May, 2015 - Week 2
Tsarnaev could be 1st terrorist executed in U.S. since 9/11
BOSTON (AP) – The death sentence jurors imposed on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sets the stage for what could be the nation's first execution of a terrorist in the post-9/11 era, though the case is likely to go through years of appeals.
In weighing the arguments for and against death, the jurors decided among other things that Tsarnaev showed a lack of remorse. And they emphatically rejected the defense's central argument – that he was led down the path to terrorism by his big brother.
The Friday decision – which came just over two years after the April 15, 2013, bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 – brought relief and grim satisfaction to many in Boston.
“We can breathe again,” said Karen Brassard, who suffered shrapnel wounds on her legs.
A somber-looking Tsarnaev stood with his hands folded, his head slightly bowed, as he learned his fate, sealed after 14 hours of deliberations over three days. His lawyers left court without comment.
His father, Anzor Tsarnaev, reached by phone in the Russian region of Dagestan, let out a deep moan upon hearing the news and hung up.
The 12-member federal jury had to be unanimous for Tsarnaev to get the death penalty. Otherwise, the former college student would have automatically received life in prison with no chance of parole.
Tsarnaev was convicted last month of all 30 charges against him, including use of a weapon of mass destruction, for joining his now-dead brother, Tamerlan, in setting off two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the race. Tsarnaev was also found guilty in the killing of an MIT police officer during the getaway.
Seventeen of the charges carried the possibility of a death sentence; ultimately, the jury gave him the death penalty on six of those counts.
The speed with which the jury reached a decision surprised some, given that the jurors had to fill out a detailed worksheet in which they tallied up the factors for and against the death penalty.
The jury agreed with the prosecution on 11 of the 12 aggravating factors cited, including the cruelty of the crime, the extent of the carnage, the killing of a child, and Tsarnaev's lack of remorse.
“Today the jury has spoken. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will pay for his crimes with his life,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
With Friday's decision, community leaders and others talked of closure, of resilience, of the city's Boston Strong spirit.
“Today, more than ever, we know that Boston is a city of hope, strength and resilience that can overcome any challenge,” said Mayor Marty Walsh.
In weighing the mitigating factors, only three of the 12 jurors found Tsarnaev acted under the influence of his brother.
The defense argued that sending him to the high-security Supermax prison in Colorado for the rest of his life would be a sufficiently harsh punishment and would help the victims move on without having to read about years of death row appeals.
Massachusetts is a liberal, staunchly anti-death penalty state that hasn't executed anyone since 1947, and there were fears that a death sentence for Tsarnaev would only satisfy his desire for martyrdom.
But some argued that if capital punishment is to be reserved for “the worst of the worst,” Tsarnaev qualifies.
Tsarnaev's chief lawyer, death penalty specialist Judy Clarke, admitted at the start of the trial that he participated in the bombings.
But Clarke argued that Dzhokhar was an impressionable 19-year-old led astray by his domineering 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan. The defense portrayed Tamerlan as the mastermind of the plot to punish the U.S. for its wars in Muslim countries.
Tamerlan died days after the bombing when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.
Prosecutors depicted Dzhokhar as an equal partner in the attack, saying he was so coldhearted he planted a bomb on the pavement behind a group of children, killing an 8-year-old boy.
Jurors also heard grisly and heartbreaking testimony from numerous bombing survivors who described seeing their legs blown off or watching someone next to them die.
Killed in the bombing were Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager; and 8-year-old Martin Richard, who had gone to watch the marathon with his family. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier was gunned down in his cruiser days later. Seventeen people lost legs in the bombings.
The road to the death penalty for Tsarnaev
by Patricia Wen
Photos played a major role in the government's success in convincing jurors to unanimously approve the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors a range of images to bolster their case that his terrorist crimes exposed so many people to grave harm and were particularly heinous and cruel.
The defense team also showed jurors a wide array of photos to try to humanize -- and elicit compassion for -- the 21-year-old graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. The jury's decisive verdict Friday, however, suggests these were far less persuasive.
Below are 10 sets of images presented by both sides during the trial -- and the conclusions they hoped jurors would draw from them.
1. Prosecution: Tsarnaev deserves death because his crimes are especially depraved.
In calling for the death penalty, prosecutors said Tsarnaev's killings were particularly “heinous, cruel and depraved” and said they “involved serious physical abuse to the victim” -- one of the dozen aggravating factors cited by the government in the 24-page verdict form give to the jury. Prosecutors also cited as aggravating factors Tsarnaev's putting large numbers of people at risk of grave injury in Boston and during the shootout in Watertown.
To that end, the jury heard from — and saw photos of — numerous survivors, including Celeste Corcoran, a mother of two from Lowell with two prosthetic legs. She described the unbearable pain she felt when her legs were ravaged, and the anguish of knowing her daughter nearly bled to death on Boylston Street.
Jurors saw disturbing images of BB pellets still left in the bodies of some survivors. Mark Fucarile lost one leg while also undergoing dozens of surgeries and remains unsure if his second leg can be saved. Jurors also saw X-ray photos of BB pellets that remain in his body, including throughout his legs. Doctors have not removed them because the procedure is not worth the risk.
Jurors saw X-ray images from another survivor, Eric Whalley, who had a BB pellet enter through his eye. That pellet remains lodged in his brain.
2. Prosecution: Tsarnaev deserves death because he used a weapon of mass destruction at an iconic race that exposed so many people to his terrorism plan.
Prosecutors said the death penalty was particularly warranted based on another aggravating factor -- that Tsarnaev's bomb targeted an iconic athletic event that draws spectators from throughout the world. Jurors saw considerable video footage and images of a cheerful crowd turning into a war-like scene. The government also said another aggravating factor was the premeditated and planned nature of Tsarnaev's crimes.
By choosing the Marathon, prosecutors said, Tsarnaev brought death and injury to a crowded place that was “especially susceptible to the act and effects of terrorism.
Three people died at the Marathon that day and some 260 were injured, including 17 who lost limbs.
One disturbing image in the hours after the blasts was an empty stroller left behind on the debris-covered Boylston Street. Steve Woolfenden told jurors he had brought his 3-year-old son, Leo, in the stroller to watch the Marathon, in which his wife was running. In the chaos after the blasts, the father and boy were diverted to different hospitals. Woolfendon lost a leg, and his son suffered a head wound, though he later largely recovered.
3. Prosecution: Tsarnaev deserves death because he killed a cop in the line of duty.
Another aggravating factor cited by the government was Tsarnaev's participation in the killing of MIT police officer Sean Collier, “a law enforcement officer who was engaged in the performance of his official duties at the time of his death.” Jurors heard Collier's stepfather and brother testify about his boyhood wish to become a police officer, and his strong moral compass in life.
Collier's family also testified about the family's heartbreak, which was evocative of how Tsarnaev's crimes profoundly ruptured the relationships of so many families. Collier's stepfather testified that Sean's mother could not get out of bed for two months after he was murdered. Sean's brother, Andrew Collier, told jurors, “I miss him. I miss everything about him.”
The jury ultimately agreed with those aggravating factors related to Collier, however in its final analysis did not vote to give Tsarnaev the death penalty based on the officer's death. They voted to give him capital punishment due to his role in killing Boston University student Lingzi Lu and 8-year-old Martin Richard, whose deaths were directly linked to the bomb Tsarnaev placed outside the Forum Restaurant.
4. Prosecution: Tsarnaev deserves death because he has shown no remorse.
The government said, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev demonstrated a lack of remorse” and cited that as another aggravating factor supporting the death penalty. In her opening statement in the penalty phase, prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini showed this photo of Tsarnaev making a profane gesture with his middle finger while awaiting his arraignment in July 2013 inside a courthouse cell.
The defense ultimately had the jury see a video showing Tsarnaev's actions in the cell that day, including him making another gesture, possibly playfully, in front of the camera, and apparently straightening his hair using the camera lens as a mirror. Still, the government insisted this showed Tsarnaev at his worst, an unrepetant killer who had the audacity to display such disrespect to federal authorities guarding him.
Prosecutors also showed a photo of Tsarnaev buying milk at Whole Foods, within a half-hour of the bombs exploding at the marathon, to demonstrate his lack of remorse.
5. Prosecution: Tsarnaev deserves death because he killed an especially vulnerable individual.
The government's death penalty argument also focuses on 8-year-old Martin Richard who died in the blasts.
The verdict form asks jurors to consider whether “Dzhokhar is responsible for the death of a victim, Martin Richard, who was particularly vulnerable due to youth.” The “vulnerability” of a victim is one of the aggravating factors on the government's list. By statute, a victim can be considered vulnerable if he or she is, among other factors, very young, very old, or disabled.
The government provided evidence that children were more likely to be killed by the bombs, which erupted at ground level, because their shorter stature puts their vital internal organs closer to the ground.
1. Defense: Tsarnaev should get life in prison, not death, because he fell under the sway of a domineering older brother.
Defense lawyers tried but failed to convince jurors that Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- the defendant's older brother who died in a shoot-out with Watertown police -- was the mastermind of the bombing, and Tsarnaev should be held far less culpable. They tried to show Tamerlan brainwashed his younger brother to participate in the bombing.
Five of the 21 mitigating factors cited by the defense related to Tamerlan's dominance in the relationship, including that “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's brother Tamerlan planned, led, and directed the Marathon bombing.” Each garnered at most three out of 12 votes by the jury. (The verdict form allows jurors to indicate how many of them agreed with a mitigating factor; however, when it comes to the government's aggravating factors, jurors have to be unanimous or the factor is considered rejected. )
The defense team introduced numerous witnesses and showed many photos depicting Tamerlan as the violent, radicalizing influence in Tsarnaev's life. Former friends and coaches talked about how Tamerlan traded his dreams of becoming a national boxing champion for being a jihadist on behalf of oppressed Muslims. Friends of his widow and others talked about his rapid transformation from a party-loving drug user to a Muslim extremist.
This photo, shown to jurors, depicts Tamerlan happily displaying a gun during his six-month trip to Dagestan and southern Russia in 2012, about a year before the bombings.
2. Defense: Tsarnaev should get life in prison, not death, because he was largely a good kid through most of his life.
The defense team has consistently depicted Tsarnaev's participation in the bombing and its aftermath as out of character. Another mitigating factor, they said, was Tsarnaev's age. He “was 19 years old at the time of the offenses,” they said, and his lawyers noted, barely over the legal adult age of 18. Another mitigating factor, they said, was that he had “no prior history of violent behavior.”
The positive reviews of Tsarnaev when he was a student in the Cambridge public school system also was part of the defense's mitigation case. Five of the mitigating factors related to teachers, friends or relatives having fond and warm memories of Tsarnaev, now 21, while growing up.
On these points, the jury seemed divided, though most voted that they agreed Tsarnaev was well thought of in the past.
3. Defense: Tsarnaev should get life in prison, not death, because he came from a troubled family with parents who largely neglected him.
Jurors unanimously found that Tsarnaev's father, Anzor, had mental illness and brain damage, but they showed little support for the idea that Tsarnaev's often-chaotic family could be blamed for his criminal behavior. During the trial, the defense argued that Tsarnaev, the youngest of four children, fell through the cracks and was largely ignored by his troubled parents.
Though the jury never heard testimony about the mother's mental health, they heard from numerous relatives and family friends describe her shocking transformation from a once-stylish cosmetologist to a head-covered devout Muslim wearing long black tops and skirts. Defense attorney Judy Clarke referred multiple times to the mother, Zubeidat, and her lack of “parenting skills.”
One of the mitigating factors related to the parents said, “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was deprived of the stability and guidance he needed during his adolescence due to his mother's emotional volatilitiy and religious extremism.” Only one juror agreed with that statement.
4. Defense: Tsarnaev should get life in prison, not death, because that is a reasonable, safe alternative that will guarantee he does not incite further violence or draw more attention.
Two of the defense's mitigating factors against the death penalty relate to its argument that Tsarnaev would be isolated and punished in prison for the rest of his life, making the death penalty unncessary.
Knowing jurors would likely want to punish Tsarnaev severely for his crimes and stop him from achieving any perceived martyrdom, the defense team emphasized the grim isolation of inmates at a “supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colo. and told jurors that Tsarnaev is likely to go there, as most high-profile convicted terrorists do. They repeatedly showed jurors photos of the prison.
Inmates in its most restrictive unit typically are in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, with limited vistation and communication, except from their lawyers.
But this argument about the bleakness of prison life wasn't convincing to the jury. Only one juror agreed that prison would prevent him from inciting or commiting further acts of violence, and two jurors agreed that the “government has the power to severely restrict” his communication with the outside world while Tsarnaev is incarcerated.
5. Defense: Tsarnaev should get life in prison, not death, because he has shown remorse.
Jurors overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Tsarnaev was remorseful. Only two jurors voted in favor of the defense mitigator factor that Tsarnaev “has expressed sorrow and remorse for what he did and for the suffering he caused.”
On the last day of testimony, the defense lawyers pulled out a surprise witness, Sister Helen Prejean, a nationally known death penalty opponent who had visited Tsarnaev five times since March. Prejean testified that during her visits, Tsarnaev expressed regret for the suffering he had caused his victims.
Prosecutors later suggested, during closings, that Tsarnaev showed some sign of regret in what he wrote on the walls of the dry-docked boat where he was captured -- but it was a very limited regret, and did not disavow what he had done.
“Now I don't like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said ... it is allowed,” he wrote on the boat.
Tsarnaev did not take the stand in his own defense, and the nun's testimony was designed to address the government's allegation that Tsarnaev, even if once a likeable child, had become an unrepetent killer.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at the National Summit on Youth Violence Prevention
Thank you, Beth McGarry, for that very kind introduction, for your exemplary leadership at the Office of Justice Programs and for your steadfast commitment to preventing youth violence and improving public safety. I also want to thank Karol Mason, our outstanding Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice programs. The work that OJP does each and every day – strengthening partnerships with state, local and tribal justice officials; ensuring a focus on evidence-based approaches; and funding innovative and groundbreaking projects – is a vital part of our nation's effort to build the more just society that all Americans deserve. And I also want to take just a moment to acknowledge Dr. William Bell, President of the Casey Family Programs, for his longstanding commitment to this very important issue.
It is an honor to be here with you all this morning – and a pleasure to join so many devoted public servants, engaged private partners and passionate civic leaders as we rededicate ourselves to the safety and security of our nation's children and youth. I want to acknowledge, in particular, the young people who are with us today – and to thank you for your activism and your advocacy on this compelling issue. As we've seen from recent events, preventing violence in our communities is not an abstract concept, but a clear and pressing need. It is a need that requires more than a prosecution strategy – but rather an approach that sees all sides of this challenging issue. Healing our neighborhoods, building mutual trust and promoting well-being are not lofty or unreachable goals; they are tangible pieces of the more prosperous and more peaceful society that we all seek.
Last week I traveled to Baltimore – in my first trip as Attorney General – to meet with public officials, law enforcement officers and community representatives. I spoke to women and men who had taken to the streets after the unrest to clean up trash and debris, and police officers who had worked 16 days without a break and were concerned not for their own security, but for the safety of their residents. But I think I was most impressed with the young people I met with in Baltimore – about nine of them who are working within their community and with their peers to make their city a better place for everyone. A few seemed to have read more about civil rights law than many lawyers I know. And they were optimistic – even in the midst of great challenge – about the future of their city.
They are a testament to the strength of our young people – even those who live in tough neighborhoods and face real economic challenges. They are making a real and positive difference and serving as an example to others. And I told them that I hoped they would challenge their peers to do the same, because in many communities in Baltimore and in communities across America, it is all too easy for our youth to get caught up in drugs, gangs and violence and give in to a troubling status quo.
It is a distressing reality that not just a sizable minority, but a significant majority of America's children – more than 60 percent – have been exposed to crime, violence and abuse, either as victims or as witnesses. This violence can take many forms and can occur virtually anywhere – from the streets of our neighborhoods to the far reaches of cyberspace; from the schools where our children learn their earliest lessons, to the homes where they should feel most secure. And it is clear that, regardless of how or when it occurs, exposure to violence can have real and devastating consequences for growth and development. Research has shown that, whether children observe violence directed at others or become victims of abuse themselves, exposure to such behavior will make them more likely to fall behind in school; more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression; more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse later in life; and ultimately, more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence in what Dr. Martin Luther King called “a descending spiral of destruction.”
That's why summits like this one are so important. It's why the work you're doing to rally local stakeholders to improve law enforcement, increase support for violence prevention efforts and expand access to family and social services – is so critical. And it's why the Obama Administration – led, in part, by this Justice Department – has dedicated itself to these efforts, making an unprecedented commitment to this critical issue.
At the heart of this commitment is our National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, representing a network of 15 communities and federal agencies that work together, share information, and build local capacity. These communities – from Boston to San Jose and from Seattle to Baltimore – use prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry strategies to stop violence and spur progress. Through their innovative and collaborative efforts, we have already seen homicides and juvenile violent crime drop in nine out of the 10 cities that participated during 2014 – and some cities even reported changes in quality-of-life measures like increased school retention and better police practices. The National Forum's success has been complemented by the Community-Based Violence Prevention Program, which currently operates in 16 cities nationwide, targeting youth gang and gun violence by building partnerships among law enforcement, service providers, concerned residents and community- and faith-based organizations. After implementing the evidenced-based deterrence and public health practices recommended by this Violence Prevention Program, cities reported reductions in gun violence and increases in community engagement. Outstanding efforts like these are not only noteworthy – they are replicable and we are striving to bring them to more cities across the country.
Beyond these efforts, we're supporting evidence-based interventions for children, expanding our base of knowledge and developing comprehensive strategies under our Defending Childhood Initiative, led by OJJDP and the Office of Justice Programs. We're working with partners in the private sector and across the federal government – including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez – to end the school-to-prison pipeline that sends too many children on a well-worn path from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse. And we are standing up and speaking out against so-called “zero tolerance” school discipline policies that bar the doors of opportunity for children who need support, leaving them stigmatized and marginalized, left out and left alone.
As many of you know, some communities are particularly vulnerable and require a special, targeted effort. Through the Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence, we have worked with leaders in tribal communities to bring down alarmingly high rates of violence, drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide – and to develop fresh, data-driven strategies to address those problems together. Under an array of programs to reach the more than 100,000 children who are victims of human trafficking each year, we are working to end the scourge of modern-day slavery. Our Office for Victims of Crime just recently released a $14 million solicitation that is focused on supporting male survivors of violence and their families. And with the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative, we are rallying a coalition of government and private sector leaders to create and expand opportunities for youth across the nation, demonstrating to young men of color – and to all our young people – that their country cares about them, values them and is determined to help them reach their full potential. In fact, just last week, the President announced the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a new independent nonprofit focused on providing invaluable support to boys and young men of color at every point of inflection – from early childhood learning to high school graduation to lifelong development.
These are vital and in some cases, groundbreaking efforts. But while we have made important progress, my colleagues and I also recognize that we have much more work to do – and that government cannot conquer these challenges alone. That's why your efforts are so important, and why the work that this forum is helping to institutionalize must go on. It must go on until every young person's neighborhood is a place of safety and not of danger. It must go on until a child's zip code does not dictate that child's future. And it must go on until every child has the opportunity to grow, to learn and to succeed – free of violence, free of abuse and free of fear.
