July, 2015 - Week 3
"Web Junkies" — when does screen overuse become an addiction?
Internet overuse or "screen addiction" is an increasing problem, child psychologists say. How much is too much?
by Joanne Ostrow
Sometimes the urge will not be denied. After a day glued to screens, Internet surfing, TV watching, phone texting and iPad browsing, it is increasingly difficult to let go. One more text. A last check of the e-mail, one more scan of Tweetdeck. There may be something new, some sign of digital life from afar that will seal my connection to the world.
I see how the compulsion takes hold. Remind me not to invest in a screen for my wrist. I already lean too much toward "always on."
Technology never sleeps and, increasingly, neither do we, the pale blue glow giving the lie to darkened rooms at night.
A documentary on the subject, "Web Junkies," bserves how the virtual world can become more real than the actual world to kids who spend their lives online. They forget to eat or sleep, get irritable when forced to step away from the Internet. The film, recently on PBS and available online, focuses on a rehab center in China, where screen addiction is now a classified clinical disorder. The Australian Psychological Society has weighed in, encouraging the inclusion of "Internet-use disorder" in an international psychiatric manual.
The U.S. hasn't gone that far, but is considering adding "Internet gaming disorder" to the therapist's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. The APA's conclusion, mostly based on evidence from young male gamers in Asia, is that it warrants more study.
More study? When we know anecdotally it's a real thing?
"It is an increasing phenomenon that I'm aware of," said Denver child psychiatrist Susan Lurie. "I would say most child psychiatrists or therapists dealing with children are working with this issue."
Lurie sees many kids "who have other issues but then get drawn into video games. There is something about the games and the way they're structured that is very addicting. It becomes like a drug for the kids. It's the same pathways in the brain as other addictions."
Generally speaking, she said, there is a recognized internet overuse disorder, "not an official disorder, but we all know people who can't have a conversation" because they're so hooked on technology.
Hours and hours
A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 8-18 year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media across a typical day — more than 53 hours a week. And because they spend so much of that time "media multitasking" (using more than one medium at a time), they actually pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes' worth of media content into those seven and a half hours.
But it's not just teens bonding with technology and media more than with other humans. Kids of all ages are susceptible (you've heard of video poker? perhaps you know a crazed grownup blogger?).
Studies large and small show that too much staring at screens is bad for the brain, is bad for kids' bones, fosters sleep deprivation and generally has a negative effect on youngsters' social skills.
The documentary "Web Junkies" goes inside a boot camp set up for teens (almost all males) to break them of their dependence on the screen. At Daxing Boot Camp in Beijing, one of 400 government rehab centers created to treat the disorder, calisthenics, group therapy and a complete lack of screens of any sort have proved successful at breaking the dependence.
"It is complicated," said Debbie Carter, a psychiatrist specializing in children and teens. "We know there may be something very rewarding, very reinforcing about TV and visual imagery, based on pediatric studies." The visual imagery may even be a substitute for relationships.
A kind of addiction
This has been a controversial point, but most scientists now believe behaviors can be as addictive as drugs. When a habit becomes an obligation, it's an addiction, says an article in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse:
"Behavioral addictions such as gambling, overeating, television compulsion and Internet addiction are similar to drug addiction except that the individual is not addicted to a substance, but he/she is addicted to the behavior or the feeling experienced by acting out the behavior." (Studies of cellphone addiction suggest female college students are more at risk than their male peers.)
Still, even five years ago there wasn't enough evidence to pin down the definition of "Internet addiction." The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse: "little is known about the patho-physiological and cognitive mechanisms responsible for Internet addiction. Due to the lack of methodologically adequate research, it is currently impossible to recommend any evidence-based treatment of Internet addiction."
"Here's the point that's complicated," Lurie said. "Are depressed kids who are not getting alot of gratification in other parts of their lives drawn to these games, and then at higher risk for developing an addiction?" Underlying causes must be considered in the equation.
Lurie has treated boys with severe OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) who can' t leave the house, and who develop gaming disorders. "They train, drink power drinks, they're heroes. They want to be professional gamers. It's a strange world we live in."
Most parents won't wait for the APA to officially label this a problem.
When it's a disorder
But how much is too much? How can we know when the habit has spilled over into an addiction?
"When it starts to significantly impair your function, when there is a significant drop off in grades and in friendships, then it starts to be a disorder," Lurie said. "Not just because your parents think you're playing too much."
"It's not uncommon, where kids are deprived of the computer, it leads to such a bad tantrum, they are kicking holes in walls. Then, if the parents are in good treatment, they help them weather the storm and if the kid gets treatment, too, it can help break the addiction."
The problem, Lurie said, shows up in "kids with social anxieties who really need to be out there in the world and face to face with peers," who instead text and surf the web instead of acquiring the skills needed to have a true emotional connection.
"There are kids who will forge what they consider to be real friendships online with people in other states or other countries. They are deeply drawn to a sort of an imaginary relationship." In therapy sessions, Lurie said, "they'll talk about their girlfriend or boyfriend, serious relationships, and you always have to ask, is it an online relationship? Someone they've never met?"
Wellness columnist Jane Brody of the New York Times has been writing lately about screen addiction and tools for parents in the digital age. Among the recommendations: Set an example yourself.
Parents who interrupt kids to take a call or answer a text are sending the wrong message, she reports. She cites experts who urge parents to "establish device-free times of day, like the first hour after school and the hour before bed" and forbid cellphones and tablets at the dinner table.
• • •
I recall instituting that policy years ago: no screens at mealtimes. Most kids invited to our house responded well; I still worry about the ones who didn't.
That kind of policing works until kids attain a certain age. At some point, they stay up later than we do, they spend the wee hours posting and reading about friends, communicating digitally and perhaps even meaningfully.
As a near-addict myself, it's difficult to disdain my daughter's online habits. I haven't set the best example. But, so far, I don't see a need for boot camp.
As long as we can engage on a powerful level, face-to-face, when we both put down our devices, I'll assume we're doing OK.
Black horse-trainer's death raises tensions in Mississippi
by Jeff Amy
STONEWALL, Miss. (AP) - It's a tiny little memorial in the yard of an aging mobile home in a down-on-its-luck Mississippi mill town. Poster boards with votive candles form hearts, there are silk flowers and red, white and blue balloons. There's a sign demanding “Justice 4 Jonathan.”
Here on Artesia Avenue is where Jonathan Sanders died after 10 p.m. on July 8, following a physical encounter with a white police officer for the town of Stonewall. What happened that night when Sanders - a 39-year-old black man riding in a two-wheel buggy pulled by a horse - crossed paths with Kevin Herrington - a 25-year-old part-time officer - is intensely disputed.
Lawyers for the Sanders family and witnesses who live in the mobile home say Herrington engaged in an unprovoked attack on Sanders after the two saw each other at a convenience store a mile across town. C.J. Lawrence, the lawyer for three witnesses, said Sanders was doing nothing illegal and didn't resist while Herrington choked him to death.
A lawyer for Herrington, though, said the officer found Sanders with what appeared to be illegal drugs. Sanders and Herrington struggled in the grass and Sanders grabbed Herrington's gun from his holster, only to drop it in the grass, attorney Bill Ready Jr. said.
Trying to sort out the facts are the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Herrington is on unpaid leave and left town on a family trip, Ready said. Sanders' survivors - including a mother, sister and two children - buried him Saturday.
Authorities are asking for calm while they finish investigating. But there were already two protests last weekend attended by hundreds in this town of 1,100 near the Alabama line.
Another protest is planned Sunday, as attorneys for Sanders' family paint his death as part of a larger nationwide struggle over police brutality against black men, and they see it as part of the unfinished civil rights movement in Stonewall, a town named after Confederate general Stonewall Jackson.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba, the Sanders family lawyer, said authorities told relatives that an autopsy found he died from “manual asphyxiation” - strangulation. He said the manner of death was homicide, not accidental.
A spokesman for MBI said the agency doesn't discuss ongoing investigations.
The autopsy finding doesn't necessarily mean Herrington committed a crime and accounts so far leave unanswered questions: What triggered the encounter? Was Herrington using necessary force, or was Sanders the victim of an overly aggressive officer?
And at a time when police departments are under intense scrutiny for treatment of black suspects, did race play a factor?
Stonewall doesn't have cameras in police cars or on officers, putting the focus on witnesses. Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp said one witness is Rachel Williams, a jail guard in neighboring Lauderdale County.
Lawrence, the witnesses' attorney, won't confirm her name, or describe the others, except to say they are related and also distantly related to Sanders by marriage. Lawrence said the witnesses sought lawyers because they fear for their safety. Lawrence is a law partner of Lumumba, the Sanders' family attorney.
Also present at the time of the death were Herrington and his wife, Kasey Herrington, who was riding that night in his police car.
The lawyers for the witnesses relayed their accounts to The Associated Press but said they did not want to talk directly with reporters: The witnesses say Herrington drove up behind Sanders and flashed his blue lights, causing the horse to rear. Sanders fell off the buggy and chased the horse, while Herrington ran up and grabbed Sanders by the strap of a headlamp he was wearing that had fallen around his neck. They say Sanders fell to the ground in a fetal position, trying to relieve pressure on his neck but otherwise not resisting, while Herrington lay atop him and put him in a chokehold.
The attorneys said one witness went outside and pleaded with Herrington to release Sanders. He refused until his wife retrieved his gun. Then Herrington directed his wife to radio for backup. When Herrington finally released Sanders, witnesses say he was unconscious and that blood came out of his mouth.
Ready disputes significant parts of that account. He said a struggle began after Herrington found Sanders with drugs and Sanders tried to run.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Sanders fought back and actually grabbed the officer's gun,” Ready said.
He also said that Sanders outweighed Herrington, making it hard for the officer to subdue Sanders. He said Herrington did not intend to harm or kill Sanders.
“This was just an unfortunate result of an encounter between him and Mr. Sanders,” Ready said.
State investigators have so far only described what happened as a physical “altercation.”
Lawrence said his witnesses deny Herrington found drugs, or that Sanders grabbed the officer's gun. He and Lumumba say Kasey Herrington retrieved the gun from her husband's holster while he restrained Sanders.
Sanders has a history of drug troubles. He was convicted in December 2003 for selling cocaine and went to prison until May 2007. He was arrested again in April for allegedly possessing cocaine. A lawyer who was representing Sanders said authorities were trying to seize his Chevy Tahoe and some cash. Ready noted that if Sanders had drugs, his bond on the earlier charge could have been revoked and he would have had to stay in jail until the charges were resolved.
Herrington has been described as both an excellent police officer and a “Rambo” who held a grudge.
He graduated from a police academy in nearby Meridian in December 2013. Until last week, he was working occasional shifts in Stonewall and two nights a week in neighboring Enterprise. Ready said he also has a full time job as industrial worker, but wouldn't be more specific.
Enterprise Police Chief Joey Moulds said Herrington is a conscientious officer who kept on good terms with people - even after he'd written them citations.
Moulds said there were few complaints about Herrington and said he was very non-confrontational.
“I would have to put him at the top of the list. He's the most humble person I know of, extremely humble, extremely responsible,” Moulds said.
But Eddie Crosby, who lives near Enterprise, thinks otherwise. Crosby said Herrington pulled him over multiple times this year to the point where Crosby felt Herrington was harassing him. He wrote a complaint to Moulds and the mayor and complained in a letter published in April by a local newspaper. He didn't include Herrington's name - describing the officer only as a “Rambo” type - but confirms he was referring to Herrington.
Afterward, Crosby said Herrington would flash his police lights at him and recently ticketed him for rolling through a stop sign.
“If he got it in for you he was going to have you,” Crosby said. “I could understand the first time but you just don't stop somebody and make up an excuse.”
Friends of Sanders describe him as a horse-lover who made a living buying, training and selling the animals.
“Ever since he's been big enough, he loved those horses,” said Follins, 69.
Police unions can be smart partners in community-policing reform
by Tom Wetzel
Police unions and community policing are two terms that most people probably don't view as synonymous right now. The first may be viewed as recalcitrant, stubborn and only looking out for the interests of their members, while the latter is all the buzz right now and viewed as a panacea for all that plagues police work.
This may be especially true in Cleveland, where a federal consent degree put special emphasis on the role of community policing, but appears to have ignored contractual issues that are both legal and binding, which is a concern to the Cleveland police union there. It's unfortunate because community policing and police unions are intrinsically connected and have the collective potential to make our communities safer places to live and thrive.
For the leadership of police unions throughout our nation, this is an opportune time to demonstrate the importance of that relationship and work towards educating our customers about unions' purpose and mission.
It is also an opportunity to re-evaluate the business model of police unions and recognize that certain changes can strengthen their hand and increase their support from those same customers.
Many people may not fully understand that those sworn to protect and serve them also need someone to protect and serve them.
One officer alone is limited in addressing capricious management that shows favoritism or sexism, or the stinginess of city administrators in allowing that same cop to have a decent standard of living for his family. But collectively, through a union, officers can work as a team towards improving their work conditions and be able to defend themselves against unfair or inconsistent disciplinary efforts brought against them.
Police union leadership needs to do a better job explaining why they do what they do, because they are essentially another form of "backup" for an officer.
Making changes within their business model is fundamental for the long-term success of police unions and is critical in developing increased backing from the citizenry police are risking their lives to protect. Current agreed-upon police contracts will limit immediate large-scale changes, but that shouldn't prevent planning for when they do expire.
There are many ways unions can enhance their mission, but one area of concern is their role in the discipline process. One of the biggest criticisms police unions face is defending chronic troublemaking officers who don't seem to learn from their mistakes.
Unfortunately, police administrations are part of the problem because they can be erratic in meting out discipline, which makes them susceptible to later losing cases involving punishment.
A better model for addressing officer mistakes and misconduct may involve having union representation be part of the discipline solution instead of just reflexively defending it. By working with police administrations in the actual complaint process, union participation will allow for a more balanced approach, which may produce a resolution more tolerable for the officer in question as well as limit excessive outside litigation and lengthy arbitration hearings.
City management would naturally have to agree to this process and conditions would have to be set for an impasse, but it clearly has the potential to bring more harmony and fairness to this complex and emotional process. And it also shows the public that unions recognize the importance of addressing misconduct because they will have a hand in the disciplinary process.
Getting back to community policing, leadership needs to be out in front on this.
Instead of having politicians or pundits calling for these measures, it should be union presidents, because they recognize well the value of community-policing efforts. It is their membership who will be the ones enacting these programs and policies -- and who better to lead the charge than them? In doing so, they will demonstrate a commitment to developing a genuine partnership with the public to help keep them safe.
Police unions have an important function within our communities. The current strain of antipathy towards too many police officers requires strong leadership and the wherewithal to make internal changes that will help them better connect with those they are sworn to protect and serve.
Tom Wetzel is a suburban police lieutenant in Northeast Ohio.
New Athens police chief getting to know community
by Donnie Z. Fetter
The image many might conjure up when pondering the role of a police chief might include that of a someone donned in a spiffy uniform pushing papers from behind a desk or glad-handing politicians at public gatherings.
Working late Thursday evening, Athens-Clarke County's new police chief, Scott Freeman, took a call to help a woman in a stalled vehicle. On Friday, his 10th day in the new job, Freeman intended to follow-up with the victim of a theft.
