June, 2015 - Week 4
Unarmed man shot, killed by Baltimore County officers in Owings Mills
by Pamela Wood and Jessica Anderson
B altimore County police officers shot and killed an unarmed man in Owings Mills early Thursday while responding to a report of domestic violence at a home they had visited more than a dozen times over the past three years.
Spencer Lee McCain, 41, died about 8 a.m. at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, police said.
Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said officers believed McCain was armed. They did not find a weapon on him.
Police received a 911 call about a possible domestic disturbance at the condominium in the 3000 block of Hunting Ridge Drive in Owings Mills shortly after 1 a.m., Johnson said. He said a 10-year-old child who lived at the home called a grandmother, who dialed 911.
He said the first officer to arrive knew of a history of domestic violence calls at the home. Since 2012, police said, officers responded to 911 calls for the address 17 times, including several reports of fighting.
On Thursday, Johnson said, the first officer heard screams for help coming from the home. Three officers, "fearing that someone was in imminent danger of injury or death," forced their way into the home, he said.
As the officers went inside, Johnson said, they encountered a man in a "defensive position" making movements that led officers to believe he had a weapon.
The man was later identified as McCain, Johnson said. He would not elaborate on the man's actions or why police believed he was armed.
All three officers fired at the man and hit him several times, Johnson said. Nineteen shell casings were found on the floor in the area where the officers shot the man, police said.
Tony Fugett, president of the NAACP's Baltimore County branch, said he was briefed by police on the shooting. McCain was black, as was one of the three officers.
"Whenever there is a police-involved shooting, there's always a concern of what happened," Fugett said. "Typically, what we do is we will look into the matter and we will see what the report says. We don't like to jump to any conclusions."
Police did not release the names of the officers. All three have been placed on administrative duty, Johnson said. Under the union contract, officers involved in shootings are not identified until 48 hours after the incident.
Police called McCain an "estranged associate" of Shannon Sulton, who lives in the condominium. They said the woman had injuries Thursday that included swelling above her eyes, scratches on her forearms and cuts on both sides of her mouth.
Sulton said McCain told her, "You're going to get the beating you deserve," Johnson said.
She declined medical treatment, police said.
No one answered at the condominium Thursday afternoon, and Sulton could not be reached for comment.
The 10-year-old and a 2-year-old were in the home during the shooting, police said. A third child who lives at the home was not there at the time, police said.
Sulton's mother, Rochelle Byrd, placed the 911 call after one of her grandchildren called her. Byrd told The Baltimore Sun that McCain was the father of Sulton's three children. She said McCain and her daughter had been a couple off and on for years, but McCain "wasn't that social" and she didn't know him well.
Byrd said her daughter and grandchildren are doing "as best as to be expected."
"It's rough. It's rough," she said.
Police said Sulton had obtained a domestic violence protective order against McCain. Online court records show a protective order was filed in October barring McCain from visiting the home and the children's schools and requiring him to surrender any firearms. The order is valid through Oct. 8.
Online court records for McCain show a second-degree assault charge that was put on the inactive docket in 2004 and a conviction in 1992 for carrying a handgun. He received a six-month suspended sentence.
Keith Lewis, who has lived next door for five years, said he has heard yelling and screaming from the home several times, and was awakened by noise early Thursday.
"Something hit the wall," Lewis said. "I woke up. I heard yelling. The babies were crying. It sounded like begging and pleading. ...
"Five to 10 minutes later, I saw cruisers. I saw the officers pull up out front. It quieted down, and I drifted back to sleep. Then I heard her yelling again. I heard the door get booted, and then all hell broke loose. I heard probably 10 shots."
Baltimore County homicide detectives are investigating. The case is to be reviewed by the department's shooting review board, the chief and the county state's attorney's office.
"In the hours and days ahead, we'll learn more and in greater detail about what the officers knew, thought and perceived in every moment that transpired," Johnson said.
Is prison most economical crime preventer?
Punishment, rehabilitation of low-level offenders shifts from state to counties
by Jeff Parrott
For decades, judges have been filling Indiana prisons with nonviolent offenders and drug users, with an emphasis on punishment.
Financially, it's been costly, with prison overcrowding forcing the state to consider new prison construction, and it's also proven to be ineffective at reducing recidivism rates.
"Imprisoning someone in a state prison is a very blunt instrument," said Kate Williams, executive administrator of the St. Joseph County Community Corrections Advisory Board. "We're hoping to do more targeted interventions because we're spending so much money incarcerating people and not really getting the results."
Under a new Indiana law that takes effect Wednesday, judges will no longer be allowed to sentence people convicted of the lowest-level felonies to prison. Instead judges, with a few exceptions, must send Level 6 felons to county jail, work release or home detention.
The measure follows another new law, effective a year ago, that lowered many drug possession offenses to Level 6 felonies. Examples of crimes that will be affected by the law change are residential entry, resisting law enforcement, intimidation, and some drug offenses such as possession of methamphetamine and maintaining a common nuisance.
Specifically, the law states that Level 6 felons sentenced to less than 90 days of incarceration cannot be sent to prison. After Jan. 1, those sentenced to less than a year must remain in the county.
"It takes them away from home," Williams said of imprisoning low-level offenders. "If they did have a job at the time they were arrested, they're going to lose it. So we're looking to keep family connections, community connections for people, and focusing on what their main issues are. A lot of times that's substance abuse and mental health."
Because of the new law, Williams said local officials are anticipating a 25 percent increase in the number of people on home detention and work release for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday.
As a result, the Indiana Department of Correction has boosted the county's annual community corrections block grant from $1.5 million to $1.8 million for the coming fiscal year. The other half of the department's budget comes from fees paid by people sentenced to the programs.
In addition to buying more food at the DuComb Center, the county's work release facility on Lathrop Drive, the extra money will fund 3.5 more staff: a GED coordinator, a re-entry coordinator who will focus on things such as life skills and job readiness, a full-time substance abuse counselor and a part-time counselor.
As a County Council committee gave a favorable recommendation to the fiscal 2016 community corrections budget last week, Williams said the department's administrative positions are fully staffed for the first time in five years.
The DuComb Center, with capacity for 104 offenders, typically houses 60 to 65, and had 72 beds full as of Tuesday. Williams said officials expect the facility to be completely full by the first of the year.
The Indiana General Assembly this year also passed a bill earmarking $10 million in state money that counties can apply for to fund a broad set of mental health and addiction treatment services, including addiction counseling, detox, training in living skills, training in vocational services, housing and transportation assistance.
Williams said the Healthy Indiana Plan's recent expansion also will help more clients pay for mental health services.
Can jails afford it?
For all of its emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation, the new law makes some exceptions to protect public safety. Judges may still send to prison Level 6 offenders who are sentenced to consecutive terms for multiple Level 6 felonies, those who violate probation or parole by committing a Level 6 offense, and those with a history of violent crimes.
Judges can also send such offenders to the county jail because they aren't suitable for community corrections, a factor that is expected to drive up jail populations.
St. Joseph County Sheriff Mike Grzegorek did not return repeated calls over several days seeking comment. But sheriffs across Indiana aren't sure what to expect, said Bill Wilson, jail services coordinator for the Indiana Sheriffs Association.
"The uncertainty in all of it is just how many people are in community corrections who will violate terms of their community corrections program and go back into the county jail?" Wilson said.
The state has historically reimbursed county jails $35 a day to house Department of Correction prisoners, and that money will remain available, but it's been reduced 3 percent, from $18.4 million a year to $17.9 million for the 2015-2017 budget.
"We're concerned about that," said David Bottorff, executive director of the Association of Indiana Counties. "Nobody really knows for sure if the money the General Assembly has appropriated locally will be enough."
St. Joseph County Commissioners President Andy Kostielney agreed.
"Is it a fully funded mandate?" he asked. "I still haven't seen the numbers and projections on that to know for sure."
If not, it could exacerbate a problem Grzegorek is already reporting with staffing levels at the jail, Kostielney said. The sheriff hasn't yet submitted his budget request for next year, but he has told Kostielney that it might include a request to boost correction officer pay because it has become increasingly difficult to retain staff as the economy has improved, tightening the labor pool.
Deterring future crimes
Another person raising concerns about the new law is St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter.
"As a community, I think it's unfortunate because the potential of going to prison has some deterrent, and that deterrent is taken away," Cotter said.
Cotter noted that many Level 6 felonies, punishable by six months to 2 1/2 years in prison, carry sentences that are too short for prison anyway. But that's not always the case.
As an example, he pointed to a domestic situation in which a man breaks into his ex-girlfriend's home. A conviction on residential entry, a Level 6 felony, could no longer send him to prison.
"If one (person) is more dangerous because of that, it may not be a great move," Cotter said.
When asked whether he thinks the reforms will lower recidivism rates, Cotter paused for a few seconds.
"The potential is there," he said. "That's a very fair statement. Whether it will or not, we'll see."
Excessive second-guessing of police hurts public safety
by Elizabeth Hovde
Police can't win. They're continually in lose-lose situations, with portions of the public questioning and criticizing everything officers do. This Monday-morning quarterbacking of law enforcement makes me feel less safe. I worry public-safety decisions now give too much concern to public perception in case something goes awry.
Yes, citizens, the media and lawmakers need to keep watching law enforcement practices to make sure the public is well served, especially as we see bad apples spoiling the whole bunch. But I fear the constant watch-and-critique playing out across the nation is happening at our own peril. Our litigious land isn't helping, either.
For example, on June 7, a citizen called Portland police about a man described to be in his 30s threatening people with an approximately four-foot-long Samurai sword. This was at a pedestrian-popular riverfront location near Marriott Residence Inn. I sometimes take my kids to this spot. As cool as my boys think ninjas and swords are, I don't want us running into a ninja with a sword or, in this case, a mid-30s, sword-wielding man with no shirt on and wearing blue jeans. (He should have been arrested for this fashion faux pas alone. Kidding. I'm kidding.)
The call came in at 9:27 p.m. Police responded. The man refused to put down his sword, despite police asking him to and after having an officer on a Multnomah County Sheriff's boat try to engage him. The involvement of an Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT) officer – a police officer with specialized training on how to interact with people in crisis – also was unsuccessful. Sword guy threw rocks at officers, police reported, and he was eventually hit five times with bean bag bullets, which didn't much phase him. A little after midnight, police left him with his sword near the riverfront. "He was on the beach at this point with no public around," Sgt. Pete Simpson, bureau spokesman, told me.
The initial caller said he saw the man chase two people with the sword, but those people weren't identified. Had they been identified and interested in pursuing charges, the charge would have been "menacing," which is a misdemeanor crime in Oregon, Simpson said. It appears to me that the man also broke Portland city code 20.12.050, which says swords, and other weapons, are prohibited in parks. I was glad to find such a code. Carrying an open blade doesn't feel like it should be OK. After all, there's not even a background check for a sword. One of my favorite comments following a story about the incident on OregonLive was, "Ok, Be on the lookout for a sword wielding maniac. Roger that."
About four years ago, Portland police adopted a new walk-away option , allowing officers to leave an encounter with someone in crisis to try to eliminate unnecessary confrontations with people suffering from mental illness. Officers weigh several factors when determining whether to leave a scene. I'm concerned that concerns about damaging public perception and lawsuits are too big of factors now. I think police might be taking on a lot of liability to avoid liability.
An article in Police Chief magazine explains that while law enforcers have no constitutional duty to protect people from third parties, there are some exceptions involving the relationship the police have to a person or if injury results from what is considered a state-created danger. See the article, "No duty to protect: Two Exceptions," by L. Cary Unkelbach. It made me question, what if the man with the sword lopped someone's head off the next morning?
When I asked Simpson if he thought the public's temperament toward cops was playing into decision-making and what he thought about the whole no-duty-to-protect issue, he said, "I can say that our officers take seriously their sworn oath to protect and serve this community. They are continually having to weigh community safety, officer safety and suspect/subject safety when involved in situations such as this and are very thoughtful in how they manage calls for service." The Portland Police Association's spokesman was on vacation and said he couldn't weigh in.
While I have an enormous amount of empathy for officers put between a rock and a sword these days, I know I don't want police walking away from a maniacal-sounding man with a blade in Portland parks. More than that, I want to remind police and the public that studies show the majority of Americans express a relatively high level of confidence in police, and this has changed little over time.
The February issue of American Enterprise Institute's Political Report shows Americans consistently say they have more confidence in the police than in most other institutions. In 2014, only the military and small business ranked higher in terms of strong confidence. Confidence in organized religion, the medical system, the U.S. Supreme Court, the presidency, public schools, banks, the healthcare system, the criminal justice system, newspapers, organized labor, big business, news on the Internet, TV news and Congress all ranked lower, in that order. Bummer, Congress.
Police, I trust the public has your back if you get questioned about taking a guy's sword away when he is acting like a circus pirate. Please take it.
No Duty to Protect: Two Exceptions
by L. Cary Unkelbach, Assistant County Attorney Representing the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, Centennial, Colorado
Law enforcement generally does not have a federal constitutional duty to protect one private person from another. For example, if a drunk driver injures a pedestrian or a drug dealer beats up an informant, agencies and their officers usually would not be liable for those injuries because there was no duty to protect.
Nonetheless, agencies need to be aware of two exceptions, referred to as the special-relationship and the state-created danger theories, which, if pled and proven, may establish a constitutional duty to protect by police. While plaintiffs who are harmed by third parties often raise both theories when they sue police, the state-created danger exception appears to be litigated more frequently than the special relationship exception, which often is more easily analyzed and defined.