I have no illusions that this work will be easy, or that complex challenges will be resolved overnight. But as I look out over this gathering of extraordinary individuals and motivated organizations, I cannot help but be optimistic about all that we can accomplish in the days ahead. I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges, that we will overcome these obstacles and that we will create the safer, more just society that all our young people deserve. And I am confident that with the passion and the hard work of the individuals in this room – and our partners and friends around the country – we will make new progress, reach new heights and expand the circle of opportunity for young people across America
I thank you once again for your dedication to this vision, your commitment to this cause and your unwavering devotion to the future of our nation. And I urge you to keep up the outstanding work.
In Baton Rouge's Gardere neighborhood, sirens summon youth to summer of fun guided by adult mentors
by Olivia McClure
The sirens have been heard before by these children, who on Saturday waited from their Gardere driveways and apartment balconies in pajamas or school uniforms worn the day before.
In the neighborhood's streets, though, it wasn't a crime scene this time around. Rather, it was police officers leading a band of volunteers who carried buckets of candy and called “Morning!” to their neighbors.
The small parade marked the beginning of the second year of the Youth Peace Olympics, sponsored by the Louisiana Center for Health Equity. Taking a page from the real Olympics, the parade was the opening ceremony for monthly daylong camps that will take place through August for about 50 Gardere children.
The camps teach youth aged 10 to 16 — who are referred to Youth Peace Olympics organizers by their schools, families and community organizations — about resolving conflicts, communication, career planning and entrepreneurship as well as sports and creative arts. The ultimate goal is to curb youth violence.
“The idea is allow them opportunities to participate in team activities, in activities where they can learn how to conduct themselves in a team spirit … in an appropriate way,” said Alma Stewart, director of the Center for Health Equality. “It's an opportunity for us to observe and coach them.”
After the parade Saturday, children boarded a bus to Perkins Road Community Park, where they got a taste of the activities they'll be doing this summer.
Not only do the camps teach the children valuable life skills, Stewart said, they also provide productive ways to spend their time. She sees it as a way to stop youth violence before it's too late.
“One child dying is too many, especially when that child is dying at the hands of another child,” she said. “In most cases, homicides are committed by perpetrators that look like the victim — the same age and demographic and knows the person. … I think whenever a child dies, it's a travesty when it's a preventable death.”
Stewart pointed to a 2014 shooting at a birthday party at the Baker Civic Club, where three teenagers were killed. Incidents like that hurt the entire community, she said.
While crime remains a concern in the Gardere neighborhood, it has steadily dropped in recent years. But the legacy of violence in the neighborhood has left behind another problem. There are few safe outlets for creativity or physical activity.
“There's not really a lot of positive things for kids to do,” said Stewart's 16-year-old granddaughter, Jordan Stewart, who grew up in Gardere.
Many parents in the area either can't or won't do things with their children, said Stefanie Mathes, who brought three of her sons to the parade Saturday.
“A lot of young males don't have role models,” she said. “…They get lost in the wind. With the Youth Olympics, they have mentors. They have men there that are willing to talk to these kids, to help these young men especially, give them some kind of guidance.”
Mathes has two older sons, who “didn't have anything like this” when they were growing up in Gardere.
Years ago, Gardere was a “wrote-off area,” she said, but now things are changing with help from efforts like the Youth Peace Olympics and the Gardere Initiative, which works to eliminate substance abuse in the neighborhood.
Her 11-year-old son, Quentin Jordan, participated in the Olympics last year and returned Saturday as the torchbearer at the front of the parade. He is eager to go back to camp this summer, where he learned last year how to play tennis. Now he calls it a hobby.
The other activities “teach you to be brave … to stand up for yourself,” Jordan said.
J'Tyriah Woodson, 15, was excited about getting to play tennis, too. But more importantly, she said the Olympics brought out courage in her when she came last year. She learned how to speak in front of a group of people.
Woodson thinks those lessons, which build young people's minds, can make her community better.
“If we live in a world with a lot of violence, we wouldn't get nowhere; we wouldn't accomplish things,” she said. “The world wouldn't be a place that people want to live.”
“It's bringing the community together. It's helping. It's not hurting us.”
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund 27th Annual Candlelight Vigil
Thank you, Craig [Floyd], for your kind introduction; for your many years of unwavering service and dedicated leadership as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund; and for all that you and your colleagues do to bring us together for this commemoration each year. I also want to thank Secretary [Jeh] Johnson for his inspiring words. It is a deep and humbling honor to join you here today and a privilege to have the opportunity to celebrate the women and men who patrol our streets, guard our communities and keep our nation safe from harm. I am proud to stand alongside so many valiant law enforcement officers, family members and loved ones as we salute those of our fellows who are missing from this gathering tonight; as we pay tribute to their extraordinary sacrifice; and as we recommit ourselves to the noble work that they gave their lives to perform.
Every year, law enforcement officers from around the country gather here to salute their friends and colleagues, to stand in solidarity with their loved ones and to honor those who have given what President Abraham Lincoln once called the “last full measure of devotion” in the service of their country. This year, we pay tribute to 273 extraordinary individuals whose stories are a testament to the bravery, patriotism and valor of America's law enforcement officers at every level – and whose names are now permanently carved into this memorial, as a reminder of their supreme sacrifice. We remember the 117 courageous men and women who were taken from us in 2014, as well as 156 distinguished public servants who passed in prior years.
These heroes were veterans of our armed forces who returned from dangerous missions abroad to protect the streets of their communities. They were federal agents who fought back against the scourge of human trafficking and the menace of drug cartels. They were young people who were determined, from an early age, to stand on the front lines of our fight for security and justice. They were lifelong officers with decades of service who never lost faith in their mission and never lost their passion to protect and serve. Some came from families with a long history in law enforcement; others were the first to wear the badge. But from these varied backgrounds and diverse traditions, each of them chose, as their life's work, to lead, to serve and to give.
Every day, they brought light into this country's darkest places – from far-flung rural neighborhoods where they extended the protection of our laws, to struggling city streets where they stood watch as guardians of peace. They were dedicated officers like Scott Johnson and Gabe Rich – proud Alaska State Troopers, beloved by their community, who were killed while carrying out an arrest on a misdemeanor charge. They were exemplary leaders like Jessica Hollis, a Senior Deputy in Texas who drowned while checking roadways for high water in heavy rain. They were fearless heroes like Melvin Santiago, a 23-year-old Jersey City police detective who had volunteered to be placed in the toughest district in the state and was shot during an ambush. And they were both members and guardians of the community, like Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, gunned down as they worked on an anti-crime patrol in New York City. They knew the dangers of their profession; they recognized the risks that they faced. But they were determined to serve their fellow citizens, proud to represent their law enforcement family and undeterred in their mission to protect their communities.
The women and men whose names are forever engraved into these walls represent the best that America has to offer. And while the earthly lives of these brave and loving souls have been tragically extinguished, in the hearts of all those gathered here today, the light that they brought to the world burns on. It burns on in the neighborhoods they served, where residents still feel the warmth of their protection. It burns on in the memories of those they left behind – proud parents, devoted spouses, brave children and loving friends. And it burns on in the work that we must all do, together, to advance the principles for which they gave their lives and to make this nation worthy of their sacrifice.
Ultimately, that is the commitment that we make today – to honor our colleagues, friends and family members not only through our words, but through the actions we take to create a living monument to their memory. We must do our part – with all that we have – to forge the safer and more just society that was their shared pursuit – and must always be our common cause. Even recently, we were reminded how hazardous this work can be, as four officers lost their lives over the space of a week to ambushes and assaults. As Attorney General, I am humbled to stand with you in strengthening our support for law enforcement officers and their families. And I am proud to say that the Department of Justice has made it a top priority to offer every tool and resource we can bring to bear in order to keep you and your loved ones safe from harm.
Through our groundbreaking VALOR initiative – which we launched in 2010 – we've held over 140 trainings for nearly 20,000 officers to help them prevent and survive violent encounters, including ambush-style assaults. With the support of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, we've delivered active shooter response training to over 60,000 officers since 2002. Our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, or BVP, has awarded nearly $400 million since its inception in 1999 to help purchase more than 1.1 million protective vests. And through a partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, we're working to address how we can prevent felonious assaults against law enforcement officers and promote officer wellness.
We've provided COPS hiring funds to precincts and districts across the country, allowing them to hire or retain thousands of officers. We awarded nearly $280 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds in 2014 alone, further promoting the capacity of local jurisdictions to harness their considerable knowledge and expertise. And we've begun vital projects to encourage positive community relationships, enhance procedural justice and promote the safety of our officers – from the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice to the $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program I announced just two weeks ago.
We understand – and as someone who has spent a career in law enforcement, I understand – that, even as you carry out your responsibilities with professionalism, integrity and uncommon valor, you cannot fully succeed without the partnership of the communities you serve. And I am committed – deeply committed – to ensuring that in the days ahead you not only have the grateful thanks of the Department of Justice, but also our full and unwavering support in this vital effort.
I will never stop fighting for the tools and resources you need and deserve. I will always support your essential work in the service of the mission we share – a mission for which so many have given so much. And I will proudly stand alongside you as we carry these efforts into the future. The memory of every patriot in this company of heroes – every name etched into the walls of this memorial – deserves nothing less.
Today, we celebrate and remember all that they were, all that they did and all that they stood for during the precious years we were privileged to have their service, their protection, their friendship and their love. Today, we share stories of their valor, their idealism, their humor and their grace. Today, we recommit ourselves to the high standard that they set for all of us – in the service of our country, and in support of our fellow Americans. We are all heirs to their weighty legacy and we must be champions of those they sought to protect.
And so, as we go forward, I thank you all once again for your patriotism, your service and your devotion to the cause that they knew so well – and for which their light burns on.
Thank you. May God bless the memories of those we've lost. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
High-Ranking al Qaeda Terrorist Sentenced for Conspiring to Kill Americans and Other Terrorism Offenses
Khalid al Fawwaz, 52, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was sentenced today to life in prison for multiple terrorism offenses relating to his participation in al Qaeda's conspiracy to kill Americans.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York made the announcement. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York imposed the sentence in a proceeding attended by victims of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Fawwaz's sentencing follows a six-week jury trial in January and February of this year, at which Fawwaz was convicted of all four counts with which he was charged.
“Fawwaz is a terrorist who for years served Usama bin Laden and held many positions within al Qaeda,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “With this sentence, he is being held accountable for his role in al-Qaeda's conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals worldwide during the 1990s. This case is a testament to our commitment to bringing to justice those who threaten the United States and our interests around in the world, no matter how long it may take.”
“Khalid al Fawwaz, who played a critical role for al Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America, will now spend the rest of his life in a federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “As one of Osama bin Laden's original and most trusted lieutenants, Fawwaz led an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and a terrorist cell in Kenya before serving as bin Laden's media adviser in London. Fawwaz was bin Laden's bridge to the West, facilitating interviews of bin Laden in Afghanistan by Western media and disseminating bin Laden's 1996 declaration of jihad against America and his 1998 fatwah directing followers to kill Americans anywhere in the world. To that end, on Aug. 7, 1998, al Qaeda operatives bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, murdering 224 innocent people and wounding thousands more. Fawwaz conspired with a murderous regime, and the result was a horrific toll of terror and death. The price he will pay, appropriately severe as it is, cannot possibly compensate his victims and their families.”
According to the evidence presented at trial:
During the early 1990s, Fawwaz trained at al Qaeda's Jawar military training camp in Afghanistan and then became the emir, or head, of al Qaeda's al Siddiq military training camp in Afghanistan. In approximately 1993, Fawwaz moved to Nairobi, where he served as one of the leaders of the al Qaeda members there, during a time that al Qaeda was sending fighters through Nairobi to Somalia to fight, and to train Somalis to fight, U.S. and U.N. forces in Somalia. Fawwaz was also a leader of al Qaeda in Nairobi when al Qaeda began its preparations to attack the U.S. Embassy there.
The evidence further showed that, in 1994, Fawwaz began to act as Osama bin Laden's media representative in London. Fawwaz served as bin Laden's conduit to Western media, screening requests for interviews of bin Laden and facilitating travel to Afghanistan for journalists who were permitted interviews. Fawwaz also publicized bin Laden's threats of violence against the United States. Among other things, Fawwaz delivered bin Laden's August 1996 Declaration of Jihad against the United States to a journalist for publication and helped arrange for the publication of a February 1998 fatwa, signed by bin Laden and others, that claimed it was the individual duty of every Muslim to kill Americans, civilian and military, in any country where it was possible to do so. In addition, Fawwaz provided al Qaeda with advice about how best to disseminate its message of terror to the West, and helped obtain items that were difficult to obtain in Afghanistan, such as generators, vehicles and communications equipment, for al Qaeda. In addition, a list of al Qaeda members recovered in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by the U.S. military in late 2001 contained Fawwaz's alias and had him numbered ninth on the list.
Following Fawwaz's arrest in England in September 1998, Fawwaz challenged his extradition to the United States for more than a decade. He arrived in the Southern District of New York in October 2012.
* * *
Fawwaz's sentencing follows convictions for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, conspiring to murder officers and employees of the United States and conspiring to destroy buildings and property of the United States, each of which carried a maximum term of life in prison. Fawwaz was also convicted of conspiring to attack national defense utilities, which carried a maximum term of 10 years in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the outstanding efforts of the FBI's New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the New York City Police Department. Carlin and Bharara also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs for their efforts, as well as the New Scotland Yard for its cooperation in the investigation and prosecution.
The case is being prosecuted by the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean S. Buckley, Adam Fee, Nicholas J. Lewin and Stephen J. Ritchin of the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Joseph N. Kaster of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section.
Guatemalan, Panamanian students graduate from elite federal training program
GLYNCO, Ga. — A class comprised of students from Guatemala and Panama became the latest graduates of the International Taskforce Agent Training (ITAT) program Friday at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco. The ITAT program, hosted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), has successfully trained hundreds of international law enforcement officials from about a dozen countries.
The 24 graduates are joining the fight against transnational criminal organizations after spending nearly three weeks in classroom seminars and practical exercises as part of the ITAT program, which provides vetted foreign law enforcement officers with training similar to that of the HSI's special agents.
The students, including 12 law enforcement officers from Guatemala and 12 law enforcement officers from Panama, began their training April 28. They join more than 500 other graduates from 31 previous classes who are making a tremendous difference in their home countries.
“The results of this program speak for themselves,” said Assistant Director Lev J. Kubiak, who heads HSI's International Operations. “In 2014, ITAT graduates working with HSI attaché offices made 466 criminal arrests and seized more than $13 million and nearly 3,000 pounds of cocaine. The ITAT program is achieving incredible results for participating nations.”
“I am very proud of all the students graduating today,” said Director General Omar Pinzon of the Panama National Police. “They will be on the front lines, leading the fight against the violent criminals who threaten our communities and our families. The skills they have sharpened in this class will quickly prove most valuable in this fight.”
HSI instructors delivered a tailored curriculum developed to strengthen the students' ability to conduct criminal investigations. Classes covered investigation and interview techniques, evidence processing and warrant execution. The graduates were also exposed to physical training, defensive tactics and weapons practice.
The graduates are now part of an international law enforcement community that facilitates information sharing and the bilateral investigation of transnational criminal organizations involved in a variety of crimes, including weapons and narcotic trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, money laundering, cybercrimes and more.
FLETC serves as the largest law enforcement training organization in the United States, training a majority of the federal officers and agents in the country. In addition to providing training for more than 90 federal partner organizations, FLETC also provides training to local, state, tribal and international police in select advanced programs. Approximately 70,000 students graduate from FLETC each year.
Tsarnaev Sentenced to Death in Boston Bombing Trial
by Tom Winter, Andy Thibault and Jon Schuppe
A jury in Boston voted Friday to execute Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, refuting his lawyers' argument that he was pulled into the plot by his radicalized Muslim older brother and overcoming Massachusetts' popular opposition to the death penalty.
Tsarnaev said nothing when the verdict was announced at about 3:30 p.m ET. He sat in his chair and swallowed, and remained expressionless as U.S. District Judge George O'Toole thanked members of the jury, some of whom wept.
After he is formally sentenced by O'Toole this summer, Tsarnaev will likely end up at the U.S. Bureau of Prison's death row in Terra Haute, Indiana, where he is expected to embark on an appeals process that could last years before he is finally killed by lethal injection. At 21, he will become the youngest person on federal death row.
But in the short term, the sentence closes a major chapter in Boston's recovery from the April 15, 2013 bombing, in which twin blasts rocked the race's crowded downtown finish line, killing three spectators, injuring more than 260 others, and inflicting a grievous psychological wound on one of America's oldest cities. The explosions, on a local holiday marking the opening battles of the Revolutionary War, were the worst act of terror on American soil since 9/11.
Whether the verdict brings Boston any closer to healing is an open question.
The parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest of those killed in the bombing, publicly advocated against the death penalty, saying last month that the potentially drawn out appeals process could "prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives."
Denise and Bill Richard watched the verdict in the courtroom, and showed no emotion after it was read.
Other victims, and victims' relatives, however, said they favored Tsarnaev's execution.
Karen Brassard, who was wounded by shrapnel in the bombing and attended the trial, said she felt the jury's decision allowed her "breathe again."
"Once the verdict came in, it was like, okay, we can start from here and go forward and really feel like it's behind us," Brassard said.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he hoped the verdict would provide "a small amount of closure to the survivors, families, and all impacted by the violent and tragic events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon. We will forever remember and honor those who lost their lives and were affected by those senseless acts of violence on our city."
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Tsarnaev, said the trial sent a message that America gives a fair shot at justice for its worst criminals, terrorists included. "Today is not a day for celebration," she said. "It is not a day for political or moral debate. It is a day for reflection and healing."
The verdict was delivered by the same jury that on April 8 convicted Tsarnaev of all 30 criminal counts against him, covering the bombing and its violent aftermath, including the killing of an MIT police officer and a shootout with police in which Tsarnaev's co-conspirator older brother was killed.
Of those counts, 17 carried the possibility of execution.
The jury got the case on Wednesday and deliberated for 15 hours before reaching its verdict. The courtroom fell silent as it was read.
The jury agreed on death for six of the death penalty counts, all of which focused on Tsarnaev's detonation of a pressure-cooker bomb that killed Martin Richard and Chinese graduate student Lingzi Lu. The third person who died at the race, Krystle Campbell, was killed by a similar bomb detonated by the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The verdict came despite a distaste for capital punishment in Boston and across Massachusetts. The death penalty was banned in the state 1984, and a convict has not been executed there since 1947.
A Boston Globe poll published last month showed that fewer than 20 percent of state residents favored death for Tsarnaev, down from 33 percent in September 2013.
But Tsarnaev was tried in the federal system, which allows the death penalty. Only one other federal jury in Massachusetts has voted for death in modern history, in the 2004 trial of murderer Gary Lee Sampson. That penalty was thrown out on a technicality, and a jury will reconsider his sentence later this year.
From the start of the trial, Tsarnaev's lawyers spent the bulk of their energy on sparing him from execution, effectively admitting his guilt on the first day of arguments. They instead focused on painting a portrait of his childhood in hopes that it would humanize him in the eyes of the jury and make less likely for the 12 members to condemn him to death. The lawyers elicited testimony from friends, classmates and relatives in an attempt to portray him as a young, impressionable man in the thrall of his brother, who lived with him after their parents moved back to their native Russia.
The defense's case culminated with testimony from Sister Helen Prejean, an influential opponent of capital punishment who recalled meeting Tsarnaev in jail and concluding that he was "genuinely sorry."
