July, 2015 - Week 4
Judge rules against U.S. child detention
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES - A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Justice Department's system of detaining children with their mothers after they have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border violates an 18-year-old court settlement.
The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in California is a victory for the immigrant rights lawyers who brought the case, but its immediate implications for detainees were not yet clear. The ruling upholds a tentative decision Gee made in April, and comes a week after the two sides told her that they failed to reach a new settlement agreement as she'd asked for.
The 1997 settlement at issue bars immigrant children from being held in unlicensed, secure facilities. Gee found that settlement covered all children in the custody of federal immigration officials, even those being held with a parent.
Peter Schey, head of the Center for Human Rights and one of the attorneys who brought the suit, said federal officials "know they're in violation of the law."
Justice Department attorneys did not immediately reply to late-night messages seeking comment on the ruling.
The new lawsuit was brought on by new major detention centers for women and children in Texas that are overseen by the U.S. government but are managed by private prison operators. Together they have recently held more than 2,000 women and children between them after a surge of tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America, most of them mothers with children, many of whom claimed they were fleeing gang and domestic violence back home.
The Justice Department had argued it was necessary to modify the settlement and use detention to try to deter more immigrants from coming to the border after last year's surge and it was an important way to keep families together while their cases were being reviewed. The judge rejected that argument Friday.
Gee gave the Justice Department one week to show cause why she should not enter an injunction that would require the government to comply with the ruling within 90 days. But since the tentative ruling in April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has vowed to make the facilities more child-friendly and provide better oversight.
FBI, Aiken public safety to discuss safety measures with church leaders
by Travis Highfield
In the wake of a shooting that killed nine Charleston churchgoers, the FBI and the Aiken Department of Public Safety will conduct a briefing to help local church leaders protect against similar incidents.
Aiken's Millbrook Baptist Church will be the site of the first in a series of briefings tailored for places of worship at 7 p.m. Monday, according to a statement from Lt. Jake Mahoney. All clergy and layperson leadership in the area are asked to attend.
“The idea is to help inform and educate senior leadership and pastors of things they can do to help prepare and protect themselves and their congregation if there were to be an active shooter in their house of worship,” Mahoney said. “Preparedness is the key.”
In a written statement Friday, Special Agent J. R. Chadwick said the training is the final step in a three-phase initiative created in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in 2012. The first two phases involved training law enforcement executives and street-level officers.
“The third phase of this initiative involves conducting ‘awareness' briefings for the general public,” the release said. “Again, the purpose here is to provide the public with lessons learned about how to survive an Active Shooter event.”
The FBI has conducted several such briefings throughout South Carolina for the past two years, Chadwick said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Active shooter seminar for local church leaders held by the Aiken Department of Public Safety and the FBI
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Millbrook Baptist Church, 223 S. Aiken Blvd., Aiken
Why restaurant letter grades wouldn't boost public safety
by Andrew Do
Martha Stewart's holiday meal wouldn't get a passing score from a government inspector.
Step three of her recipe for the perfect roast turkey advises to “fill large cavity and neck cavity loosely with as much stuffing as they hold comfortably.” Tsk-tsk, M. Diddy! Under proper food safety and handling guidelines, stuffing should be prepared separately from the bird due to the increased risk of salmonella.
If Martha Stewart couldn't ace a restaurant inspection, there's little hope for the rest of us. This week, the Orange County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal that, at first blush, sounds like a great idea: adopting a grading system for our bars, cafes and restaurants.
As this newspaper has reported, Orange County has seen an uptick in the number of health violations and a decline in the number of inspections. We need to reverse those trends. But before we dish out a new government program, we need to consider whether it will solve the problem. Political sound bites say yes. Academic research says no.
“The benefits of grading are vastly overstated, and costs vastly understated,” concluded Dr. Daniel E. Ho, a Stanford University professor, in a study published in the Yale Law Journal. “The regulatory design, implementation and practice in these jurisdictions are flawed at their core.”
Dr. Ho didn't come to this decision lightly. He reviewed data from more than 700,000 inspections in San Diego, New York and eight other cities. The problems with restaurant grading systems are numerous. Some are too strict, others too lenient, all inconsistent, and none shows a direct empirical benefit on public health.
Restaurant grading systems, the academic literature suggests, may move us further away from the goal of reducing the risk of foodborne illness. That's because restaurant grading systems divert inspectors away from inspecting high-risk restaurants in favor of reevaluating low-risk restaurants.
“In New York's case, two of every three initial inspections require a plenary reinspection,” Dr. Ho's research found, “and the majority of these reinspections are of initially ‘B'-range restaurants.” By adopting a grading system, Orange County would spend more time and money inspecting safe B-rated restaurants that want another chance to prove they deserve an A.
San Diego has the opposite problem: grade inflation is so rampant that the system provides almost no benefit to the public. Of 8,941 inspected restaurants, 8,933 received an “A,” 8 received a “B,” and not a single one rated a “C.” Of nearly 12,000 restaurant inspections, only 15 reports scored a restaurant below a 90. “Because 99.9 percent of restaurants receive an ‘A,'” the study published in the Yale Law Journal found, “there is little variation from a consumer's perspective in the sanitation level of restaurants.”
New York restaurants describe the system as “incredibly random.” There are cases where restaurants initially receive low ratings, but change very little and get an A. “The bottom line is that every inspector is different,” said one Big Apple restaurateur who went from a “C” to an “A” by making almost no changes. “And the grade has more to do with who the inspector is than what the restaurant is, or is not, doing.”
Orange County won't be any safer with a new grading system, but that doesn't mean we should simply throw up our hands and do nothing.
Instead of spending money on a new government program, Orange County has chosen a smarter path: dedicating more resources to hiring more inspectors. We know based on extensive research that restaurant inspections are an effective tool in closing dirty restaurants and minimizing the spread of foodborne illness.
Andrew Do represents the First District on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
DHS unveils major expansion of ICE Cyber Crimes Center
New space will offer increased capabilities for ICE to combat cybercrime cases involving underground online marketplaces, child exploitation, intellectual property theft, more
WASHINGTON — Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah R. Saldaña today presided over the unveiling of a major expansion of the ICE Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va.
The expanded center will provide ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with enhanced operational and training capabilities in order to meet the growing cyber mission of the agency and increasing workload of criminal cases with a cyber-nexus.
“The men and women of Homeland Security Investigations perform critical work in combating criminals that use the computer as their weapon, perpetrating crimes ranging from child exploitation to the theft of intellectual property,” said Deputy Secretary Mayorkas. “The development of this expanded Cyber Crimes Center provides this great workforce with the facility and tools they deserve to accomplish their mission.”
In 1997, the U.S. Customs Service created the Cyber Crimes Center – which became known as “C3” – in response to changing technologies and its effect on criminal trends. While C3's mission evolved dramatically since its creation, little renovation has been made since then to update the physical space.
The expansion unveiled July 22 includes the build-out of a 5,000 square-foot forensic laboratory, space for coordinating large cyber operations, an evidence vault and multiple training and conference rooms.
According to ICE Director Saldaña, today's C3 is better equipped for combating cybercrime in today's age: ICE's cybercrime strategy focuses on network intrusion and online theft of intellectual property and online theft of export controlled data; cyber economic crimes to include the sale and conversion of stolen credit card data and personally identifiable information into criminal proceeds; and cyber enabled crimes like child exploitation, illicit underground marketplaces, document fraud and other crimes that have transitioned from the physical to virtual world.
C3's current mission involves keeping pace with emerging computer technology and Internet processes; proactively using these new technologies to combat criminal activity and address vulnerabilities created by the Internet; disseminating investigative leads and intelligence to field offices and international law enforcement partners; and supporting field investigations.
The Cyber Crimes Center has also developed a cybercrime curriculum to train HSI special agents and law enforcement partners in conducting cyber investigations. Classes on subjects including cyber smuggling, undercover and network intrusion investigations will take place at the new C3 beginning in early 2016. C3 is already using the new space to provide training in advanced software applications for victim identification in support of child sexual exploitation investigations.
C3 delivers computer and cyber-based technical services in support of HSI cases – including investigations into underground online marketplaces selling illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband; the trading of images of child pornography; and the theft of intellectual property.
Recent examples of the types of cases investigated and supported by C3 include the takedown of underground online marketplaces like Silk Road and Black Market Reloaded, cyber theft and piracy of the Hollywood movie The Expendables 3 and the dismantling of one of the largest child pornography websites on the dark net with more than 27,000 subscribers, as part of Operation Round Table.
From the FBI
Economic Espionage -- FBI Launches Nationwide Awareness Campaign
Industries in the United States spend more on research and development than any other country in the world. The amount of effort and resources put into developing a unique product or process that can provide an edge in the business world is not unsubstantial. But what happens if someone comes in and steals that edge—a company's trade secrets—for the benefit of a foreign country? The damages could severely undermine the victim company and include lost revenue, lost employment, damaged reputation, lost investment for research and development, interruption in production—it could even result in the company going out of business.
It's called economic espionage, and it's a problem that costs the American economy billions of dollars annually and puts our national security at risk. While it is not a new threat, it is a growing one, and the theft attempts by our foreign competitors and adversaries are becoming more brazen and more varied in their approach.
Historically, economic espionage has been leveled mainly at defense-related and high-tech industries. But recent FBI cases have shown that no industry, large or small, is immune to the threat. Any company with a proprietary product, process, or idea can be a target; any unprotected trade secret is ripe for the taking by those who wish to illegally obtain innovations to increase their market share at a victim company's expense.
To raise awareness of the issue, the FBI, in collaboration with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, has launched a nationwide campaign and released a short film aimed at educating businesses, industry leaders, and anyone with a trade secret about the threat and how they can help mitigate it. Based on an actual case, The Company Man: Protecting America's Secrets illustrates how one U.S. company was targeted by foreign actors and how that company worked with the FBI to resolve the problem and bring the perpetrators to justice
The Bureau has provided more than 1,300 in-person briefings on the economic espionage threat to companies and industry leaders over the past year, using The Company Man as a training tool. But through this campaign, the FBI hopes to expand the scope of the audience to include a wider range of industry representatives, trade associations, and smaller companies and encourage them to come forward if they suspect they are a victim of economic espionage.
Understandably, companies are often hesitant to reach out for help when faced with a potential threat of this nature, usually because they don't want to risk their trade secrets being disclosed in court or compromised in any way. But the FBI will do all it can to minimize business disruption and safeguard privacy and data during its investigation and will seek protective orders to preserve trade secrets and business confidentiality whenever possible. The Department of Justice also has a variety of protections in place to ensure that sensitive information is protected throughout any criminal prosecution.
Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has a strategic partnership coordinator (SPC) whose role is to proactively develop relationships with local companies, trade groups, industry leaders, and others so that if an incident occurs, a liaison has already been established. To report suspected economic espionage-related activity, please contact the SPC at your local FBI field office or submit a tip at: tips.fbi.gov
Defining the Crime
Theft of trade secrets occurs when someone knowingly steals or misappropriates a trade secret for the economic benefit of anyone other than the owner.
Similarly, economic espionage occurs when a trade secret is stolen for the benefit of a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent.
