July, 2015 - Week 1
Community Policing: How Do You Know If It's Working?
by VICTORIA BEKIEMPIS
New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently described a community policing push to encourage trust between cops and civilians. The push would use meetings with residents and neighborhood forums to create “built-in time to address issues that go beyond the crunch of standard radio calls.”
This concept isn't new—policing basically was community policing until the radio car came along. After a series of unarmed African-American men died at the hands of police across the country this year, however, law enforcement agencies and lawmakers hope renewed emphasis on these initiatives can ease deep tensions between cops and communities of color.
But how do we know if it's working?
Community policing aims to foster trust and crime-reduction, with the goal being that the former leads to the latter says Lorie Fridell, co-editor of Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management and associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida. One measure of success is how the community feels about the effort.
“That could be measured by a community survey, meaning that random segments of the broader community are selected and given before and after surveys on their attitudes toward police” says Fridell.
“Another type of survey is what I call a ‘consumer survey'—you survey people who have had recent contact with the police as opposed to people within the community generally.”
Data on how much communities interact with police can also indicate the state of relationships.
Departments using ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system, can compare the number of detected shots with the number of 911 calls related to gunfire. This can provide “an inferential measure about people's willingness to call the police” explains Brian Jackson, director of The RAND Corporation's Safety and Justice program.
Strict research standards should be used to assess community policing programs. That means using the program in some neighborhoods, and not in others, as a control, and comparing the results. Researchers must examine more than one area, otherwise they cannot accurately assess the program.
Since May, the NYPD's has “piloted” its neighborhood policing plan in four precincts. The Department and Mayor say the pilots “have demonstrated some promising initial developments,” such as year-over-year crime declines.
The NYPD will compare these areas to several other precincts and communities and make general assessments, but evaluation will mostly be based on community reaction, a department official tells Newsweek .
Figuring out whether any community policing program works, of course, depends on another big variable: officers' participation.
“One of the challenges with community policing interventions: You can do foot patrols but it also matters whether people on the foot patrols are stopping and talking to people,” Jackson says. “You can do community policing in name only, or you could do community policing. For understanding the effects, you need to drill into the details about what's being done and how it's being done to really make sense of the data and get good conclusions out of it.”
Also, departments largely measure their success with data-driven crime analysis, such as the NYPD's CompStat, not so much hearts-and-minds initiatives.
“That is a big challenge overall—to measure anything else, particularly crime prevention activities, systematically within an agency,” says Susan Shah, Chief of Staff of Vera Institute of Justice. “Performance evaluations of officers don't often focus on whether or not the officers are skilled and making partnerships and engaging in community-oriented problem solving.”
It's not impossible, though. Researchers have determined CompStat and similar programs can measure community policing in addition to crime, such as by measuring complaints against officers, use of force, and fear of crime, Shah says.
The art of community policing: Lewiston 10-year-old wins squad-car design contest
by Jordan Gerard -- special to the Daily News
The Lewiston Police Department learned an important lesson recently:
If you want something designed right, turn to a 10-year-old.
Lewiston Chief Scott Yeiter this spring wanted to get the community involved in designing the city's new squad car, and to that end, he put out a call online and across town, looking for the best designs from local residents.
“It's a good way to engage the community with the police department,” Yeiter said.
The police department received a total of 37 entries, which was eventually narrowed down to five finalists and then posted on the department's Facebook page for residents to vote for their favorite.
“The community liked the contest a lot, there were a lot of positive comments and just the competition in general was fun,” Yeiter said.
Joelle Hammann's design was the runaway winner, receiving 141 likes in the contest. The police department only requested one small alteration to her work: They asked her if one of the stripes could be red, for the Lewiston-Altura's school mascot. Joelle agreed.
“I like to draw. It was something cool, I wanted to see what would happen if I entered the contest,” Joelle said. “My mom helps the community and I wanted to give back also.”
As part of her prize, Joelle got to ride in the new squad car and threw candy in the Lewiston Heartland Days parade. She also received a $20 gift card and pizza from Kwik Trip, a three-foot party sub from Subway, and a Twins baseball signed by four players.
Joelle said what she likes best about the new squad car is that her name is on it, which was “pretty cool.”
“I have a lot of pride for my community when I see it driving around,” Joelle said.
Community policing in Atlantic City includes coffee, pizza and community walks
by LYNDA COHEN, Staff Writer
“I'm glad you knocked on my door,” Hassan Abdur-Raheem told the police officer.
Atlantic City Sgt. Monica McMenamin took a trip around the city's Westside neighborhood recently to remind residents of the Coffee with a Cop event in the Ohio Avenue garden outside Jeff Wilson and Dennis Konzelman's home.
“Community, that's what it's all about,” said Abdur-Raheem, a music teacher at Pleasantville's Leeds Avenue School.
Events like this are meant to help connect police with the community to build better relations and trust.
For Atlantic City, Coffee with a Cop is just one pat. There is Pizza with Police, where police come to the schools and eat with students. And, on Friday, the annual community walks restarted, in which religious and community leaders, and law enforcement walk through the city's more dangerous neighborhoods to show unity.
The Junior Police Academy also helps kids understand what policing is about.
At the recent Coffee with a Cop, the latest "junior recruits" got some practice interacting with the community.
“I'm undercover,” said 12-year-old Isaac Holt, as he put on sunglasses and introduced himself around.
He said he wants to be either a police officer or a professional horse trainer. He already has a horse named Thunder.
“I can't give you too much personal information,” the junior officer-in-training said.
“See there's a little bit of a scar?” Class II Officer Nick Grasso pointing out a mark on his finger to some of the academy students gathered around him at the event. “That's called a detail.”
He also explained why it's important for people to take their hands out of their pockets when a police officer asks.
“You never know if they could have a knife or a gun or something,” he told them.
“They want us to go on the right path,” said Jamil Camacho, who is attending the academy with his brother, Jeriel.
The twins turn 11 on Wednesday.
They want to be officers together, explaining they can not only have each other's backs, but share a bit of a telepathic connection.
They got to meet Officer David Trivers whose twin brother, Michael, is also on the force.