The defense sent the jury into deliberations with a list of "mitigating factors" that included his lack of prior history of violence, his susceptibility to his brother's behavior, his brother's planning of the attack and their father's mental illness, which the lawyers said led the brother to becoming the family's dominant male.
That strategy, led by renowned defense attorney Judy Clarke, failed.
Instead, the jury seemed to back prosecutors who argued that Tsarnaev was a willing and equal partner with his brother, who was killed in the showdown with police.
Prosecutors argued that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's crimes met several legal thresholds to warrant execution — including that multiple people were killed or injured, including an 8-year-old boy; that "substantial planning and premeditation" went into the crimes; and the "heinous, cruel and depraved manner" in which they were committed.
The government raised additional "aggravating factors," including the "betrayal of the United States," the selection of an "iconic event" as a target, the death of a police officer, statements in which Tsarnaev encouraged "others to commit acts of violence and terrorism," the trauma unleashed on victims' families, and Tsarnaev's apparent lack of remorse.
In his closing remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mellin called Tsarnaev a coldhearted terrorist.
"The defense will ask you to value the defendant's life, but he did not value the lives of his victims, not even the lives of children," Mellin said. "He killed indiscriminately to make a political statement, and he placed no value on the lives and didn't care for a second what impact his actions and his killings would have on so many other innocent family members and friends. His actions have earned him a sentence of death."
The jury agreed.
Police Week: Holloman's Community Policing
by Airman 1st Class Emily Kenney
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - “To me, Police Week is about every man and woman who's ever worn the badge and donned their daily gear knowing very well that it could be their last shift,” said Senior Airman Christopher D. Cervini, 49th Security Forces Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of Community Police. “Specifically, to me, it's a reminder of the brothers and sisters in arms we've lost in the line of duty, especially our 10 fallen Defenders from the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Cervini is one of five members of the Community Policing Team at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The main objective of Community Policing is to ensure the safety of children at the on-base schools, maintain positive relationships with members of the local community.
“We are involved with the schools on a daily basis,” he said. “We conduct walkthroughs to ensure security, and we interact with the students to create a positive relationship between staff, students and Security Forces as a whole. We are also responsible for attending community events and maintaining involvement as safety representatives for our unit.”
Not only do these officers patrol the on-base schools, they also inform Holloman's newcomers on base-wide policies and emergency procedures.
“We have numerous handouts that cover topics such as anti-bullying, internet safety, pedestrian safety and bike safety,” he said. “We also provide a briefing to all new members of Holloman during Holloman In-Processing on active shooter procedures and common base regulations such as traffic, the 100 percent ID policy and those regarding privately owned weapons.”
Cervini, a native of Naperville, Illinois, said one of his favorite parts of his job is being directly involved with the community.
“I'd have to say my favorite part of the job is knowing that we are having a positive impact on the children of this installation and creating a positive image for Security Forces,” he said.
Cervini has been a part of the unit since 2014 and said one of his favorite memories was when his team ran the mile with the kids from Holloman Elementary School. The Community Policing team ran the mile six times during physical education class that day.
“The reason I enjoyed that so much was because both students and staff really started to understand the commitment our section had to the job,” he said. “It opened a lot of doors for mentorship with the students because they realized we weren't just there to walk through the building on a security check and leave, but that we were there for whatever they needed.”
Overall, Cervini said the Community Policing team helps alleviate some of the stress and work that is tasked to the Security Forces operations section by offering a unique and specific capability that once did not exist.
“Given all the stories that are in the media, it's nice to work to create a positive image for police and build a strong foundation of trust and support between us and the community,” he said.
What Good Community Police Practice Should Look Like
by David A. Harris
Over the last nine months, our country has lurched from crisis to crisis concerning police/community relations and police use of force: from Ferguson, Missouri, to New York City, to Cleveland, to North Charleston, South Carolina, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and now Baltimore. Each time, we hear pledges of police department reform.
This raises a question: What does a good police department look like? What are the best police practices in the second decade of the 21st century?
Here are 10 characteristics of a well-run police operation:
• Partnership: The most fundamental aspect of successful modern policing is cooperation between police and the communities they serve. The police cannot be everywhere. They need public support — especially information about what goes on in a neighborhood when they're not there. Effective crime fighting requires trust between police and the people they serve. This takes years to build, but there is no substitute for it.
• Identifying with the community : A police department should resemble the community it serves with regard to race, ethnicity and gender, which allows it to more easily gain the trust and support of that community. Appropriate diversity does not by itself produce a well-functioning department. But a department that appears to exclude some groups, particularly when it consists almost entirely of white officers in majority black areas, will not earn the confidence of its community.
• Focused deterrence against violence: We have seen tremendous progress over the past 20 years in reducing crime, but crime rates have not fallen everywhere. Some neighborhoods have become safer than ever, while others continue to see people gunned down in the street. Recent research points to one promising strategy: focused deterrence. Police departments analyze mountains of data to identify the small number of individuals most likely to commit deadly violence. They then use all available criminal justice levers (for instance, searches based on parole or probation status) to head off violence before it starts.
• A modern use-of-force policy: Such a policy makes de-escalation of confrontations a priority and gives officers clear and reasonably detailed guidance on when and how much force to use in any given scenario — keeping in mind that officers face highly varied and often fast-developing situations. The policy should address all levels of force — from “come along” holds (the use of hands to bring a person into custody or walk the person toward a police vehicle), to the use of less-lethal weapons (such as pepper spray or Tasers), to the use of firearms. The policy should prohibit strikes to the head and state that officers may use only the minimal amount of force necessary to overcome a suspect's resistance in pursuit of a lawful police purpose. A policy that simply says officers may use the amount of force that is “reasonably necessary” correctly reflects the law but is far too general to provide day-to-day guidance.
• Bias-free policing: Bias, conscious and unconscious, affects all police departments because it affects all people. Police departments can run into problems with racial, ethnic, gender and sexual-orientation bias in every routine activity: traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, arrests, investigations (especially of domestic violence and sexual assault) and enforcement of low-level crimes such as loitering and disorderly conduct. Every department should pledge to enforce the law without bias, identify for their officers the points at which bias may crop up, require periodic auditing of police activity to ensure bias is not creeping into enforcement and provide training to officers of every rank about bias in policing and how to avoid it.
• Early Intervention Systems: EIS databases track multiple aspects of individual police officer behavior — everything from arrests, to citizen complaints, to missed court appearances. This tracking helps identify officers who exhibit more performance problems than other officers. When the EIS flags an officer, the department can intervene with re-training or counseling to try to prevent problems from growing into actions that may put the public at risk.
• An open and accessible citizen complaint process: Such a process should make it easy and non-threatening for citizens to file a complaint. It should be possible to file complaints in a variety of ways and locations and in any language spoken in the jurisdiction. It may seem strange to say that a police department should welcome complaints; after all, some will prove unfounded. But citizen complaints are one of the few ways that departments can learn whether they have systemic problems or issues with a particular officer. Complaints are customer data — something private industry understands well — that allow an organization to improve.
• Independent external oversight: There may be nothing more critical to police accountability than external oversight. Police have long bristled at the idea that civilians who have not served in law enforcement should sit in judgment of them. But in almost any government context, few people trust those in charge to oversee themselves. We can trace the idea back at least to Socrates, who asked, “Who will guard the guards themselves?” It is not that the public necessarily distrusts police; rather, it is that full public confidence requires outside perspective. Many models of independent oversight exist: citizen review boards, police monitors or auditors, and inspectors general, for example. All function a bit differently. One is not necessarily better than others, but every city with a police department should have one.
• Critical incident review: Any organization with grave responsibilities must learn from its mistakes. To improve its chances of accomplishing missions with the fewest deaths and injuries, the military has always performed after-action or lessons-learned reviews. Police departments need a formal process, separate from other investigation mechanisms, to review every critical incident — shootings or deaths in custody, for example.
• Policies made public: “Transparency” seems a mantra of modern government. Some public agencies talk a better game than they play, but increasing openness has become inevitable. Police departments have joined this movement reluctantly or not at all. The concern seems rooted in officer safety: If the bad guys know when officers will or will not use force, they may gain an advantage. When police policy and procedure are hidden, however, the public naturally becomes suspicious when something goes wrong and an official announces that no officer violated policy. All department policies should be posted on a website for every member of the public to see. A well-run police department has nothing to fear from making public its policies.
As Americans scrutinize police departments more carefully than ever before, these measures become ever more critical. When a department has a terrible incident and the U.S. Department of Justice investigates, these are the practices the feds should and will be looking for. Responsible departments understand that.
More importantly, responsible departments understand that modern policies and practices will help them do their job — protect their fellow citizens by preventing and reducing crime.
David A. Harris is distinguished faculty scholar and professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, where he focuses on police behavior and criminal law and procedure.
San Francisco police under fire for inflammatory text messages
by Fox News
San Francisco police have come under fire after federal prosecutors released racist and homophobic text messages between officers.
The texts have turned the case of six officers accused of stealing from drug dealers into a racially-charged scandal, putting the city in the national spotlight over policing in minority communities.
"We now know this can happen in San Francisco," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. "We're certainly not immune to the problems that we have seen in Baltimore, Staten Island, South Carolina."
The latest turmoil comes amid growing tensions between police departments and communities of color. Large, sometimes violent protests over police treatment of black suspects have occurred in several cities over the last two years.
The tensions have placed police on the hot seat and it is not getting any cooler. Three Fort Lauderdale, Florida officers were fired last month and a fourth resigned after they were found to have exchanged racist messages about colleagues and the predominantly black neighborhood they patrolled.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has moved to fire eight officers, two of whom have since retired. Six others are also facing some kind of discipline.
Meanwhile, the district attorney is looking into whether the department's racial problems run deeper than the officers implicated.
"In the process of looking at the text messages, increasingly I became uneasy that this may not be localized to the 14 officers that were being reported, but that we may have some systemic issues," Gascon said.
The San Francisco police department has not faced allegations of discrimination since Officers for Justice, a group of minority officers, sued the department in 1973. After the Department of Justice join the suit, the department settled the case in 1979 and agreed to hire more minorities and women. Nearly half of the sworn officers are minorities today.
The news of the racist texts prompted outrage among the community, while Rev. Amos Brown, president of the city's NAACP chapter and minister at Third Baptist Church said he wasn't surprised.
"We have seen this. We have lived this. We have breathed this discrimination," he said.
At least one of the accused officers, Michael Robinson, is white and openly gay. Another, Sgt. Ian Furminger, is white. Officials have so far declined to release the racial composition of the other officers alleged to have sent racially-charged texts.
Officer Rain Daugherty said in a lawsuit filed Monday to halt his termination that he is “deeply ashamed” of the texts he wrote and that they are “unreflective of his strong commitment to exemplary community policing of all San Francisco's diverse citizens.” Daugherty also argues that he and the other officers should not be fired because the department obtained the texts in December 2012 but did not start the disciplinary process until two years later.
The department said the texts were part of the corruption investigation and could not be disclosed until the criminal cases concluded.
It all started at the Henry Hotel in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin neighborhood.
Hotel residents arrested in police raids began complaining in late 2010 to their public defenders that officers had entered their rooms without warrants and, on occasion, stole their valuables.
Public defender Jeff Adachi and his staff then obtained and sifted through 18 months of video surveillance captured by the hotel's security cameras. The videos showed officers entering the building then leaving with bags and other items that were never accounted for in evidence logs or court proceedings. The video also appeared to show officers entering rooms without warrants or permission from the residents.
The public defenders used the videos to confront and contradict officers' testimony, leading to several criminal cases being dismissed. Adachi also called a news conference to announce his findings, releasing the incriminating videos.
Taking note, federal authorities launched an investigation and charged six police officers with corruption and related charges. Investigators twice searched Furminger's cellphone, unearthing numerous offensive and racist texts with fellow officers. They included slurs against blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos and gays, and feature officers repeatedly using the phrase "white power."
Furminger is currently serving a 41-month prison sentence in a Colorado prison. He is appealing his conviction, and his attorney Mark Goldrosen declined comment.
In a court filing, Furminger denied that he was "a virulent racist and homophobe." The court filing said Furminger's "close friends include many persons of different races and different sexual orientation."
South Carolina sheriff's deputy shot several times by masked man; condition unknown, shooter still at large
by Jason Silverstein
A South Carolina sheriff's deputy underwent surgery after being shot several times by a masked man in a gas station Thursday night.
The condition of Deputy Lt. Will Rogers, with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, has not been announced, and the search for the suspect is ongoing.
Rogers had pulled into an Exxon station near Highway 52 in Moncks Corner around 10:30 p.m. He was talking to a customer in the parking lot when the armed attack, who was carrying a red silk sack, came around the corner and shot him, police said. The suspect then stole a black SUV and took off. Police found the car abandoned after midnight near a boat landing, WCSC reported.
Rogers was rushed to a hospital and had surgery through the early morning hours, police announced around 3:30 a.m. It's unclear where he was shot, how many times he was shot or if the suspect might be connected to any other crimes that night. The suspect is considered armed and dangerous.
Rogers has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience and was one of 15 candidates in last year's sheriff runoff election, the Post and Courier reported.
Grieving sons who lost auction bid for late father's police car left stunned by generous stranger
by Kara O'Neill
Tears were shed in the auction room after the police officer's sons failed to buy squad car used by their late father
This is the heartwarming moment two grieving sons were surprised by a generous stranger who outbid them for their late father's police car - then immediately handed over the keys.
Tanner and Chase Brownlee couldn't believe their luck when their dad's squad vehicle came up for auction five years after he was killed in the line of duty.
Sam Brownlee, a Weld County Deputy in Colorado was killed during a fatal police chase.
And his son Tanner was determined to own the final piece of his father's legacy, even setting up a GoFundMe page in order to raise some cash to pay for the vehicle.
But as the auction proceeded, Tanner quickly realised he had been outbid.
In the clip, the disappointment on the family's faces is clear after fellow bidder Steve Wells stumped up $60,000 (£38,100) for the squad car, despite the value being estimated at just $12,500 (£8,000).
But moments later, tears of sorrow turned to joy as Steve was given the keys - and immediately handed them over the the family.
Tanner, who spoke to KMGH News, said: "I didn't know. It means so much to me."
Money raised from the auction of the car will be given to the Concerns of Police Survivors charity, an organisation that helps the families and colleagues of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
Obama to visit N.J. Monday to discuss Camden community policing
by Jonathan D. Salant
WASHINGTON — President Obama will visit Camden on Monday to talk to law enforcement officials and meet with young residents, the White House announced Thursday.
Obama is to hear about Camden police efforts to build ties with area residents and to discuss the federal "promise zone" program, which uses federal grants for community priorities such as improving health, reducing crime and creating jobs, according to the White House announcement.
Relations between local police and the communities they protect have been under scrutiny following the deaths of black men under custody in Baltimore, New York, Ferguson, Mo., and other cities.
Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson testified on his community policing efforts before a task force convened by Obama in response to the shootings.
Camden's successes were touted by Gov. Chris Christie during a May 13 interview on CNN. The Christie administration worked with the city and county of Camden to overhaul local police, creating a countywide force and putting more cops on the beat.
"In Camden, which you know for a long time was the most dangerous city in America, we've really had a renaissance there not only in terms of reduction of crime -- the last two years murders are down 55 percent in Camden -, but also a new approach to policing," Christie said citing the presence of more police officers on the street, walking a beat or patrolling via bicycle.
"They're interacting with the public in a much different way and we're seeing the police force and the community, predominantly minority community in Camden, really working together to reduce crime," Christie said. "I think Camden is a great example of what can be done across the country. "
Christie also singled out Camden's progress in January's State of the State address. "There is no better example of what we can achieve if we put aside party and pettiness than the results we are seeing in Camden," said Christie, who made several trips to the city last year.
The president last visited New Jersey in December when he marked the end of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in an appearance at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
Police and the community -- working together for a better Ohio
by Jay McDonald
In the last six months, our nation has changed. Incidents in Ferguson, New York, and now Baltimore have galvanized public attention on police and the dangerous work we do. Many Americans are rightfully asking questions like, what can we learn from what has happened and how will this affect public safety?
At least for Ohio, those questions and others were addressed somewhat two weeks ago when Gov. John Kasich's Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations released its report. My organization, The Fraternal Order of Police in Ohio, was proud to be part of that effort and we support the spirit and the primary themes of the findings.
The work of this task force was done as news outlets and social media fueled a polarized view of the United States. In that skewed view, police officers routinely target innocent civilians by race. Such a viewpoint is more than just false -- it's malignant to public discourse.
There are a tiny fraction of bad cops out there, just as there are bad people in any profession. But most police officers leave their homes every day seeking to help their communities, protect residents and stop crimes.
The reality is that many of the issues at the heart of what led to riots in the streets of Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities aren't created by police and can't be solved by police. This discord runs deeper.
Try as we might, law enforcement officers can't eliminate poverty, substandard education, or the breakdown of the family structure. Nonetheless, we're the ones called on to answer calls and resolve issues that arise from those problems.
The danger of blaming the problem-solvers for the problems is that it makes all of us less safe. Contempt for police emboldens violent criminals and may make the cop coming to help you less likely to act quickly in your defense.
And the danger to police is evident. More than 50,000 officers were attacked last year alone. And the number of police killed by gunfire was up 57 percent in that same year.
So when police talk about the pressure we feel each time we go on duty or the unattainable expectations put upon us by our neighbors, our dispatchers, and our supervisors, we're not trying to protect the wrongdoing of fellow officers. We're speaking out about the challenging realities of the job.
That's why we believe that no policy can include an instruction that makes officers less safe in the performance of their duties. The vast majority of agencies already have a policy on deadly force that seeks to make its use a last resort while also ensuring that officers and community members are kept safe.
The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police supports the ideals of the task force – to increase training and improve community relations. In fact, we've been tackling those issues for years, against budget cuts and growing antipathy. Only a strong dose of unity and shared purpose can advance the real work of this task. Outreach such as police "ride-a-longs" and programming aimed at our youth to let them know why the police do what they do will increase understanding, and create more sustained trust across Ohio's diverse landscape.
We'll also need to return to police techniques that have proved positive in the past. Cuts in community policing grants have reduced law enforcement agencies to a bare-bones level, struggling to keep up with the demands of answering calls for service.
In order to fully restore community programs performed by the police, a serious investment needs to be made by the state government and federal government.
The good news is that during these difficult times there's a growing surge of support to ensure that the resources exist to make sure police and communities can be working together.
From the people who fund our work at the state level to the people who select and train our officers, from mayors and safety service directors to the local shift supervisors to the patrol officer -- we can, should and will work together to keep police trained, communities informed and all of Ohio safe.
Jay McDonald is a law enforcement officer in Marion, Ohio, and president of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
Carbondale police already at work reestablishing community relationship, chief says
by Stephanie Esters
CARBONDALE — The day after a city-sponsored community-policing forum, Carbondale's acting police chief said he is already at work on increasing his officers' visibility in the community — one of the concerns expressed at the meeting.
Interim Police Chief Jeff Grubbs said he spoke with people Tuesday night and Wednesday who had attended the forum at the Carbondale Civic Center. The Human Relations Commission, which organized the forum, requested that police not attend this session, in order that those present feel more comfortable speaking candidly about issues with police. Close to 50 people attended; additional sessions are planned, organizers said Tuesday night.
“The information that I received from the people who were in attendance was that there were varying views on what is and has become a national dialogue on policing," Grubbs said. "But I certainly was pleased to hear that there were a number of dialogues which occurred that would help us move forward and to do what we can to bring our community together.”