Proving the foreign nexus in court is difficult, and cases that start out as economic espionage often end up prosecuted as theft of trade secrets. Both crimes are covered by the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, Title 18, Sections 1831 and 1832 of the U.S. Code.
Protect Your Trade Secrets
Any company that has invested time and resources into developing a product or idea needs to protect it. The FBI recommends the following methods for economic protection:
- Recognize the threat.
- Identify and value trade secrets.
- Implement a definable plan for safeguarding trade secrets.
- Secure physical trade secrets and limit access to trade secrets.
- Provide ongoing security training to employees.
- Develop an insider threat program.
- Proactively report suspicious incidents to the FBI before your proprietary information is irreversibly compromised.
- In May 2015, two Chinese professors were among six defendants charged with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets in connection with their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC).
- In January 2015, a computer science engineer was sentenced for stealing sensitive trade secrets from a trading firm in New Jersey and a Chicago-based financial firm.
- In July 2014, a California man was sentenced to 15 years in prison on multiple economic espionage-related charges in connection with his theft of trade secrets from DuPont regarding its chloride-route titanium dioxide (TiO2) production technology and the subsequent selling of that information to state-owned companies of the PRC.
- In May 2014, five Chinese military hackers were indicted on charges of computer hacking, economic espionage, and other offenses directed at six victims in the U.S. nuclear power, metals, and solar products industries.
- In March 2013, a New Jersey-based defense contractor was sentenced for theft of trade secrets and exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to the PRC.
- In December 2011, a Massachusetts man was sentenced on a charge of foreign economic espionage for providing trade secrets to an undercover federal agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.
- In February 2010, a former Boeing engineer was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison for stealing aerospace secrets for the benefit of the PRC. This was the first economic espionage trial in U.S. history.
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Blue Campaign Five Year Milestone
July 22, 2015
Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign marks five years of collective effort to end the heinous crime of human trafficking in the United States. During this short period, the DHS Blue Campaign has served as the unified voice for the Department's efforts to combat human trafficking, bringing together the resources and capabilities across DHS to protect victims and bring traffickers to justice. Of course, we do not do this alone. We work closely with our governmental and law enforcement partners, as well as those service providers and non-governmental organizations that work each day to assist victims of human trafficking. Ending human trafficking in the United States requires the collective resolve of all corners of our nation, and we are grateful to work alongside our committed partners in this effort.
To date, the DHS Blue Campaign, through DHS components such as the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, and Customs and Border Protection, has provided training to federal human trafficking task forces, more than 10,000 state, local, and campus law enforcement professionals, over 2,000 foreign law enforcement partners, and approximately 50,000 airline employees. These are all professionals on the front lines each day who can help identify victims of human trafficking.
Over the past five years, the Blue Campaign has become a national leader on anti-trafficking training, creating and delivering high quality human trafficking training across the country for federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and campus law enforcement. We have teamed up with our public and private sector friends and partners around the country to ensure that important information about human trafficking is being shared with individuals, families, and communities, from truck stops along our nation's highways all the way to the Super Bowl. Finally, we have implemented a nationwide public awareness campaign, displaying awareness materials in 13 major U.S. airports; creating and sharing tools for law enforcement, educators, judges, and health care professionals; and airing our Public Service Announcement around the country over 50,000 times. Our goal is to better equip the American public to recognize and report the indicators of human trafficking. Just this week, DHS announced a new partnership with South Carolina's Office of the Attorney General, and we continue to look for more partners in our shared fight to end human trafficking in the United States.
Yesterday, we were privileged to be joined by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Representative Ted Yoho, White House National Security Council Senior Director Alice Hill, and Blue Campaign Chair Maria Odom, to commemorate the five year milestone of the DHS Blue Campaign at an event in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday's event was an opportunity to celebrate the Blue Campaign's fifth anniversary and recognize the hard work of those committed to the fight against human trafficking. More importantly, however, it was an opportunity to recommit ourselves to this important effort, and chart the course for the next five years of our work. Attendees participated in small group discussions on private sector outreach, law enforcement training, public awareness, research and technology, and interagency collaboration.
One important aspect of the work ahead of us will be to implement the recently-enacted Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. With passage of this bill, Congress handed to us a powerful tool, requiring that DHS personnel receive training on how to deter, detect, and report instances of potential human trafficking. Secretary Johnson and I are committed to fulfilling the promise of this new law. We will do so quickly and comprehensively, and are grateful to our Congressional partners for their unwavering commitment to ending human trafficking in the United States.
In five years, the DHS Blue Campaign has made great strides in our efforts to combat human trafficking. I am humbled by the great work of the men and women of DHS, and across the government, who combat this terrible crime each day. As we forge ahead, we will continue to expand our growing network of partners, train more law enforcement, further raise public awareness, and ultimately identify and rescue more victims of human trafficking.
There is much more to be done and we cannot do this alone; we need your help. I encourage you to visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign to learn more, get involved, and join us in the fight against human trafficking.
DOE Says No Thanks To Community Policing
by Mark C. Healey
Danny Ruscillo, President of the 100th Precinct Community Council thought the least of his problems was finding a place to hold the festivities for the National Night Out Against Crime on Aug. 4. Then he found out the Department of Education had other ideas.
According to Ruscillo, he reached out to the DOE in June to request the use of the high school athletic fields at the Beach Channel Educational Campus for its event. The group then met in early July with the school administration and custodial staff to discuss planning and to conduct a walkthrough of the fields. Following the meeting, the group received initial permission and were even assigned permit number Q49551 as confirmation, Ruscillo said. The group had previously used the space in August 2008 and 2009 before switching to the nearby beachfront park at Beach 108th Street. This year, however, the group decided to return to the school due to ongoing construction work to rebuild the boardwalk and park amenities destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
On July 17, Ruscillo received an email from DOE saying the city would not waive more than $2,000 in permitting fees applied to the group's request.
In the cost breakdown provided in the email, these fees included $1,294 for “security costs” and $878.56 for “space and labor costs,” which the group had disputed by pointing out the considerable police presence expected at the event and by offering to cover all cleanup work themselves.
The National Night Out is an annual communitybuilding campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer.
Ruscillo immediately contacted Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder's office, which conducted round-the-clock negotiations with the city to secure a waiver of permit fees and insurance requirements relating to the use of a dunk tank, children's 8-wheel locomotive and related carnival rides; and health and vendor regulations required for the group to serve popcorn at the event. By the time a press conference was announced to protest the agency's decision, the city had offered to waive the permit fees but kept in place the regulations, which the group still deemed excessive.
On July 22, Ruscillo stood side by side with Goldfeder, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, and Councilman Eric Ulrich to ask why a city agency would act in such way towards a non-profit holding a community event.
“As the President of the Precinct Community Council, I'm disgusted,” Ruscillo said. “The city tells us to bring the police and the community together, but then they add all this red tape that does just the opposite. National Night Out is supposed to be a way for the community to learn what police and community relations are all about. When you add all these regulations and charge $2,200 for security and cleanup, which we've offered to provide, you just push the community away.”
This year's National Night Out comes as the community, which continues to recover from Superstorm Sandy, is in the midst of its busy summer beach season. Each year, the local NYPD precinct dedicates additional resources and officers to patrol the area's popular beaches. This also comes as local police continue to combat a spate of gun violence in parts of the community.
Goldfeder, who along with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and other elected officials helped secure some $35 million in reimbursement and repair funds for the Beach Channel Educational campus just a week ago, is also wondering what the DOE is thinking.
“It's unfortunate that the city refuses to recognize the value of our local Precinct Community Council and the great work they have done to foster police-community relations here in Rockaway,” said Goldfeder. “The treatment that Danny Ruscillo and the council leadership have received from the Education Department during this ordeal is simply disgraceful. By increasing costly red tape for the council and its National Night Out Against Crime, the city is robbing our community of the chance to celebrate the brave work of our men and women in blue. I urge Chancellor Fariña and the city to recognize their error and ease restrictions without delay.”
Joining the elected officials and the community council at the press conference were police officers from the 100th Precinct, newly-elected 101st Precinct Community Council President Jasmine Outlaw, local community leaders and dozens of residents.
Howard citizens' advisory council talk body cameras, community policing
by Andrew Michaels -- Howard County Times
Thoughts and concerns about the Howard County Police Department's current and future policing efforts flooded the Mt. Hebron High School cafeteria in Ellicott City Wednesday evening as the department's Citizens' Advisory Council held its second public forum.
According to Chairwoman Linda Lee Hickerson, county Councilman Calvin Ball initiated the advisory council's effort to hear public feedback to consider for the police department's strategic five-year plan.
"We already think this is a great department," Hickerson said. "We just want to be better. Chief Gary Gardner is all about understanding the county, diversity and transparency, and that's what we're looking to do."
The issue of body cameras has been in the national spotlight after recent high-profile cases regarding police and citizen interactions, including the Baltimore case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died after suffering spinal cord injuries while in police custody. Six officers are facing various charges in that case.
Police department Director of Public Affairs Sherry Llewellyn said body camera discussions have become "the issue of the day," finding both support and opposition in the community. Although the state of Maryland created a commission in May 2015 to develop guidelines on how law enforcement should use body cameras, she said, the Howard police department had already started research into the technology.
"Body cameras offer protection for police officers and for members of the public," Llewellyn said. "What other agencies have found is that there are fewer complaints and fewer reports against officers because their actions are recorded."
But, issues of privacy among citizens and violent crime victims have also been raised.
"Do you want every traffic stop every time you're pulled over to be recorded?" Llewellyn asked. "Do we want victims of abuse to feel comfortable being recorded?"
With regard to costs, Llewellyn said the department has to factor bringing the video into the office, maintaining it and logging it; all while making sure everything is ready for potential use in court.
"We've given thought to what would it take every time a defense attorney, a reporter or a member of the public wants to review those videos," she said.
During group discussions with advisory council members later in the evening, Columbia resident Carolyn Gegor shared her support of introducing the technology into the county's policing efforts.
"My own impression is that they would give us an opportunity to have an unbiased view of what is happening instead of a he said/she said kind of thing," Gegor said. "In the heat of the moment, people often don't have a clear recollection of what's happening, so a video of it helps to get information."
Gegor said the department would have to work to achieve a "risk-and-benefit balance."
"Having specific, clear information is more valuable than the risk of having these things exposed," she said. "There's no question that any of this video could be on TV tomorrow for your neighbors, family and friends to all see.
"It's a potential problem, but I think that we've certainly seen some very high-profile cases where the images have been very helpful in showing what actually happened. Without them, innocent people may not have had their rights protected."
Police presence in a neighborhood was another concern expressed by 32-year Ellicott City resident Dianne Zeitler. Having lived in a 55-and-older community for the past four years, Zeitler said she and her husband, Maury, want more police visibility in the area, asking the department for "a really good definition of 'community policing.'"
"[The development we live in] is on a fairly busy street that has not been policed for speeding or people driving and using their phones," Zeitler said. "I personally witnessed two or three near misses and it's sort of frightening … If I knew the police knew we were there, I would feel more comfortable."