Since its 1989 holding that a duty to protect generally does not exist, the U.S. Supreme Court has not directly spoken on the two exception theories that have since evolved. Instead, many federal courts have analyzed, defined and applied these exceptions to a variety of fact patterns. Not all of these lower court decisions are consistent with one another. Agencies, in reviewing their policies, should be aware of the approaches taken by the federal courts in their circuit. This article gives a brief overview of the different judicial approaches to a federal due process claim but does not address whether a failure to protect action could be brought under state law.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids the government to deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law." In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court stated, "Nothing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors." Generally, the Due Process Clause does not provide an affirmative right to government aid, "even where such aid may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property interests of which the government itself may not deprive the individual."
Those pronouncements came in a case where the Court held that there was no substantive due process violation by caseworkers when a child, formerly in department of social services custody, was returned to and later beaten by his father. Caseworkers had received complaints about the father and may have known that the child was in danger. In analyzing the facts, the Court noted that there was no special relationship between Social Services and the child, as the latter was not in its custody. The Court further noted that the state had not created the danger or done anything to place the child in more danger. The harm to the child was inflicted not by the state but by the child's father. "The most that can be said of the state functionaries in this case is that they stood by and did nothing when suspicious circumstances dictated a more active role for them."
When considering whether law enforcement has a duty to protect, first ask if a special relationship exists. If a suspect is taken into custody by law enforcement, a duty to protect -be it at the scene, during transport, or at the jail-exists. The majority of courts require a person to be in physical custody of police before that person has a special relationship with police. However, the Sixth Circuit held that police had a duty to protect a woman where she was effectively in custody when she was threatened with arrest and placed involuntarily in her boyfriend's car. The Ninth Circuit held that the government created a special relationship with a noncitizen by paroling him into federal custody as a government witness. One federal district court has held a special relationship between the state and a confidential informant existed, and thus there was a duty to protect.
Courts have rejected the existence of a special relationship in the following situations: between a county and an ex-wife when the sheriff failed to serve her ex-husband with an order of protection; between police and a girlfriend when police made a promise to her that her boyfriend would be kept in jail overnight; and between a man and police, who went to his home to place him on a mental health hold and then waited downstairs while the man (who was not in the officer's physical custody) went upstairs to get "something" and jumped out a window, thereby killing himself.
Even if there is no special relationship between a person and police, a duty to protect may still exist if the person has been harmed by a third party and can prove the state-created danger theory. This theory has been litigated in a variety of contexts, including those involving motorists and passengers, government and citizen undercovers, rescues by third parties and prevention of rescues, failure to arrest, and failure to serve orders.
Most circuit courts analyze the issue of whether the state-created danger theory is applicable by examining if officers left the individual in a situation that was more dangerous than the one in which they found him, by creating a previously nonexisting danger or increasing the danger. For example, an intoxicated bar patron, who was ejected by police late at night into subfreezing temperatures wearing only jeans and a T-shirt, and was prevented from returning to the bar or driving his truck, made a failure-to-protect claim. As the Sixth Circuit said, "The question is not whether the victim was safe during the state action, but whether he was safer before the state action than he was after it."
At least three circuits have set forth specific tests to determine if a state-created danger exception exists. The Third Circuit requires the plaintiff to show that (1) the harm ultimately caused was foreseeable and fairly direct, (2) the state actor willfully disregarded plaintiff's safety, (3) there existed some relationship between the state and the plaintiff, and (4) the state actors used their authority to create an opportunity that otherwise would not have existed for the third party's crime to occur.
The Sixth Circuit requires the plaintiff to show that (1) the state acted affirmatively to create or increase the risk that plaintiff would be harmed by a third party, (2) the state's actions placed the plaintiff, not the general public, at risk, and (3) the state knew or should have known that its actions specifically endangered the plaintiff.
The Tenth Circuit's test requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that (1) the state actor created the danger or increased plaintiff's vulnerability to the danger in some way, (2) plaintiff was a member of a limited and specifically definable group, (3) defendant's conduct put plaintiff at substantial risk of serious, immediate, and proximate harm, (4) the risk was obvious or known, (5) defendant acted recklessly in conscious disregard of that risk, and (6) such conduct, when viewed in total, shocks the conscience.
Drunk Drivers and Stranded Persons: Several circuits have considered whether a duty to protect exists in cases involving drunk drivers or stranded persons. For instance, the Seventh Circuit held that a due process claim was stated where police arrested a sober driver but then left the passenger, whom they knew to be drunk, with the car and keys, and the drunk passenger drove the car and two hours later caused a head-on collision.
Meanwhile, the Eighth Circuit held that a duty to protect did not exist where the designated driver was arrested on a warrant and allowed to drive his car to the police station. His passengers, who were drunk, remained unattended in the car outside the police station for about 30 minutes, drove off, and were involved in a fatal crash. The Court reasoned that a claim had not been stated, as it was not reasonable to find that the arresting officer "knew or should have known that the two passengers were drunk and unfit to drive."
The Third Circuit found that the state created danger when police, after stopping two pedestrians, left the intoxicated wife to walk a third of a block to her home alone in the dark on a cold night after her husband had already left. Sending her home "unescorted in a visibly intoxicated state in cold weather," made her "more vulnerable" to harm, which, the Court held, was foreseeable.
No state-created danger exception existed when a motorcyclist and a passenger were injured while going through an unruly crowd, as there was no showing that the individual officers "used their authority to commit affirmative acts that rendered the plaintiffs vulnerable to a harm that would not otherwise have occurred." Failure to investigate a possible DUI motorist, who minutes later caused a fatal collision, did not support a claim; and neither did failure to arrest a motorist who was stopped for speeding but passed roadside sobriety tests as the officer left the driver in the same position she was in had she not been stopped.
Undercover Officers and Operatives: Whether a duty to protect is owed to undercover officers and citizens is another subject that has been considered by several courts. The Sixth Circuit found a due process claim was stated where the city released undercover police officers' home addresses and other personal information to defense counsel, as by releasing the information the city created a very real threat to the officers and their families.
The District of Columbia Circuit found, after analyzing extensive case law, that it was not clearly established whether there was a duty to protect an undercover operative who was beaten to death by a third party in 1997.
The Seventh Circuit rejected a due process claim against a police officer who was the control officer for a paid informant who was shot in the head by his cousin. In contrast, the Seventh Circuit held that police were liable when a deputy chief created danger to an informant who requested that his taped telephone call to police about an alleged theft not be released to the suspect, who killed him after the tape was released. By releasing the tape, the deputy chief created a danger to the informant who otherwise would not have faced the danger.
Rescues by Third Parties, and Prevention of Rescues: Federal courts appear to be split on whether law enforcement interference with private rescue attempts falls within the state-created danger exception to the duty to protect. The Seventh Circuit has held that recklessly interfering with private rescue attempts without providing alternatives was a due process violation.
The District of Columbia Circuit found there was no constitutional duty to rescue, and private rescues could be prevented without incurring liability, especially where police were entitled, if not obligated, to prevent the would-be rescuer from endangering her life. Where the police returned a child to his abductor and prevented others from helping a child or investigating further, a substantive due process claim was stated.
Returning a person with mental disabilities to her rapist when the former did not advise police of the rape and stated she wanted to go home with him did not state a claim. Police incurred danger to an man by canceling a 911 call and locking him in an empty house when he needed medical care. A due process violation occurred when sheriff's commanders cut off, for more than three hours, all avenues of rescue attempts by rescue personnel and police officers to try to save the life of a Columbine High School teacher known to be critically injured.
Failure to Serve Orders: The Sixth Circuit did not find a substantive due process claim stated where the police failed to serve an ex parte order on an ex-husband or failed to investigate a missing persons report. The Tenth Circuit recently held that the state-created danger exception to a substantive due process duty to protect claim did not state a claim for failure to enforce a restraining order against a father who killed his children. However, the court allowed a procedural due process claim to proceed based on a property interest it said was created by state law.
Failure to Arrest: Failure to arrest a parolee who walked into a police station to surrender but left before a warrant was found and who then raped and killed did not state a substantive due process claim. That court found that when he was released, he posed no more of a danger than he did before he came to the police station. The Seventh Circuit held that police failure to act on a phone call from a workplace reporting a threat of violence to employees did not create a claim. That court found that there was no duty to the city residents "to provide a police department whose policy is to investigate threats of violence, even credible ones made by private persons and reported by private persons."
Although police generally have no constitutional duty to protect private persons from third parties, there may be such a duty if a special relationship exists or if the state increased or created the danger to the harmed person. Federal courts do not always apply these exceptions in a consistent manner. Agencies should evaluate their own circuit's application of the law to specific facts before deciding when a duty to protect may arise in their jurisdiction. Further, local counsel should be consulted to assess whether state tort law allows a failure to protect lawsuit based on a negligence theory.
FBI close the net on Arbroath resident believed to be responsible for string of hoax terror alerts across the US
by Lauren Crooks
THE FBI are closing the net on the Scots leader of a gang who are behind a wave of hoax terror calls in the US.
The Feds, who say the false alerts have cost American law enforcers more than $1million (£640,000), are hot on the trail of the Scot after the conviction of a main accomplice last week.
The leader of the group called ISISGang is thought to be based in Arbroath and is being targeted by US investigators as part of a long-running probe.
His gang called in fictional bomb threats, hostage takings and threats of mass murder before filming the response of armed SWAT teams.
The incidents included the threat of another shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut – the scene of a 2012 massacre where 20 children and six adults were shot dead.
The hoaxes – known online as swatting, after the heavily-armed response teams – are orchestrated by gamers who use sound effects from computer games such as Grand Theft Auto to convince emergency line operators that a major incident is under way.
Last week, Matthew Tollis, 22, was convicted for his part in a series of fake 911 calls.
Tollis provided the gang, who were originally known as Team Crucifix Or Die, with potential institutions to target and their telephone numbers.
They included the University of Connecticut, who received a bomb threat leading to a three-hour lockdown involving police, a bomb squad and SWAT teams.
FBI investigators say TCoD's founder, a Scot who calls himself “Verified” online, is responsible for at least five calls in eight months last year.
It's thought another member of the gang, known as “Declaws”, is also Scottish.
According to documents produced during Tollis's appearance in Connecticut's federal court last week, the gang also made hoax calls to Boston University, Harvard University and a private residence in Willimantic, Connecticut.
Tollis became involved with the gang after he was a victim of harassment online.
He started following two members on Twitter thinking it might prevent him suffering further abuse.
Tollis had been “pizza bombed”, a prank where huge numbers of pizzas are delivered to a target's home, and “doxed”, which
involves publicly revealing private information such as social security numbers and passwords.
The first swatting Tollis took part in was a call to Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas, in which the caller said a student
was in possession of a firearm or bomb.
As SWAT officers arrived at the school, members of the group tweeted about the bomb threat.
“Declaws” claimed responsibility for the bomb threat and a user called “inb4mad” posted a screenshot of the Skype call used to make the threat.
The tweets have since been deleted and the account for “Declaws” has been deactivated.
FBI officers are now liaising with Police Scotland as they try to bring charges against “Verified”.
If he is arrested and charged, he could face a lengthy extradition process and a jail term of up to 15 years in the US.
A spokeswoman for the FBI's Newhaven division, who are dealing with the investigation, said: “Matthew Tollis pled guilty and is due for sentencing in September.
“As far as other people are concerned, we are still working on that investigation.
“Other members of TCoD reside in the UK and we continue to coordinate our investigation with law enforcement authorities in the UK.”
A statement on their website said: “The investigation revealed that one of the founders of TCoD, a resident of Scotland who has identified himself as ‘Verified', was responsible for at least five additional ‘swatting' incidents in Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2014.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland confirmed: “We are working closely with colleagues in America.”
Last night, US attorney for Connecticut Deirdre Daly said: “Swatting incidents have wasted millions of dollars in law enforcement resources and have caused emotional distress for numerous victims.
“This is not a game. We are committed to exposing individuals responsible for these threats and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law.”
From the Department of Justice
Former UW-Oshkosh Student Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison for Possession of Ricin
Kyle Allen Smith, 21, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was sentenced today to 40 months in federal prison for possession of ricin by the Chief District Judge William C. Griesbach of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
Smith was arrested on October 31, 2014, after two professors at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh reported to campus authorities that Smith was making unusual inquiries about chemical processes, including extracting of ribosomal inhibiting protein. According to the plea agreement, Smith admitted growing castor bean plants and extracting ricin from the beans. A substance found in Smith's residence was sent to the Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensics Analysis Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and tested positive for the toxin ricin. Ricin is a toxin that infects human cells and blocks their ability to synthesize their own protein. Small doses of ricin may be lethal to human beings if ingested, inhaled or injected. Symptoms of ricin poisoning can include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, with possible death occurring within 36 to 72 hours. According to information posted on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no known antidotes for ricin poisoning.
Smith admitted having homicidal thoughts and that these thoughts might have sparked his curiosity about the production of ricin. He stated he would not use or test the ricin on any human because too many people knew what he was doing and would turn him in.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Santelle in praising the actions of the professors and the University administration in bringing Smith to the prompt attention of law enforcement authorities. It is a perfect example of “see something, say something,” which guides the required vigilance of our times. Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Santelle also thanked the Wisconsin National Guard, 54th Civil Support Team, for the critical assistance they provided in the safe recovery of the ricin.
The case was investigated by the Oshkosh Police Department, the FBI and the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Kanter of the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Justice Department's National Security Division.
From the FBI
Behind the Scenes with Operational Medics
A Look Inside Our Washington Field Office's OpMed Program
The wounded man needed to be airlifted to a hospital immediately, and in the shadow of deafening helicopter blades whose wash was strong enough to knock a person over, special agents worked quickly to secure the patient to a stretcher and prepare to care for him in the close quarters of the aircraft.