Grubbs said, though, that he would wait on a full report from the Commission.
The chief said department staff is already at work on some community initiatives to re-establish relations with the community. One is the first D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for middle school students that officers have hosted in years; the department staff is expecting to graduate its first class sometime this month, Grubbs said.
For three years, the department has had a full-time resource officers at the high school, which has been very successful,he said, and had officers informally visit the city's elementary schools during the day to read to them, for instance.
The department staff also manages the Ride Along program, in which residents ride along with officers while they are on-duty, and has plans to bring back its Citizens Police Academy. It also manages the Child Passenger Safety program, helping anyone to properly install a child car seat, and this past year partnered with other entities to host its first annual Kids Health and Safety Fair.
“We're trying to put our officers in accessible positions throughout the community — be it at a pancake breakfast or a musical that's occurring in the park — and be able to increase the number of foot patrols that we have, to the extent that's possible to have conversations with members of the community in informal settings,” Grubbs said.
Wilmington won't become Baltimore ... or will it?
by Bernadetter Evans
Once again the nation became fused to wall-to-wall news coverage of a city coming undone by a community drenched in anger and frustration around allegations of police brutality. The underlying tensions, hostilities and the weighed-down feeling that the police are antagonistic toward a minority community broke loose from Baltimore, spilling over into our living rooms. How can a city overcome the animus between police and community, and begin the Herculean task of addressing the divide?
When Lt. Gregory Ciotti assembled the current members of Wilmington's Community Policing Unit, he carefully considered who would make up the team and be responsible for building relationships between police and community. Some of the best dedicated officers the force had to offer were vetted to handle the most delicate of operations: establish and foster trust in Wilmington neighborhoods where mistrust and suspicion of police is in great supply. Last year, Wilmington's Community Policing Unit, made up of eight officers and a Sergeant, participated in more than 450 community related events. That amounts to more than 450 opportunities to connect to residents, get know people, to engage youth and avail themselves to the public.
The Community Policing Unit, overseen by Ciotti, served as a fully engaged apparatus executing good policing that responded to the needs of Wilmington's residents at more personal and intentional level. For one mom, her community policing officer was someone she called when she needed someone to talk to her son about getting into mischief. For an East Side pastor, officers were at her side weekly walking through a tough neighborhood. For Browntown, our community officer was inextricably tied to the success we experienced in becoming a safer neighborhood.
The importance of the CPU can't be stressed enough. Through its work, the CPU released some of the steam out of frustrated and fractured Wilmington neighborhoods. Twice I have seen black advocates from Ferguson and Baltimore say ostensibly “they don't know what a good cop is because it's not in their experience.” The national dialogue is focused on how to overcome such perceptions. Meanwhile, community police in Wilmington forged positive experiences serving as a prism by which police as a whole can be viewed in a more favorable light. By doing so, the hope is that there will be youth here who can say they only know good cops.
The CPU was pulled in January and placed on Operation Disrupt to help clamp down on the homicides. It disrupted the shootings, but it also disrupted the on-the-ground work that was going on in communities where residents worked feverishly alongside police to solve the problems for the long term. In order to accomplish our tasks, we need consistency, continuity and communication with police. We witness implosion on our TV screens when police and residents are disconnected, distant and uncommunicative. Wilmington can't afford to have CPU offline over a protracted period of time. The report on policing for the 21st century and the Wilmington Safety Strategies Commission point to community policing as pivotal to enhancing relations between residents and law enforcement. At least Wilmington has been ahead of the game on that front.
Cleveland, my hometown, dismantled its community policing operation. Could a dedicated officer who knew the residents and the kids in the neighborhood area possibly made a difference in the case of Tamir Rice? Maybe. Would accessible, engaged community officers who regularly interacted with the people in Ferguson or Baltimore diffused tensions and averted the meltdowns? Maybe. Could the absence of community officers purposely infused into neighborhoods to build relationships and create partnerships leave a vacuum filled with suspicion, distrust and alienation? Maybe. Can Wilmington risk finding out?
Chief Bobby Cummings has said publicly that the deployment to Operation Disrupt is temporary and that the Community Police Unit would return before summer. I hope so. The value of the CPU as it stands cannot be overstated. Community policing acts as the well-weighted balance to traditional law enforcement required as well to maintain safety. Without a counterweight like community policing, could Wilmington look like Ferguson? Baltimore? Maybe.
Bernadette Evans lives in the Browntown section of Wilmington. She works with Above the Rim basketball and the Browntown Block Captains.
Community discusses interactions with Carbondale police
by Stephanie Esters
CARBONDALE — White police officers charged with abusing black citizens are working in a system that has taught them to do that, one that is not unique to Carbondale, said Rev. Sonja Injebritsen, pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd Church and of the Carbondale Racial Justice Coalition.
They're responding "in exactly the way the culture of white supremacy teaches them to operate," she said.
That culture of white supremacy teaches whites, including white police officers, that black people are suspects; that black people are more likely to be drug dealers or users; that black boys and black men are dangerous; that hoodies mark you as dangerous; and that a young black man, "gathered with two or more friends marks you as a 'gang'."
So to start trying to "dismantling racism," she said, "It starts with us gathering here tonight telling the truth."
In 2013, blacks made up 60 percent of the arrests for crimes in Carbondale, where they are one-fourth of the city's population.
Her remarks came during Wednesday night's forum on community policing, hosted by members of the Human Relations Commission to address issues of concern, especially from the African American community. About 47 people — mainly black and white, the vast majority appearing to be at least 50 years old and older — gathered at the Carbondale Civic Center.
This is just one in a planned series of forums to discuss this issue and develop solutions, said Father Joseph A. Brown, a member of the Human Relations Committee and the facilitator of the night's program.
After short remarks from Rev. Injebritsen, Rahim Khalil, the owner of Rahim's Beauty Supply Store and Carbondale middle school teacher Alfred McGowan, those gathered broke into one of seven groups to discuss various questions.
One group was charged with trying to answer what are the police barriers to positive communication.
Members in the group also debated the merits of a since-axed Carbondale police program that had officers visiting selected schools; the program came under scrutiny this past January after two civil rights groups voiced opposition to it. One person in the group noted that it was done without the parents' consents and input, while others noted that because of the poor parent-police relationships, it made parents suspicious of the officers' intents.
One of those group members, Shannon Butler, said she wished the area still had programs like the police summer camp that she enjoyed when she was about 10. That and other police outreaches in the community helped her enjoy a good relationship with officers, some of whom she still knows, including Interim Police Chief Jeff Grubbs.
Shannon's husband, William, who was also part of the group, said that he found officers "willfully ignorant."
"You want to know that police are acting in your best interests, but for some reason, they're not," Butler said. He said that as an African American male his experiences with police are different from his wife's; while they shouldn't be, they are, he said.
The Human Relations Commission has been preparing for this meeting for some time and frequently hears from residents about community policing.
Carbondale resident Nolan Wright, an assistant professor at the SIU School of Law, also spoke at the commission's meeting earlier this month.
Wright said on a recent Sunday morning, about 3:30 a.m., he heard voices in his backyard. Opening the door, he said an officer approached and explained that they were trying to help the young man, who was apparently intoxicated and had gotten lost trying to find his way home from the bars.
Wright said he witnessed the officers dealing with him gently, and the officer who spoke with him indicated they were trying to get the young man help, not get him in trouble.
Wright said he noticed that the man appeared to be white.
But Wright said it reminded him of a previous incident three years prior that he witnessed that he believed was handled inhumanely. He said the obvious difference in that case was that the young people involved were African-American.
About a half-block from his home, Wright said he approached the scene of a traffic accident. A young African-American woman had struck a telephone pole and her vehicle was on the side of the road, he said.
When he approached, Wright said the woman was on the ground near the car and speaking faintly to law enforcement. It had started to rain, so Wright went back to his house to fetch a blanket for her.
Wright said he was concerned that upward of 15 minutes had passed and there was no sign of an ambulance on the way as police peppered the driver and the bystanders, also African-Americans, about what led to the crash. But they were clearly in shock, he said.
"I said, ‘You really think this is the way to handle this? Could you get anything you could use?'”
“The officer I was asking this got in my face and told me I was interfering with a police investigation and I should get the hell out of there,” Wright recalled, adding that the officer eventually popped him in the chest with two hands and told him “to leave the scene or be arrested.”
Wright said that scene, compared to the more recent one, continues to weigh on him. He later added that he was not attempting to generalize from either incident, and he hoped the way the officers handled the more recent incident is the way they would handle anyone in that situation, regardless of race. But he said he had his doubts.
“I wish I had done more than bring a blanket and question the officers. I'm ashamed I went back to my house and didn't say anything,” he said.
Montgomery police chief bridges officers to community
by Rebecca Burylo
It's not unusual to meet the new Montgomery Police Chief and get swallowed up in a big 'ole hug, a pat on the back and a, "Hey, how are ya?"
Those who meet him say the gestures are genuine.
Approachability is one of the qualities Police Chief Ernest Finley believes has helped him create a bond with officers in the Montgomery Police Department, gaining friendship and respect, and from the Montgomery community as well, sharing with them a different side of police than has been portrayed in media.
Dealing with race
Amidst the racial turmoil rising from Ferguson, Missouri, and the most recent incidents in Baltimore, Maryland, Finley came in as chief to be a calming force in a time of overall unrest. He spoke recently to the Montgomery Advertiser about his first days.
"Racial unrest ... it's a hard subject to talk about and so the challenge for law enforcement is to talk about those racial issues, to ensure that we treat people with respect — the minority communities, any community that might have a racial divide or any community that perceives the police as not being approachable," Finley said.
"You're going to have those tensions, so with our current philosophy and our drive, we're constantly bridging that gap ... we just have to slow down and make those efforts to communicate with those challenging communities," Finley added. "When we look at individuals we don't look at them as suspects, we look at them like people and they sense that ... we need to be as genuine as possible and work on it."
Janice Jackson met Finley at a BONDS meeting earlier this year and was instantly impressed with Finley's dedication to the community after he drove several hours from Atlanta to speak at the meeting.
"He made sure he did not miss our meeting," said Jackson, president of the Arrowhead homeowners association. "Afterward, he was very personable and took time to talk with everyone there, handing out his card and making sure you got the information you needed."
Finley's keenness on community policing through the new Park, Walk and Talk initiative, struck a chord with Jackson who believes in the approach's success.
"I'm a proponent of community policing and was extremely pleased to see that the city had selected a chief who also saw that as very important. I think the Park, Walk and Talk is a great way the neighborhoods can meet with the department and see them as real people."
Park, Walk and Talk was one of the first changes made to the department following Finley's swearing in Jan. 15. It requires every officer to take time from their normal patrols to park their vehicle, walk around their assigned community and talk with residents there. The hope is to "extend the olive branch," to those in the community who have had a negative inexperience with police, whether it be an arrest, a warrant or simply an uncaring attitude.
"As long as we're constantly being fair, treating community members and stakeholders with respect and calling them by name, then I think we can overcome a lot of those racial tensions throughout the nation, but it takes effort, it takes restraint and patience," Finley said.
Attending neighborhood association meetings and community events is another way to show residents a different side of MPD.
Andy Jackson met Chief Finley for the first time at a FOCUS group earlier this year.
"After we met, I was impressed with his new approach — to let's do things different in order to get better outcomes," Jackson said. "His emphasis on youth and juvenile crime is important. If the chief can do something to address those problems with kids, get them off track from heading to prison, then he's accomplished something."
Property crimes appear to be the biggest concern Finley has heard from the community, including thefts, car break-ins and burglaries. He said to expect an uptick in such crimes nationwide over the summer months. That is why it is so important to reach out to youth through summer activities, he said.
Boost in department morale
When Finley arrived, he faced other challenges — from within.
He was sworn in as chief during an unsettling time for the police department. Officers had been without a formal chief for several months following the strained circumstances surrounding the retirement of former chief, Kevin Murphy. The department was naturally undergoing feelings of uncertainty, according to Christopher Murphy, director of the Montgomery Department of Public Safety.
Talk of dissatisfaction within the department swirled among officers, causing many to retire early. Murphy hoped Finley's new perspective could bring positive morale back to the department.
"The Montgomery Police Department was never broken, we just needed a different set of eyes," Murphy said. "We wanted a different perspective and we needed to get the person with the right heart. We believe I'm seeing now that Ernie Finley has that."
Murphy and Mayor Todd Strange said they are both pleased with their selection.
Murphy said MPD officers were impressed with Finley his first day.
"I talked with a young officer and asked him, 'Have you met the chief? What do you think,'" Murphy asked. "He said, 'I'll tell you, the first couple of days we were all impressed that he was standing out back and shaking all our hands. That's never happened before.'"
That's a common theme for Finley, who has been known to sit in on an officer training class, be present at roll call and has made himself visible at community functions, neighborhood events and crime scenes talking with victims.
"He's bringing a different style that we haven't had before," Murphy said. "He is approachable, people come by and he has this air about him that breathes confidence ... he's earning the respect of the officers."
When Murphy talked with Atlanta's police officers, where Finley was assistant chief, he was told he would get a "cop's cop," if Finley was hired.
Murphy agrees and has seen morale improve among officers.
"I think when people saw Finley waiting out back shaking hands and asking about them and saw him show up at roll call not to lecture them, but to engage with them, you saw a difference among them, an optimism and an excitement about the new leadership," Murphy said.
Finley described his own style as a team effort.
"My leadership style is one of compassion, compromise, participatory," Finley said. "I need that participation. I will make the ultimate decision, but I need buy-in and in order to get that buy-in, you need trust. They need to see that you care. Once they trust you and they believe in you and the vision, you can do a lot."
One of the ways Finley is changing the department internally is allowing officers, commanders and chiefs more responsibility.
"I want them to feel that they are given the time to do their job and be respected as men and women with MPD," Finley said. "I feel good about the change. It's a slow change, but these young men and women are top notch and they have to hear it, not just from me, but from everybody."
Andrew Payne, who lives in the Dalraida neighborhood, told Finley at an Eastbrook Morningview neighborhood association that he was very impressed with Finley and his officers after a patrolman responded to his 911 call within five minutes.
"I was impressed with the Chief after I commended his officers," Payne said. "Coming from Atlanta, he's new to Montgomery, but he seems to show dedication to his job and listens to the community at these meetings ... when I was leaving the meeting, the chief actually called me by name to give me his card."
Strange is also pleased with the changes Finley has brought to the job.
"He has a different style than what you've seen previously and it wasn't just Kevin," Strange said. "What you'll see in Ernie's plan and philosophical approach, is the same as mine; driving decision making down to the lowest possible level. You're going to see more of the senior officers out of headquarters and in the precincts and sectors and holding corporals and sergeants responsible for a piece of territory."
Finley looks forward to more changes for the department in the next six months, adding another graduating class to increase patrol numbers and change the work schedule so that shifts overlap. Not only would this reduce crime, he said, but it would further boost officer morale.
Rush to Judgment Against Law Enforcement Undermines Public Safety
by Scott Erickson
American law enforcement is under assault. While seemingly every action taken by law enforcement of late is under intense public and media scrutiny, presumptions have taken precedence over objective analysis and broad conclusions have replaced reasonable assumptions.
These presumptions undermine the public's faith in law enforcement and the ability of law enforcement to effectively maintain safe and secure communities.
Given what is at stake, it is especially disconcerting to see the willingness of some elected officials to tacitly support presumptions of police misconduct absent the existence of indisputable supporting evidence.
The ongoing case in Baltimore offers an example. The in-custody death of Freddie Gray led to days of protests and riots that resulted in untold destruction. Despite the many questions that still remain concerning exactly what transpired between Baltimore police officers and Gray, public and private declarations have all but condemned the officers involved.
While trying to remain balanced in his remarks concerning the Baltimore riots, President Obama condemned the rioters but also spoke of a “slow-rolling crisis” loosely centered on police interactions with young African-Americans. He additionally stated that law enforcement officials must admit that “there are some police who aren't doing the right thing.”
Obama is certainly correct in stating that law enforcement officials and organizations representing police interests should acknowledge that some officers have, and will, engage in misconduct. And when legitimate misconduct, or outright criminal behavior, on the part of a law enforcement officer comes to light it should be the entire law enforcement community that leads the condemnation.
But to solicit that concession within the context of remarks centered on the incident in Baltimore, Obama was tacitly, albeit probably unintentionally, condemning the actions of the Baltimore police department even before a decision to charge the involved officers was made.
Fortunately, some of law enforcement's most vocal critics have perhaps come to see the imprudence of their hasty criticisms.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a longtime and outspoken critic of law enforcement, drew the ire of New York's finest last year after referring to an attack by protestors on two police officers as being “alleged.” The attack on the officers was caught on tape.
Those comments came amid his effusive praise for the protests against law enforcement as having been “peaceful.”
That incident, coupled with many others, led countless officers to turn their backs on the mayor during the funeral of two of their fallen brothers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
But more recently, in the wake of yet another slain New York police officer, de Blasio offered much more complimentary remarks toward the New York Police Department.
De Blasio referred to Officer Brian Moore, shot and killed last week, as “the best of New York City,” and as a young man whose “bravery was matched by his compassion.”
The change in tone from de Blasio elicited the praise of Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
“We are gratified by Mayor de Blasio's strong support for his police officers in these troubled times,” said Lynch.
Also speaking at Moore's funeral, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton sought to add context to the ongoing debate over criticisms of law enforcement.
“What is lost in the shouting and the rhetoric is the context of what we do. A handful of recent incidents, fewer than a dozen, have wrongfully come to define the hundreds of millions of interactions cops have every year,” Bratton stated.
The heated rhetoric and presumptions of guilt and misconduct against law enforcement officers nationwide has strained the vitally important relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. It also emboldens those seeking to defy the rule of law and who welcome any opportunity to challenge law enforcement.
The relationship between law enforcement and the public, predicated upon trust and mutual respect, undergirds our collective efforts at maintaining stable and lawful communities.
Community leaders, elected officials and the unexpressed voice of an observant public must recognize that all stakeholders within a community are affected by that relationship.
Better communication, empathy and an understanding of shared responsibility will go a long way toward preventing the rush to judgment and condemnation that so often results in destructive consequences.
No less than the safety and security of our communities depends upon it.
Scott G. Erickson is a law enforcement officer and writer. He has written and spoken on myriad issues of national security, including counter-terrorism strategies at the state and local level of law enforcement.
Lynch on Youth Violence: ZIP Code Must Not Decide Children's Future
by Gary Gatey
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch served up some sobering statistics today at a national summit on preventing youth violence: More than three of five American children have been exposed to crime, violence or abuse.
“This violence can take many forms and can occur virtually anywhere — from the streets of our neighborhoods to the far reaches of cyberspace; from the schools where our children learn their earliest lessons, to the homes where they should feel most secure,” Lynch said at the fourth National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
“And it is clear that, regardless of how or when it occurs, exposure to violence can have real and devastating consequences for growth and development.”
Lynch, who took office April 27, noted research has shown that whether children observe or are victims of violence or abuse, it will make them more likely to fall behind in school, to suffer anxiety and depression, to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse — “and, ultimately, more likely to perpetuate the cycle of violence in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a ‘descending spiral of destruction.'”
In her first major speech on juvenile justice and youth violence, Lynch said efforts to prevent youth violence must be intensified and continue “until a child's ZIP code does not dictate that child's future.”
