July, 2015 - Week 2
L.A. sheriff officials on leave after 'troubling' allegations over inmate treatment
by David Zahniser
Ten Los Angeles County Jail employees were relieved of duty pending further investigation following an incident involving an inmate who was allegedly “restrained” for 32 hours, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Saturday.
McDonnell called the allegations of inmate neglect “troubling” and said he took the actions Friday, a day after he learned of the inmate's complaint. The incident has been reported to the FBI and various offices charged with oversight of Sheriff's Department misconduct.
The sheriff said he received allegations last week that an inmate booked June 19 at the department's Inmate Reception Center had been handcuffed for a “lengthy period of time” and had not been provided food, according to the sheriff's statement. Those alleged circumstances occurred after the inmate reportedly assaulted a female deputy.
During the time the inmate was restrained, he received medical treatment and a cup of water, according to the statement.
“The investigation into this incident is ongoing and will be thorough,” said McDonnell, who came into office on a reform mandate last year in the wake of widespread reports of inmate abuse. “It will not only focus on employee actions, but also on corrective policies and procedures.”
Two lieutenants, one sergeant, one senior deputy, four deputies and two custody assistants were relieved of duty pending further investigation. In addition, “a number of others” were reassigned to other duties, the department said.
McDonnell's announcement comes less than a month after three sheriff's deputies were convicted of beating a handcuffed inmate bloody and then lying to cover up the abuse. That case was the product of a wide-ranging FBI probe in the county's jails.
The sheriff's statement about the latest inmate abuse allegations was released about 7 p.m. Saturday. Department officials declined requests from The Times for information on the inmate's name, age and reason for being booked at the Inmate Reception Center.
The inmate filed a complaint with the department June 27. According to the department's statement, the inmate ate upon entry to the jail. While he was restrained, he received medical attention and a cup of water, according to the statement.
Department officials notified custody personnel of the protocols regarding the restraint and feeding of inmates. They also ordered additional training and other “corrective action.”
“I am deeply committed to providing the highest levels of constitutional care to those in our charge and will quickly address and remedy any conduct, policies or practices that do not meet this expectation and high standard,” McDonnell said in his statement.
The FBI is conducting an investigation of the Sheriff's Department's management of county jails. At least 12 members of the department have been convicted of crimes, including civil rights violations and obstructing the FBI's investigation.
The most recent convictions came last month, as two deputies and their former supervisor were found guilty of violating the civil rights of a man who was beaten and pepper-sprayed while handcuffed at Men's Central Jail. The man, Gabriel Carrillo, had gone to the jail with his girlfriend to visit his brother, who was an inmate there. A federal jury deliberated for just four hours before delivering its verdicts.
The FBI is investigating a range of jail abuses that allegedly involved those at the highest levels of the department. In May, former Assistant Sheriff Paul Tanaka was indicted on obstruction charges, along with a captain.
Tanaka's lawyer called the charges "baseless" and promised to aggressively defend him in court.
You can't have community policing without community input
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner's homicide at the hands of the NYPD, which makes it a good time for the department – actually, any department – to reassess its role in service of its community.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner William Bratton announced a plan last week that could transform how their city polices its neighborhoods, but there is no guarantee the execution will be as good as the concept. The city known for racial profiling (as a federal court called its stop-and-frisk policy under Mayor Bloomberg) is trying its hand at community policing, or its version of it.
Among its features: Officers from special units will join beat cops; patrolmen will spend one-third of their time "problem-solving," without being interrupted by 9-1-1 calls; and "neighborhood coordinating officers" will pinpoint problem areas.
It's fine in theory, one that every urban force should consider, as distrust still separates cops from the neighborhoods they patrol. New Jersey's largest departments are learning this gradually as they undergo historic changes.
Only this is Bratton we're talking about – an unwavering devotee of broken windows policing, which emphasizes petty-crime enforcement, on the dubious theory that it prevents people from committing bigger crimes. So as he calls for a more "intimate" relationship between New Yorkers and his officers, neighborhood policing expert Dr. Delores Jones-Brown of John Jay College observes that the NYPD plan has been publicly endorsed by exactly one community organization (Catholic Charities), "and that doesn't exactly represent any sea change."
The bottom line is, until more voices from people of color in those highly-policed communities are incorporated into designing the strategy, little will change in urban law enforcement. The community must be invested in policing itself, as former NJ Police Training Commission chairman Wayne Fisher explains, because "these programs work on relationships, and the collaborations that precede them."
Perhaps this is merely the first NYPD response to community distrust, but if more foot patrols just translate to more harassment, it misses its target.
New Jersey's urban forces may not be national models, but some are taking steps toward these types of reform. Camden's new county PD still issues too many summonses for bicycles without bells and other absurdities, but one cannot deny its gains with community outreach.
Newark can do better in revealing its own stop-and-frisk data, but with robust civilian oversight and a new review board – it took an activist to become a mayor to end that four-decade wait – the NPD is also going in the right direction.
New York City has a lot of ground to cover, with an entire country watching. One hopes it knows the cameras are still rolling.
Public Safety Forum Highlights Need For Improvement in WeHo
by Kyveli Diener
At West Hollywood's “Coffee with the Captain” public safety forum, Sheriff's deputies implored the public to report more information more effectively, while citizens exposed gaps in patrol's execution of commanding orders to take community issues more seriously
Dozens of West Hollywood residents turned out today for a public discussion with the head of the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station about crime in the city and what some see as the station's lack of an effective response.
The public meeting, dubbed “Coffee with the Captain,” was hosted by Mayor Lindsey Horvath in response to increased community outcry after a spate of attacks in the city's Boystown nightlife area over the past six months that has sent multiple victims to area hospitals, including one man who spent weeks in a medically-induced coma. Participating in the forum were Capt. Gary Honings, who heads the Sheriff's Station, and Lt. David Smith.
In addition to sharing statistics about crime in the area and developments on high profile cases, Honing and Smith used the meeting to dispel what they said were misunderstandings about local law enforcement — most notably about the hours that deputies are on the job — and to offer tips on how the public can help them stop violent crimes in the city.
Some crime prevention advocates have expressed concern that Sheriff's deputies leave the strip of bars and clubs in the gay nightlife area along the western end Santa Monica Boulevard around 2 a.m. to return to the station and fill out paperwork. That is the hour bars close and patrons are ushered en masse onto the sidewalks to contend with those who drank too much and those seeking a chance at an easy robbery.
Honings and Smith said the city's contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for public safety services calls for 23 deputies to be on duty on any given day. They said the station assigns eight deputies to the early morning and late-night shifts and seven deputies to the midday shift. The three overlapping shifts cover a full 24 hours. Smith said the morning shift runs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., the midday shift is from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and the late-night shift extends from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Smith told those attending the meeting that due to overlapping shifts and the department's Entertainment Policing Team, which offers car patrols across the entire city, there could be as many as 15 deputies on duty during a particular shift. However, residents have complained that only two deputies are ever on foot patrols, actually walking the streets in the densely populated city. In response to complaints about that, Smith announced on Thursday that a team of one supervisor and three deputies will walk the streets in the Boystown area on the city's Westside six nights a week and in the area on the Eastside near the Gateway shopping complex on one night a week.
During Horvath's moderation of the forum she asked questions of Honings and Smith that residents had raised with her with via e-mails, phone calls and text messages. Several of these questions related to the time it took for Sheriff's deputies to get a lead on suspects related to the random acts of violence in recent weeks, most notably the May 24 attack on 45-year-old Kirk Doffing, who remains hospitalized after coming out of a medically-induced coma last month.
The slow progress of the investigation into the attack that smashed Doffing's skull in an alley behind Rage bar near Santa Monica Boulevard sparked public outcry has caused residents to complain that the Sheriff's Station was derelict in its responsibilities. Honings and Smith took time at today's meeting to highlight impediments to the investigation, and they pleaded with community members to “spread the word” about ways the public can assist in stopping violent crimes.
The biggest hold-up in the Doffing case, Honings said, was that they were unable to get the victim's statement because he was in a coma. The second major roadblock was that no witness to the crime came forward until after a $10,000 reward was offered for information. That reward, offered weeks after the attack, was a last resort that the station put off for as long as possible due to the influx of often inaccurate information a reward sometimes brings. It wasn't until witnesses came forward that the station was able to prepare a composite sketch of the suspect in Doffing's assault, which was just released this week.
Honings and Smith said that following the age-old adage of “see something, say something” is best way to avoid future attacks on the streets, a statement that was echoed by West Hollywood business owner Nir Zilberman. “We can't keep blaming the city and the sheriffs for our problems — we need to work to protect ourselves,” Zilberman said.
“You're our eyes and ears on the street,” Smith told the assembled crowd.
“Not only that,” Honings added, “you're our best eyes and ears on the street, because this is your community, so you know when something doesn't belong.”
The officers beseeched the crowd to help in two vital ways. First and foremost, to report a crime immediately after it occurs, especially if the caller is the victim. As an example, the officers discussed another recent beating, that of local dancer Jose Segovia, aka Joe Sega, who was attacked near the Santa Monica Boulevard club Rage last Monday morning after an argument. Segovia did not report his assault until over 24 hours after it had occurred because he was embarrassed that it had happened to him, which hindered the police investigation by putting them so far behind the suspects.
Secondly is a willingness to “be a good witness,” the officers said. Honings said he was shocked that there wasn't a single cell phone video of Doffing's beating, even though three other people were with the suspect and stood by when he beat Doffing. One of those three, Honings said, reportedly even tried to pull the suspect off of Doffing at one point, but still no one from the scene came forward to help the Sheriff's Station
Not only did the Sheriff's Station representatives request that citizens report more crime-related information, they also asked them to change the way they report that information, agreeing with a resident who said the fastest way to get help isn't by walking to the station house, but rather by calling the 911 emergency number.
“In one of the attacks that happened, the two men walked over to the counter [at the Sheriff's station], and for some reason they thought it was like Cedars-Sinai's Emergency Room concierge service,” one resident said, barely half-joking. “I think it would be better to educate people that when something's happening to immediately dial 911. People should just start dialing immediately so the Sheriffs can be aware that something's going on and possibly catch this person.”
At the end of the meeting, residents in the audience raised individual concerns, with one recurring theme — an old tune: that deputies, despite public statements from Honings that they've been instructed to treat citizens with issues as a top priority, offer little help when residents actually do call in with tips and needs.
For example, a woman at the meeting said she reported repeated suspicious activity near her home — a transient man checking for unlocked door knobs up and down her street who one day began arriving on her block in a very expensive car, which she believed may have been stolen and which he appeared to be driving while intoxicated. But, she said, when she asked the Sheriff's Station to check if the car's license plate was that of a stolen vehicle and come look into the transient she says the response was that there was “nothing they could do” and that if she saw the man again to call again and “maybe they'd come if they weren't busy with something else.”
A group of seven tenants of an apartment building on the Eastside of West Hollywood near Santa Monica Boulevard and Formosa Avenue complained about the Sheriff's Station's response to their complaints about a group of five transients. The residents said the transients were sleeping and leaving used drug syringes in their driveway nightly, using lockers meant for residents as storage containers for their clothes, alcohol and drugs, and, on occasion, even slipping into the apartment building before the door was closed and locked. The tenants said the response they received from the Sheriff's Station was that “homelessness is not a crime,” and that they felt like the needs of West Hollywood's Eastside residents were being ignored.
“There's a disconnect between what you're telling your deputies and how they treat us, because when we call, we're the problem,” said one of the tenants. “I called about suspicious behavior and a possible breaking-and-entering, and I got a lecture on the socio-economic plight of homelessness.”
“An issue that affects many of our city's needs — not just public safety — is communication.” Horvath said before entering the event to explain why she hosted it. “This is an opportunity to establish new protocols, to see what information can be made more transparent, and, if that information can't be made available to the public, to explain why.”
“I think this was a very good start,” Smith said, adding that if they held another such forum his only change would be for he and Honings to appear out of uniform. “I think next time we could be in our casual clothes and still be representatives of the Sheriff's Department. That could be more low-key and relatable, because we're a part of the community as well.”
State's waiting list leaves mentally ill woman stuck in jail
by Mark Brown
A month ago, I reported relief was in sight for a severely mentally ill woman being held at the Cook County Jail and in need of treatment. Unfortunately, it hasn't arrived.
On Friday, the Cook County public defender's office filed a contempt motion against state mental health officials in hopes of getting an explanation for why they have yet to take custody of 41-year-old Veronica Gorlicki.
Gorlicki is homeless during the rare times she isn't in jail or a mental hospital, though she tells people her home is an island mansion, accessible only by helicopter, that was built for her by President Obama. She has been behind bars since the Des Plaines police arrested her March 19 on a criminal trespassing charge.
That's something like 115 days in custody now for a person who doesn't really belong in jail, not that anybody seems to be counting except the Cook County sheriff's office.
At any given time, the sheriff's office has a dozen or more individuals at the jail awaiting transfer to a state mental institution, which doesn't include dozens more waiting for a judge to decide that's the best way to handle them even when it's fairly obvious from their history.
All too often, these are people held in jail up to a year or more for minor cases like shoplifting or disorderly conduct.
That's an ongoing problem for those responsible for managing the jail population and an expensive problem for taxpayers, not to mention a really lousy way to deal with the unfortunate souls who need treatment not incarceration.
On June 8, a Cook County judge ordered the Illinois Department of Human Services to find a place for Gorlicki within 30 days. That deadline has come and gone, which is why the public defender is back in court.
In her motion, Assistant Public Defender Sandra Bennewitz requests that Anderson Freeman, the department's director of forensic services, explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt for violating the judge's order.
The public defender's motion contends that, without treatment from the state, Gorlicki's condition will continue to deteriorate.
In a written statement, a spokesman for the department said she couldn't comment on any specific case but assured me “the issue of waiting lists for mental health services is not new, particularly when it pertains to women.”
“The number of referrals often exceeds the number of beds available statewide. IDHS and the Division of Mental Health make every effort to serve patients as expeditiously as circumstances allow,” the spokesman said.
She said the state has only 80 mental health beds for women, with the waiting list currently at 13.
I'm not trying to cast personal blame on Freeman or necessarily on the Human Services agency, which I realize has its own challenges in helping the Veronica Gorlickis of the world.
But after reading the statement, I see some value in dragging DHS officials into court to explain to a judge and the public just how understaffed, underfunded and overextended they are.
It also would be interesting to find out whether the department has any plans to solve this problem that it acknowledges is not new.
For those who get all squeamish about potential danger from mentally ill individuals, I'm not seeking to return Gorlicki to the community, at least not any time soon.
Although there is general agreement she's not a threat to anyone else, the extent of her mental illness — psychotic, bipolar and suffering from delusions — makes her extremely vulnerable to being preyed upon by others.
Even her father tells me he sleeps better knowing she's safer in the jail than out on the streets.
But Gorlicki needs help, and a punitive setting like the jail is not the best place to get that. Even the Cermak Hospital wing of the jail where Gorlicki is being held cannot provide the therapeutic environment and services she needs.
This is not a problem affecting just one person, but I keep hoping this one person can help you see the larger problem.