Admittedly still acclimating to his new home, Freeman said on Friday he seeks out opportunities to learn the nuances of Athens and its citizens.
“I've never been one who liked being tied to a desk,” he said. “I want to be out in the community, communicating with the community.”
At a time when public trust in law enforcement seems at an all-time low across the nation, Freeman said community policing has never felt more important.
In a recent interview for an unrelated article, Athens-Clarke County police Assistant Chief Fred Stephens noted an officer who often takes time to play
games with the children residing in the community he patrols as a means of building trust. Freeman said he wholeheartedly agrees with that approach.
“I'm so grateful to have come into a police force that understands how important it is to get to know the people you serve,” he said.
“It starts at the top,” Freeman said of community policing. “As chief, I need to set the example of being visible in the community and allowing the community to get to know me.”
Freeman came to Athens from Rockdale County, where he served as chief deputy in the sheriff's office since 2013. Prior to that, he worked for 22 years at the Conyers Police Department, where he reached the rank of major. Along the way he earned a doctorate in public policy and administration from Walden University.
Last month, when announcing his selection for the new police chief, Athens-Clarke County Manager Alan Reddish said Freeman's education and experience easily set him apart from the 64 other applicants for the post.
Due to research projects he conducted on behalf of Rockdale County, Freeman said he already felt acquainted with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department before deciding to accept the job offer. He called the department well regarded amongst law enforcement officials across Georgia and feels no need to make any immediate alterations.
“I know a lot of chiefs, like CEOs, like to come in and immediately start making changes as a way to put their stamp on things and assert their authority,” Freeman said. “That's not me. I like to take my time, see how things work, then if I feel a change is needed, I research the options before picking the one I think works best.
“We have a well-run police department, but I acknowledge that things can always be better. Still, before making any changes to our procedures or policies, I want to make sure that change is warranted and will mean improvements.”
In the short-term, Freeman said he intends to continue crime prevention efforts already underway at the department, get to know the men and women now serving under him, and remain visible in the community by taking calls and attending public events.
“My number one goal is to make this department better,” he said. “Athens deserves a police department that is responsive and focuses on (crime) prevention.”
The worst part of the job for this cop
Visiting murder victims' families takes toll on cops
by Christian Sheckler
When Lt. David Wells appears on a family's doorstep, he doesn't expect a warm welcome.
People curse at him. Sometimes they toss him out or refuse to open the door in the first place. In other cases, they start throwing things at him or ransack their own homes while he watches helplessly.
It's all part of a grim ritual that Wells, assistant commander of the St. Joseph Metro Homicide Unit, describes as the worst part of his job — visiting a family to deliver the news that someone has killed their son, daughter, brother or sister — and a task that highlights the mental and emotional toll that murder cases take on even the most hardened investigators.
"We're not robots," Wells said in an interview with The Tribune. "There's a human side to us, clearly, in that we are emotional about these cases, and we have a lot of concern about the victims and their families."
Authorities say that first moment of contact with a murder victim's family is the most painful moment of a homicide investigation, but also one of the most important, as the officers handling the case try to both console the family and offer assurances that they will bring justice to the person responsible.
In some ways, police always take the same approach to delivering the news. For example, they always visit a family in person to speak with them face to face, or contact another police department to make the visit if the family lives outside driving distance from South Bend. And only officers who are personally handling the case conduct the visits.
"It's always face to face, and it's always someone with knowledge of what happened," said St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter, who oversees the homicide unit. "That's important that (the family) sees somebody took away 'Johnny.' I think it's important for the family to know viscerally that this is being investigated."
Through Friday, the county's investigators had delivered the news to about a dozen families this year, as 12 people had been killed in homicides, not counting one young man who turned a gun on himself after he shot and killed another teen.
The ability to deliver that news is a delicate responsibility that every rookie police officer learns — sometimes reluctantly — before hitting the streets in a squad car.
Some cadets haven't thought about that aspect of the job until they learn about it in basic training, and even then, it can seem like a far-off possibility, said Capt. David Younce, a master instructor at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield, Ind.
"Being new officers, most of them don't even realize that's part of the job," Younce said. "Some of them, it's probably that type of thing where they're like, 'That probably won't happen to me.'"
Still, the academy teaches officers the basic practices that help them notify families of their loved ones' deaths in the most sensitive way possible. Cadets learn to gather background information that could both help them comfort families and anticipate extreme reactions.
If a family has a strong faith, for example, officers may bring a minister. Or, if a family member is at-risk for health problems, such as a heart attack, the officers may ask an ambulance to stage down the street, Younce said. Regardless, he said, officers should plan on spending as much time as it takes for the family to understand the news and have their questions answered.
"This is not the kind of thing that you tell someone when they're holding the door open on the doormat," he said. "It's not a five-minute deal, when it's done properly and with compassion."
For many family members, the first reaction is denial or utter bewilderment. Victoria Jackson, whose daughter, 22-year-old Precious Jackson, was shot and killed June 12 in Mishawaka, recalled how she knew her daughter was dead, yet, at the same time, felt a surreal sense of disbelief.
Jackson was at work when she first got a call from a relative who said Precious was in trouble. When Jackson arrived at the scene, at Sixth and Logan streets, Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett confirmed her fear.
"He said, 'I'm very sorry, but your daughter has been murdered,'" Jackson said. "Words were coming out of his mouth, but I didn't hear nothing he said."
But reactions are hardly uniform, and the visits almost never go according to plan, said Wells, the Metro Homicide assistant commander, as he recalled cases from his 10-year stint with the unit.
One woman was afraid to answer her door when she saw the plainclothes detectives on her porch. Even after the investigators called a uniformed officer to the house and introduced themselves, the woman refused to open her outer storm door. Finally, when she asked Wells why he was there, he told her through the glass that her son was dead.
"She tore the house apart while I stood outside," he said. "You hope that she opens the door (and says) please come in and have some coffee, but it never goes like that."
In other cases, parents have reacted with a sense of sad resignation, saying they knew their child led a dangerous lifestyle, and that it was just a matter of time before police came to their door to say their child was either in prison or dead.
And police don't carry out the family visits only in murder cases, but also in cases of fatal overdoses, accidents and suicides. In one example, Wells and another officer went to a house after a family member died from a heroin overdose. When they arrived, they found that the family was throwing a birthday party.
"You can tell it went from complete joy and happiness to, oh man, what are you guys doing here," Wells said. "Off into the kitchen we went, and we told them, and that was the end of that party."
Still, officials said, after the initial shock and grief, families often develop a bond with the investigators who seek justice for the victims. That bond often starts when the officers weep along with family. It grows when the detectives give families their cellphone numbers and invite them to call anytime, sometimes fielding questions at 3 or 4 a.m.
"You have to give yourselves to them completely," Wells said.
That compassion comes at a cost. When the investigators open their time and emotions to the families, rather than setting up a strict professional barrier, they also repeatedly expose themselves to hurt, said Cotter, the county prosecutor.
That makes it important for the officers to count on one another for support, seek counseling if necessary and take quiet moments to collect their thoughts and feelings — doubly so in cases that involve violence and abuse against young children, Wells said.
But the same vulnerability can also yield lasting respect and appreciation from families. Members of the homicide unit still receive notes, Christmas cards, cakes and cookies from families involved in years-old cases, Cotter said. Each year, a family member of a victim in the so-called "Manhole Murders" of 2006 adds several hundred dollars to the homicide unit's tab at The View restaurant/tavern.
Victoria Jackson said her experience with Metro Homicide and the local police departments after her daughter's killing changed her view that most police officers approached their work with a cold and callous demeanor.
"They were very respectful, very sympathetic," Jackson said, her eyes welling with tears as she described how officers helped to gently lift her daughter onto a gurney, almost as if she were still alive.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Reaches Settlement in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Maricopa County, Arizona, and Maricopa County Sheriff
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division announced today that it has reached a partial settlement in its civil rights lawsuit against Maricopa County, Arizona, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio. The settlement resolves the United States' claims that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) conducted unlawful detentions of Hispanics during worksite raids of local businesses in violation of the Fourth and 14 th Amendments, and retaliated against critics of Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO in violation of the First Amendment. The parties have filed a joint motion requesting that the federal district court in Arizona approve and agree to enforce the settlement agreement. The parties also reached a separate settlement resolving the United States' claim that MCSO failed to provide adequate language access for limited English-proficient Hispanics in MCSO jails in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The resolution of these claims, with the important safeguards against future constitutional violations included in these agreements, is in the best interests of the people of Maricopa County,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Kappelhoff of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office changed many of their practices after the commencement of our litigation, and these agreements ensure that progress continues and the Constitutional rights of the people of Maricopa County will be protected for the long term.”
Under the agreements, MCSO will comply with the following measures, ensuring that its activities comport with federal law and the Constitution:
Before MCSO may conduct any worksite raids, it must first establish a set of written policies and protocols and submit them to the Civil Rights Division for review, to ensure that the worksite raids comply with all applicable laws and constitutional protections. If MCSO conducts a worksite raid, the Civil Rights Division may request any information and documents to determine whether the operation was conducted consistently with federal law and the Constitution.
MCSO will prohibit retaliation against individuals engaging in First Amendment protected activity, such as public criticism of Sheriff Arpaio or the MCSO.
MCSO must ensure that limited English-proficient (LEP) Hispanic inmates in MCSO jails have adequate language access and are protected from unlawful, national origin-based discrimination. These measures include:
Improving MCSO's policies and practices for identifying LEP inmates;
Ensuring that LEP inmates have adequate access to language assistance services, such as bilingual staff, telephonic interpretation services and Spanish-language translations of important written policies and postings in the jails; and
Requiring that all vital announcements in MCSO facilities be made in both English and Spanish; and
Requiring MCSO to take reasonable steps to ensure that medical staff are informed if an inmate needing medical attention is LEP and requires language assistance.
As part of today's agreements, if the Civil Rights Division determines that MCSO is not in substantial compliance with any provision of the agreements, it will attempt to first resolve the issue with MCSO; if the Civil Rights Division is unable to cooperatively resolve the compliance issues, however, it may bring appropriate enforcement actions before the federal district court in Arizona.
Today's agreements resolve the majority of the claims involved in the division's lawsuit, filed in May 2013, against Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County. That lawsuit alleged four patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct: (1) discriminatory policing against Hispanic persons in MCSO's saturation patrols, general traffic enforcement and worksite operations targeting Hispanic immigrants, (2) detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment during MCSO's worksite raids targeting Hispanic immigrants, (3) failures in the provision of language access to Hispanic LEP jail inmates and (4) retaliatory police action against critics of Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO. Last month, the federal district court of Arizona granted the United States' motion for partial summary judgment on its discriminatory policing claim, finding that the United States was entitled to judgment on its claims that MCSO had engaged in discrimination against Hispanics in its enforcement of traffic laws. A remedy on that issue is still to be determined by the court. The parties are in ongoing discussions to resolve the remaining claims in the division's lawsuit.
The agreements, as well as a description of the division's previous investigation of and litigation against the Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County, will be available at: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/ .
Maricopa Settlement Agreement and Attachment A.pdf (1.03 MB)
Maricopa Proposed Order.pdf (23.54 KB)
Maricopa Joint Motion to Approve.pdf (37.86 KB)
ICE deports prolific terrorist fundraiser to UK
PHILADELPHIA — A British national who was sentenced in federal court for multiple crimes supporting terrorism fundraising efforts was deported late Monday. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the investigation into the terrorist supporter's activities, and ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) handed him over to British authorities.
Babar Ahmad, 41, was extradited to the United States in 2012 to face charges for operating a family of websites collectively known as Azzam Publications, which an HSI investigation determined was established to “incite the believers” and also to raise money for known terrorist groups, including the Taliban.
Ahmad admitted to the crime in 2013 and received a 150-month prison sentence by a federal judge in July 2014. He was deported once he completed the prison term, which included time served in Britain and the United States leading up to his sentencing.
“This case is an example of ICE's commitment to seek out those who are a threat to Americans around the world, bring them to justice, and ensure they no longer are on American soil,” said Tom Decker, ERO Philadelphia field office director.
The investigation into Ahmad's online activities spans nearly a decade and revealed he was providing material support when the Taliban was harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. His funding allowed the Taliban to have a base of operations in Afghanistan from which they could plan terrorist attacks directed at the United States.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Ahmad was a member of a group that supported the Taliban through various means, including the operation of a series of websites, including Azzam.com and Qoqaz.net, which promoted violent jihad and solicited support for such groups.
Azzam Publications posted articles on how to train for and support the jihad and the mujahideen, posted biographies of "martyrs," and also produced and/or sold a number of audio and video products that were advertised on the websites, including videos containing real combat footage and biographies and images of deceased mujahideen.
While the websites were in operation, the Taliban allowed territory under its control in Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven and base of operations for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, who had committed and threatened to continue committing acts of violence against the United States and its nationals, including the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Africa, the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For a period of time, the Azzam websites were made possible through the unwitting services of a web-hosting company headquartered in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Ahmad conspired with others to provide support by soliciting and conspiring to provide funds and military equipment and by facilitating the travel of individuals to attend training camps in Afghanistan. His actions were done knowing that such support would be used in preparation for or in carrying out a conspiracy to commit murder, kidnaping or maiming, and a conspiracy to kill nationals of the United States while such nationals were abroad.
In 2001, Azzam Publications also posted on its websites an article entitled "What You Can Do to Help the Taliban," which provided detailed instructions on how to raise, transport and personally deliver amounts over $ 20,000 in cash to the Taliban government via its consulate in Pakistan. Azzam Publications solicited personnel and physical items, including military suits and gas masks, for the Taliban. This solicitation appeared on the Azzam websites following Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida's having claimed responsibility for the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and was intended to assist the Taliban defend against a claimed forthcoming attack by the United States in retaliation for al-Qaida's attack on the U.S.S. Cole.
Ahmad and Azzam Publications' support continued even after Sept. 11, 2001, when U.S. forces were actively fighting Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan, and after Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks. For example, from at least the fall of 2001 through mid-2002, Ahmad and the Azzam sites posted an "Appeal to Pakistanis All over the World," which, post-9/11, encouraged Pakistanis worldwide to travel to and fight against "the Crusaders" in Afghanistan, and provided detailed instructions for Pakistani nationals to obtain a Pakistani visa under false pretenses. On a linked page discussing the fighting in Afghanistan, the Azzam site also posted a bar graph comparing casualties at the World Trade Center with casualties in Afghanistan.
A search of Ahmad's computer media from his office at Imperial College in London recovered a previously deleted document from December 2001 that discussed safe routes into and out of Afghanistan, the need for fighters, the provision of funds and night vision systems, and providing detailed information on U.S. casualties for circulation on the Azzam sites.
In December 2003, a search of Ahmad's residence in the United Kingdom revealed that Ahmad was in possession of an electronic document setting forth previously classified plans regarding the makeup, advance movements, and mission of a U.S. naval battle group as it was to travel from California to its deployment in the Middle East. The document discussed the battle group's perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack. Forensic analysis revealed that Syed Talha Ahsan created the electronic version of the battle group document, carefully altered the metadata to hide his authorship, and then delivered the material to Ahmad.