Lynch, who had served two stints as a federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York before being nominated attorney general by President Barack Obama, said: “As we've seen from recent events, preventing violence in our communities is not an abstract concept, but a clear and pressing need.
“It is a need that requires more than a prosecution strategy — but rather an approach that sees all sides of this challenging issue. Healing our neighborhoods, building mutual trust and promoting well-being are not lofty or unreachable goals; they are tangible pieces of the more prosperous and more peaceful society that we all seek.”
The summit, launched by the Obama administration in 2010, is a gathering for those participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention to share ideas and develop strategies. Participants included representatives of the 16 cities in the forum as well as youth leaders and officials from federal and state agencies, law enforcement and school systems, along with private partners that support local efforts. More than 350 people from 40 localities were scheduled to attend, Justice Department spokeswoman Starr Stepp said.
The three-day summit, which began Monday, covered a wide range of topics.
Among them: developing and measuring the success of violence prevention efforts; leveraging funding for anti-violence initiatives; working to reduce crime in neighborhoods; examining the convergence of child welfare, social services and juvenile justice; harnessing youth ideas on curbing violence; partnering with faith-based organizations; starting state and community partnerships; engaging boys and young men of color; reducing the “school-to-prison pipeline” and “zero-tolerance” policies in schools; providing education to incarcerated youths and helping them prepare to re-enter society; and turning to federal prosecutors for help combating violence through enforcement, outreach and prevention.
Lynch recalled traveling last week to Baltimore, which had been beset by rioting, arson and looting after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died after suffering severe injuries in a city police van.
She met with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, police officers and people who took to the streets after the unrest to clean up trash and debris.
“But,” Lynch said, “I think I was most impressed with the young people I met with in Baltimore — about nine of them who are working within their community and with their peers to make their city a better place for everyone. A few seemed to have read more about civil rights law than many lawyers I know. And they were optimistic — even in the midst of great challenge — about the future of their city.
“They are a testament to the strength of our young people — even those who live in tough neighborhoods and face real economic challenges. They are making a real and positive difference and serving as an example to others. And I told them that I hoped they would challenge their peers to do the same, because in many communities in Baltimore and in communities across America, it is all too easy for our youth to get caught up in drugs, gangs and violence and give in to a troubling status quo.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who had served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2009 before joining the Obama administration, recalled the horror of the violence in that city and said the hardest part of his job was going to funerals of students who were shot and trying to comfort victims' families and fellow students.
During his tenure, Duncan said at the summit, “On average, we lost one child every two weeks to gun violence … and the vast majority of these students were not gang-bangers.”
There was the young girl shot by someone with an AK-47 from 100 yards away as she sat in her living room at 7:30 a.m. and the boy shot in a bus at 2:30 p.m. as he headed home from school. Duncan said the gun violence in Chicago has declined in recent years.
“But whether it's my hometown or it's anywhere across the nation, what we're seeing is just absolutely staggering,” he said. “And the loss of human potential and the loss of leaders, as a nation, we can't afford to let that happen.
“We are thrilled that high school graduation rates are at an all-time high. We are thrilled that dropout rates have gone down, but as a nation, we are nowhere near where we need to be” in reducing youth violence, Duncan said.
He still has a picture of a fireman a Chicago school student drew him. “The caption is, ‘If I grow up, I want to be a fireman,'” Duncan said.
That mindset remains far too common.
“It's a really, really deep thing. To too many kids around the nation, that's their thought — ‘if I grow up.'”
Study: Intensive, Individualized Help Can Aid Foster Youth Move Into Adulthood
by Lynne Anderson
At long last, there is good news about ways to help youth in foster care and those who have been in custody in the juvenile justice system as they move into adulthood.
Intensive, individualized care based on clinically sound practices can improve young people's financial and emotional well-being and improve their chances of getting housing, a study of a transitional living program in Tennessee has found.
The study evaluated the program of YVLifeSet, formerly called Youth Villages Transitional Living Program, in Tennessee. It also operates programs in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina and Oregon.
Investigators followed for a year 1,300 youth who participated in the study. All were randomly assigned to the program or to a control group.
Results showed the program improved outcomes in three of six key areas of well-being, including economic well-being, housing and outcomes related to health and safety. The young people in the program had higher earnings, were more likely to have gained housing and were less likely to be involved in violent relationships.
The findings are especially important, the study authors wrote, because youth who have been in foster care, in custody in the juvenile justice system — or both — typically face great challenges as they move into adulthood. Many are traumatized or abused, and haven't had the opportunity to learn important life skills.
As they move into adulthood, the lack of life skills becomes even more of a problem. While others in their age group who come from stable families often get help from parents, youth who have lived several years in foster care or been in juvenile custody have few adults who can help them financially or socially. Those who have suffered trauma may face additional issues.
While various programs have tried to help these youth, success has been limited. The transitional living program offers intensive, one-hour, one-on-one counseling sessions with youth to teach them such skills as how to manage money and how to look for jobs.
“This program [at YVLifeSet] was thought through very well,” said Mark Courtney, lead author and professor in the School of Social Science Administration at the University of Chicago. One of its strengths, he said, is that it recognizes the individuality of each young person, with trained counselors working to meet each one's needs. Each counselor is limited to a caseload of eight young people, which allows him or her to get to know them and to tailor interventions and support.
“Young people have different needs and different desires,” he said.
The individualized support seemed to have made a difference, Courtney said. That said, “I don't think the story's complete yet. We need more study.”
While this study showed improved outcomes in some measures for those youth who received the intensive interventions, three areas showed no differences between the two groups. The differences in education, social support and criminal involvement were minor, Courtney said. It's important to find out why the interventions didn't work in those areas, he said.
In many areas, “we've got resources to help people through this transition, but how do we do that well?” Courtney said.
Connie Mills, a spokeswoman for YVLifeSet, said her organization is committed to helping these vulnerable youth who often have suffered great loss, trauma and abuse.
“If we don't help them, they are going to fail, and often fail spectacularly,” she said. “But the exciting thing is knowing that we can. If we can change one person by helping him get a degree, we have changed a whole family.”
The study, conducted by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, was funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The results were announced late Monday night.
Wrongfully Convicted Teen Finds New Challenges in Freedom
by Brooke L. Williams
NEW YORK — When Jeffrey Deskovic was a kid he wanted to be a cop. When he got a little older, he decided instead that he wanted to be an attorney. They wore nice suits. They made good money.
Today, Deskovic owns plenty of suits and has earned a sizeable income, but he never fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. Instead, he works as a criminal justice reform advocate.
In late 1989, at the age of 16, Deskovic came under suspicion for the brutal rape and murder of his high school classmate Angela Correa. After being held in an interrogation room for about eight hours with no parent or attorney present, he confessed to the crime.
He was innocent.
A vulnerable population
“I was just totally overwhelmed, psychologically and emotionally,” Deskovic said. “By the cop's own testimony, at the end of the interrogation I was on the floor in a fetal position.”
A scared teenage boy, he thought if he gave the officers what they wanted, a confession, he would be released from custody and allowed to return home. He believed the police when they told him he would only have to go to a mental hospital for a short period, that he would not serve any jail time.
Mostly, he just wanted to get out of there. Instead, his life was forever altered.
After his arrest, Deskovic was released on bail. While awaiting trial, he tried to kill himself.
“I took an entire bottle of extra-strength Tylenol and then I went to sleep intending not to wake up again,” he said.
He was committed to Rockland Children's Psychiatric Center, where he remained from March to August 1990.
In January 1991, Deskovic was convicted of raping and murdering Correa despite a semen sample from her that was traced to a then-unidentified person. Prosecutors maintained that Correa could have had consensual sex with another person before her murder. A Westchester County District Attorney's report notes that Deskovic promised at his sentencing: “I will be back on appeal. Justice will yet be served. I will be set free.”
According to the Innocence Project, a group that examines wrongful convictions and was involved in Deskovic's exoneration, more than 25 percent of people wrongfully convicted and eventually exonerated made “false confessions or incriminating statements.” Studies show that those under 18 are particularly susceptible.
So on January 1991 a 17-year-old with no prior criminal record found himself thrust into a prison culture that does not treat sex offenders, real or perceived, kindly.
‘I have a body'
At the entrance to Elmira Correctional Facility stands a bronze statue of two prisoners side by side, one with an arm draped around the other. The statue was intended to be a symbol of the days when Elmira's “wayward boys were transformed into law-abiding men.”
By the time Deskovic got there, it was known as a junior gladiator school where young boys were inducted into the culture of prison violence, he said. Sex offenders were particularly singled out. If other inmates asked, Deskovic learned to respond only with ‘I have a body' — prison slang for doing time for murder.
He had few friendships during his nearly 16 years in prison. Instead, he had what he calls “associations.” Friendships were likely to lead to violence. It was better to keep your distance. His mother was his only regular visitor. His half-brother seldom came. His grandmother, with whom he was particularly close, died while he was incarcerated. He met his father for the first time only after his release.
Deskovic passed the time by watching television. He liked “The Practice,” a drama about lawyers, and “WWE SmackDown.” He enjoyed listening to sports talk radio, noting that “it was like a lifeline to the outside.” He played sports.
“I would engage in this elaborate delusion,” he said. “When I played basketball or ping-pong or chess, I would pretend I was like a professional player and so was everyone else.”
Held captive by the past
Throughout it all, Deskovic insisted he was innocent. After twice contacting the Innocence Project , the organization agreed to take his case in January 2006. To date, the organization has successfully exonerated 176 people by using DNA evidence to overturn convictions.
Deskovic joined those ranks in September 2006 after DNA from the crime scene was matched to the actual perpetrator, a convicted felon already serving time for another murder.
On Nov. 2, 2006, he was officially exonerated of Correa's murder. He eagerly looked forward to his long-awaited freedom.
“I guess I could call it an idealized life,” Deskovic said. “I mean, the life I thought I was walking into.”
He thought he would find a job, get promoted, return to a normal life. His declaration in a Westchester County courtroom years earlier had finally come true.
But reality did not meet expectations. Deskovic was a free man, but one still held captive by his past.
“I thought I would go to all these different places and do all these different activities that I saw on television that I wanted to do,” he said. “The monetary component of that never dawned on me. Like it never dawned on me having people to do things with was something that couldn't be taken for granted.”
Discharged from a time capsule after 16 years
Betrayed once by trust in a criminal justice system that had failed him, Deskovic now seemed betrayed by a world he no longer recognized. He had been stuck in a time capsule for 16 years. Meanwhile, the outside world continued to evolve without him.
“There's a lot more external stimuli out here that's not replicable in a prison setting,” he said.
Plus, he had never lived on his own before, never balanced a budget, never learned to pay bills. Everyday things like sorting through junk mail were difficult.
In prison, “mail was just given to you and it wasn't that often that it came,” he said.
Deskovic suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression. He was one age but felt another, a sentiment observed by Shelley Alkin, a former dean at Mercy College. After reading about Deskovic's case in late 2006, she called to offer him what he considers one of his few lucky breaks — a full scholarship to attend Mercy.
Alkin was no stranger to working with the formerly incarcerated at Mercy College, which partners with a private organization to help inmates earn advanced degrees while in prison.
Nevertheless, she described her first encounter with Deskovic as shocking. He looked like he was wearing hand-me-down clothes. He brought ramen noodle soup and a bowl with him and asked to heat it in her microwave.
The students at Mercy were polite, but far from welcoming. There is a stigma to spending 16 years in prison, whether you are innocent or not, Alkin noted. After spending years locked up on the inside, Deskovic said he now found himself “on the outside looking in.”
Alkin recalled when they embraced for a hug, “I felt like sometimes he was just holding onto me for dear life.”
While in lockup, Deskovic converted to Islam but stopped practicing a year after his release because of its restrictions on drinking, nightlife and sexual relations.
At 33, he has never had a serious romantic relationship. Learning how to read women's body language and pick up on social cues was difficult. It is something he still struggles with today.
His friend Nancy Lopez, who Deskovic considers himself closest to, tries to help him with that.
He met her two years after his release while he was living in Tarrytown, N.Y., and she was working as a waitress at a local diner. Two weeks after their first meeting, he injured his leg while playing basketball and phoned Lopez for help. She drove him to the hospital and offered to let him stay with her until his leg healed.
“I took her up on her offer and never quite left,” Deskovic said.
When he was awarded several million dollars in separate settlements with New York state and Westchester, Peekskill and Putnam counties for his wrongful imprisonment, he upgraded to a two-family home and invited Lopez to stay with him.
Deskovic occupies the first floor, Lopez the second. Her adult son stays on the basement level. Lopez says she makes most of the meals since Deskovic is not the best cook.
“The only thing he can make for me is a cup of coffee in the morning,” Lopez said.
Today, Deskovic bears little outward resemblance to the man who was released from prison more than eight years ago. The overgrown beard he once sported is gone, replaced with a goatee. Lopez says it was her son's idea.
The timbre of his voice is deeper. He's packed on a few pounds and likes to eat out. Italian food is his favorite and “anything with sauce on it.” Lopez said he also likes vegetables and she tries to cook healthy meals for him. “That way he can lose a little weight too,” she said.
Most of Deskovic's time is now spent at The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, an organization he founded with a portion of his settlement money. His office is in the back of a building on the upper west side of Manhattan. The walls are painted blue, his favorite color.
That's not the reason he chose this particular shade of paint, though. He chose it for sentimental reasons. He liked the name: It's called “Grandma's Sweater.”
On the wall, amid other framed accolades, hangs the degree he earned from Mercy. The master's degree he earned from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2013 isn't there.
He has been too busy to pick it up. Busy at the foundation, he says, working to free others wrongfully convicted. Others like William Lopez, the foundation's first and only successful exoneration case to date.
Through the foundation's assistance, William Lopez (no relation to Nancy Lopez) was exonerated in January 2013 after serving 23 years in prison. Deskovic says William's release from prison is the happiest moment he has experienced post-incarceration. The celebration, however, was short-lived. William Lopez passed away in September 2014 from an asthma attack.
At the foundation, Deskovic's staff of four is currently working on eight cases. He is hopeful a second exoneration will result soon. He provides temporary housing in a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment for those recently released.
"I'm personally so proud of him and how far he's come," Alkin said.
Nancy Lopez says Deskovic still suffers from the psychological scars of his past, though. He has nightmares and bouts of depression.
“What they did to him is still there. He still has the scars fresh in his mind,” she said.
Deskovic acknowledges he does not sleep well but says he is doing better. While his professional life and advocacy work keep him occupied, his social calendar is not always as full.
“Where are my peers at? Where are they at?” implored Deskovic.
He can't seem to find them. He wants friends with common interests.
“Not all of them, not every interest,” he said. “But maybe half of them so we can change genres of activities, kind of like I did when I was a kid.”
He is still searching for them. He is still searching for a life partner. And while that search continues, he wants the world to know that he is single and available.
He finally got around to picking up that master's degree from John Jay College. He has plans to have it framed and hanging on his wall soon.
Regional sheriffs suggest changes in law enforcement policy due to recent strained relationship with public, police
by John Turk
Three regional sheriffs went public Tuesday with a plan to create better relationships between law enforcement and the public following several instances across the country that imply that relationship is deteriorating.
“In my 29 years in law enforcement, I have never seen an environment like this,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, referencing a survey that said 80 percent of law enforcement employees would not suggest jobs in the field to friends or family.
“Many police officers feel like they're the Vietnam vets of the (1970s). They feel like they're putting their lives on the line, and feel beaten up and under-appreciated.”
Among much more, the local law enforcement brass are asking for $50 million for officer training statewide, updated officer hiring practices, several legislative changes to police reporting processes and tighter restrictions on whether officers' body camera footage would be FOIA-able.
The plans were largely presented by Bouchard and supported by Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and Wayne County Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes at the Oakland Sheriff's Office headquarters in Pontiac.
Flared tensions spark suggestions
The strained relationship felt of late between law enforcement and the public has been magnified in many headlines in the form of claims of police brutality against minorities around the nation. Some include the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the shooting of unarmed Walter Scott in South Carolina following a traffic stop. In Baltimore, reaction to Gray's death escalated to rioting and the National Guard being brought in to keep the peace.
There have also been cries of police brutality and corruption locally. In Inkster, white officer William Melendez, 46, from Novi, was charged with two felonies after a video showed him beating motorist Floyd Dent, a black man, during a traffic stop.
At the press conference, Bouchard said these incidents and more have led many in legislative offices to introduce knee-jerk legislation that could have a negative impact on officers in every community if passed. Some legislation includes including the federal government in oversight of local policing agencies, while other legislation details the disarming of officers.
“I would love to see (those asking for disarming officers) go on patrol with us, with just a billy club,” said Bouchard.
Bouchard said the federal government should mandate reporting in the case of all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths, that reports should be involved anytime the use of force is involved in an incident, and that training and hiring standards need to be changed for Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, or MCOLES-licensed law enforcement officers and for reserve or auxiliary officers. He added that asset forfeiture laws need to be reformed to include mandatory annual reporting.
Perceptions of law enforcement can be changed, but both the media, the public and the agencies themselves need to work together to forge a better relationship, Bouchard added.
“People need to understand how quickly things happen. Having media involved in understanding that would help us,” said Bouchard. “We should be making ourselves accessible to you.”
He added that terminology, current statistics and more need to be shared to “provide a more realistic view of any incident that may occur.” One problem, he said, is the disparity between what people think are armored vehicles, battlefield weaponry or grenade launchers.
“We have armored vehicles, not tanks, which are meant to protect the people that are going into dangerous situations,” said Bouchard.
Should bodycams be FOIA-able?
The presentation also brought up a highly controversial issue — the use of body cameras and whether anyone should be able to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain video from them. He said citizens should not be able to request footage unless a complaint had been made.
The reasoning, Bouchard said, was that it relates to what officers see every day.
“We see the most victimized moments: Rape victims ... a woman slipped and was stuck naked in between her toilet and bathtub ... people engaged in sexual activity ... death investigations,” said Bouchard.
“Citizen assists would be immediately FOIA-able. ... Do you think they'd want to see that of TV?
“In my opinion, it needs to be focused on accountability and standards, and not becoming a reality show.”
The conference was strategically held in the midst of National Police Week. Bouchard said that the changes suggested Tuesday were to be shared with legislators and other police organizations, but that the sheriff's office has already reached out to state leaders, the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, and is sending representatives to state hearings on the issues he mentioned.
“We don't just need (legislators) to listen to us, we need them to respond,” Bouchard said.
“We get frustrated at the constant peppering of law enforcement without the reality of what law enforcement does day-to-day.”
Macomb Sheriff Wickersham said while he hasn't had a real chance to digest the plan fully, he is behind the strategies.
“Anytime I hear that law enforcement is under attack, I want to help out,” Wickersham said.
“I want to be able to tell my children that law enforcement is a great profession because it is, and 99.9 percent of the time, the men and women of law enforcement are doing the job well.”
New Haven clergy, police see strong progress in community relationships
by Ryan Flynn
NEW HAVEN -- The Police Department and local clergy have worked hand-in-hand for the past three years and, with the mayor and police officials, local church leaders held a press conference Tuesday to discuss community policing and their relationship with the department.
“I would put our police community relationships against any in this country and feel satisfied that we would be at the very top,” Mayor Toni N. Harp said.
Harp was joined by police Chief Dean Esserman, his assistant chiefs and about 20 city religious leaders. Police meet monthly with clergy members at the 1 Union Ave. headquarters to discuss community issues and solutions.
