place. There are concerns that this shooting could get associated with other officer-involved shootings that have garnered national attention.

“This is not about ‘Black Lives Matter,'” said Reverend Mark Scott of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston. “It's about all-the-lives-in-the-community matter and it's about the police … responding to a concern from the community.” He went on to describe how the white officer Moynihan had first been shot ‘assassination style'.

On Friday evening, around 6:30 p.m., Moynihan and fellow officers responded to a report of gunshots fired in the Hyde Park area. A surveillance camera captures how the officers pulled over a car leaving the scene. Moynihan approached the driver's side door in a calm demeanor and without drawing his weapon.

“Without provocation, as the driver is getting out … you can see his right arm come up point-blank and shot officer Moynihan right below the eye,” said Commissioner Evans.

The shooter, Angelo West, then tried to run away, firing a .357 Magnum at the other officers. They responded in kind and brought down the assailant.

“None of our officers like to use their firearms,” said Evans. “It's probably the worst thing we have to do in our profession, but here, clearly unprovoked, one of our officers is shot point-blank in the face.”

Moynihan is a highly decorated police officer. He is credited with saving the life of transit officer Richard H. Donohue Jr. during the gunfight with the Boston Marathon bombers in April 2013.

Last May, President Obama officially honored Moynihan as one of America's ‘Top Cops'.

“There are officers here who were in the thick of two attacks last year: the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard and the bombing at the Boston Marathon,” said Obama. “On those awful days — and we all remember them — amid the smoke and the chaos, the courage of these officers shone through. And their quick thinking and level-headedness undoubtedly saved lives.”

In addition, Moynihan has an impressive military record as an Army Ranger who served in Iraq from 2005 to 2008.

Moynihan is currently in a medically induced coma at the Boston Medical Center.

“They worried about bleeding in and around his brain,” said Evans. “They're watching him closely …and want to see how he's progressing before they make any determination of whether to have surgery. He's a tough kid.”

Have something to say? Let us know in the comments section or send an email to the author. You can share ideas for stories by contacting us here.




LAPD is more diverse, but distrust in the community remains

by Angel Jennings, Kate Mather, Joe Mozingo, Ruben Vives and Richard Winton

The sweeps came on Friday nights in South Los Angeles, often before big events like Raiders games. Police would round up young men they thought were gang members and hold them over the weekend to keep violence down, a campaign launched by then-Chief Daryl F. Gates to control "the rotten little cowards."

Francisco McClure recalled being arrested several times, only to be released the following Monday mornings without being charged. For the young black man, the fact that most of the officers were white made the experience even more bitter.

The martial arts instructor, 50, these days sees more Latino and black faces patrolling his community of Jefferson Park, and he says the officers don't hassle residents as much. He commends them for holding neighborhood forums and using more dashboard cameras.

But, he said, "they just cleaned up their act a little. Before it was white against blacks. Now it's just blue against blacks."

The Los Angeles Police Department often is cited as an example of how recruiting nonwhite officers can improve community relations. The LAPD, once a predominantly white institution, now closely mirrors the city's demographics and is majority nonwhite — from the glass offices at headquarters to patrol cars working the beat.

There is wide agreement that the transformation has helped, turning even some longtime LAPD critics into supporters.

"The department has moved away from being an occupying force in South L.A. and East L.A. to one that interacts and is more representative of those communities," said John Mack, a veteran civil rights leader who recently served as a police commissioner.

LAPD and community in a wary detente

But Mack and others also acknowledge that a more diverse police force has not extinguished distrust in the community it serves.

From Ferguson, Mo., to New York City, protests in recent months have focused on white officers using deadly force on blacks. LAPD shootings of black men have also sparked demonstrations, but those protests have focused on the race of the people shot and allegations of police bias — and not the race of the officers involved.

Activists in Los Angeles took to the streets after police last summer fatally shot Ezell Ford, a mentally ill black man. Police say Ford tackled one of the officers and grabbed for his gun, prompting both to open fire. Police have never said why officers approached Ford.

This month's fatal police shooting of a mentally ill homeless man on skid row also drew criticism. In that case, police say, the man — who had a criminal history — fought with officers and reached for one of their guns, an account they say was confirmed by video of the incident.

None of the officers involved in those shootings was white.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, the newly elected city councilman for parts of South Los Angeles, said the LAPD deserves credit for the progress it has made but needs to do better. In particular, he said, police need to work to gain the trust of more young people and build a generation that wants to work with the department.

"When I was young in the early '90s, I remember older family members telling me how much worse it was under Chief Parker," he said of William H. Parker, who served in the 1950s and '60s. "I thought, 'Well, I'm still afraid of getting the crap beat out of me.'"

McClure said he wondered how much progress had been made when he called 911 in September after a man with a knife charged him near his home. The two Latino officers who arrived asked McClure: "Do you have any warrants? Are you on probation?"

"I had to remind them that I am a victim," he said.

Police Chief Charlie Beck is often credited with being a guiding force in helping to improve community relations in South Los Angeles over the last 15 years.

Beck said there are always going to be allegations of mistreatment in a department "that involves a million contacts" with the public each year.

The goal, he said, is to become more deeply involved in the community so that conflicts between police and residents are viewed as isolated incidents, not signs that the department as a whole treats people unfairly.

Command staff recently underwent eight hours of "implicit bias training" to recognize the subconscious prejudices they might hold. The department also runs a large cadet program as well as a magnet program in five high schools across the city that aims to teach and mentor students interested in careers in law enforcement.

Beck pointed to the work of a cadre of officers who have made inroads in Jordan Downs, a housing project with a violent reputation and history of ill will between residents and police. Officers help with a Girl Scout troop, take kids camping and talk to gang members about getting jobs and leaving the streets.

A national focus on race and policing

Even with a more diverse police department, officers continue to use force on blacks out of proportion to their numbers in the city. Blacks represent 9% of the city's population but account for 19% of police shootings and 31% of less serious use-of-force cases. About half the complaints filed with the LAPD alleging biased policing involve interactions with black men, records show.

Beck said there is no simple explanation for those numbers. Race, he said, is just one factor, along with poverty and education levels, employment and neighborhood crime rates. Although blacks make up a small percentage of the city overall, they make up a much larger percentage of residents in higher-crime neighborhoods.

"To draw a straight-line comparison between use of force and race demographics ignores the many other disparities that not only exist but directly contribute to the situations and circumstances of police use of force," he said.

Much of the attention nationally has focused on how white officers treat blacks. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last summer involved a predominantly white department policing a majority-black community. In New York City, where protests followed the death of Eric Garner, the department is 52% white, while two-thirds of the city is nonwhite.

But in Los Angeles, Latinos make up about 45% of the force, more than any other group. Whites, who accounted for 61% of the department 25 years ago, are now about a third of sworn officers. Asian Americans are a quickly growing demographic in the LAPD, about 9.6%, as they are in Southern California; they constitute 11% of L.A.'s population.

"If you get stopped by two Los Angeles police officers today, your chances of having two white males stop you is pretty remote," Beck said.

The LAPD arrived at its diversified force after decades of social unrest.

The Watts riots of 1965 left 34 people dead and shocked the nation. The commission assigned by the governor to research the roots of the violence identified a need to improve relations between the black community and police — but no significant effort was made.

Then in the 1970s, the Center for Law in the Public Interest and the U.S. Justice Department filed employment discrimination lawsuits against the LAPD on behalf of women and minorities. To settle the suits, the department entered federal consent decrees promising to bring its ranks in line with the ethnic makeup of the city's labor force, with at least 20% of the department being female.

The force steadily diversified through the 1980s, but that did not bring the sensitivity that reformers had hoped for. A study by the Claremont Graduate School in 1990 found that officers were remarkably uniform in the how they thought and acted.

"Bringing all these women and minorities onto the force has not made any significant change in the way the police perform," George T. Felkenes, a criminal justice professor who led the project, said at the time. "Once they get in the department, they're shaped and molded into what the department wants them to be."

Riots and Rampart as catalysts for change

The turning point for Los Angeles and the LAPD came after the 1991 beating of Rodney G. King. Riots followed the acquittal of four officers tried for assault; three of them were white, one Latino.

Mac Shorty said he was among those out robbing and looting. A young black man, he was furious about the acquittal, furious about sitting on the curb, over and over, hands on top of his head, shoes off, cops looking in his socks for crack cocaine.

"They'd just plain old harass," recalled Shorty, who now sits on the Watts Neighborhood Council. "There'd be days where two or three times a day, they would bump you up."

An independent investigative panel led by future U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher found that "too many patrol officers view citizens with resentment and hostility." It pushed for an overhaul of the department's disciplinary system, a shift toward community policing and the resignation of the militaristic Chief Gates.

Gates did step down, and the department gradually implemented reforms. But, seven years after the Christopher Commission report, the Rampart scandal exploded.

Gang officers in the predominantly Latino area west of downtown were accused of covering up bad shootings, beating suspects, planting evidence, stealing drugs and lying in court. The allegations spread to other gang units. More than a dozen officers left the force: Some were fired; others resigned amid investigations. More than 100 criminal convictions were overturned, and the city had to pay more than $70 million to victims.

The federal government threatened to sue to take control of the LAPD. Under a new consent decree imposed in 2001, the department agreed to scores of measures that overhauled the way it took complaints from citizens, used confidential informants, ran gang units, investigated uses of force by officers and audited itself.

In the 12 years it took for the department to be released from the decree, policing in Los Angeles went through a metamorphosis.

These days, Shorty, the rioter turned community leader, calls LAPD captains by their first names and nicknames. Phil Tingirides is Capt. T., an affable presence at neighborhood meetings and events. He has helped start a youth football team in Watts, a track team, a tutoring program and a college scholarship program.

At a recent community meeting, residents were grumbling over whether having officers wear body cameras would really curb misbehavior. Shorty stood up and pointed to Capt. T, who is white. "Him and I don't always agree with each other, but at the end of the day, we have a working relationship," he said. "He's still my friend."

Shorty's neighbors listened, then continued grumbling — suggesting that some relationships are built slowly.

On a recent day, Officers Joe Chacon and Dan Rios made a house call off South Gless Street in the Pico Gardens housing project. They are two of nearly 50 officers who grew up in the Hollenbeck Division on the Eastside and now patrol it.

When Chacon, who has logged more than a quarter-century with the department, knocked on the apartment door, an elderly Latina gave him a warm greeting and a hug. They talked quietly about a gang member she said was causing trouble — hanging around outside at 2 a.m., selling drugs, making noise.

They chatted in Spanish, and she asked whether the officers planned to attend her friend's funeral. Of course, they said.

"I am going to come back and haunt you if you don't," she said, teasing.

Chacon would be there — on his day off.

He knows what the neighborhood used to be like, when the gangs were in control; what it was like to be raised by immigrant parents.

Capt. Martin Baeza, who grew up in nearby Glassell Park, said officers who were raised in Hollenbeck and attended Roosevelt or Garfield high schools are lining up to work in the area. When officers understand the language and culture of the community, he believes, the public is less likely to read sinister intentions into their actions.

After reforms, progress yet lingering distrust

A 2009 Harvard University study found public opinions of the police to be much more positive since the reforms of the last consent decree were implemented, with 83% of residents saying the LAPD was doing a good or excellent job. Still, the study found pockets of distrust among black and Latino residents. When asked whether police treat all racial and ethnic groups fairly, 23% of black respondents said "almost never," compared with 14% of Latinos and 10% of whites.

Lee Sprewell, 28, a black FedEx driver, said he remains distrustful of the LAPD. He cited several incidents, including one last summer when two white officers pulled him over in his new Dodge Charger while he returned from a night out.

He said that they demanded to know whether he was on probation or whether there was a warrant out for his arrest. When he asked why they had stopped him, he recalled, the officers noted that he had paper plates and said that they wanted to check his registration. Then, according to Sprewell, the officers claimed they smelled marijuana.

Sprewell told them that he did not smoke and that his employer conducts routine drug tests.

Whether they are white, black or Latino, Sprewell said, officers act the same way. "They all have the same mind-set," he said.

"They all have the same mind-set," he said.

Sgt. Jim Baker, who is black, is trying to break that image. Growing up in segregated Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights movement, Baker went to protests with his mother, who "showed me what was right and what was wrong," he said. Baker said he decided to become a police officer to protect people's rights.

Now 62 and approaching 30 years on the force, he is working for the Special Events Unit, which handles downtown protests and demonstrations.

The day before Thanksgiving, Baker was standing outside LAPD headquarters, keeping an eye on protesters who had gathered to rally against the Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown. A young woman came up to Baker. The woman, he said, told him that his work as a police officer made him racist and called him an "Uncle Tom."

"You are a black man," she said, pointing a finger at Baker. "You are kept down by your race, even if you won't accept it. That is a fact."

"That's opinion," Baker replied, before adding: "I respect your opinion."




Bakersfield Police Department struggles to diversify


The Bakersfield Police Department is twice as white as the city it serves.

More than 69 percent of BPD's sworn force is Caucasian. Hispanics comprise just 25 percent of a police department that protects and serves a city that's almost half Hispanic.

And it's only 4 percent black, about half of the city's 8 percent black population.

The BPD has a diversity problem.

And it knows it.

Diversity has been on the department's radar for a while, but has become a bigger priority as Bakersfield's demographics have changed.

Why does it matter?

Police departments better connect with the communities they serve when they reflect those communities, BPD Chief Greg Williamson said. Diversifying the department has become an almost weekly conversation at the agency, and something one councilman says he's consistently hearing about from constituents.

A poorly diversified force is not only an issue in Bakersfield but up and down the state and even across the country.

"I believe that if we mirror the community, there's more trust built between us and the community, and that's really what policing is all about," Williamson said. "Without trust in the community, we cannot do our job."


The International Association of Chiefs of Police, an advisory group, highlighted diversity in its $100,000 study of the Bakersfield Police Department last year.

While not saying it's an issue that needs immediate attention, the IACP called Bakersfield's lack of diversity "a challenging condition for both the BPD and the city of Bakersfield HR department, especially considering the number of command-level personnel eligible to retire in the near future."

The audit writers recommended the BPD shore up its relationship with certain community groups generally, saying members of the Hispanic community believe the agency "lacks sufficient outreach and consistent communication necessary to establish effective relationships."

They also said citizens believe the BPD needs to develop positive relationships with juveniles "rather than presuming that they are involved in gang activities."

"Youth-police relationship building programs help to reduce victimization, involvement of youth in the juvenile justice system, and affiliation with gangs or gang activity," its authors wrote, calling these especially important for Hispanic youth. "Positive youth-police relationships can help to build trust and minimize the fear of police."