At the end of the forum, Hickerson said the advisory council will release an online survey for more community input, with all feedback to be included in the advisory council's formal report. The report will be submitted to the county council and police department in late October.
"[Residents] may not be able to give you the good, the bad and the ugly," Hickerson said. "If someone is here tonight because they need help on a specific issue, then I want to know that, too, because you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to be texting somebody [at the police department] as soon as I leave, saying, 'We need to make sure this person has your attention.'"
As police training, programs and discussions evolve, Llewellyn said the community remains at the heart of the department.
"Know that your chief of police and command staff are absolutely committed to community policing as a part of their priorities," Llewellyn said. "This is not a fad or a trend or reaction to something happening locally or nationally. This is, at its core, this program's reality."
Cop cleared in shooting of gunman in downtown Austin rampage
Grand jury declined to indict police sergeant who shot and killed a gunman who opened fire on government buildings
by Philip Jankowski and Samantha Matsumoto
AUSTIN, Texas — A Travis County grand jury declined Thursday to indict the Austin police sergeant who shot and killed a gunman who opened fire on three government buildings and wreaked havoc downtown in the early hours of Black Friday, the Travis County district attorney's office said.
Larry McQuilliams, 49, had fired more than 100 rounds at Austin police headquarters near Eighth Street and Interstate 35 when Sgt. Adam Johnson killed him with a single shot from his service handgun while holding the reins of a patrol horse.
Johnson is a sergeant with Austin police's mounted Sixth Street detail.
The shooting rampage occurred at about 2:30 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving with McQuilliams first opening fire on the Mexican Consulate and the federal courthouse on West Fifth Street before he drove to Austin police headquarters.
In documents released by the district attorney's office Thursday, Johnson and other mounted patrol officers told investigators they heard reports of a gunman in a white van over the police radio as they were clearing Sixth Street after bars had closed. They were preparing their horses for transport at the police headquarters' parking garage when they heard gunfire, the documents said.
The officers saw muzzle flashes coming from a white van and McQuilliams, clad in dark clothes, opening fire on the entrance of police headquarters with an assault rifle. The bullets shattered several windows and left the walls pockmarked, the district attorney's office said.
The officers then started moving toward McQuilliams, the documents said.
"Thoughts were going through my head of the people that were in the main," Johnson told investigators, adding that one of his best friends was usually inside the building at that time.
Johnson said he heard four barrages of gunfire, with about 30 rounds in each burst. In the third or fourth barrage, McQuilliams turned his gun on the mounted officers and fired, striking right above the officers' heads, Johnson told investigators.
When McQuilliams paused, the documents said, Johnson fired a single shot from more than 100 yards away and saw McQuilliams fall to the ground.
A video of the incident recorded by a patrol car's dashboard camera released by police Thursday does not show either McQuilliams or Johnson but still conveys the tension of the moment. Gunfire from an automatic weapon can be heard in one of the department's parking garages, followed by a silence before a shot is fired from Johnson's weapon. Several officers and other patrol cars can then be seen rushing toward police headquarters.
Johnson told investigators that he feared for the lives of his fellow officers and felt he needed to protect them.
"I knew what the threat was, and my decision to shoot at him was to eliminate that threat," Johnson said. "I knew he was going to kill somebody."
Police with tactical gear approached McQuilliams and determined that he was dead, the district attorney's office said. Police then called in a bomb squad after discovering possible explosives in the vehicle McQuilliams had been driving.
Austin police said in a statement the department was pleased with the grand jury's decision not to indict Johnson.
"We remain grateful to Sgt. Johnson and the other dedicated Austin Police Department professionals for their quick and decisive heroic life-saving actions," the statement said.
Following the shooting, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo characterized McQuilliams as a lone-wolf terrorist. Investigators concluded McQuilliams shared beliefs with a racist, anti-government, right-wing Christian movement known as the Phineas Priesthood.
Acevedo also noted that materials found inside McQuilliams' van showed that he may have had more targets he planned to attack.
Evidence found after the incident suggests McQuilliams had death on his mind. Before setting out that night, he laid out clothes on his bed at his South Austin apartment identifying them as his funeral clothes. McQuilliams also left a message written in marker on his chest that read, "Let me die."
McQuilliams' autopsy concluded that he had died from a bullet in the back, hitting his heart.
University cop who fatally shot Ohio man says car dragged him
Officer says he was being dragged by the man's vehicle and had to fire his weapon
by Lisa Cornwell
CINCINNATI — A University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot a man he stopped over a missing license plate said he was being dragged by the man's vehicle and had to fire his weapon, according to a police report and the officer's radio call released Thursday.
The university released the police report and audio from Officer Ray Tensing's call after Sunday's shooting of Samuel Dubose. Tensing can be heard on the call yelling "Shots fired. Shots fired" and asking for a medic for a gunshot wound to the head.
"He took off on me," Tensing says on the call. "I discharged one round." He says it struck the man in the head.
Authorities say Tensing spotted a car driven by Dubose and missing the front license plate, which is required by Ohio law. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after Dubose, 43, refused to provide a driver's license and get out of the car. Authorities say the officer fired the shot during the struggle.
Dubose's death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with black suspects, especially those killed by officers. Dubose was black; Tensing is white. Authorities haven't said whether race is a consideration in their investigation.
The police report released Thursday said Tensing told officers responding to his radio call that he was attempting a traffic stop when "at some point, he began to be dragged by a male black driver who was operating a Green Honda Accord."
"Officer Tensing stated that he almost was run over by the driver of the Honda Accord and was forced to shoot the driver with his duty weapon," according to the report.
The report states the car came to a final stop after the shooting and responding officers found the driver slumped motionless with a gunshot wound to the head. Police determined the man was dead.
Tensing complained of pain to his left arm, and the back of his pants and shirt "looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface," the report stated.
Tensing was then taken to a hospital.
A Dubose relative did not immediately return a call for comment on the report.
The release of the report and the audio came a few hours after Dubose's family and supporters held a protest calling for release of video from the shooting.
About 20 people protested outside Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters' office. They held signs with slogans including "Justice for Samuel Dubose" and repeatedly chanted for Deters to "release that tape."
Dubose's cousin, Ebony Johnson, said protests will continue until police body-camera footage is released. "We're here because we want answers, and we want justice," she said.
But Deters stood by his decision not to release the video until the investigation is finished. "The law supports our position to not release the video," he said in a statement Thursday.
In refusing the request to release the video, Deters said authorities need time to do a thorough investigation and to ensure the grand jury process isn't tainted.
Also Thursday, state Sen. Cecil Thomas issued a statement calling for Deters to release the video.
"The family of Mr. Dubose deserves answers sooner rather than later," said Thomas, D-Cincinnati.
Tensing is on paid leave and hasn't responded to messages left for him at the police department. A phone listing for him could not be found.
A university statement Thursday evening said that beginning this past Monday UC police were conducting traffic stops only within the boundaries of the school's campuses, until further notice. City police have agreed to increase their patrols outside the campuses' boundaries in the interim, the statement said.
Wis. trooper killed ambusher before dying
Mortally wounded, the officer killed suspect with just one shot in what was 'no doubt' a justifiable trooper shooting
by Mary Spicuzza and Bill Glauber
Fond du Lac, Wis. — It was near the end of his first solo shift on March 24 when Wisconsin State Trooper Trevor Casper faced a life-or-death decision.
After following a suspect into the city, he was ambushed by Steven Snyder of Michigan, a serial bank robber responsible for at least nine holdups in three states. Just hours earlier, Snyder had robbed a Wausaukee bank and murdered another man.
Snyder started shooting while both men were still in their vehicles.
The gunbattle lasted only about 17 seconds. During that time, a heavily armed Snyder fired nine times and Casper, who was struck three times, fired 12 shots, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney said Thursday.
Mortally wounded, Casper, 21, killed Snyder with just one shot in what was "no doubt" a justifiable trooper shooting, Toney said.
"Trevor Casper did more in 17 seconds than most will do in a lifetime and is undeniably a hero," Toney said at a Thursday news conference, where he was joined by Wisconsin State Patrol leaders.
Col. Brian Rahn of the Wisconsin State Patrol said that through his actions, "Trooper Casper was able to take out a threat that was prepared to inflict more devastation on the citizens of Fond du Lac."
Toney's report was released days after another from a Michigan sheriff's office that showed Snyder had a lengthy criminal history.
The Newaygo County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday said Snyder has been linked to a string of at least nine bank robberies dating back to June 2011 through DNA, rental car records, hotel records, video surveillance and the way he carried out his crimes.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in May that Snyder's wife had warned law enforcement officials her estranged husband was responsible for a series of unsolved bank robberies. He came to be known as the "Respectful Robber," a man with a calm demeanor who would rob banks at gunpoint using stolen or rental cars, then drive to a remote or wooded area where he had stashed another car so he could escape undetected.
Toney's report said Snyder's wife had, on March 13, provided details to the Newaygo County Sheriff's Department about his involvement in bank robberies dating to 2011. She warned that her husband would do a number of things to alter his appearance before a robbery, used rental vehicles and even changed his persona.
"The suspect's wife stated that if the police investigated her husband she anticipated he would disappear and go rogue or, if police officers showed up, he would come out shooting," the report said.
The sheriff's office and Michigan FBI were in the process of writing a warrant to obtain a DNA sample from Snyder on March 24, the report said.
That was the day Snyder, 38, robbed the Wausaukee branch of the State Bank of Florence and stole a bank employee's van before murdering Thomas Christ, 59, who may have confronted Snyder about parking near his property.
Christ's body was found at the location where Snyder switched vehicles, abandoning the stolen van and driving away in his rental car.
Snyder then traveled from Marinette County through Oshkosh and into Fond du Lac County. But there were questions about Snyder's exact location, Toney said.
The FBI's Green Bay field office had indicated to one sergeant that an FBI office in Michigan "was not cooperating" as would be expected with tracking Snyder's cellphone, Toney said. The concerns were so serious that, only a few minutes before Casper spotted Snyder traveling south on Highway 41, that sergeant had warned the FBI the Wisconsin State Patrol might discontinue its search because it wasn't receiving "any real-time phone ping information" about Snyder's location.
As Snyder was driving, he texted his girlfriend about "a near-death experience" and said he would share more once he was home. And, just minutes before ambushing Casper, he texted four people suggesting he "was going to be taken into custody or would be dead," Toney's report said.
Casper followed Snyder without emergency lights or sirens as he waited for assistance from others, and at no point tried to stop Snyder, who was considered armed and dangerous, Toney said.
It turned out that Snyder was heavily armed, carrying two weapons — a Glock .40-caliber pistol and an FN Herstal 5.7 semi-automatic pistol — and more than 140 rounds of ammunition.
In his rental car, Snyder had a manifesto he signed the day before — March 23 — revealing "his willingness to die, desire to die while fighting, and lack of regret for his illegal actions," Toney's report said.
Casper followed Snyder as his vehicle exited the highway and continued into the city, turning into a parking lot and onto another street, probably trying to determine whether Casper was following him, Toney said. Snyder then drove into an alley behind a Pick 'n Save and changed direction before ambushing Casper from his car, then exited and headed toward Casper as he continued shooting.