Jamaira Frett, 10, is from Atlanta, but decided to attend the academy with her cousin, My'keira Mitchell, 11. Both want to be police officers.
Frett either wants to be undercover or work forensics. Mitchell says she just wants to be “a regular police officer patrolling the neighborhoods.”
Chico police chief announces ‘community' policing restructure
by Andre Byik, Chico Enterprise-Record
Chico, CA -- Chico police Chief Mike O'Brien on Thursday announced a reorganization of his command staff, as the Chico Police Department moves toward a “community-oriented policing model.”
Effective July 1, the Police Department will flatten its command structure to better respond to the needs of the city's residents and put a “face to a place,” O'Brien said.
In the restructuring, three lieutenants will be responsible for geographic areas of the city, including the east side of the city, the west side and what O'Brien calls the “central core” of Chico, which includes Chico State University, the downtown area and Bidwell Park.
Those lieutenants will be overseen by Deputy Chief Dave Britt, who also will oversee animal services manager Tracy Mohr and communications and records manager Nancy Wilson, as well as a fourth lieutenant who will continue to head the department's investigations bureau.
Lt. Ted McKinnon will be responsible for east Chico, using Highway 99 as a divider, interim Lt. Matt Maddon will be responsible for west Chico and interim Lt. Rob Merrifield will be responsible for the “core” area of Chico, O'Brien said. Lt. Mike Nelson will oversee investigations, and administrative Lt. Billy Aldridge will oversee training, recruitment and hiring at the department.
The new structure, O'Brien said, is designed to “make us more responsive to the community and then implement what I want to see done — and that's the community-oriented policing model for this Police Department.”
O'Brien previously told this newspaper that the Police Department aims to be more responsive to “quality of life” crimes such as bike thefts, home and car burglaries and criminal transient activity.
“There's been an outcry by the community to reconnect with their Police Department, and the city's heard that loud and clear,” City Manager Mark Orme said.
Orme said the City Council has sent an “adamant message” to the public through its adoption of a 2015-16 budget that includes funding for additional police officers and other police positions.
He said the City Council “will ensure that our Police Department is healthy and heading in the right direction,” and that from an operations perspective, O'Brien's reorganization effort fits with that vision.
O'Brien on Thursday also announced the promotions of Chico police detectives Ben Love and Brian Miller to the rank of sergeant.
“In my humble opinion, there is no greater unit of individuals at any police department that have more cause and effect to how a police department performs than the sergeant rank,” O'Brien said. “That's how important I think it is. And that's why being able to promote Ben and Brian, to me, is so significant.”
The families of Love and Miller pinned their sergeant badges to their uniforms at a ceremony held at the Chico Fire Training Center.
School shootings, mass killings are 'contagious,' study finds
by Ben Smart, Special to CNN
(CNN) Mass killings and school shootings spread "contagiously," a new study found, where one killing or shooting increases the chances that others will occur within about two weeks.
The study, published Thursday in the journal PLOS ONE, found evidence that school shootings and mass killings -- defined as four or more deaths -- spread "contagiously," and 20% to 30% of such killings appear to be the result of "infection." The contagion period lasts about 13 days, researchers found.
Researchers gathered records of school shootings and mass killings from several data sets and fit them into a mathematical "contagion model." The spread they found was not dependent on location, leading researchers to believe that national media coverage of a mass shooting might play a role. On average, mass shootings occur about once every two weeks in the United States and school shootings happen about once a month, the study said.
"What we believe may be happening is national news media attention is like a 'vector' that reaches people who are vulnerable," said Sherry Towers, a research professor at Arizona State University and lead author of the study.
Those vulnerable people are those who have regular access to weapons and are perhaps mentally ill, Towers said. Once "infected" with knowledge of a shooting from national media coverage, data shows that a person is more likely to commit a similar crime.
"When at least three people are shot, but less than four people are killed, the media reports tended be local," Towers said. These shootings that received local news coverage, but no national news coverage, did not have the same contagious effect, according to Towers
Katherine Newman, provost of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-author of "Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings", said media coverage may prompt copycat crimes, but shining the national spotlight on mass and school shootings can have benefits, too. It encourages students and adults to come forward with information about suspicious people.
More tips from the public means a greater chance that tragic mass killings can be prevented, said Newman , who was not involved in the study.
"While there's a spike in shootings following an incident, there's an even bigger spike in reported plots," Newman said. "This is because people are vigilant and come forward with their suspicions and concerns."
Newman said the biggest hurdle to preventing school shootings is making it possible for people with information to report to authorities.
"If we want kids to come forward with information, we have to remind them these horrific crimes are happening," Newman said. "It should be part of a regular school curriculum to remind kids these things are going on."
Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said it's the amount of media coverage that matters.
"It's the excessive media attention that creates the copycat phenomenon. We make celebrities out of monsters," Levin said, noting that there are trading cards, action figures and magazine covers featuring murderers.
Researchers behind the new study also found that states with higher gun ownership were more likely to have mass killings and school shootings. On the contrary, states with tighter firearm laws had fewer mass shootings.
Levin said he believes a high number of handguns is partially responsible for the high rate of mass shootings in the United States.
"We have so many semi-automatic weapons that can be easily concealed, and taken from the home and used on classmates or whoever," he said. "The real problem in (the United States) has to do with handguns being in the hands of the wrong people. But you can't blame it all on guns. (The United States) leads the Western world in nongun homicides, too."
Towers knows firsthand the terror that shooting incidents can send through a community. She was traveling to a meeting at Purdue University in Indiana in January 2014 when the campus was locked down after reports of gunshots. Andrew Boldt, a 21-year-old Purdue senior, was fatally shot by another student, Cody Cousins. As details surrounding the shooting slowly emerged, Towers said she felt a mix of worry, relief, guilt -- and eventually, curiosity.
"It struck me as odd that other shootings occurred around the same time," Towers said. "I knew that day that I wanted to look into this further."
Collecting information about school shootings and mass killings wasn't easy, Towers said, noting "right now there is no federal database on these tragedies."
Towers said there are still a number of important questions left unanswered, and creating consistent data about these incidents is the first step.
"An official database needs to be compiled," Towers said. "The dynamic in the society needs to be addressed so we can fix this public health crisis."
