June, 2015 - Week 2
Flag Day 2015 USA: 10 Facts To Know About The Star-Spangled Banner
by Julia Glum
Sunday is Flag Day, an annual observance of the Second Continental Congress' official adoption of the stars and stripes in 1777. At the time, they "resolved that the flag of the 13 United States" be represented by 13 alternating red and white stripes and the union by 13 white stars in a blue field, "representing a new constellation.” Now, more than 200 years later and with an updated design, the flag is an American icon.
Flag Day, though not a federal holiday, is full of tradition. The holiday was established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, and in 1949 Congress declared June 14 a national holiday. Pennsylvania is the only state that observes Flag Day as a state holiday, according to the History Channel. But others host parades and parties in the flag's honor -- just as Wilson intended.
"Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation," he wrote in his proclamation, "'one and inseparable' from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers' first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself -- a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights."
Here are other facts about Flag Day:
Bernard J. Cigrand is considered the father of Flag Day. In 1885, as a young teacher at a high school in Waubeka, Wisconsin, Cigrand put a small flag on his desk and told his students to write essays about it. He fought for the rest of his life to formally establish the holiday, according to the National Flag Day Foundation.
The flag has been changed 27 times. The final star, for Hawaii, was added in 1960.
The first time the flag was flown after being adopted was on Aug. 3, 1777 in Rome, New York.
The flag's colors have become significant over time. The white is for purity, the red is for valor and the blue is for justice, according to usflag.org.
President George Washington described the design like this: "We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty."
The first flag was probably created by Francis Hopkinson, who signed the Declaration of Independence. He requested "a quarter cask of the public wine" as payment for his design. He was rejected.
Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag according to a pattern, which was likely Hopkinson's. Legend has it she changed the six-point stars he'd drawn to five-point ones because they were easier to stitch.
Sea captain William Driver gave the flag its "Old Glory" nickname in 1831, according to usacitylink.com.
The current design of the U.S. flag was created by Robert G. Heft, who made the pattern for a high school project. He earned a B- at first, but when the government chose it, his teacher raised the grade to an A.
There are six American flags on the moon. Five are standing, but Neil Armstrong's fell over.
More community policing needed around Haven
Marking its fifth anniversary, Haven for Hope has become a crucial part of the community.
As the main service provider here for the homeless, Haven has changed thousands of lives for the better. It's also helped to reduce strain in the Bexar County Jail and, almost certainly, in emergency rooms. Haven has made downtown a more comfortable place for businesses and tourists, too. That's because some of the homeless population has shifted to Haven's campus on the west end of downtown.
But the people Haven serve are particularly challenging, and we can't help but think Haven and the neighborhood around it would benefit from a greater police presence.
This is a difficult topic for Haven officials, who understandably have concerns about police scaring away potential clients. They also are concerned about the perception that Haven has made the area around it worse. This is an argument Haven officials have refuted by saying the total number of reported crimes in the area around the campus hasn't changed much from 2009 and 2014, a time period that includes Haven's opening.
Still, police calls to Haven's campus hovered at about 800 a year between 2012 and 2014, according to city statistics. That tells us that police are at Haven daily, and often multiple times a day. We also know that robberies and sexual assaults moderately increased in the area around Haven between 2009 and 2014, according to police statistics Haven provided. We also know from city records that each year, thousands of incidents in Haven's courtyard are handled by internal security.
This is important to get right because the city has aggressively tried to push the homeless to Haven in recent years. Police officers have repeatedly cited panhandlers and toyed with citing people who give to those panhandlers. Lately, police have been cracking down on those who feed the homeless.
Whatever you think of these controversial tactics, the motivation, at least, strikes us as a good one: At Haven, the homeless are more likely to receive wraparound, life-changing services. whereas a handout doesn't change anything permanently.
But with this push comes a corresponding responsibility to ensure Haven's courtyard, and the neighborhoods around Haven's campus, are safe places. Haven's original plans, we note, included a police storefront. That storefront never materialized. Haven officials have said this was due to a lack of city funding. But even if the funding were available, Haven officials expressed concern that a police storefront on its campus would push away clients.
They were far more receptive to having a permanent squad of bike cops in the area, which they thought would help minimize off-campus incidents, address neighborhood concerns, and build relationships between police and the homeless.
Here's how Haven founder Bill Greehey, chairman of NuStar Energy, put it: “Even more important than (a storefront) is bicycle patrol. I am telling you, bicycle patrol would be so efficient in that area because so much happens (there).”
We agree. Haven's courtyard is open to anyone, which is a noble ideal. But that means its patrons include gang members, addicts, child abusers and couples with domestic issues. It only makes sense to have a stronger police presence in the Haven area to build community relationships and improve security.
This isn't to say the city has been a bad partner with Haven. On the contrary, it has been a generous and supportive partner. The city provided more than $22 million to help build Haven's campus. It also has provided more than $3 million a year in operational funds to Haven to cover an array of services, including security officers, vocational education and medical care.
But that's also why the police presence in the greater Haven area should be improved. We strongly encourage the city to explore the possibility of a permanent bike police presence to serve the Haven area.
Effective community policing is the way forward in Pasco
by COL Felix Vargas (RET) and Peter C. Rieke, Ph.D.
Many have written to voice their support for local police officers and the Pasco Police Department (PPD). While we agree with many of these sentiments, we also understand that the shooting of Antonio Zambrano Montes earlier this year has instilled fear and mistrust of police among many residents of Pasco and has deeply troubled the conscience of countless others in the Tri-Cities.
In light of the police involvement in the shooting death of three other citizens in a six month period, one cannot help but suspect there are systemic problems within the PPD and a detailed and impartial investigation of police policies, standards and procedures would seem prudent.
The Franklin County prosecutor will determine if criminal charges will be brought against the officers involved in the shooting of Mr. Zambrano. While we have grave concerns about the impartiality and protracted nature of this review process, we are more deeply concerned with the broader issues of what went wrong, how similar incidences can be prevented and how to restore trust in our police.
We empower police officers to do a difficult and sometimes dangerous job for us. And we are thankful for those dedicated public servants who do their job with courtesy, respect and professionalism. However, in empowering them, we do not forfeit our right to question police procedures or practices. When police practices are seen as falling outside accredited standards and legal guidelines, local citizens are justified in demanding an impartial and independent review of those practices with the expectation that police departments will honor the recommendations of such a review.
We give officers broad discretionary power to determine when to employ lethal force. A suspect with a drawn weapon is a clear call for use of lethal force provided the safety of bystanders is not endangered. More frequently, a suspect might be brandishing rocks or sticks or is simply being confrontational. Regardless, the use of lethal force is per the standards of most American police departments -- including that of the PPD -- the option of last resort.
It is the use of alternative tactical methods to avoid gunfire and deescalate the situation that is the essence of good police work. A C. to escalate to lethal force, regardless of how technically justified, is a sign of poor police community relations and a need for extended conflict intervention training.
Mistrust and fear of the police because of excessive use of force incidences is not unique to Pasco and the PPD. It extends across America. Many cities, including Spokane, Portland and Seattle, have already faced this challenge and have now reviewed and modified their police procedures, supported by community input. A serious dialogue between our multicultural community, our city officials and our police officers is critical to reestablishing our trust and respect for the PPD.
As citizens we are not experts in addressing the minutia of police matters. Nor should we have to be. The U.S. government has the statutory authority to intervene whenever it deems that U.S. civil rights laws have been violated. For example, Seattle is under a court ordered consent decree, enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and similar intervention in Pasco is a viable option.
Another route is to engage in DOJ-mediated dialogue. Spokane has chosen this route. Because there is consensus, not enforcement, the outcome can be better community relations and superior police effectiveness. Over the next few months, the DOJ plans to host mediation sessions between the Pasco police chief, the Pasco city manager, and recognized community stakeholders. The desired outcome will include a formal action plan detailing the needed reforms. Similar agreements, accepted in communities across America, address four core points.
First is an open discussion on police use-of-force policies, reporting procedures and an assessment of how they are being employed. Police departments have to acknowledge that improvements can and must be made for the sake of good community policing. Any agreed plan should identify the areas for improvement, describe the necessary technical and training resources and detail a time line for completion of specific tasks.
Secondly, is an examination of how police handle incidents involving people with physical, mental and developmental disabilities or where cultural and language barriers inhibits communication. As with use of force policies, the proper education and training can enable an officer to defuse a confrontation.
Thirdly, out-reach programs help restore good community relations. Police officers need to understand the importance of building strong ties to the community as well as being respected and valued members of that community. This is critical in a multicultural setting where perceived bias in policing has created mistrust. Goodwill and trust ensure greater cooperation, increase reporting of crimes and enhance cooperation with police investigations. It is also critical in the recruitment of minority members into the police force.
Fourthly, the establishment of a process for independent police oversight such as a review board that receives complaints about police misconduct, conducts objective reviews and presents its findings to city officials. A review board provides a significant confidence-building measure that gives the community a recognized role in ensuring lawful and responsible policing.
The goal of DOJ mediation should be to chart a peaceful and lawful path forward to effective community policing. The stakes are high. Many communities have tried and failed and, in the worst-cases, rioting, looting and martial law were the result. Alternatively many communities have peacefully and effectively brought about constructive and lasting change which we hope to emulate. We as a community group are committed to working with the Pasco police department, the city and responsible community agencies and organizations to ensure that this goal is met.
Incoming Athens police chief promises to build community trust, transparency
by Joe Johnson
Some Athens residents could very well get their first glimpse of their new police chief when he shows up at their homes following a burglary.
Scott Freeman, whose first day as chief of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department is slated for July 6, said he plans to regularly set aside time to personally respond to calls for police service. He called it a continuation of a practice he employs in his current position as chief deputy sheriff in Rockdale County.
“I have a reputation of not being a micro-manager, but someone who is very hands-on and interacting with both the officers and people in the community,” Freeman said. “I've found that is a great way of getting feedback in order to be proactive and not straying from community expectations.”
Freeman believes getting out from behind the desk an effective way for an administrator to keep his finger on the pulse of not just an organization's members, but the people they serve.
It's also part and parcel of how a police department is able to build trust, something Freeman believes is of paramount importance in today's climate of wariness of authority caused by recent high-profile uses of force by police.
“We have a lot to work on and it is without hesitation I say that law enforcement in America needs to reevaluate how we are policing,” Freeman said. “This is, of course, something we have to do while always looking at it from the officer safety perspective. We cannot send officers out to do their jobs without the public understanding the types of scenarios they encounter.”
By responding to calls, he wants to set an example for the entire police department.
“It's not just about the police chief getting out and knowing the community,” Freeman said. “It's about everyone from the two assistant chiefs all the way down to the patrol officers. That is a philosophy for the entire rank and file.”
Freeman, 42, is filling a position left vacant with the November retirement of Joseph “Jack” Lumpkin, now chief of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. He will be only the second police chief since the Athens and Clarke County governments unified in 1991.
He brings 25 years of law enforcement experience with him, beginning in the city of Conyers, where he rose from 911 dispatcher to major. Freeman twice was awarded the Medal of Valor, both times for apprehending bank robbery suspects. In a 2011 incident, he arrested the suspect in a shootout in which a bullet fired by Freeman grazed the robber's arm, causing him to drop his gun and allowing police to subdue him.
While in Conyers, he developed the city's Strategic Response to Crime plan, which resulted in significant crime reductions and fostered community collaboration. He implemented the police department's CompStat program that holds police supervisors responsible for solving problems in their sectors.
Freeman served two years as Conyers deputy director for information technology and also developed the police department's community-oriented policing component to supplement CompStat.
Freeman said that prior to applying for the police chief position, he already admired and respected the Athens-Clarke County Police Department for its professionalism. He believes he inherits an organization with a solid foundation in those policing precepts he embraces.
“Athens-Clarke County seems to have a deep-rooted foundation in community policing, something that very much attracted me when applying for police chief,” Freeman said.
Freeman left Conyers PD in 2013 to take the position of chief deputy with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office. While there he developed crime control and response operations for high-crime areas that partly relied on community involvement to reduce the rate of serious crime by 20 percent in its first year.
Freeman researched and developed the implementation plan for the deployment of body cameras for Rockdale County deputies. Athens-Clarke officers began wearing body cameras in October.
Body cameras will be used to hold officers accountable, Freeman said.
“I cringe when I see videos of police officers on traffic stops and during routine calls for service being completely disrespectful in situations that aren't even confrontational,” Freeman said. “Officers need to treat people with respect and dignity.”
As he did in Conyers and Rockdale County, Freeman said he plans to conduct annual surveys of members of the police department and community to better understand the needs of both groups. He wants to regularly attend meetings of homeowner associations and civic groups.
“I think people will find I am very approachable,” Freeman said. “I love to meet and talk with people to get their views. I do a lot more listening than talking.”
Freeman said he is guided by the report issued this year by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created by President Obama in response to clashes between citizens and police in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. The goal of the task force was to recommend ways to reduce crime while increasing trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“I made copious notes from that report on what we in law enforcement need to focus on,” the incoming police chief said. “The majority of recommendations are very appropriate for us to focus on and we need to take that report very seriously. We need to be very proactive in seeking out public input in addressing their concerns to make sure we build a high level of trust and transparency.
“How do we find a good balance of keeping the community safe while not engaging in controversial behaviors like New York's stop-and-frisk policy?” Freeman asked. “By implementing those community-oriented policing philosophies into the way we police so that people will be more comfortable when calling for police services.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson on "Immigration: Perception versus Reality" at Rice University
Two years ago a public survey was conducted in which the following question was asked:
“Just your best guess – compared with ten years ago, do you think the number of immigrants entering the U.S. illegally today is higher, lower or about the same?”
A majority surveyed, or 55%, said “higher.”