Prior to Tuesday's press conference, the two groups met to talk about police de-escalation training, department recruiting, and youth programs sponsored by the agency.
The Rev. Boise Kimber, of First Calvary Baptist Church, harkened back to when community policing was first founded under then- Mayor John C. Daniels, who died this year. Kimber noted they “forged” a relationship then between community and police.
“We are very well ahead of other communities in developing the relationship and talking about issues that plague our community,” Kimber said.
The Rev. Keith King, of Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church, said the difference is access and Harp and Esserman can be reached to attend impromptu meetings or discuss community issues sometimes with just a single phone call.
“I think we have very blessed to have Chief Esserman here and this team who understand the value of having a relationship with the clergy. We are not like Ferguson or the issues in Baltimore . All of us can call the chief and members of his command staff if we have an issue.”
The issues around the country, King said, underscore a need for this kind of partnership. King credited former Attorney General Eric Holder for helping cement the initial idea of a union between police and clergy.
Esserman made a point to discuss the police walking beats, which allow all rookie cops to get closer to neighborhoods they cover by walking the streets, rather than occupying a squad car.
“We have returned to the community policing that Mayor Harp is too modest to say that she brought to New Haven when she was an alder,” the chief said.
Kimber said this strong relationship means the clergy doesn't have to hold a press conference whenever they perceive police or City Hall as doing something wrong. Kimber also noted the clergy were “instrumental in bringing the family together, meeting with the Police Department and getting individuals help that needed help,” following the incident after the St. Patrick's Day parade, when a 15-year-old was taken to the ground during an arrest by a New Haven officer. The incident was videotaped.
Esserman was asked during the press conference whether if an incident such as the death of Freddie Gray were to occurr that the response would not be what it was in Baltimore, because of his relationship with the clergy.
“Do I think problems can occur? It can occur in any American city and we are an American city,” Esserman said. “But, I think we're heading in the right direction. We have a long way to go but you'd like to think that what we're doing is making a difference.”
Boise's policing future: A lot like the old days, with cops walking a beat
by Sven Berg
A Downtown police district is a natural extension of the community-oriented approach the Boise Police Department has developed since the early 2000s, Chief Bill Bones said.
Community policing focuses on building relationships with the public, business leaders and other key groups, not only to improve officers' responses to crimes already committed, but to fend off future offenses and circumstances that allow crime to crop up.
District-based policing makes sense in that context because, for law enforcement purposes, it essentially turns a big city into several smaller cities. Instead of a rotation of unfamiliar detectives and patrol officers, a few officers stay in constant contact with the people who live, work and play in a district. They get to know each other. The idea is that innocent people are less intimidated by cops and therefore more likely to report problems, while criminals are quickly identified and monitored.
“It says to a potential offender down there that the police are, literally, right here,” said Andrew Giacomazzi, a criminal justice professor at Boise State University. “Even though I may not see a cop right around the corner, I know that there's a district here in this particular area. Cops are going to be there, writing reports. They're going to be meeting with community residents, whoever they may be. And there's an easy way for them to deploy in a really quick, very timely manner out of a district-based setting, versus a police officer who may be simply on random patrol.”
A NEW CULTURE
In the 1990s, when Bones was a young officer, the Boise Police Department had an image problem. Officers were involved in a string of shootings, and the public's trust in the department plummeted.
The city hired a community ombudsman to conduct independent investigations of complaints against officers. Don Pierce, chief from 2000 to 2004, and Mike Masterson, who replaced Pierce, began moving the department toward community policing. They assigned officers to geographic areas, designated neighborhood contact officers, formed a crime prevention unit, and pushed information sharing between the department and the private sector.
Gradually, confidence in the department returned. Police leaders believe a commitment to community policing has played a role in the improvement.
Academic studies have concluded that district-based, community-style policing increases the public's satisfaction with their law enforcement agency. But is it all good feelings, or are there tangible results, too?
A study published in December in the Journal of Experimental Criminology found a need for further research.
“In particular, there is a need to explicate and test a logic model that explains how short-term benefits of community policing, like improved citizen satisfaction, relate to longer-term crime prevention effects, and to identify the policing strategies that benefit most from community participation,” the study's authors concluded.
Bones and the police department have the right idea, Giacomazzi said, largely because Bones' predecessors developed a culture within the department that embraces community-oriented policing.
“Just having the district substation, or whatever you want to call that, by itself doesn't do a heck of a lot,” Giacomazzi said. “But the Boise Police Department has a 15-year history with community policing and problem-solving. And in the context of furthering community policing, problem-solving models, going to district-based policing is a really good thing because it puts police officers in closer proximity to the constituents they serve, puts them in closer proximity to the calls they're receiving.”
WHERE IS THE DOWNTOWN DISTRICT?
For years, leaders of the Boise Police Department wanted to move to district-based policing. They envisioned three separate districts of roughly the same geographic size.
Bones changed that approach after taking over for Masterson, who retired in January. He wants to use a Downtown district as a prototype to work out the kinks – new ways of filing paperwork, different command structure, etc. – for future districts. Bones isn't sure how many future districts he'll form.
Bones hasn't set exact boundaries for the Downtown district yet, either. It's likely to fall somewhere between State and Fort streets on the north; Broadway Avenue on the East; the southern edge of Ann Morrison park and the BSU campus on the south; and Whitewater Park Boulevard on the west.
That's about 5 percent of the city's land mass. And it's the source of about one-quarter of the police department's calls for service, Bones said.
“Over time, the idea is that by doing this, we drive those numbers of calls for service down while we build a better relationship — interactive, two-way relationship — with the community,” he said.
The disproportion of calls merits the special attention of a district, Bones said, but there are other factors. Downtown presents a variety of law enforcement challenges that other areas of the city don't, he said.
Bones should know. When he was captain of the department's patrol division in the mid-2000s, he created the Downtown “bar team,” a task force of officers who specialize in dealing with the problems that arise from nightlife. Today, the bar team has about six officers.
Besides carousing, Downtown is home to big business, lobbying firms, government offices, nonprofits, museums, restaurants and residents. Each group has specific needs. Julia Davis and Ann Morrison parks, two of Boise's biggest, present a different set of problems, partly because dozens of special events are held there each year.
“Having a stronger police presence Downtown, just from an event standpoint, is very, very attractive to our department, so we're highly supportive of it and see it as a value-add to our customers,” Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said.
HOW WILL IT WORK?
Officers will be reassigned to the Downtown district, Bones said, so payroll shouldn't be a major additional cost. He expects to hire at least one civilian staffer to help run the office.
The district's station building will be the biggest cost, Bones said. The district will need 5,000 to 10,000 square feet of space somewhere in the service area. Bones expects it to cost $2 million to $2.5 million if the city buys from a private landowner. A few city-owned properties close to Downtown might work. Bones said he'll base his decision on whether to use one of them or something else on a variety of factors, including cost, location and compatibility of the space.
Bones said he'll probably assign 15 to 25 officers to the district.
The bulk of that staff would be a team of patrol officers, along with one or two detectives and school resource officers. Specialists, such as victims services and forensics experts, will stay at department headquarters in West Boise.
Bones said he'll ask for volunteers who want to work the Downtown district. He expects plenty of officers will step forward.
“And I have a feeling that, in some cases, it'll be competitive,” he said.
Some of the Downtown officers will walk beats on foot. Others will be on bikes and, possibly, electric scooters. Bones hopes getting them out of their cars will increase contact with people Downtown and improve the relationships that community policing relies on.
The barriers between districts won't be absolute, he said. Downtown officers will respond to calls outside the district and vice versa. When emergency calls come in, the closest officers will respond, Bones said.
OFFICERS AS MARKETERS?
Like Masterson before him, Bones talks about interaction between officers and the public as customer service. He wants officers Downtown who want to help people, who enjoy giving directions to tourists, chatting with a shop owner and ushering a nighttime reveler into a cab.
Karen Sander appreciates that philosophy. Sander is executive director of the Downtown Boise Association, a nonprofit that manages the Downtown Boise Business Improvement District. She said the police department already has a good team of officers Downtown, and moving to a district-based approach will improve it.
“I love the idea of customer service because it's about our community,” Sander said. “I don't see it as any different than good customer service in any industry. I think it's a brilliant idea.”
Holloway said the police department's service model complements what he's trying to accomplish at Parks and Recreation. He wants people who frequent parks to think of officers as friendly people, not people to be avoided.
“Because the public contact they'll be having will be tremendous,” Holloway said. “And they want to make that a very positive experience for everyone they come in contact with. Chief Bones doesn't want to look at this like it's an enforcement opportunity. I think he's looking at it like this is an interactive opportunity to show that the police force is very customer-oriented.”
Besides making people feel good, Bones said, a helpful approach by police officers gives the city an economic development tool.
“How do we facilitate growth, development and the special events?” he said. “When people come into town and they see, ‘Oh, there's no graffiti here,' that draws businesses to build here, and they see that quality of life. ‘Oh, this is nice. This is a fun place to be. I feel safe at midnight walking back to my hotel room,' or ‘I can go for a walk on the Greenbelt. I can't do that in my home city. I'd like to bring a business in here or move my family here.' We think that police can contribute in a big way to ensuring the quality of life.”
Policing and other bills to be signed today by Gov. Hogan
The red-hot issues of police transparency, body cameras, race-based traffic stops and aiding ex-offenders are on the governor's desk
by Mark Reutter
Legislation regarding the red-hot issues of police transparency, body cameras, race-based traffic stops and aiding ex-offenders are on the governor's desk today for his signature.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he will also sign a bill, passed by the General Assembly, doubling the limit for civil claims against local governments from $200,000 to $400,000.
Such claims are often used by victims of abusive police practices and are liable to increase Baltimore's expenditures on settlements for police-related lawsuits, which currently cost the city about $3 million a year in settlements and legal costs.
The bills to be signed today include:
SB 482/HB 533: The Public Safety – Law Enforcement Officers Body-Worn Digital Recording Device and Electronic Control Device. The bills would make it lawful for a law enforcement officer to intercept an oral communication with a “body-worn digital recording device” or an “electronic control device.” The legislation was sponsored on behalf of the Baltimore County delegation to clarify legal issues related to the county's planned use of cameras on police officers and on Tasers. The legislation would also establish a state Commission Regarding the Implementation and Use of Body Cameras by Law Enforcement Officers.
SB 882: Baltimore City Civilian Review Board would alter the definition of “law enforcement unit” as it relates to the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board so as to increase the number of law enforcement units that are subject to review by the Board.
HB 954: Public Safety – Civilian deaths Involving a Law Enforcement Officer requires law enforcement agencies to provide the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention with information about deaths of individuals in police custody, as well as deaths of officers in the line of duty.
SB 413: Vehicle Laws – Race-Based Traffic Stops requires law enforcement officers to record demographic information, including race, pertaining to traffic stops.
HB 771: Baltimore Police Department – Report on Community Policing. This bill requires an annual report to be submitted by the police commissioner with information on the use of force that results in the admission of a civilian to a hospital, number of civilian complaints about the use of force by a police officer, number of officers suspended, percentage of officers assigned to neighborhood patrols, and department's efforts at community policing, including its engagements with schools, recreation centers and community centers.
HB 244: Maryland Second Chance Act of 2015. Allows individuals who have a non-violent misdemeanor criminal record to petition the court to shield court records and police records after a period of three years under certain circumstances and conditions.
HB 304: Criminal Procedure – Expungement of Records, whereby arrests and charges that did not result in a conviction may remain eligible for expungement, regardless of subsequent convictions.
SB 582: Pilot Program for Small Business Development by Ex-Offenders will establish a pilot program to encourage individuals exiting the correctional system to establish small businesses.
HB 113: Increasing Limits on Local Government Tort Claims Act will increase the liability limits for a civil claim against a local government to $400,000. (The cap was last raised in 1987.)
HB 114: Increasing Limits on State Government Tort Claims Act will increase the liability limits for a civil claim against state government to $800,000. (This cap was last raised 16 years ago.)
Hartford Officials Look To Recruit More Youngsters For Public Safety Careers
by Jenna Carlesso
HARTFORD — In a push to recruit more city residents for careers in public safety, city officials plan to expand a year-old program that pairs city students with police officers and firefighters during the summer.
Forty-six children from the Capital Region Education Council's Public Safety Academy and Hartford Public High School's Law and Government Academy will learn first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, physical fitness and law enforcement skills during five weeks of training this summer.
The effort would also include outreach and recruitment campaigns, with the aim of attracting more Hartford students.
City officials said they hope to create a pipeline for Hartford residents to pursue careers in public safety through the program.
Going forward, officials are planning to expand the program to include year-round mentoring and counseling for high school students, and tuition assistance for college students or high school graduates seeking careers in law enforcement. The funding for those initiatives has not been lined up, CREC officials said Tuesday.
"This program sets a precedent for current and future scholars to embark on career paths in public safety and law enforcement while they're still in high school," Jahmeelah Bai-Grandson, principal of the Law and Government Academy, said Tuesday. "They've debated and discussed community relations with police, volunteered in the Hartford community and gained additional training and mentoring."
Last summer, 15 students from CREC's Public Safety Academy and 15 from the Law and Government Academy were mentored by police officers and firefighters. They were compensated for their participation, though officials could not provide exact figures Tuesday.
Jose Torres, a student at CREC's Public Safety Academy, said the program last summer helped him step outside of his comfort zone.
"When I was growing up I always heard police officers ain't no good, [that] they just want to arrest you and stuff, 'cause of where I was living and the people I used to hang around with," Torres said. "But I've noticed that they really try, and they work their butts off in everything."
Shamar Richards, a student at the Law and Government Academy, said he is glad he joined the program, "I knew I would learn a lot about careers in public safety."
"But what I truly learned," he added, "was how to be a leader."
City officials for years had been looking to establish a public safety academy. Mayor Pedro Segarra said in 2011 that he envisioned the program as an early entry point for young people who wish to join the city's fire and police ranks.
The city council on Monday referred an ordinance establishing the Public Safety Initiative to a public safety subcommittee. It will go to public hearing on May 18. Once approved by the full council, the program will be implemented by CREC under the direction of the city.
Man held in deaths of Miss. cops had criminal past
Marvin Banks had already done two stints in prison and faced an unserved indictment on drug charges when a Hattiesburg officer pulled his girlfriend over Saturday
by Jeff Amy and Jay Reeves
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Marvin Banks had already done two stints in state prison and faced an unserved indictment on drug charges when a Hattiesburg police officer pulled his girlfriend over for speeding just after sundown Saturday.
But instead of escaping the possibility of more prison time, the 26-year-old Banks is now jailed without bond on two capital murder charges. Authorities say he fatally shot Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate.
Banks pleaded guilty in 2010 to possession of a stolen handgun. He got a split sentence and was released from prison after serving about a year. But he returned to prison after violating terms of his release and faced a pending indictment on drug charges when the car he was riding in was stopped.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said Monday that when Deen stopped a Hyundai driven by 22-year-old Joanie Calloway, he decided to search the car and asked Banks, Calloway and passenger Cornelius Clark to get out.
At that point, Strain said, Banks shot Deen and Tate, who was backing up Deen. Both officers were wearing bullet resistant vests that couldn't protect them against the gunshots. Deen was shot in the face, and Tate was shot in the lower back, Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict said.
Banks then stole a police cruiser, which he abandoned a few blocks away. Police later arrested him at motel more than 5 miles away.
The charges could be the bottom of what Banks' mother, Mary Smith, describes as a downward spiral for her son. Smith said that when she saw the booking photos of her 26-year-old son, she knew something was off.
"He was sick and out of his head, and I tried to get him some help," she said Monday morning on the steps of the Forrest County Courthouse, where she had gone to find out more information about the arrest.
Marvin Banks had been smoking synthetic marijuana, known as spice, every day, Smith said.
"He was on that spice. He was on every drug there was. Spice, powder, marijuana, drinking," she said.
Calloway had been charged with two counts of murder, but authorities decreased those charges Monday. Clark, 28, is charged with obstruction. Banks' older brother, 29-year-old Curtis Banks, is charged as an accessory to murder, apparently for driving his brother and Clark to the locations where they were arrested.
Strain said all four have given statements to police.
At an initial court appearance Monday, Forrest County Justice Court Judge Gay Polk-Payton denied bond to Marvin Banks. Banks is also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and with grand theft for fleeing a few blocks in a squad car after the shooting.
Polk-Payton set Curtis Banks' bond at $100,000. But, like his brother, Curtis Banks faced a pending drug charge, and Polk-Payton revoked that bond, meaning Curtis Banks is also likely to remain in jail. The judge set $75,000 bonds for both Calloway and Clark.
All four have been assigned public defenders.
More than 1,000 people filled a hall at the Hattiesburg convention center Monday for a memorial for the officers. With photos of the uniformed men projected above the stage, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant — himself a former sheriff's deputy — said the city was enduring a difficult, sad time.
"We will persevere. We will prevail," Bryant said.
Mourning for the officers is likely to continue this week. Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home said the 34-year-old Deen, a former Hattiesburg "Officer of the Year" who was married and had two children, will be buried Thursday after a funeral in nearby Sumrall.
A funeral home in McComb says arrangements for the 25-year-old Tate, who graduated from the police academy last year, would be released Tuesday.
Marvin Banks and his 6-year-old son lived with Smith, who works the night shift at a nursing home. She said she was resting before work when she got a call Saturday night that her son, known as "Big Boy," was involved in the shootings.
After that, Curtis called and said he had nothing to do with it and had been at his apartment at the time.
Smith said Marvin was attacked several years ago by a man who hit him in the head with a pipe. The reason for the attack wasn't clear, but he spent time in intensive care.
She said she repeatedly urged him to get help for his drug addiction and apparent mental illness, but he wouldn't go.
Katie Walmon, the mother of Marvin's son, said he had changed.
"He said he was hearing voices in his head. I say it was the devil," she said.
Smith said that after Curtis' arrest, he complained to her that officers had kicked him repeatedly, stripped him of his clothes and were holding him in cold cell. She has not talked to Marvin since his arrest. The mother said officers often stop young black men without cause in Hattiesburg, sometimes simply to ask them what they are doing.
"The way police here in Hattiesburg harass young black men, you could tell something was going to happen, but I never thought it would be my sons," she said.
Police didn't immediately respond to a telephone call Monday.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday that the officers' deaths "is made even more tragic by the fact that, on the day they were killed this past Saturday, the country began observing Police Week — a time when we pause to remember and honor the more than 20,000 law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty."
Number of officers slain on duty rose in 2014
Preliminary statistics issued Monday show that 51 officers were killed on duty in 2014, compared to 27 the year before
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The FBI is reporting an increase in the number of law enforcement officers from across the country who were killed in the line of duty last year.
Preliminary statistics issued Monday during National Police Week show that 51 officers were killed on duty in 2014, compared to 27 the year before. That was lower than usual.
Almost all of those who died were shot to death, including during ambushes, traffic stops or after answering disturbance calls.
The slain officers include two in New York City who were ambushed last December while sitting in their patrol car.
Besides those slain on duty, the FBI says an additional 44 officers died accidentally while on the job.
The FBI says final statistics and complete details will be published in the fall.
FBI hair analysis problems reveal limits of forensic science
Advancing technologies have put such techniques under more scrutiny, including from judges, and highlighted the limits of once-established practices
by Eric Tukcer
WASHINGTON — Kirk Odom was convicted of a 1981 rape and robbery after a woman identified him as her attacker and an FBI specialist testified that hair on her nightgown was similar to hair on Odom's head.