RELATED: Who commits mass shootings?
Police Say Armed Man at NC Mall Is Soldier
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Authorities say a Fort Bragg soldier has been charged with creating a panic at a North Carolina mall after appearing there with an assault rifle and other military gear.
Fayetteville police say Bryan Scott Wolfinger, 25, was arrested and charged with "going armed to the terror of the public" in connection with Thursday's incident at Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville.
A statement from the Fayetteville Police Department says Wolfinger was preparing to have photographs taken with the military equipment and rifle when 911 calls were received of an armed male at the mall.
Wolfinger apparently is a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The statement said he was released to his company commander and provost marshal at Fort Bragg.
'All clear' at DC Navy Yard after early reports of gunfire
A report of shots fired early Thursday at the same Washington Navy Yard where a gunman killed 12 people in 2013 prompted a massive police response and lockdown, but after an extensive search authorities issued an 'all clear' at the facility.
The facility where the shots were first reported was largely emptied Thursday as civilian and military law enforcement officers swept through, an official said.
The building initially in question was the same one where a gunman killed a dozen workers in a rampage two years ago, according to a second source -- a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to publicly discuss details.
There was a swift and heavy police response that began blocks away from the sprawling facility, which is about a half mile from the U.S. Capitol. Reports of the shooting occurred after news that the FBI was establishing command centers around the country to monitor any potential terrorist threats around the July 4 weekend.
"I am not aware of any specific threats," Navy Capt. Chuck Nash (Ret.) told Fox News.
In September 2013, military contractor Aaron Alexis killed 12 civilian workers at the Navy Yard's Building 197 before he was shot and killed by police. Some lawmakers have said Alexis fell through the cracks at the VA and should have been treated by mental health professionals, but they have stopped short of specifying what government doctors should have done differently.
The Navy Yard, in southeast Washington, is the country's oldest naval installation.
Hate crimes, homicides declined in California in 2014
by DON THOMPSON -- Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- Most crime rates declined across California in 2014, including hate crimes and homicides, the state attorney general's office said Wednesday.
Hate crimes offenses were down nearly 9 percent last year, the office said in one of several new reports. Crimes based upon the victims' sexual orientation dropped more than 13 percent, to 187 last year, while hate crimes targeting a particular race, ethnicity or national origin decreased nearly 16 percent to 412 statewide.
The report comes amid a heightened focus on hate crimes after a white gunman was charged with murder in the slayings of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.
California has seen a long-term decline in hate crimes, which are down nearly 46 percent since 2005.
Blacks were the most common target, accounting for about a third of hate crimes in the last decade. Gays and Jews were also frequently targeted, the reports said.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate next year, released the report without comment. Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for Harris, declined to immediately comment on the reports.
Separately, Harris reported that most major crimes also declined in 2014, three years after California made sweeping changes to its criminal justice system by requiring that most lower-level offenders serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons.
The homicide rate dropped more than 4 percent, while robberies were down 10 percent. However, the aggravated assault rate increased 2.4 percent in 2014 after dropping nearly 7 percent in 2013. Property crime was down nearly 8 percent, led by a drop in burglaries.
There were nearly 9,400 rapes reported last year, but Harris said the information cannot be compared with prior years because the definition used by the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program changed in 2013 to include more sexual assaults.
Guns accounted for about 70 percent of murder weapons last year.
Even amid increased attention to recent shootings of unarmed minorities by police, citizen complaints against police dropped to their lowest level since 1990.
Local law enforcement reported 152 homicides they deemed justifiable last year, 116 by peace officers and 36 by private citizens. Five peace officers were killed in the line of duty.
The roughly 1.2 million arrests last year were the lowest since 1969, the office said.
The reports rely on information from local police and district attorneys.
Mayor Garcetti says he didn't change course on homelessness laws
by PETER JAMISON -- LA Times
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday he didn't reverse course by backing away from controversial homelessness laws his office had signaled he would approve, asserting instead that a member of his communications staff mistakenly told The Times he planned to sign the ordinances.
Garcetti said in a brief interview at City Hall that he had always had reservations about the tough new laws, which would give police officers greater power to sweep the streets of homeless encampments. But his spokesman, Jeff Millman, erroneously said he would sign the legislation, according to the mayor.
"Jeff told people without ever checking with me that, ‘Oh, he's probably going to sign it,'" Garcetti said. "I never said that to staff, or internally."
Millman did not dispute the mayor's account of his miscommunication with the press. He said his previous statement that Garcetti would sign the ordinances "offered a preliminary view prior to (their) passage in council."
The two ordinances -- one for parks and one for sidewalks -- would give the homeless 24 hours to move their possessions. After that, their belongings could be seized. Police could give violators a ticket or charge them with a misdemeanor.
Many advocates for the homeless oppose the policies, saying they criminalize homelessness and do little to move people off the streets.
Last week, as the City Council prepared for a final vote on the ordinances, Millman told The Times that Garcetti would sign them into law and work with council members to adopt amendments softening some parts of the new policies.
This week, Garcetti announced a different course. Resorting to a peculiarity of L.A.'s legislative procedures, he said he would not sign the ordinances but would let them become law without his formal approval. (The city charter dictates that council-approved ordinances pass into law if the mayor doesn't veto them, even if he doesn't append his signature.)
Garcetti also said he would order the LAPD not to enforce the new ordinances until amendments are added that protect from seizure items such as prescription medications and identification cards.
"Those are important to me, that it be humane," the mayor said. "We need to have an ordinance in place, but I wanted it to have that in it. And the one that went through didn't have that, so I'm not signing it."
Community Policing Defined
from Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) -- U.S. Department of Justice
Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
Community policing comprises three key components:
Collaborative partnerships between the law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police
The alignment of organizational management, structure, personnel, and information systems to support community partnerships and proactive problem solving
The process of engaging in the proactive and systematic examination of identified problems to develop and evaluate effective responses
Collaborative partnerships between the law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations they serve to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police
Community policing, recognizing that police rarely can solve public safety problems alone, encourages interactive partnerships with relevant stakeholders. The range of potential partners is large, and these partnerships can be used to accomplish the two interrelated goals of developing solutions to problems through collaborative problem solving and improving public trust. The public should play a role in prioritizing and addressing public safety problems.