From the Department of Justice
Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates and FBI Director James B. Comey Deliver Statement Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Good morning, Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Leahy, and Members of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the growing challenges to public safety and national security that have eroded our ability to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to a court order or warrant. We in law enforcement often refer to this problem as “Going Dark”.
We would also like to thank this Committee more generally for its continued support for the mission of the Department of Justice. We know that you, like us, take very seriously the role of the Department in protecting the public in a manner that upholds the Constitution and the rule of law.
In recent years, new methods of electronic communication have transformed our society, most visibly by enabling ubiquitous digital communications and facilitating broad e-commerce. As such, it is important for our global economy and our national security to have strong encryption standards. The development and robust adoption of strong encryption is a key tool to secure commerce and trade, safeguard private information, promote free expression and association, and strengthen cybersecurity. The Department is on the frontlines of the fight against cybercrime and we know first-hand the damage that can be caused by those who exploit vulnerable and insecure systems. We support and encourage the use of secure networks to prevent cyber threats to our critical national infrastructure, our intellectual property, and our data so as to promote our overall safety.
American citizens care deeply about privacy and rightly so. Many companies have been responding to a market demand for products and services that protect the privacy and security of their customers. This has generated positive innovation that has been crucial to the digital economy. We, too, care about these important principles. Indeed, it is our obligation to uphold civil liberties, including the right to privacy.
We have always respected the fundamental right of people to engage in private communications, regardless of the medium or technology. Whether it is instant messages, texts, or old-fashioned letters, citizens have the right to communicate with one another in private without unauthorized government surveillance—not simply because the Constitution demands it, but because the free flow of information is vital to a thriving democracy.
The benefits of our increasingly digital lives, however, have been accompanied by new dangers, and we have been forced to consider how criminals and terrorists might use advances in technology to their advantage. For example, malicious actors can take advantage of the Internet to covertly plot violent robberies, murders, and kidnappings; sex offenders can establish virtual communities to buy, sell, and encourage the creation of new depictions of horrific sexual abuse of children; and individuals, organized criminal networks, and nation-states can exploit weaknesses in our cyber-defenses to steal our sensitive, personal information. Investigating and prosecuting these offenders is a core responsibility and priority of the Department of Justice. As national security and criminal threats continue to evolve, the Department has worked hard to stay ahead of changing threats and changing technology.
We mst ensure both the fundamental right of people to engage in private communications as well as the protection of the public. One of the bedrock principles upon which we rely to guide us is the principle of judicial authorization: that if an independent judge finds reason to believe that certain private communications contain evidence of a crime, then the government can conduct a limited search for that evidence. For example, by having a neutral arbiter—the judge—evaluate whether the government's evidence satisfies the appropriate standard, we have been able to protect the public and safeguard citizens' Constitutional rights.
The Department of Justice has been and will always be committed to protecting the liberty and security of those whom we serve. In recent months, however, we have on a new scale seen mainstream products and services designed in a way that gives users sole control over access to their data. As a result, law enforcement is sometimes unable to recover the content of electronic communications from the technology provider even in response to a court order or duly-authorized warrant issued by a Federal judge. For example, many communications services now encrypt certain communications by default, with the key necessary to decrypt the communications solely in the hands of the end user. This applies both when the data is “in motion” over electronic networks, or “at rest” on an electronic device. If the communications provider is served with a warrant seeking those communications, the provider cannot provide the data because it has designed the technology such that it cannot be accessed by any third party.
The more we as a society rely on electronic devices to communicate and store information, the more likely it is that information that was once found in filing cabinets, letters, and photo albums will now be stored only in electronic form. We have seen case after case – from homicides and kidnappings, to drug trafficking, financial fraud, and child exploitation – where critical evidence came from smart phones, computers, and online communications.
When changes in technology hinder law enforcement's ability to exercise investigative tools and follow critical leads, we may not be able to identify and stop terrorists who are using social media to recruit, plan, and execute an attack in our country. We may not be able to root out the child predators hiding in the shadows of the Internet, or find and arrest violent criminals who are targeting our neighborhoods. We may not be able to recover critical information from a device that belongs to a victim who cannot provide us with the password, especially when time is of the essence.
These are not just theoretical concerns. We continue to identify individuals who seek to join the ranks of foreign fighters traveling in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as ISIL, and also homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within. These threats remain among the highest priorities for the Department of Justice, including the FBI, and the United States government as a whole.
Of course, encryption is not the only technology terrorists and criminals use to further their ends. Terrorist groups, such as ISIL, use the Internet to great effect. With the widespread horizontal distribution of social media, terrorists can spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize vulnerable individuals of all ages in the United States either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack. As a result, foreign terrorist organizations now have direct access into the United States like never before. For example, in recent arrests, a group of individuals was contacted by a known ISIL supporter who had already successfully traveled to Syria and encouraged them to do the same. Some of these conversations occur in publicly accessed social networking sites, but others take place via private messaging platforms. These encrypted direct messaging platforms are tremendously problematic when used by terrorist plotters.
Outside of the terrorism arena we see countless examples of the impact changing technology is having on our ability to affect our court authorized investigative tools. For example, last December a long-haul trucker kidnapped his girlfriend, held her in his truck, drove her from State to State and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She eventually escaped and pressed charges for sexual assault and kidnapping. The trucker claimed that the woman he had kidnapped engaged in consensual sex. The trucker in this case happened to record his assault on video using a smartphone, and law enforcement was able to access the content stored on that phone pursuant to a search warrant, retrieving video that revealed that the sex was not consensual. A jury subsequently convicted the trucker.
In a world where users have sole control over access to their devices and communications, and so can easily block all lawfully-authorized access to their data, the jury would not have been able to consider that evidence, unless the truck driver, against his own interest, provided the data. And the theoretical availability of other types of evidence, irrelevant to the case, would have made no difference. In that world, the grim likelihood that he would go free is a cost that we must forthrightly acknowledge and consider.
We are seeing more and more cases where we believe significant evidence resides on a phone, a tablet, or a laptop—evidence that may be the difference between an offender being convicted or acquitted. If we cannot access this evidence, it will have ongoing, significant impacts on our ability to identify, stop, and prosecute these offenders.
We would like to emphasize that the “Going Dark” problem is, at base, one of technological choices and capability . We are not asking to expand the Government's surveillance authority, but rather we are asking to ensure that we can continue to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe.
The rules for the collection of the content of communications in order to protect public safety have been worked out by Congress and the courts over decades. Our country is justifiably proud of the strong privacy protections established by the Constitution and by Congress, and the Department of Justice fully complies with those protections. The core question is this: once all of the requirements and safeguards of the laws and the Constitution have been met, are we comfortable with technical design decisions that result in barriers to obtaining evidence of a crime?
We would like to describe briefly the law and the extensive checks, balances, and safeguards that it contains. In addition to the Constitution, two statutes are particularly relevant to the Going Dark problem. Generally speaking, in order for the Government to conduct real- time — i.e. , data in motion—electronic surveillance of the content of a suspect's communications, it must meet the standards set forth in either the amended versions of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (often referred to as “Title III” or the “Wiretap Act”) or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (or “FISA”). Title III authorizes the Government to obtain a court order to conduct surveillance of wire, oral, or electronic communications when it is investigating Federal felonies. Generally speaking, FISA similarly relies upon judicial authorization, through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to approve surveillance directed at foreign intelligence and international terrorism threats.
Regardless of which statute governs, however, the standards for the real-time electronic surveillance of United States persons' communications are demanding. For instance, if Federal law enforcement seeks the authority to intercept phone calls in a criminal case using the Wiretap Act, a Federal district court judge must find:
That there is probable cause to believe the person whose communications are targeted for interception is committing, has committed, or is about to commit, a felony offense;
That alternative investigative procedures have failed, are unlikely to succeed, or are too dangerous; and
That there is probable cause to believe that evidence of the felony will be obtained through the surveillance.
The law also requires that before an application is even brought to a court, it must be approved by a high-ranking Department of Justice official. In addition, court orders allowing wiretap authority expire after 30 days; if the Government seeks to extend surveillance beyond this period it must submit another application with a fresh showing of probable cause and investigative necessity. And the Government is required to minimize to the extent possible its electronic interceptions to exclude non-pertinent and privileged communications. All of these requirements are approved by a Federal court.
The statutory requirements for electronic surveillance of U.S. persons under FISA are also demanding. To approve that surveillance, the FISC, must, among other things, find probable cause to believe:
That the target of the surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power; and
That each of the facilities or places at which the electronic surveillance is directed is being used or is about to be used by a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.
Similarly, when law enforcement investigators seek access to electronic information stored — i.e. , data at rest—on a device, such as a smartphone, they are likewise bound by the mandates of the Fourth Amendment, which typically require them to demonstrate probable cause to a neutral judge, who independently decides whether to issue a search warrant for that data.
Collectively, these statutes reflect a concerted Congressional effort, overseen by an independent judiciary, to validate the principles enshrined in our Constitution and balance several sometimes-competing, yet equally-legitimate social interests: privacy, public safety, national security, and effective justice. The evolution and operation of technology today has led to recent trends that threaten this time-honored approach. In short, the same ingenuity that has improved our lives in so many ways has also resulted in the proliferation of products and services where providers can no longer assist law enforcement in executing warrants.
Both Title III and FISA include provisions mandating technical assistance so that the Government will be able to carry out activities authorized by the court. For example, Title III specifies that a “service provider, landlord…or other person shall furnish [the Government]…forthwith all…technical assistance necessary to accomplish the interception.” As the communications environment has grown in volume and complexity, technical assistance has proven to be essential for interception to occur. These provisions alone, however, have not historically been sufficient to enable the Government to conduct electronic surveillance in a timely and effective manner.
In the early 1990s, the telecommunications industry was undergoing a major transformation and the Government faced a similar problem: determining how best to ensure that law enforcement could reliably obtain evidence from emerging telecommunications networks. At that time, law enforcement agencies were experiencing a reduced ability to conduct intercepts of mobile voice communications as digital, switch-based telecommunications services grew in popularity. In response, Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994. CALEA requires “telecommunications carriers” to develop and deploy intercept solutions in their networks to ensure that the Government is able to intercept electronic communications when lawfully authorized, although it does not require a carrier to decrypt communications encrypted by the customer unless the carrier provided the encryption and possesses the information necessary to decrypt. Specifically, it requires carriers to be able to isolate and deliver particular communications, to the exclusion of other communications, and to be able to deliver information regarding the origination and termination of the communication (also referred to as “pen register information” or “dialing and signaling information”). CALEA regulates the capabilities that covered entities must have and does not affect the process or the legal standards that the Government must meet in order to obtain a court order to collect communications or related data.
While CALEA was intended to keep pace with technological changes, its focus was on telecommunications carriers that provided traditional telephony and mobile telephone services, not Internet-based communications services. Over the years, through interpretation of the statute by the Federal Communications Commission, the reach of CALEA has been expanded to include facilities-based broadband Internet access and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that are fully interconnected with the public switched telephone network. Although that expansion of coverage has been extremely helpful, CALEA does not cover popular Internet-based communications services such as email, Internet messaging, social networking sites, or peer-to- peer services.
At the time CALEA was enacted, Internet-based communications were in a fairly early stage of development, and digital telephony represented the greatest challenge to law enforcement. However, due to the revolutionary shift in communications technology in recent years, the Government has lost ground in its ability to execute court orders with respect to Internet-based communications that are not covered by CALEA.
The harms resulting from the inability of companies to comply with court-ordered surveillance warrants are not abstract, and have very real consequences in different types of criminal and national security investigations.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice believes that the challenges posed by the Going Dark problem, are grave, growing, and extremely complex. At the outset, it is important to emphasize that we believe that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy that will ensure progress. We have been asked what we should do going forward. We believe we will need to pursue multiple paths:
All involved must continue to ensure that citizens' legitimate privacy interests can be effectively secured, including through robust technology and legal protections.
We must continue the current public debate about how best to ensure that privacy and security can co-exist and reinforce each other, and continue to consider all of the legitimate concerns at play, including ensuring that law enforcement can keep us safe. The debate so far has been a challenging and highly charged discussion, but one that we believe is essential to have. This includes a productive and meaningful dialogue on how encryption as currently implemented poses real barriers to law enforcement's ability to seek information in specific cases of possible national security threat.
We also cannot lose sight of the international implications of this issue. It is clear that governments across the world, including those of our closest allies, recognize the serious public safety risks if criminals can plan and undertake illegal acts without fear of detection. It is also true that other countries—particularly those without our commitment to the rule of law—are using this debate as a cynical means to create trade barriers, impose undue burdens on our companies and undermine human rights. We should be clear that any steps that we take here in the United States may impact the decisions that other nations take—both our closest democratic allies and more repressive regimes. In addition, any next steps we identify will be more effective if we are working together with our allies, and made more difficult if we are isolated.
We should also continue to invest in developing tools, techniques, and capabilities designed to mitigate the increasing technical challenges associated with the “Going Dark” problem. In limited circumstances, this investment may help mitigate the risks posed in high priority national security or criminal cases, although it will most likely be unable to provide a timely or scalable solution in terms of addressing the full spectrum of public safety needs.
We don't have any silver bullet, and the discussions within the Executive Branch are still ongoing. While there has not yet been a decision whether to seek legislation, we must work with Congress, industry, academics, privacy groups and others to craft an approach that addresses all of the multiple, competing legitimate concerns that have been the focus of so much debate in recent months. But we can all agree that we will need ongoing honest and informed public debate about how best to protect liberty and security in both our laws and our technology.
Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Leahy, we would like to thank you and the members of this Committee again for your attention to this subject of national importance. While technology may change, our basic commitment at the Department to upholding the rule of law and our constitutional traditions does not. Our goal at the Department is to work collaboratively and in good faith with interested stakeholders to explore approaches that protect the integrity of technology and promote strong encryption to protect privacy, while still allowing lawful access to information in order to protect public safety and national security.
We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
From the FBI
Investigating Human Rights -- Reaching Out to Diaspora Communities in U.S. for War Crimes Tips
Five years ago, nearly a dozen former soldiers who served during the Bosnian civil war in the early ‘90s before settling in Arizona were sentenced for lying on their applications for refugee status when they came to the U.S. Last year, a Bosnian-born Minnesota man was arrested on fraud charges for not disclosing crimes—including murder, kidnapping, and robbery—he allegedly committed during his military service in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In January, a Bosnian-born Vermont man was found guilty of lying to get into the U.S. and obtain his naturalized citizenship.
These cases illustrate efforts across multiple agencies and international borders to hold accountable any individuals who committed war crimes or atrocities overseas before entering and settling in the U.S. And Bosnian war criminals represent just a sampling of the subjects being sought. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and cases on individuals from about 96 countries. The FBI, which works alongside HSI and special prosecutors at the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in Northern Virginia, has pending investigations in nearly a third of our 56 field offices.
Managing the FBI's role in identifying, locating, and investigating these cases is the Bureau's International Human Rights Unit (IHRU), which works closely with partner intelligence agencies and the Department of State to identify subjects and gather leads. Agents in the unit then coordinate the FBI's approach in the field—whether it's collecting intelligence, developing sources, or just meeting leaders in diaspora communities to make them aware that the FBI is seeking tips on the whereabouts of suspected war criminals and human rights violators.