In fact, the opposite is true. Apprehensions on the southern border -- which are a direct reflection of total attempts to cross the border illegally -- have declined significantly over the last 15 years, and are a fraction of what they used to be.
There is a lot of emotion and partisanship wrapped around the subject of immigration. Facts are too often drowned out by demagoguery, suspicion, exaggeration, and misperception.
Frankly, it has also been the case that, for too long, not enough immigration data has been shared publicly by the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration components. This too breeds suspicion and misperception to fill the void.
I am on a mission to separate fact from fiction about immigration in the public mind, and share more information. I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so here, at the James A. Baker Institute in Houston.
In fact, over the last 15 years – across the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations -- our government has invested more in border security than at any point in the history of this Nation.
In fact, over the last 15 years, the number of apprehensions on our southwest border has declined significantly, from a high of 1.6 million in the year 2000 to a range of 300,000 to 400,000 in recent years.
We had a setback last summer, when the number of migrants – most notably unaccompanied children and adults with children – illegally crossing our southern border into South Texas spiked to unprecedented levels. We responded aggressively and the numbers fell off sharply almost immediately.
In fact, overall apprehensions on our southern border this fiscal year are now 34% less than they were at the same time last year. If that rate continues for the remaining four months of this fiscal year, apprehensions of those attempting to cross our southern border illegally will be at the lowest point since the 1970s.
In fact, over the last 15 years, the estimated number of undocumented immigrants in this country grew to a high of about 12.2 million in 2006, dropped to around 11.3 million, and has stopped growing for the first time since the 1980s.
In fact, there were ten executive actions the President and I announced last November to fix our broken immigration system, only one of which is the subject of litigation. Overall, these actions are devoted to strengthening border security, prioritizing the deportation of dangerous criminals, promoting and increasing access to citizenship, supporting high-skilled businesses and workers, and a number of other things to reform our immigration system. Nine out of 10 of these initiatives are well underway.
Today's Border Patrol
Over the last 15 years, while other government agencies have faced cutbacks and limits in these times of fiscal constraint, our national leaders in Congress and the Executive Branch have chosen to build our U.S. Border Patrol to an unprecedented level in resources. Today's Border Patrol is itself one of the largest agencies of our government, with a budget of $3.5 billion, a total of 22,000 personnel, 20,499 border patrol agents, and the largest-ever level of technology and equipment.
Fifteen years ago, we had 8,619 Border Patrol agents dedicated to the southwest border; in 2015 that number is 17,796 and growing.
Fifteen years ago we had just 77 miles of fence across the southwest border; today there is about 700 miles of total fence across the southwest border.
Fifteen years ago we had few if any underground sensors to detect illegal migration at the southwest border; today we have 11,863 of these devices.
Fifteen years ago, the Border Patrol had 56 aircraft; today the number is 119.
Fifteen years ago, the Border Patrol had no unmanned aerial vehicles; today we have 6 of these for surveillance of illegal activity over the southwest border.
Fifteen years ago the Border Patrol had 1 mobile surveillance system; today we have 39.
Fifteen years ago we had little if any mobile video surveillance capability; today we have 179 of these.
Fifteen years ago we had 140 remote video surveillance systems; today we have 272 of these.
Today the Border Patrol has the largest deployment of people, vehicles, aircraft, boats and equipment along the southwest border in its 90-year history.
And, this Nation's long term investment in border security has produced significant, positive results over the years.
As I said before, illegal migration into this country peaked in the year 2000, reflected by over 1.6 million apprehensions that year. In fact, illegal migration into this country has dropped considerably since then, reflected by the decline in total apprehensions from 1.6 million in 2000 to around 400,000 a year in recent years. Last fiscal year the number of apprehensions on the southwest border was 479,371.
The increase in fiscal year 2014 was due mostly to the unprecedented spike in illegal migration into the Rio Grande Valley sector of the border, in South Texas. Almost all of it came from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It consisted of large numbers of unaccompanied children and adults with children.
In fact, more than 53% of all apprehensions across the southwest border in FY 2014 were just in the Rio Grande Valley sector.
In response, we did a number of things.
We put additional resources, additional border security and law enforcement resources into South Texas.
We opened new processing centers across the Southwest to handle the additional illegal migration.
We reassigned hundreds of border patrol agents to the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
We dramatically reduced the time it takes to repatriate adults. We added additional flights to repatriate people back faster to their home countries.
We dedicated resources to the prosecution of the criminal smuggling organizations – the coyotes -- that were inducing people to take the long, dangerous journey from Central America.
We launched a renewed, aggressive public messaging campaign in Central America, highlighting the dangers of the journey, and correcting the misinformation the coyotes are putting out about supposed “free passes” or “permisos” if you come to the United States.
The President, the Vice President, and I all engaged with the leaders of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to coordinate our responses.
We established in-country refugee processing centers in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, to enable parents lawfully in the U.S. to apply to have their children in Central America interviewed there and brought here safely and legally.
We created more detention space in Dilley and Karnes, Texas.
Family Residential Centers
Now let me say something additional about immigration detention.
Last summer a large part of the spike we saw consisted of unaccompanied children. By law, DHS transferred those children to the Department of Health and Human Services, which was then required to promptly place them in a setting that is in the best interests of the child.
Another large part of the spike was adults who brought their children with them.
Prior to last year, out of 34,000 beds for immigration detention in all of DHS, we had only 95 for adults with children, as they waited for resolution of their immigration cases.
We needed to build more, and we did.
There are objections to family residential centers and I want to address them.
In fact, the number of families who are apprehended at the southern border has declined dramatically since last summer.
In fact, most families apprehended at the southern border are not detained. They are released and instructed to appear in court for their immigration case. Even among those who arrive at family residential centers, most are released on conditions intended to secure their appearance at court for their immigration cases.
In fact, as of April 25 th , 70% of family members detained had a length of stay less than 60 days, and 50% under 30 days.
But, we understand the sensitive and unique nature of detaining families, and we are committed to continually evaluating it.
Several weeks ago, we began a new initiative to enroll families apprehended crossing the border illegally into our alternatives-to-detention program. We want to put more people, including families, in our alternatives to detention program. This is reflected in our budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2016, which seeks funding to expand our capacity for this program from 36,000 participants today to 53,000 participants in 2016.
We have recently undertaken a number of other new measures concerning family residence centers. They include the following:
First, as of last week, we began a review of the cases of any families detained beyond 90 days, and every 60 days thereafter, to evaluate whether detention during the pendency of their immigration case is still appropriate. Priority is being given to the review of the cases of families who have been in these residential centers the longest.
Second, we have discontinued invoking general deterrence as a factor in custody determinations in all cases involving families.
Third, we are creating a Federal Advisory Committee of outside experts to advise the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and me concerning family residence centers.
Fourth, we are undertaking additional measures to ensure access to counsel, attorney-client meeting rooms, social workers, educational services, comprehensive medical care, and continuous monitoring of the overall conditions at these centers.
Fiscal Year 2015
Beginning in mid-June 2014, the number of illegal migrants crossing into south Texas dropped sharply.
Illegal migration by parents who brought their children followed a similar sharp downward path in 2014.
So far this year we have not seen a return of the spike from last year, or anything close to it.
In Fiscal Year 2014, through the month of May, apprehensions on our southern border were at 323,583. Through the month of May this fiscal year, total apprehensions on our southern border are at 213,145 – a 34% decrease. If this pace continues – and I'm not saying it will necessarily -- through the last third of this fiscal year, the total will be the lowest since 1972.
The bottom line of all this is, in recent years the total number of those who attempt to illegally cross our southwest border has declined dramatically, while the percentage of those who are apprehended has gone up. Put simply, it's now much harder to cross our border illegally and evade capture than it used to be – and people know that.
I've been talking about this for over six months. The mainstream media is finally starting to report it themselves.
On May 15, the Houston Chronicle published a story headlined “Immigration debate rages on while border arrests drop.”
On May 28 th , The Washington Post ran a front-page story with the headline “Migrant flow at border abates,” followed by the report: “As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest levels in two decades.”
On May 12 th , The Washington Times ran a front-page story entitled “Illegal border crossings down due to refuting ‘permiso' myth.”
Finally, on May 5 th The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece which basically makes my case for me:
“Immigration Debate Caught in a Time Warp . . . the premise of [the] immigration debate – that waves of Hispanic immigrants are sweeping across our southern border, swelling the nation's population of undocumented immigrants and transforming the culture and economy – is caught in a kind of time warp, dominated by trends of decades past and largely missing the immigration issues that really matter today.”
Though the numbers have in fact declined dramatically, we are not declaring mission accomplished. The poverty and violence that are the “push factors” in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador still exist. The economy in this country – a “pull factor” -- is getting stronger.
The President and I are committed to building an even more secure border, and a smart strategy to get there.
Our Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal includes a $373 million request for improved border technology and infrastructure, to include more remote video surveillance capability, sensors, night vision detection devices, wireless sensor data link systems, re-locatable towers, and replacement fence.
Our executive actions also strengthen border security. As part of the executive actions, we have prioritized the removal of anyone who came to this country illegally after January 1, 2014.
We have created the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign. To promote border security, this Campaign will, for the first time, put to use in a combined and strategic way, the assets and personnel of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other resources of the Department when necessary. We are discarding the stove pipes in our Department.
As part of our executive actions we are also promoting and increasing access to U.S. citizenship. We are working to permit payment of the application fee by credit card. We will also launch a multi-lingual citizenship awareness program, to encourage those who are eligible for citizenship to apply. The first phase will move forward in July and the second phase will launch in September.
We are launching a Welcoming Communities Initiative in which we will work with state and local governments to promote immigrant integration. Houston, with Mayor Parker's leadership, is already a model community for this.
The President's Task Force on New Americans, which USCIS Director León Rodríguez leads, is hard at work implementing its strategic action plan.
As part of our executive actions, we are working quickly and aggressively to implement reforms to strengthen the program that provides Optional Practical Training for students in the STEM fields who are studying at U.S. universities.
We finalized and have begun implementing a new policy that allows certain spouses of high-skilled workers on the path to a green card to apply for work authorization.
As part of our executive actions, we have published guidance on the L-1B program that allows specialized foreign employees to work temporarily at an American office of a multinational company.
We are improving the pay scale for our immigration enforcement personnel.
As part of our executive actions we have issued new enforcement priorities. This is clearer and sharper guidance to the field, stating that we must prioritize the use of our immigration enforcement resources on the removal of those who are dangerous criminals. Conversely, we are making it clear that we should not expend our limited resources on deporting those who have been here for years, have committed no serious crimes, and have, in effect, become integrated members of our society.
These new priorities have been in effect since January, and we are already seeing some preliminary signs that these policies are benefitting public safety.
Consistent with these new priorities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun a new push in the interior of this country to search for and apprehend undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, through “Operation Cross Check” and other initiatives. Currently, 96% of all those detained by ICE and the Border Patrol fit within the top two of the three enforcement priorities; 76% of those currently detained by ICE and the Border Patrol are in the top priority – convicted felons, those convicted of an offense that involves participation in a criminal street gang, those apprehended at the border while attempting to cross illegally, and anyone suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who otherwise poses a danger to national security.
We have ended the controversial Secure Communities program, and are replacing it with a new Priority Enforcement Program. Secure Communities was a program by which our immigration personnel lodged orders known as “detainers” to hold individuals in local jails, so that they could be handed directly over to federal authorities for immigration enforcement purposes after their time in police custody. But, Secure Communities had become embroiled in political and legal controversy. A rapidly expanding list of city, county and state governments – depending on how you count, 275 -- enacted laws, ordinances, executive orders and policies that limit or outright prohibit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement personnel.
We therefore acted to stop this ineffective program, and the growing resistance to it. Our new Priority Enforcement Program is a balanced, common-sense approach to help us achieve this goal. We are now reaching out to governors, mayors and local communities to seek cooperation with us in the new program. We are seeing good progress. For example, last month the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted to encourage the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to work with us to implement the new program.
Our overarching goal is to enforce our immigration laws in a way that promotes public safety, national security and border security.
Finally, we must reckon with the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants who are here in this country. More than half have been here over 10 years. Many have spouses and/or children who are United States citizens or legal permanent residents. As The Washington Post noted in that story I cited earlier:
“[a] key – but largely overlooked sign of ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the illegal population. Until recent years, undocumented immigrants tended to be the young men who were streaming across the border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the profile of the typical immigrant now is much likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in this country a decade a more."
We must reckon with these people.
These people are here, they live among us, and they are not going away. They are not going to “self-deport.” No administration – Democratic or Republican – is going to deport this large a population of people. We simply do not have the resources to do that.
Must we, should we, leave these people, unaccounted and unaccountable, in the shadows of American life?
In 2012, we created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As part of this program, to date, 670,000 people have come forward, submitted to a background check, and got on the books to become accountable and pay taxes. This is not citizenship, it's not lawful permanent residence, and it is not amnesty. It is a determination by the government to defer deportation for a period of two years, and an authorization to work during that same period.
President Obama and I want to go further, and extend the eligibility for deferred action to parents who are not removal priorities, have kids who are citizens or lawful permanent residents, and have been here five years or more. Our lawyers at the Department of Justice say we have the legal authority to do this. This was one of the executive actions we announced in November.
One federal district judge in Brownsville disagreed, and temporarily enjoined this new deferred action program, along with an expansion of the deferred action for childhood arrivals program we announced at the same time.
That case is on appeal, and we will continue to fight it and defend it. I believe we will prevail, as deferred action is a tool that has been in use by Republican and Democratic Administrations for decades.
To those in Congress who say we do not have the authority to issue deferred action without a change in law, I say change the law; don't just be a naysayer.
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, 72% of the American people think immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and meet certain requirements should be allowed to stay legally.
From the perspective of homeland security and law enforcement, we should encourage people who have lived here for years, and are not going anywhere, to come out of the shadows and get on the books. We want to know who these people are, and we want to encourage them to report crime.