Other Government Agencies -- Law enforcement organizations can partner with a number of other government agencies to identify community concerns and offer alternative solutions. Examples of agencies include legislative bodies, prosecutors, probation and parole, public works departments, neighboring law enforcement agencies, health and human services, child support services, ordinance enforcement, and schools.
Community Members/Groups -- Individuals who live, work, or otherwise have an interest in the community— volunteers, activists, formal and informal community leaders, residents, visitors and tourists, and commuters—are a valuable resource for identifying community concerns. These factions of the community can be engaged in achieving specific goals at town hall meetings, neighborhood association meetings, decentralized offices/storefronts in the community, and team beat assignments.
Nonprofits / Service Providers -- Advocacy and community-based organizations that provide services to the community and advocate on its behalf can be powerful partners. These groups often work with or are composed of individuals who share common interests and can include such entities as victims groups, service clubs, support groups, issue groups, advocacy groups, community development corporations, and the faith community.
Private Businesses -- For-profit businesses also have a great stake in the health of the community and can be key partners because they often bring considerable resources to bear in addressing problems of mutual concern. Businesses can help identify problems and provide resources for responses, often including their own security technology and community outreach. The local chamber of commerce and visitor centers can also assist in disseminating information about police and business partnerships and initiatives, and crime prevention practices.
Media -- The media represent a powerful mechanism by which to communicate with the community. They can assist with publicizing community concerns and available solutions, such as services from government or community agencies or new laws or codes that will be enforced. In addition, the media can have a significant impact on public perceptions of the police, crime problems, and fear of crime.
The alignment of organizational management, structure, personnel, and information systems to support community partnerships and proactive problem solving
The community policing philosophy focuses on the way that departments are organized and managed and how the infrastructure can be changed to support the philosophical shift behind community policing. It encourages the application of modern management practices to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Community policing emphasizes changes in organizational structures to institutionalize its adoption and infuse it throughout the entire department, including the way it is managed and organized, its personnel, and its technology.
Under the community policing model, police management infuses community policing ideals throughout the agency by making a number of critical changes in climate and culture, leadership, formal labor relations, decentralized decision making and accountability, strategic planning, policing and procedures, organizational evaluations, and increased transparency.
Climate and culture
Changing the climate and culture means supporting a proactive orientation that values systematic problem solving and partnerships. Formal organizational changes should support the informal networks and communication that take place within agencies to support this orientation.
Leaders serve as role models for taking risks and building collaborative relationships to implement community policing, and they use their position to influence and educate others about it. Leaders, therefore, must constantly emphasize and reinforce community policing's vision, values, and mission within their organization and support and articulate a commitment to community policing as the predominant way of doing business.
If community policing is going to be effective, police unions and similar forms of organized labor must be a part of the process and function as partners in the adoption of the community policing philosophy. Including labor groups in agency changes can ensure support for the changes that are imperative to community policing implementation.
Community policing calls for decentralization in both command structure and decision making. Decentralized decision making allows frontline officers to take responsibility for their role in community policing. When an officer is able to create solutions to problems and take risks, he or she ultimately feels accountable for those solutions and assumes a greater responsibility for the well-being of the community. Decentralized decision making involves flattening the hierarchy of the agency, increasing tolerance for risk taking in problem-solving efforts, and allowing officers discretion in handling calls. In addition, providing sufficient authority to coordinate various resources to attack a problem and allowing officers the autonomy to establish relationships with the community will help define problems and develop possible solutions.
The department should have a written statement reflecting a departmentwide commitment to community policing and a plan that matches operational needs to available resources and expertise. If a strategic plan is to have value, the members of the organization should be well-versed in it and be able to give examples of their efforts that support the plan. Components such as the organization's mission and values statement should be simple and communicated widely.
Community policing affects the nature and development of department policies and procedures to ensure that community policing principles and practices have an effect on activities on the street. Problem solving and partnerships, therefore, should become institutionalized in policies, along with corresponding sets of procedures, where appropriate.
In addition to the typical measures of police performance (arrests, response times, tickets issued, and crime rates), community policing calls for broadening police outcome measures to include such things as greater community satisfaction, less fear of crime, the alleviation of problems, and improvement in quality of life. Community policing calls for a more sophisticated approach to evaluation—one that looks at not only how outcomes are measured but also how feedback information is used.
Community policing involves decision-making processes that are more open than traditional policing. If the community is to be a full partner, the department needs mechanisms for readily sharing relevant information on crime and social disorder problems and police operations with the community.
It is important that the organizational structure of the agency ensure that local patrol officers have decision-making authority and are accountable for their actions. This can be achieved through long-term assignments, the development of officers who are generalists, and using special units appropriately.
Geographic assignment of officers
With community policing, there is a shift to the long-term assignment of officers to specific neighborhoods or areas. Geographic deployment plans can help enhance customer service and facilitate more contact between police and citizens, thus establishing a strong relationship and mutual accountability. Beat boundaries should correspond to neighborhood boundaries, and other government services should recognize these boundaries when coordinating government public-service activities.
To achieve community policing goals, officers have to be able to handle multiple responsibilities and take a team approach to collaborative problem solving and partnering with the community. Community policing encourages its adoption agency-wide, not just by special units, although there may be a need for some specialist units that are tasked with identifying and solving particularly complex problems or managing complex partnerships. Resources and finances Agencies have to devote the necessary human and financial resources to support community policing to ensure that problem-solving efforts are robust and that partnerships are sustained and effective.
The principles of community policing need to be infused throughout the entire personnel system of an agency, including recruitment, hiring, selection, and retention of all law enforcement agency staff, from sworn officers to civilians and volunteers. Personnel evaluations, supervision, and training must also be aligned with the agencies' community policing views.
Recruitment, hiring, and selection
Agencies need a systematic means of incorporating community policing elements into their recruitment, selection, and hiring processes. Job descriptions should recognize community policing and problem-solving responsibilities and encourage the recruitment of officers who have a “spirit of service” instead of only a “spirit of adventure.” A community policing agency also has to thoughtfully examine where it is seeking recruits, whom it is recruiting and hiring, and what is being tested. Agencies are also encouraged to seek community involvement in this process through the identification of competencies and participation in review boards.
