June, 2015 - Week 3
To serve & protect: Fathers in public safety balance demanding jobs with families
by Jessica Lindley
To the public they are heroes, but to their children, they are simply “Dad.”
Pursuing a career in public safety is demanding and many have to make sacrifices, including missing holidays such as Father's Day, in order to protect those who call this community home.
Cherokee Sheriff's Office Lt. Jay Baker is one of those dads.
From fielding calls from members of the media to responding to breaking news incidents, Baker has a lot on his plate; however, the father of three is an expert at getting both his job as a public information officer and dad done.
“I am very fortunate to work in the same county that I live and where my kids go to school and perform the majority of their extracurricular activities,” he said. “I'm on call 24/7, but fortunately, I no longer work a shift like most cops. They are the ones who miss so much of their family life and that is very tough.”
Serving as the spokesman for the Cherokee Sheriff's Office, Baker said he gets contacted by the media at all times of the day — even while he is on vacation.
“My family has gotten used to it, and we manage my schedule and our family time quite well,” he said. “I'm also fortunate because my wife is a stay-at-home mom so when I do get called into work I can simply go without giving a second thought about childcare; that is invaluable.”
Things weren't always that easy, though. Baker used to work in narcotics enforcement and admits that he missed moments in his children's lives.
“But, as PIO, if I have my phone and nothing major is breaking, I can make most of my kids' events and do,” he said.
When Baker isn't working, his free time is spent with his family.
“We are very close,” he said. “Our children are heavily involved in sports, so most of our spare time is spent at a ball field or gymnasium. We wouldn't have it any other way.”
His three children, Max, Sophie and Grayson, also are very understanding of their father's work schedule.
Sophie Baker said, “My daddy is my hero every day.”
Although Holly Springs Police Deputy Chief Michael Carswell's children now are adults, being a dad in public safety was anything but easy when his girls were growing up.
“It was very difficult, especially the times that I was with Marietta Police working narcotics,” he said. “I was really engrossed, and I had such a passion for it. But I was away from my family so much that I missed my oldest one growing up.”
Carswell said he never got a chance to get those younger years back but tried to make up for missing them.
“As she got older, and after I had paid my dues, I tried to reclaim those times by coaching her in softball and spending time with her in athletics,” he said. “I also tried to spend more time with my youngest one as she grew.”
When he was off shift, Carswell said his children were his No. 1 priority.
“Knowing that they were growing older and those times were escaping me more quickly, I needed to make the time to reclaim the memories and be with them,” he said.
Carswell said his two daughters, now 23 and 19, were very understanding of his career when they were children.
“Our relationships are very strong, stronger than one would imagine,” he said. “They understood the demands of the job, and we did spend quality time together. We, together, have been through a lot and that caused us to bond even more so than maybe other fathers would have.”
His advice to men in the public safety field who are thinking about starting a family — seize every moment.
“Don't take it for granted, because before you know it, it is gone,” he said. “Even though you have an extreme passion for the job, which most people do when they put that badge on, understand that your family is more important than anything that you have in your life.”
Firefighters also have challenging work schedules, and juggling 24-hour shifts and spending quality time with their families can be a tough hurdle to overcome. On top of that, some firefighters even work 48-hour shifts or other part-time jobs to support their families.
Woodstock Fire Chief Dave Soumas has been in the fire service for 26 years, spending 15 years of his career out in the field battling blazes, extricating people from vehicles and providing emergency medical services.
At the same time, Soumas was helping his wife raise their five children.
“With my wife's schedule, she was able to work while I was doing 24s, and I was able to do part-time jobs,” he recalled. “On Father's Day — and holidays in general — usually they were able to come by and see me at work, which was pretty cool.”
When Soumas wasn't working, the fire chief said he spent quality time connecting with his children.
“We went out to dinner or would have big family cookouts,” he said.
His children now are adults, but Soumas has welcomed nine grandchildren into the world, and with his schedule as fire chief, he is able to spend more time with them.
“We just welcomed a brand new one. He is only a week old,” he said Tuesday. “This is a cliche, but if I would have known how cool grandkids were I would have just started with grandkids. I get to spoil the grandkids and send them back to their parents. They are precious.”
For young dads just starting out in the fire service, Soumas recommended they learn to balance both family and work.
“You have to prioritize,” he said. “Being a small department, we really recognize family. On special days, the guys bring their families here and have dinner at the fire station. You have to stay close and keep both in check.”
NOLA officer fatally shot in head transporting suspect
by The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — A veteran New Orleans police officer has been shot and killed while transporting a suspect to the city jail.
Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the New Orleans Police Department, says Officer Daryle Holloway was shot Saturday morning and pronounced dead at an area hospital about a half-hour later.
Police Chief Michael Harrison told reporters that the suspect, 33-year-old Travis Boys, was able to get his hands out of handcuffs, grab a firearm and shoot Holloway while he was driving. Harrison says Boys came from the back seat into the front seat through a hole in the cage.
Gamble says police and other law enforcement, including state troopers, St. Tammany Parish sheriff's deputies are searching for Boys, who was initially arrested on an aggravated assault charge.
3 Children Among 10 Wounded When Gunman Opens Fire At Philadelphia Block Party
by CBS News
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Authorities say ten people were shot Saturday night in West Philadelphia.
This happened just before 10 p.m. on the 4100 block of Ogden Street in the Mantua section of the city.
Police say that an 18-month-old baby, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old were among those shot during a block party.
According to Philadelphia Police, all of those shot in the incident are in stable condition.
The juveniles were taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the others — who range in age from 22-46 — were taken to Presbyterian Hospital.
At least one shotgun was used by an unknown number of shooters, according to police.
The motive is unknown at this time as an investigation continues.
Attackers shoot 10 people at child's birthday party in Detroit
by Faith Karimi and Janet DiGiacomo
Attackers fired semiautomatic weapons at a child's birthday party in Detroit, killing one person and wounding nine others, authorities said.
A 20-year-man died in the Saturday night shooting, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.
Nine other people -- three women and six men -- suffered injuries, WXYZ said.
It's a "miracle" no child was injured at the party, which was held at a basketball court, Detroit Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt told the affiliate.
About 400 people attended the party, but there are no leads so far, and witnesses are not cooperating, Dolunt said.
"There's kids out here. I'm livid. ... There's not any excuse why no one is talking," he told WXYZ. "Man up or woman up, whatever, and tell us what's going on."
Dolunt said police are looking for the owner of an abandoned red car found across the street whose occupants they believe were shot.
Authorities will continue their investigations Sunday.
The Cleveland police -- guardians of our community
by Frank G. Jackson
As Cleveland embarks on the road toward real and sustainable police reform, our ultimate goal is to restore mutual trust, understanding and respect between our police officers and the community they serve.
Doing so requires a new mindset and a new approach to policing broadly described as "community policing." But perhaps the fundamental principle of community policing really isn't so new.
A recent article in the National Institute of Justice's New Perspectives in Policing Bulletin, titled "From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals," observes, "In some communities, the friendly neighborhood beat cop – community guardian – has been replaced with the urban warrior, trained for battle and equipped with the accouterments and weaponry of modern warfare. Armed with sophisticated technology to mine data about crime trends, officers can lose sight of the value of building close community ties."
To be a guardian, you have to know your community, you have to care about your community and you have to be engaged with your community. But you also have to believe you are part of the community.
While that's something that has been largely lost over the years, its importance cannot be overstated.
Taking a cue from the model of the friendly neighborhood beat cop that was the goal of many police departments in the past, police officers in Cleveland neighborhoods will be conducting foot patrols as a part of their daily routine. This is an important first step in fostering greater dialogue and removing barriers that have led to mistrust, misunderstanding and disrespect in both directions.
In addition, all of our frontline officers and supervisors have already received baseline community policing training, and our training staff now instills in all new cadets the philosophy that police are guardians and a part of this community.
Just as importantly, we are expanding our training on crisis intervention and have begun a more scientific approach to training officers in interactions with youth. We are incorporating changes in our use-of-force policies, and training regarding search-and-seizure. The Cleveland Division of Police has also begun implementation of body cameras for all officers, with the goal of being fully implemented by our frontline officers before the end of 2015.
Yet we know that we have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.
With Judge Solomon Oliver's acceptance of the City of Cleveland and Department of Justice Settlement Agreement on June 12, we continue on the road to reform that will ultimately result in a Division of Police the citizens of our city deserve.
Among the near-term actions will be the appointment of the selection panel that will then select the members of the Community Police Commission. This new commission will consist of 13 members reflecting the diversity of the community as well as representation of the police unions. The members' responsibility will be to make recommendations related to community-oriented, bias-free and transparent policing.
In addition, the city and the Department of Justice will work together to select a monitor whose primary responsibility will be to make sure we live up to what we have agreed to do. We are already reviewing responses to a Request for Information that was solicited to appropriate parties in March.
Meanwhile, we are moving forward on the many other aspects of the agreement, including developing and implementing programs to foster problem-oriented policing as well as bias-free policing to ensure greater accountability. I am committed to transparency and to providing regular updates throughout this process – not only to the court, as we are required to do – but, just as importantly, to the community.
What we are doing is about much more than just police reform. It is about providing part of the foundation for fundamentally improving the quality of life and social fabric of our community.
The article I mentioned earlier also observed that people care more about how they are treated by the police than they do about crime statistics. That is not at all surprising.
Better treatment begins with making community policing part of the DNA of our Division of Police, so every officer personifies professionalism and embraces the humanity of members of the community while they carry out the noble duty of protecting and serving our city. This provides the community with the trust it needs to support officers in an often difficult and dangerous job.
In traveling the road to reform, our goal is a strong and safe community where both citizens and police officers receive the respect they expect and deserve. The framework is in place for real and sustainable reform that will benefit not only today's Clevelanders but those who follow us.
That's why it is so important that we get it right.
Frank G. Jackson is mayor of the city of Cleveland.
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Citizen Application Directory
On this page you will find the latest collection of DHS citizen applications (apps), catalogued by topic, with short descritions of each tool to help you find what you need.
Disaster Response Apps
Public Safety Apps
Refer to the site for a more detailed description and download information.
The dark side of community policing – and how Police Chief Calvin Williams handles it
by Mark Naymik
(Video on site)
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- An extraordinary and unscripted example of community policing unfolded in Cleveland last Sunday and passed largely unnoticed.
The story is worth detailing, which I'll do in a moment, because it shows just how difficult – and ugly -- community policing can be.
Everybody is talking about community policing. Mayor Frank Jackson. Top brass in the police department. Officials from the U.S. Justice Department. Ministers and other community leaders and residents.
And community policing can take many forms, from sports programs for inner-city youth to neighborhood foot patrols. In essence, though, community policing is about getting police officers and residents to talk, something that's been harder to do with fewer officers on the streets and growing distrust toward them.
The difficulties involved in community policing were never more evident than last Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on the city's West Side.
Police received an anonymous 911 call about six men with guns at the corner of West 83rd Street and Detroit Avenue. As officers arrived, a man with a weapon fled on foot. The officers gave chase and reported that the man pointed the weapon at them. One officer fired four shots, but did not hit the suspect, who injured his stomach climbing over a metal fence.
Police also say they heard gunshots from behind and above them as they continued to chase the suspect, who was eventually captured and arrested and taken to the hospital. (Of course, the scene is also an example of how dangerous a cop's job can be.)
The commotion drew residents to the streets. A rumor that police shot a man quickly spread and fueled unrest. In the same neighborhood where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police, such a rumor is like a live wire.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, like his predecessor, Michael McGrath, responds to every shooting involving police to help oversee the investigation. When Williams arrived, he was met by a raucous crowd, including residents and sign-waving demonstrators.
Dressed in uniform – a white shirt and white hat – the chief walked down the street as people, including a man with a bullhorn, hurled racial slurs at the chief, who is black. Someone called him "Uncle Tom." Others called him a "house n-----."
Anthony May was one of those taunting the chief. May, who frequently protests police, moved just a few feet from the chief, waving a sign, "Stop murder by police." May then unleashed a verbal assault on the chief and other officers in the area.
"All you f----- white shirts, you all are pieces of sh--," he said, pausing between insults to gauge the chief's reaction.
May continued his profanity-laced rant with a reference to the recent death of the chief's brother, who police say was killed by a girlfriend in February.
With this in his ear, Williams talked to officers, detectives and other police brass on the scene.
But Williams also did something at the heart of the community policing. He talked to the residents and protesters, including those attacking him, and calmly listened to their questions, concerns and even their rage.
Amazingly, he even spoke to May. A few moments later, the two shook hands.
Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter Cory Shaffer, who was working the crime beat last weekend, captured these scenes in several short videos and photographs taken from a nearby corner as he waited to talk to police about the shooting. Shaffer told me about the recordings, which are not a complete narrative of the morning, but provide enough to understand what happened. I reviewed his video and photographs and edited then into the short video above.
Portions of the video are hard to watch. The language is raw. The insults hurled at Williams are personal and cruel. But the images also show officers behaving responsibly under extreme pressure. The chief and the other officers on scene never outwardly reacted or retreated. They just did their jobs and continued to interact with residents.
The most important takeaway is that Williams' interaction with the protestors provides a shining example of what he is expecting from his officers.
No cop can honestly say that Williams is out of touch from the rank-and-file's reality. (You can read about patrolmen union president Steve Loomis's reaction to the Sunday incident here.)
Sunday's interaction also gave us a look at how officers should handle protests that are more spontaneous and less predictable than the large and often scripted demonstrations that have been taking place since the November 2014 police shooting of 12-year-old Rice.