Although this was only an exercise, the highly trained members of the FBI's Operational Medicine (OpMed) Program were focused on their mission—to provide care under the most stressful situations. Whether for a fellow agent engaged in a SWAT operation or a violent criminal injured during a high-risk arrest, the “medics,” as they are known, don't distinguish between who needs treatment.
“We are on hand during tactical situations to take care of medical emergencies,” said Special Agent Doug Mohl, who coordinates the Washington Field Office (WFO) program. “This work is great,” he explained, “because usually agents are protecting the public by putting bad guys in jail. But operational medicine personnel get to take care of people. We may meet an individual on one of the worst days of his life—or one of our fellow agents on the worst day of his career—and we render care to them and try to make sure they stay healthy.”
There is at least one medic in each of the FBI's 56 field offices. (Regardless of whether agents are trained as Emergency Medical Technicians—EMTs—or paramedics, they are all referred to as medics.) They deploy with SWAT, accompany agents on high-risk arrests, and often are part of Rapid Deployment Teams that travel the world to support Bureau investigations and operations.
Because agents and critical response professionals may find themselves in harm's way—in war zones, for example, or responding to the potential use of chemical or biological agents—the possibility of injury or illness is real, and sometimes appropriate medical facilities are not close by. That's why OpMed personnel are highly valued and why they train to keep their skills sharp, even though it's a collateral duty.
“Everybody on the team is an FBI agent first,” Mohl explained. “They work their cases, but when they have a mission, they step away from their investigations, step into their role as medics, deal with the situation, and then come back to their regular duties.”
Mohl, a paramedic, added that agents who are drawn to the OpMed program put in the extra time and effort because they are dedicated, “and they like helping people.” The WFO team is the largest of any FBI office, with more than 20 members trained as EMTs and paramedics.
On this day at the Bureau's Quantico, Virginia training facility, the WFO team will work through a number of patient scenarios that require thoughtful assessment and quick treatment.
“We want to make this feel like real-life situations,” Mohl said, so the medics rotate through stations and are required to assess and treat someone with chest pains, a car crash victim, and an agent injured during a tactical operation, among others.
In tactical situations, Mohl said, medics have a different set of challenges than typical EMTs and paramedics. Besides the stress of being in a potentially threatening environment, they must carry all the gear they need.
“Sometimes medics won't have the support of an ambulance,” he explained, “so they have to carry what they need medically in addition to what's required as an agent. Your kit might include a belt with firearms and ammunition, you may have a long gun, a ballistic vest, helmet, goggles, and hearing protection, so it can be hard to hear. There may be a lot of distractions from a physical standpoint—lugging all that stuff around that weighs an extra 30 pounds, kneeling over a patient or sitting in the backseat of a car trying to render care.”
The Washington Field Office team has a diverse background, to include past careers as flight paramedics, EMS supervisors, EMT instructors, and volunteer firefighters. Still, they all share one thing in common, Mohl said. “They are motivated to go above and beyond what is normally expected of them, to deal with pressure and stressful situations, and to be able to adapt.”
What Happens When Oligarchs and Vigilantes Take Over Public Safety in a Big City
In Detroit, safety is a privilege enjoyed by the white and wealthy.
by Patrick Sheehan
Highland Park is a tiny 3-square-mile municipality located within Detroit. Extremely dangerous, blighted, and 94% black, Highland Park is a concentrated example of the conditions in Detroit's poorest neighborhoods—what some call the “Detroit of Detroit.”
In late 2011, the impoverished little municipality was so deep in debt to its public electric company, DTE Energy, that the local government was forced to decommission all streetlights on its residential streets. Not only did DTE cut the power to street lights in Highland Park, it sent out workers to physically dig up and remove nearly 1,000 light-poles from the neighborhood. Highland Parkers now live in permanent, debt-induced darkness.
Six miles away, in Detroit's rapidly gentrifying downtown area, DTE Energy runs a very different public policy. The same company that repossessed 1,000 streetlights from Highland Park, condemning its residents to permanent darkness, has recently launched a pro-bono security program in the increasingly white area.
On its own dime, DTE operates a public “bait car” program. It buys and sets booby-trap cars out on the downtown streets, outfitted with up to 18 hidden cameras, to lure and ultimately deter potential car theft. A partnership with downtown police assures that cops will be on the scene within 90 seconds of when the bait car is entered.
“We want to be part of something good about changing perceptions of the city of Detroit,” DTE's chief security officer boasts of the bait-car program, “We want to be part of the revitalization of the city.”
Safety is a privilege in Detroit. Like all privileges, it gravitates toward the white and wealthy.
Decades of budget cuts to public safety services alongside concentrated investment downtown has created two Detroits: downtown, white and professional, bathed in state-of-the-art private security; and the “neighborhoods,” poor and black, where public safety has become a do-it-yourself endeavor.
Turning out the Lights
In Detroit's black neighborhoods, public safety has been sacrificed to the gods of austerity. With the city government too poor provide basic security, safety has become a private commodity, accessible to the wealthy, but far out of reach for the majority of Detroiters.
The slow but massive exodus of capital and residents over the last half-century has left the Motor City broken down and overgrown in municipal debt. By the time Detroit faced its financial day of reckoning in bankruptcy court, years of budget cuts had already dismantled its most basic public services—police, fire, even streetlights—to barely functional levels.
The steady, long-term disinvestment in public safety shows through in crime rates.
In a given week, Detroit averages seven murders, 226 burglaries, 92 robberies, 169 aggravated assaults, 228 cars stolen, 331 larceny thefts, 12 rapes, and 279 violent crimes — the vast majority occurring in the neighborhoods and leading to no arrests. These dark accolades have earned Detroit the most dangerous city in America honor five out of the last seven years.
Absurdly underfunded emergency services are unable to keep up with the city's record crime. In 2013, the same year Detroit led the country with 333 homicides, its police department took a $75 million— or 18% — overall haircut. Emergency Medical Services has taken similar hits. In 2005, Detroit had 303 paramedics working the streets. By 2010, the working paramedic count was cut to 188 to match a shrinking budget. The result: laughably bad 911 response times.
In a city that is perpetually on fire, the poverty of the Detroit Fire Department is the stuff that writes books. Two years ago, Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff shadowed a fire company and found pathetic underfunding. Even the fire alarm in the firehouse was broken. Since no one had come to fix it, the men had to jerry-rig a contraption where the paper pushed out of a fax machine set off a Rube Goldberg series involving a door-hinge, a screw, and an electric pad to finally ring the alarm bell.
So exists the department facing the highest arson rate in the country. A 2012 budget cut closed one-fifth of firehouses and reduced fire investigation staff by half. Now one third of the 3,000 intentionally set structure fires each year in Detroit go entirely uninvestigated. Some crumbling buildings on fire on nearly abandoned blocks are not even put out.
In the poorest neighborhoods, the disinvestment piles up. When Highland Park was slapped with its first appointed emergency manager in 2001, he fired its entire municipal police force, outsourcing patrols to county officers. In 2007, the little city managed to muster up the funds to revive its police department— well, sort of. In 2012, author Mark Binelli found that the Highland Park Police Department was “headquartered in a mini-station at a strip mall, where the jail is a makeshift chain-link cage.”
Now Highland Park mixes extreme poverty, improvised policing and an imposed blackout into a dangerous cocktail: some of the highest crime- and lowest arrest-rates in the country.
Private Protection for the Privileged
While budgetary neglect has produced “wild west” conditions in Detroit's black neighborhoods, downtown Detroit, with its influx of corporate cash and young white people, is doubling-down on public safety.
When DTE Energy launched its bait car program in 2014, it joined a corporate movement in Detroit to secure and patrol the small, but rapidly gentrifying downtown area, the star of Detroit's “comeback” story.
Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans/Rock Ventures and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the architect of downtown's revitalization. He has single-handedly purchased 75 downtown properties and poured $1.6 billion into the revival of a single square mile of Detroit's downtown. Along with his business ventures, he has launched housing subsidy programs to get mostly young, white professionals to move into the area and has also been a primary player in developing a new rail system linking downtown to the moneyed suburbs.
While huge swaths of black neighborhoods are left to anarchy, corporate Detroiters like Dan Gilbert are throwing money at protecting the whitest square mile around.
Gilbert's Rock Ventures has installed more than 500 surveillance cameras in and on its buildings over the last five years. Some are fixed. Others are movable, "pan, tilt, zoom" cameras. All video feed runs directly to the Quicken Loans/Rock Ventures security command center in downtown Detroit's Chase Tower.
Rock Ventures also contracts a fleet of nearly 200 private security guards who patrol both public and private spaces. As private security, they are not permitted to take crime fighting into their own hands, but they do systematically report criminal behavior to the Detroit Police Department.
It is not unusual for corporations to patrol their own property. What is unique is that private corporations like Rock and DTE are taking the liberty to expand their security programs beyond their own corporate campuses. Sometimes corporate security gets overambitious. Rock Ventures has recently been accused of installing video cameras on buildings it does not own and the ACLU filed a suit earlier this year claiming that different private security guards illegally shut down a protest rally in a public park.
Still, not too many complain about the extra protection. Downtown is certainly a safer place than it was a decade ago, in large part to the heightened surveillance. Given the Detroit Police Department's chronic poverty, some consider it the best kind of corporate responsibility.
But the security that private companies like Rock Ventures and DTE provide is limited to the few square miles it is concerned with. As you drive outward from downtown, you see how quickly the corporate investment in peace and security disappears. Detroit's heartland is left to fend for itself.
DIY Security for the Underclass
Where official policing is MIA and corporate Detroit couldn't be bothered, there are residents like James “Jack Rabbit” Jackson. Jackson, an ex-cop, heads up an unofficial vigilante justice system in his south-east neighborhood, complete with home-camera video taping and public beat-downs. Other neighborhoods run their own systems, some organizing citizen patrols that cruise the block with baseball bats to deter crime. Even the city's police chief, acknowledging the limits of his under-funded department, recommended Detroit residents carry concealed weapons for protection.
But lasting, reliable public safety systems require investment. Poor communities that cannot raise funds themselves are left with few options but charity to fulfill once-guaranteed services.
When the fire department's Ladder 22 was robbed last year of two crucial chainsaws, it had to sell T-shirts to raise the funds to purchase new ones. The fundraised saws were soon stolen again, this time off the truck while the firefighters were busy putting out flames in an abandoned home.
After their debt-induced blackout, a Highland Park community group called Soulidarity began work to bring light back to their streets. The plan is to purchase and install solar-powered streetlights throughout Highland Park that would not depend on the neighborhood's financial status to illuminate the neighborhood. But absent of any public funding, the group has to depend on donations — an IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign and an “Adopt-a-Streetlight” program.
So far, the project has managed to replace exactly one streetlight in Highland Park out of the 1,000 DTE Energy removed four years ago.
Last week, Christopher Reed took his two young sons to a Wendy's on Detroit's West side for milkshakes. With most of the streetlights on the route broken, the drive was mostly through darkness. At the Wendy's drive-thru, Reed was robbed and then shot for no apparent reason. His older son called his mother after the shooting. She arrived at the scene before any emergency responders and drove her bloodied family to the hospital, where Christopher Reed died.
There were no functioning security cameras in or around the Wendy's to capture or deter the crime. By the time the understaffed Detroit police made it to the scene, the murderers had long since disappeared into the local blackout.
Jury still out on de Blasio's community-policing plan
by Georgett Roberts, Amanda Lozada and Bob Fredericks
People who live or work near NYPD precincts where a new community-policing plan was rolled out on a pilot basis gave it mixed reviews, with some seeing no spike in police presence but others giving it the thumbs up.
“I don't see any cops around here. Everything is the same or maybe worse,” said “Myra,” a mother of two young kids who lives near the 34th Precinct station house in Washington Heights. “There's too many teenagers on the street, on the corners. All you hear is them yelling on the corners, drinking.”
Another openly mocked the “One City: Safe and Fair — Everywhere” plan, which will assign the same cops to the same neighborhoods and require them to spend a third of their shifts on foot interacting with residents, merchants and community leaders.
“What, we gonna have social workers now?” asked Lisa Galliano, 25, who thought stop-and-frisk was a better idea.
“I don't want [criminals] to get a talking-to. I want them not to commit crimes and the cops to get guns off the street. I'd rather less guns on the street than conversations.”
But in the Rockaways, near the 100th Precinct station house, many noticed a difference.
Sam Ahmad, 55, owner for 30 years of the Eddi Store, a deli at Beach 86th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, said he sees “lots more activity” in the last month.
“They drive around. They walk around. They come and they buy water, they say, ‘Hello,' ‘How are you doing today?' ‘Do you have any problems?'?” he said.
“I see more police in the stores, in the streets, on the corners. I feel safe. It's cool, they don't harass anybody. I feel protected. When they're around there are less people at the corners,” said maintenance worker Mike Peters, 50.
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton unveiled the plan Thursday, saying it would cut crime and heal strained relations between cops and the community.
Under the new system, newly redrawn sectors will reflect neighborhood boundaries — and the number of patrol cops will be increased to make sure officers can stay within the boundaries.
The sector cops will have patrol cars but are also expected to walk the streets to identify problems on the grass-roots level, fix them and gain people's trust.
Youngstown begins community policing program on Monday
by WYTV Staff
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The city of Youngstown is getting some help with non-emergency police related calls.
Beginning Monday, seven veteran officers will be part of the newly formed Community Policing Program. They will serve in all seven wards of the city and work closely with City Council members, local churches, community groups and neighborhood groups.
They help residents solve problems that are not necessarily emergencies.
“To try and deal with a lot of quality of life issues that sometimes do not arise to the level of a 911 call, but there are issues that are plaguing some of our neighborhoods and the community policing officers will deal with these issues on a daily basis,” Youngstown Mayor John McNally said.