Supervisors must tie performance evaluations to community policing principles and activities that are incorporated into job descriptions. Performance, reward, and promotional procedures should support sound problem-solving activities, proactive policing, community collaboration, and citizen satisfaction with police services.
Training at all levels—academy, field, and in-service—must support community policing principles and tactics. It also needs to encourage creative thinking, a proactive orientation, communication and analytical skills, and techniques for dealing with quality-of-life concerns and maintaining order. Officers can be trained to identify and correct conditions that could lead to crime, raise public awareness, and engage the community in finding solutions to problems. Field training officers and supervisors need to learn how to encourage problem solving and help officers learn from other problem-solving initiatives. Until community policing is institutionalized in the organization, training in its fundamental principles will need to take place regularly.
Information Systems (Technology)
Community policing is information-intensive, and technology plays a central role in helping to provide ready access to quality information. Accurate and timely information makes problem-solving efforts more effective and ensures that officers are informed about the crime and community conditions of their beat. In addition, technological enhancements can greatly assist with improving two-way communication with citizens and in developing agency accountability systems and performance outcome measures.
Communication / access to data
Technology provides agencies with an important forum by which to communicate externally with the public and internally with their own staff. To communicate with the public, community policing encourages agencies to develop two-way communication systems through the Internet that allow for online reports, reverse 911 and e-mail alerts, discussion forums, and feedback on interactive applications (e.g., surveys or maps), thereby creating ongoing dialogues and increasing transparency.
Technology encourages effective internal communication through memoranda, reports, newsletters, e-mail and enhanced incident reporting, dispatch functions, and communications interoperability with other entities for more efficient operations. Community policing also encourages the use of technology to develop accountability and performance measurement systems that are timely and contain accurate metrics and a broad array of measures and information.
Community policing encourages the use of technology to provide officers with ready access to timely information on crime and community characteristics within their beats, either through laptop computers in their patrol cars or through personal data devices. In addition, technology can support crime/ problem analysis functions by enabling agencies to gather more detailed information about offenders, victims, crime locations, and quality-of-life concerns and to further enhance analysis.
Quality and accuracy of data
Information is only as good as its source; therefore, it is not useful if it is of questionable quality and accuracy. Community policing encourages agencies to put safeguards in place to ensure that information from various sources is collected in a systematic fashion and entered into central systems that are linked to one another and checked for accuracy so that it can be used effectively for strategic planning, problem solving, and performance measurement.
The process of engaging in the proactive and systematic examination of identified problems to develop and evaluate effective responses
Community policing emphasizes proactive problem solving in a systematic and routine fashion. Rather than responding to crime only after it occurs, community policing encourages agencies to proactively develop solutions to the immediate underlying conditions contributing to public safety problems. Problem solving must be infused into all police operations and guide decisionmaking efforts. Agencies are encouraged to think innovatively about their responses and view making arrests as only one of a wide array of potential responses. A major conceptual vehicle for helping officers to think about problem solving in a structured and disciplined way is the SARA (scanning, analysis, response, and assessment) problem-solving model.
Scanning -- Identifying and prioritizing problems
The objectives of scanning are to identify a basic problem, determine the nature of that problem, determine the scope of seriousness of the problem, and establish baseline measures. An inclusive list of stakeholders for the selected problem is typically identified in this phase. A problem can be thought of as two or more incidents similar in one or more ways and that is of concern to the police and the community. Problems can be a type of behavior, a place, a person or persons, a special event or time, or a combination of any of these. The police, with input from the community, should identify and prioritize concerns.
Analysis -- Researching what is known about the problem
Analysis is the heart of the problem-solving process. The objectives of analysis are to develop an understanding of the dynamics of the problem, develop an understanding of the limits of current responses, establish correlation, and develop an understanding of cause and effect. As part of the analysis phase, it is important to find out as much as possible about each aspect of the crime triangle by asking who, what, when, where, how, why, and why not about the victim, offender, and crime location.
Response -- Developing solutions to bring about lasting reductions in the number and extent of problems
The response phase of the SARA model involves developing and implementing strategies to address an identified problem by searching for strategic responses that are both broad and uninhibited. The response should follow logically from the knowledge learned during the analysis and should be tailored to the specific problem. The goals of the response can range from either totally eliminating the problem, substantially reducing the problem, reducing the amount of harm caused by the problem, or improving the quality of community cohesion.
Assessment -- Evaluating the success of the responses
Assessment attempts to determine if the response strategies were successful by understanding if the problem declined and if the response contributed to the decline. This information not only assists the current effort but also gathers data that build knowledge for the future. Strategies and programs can 12 be assessed for process, outcomes, or both. If the responses implemented are not effective, the information gathered during analysis should be reviewed. New information may have to be collected before new solutions can be developed and tested. The entire process should be viewed as circular rather than linear, meaning that additional scanning, analysis, or responses may be required.
Using the Crime Triangle to Focus on Immediate Conditions (Victim/Offender/Location)
To understand a problem, many problem solvers have found it useful to visualize links among the victim, offender, and location (the crime triangle) and those factors that could have an impact on them: for example, capable guardians for victims (e.g., security guards, teachers, and neighbors), handlers for offenders (e.g., parents, friends, and probation officers), and managers for locations (e.g., business merchants, park employees, and motel clerks). Rather than focusing primarily on addressing the root causes of a problem, the police focus on the factors that are within their reach, such as limiting criminal opportunities and access to victims, increasing guardianship, and associating risk with unwanted behavior.
About the COPS Office
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) is the component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation's state, local, territory, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources.
Rather than simply responding to crimes once they have been committed, community policing concentrates on preventing crime and eliminating the atmosphere of fear it creates. Earning the trust of the community and making those individuals stakeholders in their own safety enables law enforcement to better understand and address both the needs of the community and the factors that contribute to crime.
COPS Office resources, covering a wide breadth of community policing topics—from school and campus safety to gang violence—are available, at no cost, through its online Resource Center at www.cops.usdoj.gov. This easy-to-navigate website is also the grant application portal, providing access to online application forms.