Community policing is hailed as pillar of police reform. And it features prominently in the consent decree signed between the city of Cleveland and the U.S. Justice Department with the aim of reducing the use of force by police officers and improving trust between officers and the community they serve.
As the video from Sunday shows, rebuilding that trust will not be easy. But Williams shows us how to begin.
City Leaders Introduce Community Policing Program
by Ali Wolf
SACRAMENTO — At a time when tension between communities and police is high, city leaders in Sacramento are trying to strengthen that relationship.
“We expect to see that crime goes down on one hand and public trust goes up on the other,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said.
Thursday, Mayor Johnson, Police Chief Sam Somers and other city leaders unveiled a community policing initiative called “Officer Next Door.”
“We as a community didn't want to sit by idly and wait for something to happen in our community, we want to be proactive,” Johnson said.
The mayor said the program has been in the works since August of last year, after police in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown.
“If you look at what's happening across the country, there's such a gulf of mistrust between our law enforcement and our communities of color in particular, and we want to be a leader in that in Sacramento,” Johnson said.
Officer Next Door is based on four pillars: police training, diversity, engagement and accountability.
“We're gonna be able to make Sacramento the safest big city in California,” Somers said.
In the newly approved budget, the city allocated $5.3 million for this initiative. The money will go towards hiring 15 new officers, sensitivity training and use of force training, diversity hiring, gang prevention and a pilot program for police body cameras.
“It's very important for us to right now make sure that we hold the police, the sheriff, law enforcement accountable,” Sacramento NAACP President Stephen Webb said.
Webb has been involved in shaping this program, as have local activists such as Christina Arechiga. She is cautiously optimistic.
“I want to see some action. I've seen a lot of money being tossed around to the police department and I've seen a lot of words being said,” Arechiga said.
Eleven people will be selected to form a “Community Police Commission” that will help monitor the program and report back to city council and the Police Department.
That new commission will be appointed within 120 days and within 180 days they're expected to have a progress report.
SCMPD Pushing Community Policing to Regain Public Trust
by Ian Margol
SAVANNAH, GA -- The relationship between many Savannah communities and the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police is a strained one.
But now, officers are taking a new approach to their work - hoping to regain the public's trust.
The phrase "community policing" gets tossed around a lot in law enforcement, but for a department to be truly successful at integrating into the community they need to have boots on the ground in the neighborhoods... or in this case, bike tires on the ground.
Each day, several officers from every SCMPD precinct spend part of the workday biking through the neighborhoods.
"They don't realize we're out here to have fun and we're out here to make friends and build relationships," said Officer Aaron Fox. "It surprises them when we're out here doing that."
Often, Fox can be found riding around the Islands or East Savannah - and just last Wednesday, it paid off.
"We found an unsecured vehicle, windows down, keys in the vehicle and we started knocking on doors because we didn't want somebody's car getting stolen."
A little while later they found the owner, but it was what he learned from one of the neighbors that ended up being the bigger find.
After knocking on one woman's door, she pointed to another car on the street right in front of her house that she had never seen before.
"It ended up being a stolen car from two days prior so we were able to actually recover that vehicle and return it to the owner," said Fox.
It's those kinds of interactions the department is hoping will help build trust with the public, especially younger generations.
Fox tells News 3 sometimes while he's on his bike kids in the area will ride up next to him and he'll challenge them to a race, just to have a little fun.
"When they grow up knowing who we are and knowing we're actually here to help them, then they're more likely to call on us. It's going to continue to allow us to combat crime in these areas."
Who is the Charleston church shooting suspect?
by Ed Payne
For Dylann Roof's friends, talk of sparking a race war or wanting segregation reinstated was nothing new.
But then again, they didn't think he was serious.
After all, they had known him for years.
"He never said the n-word, he never made racial slurs, he never targeted a specific black person," his roommate Joey Meek told ABC News. "He never did any of that, so it was just pretty much a shock."
Police say it was Roof who opened fire at a prayer meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, killing nine people.
Meek didn't take his claims about Roof to authorities before Thursday morning, the day after the shooting, ABC reported.
Due in court
Roof was arrested Thursday morning about 245 miles (395 kilometers) from Charleston in Shelby, North Carolina. He waived extradition and returned to South Carolina late Thursday.
Roof is awaiting his bond hearing in the case, which could take place Friday.
He might still be on the run if police hadn't gotten a tip from Debbie Dills, who reportedly spotted Roof on her way into work.
"I don't know what drew my attention to the car," she told CNN's Don Lemon. She saw it had a South Carolina license plate. "In my mind I'm thinking, 'That can't be.' ... I never dreamed that it would be the car."
Dills followed Roof for more than 30 miles, keeping authorities updated along the way.
Shelby police eventually caught up with Roof, pulled him over and took him into custody before returning him to Charleston.
Friends and family
A more comprehensive picture of Roof is developing as police pursue the case.
John Mullins, who attended White Knoll High School with Roof, told CNN on Thursday that the suspect was "kind of wild" but not violent.
"He was ... calm," Mullins said. "That's why all this is such a shock."
Mullins said Roof occasionally made racist comments, although he had black friends.
"They were just racist slurs in a sense," he said. "He would say it just as a joke. ... I never took it seriously, but now that he shed his other side, so maybe they should have been taken more seriously."
Roof repeated the ninth grade at the Lexington County high school, said Mary Beth Hill of the Lexington School District, west of Columbia, South Carolina. She said he was "very transient," that he "came and went."
In a Washington Post interview, Roof's uncle, Carson Cowles, said his mother "never raised him to be like this."
Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime.
"The whole world is going to be looking at his family who raised this monster," Cowles said. "I'd be the executioner myself if they would allow it."
Before opening fire
Roof spent about an hour at the historic AME church before the massacre, attending the prayer meeting with his eventual victims , Charleston police Chief Greg Mullen said.
Witnesses told investigators the gunman stood up and said he was there "to shoot black people," a law enforcement official said.
"You rape our women, and you're taking over our country. And you have to go," Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the church's slain pastor, said Roof told his victims, according to CNN affiliate WIS.
Investigators are looking into whether Roof had links to white supremacist or other hate groups, a law enforcement official said. There's no indication so far that he was known to law enforcement officials who focus on hate groups.
In an image tweeted by authorities in Berkeley County, South Carolina, Roof is seen wearing a jacket with what appear to be the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and nearby Rhodesia, a former British colony that a white minority ruled until it became independent in 1980 and changed its name to Zimbabwe.
Banned from mall
The months leading up to the shooting were a mix of troubling and odd.
Police in his hometown of Columbia -- about 120 miles northwest of Charleston -- obtained a warrant for his arrest in early March. He had been picked up on drug charges a few days earlier at Columbiana Centre mall, according to a police report.
Workers at two stores told mall security that Roof was acting strangely, asking "out of the ordinary questions," the police report said.
Roof initially said he wasn't carrying anything illegal. But he agreed to be searched and an officer found "a small unlabeled white bottle containing multiple orange ... square strips" in his jacket, the police report said.
They turned out to be suboxone, which is used to treat opiate addiction, according to the police report. Roof said he got the strips from a friend.
He was arrested on a drug possession charge that day in late February, but it's unclear why the March 1 arrest warrant was issued.
On April 26, police were again called to Columbiana Centre because Roof, who had been banned from the mall for a year after his drug arrest, had returned, the police report said. The ban was extended to three years after his second arrest.
Roof turned 21 in April, and a short time later he had a gun.
A senior law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told CNN that Roof's father bought him a .45-caliber Glock handgun.
But the story is different when you talk to Roof's grandfather. He told CNN that his grandson was given "birthday money" and that the family didn't know what Roof did with it.
It's not known whether that handgun was used when Roof allegedly opened fire Wednesday night at the prayer meeting.
Two more stories
Two more versions of the gun purchase emerged late Thursday, although they generally support the existing narratives.
Dalton Tyler, a friend and former Roof roommate, told CNN that Roof's parents bought him the gun, but withheld it from him until he learned how to use it. Tyler said Roof finally got it last week.
With a few additional details, this lines up with what law enforcement is saying.
Separately, The New York Times reported that Roof bought the gun from birthday money his parents gave him. That supports the grandfather's version of events.
What's different in the Times story is that another roommate, Joey Meek, said he hid the gun because he was worried about Roof, who he said was saying troubling things about segregation and "planning to do something crazy."
Meek told the Times that he eventually gave the gun back at the urging of his girlfriend, because "he was on probation and did not want to get in trouble."
Men charged in Boston beheading plot to appear in court
by Richard Valdmanis
Two New England men are due in court in Boston on Friday for a hearing tied to charges they plotted to help the militant group Islamic State by beheading Massachusetts police officers.
David Wright, 25, of Massachusetts, and Nicholas Rovinski, 24, of Rhode Island, will appear for a detention hearing at 2 p.m. EDT in U.S. District Court in Boston.
Wright was arrested by police in Boston on June 2, the same day that officers shot dead a third man, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, while trying to question him about the beheading plot. Authorities said Rahim, 26, threatened the officers with a knife.
Wright and Rovinski, who was arrested last week, were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to Islamic State, an offense that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Prosecutors said Rahim, Wright and Rovinski in late May "conspired to commit attacks and kill persons inside the United States, which they believed would support ISIL's objectives," using an acronym for Islamic State.
The prosecutors said the men initially wanted to behead New York resident Pamela Geller, who had organized a Texas event in May highlighting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event, and were shot dead by police.
They said Rahim later called Wright, who is also known as Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, to say he had revised his plan and instead intended to attack "those boys in blue," by which he meant Massachusetts police officers.
The case follows a handful of so-called "lone wolf" attacks in the United States and Canada since last year by people who authorities said were inspired by Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq and has vowed attacks on the West.
Friday's hearing will be Wright's first court appearance since he was charged.
Rovinski, who is also known as Amriki aka Nuh al Andalusi, appeared last Friday in Boston federal court, where a judge read him the charges and ordered him jailed until his bail hearing.
Tale of two rioting cities: What Seattle, Baltimore can teach about police leadership
Two recent examples demonstrated what happens when community and law enforcement leadership get it right and when they get it wrong — one disturbance occurred in Seattle, the other in Baltimore
by Sgt John J. Stanley
As a platoon leader for the Sheriff's Response Team (SRT) — the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's riot response unit — I have watched with great interest the civil unrest going on across the country over the past 12 months. The reason for these disturbances has been well chronicled, but what has not been widely discussed is the reason for the failures and successes we have witnessed.
There is one thing that I believe goes without saying: whether you are a law enforcement officer in St. Louis County Mo.), Baltimore City (Md.), King County (Wash.), Los Angeles County (Calif.), or any other location in the United States, LEOs can be trained to perform successfully in the face of riots and civil unrest.
When failures occur in these situations, they can almost always be traced back to poor leadership and misinformed or timid direction from community leaders. Two recent examples demonstrated what happens when community and law enforcement leadership get it right and when they get it wrong —one disturbance occurred in Seattle, the other in Baltimore.
Communication and Outcomes
The city of Seattle is no stranger to civil unrest. Beginning with the WTO riots in 1999, law enforcement officers in King County (Wash.) have dealt with so-called protests that deteriorated into acts of hooliganism most often instigated by the Pacific Northwest's well-organized and trained anarchist groups.
The elected leaders of Baltimore City can learn a great deal from their peers of similar politically liberal-leaning in King County. Seattle leadership has learned that while the First Amendment permits crowds to voice their freedom of speech in protest, it does not sanction mobs committing acts of vandalism, looting and arson.
At this year's May Day protest in Seattle, the civic and law enforcement leadership expressed a very clear goal to riot control officers on the street: should the crowd of protesters gathering at Seattle City College begin to engage in acts of anarchy and vandalism and move out into the city, they were to be quickly cut off, primary agitators arrested, and the rest of the crowd forced back onto the campus grounds — a strategy seemingly aimed to confine damage.
What followed when protesters turned into rioters and vandals was a brilliant illustration of riot control maneuver tactics. Seattle PD employed bicycle mounted officers as flying squads. They made arrests and thwarted the advance of rioters at every turn as they pushed them back toward the college.
Supporting the mobile officers were ground units selectively employing blast balls and other non-lethal weapons to effect the commander's intent of pushing the mob back to their place of origin. The vigilance and persistence of the officers reflected both their training and sound leadership of their mobile field force commanders. But the best training and leadership in the world would have been stifled if not for the strong support shown by city leaders and law enforcement executives.
Contrast Seattle's successes with Baltimore's recent failures. First, in fairness to the city of Baltimore, they have not had years of recent experience dealing with these kind of issues as has Seattle. That said, past incidents in the Pacific Northwest and the recent unrest in St. Louis County (Mo.) should have been no secret to the leaders in Baltimore City. Rather than learning from these events, or perhaps because of them, Baltimore city leadership opted for a more peculiar course of action.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake hastily backed away from her initial comments that protestors be given “space to destroy” claiming that she was misunderstood. Regardless of her intent, protesters hearing those words surely felt emboldened, and the message to police seemed to be that law enforcement personnel in Baltimore were to surrender the initiative to protestors and take a passive role to their actions.
After being initially assaulted and sustaining numerous injuries, Baltimore PD formed long static skirmish lines that appeared purely defensive. As a CVS Pharmacy was looted and state police vehicles burned in front of it, the officers remained massed down the street.
This is no criticism of the officers themselves or their squad or platoon leaders — their inaction clearly was mandated by individuals above their paygrade.
Their ability to perform when given the opportunity was demonstrated two days later when, with a curfew in place, officers on the ground were at last permitted to do more. The use of an armored vehicle to cut off the avenue of escape of one instigator and then take him into custody with an arrest team that emerged from behind a skirmish line was a particularly creative and impressive tactic . It was clear the Baltimore PD knew what to do, but were restrained from doing it.