The mayor said the unit can now get started because the police department is back up to full strength.
Mansfield Police Department kicks off revitalized Community Policing Unit
by Dillion Carr
MANSFIELD, Ohio — The Mansfield Police Department (MPD) officially kicked off their revitalized Community Policing Unit (CPU) on Thursday, after a period of just two officers.
MPD officers, Chief Ken Coontz and Mayor Tim Theaker met under the North Lake Park pavilion to make the announcement.
“These officers' jobs are to help improve community relations and basically improve the quality of life throughout this entire city,” said Coontz.
“I'm very proud that these two, and three and four individuals came up with ideas that are very excellent in trying to get a community and the police department involved, so that there is that understanding and knowledge and camaraderie between everybody,” said Theaker. “When young people see things happening they can stop a police officer and ask for help.”
Thanks to the Northern Ohio Violent Crimes Consortium grant the MPD received earlier this year, CPU Officer Paul Lumadue said the department was able to increase CPU officers to four, with one additional officer, Ron Barnes, pending.
“[Because of budget cuts,] years ago we had around 16 officers, then we cut down to 11, then we were down to 4, and the last eight years we've had two [CPU officers],” said Lumadue.
Additionally, 12 officers within the department have volunteered to patrol on bicycles. Lumadue is hopeful that the department will acquire eight new bikes through a grant from a local agency.
MPD School Resource Officer Mark Perry attended the kick-off on Thursday. He believes the Community Policing Unit will help mend the negative perception of police officers.
“We're here to protect you. We don't want to hurt anybody. But [youth] don't hear that maybe at home or on the streets. I think with all the national media, I think there's a very negative image of policeman that we're violent. That's not the case,” said Perry.
In partnership with the Mansfield Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the MPD along with the CPU will be in attendance at the Bike-A-Palooza and Family Fest on July 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will take place at North Lake Park. The public is encouraged to bring their bicycles for bike rides with CPU officers.
Future of public safety
Despite growing revenues across the Inland Empire, city governments increasingly are strained by public safety costs. These pressures are emerging whether public safety services are provided in-house or on a contract basis, and solutions are far from obvious.
Protecting people's lives and property is fundamental to a well-functioning society. So policing and fire services long have been established as core functions of local governments.
The discussion at hand across the county isn't whether or not to provide these services, but how and at what cost.
Cities like San Bernardino and Hemet take great pride in having their own departments.
For bankrupt San Bernardino, it has become obvious to city officials that keeping services in-house without considering alternatives is contrary to the city's goal of reaching fiscal solvency. Thus, San Bernardino welcomed bids from the county and a private company to provide fire services.
For Hemet, opening fire services to bidding has been a significant political topic in recent years. The question of whether or not to contract out fire services to the county likely determined the outcome of the City Council majority.
After a tough 3-2 council vote last September to outsource services, voters flipped the council majority in November. In December, the new council rescinded the vote to outsource.
Meanwhile, the smaller city of Canyon Lake is finding itself increasingly on the road to bankruptcy and disincorporation in large part due to unsustainable public safety cost increases. The city has been in a protracted conflict with the county over fire services and is openly making moves to form its own fire department.
Despite voters narrowly approving a utility users' tax last November, contract cost increases are expected to outpace these revenues.
These same issues have come up for policing services. Challenges have come across Riverside County, such as with Sheriff's Department contract rates and among in-house police departments, as in Desert Hot Springs.
Most commonly, tax increases of any variety have been floated as possible solutions. From utility taxes to permitting and taxing medical marijuana dispensaries, taxation seems to be the most immediate option.
Longer term, however, it is likely more cities will be forced to weigh their options to either contract out services, work with other cities for services or revisit in-house services.
These all are difficult discussions, but worth it so long as good governance is placed before politics.
Terrorist Attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait Kill Dozens
by BEN HUBBARD
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait on Friday, leaving a bloody toll on three continents and prompting new concerns about the spreading influence of jihadists.
In France, attackers stormed an American-owned industrial chemical plant near Lyon, decapitated one person and tried unsuccessfully to blow up the factory, in what French authorities said was a terrorist attack.
In Tunisia, gunmen opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 27 people, officials said. At least one of the attackers was killed by security forces.
And the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City. Local news reports said at least eight people had been wounded.
There was no immediate indication that the attacks were coordinated. But the three strikes came at roughly the same time, and just days after the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL, called for such operations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“It appears to be an effort to launch and inspire a wave of attacks across three continents, reminiscent of Al Qaeda's simultaneous multiple attacks of the past,” said Bruce O Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who is a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“The Kuwait operation is especially dangerous, as this is ISIS' first operation in a gulf state,” Mr. Riedel said in an email. “The others will be deeply alarmed.”
While investigations continued in each of the countries, the quick succession of the attacks raised the possibility that the Islamic State, which has seized control of territory in Iraq and Syria, has successfully inspired sympathizers to plan and carry out attacks in their own countries.
“Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad,” said the Islamic State's spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio message released this week. “O mujahedeen everywhere, rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels.”
United States intelligence and counterterrorism officials were scrambling on Friday to assess the connections, if any, between the attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia. Officials said that if the assessment found that the attacks were linked, officials would seek to determine whether the Islamic State had actively directed, coordinated or inspired them.
Talking to terrorists: Can it free hostages?
by Jeremy Diamond
WASHINGTON (CNN) —For the more than 30 Americans currently being held abroad, Gary Noesner's assessment is grim.
"It's the most lethal time to be a hostage," the former head of the FBI's hostage negotiation unit said, speaking before the White House's announcement this week of its new approach to dealing with American hostages.
But Noesner and other experts on retrieving hostages think that could change with the reforms the White House is embracing, and that some lives might even be saved.
The reforms loosen the restrictions on negotiating with terrorists and paying ransoms, and are aimed at making a clean break from the most recent iteration of U.S. hostage policy -- one described by families of U.S. hostages as ineffective, inflexible and unwieldy.
That policy was brought into focus last summer as ISIS beheaded three Americans -- while freeing 15 Europeans whose governments surreptitiously paid, facilitated or allowed ransom transfers to the brutal group.
With the changes outlined Wednesday, families of American hostages will have more latitude and assistance to take the kinds of steps the Europeans did. And they'll also benefit from a U.S. government ready to engage more with terrorist captors.
After 9/11, the United States developed a policy of not communicating, let alone negotiating, with terrorist groups such as ISIS that have held Americans captive. Now, U.S. officials can engage in direct talks with those groups and actively help the families of hostages, including as they work out ransom payments. The families no longer have to fear prosecution if they make ransom payments.
"We have faith that the changes announced today will lead to increased success in bringing our citizens home," the families of Kayla Mueller, Peter Kassig and Steven Sotloff, hostages killed at the hands of ISIS, said Wednesday in a statement.
Risks of negotiating with terrorists
But critics charge that condoning negotiations and opening the gates to ransom payments -- even by tacit endorsement -- could give incentive to terrorists looking to cash in on kidnappings.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, warned on Wednesday that the United States "could be endangering more Americans here and overseas."
Even some members of Congress who have been leading hostage policy reform efforts echo his concerns.
Rep. John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat who worked closely with the family of U.S. hostage Warren Weinstein, said in an interview before Wednesday's announcement that he didn't support changing the U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists.
"The fundamental premise of the no-negotiation strategy is that if you start doing those things, you will lead to more hostages being taken. And I think that's a very valid concern," Delaney said.
He said instead the United States should carry out military missions to secure hostages' release.
Those efforts, though, are fraught with risk. In one such mission last year, a U.S. raid to free an American and a South African hostage in Yemen left both dead.
White House officials stressed Wednesday that the United States would not be paying ransoms to terror groups and officials have made the case themselves that doing so could be counterproductive.
Treasury official David Cohen reported in 2012 that "kidnapping for ransom has become today's most significant source of terrorist financing."
But the Obama administration will now negotiate and help families communicate with captors -- even if those families are intent on paying for their relatives' release.
Does ransoming spur kidnappings?
Former FBI hostage negotiator Chuck Regini said there's no evidence that prohibiting families from paying ransoms helps stave off kidnappings.
"It's not the payment of ransoms that perpetuates kidnappings; it's the lack of consequences for the kidnappers," Regini said. Referring to the first U.S. hostage killed by ISIS, he added, "It didn't stop Jim Foley from being kidnapped, did it?"
"Kidnappers don't give a damn what the policy is," he said. "They're going to get the ransom or they're going to kill the hostage."
Obama's directive that the government can open a dialogue with terror groups holding Americans hostage isn't so much a fresh take as it is a return to the government's pre-9/11 policy.
As the United States went to war with al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, the prospect of communicating or negotiating with the enemy seemed unsavory, at best. And as the list of U.S. enemies in the war on terror grew, politicians also amplified their rhetoric on confronting the new terror threat.
So, the U.S. approach post-9/11 gradually morphed to match politicians' rhetoric that the United States "does not negotiate with terrorists."
In fact, before the September 11 attacks, the FBI helped families communicate with captors and whittle down exorbitant ransom demands. In several cases, for instance, the FBI negotiated the release of Americans held by Colombian rebels known as FARC even though the United States considered it a terrorist organization.
In those days, the policy wasn't "no negotiations," but "no substantive concessions" -- such as paying ransoms, caving to policy demands or releasing prisoners. Those prohibitions remain in place.
Returning to the pre-9/11 policy
Regini said he is hopeful that by putting everyone back "on the same sheet of music" -- allowing for the use of negotiations in hostage cases -- will make for a more effective government approach to kidnappings abroad.
The FBI will lead the new, sleeker U.S. operation to free American hostages, serving as the hub of the new interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell.
Several of the families of hostages greeted the creation of that cell and other aspects of the reforms on Wednesday with cautious optimism.
The parents of James Foley said in their statement that "perhaps his horrific death was necessary to awaken the American public and our government" and commended the review group's "in-depth" re-evaluation of the hostage policy.
The families of U.S. hostages in recent years faced a government that seemed to them withdrawn, unfocused and unwilling to keep all options on the table -- least of all direct talks -- to rescue their loved ones.
In particular there was ineffective, or completely lacking, communication between the different government entities, families said in interviews.
"The communication was deplorable," said Diane Foley, James Foley's mother.
Families seek private help
The families didn't sit idly by, though, and private efforts filled the chasm to do what the U.S. government would not.
In the first year after Foley went missing, the Foley family and Global Post CEO Philip Balboni, who employed Foley as a freelancer, said they worked to find him with little to no help from the government.
"That first year was a very difficult time. The government was providing absolutely no assistance whatsoever," Balboni said.
Instead, they relied on one of several consulting firms that help families of hostages, known as kidnap and ransom companies, and the private efforts of Atlantic Media owner David Bradley.
Bradley mounted a private operation to help the families of the Americans held by ISIS, al Qaeda and other terror groups abroad, personally financing efforts to gather intelligence on the hostages' whereabouts and leveraging his top-flight connections to help free those Americans.
The families said government officials were reluctant to collaborate with those private efforts. They maintain that FBI and State Department officials would download information the families had obtained but scarcely shared new information, saying the intelligence was classified.
Obama pledged to change that, too.
Diane Foley was glad to see the U.S. government open the lines of communication with terrorist groups holding Americans hostage, telling CNN that not talking to people holding Americans was "foolish."
But she was also cautious about U.S. policy changes coming in the form of a presidential directive, as they did on Wednesday, noting that it "could be ignored by the next president."
Balboni said the United States' willingness to negotiate with captors was reassuring. But he warned that without U.S. government help in funding six- and seven-figure ransom payments, not much would change.
"There is really no pragmatic way for families, most families, to raise the enormous sums required to pay a ransom," Balboni said, noting the Foleys had worked until days before their son's death to raise funds for his ransom and "still had a long way to go."
Yet Balboni didn't advocate having the government publicly make ransom payments.
European governments that have helped with ransoms don't openly admit to paying ransoms, either. But they have managed, sometimes through third parties, to bankroll their citizens' release.
Even when the funds are raised, ransom payments are never a guaranteed ticket to freedom for the hostages.
The family of American contractor Warren Weinstein funneled a ransom to his captors in 2012 but Weinstein was never released. In January, he was accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Cincinnati's community policing considered tops in the nation
by Cory Shaffer
CINCINNATI, Ohio - On a frosty February morning, Jennett Vaughn and Christine Barry parked their car and walked through Avondale - a neighborhood with crumbling row houses near Xavier University – looking for people who needed help.
They first encountered a disheveled man, who spent 10 minutes telling them he had been laid off from his construction job and was falling behind on child-support payments.
Vaughn later asked a young girl why she was not in school. The girl said she was upset about her art class ending. The chat concluded with the girl giving Vaughn a hug and agreeing to return to school.
Vaughn and Barry aren't social workers. They aren't volunteers from a local do-gooder organization. They are police officers walking their beat.
Don't think this is how sworn law officers should be fighting crime? Vaughn and Barry would disagree. So would their bosses, and so would the people who live in the communities they patrol.
Such encounters are part of what is known as community-oriented policing, and are regarded by officers and community leaders as a key to what makes Cincinnati's Police Department a model for the nation.
As Cleveland police now talk of expanding their community policing efforts to comply with federally mandated reforms, Northeast Ohio Media Group took a look at what can be learned from Cincinnati's program.
Cincinnati has a total of 50 officers dedicated to community-oriented policing duties. That nearly matches the number of Cleveland officers with similar responsibilities, though Cincinnati has about 100,000 fewer residents and its police department has 500 fewer officers.
At the heart of the city's community-policing efforts is the Quality of Life Enhancement Team. The 10 officers immerse themselves in the city's 52 neighborhoods, going to community meetings and routinely walking the streets to talk with residents and business owners.