Police History: The evolution of women in American law enforcement
According to the National Center for Women and Policing, women now account for approximately 15 percent of all law enforcement officers
by Betsy Brantner Smith
The story of women in American law enforcement is an evolving one. In many ways it parallels the tale of women in the general workforce, with some interesting twists. Today we are discovering the particular advantages of deploying both female and male officers, capitalizing on the synergy that develops when the gifts and talents of these crimefighters is combined. However, it took more than a century for this innovation to develop and evolve.
Women have served in organized law enforcement in our country almost from the beginning. The first police departments in America were established in the 1800s, and in 1845 women began working as matrons in New York City's jails. This “social work” type of involvement by females continued into the late 19th century as many police departments hired widows of police officers as way to give them a kind of “death benefit.”
Perhaps the first example of this occurred in 1893 when the Chicago Police Department assigned Mary Owens as a “patrolman” — Owens worked primarily with women and children however, and, her title notwithstanding, her duties did not include patrol.
20th Century: From Firsts to Title VII
The new millennium ushered in the first sworn female police officer — Lola Baldwin — in Portland (Ore.). Baldwin's duties were primarily of a social work nature, beginning with protecting young women working at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905. Her success in this assignment led to her swearing in as an officer — with the power to conduct arrests — in 1908.
Los Angeles Police Department went a step further in 1910 and swore in Alice Wells as the country's first “policewoman” with badge number 1 — five years later Wells founded the International Association of Policewomen. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department swore in Margaret Adams as the nations' first female deputy sheriff in 1912, though Adams' duties primarily involved evidence processing.
Women continued to serve police departments in limited ways until the Great Depression and World War II in the 1930s and 1940s. These events increased competition for jobs in the United States, and the opportunity for women to compete with men for law enforcement roles was diminished. Women continued to serve increasingly in support roles, however, such as dispatch and other “desk-bound” duties.
The tide began to turn in the 1950s as women in law enforcement moved into more male-dominated roles and began to compete for promotion. In 1956 the International Association of Women Police was formed, further supporting advancement for female officers. In the 1960s, as police departments increasingly battled prostitution and illegal drug sales, agencies developed an expanded need for women crimefighters to serve undercover in vice squads.
Finally, a major turning point occurred in 1968 when the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department assigned responsibility for Car 47 to the nation's first female patrol officers, Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship.
During the 1970s the presence of female officers in police departments became increasingly accepted by the general public, as is evidenced by the popularity of TV programs such as Policewoman and Get Christie Love. In 1972, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was implemented outlawing gender discrimination in public agencies — including police departments — and further expanding opportunities for women in law enforcement. In July of that year JoAnne Misko and Susan Malone became the first fully sworn FBI agents in the U.S. Finally, the women's movement in this country generally made female service in formerly male-dominated roles increasingly acceptable, and law enforcement was no exception to this trend.
In the 1980s women began to break through police department “glass ceilings,” with Penny Harrington stepping up as Chief of Portland Police Bureau. The trend continued in 1994 in Atlanta when Beverly Harvard became the first black female police chief. In 1995 the International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a study which identified specific barriers to female advancement in law enforcement careers, in an attempt to reduce them, and today over 300 women serve as chiefs of police in departments across the nation.
The continued expansion of females in police work in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of several law enforcement associations devoted to women; these included the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives and the National Center for Women and Policing in 1995, and Women in Federal Law Enforcement in 1999. This growth has continued, albeit slowly, and according to the National Center for Women and Policing, women now account for approximately 15 percent of all law enforcement officers.
The 21st Century: We're Still Writing Our History
The story of women in law enforcement continues to evolve as police departments discover that female officers bring particular gifts and abilities to the profession. These advantages often include a less confrontational style than that of their male partners, a lower likelihood of use of excessive force, the ability to exercise empathy and effectively diffuse difficult situations —especially domestic calls, and a larger field of awareness in stressful situations.
Female officers' abilities often complement those of male officers, resulting in a tactical as well as an investigative advantage when male-female teams are deployed. These advantages, if leveraged, can only advance the evolution of female service in law enforcement, and benefit the profession and those we serve and protect.
There are many stories of women who helped shape our profession — some are famous, others infamous, and still others are women whose stories are not widely known but are fascinating nonetheless. Further, there are countless stories right now being written by the women law enforcers patrolling the streets across this great nation. What will your story be?
About the author
Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.
Number of Cop Killings in First Half of 2015 Down Substantially from 2014
The number of officers shot and killed by suspects over the first half of 2015 is down substantially at 16 from the 23 officers killed over the same period last year, according to records kept by the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Some, like Sonny Kim of the Cincinnati Police Department, were shot and killed while responding to 911 calls. Terence Green, a Fulton County, Ga., police detective and the first officer to be fatally shot this year, was searching a neighborhood after a report of gunfire March 4, police say, when Amanuel Menghesha shot him.
Others were serving arrest warrants when the suspect in question opened fire. Kerrie Orozco, an Omaha police officer, was shot and killed while she and other officers were serving an arrest warrant in a different shooting. Orozco, 29, was hours away from beginning maternity leave when she was killed.
Overall, though, statistics suggest that being a police officer has gotten much safer over the past few decades. While the FBI reported this year that the number of officers killed in the line of duty nearly doubled last year over the year before — rising to 51 — that number still dramatically falls below what the country saw in previous decades, the Washington Post reports.
U.S. Veterans Are Pulled out of Joblessness and Homelessness
by Renee Randazzo
A new program has been launched to aid U.S. veterans with finding a home, as well as a job and taking an alarming number of veterans out of ‘homelessness system'.
The program was launched under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Its overarching goal is to provide case to case assistance for an approximate 50,000 veterans which are currently unemployed and sadly, living on the streets.
150 centers across the country have been involved in the major effort. Community employment coordinators will take the helms of of actions directed at U.S. veterans through Veteran Affairs locations across the U.S.
Those who are ready for a job, particularly the young veterans will be contacted by the community employment coordinators who will make sure that contact is established with employers within the veteran's community to find certain employment.
Community employment coordinators have already been contracted at 120 medical centers. By 2016, it is expected that all Veteran Affairs Medical centers will have contracted their own specialized mediator.