When they reviewed the IACP audit Sept. 24, members of the Bakersfield City Council were concerned.

"There is obviously an issue here," southeast Councilman Willie Rivera said then, asking Williamson for "any suggestions for creative or innovative ways to work on" getting more minorities into the police academy.

To be fair, the BPD has had a black police chief:-- the late Eric Matlock, who joined the department in 1970 and worked his way up from officer to chief, retiring in 2004. Current Assistant Police Chief Lyle Martin is black. So is Capt. Hajir Nurridin, criminal investigations division head.

And the department has gotten slightly more diverse since the police chiefs audit was conducted. Based on 2013 data, the study found the agency then to be 74 percent white, almost 21 percent Hispanic, 3 percent black and nearly 2 percent Asian.

But it hasn't changed much.


The department faces several problems as it tries to grow, including becoming more diverse: attracting qualified candidates and competing with other law enforcement agencies that are hiring again now that the economy has improved.

A lot of times when the department hires people from outside the area, they go back home after their probationary period, Williamson said.

Applicants are more likely these days to have low-level offenses that keep them from passing background checks, something departments nationwide are grappling with, too.

And passing stringent exams to get into the BPD's police academy is also a persistent problem.

Bakersfield police and human resources officials are increasingly concerned about the written test -- and intend to begin offering it regularly later this year, instead of only during recruitment once or twice a year, They're looking into helping all applicants, not just minorities, pass.


BPD's training academies are intended to help the department reduce response times by actually fielding the number of sworn officers for which it's authorized.

But new recruits could also make the department's ethnic makeup more closely resemble Bakersfield and Kern.

Or not.

According to numbers released last month, BPD's current academy was actually slightly whiter than the police force. Of its 35 recruits, 25 were white, eight Hispanic, one Indian and one black.

The previous class, which graduated in December, was a different story. About 50 percent of its graduates were Hispanic, 35 percent were white, 7 percent were black and 8 percent were Asian or from other minority groups.

Only time will tell how many and which ones will remain with the department.

The department is targeting minority applicants with billboards and banners citywide showing minority police officers, and has sent recruitment posters to state and federal agencies and businesses from Barstow to Seal Beach.


Art Powell, a member of the BPD's Community Liaison Committee who was interviewed by the IACP during the audit, said department diversity is improving, but more minority sworn are needed.

"It'd be nice to see more police officers, minority police officers there, there's no doubt about that, said Powell, past president of the local NAACP. "The whole thing is recruitment. They need to do a better job to get minorities in there.

"What I would like to see, whether black officers, white officers, Hispanic officers, I'd like to see the community being patrolled a little more. Not in a Gestapo fashion but in a friendly fashion. That helps a lot. (Once) the community has seen minority officers, I think they'll feel a little better."

Edward J. Herrera, another Liaison Committee member who once worked with former Kern County Sheriff Carl Sparks to boost that department's diversity, agreed.

"We've been working with BPD to encourage them to really go out into the Cottonwood area and the barrios of Bakersfield and do some recruiting. I think that would go a long way toward having some officers out there who are not frightened because they come from those communities," Herrera said, praising community-based policing.

"It goes all the way back to that officer on the beat who knew the community, knew the players. I grew up in that kind of culture and I remember officers giving you gum, talking to you," he added. "Your contact with them was not always going to be confrontational. It could be pleasant."

Other communities have blamed lack of diversity as a factor in officer-involved shootings, but so far that's not been a major theme in protests of local police shootings and other deadly confrontations with citizens.

The latest Bakersfield demonstration, March 14, drew more than 200 people to the scenes of three such incidents.

The protesters haven't so much blamed lack of police diversity for the incidents but instead a general mishandling of citizen confrontations and a lack of independent investigation of them afterward.

They have, however, highlighted the fact that those who've died have typically been people of color and low socio-economic backgrounds.

In December 2013, the family of police informant Jorge Ramirez sued the city after Ramirez was killed by BPD during a shootout at the Four Points Sheraton three months earlier. Ramirez was at the time working with the department to bring in a man wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service in connection with another shooting.

Nicole Ramirez Moran, Ramirez's sister, said she doesn't think diversifying the force will itself change what she thinks is wrong with the BPD.

"I feel like it's good if they do, but I don't feel like it's going to change anything or make people trust them more," Ramirez Moran said. "I just want the chief of police to hold his officers accountable for wrongdoing."

A Bakersfield Police Department review board determined all shots fired by officers in the Ramirez incident were within department and state and federal guidelines.

Attorney Mick Marderosian, who is representing the city and BPD in the Ramirez family's case, has said he believes Ramirez and wanted felon Justin Harger -- who also died in the Sheraton shootout -- were working together to set a trap for police.


City Council members and other law enforcement professionals agree accountability is always important.

But Rivera, the councilman from the southeast, said members of his ward have been very clear they want a more diverse BPD.

"For the community I represent, it's an issue that's been brought up to me by a lot of people," Rivera said. "I think there's a tremendous advantage in a police department more closely resembling the demographics of the community it serves. Certainly, I think there's a case to be made that folks can connect to certain communities better than other people."

Councilman Chris Parlier, a former Department of Justice special agent who represents the south, said he thinks BPD has "made strides" improving its diversity, but has a ways to go.

"I believe it's a continual process. Can we do better? You know, yeah absolutely. We can always try and improve multiple facets of the department, and diversity being one of them," Parlier said.

Downtown Councilman Terry Maxwell, however, said BPD officers' character matters far more than their ethnicity.

"The content of your character determines what type of an officer you're going to be, what kind of a person you're going to be," Maxwell said, calling the diversity question a "make-you-feel-good sort of thing."

"I think it's a sad state of affairs when we're talking about ethnicity and diversity in the police department, when it's taken us away from what we should be focused on and that's how well they're doing enforcing the law," he added.




Dickinson panel shines light on dark matters

by Tyler Miles

CARLISLE — Controversial topics are constantly discussed in private, but what happens when those topics — such as the decisions in New York and Missouri not to indict police officers in the deaths of two unarmed African-American men — are talked about openly in a public forum?

Local experts, Dickinson Law students and interested Carlisle residents discussed the above topic and others on Saturday during “Aftermath of Ferguson: Where Do We Go from Here,” a panel discussion featuring Carlisle Mayor Timothy Scott; Andy Hoover, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union; Sgt. David Miller, of the Carlisle Police Department; and Rick Brown, a retired deputy commissioner with the Pennsylvania State Police.

“I think it's our civic obligation to have these conversations and keep it going, so our idea is we're basically debating and arguing these things in the hallway, why don't we channel that into something productive and turn it into something tangible,” explained Drew McLaughlin, a Dickinson law student and coordinator for the event.

The program opened with a presentation orchestrated by McLaughlin and fellow student coordinator Raymond Baker laying the groundwork for what was to come. A slide show depicted the grim events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.

While these topics can still be uncomfortable to discuss, McLaughlin said, the different perspectives of all those in attendance of Saturday's event at the Lewis Katz Hall, 150 S. College St., allowed for better conversation.

“It's a nice mix of law students and faculty and people from the community of different ages, different social backgrounds, and I think that important because some of the conversations you're going to have. People have different experiences, and my experience in my 28 years is far different that some of these people who have lived in Carlisle for decades,” McLaughlin said. “So I think having that diversity of viewpoint is necessary for a healthy discussion.”

Members of the audience were instructed that they were welcome to raise their hands if a question came to them, but once the discussion began in full, the dialogue between panel members and students and residents became almost personal, and soon nearly the entire 50 in attendance were carrying conversations on topics ranging from community policing to body cameras to municipal fines.

The panel even touched on the subject of Hummelstown police Officer Lisa Mearkle, who was recently charged with criminal homicide after shooting unarmed David Kassick as he lay face down following an attempted traffic stop and vehicle pursuit. Mearkle's Taser was equipped with a camera, capturing the incident, which raised the topic of body cameras.

“In the Hummelstown situation, there was a camera on the Taser; about 10 percent of Tasers have cameras on them,” Hoover said. “If an officer is being unfairly accused of misconduct, or rightly accused, for that matter, camera data can show the truth. “

This topic, along with others mentioned, are still fresh in the minds of many, especially the local case involving Mearkle. Organizers said the goal of the forum was to give those attending a chance to get their feelings out and, with that, learn new way of thinking involving those of different social and cultural backgrounds.

“The conversation we're having today is a conversation we've had in these hallways and in our classrooms, and being in law school, I think it gives us a unique perspective on some of these things,” McLaughlin said. “It's important to remind yourself you're not just approaching these problems as a lawyer, but also as a member of a community.”




'We're trying to change their perception of police'

by Anne Jungen

La Crosse police officer Dan Ulrich sits on a couch at the South Side Boys & Girls Club for a private chat with a student, who drops his backpack to the floor and listens.

Ulrich's partner, Nate Poke, waits for more students before making the rounds, smiling and asking about their school day.

The officers have been here at least once a week for the past year, breaking barriers and building relationships.

“We're trying to change their perception of police,” Poke said.

Later that afternoon, the officers are in their white unmarked squad car, cruising a South Side neighborhood before slowing to chat with a man walking on Mississippi Street.

“You need anything, let us know,” Ulrich says.

He lowers his voice.

“You know anything, let us know.”

A year ago, the agency launched an intensive community policing program to support struggling neighborhoods, largely paid for by grants from Viterbo University, Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and the La Crosse Community Foundation.

“The La Crosse Police Department has always had a community policing philosophy. This takes it to the next level,” Chief Ron Tischer said. “A lot of people don't call police until it's critical. We're trying to change that.”

The department gave its four Neighborhood Response Officers, or NROs, the autonomy to build partnerships and delve deeper into problems.

“On (traditional patrol shifts), we can't stop and play football with kids. We can't go to meetings and make contact with businesses,” Ulrich said. “On patrol, you don't have the time to stop and say, ‘Hey, what's been going on?'”

Police officials say the fledgling NRO program is having an impact.

“We strive to have the community feel that it cannot live without them,” police Capt. Shawn Kudron said.

Building the unit

The NRO program was born in 2012 as Mayor Tim Kabat took office on a promise to revitalize La Crosse neighborhoods. Kudron, who oversees the unit, said his department saw it could play a role. City officials and neighborhood leaders wanted more engagement than patrol officers could offer.

“They're dedicated to responding to calls for service, and, under that model, it's tough for them to dedicate the time to understand the needs of the community and to develop strategies to solve problems,” Kudron said.

The agency needed more officers embedded in neighborhoods, going beyond regimented patrol duties to build relationships that could deter crime and improve the quality of life.

The Washburn Neighborhood on the near South Side stretches from West Avenue to the Mississippi River between Main and Jackson streets. It's home to a university and a medical center. But it also includes dilapidated dwellings and pockets of poverty. Drug activity breeds other crimes. The Lower North Side, roughly between Clinton and Monitor streets from George Street to the Black River, faces similar challenges.

The city reached out to stakeholders. Viterbo, Mayo-Franciscan and the La Crosse Community Foundation contributed $337,164 to fund four positions for three years, adding to a $375,000 U.S. Department of Justice community-policing grant.

“We believe that the quality of life in the center city is important to the health of the people who live in the center city,” said Joe Kruse, chief administrative officer at Franciscan Healthcare.

The police department assigned the officers to the department's investigative bureau, hoping the connections they made would yield intelligence they could share with investigators. The officers have great autonomy to build relationships with residents and business people.

Assigned to Washburn, Poke and Ulrich had the motivation, skills and personalities needed to tackle a new role.

“They asked what they should go out and do,” Kudron said. “I wanted them to find that answer for themselves.”

The NROs

Poke and Ulrich had been with department for three and six years, respectively. The autonomy to strengthen relations between the police department and the community appealed to them, and they started the new assignment March 1, 2014.

“We want to see this place get better,” Poke said.

A year later, people are warming up to the idea that Poke and Ulrich are there to build productive relationships.

They stop weekly at the Boys & Girls Club at 811 S. Eighth St., where many kids once associated the uniform with a pending arrest. But Poke and Ulrich walk in smiling, take a seat next to the kids and talk about the importance of an education or their problems at home. They're on the basketball court with them, helping with homework, joking with them, striking up friendships.

“We were able to break down barriers in about five minutes,” Ulrich said.

But make no mistake: They're still fighting crime — gathering intelligence and building an impressive index of drug dealers and other criminals. The flexibility of the job allows them to monitor drug houses, a luxury not afforded to patrol officers.

“We're able to dig deeper,” Ulrich said.

In their squad car, Ulrich is behind the wheel and Poke is on a laptop, running license plates, checking for warrants and monitoring dispatch calls. They're together at least eight hours a day four days a week and agree they couldn't do the job without the constant, immediate backup of a partner.

They're looping the Washburn Neighborhood, looking for both familiar and new faces. They smile back at the driver of a black Cadillac who glares at them. They waive at the surveillance camera on the door of a house suspected of hosting prostitution.

Then they take Fourth Street north to find their counterparts on the Lower North Side.

Crime, Ulrich says, doesn't stop at Main Street.

Tyler Pond, a La Crosse officer since 2012, began his North Side assignment in July. Dale Gerbig, a drug crime expert, joined him in January.

As in Washburn, drug activity on the Lower North Side fuels other crimes. The high volume of traffic at dilapidated dwellings frustrates neighbors. Pond said their flexible schedules allow officers to monitor visitors and knock on doors to build intelligence and cases. And the NROs in their unmarked Ford Expeditions are earning a reputation.

“The word on the street is, ‘When you see the white trucks, run,'” Ulrich said.

Pond drives east on Island Street and catches a glare from a man walking past. Still in view of the Expedition, the pedestrian makes a drug deal. Poke and Ulrich appear.

“Go arrest them,” Ulrich shouts to Pond, who catches up with the suspect.

The neighborhood officers arrest two people and bring them to the station. One is alone in an upstairs interview room, the door shut while Pond shares the details of the arrest with an investigator. Pond weighs the marijuana he confiscated, leaves it in an evidence locker and returns to his car.

On this February afternoon, three of the four neighborhood officers revisit a North Side house in the 700 block of Wall Street. A camera shows the homeowner a surveillance image of his front door on a small black-and-white television inside. He lets the cops in, nonetheless, making small talk and chain-smoking on a small couch in the living room as the officers check out the tidy albeit grimy first floor.

“Tyler, are you coming to a grill-out here this summer?” the man asks. “I'll buy the steaks.”