Toney said Thursday that he was "certain that more innocent lives would have been endangered or lost" without Casper's heroic actions.
"Trooper Trevor Casper made a heroic decision to protect the Fond du Lac community and risk his own life after he suffered a gunshot wound while seated in his squad car," Toney said. "Trooper Casper could have chosen to remain in his squad car and disengage from the situation by attempting to drive to a safe location. In an instant, Trooper Casper made a selfless decision to stay in the fight and protect the community, showing little regard for his own personal safety."
Casper's mortal wound came after he got out of his car, Toney added.
Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Tony Burrell, who had arrived on the scene minutes after the shootout and helped carry Casper to a Flight for Life helicopter that day, had tears in his eyes through much of the news conference as he described the young trooper as someone who would "forevermore" be remembered as a hero.
Burrell said he remembered Casper as someone who was "always upbeat, always positive, had a smile on his face" and "was a little bit of a jokester, a prankster."
Burrell also read a statement from the Casper family in which they thanked the community for its support.
"Trevor always had a knack for putting others at ease," the statement said. "And always put others before himself."
"We will miss Trevor's visits, calls, texts, and Snapchats," the family said. "But we are comforted because we know Trevor will continue to protect and serve at the highest level as he looks upon us from above."
Gunman kills 2, himself in Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater
by Saeed Ahmed
As the previews ended and the lights dimmed for the screening of the comedy "Trainwreck," a man stood up inside a Louisiana movie theater, pulled out a handgun and began firing indiscriminately.
The shooter, a 58-year-old white man, killed two people and wounded nine others at the Lafayette multiplex Thursday night before he turned his gun on himself and took his own life, police said.
The shooting comes within days of the guilty verdict in the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre.
"There's nothing to believe that there was any kind of motive," said Col. Michael Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police.
Authorities have the gunman's name but are withholding it as the investigation continues.
"We want to talk to the (victims') families first and let them know what happened," Edmonson said. "We owe them that respect."
The witnesses: 'Gunshots after gunshots'
About 100 people had sat down to watch the 7:10 p.m. screening of "Trainwreck" at the Grand Theater 16 in Lafayette, a city of about 120,000 people about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge, when the bullets flew.
Jalen Fernell was in a theater next door.
"I almost thought it was part of the movie at first," Fernell said of the gunshots.
An alarm went off, followed by an overhead intercom message asking patrons to get out.
"Immediately we get terrified because they are telling us to head out to vehicles," he said. "It was kind of like a war going on ... gunshots after gunshots."
Paige Bearb, another witness, said she took off running when the alarm sounded.
"I saw people bleeding from the leg, they were shot," she said. "And I was like 'Wow.' It was like a movie itself."
The auditorium: 'The guy was just kind of at ease'
A man who'd gone to see "Trainwreck" told Keifer Sanders, who was in a nearby auditorium, it was quiet when the gunfire began right before the movie started.
"There was no argument, nothing going on at all. And a guy just stood up and started opening fire," Sanders said. "The guy was just kind of at ease, just standing there, just shooting."
Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft backed up the account.
"He bought a ticket and went into the theater. And sometime during the movie, he started shooting," he said.
The moviegoers included two teachers enjoying the last few days of the summer break.
When the bullets flew, one shielded the other and may have saved her life.
"Her friend literally jumped over her," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, after speaking with the unnamed teacher. "If her friend hadn't done that, she believed the bullet would have hit her in the head."
A bullet struck her leg instead, but she managed to get to a fire alarm and pull it.
"When you think about it -- two friends together -- one jumps in the way of a bullet to save her friend's life," said Jindal from the scene of the shooting. "The other, even though she was shot in the leg, she had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm and in the process saved other people's lives."
The victims: 'Awful night for the United States'
By the time four officers entered the theater, the gunman was dead.
"It appears the shooter died from a self inflicted gunshot wound after discharging his weapon numerous times," Craft said.
The nine injured range in age from late teens to "probably into the 60s," Craft said. One victim has been released; another is in surgery and is "not doing well," he said early Friday morning.
Bomb squads conducted a sweep of the theater and the parking lot. Police temporarily closed a nearby Grand theater and deployed officers to other movie houses as a precaution.
"Whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence, it makes us both furious and sad at the same time," Jindal said.
"This is an awful night for Lafayette, this is an awful night for Louisiana, this is an awful night for the United States. But we will get through this."
The theater: 'My heart is broken'
The shooting occurred six days after the conviction of James Holmes in the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting that left 12 people dead and 70 people wounded.
On July 20, 2012, Holmes opened fire during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" using an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40 caliber handgun. The rampage ended with the once-promising neuroscience student's arrest outside the theater.
Security measures were stepped up at some cinemas after Aurora. Still, theaters across the United States fundamentally remain freewheeling places, where ticket-holders can wander in and out, unbothered by the intense security measures that now typify airports and public buildings. Ticket sales also didn't slump.
Southern Theatres, a New Orleans-based theater chain which owns The Grand, had no immediate comment about the Thursday night shooting. Universal, the distributor of "Trainwreck," declined to comment.
But the movie's star, Amy Schumer, tweeted, "My heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana."
The shooter: 'We may now never know'
While the shooter may have taken his motive with him with his death, the investigation is far from complete. Authorities will painstakingly pore over his digital footprint, talk to his family and friends, and retrace his movements to answer the burning question: Why?
"This kind of stuff just leaves you wondering," said Craft, the Lafayette police chief. "Why would a guy come into a theater in this city -- we have a relatively safe city -- and just, you know, randomly start shooting people? It's hard to figure out. He's deceased, so we may now never know."
The gunman had a criminal history but it dates back several years, Craft said. He didn't elaborate further.
Authorities will also put together a profile on the shooter, search his house and trace the gun, said CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin.
For now, said Gov. Jindal, "we can pray."
"We can hug these families. We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers."
Obama on Gun Control: I'm Frustrated by Lack of 'Common Sense' Laws
by Alastair Jamieson
President Barack Obama highlighted that gun violence had killed far more Americans than terrorism since 9/11 on Thursday and said it was "distressing" how the country lacked "common-sense" laws to tackle the problem.
His comments came as the U.S. dealt with yet another shooting massacre — this time at a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
In an interview with the BBC before 11 people were randomly shot while watching "Trainwreck," Obama spoke about the unfinished business of his terms in office, saying race relations remained "a fault line in American life" despite recent progress.
However, he signaled that he would continue to work on gun laws during his remaining time in the White House.
"That is an area where …I feel that I've been most frustrated and most stymied," he said. "It is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings."
He added: "If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing. But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months."
Obama sought comprehensive gun reform in 2013 following the Sandy Hook school shooting, but his proposals were thwarted by opposition in Congress and from lobby groups including the National Rifle Association.
On race relations, Obama said he was encouraged by America's growing diversity. "It's becoming more tolerant as a consequence," he said. "There's more interactions between groups. There are going be tensions that arise. But if you look at my daughters' generation, they have an attitude about race that's entirely different than even my generation."
He said the issue had been "a running thread" and a "fault line in American life and American politics since its founding."
"Recent concerns around policing and mass incarcerations are legitimate and deserve intense attention," he added. "And I feel that we are moving the ball forward on those issues."
Authorities point to evidence of suicide in Texas jail death
by The Associated Press
HEMPSTEAD, Texas (AP) — While Sandra Bland's family maintains that the woman found dead in a Texas jail cell would not have taken her own life, authorities are pointing to mounting evidence that they say shows she hanged herself.
An autopsy showed that marks around Bland's neck were consistent with suicide by hanging, and her body showed no signs of defensive injuries suggesting a struggle, according to Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam.
The 28-year-old Bland had about 30 small cuts on her wrist that were probably self-inflicted within the last few weeks, Diepraam said. Some lacerations or abrasions also were found on her wrists that he said were consistent with a struggle while being handcuffed.
Bland, who was from the Chicago area, was arrested during a traffic stop in Texas three days before she was found hanging in her cell on July 13. Her family and friends dispute the official finding that she killed herself using a noose fashioned from a plastic garbage bag.
Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating. The county district attorney has said the matter will be turned over to a grand jury, which does not meet again until August.
A woman who occupied a jail cell next to Bland said Bland was emotional and wept often during her three days in jail.
Alexandria Pyle told KTRK-TV of Houston that Bland was "sort of distraught" that a friend had not come to bail her out of jail. She said Bland told her she "was not equipped" for incarceration and thought she was the victim of an injustice.
Pyle said she heard no signs of a struggle in the cell.
Booking documents filled out for Bland after her arrest indicate she told staff at the jail that she was taking medication for epilepsy, though other documents said she wasn't taking medication.
Her sister, Sharon Cooper, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Bland suffered from seizures about a decade ago but had not in recent years and wasn't on medication.
Jail-intake documents also contained other inconsistencies. For example, one questionnaire said Bland took pills in 2015 in an attempt to kill herself after losing a baby, but a separate form filled out by another jail employee said the suicide attempt occurred in 2014.
Authorities said any contradictions in the jail documents were the result of Bland's inconsistent answers to jailers' questions.
Cooper said her sister had a miscarriage in May 2014 but got through it. Cooper also said she was not aware of any suicide attempt.
Asked if her sister could have been getting treatment without relatives knowing, Cooper said the family's five sisters were "above board" with each other and, if anything, "overshared."
"If it was happening, I would have known," she said.
Preliminary results of an independent autopsy arranged by the family showed bruising to deep muscle tissue in Bland's back, consistent with the officer having his knee there, Cooper said. She would not say if there were other findings. Full results will not be in for a couple of weeks.
Preliminary results of the Texas autopsy also showed that Bland had marijuana in her system, which Diepraam said was worth noting because it could be "relevant to her state of mind."
Bland's death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or died in police custody. Bland's case has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.
Bland's family has said she was not despondent and was looking forward to starting a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cooper said that "everyone has peaks and valleys" and that the Facebook video might indicate her sister was just having a bad day or a bad few days.
Washington D. C.
Could Twitter stop the next terrorist attack?
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Social media giants including Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google are pushing back against Senate legislation that would require them to alert federal authorities of any terrorist activity, according to industry and government officials.
In private meetings on Capitol Hill, industry officials have told lawmakers and congressional staff that they already ban grisly content like beheadings and alert law enforcement if they suspect someone might get hurt, as soon as they are aware of a threat.
But tech officials also said they worry that the proposed legislation is too broad and would potentially put companies on the hook legally if they miss a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack. They said the result would probably be a deluge of tips to law enforcement, making it tougher for the government to find more valuable information.
Those interviewed by The Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing debate over the legislation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is backing the legislation, says requiring social media companies to tip off law enforcement to a pending terrorist attack makes sense.
“The FBI and the intelligence community have made it abundantly clear that the terrorist threat is severe and increasing, and that those directing, inspiring and carrying out attacks make heavy use of social media sites,” Feinstein told the AP in an emailed statement. “This provision will help get potentially actionable information to the agencies responsible for preventing attacks, without requiring companies to take any steps to monitor their sites they aren't already taking.”