We want these people to work on, not off, the books, and pay taxes.
I submit it's also the right thing to do. In the United States of America, do we say to a class of people who have lived here for years and are not going away: we know you are here, your family is here, but you are destined to live in this country as a second-class person? Or do we give them an opportunity to earn a better place?
Over and over again, in the life of this Nation, there have been classes of people who, by virtue of their race, gender, religion, or nationality, exist on the margins of society and struggle to seek our acceptance. It has been the tradition of this great Nation that, ultimately, we hear their claims and grant them relief.
My faith in America tells me that, sooner or later, we will do the same here.
I hope it is sooner. Thank you very much.
Explosives found after gunmen open fire on Dallas police outside headquarters
by Fox News
Multiple suspects with automatic weapons opened fire on police officers outside Dallas Police headquarters early Saturday morning, before one man fled the scene in an armored van, leading police on a chase that ended in an ongoing standoff at a nearby parking lot where additional shots were fired.
Police have also discovered four suspicious bags, with at least one containing a pipe bomb. The bomb exploded when being handled by an Explosive Ordinance Robot. No one was injured in the explosion. Police later found two more suspicious packages, according to Dallas police.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shootout began about 12:30 a.m. local time when the suspects pulled up to the building and began firing. He said at least one of the suspects fled the scene in a van that rammed a police cruiser before leading police on the chase that ended at the parking lot. Brown says negotiations are ongoing with the suspect in the van. The has told police that he is injured, but authorities cannot confirm any injuries, Fox4News.com reported.
Police said conflicting witness accounts made it difficult to immediately determine how many shooters were involved and authorities were trying to determine a motive.
Brown said the suspect driving the van has told officers that he blames police for losing custody of his son and “accusing him of being a terrorist.” The gunman also said he had explosives in the van, which appeared to be outfitted with gun ports in the sides.
Brown says negotiations are going on with the suspect in the van. One of the suspects has told police that he is injured, but authorities cannot confirm any injuries, Fox4News.com reported.
Brown said, based on witness accounts, as many as four suspects may have been involved in the original shooting, including some who may have been positioned at elevated positions. Police couldn't confirm how many shooters were involved and where any additional suspects may be located.
Police later found two more suspicious packages. One was found in a dumpster and another underneath a police truck in the parking lot.
He said police were evacuating nearby residents as a precaution.
Ladarrick Alexander and his fiancée, Laquita Davis, were driving back toward the police station to their nearby apartment when they heard 15 to 20 gunshots in quick succession.
Seconds later, police could be seen swarming an unmarked van that appeared to have crashed into a police car, they said.
They turned around and were parked outside the police perimeter about two blocks away, where they heard the sound of one detonation at about 4:30 am and smoke coming up in the air.
Police headquarters is in a former warehouse district where a boutique hotel and several new apartment buildings have been opened.
"We don't see too much going around here at all," Alexander said.
A National Action Plan For Community Policing And Racial Justice
'While media attention waxes and wanes, the groundswell of anger and grief has started to translate into meaningful policy reform,' groups say.
by Deirdre Fulton
With protests against police brutality, mass incarceration, and systemic racism sweeping the nation, activists seeking to empower local movements and elevate on-the-ground solutions have developed a set of resources that highlights the “the slow but sustained work of many communities to enact meaningful reforms that transform both the practices and the purposes of our policing and criminal justice systems.”
Building Momentum from the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing, was released Wednesday by the advocacy organizations PolicyLink and the Center for Popular Democracy, both of which work to advance racial and economic justice through grassroots organizing and progressive policy campaigns. A companion Justice in Policing website will launch on Friday.
“While media attention waxes and wanes, the groundswell of anger and grief unearthed by the public killings of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and transgender sisters and brothers has started to translate into meaningful policy reform at the local, state and national level,” reads the introduction.
The Toolkit, its authors say, was developed in collaboration with leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement and “is a direct response to organizers, elected officials, and community members from across the country seeking support and resources for campaigns aimed at transforming the policies and practices of local law enforcement.”
It showcases best practices, successful organizing efforts, and model legislation from across the country, and puts forth 15 recommended policy reforms aimed at ending mass incarceration, improving relations between law enforcement and the community, ensuring independent oversight, and improving department standards and training. These include:
decriminalization of behavior that does not pose a threat to public safety;
municipal court reform;
limiting local enforcement of federal immigration policy;
support for diversion programs;
consideration of how criminal justice legislation impacts Black and Brown communities;
passage of “consent to search” legislation;
bans on “bias-based” policing;
increased community oversight over law enforcement;
better data collection and enforcement;
thoughtfully implemented use of body cameras;
assignment of special or independent prosecutors in cases where officers use force against civilians;
demilitarization of local police forces; and
improved law enforcement training on everything from justice and fairness to consent to search to use of force.
For each recommendation, the Toolkit offers examples of successful implementation and sample legislation.
Take, for instance, the section on municipal court reform. “Under most state law, courts can issue bench warrants for the arrest of anyone who does not appear for a court date after being ticketed for a violation or given a summonses,” the Toolkit explains. “As a result, too many individuals serve jail time for parking infractions or park code violations. Incarceration is not an appropriate response to the failure to pay a fine or appear in court for a minor or civil offense.”
Noting that both city councils and municipal courts can lessen the “discriminatory and crippling impact of bench warrants,” the Toolkit points to best practices such as:
the elimination of additional fees and fines for missed court appearances;
the provision by municipal courts, municipalities, and states of alternatives to monetary payment for fines including community service, as suggested by advocates in St. Louis;
enforcement of a cap on the amount of municipal revenue that can be generated from traffic tickets and other offenses.
“We hope that by providing resources and model policies, and by elevating the inspirational and transformational work underway, we can support organizers and elected officials in their continuing struggle for a fundamental reorientation of both the purpose and practice of policing in this country,” the Toolkit reads.
The groups also call on mayors across the country to sign a Mayoral Pledge to End Police Violence, which includes “important principles and actions that model community-centered policing.”
By signing the pledge, a mayor commits to “immediately take…actions to end the police violence epidemic and help ensure that NOT ONE MORE person unjustly dies at the hands of our police force.”
Supporters say reducing prison population won't hurt public safety; Michigan AG focuses on victims
by Kyle Feldscher
This story has been updated with comments from Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
LANSING — The road map to reducing Michigan's prison population and saving the state a quarter-billion dollars annually is a common sense solution that wouldn't jeopardize public safety, a former state representative said Friday
Joe Haveman, a former Republican state representative from Holland, said he believes the 10,000 Fewer Prisoners: Strategies To Reach The Goal report released Thursday by Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending is a "courageous" look at reforming Michigan's corrections system.
The report laid out two dozen recommendations for how to eliminate 10,000 beds in Michigan's prisons and save $250 million per year by closing seven prisons and six housing units.
"There's low-hanging fruit and we could get rid of a good share of our prison population without having a risk to public safety," Haveman said.
Right now, there are 43,704 people in Michigan prisons. The state spends about $2 billion a year on the Michigan Department of Corrections' budget.
The report from Citizen Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, or CAPPS, purports to lay out a path that would reduce Michigan's prison population to about 33,000 in five years — levels not seen since the early 1990s.
The recommendations follow four main themes: Reduce the number of people who are entering the state's prisons, reduce minimum sentence lengths, increase paroles and establish earned sentencing credits, commonly called "good time."
Barbara Levine, associate director for research and policy at CAPPS and author of the report, said the 10,000 prisoners would come from certain prison populations — the elderly and frail, people who were sentenced as juveniles that are now adults and people who are unlikely to reoffend — that would not have an effect on public safety.
"These proposals recognize there is no relationship between keeping people longer and their chance of reoffending," she said.
Haveman agreed, saying that 70 percent of people who come out of prison don't reoffend. Michigan needs to focus its corrections system on rehabilitating people to succeed after their release instead of believing prison is simply a punitive measure, he said.
"Discipline is necessary, and I'm not advocating that people don't go to prison," Haveman said. "But, in some cases, there are alternatives that work better."
He added, "Ninety-five percent of these people come back out and are our neighbors and live in our communities. We do have a responsibility to help them assimilate to society so they don't recommit."
Genessee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the Michigan Legislature needs to find a way to save money from the corrections system but can't do it in such a way that allows violent offenders back on the street.
Leyton said he disagreed with the CAPPS recommendation to reinstate "good time," or time off a sentence for good behavior. He said prosecutors in Michigan will fight to protect "truth in sentencing."
"That's critically important and the number one priority for prosecutors in the state," he said.
Leyton said a recent report released by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan reported 70 percent of people in Michigan's prisons are there for assaultive crimes. Many of those who are in prison are there for repeat felonies and about 23 percent of parolees and 24 percent of probationers are rearrested within a year of being discharged from state supervision.
It's going to be hard to find many non-violent offenders to release without compromising public safety, he said.
"We're not locking up pot smokers in this state," he said. "The people in Michigan prisons are there because they should be there."
For Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the priority in criminal justice reform has to be crime victims.
"Any study needs to take into account the most important priority: victims and keeping the public safe," said Andrea Bitely, a spokeswoman for Schuette. "The Attorney General is supportive of efforts to expand the use of the Swift and Sure probation program, but we need to keep violent offenders out of our neighborhoods."
Respondents to an MLive poll posted Thursday afternoon seem to be mostly in favor of releasing more non-violent offenders to save money.
About 45 percent of voters answered "Yes" to the question "Should Michigan parole more non-violent prisoners to save money?" Another 30 percent answered they believed it depends on each offender's individual circumstance. About 26 percent of people answered "No."
Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group based out of Lansing, came out in support of the ideas laid out in the CAPPS report.
Lonnie Scott, executive director of the group, said reducing the amount of money spent on prisons could mean more money for infrastructure, education and mental health services.
"We can responsibly reduce our prison population without compromising public safety or punishing those who work in our prisons," Scott said in a statement. "...This plan offers real solutions to cost issues in our prisons, unlike the irresponsible privatization experiments like the disastrous Aramark food service contract."
Prop. 47 offering felons a second chance
by Brian Rokos
Prop. 47, the voter-approved state law that reduced some non-violent crimes to misdemeanors and has resulted in fewer defendants being booked into jail, has provided second chances to thousands of offenders since its passage in November 2014.
Just how those offenders are taking advantage is a source of concern for community organizers and law enforcement, and for different reasons.
Not enough offenders are petitioning to have their felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors under Prop. 47, a coalition of community organization representatives said Thursday, June 11, at a roundtable discussion at the Feldheym Library in San Bernardino.
The panelists said eliminating a felony on one's record can open doors to employment, education and housing.
“It's a three-year window. That's it,” attorney Eloise Reyes said. “That's why it's so important to get the word out. This is a law, and if you can benefit from it, please come forward.”
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said some offenders who made one-time mistakes are having their sentences reduced and are rebuilding their lives with their second chance. But, he said in an interview Thursday, he wonders whether the increase in property crimes his department is seeing is a result of some offenders being out on the streets instead of behind bars after receiving a ticket instead of handcuffs.
“(Deputies) can arrest somebody who would have normally gone to jail for a felony,” McMahon said. “They get cite released, even though they have priors, and a day or two later, (deputies) are dealing with them again. ... The suspects know there are no consequences for their behavior, and they're not going to jail and stay, or they're not going to jail at all.”
Like McMahon, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff remains as opposed to Prop. 47 now as when it was put before voters. At a roundtable discussion among law enforcement authorities with Palm Springs television station KESQ in May, Sniff said offenders are essentially getting away with their crimes because they serve so little time.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who also was a panelist at the KESQ forum, said, “You have some offenders who figure out that they can plead guilty and take any sentence. They're only going to spend two weeks in the jail. For some people it's a cost of doing business.”
FELONY REDUCTION OFFERS HOPE
Vonya Quarles is executive director of Starting Over Inc., which provides transitional housing for the homeless and those with felony convictions. At the San Bernardino roundtable, she told the story of Lisa, a 32-year-old single mother of three who was addicted to crystal methamphetamine.
Lisa was studying to become a medical assistant before Prop. 47 passed. Her felony conviction for multiple shoplifting arrests would have prevented her from working in a doctor's office, Quarles said, but her successful petition to reduce her crime to a misdemeanor allowed her to gain an internship at a Corona doctor's office that will eventually turn into a paying job.
Milena Blake, policy director for Californians for Safety and Justice, said a felony conviction places 4,800 barriers in front of offenders. More than half, she said, are restrictions on employment, such as a prohibition on earning a cosmetology license.
That's why the panelists felt urgency in providing information on how offenders can petition to have their felonies reduced to misdemeanors. They encouraged them to contact their local public defender's office and attend Prop. 47 clinics offered by community groups and lawyers. The panelists said offenders can be difficult to contact and that some, including undocumented immigrants, don't come forward for various reasons.
Terrance Stewart works with Inland Congregations United for Change, helping organize voters and encouraging offenders to seek to reduce their felonies. He said some offenders don't come forward because they don't trust the system that they blame for putting them in jail.
He has been there.
End All Youth Detention and Torture at Riker's Island Now
by Marian Wright Edelman -- President, Children's Defense Fund
Solitary confinement is pretty horrible for anybody, but it's especially horrible for a child. It is psychological torture.
-- Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, author of Just Mercy
When you go over the three years that he spent [in jail] and all the horrific details he endured, it's unbelievable that this could happen to a teenager in New York City. He didn't get tortured in some prison camp in another country. It was right here!
-- Paul V. Prestia, Kalief Browder's lawyer to The New Yorker
Before I went to jail, I didn't know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I'm aware, I'm paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.