“Sure, man, I'll be here,” the officer says.

Ulrich is in another room arresting a tenant on an outstanding warrant.

“Officer Dan, next time I'll have to show you a picture of my grandbaby,” a visitor shouts to Ulrich.

The house has a reputation for being a problem property, with frequent visitors. The homeowner complains no one will visit anymore: “Everyone gets arrested when they come here.”


Pond said people are becoming more comfortable calling the officers. The officers initiate meetings with community groups and business owners, explaining their dedication to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. Call them “Tyler” and “Dale,” they say, not “officer.”

They visit a Laundromat at 514 Lang Drive, making sure only paying customers are inside. Pond approaches a woman with a service dog at her feet, and they smile before Pond squats down. “Hi,” he says. “What's your dog's name?”

Later, the officers visit Bronston Chiropractic across the street. William Sterba meets the officers for the first time and the chiropractor jokes about whether they're there to arrest him. The officers laugh, and the conversation shifts to small talk about football.

“Any problems? Any concerns? Don't hesitate to call,” Gerbig said. “And don't be surprised if we stop in.”

Pond and Gerbig crave the autonomy and positive contacts they can make as NROs, but they recognize the challenge and responsibility. Gerbig spent 15 years patrolling La Crosse and wants to break down the barriers that result when police only respond to crime scenes or disputes.

“Police are not always seen as helpers,” Gerbig said, “but we want people to know we're not the bad guys.”

‘This is totally changing the image'

Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mike Desmond wants the Washburn officers to visit the Mathy Center, providing positive role models in a neighborhood where 70 percent are eligible for free and reduced-price school lunches and 50 percent are being raised by single parents.

“In the beginning, when they walked in the door, part of reaction was, ‘What's wrong?' ...” Desmond said. “And that's what we're trying to get away from.”

Then a 9-year-old boy approached the officers, Desmond said, and told them: “Welcome to our club.”

Kids at the club now flock to the officers, who are willing to spend time with them, listening to their problems to gain their trust, Desmond said.

“This is totally changing the image. They're not the enemy. They're there to help,” Desmond said.

While running other libraries, La Crosse Library Director Kelly Krieg-Sigman said, police brushed her off. But Ulrich understood that transient activity and other problems affect patrons and staff. She reached out to him when two people failed to return 488 rented items, confident he'll deliver better service and help retrieve the stolen items.

“The program,” Krieg-Sigman said, “is doing everything the police department wanted it to do.”

A connection with the North Side officers means not making a “blind call to 911” if he needs help, said Cody Cottrell, who owns Ground Up coffee shop on Caledonia Street. “It's like a friend having my back,” he said.

The stakeholders who invested in the program are hopeful.

Viterbo president Rick Artman said university leaders invite the Washburn officers to campus events. “This is (the officers') neighborhood,” Artman said. “They own it. They take pride in it.”

Drug activity and the 2013 shooting death of a woman on nearby Division Street prompted concern about the safety of patients and staff, Kruse said.

“The long-term effect of this has yet to be realized,” Kruse said. “But because they are creating relationships, they learn about things that they otherwise wouldn't have known.”

Leaders of the Washburn and Lower North Side neighborhood associations praised the officers' approach. Residents are sharing their concerns, confident the officers will respond, Washburn Neighborhood Association chairwoman Vickie Unferth said.

“The impression I have is that they want to be treated like they live in the neighborhood,” said Lower North Side Neighborhood Association chairman Jerry Swim.

‘Their energy is infectious'

Burglaries, forced entries and vandalism are down in the Washburn neighborhood, and reported crime dipped 4 percent in the past year. Drug arrests are up. Community policing contacts skyrocketed 170 percent. The agency has yet to gather the data for the North Side.

NROs are gathering intelligence and feeding it to investigators, Kudron said. The officers used information from neighbors to arrest drug dealers, discovered materials for manufacturing methamphetamine in a truck during a traffic stop and on Feb. 25 recovered more than a pound of marijuana, stun guns and a firearm from 1417 Caledonia St. after responding to complaints about a drug house.

Said Kudron: “What reputation are (the NROs) earning? That they're out there, that they are dedicated to suppressing criminal activity and they have the ability to focus on crime.”

NROs start each 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift with a briefing with detective Sgt. Andy Dittman, who also oversees the agency's three drug investigators. He wants to know what they're learning, and he offers guidance and suggestions.

“They inspire all of us, department-wide,” Dittman said. “Their energy is infectious.”

Mayor Kabat is reaching out to potential stakeholders to secure funding for neighborhood officers for downtown and the UW-La Crosse and Western Technical College areas.

“I see them as being ambassadors for the city in these neighborhoods,” Kabat said. “They're on the front line.”




How did officials miss pill-mill operation?

by Jamie Satterfield

Four years, three clinics, 12 million painkillers and at least nine overdose deaths — it all happened right under the noses of state regulators.

With details slowly being revealed in U.S. District Court in the largest drug case ever prosecuted in East Tennessee, two things are now clear — the demand for and the supply of opiates in Tennessee is unparalleled in the nation, and neither state laws nor state regulators have made much of a dent either.

Dr. Mitchell Mutter, a Tennessee Department of Health medical director who says he has made it his mission to at least curtail the problem, faced a simple but tough question Friday: How did his agency miss an alleged pill-mill operation that flooded the streets with $400 million worth of prescription drugs even while his staffers checked their books?

“We're asking that of ourselves,” Mutter told the News Sentinel. “When I saw this (in the media), the obvious question is why wasn't this on our radar screen? Missing it is not acceptable.”

A partial answer lies in the operation itself. Its sophistication is, so far at least, unrivaled in East Tennessee pill-mill operations. And there's good reason for that. Its owners had years of practice.

A series of raids in early March by the FBI and its task force members exposed to the public something was amiss behind the doors of three pain management clinics — one in Lenoir City and two in Knoxville — and at least two so-called primary care clinics. As agents carried out boxes of records, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy Stone and Anne-Marie Svolto carried into the courtrooms of U.S. Magistrate Judges Bruce Guyton and Clifford Shirley stacks of indictments returned in secret March 4 by a federal grand jury.

Named at the top of those indictments were two women, Sylvia Hofstetter and Stephanie Puckett. Hofstetter managed all the clinics at issue save one, Knoxville Pain Care on Park West Boulevard. Puckett had worked under Hofstetter since Hofstetter first set up shop in Lenoir City in April 2011. But in November 2012, the two women had a falling out. It's not yet clear why. With financial backing allegedly provided by medical equipment supplier Kevin Faulkner of Hixson, Tenn., Puckett branched out on her own, and she took with her fellow staffers from Hofstetter's clinics, testimony in federal court hearings has shown.

That stack of indictments, along with testimony and arguments in various hearings, also revealed not only the structure of the network but the sheer scale of the net the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office has cast. So far, 102 people have been indicted, with roughly 70 arrested as roundups continue. Those suspects are grouped by role: clinic operators and workers; sponsors who paid as much as $4,000 per month per patient in return for at least 50 percent of the pills to sell on the streets; and addicted street dealers.

Dozens more, including medical personnel and financial investors, have been slapped with target letters, essentially the government's way of saying, “We're coming for you, too.” The feds say via the indictments that those charged so far netted pure profit of at least $30 million.

The ‘Italians'

But none of this would have been possible without a trio of Florida men known among the Knoxville suspects as “the Italians.”

Luca Sartini, Luigi Palma and Benjamin Rodriguez were alleged rainmakers in Florida's free-for-all pill-mill epidemic, FBI Agent Andy Chapman testified in a recent hearing. They had honed the art of sidestepping scrutiny. Nothing was titled in their names, not even their homes, Chapman said. And years of practice in operating pill mills taught them the single greatest key to success — the appearance of legitimacy.

When Florida authorities began cracking down on pain clinics there, the operators and the addicts, many of whom were sponsored to travel from East Tennessee, moved to Georgia, where FBI Task Force Agent Kris Mynatt testified there remains little regulation. But “the Italians” saw even greater promise in East Tennessee, not because of a lack of regulation but because of the size of the potential customer base, testimony showed. After all, it wasn't solely unpredictable, unemployed drug fiends who were hungry for opiates here. Professionals, including a high-profile Knox County judge, were increasingly trolling doctor's offices for pills and even, as in the case of former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, scouring the streets.

Of course, other pill mill operations migrating from Florida, most notably a $2 million venture in Maryville, had failed at staying under the radar for very long. But “the Italians” had a playbook. Open primary care clinics that accepted insurance. In this case, it was a couple of Prodigal Primary Care clinics in Knoxville. Staff it, at least in part, with pill-friendly folks. Two names have emerged so far — Dr. Richard Larson and physician's assistant David Eric Brickhouse.

Brickhouse is under indictment right now for his role in the Breakthrough clinic in Maryville shut down in 2009. When it folded, he landed at Prodigal. Larson and Dr. Kathy Franklin, a general care doctor in Lenoir City, are listed in state health care records as his supervising physicians. That means they are supposed to monitor his prescribing practices and care. It's not clear yet if Franklin is a target in the probe. Her practice was near one of Hofstetter's clinics in Lenoir City, but attempts to reach her Friday were unsuccessful. Larson, on the other hand, is a target, testimony has shown. His medical license remains active after the raids, but he does not appear to be. Phone listings for the various clinics of which he is associated all have been disconnected.

There were legitimate patients at Prodigal and equally legitimate staffers. But there were also what the Department of Health's Mutter called “pain clinic buddies.”

“This week I'll go in and get my pain prescriptions and (the buddy) goes in and gets blood pressure medicine,” Mutter explained the concept. “Next week, we switch.”

In this case, it was one of a couple of ways the sponsors were able to gin up patient records to fool state regulators and that much-touted state prescription database. Another way? Testimony in the case of accused sponsor Timothy Woods, former Maynardville police chief and Knox County Schools bus contractor, showed they would use the pain clinics in Georgia as paperwork cover. These two methods allowed the “patients” to not only build a track record but a baseline for the amount of opiates they could be prescribed and not draw undue attention. Woods himself received in a single prescription 120 oxycodone pills and 60 tablets of morphine.

Next came the pain clinics themselves. In an effort to crack down on pill mills, the state has in the past few years enacted new rules. The “Italians” knew this, and they were ready, according to testimony. First, they needed a medical director whose license was in good standing to pretend to be an owner. Larson, agents have testified, stepped up to the plate in return for a salary topping $1 million.

Second, they needed a customer base. Puckett, the indictments show, was skilled at drawing in sponsors who brought in patients. Third, they needed to avoid cash, which was no longer allowed as payment, so the sponsors gave their crews debit cards. Fourth, they needed to look good on paper, so Stephanie Hill and others linked to both Puckett and Hofstetter crafted fake drug screens and MRIs and Hofstetter would kick out the occasional patient, sending them to Prodigal instead. Hofstetter invested in electronic record-keeping so fake charts could be updated with a keystroke. Health regulators walked away from audits and inspections with, as Mutter noted, some suspicions but no sense “of the calamity this was.”

Finally, the “Italians” needed a ruthless workaholic of a manager. Hofstetter, testimony showed, fit that bill quite nicely. Once, when surrounding businesses complained her patients were throwing parties in their parking lots, she went to Lenoir City Police Chief Don White herself to join in those complaints, Agent Chapman testified. She feigned indignation and vowed cooperation with any law enforcement effort. Then, she moved her clinic to Lovell Road, where there were fewer people watching.

“If you are making this much money, you can afford to make it look real pretty (as if) you are in compliance,” Mutter said. “They were smart enough to stay under the radar.”

The feds

They were not smart enough, however, to escape the FBI. Among the techniques employed by the agency were the use of undercover agents as patients. That had not been done in East Tennessee. Federal prosecutor Stone has alluded in court hearings to other unique tactics in the agency's two-year probe but won't reveal them yet.

Still, the FBI did get one big break — that fight between Hofstetter and Puckett. Hofstetter knew how to run the plays in the “Italians” playbook. Puckett did not. She, Hill and others associated with her operation demanded bribes from sponsors to get their fake patients into the clinic more quickly, and taped statements played in open court show Puckett freely discussed all the trickery employed to fake legitimacy. Hofstetter knew the value of smart sponsors who dressed up their fake patients and themselves and stayed below the radar. Puckett, again, did not. Consider, for instance, Woods, who made no secret of his drug-dealing wealth or Blount County sponsor Cecil Dwight Willis, who wore his role as a drug trafficker on his sleeve, going armed and running a fencing operation sure to draw police notice, according to records.

Sponsors, of course, are key to any profitable pill mill. Rarely do they get caught in Tennessee since, before this case, they did most of their “work” planning trips to Florida so frequent cops gave them a name, “Air Oxy.” But in this case, the feds have rounded up dozens and dozens of them. One alleged sponsor, Jason Butler, was so shocked at his arrest he had someone post a sign on his Knoxville Wholesale Autos business, located across the street from Hofstetter's clinic, that read, “They (sic) accusing in a drug case so they seized all the cars, and they will give everything back as soon as they work it out.”

Sponsors spend money to make even more money, akin in the traditional drug network to a supplier. Traditional suppliers often “front,” or give without cash up front, drugs to dealers. Sponsors, on the other hand, front money to the fake patients and then take on the role of dealer themselves.

In some of the indictments in this case, a sponsor group was formed. As one agent noted, it's a tough job to manage addicts, so a sponsor might recruit a couple of lieutenants to help out. In every case, the fake patients got what they wanted — pills to use and to resell when cash was tight — as did the sponsors, who marketed their cut of the pills to addicts too desperate even to qualify as pill-mill patients. The indictments unsealed so far show sponsors raked in as little as $10,000 if their role was brief and the fake patient list thin or as much as a half-million.

But the “Italians,” Hofstetter, Puckett and sponsors weren't the only ones making money off this operation. As it turns out, they are the only ones allegedly breaking the law to do. And therein lies the real problem, says Karen Pershing, executive director of the Metropolitan Drug Commission in Nashville.

The Fixes

“We've sold pain medication as the only solution to treat chronic pain,” Pershing said.

It's easy to see why. Pharmaceutical companies make billions off the stuff. They, in turn, donate big bucks to Congress and state legislators and court doctors with gifts and dinners and even trips. Pharmacies make big money, too, especially chain stores with no real ties to the community. Doctors, too, profit both by greater patient volumes and an easier workload. As Pershing noted, it's much easier to write a prescription than treat chronic pain sufferers with more labor-intensive, long-term options. Tennessee has for the past several years sat in the top three on the list of states with the highest painkiller prescription rates.