“We are asking those communities, ‘If you know somebody or if you have heard of somebody who has done those things, let us know and then we'll go from there,'” said Thomas Bishop, head of the IHRU. “I think in a lot of these communities, people know someone who was involved with something—or they hear about somebody being involved—but they may not know what to do with it. All we need is a tip so we can see if there's anything to it.”
The FBI has had an expanding role investigating human rights crimes since 1988, when Congress added genocide to the U.S. criminal code. Torture was included in the code in 1994 and war crimes in 1996. The most recent addition, in 2008, was the recruitment of child soldiers—an offense exemplified at the time by fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, who famously recruited children into his notorious Lord's Resistance Army.
Following the Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities in 2011, the FBI formalized an international human rights program to leverage its intelligence capabilities and vast network of field agents and analysts. The genocide and war crimes program, as it was then called, was originally part of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, but last fall it was reorganized under the Criminal Division's Civil Rights Program and given its current name. Jeffrey Sallet, head of the Bureau's Public Corruption/Civil Rights Section, which includes IHRU, said the shift creates a one-stop shop of experts on human rights and public corruption matters, which often go hand-in-hand.
“Corruption leads to lack of confidence in government,” he said. “Lack of confidence in government leads to failed states. And failed states lead to terror and human rights abuses. The people who are kleptocrats and robbing their countries are often the same people who are committing these abuses.”
Agents in the IHRU have territories they manage—Africa, Latin America, for example—and work directly with agents in the field when they need a lead covered.
“We're going to go out to the field office and say, ‘We have a file, we have these requirements, will you go out and talk to your sources and collect this information?'” said Vanya Voivedich, a special agent in the unit. When the information comes back, it is shared and analyzed to either build a case or close a lead.
In some cases, when crimes occurred before the U.S. war crimes statutes were in place, subjects can still be prosecuted on lesser violations. Subjects who lied about their refugee status are subject to deportation to their home countries. One of the defendants in the Phoenix case in 2010, Mladen Blagojevic, was ultimately sent back to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he was tried and sentenced to seven years in prison for crimes against humanity.
Pointing to the 20-year anniversary of the July 1995 genocide in the Bosnian town of Srebenica, in which around 8,000 men and boys were killed or taken prisoner, the FBI is renewing its plea for tips to bring to justice anyone involved in human rights violations.
“People in diaspora communities know each other,” said Voivedich, “they'll know if someone in their community committed atrocities and are now here enjoying the benefits of starting a new life. And they see how that may not be fair.”
Contact the FBI
The FBI seeks information from diaspora members, refugees, and asylum seekers here in the U.S. with knowledge of human rights violations committed abroad.
If you have any information about perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, or other related mass atrocities, please submit it to us at tips.fbi.gov or contact your local FBI office, domestically or internationally
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Announces “If You See Something Say Something™” Partnership With City Of Chicago And Cook County
WASHINGTON— The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the expansion of the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign to the city of Chicago and Cook County, Ill.
“Public awareness and participation in our homeland security efforts are essential to keeping our local communities safe,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “Whether you are in downtown Chicago at Navy Pier or jogging down the city's new 606 Park, we all play a role in protecting our neighborhoods and communities. I applaud Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Emanuel for joining the “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign.”
“If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign materials will be visible throughout Chicago and Cook County in public buildings, transit systems and on mobile apps. In addition “If You See Something, Say Something™” materials will be noticeable at Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Fields.
The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign—originally implemented by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign—is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees to identify and report indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime to the proper transportation and law enforcement authorities.
The Department launched the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign in conjunction with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative—an administration effort to train state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism and terrorism-related crime; standardize how those observations are documented and analyzed; and ensure the sharing of those reports with the Federal Bureau of Investigation-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces for further investigation and fusion centers for analysis.
The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign has grown to include partnerships with numerous sports teams and leagues, transportation agencies, private sector partners, states, municipalities, and colleges and universities. DHS also has “If You See Something, Say Something™” Public Service Announcements which have been distributed to television and radio stations across the country.
DHS will continue to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign nationally to ensure America's businesses, communities, and citizens remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov
Psychologists reportedly collaborated with officials on abusive interrogations
by Fox News
Leaders of the largest association of psychologists in the country reportedly collaborated with Pentagon and CIA officials to weaken the group's guidelines, allowing psychologists to take part in and cover up their involvement in coercive interrogation tactics after the 9/11 attacks.
The American Psychological Association's report details findings from a former federal prosecutor that seem to show the complicity of psychologists in interrogation programs that sometimes relied on torture, according to The Washington Post.
The investigation into the association concludes that the APA's ethics director and others colluded with top level Department of Defense officials to have the association issue “loose, high-level ethical guidelines that did not constrain” the Pentagon in its interrogations of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The Post reports the investigation also found that “current and former APA officials” had pertinent interactions with the CIA between 2001 and 2004 when the agency used waterboarding and other extreme measures to try and get information from prisoners at the camp.
The scathing 542-page report was commissioned by the psychological association's board of directors last year base on an investigation led by David H. Hoffman. Hoffman was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago from 1998 to 2005.
The Guardian, citing sources with knowledge to the report, writes a slew of firings are expected to be handed down at the association. Several officials are likely to be on their way out. The paper reports APA's ethics chief Stephen Behnke is one of the officials who is likely to be fired stemming from the revelations. Behnke reportedly relied heavily on psychologists to design and implement abusive techniques.
The report says Behnke and others coordinated with Defense officials to issue guidelines to psychologists after public revelations about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
The Guardian also reports the evidence could merit and FBI investigation into criminal wrongdoing by the APA, according to its sources. However, it wouldn't be intelligence officials being investigated or senior officials in the Bush administration, but rather the psychologists who directed them.
The association indicated in a statement to The Post Friday it plans to adopt sweeping changes across the board, including potentially banning psychologists from participating in future interrogations of people held in custody by the military or intelligence officials.
“The Hoffman report contains deeply disturbing findings that reveal previously unknown and troubling instances of collusion,” said Susan McDaniel, a member of an association independent review panel evaluating the findings.
The APA report has added to the list of scathing findings during a controversial period in history, including a Senate Intelligence Committee report last year that accused the CIA of shrugging off the brutality of its interrogation methods.
The collusion between officials and psychologists was aimed to make sure the new panel wouldn't prohibit psychologists from continuing their work at Guantanamo Bay, The Post reports.
Failed background check allowed Charleston suspect to purchase handgun
Disclosure introduces another element of politics into the aftermath of the massacre
by Michael S. Schmidt
The man accused of killing nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina last month was able to buy the gun used in the attack because of a breakdown in the federal gun background check system, the FBI said Friday.
Despite having previously admitted to drug possession, the man, Dylann Roof, 21, was allowed to buy the .45-caliber handgun because of mistakes by FBI agents, a failure by local prosecutors to respond to a bureau request for more information about his case, and a weakness in federal gun laws.
“We are all sick this happened,” said James B. Comey, the FBI director. “We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”
The authorities' inability to prevent Roof from obtaining the weapon highlighted the continuing problems in the background check system, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug users and mentally-ill people. Despite new procedures and billions of dollars that have been spent on computer upgrades in the years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, federal authorities still do not have a seamless way of examining Americans' criminal histories that eliminates human error.
The disclosure also introduced another element of politics into the aftermath of the massacre, which has already led lawmakers in South Carolina to remove the Confederate battle flag that flew outside its State House. Republicans and Democrats quickly seized on the background check failure as the latest evidence to back up their views on gun laws.
Roof exploited the three-day waiting time that has allowed thousands of prohibited buyers to legally purchase firearms over the past decade — and some of those weapons were ultimately used in crimes, according to court records and government documents.
The Department of Justice's inspector general has been investigating the three-day loophole for some time, Comey said.
In an hourlong briefing with reporters, Comey said the FBI had begun informing the victims' family members about the breakdown. He also said that he had ordered a review of the episode and that its findings be reported to him within 30 days.
According to Comey, Roof first tried to buy the gun on April 11 from a dealer in West Columbia, South Carolina. The FBI, which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, received a call from the dealer, seeking approval to sell Roof the weapon. The FBI did not give the dealer the authority to proceed with the purchase because the bureau said it needed to do more investigating of Roof's criminal history, which showed he had recently been arrested.
Under federal law, the FBI has three business days to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to deny a purchase. If the bureau cannot come up with an answer, the purchaser can return to the dealer on the fourth day and buy the gun.
Many major gun retailers, like Wal-Mart, will not sell a weapon if they do not have an answer from the FBI, because of the fear of public criticism if the gun is used in a crime. The marginal sale of one gun means little to the bottom line of a large dealer, which is not the case for smaller stores like the one that sold Roof his gun.
Two days after Roof tried to buy the weapon, an examiner at the FBI's national background check center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, began investigating his criminal history. The examiner found that Roof had been arrested this year on a felony drug charge, but not convicted. The charge alone would not have prevented him from buying the gun under federal law. But evidence that Roof had been convicted of a felony or was a drug addict would have resulted in a denial, so she continued to probe his background.
Because Roof had been arrested in a small part of Columbia in Lexington County and not Richland County, where most of the city is, the examiner was confused about which police department to call. She ultimately did not find the right department and failed to obtain the police report. Had the examiner gained access to the police report, she would have seen that Roof had admitted to having been in possession of a controlled substance and she would have issued a denial.
The examiner, however, did send a request to the Lexington County prosecutor's office, which had charged him, inquiring about the case. The prosecutor's office, however, did not respond.
Around that time the three-day waiting period expired, and Roof returned to the store and purchased the gun.
Comey said that he had spoken with the examiner, who he said had been working in that position for several years, adding that she was “heart-broken.”
Shortly after the details of the gun purchase were revealed, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, gun control advocates and Second Amendment defenders began wading into the matter.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said the background check mistakes should not be used as an excuse to pass tougher gun laws.
“It's disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale,” Grassley said. “The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws. The American people, and especially the victims' families, deserve better.”
The ranking Democratic member on the committee, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said: “We simply cannot have such failures in our background check system, and peoples' lives are at stake. Clearly, more oversight is needed.”
Leahy said he expected the committee “will be looking further into this matter.”
Dan Gross, the head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the disclosure “underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week” for Congress to vote on a bill that would provide $400 million to enter the records of prohibited people into the FBI's background check database.
“Brady background checks have been incredibly effective and have saved lives by blocking more than 2.4 million gun sales — more than 350 every day — to people we all agree shouldn't have them, like domestic abusers, felons and other dangerous people,” Gross said.
Many of the deadliest shootings in the past decade have highlighted problems in the FBI's background check system.
After a 2007 shooting in which 33 people died at Virginia Tech University, investigators discovered that the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, also should not have been able to buy a gun because a court had previously declared him to be a danger to himself. The shooting led to legislation aimed at improving the background check system
South Carolina lowers Confederate flag in wake of church massacre
by Harriet McLeod
COLUMBIA — South Carolina on Friday removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds in a joyous but solemn ceremony that relegated a divisive symbol of the South's pro-slavery legacy to a museum.
The Civil War flag, which had flown at the State House for 54 years, came down less than a month after a white gunman killed nine black men and women in a historic Charleston church.
As an honor guard of black and white state troopers ceremoniously lowered the flag and folded it to be taken to a nearby museum, a crowd chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" and broke out singing a refrain from a late 1960s pop song, "Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye." While the banner is a hated symbol of slavery and racism to many, it is an emblem of Southern pride and heritage for others.
The banner was moved to the "relic room" of the state military museum in Columbia, South Carolina's capital. There it will take its place among other artifacts carried by Southern Confederate soldiers 150 years ago in the Civil War.
President Barack Obama, the United States' first black president, tweeted, "South Carolina taking down the confederate flag — a signal of good will and healing, and a meaningful step towards a better future." South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley, who pushed for the state legislature to enact a law to remove the flag, was among those watching on the State House steps.
The legislature gave final passage to the bill, required before the flag could be moved, by an overwhelming majority on Thursday after three days of tense debate.
In an interview with NBC's "Today" TV show on Friday before the flag came down, Haley said, "I'm thinking of those nine people today," referring to the "Charleston 9" gunned down on June 17 at the port city's African Methodist Episcopal church.
Among the slain were Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a widely admired state senator.
The 21-year-old white man charged in the massacre, Dylann Roof, appeared in photographs posing with a Confederate flag that surfaced on a website bearing a racist manifesto. That image spurred politicians and leading national retailers to pull the flag from display.
In South Carolina, the first state to secede during the 1861-1865 Civil War, this week's debate in the state legislature brought an emotional closure to a symbol long divisive in the state.
The Confederate battle flag waved atop the state capitol from 1961 to 2000, when it was moved to a Confederate war memorial near the State House entrance as a compromise with those who wanted it removed from the grounds permanently. The state raised the banner over the capitol dome at a time when segregationists were resisting federal efforts to integrate the South.
"My heart is overjoyed. I can feel the togetherness," said Tenetha Hall, of Newberry, South Carolina, who said she took a day off work to drive an hour to Columbia to watch the flag come down. "I'm so glad my children and six grandchildren will get to see this history." The head of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Charles Kelly Barrow, issued a statement on Thursday saying he was "dismayed" by the signing of the law, describing it as a "politically convenient insult to the legacy of millions of South Carolinians." Brighton Lester, 27, of Columbia and his wife, Megan, 24 were at the State House on Friday carrying large Confederate flags on poles.
"I came here to show my support for the flag, for the positive side of it," Brighton Lester said.
"I am indifferent on whether it flies at the State House."
OPM director resigns under pressure after scope of data hack was revealed
by Lisa Rein and Joe Davidson
Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta resigned under pressure Friday, a day after the Obama administration announced that two major breaches of U.S. government databases holding personnel records and security-clearance files exposed the sensitive information of at least 22.1 million people.
Archuleta, who had been leading the agency for 17 months, had been under fire from Republicans and Democrats in Congress and federal employee unions in the five weeks since she disclosed a massive hack of the employment files of 4.2 million current and former federal employees. But calls for her resignation grew late Thursday after administration officials revealed the full scope of a second hack that compromised background investigation files of federal employees, contractors, applicants and their families.
In an e-mail to her staff Friday morning, Archuleta wrote, “I conveyed to the President that I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership to step in, enabling the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allowing the employees at OPM to continue their important work.”
The White House announced that Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget and a former longtime management consultant at McKinsey & Co., will take over the personnel agency in an acting role until President Obama appoints a permanent replacement. OPM has not had a deputy director since 2011; the president's nominee for the No. 2 job has been held up in Congress for many months.
Archuleta resigned “of her own volition,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Friday. “The president thinks it's quite clear that new leadership with a set of skills and experiences that are unique to the urgent challenges that OPM faces are badly needed.”
Before Obama nominated her to lead the agency, Archuleta was national political director for the president's reelection campaign. She ranked among the administration's prominent Latinas.