Ahmad was detained since his arrest by British law enforcement authorities Aug. 5, 2004, and he was indicted in October 2004. Following lengthy extradition proceedings, Ahmad was extradited to Connecticut in October 2012. On Dec. 10, 2013, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and one count of providing material support to terrorists.
This case was investigated by a task force in Connecticut led by HSI. Other law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation include: FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force; Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division; IRS's Criminal Investigation Electronic Crimes Program; Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
From the FBI
Cyber Criminal Forum Taken Down -- Members Arrested in 20 Countries
It was, in effect, a one-stop, high-volume shopping venue for some of the world's most prolific cyber criminals. Called Darkode, this underground, password-protected, online forum was a meeting place for those interested in buying, selling, and trading malware, botnets, stolen personally identifiable information, credit card information, hacked server credentials, and other pieces of data and software that facilitated complex cyber crimes all over the globe.
Unbeknownst to the operators of this invitation-only, English-speaking criminal forum, though, the FBI had infiltrated this communication platform at the highest levels and began collecting evidence and intelligence on Darkode members.
And today, the Department of Justice and the FBI—with the assistance of our partners in 19 countries around the world—announced the results of Operation Shrouded Horizon, a multi-agency investigation into the Darkode forum. Among those results were charges, arrests, and searches involving 70 Darkode members and associates around the world; U.S. indictments against 12 individuals associated with the forum, including its administrator; the serving of several search warrants in the U.S.; and the Bureau's seizure of Darkode's domain and servers.
Said FBI Deputy Director Mark Giuliano, “Cyber criminals should not have a safe haven to shop for the tools of their trade, and Operation Shrouded Horizon shows we will do all we can to disrupt their unlawful activities.”
During the investigation, the Bureau focused primarily on the Darkode members responsible for developing, distributing, facilitating, and supporting the most egregious and complex cyber criminal schemes targeting victims and financial systems around the world, including in the United States.
The Darkode forum, which had between 250-300 members, operated very carefully—not just anyone could join. Ever fearful of compromise by law enforcement, Darkode administrators made sure prospective members were heavily vetted.
Similar to practices used by the Mafia, a potential candidate for forum membership had to be sponsored by an existing member and sent a formal invitation to join. In response, the candidate had to post an online introduction—basically, a resume—highlighting the individual's past criminal activity, particular cyber skills, and potential contributions to the forum. The forum's active members decided whether to approve applications.
Once in the forum, members—in addition to buying and selling criminal cyber products and services—used it to exchange ideas, knowledge, and advice on any number of cyber-related fraud schemes and other illegal activities. It was almost like a think tank for cyber criminals.
What's the significance of this case, believed to be the largest-ever coordinated law enforcement effort directed at an online cyber criminal forum? In addition to shutting down a major resource for cyber criminals, law enforcement infiltrated a closed criminal forum—no easy task—to obtain the intelligence and evidence needed to identity and prosecute these criminals. And this action paid off with a treasure trove of information that ultimately led to the dismantlement of the forum and law enforcement actions against dozens of its worst criminal members around the world.
The case was led by the FBI's Pittsburgh Field Office, with assistance from our offices in Washington, San Diego, and a number of others around the country. But it wouldn't have happened without the support of Europol and other partners in 19 countries. And in addition to the FBI obtaining enough evidence for search warrants and indictments in the U.S., we shared information with our foreign partners to help them make their own cases against the Darkode perpetrators residing in their jurisdictions.
Operation Shrouded Horizon is a prime example of why the most effective way to combat cyber crime—which operates globally—is a law enforcement response that also transcends national borders.
From the Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Secret Service: Celebrating 150 Years
This week, the U.S. Secret Service celebrates 150 years of service to the nation. Initially created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 to investigate counterfeit currency, the Secret Service mission has expanded to the protection of U.S. and visiting foreign leaders, as well as the U.S. financial system.
Secretary Johnson commemorated the Secret Service's anniversary and its storied history at a reception on July 7, where he recognized the agency as the finest protection service in the world. But for Secretary Johnson, his appreciation goes even further – as a Secret Service protectee, he is with them 24/7, and he views these dedicated men and women as members of his family.
To express his congratulations and gratitude, Secretary Johnson issued this video message. To the men and women of the Secret Service, he says, “You have my back, and I have yours.”
Killing prompts Michigan bill targeting 'sanctuary' cities
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A recent fatal shooting in San Francisco is prompting Michigan lawmakers to propose legislation to crack down on cities they suspect of harboring immigrants in the country illegally.
Republicans backing the bills say the slaying is a wakeup call and other potential tragedies must be stopped.
The legislation would cut off state funding to municipalities that enforce "sanctuary" policies restricting public employees from asking about immigration status. Michigan has two sanctuary cities, Detroit and Ann Arbor.
A man without legal status who's accused of killing a woman was released from a California jail despite immigration officials wanting to deport him for a sixth time.
Supporters of sanctuary cities say they foster a climate so immigrants here illegally are willing to report crimes, and police can still help federal immigration officials.
More than half of new driver's licenses go to immigrants in U.S. illegally
by Patrick McGreevy
M ore than half the new driver's licenses issued in California during the first six months of the year have gone to immigrants in the country illegally, the state Department of Motor Vehicles reported Friday.
Immigrants received 397,000 of the 759,000 original driver's licenses issued in California since the January beginning of a new law aimed at providing licenses to those not legally in the country but who can document their identity and California residency.
“The latest numbers reflect the continued successful implementation of AB 60,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “The DMV was determined to develop a process that would not only meet the stringent requirements of this new law, but also the unique needs of our newly expanded customer base.”
Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials decided to provide licenses to immigrants so they could legally drive to work and school and to improve traffic safety by requiring them to pass the driver's license test and get insurance.
Many more immigrants are in line to receive the specially marked licenses, which do not entitle them to vote or board airplanes.
The DMV reported that it has received about 687,000 driver's license applications from immigrants who are in the country illegally, while 1.4 million people have visited the DMV to ask about the special licenses.
Lynch to visit Connecticut on community policing tour
by The Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will visit Connecticut next week as part of a national tour aimed at highlighting programs to strengthen relations between police and communities.
Lynch is planning to speak at a forum Tuesday in East Haven, where the Justice Department wants to highlight progress in community relations since four police officers were arrested in 2012 by the FBI on charges that they abused Latino residents.
The attorney general is planning to speak at a cybersecurity symposium in New Haven earlier in the day. She is joining six local police chiefs for lunch.
The Justice Department says the attorney general's tour aims to bring attention to programs and policing practices that advance public safety and foster mutual trust and respect.
Basketball is the latest craze in community policing
by Paul Srubas
We all know if we don't give kids something to do in the summer, some of them might steal our hubcaps.
There's nothing new in the idea that “idle hands are the devil's workshop.”
Still, the city's new BYO5 Basketball Tournament — that's “Bring Your Own Five” — is a little different. Taking place once a week at Fisk Park, the event encourages teens from all over greater Green Bay to put a team together and come on down.
Be forewarned: The event is crawling with cops. But they're not there to crack down on crime. They're handing out Gatorade, not tickets. They meet and greet the players, maybe do a little refereeing, occasionally take on somebody in a little one-on-one. Maybe a little post-tournament “horse.”
It's all about bringing kids together from different neighborhoods, giving them something to do and getting them to understand police officers are not The Bad Guys. Kids can learn that police can be human and friendly and some of them even got game. Or that they don't.
Soon-to-be-retired Police Chief Tom Molitor admits his best playing days are well behind him, but he shows up once a week for the games and has been known to take to the courts to strut what he doesn't really have anymore.
“I'm the short, fat white guy that can't really play,” he says.
The point is, the cops want the kids to take to the courts so that they don't end up taking the kids to court. Or worse. The tournament's mission statement, if it had a mission statement, would be something like, “We don't want Ferguson to happen here.”
The idea was hatched by people at the Divine Temple, who run the event along with the police and city Parks Department, and it fits right in with Molitor's view that community policing is the most effective kind of policing.
“We come from a long line of people who don't trust police — from places like Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit,” says Pastor L. C. Green from Divine Temple. “We're hoping to change that. The more the child gets to know officers, the better the community will be.”
“We've got all kinds of kids,” says Deacon Terry Cook, who helps referee the games. “Native American, black, Spanish kids, short kids, tall kids. They have fun. The chief's been out there every time, the mayor was there taking pictures with the teams.
“Green Bay is not gangish, like Milwaukee, but we're trying to stop that train before it gets here,” Cook says. “The kids come, they see the police and find out they're not like what they've heard about. We don't want this city to turn into Ferguson. We're trying to bind the community together.”
That's all cool and good, of course, but the tournament is good for something else. Just ask L.C. Green's grandson, King Green, 15.
“I just like getting a chance to play basketball,” he says. “Mostly I just want everybody to have fun.”
You want to get involved? You want to play?
“Just come to the park,” Cook says.
Fisk Park, 1 p.m. Saturdays.
City Leaders Introduce Community Policing Program
by Ali Wolf
SACRAMENTO — At a time when tension between communities and police is high, city leaders in Sacramento are trying to strengthen that relationship.
“We expect to see that crime goes down on one hand and public trust goes up on the other,” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said.
Thursday, Mayor Johnson, Police Chief Sam Somers and other city leaders unveiled a community policing initiative called “Officer Next Door.”
“We as a community didn't want to sit by idly and wait for something to happen in our community, we want to be proactive,” Johnson said.
The mayor said the program has been in the works since August of last year, after police in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown.
“If you look at what's happening across the country, there's such a gulf of mistrust between our law enforcement and our communities of color in particular, and we want to be a leader in that in Sacramento,” Johnson said.
Officer Next Door is based on four pillars: police training, diversity, engagement and accountability.
“We're gonna be able to make Sacramento the safest big city in California,” Somers said.
In the newly approved budget, the city allocated $5.3 million for this initiative. The money will go towards hiring 15 new officers, sensitivity training and use of force training, diversity hiring, gang prevention and a pilot program for police body cameras.
“It's very important for us to right now make sure that we hold the police, the sheriff, law enforcement accountable,” Sacramento NAACP President Stephen Webb said.
Webb has been involved in shaping this program, as have local activists such as Christina Arechiga. She is cautiously optimistic.
“I want to see some action. I've seen a lot of money being tossed around to the police department and I've seen a lot of words being said,” Arechiga said.
Eleven people will be selected to form a “Community Police Commission” that will help monitor the program and report back to city council and the Police Department.
That new commission will be appointed within 120 days and within 180 days they're expected to have a progress report.
Four Marines, Gunman Killed in Chattanooga Shooting
by Michael Hoffman
Four Marines were shot and killed Thursday morning at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during an hour-long attack at two military facilities that also left a soldier, a Marine and a police officer wounded, officials said.
The lone gunman was identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. He was killed by local police, according to a senior Defense Department official. Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait and he lives in nearby Hixson, Tennessee.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian called the shooting an "act of domestic terrorism." However, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold said investigators were still searching for a motive. The senior Defense Department official, who asked not to be identified, said the federal government did not have any reports or warnings that Chattanooga might be a target for a terrorist attack.
"Today was a nightmare for the city of Chattanooga," Mayor Andy Berke said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "As a city, we will respond to this with every available resource that we have."
The shooting started at 10:30 a.m. at the military recruiting center on Old Lee Highway Road, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge, 36, the leader for Army recruiting at the center. Abdulazeez fired about 25-30 shots at the recruiting center. After hearing gunshots, those in the center hit the ground and sealed the doors, Dodge said.
Law enforcement officials told recruiters that the shooter was in a car, stopped in front of the facility, shot at the building and drove off, said Brian Lepley, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Within minutes of that attack, Abdulazeez then opened fire at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center Chattanooga, about seven miles away. The four Marines were killed there, Reinhold said.
Marine Corps officials confirmed the deaths of the four Marines, but said they would wait to alert family members before releasing their identities.
"The Marine Corps can confirm four Marine fatalities today at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, TN. Names of these Marines will be released upon notification of the next of kin," Maj. Paul Greenberg, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement.
Greenberg confirmed a Marine was wounded in the leg at the recruiting office. He was treated at a local hospital and has been released. The Army has not issued an update on the status of the soldier.
The police officer, who was shot in the ankle, is being treated at a local hospital, officials said.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Thursday's attack against military personnel on home soil "insidious and unfathomable."
"Today, the Navy and Marine Corps team collectively mourn the loss of four heroes," he said. "The tragedy in Chattanooga is both devastating and senseless. On behalf of the entire Department of the Navy family, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wounded in service to our nation during this incident."
The reserve center sits between the highway and a pathway that runs through Tennessee River Park, a popular area at a bend in the Tennessee River northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It's in a light industrial area that includes a Coca-Cola bottling plant.
The two entrances to the fenced facility have unmanned gates and concrete barriers that require approaching cars to slow down to drive around them.
Marilyn Hutcheson, who works at Binswanger Glass across the street, said she heard a barrage of gunfire around 11 a.m.
"I couldn't even begin to tell you how many," she said. "It was rapid fire, like pow pow pow pow pow, so quickly. The next thing I knew, there were police cars coming from every direction."
She ran inside, where she remained locked down with other employees and a customer. The gunfire continued with occasional bursts she estimated for 20 minutes.
"We're apprehensive," Hutcheson said. "Not knowing what transpired, if it was a grievance or terroristic related, we just don't know."
One Year After Eric Garner's Death and Black America Still Can't Breathe
One year ago today, Eric Garner lost his life trying to be free.
by Kirsten West Savali
T he labored breathing of black America has grown more intense since the state-sanctioned chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner last summer in Staten Island, New York. You can feel it – chests seizing, eyes watering, in-out, in-out – as it slices through the hot desperation of a nation struggling not to collapse into itself.
Gil Scott Heron was right and he was wrong. The revolution has been both live and televised with "pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay." Some people have tuned out while others have turned up. It is an uprising engorged with the blood of our dead and the righteousness of our rage, causing city after city to catch-a-fire when it explodes.
Though the #Black LivesMatters movement recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, it moved to the forefront of the nation's consciousness during the summer of death that begin with Garner's killing on July 17, 2014.
The temperature that day was a muggy 84 degrees. Garner, 6'3, 350 pounds, had reportedly just broken up a fight and was posted up on the corner of Victory Blvd. and Bay Street when Officer Daniel Panteleo walked over and accused him of selling loose cigarettes -- the hood calls them “loosies.”
Sensing danger, then 22-year-old Ramsey Orta began recording the exchange between 'Biggie' -- the nickname he called the “good dude” he'd known from “around the way” for about four years – and Panteleo. “He'd give you the shirt off his back,” Orta would say of Garner in a later interview.
Orta's shaky video captured multiple officers surrounding the man family and friends called a “gentle giant” and his last words, both powerful and chilling, are carved into the hearts and minds of countless people.
Get away…for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today…Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing…
Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me…I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone.
Please, please, don't touch me. Do not touch me…I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
Eric Garner lost his life trying to be free. He just wanted to be free.
On July 13, the city of New York announced a $5.9 million dollar settlement had been reached with his family, but his mother made it clear that a pay-off is not justice.
“Don't congratulate us,” said Gwen Carr, speaking to supporters and media at the offices of Al Sharpton's National Action Network. “This is not a victory.”