-- Kalief Browder to Jennifer Gonnerman, staff writer for The New Yorker
Nobody of any age should be held in jail without a trial for three years. No child or adolescent should be held in an adult jail. No child or youth should be housed in facilities where those entrusted to care for them violently assault them. Yet, a 16-year-old accused of stealing a backpack was kept in one of the most violent adult jails in the United States, Riker's Island in New York City, for three years without a trial. This was morally scandalous and inhumane. Even worse, he spent more than two years of that time in solitary confinement, locked up alone except to go to the shower, the recreation area, the visit room or the medical clinic. This was torture. The suicide of 22-year-old Kalief Browder on June 6, barely two years after his release and return home, was the final horror in his tragic and brutal journey into the depths of the adult criminal justice system in New York City and state.
At Riker's, Kalief was cruelly beaten by juvenile gangs, and beaten by a guard as he was calmly walking from solitary confinement to the shower. This violent abuse was caught on video and made public in April by an investigative reporter from The New Yorker . Other alleged abuses were not: The cruel guards who denied him meals, medical care, trips to the shower and extended his time in solitary confinement by making up disciplinary problems.
It should surprise no one that a teenager subjected to this continuous torture; a teenager who maintained his innocence and just wanted his right to a day in court to prove it; a teenager who turned down plea deals repeatedly although it would have meant he could go home immediately; a teenager with no history of mental illness before Riker's Island tried to commit suicide while held in solitary confinement for two of his three years there. It is beyond shameful that he was held without a trial, without being proven guilty and because he was a poor young Black male. This travesty was and is preventable and must be prevented for all youths at risk of such abuse.
If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators act immediately before this state legislative session ends June 17, 2015 to raise the age of criminal responsibility, as 48 states have done, more tragedies and suffering like Kalief Browder's might be avoided. And youths still at Riker's might have reduced suffering and pain.
Kalief Browder's cruel and unjust treatment began May 15, 2010, when he was picked up with a friend in the Bronx. He shared his story later with a reporter from The New Yorker to make sure this would never happen to anyone else. Kalief was stopped for allegedly stealing a backpack earlier that evening. According to the report, he maintained his innocence and offered to let the police search his pockets. The only evidence against him was the testimony of the alleged victim he never got the chance to confront. Eyewitness identification is notoriously unreliable.
Kalief Browder was immediately funneled into the adult criminal justice system because of the unjust lottery of geography and poverty. New York remains one of only two states in our country that still automatically treats 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. More than a century ago, states began to legislate that children should be treated as children to prevent the inhumane, dangerous, and ineffective practice of putting them in adult jails. New York and North Carolina should end this practice immediately. Not one more young life should be ruined or tragically lost to Riker's preventable torture and violence.
We have long known that putting children in adult jails puts them in harm's way. The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) first documented and began advocating for changes to end these harms nearly 40 years ago after visiting 500 jails across America and publishing in 1976 our deeply disturbing findings in a report on Children in Adult Jails . We found children incarcerated with adults suffered increased rates of physical abuse, like Kalief did. Today they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in juvenile facilities. In light of this evidence, it is outrageous that any state today would subject its teenagers to any adult jail especially like Riker's Island whose culture of violence is notorious. New York must stop right now.
The unjust criminalization of the poor is another reason Kalief Browder ended up at Riker's Island. His family could not afford to hire an attorney or pay the $3,000 bail to keep him home to await a trial that never took place over three long years. Being poor, Black and male, the odds were high that he would end up in the Cradle to Prison Pipeline TM and suffer preventable death.
Dr. Sean Joe, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and an authority on suicidal behavior among African American males, says that among Black Americans, Black males between the ages of 15 to 24 are most likely to commit suicide. “The suicide of Kalief Browder highlights the glaring gap between the alarming psychiatric needs of black boys and men and the absence of effective treatments; a justice system that enacted psychological torture because a putative stolen backpack mattered more than the life and future of a black teen; and the importance to address the unattended psychological consequences resulting from the feverous adjudication, prosecution, and sentencing of black boys and men without regard for their mental health.”
More than a thousand days after arriving at Riker's Island, Kalief Browder was abruptly released four days after his 20 th birthday. He had spent most of the 17 previous months in solitary confinement. The charges against him were dismissed. It is unclear when the only evidence against him disappeared, and when and if the “victim” had returned to Mexico and could no longer be found. Two years later, after more suicide attempts and mental health hospitalizations, Kalief Browder took his life at home. He was 22-years-old.
His tragically short life has already made a difference. Mayor Bill de Blasio led New York City to ban solitary confinement for all juveniles when he heard Kalief's story. But the Governor and state legislature without another moment's delay must also take action on the age at which children can be placed in adult jails as the Governor's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice recommended. No other child or youth should be at risk of Kalief Browder's fate and our nation needs to change the way we treat Black boys and men and recognize that all lives matter equally.
Albert Camus, the great French Nobel Literature Laureate, speaking at a Dominican Monastery in 1948 said: “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” He described our responsibility as human beings “if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it” and “to refuse to consent to conditions which torture innocents.” “I continue,” he said “to struggle against this universe in which children suffer and die." And so must every one of us including our elected officials who must be held accountable. Only then will the cries of the prophets for justice and peace and America's pretentions to be a just nation become a lasting reality.
Judge Backs Charges Against Cleveland Officers in Killing of Tamir Rice
by M. Alex Johnson
Acting under a rarely used provision of Ohio state law, a judge found probable cause Thursday to charge Cleveland police Officer Timothy Loehmann with murder in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year.
Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine also found cause to support negligent homicide charges against Officer Frank Garmback, Loehmann's partner, who is accused of standing by after Loehmann shot Tamir in November at a recreation center, where Tamir was playing with a pellet gun.
Adrine agreed with local activists known as the "Cleveland 8" who took the unusual step of independently seeking charges because, they said, they'd lost confidence in the grand jury investigation.
The ruling is only advisory and doesn't affect the separate grand jury investigation.
Adrine — saying he wasn't performing an "end around" of the city or the county — said the choice to lodge charges remains with Cuyahoga County and Cleveland prosecutors. In a statement, county prosecutor Timothy McGinty said the grand jury would make any final decision.
The citizens motion, known as an "affidavit of person having knowledge of offense," centers on a widely distributed security video of the shooting.
In his 10-page ruling, Adrine called the video "hard to watch," saying he was "thunderstruck by how quickly this turned deadly." As Loehmann and Garmback look on and as at least six other officers arrive on the scene, it appears that Tamir is left to lie wounded on the ground for eight minutes with no indication that anyone is trying to help him, Adrine wrote.
Adrine found that there was enough evidence to justify charges of murder, negligent homicide, reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter and dereliction of duty against Loehmann — but not aggravated murder, the most serious charge the activists had sought.
Garmback, he said, should face only negligent homicide and dereliction charges.
In a statement issued through their attorneys, Tamir's family praised "the efforts of the 'Cleveland 8' who exercised civility and intellect by invoking Ohio Citizen Participation laws Tuesday."
The ruling, they said, is "a blueprint for the nation to follow" in confronting "many of the relationship problems between African-Americans and law enforcement."
Loehmann's attorney, Henry Hilow, stressed that the ruling doesn't affect the county investigation, telling NBC News: "We respect the authority of the Cuyahoga prosecutor to review and investigate this case."
Read the Judge's Full Order (PDF)
Virginia officer charged with voluntary manslaughter for fatal shooting of mentally ill black man
A Virginia police officer was indicted by a special grand jury over the killing of a mentally ill black man last summer, officials said.
The decision comes amid a national outcry over police violence against minorities, sparked by high profile police killings of unarmed black men in cities across the country in the past year, as well as grand jury decisions to not criminally charge the officers involved.
Norfolk Police officer Michael Carlton Edington Jr. was charged with voluntary manslaughter over the June 6, 2014 shooting death of 35-year-old David Latham, the Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney said in a statement.
The nine-member panel did not return an indictment for second degree murder, according to a copy of the statement that was published online by local broadcaster WAVY-TV.
On the night of the shooting, Latham's family had called police in the hopes of getting psychiatric help for him after he had stopped taking medication for his schizophrenia, according to WAVY-TV.
When officers arrived at the home, Latham threatened them with a knife and was shot eight times, including twice in the back, the broadcaster said.
An attorney for Latham's family told the network: "They are looking for justice for their son. They are pleased the grand jury found there is sufficient evidence to indict, but they know there is still work to be done."
In a statement to the station, Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith urged the public to withhold judgment as the case plays out.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim told reporters that Edington remained on the job but was on administrative leave.
Boston terror investigation yields new arrest
by The Associated Press
WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island man was arrested Thursday in connection with the probe into a Massachusetts man who was fatally shot by terrorism investigators as they sought to question him about a possible plot to kill police officers.
Nicholas Rovinski is expected to appear in federal court Friday, when the charges against him will be announced, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz's spokeswoman Christina DiIorio-Sterling said.
Rovinski, of Warwick, was taken into custody Thursday night without incident, Boston FBI office spokeswoman Kristen Setera said. Federal officials searched Rovinki's house at least two days last week, but they wouldn't discuss details of the search.
Rovinski couldn't be reached for comment while in custody on Thursday night. A telephone call to his house rang unanswered, and a woman inside yelled through the front door to a reporter outside, "Get out of here."
Federal authorities say Boston resident Usaama Rahim plotted for at least a week to attack police. An FBI affidavit supporting a criminal complaint against Rahim's nephew David Wright says Rahim, Wright and another man met on a Rhode Island beach "to discuss their plans," but it doesn't identify the other man.
Rahim, who had been under surveillance, was confronted last week because he had bought knives and talked of an imminent attack on "boys in blue," the FBI said.
The FBI said Rahim, who had previously discussed beheadings, bought three fighting knives and a sharpener on or before May 26 and told Wright he would begin trying to randomly kill police officers.
An anti-terror task force of FBI agents and Boston police officers, faced with an imminent threat, confronted Rahim on a sidewalk and fatally shot him when he refused to drop his knife, authorities said.
Boston police Commissioner William Evans said officers confronted Rahim because "military and law enforcement lives were at threat." He said the officers "made the right call," drawing their guns only after backing away and giving Rahim "multiple chances" to drop the military-style knife he was holding.
Rahim's relatives have disputed investigators' version of events, citing a blurry surveillance video released by police. They said the video showing the terror investigators fatally shooting him doesn't show him brandishing a weapon or approaching officers aggressively. They said he was not the initial aggressor and did not appear to be breaking any laws as he walked toward a bus stop on his way to work on June 2.
Wright, of Everett, Massachusetts, was arrested last week on a charge of conspiracy with intent to obstruct a federal investigation. He's in custody pending a June 19 hearing.
Prosecutors said he posed a serious risk of fleeing or obstructing justice if not held pending the hearing. But Wright's attorney, Jessica Hedges, denied that, saying he has deep roots in the Boston area and an "incredibly loving and supportive family."
Hedges urged the government to be "as transparent as possible" and "abide by the law" as it investigates this case, saying "we have serious concerns about that already."
Micro-community policing taps social media
by Eric Mandel
Lauri Stevens tells a well-worn joke among her fellow social media advocates in the law enforcement community: that decision-makers are less afraid to give police officers guns and Tasers than to let them on Twitter.
It's slight hyperbole, but it's also true. There's a general concern that the men and women in blue can do more damage on social media than in the line of fire.
“There's still a lot of resistance to having line officers use these tools,” said Stevens, a social media strategist for law enforcement.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is a bit of an outlier in that regard, among the more advanced social media communicators in the country. The department added to its online arsenal in October by partnering with Nextdoor.com, a private social network for neighborhoods that is being used to roll out the department's new micro-community policing plans that establish problem-solving strategies for specific neighborhoods.
“We are trying to create a way for [police] to reach out and impact the community in a way they didn't have before,” said SPD spokesperson Det. Drew Fowler.
Within days of taking office, SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole ordered micro-community policing plans be drafted by each of the five precinct commanders, who were tasked with engaging residents and business owners about the crime issues that most concerned them.
The city is divided into 53 communities — plus Seattle Public Schools and the East African community — each with its own policing focal points. Fowler said the plans are a “living document” that will be altered with the public's wants and needs. He said the micro-neighborhood concept is an homage to Seattle's history of having a rich neighborhood-centric culture, with each having its own identity.
Although primary response will be to 911 emergency calls, the micro policing effort will focus on proactive response to patrolling concerns for each community. West Precinct Operations Lt. Marc Garthgreen said the hope is to target particular needs of areas rather than generalize.
“It's more compartmentalized,” Garthgreen said. “Break it down to more manageable pieces so we can say, ‘This is what's effecting this area.'”
Neighbors, police connect
A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that 29 percent of Americans knew only a few of their neighbors and 28 percent knew none of their neighbors by name. The Nextdoor app offers a virtual sense of community, with features that range from providing alerts for a lost dog to organizing a block party. Approximately 16 percent of the Nextdoor conversations are related to crime and safety, according to Nextdoor stats.
There are 827 agencies across the country using the Nextdoor platform, with more than 500 being law enforcement. Jeremie Beebe, director of partnership with Nextdoor, said all but two of Seattle 197 neighborhoods are using Nextdoor. Nextdoor requires verification of a home address before anyone can join a specific neighborhood group.
The San Francisco-based company doesn't release private membership numbers within neighborhoods, but there are at least 10 verified Nextdoor users in neighborhoods including Queen Anne, Magnolia, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Madison Valley, Madison Park, Madrona, Leschi and Ballard.
Reg Newbeck, voluntary lead for Madison Park Nextdoor, said there are 734 users in Madison Park and that his posts reach more than 3,800 people. One of the best outlets for the program so far, he said, has been as an open forum for discussion on different Metro route proposals.
SPD uses a different product than the neighborhood residents, meaning it can only post messages and respond to individual posts related to those messages. It is not able to monitor or view the day-to-day content of the neighborhood members. The SPD platform is all public information that can be seen at nextdoor.com/seattlepd. Thus far, the officer's first posts have been introductory greetings.