This program is the latest in a series of constant efforts to reduce homelessness and joblessness among veterans. Since 2009, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have sworn to do their best to eradicate these issue that are plaguing the veteran community.
And they kept to their word. Since 2010, veteran homelessness was reduced with 33 percent. Salt Lake City and Phoenix have reported a total eradication of homelessness among veterans.
To bring other cities to achieve such commendable results, first lady Michelle Obama raised the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The U.S. first lady hopes that by the end of 2015 this challenge will gather sufficient boost to matter in the lives of U.S. veterans.
While simple at first glance, the program is pinpointed by far more complex mechanism that app up to a successful approach. Homeless U.S. veterans must have a roof above their heads, as generally any homeless person should.
Providing a home for the homeless veterans makes medical treatment a lot easier. Tackling mental health issues or addiction is far more effective when the previously homeless person has a roof above their head.
Economically, giving a home to homeless U.S. veterans is also a better option if nothing else. The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority provided an analysis in 2009 which suggested that the costs of caring for a homeless person are considerably higher than the costs of housing and services, with a monthly average of 2,900 dollars compared to 605 dollars.
Providing a home for U.S. veterans is one step forward, yet designing comprehensive programs that may allow them to support themselves adds one more brick to the foundation.
This is why the new program overseen by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs aims to combine both aspects synergistically.
According to Dennis Culhane, director of Veteran Affairs National Center on Homelessness, a steady job goes a thousand miles for U.S. veterans. Not only does it provide constant income, yet is is indicative of a new sense of independence, improved community relations and most importantly, an improved sense of self-worth.
A former cop who killed shares lessons on deadly force
by Martha Irvine
LOS ANGELES – It all happened in seconds. But those brief moments would forever change life for David Klinger, a self-described “beach kid” who'd dreamt of being a police officer since he was a kid. He'd entered the Los Angeles Police Academy in 1981 with a clear motive. He wanted to try to help make life better for the people of violence-ridden south-central Los Angeles.
Now he was standing with his gun pointed at Edward Randolph, who at 26 was just three years older than himself. Randolph had a butcher knife aimed at the throat of Klinger's police partner, Dennis Azevedo, who was on the ground trying with all his might to hold back Randolph's attack.
“Shoot him,” Azevedo cried out to his rookie partner.
Deadly force by police has made headlines from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore. Just this month, a Los Angeles police officer was found “unjustified” in shooting and killing a 25-year-old mentally ill man. Across the country, most officers are exonerated. But more and more people are calling for strategies to make such incidents less common, notably through improved police training.
For Klinger, it has long been a very personal issue — one that led a young cop who entered the “kill zone,” as officers call it, to become a researcher seeking to understand the dynamics of confrontation. In doing so, he hopes to be a voice of reason in an emotional national debate, and an advocate for change.
When Klinger showed up in his ranks on the night shift, Tim Anderson, then an LAPD sergeant, wasn't sure he was the kind of recruit who'd make it in neighborhoods plagued with gang warfare.
Klinger, a quiet, devout Christian, whose dad was a classical clarinet player, had moved to California from Miami, at age 13, with his mom and two sisters after his parents split up. “Here's a kid from a very mild-mannered side of life who ends up here,” Anderson says.
But Klinger was determined. “I actually asked for this to be my assignment out of the academy,” he says, sitting in a restaurant north of Los Angeles after revisiting the scene of Randolph's shooting.
That night in 1981, he was teamed with Azevedo when they were called to a home where an armed burglar had been reported. As a police helicopter circled overhead, a large crowd gathered to watch across busy Vernon Avenue.
“Get out of here!” the officers yelled. Most spectators ran, except Randolph.
Azevedo says he didn't think Randolph could hear him, or maybe didn't speak English. So he ran across the street to try to get him to move.
“In the blink of an eye,” Azevedo recalls how Randolph lunged forward and stabbed him in the lower chest with a blow stopped — just barely — by his protective vest. Stunned, Azevedo tried to draw his gun, but he tripped on uneven pavement, he says — and Randolph jumped on him with the knife raised.
Rushing over, Klinger grabbed Randolph's left wrist, but Randolph broke free. Klinger pulled his own gun and fired at close range.
“I blamed myself for 20 years for not being able to wrest the knife from him,” he says.
Investigators ultimately determined the fatal shooting was justified and that the rookie officer had saved Azevedo's life. But Klinger still found it difficult to rest easy.
In the year that followed, there were nine more times he says he could have shot a civilian — and believes he would have been justified in doing so. But he but didn't shoot because the suspects dropped guns, or other officers intervened.
Feeling like a “magnet” for trouble, he moved to a smaller department in Redmond, Washington. But he found no better fit there. It was time for something new.
Today, the 57-year-old Klinger is a professor in the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He earned a doctorate and has written a book, “Into the Kill Zone,” telling the stories of officers who've shot and killed people.
He also has done research on methods officers can use to avoid deadly force. This spring, testifying at a U.S. Civil Rights Commission hearing on deadly force, one topic he discussed was “tactical positioning,” a strategy in which officers keep a safe distance, unless there is imminent danger.
“Often times, officers find themselves in too close, too quickly, and they don't have any option other than to shoot their way out of it,” Klinger says. “That's where I really think we fall down in American law enforcement.”
He uses last year's police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as an example. Though he agrees that Officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Brown, he also says that shooting might have been avoided if Wilson had waited and called for backup.
Such assessments anger some. But Klinger says police agencies must ask, “What can we learn from this?“'
Even now, there is disagreement among Klinger's own former colleagues about whether the 1981 killing of Edward Randolph could have been avoided. They agree that Klinger was justified in the shooting.
But Anderson, their sergeant, says Azevedo should have ignored Randolph and let him take his chances as they pursued the burglar, who ultimately got away. “He should've never engaged this suspect by himself,” says Anderson, a former SWAT team supervisor, who's retired and now advises police departments on tactical operations.
Azevedo, also retired after a long law enforcement career, stands by his decision. He says it was his duty to try to protect a person he thought was an innocent bystander.
Either way, Klinger has let go of his guilt with the help of a counselor who, as he puts it, helped his heart accept that he “did what he had to do.”