But DNA testing some 30 years later affirmed what Odom long had maintained: The hair wasn't his; neither was the semen left on a pillowcase and robe. A felony conviction that imprisoned him for decades was overturned in 2012 by a judge who declared it a "grave miscarriage of justice."
"I was hoping that I was going to go home that day," Odom, recalling his trial in Washington, D.C., said in an interview. Instead, "they sentenced me to 20 to 66 years in prison."
His experience is but one example of flawed forensic science from the pre-DNA era, a simmering problem that now appears far more widespread than initially thought. The Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused, has identified 74 overturned convictions in which faulty hair evidence was a factor. Now, a new disclosure by the FBI that experts gave erroneous testimony on hair analysis in more than 250 trials before 2000 suggests that number could rise dramatically.
Defense lawyers say the latest revelations — on top of established concerns about bite mark identification and arson science — confirm fears about the shortcomings of old-fashioned forensic techniques and could affect thousands of cases. Advancing technologies have put such techniques under more scrutiny, including from judges, and highlighted the limits of once-established practices.
"There are forces converging at the moment that are finally bringing some recognition to the failings of many venerable techniques," said Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project.
A 2013 Associated Press investigation concluded that at least 24 men convicted or charged with murder or rape based on bite-mark evidence — the practice of matching teeth to a flesh wound — were exonerated since 2000. Meanwhile, some high-profile criminal cases involving arson science have come under renewed scrutiny amid debunked fire investigations. Last year, a Pennsylvania judge threw out the conviction of a Korean immigrant who had spent 24 years in prison for his daughter's death.
When subjective speculation is injected into a trial under the guise of science, "then a real perversion of justice is what happens," Fabricant said.
Microscopic hair analysis, which involves comparing hair specimens through a microscope, has for decades been an established FBI practice and passed along at seminars to hundreds of state-level examiners.
But critics say the technique lacks objective standards, with limitations that have led experts to overstate its evidentiary value too often.
Though this kind of evidence may be used to include or exclude individuals who could be a potential source of hair, critics note that there's no way to conclusively know how common or rare the specimen is because no national database of hair specimens exists. A 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences described as "highly unreliable" testimony purporting to identify a particular defendant through hair analysis.
The FBI still considers microscopic hair analysis valid, but has also acknowledged its scientific limitations and uses it now in conjunction with more scientifically reliable DNA testing.
The Justice Department in 2012 embarked on a review of criminal cases following high-profile exonerations in which microscopic hair analysis was used. The government has identified nearly 3,000 cases in which FBI examiners submitted reports or may have testified in trials involving hair analysis.
The government provided an astonishing update last month when it revealed that of the 268 trials reviewed as of mid-March, investigators found erroneous statements from FBI experts in nearly all of the cases — including in death-penalty prosecutions. The review is limited to cases dating before 2000 in which FBI examiners provided evidence. But the number of affected cases would almost certainly be much higher if the review took into account cases involving state examiners who were trained by the FBI.
Still, no one knows how many defendants have been wrongly convicted because the existence of flawed testimony — often just one element of a prosecution — does not establish innocence.
"What it does mean is that those cases need to be looked at very closely to see what role hair played in the case," said Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Advocates say they are working to ensure that individuals potentially affected have opportunities to challenge their convictions. They've also encouraged states to do their own audits because most of the prosecutions were local cases. The Justice Department has said it will waive procedural objections, including statute-of-limitations claims, in federal cases.
Odom, 52, always maintained his innocence, saying he was home asleep at the time the assault occurred. But the hair evidence and eyewitness identification proved persuasive, and Odom spent more than 20 years in prison before being released on parole in 2003.
The big break came when the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, which has focused attention on the flawed science and ultimately established Odom's innocence, reopened his case following the earlier exoneration of another local man because of faulty hair evidence.
DNA testing on evidence pulled from storage showed that the hair on the woman's garment could not have come from Odom. The conviction was thrown out — a relief for a man who had been a registered sex offender and whose travel had been hampered.
When the call came that he'd been cleared, Odom was on a nighttime plumbing job, "and I just yelled out in happiness. It was a very joyful moment."
Remains of 4 more people found in serial killings probe
by The Associated Press
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Authorities investigating a suspected serial killer said Monday that the remains of at least four more people have been found behind a strip mall where the partial skeletons of three women were discovered in 2007.
Police in New Britain also said they believe one person killed all seven victims. They did not release the suspect's name but said without elaborating that the person is not a danger to the public.
If that theory proves true, the case would rival that of Connecticut's most notorious serial killer, Michael Ross, who admitted slaying eight women and girls in Connecticut and New York in the 1980s and was put to death in 2005 in New England's first execution in 45 years.
One of the newly discovered victims has been identified as Melanie Ruth Camilini, a mother of two from Seymour, Connecticut, who was last seen in Waterbury in 2003. Authorities said they are still attempting to identify the others.
New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell said on Monday that testing on the remains found behind the shopping center on April 28 showed they belonged to four new victims. Investigators have returned to the site annually but a specially trained FBI dog helped locate the new victims.
The wooded area where the bodies were found is about 12 miles southwest of Hartford. The partial remains of 53-year-old Diane Cusack, 23-year-old Joyvaline Martinez and 40-year-old Mary Jane Menard were discovered by a hunter eight years ago in woods behind the strip mall.
The state has been offering a $150,000 reward — $50,000 in each cold case — for information leading to a conviction.
Wardwell has said Cusack, Martinez and Menard had substance abuse problems. All three women were last seen in the late summer or early fall of 2003 and were known to frequent the same downtown New Britain neighborhood.
Cusack, of New Britain, had been out of contact with her family for years and was never reported missing, police said.
Martinez was last seen in October 2003. Her family has said she was unemployed and living with her mother, and relatives became concerned when she didn't show up for her birthday party.
Menard, of New Britain, was a substance abuse counselor who had a daughter serving oversees in the military when she disappeared that same October, police said.
In a strange coincidence, the body of a 17-year-old girl, later identified as Elizabeth Honsch, was found behind the same strip mall in 1995. A week later, the body of her mother, 53-year-old Marcia Honsch, was found near an entrance to Tolland State Forest in western Massachusetts. Both had been shot in the head.
Police have said they don't believe those two killings are related to the cases of Cusack, Martinez and Menard. Robert Honsch, Marcia's husband and Elizabeth's father, was charged with murder and awaits trial.
Homelessness Up 12 Percent In LA County
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has found the number of homeless people across L.A. County has jumped 12 percent since 2013.
There are more than 44,000 homeless people in the area, according to the agency's biennial Homeless Count released Monday.
“The demand for homeless assistance has increased in Los Angeles and several recent studies have confirmed our region's housing and affordability crisis,” said Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. “We are working diligently to target resources and interventions to create a sustainable, systemic infrastructure to house our homeless neighbors.”
“This is a serious problem. It is a very, very challenging problem. But it's not insolvable,” Lynn told CBS2/KCAL9's Erica Nochlin.
The homeless count, conducted by more than 5,500 volunteers who fanned out across the county, found that many without homes are not in shelters.
The number of homeless veterans remained relatively the same, going from 4,007 in 2013 to 4,016 this year.
“No growth in veteran homelessness demonstrates the positive impact of increased federal and local resources to house homeless veterans, but shows a serious challenge of new veterans becoming homeless,” Lynn said. “Los Angeles has housed 7,500 veterans since 2013, but we will need to increase that rate to end veteran homelessness.”
The LAHSA was created in 1993 to address the problems of homelessness in LA County.
Members coordinate and manage over $70 million annually in federal, state, county and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing and services to homeless persons.
Two fatal police shootings of homeless men in L.A. has brought public attention to the issue. One man was killed May 5 in the Venice area and lost his life March 1 on downtown's Skid Row.
“This is a combination of a policing issue and a homelessness issue,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “We've seen two incidents in which homeless individuals with a history of mental health challenges have lost their lives on our streets, and I think that we need to own that.”
A recent report found that the city spends as much as $100 million on homeless issues, but without a system for coordinating the programs.
“This year in my budget we have put 10 outreach teams to deal with mental health and other things in a county that only has seven total,” Garcetti said. “So we're going to go to 17 just based on the city's contribution to the Homeless Services Authority to be able to go out there and really interact with those individuals and try and get them off the streets and into continuing care.
“Despite complete slashes from the federal government and the elimination of affordable housing funds from the state, we put more money into our own affordable housing trust fund to build housing to get homeless people off the streets – $10 million that we put in on top of the almost $20 million from last year.”
Policing Our Community: Do lingering issues make Springfield ripe for unrest?
by Patrick Johnson
SPRINGFIELD — As the riots raged recently in Baltimore, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri stood before a partially filled auditorium determined not to talk about Baltimore.
"I'm commissioner of Springfield, not Baltimore," he said.
For the better part of the three previous days, every television news program and every Internet news site was showing footage from the city in Maryland, footage showing groups of primarily black men and women squaring off against riot gear-clad police in military formation, setting fire to police cars or wholly engaged in the wanton destruction of their own neighborhoods.
On this night in the auditorium of the Rebecca M. Johnson School on Catherine Street, Barbieri stood before a primarily black audience and stayed on message by talking about maintaining law and order in Springfield, all the while refusing to get drawn into discussions of Baltimore.
"I have no officers deployed in Baltimore. We do not patrol in Baltimore," he said to a woman who mentioned that other city. "The Springfield police have no precincts in Baltimore."
Over two hours during the meeting, Barbieri touched on several themes that are by now familiar to anyone who has ever heard him speak since his appointment nearly a year ago. He talked of police being public servants and not simply law enforcement. He spoke of his goal of reshaping the department to be more responsive to the needs of its residents, and of recruiting residents to work with police to root out troublemakers, and of establishing genuine, two-way channels of communication between police and the public.
"We're not going to arrest people and fix the problems," he said. "The community is the biggest part of the equation. We want to work with you."
But as with everything, the spirit of what was happening down south in the Charm City hung over the City of Homes like the darkest of storm clouds. Could the rioting that happened in Baltimore last month, or in Ferguson, Missouri last year, happen in Springfield?
Out in the hallway, Leslie McNair said she thinks so.
"We are one murder away from becoming like Baltimore," said McNair, a Springfield resident and member of AWAKE, the anti-violence group sponsoring Barbieri's talk.
McNair said that all she knows of Baltimore is that prior to the rioting there was a tremendous build-up of frustration among residents of the predominantly poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. She said it's the same feeling that has existed in the Mason Square neighborhoods of Springfield for some time.
"We are one dead child from being like Baltimore, from being like Ferguson," she said. "There's just so much helplessness," she said.
She said she has a daughter who just graduated from Brandeis University and a son who is serving time at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow. She is actually relieved he is in jail because she is convinced his lifestyle on the outside will get him murdered.
"Springfield is a tough place to raise a man," she said.
McNair said she likes Barbieri, that she finds him very personable and caring, and that he seems open to new approaches to old problems, which is more than she could say about his predecessors.
But at the same time, the city is a powder keg, she said.
The urban violence that erupted in Baltimore, like the rioting that happened last summer in Ferguson was triggered in response to community outrage over the deaths of a young black men at the hands of police officers.
In Ferguson, an 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white officer following an altercation that started after the officer told him to use a sidewalk. Brown was unarmed.
In Baltimore, a 25-year-old man named Freddie Gray was arrested by police and placed in a police van for transport to the station. By the time he arrived, he had a critical injury to his spinal cord, and would die days later.
In Ferguson, an investigation determined the shooting was justified, and that Brown, though unarmed, had attacked an officer through the window of his squad car.
In Baltimore, six officers who were involved in the case have been charged with the equivalent of second-degree murder and are awaiting trial. There are those who cheered their arrest, while there are also others who call it political grandstanding by the local district attorney.
While Brown's and Gray's deaths served as a spark for the rioting, experts say the conditions on the ground in each city – high poverty, high unemployment, failing schools, segregated neighborhoods and a long history of tension with police – served as fuel when that spark was struck.
A report published by the U.S. Department of Justice titled "Avoiding Racial Conflict: A Guide for Municipalities (PDF file)," outlines how rioting is symptomatic of larger issues.
In the last 50 years, cities that have experienced race riots have each had one of two existing conditions among minority populations: a perceived disparity of treatment or a lack of confidence in systems for redress.
When tension is high from one or both conditions, the report notes "any rancorous encounter between groups and/or with the police has the potential of becoming a triggering incident that can spark disruption."
A triggering incident is defined as "a tension-heightening event that catalyzes discontent and turns it into civil disorder."
Could such a triggering event occur in Springfield?
"Oh, it's a no-brainer," said Bishop Talbert Swan, head of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, and a frequent critic of the police department.
"Of course it could," said Erin O'Brien, chair of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston. O'Brien specializes in urban issues, poverty and public policy. She also has family in Westfield and is familiar with Springfield.
"Those are the precise conditions in Springfield," said Aron Goldman of the Springfield Institute, anonprofit public policy study group based in the city.
In reviewing Springfield's recent history, one could argue that not only could a Baltimore riot happened here, but that it already has.
In August 1975, the city's North End was aflame for two nights of rioting started after a Springfield police officer shot and killed a 21-year-old burglary suspect named Jose Reyes who was trying to flee.
Several buildings were set on fire over two days, 16 people were arrested, and 12 people were injured – including five police officers and three firefighters.
Reports at the time describe Springfield police calling in all available officers, and officers wearing riot gear were pelted with rocks, bricks and Molotov cocktails.
Goldman said the city's minority populations have experienced a disparity of treatment and a lack of redress for generations. "Springfield is a painfully distressed city," he said.
The city is "extremely segregated," he said. There are large concentrations of Hispanics living in the North End and blacks in the Mason Square area "and they are largely cut off from the city (and) cut off from its services. They are also underrepresented in city government, he said. "It's egregious," he said. "Springfield is a profoundly disengaged city."
O'Brien, said Springfield, like many urban centers, has a similar set of issues facing Baltimore and Ferguson.
Among them are economic displacement where the affluent move away from the city center, declining public schools, a reduction in city services, high unemployment and an increase in blighted homes. All of it gets falls into the lumpen category of 'downward economic activity' that is common among urban centers across the country.
"Downward economic activity has defined Springfield as we know it," she said.
Swan said that when comparing Baltimore and Ferguson, "you're looking at two places with a large population of people of color (and) a long history of distrust between communities of color and law enforcement."
He said he sees the exact same conditions in Springfield.
To sit here and think what happened in Baltimore or Ferguson cannot happen in Springfield is to be naïve or completely irresponsible," he said. "You can take your pick."
Swan said that Springfield over the last three decades or more has seen several racially charged incidents involving the police, including the 1994 shooting death of Benjamin Schoolfield, the 2011 shooting of Tahiem Goffe, and the videotaped beating of drug suspect Melvin Jones III.
Springfield, he said, has already dodged several bullets.
"Move forward in time to this year and Springfield would be burning," Swan said.
Social media makes it possible for information about questionable conduct by police to travel the world in seconds. "It also allows for groups to be able to organize in remarkable speed, and protests can happen so quickly."
O'Brien said the common thread in communities that experience race-based rioting going back through the 1960s has been poverty, a disproportionate distribution of resources away from less affluent neighborhoods and a fundamental distrust of the police by residents in those areas.
She said communities that avoid riots tend to be those where the police are seen as public servants and not necessarily an occupying army.
"The biggest difference, the biggest variable, is how are the police's relationships with the community, especially with communities of color," O'Brien said.
She said she is a big proponent of community policing strategies where police establish a rapport with residents.
"This is the best model, and the research suggests it, for preventing problems like we see in Baltimore," she said. "But it's not something that happens overnight."
It needs to be a sustained effort, and the community has to be able to trust the police before they buy into it, she said.
Which brings us back to Barbieri.
Since he has been commissioner, Barbieri has stressed enlisting the community to work with the police.
Every new program, from the expanded C3 deployments to neighborhood watches, have been centered on getting the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to trust and to work with police.
At the Mason Square meeting, he emphasized working with residents to make their neighborhoods safe. But he also stressed procedures in place for investigating complaints against police, gave his full support to the citizen Community Police Hearing Board that reviews all complaints, and pledged his support to rooting out cops who break the law.
The audience applauded when he said the best measure of a community is not whether police misconduct occurs, "it's whether it's allowed to occur in darkness, how does the community respond and does (misconduct) continue."
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, like his police commissioner, does not want to talk about Baltimore or Ferguson. He said in a recent interview it is unfair for the elected head of one city to talk about conditions in another city.
Speaking about Springfield, he cited efforts by both his administration and the police department to bring people from the community into the discussion about how the city functions.
Both City Hall and the police department are focused on "mutual respect, collaboration and cooperation" with all groups, regardless of "race, color or creed," Sarno said. The mayor commonly used that phrase in conversation about neighborhood issues. It's a kind of combination shorthand and filler, much in the way he frequently uses "the brave men and women in blue" when talking of police issues.
Sarno said people are welcome to engage in peaceful protests anywhere in the city as long as it does not compromise public safety or lead to the destruction of property.
Weeks before the Baltimore riots, a group called Black Lives Matter staged a demonstration at The X in Forest Park. Police gave the demonstrators space until they moved into the intersection to block traffic. At that point, police moved in to make arrests. A dozen were led away to be booked on charges of disturbing the peace.
"I have no issue with peaceful protest, but I will not tolerate any lawlessness," Sarno said. "I want everyone in Springfield to be OK and safe, and I want them to be heard. But you can't be disrespectful to people and you can't be destructive of other people's property."
Sarno, again not speaking of Baltimore or Ferguson, said he believes his administration has been tested with several public emergencies, including tornadoes, power outages, and blizzards, and knows how to respond quickly to assure the public.
"I've learned (as mayor) your day can change in five minutes," he said.
He said communication is the key, and it is better to get out in front of a developing crisis than to let it roll over you.
"I've always learned (to) let people know what happened as quickly as you can. Once you have all the facts, let them know what you're going to do about it," the mayor said.
He said he believes in reaching out to everyone involved, pulling everyone together to plan, and then "moving forward."
He said he puts his faith in Barbieri and his initiatives and that they will make in impact. "He's a good man, the real deal. He's one of the most proactive and innovative police commissioners in the nation," Sarno said.
Swan said the police under Barbieri are trying to reach out into the community, but suggests it may be years before such efforts harvest any goodwill.
"Some, because of the history of mistrust, are reticent to embrace it," he said.
That history of mistrust goes back some 50 years to what is remembered as the Octagon Lounge and its fallout.
On the night of July 16, 1965, police responded to a fight outside the Rifle Street bar. The fight continued to grow and so to did the police response. In all, 17 people – 16 of whom were black – were arrested. More than a dozen police brutality charges were filed against officers.
The controversy continued, leading to a peace march from Old Hill along State Street to City Hall. Organizers said the march would be peaceful, but then-Mayor Charles Ryan called in the National Guard anyway. As marchers walked through Springfield demanding rights, more than 1,000 guardsmen, armed with rifles, lined the route of the march.
Swan said the level of mistrust from the 1960s really has never been resolved.
"Until we address the reality that exists, then Springfield will be a in a very tense situation that can explode at any moment."
Community officers in the community
Fourteen Topeka police officers received orders to pack their stuff and move out.
That is good news, for the officers and the communities within Topeka they serve.
The officers are the Topeka Police Department's community policing officers and they are moving out of a space at TPD headquarters designed for three people, at the most, to roomier digs at Shawnee Regional Prevention and Recovery Services, 2209 S.W. 29th, and the Deer Creek Recreation Center, 2345 S.E. 25th.