Beebe said Nextdoor's major advantage is that police can tailor the messages at the specific neighborhood levels, unlike with Twitter or other more broad-based networks.
“The types of messaging they're able to do is much more specific and location-relevant,” Beebe said.
Beebe said the SPD is the first agency Nextdoor has worked with to use its existing boundaries in conjunction with drawing its own neighborhood boundaries.
“They literally took our neighborhood boundaries established by neighbors and drew those to include and not separate those neighborhoods,” he said.
Individual officers directly involved in the community will have most access and accessibility through the Nextdoor system. The officers underwent a day of training to acclimate themselves to the system. Fowler expects there to be a transition for growing comfort.
“Whether they give us a new gun or a new social media tool, there will be a period of acclimatization,” he said.
Police on social media
A 2013 survey from the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 96 percent of police departments use social media in some capacity. But it doesn't mean all of them are using it to its fullest extent.
“We have 18,000 police departments in the country,” said Stevens, whose most recent SMILE conference for law enforcement took place in late April in Phoenix. “The percentage of them that really understand the depth you can achieve with social media is a really small percentage.”
SPD has nearly 115,000 Twitter followers and about 1.5 million page views of its SPD Blotter each year. The department also has a blog, a Facebook account and a minor presence on Tumblr and Reddit. Twitter information ranges from immediate updates on movement by the May Day protestors to jokes about arrests on the Blotter.
Stevens said SPD is one of the best in the country at connecting with the community through social media and is “blazing some new trails” in the way Freedom of Information Act requests are handled by putting dash-cam videos on YouTube under “SPD BodyWornVideo."
Fowler said SPD is “experimenting” with the dash-cam posts, attempting to find a more elegant solution to public disclosure requests, while balancing the Washington Privacy and Washington Disclosure acts. He said the department is currently releasing random dash-cam samples, building up to a larger-scale release of videos even before they're requested.
SPD is also in the midst of a body camera pilot program and hopes to get ahead of the likely potential issues related to privacy and data storage, seeing as SPD has more than 300,000 hours of video from in-car cameras alone.
“Actually putting the camera on the officer is the easy part,” Fowler said.
Stevens doesn't believe it's necessary for law enforcement to be on every social media platform, though she calls Facebook and Twitter “musts.” She encourages departments to find out where their audience is and meet them there.
“As a whole, I think there's a long way to go, but I will say the ones who are using it and have a policy and are not trying to make it go away are doing well in some form or fashion,” she said. “Those that haven't started yet or don't have a policy are probably feeling beat-up when they go to work,” she said.
Community police deputies team up with Early Learning Coalition
Community Policing deputies are joining forces with the Early Learning Coalition for a youth reading program, “Officer Friendly's Book Club.”
According to a media release from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, deputies began the program in May and will continue throughout the summer.
During the program, deputies will visit learning centers in the areas of Oldsmar, South Dunedin, Ridgecrest, High Point and Lealman in Pinellas County and read to children for 30 minutes each month. The children are ages 3 to 4.
The books the deputies read are provided by the Early Learning Coalition and will be donated to the classrooms at the end of each session.
“This partnership assists our deputies in maintaining a positive presence within our community and allows them to build positive relationships with our youth,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County is a not for profit planning and funding agency focused on early care and education.
Public safety officers work with 150 youth during fishing derby
by Joel Bissell
MUSKEGON-- About 150 youth participated in the annual Public Safety Youth Fishing Derby held at Fisherman's Landing Thursday afternoon.
Muskegon, Muskegon Township, North Muskegon Police and Fire Departments, and Michigan State Police invited children ages eight to 12 to participate in the event. The young fishermen were provided a reel and rod if they did not bring their own. After the event the youth were given the donated fishing gear free of charge.
Police-Community Coordinator, Denny Powers, said "the event was started in 1993 when an officer noticed a young child and his grandfather fishing with a cane pole at Fisherman's Landing" this sparked some talk amongst the officers. Eventually with support from the community and sponsors they created the derby.
"The derby provides youth the opportunity to see that there are positive ways to spend their time and it also gives them the opportunity to talk with their local public safety officials and get to see them as friends who are there to help them," remarked Powers.
When the fishing ended around 6 p.m. free hot dogs and chips were was available for participants and their families. Trophies were handed out to the top three finishers in each age group. The largest fish, a 17-inch bass, was caught by 11 year-old Armoni Henderson. In addition to trophies a variety of donated items were raffled off to participants.
Sponsors of the event included: Muskegon Sport Fishing Association, Zebco, Wal-Mart, Plumb's Stores Inc., Snug Harbor Outfitters, Fisherman's Landing, Pulaski Lodge, Viking Lodge (Linne Lodge 57), Trophy House, Fraternal Order of Police, East Side Lions, Cardinal Elementary PTO, Coles Quality Foods, Johnstone Supply, Cinema Carousel and a number of Muskegon Neighborhood Associations as well as neighborhood volunteers, personnel from the police and fire departments.
Consent Decree Action Under Way, 'Community Policing' the Name of the Game
by Eric Sandy
"There will be nothing spectacular here," Mayor Frank Jackson said to begin his press conference about the process of reform within the Cleveland Division of Police.
And there wasn't. But the consent decree is en route to implementation. Time tables are being constructed. The police chief noted that his division has been rewiring itself to focus on models of community policing (including training courses that began last summer). Community policing, if one were to home in on the crux of this thing, is almost a synonym for Cleveland's consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
"We want this not to be something that we just get past ," Jackson said. "We want it to be part of the DNA." (He employed the DNA bit at least three times.)
Federal Judge Solomon Oliver has scheduled a preliminary status conference for Friday — a sort of overview-type hearing that will approve various timeframes and directions for consent decree implementation.
Within 30 days after the approval, Jackson will appoint a panel that will select members for the Community Policing Commission. Those members will in turn work to make recommendations for community policing policies and actions.
Within 90 days, the city and the DOJ must select a monitor, who will ensure that the consent decree is being carried out appropriately.
Right now, though, the city is still very much in the getting-into-the-process stage. Things like use-of-force investigations, crisis intervention training, "accountability," youth training programs: The consent decree outlines a great deal of specifics for how to address and improve these arenas. Jackson said that he'll update the press regularly — promising methodical, sometimes-not-very-exciting change throughout — with various portions of the consent decree action items.
On perhaps a less data-oriented note, Police Chief Calvin Williams addressed some of the mental underpinnings that have contributed to the rift between the Division of Police and its community, saying that the militarization of mindset and resources and tactics must be reversed.
"We've changed that philosophy from a warrior community to a guardian community," he said.
One thing that has not yet been made clear is how the city will pay for this. Rich Exner at NEOMG had a great piece about the estimated costs, in which he looked back at public records from Seattle and New Orleans. In short, he wrote: "Just by adding up the easily quantifiable costs in the Cleveland agreement, it's easy to foresee ongoing labor costs of at least $3 million a year– or more than $30 million over 10 years – plus millions more in capital expenditures on things such as computers and police cars."
Jackson mostly balked at questions about money. He went back to the idea that the city will continue to function, the budget will be balanced — the sky will not fall amid this DOJ business! — and that, well, we'll figure it out along the way.
74 IMPD recruits sworn in; will focus on community policing
by Howard Monroe
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's new recruiting class was sworn in Monday afternoon.
“Today you are accepting a calling to public service and service to our great city and its people,” said Mayor Greg Ballard.
74 recruits were sworn in. They are the first class since the city raised the public safety tax. The city is looking to hire 250 officers over the next 5 years.
The officers are learning a different kind of policing, one that tries to prevent crime, rather than reacting to it.
“The question is: are you ready for the challenge?,” asked IMPD Chief Rick Hite. “Are you ready? We'll find out very soon,”
The challenge is continuing to drive down the city's crime numbers.
“Someone needs to make a difference, someone needs to step up to the plate,” said Michelle Garcia, one of the recruits.
“I'm nervous, but very excited, yes,” said Ronald Metcalf, another recruit.
IMPD and city officials say a community policing model, will force the recruits to look at the neighborhoods as more than just a job.
“You will find yourself patrolling a hot spot or reporting to a crime scene, but that hot spot, that crime scene is someone's neighborhood, someone's home,” said Mayor Ballard.
“As a police officer we all have to be ready to build relationships and wanting to be community-based,” said Jaidion Broader, a recruit.
“That isn't just solely focused on reactionairy policing and intervention, but also the ability to have the extra resources to focus on education and crime prevention efforts as well,” said Rick Snyder, president of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police.
It's the prevention that leaders with the Ten Point Coalition say is crucial.
“What I like about what they're doing is they're looking at the broader, holistic approach to addressing the violence,” said Rev. Charles Harrison, the leader of Ten Point Coalition.
While still faced with challenges, leaders say homicides and crime are down when compared to last year.
“They have to do a good job, they have to understand what this is all about, and be very, very dedicated,” said Mayor Ballard.
The city says these recruits were picked to mirror the demographics of the city.
There are two Asian men, eight black men, three black women, three Hispanic men, two Hispanic women, 41 white men and 15 white women.
These recruits will go through six months in the academy, and several weeks after than of one on one training. The police union says it could be a year and half before they're patrolling by themselves.
Community forum gets residents, police talking
by Paula Ann Mitchell
KINGSTON -- The city is one misstep away from an explosive incident like Baltimore.
So said the Rev. G. Modele Clarke at Tuesday's Community Policing Forum hosted by the Ministers' Alliance of Ulster County.
Some 70 people came out to the New Progressive Baptist Church on Hone Street to hear how the Kingston Police Department has acted on suggestions made by the public at the December 2014 forum.
Much has happened since then, including the recent fracas in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody.
There have also been local incidents such as the recent shooting at Chase Bank in the Kingston, which had many on edge.
Late last month, veteran Officer Steven Fellows shot 18-year-old Alex Jeffries once in the abdomen after the teen allegedly displayed a gun.
In that case and others, Tinti told attendees that “no police officer ever wants to pull the trigger,” and that they often have to make split-second decisions when confronting a crime.
“We train to the capacity of defending our lives and the lives of others,” he said. “We're not just shooting people. We train to stop the action of the perpetrator.”
Issues like this were analyzed at the forum, which brought out police officers, Mayor Shayne Gallo, members of the Bruderhof, area pastors and concerned residents.
With the aid of a power-point presentation, Tinti addressed a number of issues such as recruitment efforts and getting his force out of cars and on foot or bike to interact more directly with the public.
He also spent a considerable amount of time looking at officer accountability, particularly how it relates to conduct.
“We've now updated the complaint form to make it more accessible, so that people can now download it electronically,” Tinti said.
Additionally, the chief is working with community leaders, or “assisting organizations,” that will have copies on hand, so those who feel victimized can go directly to them, instead of police.
Clarke lauded it as less intimidating.
“In the past, people would talk about police brutality and abuse of power, and they would just complain to each other, so we've created a vehicle by which they can have their complaints recorded properly,” he said.
Technology also figured into the discussion about accountability.
Tinti noted the recent emergence of body-worn cameras by police agencies and said with that, come challenges like their potential to invade privacy.
“I'm not opposed to technology, but we have to have policies in place to protect the public and the officers,” he said.
One of the best-received suggestions by Tinti was the pitch to create the department's own bilingual version of the National Black Police Association brochures, “What to do When Stopped By Police.”
“I don't see a mechanism in place where kids are told how to interact with police, so this will help,” Tinti said.
The chief also is looking to hold another Citizen's Police Academy and begin a Kingston chapter of the national Police Explorer Program for middle-school students interested in law-enforcement careers.
Clarke said Tuesday's forum was fruitful on many levels and left him feeling “hopeful.”
“I think that we are getting to that place where we are actively, aggressively working on solutions to problems,” he said.
The next policing forum will be held at New Progressive on Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m.
LAPD Police Commission President Steve Soboroff's Comments Regarding Newton Division Officer Involved Shooting of August 11, 2014
Los Angeles – On Tuesday, June 9, 2015, Police Commission President Steve Soboroff stated the following:
”This morning, my fellow Police Commissioners and I completed the long and extremely difficult task of carefully reviewing and making a decision regarding the use of force incident which resulted in the death of Mr. Ezell Ford, 25 years of age, on August 11, 2014.
This is a tragedy for all involved, the family, relatives, loved ones and friends of Mr. Ford, as well as the involved police officers. To the Ford family, my fellow Police Commissioners and I extend our sincere sympathies for your profound loss.
I would like to give a brief review of the investigative process that took place in this investigation, and in all deadly use of force incidents involving Los Angeles Police Officers. The investigation into the facts of the events was completed by the Los Angeles Police Department Force Investigation Division, which is comprised of very experienced and skilled investigators, in accordance with guidelines that have been in place for a number of years as a result of the past Federal Consent Decree. The completed investigation is presented to the Los Angeles Police Department Use of Force Review Board, which is comprised of Command Staff members of the Department. Upon their review, they make a recommendation to the Chief of Police for his consideration.
The Chief of Police then provides the Police Commission with his analysis of the investigation and recommendations as to the findings in three specific areas: Tactics of the involved officers, Drawing of the Firearm by the involved officers, and the Use of Deadly Force by the involved officers. That document will be available via a California Public Records Request, with the names of the involved officers redacted, this afternoon.
While the Department is conducting its investigation, our Inspector General Alexander Bustamante and members of his staff, on behalf of the Police Commission, are involved in monitoring the investigation from the initial steps of responding to the scene, through attending the Use of Force Review Board. The Inspector General is given unfettered access to all of the investigative materials. The Inspector General provides the Police Commission with an independent analysis and recommendation into the same three areas that the Chief of Police does: Tactics, Drawing, and Use of Deadly Force.
As is the case in all Categorical Use of Force incidents, the Inspector General will have available for public review an Abridged Summary of his analysis of this incident, on behalf of the Police Commission, on the Department website, www.lapdonline.org by the end of the work day today.