Leaders as Lions
There is a quote attributed to Alexander the Great that is all too often true when riots and civil unrest descend on a city. “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
There is little that law enforcement lions can do when led by timid sheep. But as was recently demonstrated in Seattle, even leadership with sheep-like tendencies in the past can eventually be persuaded to think like lions.
Our role as law enforcement leaders is to tactfully inform and educate our civic and elected leaders — as well as some law enforcement executives — of the wisdom and prudence of a prompt and coherent response to agitators when unrest breaks out while also providing proper equipment, tactics and training in this area to our personnel.
Riot and crowd control is a perishable skill that requires vigilance in training. The results recently obtained in Seattle demonstrated this awareness by the Seattle PD and also showed the results that can be obtained when a well-trained force under wise municipal leadership work together to deal with civic unrest.
About the author
Sgt. John J. Stanley, M.A., is a twenty-one year veteran of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. He has worked a variety of assignments including, custody, patrol, training and administrative support. He is also a published historian and has written extensively on the history of law enforcement and corrections.
Why every officer should be trained to SWAT standards
Agencies across the country have adopted policies and procedures to train and equip line officers for situations that have customarily been reserved for SWAT teams
by Daniel S. Danaher
Officers of every rank should have the skills and training traditionally taught to a special operations unit. Now, I know what some of you might be thinking, especially those who are currently on a SWAT team: preposterous, outrageous, absolutely not, impossible! I agree this is a bold statement and certainly a challenge to our profession, but not outside the realm of possibility. Don't all SWAT cops start out as all other officers do?
Arguably the average officer on the street today is better trained and equipped for extraordinary situations than they were 20 years ago.
Situations like the Bank of America shoot-out in Los Angeles and Columbine school shooting in Colorado forced law enforcement to reevaluate how our first responders were trained and equipped so that they could respond to these types of incidents with a better chance of success. Agencies across the country have adopted policies and procedures to train and equip line officers for situations that have customarily been reserved for SWAT teams.
The main difference between a typical street cop and a SWAT cop is training and equipment. A SWAT cop would argue that there is a degree of skill that separates the two and they would be correct, but those skills were perfected through training and repetition often reserved for the selected few.
Let's take a closer look at what separates the street cop from the SWAT cop — and why every officer should train toward SWAT capabilities.
1. Training: On average, most SWAT teams consist of part-timers who train one or two times a month. Generally speaking, when they train, it usually will involve firearms training and/or some sort of specialty training related to their mission (tactics). These officers receive numerous repetitions during their training with the hope of perfecting the tactic or technique and committing it to muscle memory.
If we as a profession would realize the benefits to investing more time into training our officers to be more competent and confident in their abilities, the return on the investment would be ten-fold.
2. Equipment: SWAT teams/officers receive special equipment or tools to aid them in accomplishing their mission. Whether its personalized equipment such as enhanced protective gear — tactical vests, helmets, gas masks, med kits, etc., to team accessories such as diversionary devices, throw-phones, pole-cameras, robots, breaching tools, armored vehicles, and the like.
Not to suggest that we incur the costs to outfit and equip every officer with such expensive equipment, but it is possible to create a tactical vehicle that contains many of the aforementioned pieces of equipment to aid officers to accomplish similar missions. If each agency, or consortium, had access to a vehicle that contained these assets, then the chances of their officers successfully accomplishing their mission would be greatly enhanced.
3. Experience: Certainly experience is a valuable asset when dealing with low frequency/high risk situations. If we only allow a small portion of our personnel to respond and handle these types of situations, we are losing out on precious opportunities to gain knowledge and insight, which might prove to be invaluable at future events. Fortunately for law enforcement, a crisis does not occur every day, but when it does, it would be beneficial for all involved to gain the knowledge and experience to handle just such an event.
Most human beings will rise or fall to the level of expectation that is placed upon them. Not every police officer that straps on a gun and pins on a badge has the mental, emotional, or physical abilities to deal with situations that are typically reserved for specially trained SWAT officers. However, there are a large number of officers on the street today that, given the opportunity and support, would be able to rise to the occasion and successfully mitigate an incident, which in the past would have required a SWAT team's expertise.
When a crisis requiring immediate attention occurs, SWAT isn't waiting around the corner. There will be occasions where street cops, first responders, will need to respond to save lives and it is imperative that we give the street cop the same advantages we reserve for SWAT teams.
SWAT officers are motivated and dedicated officers who make many sacrifices to be part of a special group of law enforcement professionals and we are fortunate that these individuals commit themselves to be the best they can be. For all of their assets, they can't always be there when they are needed most. Sometimes we keep the wolf at bay, sometimes the wolf attacks and when he does we have to be prepared to respond.
Challenge your officers to be better. Provide them the equipment and training to get better. Even if you fall short of qualifying each and every one of your officers as a SWAT cop the bar will have been raised to a level that many never thought possible. They don't have to be marathon runners or knuckle draggers — just help them to become tactically and technically proficient when presented with high risk encounters and the result will be a more competent tactical officer.
About the author
Daniel S. Danaher, Executive Board Member, Tactical Encounters Inc., is a Sergeant with the Livonia (Mich.) Police Department. Dan has more than 22 years of law enforcement experience and is currently assigned as the Training Coordinator for his agency. He is a former Marine Non-Commissioned Officer, where he served as a Rifleman, Scout/Sniper and Marksmanship Instructor. Dan also served in the Persian Gulf, on the USS Okinawa and Mobile Sea Base Hercules in Operations Earnest Will and Prime Chance, during the Iran/Iraq War.
Manhunt on for gunman who killed 9 at South Carolina church prayer meeting
by Fox News
A frantic manhunt was on in South Carolina, hours after a "horrible scoundrel" opened fire in an historic African-American church in downtown Charleston, killing nine, including the prominent pastor and state senator, during a regular prayer meeting.
Police immediately branded the shooting spree, which began just after 9 p.m. Wednesday, a hate crime, and released surveillance images of a white man fleeing the scene at 180-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after the horrific incident, which left six women and three men dead.
"This is an unspeakable and unfathomable act by somebody filled with hate and a deranged mind," Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley said in a Thursday morning press conference. He vowed that authorities were "committed to finding this horrible scoundrel."
A five-year-old girl reportedly survived the attack by following her grandmother's instructions to play dead, and a woman was allowed to leave to tell what had happened. It was not immediately known what message she was supposed to convey.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said the gunman, described as clean-shaven and approximately 21 years old with sandy blonde hair and a slender build, was still at large. Police said the man was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt with blue jeans and Timberland boots.
" We are committed to do whatever is necessary to bring this individual to justice,” Mullen said, adding that the suspect “should not be approached by anyone.”
Mullen said the suspect entered the church and sat in a pew for up to an hour after the regular prayer meeting had begun, before opening fire at 9:06 p.m.
"This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience," Mullen said. "It is senseless and unfathomable in today's society that someone would walk into a church during a prayer meeting and take their lives."
Mullen said investigators are going through surveillance video gathered overnight from a variety of sources to try to determine the suspect's whereabouts. State Police and the FBI were working with local authorities in the hunt. Although Mullen said “there is no doubt in my mind that this is a hate crime,” the Department of Justice will ultimately make that determination.
Mullen said the scene was chaotic when police arrived, and the officers thought they had the suspect tracked with a police dog, but he got away. He also announced that a reward for information leading to the shooter's capture would be offered Thursday and that the FBI would aid the investigation.
Authorities said the crime scene investigation had been complicated by a bomb threat that had been called in, forcing police to move members of the media back and close off a large section of the street where the shooting took place.
Among the dead was the church's pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, who had been a pastor since he was 18. Pinckney was the youngest African-American elected to the South Carolina legislature when he won office in 1996 at age 23 and had been a state senator since 2000.
Soon after Wednesday night's shooting, a group of pastors huddled together praying in a circle across the street. Early Thursday, a family assistance center was set up for families of the victims at a nearby hotel, according to city officials. The center will be staffed by local, state and federal victim services personnel and the Charleston Coastal Chaplaincy.
Amid the prayers and disbelief, was a simmering anger. Community organizer Christopher Cason told The Associated Press he felt certain the shootings were racially motivated.
"I am very tired of people telling me that I don't have the right to be angry," Cason said. "I am very angry right now."
Authorities said the shooting took place at approximately 9 p.m. local time. Police would not immediately confirm the identities of the victims. Mullen said there were survivors, but did not say how many, or how many were inside the church at the time of the shooting.
Dot Scott, the president of the Charleston NAACP, told the Post and Courier newspaper that she had spoken with a female survivor who said the gunman told the woman he was letting her live so she could tell others what had happened.
"There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of Scripture," NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks said in a statement Thursday. "Today I mourn as an AME minister, as a student and teacher of scripture, as well as a member of the NAACP."
Police described the suspect as wearing a gray sweatshirt with blue jeans and Timberland boots.
The church is a well-known landmark in Charleston, known as "The Holy City" because of its many houses of worship and denominations. The church traces its roots to 1816 when African-American members of the city's Methodist Episcopal Church, led by a freed slave, broke away to form their own congregation. The church was burned to the ground in the 1820s, and rebuilt a decade later.
The campaign of GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush sent out an email saying that due to the shooting, the candidate had canceled an event planned in the city Thursday. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement calling the shooting a "senseless tragedy."
"While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we'll never understand what motivated anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another," Haley said. "Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers."
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. posted a series of Twitter message about the tragedy. "My heart is breaking for Charleston and South Carolina tonight," one of them read.
The church is a historic African-American church that traces its roots to 1816, when several churches split from Charleston's Methodist Episcopal church. One of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt in 1822. He was caught, and white landowners had his church burned in revenge. Parishioners worshipped underground until after the Civil War.
Anyone with information on the gunman's whereabouts is asked to contact Charleston Police dispatch at 843-743-7200.
Alabama cops suspended after hate group allegations
Pair belongs to Southern nationalist, 'neo-Confederate' group
Two Alabama police lieutenants were suspended after an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center's website alleged the two men belong to an organization the SPLC has long labeled a hate group.
Lt. Josh Doggrell and Lt. Wayne Brown were placed Wednesday on administrative leave, the city of Anniston said in a written statement. City officials are investigating the allegations the men are associated with the League of the South, which the SPLC calls a "neo-Confederate" group.
The city said it was investigating the relationship.
"Lt. Brown and Lt. Doggrell do not speak for the City of Anniston nor the Anniston Police Department," the city said. "The City of Anniston has commenced an investigation into this matter and will work diligently to ensure the appropriate action is taken."
The League of the South denies it is a hate group and says on its website that its goal is "to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honorable means."
It has bought billboards in several Southern states advocating secession from the United States.
'Wonderful to be around sanity'
In its story, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an edited video that included snippets of a speech it says Doggrell made at a League of the South national conference two years ago.
In it, the speaker says, "It's wonderful to be around sanity." Aziza Jackson, a spokeswoman for the city of Anniston, confirmed the speaker is Doggrell.
He refers to a wilderness where people think differently than he does.
"We're working on getting more of those people around to our way of thinking," he says.
Brown is not shown in the video embedded on the SPLC site but is referred to in a much longer recording on YouTube. Doggrell says Brown is in the audience and tells a story about how the two were on their way to a meeting when Brown had a question.
"He asked me, 'What is the magic bean that would arouse our people to see exactly what was happening to them and how necessary the step of secession is?' " Doggrell says.
Doggrell tells the audience he considers that the "million dollar question."
CNN called both police officers Wednesday but in each case the phone rang without anyone or an answering machine picking up.
Speech found online a week ago
The Southern Poverty Law Center found the speech online a week ago, said Heidi Beirich, the group's intelligence project director. The SPLC contacted the Police Department on Monday.
Beirich said Anniston City Manager Brian Johnson told them they had investigated Doggrell in the past for his connection to the League of the South.
The lieutenant makes reference to the investigation in his speech, saying he was cleared of any impropriety.
The League of the South is led by Michael Hill, a retired professor. One of his recent columns was about why "A race war in America would be a bad idea for negroes."
He wrote: "Negroes are more impulsive than whites. ... Tenacity and organization are not the negroes strong suits. If the war could be won by ferocity alone, he might have a chance. But like the adrenaline rush that sparks it, ferocity is short lived. And it can be countered by cool discipline, an historic white trait, and all that stems from it."
Hill ended his column saying his group doesn't want violence.
"We Southern nationalists want to live in peace with all men, as far as that is possible," he wrote.
Ohio police 'break jaw and ribs of 12-year-old girl' after visit to swimming pool descends into chaos
by Tom Brooks-Pollock
A black 12-year-old girl is said to have suffered a broken jaw and ribs after being arrested by a white police officer, prompting further outrage over the perceived attitude of American officers towards race.
In a video posted online, the officer, who has the girl in an arm-lock, is shown pushing the girl into the side of the side of the car while other officers detain other members of her family.
The arrests - at Fairfield Aquatic Centre, near Cincinnati, Ohio - have prompted further outrage at the police, following the resignation of an officer in Texas who was fillmed pulling a gun and slamming a black girl to the ground at a pool party in McKinney, Texas.
Now the family of the girl - who has not been named - are accusing the police of using excessive force and racism, something the police deny.
On 9 June, Krystal Dixon, 33, reportedly dropped off the girl, her niece, as well as her own children and other young relatives, at the pool.
The melee reportedly broke out because one of the children did not have a swimming costume - prompting staff to ask them to leave. Ms Dixon and three others were arrested after returning to the pool to give the boy some trunks.