Community policing officers spent plenty of time in the areas they serve, but when they weren't on the street they were back at headquarters. The new arrangement gives them a place where citizens can go to speak with them and feel comfortable. By all indications, it will be a more advantageous situation for the officers and citizens of their assigned territories.
Topeka Police Chief James Brown says the change is a response to public comments community policing officers should be located in the areas they represent.
Moving the officers out of headquarters and to the Deer Creek and the Prevention and Recovery Services buildings is a good start.
There was a time, decades ago, when community policing meant an officer walking a beat, where the officer knew most of the people encountered. Population growth and urban sprawl, however, put the vast majority of officers in cars.
That reduced the interaction between the officers and those they served, which made crime fighting and solving more difficult. To be effective, police need the cooperation of citizens.
Modern community policing offers a way to increase interaction between citizens and police officers so they can build the relationships necessary to achieve the goals of both groups, solving crimes and keeping criminals off the streets.
The Topeka Police Department and local organizations cooperate on a number of ventures designed to prevent crime by teaching citizens how to protect themselves and their property and avoid becoming victims.
Those are worthwhile programs, but once a crime has been committed, little is more helpful to police than a citizen with pertinent information who is willing to step forward. No one knows more about a neighborhood and what happens there than the people who live or work in the area. But if those people have no interactions or relationships with police officers, or simply aren't comfortable talking to them, the information they possess could be lost.
At a time when there is too much strive between law enforcement personnel and the people they are to serve, building relationships between the groups is vital.
ICE honors fallen law enforcement officers during National Police Week
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leaders, personnel and invited guests gathered at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 11 to pay tribute to fallen law enforcement officers and agents who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The ICE Valor Memorial and Wreath Laying Ceremony is an annual and solemn tradition held during National Police Week to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the nation. In 2014, 117 men and women serving in law enforcement lost their lives while serving communities around the nation.
The ICE Honor Guard presented colors and Claudia Dabney, provider relation liaison for the ICE Health Services Corps, gave a moving rendition of the national anthem. Reverent Monsignor Salvatore Criscuolo gave the invocation and benediction.
ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Executive Associate Director Thomas Homan who officiated introduced ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. Director Saldaña acknowledged the dignitaries who took time to join ICE and share in the ceremony. She made special mention of Dorene Kulpa-Friedli, the surviving spouse of fallen Special Agent Gary Friedli of U.S. Customs Service whose end of watch was March 4, 1998.
Director Saldaña put the population of law enforcement in perspective, saying that more than 900,000 individuals serve in this capacity out of 320 million people in the nation. “The ICE mission calls for confronting some of the most violent and conspiratorial criminals in the world,” said Director Saldaña, “Of course, it's risky and of course, it's often dangerous work. Fortunately, no shortage of pride and courage exists at ICE; many of you are represented here today. We see the spirit of selflessness marked on the wall of honor.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also addressed attendees saying, “Those who serve in law enforcement are willing to put their lives on the line for people they don't even know…but we also need to honor today's law enforcement officers and agents for what they are willing to do. They serve the public and are prepared to give so much more.” Secretary Johnson said that losing a law enforcement officer and attending his or her funeral is “like attending a large family wake because members of law enforcement are like a family. There are no words to console your grief, except to know that we will never let you be alone, and we will always recall your loved one's heroism.”
Secretary Johnson and Director Saldaña placed the ICE memorial wreath, which was followed by the ICE fallen officer roll call. John D. Nelson played Taps, and bagpipers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection played Amazing Grace. Attendees walked the memorial grounds, and viewed the names of fallen law enforcement officers whose names are etched in the memorial's granite walls.
ICE honored by NCMEC with Heroes' Award for fighting child exploitation
WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seoul, in the Republic of Korea, was recognized today at the 2015 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) annual awards ceremony. The office received the Heroes' Award for its extraordinary efforts in combating child exploitation, including its role in criminalizing possession of child pornography in South Korea. The team of awardees comprised Regional Attaché Taekuk Cho, Deputy Attaché Stanley Seto, Assistant Attaché Daniel Kenny and Foreign Service National Investigator Yongseok Kim.
HSI Seoul began engaging Korean law enforcement authorities in December 2006 to make the possession of child pornography a felony in Korea. By June 2013, the National Assembly of Korea passed such a bill. Around the same time, HSI Seoul contacted NCMEC to begin receiving investigative leads with a nexus to South Korea.
The resulting partnership between HSI Seoul, the Korean National Police Agency and the Seoul Metropolitan Police Academy (SMPA) is the first partnership between Korean and U.S. law enforcement dedicated to investigating the exploitation of children. The partnership, formalized Oct. 30, focuses on an open fight against child exploitation in which all agencies agree to share information, tools, expertise, access to suspects and seized evidence.
"With 65 offices in 46 countries, HSI combines efforts with local law enforcement agencies around the world to hunt down criminals more effectively. To see our attaché in Seoul and his staff succeed on such a scale proves how effective these partnerships can be," said Peter Edge, HSI's executive associate director.
Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 30, 2014, SMPA arrested 117 citizens and foreign residents of South Korea for violations of child exploitation laws. These arrests were made largely due to HSI Seoul's role in identifying suspects using U.S.-based social media platforms and sharing electronic forensic tools with the SMPA.
"The shift in South Korea's national policy, the high number of arrests, and the new unit within the SMPA devoted to investigating NCMEC leads sends a clear message to those who would victimize children that their actions will not be tolerated," Edge continued.
News of the arrests raised national awareness about the high percentage of juveniles in South Korea sharing explicit photos and videos with each other via social media platforms. By raising awareness about the dangers of this behavior to juveniles and to their parents, an important message was spread to key populations and will hopefully discourage future juveniles from this risky behavior.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
Baltimore city jail refused to admit nearly 2,600 injured suspects, casting doubt on police tactics
by The Associated Press
BALTIMORE — Thousands of people have been brought to the Baltimore city jail in recent years with injuries too severe for them to be admitted, newly released records show.
The records, obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request, show that correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody between June 2012 and April 2015.
The records do not indicate how the people were injured or whether they suffered their injuries while in custody. However, they do suggest that police officers either ignored or did not notice the injuries. Suspects are constitutionally guaranteed health care before they are booked into jail.
Baltimore police are under scrutiny for their treatment of detainees following the death of Freddie Gray last month. Gray died of a broken neck that prosecutors said he suffered while riding in a Baltimore police van, and six officers involved in Gray's arrest are facing criminal charges, including one charged with second-degree murder. Gray's death sparked rioting and widespread protests in the city and came amid national scrutiny of how police officers treat suspects, particularly black men.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that it is conducting a civil-rights investigation of Baltimore police.
The records obtained by The Sun showed that 123 of the detainees who weren't admitted to jail had visible head injuries, the third-most common ailment cited by jail officials. Others had broken bones, facial trauma and high blood pressure.
Police did not comment to The Sun, and department spokespeople did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press on Sunday.
U.S. hears U.N. concerns over excessive police force
by Jane Onyanga-Omara
The United States has been told of concerns over the excessive use of force by police officers against minorities as it appeared before the U.N. Human Rights Council for a review of its record Monday.
The country also faced calls to work toward abolishing the death penalty, closing Guantanamo Bay and to ensure safeguards against abuses of Internet surveillance, the Associated Press reported.
It is the second review of the U.S.'s human rights record — the first was in 2010, when the country accepted 171 recommendations out of 240.
Human Rights Watch says the U.S. has "largely failed" to follow through on the 2010 recommendations, which included increasing efforts to eliminate the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials against minorities, and to study racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty.
"At the UN rights review, the U.S. has been strong on process and short on substance," Antonio Ginatta, U.S. advocacy director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "The U.S. has little progress to show for the many commitments it made during its first Universal Periodic Review."
Countries including Malaysia and Mexico called on the U.S. to boost efforts to prevent the use of excessive police force against minorities Monday, the AP said.
In recent high profile cases, unarmed black people such as Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner of Staten Island in New York, and Freddie Gray, of Baltimore, Md., died in incidents involving police officers, sparking protests.
"We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil-rights laws live up to our promise," U.S. Justice Department official James Cadogan told those present in Geneva, Switzerland. "These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress through both dialogue and action."
Cadogan said the government can prosecute officials who "wilfully use excessive force," and that criminal charges have been brought against more than 400 law enforcement officials in the last six years, the AP reported.
The news agency said that countries including Brazil and Kenya expressed concern over the extent of U.S. surveillance. A federal appeals court last week ruled that the National Security Agency's program to collect data on phone calls is illegal.
David Bitkower, a deputy assistant attorney general with the U.S. Department of Justice, answered that "U.S. intelligence collection programs and activities are subject to stringent and multilayered oversight mechanisms."
He said the U.S. does not collect intelligence to suppress dissent or to give businesses an advantage, and said there is "extensive and effective oversight to prevent abuse," according to the AP.
Community policing puts officers in touch with Trenton residents
by Penny Ray
TRENTON >> Over the past year, it seems as if the term “community policing” has become the new buzz-phrase used by law enforcement officials across the nation, as well as here in the capital city.
Truth be told, the community policing philosophy has slowly evolved over the past five decades, but the phrase becomes routine rhetoric during tumultuous times between police and citizens. Recent events such as the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore have law enforcement leaders everywhere calling for more “community policing” in order to prevent social unrest, but what exactly does that phrase mean?
According to a 2013 report published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, the structures and practices of police departments across the nation vary, and community policing means different things to different people. But in general terms, community policing is simply a law enforcement philosophy and its efforts can be grouped into three broad categories: organizational transformation, community partnership, and problem solving.
Newly-confirmed Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr. has not disclosed his entire master plan for community policing in Trenton. But since the beginning of his tenure, Parrey has said that his idea of community policing is to empower the community to police itself with the assistance of the police department.
“The citizens have to start working in their neighborhoods along with the cops,” Parrey said in an interview last week. “Don't rely solely on police being the ones to solve the problem. We all live here and we all need to participate in solving our problems.”
Some of the initiatives that Parrey has instituted since being appointed head of the police department in July include 1) the creation of the Violent Crimes Unit to engage violent offenders during daylight hours; 2) the reinstatement of the community liaison positions and the Community Affairs Detective to identify specific community concerns and then relay those issues to police department leaders for correction; 3) the creation of the My Block program to allow residents to anonymously report a problem on their block; 4) the Trenton Crime Eye collaboration, which allows a business owner to register their cameras with the police department to deter and solve crimes; 5) and the newly-established Walk-and-Ride initiative, which requires patrol officers to periodically park their car and walk specific city blocks.
Parrey has also re-organized the department and promoted several officers to supervisory positions to establish more accountability and oversight, which was lacking in some departments due to the 2011 layoffs.
“We're more involved with the community now than we have been ever since I joined the department,” Sgt. Bethesda Stokes said in a recent interview. “Under previous leadership, we were moving in that direction, but there was a lot of opposition from certain officers. I think their heart is in it more now because Director Parrey is a former Captain. We relate more with him because he was one of us. He knows all of the positions within the department and it's more of a family now.”
Stokes, who is one of the supervisors of the Patrol Unit, feels the department is moving in the right direction in regards to community policing. But she said there is a lot of work to do before Trenton citizens fully trust police officers. Stokes acknowledges that there have been recent events within the city that give local residents reason to question the integrity of police, but she said national events have made it even more difficult for the community to trust law enforcement. Stokes said local citizens regularly pull out their cellphones and begin recording police at traffic stops as well as house calls, which makes the situation frustrating and sometimes difficult for officers.
“The recent events across the country have affected the relationship between police and the citizens of Trenton,” Stokes said. “When we're on traffic stops or other jobs, everyone is a street lawyer and there's a bunch of yelling back and forth even if we're trying to be calm and level-headed. It's hard to explain the reason for a traffic stop when they're just yelling obscenities at you and their phones are recording.”
Stokes said the department hopes to strengthen its relationship with Trenton citizens through the creation of several mentoring programs. Stokes said she is currently organizing a group called the Women of Law Enforcement to participate in various community events and mentor young women. Director Parrey came up with the idea, Stokes said, and all of the women in the police department are expected to participate. The first Women of Law Enforcement meeting is scheduled for later this month.
Stokes and other like-minded women also recently formed another mentoring group called 50 Shades of Women. The group held its first meeting earlier this month and aims to mentor young women on how to establish a career and accomplish life goals. Stokes said the group will host forums and teach women how to apply for city jobs, start and operate their own daycare business, purchase a house and more.
“We want to bring the community together, give knowledge to the younger people and let women in this city know that they're more powerful than they think they are,” Stokes said.
Another program that may return to Trenton is the Urban Auxiliary Police Force, which is a civilian volunteer unit that supports law enforcement without replacing the functions of full-time officers. The Perth Amboy Police Department as well as the NYPD and other departments across the nation use an auxiliary police force. Parrey said Trenton used to have a few auxiliary officers when he first joined the department years ago, and he's open to bringing the concept back to the capital city.
According to Perth Amboy Deputy Police Chief Lawrence Cattano, the auxiliary officers in his department have their own law enforcement vehicles and they regularly patrol the city. He said auxiliary officers also have the power to arrest citizens and issue summonses, but they are not authorized to carry firearms. The officers also receive a stipend at the end of the year, depending on how many volunteer hours they complete. Cattano said an Auxiliary Police Force is beneficial because it strengthens relationships between civic-minded citizens and law enforcement. It also provides the department with a pool of potential officers who may later be hired when a full-time position becomes available, making recruiting efforts much easier.
Parrey said he's open to bringing the auxiliary police program back to Trenton, but he wouldn't use the officers on patrol assignments. He said an Auxiliary Police Force could be the perfect stepping stone for kids who are participating in the Youth Explorer Program and may be contemplating a career in law enforcement.
“I would consider supplementing the downtown area with auxiliary officers during regular business hours and maybe using them at parks, events and parades,” Parrey said. “We'd have to do some research because we don't want to burden the budget any further. It's going to take some time, but it's definitely worth a look.”
Only time will tell what community policing looks like in Trenton, but law enforcement officials and civic leaders agree that to maintain social order the voices of all citizens must be heard. That includes the voices of the mentally ill, the poor, the homeless, the undereducated, the criminally-minded and those struggling with addiction.
“I am not specifically seeking to ‘prevent a riot' in Trenton; that oversimplifies our mission,” Rev. Lukata Mjumbe, who is one of the most active and respected faith-based leaders in Mercer County, said. “As Dr. King observed, ‘The riot is the language of the unheard.' Good community policing ensures the voiceless have a voice and that our communities have command of the complex language of justice.”
Pittsburgh police, residents look to one another for crime solutions
by Bob Bauder
Zinna Scott is again hearing gunfire at night around her house on Rosedale Street in Homewood.
Hoodlums are returning to streets that gangs roamed two decades ago, she said. Scott knew things were getting bad about a year ago when a car pulled up outside a neighbor's house about 4 a.m. and someone started firing.
“They just shot his car up. Shot the front of the house up, right across the street,” said Scott, 68, who has lived in Homewood for more than 50 years. “When I say they shot up the man's car, the door was hanging, the front bumper was hanging.”
Pittsburgh is experiencing a resurgence of violent crime, officials say, and some residents think the city is not doing enough to keep them safe.
Police investigated 71 homicides in the city last year, more than in any of the past five years. A gun was the weapon used in nearly 90 percent of those killings, police statistics show.
Some residents contend police concentrate on hot spots for crime until problems subside, then move to the next trouble spot.
“I saw the change up here,” said Jamie Younger, 41, who has lived in Brighton Heights for nearly 20 years. “Twenty years ago, crime was on Federal Street and Manchester and the Mexican War Streets. Now Brighton Heights is starting to have shootings and robberies, but they're not putting those same resources to get rid of the crime.”
Police Chief Cameron McLay said he wants to address problems proactively, but with 857 officers in a city of about 306,000 people, “they're spread extremely thin, and when I move officers to Homewood because of violence there, I hear about it from other communities. ... So we're robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The city's $77 million police bureau budget for 2015 calls for 892 officers, including the chief, a deputy chief and three assistant chiefs.
Retired homicide Detective Brian Weismantle of Spring Hill said law-abiding residents of crime-ridden areas fear they will get caught in the violence. He said most violent crime is related to drugs, and people who fear retaliation from criminals won't talk to officers.
“When I left, I had four or five murders I could have cleared,” said Weismantle, who retired in January and is running for district judge. “We know who did them, but we couldn't get any help from the community. ... People have to come forward.”
‘Fighting an uphill battle'
Law enforcement experts said gun violence is the product of criminal activity in poorer neighborhoods. In Pittsburgh, it affects primarily young, black males.
To reduce it, they said, cities must address social and economic conditions — partly through programs to improve education, employment opportunities and health. And police must establish close relations with residents to root out criminals.
Beth Pittinger, who heads Pittsburgh's Citizens Police Review Board, said that would take at least a generation to accomplish.
“You have to start at the cradle,” she said. “We can't stop this with punitive measures or rolling down on people.”
Tony Gaskew, director of the criminal justice program at the University of Pittsburgh's Bradford campus, said officers cannot control economic conditions in neighborhoods, but they can change strategies to fight gun violence.
Officers should abandon methods such as “stop and frisk,” in which residents are patted down at random, he said. Police should build relationships in neighborhoods, he said.
Police can use technology to detect gunfire and its location in real time and quickly respond, he said, but they need help from residents to identify the shooters.
“Unfortunately, the police are fighting an uphill battle because if the socioeconomic conditions don't change ... the police are almost helpless,” Gaskew said. “If you don't have a strong relationship with the community, this is where policing gets hurt. That includes the African-American community. They also have to be willing to work with the police.”
McLay has stressed interaction between police and residents since he arrived seven months ago. He said he has spent much of his time getting to know officers and residents. He has attended community meetings to hear people's thoughts and placed officers on the beat in Homewood, the neighborhood with the most murders in 2013, according to the most recent statistics. Homewood was the site of 10 murders, more than 20 percent of the 46 reported citywide that year.
But the outcry from residents is uniform, McLay said: They want police walking beats in their neighborhoods, too.
“I wanted to do my due diligence before I start screaming, ‘I need more cops,' ” McLay said. “My perception is I'm short-handed, but I want to do a formal staffing study to measure workload, to say how many officers it would take to properly police this community.”
‘The city can't do it all'
McLay said overall crime in Pittsburgh is trending downward, but homicides, nonfatal shootings and street robberies are increasing. He noted a recurring theme of retaliatory violence.
The chief is trying to address that by having patrol officers and detectives talk to one another about investigations. He's encouraging interaction between officers and residents because people are more willing to talk about crimes when they know the officers, he said.
City administrators are trying to develop relationships with “public health, county human services and private agencies interested in community improvement and violence reduction,” McLay said.
“We're looking at drivers of social justice issues that are helping to drive crime,” he said.
Such efforts are laudable, Gaskew said, but the outreach “has to be stronger” to break down tensions between some black residents and police.
Scott said she's active in Homewood citizens groups such as Operation Better Block that work to improve the neighborhood. People want better housing, green spaces and new development, she said.
Homewood and other neighborhoods need to shed their negative images for real change to take hold, Scott and others say.
“It's got to start with the police getting friendly with the community in order to get information from the community to help stop the crimes,” she said. “The city can't do it all, and I realize that.
“The community's got to get to the point where they speak up. But the city has to step forward to help us step forward.”