As Rachel M. Cohen writes for the American Prospect, “The $5.9 million for Eric Garner's family will come from a general New York City fund made up of local taxes, fees, fines, and tickets… Taxpayer dollars also finance the NYPD—so either way the taxpayer will be footing the bill."
This, coming from a city that builds it budget by disproportionately targeting black and Latino citizens via Broken Windows and Zero Tolerance policing, the same tactics that emboldened Panteleo to approach Garner who was standing on the corner, “just minding [his] business, officer.”
This is not a victory, And the more things change in black America, the more they stay the same.
Jonathan Crawford, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, Brandon Tate-Brown, Aura Rosser, Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Akai Gurley, the list goes on and on, have all fallen victim to police brutality in the year since Garner's death. Just this week, two Black women, 18-year-old Kindra Chapman and 28-year-old Sandra Bland, were found hanged in jail cells under suspicious circumstances.
Each death becomes a wave that pushes us closer to the shores of resistance, refusing to be washed away by apathy and complacency.
“Eric Garner did not die in vain,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday night during a memorial service at Mount Sinai United Christian Church in Staten Island. “His life mattered. It mattered to these good people of his family, it mattered to his community and it came to matter deeply to his city and his nation.”
As beautiful as that sounds, Eric Garner shouldn't have died at all. And one year after his death, his killer, who was never charged, is reportedly ready to get back to work, while Garner's family is still struggling to get back to living.
Saturday morning, almost a year to the day that Garner was killed, Jonathan Sanders will be buried. The Stonewall, Mississippi man was unarmed when he was allegedly choked to death by white police officer Kevin Harrington and according to relatives, the 39-year-old father gasped, “I can't breathe.”
It is the tragic bookend to a year filled with pain, rage and reaffirming to each other that Black lives do matter – we matter -- even when this country tells us on a daily basis that we do not.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains. – Assata Shakur
Community policing to tackle Brown Street
by Andrew Rice
The Westbrook Police Department will use grant funding to launch a new community policing coordinator, the first such program in the city dedicated to civilian outreach.
The coordinator will establish a presence in Westbrook's Brown Street neighborhood – a source of a large number of calls to the police – and will work with civilians to assist police investigations, but also line up city resources for residents and families.
Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts, who is familiar with similar programs during her time in Portland, said Monday that since arriving in Westbrook and familiarizing herself with neighborhoods, she saw the Brown Street area as a needed recepient of the city's first program.
Last week, the Westbrook City Council accepted a donation of $15,000 from the Cornelia Warren Community Foundation toward the community policing program, which will help pay for renting a physical location on Brown Street for a program base.
The program itself, in hiring the coordinator at just under $40,000, is funded by a Community Development Block Grant.
Roberts said the department receives a heavy number of calls from the Brown Street neighborhood dealing with domestic violence and drug issues.
“With the addiction problem as well as child protection cases, it was identified as a spot to initiate the program,” she said.
The program is designed for the coordinator to act as a liason between civilians and police, connecting residents with resources to help with addiction, mental health or even food.
“There are tons of resources there, but many community members don't know how to access them,” she said, adding that the coordinator will be familiar with and connected to the city's resources.
Roberts said she even discussed the program with Brown Street business owner Alfred Jacob, owner of AJ's Market.
“He was familiar with Portland's community policing program, and I was able to find the funding for this year,” she said.
Jacob said Tuesday that he was familiar with the program from growing up in Portland's Kennedy Park neighborhood.
“Brown Street is sort of a mirror of what Kennedy Park used to be,” he said, stating that he'd like to do more to help his customers, who are often facing a number of challenges. He added that there are a large number of children in the neighborhood as well, which he called “vulnerable.”
“I wish I could help more, which is what kind of provoked the idea,” he said. “The program will help address some of those challenges that we have as a community on Brown Street.”
Roberts said the most important goal of the program is establishing better communication with those who live in the neighborhood. Brown Street runs between Cumberland and Bridge streets on the northern side of the Presumpscot River.
“To establish an opportunity to communicate, which becomes a better relationship more often than not, that is the broader goal,” she said about the program. Roberts said that while they don't expect to halt all crime in the neighborhood, they would like residents to have more trust with their police force.
The department has been fielding candidates for the job, but Roberts said they are close to hiring. The coordinator would be hired by the first of August, she said, and after training, possibly on Brown Street by mid-August. She said the likely candidate for the job is a Westbrook resident.
Roberts said another example of the coordinator's work will be establishing relationships and trust with neighbors. She said that if there are problem properties, where police are often called, the coordinator can speak with the landlord and inform them about what's been taking place at the property.
Allen Moore, the owner of Skybox Bar & Grill, and a neighborhood resident, said he supports the program. Moore said he attended a recent neighborhood meeting about a nearby problem property.
?“?Anything that will have a positive impact on the neighborhood is a worthwhile endeavor,” he said Wednesday. “I give my support as a business owner and as resident of the neighborhood.”
“Working with the landlords and suggest to them some basic background check processes when screening for tenants,” she said. Roberts added that with the recent building code violations in the city, the coordinator can work with code enforcement on code issues as well.
Jacob said one example that has stuck with him was a woman struggling to find a two-bedroom apartment for herself and two children.
“What can I do as a business owner to help her out? Not really much,” he said. “If there's someone here who can help her navigate the resources available as a single mother, it would be better.”
Roberts said she will be hosting a community meeting in the neighborhood once the job offer is made.
Success of 'Summer All Out' celebrated in the Bronx
NEW YORK - The 47th Precinct in the Bronx was celebrated for its progress with a crime-reduction initiative.
"Summer All Out" began in June as an initiative where over 330 administration officers were assigned to return to street patrols.
The new neighborhood policing model was designed to help engage community members as co-equal partners in the fight against crime.
NYPD officials say the success of the initiative is apparent within the perimeter of the 47th Precinct. Since the program was launched last month, the precinct has seen crime drop by 70 percent.
The efforts of the president of the 47th Precinct Community Council, Elizabeth Gill, were also celebrated, as she helped to engage Summer All Out officers and new rookie officers.
"We wanted them to know that this community welcomes them. We want them here. We need them here and this is our way of showing them that we appreciate that they're here," Gill said.
Police Commissioner: ‘Feel-Good' Policing Isn't the Answer to Increased Crime
Stop demoralizing police officers—and start focusing on criminals
by Howard Safir
In Baltimore this year there have been more than 160 homicides, about a 50% increase compared to the first half of last year, and shootings and robberies have also gone up. Similar increases are taking place in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, New Orleans and New York City. The image of police and trust in officers are under continual attack.
Our elected officials are touting the buzzword “community policing” as the panacea that will solve the problem of crime in America. They are dead wrong. The Community Oriented Policing Services office of the Department of Justice defines community policing as a “philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.”
The words are impressive, and I support the concept. “Feel-good policing” will indeed build trust and make the law-abiding citizens of our community feel better about our police. But it has not and will not reduce violence. The social causes of crime should be addressed, and in the long term, this hopefully will have an effect on crime reduction.
To reduce crime, there is one key element that is missing from the community policing philosophy: using assertive policing tactics to ensure that the one group that causes violence, the criminals, believe that there are consequences, including the certainty of arrest, for engaging in criminal activity. Community policing and what I call “goal-oriented community policing” must exist side by side.
Criminals and gangs may or may not be the result of society's ills. But the first and foremost responsibility of police is to keep our citizens safe. Those who believe that crime will be reduced merely by having the same officer on a beat so that the community knows his or her name, or think that a 21-year-old officer in the midst of a crime-ridden city can solve their problems are woefully naive.
In the last 20 years, assertive policing has reduced crime to historic lows. This has been accomplished through the use of tactics that target criminals, a large police presence, and intelligence-led policing that uses technology to tell police who the criminals are. This enables police to both respond to and prevent crimes.
Unfortunately, the anti-police politicians, some at the highest levels of our government, along with the usual anti-police activists have changed the conversation from focusing on those who commit serious crime to those who prevent it. The few instances of police misconduct or misjudgment have been blown out of proportion to give the impression that they are the norm rather then the exception. This could not be further from the truth.
We are at a tipping point in this country. We can continue to demoralize our police officers with rhetoric and legislation that makes them the focus rather the criminals whom they have taken an oath to arrest. We can reject the successful tactics, such as stop, question, and frisk, which when used properly and legally has taken thousands of guns off our streets and prevented thousands of crimes. If we continue on this path, we will surely see a continued rise in violence, and our officers will stand on the sidelines being reactive rather then proactive.
Through the use of goal-oriented community policing, we can regain the trust of those communities that view the police negatively. We should address the minority makeup of our police to reflect the communities they serve. We should aggressively prosecute those few police officers who are involved in misconduct. We should encourage body cameras to protect both the public and police officers. We should get to know our communities, and they should get to know us.
But we should not forget what got us to the lowest crime in decades. It is the dedication and sacrifice of many police officers and assertive tactics that ensure that criminals are the one group that fear and respect police.
Howard Safir is the former commissioner of the New York City Police Department (1996-2000) and Chairman and CEO of Vigilant Resources International (VRI).
Counter-extremism or ethnic profiling? Congress can't decide
by Karoun Demirjian
If the United States wants to stop extremist recruiting, it's got to come up with a better message — or at least that is the rationale the White House has been pushing now for several years.
But the summits and strategies to advance programs to counter violent extremism haven't done enough, many lawmakers and former administration officials say. That's why the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is pushing for a new office at the Department of Homeland Security to counter homegrown violent extremism. It would be funded at $10 million annually for four years.
Or, as some of its critics complain , taxpayers would pay $10 million a year to formalize racial profiling in the highest echelons of government.
Several civil rights, Muslim, and Arab-American organizations have spoken out against the measure, sponsored by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and passed out of that committee Wednesday evening by voice vote.
Critics argue the attempt to centralize anti-extremist messaging in the government will only give U.S. officials license to pressure, harass and coerce minorities, fanning the flames of racial and ethnic tensions instead of effectively stemming the tide of young people lured to commit violent crimes in the name of a radical ideology.
And some Democrats warn such an office could be too fully focused on counteracting Islamic extremism, instead of containing racial hate crimes, cartel-fueled violence, and other forms of domestic terror that have killed more Americans in the years since Sept. 11.
Supporters, starting with McCaul, have insisted that the measure isn't intended to single out any particular community or credo in its quest to prevent ideological crimes from taking place.
“Both international and domestic groups are seeking to radicalize our citizens,” he said at a hearing Wednesday, nodding to the recent killing of nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., as inspiration for the timing of measure. “We cannot bow down in the face of terror and we must refuse to live at the mercy of fanatics.”
McCaul repeatedly stressed that his bill was concerned with countering any extremist ideology that could seduce Americans to join a foreign terrorist organization, commit a hate crime or becoming otherwise radicalized.
But it was clear Wednesday that some of his Republicans were primarily concerned with one form of radicalization above all others: the Islamic kind.
“We want to deal with violent extremism wherever it comes from. But there is a prioritization of scale,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.), one of several Republicans to grill witnesses about the particular threats that homegrown Islamic terrorism posed. Perry offered statistics and metaphors to suggest that turning the country's primary focus to other forms of domestic terrorism at a time when Islamic State recruiters were on the march was like worrying about fixing your roof when your house is on fire.
A spate of recent reports have documented how Americans are becoming radicalized via Internet-based social media, and in the worst cases, going overseas to join radical terrorist groups like the Islamic State. The panic has put pressure on lawmakers to respond — but the type of response in McCaul's bill, it appears, is not quite what experts advocate.
“You can't just do it from government, it has to be the communities themselves,” Farah Pandith, who was the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities, told the Homeland Security committee in testimony Wednesday, stressing that better funding for more grassroots efforts was necessary and suggesting that the government could, at best, facilitate a community-derived approach to counteract extremism. The bill that emerged from the committee included an amendment from Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to provide grants to non-government organizations to counter violent extremism and domestic terrorism locally.
But to date, such government programs intended to support activities close to the ground have been controversial. There are already pilot programs in three communities — Boston, Los Angeles, and the Twin Cities — to see if structured measures countering violent extremism, or CVE, can work.
But such programs have set off civil liberties advocates in local communities as well. In Minnesota, for example, where the CVE programming is focused on the Somali community, Somalis expressed distrust and wariness that the authorities tasked with running it wouldn't actually just use the CVE activities to unfairly profile and entrap locals.
Some Democrats were also skeptical that McCaul's proposal would actually do much to advance the cause of counter-extremism.
“I don't want us to just set another bureaucracy up and give it some money,” Homeland Security ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said.
McCaul acknowledged that a grassroots-first approach would be ideal, but argued that a counter-narrative to extremist recruiting efforts “has to be led by somebody,” such as his proposed new office.
“Time is not on our side,” McCaul said, claiming that the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had indicated his support for the measure during a recent closed-door hearing.
The Department of Homeland Security was noticeably absent at Wednesday's hearing — and the two parties couldn't even agree on whether there was actually support for a new structural approach for handling CVE activities such as McCaul's.
“I was at that same classified hearing and obviously we heard two different things,” Thompson retorted.
The measure has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the full House.
De Blasio, Bratton urge community policing
NEW YORK - Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton are encouraging public participation in the city's new neighborhood policing model.
The two spoke from a police precinct Wednesday, saying neighborhoods will become safer through stronger bonds between officers and the people they serve.
They are asking that everyone take the time to get to know the cops who patrol their streets and to let them know where there are problems. They say officers will be appreciative and will be getting to know residents too.
De Blasio also mentioned steps that the city has already taken in order to improve relations, such as reforming stop-and-frisk, stopping arrests for low-level marijuana possession and retraining officers on how to diffuse confrontations.
Communities are safer when law enforcement roles are clear
by Richard S. Biehl
The circumstances surrounding the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco last week have reignited the debate about “sanctuary cities” and the role of local police in enforcing immigration laws.
The suspect in the killing, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had seven previous immigration-related and drug-related felony convictions and had already been deported on five occasions. Following Steinle's senseless murder, many have rightfully sought to examine how the system failed.
The Steinle murder is a clarion call to resolve the important but different roles assigned to local police and officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] in keeping our communities and country safe. At the heart of this debate is an important question — whether local police should carry out immigration policing functions or federal authorities should take the lead in carrying out these functions.
Relying on state and local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration enforcement responsibilities is highly problematic. Having state and local law enforcement take on the work of federal immigration officials undermines community policing and is counterproductive. When state and local law enforcement are entangled in these functions, immigrant communities view them with increased suspicion.
More often than not, these immigrant groups are then reluctant to report crimes committed against them or their neighbors, fearing that such reports will result in deportation after their immigration status — or the immigration status of friends and family members — is revealed. This fear has true costs, allowing dangerous criminals and criminal organizations to prey on immigrant communities, as well as the community at large. As a Chief of Police, my number one priority is to ensure community safety and security. Accordingly, in order to serve the greater community, all members of a community must feel free to call for police services without fear of undue repercussions. This improves community policing and safety for everyone.