Two adults were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the Daily Beast reported. A 12-year-old girl was charged with assault and resisting arrest, while a 15-year-old was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Pepper spray was used during the arrests.
There are radically different accounts of what happened, with police claiming the family's behaviour was "aggressive and belligerent".
Bishop Bobby Hilton, a Cincinnati pastor who acting as spokesman for Dixon and her family, told the Daily Beast: “They're saying a 12-year-old was assaulting somebody and resisting being arrested.
“Please tell me, where is she assaulting somebody? Why did the officer have to grab her by the neck and push her against the car? It's just not right.”
But, in a transcript of the 911 call made by a staff member at the pool, the caller said: “Everything's going crazy and they're videotaping, trying to make it look like a racist thing and it's not at all."
“They were breaking our policy and we told them they couldn't be here anymore and it's really scary and I don't feel safe.”
And, according to Doug Day, a Fairfield Police Office quoted by the Daily Beast, the family "refused to leave and became even more verbally aggressive and belligerent" after being spoken to by a park ranger.
Then park ranger put his hand on Dixon, prompting the children to start jumping on his back, Day claimed. He said the injured 12-year-old girl was striking and pushing one of the officers.
He added: “Our officers used great restraint ... At one point, one of our officers felt his gun was being taken away from him. The only weapon he used was the OC spray, to get someone off the back of the officer.
“We completely support our officers in what they did."
FBI: Surveillance Flights by the Book, Rarely Track Phones
by EILEEN SULLIVAN, JACK GILLUM and ERIC TUCKER
The FBI assured Congress in an unusual, confidential briefing that its plane surveillance program is a by-the-books operation short on high-definition cameras — with some planes equipped with binoculars — and said only five times in five years has it tracked cellphones from the sky.
The FBI would not openly answer some questions about its planes, which routinely orbit major U.S. cities and rural areas. Although the FBI has described the program as unclassified and not secret, it declined to disclose during an unclassified portion of a Capitol Hill briefing any details about how many planes it flies or how much the program costs. In a 2009 budget document, the FBI said it had 115 planes in its fleet.
The briefing Wednesday to Senate staff was the first effort in recent years — if ever — to impose oversight for the FBI's 30-year aerial surveillance program that gives support to specific, ongoing investigations into counterterrorism, espionage and criminal cases and ground surveillance operations. While it withheld some details, it offered assurances that the planes are not intended to perform mass surveillance or bulk intelligence collection. However, there is still no formal oversight regimen for the program.
The briefing came two weeks after the FBI confirmed to The Associated Press for the first time its wide-scale use of the aircraft, after the AP traced at least 50 planes registered to fake companies back to the FBI. The AP investigation identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period this spring. The planes since June 1 have flown more than two-dozen times over at least seven states, including parts of Texas, Georgia and the Pacific Northwest.
The ubiquity of the flights, combined with few details about the surveillance equipment aboard the planes, raised civil liberties concerns over Americans' privacy.
The AP had reported that, in rare circumstances, the FBI equipped the planes with technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones using a device known as a "cell-site simulator." These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.
The FBI said that technology has been used on its surveillance aircraft only five times since 2010, according to one Senate staffer present at the briefing. The FBI would not say how often it has used the technology in ground surveillance operations.
Staffers shared details with the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them.
The FBI said 85 percent of the aircraft have commercially available infrared still and video cameras. The remaining 15 percent use binoculars for surveillance missions. The FBI said there were only eight high-definition cameras in the fleet, though it would like to have that technology for more of its planes.
The FBI, like the Drug Enforcement Administration, said it hides its aircraft behind fake companies so that it can discreetly conduct surveillance and protect the safety of the pilots. The FBI said most surveillance flights — some 64 percent — are part of national security investigations. It was unclear over what time period those flights took place.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed for answers about the FBI's aerial surveillance program after The Washington Post reported in May that an FBI surveillance plane was used over Baltimore during rioting that erupted following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who sustained grievous injuries while in police custody. In that instance, the FBI was helping local police with aerial support.
Despite government concerns that publicity about the planes might impede surveillance, the number of flights has remained consistent since the AP first reported on the program, according to an AP review of flight records and radar data. Flights since June 2 have occurred a few times each day over cites across the United States, including San Francisco, Phoenix and Orange County, California. They are generally flown without a warrant, which the FBI says is consistent with the law.
Two senators proposed changing that Wednesday.
Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been outspoken about government surveillance, introduced a bill that would limit what the federal government can record from the skies and require a warrant to conduct surveillance from planes and drones.
"Technology has made it possible to conduct round-the-clock aerial surveillance. The law needs to keep up," Wyden said in a statement. "Clear rules for when and how the federal government can watch Americans from the sky will provide critical certainty for the government, and help the unmanned aircraft industry reach its potential as an economic powerhouse in Oregon and the United States."
The FBI said it does not comment on pending legislation, but maintained that a warrant was not necessary for the type of surveillance being conducted from its planes.
Courts are grappling with balancing constitutional protections against evolving technologies, as laws have not kept pace with technological advancements.
Among other reasons, the surveillance planes were exposed as belonging to the FBI because one of its fake companies shared a post office box with the Justice Department, creating a link between the companies and the FBI through publicly available Federal Aviation Administration records.
The FBI told Senate staffers it was working with the FAA to restore some cover to preserve operational security, but it did not plan to spend the money required to operate under "deep cover."
Loretta Lynch pledges to fight cyberattacks, improve community policing
by Dave Boyer -- Attorney General
Loretta Lynch said Wednesday she will work to “make safe the world of cyberspace” and to forge better relationships between police and minority communities.
At a ceremonial installation in Washington, the nation's 83rd attorney general and first black woman to hold the job said America doesn't always uphold the protections outlined in the Constitution, but the nation always is working toward that goal.
“Over 200 years ago, we decided what kind of a country we wanted to be,” Ms. Lynch said. “We have not always lived up to the promises made, but we have pushed ever on. And with every challenge, we get a little bit closer.”
Her plate is full, with challenges such as investigating massive cyberattacks against the U.S. and handling simmering tensions between police departments and minority communities that have erupted in violence, such as in Baltimore in April after the death of Freddie Gray, who was injured in police custody.
She pledged “to preserve our national security and our cherished liberties, to make safe the world of cyberspace, to end the scourge of modern-day slavery, and [to] confront the very nature of our citizens' relationship with those of us entrusted to protect and to serve.”
Ms. Lynch said she hears the “cries for justice” across the country following the recent string of deadly police confrontations with black men.
“Every day, we seem to see an increasing disconnect between the communities we serve and the government we represent,” she said. “But let me tell you what else I see. I see people speaking out in the time-honored tradition that has made this country stronger.”
She tried to address both sides of the issue, after her predecessor, Eric Holder, infuriated some in law enforcement by criticizing police actions in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere.
“In their cries for justice, I hear the belief that it can be attained and they would not cry out if they did not have faith that we would answer,” Ms. Lynch said. “I see more in our law enforcement partners' quest for support. I hear the guardians call for tools to calm the waters, to keep the peace.”
She added, “To the law enforcement community, I pledge that this department will be your partner as we work to carry out our highest mission, the protection of the people of this great nation.”
President Obama, who attended the ceremony at the Warner Theatre, said the nation has no greater advocate for equality under the law than Ms. Lynch.
“She understands the importance of policing, and improving relationships between law enforcement and communities,” Mr. Obama said. “She went on a six-city tour to spotlight the challenges of community policing, and the progress that's being made. She understands the importance of criminal justice reform, that we have to be smart on crime, not just tough.”
Ms. Lynch, a former U.S. attorney in New York City, actually was sworn in by Vice President Joseph R. Biden on April 27 after the Senate confirmed her by a vote of 56-43. She waited 167 days for confirmation as Senate Republicans held up her nomination in a dispute over abortion language in a human trafficking bill.
Ms. Lynch was sworn-in this time by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with a Bible once used by Frederick Douglass. She was accompanied by her parents, a Baptist minister and retired school librarian, and her husband, Stephen Hargrove.
Public safety should factor into doctor-patient privacy
When does public safety outweigh doctor-patient privilege?
The families of 150 people who died when Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew a plane into the French Alps might say it's when the patient holds the lives of dozens of innocent and trusting people literally in his hands and the doctor knows he's a loose cannon about to go off.
German law prevents doctors from divulging information about patients absent evidence they intend to commit a serious crime or harm themselves. In Lubitz's case there were red flags that should have triggered making the exception.
In the month before the March 24 crash, Lubitz had seven medical appointments – three with a psychiatrist. Some of the doctors felt Lubitz was psychologically unstable and some felt he was unfit to fly. Yet no one reported that concern to authorities. Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa have said doctors had cleared Lubitz.
The issue of how to balance a person's right to medical privacy with keeping the public safe is also key in the case of alleged Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes, who is accused of tossing a tear gas canister into a theater in Aurora, Colo., and shooting into the audience, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.
His psychiatrist testified Tuesday in Holmes' death penalty trial that leading up to the shooting Holmes had said he thought about killing people three or four times a day but she couldn't put a psychiatric hold on him because he never gave specifics or expressed an intention to follow through. After his last session she did notify his college and called his mother but did not notify police.
Society places great trust in people, like Lubitz, who are in jobs where other people's lives depend upon their actions. And free society values the ability to feel safe in most public environments.
How many red flags need to go up before someone can step forward with the warning that lives could be at risk? Serious consideration should be given to finding where that balance should be.
South Dakota highlighted for public safety reform
by Mark Walker
South Dakota is one of three states highlighted nationally for its recent reforms aimed at reducing prison population and taxpayers cost.
Officials from South Dakota, Utah and South Carolina spoke Wednesday on Capitol Hill about recent reforms.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke about what he considers to be the successes of criminal justice reform enacted in South Dakota in 2013. They were designed to put nonviolent offenders into probation programs and drug and alcohol courts rather than prison.
The state's prison population has leveled off since the reforms, according to a first report last year by the Public Safety Improvement Act Oversight Council.
Parole completions were up to 60 percent last year compared to 45 percent the year before.
Alabama public safety officials offer tips on staying safe from heat-related illness
by Crytstal Bonvillian
The heat index in parts of Alabama topped 100 degrees on Wednesday, prompting public safety officials statewide to begin the summertime ritual of offering tips on how to stay safe in the scorching sun.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that extreme heat causes an average of about 650 deaths each year in the United States. The elderly, children, the poor or homeless, people who work or exercise outdoors and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
Capt. Frank McKenzie, a spokesman for Huntsville Fire & Rescue, said that thousands of outdoor workers will likely be sickened this year. If heat illness is not addressed immediately, it can turn deadly.
There are ways to stay safe, McKenzie said.
"O.S.H.A (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has an app for Android and iPhone devices," McKenzie said. "The app allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their work site and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers."
Click here to get the app for Android and here to get the app for iPhone.
Birmingham Fire Battalion Chief Cordell Mardis added that everyone is susceptible to heat-related injuries. That could be a road worker on his feet all day on sizzling asphalt or an elderly woman whose air conditioner is on the fritz.
Mardis offered six tips to avoid heat illness:
Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes in light colors.
Drink plenty of water. Carry a bottle of water with you and drink continuously.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol , both of which can dehydrate the body.
Eat smaller meals and eat more often during the day.
Slow down. Take regular breaks in your work or exercise.
There are also symptoms to watch out for in diagnosing the different types of heat illness:
Heat cramps , caused by a loss of sodium in the body, causes profuse sweating and muscle cramps.
Heat exhaustion , which is caused by dehydration, shows up as dizziness and cool, moist skin. It can also cause a rapid heartbeat, headache, nausea and vomiting and weakness.
Heat stroke , which is brought on by shock, causes a fever, dry and red skin, rapid breathing and confusion. It can lead to seizures, brain damage and death.
Someone with the symptoms of heat illness, particularly a person with signs of heat stroke, needs medical attention as soon as possible.
To learn more about heat illness, visit cdc.gov or take a look at the OSHA documents below.
Is Texas Creating Its Own Border Patrol?
MCALLEN (AP) – When former Gov. Rick Perry ordered a big reinforcement of security at the Mexico border in 2011, Texas bought six new gunboats that can fire 900 rounds a minute and clock highway speeds. But the boats, which cost $580,000 each, spent more time docked than patrolling the Rio Grande.
That was a small price tag compared with what Texas is about to spend. The new Republican governor, Greg Abbott, this month approved $800 million for border security over the next two years — more than double any similar period during Perry's 14 years in office.
On Texas' shopping list is a second $7.5 million high-altitude plane to scan the border, a new border crime data center, a 5,000-acre training facility for border law-enforcement agencies and grants for year-round helicopter flights. The state also wants to hire two dozen Texas Rangers to investigate public corruption along the border and 250 new state troopers as a down payment on a permanent force along the border.
Other states along the nearly 2,000-mile Southwest border — New Mexico, Arizona and California — do not come remotely close to the resources Texas has committed. And Texas is doing so long after last year's surge in immigrants crossing the border illegally has subsided.
So why is Texas setting up what appears to be a parallel border patrol alongside the federal force?
“Google ‘cartel crime in Mexico' and just put a time period of the last week, and you'll see some dramatic instances of what the cartels are doing in Mexico right now,” Abbott told reporters this month following the legislative session. “The first obligation of government is to keep people safe and that means ensuring that this ongoing cartel activity, which is not abating whatsoever, gains no root at all in the state of Texas.”