Earnest declined repeatedly to say that Archuleta's resignation reflected a failure by the administration to manage the massive intrusions, which are believed to have been carried out by the Chinese government.
“There are significant [cybersecurity] challenges that are faced not just by the federal government, but by private-sector entities as well,” Earnest said. “This is a priority of the president.”
OPM's chief information officer, Donna Seymour, who also was roundly criticized on Capitol Hill for failing to move quickly enough to shore up the agency's defense against intruders, apparently will remain in her post.
“This is the right move for the agency and all those affected by the breach,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement. “The focus now needs to be on fixing the problem and protecting those impacted.” On Thursday, Warner became the most prominent Democrat on Capitol Hill to call on Archuleta to step down.
Even as late as Thursday, she was resisting the calls, defending her efforts to modernize what she called “legacy” computer systems. Archuleta and other Obama administration officials said they discovered the breaches because of improvements they made to OPM's cybersecurity under her leadership.
But Thursday's disclosure that the breach of sensitive security clearance data was so vast, making it among the most potentially damaging cyber-heists in U.S. government history because of the abundant detail in the files, seemed to be the last straw.
By many accounts, Archuleta had seemed unsteady at four congressional hearings on the intrusions and failed to defend herself against criticism from lawmakers, much of it withering. OPM's inspector general only added to her problems, criticizing the agency's slowness in shoring up its computer networks. The private contractor hired in the emergency to notify employees whose employment data may have been compromised was criticized for poor customer service, with long wait times for callers and repeated system crashes.
“I believe the steady drip, drip of bad news made this inevitable,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who had criticized Archuleta and the administration's response to the breaches but stopped short of saying she should go.
Connolly said he continues to believe “there are much bigger issues involved in this breach that the federal government and Congress must address,” including a lack of investment in IT resources and a need to replace antiquated computer systems.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who called for Archuleta's resignation in June after her uneven performance at the first hearing on the data breach, said in a statement: “OPM needs a competent, technically savvy leader to manage the biggest cybersecurity crisis in this nation's history. ... In the future, positions of this magnitude should be awarded on merit and not out of patronage to political operatives.”
Archuleta, a Colorado native, served as chief of staff to former labor secretary Hilda L. Solis and held positions at the Energy and Transportation departments. She has long been a force in Colorado's Hispanic community.
She was confirmed in November 2013. Although she had no substantial background in directing large information technology projects, she made technology upgrades one of her priorities.
On her watch, OPM finalized a policy allowing retirement-eligible federal employees to phase into retirement by changing to part-time work while collecting a partial annuity. She launched a “recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusiveness” initiative that responded in part to annual surveys showing poor morale among federal employees. She emphasized career development programs for employees seeking to move into the senior executive ranks and, under a White House order, she expanded employees' opportunities to use advance leave for family purposes, including for childbirth.
She also continued earlier administration initiatives to increase the representation of veterans and the disabled in the federal workforce.
More recently, OPM told agencies to limit their use of “administrative leave,” which is paid time off from work without a charge to vacation time. That followed a Government Accountability Office report finding that some employees have been put on such leave for months or even several years while disciplinary action is pending against them.
Inmate was nearly cut in two, missing organs after California prison riot
by The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Nearly 15 hours after a riot at a Northern California prison, guards found a missing inmate sawed nearly in two, with his abdominal organs and most chest organs removed, his body folded and stuffed into a garbage can in a shower stall a few doors from his cell.
Details of the gruesome May killing at the medium-security California State Prison, Solano, are laid out in an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press under a public records request.
The grisly discovery raises obvious questions about the prison's security: How could such a gruesome killing happen inside a locked facility with security and surveillance? How could someone obtain weapons sharp enough to dissect a body? And why did it take so long to uncover?
Homicides are distressingly common in California prisons. More than 160 inmates have been killed in the last 15 years, and the state has one of the nation's highest inmate homicide rates. Yet the death of 24-year-old Nicholas Anthony Rodriguez stands out.
Rodriguez's missing organs are "still part of the investigation" at the prison in Vacaville, 40 miles southwest of Sacramento, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said Friday.
No one has been charged with killing Rodriguez, an Oakland man who was serving an eight-year robbery sentence from Alameda County. However, Thornton said his cellmate, a 46-year-old man serving a life sentence for a Los Angeles County murder, is considered the only suspect and is being held in segregation. Thornton said she couldn't say how the homicide was carried out or concealed since it's still being investigated.
"It just blows my mind, because officers are looking in on inmates all the time," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance. "Unfortunately, we know that there are drugs, there's alcohol, there are weapons. As much as the officers can police that, we know we've got the toughest, the baddest, the most violent criminals in our state prison and unfortunately some of the most cunning prisoners in there as well. They are going to find ways to do that."
Rodriguez's body was discovered around 9:30 p.m. May 4, 14½ hours after inmates were ordered locked in their cells following a brawl between 58 inmates in his housing unit. Three prisoners and one correctional officer were injured in the fight, and Thornton said an inmate-made weapon was recovered. She declined to describe it.
Despite the riot and resulting investigation, Rodriguez was not discovered missing until a head count at 4:30 p.m. Thornton said officials initially assumed he had escaped.
Investigators are looking into whether the riot was created to conceal the slaying or allow someone to move the body.
"It's very difficult to cover every contingency with the limited staff that we have," said Chuck Alexander, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association that represents most prison guards.
"This kind of thing at Solano, sad to say I predict it's just a precursor," he said.
He noted a 2011 California law that keeps lower-level offenders in county jails, leaving state prisons to hold the most violent criminals. Changes in prison policies, meanwhile, mean more dangerous offenders are being housed in lower-security prisons like medium-security.
Rodriguez had alcohol in his system and was dead before he was eviscerated, killed by blows to the head that left him with a deep star-shaped wound on his forehead among his multiple skull fractures, cuts and other wounds, according to the May 27 autopsy report conducted by the Solano County Sheriff coroner's office.
His mother, Maria Rodriguez of Oakland, said she has been given no details about what happened. She said she had not seen the autopsy report but said that she knew her son's body was badly injured.
"When I saw my son ... at the funeral, he was so bad in the face," she said in a telephone interview. "I called them last week, and they say they're going to tell me in two weeks or in three weeks, but right now we don't got nothing."
New Ordinances To Dismantle Homeless Camps Returns To City Council
by Jeffrey Thomas DeSocio
Los Angeles, CA -- (FOX 11 / CNS) A pair of ordinances that critics say would make it easier for the city to issue criminal citations, dismantle homeless encampments and confiscate personal belongings left in public areas will become law, after Mayor Eric Garcetti returned them to the City Council today without his signature.
Garcetti opted not to veto the ordinances, which means they become law and could still be enforced by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Activists from groups representing homeless people camped outside Garcetti's home over the past weekend in an effort to persuade him to veto the
ordinances, with many saying that if they become law, the mayor has limited power to keep police from enforcing them.
In a letter to the City Council, Garcetti said he is returning the ordinances and supports their plan to "consider amendments that would enable
smarter enforcement, ensure more compassionate treatment of homeless Angelenos and strengthen the city's ability to withstand legal challenge."
Garcetti reiterated his opinion that "the ordinance does not adequately achieve the proper balance" between the keeping public areas "clean and
safe," while also protecting the rights of the homeless.
Garcetti added that he "will be directing city departments to defer implementation of these ordinances until the Committee and City Council adopt
changes to the ordinances."
In the mean time, "city departments shall continue to keep our public areas clean and safe using existing citywide protocols for the removal of
personal property," he wrote.
About two dozen civil rights protesters from the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Downtown Women's Action Coalition and other groups had
demonstrated outside the mayor's residence on Monday to call for a mayoral veto on the ordinances.
Some of the protesters also visited City Hall to present their written demands to the mayor's office. They were detained on the first floor lobby and
were not allowed to enter the mayor's office on the third floor. Garcetti's homeless policy director, Greg Spiegel, went out to speak to
them instead, arranging to meet with them again Friday morning to discuss the ordinances. One protester, Peggy Lee Kennedy, urged Spiegel not to wait until Friday, and to advise Garcetti to veto the ordinances today.
"That's nice that you're going to amend (the ordinances), but technically it's a misdemeanor within a couple of days," Kennedy said, which could mean that "all these people who have no other option but to be homeless are going to get misdemeanor tickets."
New information throws light on why Ezell Ford attacked LAPD officers
by LAPPL Board of Directors
Over the last several weeks, there has been a great deal of public discussion about the Ezell Ford incident, with people offering their opinions on the officers' actions and Ford's background and behavior that evening. Opinions may differ, but all should be tethered to the facts.
First, Ford had a history of mental health issues. According to court records, in September 2011, a Santa Barbara judge found Ford incompetent to stand trial for stealing a car, and confined him to a mental hospital for several months. Among the most difficult situations police officers encounter is when they confront mentally ill suspects, who often display furtive or erratic behaviors and fail to respond to officers' commands in a calm and rational manner. Ford's mental illness provides an explanation for his failure to respond to the officers' commands in this case and his erratic behavior in attempting to grab one of the officer's weapons.
Second, Ford had an extensive criminal record, with a history of convictions for drug offenses, possession of a weapon, trespass and vehicle theft. In fact, Ford pled guilty to aggravated trespass as recently as January of last year, just a few months before his encounter with the LAPD officers.
Third, court records suggest that Ford was a gang member or affiliated with a gang. Two California Court of Appeal decisions describe Ford as “a member of the East Coast Crips gang,” and a 2008 arrest report references “66 East Coast Crip,” a violent criminal organization. In addition, Ford had a “C” tattooed on his face, which is another indication of gang affiliation. These court decisions reflect that Ford was shot by a rival gang in 2008, which sparked a gang war culminating with a drive-by shooting that left one man dead and another injured.
Finally, a bench warrant for Ford's arrest was outstanding at the time of his interaction with the LAPD officers. Ford had previously been convicted of stealing a car in Santa Barbara court, and was on probation in January of last year when he pleaded guilty to trespass in Los Angeles court. As a result, the Santa Barbara court revoked Ford's probation and issued a warrant for his arrest.
All of these factors—Ford's history of mental illness, a lengthy criminal history, gang affiliation and an outstanding warrant—may help explain why Ford concealed his hands, refused to comply with the officers' directions and reached for an officer's weapon, ultimately resulting in the officers having to use deadly force. None of these factors have received adequate attention in the press, and it is unclear whether they were considered by the Police Commission.
Opinions are heated on the Ezell Ford incident, which is understandable. But all the facts must be considered in order to make an informed judgment about the events leading to LAPD officers having to use their weapons to protect themselves during their encounter with an erratic and aggressive suspect.
Baltimore police chief Anthony Batts fired
by Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Wednesday that she has replaced Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.
Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, a veteran Maryland law enforcement official, was named the interim commissioner.
A Los Angeles native, Batts headed the department since the fall of 2012 after serving as chief in Long Beach and Oakland.
In a brief statement Tuesday evening, Batts said, "I've been honored to serve the citizens and residents of Baltimore. I've been proud to be a police officer for this city," the Baltimore Sun reported.
Rawlings-Blake said her motivation for replacing Batts was a spike in murders during the past month and not a police union report criticizing her and Batts for the April riots after Freddie Gray was fatally injured while in police custody. Six officers have been indicted, including one for murder.
"We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live," the mayor said at a news conference. "We need a change. This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interest of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better."
So far this year, there have been 155 homicides in Baltimore, compared with 105 in 2014, WBAL-TV reported. Shootings have also spiked, with 303 shootings this year, nearly double a year ago.
May was the most violent month in four decades, with 43 slayings.
Tuesday night, three people were shot dead and one was wounded near the Baltimore campus of the University of Maryland.
Batts' dismissal came hours after the Baltimore police union released its review of the department's response to riots and unrest after Gray's death. The report found the response "lacking in many areas" and questioned Batts' leadership abilities.
"The question begs now, is the Baltimore Police Department prepared for the next potential unrest? Does Commissioner Batts have the leadership skills necessary to get the job done?" the review concludes.
"Before and during the riots, Police Commissioner Batts and his top commanders adopted a passive stance that put the image of themselves and City Hall ahead of the safety of its citizens and public servants," the review states. "This tentative posture allowed the destruction of personal property and needless injury to first responders."
The mayor's office slammed the report by the Fraternal Order of Police.
"It is disappointing that the FOP continues to issue baseless and false information instead of working with us to find solutions that will protect our officers," spokesman Kevin Harris said in a statement. "The FOP is using the same sad playbook they relied on when they opposed our efforts to reform state laws and hold officers who act out of line accountable for their actions."
The statement said the city had "already identified and corrected some weaknesses, including the need to update how we assess the effectiveness of our riot gear and an order to begin the process of placing cameras in the backs of all police transport vans."
"Now is a time for healing; a time for progress," the statement continued. "This report offers neither."
Rawlings-Blake promised a review that would be "extensive, independent and consist of all of the facts."
"Our reviews will offer the citizens and officers more than a rehash of tired political rhetoric," her statement said.
Several big U.S. cities see homicide rates surge
by Aamer Madhani , USA TODAY
After years of declining violent crime, several major American cities experienced a dramatic surge in homicides during the first half of this year.
Milwaukee, which last year had one of its lowest annual homicide totals in city history, recorded 84 murders so far this year, more than double the 41 it tallied at the same point last year.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said the mounting homicide toll in his city of 600,000 is driven by Wisconsin's "absurdly weak" gun laws – carrying a concealed weapon without a state-issued concealed carry is a misdemeanor in the Badger State – as well a subculture within the city that affirms the use of deadly violence to achieve status and growing distrust of police in some parts of the city.
Milwaukee is not alone.
The number of murders in 2015 jumped by 33% or more in Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, the homicide toll climbed 19% and the number of shooting incidents increased by 21% during the first half of the year.
In all the cities, the increased violence is disproportionately impacting poor and predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods. In parts of Milwaukee, the sound of gunfire is so commonplace that about 80% of gunshots detected by ShotSpotter sensors aren't even called into police by residents, Flynn said.
"We've got folks out there living in neighborhoods, where . . . it's just part of the background noise," Flynn told USA TODAY. "That's what we're up against."
Criminologists note that the surge in murders in many big American cities came after years of declines in violent crime in major metros throughout the United States. Big cities saw homicides peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s as crack-cocaine wreaked havoc on many urban areas.
The homicide toll across the country — which reached a grim nadir in 1993 when more than 2,200 murders were counted in New York City — has declined in ebbs and flows for much of the last 20 years, noted Alfred Blumstein, a professor of urban systems and operations research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Several U.S. cities – including Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Indianapolis – have experienced a decrease in the number of murders so far this year.
Blumstein said the current surge in murders in some big cities could amount to no more than a blip.
"It could be 2015 represents us hitting a plateau, and by the end of the year, nationally, we'll see that murder rates are flat or there is a slight bump up," Blumstein said.
But other experts say the surge in killings suggests that the United States may be nearing a floor in reducing its murder rate as the federal, state and local governments increasingly grapple with tighter budgets.