The Dayton Police Department has adopted three key policy revisions since 2008 to support community policing and better serve growing immigrant communities, including (1) refining our enforcement strategies that involve federal immigration personnel, (2) setting out department-wide guidelines for interacting with immigrant witnesses and victims, and (3) publicizing existing federal laws that offer protection to cooperative victims and witnesses. These changes have allowed the Department to focus on what is important, both in terms of building community partnerships and prioritizing and focusing enforcement resources. They also have produced concrete results, coinciding with significant reductions in crime in Dayton.
Sanctuary policies and practices are not designed to harbor criminals. On the contrary, they exist to support community policing, ensuring that the community at large — including immigrant communities — trusts state and local law enforcement and feels secure in reporting criminal conduct. Cooperation with federal immigration enforcement officials still can exist, but state and local law enforcement should carefully tailor policies to ensure that community policing is not undermined. What everyone wants is a safe community.
Police presence within an entire community is crucial to create a feeling of safety and trust for all residents and members of that community. Asking the immigration status of a victim or a witness in the course of an investigation not only detracts from the investigation, it is detrimental to relations with members of our community. We must balance investigative approaches that will encourage (and not discourage) public cooperation with investigations.
The absence of effective, cogent action by Congress to address this issue has left state and local governments with the challenge of sorting this issue out on their own. Instead of considering how to punish these “sanctuary cities,” Congress should be working to reform our broken immigration system.
Biehl is chief of police of Dayton, Ohio. He has more than 35 years of experience in law enforcement work.
Cops replace Craigslist, crack down on crime
More than 100 police departments now provide space in their lobbies or parking lots where people can safely make deals
by Denise Lavoie
BOSTON — Michele Velleman needed to sell a Zumba dance fitness kit, a cellphone and a table through Facebook. So she found buyers on Facebook and made the trades at — where else? — the police station.
"It is always a little nerve-wracking when you go to someone's house. It's in the back of your mind: 'I hope this person is OK and everything turns out all right,'" said Velleman, 44, a pharmaceutical executive assistant for a pharmaceutical company who lives north of Boston in Georgetown. "I think my mother is happier I'm doing it this way."
"Online safe zones" like the one Velleman uses are popping up at police stations nationwide as authorities try to clamp down on crime associated with online trade between strangers. More than 100 police departments now provide space in their lobbies or parking lots where people can make their deals and know that police are only feet away.
"They have to meet them somewhere, but they don't know who they're meeting and they don't really have any background on these people," said Georgetown police Lt. Scott Hatch. "They can come here and at least they'll feel that the person is legitimate and won't take their money."
A few departments began offering safe zones two or three years ago, but their popularity exploded this year after several high-profile killings as deals made on Craigslist were carried out:
— In January, a couple who said they wanted to buy a 1966 Mustang were shot in McRae, Georgia, allegedly by a man who answered their ad.
— A month later, a 21-year-old college student was robbed and fatally shot in Marietta, Georgia, after he responded to an ad to buy an iPhone.
— In March, a pregnant woman responding to an ad to buy baby clothes in Longmont, Colorado, was stabbed and her fetus pulled from her womb, allegedly by the woman who placed the ad. The woman survived, but the fetus died.
— In May, a 19-year-old Illinois college student trying to sell his sports car was killed. Authorities charged a man they say responded to the student's ad.
Police in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, set up a safe zone in May after reading about the killings.
"I always tell people to do it at a neutral place, a populated place," said Chief James Spinney. "If anybody had a diabolical plan in mind, they are certainly not going to agree to meet at a police station."
Craigslist did not respond to requests for comment for this article. But the classified service says on its website that most of its users are trustworthy and well-intentioned. But it urges common-sense precautions including meeting in a public place, not inviting strangers into your home, having a friend accompany you and "making high-value exchanges at your local police station."
Advanced Interactive Media Group, a Florida-based consulting company for classified ad businesses, has started an initiative called SafeTrade that encourages law enforcement agencies to become havens for online transactions.
"The old maxim — make your trades in a public place — is not good enough," said Peter Zollman, founding principal. "Avoiding problems is very simple. If somebody is intent on ripping you off, the odds are almost zero that they will be willing to meet you at a police station."
Some police departments report a booming business for their safe zones.
"The citizens have eaten it up," said police Capt. Mike McCoy in Fulshear, Texas, west of Houston.
Most police departments do not get involved in the transactions themselves, preferring to merely offer a secure location to complete online sales. But in Fulshear, police will check databases of stolen goods for anyone who requests it.
In Post Falls, Idaho, police see deals completed in their parking lot nearly daily. Among the items spotted: a bed, dining room set, antique dishes.
Mimi Fisher, a real estate agent, has sold snow tires, a motorcycle helmet and framed prints at the police station.
"I've had people come to my house, and it's always been a scary thought for me because you just don't know," Fisher said. "I feel comfortable because I just know the police are right there if I need them."
5 most bizarre substances people use to get high
With drugs like Bath Salts, Spice, Flakka, Mephedrone and others, the landscape of drug use is becoming more and more cluttered
by Keith Graves
Drug use has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. When I first started 26 years ago, people were using meth, cocaine, heroin, weed, or PCP. Since the advent of the Internet — with instant communication and websites dedicated to spreading the word on some of the more fringe drugs — we see some bizarre things that people have used to get high.
Nowadays, someone can get high using household products, post it on any number of drug user websites like this one or this one. With drugs like Bath Salts, Spice, Flakka, Mephedrone and others, the landscape of drug use is becoming more and more cluttered.
Here are five of the weirdest substances people use to get high and what officers can expect to find if they encounter any of these users
Yes, this is the same nutmeg that you find in your spice rack and it's classified as a hallucinogen. In the United States, it is mainly used as a spice. However, in other cultures, nutmeg is used for everything from Arab doctors using it for digestive disorders, kidney disease and lymphatic ailments to Yemeni men using it to increase and maintain their sexual vigor.
Effects can take between two and seven hours to come on, depending on how recently the last meal was eaten and the primary effects of a full dose of nutmeg can last up to 24 hours. More minor secondary effects can continue for up to 72 hours. Most users report that they feel strong effects for 10-15 hours regularly.
Users take it by can spooning it into their mouth or mixing it with a drink and swallowing it. Many users report a dream-like state while high due to hallucinations they can see, hear and feel.
2. Toad Licking
Users are not actually licking a toad, but there is such a thing as getting high off of a toad. The skin and poison of Bufo alvarius (Colorado River toad or Sonoran Desert toad) contain 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, which both belong to the family of hallucinogenic tryptamines. Because of these substances, the skin or poison of the toads may produce psychoactive effects when ingested.
Users “milk” the glands of the toad onto a mirror. When it is dry, the user can either take it orally or smoke it. Users who use this drug will have symptoms consistent with a hallucinogenic drug, and many report being high anywhere between one and eight hours.
Scopolamine originates naturally in some plants, but has also been synthesized to put into some medications. Most people who abuse scopolamine find it in natural plants like henbane, jimson weed (Datura), angel's trumpets (Brugmansia), and corkwood (Duboisia).
Scopolamine is found in certain medicines that treat motion sickness, gastrointestinal spasms and irritable bowel syndrome.
The drug, when abused, will show effects of someone under the influence of a hallucinogen. The user will hallucinate, have dilated pupils and a fast pulse. It is possible to overdose on this drug and it is possible to become addicted.
Jenkem has to be the most disgusting drug on the list. Essentially, the user is said to inhale methane emanated from human feces and urine — yeah, huffing poop.
This is rarely done, but it is a topic of some rumor nonetheless.
In 2007, a sheriff's office in Florida disseminated an internal bulletin outlining Jenkem use, including how users get high. Unfortunately, that bulletin was leaked to the press and was published across the United States.
The DEA reports no incidents in the U.S. of Jenkem use, but it has been reportedly used in Africa by youth looking for a high. Several organizations struggled to find one single case of Jenkem use in the United States, but found none.
The same Freon that is in your air conditioner can be used to get high. To get the Freon, users will take a trash bag, release the safety valve on the air conditioner and the Freon is released into the bag. The users inhale the Freon from the bag directly.
Freon is classified as an inhalant, but users will report very vivid hallucinations. There have been reports of children dying who huff Freon, including a 12-year-old girl in Victorville (Calif.). Many users report that it is the worst high that they have experienced and warn against its use.
So there you have it. I'm sure that this list will change over time as people find more and more ways to get high. I have not seen anything like it since starting drug enforcement 26 years ago. From ‘research chemicals' to natural highs like some mentioned above, we have definitely moved on from the traditional street drugs. It makes you wonder what new highs are on the horizon.
Obama: a call for justice reforms in 'community, courtroom, and cellblock'
None of President Obama's proposed fixes are new, but what is striking is the extent to which criminal-justice reform is gaining momentum across the country and across party lines.
by Amanda Paulson
America's prison population is currently too big.
That's one of the few areas on which leaders and policymakers from both parties seem able to agree these days – perhaps one reason that criminal-justice reform is getting so much attention.
Several bipartisan bills designed to reduce mass incarceration have been gaining momentum in Congress, and sentencing reform has gotten support from an odd coalition of bedfellows, including the conservative Koch brothers, GOP presidential candidates like Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, the the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and liberal leaders in Congress. This week, it's President Obama's turn to call for reform.
On Monday, Mr. Obama commuted the sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders, bringing his total number of commutations to 89 – more than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, and more than the past four presidents combined. (A commutation shortens the sentence but leaves the conviction in place.)
On Tuesday, he laid out his proposals for criminal-justice reform in a speech in Philadelphia. And on Thursday, he is set to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison.
“There are a lot of folks who belong in prison ... but over the last few decades, we've also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, and that is the real reason our prison population is so high,” Obama said in his speech Tuesday to the NAACP conference.
“If you're a low-level drug dealer or you violate parole, you owe some debt to society ... but you don't owe 20 years, you don't owe a life sentence. That's disproportionate to the price that should be paid," he added.
The reasons for such bipartisan support around what used to be a polarizing topic are varied. Some proponents of reform talk about the fiscal issues and increasing budget drain of incarcerating so many people unnecessarily. Others focus on the racial biases of sentencing, the unfairness of long sentences for nonviolent crimes, or policies that make reintegration for released prisoners difficult and encourage recidivism.
But the overarching reason is a burgeoning prison population that has exploded under the tough-on-crime laws of the 1980s and '90s.
The United States has about 5 percent of the world's population and about 25 percent of the world's prisoners, and its prison population has more than quadrupled since 1980. One in 100 Americans is currently behind bars.
Since 1980, the federal prison population has grown from less than 25,000 to more than 214,000, spurred largely by tough mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.
The rise in prison populations has been a drain on state budgets at the same time that the violent crime that spurred much of the tough-on-crime rhetoric and laws has fallen. And research has shown little correlation between crime rates and tough sentences, especially for nonviolent offenses. Meanwhile, a number of states – including California, Texas, New York, and New Jersey – have managed to significantly reduce their incarceration rates or prison populations at the same time that they reduce crime.
In the 1980s and '90s, when three-strikes laws and tough mandatory minimum sentencing requirements were passed, “we didn't have enough evidence of what would work,” says Inimai Chettiar, director of the justice program at New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice. “We did a lot of things we now know are arbitrary and not effective, and as a major side effect to that, we now have mass incarceration.”
In his speech Tuesday, Obama emphasized many of the injustices, particularly racial injustices, of the current system, and he laid out proposals focused on the “community, courtroom, and cellblock."
To prevent crime, he highlighted programs – from good pre-K programs and changed school discipline procedures to community policing and juvenile-justice reforms that focus on helping juvenile offenders rather than treating them as future criminals.
Obama also called to lower – or eliminate entirely – mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes; to give judges more discretion around nonviolent crimes; to push prosecutors to use their discretion to seek the best punishment rather than the longest punishment; and to invest in alternatives to prison, including treatment programs.
Obama also emphasized that the vast majority of today's prisoners will one day be released, and he called for a renewed investment in programs and policies to help those prisoners reenter society productively and to remove barriers to employment and voting.
None of the fixes Obama suggested are new, and some have already been enacted by states leading the way on criminal-justice reform. But what is perhaps new – a fact that Obama highlighted Tuesday – is the degree to which the issue is gaining momentum among leaders on both sides of the aisle.
In the House, the most far-reaching bill is the SAFE Justice Act, introduced in June by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, and Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia. The bill addresses mandatory minimums and includes a host of other elements to help reduce recidivism, gain early release for targeted inmates, and prioritize prison space for violent, high-risk criminals.
In the Senate, the Smarter Sentencing Act – introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois and Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah – would reduce mandatory minimums and give federal judges more discretion in sentencing. It would also retroactively change the sentences of those convicted of crack cocaine offenses before the guidelines for crack were changed in 2010.
“There are still about 7,000 people in federal prison serving longer sentences than they otherwise would,” says Jeremy Haile, federal advocacy counsel at The Sentencing Project in Washington, which support criminal-justice reform.
Mr. Haile, like Ms. Chettiar, says there's been a sea change in how politicians view sentencing laws, from the days when both Republicans and Democrats were eager to be seen as tough on crime to today's emphasis on “smart on crime” laws and prosecutors.
“Three years ago, the term ‘mass incarceration' was controversial,” Haile says. “Today, Sensenbrenner used it [in a House hearing] as a statement of fact.”
While the emphasis right now is on federal reform, states, in many ways, are leading the charge.
Between 1999 and 2013, New Jersey and New York saw a drop of 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in their prison populations, according to a report by The Sentencing Project. By 2013, California had reduced its prison population by 22 percent from its peak in 2006.
In California, two ballot measures – one reforming the state's draconian three-strikes law and one changing felony laws around some drug offenses and reducing some felonies to misdemeanors – helped with the shift. In New York, the drop had more to do with revised priorities for district attorneys in New York City, and their decision to become less aggressive in the sentences they sought.
One of the most successful states, even though its overall prison population has gone down only marginally, is Texas, says John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York.
Thanks to policies emphasizing diversion programs and treatment for offenders suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, as well as more discretion for prosecutors and judges, Texas' incarceration rate has dropped sharply, as has its crime rate.
“The states are innovating, and the Feds are adopting,” Professor Pfaff says.
Pfaff was somewhat disappointed that in Obama's commutations, he didn't include at least one violent offender where there was still good reason for a lesser sentence and early release. While the bulk of the federal prison population may be nonviolent drug offenders, that isn't the case for the state prison populations, where more than half of inmates were convicted of violent crimes.
“We're not going to be able to have a deep cut [in prison populations] unless we're willing to talk about it,” says Pfaff. “Not all violent offenders are all that violent.”
But the conversation going on at the federal level – especially by leaders in the Republican Party – makes it more possible for states to enact reforms of their own, says Chettiar of the Brennan Center.
“The more the president talks about it, and the more national leaders talk about it, the more there is cover provided for state leaders to act,” she says. Having top Republicans calling for criminal-justice reform, meanwhile, “not only created cover for their own party, they created cover for Democrats.”
After years of calling for changes, activists for reform say they're cautiously optimistic that a meaningful bill will be passed in Congress and that states will continue to make changes.
The real questions, says Pfaff, are whether such reforms will continue even as the economy improves or if there's another spike in crime. The positive examples of states like Texas and California may help persuade states to cut incarceration rates, even without the economic pressures to cut costs, he says. But he's less optimistic about what might happen if crime rises again.
“We're in uncharted waters,” Pfaff says.