The 320-mile Rio Grande Valley sector of the border was ground zero last year for a wave of Central American migrants, mostly unaccompanied minors and women with children. The Valley sector accounted for 53 percent of all migrants captured in the Southwest during the fiscal year ending September.
That alarmed Texas Republicans, who called for a crackdown during the election campaign last year. But the number of migrants caught is down 44 percent in the first eight months of this fiscal year.
Raul Ortiz, deputy chief of the federal border patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector, attributed the decrease mainly to beefed-up law enforcement on the Mexican side, especially along its own borders with Central America. He also gave a nod to the Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS, and other law enforcement for helping.
Critics worry that the border buildup is open-ended, with little accounting for how the money will be spent and whether it will be effective.
Republican lawmakers in the final weeks of the legislative session stripped language from the bill Abbott signed that would have required monthly updates and crime data from a new oversight board. The panel is only tasked with giving lawmakers a single report by 2017.
“In a third-grade classroom or with DPS, if you have no metrics and no way to evaluate success, you are wasting your money,” Dallas Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said.
In one report, the Texas public safety agency defined a secure border as “interdiction of all people, drugs and other contraband.”
“That is so far from reality,” said Adam Isacson, a longtime border analyst at the Washington Office On Latin America, a human-rights advocacy group. “Even the most secure sectors of the border still have thousands of people get through.”
It is has not always been clear what DPS has gotten for its money.
Records provided to The Associated Press in 2013 showed that the state's new gunboats on the Rio Grande were used as little as one day a week or docked for repairs during the first year of deployment.
At the time, agency leaders said that the boats spent about 30 percent more time in the water than what records suggested. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said this month that those records are dated and the boats now conduct round-the-clock operations, performing more than 1,400 missions in the last year alone.
Texas officials say that all law enforcement agencies, including the federal border patrol, have tracked more than $2 billion in drug seizures, mostly marijuana, and discovered more than 150 stash houses used by human smugglers in the past year alone.
U.S. Border Patrol data, provided to Texas Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro, show its agency being solely responsible for seizing more than 416,000 pounds of marijuana in the Rio Grande Valley sector from June to February. DPS has declined to break out how much its troopers are responsible for intercepting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, in a letter to Castro, said that his agency “declined participation” in the recent surge known as “Operation Strong Safety” that Perry ordered last summer, even though DPS refers to them as a partner. But Vinger, the spokesman for the Texas agency, said on Thursday that Border Patrol provides agents staff and assist a command center as part of the Texas mission and the federal agency has “worked closely” with Texas for many years.
Down in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas troopers are stationed about every quarter mile inland from the border along Highway 83. The heavy trooper presence has alarmed the large community of immigrants living permanently in the area, many of whom crossed illegally years ago, said Efren Olivares, a lawyer for the South Texas Civil Rights project.
“Local police are used to interacting with undocumented people,” Olivares said. “But with DPS it's particularly bad because most are not from here.”
Other locals see improvements in safety. Othal E Brand Jr., president of the water district that supplies the McAllen area, said employees used to be threatened by smugglers but now work safely night and day.
On a recent afternoon in Rio Grande City, the Texas Cafe was full for lunch, with conversation a mixture of Spanish and English. Jaime Alvarez, a longtime resident now running for county commissioner, said residents have complained to him about the constant traffic stops along Highway 83.
“It's just too much,” he said. “The politicians up north sometimes overreact.”
Sanford credits drop in crime to community policing program
SANFORD, Fla. — Sanford police said their efforts to restore community trust and reduce violent crime are paying off.
The city has seen a ten percent drop in major crime since the community policing program began.
"After the George Zimmerman trial, we had some problems. We had some police problems," community activist Francis Oliver said.
After the trial, a panel was commissioned and made recommendations on how Sanford's police department should forward. The department hired Chief Cecil Smith, who began training his officers in fair and impatrial policing.
"(We) trained our officers on putting those biases apart and seeing people, our citizens, for their character and their actions that they have taken, not the color of their skin, not their denomination," Smith said.
Since the program began, murders, sex offenses, robberies and burglaries all went down. Aggravated assault cases is the only category that increased.
"I do see some communication. I do see some sitting at the table. I do see some, you have been invited to the table, we just got to get our conversation together at the table," Oliver said.
Oliver said that while the police department has addressed its problems, there are still social issues within the community that need impovement.
After Ferguson, building police-??community trust
by Greg St. Martin
In the wake of last year's deadly shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as other events in which the police's use of force has been questioned, is policing in America facing a legitimacy crisis? And if so, what do we do about it?
Amy Farrell, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, offered these questions to kick off her lecture and discussion last week in the latest installment of the “Minds Over Matters: NUterm Faculty Speaker Series.”
The series features weekly presentations from top faculty scholars who discuss their research and examine timely topics of global importance. Farrell's research focuses on the administration of justice, with particular emphasis on understanding the impact of race and gender on police, prosecution, and sentencing practices.
When people lose trust in police, Farrell said, research has shown that they are less likely to follow laws, assist police, come forward as witnesses, and obey police commands in situations where officers are attempting to use coercive force.
“I think what you see resonating across our country today is a widespread fear of the police,” she told students, faculty, and staff in attendance, “a fear of the police that may have long been held in communities of color that's now being recognized by communities that have the privilege not to have feared the police in the past.”
In response to these legitimacy concerns, police nationwide have done some “collective soul searching,” she said, and implemented systems of transparency, like the Boston Police Department's releasing of video footage following incidents. Yet, Farrell noted, “restoring that public confidence is a fundamentally difficult task.”
Of the handful of issues that have at times threatened police legitimacy over the past 100 years in America, she said two are present in the wake of recent events: discrimination and inappropriate use of coercive force.
Farrell pointed to four problems that have contributed to this situation:
1) The movement away from community policing over the past 20 years—“Community policing never had a heyday, but it was a little plant that was starting to grow.”
2) The increased reliance on technology to solve problems—the idea that police can collect data on “hot spots” for crime but aren't measuring things like fairness and procedural justice
3) The militarization of police—she pointed to a 2014 ACLU study that examined the increasing number of law enforcement agencies that have SWAT teams. “They are being deployed for routine policing,” she said. “SWAT teams' reliance on militarization and technology increases the social distance between police and community.”
4) Implicit bias—Farrell said this has been lurking under the country's racial progress of the past half century. “These are not prejudices that we are born with, but we live in a racialized society,” she said.
Solutions to these problems won't be easy, as history has shown, Farrell said. But she offered a few ideas, among them bringing community partnership back to policing and shrinking the social distance between police and community by having police forces that are not only diverse but that also learn from and share in each other's personal experiences.
Farrell also echoed her earlier calls for developing accountability systems for police that go beyond crime statistics and integrate a wider range of values beyond crime like fairness, equality, and procedural justice measures.
“Otherwise, these are just ideals without action,” she said.
The Humanity of the Guilty: A Crime Survivor's Path of Forgiveness
by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg
In my work as an advocate and writer, I've encountered countless men and women who are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. There is a particular tragedy to these cases. It's the madness of not being believed and the cruel punishment inflicted for a crime you did not commit. It's screaming under water, drowning as you try to be heard, and seeing good people pass you by.
There are times I'm enjoying an everyday freedom - walking down the street and feeling the sun - and I'll think of John who is locked away from this moment for a crime he had nothing to do with. It's when my mom tells me what my son did while I was at work when I'll think of Betsy, who has several grandchildren she's never been able to babysit. It's when I lived in my ill father's hospital room that I thought of the countless Johns and Betsys who are not permitted the dignity of being by an ailing loved one's side.
One of the incarcerated innocent was Kalief Browder, who many of us met through his courageous interview with The New Yorker's Jennifer Gonnerman. This month Browder died, after being tortured at Rikers Island for three years for a minor crime - stealing a backpack - that he didn't even commit. He was beaten by staff and fellow inmates, starved, and subjected to solitary confinement.
"I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell," his attorney told the Los Angeles Times. "Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time."
Browder was innocent and never even convicted; while at Rikers he was one of the many drowning, begging to be heard. The headlines justifiably drum away at this horrific fact: Kalief Browder, jailed for 3 years in N.Y. without a trial, commits suicide.
Punished but innocent. Punished without trial.
But what if we take another person who is guilty and guilty of more than a theft; let's presume he is guilty of rape. He goes to trial and is convicted. Does a trial, cloaked in formalities and civility and decorum and paperwork, strip him of his humanity? Does his crime justify the type of torture Browder was subjected to? Does any crime?
In our prisons, Browder's treatment is commonplace - its quotidian nature making it all the more horrific. And yet, we continue to wield incarceration - an institution based on absolute control over its inhabitants, an institution where this abuse is as ingrained as the locks on the cell doors - as a tool to condemn certain types of behavior. We use prison to punish; to make us feel safe; to rectify injustice; to show that the victim is important, listened to, valued.
But if we don't incarcerate, what do we do when a person has committed a violent crime? I don't know. I don't. Helping me as I work through these questions are the seminal works of Maya Schenwar, Debbie Nathan, Josh Gravens, Nell Bernstein and Angela Davis aho write on humanity, punishment, and the ingrained violence of our prison systems. Their work challenges us to, as Davis has said, "creatively explore new terrains of justice where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor."
With these issues and questions in mind, I have also turned to survivors of violent crime who are advocates of restorative justice. One of those survivors is Azim Khamisa.
"When the crime happens in the context of community there are basically three parties: there's the victim, there's the offender, and there's community," Khamisa explained to me when we spoke on the phone last summer. "Justice is not done until the victim is made whole, until the perpetrator is returned to society as a functioning and contributing member, and the community is healed."
In 1995, Khamisa's son, Tariq, was a 20-year-old college student at San Diego State University who worked part-time delivering pizzas.
"He was a generous soul," Khamisa told me of Tariq. "He'd give the shirt off his back to you. He had a great sense of humor. He could crack a joke even in the most strenuous circumstances and lighten up the situation. He was a great photographer, great writer. He wanted to work for National Geographic ."
On January 21, 1995, Tariq was working when he was called to a bogus address and confronted by several gang members. After Tariq got back in his car, Tony Hicks was ordered to "bust him." Hicks, then just 14, fired a shot, killing Tariq.
After his son's death, Khamisa began the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, an organization dedicated to teaching young people about forgiveness and empathy. It offers mentoring and community service programs to children all in an effort, he says, to "stop kids from killing kids." Shortly after he started the Foundation, Khamisa contacted Hicks' grandfather to ask if they could work together.
"I reached out to the grandfather, the guardian of my son's killer, with the attitude that we both lost a child," Khamisa said. "He was very quick to take my hand of forgiveness."
Hicks was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life, becoming the first 14-year-old in California to be tried as an adult. Five years after his son's murder, Khamisa decided to meet with Hicks.
"I am looking in his eyes trying to find a murderer and I didn't," Khamisa said. "I knew the spark in him was no different than the spark in me or you or anybody. Sure he had done the worst possible thing, he'd killed an innocent unarmed human being. That did not make him inhuman."
At the meeting, Khamisa, who advocates for Hicks' release, promised him a job at the Foundation so he could share his story with other young people.
During our conversation Khamisa asked if I had a son.
Yes, I told him.
"As a parent it's very, very complicated to lose a child, as I'm sure you can relate to," he replied. "If I was there I would have automatically put my body between him and the bullet. You do that instinctively for your children."
As we finished up the interview, my son woke from his nap. I explained I would have to go, and thanked him for taking the time to speak with me.
"You're more than welcome, Elizabeth," he said. "And now it's more important for you to take care of your baby."
My son, now almost three, had a run-of-the-mill virus the other week. As I sat with him, trying to comfort him, I thought of the incarcerated families I have encountered over the years, both the guilty and the innocent. I thought of the parents who had once sat with their children as I sat with mine, but now had to see their sons and daughters at visiting time at the prison: bruised from abuse, wounded from months in solitary, hopeless from serving a sentence to die in prison. And I knew that another way must be possible, for this center can no longer hold, it must fall apart.
500K Immigrants Take Deferred Deportation in 3 Years
by Fernanda Echavarri
Three years ago Monday President Barack Obama launched a program to give young immigrants temporary work permits and more than half a million have received them.
In Arizona almost 19,000 people have qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services showed.
The program gives recipients a two-year work permit and relief from deportation. To qualify young immigrants must have been brought to the U.S. as children, have no criminal background and meet a series of other requirements.
Josue Saldivar applied for the permit in 2012, received it and has since renewed it.
“DACA for me provided a legal pathway for employment,” he said.
Arizona immigrants with these permits are now allowed to apply for driver's licenses and receive in-state tuition at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College.
In Arizona 97 percent of those who have permits are from Mexico, said Ricardo Pineda, consul of Mexico in Tucson. Nationwide 70 percent of DACA recipients are from Mexico.
The Mexican government, through its consulates across Arizona and the U.S., has provided assistance to those filling out applications for the last three years in hopes of preventing those in vulnerable situations from scams, Pineda said.
A large number of young Mexican immigrants who could qualify for temporary deportation relief, he said, still have not applied.
Last November Obama announced executive actions on immigration, which included extensions to DACA. The new program would eliminate the requirement that says applicants must be 30 years old or younger. The presidents' actions are held up in court.
Community policing not in administration's crime fighting plans
by Earl Morgan
In Jersey City crime is down but murders are up, so say police crime statistics, but isn't murder a crime, in fact the ultimate crime?
Car thefts, burglaries and armed robberies may have declined but you'd think the murder, robbery of city Fire Chief Darren Rivers' son, Darcel, would have focused officials on the seriousness of street crime, especially in the south and west districts where calls for community policing have been loud and long.