The Police Commission has had copies of all of the investigative materials for our review for a period of time which we have all done. This morning, the Police Commission was given a presentation by the Force Investigation Division investigators with a very thorough and complete overview of this investigation. The presentation was followed with a discussion with the Chief of Police and Inspector General relative to their respective analysis of the incident and the three areas of Tactics, Drawing and Use of Deadly Force.
The Los Angeles Police Department has the most extensive investigative processes into use of deadly force incidents in the Country. Our review of this incident has been intensive. This Commission takes its responsibility to the community and the Los Angeles Police Department very seriously when considering incidents in which Los Angeles Police Officers use deadly force. I am confident that we have been presented a very thorough and complete investigation, with analysis provided by skilled and talented members of the Los Angeles Police Department and our Inspector General's office. Our analysis has been deliberate, thoughtful, and compassionate based on our best understanding of the facts.
The recommendation of the Chief of Police for all officers was that their actions were in policy in all three areas.
The recommendation of the Inspector General as it relates to Tactics, was one officer out of policy and one officer in policy. As it relates to the Drawing and Use of Force, the officers' actions were in policy.
Now that this extensive investigation is complete, this civilian oversight body has made our decision on this incident relative to the appropriateness in each of the three areas, Tactics, Drawing and Use of Force.
As it relates to the Tactics in this incident, the Police Commission found Tactical Debrief for both officers, the Tactics employed by one Police Officer III Administrative Disapproval and one Police Officer II In Policy, No Further Action.
DRAWING OF THE WEAPON
Relating to the Drawing of the Weapon, the Police Commission found that the Drawing of the Weapon by one Police Officer III Administrative Disapproval and one Police Officer II, first drawing Administrative Disapproval and second drawing In Policy, No Further Action.
NON-LETHAL USE OF FORCE
Regarding the Non-Lethal Use of Force the Police Commission found that the Non-Lethal Use of Force by one Police Officer III was Administrative Disapproval and one Police Officer II In Policy, No Further Action.
USE OF FORCE
Regarding the Use of Force, or firing of the weapon, the Police Commission found that the Use of Force by one Police Officer III was Administrative Disapproval and one Police Officer II In Policy, No Further Action.
Consistent with the Los Angeles City Charter, disciplinary matters relevant to the Administrative Disapproval finding for the involved officers for this case will now be determined by the Chief of Police.
Pursuant to California law, my fellow Commissioners and I, along with those who were present in the closed session meeting, are unable to divulge any of the information discussed during those meetings, including our justification leading to our individual decisions.
The determination as to the criminal culpability for the involved officers is the responsibility of the Los Angeles County District Attorney and not within the authority of the Chief of Police or Police Commission.
This incident has changed all involved in it forever. My fellow Police Commissioners and I clearly understand the grief and loss the Ford family will feel forever, as well as the impact on the involved police officers. Our compassion and thoughts will remain with them.”
Chief Charlie Beck Responds to Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners' Decision in the Matter of Mr. Ezell Ford
Los Angeles: "The men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department conduct over one million enforcement contacts every year. They do an incredible job in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Every day I see heroic and selfless actions that bring credit to this City and its Police Department. Occasionally officers are called upon to use force. When that happens those actions are exhaustively reviewed in order to enforce standards and improve training.
The LAPD is known throughout the country for its exceptional thoroughness and expertise in investigating officer involved shootings. Those investigations go through multiple levels of review culminating in a final decision by the Police Commission.
This afternoon the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners announced its decision in the use of force incident involving two Los Angeles Police Department officers and Mr. Ezell Ford.
The Department, with the oversight of the Commission's Office of Inspector General, conducted an exhaustive investigation which included the analysis of forensic evidence, numerous witness interviews, and the collection of documents and electronic recording.
This investigation was then presented to me to make my recommendations to the Police Commission on the tactics, drawing and exhibiting of weapons, and use of force by the involved officers. In addition, the Office of Inspector General provided its independent assessment of the incident with recommendations to the Commission. The Commission then reviewed all of the evidence and recommendations to make the final determination in the case.
The Police Commission is an independent civilian review authority, appointed by the Mayor to represent the people of Los Angeles. I respect the process and the decision made in this matter."
- Chief Charlie Beck
Texas officer resigns after 'indefensible' actions at pool party
by Ashley Fantz, Holly Yan and Catherine E. Shoichet
A Texas officer widely criticized for his handling of black teens at a pool party has resigned -- even before the investigation into the case has finished.
A YouTube video that showed Eric Casebolt's response to reports of fighting at a McKinney pool party sparked swift allegations of racism.
Critics decried the white officer for cursing at several black teenagers, unholstering and waving his gun at boys and slamming at bikini-clad girl to the ground, his knees pressed down on her back.
McKinney's police chief announced Casebolt's firing Tuesday and called Casebolt's actions "indefensible."
"Our policies, our training, our practice, do not support his actions," Police Chief Greg Conley said. "He came into the call out of control, and as the video shows, was out of control during the incident."
Prior to his resignation Casebolt had been on administrative leave as police investigated what happened at McKinney's Craig Ranch community last Friday.
It's too soon to say whether the former officer will face charges over what happened, the police chief said.
"We are continuing looking into all the allegations that are being presented to us, and any part of a criminal investigation regarding anyone will take a matter of time for us to work through all those allegations and those people who have come forward to us to complain," Conley said.
He noted that Casebolt was the only responding officer who was out of line.
"I had 12 officers on the scene, and 11 of them performed according to their training," he said. "They did an excellent job."
Casebolt's attorney has not responded to CNN's requests for comment.
While the police chief said Casebolt's actions were clearly unjustified, opinions vary as to whether race played a role.
Party host: Racist remark sparked tensions
Tatyana Rhodes was hosting a pool party Friday and said tensions flared after a racially charged fight broke out.
It started, she said, when two white women told a group of black teens they should leave and "go back to their Section 8 homes."
One of the women, she said, smacked her in the face.
But Rhodes said the police officer took things too far.
"He didn't have to use aggression," she told CNN's "Erin Burnett: Outfront."
Now, she says she's glad he has stepped down.
"I'm happy that he's resigning," she said. "I feel that everyone in McKinney will feel better that he's resigning. ... It's the first step."
Black resident: 'This was not a racially motivated event'
Benet Embry, a black resident at Craig Ranch, saw things differently at the neighborhood pool Friday.
He said he saw a crowd of teenagers show up, even though Craig Ranch's strict homeowners' association rules prohibit bringing more than two guests to the pool.
The teens huddled by the gate and shouted to be let in. Some jumped over the fence, Embry said. A security guard tried to get them to leave but was outnumbered, so the guard called police.
"Let me reiterate, the neighbors or the neighborhood did not call the police because this was an African-American party or whatever the situation is," he said. "This was not a racially motivated event -- at all. This whole thing is being blown completely out of proportion."
Embry did say he was disturbed to see the officer kneel on top of the bikini-clad girl and wave his gun at other teens.
"I may or may not agree with everything that the police officer did, but I do believe he was trying to establish order," he said.
White videographer: It was racially motivated
Brandon Brooks disagrees. He's the 15-year-old white teen who shot the video and said there's no doubt race was a factor in how police responded. Brandon said the officer was targeting black teens at the scene.
"I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening," he told CNN affiliate KDAF. "You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kinda like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down."
Brandon said he was unnerved to see his 14-year-old friend tackled and pressed to the ground.
"I think she was 'running her mouth,' and she has freedom of speech, and that was very uncalled for him to throw her to the ground," he said.
Tackled girl: 'My back was hurting bad'
Dajerria Becton, the girl seen taken to the ground by Casebolt, told local station KDFW she had obeyed the officer's order to leave.
"He told me to keep walking," she said. "And I kept walking, and then I'm guessing he thought we were saying rude stuff to him."
That's when things got physical, she said.
"He grabbed me, twisted my arm on my back and shoved me in the grass and started pulling the back of my braids," Dajerria told KDFW.
In the video, the officer places her hands behind her and kneels on her back.
"I was telling him to get off me because my back was hurting bad," Dajerria said.
Dajerria wasn't charged, McKinney police said. She was released to her parents.
Police find nothing hazardous after part of U.S. Capitol complex evacuated
by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan
Authorities found nothing hazardous in two U.S. Senate office buildings after investigating reports of suspicious packages and a telephoned bomb threat, U.S. Capitol Police said on Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said police cleared a room in the Dirksen building and the courtyard of the Russell building, both near the U.S. Capitol, and found nothing problematic.
Part of Dirksen was evacuated after Capitol Police received a bomb threat by phone call, and police investigated a report of a suspicious package in that building.
People were not cleared from Russell, where an unattended lunch cooler was reported as a possible suspicious package, Schneider said.
The two buildings house various offices for U.S. senators and their staff as well as hearing rooms.
The Dirksen building evacuation interrupted a Senate hearing on the Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for security at airports.
"The threat was determined false," said Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who came back after the all-clear to close the hearing he chaired.
Bratton's Collaborative Policing Doesn't Offer Real Reform
by Brenden Beck and Amanda Matles
Last month the NYPD rolled out a pilot test of its new collaborative policing initiative in four precincts with an eye to expanding the program citywide soon. The keystone of this initiative, the neighborhood patrol program, aims to improve police-community interactions by having officers regularly patrol small sectors where they will "have time" to "engage with the community" according to Police Commissioner William Bratton.
In the wake of the recent murders by police of unarmed black men, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and others have been calling for reform, but collaborative policing is not the change we need. Its feel-good name and seemingly progressive philosophy elide how the new program—if expanded to the whole city—will push more money towards an already over-funded NYPD, do nothing to stop racially targeted broken-windows policing and further enmesh the police in the daily lives of New Yorkers who need jobs and schools, not more cops with guns and arrest powers.
The patrol plan redeploys police, taking them out of specialized units like narcotics squads to instead regularly patrol one neighborhood. Officers are not required to respond to 911 calls when practicing collaborative policing. Instead they are supposed to talk with community members, partner with businesses, and work with social service providers to solve neighborhood problems.
This might sound like a welcome change to an arrest-based approach, but history shows
that community policing funding is often rerouted to more repressive tactics, and even when implemented, the approach asks police to do work for which they are ill-prepared.
In the 1990s, Mayor David Dinkins tried this patrol strategy (then called "community" policing, but very similar to the current approach). His "Safe Streets, Safe City" initiative raised property and income taxes to fund 6,000 new community policing officers.
By the time the officers were hired and trained, however, there was a new mayor. Rudy Giuliani abandoned community policing, using the extra staff to expand stop-and-frisk and increase broken-windows arrests. Commissioner Bratton was Giuliani's first police chief in 1994 and he oversaw the end of Dinkins' community approach. He has never explained why the NYPD killed the program in 1994 or why they are reviving it now.
Crime rates have been falling in New York since the Dinkins era, but the police budget has not reflected this happy change. The murder rate in 2012 (the most recent year with data) was one-sixth its 1991 high, but the police budget rose from $3 billion to $5 billion (adjusted for inflation) during that time. Some would say that a large police force deters crime, but crime went down in cities that did not increase their force size, and certainly at some budget level we must stop the spending. We can cash in the public safety dividend, and the money we save can be spent on schools, hospitals, and housing—things that stop crime before it happens.
Despite the historically unprecedented budget size, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is using collaborative policing to justify more spending. She said earlier this year that the new patrol plan "requires more resources, not less."
Fortunately, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not include an increase in police spending in his preliminary budget, and we hope the final budget will not expand the bloated department.
Under the new collaborative policing initiative, police are partnering with homeless, mental health and domestic violence services. Police are diverting people who would otherwise be arrested for a minor violation to these service providers. While keeping people out of jail is no doubt an important step in providing help, it is not clear why the police department needs to be involved at all. The NYPD is designed to arrest and intimidate people, not to help them. This was thrown into sharp relief in April when two New York police officers killed David Felix, an unarmed mentally ill man, while trying to arrest him.
Collaborative policing turns problems like homelessness and mental health into police problems, increasing the likelihood they will be addressed with violence and arrests. The city officials who support the new patrol program are too narrowly focused on police solutions to social problems.
Bratton is hoping collaborative policing will heal the community-police divide damaged after the murders of Eric Garner and Akai Gurley. A look at history and the budget, however, suggests the new plan will be more of the same. We have let our police spending grow too large, we have allowed broken-windows policing to incarcerate too many, and we have placed too much faith in police to solve social problems. We do not need collaborative police, we need fewer police.
Brenden Beck is a doctoral student in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Amanda Matles is a doctoral student in the Earth and Environmental Science Program, Human Geography specialization at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Group seeks arrests in boy's death in planned court filings
by The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — A group of civil rights leaders, activists and clergy plans to seek arrest warrants for two police officers involved in the shooting death of a 12-year-old holding a pellet gun outside a Cleveland recreation center.
The investigation into the November shooting of Tamir Rice was turned over to prosecutors last week. They said the case would be presented to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges are filed.
The group of community leaders says they're taking matters into their own hands after waiting more than six months for justice in the case.
The group plans to make court filings Tuesday under an Ohio law allowing private citizens with knowledge of a case to file affidavits charging an offense and asking a judge to issue arrest warrants.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Interaction between police and city's African-American community a welcome sight
by Earl Morgan
Interesting, to say the least, on Sunday I witnessed what's become, well, unusual along Jersey City's Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At the entrance of the shopping mall at Ege Avenue, a city police officer was sitting on the hood of his cruiser having a casual, friendly conversation with a black woman.
Just a block away, there was similar scene with a police cruiser parked at the curb, while an officer was out of his patrol vehicle having a conversation with another local civilian. This is a welcome change from what's become the norm; patrol cars cruising along King Drive, seemingly oblivious to the people they're pledged to protect and serve. It was, to say the least, a welcome sight.