Ku Klux Klan fliers show up in South Carolina neighborhood
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Residents in a predominantly black South Carolina neighborhood say fliers have been distributed claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan.
Local news outlets report the fliers from the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan showed up last week in a community in North Charleston.
The flier reads, "Neighborhood Watch. You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake." It includes a sketch of a hooded Klansman and a finger pointed toward the reader.
Neighborhood association president Jesse Williams said the woman who brought him the flier said she found didn't see who placed it on her car.
The fliers appeared less than three weeks after nine people were shot to death at a historic black church in nearby Charleston. A 21-year-old white man has been charged.
Community policing takes next step on social media
by Alisha Roemeing
The Salem Police Department announced Tuesday it would be partnering with Nextdoor — a social network that enables residents to communicate with each other through websites created for individual neighborhoods.
Lt. Dave Okada of the Salem Police Department said the site, which aims to be an information-sharing platform, will improve communication between officers and Salem residents.
"We have spent the last few years increasing our communication through social media, and Nextdoor will allow us to expand our efforts by reaching the more than 2,000 households already subscribed," Okada said. "With Nextdoor's help we can reach our citizens with crime tips and information which is pertinent to their neighborhood area."
Each neighborhood establishes and manages its own page. Before joining, members must verify that they live within the area. Once registered, participants can share information about neighborhood topics of interest, such as lost pets, community events, activities, and crime or safety issues, Okada said.
Okada said the department plans to post public safety and crime information pertaining to each neighborhood.
The service, which is free for residents and agencies is also available for smart phones, according to Okada.
Salem Police are scheduled to begin using the website Wednesday, July 15.
Public safety develops children's disaster plan
by Debbie Wachter
Should a large disaster strike Lawrence County, a plan will soon be in place for children who become lost.
Debbie Henson, administrative assistant of the county department of public safety, presented a Lawrence County Children in Disaster Services Plan to county commissioners Tuesday for their approval. They plan to vote on the document on July 21.
“I was very passionate about this plan because I'm so concerned about these children,” Henson said, noting that she learned 1,000 children were missing after Hurricane Katrina. In the event of a widespread disaster, children become lost.
“ It could be a matter of hours or days before we locate a guardian,” she said. “But we want to make sure they're taken care of until a parent or guardian is found.”
The plan evolved from the Department of Public Safety staff members, including Emergency Medical Services personnel, attending a state training. The staffers formed a committee and came up with a plan to shelter unaccompanied minors under age 18 in the event a disaster should occur and children are left without parents or guardians.
Henson said that multiple agencies which serve children were involved in the planning process, which took about six months.
The group so far has identified one location for a shelter — First Baptist Church in Neshannock Township — where children will be taken until a parent or guardian claims them. They also are looking for sites in Pulaski and Mahoning townships, she said, adding the committee is in the process of identifying other churches or suitable locales so that there is a location in each end of the county.
The shelter will be staffed and strictly monitored by previously screened credentialed personnel and those are the only people who will be there, Henson said, adding, “It won't be a typical Red Cross shelter.”
People who go there to claim their children would have to provide proof that child belongs to them, she said.
The guidelines for people and numbers of people who man the shelters were based on guidelines on Department of Public Welfare day care centers.
The department also will work with the school districts and the Midwestern Intermediate Unit because most of the children are registered, she said. All county groups who deal with children gave input. There are agreements with various groups and the Red Cross will provide resources if they are needed, she added.
“ We're going to practice it with an exercise and see if it actually works,” she said.
Groups involved in the planning included the county juvenile probation department, Children and Youth Services, The Children's Advocacy Center, Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County, Lawrence County Community Action Partnership and the county extension office.
Public safety concerns in a sanctuary city
by Katie Chen
SPOKANE, Wash. -- A long discussion in City Council Monday about asking someone's immigration status led to Spokane city councilors deciding to send the signatures of the proposed initiative for verification.
That proposed initiative wants to repeal the ordinances in place that do not allow city employees, like police, to ask for someone's immigration status.
“We have a lot of folks who are here legally and are really concerned that this action will make them targets to biased policing,” says Rick Eichstaedt, Center for Justice executive director.
Supporters of the proposal say this is more about the enforcement of laws.
“It's not about mandating that law enforcement ask the question, it's just not limiting them,” says Stephanie Cates, a supporter of the proposal.
She says what happened in San Francisco, where a woman was killed by an undocumented immigrant, was a lack of communication.
“There was a wall, effectively a wall, between local law enforcement and ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement),” she says.
But others say the proposal could prevent those who are undocumented from reporting crime.
“Witnesses of crimes who are facing the same issues are not going to call the police because they're going to worry how the police are going to treat them,” Eichstaedt says. "We want people to trust the police."
On Wednesday, the elections office will start verifying the signatures the petitioners gathered. That process will take three to four days.
Public Safety Act reduces prison, parole populations
Governor proclaims July 12-18 to recognize court services officers, parole agents
by Helene Duhamel
RAPID CITY, S.D. -- It costs a lot to build prisons and house criminals. It had become a growth industry in the state. South Dakota was sending more people to prison than surrounding states. That all changed two years ago.
At any time, parole agent G.P. Carmichael supervises 50 to 55 parolees. That is down from previous case-load.
Since passage of Senate Bill 70, also known as the Public Safety Act, in July, 2013, more parole officers were hired and given more resources to work with and support more parolees.
It was a concerted effort led by Governor Dennis Daugaard to reduce the prison population and incarcerate only the highest-risk violent offenders.
"Yes, of course, it needed to happen," advocates G.P. Carmichael. "It's better for the community. It's better for the offender. It's better for the offender's family to have them out on the street being productive citizens, rather than sitting in prison."
"The cost to house a prison inmate is very high," says Carmichael. "Having an offender on street is about $5.40 per day when they're on parole supervision. That's what it costs the state."
Compare the $5.40 to supervise a parolee with $70 a day to house an inmate in prison or $40 a day at a county jail.
According to statistics from the Department of Corrections the prison population is flat or a bit below the projected impact of SB 70. The number of South Dakota parolees is down by about 200.
The rate of successful completions of parole are up. It was 37% in state fiscal year 2012 and 45% in 2013. It was 60% in 2014.
The state reports parole violation admissions to prison are down and the rate of recidivism is decreasing.
"It's the right thing to do for our fellow man. You give them another opportunity," says Carmichael. "The judges have been asked to do presumptive probation. That combined with us working harder to keep offenders on street and all the community treatment that they get, it improves the individual's chances of them staying out on the street and becoming productive South Dakota citizens."
Parole officer G.P. Carmichael has had a front seat on all the changes. He has been a parole agent for the last eight years and says the state was on track to build more prisons.
"We are more concerned about keeping citizens out in the community, making productive citizens, trying to lower the prison costs for the state of South Dakota, by keeping them out on parole and not putting them back in prison for maybe something that we did put them back in prison four to five years ago."
New York City agrees $5.9m settlement with family of Eric Garner
New York City has reached a $5.9m settlement with the family of the black man who died after being put in an illegal chokehold by a white police officer last year.
Agreement was reached days before the anniversary of the death in July 2014 when two police officers approached Eric Garner on a Staten Island street and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.
A video filmed by a bystander captured Garner's last words — “I can't breathe” — repeated 11 times. The phrase became a national phenomenon, spurring street demonstrations across the US and trending as a hashtag on Twitter- #icantbreathe.
On August 9, Michael Brown, a black teenager who was unarmed, was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The killings of Garner, 43, and Brown, 18, sparked a national debate about police brutality towards minority communities and racial discrimination ingrained in the US police force.
The handling of the ensuing protests, in which unarmed demonstrators were engulfed in tear gas and surrounded by police with assault rifles, fuelled the debate about the militarisation of the US police force.
In December, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used the chokehold on Garner, setting off demonstrations that lasted for several weeks.
The $5.9m pre-litigation agreement, which settled a $75m claim filed by Garner's family in October 2014, was announced on Monday night by Scott M. Stringer, comptroller of New York City.
Mr Stringer said in a statement: “Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties.
“We are all familiar with the events that led to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our City and our nation.
“It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve,” said Mr Stringer. “While we cannot discuss the details of this settlement, and the City has not admitted liability, I believe that we have reached an agreement that acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr Garner's death while balancing my office's fiscal responsibility to the City.”
In December, two police officers were shot dead in Brooklyn, New York, by a man who said he was avenging the killing of Garner and Brown. The killings further heightened tensions between the city's police force and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today's settlement,” Mr de Blasio said in a statement. “By reaching a resolution, family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident.”
NYPD head blasts city's $5.9M settlement in Eric Garner case
by Joe Tacopino, Shawn Cohen and Yoav Gonen
The head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association on Monday night slammed the city's record-breaking $5.9?million settlement with the family of police chokehold victim Eric Garner as “obscene” and “shameful.”
“Where is the justice for New York taxpayers? Where is the consistency in the civil system?” Ed Mullins asked.
A jury would have awarded a lower dollar figure based on “neither politics nor emotion,” he said.
“In my view, the city has chosen to abandon its fiscal responsibility to all of its citizens and genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government,” Mullins told The Post.
“Mr. Garner's family should not be rewarded simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest.”
In announcing the settlement — the largest ever for a wrongful-death case against an NYPD officer — city Comptroller Scott Stringer stressed the “extraordinary impact” the Staten Islander's death had on the entire country.
“It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve,” he said.
The family's lawyer, Jonathan Moore, said there also was a dollar settlement with the Richmond University Medical Center, whose first responders had been dispatched to the scene.
Garner, 43, died last July 17 after Officer Daniel Pantaleo helped wrestle him to the pavement, having subdued him with an arm around the neck.
The 350-pound Garner repeatedly said, “I can't breathe.” The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo; a federal probe is ongoing.
Garner's family is attending a press conference Tuesday morning to announce that the settlement alone does not establish justice and to continue to push for federal charges.
“Hopefully, the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today's settlement,” Mayor de Blasio said Monday night.
The settlement eclipsed other high-profile wrongful-death payouts by the city, including $3 million for the family of Amadou Diallo and $ 3.9 million for the family of Ramarley Graham.
Son of Boston Police Captain Arrested as Possible Terrorist
by MICHELE McPHEE, BRIAN EPSTEIN and BRIAN ROSS
The estranged son of a respected Boston police captain was arrested July 4 by FBI agents as part of a counter-terrorism operation against alleged ISIS-inspired domestic terrorists, federal officials told ABC News today.
Alexander Ciccolo, 23, of Adams, Mass., was taken into custody on gun charges after buying two pistols and two rifles from an undercover FBI confidential informant, federal officials said. In a search of his apartment, officials reported they found it loaded with possible bomb-making equipment including a pressure cooker, a variety of chemicals, an alarm clock, along with “attack planning papers” and “jihad” paperwork. FBI agents said he used the name Abu Ali al-Amriki and neighbors said he was a recent convert to Islam.
“This is a very bad person arrested before he could do very bad things,” one senior federal official briefed on the arrest told ABC News.
According to the FBI, Ciccolo attempted to stab a nurse in the head with a pen during a routine screening, “leaving a hole in the nurse's skin.”
An FBI affidavit said Ciccolo initially planned to travel to “another state” and use a pressure cooker bomb “to conduct terrorist attacks on civilians, members of the U.S. military and law enforcement personnel.” The FBI said the attack location was later changed to a town with a state university and would be concentrated on “college dorms and cafeteria, to include executions of students, which would be broadcast live via the internet.”
Ciccolo's father is Boston police Captain Robert Ciccolo, a veteran commander assigned to Operations at Boston Police headquarters who was one of those to respond to the deadly Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. According to the FBI, the younger Ciccolo said he was “inspired” by the Marathon bombing and the use of pressure cooker bombs, and told the FBI undercover operative, “Allahu Akbar!!! I got the pressure cooker today.”
Law enforcement officials said Capt. Ciccolo alerted counter-terrorism authorities about a year ago that his son, with whom he had had minimal contact for several years, “was going off the deep end” and “spouting extremist jihadist sympathies.”
According to the affidavit of an FBI agent, the younger Ciccolo recently stated that he is, “not afraid to die for the cause," and that he characterized America as ”Satan” and “disgusting.”
Capt. Ciccolo did not respond to a request for comment but late Monday the Ciccolo family posted a statement on the Boston Police Department's website.
"While we were saddened and disappointed to learn of our son's intentions, we are grateful that authorities were able to prevent any loss of life or harm to others," the statement reads. "At this time, we would ask that the public and the media recognize our grief and respect our desire for privacy."
According to the FBI affidavit, Ciccolo posted a photo of a dead American soldier and wrote, “Thank you Islamic State. Now we won't have to deal with these kafir back in America.” Kafir is a reference to non-believers of Islam. In a meeting with an FBI cooperating witness, Ciccolo praised the recent terror attack on a beach resort in Tunisia that killed 39 people, according to the FBI affidavit. “Awesome. Awesome, you that ah, that brother in Tunisia was impressive,” Ciccolo allegedly said.
The younger Ciccolo is scheduled to be in court in Springfield, Massachusetts Tuesday morning for a detention hearing. He was quietly arraigned last Monday on the gun charges, according to documents filed in federal court today. Ciccolo has been held at the Wyatt federal lockup in Rhode Island since his arrest.
Last week FBI Director James Comey said agents had arrested more than 10 people with suspected ties to ISIS and that the busts foiled planned Fourth of July attacks.
“I do believe that our work disrupted efforts to kill people, likely in connection with July 4th,” Comey said.
Ciccolo's arrest was among the ones that interrupted a planned attack, the officials said.
Prior to allegedly becoming an ISIS sympathizer, Ciccolo was photographed attending an anti-nuclear "peace walk" in 2012.
Jun Yasuda, a Buddhist who walked with Ciccolo in July 2012, told ABC News Ciccolo appeared to be “concerned about peace… and understood about non-violent protest.”
“We walked together after Fukushima, and he realized that he had an open mind and that people were wonderful,” Yasuda said.
Austin PD wants 410 cops for community policing
Austin police plans to more than double the amount of officers in the next few years
by Nicole Chavez and Andra Lim
AUSTIN, Texas — Austin police have quietly introduced a plan to add 410 officers over the next five years — more than double the amount of officers that city officials anticipated adding just one year ago.
The rough blueprint for next year's city budget includes funding for the first 82 of those positions, a nearly 40 percent increase over the 59 new officers added this year.
Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said the goal is to double the amount of time officers spend on community policing, such as meeting with business owners or walking apartment complexes, from about 15 percent to 30 percent.
"It takes a community to ... police our whole city," Gay said. "If we make those relationships, they'll know their officer. They'll be more apt to call and report crimes."
The projected cost for adding 82 officers in the first year is $10.2 million, an amount that includes salary and benefits, as well as police equipment such as vehicles, computers and other technology, said Brian Manley, the Police Department's chief of staff.
And that the doesn't include another 38 officers the department is requesting to boost services in priority areas, such as property crimes and robberies, Gay said. Those positions were not included in the city's projected budget, but council members could decide to add some, none or all of them.
About two-fifths of the city's projected tax revenue-supported $903.6 million general fund could go toward police the next budget year — about $373.2 million.
But these new officers are not a done deal. City Manager Marc Ott will release his proposed budget July 30, and the City Council can add and cut items before adopting it by Oct. 1.