In a recent interview, local Public Safety Director James Shea, perhaps the most urbane and well-spoken members of the mayor's cabinet, put the kibosh on that concept. Calling talk of community policing "simplistic," claiming a response to the issue has to be more "complex."
All this after President Barack Obama visited Camden and lauded that city's revamped police strategy that put more cops on the street and found ways for cops to become more engaged with the people they are supposed to serve and protect.
Much of what's happening in that city is a version of community policing. According to recent stats, Camden had 59 murders in 2013 and the killing rate fell to 33 in 2014 for a city with a population of 76,903 in 2013.
Shea suggests running more undercover investigations and better contacts in Jersey City neighborhoods as well as putting more cops on the street. This does not mean beat cops. In fact, it's not clear what it's supposed to mean.
Shea said he and the mayor are happy with the decline in crime but were not overconfident. Residents who live in neighborhoods conversant with the sound of gunfire are not so happy. They see crimes every day that don't make the stats because there was no cop around to write it down.
Two weeks ago, the mayor held another of his rather useless meetings, at least to the black community at-large, in City Hall with prominent African-Americans. According to sources, a disturbed Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman pleaded with the mayor and city officials to do something about the crime in her neighborhood.
The public safety director's rejection of community policing is in direct contravention with campaign promises made by Fulop. Last year, during an editorial board conference at The Jersey Journal, Fulop reiterated the pledge. But now his public safety director, who can be considered speaking for the administration, is throwing cold water on the idea.
Instead, the Police Department is moving toward undercover operations, terming it a more targeted approach. As for community policing, Shea said no one can agree completely on what it means. I suggest he visit Camden, or East Orange where it's been adopted. They seem to know what it means.
On the other hand, Shea conceded that cops should get to know the neighborhoods and people in those communities should get to know the police. It's hard to see how that's going to happen unless cops get out of their cars but of course that would be, what, community policing?
Community policing: Police focusing on East Toledo's hot spots for crime
by J. Patrick Eaken
East Toledo residents told police they could hear shots fired near East Broadway and Starr and at the Charles F. Weiler Homes on Fassett Street — two areas considered hot spots for crime.
It's what police want to hear, believe it or not.
Not the fact that residents heard shots fired, but Toledo police want residents to be the eyes and ears of the community in a new community policing strategy. To do so, police need as much information as possible about what is going on.
“You report to us what is going on in the neighborhood and we'll use our resources to be able to handle it,” said Sgt. Patricia Gomez.
Residents are responding. It is happening at a rate so alarming that Captain Tom Weigand estimates 250,000 911 calls are going to the Toledo call center every year.
East Toledo Family Center community builder Jodi Gross, liaison for One Voice for East Toledo, said an app on her phone alerts her every time a 911 call is placed for an incident close to her home or any other address she specifies.
The app includes the address of the criminal activity, the type of activity, and other details. She is “shocked” how much criminal activity takes place.
Sgt. Gomez and other Toledo police were responding to 25 residents' questions at a public forum held at the East Toledo Family Center Wednesday night. Police Chief George Kral was scheduled to appear but was called away to family business, so Capt. Weigand, the Central District commander and acting deputy chief for field operations, stood in his place.
Weigand, a 31-year veteran of the Toledo police force, said a new community policing strategy entails using as many resources as possible and focusing on a targeted neighborhood for a limited duration. They are currently concentrating on the East Broadway and Starr corridor, and during that time target enforcement has limited crime to one burglary and one robbery.
He said that the Main, Starr, and East Broadway corridor has very few homeowners in residence and lots of blighted, rented property — an area with demographics and socioeconomic issues that typically lead to crime. He said conflicts occur most often between 3-10 p.m.
“That area of East Toledo is at a critical juncture right now. In that area, we want all the help that we can possibly get,” Weigand said.
'Parents not accountable'
However, residents brought up issues, like drag racing on Woodville Road, from neighborhoods across East Toledo.
Bob Henderson said he saw a youngster walking down the street waving a rifle. He said the youngster lives in a house on Valleywood near Nevada and he has witnessed this youngster and his friends steal, but doesn't see the parents doing anything about it.
“The problem now is the parents — it's pure and simple,” Henderson said. “If my kids screwed up, I paid the price. The parents are not being held accountable.”
Another complaint heard regularly is alleged late night criminal activity at a motorcycle club on Kelsey Street. Sgt. Gomez said an investigation of that site is already underway.
Residents say they are pleased with the way the building has been renovated, including a garden and new facade. They say at night, behavior that includes drinking in the streets and loud noise, has become a chronic nuisance.
Capt. Weigand said he is aware of potential criminal activity there, police are monitoring it, and he “would like nothing better than to beat down the door of that club,” but says the investigation has to continue until enough evidence can be brought to a judge for probable cause and a warrant for search and seizure.
Capt. Weigand stressed that police cannot be everywhere at all times, so they need residents to help provide information about drug houses, gang activity, prostitution, and other criminal activity going on.
Tips can be left anonymously on a drug hotline, but he said details are important to execute a search warrant. He needs the address, but much more — license plate numbers, automobile types, and as much information on the residents living there as possible. With enough information, a unit from the Special Operations Bureau can begin investigating claims.
“There is no way on earth that I or the police in sum can eliminate all the criminal activity. We can't sustain that level of enforcement to one area for any length of time because of resources,” Weigand said. “We want everyone to engage — look at everything from an environmental standpoint to reduce the potential for you to be targeted for criminal activity.
“We're trying to build enough information, what we call probable cause, to get a warrant. It's a new way of policing. We're using intelligence as much as possible.”
Community police officer Tracey Britt stressed that because of higher priorities, often police cannot respond to a 911 call in time to catch criminal activity in progress. She suggests that residents should keep calling, and that builds information to help police presents its case.
Some residents attending the meet stressed that when provide anonymous tips, police still want to know who gave the tip when they arrive on scene. Captain Weigand said that should not happen. Another issue, one resident said, are policeman who “treat us like we're second class citizens.”
Weigand responded, “If we have officers who are treating you as second class officers, I'd like to know who they are. We have 750 police officers, and some of them, let's just say, ‘They've had a bad day,' but I think they should always fall back on being professional. That's the message that I'm sending and that's the message that I will continue to send.”
Officer Britt noted that of 750 police officers, 250 are “grunts” in the field who respond to calls. Britt said you break that down to two stations, four shifts, and throw in vacations, sickness, and injuries, and you can see how 250 officers can be undermanned when they have to cover the entire city.
“There are more people driving through Taco Bell than we have available at some times,” Britt said.
Weigand said in East Toledo there are typically two 2-man crews on shift during the day, three to five 2-man crews during the afternoon shift, and several units patrolling across the river that have quick access if needed.
New law allows officials, victims to hide names for public safety
by Kelly Roberts
TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — New legislation will allow certain victims and public officials to get their names taken off any county-run websites.
The law was passed in the last session and goes into effect July 1. Tippecanoe County commissioners passed a policy allowing any judicial official, law enforcement employee, public official and victim of domestic violence to pay a fee and be able to get their name removed from county websites.
Commissioner Tom Murtaugh says the law addresses a public safety matter.
“It's clearly an issue of public safety,” said Murtaugh. “With the access of information of various sources, there are some concerns about how that information can be accessed.”
The fee is a one-time payment of $25.
The Dannemora Dilemma
by Ross Douthat
NOT many small American towns stick in your memory 10 years after you last drove through them. But New York's Dannemora, site of last weekend's remarkable prison break, is a vivid exception.
Dannemora is way up north — north of Albany, north of the Saratoga races, north of Lake George and Lake Placid, barely inside the northern border of the Adirondack Park. You drive through emptiness to get there, and what you find when you arrive is schizophrenic. Coming down the main street, to your left is a normal upstate town — the car dealer, the post office, the Stewart's market, a lot of shingled storefronts in the shadow of mountains.
But to your right, block after block, there's just a prison wall — looming, pressing, dominating, like a glacier inching down from Canada, or something out of “Game of Thrones.”
I was there in high summer, and my first thought was “Siberia.” And “Little Siberia” turned out to be the prison's nickname.
No doubt residents are used to it; it's a company town, no less than Washington D.C., and that wall means money, jobs, security. But driving through, it doesn't feel like something people should get used to — this prison at the end of America, huge and crowded yet invisible to most of us.
We've been debating criminal justice reform in earnest ever since Ferguson exploded last summer, with policing as the focal point. But our archipelago of prisons, the Dannemora-like places spread around the country, are as much the issue as any abuses by the police.
All told, our prisons house around 2.2 million Americans, leaving the land of the free with the world's highest incarceration rate. And they house them, often, in conditions that make a mockery of our supposed ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment: gang-dominated, rife with rape, ruled by disciplinary measures (particularly the use of solitary confinement) that meet a reasonable definition of torture.
When Americans debate which feature of our contemporary life will look most morally scandalous in hindsight, the answers usually break down along left-right lines. But there's increasing agreement across ideological lines — uniting conservative evangelicals and civil rights leaders, the Koch brothers and Eric Holder — that our prison system has become a particularly obvious moral stain.
This agreement has borne fruit: Amid a bipartisan, multistate push, the incarceration rate has fallen since 2007. And the crime rate has stayed low, at least till now, which has both helped the trend along (low crime rates mean fewer new prisoners) and sustained political space for pushing further.
The as-yet-unanswered question, though, is how far the push can go. And if the Siberian strangeness of Dannemora makes the case for reform, the escape there last week is a reminder of the dilemma for reformers.
Richard Matt and David Sweat, the escapees, may have imitated Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption.” But no sane person would root for them — both murderers, Matt a charismatic psychopath — to end up free and clear in Zihuatanejo.
And while evil geniuses are pretty rare in our prisons, murderers are not.
Indeed, one of the key reasons the prison population rose so quickly prior to 2007 is that prosecutors were convicting more people for homicide, and putting them away for longer. The average time served for drug crimes rose very little from 1980 to 2010; the average time served for rape and robbery rose modestly. But the average time served for murder was just six years in the early 1980s; today it's around 17 years.
At a certain point, then, sentencing reforms for nonviolent offenders will reach a natural limit, and we'll confront a very different set of questions. Should sentences for rapists and (especially) murderers get ratcheted back down? Can alternatives to incarceration be implemented for violent offenders without a spike in crime and a political backlash? Or will reformers need to focus more on just improving conditions within prisons and accept that public order requires keeping a million-and-a-half Americans behind bars?
These questions loom with police reforms as well. There are good reasons to think that policing tactics can change and police accountability increase without a return to early-1990s crime rates. But the plunging arrest rates and surging crime in Baltimore since the riots are a reminder of the care and seriousness required for real reform, and the costs if it goes wrong.
And then there's the deeper, lurking issue. Since the '90s, America has cut crime rates without clearly solving the problems that the right and left assumed cause crime in the first place — fatherlessness and family breakdown, mediocre and failing schools, male joblessness and wage stagnation.
Maybe crime has simply decoupled from all these other indicators. But maybe it was decoupled by the force of mass incarceration. In which case reform — morally necessary reform — will once again expose problems that neither cops nor courts nor jails can solve.
Documents detail Ohio police shooting of boy holding pellet gun
Investigators have found no hard evidence the officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old ordered him to raise his hands before opening fire
by Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND — Investigators have found no hard evidence a Cleveland police officer who fatally shot a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun ordered him to raise his hands before opening fire.
Documents released Saturday by the prosecutor handling the racially charged case detail the moments before the brief, deadly encounter — and how the responding officers seemed almost shell-shocked as Tamir Rice lay dying outside a rec center.
Cleveland police have said the officer who fired the fatal shot, Timothy Loehmann, told Tamir three times to put his hands up, then opened fire when the boy reached for the pellet gun tucked in his waistband.
Grainy, choppy surveillance video shows Loehmann firing two shots within two seconds of his police cruiser skidding to a stop near the boy. Cuyahoga County sheriff's detectives investigating the shooting wrote that, based on witness interviews, it was unclear if Loehmann shouted anything to Tamir from inside the cruiser before opening fire.
Tamir's death is among a series of cases involving the use of deadly force on black suspects that sparked protests and outrage across the country. Tamir was black, the officers are white.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty has said the case, as with all police-involved shootings, will be taken to grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback. McGinty said he decided to release the investigative file now in the interests of transparency.
"If we wait years for all litigation to be completed before the citizens are allowed to know what actually happened, we will have squandered our best opportunity to institute needed changes in use of force policy, police training and leadership," McGinty said.
A friend told deputies he had given the pellet gun to Tamir hours before the shooting with the warning to be careful because it looked real, according to the documents.
The friend told sheriff's deputies he had given the airsoft-type gun to him on the morning of Nov. 22 in exchange for one of the boy's cellphones and planned to get it back later that day. The friend said he had taken the gun apart to fix it and been unable to reattach the orange cap that goes on the barrel to indicate it isn't the .45-caliber handgun it's modeled after.
Investigators were told that Tamir used the airsoft gun, which shoots non-lethal plastic projectiles, to shoot at car tires that day.
Loehmann and Garmback were responding to a call about a young man waving and pointing a gun outside the rec center. A 911 caller had also said the gun might be a fake and the man could be a juvenile, but that information was never relayed to the officers.
The surveillance video appears to show Tamir reaching for the pellet gun, which is tucked in his waistband, when he's shot. Investigative documents said it's been estimated that Loehmann fired twice at a range estimated at between 41/2 and 7 feet. Autopsy records indicate Tamir was struck only once.
An FBI agent who is a trained paramedic was on a bank robbery detail nearby. He began administering first aid four minutes after the shooting. The agent, whose name is redacted from the files, told investigators that Tamir's wound was severe but he was still initially conscious. Tamir, he said, showed a response when he told him he was there to help.