"Why is there a synchronicity among these cities?" said Peter Scharf, an assistant professor at the LSU School of Public Health whose research focuses on crime. "One reason may be President Obama is broke. Governors like Bobby Jindal are broke, and mayors like (New Orleans' Mitch) Landrieu are broke. You don't have the resources at any level of government to fund a proactive law enforcement."
Baltimore and Ferguson effect
So far this year, Baltimore recorded 155 homicides, including three people who were killed late Tuesday evening near the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. The 2015 homicide toll is 50 people higher than it was at the same point last year.
On Wednesday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, citing the spike in murders in the city.
The firing also came as the police union was set to release a report hammering the department's response to the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, who died one week after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody. Gray's treatment was held up by protesters as an example of the endemic problem of police brutality in the city and beyond.
"We cannot grow Baltimore without making our city a safer place to live," Rawlings-Blake said. "We need a change. This was not an easy decision, but it is one that is in the best interest of the people of Baltimore. The people of Baltimore deserve better."
The Charm City, which is seeing some of the worst violence since the 1990s when it routinely tallied 300 murders annually, recorded 42 killings in May alone.
St. Louis logged 93 homicides compared with 58 at the same point last year. The increased violence this year in St. Louis follows the city recording a more than 30% increase in murders in 2014, when police in the city saw a steep rise in violence following the shooting death last August of Michael Brown, a black teenager, in nearby Ferguson by a white police officer.
Police have made arrests in only 29 of this year's homicide cases, suggesting witnesses are increasingly showing a reluctance to come forward.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that he's increasingly looking to federal authorities to get involved in cases in the city in the hopes of spurring witnesses to come forward. St. Louis Police and several federal agencies also plan to announce a new partnership next week aimed at reducing the violence in the city.
"Our clearance rates aren't where I'd like them to be," Dotson said in an interview. "We do have some things working with the feds that I think will start sending a very clear message (to the public) in the next three to four weeks.
New Orleans has recorded 98 homicides so far this year compared with 72 at the same point last year, according to a count kept by Scharf, the LSU analyst.
The bloody summer in New Orleans — the city of about 380,000 recently tallied seven murders in an eight-day period -- is shaping up to be one of the most brutal the city has seen in years, Scharf said.
Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, has also seen a significant spike in homicides. Police said the city had recorded 150 murders through Thursday, up from the 105 tallied at the same point last year.
7-year-old takes bullet meant for Dad
Chicago's homicide toll stood at 203 as of June 28, up from 171 at the same time last year, according to police stats. The city is still well below pace of 2012, when Chicago recorded more than 500 murders for the entire year.
The Windy City, which recorded more murders than any other municipality last year, experienced a bloody July 4 weekend in which 11 people were killed and more than 50 others were wounded. One of this weekend's victims was 7-year-old Amari Brown, who police said was struck by a bullet that was likely intended for his father, a high-ranking gang member.
The boy's father, Antonio Brown, had 45 arrests on his rap sheet—including an April arrest on a gun charge. Brown was out on bail at the time of his son's killing.
"If you think that putting more cops on the street would make a difference, then take a look at the fact that we put a third more manpower on the street for this weekend," Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters at the end of the bloody holiday weekend. "What's the result? We're getting more guns. Well, that's great. It's not stopping the violence."
In New York City, there were 161 homicides in the city for the first half of 2015 vs. 145 during the first half of 2014. Shootings in the city rose to 542, from 511 in the same period last year.
New York recorded 328 homicides last year, the lowest annual murder toll for the city in more than 50 years.
"It's so phenomenally low that it can hardly go in any direction but up," said Blumstein, the Carnegie Mellon analyst.
Synthetic drug influx spurs killings in D.C.
The homicide toll has risen several other major U.S. cities in the first half of the year, albeit at less dramatic pace.
In Philadelphia, murders are up slightly, with the city recording 123 thus far this year compared with 117 at the same point last year. The murder rate, however, is far lower than it was in 2012, when the city had recorded a whopping 187 murders by July 7 of that year.
Dallas has tallied 68 murders so far this, up from 53 in 2014, according to police department statistics. San Antonio counted 53 homicides through June, compared with 43 last year.
Minneapolis had 22 murders in the first half of 2015, compared with 15 during the same period last year.
In Washington, D.C ., the homicide count stands at 73 compared with 62 last year. Police and politicians in the nation's capital have connected the spike in murders to the influx of synthetic drugs, including K2, spice and others which are said to mimic the effects of marijuana.
Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier expressed confidence that the rate could be brought down. Non-fatal shootings and assaults in the district are down 17%, indicating violent incidents aren't more common this year, just deadlier.
"We experience spikes in violent crime every year," Lanier told WUSA9. "It's the when and where it happens that makes it different."
Contributing: JJ Hensley of the The Arizona Republic
Cause for denial
by Paul Hatfield
Would persons applying for citizenship in the United States through the established legal process be denied if they had committed felonies?
Murder, for certain, would be automatic cause for denial.
Aggravated felonies, too, would very likely result in denial. One should note that some misdemeanors at the state level could qualify as aggravated felonies in evaluating an applicant for immigration. Follow this link for a partial list of offenses. The bottom line is that federal immigration law has a broader range of offenses in its tool kit to deport immigrants regardless of the path they followed to gain entry to the United States.
Francisco Sanchez, who shot and killed Kathryn Steinle, had seven felony convictions, four of which involved drug charges. He also used a number of aliases.
Owing to his criminal record, he would not have been eligible to enter the country legally under the law. The City and County of San Francisco are complicit, then, in the murder of Ms. Steinle, not to mention all state and local politicians who allowed law enforcement to overlook past criminal activities when deciding to release an illegal alien from custody.
Politicians argue that sanctuary laws are to protect average illegal immigrants who go about their business, and to encourage their cooperation with law enforcement. Average ones do not commit felonies, contrary to what Donald Trump suggested. They will not be impacted by the deportation of real criminals. If anything, getting career criminals off the street can only help them.
Our elected officials may quibble over the number and degree of felonies as a matter of political correctness, or maybe even of conscience, when it comes to defining the conditions of sanctuary. It is impossible to fathom, though, allowing someone with multiple convictions – even nonviolent ones – to stay here one second beyond the end of a sentence. Such scum are time bombs destined to explode.
Favorite movie? TMI! Never share these 5 things online
by Keith Wagstaff -- TODAY
It doesn't take a cyber-security expect to know that you shouldn't share your email password or Social Security number on Facebook.
Not every risk, however, is that obvious. People share a lot of stuff online — perfect for criminals watching and waiting to break into their accounts.
So what should a cautious Internet user do? We asked experts from top security firms about the things you should never share online.
1. High school mascot
Go fightin' identity thieves! Yes, because "What high school did you go to?" is such a common security question, sharing your mascot can be like giving the bad guys your password -- especially if criminals already know your hometown.
"If you're asked what high school you attended, then you might be better served picking a rival school instead," Satnam Narang, senior security response manager at Symantec, told TODAY. "That way, even if the true information is available, it won't allow an attacker to easily reset your password."
2. Favorite movie
Sure, you really, really want the world to know you love "The Big Lebowski." But for your own sake, keep it to yourself.
"Mine is 'Bambi,'" James Lyne, head of global security research at Sophos, told TODAY. "It's a common security question, but one I personally never use for identification purposes."
3. Concert tickets
ZOMG, everyone is going to be so jealous of your Beyonce tickets. You snap a photo, share it on Instagram, and slap a #QueenBey hashtag on it.
The problem? That ticket probably has a barcode on it.
"Whoever gets hold of that barcode is the legal owner of the ticket and may be granted entry if they scan it at the venue," Bogdan "Bob" Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at Bitdefender, told NBC News.
4. Your new video game
The above advice also goes for freshly purchased video games and software. Many of those boxes contain serial numbers. All a criminal (or unscrupulous friend) has to do is download the program, enter the serial number before you do, and they can void your purchase.
Some people even program bots to search social media for serial numbers, Botezatu said, giving them access to new copies of "Mortal Kombat X" and Adobe Photoshop without having to do any work.
Sharing a photo of your brand-new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 game also lets thieves know what high-tech goodies you have in your house.
5. Revealing (kind of) Instagram photos
For the most part, posting a duck-faced selfie on Instagram is annoying, but not a security risk. Well, not most of the time, anyway.
"Check your Photo Map settings before you publish your photos," Narang said.
The Photo Map feature provides a fun way to look back at all of the cool places you have visited. That is usually done by tagging where a photo is taken.
"If you don't specify a location, it will use your GPS coordinates as the location of the photo," he said.
That can be a problem if you are snapping pictures at home. To keep your location private, an Instagram spokesperson recommended that users review past photos, switch the "Add to Photo Map" feature off before sharing a picture, or keep their account private.
Of course, even photos that aren't geo-tagged can invite trouble. Sharing vacation snapshots can be fun, but they also tell criminals you aren't at home.
Baltimore Mayor Rawlings-Blake fires Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts
by Yvonne Wenger
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts Wednesday, saying his presence had become a distraction in a city that needs to focus on ending a dramatic spike in homicides.
"Too many continue to die on our streets, including three just last night and one lost earlier today , " Rawlings-Blake said. "Families are tired of feeling this pain, and so am I. ... We need a change."
The mayor's decision to replace Batts on an interim basis with Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis — effective immediately — came as the City Council was preparing to send her a letter calling for Batts' resignation. And the city's police union was poised to hold a no-confidence vote next week.
Batts was under attack on multiple fronts amid the disclosure that some police stations have been closed to the public after 7 p.m. and news that three people were shot to death Tuesday night near the University of Maryland's downtown campus. On Wednesday morning, the Fraternal Order of Police issued a highly critical report of police leadership during the recent rioting.
In her late afternoon news conference, Rawlings-Blake said she was responding not to that report, but to her concern about continued violence. "Recent events have placed an intense focus on our police leadership, distracting many from what needs to be our main focus, the fight against crime," she said.
Her timing surprised some. Just hours before announcing that she had fired Batts, the mayor's office issued a statement denouncing the union's report as "no more than a trumped up political document full of baseless accusations, finger pointing and personal attacks."
Batts, who was confirmed to a full six-year term last September, told The Baltimore Sun that he leaves the job proud of his service.
"I've been honored to serve the citizens and residents of Baltimore," he said. "I've been proud to be a police officer for this city."
Under the terms of his contract, he will get $190,000 in severance plus a payout for unused leave. He had been earning $201,700 a year.
Rawlings-Blake's decision was applauded by many church and political leaders, some pointing to the rise in homicides, which reached a 25-year high in May when 42 people were killed. In June, 31 were killed.
But others pointed to the commissioner's rocky relationship with the community — and with rank-and-file officers.
"It's very clear that the coach has lost the locker room," said Councilman Brandon M. Scott. "Once the coach has lost the locker room, it's up to the manager to the make the decision that either the coach goes or the locker room goes."
The Rev. Jamal H. Bryant, a civil rights activist and pastor of Baltimore's Empowerment Temple, praised the "incredibly good decision on the mayor's part to start the process of healing between the community and the police department."
Rawlings-Blake, who hired Batts in October 2012, described much of his record in positive terms Wednesday, saying he had instituted many reforms. She said he put more officers on the streets during the hours when crime is more likely to occur, brought more transparency to the agency and improved police accountability. "This was not an easy decision," she said.
Under his six-year contract, if Batts were fired for "just cause" — defined as alcoholism or drug use, committing a felony or being persistently negligent — he would not be entitled to severance. In being terminated without cause, he is entitled to the severance and payout. Sean Naron, a Rawlings-Blake spokesman, said Batts' immediate dismissal Wednesday is considered a firing.
It's unclear how soon the mayor may look to name a permanent replacement for Batts. She hailed Davis, who previously held police leadership positions in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, for his "decades of distinguished service and results."
"Under his leadership, we will continue to take guns off of our streets. We will continue our focus on repeat violent offenders," Rawlings-Blake said. "We'll continue to look for ways to hold officers who act out of line accountable for their actions."
Warren Alperstein, an attorney who represents about 30 Baltimore police officers who were injured during the rioting after the death of Freddie Gray, warned that officers may associate Davis with Batts, potentially stalling progress.
"The resentment is not just toward the commissioner himself," Alperstein said. "It certainly extends throughout his administration."
While some focused on the deteriorating relationship between the police union and the commissioner, state Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, saw Batts' chief failing as not being able to reform the culture of the department. A Baltimore Sun investigation last year found that city taxpayers had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle 102 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct.
"I know there was a lot of frustration over what was going on in Baltimore," Anderson said. "Clearly when the discussion about the police commissioner becomes more important than actual problem, the mayor has to remove that obstacle."
Anderson counseled Davis to get a strong leadership team in place so he can carry out his agenda. If Davis is unable to take control, Anderson said, it will raise the question of whether the lower ranks are the department's real problem rather than its leadership.
Still, Anderson, the co-chair of the General Assembly's new working group on public safety, said he'd prefer someone from outside the agency be chosen as Batts' permanent replacement.
"I'm not sure a person who's in the system can see it for what it is," he said.
Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector said Davis' appointment, with his knowledge of the area, is promising. Batts had relocated to Baltimore from California, where he had long worked in law enforcement.
Davis is "closer to home, so I am hoping that makes a big improvement," Spector said. "We do have a problem when you bring someone in who doesn't know North Avenue from Northern Parkway."
Councilman Nick Mosby thanked Batts for his service, but said a change in leadership was necessary.
"I hope this change will be a complete reset of a cooperative relationship between the mayor, the city council, rank and file officers, the commissioner's office, and the community," Mosby said. "Baltimore sorely needs leadership during this time of crisis."
Councilman Edward Reisinger said members were preparing Wednesday to draft a letter to Rawlings-Blake calling for Batts' resignation. Council members discussed delivering the letter as early as Thursday. Reisinger said he's glad the mayor took action first.
"It's overdue, way overdue," Reisinger said. "Batts said he had a plan. I hadn't seen anything."
Two council members — Robert Curran and Warren Branch — said they continued to support Batts. Some community members also defended him.
Munir Bahar, co-founder of the city's 300 Men March, said Batts' resignation won't fix the cultural and systemic problems creating violence in Baltimore. Having Batts shoulder the blame deflects the need to for the city to address long-standing problems.
"Personally, Batts, I respect him," Bahar said. "I respect him as a man who stepped into a mountain of a problem, and has stepped into it with courage and confidence and a willingness to tackle an issue that he did not create."
Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, known as BUILD, will hold a news conference Thursday to discuss the city's next steps. The group represents 40 interfaith, multiracial congregations made up of 20,000 people.
The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, BUILD co-chair, said under Batts, city officers did not have the necessary guidance or training.
"His officers have lost confidence in him," Foster Connors said in a statement. "The faith community, business leaders and residents have lost confidence in him. He is a leader without a following. And the community is suffering."
Earlier in the day, Rawlings-Blake had lashed out at critics of Batts' leadership. By late afternoon, the mayor said she felt her decision to fire Batts was in the best interest of the city, and the officers who serve it.
"The people of Baltimore deserve better," she said. "The brave men and women of our department who put their lives on the line every day to make our city safer deserve better, and we are going to get better."