And there's not much folks like Pershing and Mutter can do about that. Instead, they say, they can educate the public about what chronic pain really is — pain lasting longer than 90 days — and alternative ways to deal with it. Pershing also makes it a mission of sorts to delineate between a pill mill and a legitimate pain management clinic. Mutter, who works with Pershing's organization in those educational efforts and brainstorming sessions, thinks such coalitions are key to long-term success in preventing the spread of pill mills.

“The solutions are local, not out of Nashville,” he said.

But Pershing has complaints with Mutter's organization, and she's shared them with, in her view, not much reaction. For instance, she wants regulators to visit a pain clinic before it opens.

“We had one where the guy didn't even have a computer,” she said. “How do you check the prescription drug database without a computer?”

But Mutter says the Department of Health doesn't conduct such visits and likely won't.

“It's not our policy to do it,” he said. “Even if there was a rule that said we had to do it, it wouldn't be effective. Manpower would be a huge issue. There's no patients yet, so we would have no files to review. We have no way of saying (to a claimed medical owner) you're not the owner. They don't have certification (required to actually open), so we couldn't pull that.”

Pershing says regulators don't visit clinics often enough once the facilities do open and, as this case shows, those reviews aren't very successful in exposing a clinic as a pill mill.

Mutter again cites manpower and the skill with which pill-mill operators show in appearing legitimate.

“When a clinic opens, we do audits,” he said. “We try to do a third of the clinics (in the state) every year so that every clinic has been audited within three years. But we don't have enough lawyers, enough investigators.”

The unit Mutter oversees is funded not by tax money but licensure fees for doctors, nurses, hospitals and other related medical people and facilities.

Mutter also concedes the policing of medical professionals in Tennessee is slow. Brickhouse, the physician's assistant currently under indictment and now linked to a second pill-mill operation, is still licensed. So, too, are the half dozen others, including a doctor, named in that same October 2014 Maryville pill-mill indictment. Larson's license is solid so far. There is no pending disciplinary action listed in the public database for any of those providers, and at least three are running medical care clinics, although they have agreed to give up the right to prescribe narcotics while the indictment is pending.

“The wheels of injustice move rapidly and the wheels of justice move slowly,” Mutter said, quoting a maxim given to him in times of frustration. “We go after the most egregious people.”

Disciplinary action is not his bailiwick. That rests with a host of medical boards.

There are a couple of bills being advanced in the state Legislature to tighten up regulations a bit more, chief of which is a requirement that at least one owner of a pain clinic be, not just a doctor, but certified in pain management. Pershing is hopeful that will help. Mutter? Not so much.

“What we really need to do is increase the standards for the delivery of medical care overall,” said Mutter, who spent decades as a private doctor.

Quick, small fixes such as legislative action are good but, Mutter believes, the problem is too vast to legislate it away.

“If you go too hard and too fast, you may outstrip your resources and drive people to even more inappropriate solutions, like heroin (a pure form of opiate),” he said.

Heroin use rises when prescription painkiller supplies go down or prices go up, law enforcement has said.

Mutter insists a slow approach that involves what he calls “buy-in” from the medical community, citizens, and politicians and a broader approach to the societal issues raised is best and, he says, it's working albeit very, very slowly. The number of prescriptions last year dropped by nearly 5 percent, he said.

“We were bad,” he says of Tennessee's prescription drug problem. “When you're that high and that bad as we were in 2012 (when the state topped the prescription list), it takes time to drop. I truly feel a slower decline is a healthier, more sustainable decline. The ultimate outcomes we need are to see an increase in (pregnancy) abstinence and a decline in overdose deaths. We want doctor shopping to go down. We want drug use to go down. We want fewer babies born addicted. We want fewer overdose deaths. It takes time, but we can get there.”





Our criminal-justice system fails as one-size-fits-all

by Rich Stanek

Here are a few proposals for needed reform, from a policing perspective.

“Robert” was arrested and booked in our Hennepin County jail last week for the 31st time — 15 of them since 2012. He's been a defendant in 59 Minnesota criminal cases, but never for a felony-level charge. His most common offenses are trespass, vagrancy and disorderly conduct. Robert was civilly committed as chemically dependent in January 2014 and discharged in August 2014. But then he was booked in our jail again in November, December and February — and again just last week.

A 64-year-old homeless veteran, chemically dependent and likely suffering from mental illness, Robert has been living on the streets of one of our suburbs, and falling through the gaping holes in our support network, for well over a decade.

All too often, law enforcement is called upon to solve these problems. Jail is now the landing place for all those caught up by the system, or by their own chronic needs. But our one-size-fits-all criminal justice system treats every situation, including Robert's, as if a violent crime has occurred.

The criminal-justice system was designed to address society's problems — with criminals. Most of the violent crime we see today stems from the lethal combination of guns, gangs and drugs. We want to hold these criminals accountable.

When we engage in community-oriented policing, and take advantage of technology, information sharing and strategic partnerships, we can target our efforts to reduce, disrupt and even prevent violent crime.

When police have the resources and the extended time to work with community members and build trust, we can focus on unsafe neighborhoods, in partnership with community leaders, and target violent crimes and violent offenders.

But when someone calls 911, it's our job as first responders to stabilize the situation, to remove the threat, and to restore some measure of safety to the home, the community, the business, the school.

But then we leave.

We can restore order and safety temporarily, for a few hours or a few days, but an arrest doesn't solve underlying problems. In fact, an arrest creates even more hardship and complexity: court hearings and criminal records, loss of dignity and privacy, drug tests, fees and fines, lost work, lost parenting time, and time away from one's support systems.

All too often, police resources are spent responding to and arresting folks whose “offenses” are just symptoms of more fundamental issues: homelessness, mental illness, alcohol or chemical dependency, unemployment, or low levels of education.

Calling on law enforcement to solve these societal problems, with only one solution (arrest and booking), often has a negative impact on police-community relations — especially when the arrests have a disparate impact on minority or immigrant communities.

The more we are called to help, the more we become distrusted. The more the justice system fails behind us, the more we become the public face of the entire system's dysfunction.

Some would criticize us for becoming an “occupying force” because of the way we do our jobs: We get called in, remove the threat and leave. And in some respects the critics are right. That's what we want to change.

Because, in fact, as law enforcement officers we dedicate and train ourselves for so much more. As peace officers we swear an oath to serve and protect. Fulfilling this oath means we respect and protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all residents, in addition to securing their safety.

This is why last week I joined the Coalition for Justice Reform. It is a national bipartisan initiative to safely and smartly reduce our incarcerated population by elevating proven solutions, bringing together diverse partners and communicating a powerful new narrative about the devastating impacts of incarceration and the urgent need and opportunity for transformative change.

I offered the following proposed reforms: 1) Develop jail alternatives for low level/chronic offenders; 2) redraw the lines between criminal conduct and addiction and/or mental illness, and 3) clearly identify the second responders in the system and help them engage where and when they are needed.

If child protection, victim's assistance, veterans' housing, mental health services, family therapists, school counseling, or chemical dependency intervention or treatment is needed, we need to secure those services before the crisis, as an alternative to arrest, or before these folks are released from jail or prison. And we need to ensure sustained levels of support for those in need.

Jails should never be used as substitutes for hospitals, veteran's homes or homeless shelters. You need only look in my jail to see that the entire criminal-justice system is failing, at every level of government.

And you can see the hard work we have ahead of us to make the changes that are so long-overdue.

Rich Stanek is the Hennepin County sheriff.




Working to heal the racial divide

Legacies of racial segregation and strained race relations run deeply in the roots of many large urban areas in America, including the St. Louis metro area.

Such delicate topics often are talked around or ignored because bringing them up can create discomfort or confrontation, especially across racial and cultural lines.

The fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson last August brought months of unrest, including protests, looting and arson. Laid bare anew are longstanding societal issues, including a gap in how people of various ethnicities and backgrounds view others different from them.

The events of Ferguson and police-related killings elsewhere in the country have affixed new attention on issues such as policing, the criminal justice system, political engagement, public education and economic opportunity.

No topic is more volatile and elusive than addressing race relations in the St. Louis region. For our region to rebuild and heal after the Ferguson unrest, how can people talk honestly and productively about race relations?

Last Tuesday, the nonpartisan Aspen Institute invited about 100 local civic, business and community leaders to a downtown St. Louis hotel for a “Community Dialogue on Healing the Racial Divide,” the first in a series of meetings around the country.

The Aspen Institute initiated the dialogues here because events stemming from Ferguson have elevated race relations onto the national and international stage.

“St. Louis has an opportunity now to be a model for communities throughout the nation in reconciliation of an issue that has plagued our country for 250 years,” said Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy study organization based in Washington, D.C.

“But it will take honest commitment to racial equality, dialogue among the diverse interests, including youth, alignment around solutions, and dedicated leadership to move this forward,” he said. “We were gratified that the leaders and audience at the dialogue were moving in the right direction.”

At a luncheon after the community dialogue, some prominent local leaders, including the co-chairs and some members of the Ferguson Commission, brainstormed ideas about potential solutions to heal the racial divide.

Among the actions suggested were a new board in which black youths and police would interact and create conversations in area high schools; mentorship programs, more funding for the Parents as Teachers program and early childhood education, and taking inventory of the many local organizations that offer an array of human and social services to better align and scale their impact.

The panel discussions focused on Black Youth and the Police; Media and Reporting of Ferguson and Education. I spoke on the media panel moderated by Suzanne Malveaux of CNN with speakers Don Marsh of St. Louis Public Radio and protest leader DeRay McKesson.

The panel on Black Youth and the Police exposed a heartfelt dialogue about race, policing and divergent perspectives that can exist when police encounter African-American young men.

Clifton Kinnie, a senior at Lutheran High School North who was reared in north St. Louis County, described being ordered onto the ground by police when he was 8 years old while walking to play basketball with his younger brother and friends.

Such encounters engender long-lasting fears among African-American teenagers and young men. Kinnie, who became a leader in the Ferguson Movement and speaks to younger students in schools, said he had not envisioned becoming a student activist until he saw photos of Michael Brown's body on Instagram.

“Enough was enough,” said Kinnie, who has been accepted to Morehouse College and Howard University. He still was mourning the death of his mother from breast cancer when the shooting occurred in Ferguson.

“We all feel unsafe,” he said. “But how can we bridge the gap?”

Dan Isom, a former chief of the St. Louis Police Department and a former Missouri public safety director, responded, “There is fear on both sides.”

Isom, now a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said many of the difficult interactions take place when police stop African-American pedestrians or drivers.

“How do we bring officers into the organization? How do we give them information about the community they police?” he said.

Better training and interaction with the community through community-based policing helps to build bridges and lessens the chance for violent incidents, he said.

Kevin Ahlbrand, a St. Louis police detective sergeant and president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, said officers on the street also have fears and that their mental well-being often is overlooked.

Ahlbrand, a member of the Ferguson Commission, said police endured violent threats, racial epithets, cursing and urine being hurled at them during the protests. Nonetheless, the police showed great restraint. African-American officers were targets of the most vicious verbal attacks, he said.

He said police went from being heroes after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City to being vilified. Ahlbrand said police have thousands of constructive contacts with the public every day and that people in neighborhoods facing crime problems want police protection.

All three panelists agreed that bridging the gaps involves better communication, more familiarity and understanding, and establishing mutual respect in every community.

Video of the discussions at the Aspen Institute dialogue can be viewed at bit.ly/1Ozt6j9.




Police organizing eighth community academy

Eight-week collaborative program begins next month

by Joe Wolfdale

The Novato Police Department is looking for a few good men and women.

Beginning Thursday, April 16, the department will initiate its eighth Community Police Academy – where members of the community gain invaluable insight into policing and learn how to create a safer community.

The eight-week program, which will commence Thursday, June 4, will introduce members to police practices, community policing and an overview of the Novato department.

It will also focus on use of force, canine operations, investigations and patrol, traffic, evidence, dispatch and professional standards and all field operations.

Interested parties must be 18 years of age or older, live or work in Novato and be able to pass a background investigation. Participants must have no felony convictions and no misdemeanors within one year of the application date.

Novato City Councilmember Madeline Kellner said the Community Police Academy creates a better understanding between the police department and the citizenry and helps develop ambassadors of the community.

“I think it helps educate community members about how to prevent crimes and how to serve as an informal liaison between the city and neighborhoods,” Kellner said. “It also can help build a cadre of potential engaged volunteers for the different city commissions, boards and other community-based organizations.”

Novato police Sgt. Jim Tross is in charge of the program. Offering the program is quite a commitment from the force since nine different officers participate and lead different categories during the academy. A group of civilian employees also help in the classes.

“I think what we've found in our neighborhood watch meetings is that the people really don't know what we do,” Tross said. “So we've been getting great response from our citizen's academies and people really like to participate. They used to be much longer but now we've pared them back to the mere essentials.”

The academy curriculum will also include a meet and greet with Police Chief Jim Berg and a ride-along with a Novato officer to see firsthand modern law enforcement policies in action. Chief Berg will select the participants after reviewing the applications.

“We touch on everything that we do here in law enforcement and how we function,” Tross said. “We've had some really good history with the academy. It's really more of an outreach for the community.”

Each session is two hours. During the seventh week, the academy will participate in a field training day where a mock crime scene will be set up and the team will be required to assess a particular problem, Tross said. That date is Saturday, May 30 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Class size is limited. Applications can be obtained by phoning the police department at 415 897-4361 or clicking the Community Academy application on the City of Novato website.



New York

Pilot program to use social media to connect NYPD precinct with Queens communities

by Dale Evans

COLLEGE POINT (WABC) -- The NYPD is looking for ways to better service the community, and starting in April, the department will be testing out a pilot program in Queens.

It's called Idea Scale, and it will be a new way for officers to get tips and deal with concerns from the public.

It's a social media push for the 109th Precinct, which covers 12 miles and 247,000 New Yorkers. And pretty soon, those residents will be able to learn more about police, and police more about them.

"The major issue in these neighborhoods is no longer major crime," 109th Precinct Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti said. "It's quality of life issues, whether it be traffic or noise complaints."

Conforti is one of the first police commanders to embrace social media, all part of the simple fact that the role of police in New York City is changing. A year ago, it was Twitter. Now, it's Idea Scale.

"Twitter is a push out, as you now," NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said. "This is about being able to engage more loosely, getting information coming in, that we can respond to."

Community Council President Chrissy Voskerichian says she's excited about the new pilot program, so that when people in Flushing or College Point want to complain about speeding or graffiti, they don't have to go to the precinct. They can just go to their computer.