The interactions give officers a deeper understanding of the issues each neighborhood faces and allow the officers to better identify potential trouble spots, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said in an interview.
"You have to deal with root causation [of crime], and the only way you can get to the root is through relationships with people," Blackwell said.
Vaughn and Barry are members of the Quality of Life Enhancement Team and point to the cleanup of a low-income apartment building in Avondale as an example of what community policing can accomplish.
Residents of Poinciana Apartments once complained about teenagers playing dice and dealing drugs from the stairwells late at night. Last year, a 14-year-old boy shot to death a girl his age in the building.
Vaughn and Barry arranged for increased police patrols around the 107-year-old building and for officers to occasionally walk through hallways.
They also persuaded the building's owner to install brighter lights in the stairwells and replace broken and missing handrails. Cincinnati Bell agreed to remove a telephone booth from the building.
Gradually, the teen dealers, most of whom did not live in the building, were arrested or stopped showing up because their buyers disappeared , the officers said. Complaints about the building also plummeted.
The Poinciana transformation prompted Blackwell to expand the reach of his community-policing efforts. Officers now work full-time in elementary schools and run a Friday night basketball league at city recreation centers.
In March, Blackwell also ordered 57 rookie officers to spend their first full week on the job making lunches for a homeless shelter, volunteering at a soup kitchen, reading to children in struggling city schools or delivering meals to elderly residents.
The chief believes too many police departments spend the vast majority of their resources chasing criminals, who make up a tiny percentage of the community.
"We flip that here," he said. "We want to spend 99 percent of our time, money and energy on the 99 percent of our community that needs us."
In May, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch chose Cincinnati as the place to kick off a national tour highlighting community policing.
"This program is one of the ones we consider to be a leader in the efforts to bring policing into the 21 st century," Lynch told reporters.
In Cleveland, the U.S. Justice Department concluded after a nearly two year investigation that officers too often used force on suspects, Investigators also reported problems with community policing.
Their report, released in December, started that police supervisors and officers were unable to "accurately or uniformly describe what community policing is or how (Cleveland) implements a community policing model."
Cleveland police did not respond to NEOMG requests for information about their community-policing program. But during a recent news conference, Mayor Frank Jackson and police Chief Calvin Williams briefed reporters on some related developments.
Jackson said his administration decided last year to expand community policing beyond an existing community-policing bureau, which deals with block watches, safety fairs, gun buy-backs, drug-resistance education and other programs to help people protect themselves.
"We knew we had to better that and include every officer, not just those in the bureau of community policing, " he said.
So, the city contacted the Virginia Center for Policing Innovations last summer and started to require all officers and supervisors to take a four-hour online course on community policing. Community policing also has been added to ongoing training.
"It's all part of our strategy to get front-line officers and all police officers more engaged in our community," Williams said. "We started an aggressive campaign to ensure foot patrols are done through the city."
De Blasio Touts New Neighborhood Policing Strategy: "This is What New Yorkers Have Been Waiting For"
by Melissa Russo
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton are providing an in-depth look at a "groundbreaking" new policing strategy they say will put more beat cops in neighborhood precincts to improve the relationship between officers and the communities they serve.
"I think it will not take long for New Yorkers to realize this is what they've been waiting for," de Blasio told NBC 4 New York in an exclusive interview Thursday. "This is what they've been wanting for years."
Earlier this week, de Blasio announced that funding for an additional 1,300 officers had been secured in the budget to supplement the nation's largest police force of 35,000 uniformed officers. An additional 400 civilian posts currently filled by officers will also be filled by new hires, allowing those officers to take enforcement jobs in the streets.
The neighborhood policing strategy will be based on pilot programs already in place in four high-crime city precincts — two in Queens' Rockaway peninsula and two in upper Manhattan — in which precinct-based units focusing on complaints about neighborhood conditions were disbanded, freeing up officers to regularly patrol their sectors, officials said.
In that model, hand-selected, seasoned officers committed to the neighborhoods they police — dubbed Renaissance cops because they'll be part detective, community affairs officer and intelligence investigator — will be exempt from chasing 911 calls one third of their time to meet with principals, past victims and others in order to develop rapport and gain community trust.
"We're talking about officers who now come in and become part of the community, who really become partners with the community," de Blasio told NBC 4 New York. "Everyone's going to get to know each other. The officer is going to be the same officer in the same community on the same schedule."
The mayor said he spoke to some of the neighborhood officers taking part in the pilot program in Washington Heights. They reported going into stores and talking to owners, and letting them know they could contact them directly. They said they spoke to one small building landlord who told them about drug activity consistently happening on his front stoop, and the officers were able to "take that information and get an arrest done that ended that problem," according to de Blasio.
"I've always believed that the goal of neighborhood policing is something we have to reach in this city," de Blasio said.
The approach sharply differs with the stop, question and frisk police tactic that, for years, had been employed by officers, disproportionately affecting black and Hispanic men. In 2011, there were 685,000 stops. Last year there were 46,000 and so far this year there have been more than 7,000 stops, according to NYPD statistics.
"I think there's a very big difference between the number of officers patrolling a community versus the tactics that those officers use," said de Blasio.
Bratton said Tuesday the neighborhood policing plan would use staffing changes and other tactics to restore faith in a department that, in an era of historically low crime, still struggles to boost the morale of its own officers and gain the trust of mostly minority residents in the city's toughest neighborhoods.
"As important as safety is, it is not enough," Bratton said to a roomful of clergy at police headquarters. "Safety without public approval isn't public safety. We want a safer, fairer city everywhere, for everyone."
Bratton had been pushing for new police hires while de Blasio as recently as a few weeks ago insisted the city didn't need more police.
He explained to NBC 4 New York: "At the time of the executive budget, this plan was not fully fleshed out. But also, I needed to see the cost savings."
The new strategy is the latest in a string of initiatives Bratton has announced since taking charge of the nation's largest police force 18 months ago. After the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island last summer, he vowed to retrain the entire force to teach officers how to de-escalate confrontations.
But subsequent protests over the deaths of black men in police custody and the fatal shooting of two NYPD officers in their patrol cars last December coalesced into a crisis for the NYPD and strained both officer morale and community relations.
De Blasio said Thursday that he believes the new strategy will help police morale.
"It's going to be a chance to prove what they can do in this field," he said.
He added: "I think there's a very big difference between the number of officers patrolling a community versus the tactics that those officers use."
Bratton said at a news conference detailing the strategy Thursday, "We are putting our best, our brightest and most dedicated into this initiative throughout the city, and I'm very optimistic, as I was back in '94, when nobody thought we could get crime down."
Hobby Drones A Public Safety Hazard During Fires
by B.J. Hansen
CAL Fire officials are warning that flying personal drones near fires can notably impact suppression efforts, and can result in legal consequences.
“We started to see these (drones) quite a bit last year, and it's starting to increase this year,” says Lynne Tolmachoff, CAL Fire Spokesperson. “The biggest problem is the safety threat to firefighting pilots, and the firefighters on the ground. They can cause major damage to aircraft.”
Tomalchoff notes that a drone was spotted near the Lake Fire in Southern California yesterday, so planes fighting the fire could not pass through the area.
“If someone's out there flying, we can't fly our aircraft,” she says. “We ask people to be cautious, think smart, and don't do it.”
Tomalchoff notes that flying a drone near most larger fires is a violation of the FAA's temporary flight restrictions, so it can result in hefty fines and other penalties.
Morganton Public Safety Offers Tips To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
A news release issued by the Morganton Department of Public Safety reminds citizens to protect themselves from identity theft and offers tips to help do this.
Guard your personal information. Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
Give your Social Security Number (SSN) only when absolutely necessary. Ask why a SSN is needed, who has access to it, and how it will be kept confidential. Don't print your SSN or driver's license number on your checks.
Destroy documents you don't need. Shred outdated records including bank statements, credit applications, health insurance forms, prescription labels and paperwork, physician statements, etc., along with any receipts that show your credit card number.
Sign up for alerts to learn about shred-a-thons in your area, or check our list of events.
Safely dispose of old electronics. Make sure you have removed all of the personal information your old computer holds before you sell, donate or recycle it. For best results, use a wipe utility program that overwrites everything on the hard drive.
Transfer phone books, contact lists, etc. to your new phone, and then wipe your old phone completely clean. Consult the owner's manual, the manufacturer's recommendations, and your service provider for tips on how to remove all of your old data, histories, photos, etc.
Monitor your finances. Limit the number of credit cards you carry. Watch for missing bills and review your monthly statements carefully. Contact your creditors if a bill doesn't arrive when expected or includes charges you don't recognize. Review your health care bills and paperwork carefully for signs of medical identity theft. Contact your health plan if a document includes charges you don't recognize. Also, it's recommended you use direct deposit for payroll, social security or other federal benefit checks. To sign up for automatic deposit of Social Security checks and other federal benefit payments, call (800) 333-1795 or visit Go Direct. Keep copies of credit cards (front and back) in a safe place in case a card is lost or stolen. Review your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement for errors in your yearly salary. To order a statement, call (800) 772-1213. “Opt out” of sharing your nonpublic personal information or credit report information with other businesses.
Remember, it is important to never give personal information to telemarketers who call you on the phone.
Boston bomber to face victims as judge orders him sentenced to death
by Scott Malone
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday will face about 20 people who lost limbs or loved ones in the deadly 2013 attack as a federal judge sentences him to death for his crimes.
The same federal jury that earlier this year found Tsarnaev guilty of killing four people and injuring 264 in the bombing and its aftermath voted in May to sentence him to death by lethal injection. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole will order the punishment on Wednesday.
The trial of Tsarnaev, 21, stirred some of Boston's darkest living memories. Jurors saw videos of the twin pressure-cooker bombs' blinding flashes and the chaotic aftermath as first responders and spectators rushed to aid the wounded, many of whom lost legs.
The court also heard testimony from the families of the slain, including the fathers of Martin Richard, 8, and Krystle Campbell, 29; an aunt of Lingzi Lu, 23; and the brother of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, 26, whom Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, shot dead three days after the bombing.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gunfight with police after Collier's shooting.
During the trial, victims who were questioned by federal prosecutors were limited to discussing the facts of the case. Wednesday's victim impact statements will allow them more leeway to discuss the bombing's toll on their lives.
Federal prosecutors described the brothers as adherents of al Qaeda's militant Islamist ideology who wanted to "punish America" with the April 15, 2013, attack on the world-renowned race.
Tsarnaev's lawyers admitted their client had played a role in the attack but tried to portray him as the junior partner in a scheme hatched and driven by his older brother. The Tsarnaev family came to the United States from Russia a decade before the attack.
Tsarnaev is expected to appeal.
Wednesday's hearing will also bring statements from some of the 17 people who lost legs in the attack, some of whom testified during the trial that they had expected to die from their gruesome injuries.
Tsarnaev, who did not testify in his own defense during the trial, will be able to speak but does not have to do so.
Even after the sentencing, the legal wrangling over Tsarnaev's fate could play out over years, if not decades. Just three of the 74 people sentenced to death in the United States for federal crimes since 1998 have been executed.
Bratton To Reveal More Details On NYPD Expansion
by CBS News
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton will unveil more details of his new plan Wednesday on how to cut crime in the Big Apple, including how he'll use almost 1,300 extra cops that have been secured in the city's budget.
After months of insisting the NYPD did not need more manpower, the city announced a plan to hire the additional cops to supplement the police force of 35,000 uniformed officers.
Another 400 civilian posts currently filled by officers will also be filled by new hires, allowing those officers to take enforcement jobs in the streets.
“It is the first hiring of new police officers in many years in the city,” Bratton said.
Later Wednesday, Bratton is expected to explain more about exactly what these officers will be doing.
Bratton provided the first in-depth look Tuesday at a new policing strategy that will put more beat cops in neighborhood precincts to improve the relationship between officers and the communities they serve.
Officers committed to certain neighborhoods will be exempt from chasing 911 calls part of their time to meet with principals, past victims and others in order to develop rapport and gain community trust. The so-called Renaissance cops will be part detective, community affairs officer and intelligence investigator.
“In our most vulnerable communities, the people are often victimized by their own by their neighbors,” Bratton said.
The new strategy is the latest in a string of initiatives Bratton has announced since taking charge of the nation's largest police force 18 months ago.
After the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island last summer, he vowed to retrain the entire force to teach officers how to de-escalate confrontations.
But critics of the plan to grow the NYPD are already making their voices heard.
Tuesday night, opponents protested outside City Hall. Group members say the crime rate is low enough and there's no need to pump more money into the police department and hire more cops.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he came around to supporting the extra manpower after Bratton's heartfelt need to improve police-community relations.
“There were some meetings with the commissioner in the last few weeks where we went from a broader discussion of his vision to a much more detailed one that became very, very compelling to me,” he said.
In brief remarks Tuesday, de Blasio said the new policing strategy, combined with reducing stops and busts for low-level marijuana possession, would allow investigators to focus on more serious crime and build better relationships.
“This is the shape of things to come,” he said.
How the Community Police Commission, Bypassing the Mayor, Wants to Reform the Seattle Police Department
by Ansel Herz
On Monday afternoon, Seattle's Community Police Commission stuck to its word. It chose not to keep waiting around for the mayor to meet his own deadlines and sent the city council a comprehensive police reform package .