Firing Anthony Batts
B altimore's Police Department has been in turmoil for weeks. The mayhem before and after Freddie Gray's funeral plunged the city into chaos as images of police standing like targets for rioters' rocks and bricks were beamed around the world. Shootings and killings have spiked to levels not seen in decades while arrests suddenly and mysteriously plummeted. Through it all, Commissioner Anthony Batts talked a good game about the need for reforms to rebuild the community's trust in the department, but ultimately he commanded the trust neither of the community nor of the officers. The only mystery about his dismissal is why Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake didn't dismiss him long ago.
The mayor is right, the controversy about Mr. Batts' leadership was distracting from the fight against violent crime. He needed to go, but the timing only perpetuates the sense that the city's leadership has been reeling from one crisis to the next rather than taking control. The announcement of Mr. Batts' departure came hours after the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police issued a report on how officers were equipped and deployed during the rioting, a report that was sharply critical of Mr. Batts. It also comes after a more unexpected blow to community perceptions of the police in the outsized reaction to a Sun op-ed by 27-year-old Connor Meek who described his frustrating encounters with city police when he tried to report a stolen bicycle.
In ways large and small, perceptions of the police had clearly reached a breaking point. Whether Ms. Rawlings-Blake can restore them will depend on whether she recognizes that it is not just the leadership in police headquarters but also in City Hall that is in question. The FOP's report feeds a sense that the mayor bungled a crisis, and the reaction to Mr. Meek's op-ed speaks to a public perception that she and others in City Hall are out of touch. She and her next commissioner will need to address both.
'Those who wished to destroy'
What is almost certainly the most widely repeated and hotly debated utterance of Mayor Rawlings-Blake's career is front and center in the FOP report: "We also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that." And it strikes to the heart of the central question many officers and ordinary citizens alike have asked in the weeks since: Did the mayor or command staff give orders to front-line police that allowed the unrest to billow out of control into full-scale violence and destruction?
The mayor has insisted that the quote has been misconstrued, that what she meant was that a decision to give space to peaceful protesters had the unfortunate and unintended result of affording those with malicious intent the ability to cause mayhem. But the accounts the FOP compiled add weight to the accusations that the mayor's remark reflected more than an inartful turn of phrase but a deliberate strategy. It demands a much more thorough and transparent response than police commanders and City Hall have provided so far.
The FOP has had a legacy of tension with Mayor Rawlings-Blake, including a years-long dispute about changes to pension benefits that the union took to federal court and opposition to her efforts to reform state laws governing officer discipline. It is in that sense not necessarily the ideal entity to take on the task of analyzing how she and Mr. Batts handled an event that left many officers literally and figuratively wounded. This morning, the mayor pounced on that history to discredit the report as "a trumped up political document full of baseless allegations, finger pointing and personal attacks." (Speaking of personal attacks, the statement accuses the FOP of "choosing to be their lesser selves.") But the assertions the union makes about what instructions officers were given and how they were trained and equipped are too specific and detailed to be dismissed so easily.
In particular, the report says that Mr. Batts and other top commanders told hundreds of officers during a roll call on April 25, the Saturday when the Freddie Gray protests first turned violent, that they should allow some level of destruction of property before intervening "so that it would show that the rioters were forcing our hand." The report describes protocols in which officers were required to get approval from the department's civilian lawyers before making arrests and communications over police radio channels in which officers were told to allow looting to take place. The report claims officers were told not to wear helmets, gloves and other protective gear so as not to appear too "Billy badass" and that they were ordered to use non-lethal crowd control equipment in ways that were ineffective.
The mayor and commissioner have acknowledged some shortcomings in the city's response to the riots. Ms. Rawlings-Blake recently promised new riot gear before the verdicts in the cases against the six officers involved in Freddie Gray's death — the FOP report details myriad faults with the equipment officers were given — and Mr. Batts has apologized for having failed to provide officers with more training in crowd control. Last week, he acknowledged widespread confusion about the meaning and purpose of orders to "hold the line" during the unrest rather than to engage the rioters and make arrests. But the portrait of the city's civilian and police leaders that emerges from the FOP's report is far more damning, suggesting indecisiveness and a greater concern with how the police response looked on TV than with how effective it was in protecting officer safety and private property.
The FOP's report is based on interviews with police who were on the front lines, focus groups and surveys, and it consists largely of accounts by officers who are not named. (In fairness, the union had little choice there, as officers would surely have faced discipline had they lent their names to the project.) But it is rich for the mayor's spokesman to tut-tut that "the FOP continues to issue baseless and false information instead of working with us to find solutions that will protect our officers." The FOP filed a Public Information Act request for reams of information that could have shed some objective light on the situation — tapes of radio transmissions, emails, text messages and the like — but the city has handed over very little of it.
This report has its limitations and biases, but more than two months after the fact, it's the only report we've got. Neither the police nor the mayor's administration has issued anything like a comprehensive assessment of what happened on those nights of violence, and a third-party review by the Police Executive Research Forum is only slated to begin today . If what the FOP reported is wrong, Mayor Rawlings-Blake needs to prove it.
Closed for business
Given that Baltimore could finish this year with more homicides than it's seen since the 1990s, it sounds ridiculous that a young man's story about a stolen bicycle would resonate as much as it has. But it speaks both to a sense that the police are at best indifferent (and at worst, hostile) to those they are sworn to protect, and that Baltimore's elected leaders have no idea what's really going on in the city.
On Monday's op-ed page, Mr. Meek wrote of how challenging it proved to be to report the June 15th incident to police — in large part because not one but two police stations, the Southwestern District where he initially tried to contact police and the Southern District where he was eventually transported, were closed to visitors from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. That a city police district would be closed at a time when it would presumably be most needed by ordinary citizens struck him as outrageous.
By Tuesday, people at every level of city government were climbing all over themselves to denounce that policy, and the police swiftly reversed it. That's all well and good, but the fact that the station hours were such a shock to City Hall in the first place is disquieting.
Councilman Ed Reisinger may be right that closing a police station overnight is "stupid with a capital 'S,' " but as someone who represents portions of South and Southwest Baltimore, why is this the first the councilman has heard of it? Mayor Rawlings-Blake called the situation "unacceptable," a condemnation that's a bit blunted by her failure to be aware of what the city's crime victims have been dealing with every night for who knows how long — months, years or decades.
'The utmost urgency'
It has been clear for weeks that the mayor and Mr. Batts were not working closely together and at times appeared at odds over how to navigate the tricky cross-currents of community discontent and poor police morale that have followed Freddie Gray's death and the riots. Ms. Rawlings-Blake put her decision in appropriate context during a news conference today when she cited the continued killings — four in the city in just the previous 24 hours — and the need for change to address them. Her interim commissioner, Kevin Davis, struck the right tone by vowing both to go after the "bad guys with guns" who are responsible for a disproportionate share of the violence while also making clear that between the police and the community "it's not an enforcement relationship, it's a service relationship" — something Mr. Meek and those who identified with his story are doubtless happy to hear.
But perhaps the most important thing to emerge here is that the change in commissioners is perhaps the first significant leadership decision Ms. Rawlings-Blake has made since the riots. She said "it is with the utmost urgency that we get the crime surge under control," and we hope that after weeks in which the city seemed adrift, she will start to recognize that the city feels a sense of urgency to address the wide swath of problems that have been exposed by Freddie Gray's death and its aftermath. Now is not a time for half measures. Replacing Mr. Batts was a necessary step but hardly the last Mayor Rawlings-Blake needs to take.
Twelve-Year Old Arrested in Murder Spotlights Gang Violence in Midwest
by Ben Kochman
In Omaha, Nebraska, homes and neighborhoods wrapped with crime tap have become too common of a sobering sight. In one such incident, a 12-year old boy allegedly carried out a shooting, which is just the latest of a series of shootings linked to area gangs. While over the last decade the Midwestern city has seen a dip in violent crimes using firearms, the most recent statistics show a surge in assaults using guns during 2015.
It has alarmed officials in Omaha enough that they pledged this week a more effective and stronger response to the increase of gang activities.
During the first six months of the year, January, May and June were the worst with 41 assaults using guns, which were up from 35 for the same three months in 2014, according to police data.
One dozen gangs have received the blame for the majority of the recent surge in gun violence. The first half of 2015 ended with a shooting on June 29 of a man who was 31. The man was shot during a drug deal.
Of the gunmen involved, the youngest was just 12 years of age. He managed to escape and reach Minneapolis 400 miles to the north before law enforcement caught him on Tuesday. The 12-year will be extradited to Omaha and face a charge of first-degree murder.
His two accomplices are just 17 and 15 and already have been charged as adults in the crime. Investigators said that the three suspects had been carrying guns. They are believed to have affiliations with one of the local gangs.
The mother of the 12-year old was convicted, when her son was just a toddler, of felony assault. According to document in a Nebraska court, the father of the boy is serving a sentence of 30 years in Minnesota for a murder in 2010.
While the spike in violent crime is tough to explain, street gangs in Omaha continue with their stranglehold on youth that are impressionable, said a former office in the gang unit for the city.
After a 12-year decline, crime in L.A. surges in first half of 2015
by Ben Poston and Kate Mather
Crime surged across Los Angeles in the first six months of this year despite a campaign by the Los Angeles Police Department to place more officers on the streets and target certain types of offenses.
Los Angeles recorded a 12.7% increase in overall crime, ending more than a decade of declines and raising concerns about what more officials can do to reverse the trend.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck attributed the increases to several possible factors, including gang violence, rising homelessness and a November ballot measure that downgraded many theft and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
“This is bad news,” Garcetti said Wednesday as the city released the latest LAPD crime numbers. “Let me be clear: Any uptick in crime is unacceptable.”
The surge in crime was felt across the city. Violent offenses rose 20.6%, propelled by increases in aggravated assaults and robberies. Property crime rose 10.9%, driven by across-the-board increases in burglaries, thefts and motor vehicle thefts. Overall, crime was up 12.7%.
The sharpest increases occurred in the LAPD's Central Division, which includes parts of downtown, Chinatown and skid row. Violent crime there has risen 67%, according to a Times analysis of LAPD data through June 27. Property crime increased 26%.
Beck and Garcetti emphasized they had seen some progress in recent months — crime is still up, but not as much as it was during the first three months of the year.
Several new initiatives — including the deployment of Metropolitan Division officers to crime hot spots and strengthening gang outreach efforts — appear to be having an effect, they said. They said they hoped continued expansion of the programs would help drive down the numbers.
“This is what keeps me awake at night,” Beck said. “I do take this personally. I've spent 40 years of my life trying to keep this city safe, and even though it is safer than in all those 40 years, I still worry about this.”
Crime in Los Angeles has dropped steadily since 2003, the first full year former Chief William J. Bratton — who pioneered data-driven policing — led the LAPD.
But the uptick, particularly in violent crimes, has drawn significant attention in recent months. Public safety was a keystone of Garcetti's State of the City address in April, as well as this year's budget.
John Eterno, criminology professor at Molloy College in Long Island, N.Y., said big-city mayors such as Garcetti are under tremendous pressure to report declining crime on their watch.
“He clearly has a political hot potato to deal with,” said Eterno, a retired New York City police captain.
Neighborhood council leaders in the areas most affected by the increased crime said many residents are alarmed.
Patti Berman, president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, said local residents have complained about increased street attacks. Serious assaults in the LAPD's Central Division, which covers part of downtown, are up more than 80% so far this year compared to the same period in 2014, department data show.
“Many people are just concerned because it doesn't seem to be as safe as it was a year ago,” Berman said.
Beck said the city's rising homeless population contributed to the increase. He said most of the crime in the LAPD's Central Division could be attributed to “homeless-on-homeless” incidents.
Jay Handal, chairman of the West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, said he hears daily reports from neighbors about home burglaries, car break-ins and automobile thefts. In West Los Angeles, property crime increased more than 21%.
“It's a major problem,” Handal said. “The city really needs to refocus its energy on this. These property crimes are all quality-of-life crimes that affect us every day.”
Part of that property crime increase, Garcetti said, may be linked to Proposition 47, the ballot measure that downgraded felony drug possession and thefts and resulted in the release of about 3,700 inmates from state prison.
Peter Moskos, a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said it was too soon to say whether Proposition 47 was behind the increase in property crimes. Even if the initiative has contributed to the rise in property crimes, he said, the result may be an acceptable trade-off for taking a less strict approach toward relatively minor crimes.
“If there is huge money saved in incarceration, I think we can take an increase in property crimes,” Moskos said.
Also fueling the crime trend is increased gang activity, Beck said. Department statistics showed gang-related crimes rose 18.3%. The number of people shot in gang-related incidents climbed to 409 from 307 last year, a 33.2% increase.
Except for homicide — which was down about 6.7% — all categories of violent crimes and property crimes increased in the first six months of the year.
Aggravated assaults saw the largest spike — up more than 26% compared to the same period in 2014. Following a Times investigation last year, the LAPD improved how it classified serious assaults, which officials said has resulted in more serious assault cases on the books.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reported more modest increases, with a 4.1% rise in violent crime and a 6.3% increase in property crime through July 6.
Beck and Garcetti emphasized that even with the increase, Los Angeles was a safe city that had made significant strides since the crime waves of the 1980s and 1990s. But, Beck acknowledged, when the numbers came in from the first three months of the year, “it was obvious that dramatic action was necessary.”
Garcetti poured more funding into gang outreach efforts, allocating an extra $5.5 million for the city's Gang Reduction & Youth Development program. He directed the expansion of Domestic Abuse Response Teams, groups of civilian workers who accompany police officers on domestic violence calls.
Perhaps the most controversial effort to quell rising crime was the decision to double the size of the LAPD's Metropolitan Division, a squad of officers with a reputation for hard-charging tactics. Beck emphasized that the officers would be deployed to crime hot spots, not with the goal of making more arrests, but to signal that the LAPD was nearby and ready to respond.
Garcetti said 125 officers had been added to Metro with the remaining 75 expected to join by September. When asked what effect the expanded unit has had on crime numbers, Beck noted that the increase in crime had slowed but said it was difficult to attribute that to one action.
Capt. Cory Palka, who heads the LAPD's 77th Street Division in South Los Angeles, said Metro officers have helped reduce retaliation shootings that take place in gang-ridden neighborhoods. When a shooting occurs, Palka said, he is able to deploy the officers to potential trouble spots, where their presence can reduce the chances of more gunfire.
INTERACTIVE: Track LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff's crime reports
Roanoke PD talks community policing with faith and civic leaders
Church members and leaders want to know how police make decisions and what can be done to counteract the growing trend of violence.
by Shayne Dwyer
ROANOKE, Va. -- Church members and leaders in Roanoke talked with police about violence in the city and around the country Tuesday night. Organizers of the event said there's too much violence and they want to talk about it.
Forum organizer Rev. Levi Dent said the group is made up of faith leaders from different religions that want change. He said the group wants to hear about what's being done to improve the citizen-police relationship.
Guest speakers included Roanoke Police Captain Rick Morrison and Virginia House of Delegates Member Sam Rasoul. Both men said they want to help with whatever they can.