"You're putting out small fires," she said. "You're addressing small concerns or issues before they become big problems...and who knows their blocks and their neighborhoods better than the people who actually live on them?"

Mayor Bill de Blasio has used the term "community policing" frequently, and social media is part of his grand design so that police and community work together better and trust each other more.

"There is nothing more powerful that's out there, and the key is the community has to buy into it, which they do in this precinct," Conforti said. "And the officers have to buy into it too, which they do also."

The program beings on April 8 and covers Flushing, College Point and Whitestone. Anyone living in those areas who would like to sign up on the new site or get more information can email 109precinctcc@gmail.com.




California plans public forums on marijuana legalization options

by Daniel Wallis

California officials will hold forums starting next month across the most populous U.S. state to seek public input on proposals to legalize marijuana under a strict tax and regulatory system, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday.

California became the first U.S. state to allow medical marijuana at a ballot in 1996, and it was followed by several other states, some of which also later legalized recreational use of the drug by adults.

Announcing the start of the public phase of the work of a state commission that he leads on marijuana policy, Newsom said that over the past 18 months the panel identified three key issues related to legalization, tax and regulation.

"With marijuana legalization increasingly likely in California, it is vital that policymakers are informed by the expert think tank we've assembled to make sure any changes in law are thoughtfully constructed and implemented safely and effectively," Newsom said in a statement.

The first of the commission's public forums will be held on April 21 at the University of California, Los Angeles, officials said.

Newsom said that even though marijuana remains illegal in California, it remains ubiquitous and easily accessible to children.

"We incarcerate too many nonviolent people, spend too much money doing it, and ruin too many lives - especially among the poor and disadvantaged - all without enhancing public safety. As a parent and a policymaker, this demands a different approach," Newsom added.

He noted that a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows public support for legalization at its highest level since the institute began asking the question in May 2010, with 55 percent of likely voters in favor.

Among the areas the commission identified for further study, he said, are issues relating to protecting children, ensuring public safety and setting up taxes and regulations that maximize revenue while eliminating the illicit market.

The panel includes legal, academic, law enforcement and policy experts.

An American Civil Liberties Union report in June 2013 showed sharp racial disparities in marijuana arrests in California, and across the nation.

On Wednesday, the pro-legalization group Drug Policy Alliance said the number of marijuana possession arrests in Colorado fell dramatically after its first legal marijuana stores opened last year, but that blacks still face higher arrest rates than whites.




Drug trends targeting youth

by Larry DeHart

Community partners joined forces for the 3rd annual Child Abuse Prevention Conference Thursday at the Morehead Conference Center.

Among the workshops offered was current drug trends among children and young adults.

Speaker Adam Argullin, a Florence police officer who once served as a narcotics detective, presented information about new substances of abuse, different ways drugs are consumed, common street slang, examples of various drug categories, and common indicators of drug impairment.

Argullin explained how the drug culture has evolved in recent years and that young people are the most vulnerable to the epidemic.

Further, the kinds of substances being abused may not be what most parents would expect.

He said that more young people are abusing what is known as dissociative anesthetics.

At one time, the only drug known in this category was PCP or angel dust. However, that category has expanded in recent years to include dextromethorphan (DXM), which is found in cough suppressants at any drugstore.

When cough suppressants with DXM are taken in high doses they can produce effects very similar to their more potent sister drugs PCP and ketamine.

He cautioned parents and healthcare workers to be aware of medications containing this substance and keep them out of the hands of children.

Indicators of DXM impairment include inebriation similar to drunkenness, slurred speech, and possible hallucinations.

Another drug trend on the rise is the abuse of inhalants, such as compressed air.

Items like computer duster and spray paint, particularly gold and silver colors which have the highest concentration of the substance that produces the high, are easy for teens to purchase at retail stores.

What most adolescents are not aware of is the fact that these products contain a chemical propellant that fills the lungs and pushes out all of the oxygen, which produces the high.

When an individual huffs compressed air, it decreases the amount of oxygen that can get to the brain and heart, making it potentially fatal even after just one use.

Warning signs include paint on fingers and mouth and regular bloody nose.

There are the drugs that many parents may be all too aware of, such as methamphetamine, prescription pills, and heroin.

Argullin said that child abuse is more common in homes where parents use meth.

“Once that first hit of meth is taken the user starts chasing that high but can never reach it again. And in almost every meth case where I've entered a home where children are present there's abuse because to the meth addict parent that sensation of their hand or fist making contact with that child gives them a high,” he said.

Argullin added that young people who inject drugs like heroin and prescription pills are learning to inject in less noticeable veins like those found between the toes, on the tops of the feet, under the nail, and inside the nose rather than in the bends of the arms.

Parents also need to be aware of other trends in drug culture, such as music that describes getting high or forcible rape.

There are clothing lines that appeal to teens like the brand Supporting Radical Habits, featuring hidden pockets that can be used to store drugs or paraphernalia.

Parents should watch teens' Internet usage, as information on how to abuse these substances can be found online.

Be aware of smartphone apps like Leafly that provide its users with information about various strains of marijuana and dispensaries where the drug can be purchased.

Finally, Argullin added that with many street drugs the user may not always be getting what they purchased, making the potential for an extremely deadly concoction.

“Drug dealers want repeat business, so one of the trends we're seeing is a lot of drugs are being laced with more potent, addictive substances. We've seized drugs that didn't contain any of the substance it was thought to be. Instead it might have been a combination of heroin and meth or aspirin and meth. So what happens is children and young adults are taking something that they think is one drug and it turns out to be something completely different. And they're dying from it.”

He continued:

“I'm a police officer. I've been the person who has to go to parents and notify them on the worst day of their life that their child has passed away because of one bad decision. There's no way to make that information easier for a parent to hear.”



New York

A Call to Action for Rochester Residents & Community Policing

by Amy Young

Rochester Police are putting out a call to action tonight for more citizen involvement as it moves forward with its plan to reorganize the department. The police reorganization takes place April 20th. It is a model that returns officers to a neighborhood beat structure so they can engage in policing activities. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief Michael Ciminelli called on city residents to get involved in neighborhood policing by being the eyes and ears of the police department through PACTAC, Police and Citizens Together Against Crime.

"We believe that this relationship is critical to changing what happens in our streets, on our streets, and in our neighborhoods. It's critical to reducing crime. We need for the community to help us," said Lovely Warren, Rochester Mayor.

The reorganization consists of a five-section model: Lake, Genesee, Goodman, Clinton and Central sections. It replaces the current two-division patrol model. The idea is to give individual officers smaller areas of responsibility.

"First of all, I think the more contact, the more interaction we have, the more trust that will be built. The more trust between the police and the community both ways, I think in the end we'll do our job better," said Michael Ciminelli, Rochester Police Chief.

The chief says the officers are in the process of being assigned to each section. An agreement was announced last week between the city and the police union that worked through some of the differences, delaying the start of the reorganization by three weeks. Citizens interested in joining neighborhood PACTACS should call the chief's office.




Putting on a BRAVE face: Crime fighters say community policing efforts working to stem violence in Baton Rouge

by Matt McKinney

Fighting violence in Baton Rouge used to mean law enforcement flooding problem areas with patrol cars, employing a zero-tolerance approach.

The difference now, Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Tuesday evening at an anti-violence forum, is troublemakers have a better opportunity to change their ways.

“Here's what we're offering you,” he said. “We're offering you a way out.”

The panel discussion, put on by the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project and Forum 35, aimed to educate residents on BRAVE's efforts to address violent crime in the capital city.

About 30 people attended the forum at the downtown Family Youth Service Center, where BRAVE officials and city-parish authorities said the program has helped cut down on the bloodshed.

“Law enforcement has never come together in the way we are now,” Dabadie said.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the success of BRAVE depends on law enforcement building trust in the community, building a presence — not just at crime scenes.

“We're out there every day walking the streets to let people know we truly care about each and every individual,” he said. “We're not going to be here today and gone tomorrow.”

Gautreaux cited the Gardere neighborhood, long known as a problem area, where deputies now patrol daily on bicycle and rely on community policing.

Capt. Rodney Walker, of the Sheriff's Office, knocks on doors in the neighborhood every day to gauge residents' concerns and check in with teens targeted in the program.

When put on BRAVE's watch list, offenders are given the following choices: enroll in the program, which provides mentoring and job placement services; ignore the program and avoid future arrests; or continue to misbehave and suffer stricter sentencing if they are convicted of a crime.

“Unfortunately, not everyone takes to the service,” Dabadie said.

Teens are flagged for BRAVE surveillance when they are implicated in a violent crime.

Assistant District Attorney Aishala Burgess said she and her colleagues keep a list of offenders who come through the court system, with the law enforcement officials working to target the possible associates.

Juvenile Court Judge Adam Haney said BRAVE then uses peer pressure to squash violence.

“They're saying: ‘Don't pick up that gun, because if you do something stupid, I'm going back to jail,' ” he said.

While panelists said they have more work ahead of them, they agreed BRAVE has cut down on violence in Baton Rouge.

“Is it the best thing? I can't tell you that,” Gautreaux said. “But I can tell you it's the best thing we've seen so far.”




Top public safety leaders talk crime-fighting tactics following recent violent streak

by Tanae Howard

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 26, 2015)– The list of crime-fighting tactics in the city of Indianapolis is no short one. Public safety leaders say they're attacking the city's crime from all angles.

“Getting more officers on the street,community conversations, working with social partners and local faith based organizations we see a lot of momentum,” said Public Safety Director, Troy Riggs.

The public safety plan to decrease the number of people at crime scenes has been in effect for months. High-profile meetings have included the chief of police and recently, the FBI.

However, despite those efforts, Indianapolis saw extremely violent incidents this week. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) Chief Rick Hite says some things are working.

We're in the right areas for a right reason. We're telling you these hot spots are hot and we're proving that. But we're also telling you we need to put mandatory sentencing in place, mental health treatment and also some ideas of what we do with people returning from incarceration,” said Hite.

Repeat offenders are a key focus, especially since 92 percent off suspects in homicides already have a rap sheet. Data shows although the number of shootings is going down, homicides are not.

“We have more violent offenders coming back to the streets and they're killing more people per incident. We have not had a huge uptick in crime its actually been reduced,” said Riggs.

And to keep those numbers trending down public safety leaders encourage community members to get involved, not discouraged.

“They shouldn't feel hopeless we have been in every one of our targeted areas and other parts of the city having community conversations talking about what are the needs you have in the community–not just public safety what are the other needs what's vacant homes doing to your community the lack of jobs,” said Riggs.

Riggs says these issues took decades to create and won't be fixed overnight.

“And we just don't judge our success or failure based on one weekend or one year–we're looking over long term. Remember
The systemic issues we're dealing with developed over decades its gonna take some time to right the ship.”

Chief Hite believes righting the ship begins with a focus on the most vulnerable citizen, the children.

“We lose hope when we give up on our children and our community but we don't recognize the fact that violence is normal. It's normal in our community, that's a problem. If it is a normalcy issue we have a deeper challenge that we have to face.”




California Tries to Block Proposal that Would Legalize Shooting Gays

by Margaret Hartman

In 2016 Californians may be able to vote to legalize the killing of homosexuals by "bullets to the head" or "any other convenient method," if state Attorney General Kamala Harris's effort to block the ballot initiative is unsuccessful. Harris is tasked with providing an official title and summary for voter-proposed initiatives, but on Wednesday she asked the Sacramento County Superior Court to relieve her of that duty regarding the "Sodomite Suppression Act." "In this case, we are talking about a proposal that literally is calling for violence. It's calling for vigilantism," Harris told the Sacramento Bee . "I, frankly, do not want to be in the position of giving any legitimacy to those words."

Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin was able to file the measure for a fee of just $200 last month. It's unclear if his proposal was sincere or just a particularly odious bit of trolling, but all that's come of it are calls to amend California's ballot initiative process, and have McLaughlin disbarred.

Still, if the court doesn't intervene, McLaughlin will have 180 days to collect more than 365,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. While one would think it goes without saying, the L.A. Times notes that it's "considered an incredible long-shot to pass even if it ended up on a ballot." So rest assured that California probably isn't going to legalize killing gay people.



West Virginia

Chief: Community policing a top priority

by Curtis Johnson

HUNTINGTON - Community policing remains a top priority for Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli.

The chief, during an editorial board meeting with The Herald-Dispatch, spoke at length Wednesday of his desire to strengthen already strong relationships between his officers and the community they serve.

Ciccarelli hopes to achieve that goal with greater visibility, targeted recruiting and community participation with the city's new use-of-force simulator. He also mentioned continued attendance at community meetings and involvement with treatment professionals to reduce drug addiction.

Already impressed with the department's strong community ties, the chief of nearly five months said he perhaps underestimated the number of community groups that would request his presence at meetings.

"It's great," he said. "That allows them to hear about us and similarly gives them the opportunity to come in and tell me what we're doing good or doing bad."

Greater visibility seems to be a cornerstone of Ciccarelli's plan. He touted the success of a downtown police officer, saying he hopes to mimic it by assigning a veteran officer to focus on the city's Fairfield community. Residents will continue seeing the downtown officer walk and bicycle across his beat. The Fairfield counterpart will walk the neighborhood, visit area schools and maintain an office in the city's Barnett Center.

It's part of Ciccarelli's broader hope for a tactical patrol unit. It would involve a dedicated bicycle unit and others, all uniformed, who the chief could dispatch to various neighborhoods in town in response to crime patterns.

"We want to send that message to the criminal element - that Huntington is not the place to come and do business," he said. "If there's some mindset in Detroit that the streets here are paved with gold, we want to change that impression."

Ciccarelli, most always seen in full uniform, also puts an emphasis on personal visibility. That most recently included his presence at court hearings related to a fatal shooting in Enslow Park. He views his attendance as an important aspect of supporting his officers and the victims' families.

The chief, in mentioning a decline in those wanting to become police officers, said his department hopes strong community relationships will help recruitment. He mentioned an athletic ride-along program and his urging of local residents to submit names of those who would be good police officers.

"You folks, in whatever segment of the community that we're addressing, know who the viable candidates might be," he said. "Tell me that. Give me a name. I'll go sit down with that person. Somebody point me in the right direction."

Ciccarelli hopes providing community access to the city's new, use-of-force simulator will help everyone better appreciate the split-second decisions officers make. The video-based, interactive device will offer police training in hundreds of potential scenarios, requiring them to step through and consider the appropriate level of force.