Loehmann, 26, and Garmback, 47, have been criticized for not giving Tamir first aid. The officers seemed to freeze, the agent said.
"They wanted to do something, but they didn't know what to do," the agent told investigators.
The agent said Tamir answered when he asked him his name and said something about his gun. When Tamir became unresponsive, the agent called out for assistance to keep the boy's airway open. He told investigators he believed it was Garmback who provided help. Loehmann, who had sprained his ankle while falling back after the shooting, was described as distraught by the agent, according to the documents.
Tamir died on the operating table early the next morning.
Loehmann's attorney, Henry Hilow, said he has not had a chance to read the investigative file and said the officer committed no wrongdoing.
"The events were a tragedy, but there was no crime committed," he said.
The agent guessed that Tamir, who was 5-foot-7 and weighed 195 pounds, was an "older teenager." Police officers at the scene shared the same belief.
While Tamir might have been big for his age, those who knew him told investigators that he carried himself like the 12-year-old he was. The sixth-grader was in a special education class of six children at his elementary school, prone to exaggeration and sometimes picked on by other children at the recreation center, the investigative documents say.
A federal judge on Friday approved an agreement forged between the city of Cleveland and U.S. Department of Justice aimed at reforming the city's police department, which the DOJ concluded after an 18-month investigation had shown a pattern and practice of using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.
New gun blamed for rise in accidental gunshots by LA County deputies
Sheriff's officials attribute the increase to the learning curve for the new weapon, the Smith & Wesson M&P9
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — The number of accidental shootings by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies has more than doubled in two years as the department switches to a new handgun.
There were 12 accidental discharges of weapons in 2012 and 30 last year — most of which involved the new gun, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In October, a deputy tripped over a stroller and fired a bullet through the wall of a house in Huntington Park. Last November, a deputy in Lancaster shot himself in the thigh while pulling his gun. In December, a deputy in Compton accidentally pulled the trigger on his gun as he approached a suspected stolen car and a bullet hit the door. Nobody was in the car, however.
The inspector general of the Sheriff's Department is investigating the increase in accidental firings. But sheriff's officials attribute the increase to the learning curve for the new weapon, the Smith & Wesson M&P9.
The semi-automatic gun is made from a lightweight polymer, doesn't have a safety lever and requires less pressure to pull the trigger than the Beretta 92F, a heavier gun the department has used for two decades.
"The vast majority were people trained on the Beretta," Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers said. "There is a correlation, no doubt about it."
About half of sworn personnel now use the Smith & Wesson.
So far, there have been seven accidents this year, and five have involved the new gun.
Officials said they expect the number of accidental firings to fall off as deputies become used to the weapon. The department also has imposed extra training requirements.
The switch was prompted, in part, by the threat of a lawsuit by women who had failed the Sheriff's Academy, the Times said.
Because of its easier pull, the Smith & Wesson is easier to shoot accurately and its hand grip comes in three sizes, making it easier to use for people with small hands.
With the advent of the new weapon, deputies are obtaining better scores at the firing range and more recruits are passing the firearms test. The percentage of women recruits who failed that test has fallen from 6.4 percent to less than 1 percent, the Times said.
The Los Angeles Police Department has used a similar gun, a Glock, since 2005. It recently began issuing M&Ps, said Lt. Dana Berns, who heads the firearms and tactics section. No problems are expected because of the similarities of the weapons, he said.
Earbuds, BB gun at play in fatal police shooting case in Fla.
Homicide detectives have completed their investigation and turned the case over the prosecutors, who will soon present it to the grand jury
by Curt Anderson
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jermaine McBean decided one summer day in 2013 to walk to a pawn shop, buy a pellet gun that looked a lot like a real rifle and stroll down a busy street back to his apartment complex with the gun in plain view. He was likely listening to music through earbud headphones, something he did a lot.
Alarmed by the gun, several motorists dialed 911, worried that the 33-year-old McBean seemed to be acting strangely. Some noted there were children around.
Broward Sheriff's Office deputies quickly arrived, saw McBean at the apartment complex and yelled for him to put the gun down. At first he didn't react — perhaps he couldn't hear because of his earbuds — then, as he began to turn around, he was fatally shot by Deputy Peter Peraza.
Now, nearly two years later, a Florida grand jury will investigate the McBean shooting. Homicide detectives have completed their investigation and turned the case over the prosecutors, who will soon present it to the grand jury. It's not exactly clear when those jurors will get the case, nor why it has taken two years, though in Florida police shooting investigations can often take years to complete.
The McBean shooting generated only modest interest in 2013 but is getting renewed attention because of a wrongful death lawsuit his family filed and the national conversation about how police treat blacks. McBean was black and Peraza is Hispanic.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said his detectives have done a "thorough and complete investigation" and he believes the shooting was justified. His officers even received a prestigious award for their actions that day, even though they haven't been cleared yet.
McBean's mother accuses Peraza and the sheriff of seeking to cover up the facts surrounding McBean's death, including lying about whether McBean was wearing earbuds, according to a wrongful death lawsuit she filed in federal court in May. The family's lawyer, David Schoen, said the deputies would have "beyond any question" noticed the earbuds after the shooting.
"They knew the earphones would be a material fact for their theory that he refused to obey a command and so they lied. Not one of them had the character, sense of duty, or basic honesty to come clean," Schoen said, repeating allegations in the lawsuit.
Israel said if red flags had been raised during the sheriff's office probe of Peraza's actions, he wouldn't have been permitted to return to full active duty.
"Based on all the facts about the case that were available to me, I supported the decision to put him back on duty," Israel said.
It's rare for a law enforcement officer to be charged with a crime, much less convicted, for shooting a suspect, even those that turn out not to be armed. The last time a conviction happened in Florida was in 1989 in Miami in a case that touched off fierce rioting just after the shooting happened. That officer, William Lozano, was later acquitted of manslaughter after a second trial.
According to sheriff reports and court records, McBean walked from his apartment in the suburb of Oakland Park to a pawn shop to purchase the green camouflage Winchester air rifle, which has a scope and looked to many people who saw him that day to be a real weapon but only fires BB-like pellets. And it wasn't even loaded with those.
Several people who saw McBean carrying the rifle called 911 from their cars, including Christina Turner, who later told investigators he was behaving strangely.
"He looked like he was angry. He was stomping his feet. He was yelling something," she said, adding that she considered the possibility that he was carrying a "BB gun" but then determined "it looked like a gun, a shotgun, something that could do damage."
McBean was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010, according to the family attorney, and had been hospitalized briefly in the days before the shooting. But Schoen said he was back to normal after the treatment on July 31, 2013, the day of the shooting.
A sheriff's dispatcher told responding deputies it appeared McBean had a .22-caliber rifle. Peraza arrived first, followed by Sgt. Richard LaCerra, and was initially told to hang back until other deputies arrived. Then McBean turned to walk into the apartment complex, near a pool with families and children present, according to sheriff reports.
"There is people all over the place. I have no idea what this man's intentions were, good or bad," LaCerra told an investigator.
The decision was made to confront McBean, who was now carrying the air rifle over his shoulders, behind his neck, with both arms slung on top of the gun. Peraza, LaCerra and Lt. Brad Ostroff — the deputy commander of the district — approached from behind with guns drawn, shouting for McBean to drop the rifle.
"It appeared like he was ignoring us," Peraza said, insisting repeatedly that he saw no earbuds in McBean's ears.
However, a photo taken shortly after the shooting by a resident of the apartment complex from a few feet away clearly shows an earbud in McBean's left ear. Because of the angle, it's impossible to see if there's an earbud in his right ear. Either way, the earbuds wound up in McBean's pocket after paramedics took him to the hospital. Family members say McBean wore earbuds almost constantly.
The three deputies all told detectives that McBean eventually turned in a manner suggesting he might pose a threat. Peraza, however, was the only one who fired, striking McBean with two rounds.
"I felt like my life was threatened," Peraza said. "I felt like I could've been killed. My sergeant could have been killed. He could've shot somebody in the pool area."
LaCerra remembers McBean saying something moments after he was hit: "He goes, 'it was just a BB gun.'"
Less than a month later, Ostroff nominated both Peraza and LaCerra for the sheriff's office's "Gold Cross" award, calling their actions that day "selfless, honorable and brave" and that the two deputies "placed themselves in harm's way" to protect civilians. The nomination makes no mention of earbuds or that the gun was, in fact, only an air rifle.
Israel said he is "disappointed" the awards were handed out before the shooting investigation was complete.
One of the 911 callers that day, Michael McCarthy, also witnessed the shooting. McCarthy told investigators he heard the deputies shouting at McBean to drop the gun, followed quickly by three shots.
"I hope I didn't get this guy shot for nothing, you know what I mean," he said. "It didn't appear to me that they had given him enough time. If they had given him a minute or so or maybe a, you know, couple seconds, he may have put the gun down, I don't know."
House Bill Would Reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
by Stell Simonton
A bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.
Juvenile justice programs across the nation have been fearful of losing their funding. In May the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies proposed defunding the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the central office that provides technical assistance and funds to state and local programs.
“We have seen the positive results some states have had from investing in alternatives to incarceration and secure detention,” said Scott, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, at a press conference today. Evidence shows that these policies reduce crime and save money, he said.
His bill, the Youth Justice Act of 2015, is based on a bipartisan bill (S. 2999) introduced in the Senate in December by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. They reintroduced a new bill in support of reauthorization on May 1.
“The Youth Justice Act builds on the strong framework of our colleagues in the Senate, and takes suggestions from our nation's leading juvenile justice advocates on how we can make our system even safer and more responsive to our youth,” Scott said.
The act reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which has not been reauthorized since 2002. It is the one federal law that sets national standards for the care of youth in the juvenile justice system.
Rep. Karen Bass, D.-Calif., is among the co-sponsors.
“We need to look at why the system is punishing girls more harshly for ‘crimes' like truancy, running away, curfew violations, incorrigibility or underage drinking,” Bass said. “We must stop handing out harsh sentences for small offenses.”
Girls are increasingly part of the juvenile justice population, the sponsors said in a statement.
Young people of color are disproportionately represented — they account for 71 percent of youth held in detention, the statement said.
The Youth Justice Act mandates states to take specific steps to address the disproportion at each point that juveniles are in contact with the system. The bill also focuses on education, safety and prevention.
Additional sponsors are Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; and Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.
“We know that supporting programs that keep our children out of jail is one of the best investments we can make,” said Richmond, who represents a large part of the city of New Orleans.
Epidemic of HIV Among Youth Needs Structural Repair, Experts Believe
(videos on dite)
by Lynne Anderson
ATLANTA — Doderick Moore has an easy, bright smile that seems to beam sunlight as he shakes hands.
He is polite, gregarious and well-spoken, looking and sounding like a young executive who might have come out of Wharton or Harvard business schools.
It is hard to imagine that Moore once lived on life's edge, spending time in youth detention and being involved with a much older man who gave him money, a sense of security and, eventually, HIV.
Moore, now 29, looks back at his late teens with sadness but without regret.
“I learned a lot of good things from a lot of bad people,” said Moore, who has become a counselor with Someone Cares, an Atlanta group with three offices that provides support, information and friendship to young gay men and women who are struggling with issues related to being gay.
One of the biggest issues facing the gay community across the country is an epidemic of HIV infection in young African-American men who have sex with men. A report released this winter by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 26 percent of all new HIV infections are among males 13-24 of all races.
The rise is of huge concern to health care workers and those at risk for HIV, particularly men who have sex with men. With the numbers of deaths from AIDS having dropped dramatically since the discovery and use of antiretroviral drugs, this new increase in HIV infections is a puzzle.
“Particularly it brings us concern because it's hitting the African-American community the hardest,” said Dr. Travis Sanchez, an HIV/AIDS researcher at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. He co-authored a recent report that show that males between 13 and 24 accounted for 26 percent of all new HIV cases.
“This disparity [between African-American males and others] is not explained by more sex partners or unprotected sex,” he said. “It's not enough to address individual behaviors. We have to look at structural problems.”
Speculation abounds, including the idea that complacency in the wake of medical breakthroughs, including the use of a drug that can prevent infection, is to blame for the surge in infection rates.
That's too easy an answer — and one that researchers and activists alike reject.
Instead, they see clues to a solution in what might be the most disturbing part of the increase. The burden of infection is heaviest on the poor, who lack access to health care, and on African-Americans, who may not only be poor but also most affected by stigma. That must be addressed to bring the numbers back down, experts said.
“We have other studies and other data that show it's not about HIV education, condoms and individual risk behaviors,” Sanchez said. “It is most likely lack of access to health care.”
At a recent session on HIV infections at a health care conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Christopher Chauncey Watson, clinical site research director at George Washington University, said he believes the rise is most definitely about lack of access for 18- to 24-year-olds.
"There really is a disconnect between what we know and what we're doing, particularly in the African-American community” of gay men," Watson said. "We need to do interventions that are culturally sensitive, such as asking 'Do you have a place to live tonight? Do you have an address we can put on this pill bottle?'"
Emily Brown, a field organizer with Georgia Equality, said she agrees. And it is something that the health care profession needs to address to stem the rising rates of HIV infection, she said.
“HIV is always a canary in the coal mine for inequality,” said Brown. “Access is almost always more related to HIV infection than behaviors.”
Giovanni Blair McKenzie, 20, is a youth ambassador for the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a civil rights organization working on behalf of the broader LGBTQ community. His job entails raising awareness about HRC's youth programs.