The tech industry in 2013 faced a public relations nightmare after former government analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of a massive government surveillance program that relied on their cooperation. Company officials said the law gave them no choice but to supply consumer data and comply with gag orders that prevented companies from talking about it. Still, many consumers and Internet activists were furious that U.S. businesses had enabled the government to spy on their customers, in some cases even charging the government administrative fees to do it.
Since then, the tech industry has led an aggressive public push to limit surveillance requests and increase transparency, adopting more sophisticated encryption techniques despite opposition from the Justice Department. Their primary argument has been that consumers won't use technology they don't trust, and that unnecessary surveillance would hurt the industry.
At the same time, popular social media sites have become instrumental in helping terrorist groups expand their influence, despite widespread industry policies against posting or promoting terrorist-related content.
The Islamic State group and similar groups have relied heavily on Twitter and Facebook to recruit followers, while militants post beheading videos on sites like Google's YouTube, giving an image the chance to go viral before being shut down. In 2013, al-Shabab live tweeted its Westgate shopping mall massacre, opening up new feeds even after Twitter shut others down.
“This is not your grandfather's al-Qaida,” FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. “This is a group of people using social media to reach thousands and thousands of followers, find the ones who might be interested in committing acts of violence, and then moving them to an (end-to-end) encrypted messaging app.”
The same week as Comey's testimony, the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed Feinstein's proposal that would require companies that spot terrorist activity on their networks to alert law enforcement.
Feinstein's provision, part of the intelligence authorization bill that still has to be approved by the Senate, is almost identical to the law requiring companies to report child pornography. One exception is that Feinstein's provision doesn't say whether or how a company would be penalized if it fails to report terrorist activity, whereas a tech company can be fined for “knowingly and willfully” failing to report an image of child pornography.
Tech officials say determining what constitutes child pornography is easier to do because the process is more objective. A criminal photograph can be digitally analyzed and assigned a unique identifier that be used to find similar images across networks.
But oftentimes, determining terrorist activity requires more context. The image of an Islamic State flag, for example, could appear in a news article or video clip as well as terrorist propaganda.
Monika Bickert, head of policy management at Facebook, said the social media site shares the government's goal of keeping terrorist content off the site.
“Our policies on this are crystal clear: We do not permit terrorist groups to use Facebook, and people are not allowed to promote or support these groups on Facebook,” she said. “We remove this terrorist content as soon as we become aware of it.”
The House didn't include a similar provision in its version of the intelligence bill. A spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., declined to comment on the issue.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said there's “no question” the Islamic State group uses social media to disseminate propoganda and recruit fighters. Schiff, D-Calif., said Congress should work with the tech industry “to determine the most effective response.”
Ferguson names black interim police chief
by USA Today
Ferguson, Mo., which was wracked with unrest last summer after the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, named on Wednesday a black interim police chief who said his first goal was "simply to build trust" within the community.
The new chief, Andre Anderson, 50, was police commander in Glendale, Ariz., where Ferguson's current interim city manager, Ed Beasely, worked.
In presenting the new interim police chief, Mayor James Knowles also announced that the city, a suburb of St. Louis, would be getting body cameras for its police officers.
Ferguson became the focus of national attention in August after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was fatally shot after a confrontation with police officer Darren Wilson.
The previous police chief, Tom Jackson, along with the city manager and municipal judge were forced out of their jobs earlier this year as the Justice Department published a report that found Ferguson police and city's municipal court had engaged in systemic patterns of misconduct that disproportionately affected the city's majority African-American community.
Anderson told reporters he grew up in South Philadelphia in an area with demographics similar to Ferguson. He said his first plan of action is "simply to build trust, to develop community policing in this area."
To do this, he said he will get out in the community and be highly visible, while working with the officers to build positive relationships with the residents of Ferguson.
As his guide for reshaping Ferguson police, Anderson said he would use a federal task force on 21-century policing and the Justice Department's recommendations "to cultivate relationships that we know and hope will reshape our direction in the city of Ferguson."
He said this would include procedural and constitutional justice training, de-escalation training and "bias awareness training."
Anderson said another goal would be emphasize attracting and hiring African-American officers.
The shooting last year sparked more than a week of unrest, including vandalism and looting, prompting Gov. Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard and a contingent of Missouri state troopers.
The expected announcement of a new interim police chief comes only weeks after Knowles barely survived a bid to force a recall election when a petition fell 27 votes short. Knowles told USA TODAY last week that he planned to begin an outreach effort to repair relations with community.
'Snowbird Bandit' bank robber allegedly is retired, celebrated LAPD detective: cops
by JASON SILVERSTEIN
He was going undercover ... as a bank robber?
A former LAPD detective is suspected of being the “Snowbird Bandit,” a serial banker robber connected to a series of jobs around Orange County this year, including one this week, officials said Thursday.
The bank bandit, who allegedly pulled five robberies, got his nickname from his white hair and from speculation he was an elderly man, NBC Los Angeles reported.
He pulled his first job in March, did one each in May and in June, a fourth in early July and, finally, robbed a First Citizens Bank in Rancho Santa Margarita for the second time on Tuesday, police said. He was armed with a revolver during some of the heists.
Now authorities have arrested 70-year-old Randolph Bruce Adair after several of his relatives tipped off cops, saying he matched the descriptions of the “Snowbird” in media reports.
“I went into freaking out and shock,” Kateri Fogleman, Adair's daughter-in-law, told the Orange County Register about seeing photos of the bandit.
"I fell to my knees. I was absolutely stunned. Paralyzed.”
Evidence connected Adair to five recent robberies, police said.
“Even though he was a Los Angeles police officer, he's not immune from those types of things,” Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.
“I don't know exactly what the motive was in this particular case or cases, but I think it's typical that the motive has something to do with supporting a habit.”
Adair got cuffed in a parking lot in Rancho Santa Margarita Wednesday, after a dozen undercover cars surrounded him.
Adair was an LAPD detective from 1967 until his retirement in 1998, police said. During his time there, he graduated from the top of his police academy class, helped arrest the assassin of Robert Kennedy and founded a charity football team, the Register reported.
After retirement, he coached high school football for $43 a game, but also battled heart attacks and kidney failure, family members said.
“Doctors said he suffered severe brain damage. They called him a dead man walking,” Fogleman said. “It's insane. How does a walking dead man rob a bank?”
Charleston shooter faces federal hate crime charges: Is it enough?
Officials say Dylann Roof will be indicted on federal hate crime charges Wednesday
by Gretel Kauffman
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., last month, will be indicted on federal hate crime charges on Wednesday, according to media reports.
An anonymous official close to the case told the Associated Press that a grand jury will indict Mr. Roof, who already faces state charges including nine counts of murder. He could face the death penalty if found guilty. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to formally announce the charges at a 3 p.m. press conference.
The indictment has been expected since Roof's arrest on June 17, when authorities began investigating the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church as a hate crime.
A hate crime is defined by Congress as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”
Roof, a white man, is thought to have authored a racist online manifesto and appeared in several photos with Confederate flags.
“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” reads one passage on his website, "The Last Rhodesian." “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
There has been little question from the start of the investigation that the attack was racially motivated – hence the hate crime charges. But some argue that the mass killing should be considered an act of terrorism instead.
“Many maintain that a ‘hate crime' is an individual act, easily dismissed, while ‘terrorism' evokes the sense of an ‘other' who has attacked the national family as a whole,” The Christian Science Monitor's Harry Bruinius wrote two days after the attack.
If Roof had been black and the victims white, some experts say, he would be considered a terrorist.
“While white suspects are lone wolfs ... violence by black and Muslim people is systemic, demanding response and action from all who share their race or religion,” wrote Anthea Butler, professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, in an essay in The Washington Post.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, stressed to the Monitor the importance of using the term “terrorist” rather than “hate crime” to demonstrate to Americans “how severe and dangerous” crimes such as Roof's are.
“If we just say it's mental illness or just a senseless act of violence, then it sends a message to other people that it's not that close to them, that it's not as grave of a crime,” Ms. Sarsour said. “Then we end up detracting from a very important conversation about the nature of domestic white male supremacist terrorism.”
ISIS bigger threat to US than al-Qaeda: FBI chief James Comey
WASHINGTON: The FBI chief has warned that the Islamic State has become a bigger threat to the US than al-Qaeda as the dreaded group has influenced a significant number of Americans through social media and instructed them to carry out attacks in their own country.
"ISIS has become a bigger threat to the United States than al-Qaeda," FBI Director James Comey said, referring to the threat of growing "lone wolf" terrorists at home.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Comey said the ISIS has influenced a significant number of Americans through social media instructing them to kill where they are instead of travelling to the Middle East.
ISIS or IS is an al-Qaeda splinter group and it has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria. Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from the group, chiding it for its lack of teamwork in its aggressive, brutal expansion.
Talking about the last week's incident in which four marines and one sailor were killed when 24-year-old Mohammad Abdulazeez opened fire on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the FBI director said, "Investigators haven't determined why Mohammad Abdulazeez carried out the shootings."
The FBI is determined to "understand every second of his life" for the last two years, at least, Comey was quoted as saying by CNN.
Militants from groups affiliated with once feared al- Qaeda network are abandoning their outfits to join the ISIS that has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq.
ISIS leaders have described al-Qaeda as a "drowned entity" and declared that they will not tolerate any other jihadi group in territory where they are operating.
The group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former al-Qaeda commander in Iraq, has gone on to build a global network of affiliates and branches that now stretches from Afghanistan to West Africa.
Armed citizens on guard
Civilians with guns stand watch on recruiting centers
by The Associated Press
Columbus, Ohio -- Gun-toting citizens are showing up at military recruiting centers around the country, saying they plan to protect recruiters following last week's killing of four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The citizens, some of them private militia members, said they're supporting the recruiters, who by military directive are not armed.
"We're here to serve and protect," Clint Janney said Tuesday, wearing a Taurus 9 mm handgun as he stood in a parking lot across from a recruiting center on the west side of Columbus. "What the government won't do, we will do."
Similar posts have been set up outside recruitment centers in several cities around the country, from Spanaway, Wash., to Hiram, Ga. Other sites are in Madison, Wisconsin; McAllen, Texas; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Phoenix; and several locations in Tennessee, including Murfreesboro.
There's no evidence that such centers are in danger, and the government isn't changing how they're staffed, although some governors have temporarily moved National Guard recruiting centers to armories and several — including Ohio's John Kasich on Wednesday — have authorized Guard personnel to carry weapons at state facilities.
Janney, 38, who runs his own garage door company, is a member of the Ohio branch of the "3 Percent Irregulars" militia. He was joined by four other members of the militia, some of whom arrived Tuesday and others who'd been there since Friday. In Ohio and many states, it is legal to carry an openly displayed handgun or rifle.
The men sat in lawn chairs, occasionally dipping into a cooler for bottles of water, or stood around talking. Some people came by to thank them; others didn't seem aware of their presence in the large plaza.
Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott said that as long as the owner of the plaza didn't ask them to leave, the men were not violating any laws. Scott has instructed deputies to check on recruiting centers but not the volunteer guards.
Employees of a medical supply center next to the recruiting center said they understood the volunteers' intentions but weren't thrilled about their presence. Customers leaving the store said they appreciated the volunteers but thought professional security guards would be better.