A Flawed Ratio?
The Police Department's plans are a departure from the way police officials have proposed adding officers in past years.
Former Council Member Bill Spelman said that during his first stint in office in the 1990s, he casually mentioned that when he worked for the Police Executive Research Forum and was asked how many police officers a jurisdiction should have, he'd say at least enough so that the officer-to-population ratio was 2 per 1,000.
Somehow, Spelman said, by the time he rejoined the council in 2009, that ratio had "morphed" into being the "law of the land" — meaning there was little chance for Austin police to adjust their staffing levels up or down based on factors like crime rates or calls for service.
After Spelman made headlines for criticizing the ratio, a 2012 study by the Police Executive Research Forum backed him up, saying that 2-per-1,000 ratio is "convenient and provides dependable increases" in police officers, but did "not appear to be based on an objective assessment of policing needs in Austin." The study recommended adding 257 officers by 2017.
Spelman said the last budget year was the first time the Police Department didn't explicitly use the ratio to justify adding officers but instead discussed what the new officers would do. The plan then was to add 187 officers over the next five years.
"I was not overwhelmed by the argument," said Spelman, who is a professor at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. "But at least it was an argument."
Spelman said there's a body of research showing the benefit of adding officers who do "proactive police work" in places where crime is high, but he said the true question is whether the city needs 82 extra officers to achieve that goal or could use its existing force more effectively.
Gay said that, looking at staffing citywide, putting 82 additional sets of boots on the ground doesn't represent a significant increase in police presence, which he said is key in deterring crimes.
"Let's do the calculation. You take 82 officers and span them out over a 24-hour period over nine different districts in our city," Gay said. "You're not putting but just a couple people in each area in a 24-hour period."
The community policing budget metric is reflective of what Gay described as a years-long shift in the department.
Officers were first introduced to "community policing" by then-Police Chief Elizabeth Watson in the mid-1990s; former Chief Stan Knee started the district representatives program by taking about 40 officers off patrol duties and turning them into liaisons between police and the community.
"Their assignment is to look at the long-term challenges and really dig deeper into the issues that affect a neighborhood," Manley said.
Training in community policing begins at the 32-week academy, as cadets are asked to interact and learn as much as they can about a minority group, Manley said. But when cadets graduate and hit the streets, they can spend most of their time responding to service calls instead of proactively policing and building relationships with the community.
"Policing is taught but not practiced," said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association. "The department is short-handed; we just go call to call."
That's not true for all officers, though. With a $1 million federal grant, Austin police are partnering with neighbors, researchers and other community groups to clean up the Rundberg corridor. That includes placing officers on bikes or on foot in the area at least three days per week — and thus not at the beck and call of the radio in their car.
"They are not handling calls. They don't have the pressure to go out and make arrests to show how productive they are," said police Cmdr. Donald Baker, who oversees the Restore Rundberg initiative. "It has reduced violent crime and improved the overall quality of life."
A Cost-Benefit Analysis
Council members have so far seemed receptive to the idea of adding police officers to boost the amount of time they spend getting to know communities.
After a short briefing from Austin police at a recent budget session, the feedback from council members partly focused on crimes and police presence in their districts.
Council Member Don Zimmerman said he "constantly" hears of property crimes in his Northwest Austin District 6. District 1 Council Member Ora Houston said small businesses in East Austin still don't know who the patrol officer assigned to the area is. Council Member Ellen Troxclair said Circle C residents in her District 8 are trying to start a neighborhood watch program in response to property crime.
Zimmerman, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said in a recent interview that he'll be pondering the "cost-benefit analysis" for adding officers to boost community policing time. If he decides the cost is worth it, Zimmerman said, one way to make up for that expense could be cutting the library budget, which he said includes a "dramatic head count" of staffers for the new downtown library.
Public safety forums planned to help combat Baltimore violence
by Kai Reed
BALTIMORE —There have been 24 homicides in the past 13 days in Baltimore and city leaders are promising to work to quell the violence.
As part of that push, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced a new round of public safety forums. Both said these forums have been very successful in the past in generating ideas to fight crime, and they are hoping for similar results now as there have been 168 homicides so far this year, compared to 105 at this point in 2014.
The recent spike in violence includes more than a dozen people shot over the weekend – nearly half of which were deadly – to go along with two more homicides on Monday.
“This is an ongoing fight and the criminal element on the street is not giving up, and neither are we,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Police have said that most of the violence is being committed by small groups of people. Davis said that the source of the crime spike is gang violence, but gave no other details.
Davis and the mayor said the new round of public safety forums will allow city and police leaders to share plans to reduce violence while community members can give feedback and ideas of their own much like similar forums held last year.
“We want to hear the concerns, we want to hear the critiques, we want to hear the things that will inevitably make us better,” Davis said.
Rawlings-Blake said that the forums last year influenced the plan for police body cameras among other things involving transparency.
"We know that there is no way we can become a safer city without working together,” Rawlings-Blake said. “That's why these forums are so critical and we also know that despite all of our efforts over past two years, too many continue to die in Baltimore.”
As part of the fight on crime, Rawlings-Blake and Davis said that meetings have already started in the war room, part of a renewed idea they announced on Sunday.
“This set up affords us 24/7 coverage where a BPD detective is sitting across from an ATF detective who's sitting next to an FBI agent. And already today, we've been able to put pieces of this puzzle together,” Davis said.
Illegal immigration: More should be concerned about threat to public safety
by James H. "Smokey" Shott
A sanctuary jurisdiction is a place where people who are in the U.S. illegally may go without fear of being discovered and deported. Most of these people are just looking for a better life, but not all, and some are violent criminals. Regardless of their reason for being here, all are safe from being deported or jailed until they commit a crime, but then it is too late. Someone, likely a taxpaying, law-abiding American citizen will have been robbed, assaulted, raped or murdered.
If you come into the United States without proper documentation, without following the approved procedure, you are a federal law-breaker. If you come into the U.S. legally and over stay your Visa, you are a federal law-breaker.
Both types of illegal immigrants are deportable under Immigration and Nationality Act Section 237 (a)(1)(B) which reads: “Any alien who is present in the United States in violation of this Act or any other law of the United States is deportable.”
You are not an “undocumented immigrant,” you are an illegal alien, a law-breaker. Period. You are not entitled to any government benefits, you should not be able to get a job; you should not be protected by going to a sanctuary jurisdiction.
If you broke our laws to come here because of intolerable conditions where you came from, you have our sympathy for your situation, but we have a process for people like you to immigrate to the United States. In very dire circumstances you may be able to request asylum, but even in those dire conditions, there is a process to follow, and that process does not include crossing our borders illegally, living in the shadows, collecting benefits and avoiding immigration authorities. If you do that, you are a criminal, and should be deported. If you do it again, you should be jailed.
If an American citizen harbors an illegal alien, he or she is breaking the law and can be prosecuted. But cities and counties may do so with the blessing of the federal government, and get taxpayer funding to do so.
It's not that most illegal aliens are criminals, it's that far too many of them are. Even one illegal who commits a crime — especially a serious crime like armed robbery, assault, rape or sexual abuse, murder, etc. — is one more than we should accept.
Far too many illegals are up to no good. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records, “from January 1 to August 31, 2014, more than 8,100 deportable aliens were released after arrest in approximately 300 local sanctuary jurisdictions, even though ICE had issued a detainer seeking custody in advance of deporting them,” as reported by Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, writing in National Review. “Some 62 percent of these offenders had a prior criminal history,” of whom about 3,000 were felons. “Of the 8,100 aliens who were released to the streets instead of to ICE, approximately 1,900 were later arrested, a total of 4,300 more times, on 7,500 different charges.”
Kathryn Steinle, 32, walking on Pier 14 with her father in San Francisco on July 2, was shot and died in her father's arms, begging him to help her. Ms. Steinle and her father were minding their own business, but she was nevertheless mindlessly shot and killed. And who committed this heinous crime? An illegal alien from Mexico named Francisco Sanchez who had seven felony convictions against him, four on drug charges, and had been deported five times.
“ICE had started the deportation process, but San Francisco asked for custody of Sanchez to pursue prior drug charges,” Ms. Vaughn's report noted. “These were dropped, and in early April, instead of turning him back over to ICE for deportation, the San Francisco sheriff's department released Sanchez, in keeping with the city's long-standing sanctuary policies, without notification to ICE. Less than three months later, Sanchez shot and killed Ms. Steinle.”
Kate Steinle is not the only American murdered by an illegal, only one of the most recent. It is a true scandal that Americans are less concerned with this serious threat to the safety of their fellow Americans as they are with whitewashing history by removing every existing Confederate battle flag from the land of the free and the home of the brave, and that the Obama administration is more concerned with global warming than with illegals streaming into the country, many of whom are violent criminals.
How many of those who like sanctuary jurisdictions and open borders and the other foolish ideas that constitute threats to Americans have the power of their convictions? How many would follow the same policies at their homes, leaving doors unlocked, allowing anyone to come in and live in their basement or garage, or their bedrooms? Very few, most likely. But they like the sanctuary idea because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy with misplaced compassion, and they don't really have to worry about the consequences.
Except they do. These vicious crimes are their responsibility. Wonder how would they feel if Kate Steinle was their daughter, wife or sister? How would you feel?
President Barack Obama commutes sentences of 46 drug offenders
by Kevin Liptak
Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 46 drug offenders, saying in a video posted online Monday that the men and women were not "hardened criminals" and their punishments didn't match the crimes they committed.
Obama said the move was part of his larger attempt to reform the criminal justice system, including reviewing sentencing laws and reducing punishments for non-violent crimes. With Monday's announcement, Obama has commuted more sentences than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson.
"I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance," Obama said in the video.
The move brings the number of Obama's commutations to nearly 90. Most of those have been for federal prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses who were slapped with long sentences mandated under guidelines set during a drug-and-crime wave in the 1980s. Under current sentencing guidelines most of those prisoners would have already finished serving time.
Of the 46 prisoners whose sentences were commuted on Monday, 13 were sentenced to prison for life. Most of those commuted sentences will now end in November, a several month transition period that officials said allowed for arrangements to be made in halfway homes and other facilities.
After they're released, the former prisoners will be supervised by probation officers and subject to conditions that were set during their original sentencing, which is some cases includes drug testing.
The new round of commutations comes after 22 prisoners convicted of drug crimes were granted release earlier this year. In late 2014, eight criminals were granted commutations.
Unlike a presidential pardon, a commutation does not erase a criminal conviction, only reduces a sentence. In his presidency Obama has granted 64 pardons.
The White House on Monday posted a letter Obama wrote to each of the 46 men and women whose sentences were commuted.
"I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around," Obama wrote. "Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances. But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices."
Later this week, Obama is expected to discuss his plans for criminal justice reform further. He travels Tuesday to Philadelphia to speak at the annual convention of the NAACP, and on Thursday will become the first president to visit a federal prison when he tours the El Reno facility in Oklahoma.
While there, he's expected to cite bipartisan calls for chances to the criminal justice system that would reduce overcrowding in prisons and create a system where sentences better match the crimes they are meant to punish. The effort to reform the system has gained support from Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-minded presidential candidate, and David and Charles Koch, the industrialist brothers who have spent millions on conservative causes.
"Over the last few years a lot of people have become aware of the inequities in the criminal justice system," Obama said in the video. "Right now, with our overall crime rate and incarceration rate both falling, we're at a moment when some good people in both parties, Republicans and Democrats and folks all across the country, are coming up with ideas to make the system work smarter and better."
Many immigrants released, then re-arrested in US
by The Associated Press
More than 1,800 immigrants that the federal government wanted to deport from the United States were nevertheless released from local jails and later re-arrested for various crimes, according to a government report released today.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement report obtained by an organization that actively opposes illegal immigration said the re-arrested immigrants were among 8,145 people who were freed between January and August 2014, despite requests from federal agents that they be held for deportation.
The report provided by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies says about 23 percent were eventually taken into custody again on a variety of charges.
Many jurisdictions have stopped honoring so-called immigration detainers, requests to keep the immigrants in custody, saying they can't hold arrestees without probable cause.
In a case drawing national attention to the issue, authorities say a woman was shot to death in San Francisco earlier this month by a suspect who was released from jail despite an immigration detainer.
In the report, the top crimes for which immigrants were re-arrested were drug violations and drunken driving. The report also cited six examples involving more serious offenses, including one where an individual was arrested for investigation of five felony sex crimes involving a child under 14 after a detainer had been declined.
"This is a genuine safety problem, and also a crisis for immigration enforcement," said Jessica Vaughan, the center's director of policy studies.
In the last two weeks, a number of politicians and lawmakers have questioned the limits on the use of detainers. San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has argued he was upholding local law and that detainers are not a legal way to keep someone in custody and have been proven to erode police relations with immigrant communities.
Immigrant advocates said federal immigration agents already have information about who is in local jails, and they can make the arrests on their own.
After years of declining crime, a spike in US city violence
Departments across the U.S. that have spent years boasting about plummeting crime numbers are now scrambling to confront something many agencies have not seen in decades
by Don Brown
CHICAGO — Police departments across the U.S. that have spent years boasting about plummeting crime numbers are now scrambling to confront something many agencies have not seen in decades: more bloodshed.
Houston, St. Louis, New Orleans and Baltimore have all seen significant spikes in the number of homicides this year. The totals are up in other cities, too, including New York and Chicago.
"We're in scary territory," said Peter Scharf, a professor at Louisiana State University who tracks homicides in New Orleans.
In Los Angeles, the number of slayings dropped slightly, but the number of shooting victims jumped more than 18 percent. And in Milwaukee, a homicide on Wednesday put the total for the year at 84 — just two fewer than happened in all of 2014.
It's too soon to assess whether the surge in killing marks the start of a trend after years of declines. But concern is growing that the increase could reflect a confluence of recent shifts, including deepening distrust of police that leads people to settle disputes themselves, officers who are afraid of being second-guessed and court rulings that make it easier than ever to own a gun. Tighter budgets that result in cuts to law-enforcement agencies could also be playing a role.
Some of the explanations vary from city to city. In Baltimore, the April death of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal-cord injury while in police custody, triggered rioting. After six officers were charged in Gray's death, the number of arrests plummeted — a drop that raised questions about whether angry or fearful officers were slowing down their activity on the streets.
Homicides skyrocketed, making May the city's deadliest month in more than 40 years.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who was fired Wednesday, attributed the violence partly to a flood of prescription drugs released into the community by pharmacy looting. He and the police union denied that officers were shirking their duties but acknowledged that police are frustrated.
Other reasons apply more broadly. Police departments all over the country have closely watched the legal attack on stop-and-frisk tactics in New York and the city's subsequent decision to drop its appeal of a ruling by a judge who found the tactic sometimes discriminated against minorities. An American Civil Liberties Union study found similar practices in Chicago, where many observers expect a lawsuit to follow.
"Maybe we don't want hundreds of thousands of people stopped and frisked to get a few guns, and maybe we will have to accept that murders are going to go up 10 percent," said Peter Moskos, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "I don't know, (but) we really do have to talk about the trade-offs."