In an e-mail to council members, CPC executive director Fé Lopez said the commissioners incorporated feedback from the SPD itself and the department's accountability arm, the Office of Professional Accountability, into the proposals. But she said the commission hadn't received any feedback from Mayor Murray , which suggests that the mayor still plans to submit his own long-delayed, competing version of a reform package to the council separately. A mayoral spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The package proposed by the CPC represents an effort to institutionalize a robust accountability process at the local level —beyond the scope of the Justice Department consent decree, which allows the CPC's existence to expire when a federal judge and the Justice Department are satisfied that the SPD is reformed. The CPC's proposals include making the CPC permanent, strengthening auditing requirements for the department, and directing the mayor and the SPD to implement the CPC's outstanding, common sense recommendations (listed below). A draft resolution submitted by the commission to the council offers a good overview of what's at stake. (The resolution is in addition to a 25-page draft of the legislation itself.)
Let's take a look at what the resolution says:
NOW, THEREFORE, it is the City Council's intent to:
1) Update the accountability system ordinance to strengthen independence, sustainability and transparency, reflect operational improvements now in effect for the accountability system, and codify other needed improvements.
2) Replace the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board with the Community Police Commission, make the Commission permanent and provide it authority and capacity to review policies, practices and training of significance to the public; to gather and report on community input related to policing; and to help enhance the independence, accessibility and transparency of the accountability system.
3) Provide the City Auditor's Office staff capacity dedicated to public safety for the purpose of independent review of Seattle Police Department business processes, systems, programs and operations, including those identified by the Police Auditor and/or the CPC as priorities for review, to identify opportunities for improvement and utilization of best practices. Such staff would be jointly available to the Police Auditor and the CPC, and their work would be prioritized to conduct reviews requested and directed collaboratively by the City Auditor, Police Auditor and the CPC.
4) Direct the Mayor and the Seattle Police Department to work with the Community Police Commission to implement the CPC's 2014 recommended reforms that have not yet been implemented in full or in part, are outside the scope of this ordinance, and do not need to await the conclusion of collective bargaining. These CPC recommendations are set out in Section x below.
5) Direct the Mayor to consult with the Community Police Commission and then to return to the City Council by the end of 2015, or within 60 days after the conclusion of collective bargaining, whichever is later, to address those CPC recommendations regarding accountability that are not yet included in this ordinance pending conclusion of the Seattle Police Officers Guild and the Seattle Police Management Association negotiations. These CPC recommendations are set out in Section xx below.
CPC recommendations that shouldn't need to await collective bargaining:
1. The Department should discontinue "extended authority commissions."
2. The Department should create an internal, civilian office for management and oversight of secondary employment work.
3. The Department should adopt preference points in hiring for candidates who are multi-lingual or have work experience or educational background providing important skills needed in policing today, such as experience working with diverse communities, and social work, mental health or domestic violence counseling, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or other similar work or community service backgrounds.
4. The Department should revise its In-Car Video review policy to allow for its use in training and coaching.
5. OPA should develop a precinct liaison program, using civilian staff.
6. The City should work with the state legislature to amend state law to broaden the grounds for revocation of officer certification and allow the Washington State Criminal Justice Commission to initiate revocation after a final finding.
7. The City should work with the state legislature to make needed changes to state law for use of body-worn cameras that best balance public disclosure and appropriate privacy protections.
CPC recommendations that have been on hold by the City awaiting collective bargaining:
1. OPA involvement should be strengthened in cases involving possible criminal misconduct and tolling of the contractually-required 180-day time limit in these cases should be allowed to maximize the quality of both the criminal and administrative investigations.
2. OPA should use civilians for intake, as investigators and supervisors, in addition to use of sworn personnel.
3. There should be one avenue for disciplinary appeals , with a decision-maker who has the necessary expertise and objectivity and is selected through a process that encourages timeliness in appeals and allows for issuance of decisions without concern for future selection.
4. The grievance process should only address allegations of contract violations that are not challenges to disciplinary decisions.
5. Hearings regarding appeals of discipline should be open to the public.
6. To help ensure a predictable, consistent and uniform approach to imposing discipline, and provide employees and the public with a sense of fairness in management's disciplinary decisions, the Department should use a discipline matrix for the imposition of discipline.
7. To help ensure timeliness, there should be enforceable time limits on those steps that follow the completion of an OPA investigation.
8. The role of SPOG representatives in the investigative processes should be only to ensure that an officer's contractual and due process rights are not violated.
9. OPA should have a rapid adjudication process for certain types of alleged misconduct. This will help strengthen SPD's internal accountability culture by allowing policy violations to be quickly acknowledged, to focus investigative resources most efficiently, and to minimize the time for which an employee has a misconduct allegation pending.
10. OPA should establish an informal problem-solving process for certain “customer-service” types of complaints.
How to handle the the CPC's proposals, versus whatever competing ordinance may be forthcoming from Mayor Murray, is "going to be up to me and the council to figure out," public safety chair Bruce Harrell has said. "And I accept. This is extremely time-sensitive, and because of that, we'll act accordingly."
High court voids routine police check of hotel registries
Struck down a Los Angeles ordinance Monday that allowed police to inspect hotel guest records on demand
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance Monday that allowed police to inspect hotel guest records on demand.
The justices voted 5-4 to reject the city's argument that the measure was needed to help fight prostitution, drug trafficking and illegal gambling at budget hotels and motels.
Los Angeles said that people engaging in those activities are less likely to use hotels if they know the facilities must collect guest information and turn it over at a moment's notice.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor said for the court that the law is unconstitutional because it penalizes the hotel owners if they don't comply. "A hotel owner who refuses to give an officer access to his or her registry can be arrested on the spot," Sotomayor wrote. Business owners must at least be given a chance to object to a judge, she said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy and Sotomayor's three liberal colleagues joined her in the majority.
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the law "is eminently reasonable" given the use of cheap motels as places to stash migrants who have been smuggled across the border and as rendezvous points for child sex workers and their clients.
"The warrantless inspection requirement provides a necessary incentive for motels to maintain their registers thoroughly and accurately: They never know when law enforcement might drop by to inspect," Scalia said. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas also dissented.
The federal appeals court in San Francisco divided 7-4 in ruling that the ordinance violates the privacy rights of the hotels, but not their guests.
Courts in other parts of the country have upheld similar laws.
Los Angeles requires hotels and motels to record basic information about guests and their vehicles. Guests without reservations, those who pay in cash and those who rent a room for less than 12 hours must also present photo identification at check in.
Nothing in the court's ruling on Monday affects the record-keeping requirements.
The case is Los Angeles v. Patel, 13-1175.
Church shootings a reminder of homegrown extremists
The shootings, experts say, are a reminder of the persistent dangers posed by disaffected people who are bent on violence but whose statements before they act may skate below the radar of police
by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — Confronting extremists, law enforcement in the U.S. has been focusing on aspiring jihadists who align with the Islamic State, overshadowing longstanding concerns about avowed racists, neo-Nazis and anti-government militias.
The South Carolina shootings, experts say, are a reminder of the persistent dangers posed by disaffected people who are bent on violence but whose statements before they act may skate below the radar of police and federal authorities.
The killings at a black church in Charleston appear to fit a grim pattern of violence fueled by hate-filled ideology, joining other attacks by extremists in the past five years that have targeted Jewish and Sikh centers, federal government buildings and police officers.
While the number of Americans professing extremist ideologies fluctuates, the election of President Barack Obama, coupled with a national economic downturn, has in recent years intensified anger among white supremacists and anti-government groups to levels not seen since the time of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League.
"We're actually about six years into a major resurgence of right-wing extremism, the largest we've had since the mid to late 1990s," Pitcavage said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, says it has counted more than 30 acts or plots of domestic terrorism or hate-driven rampages since 2010, an increase from the five years before that.
Those include the killings in Kansas last year of three people outside a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement home; a 2011 bomb plot that targeted the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Washington; an assault-rifle attack on a Mexican consulate and federal courthouse in Austin, Texas; the murders of six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the slaying of two Las Vegas police officers by a couple with anti-government views who left behind a swastika and a yellow flag bearing the words "Don't Tread on Me."
The culprits are often individuals with little or no association with organized hate groups, acting on their own.
In the Charleston case, 21-year-old Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder. He is accused of opening fire inside a Bible study last Wednesday night in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Justice Department is investigating the killings as a hate crime.
Roof, currently held on $1 million bond on a gun charge, had displayed on his Facebook page the flags of past white-led regimes in Africa and complained that "blacks were taking over the world" and that "someone needed to do something about it for the white race," according to a friend who spoke with the FBI after seeing him on surveillance images. His erratic behavior in the months before the shootings included showing up dressed in all black at a shopping mall and posing questions in stores that aroused suspicions — such as asking employees how many people were working and when they closed.
An online, hate-filled manifesto purportedly written by Roof surfaced days after the shooting and is being reviewed by the FBI.
But tracking violent extremists before they act is difficult, in part because spouting hateful viewpoints isn't by itself a crime, and many of those who do commit violence aren't leaders of a movement but are disaffected individuals on the periphery of it, said Pitcavage. To some extent, law enforcement faces the same challenges in keeping tabs on Islamic State sympathizers seeking to travel to Syria or commit acts of terror at home — investigations in which the FBI dissects social media communications for evidence of intent to commit a crime.
"They tend not to be actively engaged with the movement," Pitcavage said of lone extremists. "They're not joining organized groups. They're not extensively interacting online. They're not going to events and meetings."
Ron Hosko, a former FBI assistant director and current president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, said that when it comes to investigating would-be domestic terrorists, the FBI has long faced the challenge of not treading on free speech rights while trying to make the right call about when hate speech is about to cross the line into illegal action.
"It's a big, free country where people say crazy things, and part of that is just the uncertainty of what somebody will say versus what they intend to do," he said.
John Cohen, a former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism coordinator and now a professor at Rutgers University where he co-leads an initiative examining targeted violence directed at faith communities, said he believes there is more law enforcement can do — similar to its terrorism investigations — to track warning signs on social media and investigate Internet postings that hint at violence.
"We use them effectively in international terrorism cases," he said. "We're not using these same tools with the same rigor when we're seeking to identify or detect potential school shooters or someone who would attack a church," he said.
Ferguson citizens want body cams on cops
They have organized an effort to require police to wear body cameras
by PoliceOne Staff
Ferguson, Mo. — A group of citizens have organized an effort to require Ferguson police to wear body cameras, KTVI reports.
The group is submitting paperwork to the Ferguson City Hall to start a petition to push an amendment to the city charter.
Last November, a grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by Wilson in August 2014. The death sparked weeks of sometimes-violent protests. In the aftermath, President Obama announced that the federal government would spend $75 million on body cameras for officers.
Denver Group Wants School Discipline Records Automatically Purged
by Jamaal Abdul-Alim
In the push to get schools to stop releasing high school disciplinary records to colleges as part of the college admissions process, a Denver-based nonprofit called Padres & Jõvenes Unidos is on the front lines.
The organization, whose name is Spanish for Parents and Youths United, has launched a “know your rights” campaign to inform parents and young people about the fact that they can petition the Denver public school system to get students' high school disciplinary records expunged. The idea is to remove anything that might hurt their efforts to get accepted into college.
“Don't let your discipline record DAMAGE your life opportunities,” declares a flier from Padres & Jõvenes Unidos. “EXPUNGE records before applying to college or other key decisions.”
But expunging school disciplinary files is not an easy process, according to Patricia Cardenas, a 16-year-old student leader who is helping lead the campaign.
“To get something off your school record, your parent has to request it and you have to do this whole process as to why they want to take it off,” Cardenas said. “Then there's a lot of meetings. You have to fight your case. It's a long, long process. No one wants to go through with it because it's so difficult.”
But it could soon become easier.
With the help of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., Padres & Jõvenes Unidos is trying to persuade Denver Public Schools administrators to adopt a policy that would automatically purge students' disciplinary records on an annual basis. They also want the school district to create and publicize a way for parents to seek the removal of discipline records that are less than a year old in order to prevent the records from hurting children's college applications.
Denver Public Schools leaders say they are open to the idea.
“Right now, district policy does not prevent counselors from answering these college admission questions, but we are in the early stages of engaging with community partners to discuss whether or not that should change,” said Doug Schepman, a spokesman for the Denver Public Schools.
Daniel Kim, director of youth organizing at Padres & Jõvenes, said the practice of releasing student disciplinary records should end because it has a disparate impact on students of color.
“We see this as part of the school-to-prison pipeline, part of the way that students of color and communities of color are denied equal rights to education,” Kim said. “The system is set up to punish students of color and then they don't realize” that their records follow them.
Cardenas got a firsthand glimpse at the issue when she got access to her own school disciplinary file from middle school after she started working as a student leader for Padres & Jõvenes.
“When I started, [Padres & Jõvenes] obviously wanted me to be well informed of what was on my record,” Cardenas said. “We checked and found out I had a few discipline things in middle school because in middle school, I wasn't the best student, and I know that.”
But upon examining her disciplinary record, she said, it seemed as if she had some sort of write-up “for every little thing.”
“I had some for disrupting the class, talking back to the teacher, for anything really that you have to deal with the administrator ...” Cardenas said.
“But I feel like they were put down wrongly,” she said. “Some of these things could have been addressed a different way. ... It makes me seem like I don't know how to cooperate or I can't listen or can't communicate.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake calls for 'Baltimore Compact'
Mayor makes first address as U.S. Conference of Mayors president
BALTIMORE —During her inaugural address as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Monday afternoon, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for the creation of a "Baltimore Compact" and began the process of developing an agenda for America's mayors to collectively ensure their issues drive the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
Rawlings-Blake will unveil the "Baltimore Compact" in September when she hosts mayors from around the nation in Baltimore during the conference's annual leadership meeting.
"The Baltimore Compact" will outline solutions to the major challenges cities currently face as well as reflect the priorities of mayors from both political parties and cities of all sizes.