Speaking of Randolph, he says, “He's 26 years old. His whole life was driven by other people besides me. So why should I blame myself for my inability to control him for that one second that I was in physical contact with him?”
It has been, perhaps, the most difficult lesson the professor has learned.
Enough broken windows policing. We need a community-oriented approach
by John Eterno and Eli Silverman
Many criminologists know that broken windows is a broken concept. As President Obama's Task Force on 21 st Century Policing asserts, there is a strong need to enhance community policing and “build trust and legitimacy.”
One key problem with broken windows is its lack of a clear definition. Its characterization has been contorted over the years to mean anything. To many, including police officers, it is zero tolerance – enforcing every minor violation in the book. These advocates see it as the holy grail of crime reduction. Such a system, however, is not responsible for enormous crime decreases. Even the NYPD's boasting of being exclusively responsible for the reduction in homicides has been questioned by academics such as John Jay College's Professor Andrew Karmen and others.
Broken windows also yields unfortunate consequences. It has led to useless summonses in New York City given to: women eating doughnuts in a Brooklyn park; chess players in an Inwood park; subway riders for placing their feet on seats at 4am and an elderly Queens couple cited for no seatbelts on a freezing cold night while driving to purchase needed prescription drugs. Allegedly, the man was instructed to walk home to secure identification – a few blocks from the pharmacy. When he returned to the pharmacy, the officers already wrote the ticket using a prescription bottle as identification. The elderly man's subsequent heart attack led to his death. The city is now being sued. Good police work? We think not.
Though many people associate broken windows policing with a focus on statistical arrest data, few are aware that broken windows wasn't endorsed by the late NYPD deputy commissioner Jack Maple. Maple was a former confidant of Commissioner Bill Bratton and the key architect of Compstat, NYPD's performance management system (erroneously associated with broken windows) that has gone viral among police departments. Contrary to the practice of broken windows, Maple argued that rules have to be designed to catch the “sharks” not the “dolphins,” pointing out how costly and inefficient it is to simply arrest all minor violations. Today very few have focused on his insights.
Instead, under the most common conception of broken windows policy, professional police officers are treated as if they are automatons, seeing a violation and forced to write it up or make an arrest. Officers lack discretion in meeting strict arrest, summons and stop and frisk quotas.
Stop and frisk is a byproduct of “broken windows” policing because of its unremitting pressures to stop millions of innocent minority men. There have been arguments to return to the former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's stop and frisk policy of stopping everyone, despite court rulings outlawing the manner in which this policy has been practiced in New York City and elsewhere. This would be a disaster.
Though some still stubbornly argue that stop and frisk efficiently gets guns off the streets, they're misinformed. In its heyday, with hundreds of thousands of illegal stops conducted annually, only 0.1% of those stops led to guns. There are far more successful strategies for getting guns off the streets, of which Commissioner Bratton is well aware (as the architect of earlier successful efforts, including working with communities to get information on crime, using detectives to interrogate suspects likely to have knowledge of where illegal guns are, gun buy-back programs and working with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agents and other federal authorities to stop gun running and trace illegal guns to their sources).
Other tactics that need to be embraced include placing more officers on the ground, especially at hotspots where crime is rampant. These officers need to be properly trained to use their discretion in a professional manner. This stands in stark contrast to the unrelenting practice of broken windows policing, which places enormous pressures on police officers to cast wide nets of summonses and arrests and vitiates their professional capacities.
Officers need to develop close ties to the communities they serve rather than alienate them. They should not browbeat citizens but work with them so that if citizens see something they will actually say something to the local beat cop. Officers must have the discretion to write or not write a summons, conduct a forcible stop or make an arrest. They must not be robots who try to meet mindless quotas. Most importantly, communities must have input into police practices. This must be substantive rather than a simple going through the motions to check boxes.
Target and quota driven policing has been exposed as a threadbare approach to policing in many countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia. Police reform is long overdue. Police leaders must make sure not to repeat the illegal stops of minority youth, ludicrous quotas, useless summonses and arrests and haranguing innocent citizens. Policing in a democratic society requires a problem-solving, community oriented approach. Crime and terrorism cannot be solved by police departments focused on targets. Rather, partnerships with communities will yield intelligence information that is far more valuable than summonses given to elderly couples looking to get their prescription medication.
Laser pointers could bring serious consequences
by Zack McDonald
PANAMA CITY — Inexpensive and readily available, laser pointers can end up costing much more than they are worth if pointed at U.S. Coast Guard aircrafts or vessels.
So the U.S. Coast Guard is alerting the public to the dangers of pointing handheld lasers at Coast Guard boat and aircrews after a recent incident.
Watchstanders at the Coast Guard Station Panama City received a report Sunday evening at 6:48 p.m. of a disabled 15-foot Jon Boat with four people on board, a 50-year-old father and his three children, who had lost communications with his wife on shore. The operator of the boat was attempting to paddle four miles back in to shore toward Lake Powell, according to official reports.
Coast Guard crews launched a 45-foot response boat but could not locate the stranded vessel. While attempting to conduct the search, the response boat crew reported multiple laser strikes in the vicinity of the search area, all originating from shore, from at least two different sources, officials said.
The laser strikes derailed the search effort.
Two members of the boat crew were struck directly in the eyes from the lasers and had to seek medical attention following the incident. The father and three children on the Jon boat were able to paddle back to shore and made it back safely.
Laser strikes can be seriously damaging to the victims, which is why they are not taken lightly by authorities.
Pilots affected by laser strikes regularly report temporary effects in vision, including: afterimage, flash blindness and temporary loss of night vision. In some cases, a laser strike can result in permanent damage to a person's eye sight. If a crewmember is lased it severely compromises their ability to effectively respond and safely operate the aircraft or vessel, ultimately endangering the safety and lives of crewmembers aboard and the general public.
The Coast Guard asks anyone witnessing this crime to report it to local law enforcement. And punishments for violating federal laws against laser strikes are not light.
Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime and a felony offense that could cost up to $250,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years. Pointing a laser at a vessel demands a steeper punishment of up to 20 years in prison. If the laser strike causes a death, and depending on the cargo of the vessel, the defendant could face even more jail time.