"They could just go crazy with the shooting. You just don't know their state of mind," said Kimm McLaughlin, 44.
On Tuesday, the founder and president of Oath Keepers, a Las Vegas-based Constitution activist group made up of current and former veterans and first responders such as paramedics, issued a national call to members to guard centers. Many were already guarding centers in Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, president Stewart Rhodes said.
Rhodes said it's "absolutely insane" that recruiters aren't allowed to be armed.
"They're sitting ducks," Rhodes said. "They'd be better off if they were walking down the streets of Baghdad, because at least in Baghdad they could move. Here, they're stationary."
Capt. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps public affairs officer for the recruiting district that includes parts of seven Midwestern states, said he hopes the gun-toting civilians will go home.
"While we greatly appreciate the support of the American public during this tragedy, we ask that citizens do not stand guard at our recruiting offices," Stenger said in an emailed statement. "Our continued public trust lies among our trained first responders for the safety of the communities where we live and work."
A 1992 Department of Defense directive restricts weapons to law enforcement or military police on federal property, which would include recruiting centers. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command doesn't have a position on the citizens' actions as long as they aren't disrupting the recruiting centers, spokesman Brian Lepley said.
He said that while tragic, such incidents have happened only twice in six years at recruiting centers: in Chattanooga last week, and in Little Rock, Ark., in a 2009 shooting that killed one soldier and injured another.
"Recruiting stations need to be out in the public; we need to be out where young people are," Lepley said. Most recruiters are Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans well trained in dealing with shooters, he added.
A group of veterans and their supporters began guarding a Navy-Marine recruiting station in Madison, Wis., on Friday.
"Just civic pride," said David Walters, a 30-year-old Army veteran from Baraboo, north of Madison.
Texas fights immigrants' lawsuit over birth certificates
by Seth Robbins
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Texas health officials are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by immigrant parents who were denied birth certificates for their U.S.-born children because local authorities refused to recognize as valid certain forms of identification.
Lawyers representing 19 immigrant parents and their 23 children filed suit against the Texas Department of State Health Services after officials refused to issue birth certificates for their U.S.-born children, citing invalid forms of identification. The parents came from Mexico and Central America and living in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Although the parents are not U.S. citizens, their children are, because the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantees the right of citizenship to anyone born on American soil. Without a birth certificate, it can be difficult for parents to access medical care, travel, school enrollment and other benefits available to U.S. citizens.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said in a federal court filing in Austin on Wednesday that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction over claims against the state agency. Lawyers for the agency also argued that Texas has sovereign immunity and cannot be sued and that its policy does not interfere with any federal regulation. Texas, they said, has the “power to control the circumstances under which it will provide copies of birth certificates.”
The health service agency's Vital Statics Unit, which is responsible for issuing birth certificates, previously accepted consular identification cards and other documents issued by foreign governments, according to the lawsuit. But officials have increasingly come to refuse these, making it harder for parents living in the U.S. illegally status to obtain birth certificates for their children, it said. The agency says it never accepted these documents as valid, and there has been no change to the state's identification requirements.
“As a result of this situation, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of parents from Mexico and Central America have been recently denied birth certificates for their Texas-born children,” according to the lawsuit filed in May.
Many Mexican immigrants receive identification cards commonly known as matriculas, which are issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the United States.
Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the agency has “never accepted the matricula consular as adequate identification” because the information used to get them is “not verified by the issuing party.”
But the cards were rejected only occasionally until 2013, the lawsuit claims, when the policy began to be enforced “more strictly.” The following summer tens of thousands of Central American migrants, many of them families, crossed the border illegally into Texas.
“Many of our clients have been here for 15 to 20 years. They have older kids for whom they were able to get birth certificates with no problem,” said Efren Olivares, a senior attorney at the South Texas Civil Rights Project and one of the lawyers representing the immigrant families. Yet their newborns have been refused birth certificates using the same documents, he said.
The denial of the birth certificates comes amid a lawsuit by 26 states to block President Barack Obama's plan to protect as many 5 million immigrants living illegally in the United States from being deported.
That case was recently argued before a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a Texas judge temporarily put on hold Obama's executive orders, which would protect parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for several years.
Terrorist leader killed in drone strike -- but what is the Khorasan Group?
by Holly Yan
U.S. officials say the leader of a terrorist group bent on attacking the country has been killed in a drone strike. Yet many Americans don't even know that terrorist group exists.
Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti-born jihadi, was the leader of the Khorasan Group -- a collection of senior al Qaeda members who moved into Syria. U.S. officials wanted him so badly that they put a $7 million bounty on his head.
"His death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operations of al-Qaeda against the United States and our allies and partners," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.
So what is the Khorasan Group?
What it means
Calling the group "Khorasan" doesn't actually make sense in Arabic or any other language, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Khorasan is not an organizational name or even some exotic acronym, but an ancient Islamic historical term from the far east of the Muslim world," the think tank said. "It is used today by al-Qaeda (and others who are fond of archaic Islamic terminology) to describe the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran region."
How it started
The terror group is a collection of al Qaeda members who have moved into Syria amid that country's destruction in recent years. U.S. President Barack Obama has called the Khorasan Group "seasoned al Qaeda operatives."
Khorasan's existence wasn't publicly acknowledged in the U.S. until last year, when U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said it was operating in Iraq and Syria with a focus on exporting terror to the West.
What its goal is
The Khorasan Group's mission is to find new ways to attack the United States and Europe.
For al Qaeda, which is struggling against ISIS for the crown of leading global jihad, the creation of Khorasan makes perfect sense.
Sources said the Khorasan Group has been trying to emulate the success of ISIS in using social media to recruit Westerners -- people who could be trained and then sent home to launch terror attacks.
Why it's a target
The Khorasan Group has actively plotted against U.S. and other Western targets, a senior U.S. official has said.
Last September, officials discovered the plots against the United States, an intelligence source told CNN. The source did not say what the Khorasan Group's target may have been, but said the plot may have involved a bomb made of clothes dipped in explosive material.
One of the group's facilities was hit in a strike last September on the first night of U.S.-led military action inside Syria. Coalition aircraft have subsequently hit more of Khorasan's training camps and other facilities inside Syria in the nearly year-long aerial campaign.
What its leader did
Al Fadhli fought alongside al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and was among the "few trusted al Qaeda leaders that received advanced notification of the September 11, 2001, attacks," the Pentagon spokesman said.
He was also involved in terrorist attacks that took place in October 2002, including against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait and on the French ship MV Limburg.
How it's different
Other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, such as ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (al Nusra Front), create much of their violence in the Middle East.
The Khorasan Group was believed to direct most of its energy plotting external attacks in the West.
But all three terror organizations have one thing in common: they all spawned from al Qaeda.
SAPD chief, Bexar DA hold forum on community policing
Officials hope to build stronger relationships, more trust with communities they serve
SAN ANTONIO - Hoping to build stronger relationships with the communities they serve, Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas 'Nico' LaHood and SAPD's Chief Anthony Trevino joined forces to participate in a community policing forum on the city's East Side Tuesday night.
It's an effort to be more transparent about what they do and build more trust between citizens and law enforcement.
Trevino said he wants his officers to be more engaged with the citizens they serve, working with them to solve problems rather than just responding when problems arise, but citizens also need to be engaged.
"It's about policing with the community rather than policing the community," Trevino said. "We can put a police officer on every corner, but unless we get a community that's engaged in trying to help solve some of these problems within communities, we'll never be able to get to the bottom of it."
District Attorney Nico LaHood explained to the audience how his office investigates officer-involved shootings and shared his ideas on reforming the justice system.
Lahood said he wants to see to see a system that treats offenders more fairly, based on the crimes they commit; giving them a better chance of staying out of the system, but first, people must trust the system and those who run it.
"We want to make sure the community knows that the folks who are involved in the justice system are not out of reach, that we're accessible, transparent, and that they trust the process that we all have to go through to make sure our community is safer," LaHood said.
Dee Smith said her Dignowity Hill neighborhood association has been successful fighting crime by working closely with SAPD but she said it takes both sides working together to make a difference.
"A lot of places say 'snitches get stitches,' when you have that type of mentality you're going to continue to die, you're going to lose everything you have because nobody's going to tell on each other," Smith said. "When you do work with them, they're even more responsive when they know that you care because they can't be the only one to care, it's your problem; you need to care more than they do."
LaHood and Trevino said they plan to hold more community police forums in other parts of town in the coming weeks.
St. Louis police district captain takes community policing to the streets
by Rafer Weigel
ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Shootings and homicides have risen in St. Louis city during the first half of 2015. Homicides in the city stand at 106 victims.
Captain John Hayden from the St. Louis police department is looking to make a difference and change in St. Louis. He's taking community policing to another level that's embracing the community and addressing concerns in the streets, by directly interacting with residents with a mobile office.
Hayden says his officers do this a couple times a week. Its part of pushing something called the neighborhood ownership model.
To learn more about it and how to implement that in your neighborhood, you can call Captain Hayden at 314-444-5767.
Boston's Top Cop Emphasizes Community Policing In The City That's Always Been Home
by Delores Handy
The 41st commissioner of the Boston Police Department credits his upbringing in South Boston for how he handles his job, especially his philosophy on community policing.
William Evans has led the police department for a year and a half. But for many, Evans may be most remembered for his role at the end of the manhunt in Watertown, months before he became interim commissioner.
Evans was the Boston police incident commander on the night officers from several departments opened fire on the boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding. He ordered officers to hold their fire.
“Cops kept coming from all over 'cause they knew we had him in the boat,” Evans said. “Well, I didn't want him dead, and also I didn't want the cops hurting each other by the crossfire.”
Evans had just finished running the Boston Marathon days earlier, when the bombs went off. It turned out to be the last time he's run Boston. But, he's run 47 marathons in his life.
“It's come to be my medicine. Everything I do, I need my running,” he said. “That's the way I seem to deal with a lot of the stress of this job. I've always said as long as I can get my running, I can accomplish anything.”
Evans, his wife and three children live in South Boston, in the same neighborhood where he and his five brothers grew up.
“I don't remember my mom, at all,” he said. “She got sick when I was very little, and I think I was 3 when she passed away, but I don't have one living memory of her.”
There was more tragedy for the Evans family. One of his brothers was killed by a hit-and-run driver. And when Evans was 14, his father died of a heart attack.
“It was just me and my brothers, and we all stuck together,” he said.
But Evans spent most of his time hanging out on the street, coming close to getting in trouble, until someone intervened.
“A local priest, Father White, from the Gate of Heaven school, at that point came down and approached my brothers and he said, ‘I'm worried about William … I think he's gonna get in trouble if we don't steer him in the right direction,' ” he said. “And he got me into St. Sebastian's [School in Needham]. He said, ‘Don't worry about paying. If he wants to go, he's goin'.' ”
Evans followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Paul, joining the police department and rising through the ranks.
In January of last year, Mayor Marty Walsh made Evans the permanent commissioner.
“He's inclusive,” Walsh said. “He's about building coalitions. He's about tackling the difficult issues that might be in front of him.”