The chief also hopes to build community respect with national accreditation and the eventual implementation of body cameras. He hopes the city's already lengthy accreditation process will conclude later this year, while he offered no timeline on body cameras, citing the need for more research and funding.




Board to monitor changes after Philly police shootings

Mayor has created an independent oversight board to monitor the implementation of recommendations from a Justice Department team

by Sean Carlin

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has created an independent oversight board to monitor the implementation of recommendations from a Justice Department team that studied the city's nearly 400 officer-involved shootings in the last eight years.

Nutter signed an executive order Wednesday creating the board to ensure that changes are brought to be department. The Justice Department team on Monday offered 91 recommendations, including better training, investigations and community relations.

The board will report to the mayor and will be led by Temple University law school dean JoAnn Epps. None of the board members will work for the police department.

Nutter says the report shows "it's clear that changes need to be made" and the board will make sure the changes "create a more hospitable environment" between the police and the community.



UN Report Faults Practices Common in U.S. Juvenile Justice

by Gary Gately

WASHINGTON — The United Nations top investigator on torture has delivered a scathing criticism of juvenile justice practices common in the United States, including routine detention of youths, solitary confinement and sentences of life without parole for children.

In a presentation of his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez called on countries to rely on alternatives to detention, which he said should be a “last resort” for “exceptional cases” for the shortest possible period of time when in the “best interest of the child.”

“The detention of children is inextricably linked — in fact, if not in law — with the ill-treatment of children, owing to the particularly vulnerable situation in which they have been placed that exposes them to numerous types of risk,” Méndez told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The report said children deprived of liberty are at “heightened risk of violence, abuse and acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Méndez, a 70-year-old torture survivor and a native of Argentina, did not single out the United States or any other country. But his 21-page report took direct aim at practices common in this country.

The report recommended that children:

•  Never be tried in the adult criminal justice system, never be subjected to adult sentences and never be sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as youths.

•  Generally be kept separated from adults in detention and be allowed to be held together with adults during daytime hours only under “strict supervision.”

•  Be able to maintain contact while in detention with the outside world, particularly families and legal representatives.

•  Have access to educational, vocational and recreational opportunities and to green space when detained.

•  Be subjected to use of restraints only as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted and a child poses an “imminent threat” to himself or herself.

•  Should not be detained in law enforcement establishments for more than 24 hours.

•  Never be subjected to police questioning without the presence of a lawyer.

•  Have access to pediatricians and child psychologists knowledgeable about the effects of childhood trauma and to specialized medical screenings in places of detention to detect torture and ill treatment.

The report also said places of detention must respond to the specific needs of “groups of children that are even more vulnerable to ill treatment or torture” such as girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children as well as children with disabilities.

Mishi Faruqee, juvenile justice policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the U.N. report underscores the need for a fundamental shift in how the U.S. juvenile justice system treats children.

“The U.S. uses detention to a degree that you don't see anywhere else in the world for young people,” Faruqee said. “For kids who are currently in the juvenile justice system, there's a feeling that it's OK for them to go to facilities that closely resemble adult prisons even though all the research says that that model has totally failed and sending these young people to these large, prison-like facilities produces horrible recidivism rates.”

She noted more states are moving toward the “Missouri Model,” emphasizing smaller, nonprison-like facilities closer to offenders' homes, and that nationally, youth incarceration has declined by almost half in the past 15 years.

But Faruqee said on any given day, some 60,000 youths are in locked residential placement in the country, two-thirds of them for nonviolent offenses. (Some are placed in locked treatment facilities as opposed to prison-like detention centers.)

“The message of this U.N. report is that even these so-called ‘treatment facilities' are depriving a child of their liberty by removing them from their families, removing them from their community, and that in itself is intrinsically harmful for young people and intrinsically undermines their healthy development,” she said.

Often, Faruqee said, youths are placed in locked facilities to get them services like mental health treatment that may be lacking in their communities or to get them away from a chaotic home life.

“We really need to dramatically reduce the number of young people who are detained, who are placed — whatever descriptive term you want to use — and really make sure that the supports and the services that those young people and their families need are available in their communities, and that should be the norm.”

Faruqee pointed to the nonprofit Youth Advocate Programs Inc. (YAP) as a model community-based program.

YAP, based in Harrisburg, Pa., provides community-based alternatives to out-of-home placements for troubled youths in 19 states, with interventions including intensive support for youths and their families in their homes, communities and schools.

Shaena Fazal, national policy director for YAP, said she strongly supported the U.N. report's recommendation that locked facilities should be a last resort for young offenders.

“I think the overarching thing is that we have to overcome our institutional bias for detention and incarceration and instead have a bias for families and communities as the best way to achieve youths' well-being,” Fazal said.

Advocates at YAP work with youths and their families on a wide range of needs, including education, health and mental health, aimed at building on kids' strengths.

YAP focuses heavily on strengthening families.

“We know that kids always gravitate back to their natural families regardless of what has happened in the home, and so the onus is on us to really make that family stronger and a supportive system for the youth,” Fazal said.

She said research shows children who are in conflict with the law are “frequently expressing some type of hurt or behavioral issue, and they need us to help them and not to punish them” when possible, without resorting to incarceration.



What is Re-entry and Aftercare for Youth?

by Benjamin Chambers

What do you think should happen when a kid is incarcerated? If you're like most Americans, you think rehabilitation should be a top priority for youth correctional facilities, according to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

But are kids actually getting what they need in facilities to ensure they don't commit new crimes when they return home? Evidently not:

•  Two-thirds of these youth don't return to school after their release from secure custody.

•  Even though parents and families are the most important factor in determining youth success in reintegrating into the community, only one in three families report being included in any release plans made for their children by juvenile facilities.

•  Youth with mental health and substance abuse issues often get substandard care in facilities. No matter what kind of care they get though, they usually cannot smoothly transition to care in the community, as those eligible for Medicaid or other health insurance are often released without being enrolled, or because their Medicaid coverage was terminated when they were first confined, and re-enrollment takes 90 days or more.

•  It's not uncommon for as many as 75 percent of youth returning home from confinement to be rearrested within three years, according to the Center of State Governments.

That's why re-entry and aftercare matter for youth. Ideally, planning for re-entry is begun the moment youth enter the system, to ensure they are able to smoothly transition back home, and services and supervision are in place to help support them reintegrate safely and successfully.

In practice, it's a rare youth who receives the kind of planning, cross-agency coordination and support they need to be successful.

For this reason, the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub has published a new section devoted to youth re-entry and aftercare, drafted and curated by the National Juvenile Justice Network, to aid practitioners and policymakers in improving our response to youth in trouble with the law.

While not exhaustive, the section is meant to provide a useful guide to the key issues that cover the challenges youth face and the critical elements of high-quality re-entry and aftercare; trends at the state level supporting the use and improvement of re-entry and aftercare; an abbreviated set of specific resources you can download now, and a list of experts in the field. There's even a short glossary.

If you browse the site, you'll learn that although experts have created a number of comprehensive models to guide practitioners in creating effective re-entry and aftercare services for youth, evaluation results to date have been equivocal. This is most likely because the models are tough to fully implement and fund, given the complexity of youth needs and the level of coordination required to adequately meet their needs.

Nevertheless, there's a lot we've learned that we could use to make changes right now that would help kids re-enter their communities. A few examples:

•  Ensure youth complete high school Education in youth facilities is often substandard, and youth in adult facilities may get none at all. Last December, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice released joint guidelines for states on correctional education for youth, to encourage improvement. Two reforms that would make a difference: (1) requiring that youth educational records be transferred between schools within seven days of request; and (2) rolling back laws that create obstacles for youth to re-enroll when they return to their home community. This would only be a start — but it would be a good one.

•  Prepare youth for the job market Many youth leaving facilities are older teens who will soon be looking for jobs. Giving youth high-quality, industry-aligned technical training while locked up and the opportunity to practice their skills before they leave would help prepare them for work — especially if training includes assistance with the “soft skills” they need to succeed in interviews and with co-workers. Of course, once they are released, internships, apprenticeships and subsidized employment opportunities can help them catch up to their peers and ready them for the working world. Additional supports in the arenas of housing, child care and mental health and substance use treatment would also be useful.

•  Provide mental health and substance abuse treatment Research has shown that 64 percent of youth in custody struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues, so providing good, continuous care is essential. However, as I noted above, the quality of care they receive inside facilities is often inadequate or even nonexistent. Because gaps in care can contribute to new offenses, re-entry planning should ensure that youth move seamlessly from facility to care in the community. To this end, removing barriers to health insurance and Medicaid coverage is essential.

•  Protecting the confidentiality of juvenile records Youth leaving custody can be denied housing or jobs on the basis of their juvenile records, which are not adequately protected in many states. Allowing youth to have their record sealed or expunged is also a key step in helping them reintegrate successfully.

Kids in trouble with the law have deep capacity to learn and change. Doing a better job of re-entry and aftercare would go a long way toward helping them do just that — and make our communities safer.

Benjamin Chambers is Communications Director at the National Juvenile Justice Network.




RPD officers take to the streets in community policing efforts

by Susan Bahorich

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new type of community policing takes Richmond officers not to where people live, but where they shop.

This program was just unveiled on Saturday. And, while community walks usually happen in neighborhoods, the one on Tuesday is happening at shopping centers.

Tuesday afternoon, officers spread out in groups to talk with managers and store owners in the Southside Plaza and Circle Shopping Center. Over the last year, this area has seen two shootings and two women have been robbed.

Police Chief Alfred Durham says he wants police to have more of a presence throughout their precincts and get to know people they serve.

Durham says communication is a way to cut crime, but not everyone is sold on the idea.

"It's part of the 100-day plan going back to old school policing, is what I call it. Having officers on the foot beat and engaging people. It's good for a citizen to know a police officer by name," Durham said.

But Delores Williams has her doubts, "It may make a difference - it may make a difference, but he gotta come more than one time."

Right now, two officers are on foot patrol in each precinct.

Durham said he hopes to add two more officer a precinct after the next graduating academy class.

So far, the city's new beat officer says the response from merchants has been positive, and that people like knowing if there's a problem, they have somewhere to turn.




NSP Police Department rolls out new community policing map

Officers assigned to neighborhood districts

by Erin Hinrichs

Police officer Joe Friedrichs has only been with the North St. Paul police department for seven months, but he's already making headway in his assigned district, along the north side, stymieing local crime.

When a concerned resident asked Friedrichs to help address suspicious traffic in their neighborhood, he made himself available around the clock to help address the issue.

Together, they tracked license plate numbers and built a case against the suspected burglar, who ended up being arrested.

"I probably had three or four phone calls and probably six or seven email correspondence," he said of the partnership with the resident. "And I stopped at her house one day, just to shake hands."

Elements of this integrated approach to policing have long existed in the community, namely through existing neighborhood watch groups. But the North St. Paul police department is currently rolling out a more defined community policing initiative with an emphasis on policing districts and crime-free multi housing.

'More all-encompassing'

North St. Paul Police Captain Dustin Nikituk has been working closely with the rest of the department, as well as city staff, to implement a district-based vision of community policing.

In a nutshell, it's about "breaking down the barriers between the community and the police," he said.

Building familiarity through consistency, he explained, is key to breaking down these barriers. In order to establish stronger report between citizens and police officers, the department devised a 16-district map and assigned officers to each. They've been instructed to share the contact information at ease, so residents and business owners can follow up with them directly on any safety concerns or crime tips.

"We've always had community policing within our agency and it's involved many different aspects over the years," Nikituk said, listing bike patrol, motorcycle implementation and crime watch groups as precursors to the new mapping effort.

"Now it's more all-encompassing. With our new staffing levels, we're able to do it more efficiently and effectively."

With a recent wave of new-hires, the North St. Paul police department employs 17 law enforcement officials, including Nikituk and Police Chief Tom Lauth. Seven of these officers have served in North St. Paul for less than a year.

But all the swearing-in ceremonies of late could be a bit deceiving. As a smaller agency, Nikituk explained, they have turnover with young officers looking to move on to larger agencies once they gain some experience.

In order to fully rebound to past staffing levels, he said they're looking to hire two additional officers this year.

With the new community policing initiative in place, North St. Paul may be the perfect place for officers to gain experience quickly.

"It's really [about] decentralizing decision making," Nikituk said. "Essentially, the officers run their own shift, run their own neighborhood groups. So it really brings forth leadership within the department."

In Friedrichs' experience, the four-month-old policing districts have granted him greater ownership and fast-tracked his success at building relationships with those he serves.

"I really enjoy the smaller department, getting a chance to get involved in all aspects of the department," he said. "Being a smaller community, you get to know the individuals, the business, on a more personal level."

Establishing relations, accountability

Close to a quarter of North St. Paul's residents are non-white, according to the last U.S. Census — a level of diversity that Nikituk feels the police department compliments.

"As our community dynamics change, it really helps to reflect that with the officers that are policing the community," he said.

While unarmed suspect fatalities across the nation continue to raise new concerns about race relations in local law enforcement agencies, North St. Paul police are honing in on a separate concern: addressing crime rates within its transient population.

The department sent some officers to attend a crime-free multi housing training and assigned officers Tami Larsen and Amberkae DeCory to work directly with this population to both keep them up to speed on important safety information and better integrate them into the community.

"Historically, it's an area within the community that's kind of disconnected and we're really trying to [get] that portion of the community to be involved," Nikituk said.

The two officers have been reaching out to those in apartment complexes, bringing them information on police reports and working with management and residents to hold problematic individuals accountable.

Given the high percentage of rental units in the city, their efforts could greatly impact the overall safety of the community. Currently, 29 percent of all local housing units are occupied by renters, according to city records.

Since one of the guiding principal behind building safer communities is simply getting to know your neighbors, the police department relies heavily on the volunteer efforts of local neighborhood watch groups and their block captains.

"For the most part, crime is a thing of anonymity and when you take that away, crime goes down," Nikituk said, paying tribute to the local watch groups he and his officers have been collaborating with for close to a decade.

Through the simple act of organizing a community email list serve, used to circulate safety concerns and expedite communication between neighborhoods and police, these groups have already been making a difference.

Watch captain Teri Perron got involved with this grassroots initiative after a series of burglaries hit her neighborhood.

She and Phyllis Connor serve as liaisons for residents of the southwest corner of the Silver Lake area, bringing them hyper-local safety updates and spearheading independent safety project, like getting more street light installed.

Asked what she thinks of the new policing districts, she said, "The import thing is that you're getting to know the officers. They're not as bad as people think they are. Wave when they go by and get to know them. I think it's a really good idea that you're assigned a police officer and you get to know them."