Scharf also noted that the huge drop in homicides that occurred in the 1990s came at about the same time that federal dollars were flowing into police departments. So he wonders if the rise in violence might be tied in some way to the fact that much of that funding has dried up.
The chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York at the hands of police and the shooting death of Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, have contributed to a distrust of police. And that distrust might be proving deadly.
"A lot of retaliatory violence occurs because people don't trust police. They don't want to go to police because they don't see police as helping them," said Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California at Irvine.
In Milwaukee and Chicago, police chiefs point to what they see as woefully inadequate gun laws that allow people who are repeatedly arrested on weapons charges to win release from custody — often around the same time the police officers are completing the paperwork on the arrest.
In Chicago, the widespread gun violence — more than 500 homicides in 2012 and more than 400 in each of the last two years — has saddled the city with the moniker "Chiraq," which is also the working title of a Spike Lee movie now being filmed.
Meanwhile, the city has suffered legal losses in its efforts to keep guns out of the hands of residents and seen its attempts to stiffen gun laws thwarted by state lawmakers.
A frustrated Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the laws are so toothless that gang members are more worried about being beaten up by their gangs for losing a gun than going before a judge after being caught with one.
Ohio court stops prosecution of police involved in 137-shot pursuit
Attorneys for the supervisors have said they believe race is behind county prosecutor push
by Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND — The prosecution of five white police supervisors in a predominantly black suburb for failing to stop a car chase that ended with two black people being killed in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire was put on hold Thursday by a state appeals court.
Attorneys for the supervisors filed a complaint with the Eighth District Court of Appeals on Wednesday arguing that the misdemeanor dereliction of duty charges filed against the supervisors in county court last year have priority over an identical set of charges filed last week in East Cleveland.
An initial appearance in East Cleveland Municipal Court scheduled for Friday has been canceled. A trial for the supervisors in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is scheduled to begin July 27.
Attorneys for the supervisors have said they believe race is behind county prosecutor Tim McGinty's push to have the case tried in East Cleveland, where the lone judge is black and a jury pool would come from a population that is 93 percent black. In comparison, about 30 percent of Cuyahoga County's residents are black, as are about 53 percent of Cleveland's residents.
Attorney Susan Gragel, who filed the complaint on behalf of the supervisors, said Thursday that she expects the appeals court to rule that the case should remain in county court.
"There's never been a case where the tactic tried by the prosecutor in this case has been allowed," Gragel said.
The attorneys for the supervisors also expressed skepticism about claims by McGinty that East Cleveland officials asked to have the trial moved to their city, where the car chase ended in a middle school parking lot on Nov. 29, 2012.
McGinty has said the county legal team that has been working on the case for months would prosecute the case in East Cleveland, one of the poorest cities in the state.
County prosecutors announced at a hearing June 4 that charges would be filed against the supervisors in East Cleveland. That announcement came days after the judge assigned to the supervisors' case acquitted Cleveland patrolman Michael Brelo, who is white, on manslaughter charges for having fired the last 15 shots of the barrage that killed driver Timothy Russell and passenger Malissa Williams. Brelo's acquittal sparked street protests.
When Brelo asked for a bench trial, McGinty argued unsuccessfully that it would deny black residents in Cuyahoga County the opportunity to sit on a jury. The supervisors are expected to ask Judge John P. O'Donnell instead of a jury to hear evidence and decide their charges. They've rejected a plea deal offer that would have led to the charges being dismissed if they agreed to say they endangered the lives of the public by not stopping the 22-mile-long chase, which began in Cleveland and involved more than 100 Cleveland officers.
A spokesman said before Thursday's appellate ruling that the prosecutor's office is not a party to the appeals court complaint and emailed a statement from McGinty that said the case belongs in a "misdemeanor court in the city where they committed their offenses."
Thursday's ruling requires East Cleveland Municipal Judge William Dawson to file a response by July 17. A call to Dawson on Thursday wasn't immediately returned.
Baltimore's next police chief faces demoralized department
The next police commissioner will have a daunting to-do list
by Juliet Linderman
BALTIMORE — Baltimore's next police commissioner will have a daunting to-do list: quell a surge in murders, rebuild trust between officers and the public, win the confidence of a demoralized and alienated department, and keep the peace when the explosive Freddie Gray case comes to trial.
"It's the toughest job in the United States at the moment," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former New York City police officer.
Commissioner Anthony Batts was fired by the mayor on Wednesday, less than three months after riots erupted over Gray's death from a spinal injury the 25-year-old black man suffered while being bounced around the back of a moving police van. Six officers are awaiting trial in October on charges ranging up to murder.
"You have a confluence of factors: You have an ongoing criminal case that's traumatic for everybody. You have the specter of riots. For the police union and officers, they're alienated, and the concern is that the cops will be further alienated," O'Donnell said. "You need a chief who can, first and foremost, drive everyone toward common ground."
In dismissing Batts, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said his approach was too divisive and his presence too damaging.
Just hours before his firing, in a sign that the 2,800-officer department's rank-and-file had lost confidence in Batts, the police union issued a report blasting his response to the looting, arson and vandalism that broke out April 27. The report said Batts discouraged officers from wearing protective gear and told them not to engage with rioters. Roughly 200 officers were injured during the unrest.
"The officers characterized the Baltimore Police Department's leadership during the riots as unprepared, politically motivated and uncaring and confusing," said Gene Ryan, president of the police union.
Batts' standing was further damaged by soaring bloodshed in the city in the weeks after the riots.
In May, Baltimore saw its biggest surge in homicides in four decades, while arrests dropped by half compared with the same period a year earlier. The city's homicide total so far this year is 156, a 48 percent increase from the same time last year. And shootings have climbed 86 percent.
Community members have accused police of not doing their jobs in the wake of the Gray arrests. Batts and the police union denied that officers were shirking their duties but acknowledged that police are angry, frustrated and fearful in the wake of the Gray case of being second-guessed and prosecuted.
Peter Moskos, also with John Jay College and a former Baltimore police officer, said the Gray case led police officers to question whether the department had their backs.
"The harm from the Freddie Gray death is it had a chilling effect: Cops were saying, 'That could have been me,'" he said. But he said getting rid of Batts was "a step toward getting things on track."
"Batts was a leader without a following," Moskos said. "If none of the rank and file thinks you're competent, it's as good as being incompetent."
Batts' deputy, Kevin Davis, will serve as interim commissioner until the mayor appoints a permanent replacement. City officials gave no time frame for selecting someone.
"My message to the rank and file is I will walk with them, I will serve with them, and I intend to be with them every step of the way as we focus on the crime fight," Davis said.
On Thursday, Davis said his first order of business was appointing someone to focus on riot response. Davis added that he would like to remain in the position permanently.
In the most violent and drug-ridden neighborhoods in Baltimore — a city of roughly 622,000 people, 63 percent of them black — residents have a long history of mistrust of the police department. After Gray's death, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Baltimore police engage in discriminatory practices, including unlawful stops and excessive force.
"The new chief has to institute a culture that builds much closer relationships between the department and the community," said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. "Police departments and their cultures have been reformed. Change can happen. But who is at the top is really crucial for that."
How Cuomo's order to increase civilian oversight could backfire badly
The order signed this week by New York's governor obviously has the most immediate impact on law enforcers in that state, but it is a harbinger of what may happen in other states across the country
by Doug Wylie -- PoliceOne Editor
Saying that his actions would “go a long way in restoring peoples' trust in our system of criminal justice,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order under which a special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will “review and potentially prosecute law enforcement killings of unarmed civilians or when there's a question about whether the slain civilian was armed and dangerous,” according to the Associated Press.
Advocates who had pressured Cuomo to sign the executive order had initially wanted the special prosecutor to investigate every incident in which police use deadly force, but the final draft of the measure did not go quite that far.
The news this week in New York obviously has the most immediate impact on law enforcers in that state, but it is an ugly harbinger of what may happen in states across the country where elected officials — who are motivated by their desire to become reelected — are under intense political pressure to create structures for increased civilian oversight of police officers' actions.
Policing Under Political Pressure
Prior to Cuomo's action, the most recent case of a politician bowing to political pressure for such oversight was Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's agreement to a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department following a number of officer-involved shootings that made national headlines during Jackson's time in office.
Cuomo's executive order and Jordan's consent decree may have a host of unintended consequences. Here are just three:
1. The practice of proactive policing will become lost to history.
The word “demotivation” doesn't begin to describe how overly restrictive civilian oversight policies can affect officers' desire to fight crime. If taking the iniative to put criminals behinds bars puts an officer at risk of landing in court, in jail, or in the grave, the obvious outcome is that cops will do the minimum. They will respond to radio calls and file reports, but they'll be very disinterested in self-initiated crime fighting.
Consequently, criminals will be further emboldened to commit crime. They will also be more likely to resist arrest and commit violence against arresting officers.
2. The cops will become prone to succumb to deadly hesitation.
Scrutiny of officer-involved shootings by the press and the public — even over incidents in which those actions are completely justifiable by police policy and existing case law — has created an environment in which law enforcers may end up more concerned about the legal battle after of a deadly-force encounter than surviving the incident itself.
When confronted with a potentially deadly threat, officers working under the threat of the reflexive — and often ignorant — civilian oversight bodies following an incident will have a higher propensity to be hurt or killed in the line of duty.
3. The law-abiding civilians will eventually be the ones to suffer.
In cities populated by emboldened criminals and demotivated cops, the innocents are the ones who may suffer the most. They will be more likely to be victimized, and at the very least they will live in a world less safe and less pleasant.
We must remind the public we serve of the adage, “A society that makes war with its police must learn to make peace with its criminals.”
Immediate Action Required
If structured and executed correctly, civilian oversight can be a good thing. If it's done poorly, it can be an unmitigated disaster. Cops know that bad policing leads to bad case law, which in turn leads to bad policy. When police leaders fail to fully participate in the creation of polices affecting their officers — particularly when those programs are generated by politicians whose understanding of law enforcement is woefully lacking — bad strategies tend to get put into place.
We must embrace the change that is coming and actively participate in it. Consequently, police leaders must engage their local political leaders — sooner than later — to ensure that when the guidelines for civilian oversight are written, people with real police expertise are sitting at the drafting table.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 800 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
5 incidents that prove ‘regular cops' are extraordinary heroes
While routinely responding to customary calls, conducting such mundane duties as traffic stops, and supervising the day-to-day police activities, these officers did something extraordinary
by Dave Grossi
Uniformed patrol will always be the front line of law enforcement in America and the first line of defense for our communities.
While it is not particularly common that “regular coppers” get the spotlight for the great jobs they do, certain events prove that it's usually the street dogs who start the ball rolling toward that high-profile bust by the SWAT team or fugitive task force units.
As testament to those unheralded — and sometimes anonymous — troops who are out there day in and day out, pounding the street or piloting the tin cans, here are a handful of instances in which it was a patrol officer who saved the day.
1. Oklahoma City, April 1995
Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger noticed that the old Mercury sedan that drove past him was not displaying a tag. He got behind the vehicle, executed a proper T-stop and asked the operator for his docs.
When the driver reached into his back pocket, Hanger noticed a bulge in the subject's windbreaker. The bulge eventually revealed a hidden handgun.
The driver turned out to be 29-year old Timothy McVeigh who had just committed one of the most heinous crimes in recent history — the murder of 168 individuals via a 7,000 pound bomb who were inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
McVeigh was executed in 2001. Hanger is presently the Sheriff of Noble County, Oklahoma.
2. Fort Hood, November 2009
When US Army Major Hassan Nidal, age 39, walked into the Medical Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas and opened up with his FN semi-automatic pistol, the call went out as “shots fired.”
Two of the initial responding officers were uniformed civilian Patrol Sergeants Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, both members of the Fort Hood, Texas Police Department. By the time they engaged the suspect, Hasan had murdered 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others.
Munley used her Beretta 9mm to engage Hasan before she was struck three times — in the thigh, knee, and femur — by his laser-sighted FN. He was eventually dropped by Todd who fired five shots to stop Hasan's onslaught.
Hasan has since been sentenced to death for his cowardly and brutal murder of those 13 unarmed soldiers.
3. US Navy Yard, September 2013
One of the first responding officers to the “active shooter” call at Building #197 at the US Navy Yard was US Park Police Officer Carl Hiott — a 29-year-old, three-year veteran of the agency. Upon entering with his backup officers — US Park Police Officer Andy Wong and Metro DC Officer Dorian DeSantis — Hiott found himself face-to-face with 34-year-old Aaron Alexis.
Alexis was armed with three weapons; an AR-15, a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, and a Beretta 9mm pistol. Alexis had killed 12 innocents before the troops arrived.
Shots were fired when Alexis suddenly appeared from a desk he was hiding behind. One of Alexis's shots hit DeSantis. He,Hiott, and Wong returned fire.
Alexis was eventually neutralized at the hands of US Park Police Officers Hiott and Wong and Metro DC Officer DeSantis. A total of 51 rounds were fired by the trio — 17 hit Alexis.
4. Garland, May 2015
When the sedan entered the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas where a private event was taking place, two officers exited their patrol vehicle to check it out. One was an unarmed Garland School District security officer, Bruce Joiner; the other a City of Garland Police Department uniformed patrol officer.
As the two officers were exiting the marked squad car, two suspects exited their sedan and began to fire on the two officers with AK-47 rifles. The school district officer was hit in the leg almost instantly and went down. Armed with just his service pistol — a Glock .45 — the uniformed Garland patrol officer managed to drop both heavily armed, armor-wearing suspects.
Outgunned but not out-trained, the as yet unnamed officer is being hailed in the press as a hero — and rightly so.
5. Constable, June 2015
The search had gone on for more than three weeks for two escaped inmates from the notorious maximum security prison in Dannemora, New York.
Richard Matt — armed with a stolen .20 gauge shotgun — had already confronted a CBP agent the week before outside of Malone and paid the price.
But convicted cop killer David Sweat had managed to evade the dragnet of 1,300 federal, state, and local officers for an additional three days. It was shortly before noon on June 28 when NYSP Sergeant Jay Cook, a uniformed patrol boss checking on his troops who were manning a skirmish line, spotted Sweat jogging down the side of a rural county road near the town of Constable.
When the con tried to flee, Cook took him down with two shots.
What do all these officers have in common? All were uniformed patrol officers who routinely respond to the normal and customary calls such as “shots fired” (like Officers Munley and Todd) or who conduct such mundane duties as traffic stops (like Trooper Hanger), or who supervise the day-to-day road patrol operations (like Sergeant Cook). With the exception of DeSantis — who was a member of the Metro DC Tact Unit — none were assigned to specialized units like, ERT, SWAT, or Emergency Service Units.
The words ‘routine,' ‘mundane,' and ‘day-to-day' are italicized above, because there are quite a few TV and media pundits, and still a few police administrators, who continue to view those tasks by patrol officers through that incorrect prism. But nothing could be further from the truth. Patrol officer out there on our American streets continually go above and beyond the call of duty — it's just not all that often they're recognized for their efforts.
About the author
Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate New York now residing in southwest Florida. A graduate of the State University of New York, Dave has served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics investigator, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant. For 12 years, Dave was the lead instructor for the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. He has instructor credentials in virtually every force discipline and has testified both in the United States and abroad as an expert witness in use of force cases. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam, and a member of the Force Science Research Center.