When Black Lives Matter demonstrators protested in Boston last year, Evans was quick to say that some of them were from the Occupy protests. How could he be so sure?
“We know them. I was down there for 70 days,” he said. “I know them by name, I've written recommendations for some of them for college. We know them.”
When applying for graduate school, Duncan MacKenna, one of the Occupy protesters, asked Evans for a recommendation letter. Evans said, “Oh yes, I'd be happy to,' ” MacKenna said.
“He comes from humble origins, and he's really happy to help anyone climb the ladder as he did,” MacKenna continued.
It's those humble origins that Evans says have shaped his views about community policing.
“There's no such thing as a bad kid, it's just a kid that needs the right break in life,” he said. “Especially in the inner city, they come from broken homes, they come from a lot of social disadvantage, and if someone gives them the right break in life, you can be commissioner someday.”
Evans wants to use dialogue to deescalate violence in the city.
“We know how to talk to people. I think it's worked well for us,” Evans said. “I think we've learned that that's the best medicine for everything.”
Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, says under Evans' leadership, communication between police and his group has improved.
“I get the impression he wants his legacy to be a commissioner that knows he wants his officers to engage people differently,” Curry said. “Whether that will happen, whether that culture will change for some cops who do that I don't know, but I'm anxious and excited to see a commissioner that's willing to have the conversation and willing to demand more of his officers as they engage our communities.”
Curry is part of a social justice task force working with Evans to monitor police stops in the city. The task force was set up following a report that showed that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately observed, interrogated or searched by police.
There are still major issues, however, like diversity. As we previously reported, of the 41 Boston police recruits who graduated from the police academy in June, 32 are white, six are Hispanic, two are black and one is Asian. Two-thirds of Boston's uniformed police force are white in a city where 53 percent of residents are people of color.
Going forward, Evans says his priorities are reducing the number of guns on the street and improving diversity in the ranks of the department.
Evans is the second member of his family to hold the title of commissioner. It's the same job his brother Paul held 20 years ago.
“The day I got sworn in as commissioner, the thing that really stuck in my mind, I just wish my father was around to see it,” William Evans said. “He was left with his boys. He tried his hardest to bring us up, and I'm sure he made that commitment to my mom. But, to think that two of them went on to become police commissioner, and nobody every really got into trouble is a testament to the way he brought up his sons.”
California Bill Would Let Firefighters Destroy Drones Interfering With Public Safety
SACRAMENTO(CBS SF) — Anyone caught flying a drone over a fire or emergency scene could have it destroyed under a proposed bill.
In the past year there have been five cases of firefighting aircraft not being able to deploy fire retardant due to hobbyist drones flying in the area.
Last week, a fast-moving blaze on Interstate 15 jumped the freeway and burned 30 cars. A recreational drone flying nearby forced officials to halt water drops.
It's inspired State Senator Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) to introduce SB 168 to fine hobbyist drone operators $5,000 and/or six months in jail for getting in the way of firefighters.
Additionally, companion legislation would shield firefighters who destroy drones for liability. Gaines said destroying a drone is the high-tech equivalent of ramming a car that's in the way of a fire hydrant.
“If a drone gets caught in a jet engine or in a propeller of a aircraft or helicopter, you're putting lives at risk,” Gaines said.
There are currently no California laws that clarify the use of recreational drones during an emergency situation.
The proposed legislation has had bipartisan support so far.
US Attorney Loretta Lynch brings community policing tour to East Haven
by The Associated Press
EAST HAVEN -- U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is bringing her national community policing tour to Connecticut, where she will highlight efforts by East Haven police to improve ties with local residents after a federal probe found a pattern of discrimination and bias against Latinos by town officers.
Lynch is scheduled to visit the East Haven Police Department on Tuesday to thank officers for their service. She also is slated to meet separately with young people to discuss their interactions with police.
In the first stop on the six-city tour in Cincinnati in May, Lynch called mistrust between communities and law enforcement “the issue of our times.” After deaths of black men at the hands of police in Baltimore, South Carolina and Ferguson, Missouri, the issue is in the national forefront, Lynch said.
Justice Department officials say Lynch's tour builds on President Barack Obama's pledge to improve police-community relations. Recommendations by a task force Obama created in December include more community policing and officer training.
Latinos in East Haven and a federal monitor have said there has been a turnaround at the police department since 2012, when local officials signed a consent decree that required wide-ranging reforms. The agreement resolved allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice that officers regularly used excessive force against Latinos and retaliated against those who witnessed police misconduct or criticized officers.
In 2013, officials in the shoreline town of nearly 30,000 residents — where about one in 10 people is Latino — agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by Latino residents. The lawsuit named about 20 defendants and alleged repeated abuses by police officers, including false arrests, assault, illegal searches and obstruction of justice.
A separate federal criminal investigation led to the arrests of four East Haven police officers in 2012. The officers were convicted of mistreating Latinos and others or obstructing justice. They received prison sentences of four months to five years.
East Haven Deputy Police Chief Ed Lennon said the department has taken a number of steps including holding regular community meetings, having school-based officers check on children and creating a citizens' police academy. He also said the department has made efforts to be more transparent, including requiring all officers to wear body cameras.
“I think it's a great opportunity for the police department and the town as a whole to show we've had a complete turnaround,” Lennon said of Tuesday's events.
Sanford leaders to visit White House for forum on community policing
by Keith Landry
SANFORD, Fla. -- Sanford's mayor and police chief are heading to Washington, DC this week. They will visit the White House to take part in a forum on community policing.
It's part of the President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, where participants will brainstorm for better policing policies.
Police in Baltimore clashed with rioters amid charges of police brutality. It was a similar story in Ferguson, Missouri as protestors burned down buildings, demanding better treatment from cops.
In Sanford, residents witnessed peaceful protests after the death of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman verdict, and that is why Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith is heading to the nation's capital.
“They're inviting police chiefs and elected officials from across the country to have an opportunity to discuss ideas and strategies on how as law enforcement communities so we can work together,” says Chief Smith.
Smith will travel with Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, local pastor Valerie Houston and Seminole County NAACP President Marvin Carroll.
Chief Smith adds, “We all branch out, go to our groups, and then come back to discuss the things we've learned, and the strategies we hope to put in place to continue to move our country forward.”
Mayor Triplet hopes other cities can learn from the peace that prevailed in Sanford after Trayvon Martin's death.
“Maybe if we can share some of the things we saw or did behind the scenes, and in front of the cameras we can help someone else out.”
Mayor Triplett adds, Chief Smith has a strong community policing program, making sure Sanford police officers are talking with people to build relationships instead of sitting in their cars.
The forum will last much of Thursday.
Fire capt. and attorney propose public safety drone policy
St. Louis Fire Department Capt. Gregg Favre said the report lays out what a model policy, or city, state or federal law could look like
by EMS1 Staff
ST. LOUIS — A fire captain and assistant city attorney co-authored a drone policy to provide guidelines for the use of drones by public safety agencies.
Captain Gregg Favre teamed up with Monica Manzella, a Center for Homeland Defense and Security master's degree student and New Orleans Assistant City Attorney, to write the drone policy proposal, reported CBS St. Louis.
Favre looked at the issue from the agencies' angle and Manzella from the legal side. The report lays out what a model policy, or city, state or federal law, could look like. One challenge is easing the public's fears about drones.
"We think that it is possible to alleviate some of those public fears by putting checks and balances, by putting safeguards in place, in a regulatory manner," Favre said. “There are some key cornerstone elements about how you store data, about how you use the drones, about the actions that are allowable for drone use."
One major recommendation is that agencies be clear and transparent about the use of drones.
"You build up specific recommendations (in the policy) and you can hand it to the general public and say ‘you are going to see the fire department drone in one of the following times, when this is happening.' Give some transparency to the operation."
"There is no federal cohesive standard that governs the use of drones for law enforcement agencies," Manzella said. "The regulations that are coming out from the FAA are talking about commercial use and private use of drones."
Not all states have enacted laws governing their use, and those that haven, aren't consistent, according to the report. In most cases, agencies have to obtain a warrant or court order to fly drones, but there has to be exceptions.
"They (exceptions) would come in if there is an emergency situation that would involve something immediate danger of death or physical injury or threat to national security,” Manzella said. "There are some states that have exceptions that almost nullify the general statement of the rules. We definitely don't want to make that part of the policy."
Favre and Manzella have submitted their report to to the Department of Homeland Security.
The St. Louis Fire Department is looking at drone use, but hasn't made a decision yet. Favre says if they do, their policy will closely mirror their report.
Many NC police agencies don't drug test officers involved in shootings
Study found only two NC agencies require drug or alcohol testing following the use of deadly force
by Joe Gamm
GREENSBORO, N.C. — In most cases, a police officer, sheriff's deputy or state trooper is more likely to face a drug test after wrecking a cruiser than after shooting someone.
A query of 10 North Carolina law enforcement agencies found that only two agencies require drug or alcohol testing following the use of deadly force, including in incidents that are fatal.
Whether an agency chooses to require drug or alcohol testing is up to the individual departments, said Eddie Caldwell the director of the N.C. Sheriffs' Association.
"You can argue it either way," Caldwell said. "Somebody can make the point that after a tragedy the officers ought to be drug tested. You can also make the argument that if you have a good officer who has never had any sign of impairment, that you can undermine their integrity."
The News & Record recently investigated officer-involved shootings in the Piedmont Triad and Raleigh. Of 61 shootings the newspaper examined, 60 were ruled to be justified. Thirty-three people died.
The State Bureau of Investigations reviewed all those fatal shootings and turned over its findings to local district attorneys. The district attorneys determined whether the shootings were legal.
It's likely that none of the officers in the cases the newspaper examined were screened for drugs or alcohol after the shootings. The only agency surveyed that requires screenings after uses of force, the
Alamance County Sheriff's Office, didn't have any officer-involved shootings.
Officials with the Greensboro, High Point, Raleigh and Winston-Salem police departments said they do not automatically conduct drug or alcohol tests on officers involved in uses of deadly force. Neither do the Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham county sheriff's offices.
The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department automatically requires testing any time a gun is fired in the line of duty and conducts testing after any incidents that involve a death or an officer needs medical attention beyond first aid, according to its policies.
An attorney who has represented clients in lawsuits against law enforcement agencies disagrees with Caldwell. Greensboro attorney Bob Weckworth said anything that would assist in uncovering the truth of the situation is a policy that should be followed.
Weckworth sued the Greensboro Police Department and the city after Officer J.B. Tucker shot and wounded his client Anthony Fields on Nov. 11, 2007. The city eventually settled out of court.
"There's no harm. What is the harm in having the test conducted?" Weckworth asked. "I would think it would show they have better credibility."
Bloch Not Screened
In June, former Greensboro police Officer Timothy Bloch was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by defrauding a practitioner. Police said he was trying to buy oxycodone, a prescription pain medication.
Bloch, 34, resigned from the police force in December, about eight months after fatally shooting a knife-wielding woman during an altercation. Investigators did not screen Bloch for drugs or alcohol after the shooting.
Bloch told the News & Record after his arrest in June that he had an addiction, but he said he was not dealing with the addiction on March 25, 2014, when he shot 47-year-old Chieu-di Thi Vo, who died in the hospital two days later.