"We will use this document to ensure that Baltimore and other cities not only have a seat at the table, but that Baltimore and mayors drive the agenda," Rawlings-Blake said. "Right now, 90 percent of this country's people and 90 percent of our country's jobs are in our metro areas. There is almost nothing we cannot achieve, as long as we work collectively. Together we will make sure our friends in Washington step up to the plate, with Baltimore leading the way."
Rawlings-Blake acknowledged in her speech living through the darkest days the city has seen in 50 years during the civil unrest. The mayor said the problems are larger than policing and that the problems facing Baltimore and other urban areas are multifaceted.
"What we experienced in Baltimore City was the result of polices that failed communities for generations. Despite reforms to our police department, historic investments in education and a one-third reduction in our city's unemployment rate, we saw just how much work is left to be done in order to end the pain so many communities are facing while we work to improve police-community relations," Rawlings-Blake said. "The tensions we saw, and the challenges we still face can be seen in other urban centers across the country. As we continue the process of healing our city, I hope that mayors across the country use this moment to begin attacking the systemic inequalities that their cities have faced for decades. I will continue this fight in Baltimore and together we can all be stronger."
One of the first orders of business Monday was a conversation on race and community policing. The mayor told the audience that Baltimore has become one of the focal points for this national issue and it has a long way to go.
"Before Ferguson, we were already studying how to implement police body cameras and ways we could reduce excessive force in our police department, putting those plans in place," Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake told the group that as a result, the city has seen a decline in lawsuits against the police department for misconduct, and she said there has been a decline in citizen complaints for police discourtesy. She promised to continue the conversation on race and community policing as she steps into her new role.
"There are systemic issues we all must face if we are clearly going to make an impact in repairing the breach between the community and the police," Rawlings-Blake said.
Rawlings-Blake is the first African-American woman to lead the The U.S. Conference of Mayors, as well as the first mayor from Baltimore. The mayor thanked her family, friends and the women who blazed the trail for her.
Based in Washington, D.C., The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. The primary roles of the Conference are to promote the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthen federal-city relationships; ensure that federal policy meets urban needs; provide mayors with leadership and management tools; and create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.
'Constitutional rights vs. public safety': Colorado Springs takes stand on special events
by Billie Stanton Anleu
If an agitated man with a high-capacity 9 mm pistol and 75 rounds bursts into this Sunday's Tejon Street Bike Fest, as he did two years ago, festival organizer Jim Wear would like to escort him out.
Ditto with white supremacists, gang members and anti-abortion activists carrying graphic signs.
But under a ruling by the City Attorney's Office, that's no longer allowed.
The city must protect the constitutional rights of people attending events on municipal streets and sidewalks, the lawyers have determined. Even if the person is obnoxious and hassling festivalgoers, he can't be escorted out of the event - not even by police - unless he's breaking the law.
"The City Attorney's Office is more concerned about constitutional rights violation lawsuits than the public safety of citizens," Wear said.
A city spokeswoman denied requests to interview a city attorney staff member, saying it's "a complex issue."
Said police Cmdr. Pat Rigdon: "It's just a really tough balance for us: constitutional rights vs. public safety. It's something we take very seriously. And we have to; we're sworn to uphold the Constitution for everyone."
Police have the responsibility of arresting someone who breaks the law at an event, Rigdon said. But Wear would be happier with a more proactive approach.
"By the time the law is broken, or a fight breaks out, or someone assaults someone, it's too late," he said.
In 2013, he said, the man with the 9 mm pistol "was acting belligerent, agitated and appeared unstable and should not be walking around in a crowded atmosphere."
"His safety was also at risk," amid 30,000 to 35,000 motorcycle riders, Wear said.
"He was strutting up and down the street, looking for a fight, and all we could do was watch him. It was less about the weapon and more about his demeanor."
The City Attorney's Office has issued an advisory to event organizers, underscoring the need to protect people's constitutional rights.
Then it adds: "That is not to say, however, that an event organizer does not have discretion to regulate an event," as the U.S. Supreme Court found that a parade organizer "has a constitutional right to see that another does not interfere with the message of the parade."
The advisory is confusing, Wear said.
"We're not asking for autonomous control," said the 30-year local promoter. "But if they were willing to have a dialogue - which no one at the City Attorney's Office ever has - we might be able to reach a compromise.
"There are ways, as in other municipalities, to protect people's constitutional rights, our rights as businessmen, the integrity of the event and the safety of the people."
Police are at every special event with a city permit, and 15 to 20 officers are expected at the Sunday festival, along with Wear's two dozen or so security guards.
Rigdon recalled having to oust a group from an event in 2007, before the city attorney's ruling.
Soulforce members from Lynchburg, Va., got a special events permit to close the street outside Focus on the Family. There, Soulforce championed gay marriage, which the Focus opposes.
The event also drew members of Westboro Baptist Church, which is notorious for its hate speech. They posed a "high likelihood of conflict," Rigdon said. "We found it in the best interests of the community not to have both groups co-mingle."
The Westboro members were moved outside the event area, but the groups still could see and hear each other, he said.
Wear said six current and former city police sergeants have told him they, too, fear that "it's only a matter of time before something bad happens" under the 2013 ruling.
"If they want to go by the Constitution, we should be able to carry guns into the office where the mayor is," he said. "My opinion is, a large special event also deserves special consideration.
"During Territory Days, you've got 50,000 people in a four-block area. That's not a normal day in Colorado Springs. It requires special attention. That's why we pay 25 cops to be there."
But the city, not the event organizer, is liable for constitutional violations on its property, the advisory notes.
Meanwhile, Rigdon said, the city is reviewing whether private security guards could be used in place of some police officers, as is done elsewhere, "to keep it more affordable for the organizer." But sworn officers are the only ones with legal authority to oust anyone - even at Sunday's event featuring "bikes, babes," beer and bikinis, as promoted by Wear.
Sheriff Arpaio: Protecting Black Churches Is About Public Safety, Not Politics
by AWR Hawkins
On Sunday, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent members of his armed posse “to patrol 40 or 50 black churches” in the Phoenix area as a way of ensuring public safety and letting any would-be Charleston copy-cat attackers know that people weren't sitting in those churches defenselessly.
Sheriff Arpaio did the same for Phoenix area schools in the wake of the heinous attack on Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.
On Monday, Breitbart News spoke to Sheriff Arpaio about protecting the black churches. He said he was approached by Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a leader in the black community, who was worried that black churches might be in danger.
Sheriff Arpaio said: “He asked for my help. He said the churches could be in danger and he asked if we could go out and patrol them, which we did. On Sunday I sent out my volunteer posse to patrol the churches.”
He said the move “caused a lot of controversy” and that he took criticism from Hispanics who wondered why black churches would want Sheriff Arpaio around.
But Sheriff Arpaio responded by saying, “I'm going to do it. Public safety is more important than politics.”
“The Reverend asked me to come out there, and we did. Everything went great. even many of the people in the churches came out and thanked our volunteer posse for being there, but you will never see that on the television news coverage,” he added. “So this became a national story, but I am going to do it again, if need be, next Sunday, if they want me.”
Sheriff Arpaio then reflected on sending out his posse in a similar fashion after the Sandy Hook attack, and said, “I have history of protecting the people in situations like this.”
ICE-DMV partnership combating identity, document fraud
If you walk into your local Department of Motor Vehicles office (DMV) on any given day, you'll most likely find a crowd of people waiting to get a new license or updating their vehicle registration.
What many aren't aware of is that while they're waiting in anticipation of their number to be called there may be document and identity fraud taking place just a few feet away.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) identified a potential vulnerability in which DMV employees exploit their positions by selling DMV-issued identification documents for financial gain. The access DMV employees have to the tools and technology needed to produce identity documents has been exploited by criminals who seek these documents to mask their identities and commit crimes ranging from narcotics trafficking, firearms distribution, and murder to even terrorist acts.
With these factors in mind, in December 2009, HQ HSI Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit (IBFU) launched a national outreach campaign to raise awareness about potential employee misconduct at DMV facilities. HSI Special Agent Keith Fowler, a National Program Manager within the IBFU, was charged with implementing and overseeing the outreach campaign.
“I was excited about the opportunity to expand HSI's role in detecting, investigating and deterring the sale of state-issued identification documents through fraud by developing an outreach awareness initiative that focused on partnerships,” Fowler said. “I thought that if we could develop new and strengthen existing relationships between HSI and DMV stakeholders, it could minimize the risks these fraud schemes pose to national security and highway safety.”
According to Fowler, the IBFU strategy was to create awareness among DMV employees, law enforcement and the public of the seriousness of fraud schemes perpetrated at DMV facilities. The IBFU and the ICE Office of Public Affairs developed a poster, a brochure and two short videos titled “Do the Right Thing – Stop Document and Identity Fraud” and “HSI and DMV – A Partnership that Works” to support the outreach campaign. The outreach materials provide guidance to DMV employees by promoting accountability and vigilance. IBFU's participation in regional and international DMV conferences provided additional opportunities to publicize and disseminate the outreach campaign throughout the United States and Canada via speaking engagements and exhibit booths. Training sessions, participation in working groups and consistent stakeholder engagement were also goals of the Campaign.
With a plan in place, the next challenge establishing effective working relationships with the various DMVs around the U.S. The answer came in the form of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), an association that represents state and provincial members in the United States and Canada who administer and enforce motor vehicle laws.
“Our connection to AAMVA enabled us to speak directly to the DMV Administrators, resulting in their willingness to participate in the outreach campaign,” Fowler said. “Additionally, a consistent message of partnership with an emphasis on conducting joint investigations demonstrated to the DMV community HSI's commitment to combat driver license document fraud.”
The relationships established during the outreach campaign have enabled its continuous growth with outreach materials being sent to every state at the request of the Administrators themselves.
Dean Reynoldson, Director of the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR), which oversees the state's DMV, supported HSI's commitment and recognized the benefit of having the state's DMV partner with the HSI.
“The nationwide partnership was a tremendous boost for us, specifically the agents in the local HSI office in Kansas City,” Reynoldson said. “For our existing state investigations to partner with HSI and leverage their expertise with our database has been critical to our success.” According to Reynoldson, prior to HSI's partnership, criminals were more readily able to obtain fraudulent, counterfeit documents as they exploit the DMVs' vulnerabilities.
Although fraud at DMVs has not been completely eliminated, significant progress has been made. Now there is an increased willingness for DMVs to refer document fraud to HSI, which has led to a significant increase in HSI investigations and enforcement actions.
“As a result of this initiative, DMV's now take a zero tolerance approach to fraud” Fowler said. “The outreach campaign established standards and continuity in HSI document fraud investigations involving state issued licenses.
This initiative ensures that HSI and other DHS components, in collaboration with DMVs and state and local law enforcement agencies, contribute resources, acting as a force multiplier in combating document and identity fraud.
Baden mayor creates community policing initiative
by Kirstin Kennedy
BADEN -- In an effort to create unity between the community and police, the mayor has implemented a summer community policing initiative.
The program is basic. Twice a day -- once in the morning, once in the afternoon -- a Baden police officer will drive to a borough neighborhood, get out of the patrol car and walk around. Mayor Samuel Gagliardi said officers are expected to interact with residents and children in the neighborhood.
The program will be implemented throughout the warm summer and fall months.
The department anticipates this initiative will create a "two-way street" between police and the public. Officers can assess potential issues in the area, and the residents can alert police to potential concerns.
Gagliardi said this will give the police department a better understanding of the community's needs.
Police Chief David Christner said the department completely supports the initiative. He believes borough officers will be successful in their interactions.
Mark Lindauere is a co-owner of Economy Plumbing on State Street. He said he's already familiar with the police department. As a business owner, Lindauere said he feels comfortable contacting the department any time he runs into an issue.
"Thankfully, we haven't had many problems," he said.
Lisa Veltri, a borough resident, said she also recognizes many Baden officers. She runs into the police most often while on a walk through her neighborhood.
"They beep, and I wave back," she said.
Police Sgt. Dave Alvarez said he wants to get to know the community and hopes residents will get to know him.
Many people equate police work with what they see on television, Alvarez said. But he believes that's an inaccurate portrayal of the job.
Putting police on the streets is only part of Gagliardi's plan. He also is initiating a mayor-citizens committee and a visit with other police departments in the county.
He hopes this community-policing program will help promote a positive image of police amid the criticism that has surfaced nationally.
"We want to make the town better," Gagliardi said.
He hopes to someday offer a community seminar that explains police procedures.
Anyone with suggestions or questions for the police department may call the nonemergency line at 724-869-2831 or 724-869-3705.
Could training stem police shootings? Las Vegas is a test
Las Vegas, now the first department in the country to complete a "collaborative" Justice Department review, has rewritten its use-of-force rules and ramped up training to de-escalate tense encounters
by Adam Geller
LAS VEGAS — By 2 a.m., nearly five hours had ticked by since Stanley Gibson's last call.
"I want to come home," the 43-year-old Gulf War veteran told his wife, Rondha, his voice edged by post-traumatic stress disorder.
But Rondha Gibson did not know where to find him until a white Cadillac, bathed in spotlights, filled her television screen. "Local man shot by Metro police," a headline announced.
"I think that's my husband you guys killed," she recalls telling the dispatcher who answered her 911 call.
On that night in 2011, local leaders had just started acknowledging two decades of shootings by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers. But Gibson's death was a flash point.
Las Vegas, now the first department in the country to complete a "collaborative" Justice Department review, has rewritten its use-of-force rules and ramped up training to de-escalate tense encounters. Some criticized it as not enough. But shootings by officers, which peaked at 25 in 2010, declined to 13 in 2013 and 16 last year. Through mid-June, Metro officers shot three people, killing one. Even critics credit the decrease at least partly to new training.
Shootings by police recently led Ohio officials, dismayed that the state requires just four hours of annual police training, to recommend a ten-fold increase. A Missouri panel recommended training encouraging police to increase distance between themselves and suspects, though some critics say stepping back could heighten risk.