Hopefully this is a manifestation of the heretofore unseen anti-crime initiative Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop mentioned during one of those rare times when he was actually engaging with the press, instead of deflecting the fourth estate with his shield, city spokesperson Jennifer Morrill.
During his rare meeting with the press, Fulop promised that a new batch of officers would begin patrolling the crime-plagued west and south police districts this week.
If the scene I described above is part of that initiative, it's certainly welcome, though belated. The warm June weather was almost bound to ratchet up crime in those areas and increase the sound of gunfire which has residents on edge.
"I'm afraid to come out of the house," was a familiar refrain in the conversations with residents in those areas. Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea said the 32 new officers would be an answer to those concerns when they begin their shifts.
"We are working to increase community interaction with the JCPD," said Shea.
Community policing has become virtual mantra in the aftermath of cell phone videos of alleged police brutality and shootings of primarily black suspects. The White House is talking about it; Camden New Jersey is touting a community policing strategy that has led to a decline in crime there.
During a meeting last week with several African-American community leaders, the issue of crime was one of several quality of life issues raised with city officials.
Patricia Sebron, a longtime community activist, former member of the Jersey City school board and business owner on King Drive, fired off a letter to Shea and Police Chief Phillip Zacche that she also emailed to a plethora of other state and city officials and the press calling for "intelligent, courteous, well-trained officers patrolling our streets."
It can be done. Several months ago The Morris Canal Community Development Corporation honored city Police Officers Lou DeStefano and Saidia Simmons who have become a welcome presence in the city's Lafayette section. It's not unusual to see people run out of stores along Pacific Avenue and go out of their way to speak to and shake hands with the officers. Now that's community policing.
Bergen County forum aims for better understanding between police and community
by Monsy Alvarado
HACKENSACK — Have local police launched programs to eliminate negative stereotypes that may exist about certain communities?
What can police do to avoid the use of excessive force?
Does having school officers increase the number of arrests of youth?
Those were some of the questions posed to police on Monday in a community gathering titled "Bergen County Community Building a Partnership Between Law Enforcement Forum." More than 85 people filled the seats in a fifth-floor room at the County Administration Building for the gathering, the latest in a string of similar events held in the county and nationwide in recent months that aim to build trust and increase dialogue between police and minority communities. The gatherings have been in response to recent high-profile deaths of black men by police across the nation, including in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island.
North Jersey has also seen police shootings of minorities with the latest deaths occurring in the last few weeks in Hackensack and Lyndhurst.
"It boils down to respect for law enforcement, respect for youth," said Attorney Murshell Bland, the moderator before asking a few teenagers on the dais to ask their questions. "It's a two-way street."
Monday's event was co-sponsored by the Bergen County Chapter of the NAACP, which held another forum in February at Bergen Community College, and the Bergen County Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. On hand to answer questions from teenagers were Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, Hackensack Police Director Michael Mordaga, Englewood Police Chief Lawrence Suffern, Teaneck Detective Harold Clark, Anthony Cureton, president of the county of the NAACP and retired Englewood City officer who now works as spokesman for the Bergen County Sheriffs Department, and retired Hackensack officer Ken Martin, who was that city's school resource officer.
The questions led to a talk about community policing as a way to combat stereotypes and to get police officers to interact with the community they were sworn to serve.
Suffern said Englewood eliminated its community policing unit years ago due to lack of staff and budget constraints but said that he was starting to build it up again by encouraging officers on patrol to get out of their police cars and talk to people they see.
Clark said that since the shooting death of Phillip Pannell, a black township teenager, by a white officer in 1990, the police department has hired officers that are more reflective of the community, which improves understanding.
Saudino said his department employed officers of various cultural and religious backgrounds.
Suffern said that tasers can be used as a way to avoid excessive force while Saudino explained why police are trained to "shoot to kill" instead of "shoot to wound"
Attorney Jason Foy, also a panelist, emphasized to the audience that if they are in a situation with police, they should take a calm approach so the situation doesn't escalate.
"You cannot fight an officer even if he's wrong," he said. "You must comply."
Shaheed Bailey, 16, of Englewood president of Nulites Youth Group of the Urban League of Bergen County, said that sometimes it's hard to comply because some youth feel provoked.
In answering the question on whether having a school resource officer increases arrests of young people, Martin said it hadn't. When a teenager gets in trouble, he said, police resource officers have been known to reach out to parents before any charges are filed. As an example, he said, once he had a student that started a very small brush fire and instead of being charged, he was placed in a program to prevent him from doing that again.
"We try to use our discretion as much as possible," he said.
Niyi Fatiregun, 16, of Little Ferry said he attended the event because he wanted to hear from police on how they wanted youth to respond during stops.
"I got to see the police point of view," Fatiregun said afterward. "When police stop me I'm going to be more patient."
Michele Henry, a Teaneck resident, said the event had an "honest dialogue."
"I hope they do it again,"she said. "This is important right now. Our future depends on it."
New style of policing works to defuse mental health crises
Police embracing this approach end more situations without violence place fewer people in the local jails
by Matthew Spina
BUFFALO, N.Y. — His rock-bottom moment should have been when his kid sister and mother found him near death, in the bathroom with the heroin needle planted in a slender arm and his soft pale cheeks turning blue.
His mother called 911, and after a series of spasms, the antidote Narcan brought him back. He began a treatment program, and his family thought maybe, just maybe, he would pull out of his descent.
Months later, "David" was using again, with the same mix of heroin and painkillers that he felt quelled the vivid flashbacks and the night sweats of post-traumatic stress disorder — brought on during his days as a local medic.
Rescue this time sprang from an unlikely source.
A Cheektowaga cop believing in a new style of police work told David to meet him for a talk. The cop found David with the painkiller Dilaudid and a baggie of heroin. He arrested him, urged his family to post no bail, and got to work on a plan.
That was in January. David, now carefully managed, for the most part has made steady progress for the last five months.
The cop in David's case was Cheektowaga Lt. Brian J. Gould, a youthful 39-year-old. Gould argues that police can do a better job with people dealing with a mental illness and, like his police chief, believes that "crisis intervention teams" are the answer.
With crisis intervention, police officers who have been otherwise taught to take charge and issue clear orders are encouraged to step back, listen with empathy, be patient and act almost like social workers. The goal is to find long-term help for people in a crisis.
Police embracing this approach end more situations without violence, according to assorted studies, and they place fewer people in the local jails that are ill-equipped to handle them.
For the last few years in Erie County, only Cheektowaga fully embraced the crisis intervention team — or CIT — model. But other departments took notice, and now Orchard Park, Evans, the Town of Tonawanda, the City of Tonawanda and the University at Buffalo Police have teams.
An array of other departments have officers trained in crisis intervention: Amherst, West Seneca, Lancaster, the SPCA and the Sheriff's Office. The Buffalo Police Department will send personnel later this year to the course provided by Erie County Crisis Services. A total of 110 officers and 24 dispatchers have taken the course so far.
One Town's Experience
Police in Memphis, Tenn., pioneered crisis intervention teams almost 30 years ago in response to the community uproar following the police decision to fatally shoot a suicidal man with a knife. CIT spread to some of the nation's largest police departments, yet it has not swept the land. Only 3,000 of the nation's 18,000 police agencies employ some level of crisis intervention.
Some people with serious psychiatric disorders go through cycles of ups and downs, especially when they self-medicate, and they generate numerous calls to 911. Police often find those calls volatile, and bad things happen when cops are on edge. Studies show that half of the people killed by police nationwide had a history of mental illness.
In upstate New York, Rochester's department began CIT in 2004. But for most of the next decade, you could not find crisis intervention teams west of Monroe County.
In 2012, Cheektowaga Police Chief David J. Zack saw that some people were generating dozens of police calls, with mental illness as the likely reason. Officers responded to one teenager, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, 79 times. Zack read up on crisis intervention and realized it had potential to help the people often lost in the shuffle of police work. CIT officers weren't dispatched to lock people up. They were to make a difference.
"That's sorely needed today," he said.
Zack talks up CIT with other police officials. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has given awards to the Cheektowaga department. Many NAMI members have sons, daughters, spouses or siblings dealing with serious mental illnesses, and the members know that police are crucial to the mental health system that sprang up as large state-run institutions faded away. While conscientious police can help, an impatient cop only going through the motions can make matters worse.
Certainly, police academies show their young recruits how to deal with mentally ill people in their darkest moments. But academy training can't cover every scenario that officers may face as their careers unfold.
A good share of the academy training deals with the decision to force someone into a psychiatric emergency room. Police in New York can do this when someone appears dangerous. But the tactic draws plenty of critics, including family members who want their loved ones treated. Forced hospitalization usually ends when the patient no longer appears threatening and before any lasting improvement occurs.
Still, some police view the trip to the emergency room or an arrest as their only tools.
By connecting people directly to mental health programs, Cheektowaga's CIT officers have forced fewer people into Erie County Medical Center's psychiatric emergency room, even while the number of calls involving mental illness has gone up. Police also cut in half the instances when they used physical force to admit someone — just 14 times last year.
Debbie Cordone, of Cheektowaga, needed help in December with her autistic 9-year-old son, who was so out of control that four adults could not restrain him. She worried about calling the police, figuring that loud or fast-moving officers would make a bad situation worse. And she's the wife of a retired Buffalo police officer.
"They were fabulous," Cordone said of the two Cheektowaga cops who arrived. "They were very calm. They kept their emotions at one level. They followed our lead, which was very important."
Cordone was so appreciative, she wrote a "thank you" to the department: "This may not seem like a big deal to most, but to the parents of an autistic child it means the world."
As for that teenager who generated 79 police responses, Shawn Offhaus is now 21 and feels much better. Cheektowaga police and case managers for Erie County Crisis Services advocated for court-ordered treatment for Shawn, who didn't always take his medicine.
Now he receives a monthly dose at a doctor's office; his case managers and the police check in with him regularly; and he hasn't had an incident in more than a year. He works part time. His mother no longer carries a constant dread of what might happen next.
'Saving My Life'
Crisis intervention officers are trained to a higher level in how to defuse the tension with a delusional, desperate or manic person. Then, after the hospital evaluation that usually follows, CIT officers follow up and connect the person with the services that best address their problems.
That's what was meant by "team" when the Memphis department pioneered the concept in 1988 — police teaming with mental health agencies.
And that's essentially what happened with David.
In January, Gould coaxed the man to meet him on Union Road. Gould knew from David's family that he was abusing drugs again, as he had done on and off for three years.
As a local medic, David saw a lot of blood, bone and suffering, including the carnage of a crash that killed two friends. He was later diagnosed with PTSD. A back injury helped him get prescription pain medicine, and he used heroin, as well. To feed his habit, he drained his parents' credit cards of around $100,000.
While CIT isn't about locking people up, that's exactly what Gould wanted to do with David when he found him with heroin. He theorized that a spell in the Erie County Holding Center — it ended up being 13 days — would stabilize him, especially because his parents were away.
When freed from jail, David became a case for Erie County Crisis Services. A case manager assigned to crisis intervention teams, Sarah Bonk, now helps manage David's recovery. Perhaps more importantly, David's family feels as though she is their ally. His mother sees Bonk, who is friendly and instantly likable, as indispensable.
David is 20-something, rail thin with a ready grin. He sat at his kitchen table days ago, reliving "the moment."
"He intervened," David said of Gould, "and ended up saving my life."
In crisis intervention, Maj. Charles S. Cochran looms large. Cochran, who goes by his "Sam," was the first coordinator of the Memphis crisis intervention team, and though he retired from the Memphis Police Department, he continues training officers today.
He is a Southerner, with long limbs, a drawl and a manner that reminds you of TV's Dr. Phil. To Cochran, CIT can do more than change the way police operate: he thinks it can change the way society looks at people with serious mental illnesses.
"A lot of times, we don't see them as individuals," he said. "We might see them with our eyes. But we don't see them with our hearts."
Cochran spoke a few weeks ago at the local NAMI chapter's annual dinner. Across the country, NAMI helps with the 40-hour CIT course, and the Buffalo/Erie County chapter participates, as well.
The next day, chapter President Marcy Rose introduced Cochran as he gave professionals — nurses, police, dispatchers, social workers, case managers — gathered at ECMC a taste of the training: "Four verbal steps to de-escalate a crisis."
The steps, at first glance, looked like common sense, because they are the courtesies people use every day.
Going Step By Step
Step One: An officer introduces himself or herself in a friendly manner.
Step Two: Ask the person's name.
Next, the officer says something about the behavior — "I see something is bothering you" or "You seem angry" — inviting the person to express their gripes, fears, issues. Officers can let it tumble out as if they have all day.
Step Four: Cops summarize what they've heard — "Let me see if I understand you..." — without legitimizing delusions about, say, CIA bugs in the patio.
When those four steps are completed, officers have laid the foundation for smoother, more successful dialogue.
It sounds easy.
Then Cochran started picking people out of the audience. They played the cop while he played a distraught person. Quickly, it grew clear that situations can go awry when someone refuses to give their name, or just wants the cop to leave, or barely communicates.
With Cochran going in three directions at once, his handpicked "officers" became deer in the headlights. He urged them to improvise. Step Two could become Step Three if needed, or even Step Four. Sometimes, simply getting the person's name seemed a long way off. The chance that they would spill their troubles seemed even more remote.
It wasn't easy.
But it can be done.
A Town of Tonawanda CIT officer wore a body camera when she and a partner were called to a home by a mother whose adult son was going off the rails. The man was threatening her and ranting in the basement about the stresses of life.
In the video, the female officer learns the son's name from his mother — we'll call him "Craig" — and as she approaches the basement, you can hear him shouting.
She and a male partner move slowly down the stairs and spot him several feet off. She gives her name and asks Craig by name how he's doing.
"Not good? What's going on?"