With the hopes of warmer weather ahead, Friedrichs anticipates he'll get to know the people he's serving as they get outside to mow their lawns.

"With spring around the corner, it'll give us an opportunity to really get to know the individuals in the community," he said.

Ways to take a stand against local crime

• Stop by City Hall and pick up a free “Neighborhood Watch” window sticker from the police department.

• Contact your assigned community police officer about starting a neighborhood watch group, or join one that already exists. Also inquire about block parties held during the summer.

• Get to know your NSP police officers by participating in National Night Out on Aug. 4, or the NSPPD Torch Run in June.




Putting on a BRAVE face: Crime fighters say community policing efforts working to stem violence in Baton Rouge

by Matt Mckinney

Fighting violence in Baton Rouge used to mean law enforcement flooding problem areas with patrol cars, employing a zero-tolerance approach.

The difference now, Police Chief Carl Dabadie said Tuesday evening at an anti-violence forum, is troublemakers have a better opportunity to change their ways.

“Here's what we're offering you,” he said. “We're offering you a way out.”

The panel discussion, put on by the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project and Forum 35, aimed to educate residents on BRAVE's efforts to address violent crime in the capital city.

About 30 people attended the forum at the downtown Family Youth Service Center, where BRAVE officials and city-parish authorities said the program has helped cut down on the bloodshed.

“Law enforcement has never come together in the way we are now,” Dabadie said.

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said the success of BRAVE depends on law enforcement building trust in the community, building a presence — not just at crime scenes.

“We're out there every day walking the streets to let people know we truly care about each and every individual,” he said. “We're not going to be here today and gone tomorrow.”

Gautreaux cited the Gardere neighborhood, long known as a problem area, where deputies now patrol daily on bicycle and rely on community policing.

Capt. Rodney Walker, of the Sheriff's Office, knocks on doors in the neighborhood every day to gauge residents' concerns and check in with teens targeted in the program.

When put on BRAVE's watch list, offenders are given the following choices: enroll in the program, which provides mentoring and job placement services; ignore the program and avoid future arrests; or continue to misbehave and suffer stricter sentencing if they are convicted of a crime.

“Unfortunately, not everyone takes to the service,” Dabadie said.

Teens are flagged for BRAVE surveillance when they are implicated in a violent crime.

Assistant District Attorney Aishala Burgess said she and her colleagues keep a list of offenders who come through the court system, with the law enforcement officials working to target the possible associates.

Juvenile Court Judge Adam Haney said BRAVE then uses peer pressure to squash violence.

“They're saying: ‘Don't pick up that gun, because if you do something stupid, I'm going back to jail,' ” he said.

While panelists said they have more work ahead of them, they agreed BRAVE has cut down on violence in Baton Rouge.

“Is it the best thing? I can't tell you that,” Gautreaux said. “But I can tell you it's the best thing we've seen so far.”





Arbitration should not reinstate police who pose significant risk to public safety

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson insists any comprehensive review of the city's police department must include an examination of an arbitration system that has enabled some fired officers to get their jobs back despite egregious violations.

When bad cops are returned to the force, that makes it difficult to instill discipline in the ranks, Jackson believes. He's right.

More is at issue than simply arbitrations governed by contracts with the Cleveland police unions. The city ultimately bears responsibility for adequately vetting officers before hiring them, for making sure that training and supervision remain solid throughout a police officer's tenure and for assuring consistency in discipline.

However, now seems the ideal time to scrutinize whether the police arbitration process allows officers to flout important standards of behavior and still keep their jobs. The city and the U.S. Department of Justice are negotiating a consent decree to remedy U.S. Justice Department findings last year that Cleveland police too often improperly use force and fail to investigate citizen complaints about force. The arbitration process should be on the table as part of the negotiations.

There seems little doubt that something's amiss. A Northeast Ohio Media Group review of 20 disciplinary cases where a Cleveland police department employee was suspended or fired leaves one wondering how arbitrators could come down on the side of reinstatement. In nine of the cases, arbitrators upheld the disciplinary action, while overruling or reducing the punishment in the other eleven. It's not clear if the 20 cases are representative of overall police arbitration outcomes in Cleveland.

In one case, the department fired a patrolwoman after she pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor assault charge stemming from her use of two knives to attack her boyfriend. One wound required five stitches.

The officer had demonstrated other instances of questionable judgment, including drinking and driving and a possible attempted suicide, but an arbitrator said the city must return her badge and gun, citing the city's inconsistent punishments of officers who committed similar crimes.

In another case, an officer got his job back even though he admitted "sexting" crime victims. The department also cited other rules violations, but an arbitrator determined he deserved a "second and last chance."

In some cases, arbitrators may be reluctant to deprive an officer of their livelihood, according to city officials. And yet, it's the safety of the community that should be paramount.

Some observers also suspect arbitrators may feel compelled to even out their rulings over time to ensure they remain in the good graces of management and the union, so as not to be eliminated by one side or the other from the chance to participate in future proceedings.

"I can't say it never happens," said Sarah Rudolph Cole, an Ohio State University law professor and an arbitrator on the side, although she said it has been her experience that arbitrators decide each case on its merits.

Local attorney Subodh Chandra, a former Cleveland law director during the Jane Campbell administration, said the idea of letting a few bad decisions set precedent for future discipline makes no sense and that similar circumstances should only be part of the equation.

So, who's to blame for Cleveland's inability to get rid of officers who behave badly? Is it the city's poor record of meting out discipline in a measured and consistent manner? Is it bad judgment by arbitrators? A little of both?

The time has come to reset the clock.

The city should establish and clearly communicate firm policies regarding acceptable behavior by officers, and the arbitration process should start anew, no longer using the inconsistent and, sometimes, irrational penalties of the past to influence penalties of the future. Then, the city needs to establish a consistent pattern of discipline going forward.

It may be necessary to press the unions for new contract language that mitigates some of the subjectivity arbitrators now have in making their decisions. Reform could also mean establishing nonnegotiable punishments for specific behaviors, such as committing a crime with a weapon.

Police deserve protection from unfair or capricious discipline. But they can't be allowed to avoid punishment if common sense and the interests of the public require otherwise.

The Cleveland police aren't alone in this regard. Police departments around the country are dealing with the same issue.

But it's in the best interest of the Cleveland police department and the police unions, and, more importantly, the citizens of Cleveland, that the arbitration process does not allow bad cops to stay on the force when their own actions make them a risk to public safety.




Fentanyl-laced heroin a danger to public safety

by Erik Martin

DARKE COUNTY - As heroin abuse is on the rise, more of the drug is found to be laced with the powerful and dangerous drug fentanyl.

Friday, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl to law enforcement and the general public.

“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,”DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid which is typically used in combination with anesthesia during surgical procedures or to treat pain in persons suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses, such as cancer patients. For pain management, the fentanyl is often delivered through patches, lozenges or injections.

For drug abusers, however, fentanyl is often extracted from these items and is then laced, or “cut,” with heroin. The DEA states that fentanyl is “causing significant problems across the country, particularly as heroin abuse has increased.”

This alert was issued to all U.S. law enforcement, not only from an enforcement standpoint, but also for the need of awareness in safety handling the drug. Because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or through accidental inhalation, it poses a danger to law enforcement agents who may come into contact with the substance during investigations.

The DEA characterizes fentanyl as “100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin,” and is “extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it.

Local law enforcement is well aware of the issue, said Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker of the Darke County Sheriff's Office.

“It doesn't surprise me at all,” said Whittaker, speaking with the Daily Advocate about the nationwide alert.

“Because fentanyl is such as powerful narcotic,” Whittaker said, “it is often fatal for those who use it, especially for those who are not used to it.”

Whittaker emphasizes that the issue is more than just enforcing the law but is also about the goal of getting the substance off the streets.

“Our drug detectives have tracked down suspected heroin users in the area, to talk to them,” he said. “Not because we want to bust them, but because we're concerned about public safety.”

“We tell them ‘We don't expect you to confess [to possession], but we want to tell you that you bought bad heroin. It's dangerous.'”

Whittaker said that in some instances, the narcotic has been turned over to them without repercussions.

“Being able to get [fentanyl] out of their hands sometimes exceeds needing to arrest them or solve a crime,” he said.

The agency reports what it calls a “significant resurgence” in fentanyl-related seizures over the past two years.

According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), state and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, which represented an increase of 942 cases versus 2013. As well, the DEA states that it has “identified 15 other fentanyl-related compounds.”

For more information on fentanyl and its effects, go online to: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/fentanyl.pdf

The Darke County Sheriff's Office may be contacted by phone at 937-548-3399.



From ICE

ICE recognizes International Day for the Dignity of Victims

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) today recognizes the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

The United Nations General Assembly set aside this date, March 24, to “honor the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice” as well as to “pay tribute to those who have devoted their lives to, and lost their lives in, the struggle to promote and protect human rights for all.” This day recognizes in a special way the life and work of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated thirty-five years ago, on March 24, 1980. Archbishop Romero, a tireless defender of human rights, was killed by a death squad after denouncing human rights violations and calling for the end of killing and violence during El Salvador's Civil War.

“Today and every day, we remember the victims of human rights violations and their defenders throughout the world,” said Mark Shaffer, the Chief of ICE's HRVWCC. “The United States is a safe haven for many victims of human rights violations; our mission is to make sure that it is not a safe haven for perpetrators.”

The HRVWCC works in close collaboration with the FBI's International Human Rights Unit and other U.S. government and foreign law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, prosecute, extradite and remove individuals who have carried out genocide, torture, war crimes and other serious human rights violations from the United States. The center has also sought to deny entry to the United States for perpetrators of human rights abuses.

Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 296 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 650 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 140 active investigations, and ICE is pursuing more than 1,800 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.

Over the last four years, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crime Center has issued more than 67,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 111 countries and stopped 161 human rights violators or war-crime suspects from entering the United States.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423, international 001-1802-872-6199, by email at HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or by completing an online tip form at https://tips.fbi.gov . All are staffed around the clock and tips may be provided anonymously.



From the Department of Homeland Security

If You See Something, Say Something

What Is Suspicious Actvity?

Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate terrorism or terrorism-related crime. This includes, but is not limited to:

•  Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.

•  Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building's purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.

•  Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.

Some of these activities could be innocent—it's up to law enforcement to determine whether the behavior warrants investigation. The activities above are not all-inclusive, but have been compiled based on studies of pre-operational aspects of both successful and thwarted terrorist events over several years.

Protecting Citizens' Privacy & Civil Liberties

The "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign respects citizens' privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties by emphasizing behavior, rather than appearance, in identifying suspicious activity.

Factors such as race, ethnicity, and/or religious affiliation are not suspicious. The public should only report suspicious behavior and situations (e.g., an unattended backpack or package, or someone breaking into a restricted area). Only reports that document behavior that is reasonably indicative of criminal activity related to terrorism will be shared with federal partners.

How to Report Suspicious Activity

Public safety is everyone's responsibility. If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement or a person of authority.

Describe specifically what you observed, including:

•  Who or what you saw;

•  When you saw it;

•  Where it occurred; and

•  Why it's suspicious.




Alarming DOJ report: Poor training in Philly leads to scores of cop-involved shootings

by Dan Taylor

A federal Justice Department report that was released yesterday blames poor training on the high amount of police shootings in Philadelphia.

The Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office spent a year looking at the use of deadly force by officers in Philly and found a whopping 48 issues, resulting in 91 recommendations for change, according to a Philly.com report.

The department conducted the study after the city's police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, asked for a review in 2013 when a Philly.com report determined that there were a high number of police-involved shootings despite the fact that violent crimes against police were dropping.

The 174-page report states that the police department “has much work to do” to uncover policy, training, and operational “deficiencies,” as well as “an undercurrent of significant strife between the community and the department,” according to the Philly.com report.

The COPS report notes that there is a distrust in the ability of the Philadelphia Police Department to investigate itself, and that a lack of transparency continues to foster that distrust.

The authors of the report determined that officers in the city don't get the training they need to handle deadly force policies, and recommended that annual training and some reality-based scenario training might be used to remedy that, as well as the issuance of stun guns to all uniformed officers. In addition, a unit that is dedicated to investigating deadly force incidents should be set up.

The report also recommended that police shootings of unarmed suspects should be reviewed by an external agency. A total of 15 percent of individuals who have been shot by police since 2007 have been unarmed, according to the Philly.com report.

In all, Philadelphia police have shot 394 people from 2007 through 2013. About 80 percent of those shot were black, and 98 percent of them were male ranging in age from 13 to 62 but averaging 20 years old.

Have something to say? Let us know in the comments section or send an email to the author. You can share ideas for stories by contacting us here.




Governor signs law making Utah only state with firing squad

Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method's use when no lethal injection drugs are available

by Michelle L. Price and Brady McCombs

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions Monday when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the method's use when no lethal injection drugs are available.

Herbert has said he finds the firing squad "a little bit gruesome," but Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.

"We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty, and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued," Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said.

However, enforcing death sentences is "the obligation of the executive branch," he said.

The governor's office, in a statement announcing the new law, noted that other states allow execution methods other than lethal injection. In Washington state, inmates can request hanging. In New Hampshire, hangings are fallback if lethal injections can't be given. And an Oklahoma law would allow the state to use firing squads if lethal injections are ever declared unconstitutional.

Utah's approval of firing squads carries no such legal caveat and represents the latest example of frustration over botched executions and the difficulty of obtaining lethal injection drugs as manufacturers opposed to capital punishment have made them off-limits to prisons.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, argued that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more decent than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry — or even if they go as planned.

Though Utah's next execution is probably a few years away, Ray said wants to settle on a backup method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on. Ray didn't return messages seeking comment Monday.

Opponents of the measure say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah saying the bill makes the state "look backward and backwoods."

Utah lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention away from victims.

Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out such a death sentence, with three executions by firing squad since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The last was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles in an event that generated international interest and elicited condemnation from many.

Gardner killed a bartender and later shot a lawyer to death and wounded a bailiff during a 1985 courthouse escape attempt.

The bailiff's widow, VelDean Kirk, who witnessed Gardner's execution, said she supports the new law. "I don't think it's barbaric," she said. "I think that's the best way to do it."

Gardner's brother recently has spoken out against the method. Randy Gardner of Salt Lake City said Monday that he doesn't condone his brother's actions, but he opposes the death penalty and said firing squads make the state look bad.

"My god, we're the only ones that are shooting people in the heart," he said.