The small group of faith leaders and community members listened very closely, and didn't hesitate to ask the questions on their mind. They spent Tuesday night at the Garden of Prayer 7 church off Cove Road in Roanoke.
"We're trying to start some dialogue between the Roanoke City Police and the neighborhood because of all the shootings that are taking place all across the world," meeting coordinator Rev. Levi Dent said. "We're trying to prevent it before it gets to Roanoke."
The goal of the forum was to talk about violence between people, violence between people and police, and violence within churches.
"If we can touch on those three issues and get something done constructive from that, I think this will be a good event," Dent said.
The conversation was open and flowed to a structure that allowed for anyone to ask questions at any time. One of the questions posed by Dent to Virginia Delegate Sam Rasoul, a Democrat from Roanoke's 11th District, was whether or not faith leaders should be armed while attending church services.
"While I am a gun owner myself, the solution to this is not more guns," Rasoul answered.
Roanoke Police Captain Rick Morrison spoke about why community policing makes a difference and cited examples of success with real people in the Roanoke area. He said community policing is a tactic Roanoke officers have using for several years and it helps stop violence at its roots.
"We've been doing it for many, many, many years, and each year we're finding more creative ways to engage with the community," Roanoke Police Captain Rick Morrison said.
But audience members had many questions for Morrison, and were very concerned with stereotyping and policing tactics used in minority neighborhoods. More than one person asked questions interactions they had with officers and why an officer acted the way he or she did.
Those are concerns Morrison listened to and stressed the importance of cooperation between the public and the police. He said that cooperation is what will lead to a better relationship.
"This is what we believe as a department, we have got to go out, we can no longer use the big net and the billy club and everyone goes to jail," Morrison said.
After the meeting more people filled in the rest of a church for a special service.
Despite tensions, city lets police-community meetings dwindle
by Chip Mitchell
Chicago shootings and murders are up this year. In many cases, police officers are having a hard time finding witnesses willing to talk.
This is not a new problem. It's a reason Chicago helped pioneer what's known as community policing — the sort of crime fighting that focuses on trust between officers and residents. But a cornerstone of the city's community-policing approach is crumbling, according to internal police numbers obtained by WBEZ.
That cornerstone consists of meetings that bring together residents and cops in neighborhoods across the city. The meetings, designed to take place monthly in each of the city's 280 police beats, made Chicago policing a national model in the 1990s.
The city called its approach the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. CAPS beat-meeting attendance peaked in 2002, when the citywide total was 70,024.
Since then turnout has fallen by more than two-thirds, according to the police figures obtained through an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request. During Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration, it has dropped every year. Last year's attendance — 20,420 — was less than half the turnout in 2010, the year before Emanuel took office.
One reason for the decline could be simple. Compared to when Chicago launched CAPS, crime is down. So residents have fewer problems to take to the police.
But that's not the whole story. Over the years, the city has cut down on CAPS officers and the program's paid civilian organizers. It has cut overtime for officers to attend the beat meetings. And it has cut the number of meetings. Residents have fewer opportunities to participate.
“Most police officers hated beat meetings,” said former Chicago cop Howard Lindsey, who helped with CAPS in the city's Englewood neighborhood before retiring from the police department last year. “The officers didn't believe in CAPS. They just felt like it was a waste of time to actually go to these meetings and listen to the citizens complain.”
Emanuel says the city remains committed to community policing. This year he created a top police position to focus on it. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, for his part, is on an “outreach tour” this summer. The tour consists of closed-door meetings with residents of more than a dozen neighborhoods.
The department says it is also developing a new community-policing strategy, but so far is not talking with WBEZ about what role the CAPS beat meetings would play.
Our audio story (listen above) looks at the status of the beat meetings through the eyes of Lindsey as well as a former civilian beat-meeting facilitator in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, a Loyola University Chicago sociologist who studied CAPS after working three decades as a Chicago police officer, and a current beat-meeting attendee in West Humboldt Park.
That attendee, an elementary-school clerk named Antwan McHenry, says the beat meetings could play an important role as police officers face more suspicion due to events in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.
“African Americans have been taught things like, ‘You don't talk to police, you don't snitch,' ” McHenry said. “So if you grow up thinking that, you don't get to see the other part — like when, if your neighbor gets shot, you have to work hand-in-hand with the police to solve murders and to solve crimes.”
Group chosen to pick Cleveland community policing commission
by Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND (AP) — Two pastors and directors of an LGBT center and a community development group are part of an 11-person panel that will select a commission who will be responsible for making recommendations on how Cleveland police officers can build better relationships with the communities they serve.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced his picks for the selection panel on Tuesday.
The city and U.S. Justice Department agreed in May to the terms of a consent decree that aims to make Cleveland police officers problem solvers who are free from bias in how they do their jobs. The DOJ issued a report in December that said an investigation had found that Cleveland police too often use force and violate people's rights.
The selection panel has 60 days to pick 10 members for a community policing commission. Other selection panel members include: the chairman of the Cuyahoga County drug, alcohol and mental health board; the head of Cleveland's Legal Aid Society; the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League; the director of a Hispanic organization; the president of Cuyahoga Community College; the director of a child policy center at Case Western Reserve University; and the president of the Cleveland Foundation.
The 13-member commission will also include a representative from each of Cleveland's three police unions.
The selection panel is independent of the city and DOJ, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said at a news conference Tuesday. The panel will create a process to allow people who want to serve on the commission to submit applications within the next 30 days, Dettelbach said.
The commission will set a tone for “repairing and improving the relationship between the police and people in the community,” Dettelbach said. He said it's significant that community members and police officers will be part of the same group.
“They'll have to learn to work together over time,” he added.
ICE warns parents, children about summer online threats
Summer is here, which means warm weather, outdoor fun and, most importantly, no school for children nationwide.
With their agenda for the next couple of months mainly deciding what beach they want to go to and how late they'll be able to sleep in, kids all of a sudden have significantly more time on their hands. That free time, albeit fun, also leaves them vulnerable to threats from online predators looking to take advantage of their innocence and naivety.
“This is when predators are going to identify and groom their next victims,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) Robert Kurtz said of the summer. “[The predators] know that the time usually occupied during school hours is now unsupervised. Their parents are at work and not over their shoulders watching their every move.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) recognized those dangers and created the ‘Be Here for Kids' campaign as a way to promote awareness about child safety issues. The campaign is designed to help parents and guardians teach children to be aware, alert, and cautious to potential threats and to provide steps that children can take to stay safe, both on the Internet and in daily life.
On Friday, June 12, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona hosted a ‘Be Here for Kids' event at the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix. The event, held as a part of the Department of Justice's ‘Project Safe Childhood' initiative, featured both local and federal law enforcement personnel who shared their safety expertise with parents, guardians and children.
HSI agents were among the many law enforcement personnel on hand to provide Internet safety guidelines and talk to kids about the dangers of online predators, sex trafficking and other risks that arise for kids with additional free time and access to the Internet during the summer months.
“We have to make sure that parents have a very good awareness of what their children are doing on the internet," HSI Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Matthew Allen told KPNX. "And make sure children know what they should be looking for on the Internet."
According to ASAC Kurtz, social media has become the primary platform for predators to identify and recruit potential victims. They are slow, smart and methodical in their approach and present themselves as someone they're not to potential victims. Often times, predators will pretend to be young girls or boys in order to solicit naked pictures. The predators will then blackmail the victims by threatening to expose the pictures to their school or family members.
Threats aren't limited to the social media space. The rise in popularity of online gaming communities has added an additional threat to children. With an extra eight hours of free time throughout the summer, predators can use a popular activity as a way to gain a potential victim's trust and develop a rapport with them.
Maintaining the safety of kids is the No. 1 priority, particularly during the idle time of summer. As trusting as kids can be, those in supervision have to be vigilant in knowing what kids are doing, who they are talking to and who is trying to talk to them.
“Parents have to have that uncomfortable talk with their children,” ASAC Kurtz said. “They would never apologize for making their kids buckle their seatbelts, so they shouldn't apologize for wanting to see what their kids are doing on the Internet.”
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Unfounded report of gunshot shuts down Walter Reed campus in Bethesda
by Michael E. Ruane and Bill Turque
For the second time over five days, a report of a shooting Monday paralyzed a Washington-area military installation, drew swarms of police, and had workers locked down and sheltering in place for hours.
This time, it was on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, specifically at its iconic tower building, designed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.
The report of a gunshot came about 10:48 a.m., police said, from one of the lower floors of the tower, known as Building 1.
The campus went into lockdown, and staff members were told to find shelter where they were, officials said.
Police and military security officers rushed to the site, and with help of bomb-sniffing dogs, began scouring the building floor by floor and room by room, evacuating personnel as they went.
Traffic quickly snarled in the area, and unconfirmed reports of an “active shooter” popped up on online.
Similar scenes played out Thursday when the Washington Navy Yard was locked down after a report of gunfire there.
Hundreds of security officers swarmed over the base in Southeast Washington, where a gunman killed 12 people on Sept. 16, 2013. Last week's report turned out to be unfounded.
The medical center is located at 8901 Rockville Pike in Bethesda. It covers 243 acres and has 274 beds and a staff of 7,000 people. It was formed in 2011 after the consolidation of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center.
The tower, designed for the old Bethesda Naval Hospital, was inspired by the Nebraska state capitol, which Roosevelt had admired during a visit in 1936, according to the National Archives. Roosevelt also picked Bethesda as the site for the hospital.
By 11:45 a.m., a local law enforcement official said that no shooter or victims had been located in the building, and police reiterated that about 1 p.m.
“At this time, there's been no injuries reported, no indication, no evidence of any kind, except for the initial call, that there was a shooting here,” Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery County police spokesman said.
Shortly after noon, the U.S. Navy tweeted that security officers were searching buildings and that there was no confirmation of an incident.
The Navy added in a statement: “Naval Support Activity Bethesda is currently in lockdown and all base personnel are sheltering in place as a result of unconfirmed reports of an active shooter. DOD Security Force, [National Institutes of Health] Police Force and County EMS and Medics have responded and are searching the area. More information to follow.”
By 1:30 p.m., police said that the search of the high-rise building was complete and that no evidence of a shooting had been found.
The campus, which was locked down for several hours, gradually resumed some operations Monday afternoon, but the hospital said it was closed for the day, except for emergency and in-patient services.
Shortly before 2 p.m. county police tweeted, “Police operations are complete.”
Citizens Group Calls for Beefed-Up Community Policing
West Old Town Citizens Association Executive Board sounds off after fatal shooting, "unprecedented" gunplay in neighborhood.
by Mary Ann Barton
(Editor's note: The following is a Letter to the Editor, submitted by the West Old Town Citizens Association Executive Board to Patch.)
The recent homicide of Shakkan Elliot-Tibbs at the Andrew Adkins public housing project one block from Braddock Metro is a tragedy for his family and friends. But in a sense it was also a death foretold.
For 18 months, neighbors in West Old Town have been calling police to report gunshots – sometimes on successive nights. The level and frequency of gunplay now exceeds anything heard in this neighborhood and borders on the unprecedented. Yet the Police Department's response till now has been inadequate. Even at Monday night's overflow community meeting, the Alexandria police claimed there was no change in the level of shots fired reports between 2014 and 2015. The problem, however, started in 2014 and shows no improvement since then.
Neighbors are hearing gunfire and calling in reports in real time, just as police urge. The eNews releases about the possibility of firecrackers the week before the murder discouraged and annoyed many. West Old Town has a large contingent of military personnel who understand firearms and know the distinctive sound. Callers are also troubled by omissions and inconsistencies in eNews reporting on these incidents.
The neighborhood is fed up with excuses. Police Chief Earl Cook's hastily organized community walk the week before the murder was simply a PR effort in the eyes of many here. It is also repugnant to tell residents that when victims and perpetrators know each other, there's nothing to worry about – as though bullets don't have the potential to go astray and hit bystanders, as recently happened in Southeast D.C.
Community policing as successfully practiced in this area in the past has atrophied and must be beefed up again. True community policing means giving cops the time and resources to intimately know the neighborhood and its residents, instilling familiarity and trust and thereby gaining strategic intelligence about community dynamics. Instead, the number of police in the community cops program has dwindled over the years and law enforcement officers are routinely pulled out for other duties elsewhere. What the community is given instead are a few days of ostentatious police cars patrols, usually immediately before or after public meetings, which then fade away.
City Council and especially the ARHA board are not off the hook either. The concentration of public housing at Braddock Road Metro and Council's retreat from a scattered site policy means City leaders are deliberately perpetuating socio-architectural magnets for bad behavior. With new construction at Metro, there are more “eyes on the street” than ever, but what has been gained? There have been a number of homicides at Adkins and its environs in recent years.
Council has also given ARHA carte blanche to expand its holdings within the Braddock Metro area, with the acquisition of new properties like Pendleton Park, where last year police were witnessed in broad daylight bearing drawn shotguns. There has also been construction of massive new public housing buildings along Route 1, which may soon include the otherwise peaceful Ramsay Homes.
ARHA CEO Roy Priest has recently stated that conditions at Jefferson Village (now Princess Square) had been improved by retenanting (i.e., evictions), thus confirming that ARHA and its board are not powerless with regard to the peace and quietude of its properties. But at Monday night's meeting we heard an ARHA resident criticize the authority's management for its unresponsiveness to her concerns.
In the last 30 years, the West Old Town Citizens Association has worked more closely with and been more supportive of the Police Department than almost any other civic group in Alexandria. Now we ask for new approaches and fresh thinking. The police need to restore real community policing, explore technology such as security cameras, establish neighborhood watches in ARHA developments, and (for Council and ARHA) return to the scattered public housing strategy when ARHA properties come up for redevelopment in the next few years.
WEST OLD TOWN CITIZENS ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE BOARD
YPD re-establishes community policing
by Gerry Ricciutti
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The notion of community policing is something that dates back to the days when Bill Clinton was president, but in Youngstown the idea is making a comeback.
The Youngstown Police Department has re-established its Community Police Unit, which is operating out of an old fire station on the lower west side. But the bulk of the squad's time will actually be spent in their assigned wards, talking with neighbors and shopkeepers and learning about their concerns.
It is something the department has largely been unable to do for years.
“I mean, you got guys on the turns that answer to the radio, they are just going from call to call, so these guys are able to not do that and just stop and talk to people,” Det. Sgt. Pat Kelly said.
He will be the unit supervisor. The seven officers that are part of the new unit are Joe Moran, 1st Ward; Jose Morales Jr., 2nd Ward; Barbara Copeland, 3rd Ward; Melvin Johnson, 4th Ward; George Wallace, 5th Ward; Shawna Cie-Ott, 6th Ward; and Phillip Skowron, 7h Ward.
Youngsgtown Police Chief Robin Lees said by having better interaction with residents, clergy and community leaders, officers will be able to learn about neighborhood problems and concerns and then help solve them before things get out of hand.
Lees has been pushing for the unit since he was appointed police chief several years ago. It was discontinued because of budget constraints.
Johnson has been patrolling the city's west side for years.
“We want to keep the drugs out of this area and Officer Johnson has been our patrolman and he knows where our hot spots are,” Jackie Leson from the Nosy Neighbors Block Watch said.