Debate continues over how to stem shootings.
"I think what has happened is the culture has changed now, as a result of the training and as a result of the policy, that you have officers who are ... essentially avoiding situations where they have to make that split-second decision," says William Sousa, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Others are skeptical, including Rondha Gibson, who won a $1.5 million settlement from Las Vegas police.
"They can say we believe in training," Gibson says. "But at the end of the day they are trained for the cops to go home."
Policing experts say training often falls short.
A 2008 survey of more than 300 departments found one-third limited deadly-force training to requalifying in shooting skills, without focusing on judgment or tactics. More than three-fourths did not share findings from police shooting investigations with trainers.
That raises serious "concerns about how prepared many police officers are" for encounters where they might use deadly force, concluded survey author Gregory Morrison, a professor of criminal justice at Ball State University.
More departments have embraced "reality-based training," using computer simulations or live scenarios. But there's little research on what works, Morrison said.
Meanwhile, calls for police to slow fast-moving confrontations and step back to defuse them have sparked tensions and concerns for officers' safety.
"How is it we can enter situations in a smarter way to create space between us and our adversaries?" says David Klinger, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who, as a rookie officer in California in 1981, shot and killed a man who was attacking his partner. "I think if we train officers in sound field tactics and hold them to a high standard of performance, that we can reduce shootings."
Critics long complained about aggressive policing in Las Vegas.
But in late 2011, The Las Vegas Review-Journal published an investigation detailing 115 killings by officers over two decades. Weeks later, Stanley Gibson, short of medication for his mental illness, called police, demanding an officer come to his home. Over the next 37 hours, officers found him wandering through traffic and throwing chips from a casino table. He was arrested, released, briefly hospitalized, then refused an ambulance.
Finally, police were called to an apartment complex next to one the Gibsons had moved to less than a month earlier, by a woman reporting two black men trying to break in.
Officers blocked Gibson's Cadillac. He ignored commands barked through bullhorns. Commanders devised a plan to fire a bean bag through the rear window and gas him out. But "a series of failures ensued," the Clark County District Attorney found. When the bag shattered a side window, an officer fired, striking Gibson four times.
Afterward, Metro and an arm of the Justice Department announced what they called "collaborative reform."
The resulting audit found many officers designated to deal with Las Vegas' sizable mentally ill population had gone nine years without recertification training. Las Vegas had a history of traffic stops leading to shootings, and errors in situations involving large numbers of officers. But the department did little to prepare for those unpredictable scenarios, a Justice consultant found. Officers were getting no instruction in de-escalating tense situations.
"We had to fix what we knew was not right," says Capt. Matt McCarthy, who leads the department's Office of Internal Oversight.
Gunning across the pavement, a white SUV screeches to a stop.
A man in wraparound shades jumps out and forces his way into a black sedan, as a police cruiser pulls up off the rear bumper. Two Las Vegas officers crouch low, pistols drawn.
"Put the knife down!" one shouts. Slowly, the man steps out and he's taken into custody.
Then all the participants in this training scenario populated entirely by cops sit down to dissect decisions made during the mock confrontation.
"Do you think maybe it would've been better to get at least one car back to create a little ... more time and distance?", instructor Pete Crews asks.
The question is key given findings that Las Vegas police routinely failed to slow high-stakes encounters, resulting in "errors and fatalities."
When the review began, Metro was just rolling out reality-based training, four-hour sessions now required annually for all officers.
Las Vegas has since trained hundreds to deal with people with mental illnesses. It has struggled to incorporate de-escalation into other training.
Some instructors "expressed outright disapproval" of the new use-of-force protocol, the consultant found.
"When you have the trainers actually mocking the training, how seriously are the trainees going to take it?" said Andre Lagomarsino, a lawyer for the family of Trevon Cole, killed by an officer.
McCarthy acknowledges dissent, but says that problem was corrected.
Critics say training appears to have reduced shootings. Trainees are measured in praising its value.
Jason de la Garrigue, says such training reminds him of the split-second decisions of street patrol he largely left behind during five years on the vice squad. But he questioned its impact.
"I can't say it's going to help us reduce (shootings)," he says, "but it's a start."
The radio in Dave Milewski's cruiser crackles: "Subject in a blue sedan fired one shot out of a vehicle at a residence."
This is no training scenario.
Pulling up alongside apartments with bars on second-floor windows, Milewski learns a man shot at a building. Residents describe a second man with a gun, running through a neighboring complex.
With evening light fading, officers' questions lead to a unit below the stairs — and the second gunman.
Only his long-barreled revolver turns out to be a BB gun that resembles a real weapon, but is perfectly legal.
It's a reminder of miscues training can't always anticipate.
"You run out and a cop sees you in a dark alley with one of those, you're getting shot," Lt. Dave Valenta says.
Back on patrol, Milewski recounts the only time he fired his gun on duty — two shots that missed a woman trying to run down him and his partner. That night, he says, he didn't recognize the threat until it was bearing down on him.
"You have weeks where every night you're drawing your gun," he says. "You just never know."
Across US, over 220 prison escapees listed as on the loose
Officials say most of the breakouts are decades old because prisons have become more secure
by Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK — Somewhere out there are an admitted killer who crawled through a Texas prison's ventilation ducts, a murderer who apparently escaped from an Indiana institution in a garbage truck, and a Florida convict who got other inmates to put him in a crate at the prison furniture shop and had himself delivered to freedom by truck.
They're among more than 220 state prison escapees nationwide who are listed as on the loose, The Associated Press found in a coast-to-coast survey.
Most broke out decades ago, meaning the chances of finding them have dwindled dramatically — that is, if they're even alive.
Still, "you don't forget about them," said former Oklahoma corrections chief James Saffle, who worked for 11 years tracking escaped convicts. "Sometimes, some little action they take will trigger something."
For the past two weeks, up to 800 federal, state and local law enforcement officers have been searching the woods and swamps around a maximum-security state prison in far northern New York for two convicted killers who used power tools to break out. The hunt is still in the early and intensive on-the-ground phase.
After sightings wane and the dragnets come up empty, some states regularly revisit escape cases, keep an eye on vanished prisoners' associates and check fingerprint databases, death certificates other sources for new leads.
But investigators largely have to hold out hope that they will get a tip out of the blue or that the convict will slip up, perhaps by contacting a relative or getting arrested for another crime.
Successful escapes from secure, fenced prisons are rare. At least 24 states say they have no such prisoners at large.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported about 2,000 state and federal inmates escaped or went off without leave in 2013. But the figure doesn't indicate how many were caught and does not distinguish between breaking out of prison and walking away from work release or other unfenced settings.
The AP asked all states for a current total of escapees from secure, locked state prisons where they were held full time. California, the most populous state, and Ohio couldn't immediately provide an answer, and others responded only for recent decades, so the total is almost certainly higher than the 224 the AP counted.
Officials say most of the breakouts are decades old because prisons have become more secure. Some escapees are surely dead. One 1955 absconder from Illinois would now be 112. One escape on Alabama's list happened in 1929. Maryland's 90 unsolved escapes date to 1937, many involving the notorious and now-closed Maryland House of Correction, which had a long history of riots and mass breakouts.
Some fugitives' whereabouts are no mystery.
Joanne Chesimard was granted asylum in Cuba after her 1979 escape from the New Jersey prison where the former Black Panther was serving a life sentence in the killing of a state trooper. Jose Fernando Bustos-Diaz, the Texas inmate who squeezed through the ventilation system in 2010 to get out of a 35-year sentence for cutting his boss' throat, is believed to be in Mexico.
But others could be anywhere, as New York officials acknowledged after Richard Matt and David Sweat cut their way out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, close to the Canadian border, on June 6.
In the early going, law officers can search on the ground and send out a "bolo" — for "be on the lookout for" — through a federal clearinghouse that disseminates alerts electronically to virtually every U.S. criminal justice agency. It's a crowded message center: By the end of 2014, there were 13 million active records, including wanted notices, lists of sex offenders and stolen property records.
Investigators also "have to crawl into the mind of the fugitive," said Howard Safir, a former U.S. Marshals Service operations chief and New York City police commissioner.
Pursuers try figure out their target's past addresses, associates, likes and dislikes, even survival skills, looking into such things as whether the convict had military experience or grew up hunting and fishing.
Captures often are quick. But after six months, a fugitive's trail generally goes pretty cold, said Chuck Jordan, president of the National Association of Fugitive Recovery Agents. Pursuing decades-old cases is complicated by the difficulties of working with paper records and the passage of time.
Prison systems say they keep pushing.
Michigan said it reviews all escapees' cases every six months and runs their fingerprints through databases every few years in the hope of a match. The Ohio State Highway Patrol checks criminal records, death certificates and social media annually for clues on cold cases, spokesman Lt. Craig Cvetan said.
"You don't say, 'Well, if we haven't found the person by five years, we're not going to do anything else with it,'" he said.
A convicted killer who escaped from a California prison work camp in 1975 was arrested in 2011 after authorities heard his dying mother had sought to contact him. They checked her phone records. A 1977 fugitive from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was caught last year after facial-recognition technology matched an old photo of him with the present-day Florida driver's license he obtained under an alias. A North Carolina thief who spent four decades on the run simply called Kentucky authorities in April, saying he wanted "to get this behind me."
"Nobody lives on an island," Safir said. "It's very hard not to leave some trail these days."
Illicit drugs 'rampant' in Calif. state prisons
California inmates are dying of drug overdoses at nearly triple the national rate
by Don Thompson
VACAVILLE, Calif. — California inmates are dying of drug overdoses at nearly triple the national rate and it's unclear whether the tough steps state officials took this year to stop illicit drugs from getting into prisons are having any effect, though they are prompting criticism from civil rights advocates.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is spending $8 million this year on drug-detecting scanners and a new breed of drug-sniffing dogs while also employing strip searches on visitors suspected of carrying drugs.
Corrections officials believe the stepped-up efforts are discouraging smuggling, but the data that's available so far doesn't support that — more than 6,000 scans have been done on visitors and employees at 11 prisons since December without finding anyone with drugs.
The state doesn't track if anyone has been arrested because of the dog searches and waited until mid-May to begin tracking the number of arrests made using any of the new procedures.
Meantime, criticism is mounting about false-positive results by the scanners and dogs that can lead to strip searches. Concerned lawmakers who oversee state prisons included language in the California budget plan passed this week that would end the searches and require an evaluation of the department's other efforts.
"It's a humiliating process, can be easily used to humiliate and demean people, and was only for visitors, often women," Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock, said of the strip searches. "There are many concerns about the dogs, which have historically been emblematic of intimidation of many communities of color, most notably during the civil rights movement."
But no one wants to see drug deaths, and she said the evaluation will show which of the new programs are effective.
More than 150 California inmates have died of drug overdoses since 2006, with a high of 24 in 2013. Moreover, the sharing of intravenous needles often spreads hepatitis C infections, which killed 69 inmates in 2013 alone.
Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard recently told lawmakers that drugs are "rampant in the prisons."
"What we are trying to do is send a message to people to not try to smuggle drugs in to the institution," he said in an interview. "If we don't do this, we're going to have people keep dying, we're going to have continued violence in the prisons."
Beard is modeling California's new procedures on those used successfully in the Pennsylvania corrections department he led for a decade. While California has a long-term annual rate of eight drug- or alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 inmates, Pennsylvania's is one.
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Texas also each averaged one death a year per 100,000 inmates from 2001-2012, according to the most recent national figures. Maryland had the nation's worst rate, at 17 deaths per 100,000 inmates.
Beard said California's program would have more rapid success if lawmakers had given him more money, and he may seek funds to expand the program as early as this fall.
He believes the ion scanners — similar to those used to screen airport travelers — are deterring smugglers. The lack of results may be because only about 5 percent of visitors and employees are being scanned, he said, though the eventual goal is 30 percent. By contrast, Pennsylvania scanned 68 percent of visitors last year and at least 20 percent of employees.
Pennsylvania officials could not say how much contraband was found by using the scanners.
Records show the German shepherd and similar looking dogs long used in California prisons have been effective at rooting out hidden drugs. But to search visitors, employees and inmates the department is turning to less aggressive dogs including Labrador retrievers — "fluffy, friendly dogs," Northern California canine program coordinator Sgt. Brian Pyle said.
The decision to use dogs to search humans, instead of unoccupied spaces as was previously the policy, prompted the resignation last fall of Wayne Conrad, the department's statewide canine program coordinator. He criticized the expense of sending California dog handlers to Pennsylvania for training, the use of breeds that he said are less reliable, and what he said was a supervisor's effort to stifle concerns about the program because it was championed by Beard.
"The dogs are going to start alerting on people whose kids are smoking dope or something," and that false positive could prompt an unnecessary strip search, Conrad said. "The next thing that's going to come is the lawsuits."
Beard said he is seeking alternatives to strip searches, and downplayed the possibility that false-positive alerts unfairly implicate innocent visitors and employees. But that's what happened to Tania Gamboa of Riverside when she went to see her brother at Kern Valley State Prison.
She initially laughed when the ion machine tested positive for exposure to heroin, saying she doesn't even drink alcohol. But she was crying after she was required to strip naked in front of two female correctional officers and squat to demonstrate that she was not concealing drugs.
"It doesn't make sense for me, knowing that I don't do all that and I got detected for it," she said.
Mohamed Shehk, an Oakland-based spokesman for Critical Resistance, which advocates for better conditions for inmates, said the policies are turning visitors into suspects.
"The statistics — $8 million, 6,000 scans and nothing to show for it — show that these are intended to intimidate and criminalize people who are going to see their loved ones inside," he said.