One person nearing a possible execution date is Ron Lafferty, the state's longest-serving death row inmate, who claimed God directed him to kill his sister-in-law and her baby daughter in 1984 because of the victim's resistance to his beliefs in polygamy.

Lafferty has already requested the firing squad — an option available to him even before this new law was passed because he, like Gardner, was convicted prior to 2004, when lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad.

The other Utah death row inmate who could be next up for execution, Doug Carter, has chosen lethal injection. Under this new law, Carter would get the firing squad if the state can't get their hands on lethal injection drugs 30 days before.

The state doesn't currently have lethal injection drugs on hand.



U.S. Supreme Court

Justices to review sentences for juvenile offenders

In 2012, justices ruled that judges and juries must take account of age when sentencing those younger than 18 at the time of even the most brutal crimes

by The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is adding a new case to decide whether its 3-year-old ruling throwing out mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles should apply to older cases.

The court was scheduled to hear arguments in a case from Louisiana in late March, but the state released inmate George Toca after 30 years in prison.

The justices on Monday said they would consider a new Louisiana case involving a man who has been held since 1963 for killing a sheriff's deputy in Baton Rouge.

Henry Montgomery was a 17-year-old 10th grader who was playing hooky from school when he shot Deputy Charles Hurt at a park near the city's airport. The officer and his partner were looking to round up truants.

The case will be argued in the fall.

In 2012, the justices ruled that judges and juries must take account of age when sentencing people who were younger than 18 at the time of even the most brutal crimes.

Courts around the country have differed on whether prison inmates whose cases are closed can take advantage of the high court ruling and seek parole or new sentencing hearings.

The Supreme Court has handed down a series of rulings that hold juveniles less responsible than adults when their sentences are considered. The latest case involves how the court's views about juvenile sentences mesh with another line of cases that deal with when major court decisions should apply retroactively to older cases.

The case is Montgomery v. Louisiana, 14-280.



Washington D.C.

How should police arrest mentally ill suspects? Supreme Court to decide

Does the Americans With Disabilities Act require that police to take special precautions when arresting mentally ill suspects? The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in a dispute over how police in San Francisco dealt with a woman suffering from schizophrenia.

by Sam Hananel

Washington — The Supreme Court is considering whether the Americans With Disabilities Act requires police to take special precautions when trying to arrest armed and violent suspects who are mentally ill.

The justices hear arguments Monday in a dispute over how police in San Francisco dealt with a woman suffering from schizophrenia who had threatened to kill her social worker. Police forced their way into Teresa Sheehan's room at a group home and then shot her five times after she came at them with a knife.

Sheehan survived and later sued the city, claiming police had a duty under the ADA to consider her mental illness and take more steps to avoid a violent confrontation.

Her attorneys say laws protecting the disabled require police to make reasonable accommodations when arresting people who have mental or physical disabilities. They say police could have used less aggressive tactics, such as waiting for backup and trying to talk to her in a nonthreatening way.

City officials argue the ADA does not require accommodations for armed and dangerous people who are mentally ill and pose a threat to others.

The case has attracted attention from mental health advocates who say that failing to take account of a suspect's disability often results in unnecessary shootings by police.

Law enforcement groups have also weighed in, saying a ruling in Sheehan's favor could undermine police tactics, place officers and bystanders at risk and open them to additional liability.

The ADA generally requires public officials to make "reasonable accommodations" to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities. But lower courts have split on how the law should apply to police conduct when public safety is at risk.

In Sheehan's case, her social worker called police for help in restraining her so she could be taken to a hospital for treatment. Officers entered her room with a key, but Sheehan threatened them with a knife, so they closed the door and called for backup. But they said they weren't sure whether Sheehan had a way to escape, and were concerned that she might have other weapons inside.

The officers then forced their way in and tried to subdue her with pepper spray. But she continued to come toward them with the knife and was shot five times.

A federal district court sided with the police, ruling that it would be unreasonable to ask officers trying to detain a violent, mentally disabled person to comply with the ADA before protecting themselves and others. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should decide whether it was reasonable for the officers to use less confrontational tactics.




Richmond police chief: 'All lives matter. That's really what community policing should be about.'

by Brad Marshland

When Chris Magnus first moved to Richmond, California in 2006, he would hear gunshots at night, sometimes very close to his house. That would be disturbing to anyone, but it was especially so to Magnus, as he had just been hired to be Richmond's new chief of police.

Recent shootings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, and Madison, Wisconsin have triggered violent reactions, revealing a deep chasm between many police departments and the communities they purportedly serve. But not so in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Richmond: Not only are relationships between the people and the police strong, but the statistics indicate that the policies instituted by Chief Magnus are significantly reducing crime. Violent crime has been dropping nationally for years – down 14.5% since 2004, according to the FBI. In Richmond, it has dropped even faster. Homicides in this city of just over 100,000 are down from 47 in 2007 to just 11 last year.

Since Magnus took over as Chief in Richmond, he has instituted geographic policing, where officers are assigned to specific beats over an extended period of time, sometimes as long as several years. He has also challenged his officers to do more than just respond to calls. Evaluations are now based in part on how much officers engage with and address the residents' top priorities. Back in 2006, for example, despite the high homicide rate, one of the first things residents complained to Magnus about was the number of abandoned vehicles on the streets. While addressing this problem first may have seemed counterintuitive, it went a long way toward building trust. “It sent a very powerful message to residents that we were actually listening to them and were willing to make their priorities our priorities,” Magnus told Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric.

Acting in partnership with the community on such minor matters can have hugely positive effects when it comes to tackling violent crime as well. “Just starting a conversation sometimes leads to surprising results,” says Magnus. As relationships get built, residents are more likely to talk to officers they know and provide tips that either solve or prevent more serious crimes down the road.

Longtime community advocate Kathleen Sullivan has never been afraid to call the command staff when she sees an officer behaving badly. The fact that they listen has changed everything. Now she feels comfortable telling others “Sometimes when you're concerned, you need to call the police. Because they are here to get the bad guy.”

The term “community policing” has become such a buzz phrase that “Pretty much every department, if you ask them, would say they're doing community policing,” says Magnus, “And I think most believe it. But the challenge is: is community policing really policing the community in the way that the community wants to be policed, or is it driven by the police department?” Magnus' approach has been to build partnerships with the community at every opportunity, learning from the residents what their priorities are, in order to define where resources should go.

One thing Sullivan believes the department could do better would be to get out and walk the streets more. The key is to train the officers to view walking and talking to residents not as an added chore, but rather as a means to an end. “You're talking to people in order to get to know them,” Magnus says “to build a relationship that helps you ultimately solve or prevent a crime.”

In the past year, the national wave of protests against excessive use of police force turned violent in many cities, exposing a rift where police departments and the public view each other as adversaries rather than as partners. In Richmond, the demonstrations were peaceful, with the police department command staff engaging community members in dialogue about how policing could be done better. Chief Magnus, who is white, went so far as to hold a “Black Lives Matter” sign. “It seemed to totally represent what we're trying to accomplish,” says Magnus, “which is respect: this idea that we acknowledge that the relationship between police and the African American community, particularly in many cities, has really been at best strained and at worst incredibly difficult for many, many years.”

Magnus took some grief for holding the sign, but he stands by his decision: “It doesn't mean a wholesale endorsement of attacks on police or saying that police are brutal or racist across the board. Of course I don't feel that way. I feel like all lives matter. That's really what community policing should be about.”

Along with reducing crime, Richmond's style of community policing could explain why Richmond's recent protests were peaceful. “The key to the whole thing,” says community advocate Sullivan, “is the more you know who they are, and they know who you are, you respond to policing differently.”

Community policing is not Richmond's only strategy. They have also actively hired for diversity within the department, deployed computer algorithms to help predict where crimes are likely to occur (and allocate resources accordingly), and they have begun testing body cameras on their officers. While some have touted body cameras as a panacea for preventing excessive use of force, Magnus thinks the issue is more complicated.

“First of all,” says Magnus, “cameras don't show everything.” No matter how they're worn by an officer, they don't give a complete picture of what an officer may be seeing or perceiving in any given situation. And yet the public may believe the video will show the whole truth. Second, the whole truth is sometimes hard to look at. “Using force never looks good, even when it's completely appropriate and within policy,” Magnus says. “It's very tough to see somebody on the receiving end of a police baton, even if that is the right tool under the right circumstances to use.” Still, the public wants to see some of the results; they want criminals arrested, and they don't want police officers put in unnecessary danger. “This means one of the challenges we're going to face as police agencies is really helping to educate the public about the use of force. When is it appropriate, in what measure, under what circumstances? How do we do it? How are those decisions made?” And that conversation is only just beginning.

Finally, Magnus sees a real danger to the whole idea of community policing once body cameras get introduced. He believes that officers should not be required to have cameras on at all times, “because I want the public to be able to have positive, proactive conversations with officers that they don't feel are being recorded.” What community policing has so successfully achieved in Richmond may be undermined if lawful residents suddenly feel they are under surveillance.

That said, the Richmond department has begun testing the technology, in part in an effort to learn how cameras might support its broader goals.

Last fall, the Department of Justice asked Chief Magnus to be on a panel of experts looking at protocols, procedures, training and supervision in St. Louis County. His takeaway: “it is critically important we redouble our effort to reconnect police and community at every possible level. None of this is easy. But if we're operating from a position of goodwill, with the goal of building trust, there's really a lot we can accomplish by working together.”



97 percent of Internet pharmacies pose a public safety threat

by Steve Brachmann

Buying medications online is a risky business. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), 97 percent of the more than 10,900 Internet pharmacies, or 10,573 online drug sellers, reviewed by the board are operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards. Violations have included stolen personal and financial information, virus-laden spam e-mails and even online pharmacies selling pills that contain drywall or rat poison.

Some of the issues surrounding Internet pharmacies were highlighted by a case in 2012 involving a couple of Canadian businessmen who sold counterfeit Avastin, a cancer drug developed by Roche Holding AG, to Americans patients. Some of these counterfeit medications even showed up in medical clinics. In 2014, FedEx received an indictment from a federal grand jury for drug trafficking charges after delivering drugs for nearly a decade from Internet pharmacies operating illegally. As recently as early March, there was a $2 million settlement paid by one Missouri pharmacist who distributed painkillers like Fioricet online to patients he had never seen for an in-person consultation.

It's easy to understand why someone would want to cut corners and make a quick buck in pharmaceuticals; at the time of the Avastin incident, the U.S. prescription pharmaceutical industry was a $300 billion per year business. Unfortunately, the high cost of pharmaceutical medications is why about 50 million adults between the ages of 19 and 64 do not fill out a prescription every year. Medications purchased over the Internet can cost up to 90 percent less than the same medication purchased in a brick-and-mortar pharmacy. It is also easy to understand those cost savings given the ingredients found in online pharmaceuticals. Consumers obviously need better protections to make sure that the medication they're purchasing is the medication are ordering and not drywall or rat poison.

In order to curtail the online selling of counterfeit medications and ensure that online medication purchases can happen with at least some consumer safeguards, the NABP and other organizations have called for the development of the pharmacy Top Level Domain public health initiative, which is designed to help consumers better distinguish between legitimate pharmacists and rogue drug sellers. The program allows legitimate pharmacies to obtain pharmacy domain names instead of a “.com” or “.net” domain name, which is much easier to get. The program would address the public risk factors of illegal medication sales involving the drug transactions without a prescription as well as the sale of foreign or unapproved drugs. General availability for eligibility into the program will be available to applying pharmacies beginning on June 3rd.

There has been plenty of action taken by government agencies on behalf of the public to stem the threat of counterfeit or illegal drugs from being sold over the Internet. In the early stages of 2014, the United States was one of 111 countries taking part in a global effort to shut down the activities of nearly 11,000 online pharmacies which were operating illegally. There were 9.4 million doses of counterfeit medication that was seized during that sting. While participating in Operation Pangea VII, sponsored by Interpol, the Food and Drug Administration found thousands of mislabeled medications through the examination of mail packages at U.S.-based international mail facilities.

It's important to note that organizations like the NABP are not necessarily calling for the end of online pharmacy sales, but they are seeking a way to regulate those sales to save lives. Many medications are sold online that contain chemicals which could interact dangerously with other prescriptions or just damage the human body, and this could be overlooked without the oversight of a physician.

There are some areas of the country where the executive branch of governments in some states are stepping in to try and solve the problem. For example, the state of Maine had passed the Maine Pharmacy Law in February two years ago, the first of its kind in the entire country. The law enabled the purchase of prescription drugs from sources outside of the United States; business leaders in the state pushed for the regulation based on their belief that it would help control employee health care costs. However, the law was invalidated in a 19-page decision by Judge Nancy Torresen of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine who decided that the federal government and not Maine has the discretion to enable such a measure regarding the importation of goods from foreign countries.

Inactivity at the federal level, however, is proving to be a little troubling. The FDA's 2014 involvement in the Interpol operation helped uncover medications being sold under false labeling but proactive approaches like the NABP's .pharmacy Top Level Domain program seem to be needed to enable consumers to make smarter shopping decisions on a platform as ubiquitous as the Internet. Main Street America has nothing on the amount of commerce and commercial space that can be packed into a gigabyte of server space so policing the new e-commerce frontier should be a little more rigorous.

Interestingly, this need to more effectively control the Internet and digital communication pathways for a safer economy is something we've heard before from the federal level of our government. Last November, we profiled a cybersecurity framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for organizations to protect themselves from and respond to cybersecurity risks. At a meeting hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at that time, San Jose State University President Mohammed K. Qayoumi had some opening remarks mentioning the importance of roads to the Roman Empire or seaway control to the British Empire. “Today, in the digital revolution, we have a similar issue with cybersecurity. Whoever controls that role and can be masterful at it, that is the nation that will really have major influence globally,” Qayoumi said.

The issue of Internet pharmacies presents a different kind of cybersecurity issue, one that could actually impact public health because of misrepresented medications. In early March, a report released by the U.S. Trade Representative said that inaction on online sellers of illegal goods like counterfeit medicines is a public safety risk. The USTR can list domain name registrars on its annual list of notorious markets but that office asked for greater efforts by trade partners and the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is responsible for the maintenance and methodology of databases related to Internet namespaces.

Other than the .pharmacy Top Level Domain program, there have been some efforts to ensure that those who engage in online purchases of medication can do so as safely as possible. The NABP itself coordinates the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program, which provides a list of accredited online pharmacies which have been vetted by NABP staff. The NABP also recommends those using online pharmacies to contact the board of pharmacy for the state within which an Internet drug seller is situated.