"I don't know. ... I don't know how to fix it. It's been going on for years, and it just gets worse and worse and worse every day. Yesterday I had a blowup, and then today I woke up like this."
"Who have you talked to about this?" the female officer asked. "Do you have a doctor? Do you want us to help you? Do you want us to get you some help?"
"I have no idea."
"Well, we'd be more than happy to help you," she says. Her voice is softening, almost to that of a mother soothing a child.
The male officer, speaking as quietly as if he's in a library, assures Craig they just want to help.
They are watching his body language, keeping a respectful distance. Eventually, he sits down and takes off his cap. He looks weary.
"Do you have like a counselor, somebody to talk to?" Craig is asked.
He shakes his head no.
"So when you feel this way, you have nothing, nobody? OK, that's very harsh," the female officer says, trying to connect with him emotionally. "That's really tough. You can't do it on your own. How do you feel about that? Do you want us to help you out with that? We are here just to help."
He flares up again.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know how to ... fix this problem, and keep my job, and pay my bills. ..."
But minutes later, she and her partner have him moving calmly to an ambulance and to the hospital with the promise that they are going to find him a regular counselor.
"Right now, the most important thing is what?" she asks him. "Helping you. Right?"
Building better relations between community, police essential: Tom Wetzel, police lieutenant
by Tom Wetzel
Guest columnist Tom Wetzel is a suburban police lieutenant and certified law enforcement executive. He writes in favor of creating a national police corp that would foster a good relationship between police and the community.
"The police are the public and the public are the police..." Sir Robert Peel
When police officer Michael Slager illegally shot and killed Walter Scott, I suspect many critics of cops probably had a "see, we told you so" moment. Slager's actions reinforced their suspicions that cops are quick to use excessive force. It's unfortunate because common sense and the facts don't bear it out.
When we include federal personnel, there are close to 800,000 officers serving in our nation. With those numbers, we would learn about a lot more cases of abuse and see more phone videos of illegal police action if officers were out of control. Furthermore, a comprehensive 2001 International Association of Police Chiefs study on use of force showed cops used force at a rate of 3.61 times per 10,000 calls for service in 1999. Taken as a percentage, that is a rate of .0361 percent.
But none of this brings comfort to victims of police abuse or alleviates the concerns about police misuse of force. It is a major reason more effort is needed in enhancing the relationship between the server and the served because the interests of both are identical.
Recent talk about solutions have included pressing for more video recordings by officers as well as more community policing efforts which can help. But it will take more than that to build bridges to the Scott family and others who simply have evidence contrary to cops being the good guys. Essential right now is more positive interactions between the police and the public. The following are two strategies that can have a long-term impact and change the current dynamic.
Our nation has the Peace Corps, which has young volunteers helping in developing nations. It is time to establish a national police corps that would allow interested college students with good character the opportunity to voluntarily serve in a police department for at least two years upon graduation. In return, two years of their student loans would be waived.
Their roles would not involve assignments that require the skills of seasoned officers. But who better to handle community relations details that involve lots of public interactions like foot patrol than young idealistic graduates. We have a GI bill for our soldiers and the time is ripe for a PO bill for those interested in serving their country in this capacity.
Say the words "civilian review boards" and you'll find a wide range of opinions. Officers may naturally ask how many hoops they must jump through, i.e. administrative oversight, possible involvement of criminal and civil courts and media scrutiny. Now we ask them to pass another test with a citizen group with limited training whose members may be politically influenced.
But instead of a board that strictly reviews complaints against officers, every community should have at least a three-person safety advisory committee whose role is to support the department. This volunteer committee could periodically meet and look over police reports, complaints, and other matters. Their role would involve writing reports that recognize commendable work, provide suggestions for improvement and give the department a citizen perspective. This type of committee is ideally suited for older adults who bring lots of life experience and wisdom to the table. After two years, another group would be assigned to keep perspectives fresh.
These two approaches, which involve both young and old volunteers, would provide for a better-informed and involved citizenry on public safety. Furthermore, it would help create more trust, which can help douse the fires of friction we're seeing within our nation's borders right now.
2 more slayings as spike in Baltimore violence continues
There were 42 homicides in Baltimore last month, making it the city's deadliest in more than 40 years
by The Associated Press
BALTIMORE — Baltimore police are investigating two more slayings as the city continues to endure a spike in violent crime.
Police say authorities found a woman's body inside a burning house early Sunday in northeast Baltimore. Police believe the woman was killed, and the house was then set on fire.
Separately, police say officers found a 22-year-old man who had been shot multiple times in northwest Baltimore. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Police believe the man was walking in a parking lot when someone approached and shot him.
Police have not identified a suspect in either slaying.
There were 42 homicides in Baltimore last month, making it the city's deadliest in more than 40 years
Wash. man who planned war on police found guilty in cop's death
Christopher Monfort pulled up alongside officer's patrol car and fired a .223 Kel-Tec rifle into the vehicle, striking the officer multiple times in the head
by Sara Jean Green
SEATTLE — Matt Brenton was in court almost every day during the nearly four months it took to try Christopher Monfort. But he was deliberately absent when Seattle police officers testified about the fatal shooting that killed his older brother, Officer Timothy Brenton.
"It was way too painful," he said of his decision not to hear details of how Monfort pulled up alongside Brenton's patrol car and fired a .223 Kel-Tec rifle into the vehicle, striking the 39-year-old officer multiple times in the head on Halloween night 2009.
Matt Brenton, his mom, Penny, and younger sister, Betsy, were all in court Friday when a King County jury convicted Monfort, 46, of aggravated first-degree murder, a verdict that now sets the stage for the same jurors to decide if Monfort should spend the rest of his life in prison or be sent to death row.
"I'm relieved," he said of the guilty verdict and the jury's rejection of Monfort's insanity defense. "We still have the penalty phase to go through, so it's not completely done for us."
But Brenton doesn't plan to be in court much during the trial's penalty phase, in which jurors will hear testimony about Monfort's background and upbringing in a bid to spare him from facing a death sentence.
The penalty phase is to begin June 16.
While Monfort's defense team plans to call 47 witnesses, Brenton will be the only witness to provide what is known as victim-impact testimony. That's because under state law, the prosecution is only allowed to call one witness per victim to testify about the impact that person's death had on loved ones left behind.
"I want to get the penalty phase done with. This has been part of our lives for six years," Brenton said, adding he has no interest in hearing Monfort's "sob story."
In addition to aggravated murder, the jury also found Monfort guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder for trying to kill Brenton's partner and, later, a homicide sergeant investigating Brenton's death.
He was also convicted of first-degree arson for setting a fire and detonating pipe bombs that destroyed a handful of police vehicles at the city's Charles Street maintenance yard nine days before Brenton was killed.
But the jury found him not guilty of attempted first-degree murder for what prosecutors argued was his intent to kill officers responding to the fire scene.
Monfort had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all five felony charges.
"I do feel bad for the officer," Monfort told KING 5 Friday, as guards escorted him from the courtroom in his wheelchair.
"I'm sorry for the family's loss and the mother and the children."
After the jury delivered its verdict, Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler denied a defense motion to acquit Monfort on the basis of insanity.
The jury of six men and six women began deliberations Monday morning after hearing testimony from dozens of witnesses, with the last two months of the trial focused on Monfort's mental state when he waged what prosecutors called a one-man war against the Seattle Police Department.
Brenton's position as a police officer performing his official duties is the aggravating factor that qualified Monfort for the potential death penalty.
Jurors reached their verdict late Thursday afternoon, but it wasn't read in court until Friday morning before a packed courtroom that included Brenton's family members, Monfort's mother and several Seattle police officers.
Ron Smith, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, who was also in court Friday morning, said, "After 5 1/2 years, I am extremely pleased that justice has finally been served for my fallen brother, Officer Tim Brenton, as well as Officer Britt Kelly and Sgt. Gary Nelson.
"I am extremely grateful to the men and women of the jury," he said.
Kessler made his ruling on the defense motion to acquit on Monday, but he sealed his decision in an envelope to avoid the possibility of "publicity taint" while jurors deliberated.
After the jury filed out of his courtroom, Kessler read his ruling aloud, noting that experts retained by the state and defense disputed Monfort's diagnosis. While the defense's expert diagnosed Monfort with a delusional disorder, the state's expert diagnosed him with personality disorders.
Kessler ruled that while the defense proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Monfort suffers from a mental disease or defect — and believed killing random police officers would halt instances of police brutality — Monfort "no doubt" knew his actions violated criminal law.
The judge found the defense did not prove Monfort suffered from a delusional disorder, but said he believes Monfort did have personality disorders.
"Mr. Monfort's mental disease or defect did not affect his mind to such an extent that he was unable to distinguish right from wrong," Kessler said.
"Mr. Monfort chose to believe that the Constitution of the United States trumped state laws prohibiting murder, arson and attempted murder," he said, referring to Montfort's belief his actions were justified by the Constitution.
"He was wrong."
Attempting to deter police misconduct "is not a legal defense or excuse" for his crimes, Kessler said.
From the outset of the trial, the defense did not dispute Monfort was guilty of killing Brenton and trying to kill Kelly and Nelson. But they argued he was and remains mentally ill, suffering from a delusional disorder.
His attorneys claimed Monfort believed if enough police officers were randomly killed, the deaths would put an end to police brutality.
Monfort's insanity defense was vigorously challenged by the state, with prosecutors arguing Monfort was an extremist who was sane and knew his actions were wrong, but just didn't care.
Monfort was accused of setting fire to police vehicles and detonating pipe bombs at the city's Charles Street maintenance yard on Oct. 22, 2009, rigging the makeshift explosives to go off as officers responded to the scene, according to charging documents.
Nine days later, on Oct. 31, Monfort stalked and ambushed Brenton and his then-rookie partner Britt Kelly (née Sweeney) as they sat in a patrol car on a quiet residential street in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood.
Brenton was killed instantly and Kelly suffered a minor wound.
Jurors heard Monfort had planned to fire on officers responding to the Charles Street scene from a sniper's perch under a freeway overpass, but was forced to flee after he was spotted by a city worker.
Monfort told the defense psychologist he was disappointed he failed to kill any police officers at the maintenance yard, and, later, that he failed to kill Kelly, who managed to duck the rounds that struck Brenton as he sat in the patrol car's front passenger seat, a cup of coffee in his hand, the jury heard.
The state presented overwhelming evidence of Monfort's guilt — including DNA and ballistics — in connection with Brenton's death.
DNA found on an American flag bandanna left at the shooting scene matched DNA on an American flag that was impaled into the roof of a patrol car at the Charles Street facility.
The .223 Kel-Tec rifle used to kill Brenton was later found inside Monfort's Tukwila apartment, which was stockpiled with weapons and explosives in what prosecutors claimed was his anticipation of a final firefight with police. But Monfort was shot and wounded on the breezeway outside his unit on Nov. 6, 2009, by Seattle homicide detectives investigating Brenton's death.
The officers were there following up on a tip about a Datsun 210 Monfort owned — the same type of vehicle captured by Brenton's in-car video camera and then by responding patrol vehicles as Monfort fled the Leschi shooting scene.
According to testimony at trial, Monfort tried to shoot Seattle police Sgt. Gary Nelson in the head, but his handgun failed to fire because a round hadn't been chambered. The police shooting left Monfort paralyzed below the waist.
Monfort was shot just as hundreds of people were preparing to leave a memorial service for Brenton at Seattle's KeyArena.
Remote Idaho school buys guns to enhance safety
Limited funds have prevented the school from being able to afford hiring police officers to patrol the building during school hours
by Kimbeerlee Kruesi
BOISE, Idaho — A tiny school district in Idaho far removed from law enforcement has purchased firearms and trained a handful of staff to use them should the same school shooting rampage that has occurred across the country take place.
It takes at least 45 minutes for officers to reach the Garden Valley School District — a district made up of less than 300 students all taught under the same building — where limited funds have prevented the school from being able to afford hiring police officers to patrol the building during school hours. Police often request schools to help offset the costs of being stationed at a school if grants are not available.
As a result, the school board approved this month purchasing guns to remain locked inside the school and trained six employees to use the weapons in an emergency.
"I hope we never have to use them," said Alan Ward, a school board member who has been discussing this option with the school for two years. "But in the event something did happen, we wanted to be prepared."
Garden Valley's actions are just one of many solutions schools across the nation have adopted to protect their campuses. Some have installed metal detectors, others have expanded school resource officers to secure not only high schools but also middle and elementary schools.
But in Idaho, bringing guns into a school as a safety measure is a much more accepted option where Second Amendment rights are highly protected and libertarian ideals run deep.
In 2013, an eastern Idaho school district approved installing gun safes in its high schools and middle schools in order for school resource officers to have easy access to rifles if needed — the same year the Idaho School Board Association rejected a plan to set up gun training for education staff and teachers.
In 2014, state lawmakers approved allowing guns on college campuses.
According to the Idaho Department of Education, school districts statewide reported less than 10 weapon-related incidents over the past two years. This includes reports about guns, knives and explosives to schools.
What the department declined to share, however, is how many of each incident was reported, where each one occurred and when they happened. This is due to a recently amended policy where if less than 10 of a specific incident is reported, the information is redacted.
Finding information about Garden Valley's weapons decision is also limited. The school board declined to release how many firearms were purchased, what type and where they would be stored.
Ward said the school isn't releasing that information to protect safety procedures. He estimated the school has spent roughly $3,500 to purchase ammunition and train six school employees to handle the weapons while the rest of the arsenal was donated by the community.
Even with training, it's no guarantee teachers and staff will prevent fatalities in a high-stakes situation, said Allison Anderman, a staff attorney with Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit opposed to arming teachers.
She added that housing guns in schools could create a chilling effect for students who may be less inclined to speak out knowing that the teacher could be armed.
"Just having people armed doesn't make a school safer," Anderman said.