At a recent HRC-sponsored event in Portland, Ore., McKenzie came across as a confident, determined-to-get-the-word-out 20-something, aware of his mostly young audience, but cognizant of the complicated reasons for the rise of HIV in the African-American community.
“We have to realize that people of color don't have the same access. How do they find medical care that is not going to abuse them?” he said.
Yet other factors may play a part, too, and experts want to do all they can to make sure they are not overlooking anything in an effort to bring the numbers down. Sanchez said one factor could be a small “partner network,” the number of available sex partners.
The partner network of African-American men is known to be smaller than that of Caucasians and other racial groups. Some of that is due to a heavy sense of stigma in the African-American community that still exists toward gay men and lesbians.
Moore and participants at a National African-American MSM Leadership Conference in January in Atlanta also said they believe drug usage — not necessarily injectables but “party drugs” — may contribute to a couple forgetting about condom usage before they have sex.
“People are aware of the risk [of infection], but they're just not thinking about it,” Moore said.
Moore does his best to make people think about “it” — infection. He educates older adolescents and young adults about the perils of having unprotected sex, partly by sharing his own experiences.
Moore takes this message to the Atlanta gay bar scene, trying to reach people early in the evening, before they have had too much to drink or taken drugs. He dresses the part — revealing all his tattoos, wearing club clothes — and opens his heart to tell his story.
Yes, he gives the details about HIV infection rates, he preaches condom use, but he also adds a very personal dimension that he believes other young, lost or even homeless men can relate to.
“I was all over the place, still trying to find myself,” said Moore, who was raised by his father until he was 13. His mother was then released from prison and Moore went to live with her. She didn't have experience in child-rearing and didn't really know him, Moore said. His father, who had been the stable influence in his life, began to drink and fell into addiction.
Moore found himself vulnerable to the attentions of a man more than twice his age.
“He had money, he had a fancy car, he bought me a car,” said Moore. At 16, he moved in with his 34-year-old lover. A sign of trust in the relationship was to have unprotected sex, he said. “Love will make you do crazy things.”
Other gay people his age also engaged in risky behavior, doing what they could to survive.
“It was sad seeing a lot of my friends move into prostitution,” Moore said.
Many people who work with adolescents are concerned that a lack of education and information when they come of age sexually might be contributing to the rise in the HIV infection rate.
At a presentation in January in Atlanta, several attendees questioned the wisdom of not proactively reaching out to teenagers before they become sexually active rather than waiting to address the threat of HIV and AIDS until afterward.
“We teach young children how to brush their teeth. Why wouldn't we teach them to take care of their penis?” asked Maisha Drayton, senior director of staff development and a counselor at Evergreen Health Services in Buffalo, N.Y. Drayton was in Atlanta in January to attend NAESM.
Thomas Davis, 23, also a youth ambassador at the Portland conference, said outreach from the medical community is important.
“In 2015, there's no excuse for us to not have the information we need. This is an issue that involves all of us.”
Like Drayton and others, Sanchez said early diagnosis is essential.
“Waiting until they're 20 is not the right approach,” he said.
Reaching young males, particularly African-Americans who have only recently identified as gay, is very hard.
Many have been kicked out of their homes and live, as Moore did, in exploitative or unsafe situations.
“We're always looking for validation,” Moore said of young males who have recently come out as gay and may have faced family scorn or been cut off. “You're kinda stunted.”
That's why his organization Someone Cares focuses on uplifting young gay men and others.
Moore got involved after he came to terms with his own abusive and lonely background.
“One day, I said, ‘I'm just tired of being used.' My grandmother told me, ‘Boy, you've been trying for 29 years to have parents.' And I realized she was right. But now I focus on the good things and try to help others do the same,” he said.
Moore encouraged youth in lockup at a juvenile detention center recently, telling them they can find meaning and fulfillment.
Such outreach is important, said Sanchez and Dr. Patrick O'Neal, director of health protection for the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“You've got to be able to overcome these barriers,” O'Neal said. Many youth who have been thrown out of homes or been bullied because they are gay may also have mental health issues, he said. “And they have great fear. How do we help people who have this terrible fear?”
“We're finding people months or years after they've been infected,” Brown said. “It's a huge issue.” She favors blood testing for HIV for all people seen in emergency rooms and for people 13 and over during well visits. Thirteen is the legal age in Georgia when youth can be tested for HIV without parental consent.
“The way things are now, it's very structured against people being successful” in dealing with an HIV diagnosis, she said.
Biggest Obstacles To HIV Treatment Aren't Medical, Doctor Says
LOS ANGELES — When it comes to treating HIV/AIDS in Southern California, there's arguably no hospital more involved in the fight than Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The man leading Children's Hospital's charge against the disease, Dr. Marvin Belzer, is one of the most respected HIV specialists in the state.
Belzer sees a wide range of teens with HIV as head of the hospital's risk reduction program. The program offers free care to LGBTQ teens at risk contracting HIV and AIDS and specializes in care for transgender teens who have contracted the disease. The clinic also provides service to teens in at-risk communities who have difficulty getting care due to social determinates such as lack of health care, accessibility to hospitals or low income. With more than 58,000 HIV positive people estimated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health to be living within county lines, there's never a slow day.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s and early '90s, more than 2,000 people were dying of the disease per year. Now, that number has dropped below 400, and thanks to advances in treatment, more and more infected people are able to live full and healthy lives.
But on a day-to-day basis, Belzer notices a worrying consistency in the majority of his patients: “About 50 percent of the patients we get are Latino males,” he said. “Then another 35 to 40 percent are African-American [males]. In Los Angeles, they combine to make about 20 or 25 percent of the total population, so the disparity is very clear.”
Beyond Los Angeles, the disparity between population and infection rate becomes even starker. According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two-thirds of all new HIV diagnoses among teens in 2013 were from African-Americans, despite the fact that they make up only 15 percent of the nation's teen population. In Los Angeles, African-Americans make up approximately 10 percent of the total teen population. In addition, more than 90 percent of all new teen male infections in 2011 were caused by gay intercourse.
In fact, Belzer says infection rates among gay teens has risen in the last three years, though the number of women infected and cases caused by infected needles has decreased. One of the main reasons, he explains, is because it is harder for doctors to convince these young men to come in for treatment due to obstacles that are far more social than medical.
“A lot of the teens we see have problems that compound on each other,” he said. “They have a history of trauma, social stigma and substance abuse. They're afraid to come in to us because they are afraid that their family and friends will ostracize them.”
It is this fear of rejection that has led to a category of HIV cases that doctors are making a top priority to address: those who are aware they are infected but do not adhere to treatment. According to a 2013 report by the LA County Health Department (LACHD), there are an estimated 1,700 people between ages 13-24 in this category, along with another estimated 350 teens who are HIV positive but do not know it.
The LACHD report also includes plans to address the different categories of HIV targets, ranging from HIV negative but high-risk patients to patients already in care. To prevent further infection, the report recommends additional opt-out screenings at school clinics and juvenile detention centers, as well as focused condom distribution in areas where HIV infections are frequent.
The most important new weapon in the prevention arsenal, however, is the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill (PrEP). Doctors are encouraging people in at-risk areas and demographics to use the pill daily to help drastically reduce the chances of infection.
“PrEP is a prescription pill, and to get it, you have to document that you don't have HIV, but you may be at risk because of your behavior. Either you have unprotected sex or you have protected sex with someone infected,” said Dr. Mark Katz, regional HIV/AIDS advisor for Kaiser Permanente of Southern California. Katz has been involved in HIV treatment since the start of the epidemic and helped start Kaiser's first HIV clinic at their West LA Medical Center in 1988.
“PrEP prescriptions are also given out with follow-up screenings every three months, so if you take the pill, you have to come back to make sure that the treatment is doing its job,” Katz said.
Meanwhile, HIV clinics like that of Children's Hospital offer services that cast a wide net over not only HIV treatment, but the social and physical problems often associated with it. The actual treatment of HIV is simpler than ever. The days of the three-pill “drug cocktail” used by the likes of Magic Johnson 20 years ago are gone.
Drug companies have combined the three drugs that counteract the virus into a single retroviral pill. If taken daily, this pill reduces the number of viruses in the body so drastically that the threat of infection is drastically reduced. While they go through the process, patients at clinics like Belzer's get access to resources that help them prepare for life with HIV.
“We have counseling to help them discuss HIV and have referrals to social programs that can help them with school supplies or transportation,” Belzer said. “We want to create an environment where these teens feel comfortable tackling this problem and getting their lives back together in the process.”
This combination of condom distribution, increased testing and whole-person care is called the “treatment cascade.” Since the National HIV/AIDS Initiative was launched by President Barack Obama in 2010, the cascade has been adopted nationwide as the primary strategy for getting as many HIV patients diagnosed and virally suppressed as possible.
But while all the new developments in treatment have made taking care of the disease easier than ever and greatly reduced the threat of infection, Katz worries that the one-pill solutions are causing young people who are infected or in environments that put them at risk of infection to let their guard down and ignore safe sex practices. Katz still feels that HIV education should be a top priority.
“Back in the '80s, a lot of young people, particularly young gay people, were so vigilant because so many of them had lost friends to AIDS,” he said. “Now, knowing that HIV is so treatable and that medication is making infection less likely, there are many young people who aren't following safe sex guidelines. We are still seeing lots of young people get infected, so we need to continue educating young people and reminding them that PrEP is not a substitute for being responsible and practicing safe sex.”
LACHD's goal is to get half the HIV positive population on regular retroviral treatment and reduce the number of new infections by 25 percent by the end of 2017. In addition, the National HIV/AIDS Initiative aims to increase the number of MSM (males having sex with males) patients with full viral suppression by 20 percent, particularly among African-Americans and Latinos.
So far, both programs are on track to reach these goals, but with the state health care system in transition due to the Affordable Care Act and the Medi-Cal expansion, there's still debate over how funds should be distributed. Included in the LACHD report are plans to reduce funding for outpatient care. County officials believe that with more patients insured through the Affordable Care Act, the funding for outpatient care can be focused toward services not covered by insurance.
On Feb. 10, Los Angeles County cut $4 million from contracts with private HIV/AIDS care providers. At the Board of Supervisors meeting where the budget cut was approved, dozens of activists from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation protested the move, saying that outpatient funding was still needed to help those who have not yet received treatment.
Where these freed-up funds will go has not been fully determined — LACHD declined requests for comment — but one possibility could be services like Belzer's clinic, which provided whole-person care. As the average lifespan of people living with HIV expands, that could be the new model of future treatment.
“HIV is no longer necessarily a death sentence, but it does become a part of the lives of those who get it,” Belzer said. “Usually, those who don't know how to deal with it have other health problems that stack on top. When we treat someone with HIV, we're doing more than just giving them pills and telling them what to do with it. We're helping them prepare to live full, healthy lives.”
NY Families of Youngsters Killed by Police Want Political Reform
by Daryl Khan
NEW YORK — The oldest killing on the list dates back to Aug. 23, 1994; it happened with a gun in a stairwell in a Brooklyn housing project. The most recent is July 17 of last year; it happened in plain sight with a chokehold and was recorded and broadcast to the world.
Nicholas Heyward, the father of Nicholas Heyward Jr., and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, are on a list no one wants be on. They are the father and mother of children killed by the police in New York.
They joined other family members in signing a letter delivered to state lawmakers in Albany this morning imploring them to enact a law that would create a special prosecutor to investigate killings at the hands of the police.
The letter comes a month and a half after several mothers on the list met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ask him to sign an executive order to create the special prosecutor, bypassing political wrangling in the state capital.
Constance Malcolm, whose son Ramarley Graham was gunned down in his own home by police officer Richard Haste, was one of them. At that meeting, Malcolm said Cuomo promised to expand authority to the Attorney General's office so that it could investigate police killings if a bill he supports does not make it through Albany. He said he did not have the power to appoint an independent special prosecutor.
The reform is one that activists are calling for around the country in the wake of high-profile killings of blacks and Latinos at the hands of police that have resulted in no indictments. In Cleveland, the family of Tamir Rice — a 12-year-old shot by police while playing — have resorted to citing an arcane law allowing them to circumvent a prosecutor's office that they do not trust to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.
One of the main roadblocks, aside from the upstate-downstate ideological rift that defines New York state politics, is that the District Attorney's Office bristles at the idea of outside investigators coming into their jurisdiction and are resistant to surrendering some of their authority to another agency.
In New York City, activists calling for reform have argued for decades that the New York Police Department and the prosecutors' offices in the five boroughs work together too closely to have them be honest arbiters in investigating police abuse.
In the wake of the shooting of Sean Bell, who was killed in a fusillade of 50 bullets fired by members of the NYPD in 2006, the department conducted a parallel investigation that often bumped up against the one the Queens district attorney's office was trying to do.
In the face-to-face meeting in April, Cuomo said he wanted the legislative process to run its course.
But activists calling for comprehensive reform say the governor's reforms being considered by the legislature do more to undermine the demands of the families of slain children than it does help them. It includes an independent monitor that activists say is a toothless half-measure that does nothing to hold accountable local police departments around the state, especially a juggernaut like the NYPD, the largest police department in the continent.
“The independent monitor the governor is promoting goes beyond inadequate to being counter-productive,” said Loyda Colon, co-director of the Justice Committee. “It does not address the systemic problem. It only creates another step in the process, and leaves the appointment of a special prosecutor up to discretion. It is a proposal that the state Legislature should not support.”
Malcolm, who has dedicated her life to police reform in the wake of her son's death, said she does not want to wait any longer.
“We want him to stop playing politics with our children's lives,” she said, urging the governor to not wait and sign the executive order immediately.