“It gives us a chance to look at things that are concerns of the community outside of the criminal element,” Johnson said.
“I can get to the bottom of certain issues in certain neighborhoods. They can reach us directly and I think it is just good for the community,” Morales said.
Each of the seven officers volunteered for the Community Police Unit assignment, which will mean flexible shifts so they can attend block watch meetings and other events. And while they will still respond to routine calls when the need arises, they will leave much of the 911-driven calls for service to other patrols.
Community policing model needs to give hope to victims
The Chico Police Department says it's going to give “community-oriented policing” a try. Though it sounds promising, we can't help but wonder if it's more than just a trendy phrase.
The community policing model is all the rage, and new Police Chief Mike O'Brien is excited about giving it a whirl. He called it a “major change” last week when the department was restructuring in order to implement that community policing model.
It's not just O'Brien's vision. Mike Dunbaugh, the interim chief before O'Brien took over last month, was also a big proponent of the community policing model.
It's easy to see why, because it sounds so rudimentary: Police try to fix crime problems that are important to the community.
O'Brien said the department will focus on crimes that have eroded the quality of life in Chico, things such as bicycle thefts, home burglaries, vehicle smash-and-grab robberies and criminal activity by transients.
“I hear it from every segment of this community that this is what we need to get a handle on,” O'Brien said last week.
Dunbaugh said on his way out that the new structure “simplifies our operation.” It divides the city into three geographic areas — the downtown area, and then the rest of the city east and west of Highway 99.
The restructured department is set up to be more focused on patrol rather than administration. As O'Brien puts it, the department will be “more responsive ... to the community.”
Community-oriented policing is described by the U.S. Department of Justice as a philosophy that uses community partnerships and problem-solving techniques to address conditions that facilitate crime. Citizens will welcome this new model, because many feel crime has gotten out of hand and the Police Department hasn't done enough to combat it.
Part of the problem was a shrinking workforce as the city budget took a nosedive. As the Police Department was reduced in size, management decided to discontinue many of the things that citizens value — downtown patrols, officers on high school campuses, traffic cops and so forth.
Worse yet, things like downtown crime, bicycle thefts and drug deals in City Plaza barely got the department's attention.
The worst development of all was the advent of an online reporting system for crimes. If somebody would get a $2,000 bicycle stolen, $5,000 in electronics, or even a gun, victims were told to fill out a form online. In most instances, there was no interaction with a detective or officer. Victims would fill out the form and never hear from the department again.
The great online reporting tool was a black hole of information.
People undoubtedly stopped reporting crimes because it was a waste of their time. The only reason to fill out the form was if you were lucky enough to have insurance.
The message was obvious: Sorry, folks, you're on your own.
The online reporting system started Jan. 1, 2013. Sure, it saves money, but we've yet to see evidence this supposed database of crimes is being used to solve them.
Since a new City Council majority took over in December, the department is growing again. That's why some of the special enforcement teams, such as downtown patrols, have come back.
What really needs to happen, however, is for citizens to regain confidence that police can help crime victims. Even if the department doesn't get rid of online reporting, human follow-up — just a call to let victims know the report was seen, and that officers are looking — would go a long way toward mollifying a skeptical public.
Catching a few of the thieves, and then publicly celebrating that success, wouldn't hurt either. The department needs a few victories.
For-profit prisons threaten public safety
by Caroline Isaacs
Last week, the Kingman state prison, operated by Management and Training Corporation, saw the latest in a string of riots. After several days of unrest, nine prison staff and seven incarcerated people were injured and the facilities were so badly damaged the state is moving over 1,000 people out of the prison.
Sadly, this horrific situation is not new for MTC or any other for-profit prison corporation. Simply put, you get what you pay for.
As far back as 2005, the Kingman facility experienced more than "13 instances of large groups of inmates refusing directives and/or chasing staff off the yard." In 2010, three people escaped from the facility and murdered a couple vacationing in New Mexico.
The Arizona Department of Corrections investigation into the escapes found that the alarm systems had been malfunctioning in the prison for over two years, but MTC failed to fix them. Why? Because it would cost too much money.
This is not an isolated case of a few bad apples. These problems are inherent in the business model of for-profit incarceration. These corporations are in business to make money first, and public safety comes second. Consider the competition:
-- CCA's Idaho Correctional Center had more assaults than all other Idaho prisons combined. Dubbed the "Gladiator School," video footage showed a prisoner being severely beaten by another inmate, pleading for help as CCA guards looked on. CCA lost its $30 million contract for the prison with the state, and the FBI launched an investigation into the company in 2014.
-- The Texas Observer called the state's CCA-run Dawson State Jail "the worst state jail in Texas." Seven inmates have died in Dawson since 2004, generally due to medical neglect and malpractice. One prisoner gave birth to a premature baby after CCA guards refused her cries for medical attention. The baby was delivered in a prison toilet with no medical assistance and died four days later.
-- GEO Group lost a contract in Mississippi after a federal judge called the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions."
-- GEO Group signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor after being cited for failure to provide adequate staffing of correctional officers, fix malfunctioning cell door locks and provide required training and personal protective equipment to protect employees from stabbings, bites and other injuries.
The state Department of Corrections is far from blameless. As far back as 2011, the Arizona Auditor General dinged the department for its failure to properly manage its private prison contracts. Even when there are monumental failures, there appears to be no accountability for Arizona's private prison contractors.
In about two weeks, all three of these companies (and probably others) will likely be submitting bids for up to 2,000 more medium security prison beds. In light of this latest fiasco, Gov. Doug Ducey has an obligation to stop the bidding process, at least until the investigation into the Kingman riots is complete. None of these companies deserve another billion dollar 20-year contract.
The riots in the Kingman prison represent more than a costly blunder; they are a betrayal of the public's trust. Our state leaders have handed over control of this critical public safety function to corporations that put their shareholders' interests ahead of ours. We cannot afford to make this mistake again.
Caroline Isaacs of Tucson is program director for the American Friends Service Committee-Arizona.
Chicago convulsed by another violent weekend; top cop blames justice system
by Leslie Holland
A visibly angry Chicago Police Department Superintendent said Sunday that he is "outraged and saddened" by a violent holiday weekend there.
Even in a city frequently beset by headline-grabbing violence, seven slayings between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon drew terrible attention.
In a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Superintendent Garry McCarthy pointed out one child is dead -- the victim of a bullet meant for his father, who is a ranking gang member -- despite a 30% increase in the number of police on the streets this weekend.
Since Friday morning, his police officers have recovered one illegal gun per hour across the city, according to McCarthy.
And he said he expects that statistic to increase as the numbers are tallied and finalized. He said the police are doing everything in their power to combat the violence.
'We need to repair a broken system'
"We need to repair a broken system. Criminals don't feel the repercussions of the justice system," McCarthy said.
A Chicago Police spokesperson said Sunday that along with the seven slayings, there were 33 shootings and 40 nonfatal victims in the wave of incidents.
McCarthy focused on the death of 7-year-old Amari Brown, who McCarthy said was the unintended victim of bullet meant for his father.
McCarthy said the system failed Amari. His father, who has been arrested 45 times and has a lengthy criminal record, should not have been on the streets, he said.
"If Mr. Brown is in custody, his son is alive," McCarthy added.
'I'm angry and I'm frustrated'
"I'm angry and I'm frustrated that we're here talking about another senseless murder," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said he is incredibly proud of the men and women of his department and the work they do, but added that "we must stem the flow of guns into the city."
This year's statistics may sound staggering, but compared with last year, the number of violent incidents is actually down. For the same period in 2014, there were 64 shootings, 69 nonfatal victims in those incidents and 15 slayings.
Chicago Violence Rises With the Heat of the Summer
by Tracy Jarrett
The figures can be numbing: There were more than 2,000 shootings in Chicago last year, and the city is on pace for more this year. The violence rises in the heat of summer. But beneath the sobering figures are personal stories, both of fear and resilience. NBC News' Tracy Jarrett spent time in Chicago to hear them .
Lula Hill has a strategy for keeping her three sons alive.
It begins just before they leave for school in the morning. She rubs their foreheads with anointing oil and says a prayer that God might protect them when they are not in her sight.
Then there are the more practical steps, like teaching the boys to stay away from the windows of their own home, on the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. Jaden, the youngest, who is 8, knows why.
"A man might have a gun in his hand, and he can look through the window and see me and he can shoot," he said. "That makes me feel, like, scared because I don't want to get killed."
These are the practicalities of life and family as another summer of violence breaks over Chicago.
Like most cities, it is far safer than it was two decades ago. But Chicago recorded more than 200 killings through late June and more than 1,000 shootings, both more than 20 percent higher than the year before.
And summer is the most dangerous season. Newspapers run weekend shooting trackers. Over Memorial Day weekend alone, at least 56 people were shot across the city. And on July 4th weekend at least 46 people were wounded and 9 others killed — including a 7-year-old boy.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office told NBC News that reducing gun violence is a priority. The city touts job training, counseling and community policing programs to help keep kids safe.
In the meantime, families navigate the danger.
'We've gotten this far without my kids being shot'
Across town from Roseland, in the West Side neighborhood of North Lawndale, Lisa Russell prays every morning with her 19-year-old son and his younger brothers, 11-year-old twins.
Then she walks them to school, even though it's only a block away.
Some other parents and school administrators have called her overprotective, she said. Her response is simple: "We've gotten this far without my kids being shot or getting a record. We aren't going to start now."
Like Roseland, North Lawndale is overrun with boarded-up buildings and rundown parks.
To stay safe, Russell's sons spend time in academic programs or playing games together at home. Playing outside without their mother is not an option. Russell saves money to enroll them in summer day camps.
"If my sons end up not making something out of themselves or in trouble, it won't be because I didn't introduce and expose them to everything I could," she said.
Protecting her sons carries more than a financial cost. In four years, T.J., the 19-year-old, gained 70 pounds because she did not want him playing outside.
"I'd rather him die of obesity than a gunshot," Russell said.
The gangs of Roseland
Roseland, where Hill and her sons live, once was thriving and multicultural. Now it is plagued by unemployment, abandoned buildings and empty lots, infested with gang violence and gunfire.
It is notorious for gang violence and shootings. Last year there were 102 shootings in the neighborhood, ranking it among the 10 worst in the city, and already this year 46 people have been shot, according to statistics kept by the Chicago Tribune.
Jaden's older brothers are 15 and 16. The decisions that Lula Hill must make as their mother are "a tug-of-war type thing," she said. Pulling from one side is freedom: They need to live their lives, to be boys. Pulling from the other side is fear.
"I worry about gangs. I worry about them going to school and getting a phone call that will say to me that they have been shot," she said.
So she keeps the children busy, and she keeps them out of their own neighborhood whenever she can.
All three go to school outside Roseland. The boys play on sports teams between the end of the school day and when Hill gets home.
They go to church in another neighborhood. On Sundays, Jaden sings in the children's choir. Andre, the 16-year-old, helps with media, and Fabian, the 15-year-old, volunteers in the kitchen.
Wednesday night is Bible study, and other nights are for family outings to the movies.
The children are rarely allowed to play outside alone. Hanging out in the neighborhood parks is out of the question, Hill said, because of the risk of stray bullets.
Stray bullets are a risk anyway, and the children know what to listen for.
"When you've got used to it, it starts getting very easy," Fabian said.
Jaden, the 8-year-old, is used to it, too. When he hears gunshots, he tells his mother and older brothers to close the windows to stay safe. He said he wishes he could live in a neighborhood where he could go outside without worrying.
'Everyone has heard a gunshot before'
Andre, the oldest, can recite the rules of living in Roseland: Watch your surroundings. Keep to yourself. Make sure you walk with a friend: If you're alone, a gang member might walk up and question you.
Try to show courage. Try not to look frightened.
"You're gonna hear a gun no matter who you are," Andre said. "You're gonna hear a gunshot any day of your life," he said. "That's just how life is. Everyone has heard a gunshot before."
All three of Lisa Russell's boys have witnessed shootings or other violence such as robberies or neighborhood kids in fights.
T.J. was at a convenience store when it was robbed. The twins, Lloyd and Floyd, saw a gunshot victim on the ground outside a window at camp one summer, and their school is sometimes locked down because of gang violence, their mother said.
As a result, Russell has had to talk to her sons about what their family will do if one of them gets shot and dies.
Both mothers, Hill and Russell, have thought about moving, but they said they can't make the money work. In the meantime, they will do what they can to prepare and protect the children.
"It's sad they have to grow up so fast," Russell said. "But our struggle is how to get home and how to get back every day. I don't think people understand that."
Union denounces release of officer names in police shootings
Union representing Philly police is challenging the PD's decision to make public names of cops involved in shootings
by The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA — The union representing Philadelphia police officers is challenging the department's decision to make public the names of officers in police-involved shootings.
Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police filed an unfair labor practice complaint Wednesday with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, saying the policy change was instituted without negotiating with the union, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"This unilateral change is contrary to decades of past practice between the parties whereby the privacy rights of officers were valued and protected," the complaint said.
The challenge was filed hours after Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the department will release an officer's name within 72 hours of a police-involved shooting unless there is a threat against the officer or family members. The new policy is in line with a Justice Department recommendation that police "share basic facts and circumstances" within 72 hours.
Ramsey had requested the Justice Department to review the city's nearly 400 officer-involved shootings since 2007 long before police shootings last year in Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland heightened national focus on the issue. The government recommended intensive retraining in the use of force and community-oriented policing in order to ease "significant strife" between the Philadelphia department and the community.
The report said Philadelphia's investigations into officer-involved shootings lacked consistency, focus and timeliness and recommended a single, specially trained investigative unit to handle them. It recommends that officers receive more reality-based training that incorporates de-escalation techniques.
Ramsey said Friday that the union has "every right" to file such a complaint, but "I think we're within our rights to take the steps we took, have taken, and are going to take."
The union complaint also contends that four proposed changes to departmental policy on use of force were contrary to the existing collective bargaining agreement.
"The city unilaterally implemented these changes in working conditions without first bargaining with the FOP or, indeed, even requesting bargaining with the FOP," the complaint said.
Police warn public against using iPhone cases shaped like guns
A new case that rests in the back pocket of a user's pants could cause potentially dangerous encounters with police
(Picture on site)
by PoliceOne Staff
NEW YORK — The newest technology craze could end lives.
A new and popular iPhone case shaped like a handgun designed to hang out of a user's back pockets is concerning police, Today reported.
"A police officer's job is hard enough, without having to make a split-second decision in the dark of night when someone decides without thinking to pull this out while stopped for a motor vehicle violation," the New Jersey's Orange County prosecutor's office wrote in a Facebook post.
Several police departments and law enforcement officials have spoken out about the case on social media.
An app comes with the phone case that creates “gunshot” noises when the trigger is pulled, according to the report.
The president of New York's largest police union, Patrick Lynch, predicted the product would lead to dangerous situations for both officers and citizens, New York Daily News reported.
“The money that is earned from the sale of this case is blood money earned from the blood of the person who is foolish enough to carry it,” Lynch told New York Daily News.