He said he did have a prescription at the time to deal with pain from college hockey injuries and he had told his supervisors what medications he required.
He said his addiction started after he resigned.
Greensboro police have refused to say whether Bloch was tested for drugs or alcohol as part of the investigation into Vo's death, saying it would be part of a personnel record.
"We are regularly drug-tested," Bloch said of his service in the department. "I automatically thought I would be tested."
The department's policy is to take officers who have been involved in shootings to a hospital to be monitored immediately after the incident.
But the screening Bloch said he expected never happened.
"If Charlotte's got a policy in place, why wouldn't (the Greensboro Police Department) mirror that policy?" Weckworth asked. "I think it should be standard operating procedure. When you weigh the factors, you should come down on the side of the pursuit of the truth."
In a statement issued to the News & Record, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott said the department's policies do allow for drug testing if an officer appears to be impaired.
"We routinely review our policies to determine if our practices can be improved," Scott said in the statement. "Mandating drug testing after a critical incident is something we are considering. However, we must obtain input from our legal and medical staff before making any change to our existing procedures."
Greensboro officers, as with all city employees, are subject to for-cause testing, random testing and hiring testing, city spokesman Donnie Turlington said.
In North Carolina, being intoxicated is against the law when a person is operating a vehicle or when he or she is being disruptive, Assistant Guilford County District Attorney Howard Neumann said. However, just being intoxicated is not illegal.
"More importantly, it wouldn't change the facts of how the situation unfolded," Neumann said. "If the person who got shot was doing something (threatening), whether I'm impaired or not, they were still doing it."
The SBI, which investigates officer-involved shootings for most law enforcement agencies in North Carolina, doesn't require a drug or alcohol test during its investigations, said Scott Williams, the special agent in charge of the Northern Piedmont District.
The SBI asks officers involved in shootings when was the last time they took medications, Williams said.
SBI investigators asked Bloch what medications he takes, Bloch said. And he told them.
"We don't require it unless we believe there's a reason we need to require a drug or alcohol test," Williams said. "If something comes up in the investigation that makes us believe either the officer was intoxicated or high, we can ask the officer to consent to a drug screen."
If the officer declines, the agency can get a judge to issue an order for the officer's blood, Williams said.
'We Wouldn't Go Back'
But whether or not the officer is intoxicated rarely comes into the equation, Williams said.
He equates the question of the officer's sobriety to that of a civilian. If a civilian is drunk or high and gets into a fight, that civilian still has the right to defend himself, Williams said.
Circumstances rarely lead to the agency's asking for drug screenings for officers after shootings, he said.
"Information would have to be developed to make you believe the officer's actions were affected by using drugs or alcohol before we go down that road," he said.
Bloch's arrest doesn't change the SBI's findings in Vo's death, Williams said.
"That particular case, we wouldn't go back," Williams said. "The facts of that case are not going to change. He had a body cam, too."
No one outside investigators or the prosecutor has seen the body camera video, which is the case in most incidents in which body cam footage is involved.
Williams said investigators are certain about the accuracy of their investigation of Bloch.
"Generally, if an officer were charged with something like that and we had questions about the case, then we'd probably go back," Williams said. "Our suspicions would have to have been raised for us to go back."
Neumann said there is rarely a legal basis for getting a blood sample from an officer.
"If there was an officer-involved shooting and the officer appeared to be impaired, then you would arguably have probable cause to get a blood sample," Neumann said. "I would think that if impairment were an issue, it would be apparent for whoever's on the scene."
Va. chief: Naming police officer shooters a 'national discussion'
Many around the country have contended that names of officers involved in fatal shootings should become public
by Peter Dujardin and Ashley K. Speed
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News Police Chief Richard W. Myers said there's "a national discussion going on among police leaders" these days on whether — and when — to make public the names of police officers who shoot and kill in the line of duty.
Myers addressed the issue at a news conference Wednesday in the death of Kawanza J. Beaty, 23, of Newport News, whom police killed July 4 after they say he pointed a sawed-off shotgun at a police officer during a pursuit.
Michael J. Muhammad, an activist from Norfolk speaking for Beaty's family, has called for the "immediate release of the names of the officers" on the scene that day. "What we're finding" around the country, he said, is that officers who shoot a person on the job often have done so before.
Myers declined Wednesday to release the name of the officer who shot and killed Beaty. The chief did, however, say he's a narcotics detective and eight-year department veteran who has previously shot a suspect on the job.
Myers declined to say when the earlier shooting took place, whether that suspect was killed or injured, and whether the detective faced any department discipline over it.
He said the Newport News Police Department's "historic policy and practice" — similar to many other local departments — is not to name officers being investigated.
"Our current policy prohibits the release prior to any criminal charges being filed," Myers said.
Separately, he said, it's been the long-standing policy of the Newport News commonwealth's attorney's office to release the names when the final prosecutor's report — virtually always clearing the officer of criminal wrongdoing — is complete.
But those investigations can take many months.
In recent years, many around the country have contended that the names of officers involved in fatal shootings should become public — that citizens have the right to know which officers have shot and killed.
Myers is walking a fine line as police chief. That's because while some in the public might want it, many of his 420 sworn police officers don't want him to give out the names.
As he's looked into the matter recently, Myers said at Wednesday's news conference, he's learned that many police departments "allow for some information release at some point in time."
"We've also consulted with community leaders, including pastors known as the 'Concerned Clergy,' who have urged us to be fair and consistent and follow our policy the same in all cases," he said. Another factor, he added, is whether there's any "intelligence on threats to the officers involved."
Myers said he has "taken all of these factors into consideration" and talked to Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn. Their joint decision, he said, is that when Gwynn announces his findings, "the name of the officer who fired the three shots may be released."
In the meantime, Myers said he would provide "limited backgrounds" on the three officers at the scene that day — the narcotics detective who fired the three shots, as well as a canine officer and police sergeant.
The canine officer, Myers said, has 10 years with the force, and no prior shootings. The sergeant, he said, has nine years with the force and no prior shootings. "All three officers have completed mandatory psychological review," with the detective still out on paid leave.
Expanded DNA collection bill pits public safety against privacy
by Andrew Staub
State Sen. Dominic Pileggi thinks allowing investigators to collect DNA after an arrest could remove violent criminals from Pennsylvania's streets.
The Delaware County Republican is lobbying to expand the state's DNA-collection law, arguing police could stop repeat offenders if the authorities didn't have to wait for a conviction before swabbing a suspect, as current law requires.
“We're really behind the curve here in law enforcement,” Pileggi said this week after his bill allowing for post-arrest DNA sampling passed the Senate.
Law-enforcement groups have coalesced behind the bill, but the proposal to place Pennsylvania among 28 other states with similar laws isn't without controversy.
Where Pileggi sees the possibility for safer communities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania sees an erosion of due process rights. If police need DNA to connect a suspect to a crime they should get a warrant, said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU.
“This warrantless DNA collection scheme is Big Government on steroids,”Shuford said in a statement. “People have a fundamental right to privacy in their bodies. That right doesn't go away because the person has been arrested.”
The state now relegates DNA collection to people convicted of crimes related to homicide and to certain sex offenses. Pileggi's legislation expands on that, allowing post-arrest collection for people suspected of criminal homicide, sexual offenses and all other felonies, plus some specified misdemeanors.
Under that expansion, authorities would take DNA from people arrested on suspicion of check forging, making a false statement on an insurance claim and a second offense for recording in a movie theater, says Mary Catherine Roper, a deputy legal director with the ALCU of Pennsylvania. The bill also covers criminal trespass involving a school, a charge, Roper says, that often falls on protesters.
Pileggi downplayed the ACLU concern. Police collect fingerprints from suspects and take their mug shots, both of which happen before a conviction, he said.
“This is absolutely no different,” Pileggi said.
Law enforcement sees DNA sampling as lifesaver
Plus, Pileggi said, he looks at the benefits and not the burdens. It's hard to put a value on closing unsolved cases and keeping the public safe from further trauma, he said.
Law-enforcement groups, such as the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, support Pileggi's bill. In a letter sent to lawmakers earlier this year, Greg Rowe, legislative liaison for the association, wrote that expanding DNA collection would give investigators a tool to solve crime more quickly and reduce wrongful convictions.
The association cited a University of Virginia study that concluded DNA databases reduce crimes rates, particularly in cases of murder, rape assault and vehicle theft, when forensic evidence is left at the scene.
“By expanding the number of DNA samples taken, this provision will help bring violent offenders to justice and help save lives,” Rowe wrote.
Both the association and Pileggi cited the case of Philadelphia's "Kensington Strangler." In 2010, Antonio Rodriguez raped and killed three women.
Police had arrested him earlier on a felony drug charge.
“Had a DNA sample been taken at the time of his arrest, his DNA would have been matched to the first homicide crime scene, and his subsequent victims may have been spared,” the PDAA wrote in the letter.
ACLU sees other problems
The Kensington Strangler case, though, demonstrates why expanding DNA collection could be a challenge. The PDAA noted that a backlog prevented Rodriguez's DNA, obtained after his conviction on the drug charges, from being processed in timely matter. That delay also allowed his crimes to continue.
The ACLU believes the legislation, if enacted, would quadruple the workload for the state police DNA lab.
“The state police don't have the resources to process quickly the DNA samples they get now. Flooding that system with DNA samples that we have no reason to expect will ever help us solve a crime is just short-sighted,” Roper said.
Pennsylvania started collecting DNA samples for select felonies in 1996 and has one DNA lab. The database houses about 330,000 samples. About 5,000 — or 1.5 percent — of the samples have been used to identify a suspect and solve a crime, said Maria Finn, press secretary for Pennsylvania State Police.
Expanding the DNA collection law would “increase workload greatly” for a lab that's already limited in capacity, Finn said. State police would need more workers and a larger facility, she said.
To ease the transition, Pileggi noted that new collection provisions would be phased in over time, starting with criminal homicide, then felony sex offenses and then other crimes.
According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, state police expect 500 additional DNA samples would be collected in the first year after the legislation is enacted, and the cost could be absorbed with current financial resources.
But the second phase of the legislation would result in collecting and processing 5,000 more DNA samples, costing $586,500 for personnel, supplies and equipment, according to the analysis.
That analysis was silent on the cost of third phase of implementation but noted federal grants could cover the expenses.
Finn says Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is opposed to the legislation, which has passed the Senate in various forms three times but has stalled in the House.
In US Prisons, Psychiatric Disability Is Often Met by Brute Force
by Kanya D'Almeida
They called it the "shoe leather treatment" because that was exactly what it was: 10 or 11 guards, sometimes more, would form a circle around the patient and kick him unconscious. Then they'd drag him across the room, strip him naked and throw him in a tiny room with just one window to allow in the snow, and leave him there to freeze.
That was in 1961 in Pennsylvania's Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
Twenty years later, the routine abuse that took place there became the subject of a memoir by Bill Thomas who survived 10 years in that institution before breaking out and eventually testifying before a Special State Senate Committee Inquiry on the practices of administrators, guards and even doctors at Farview State Hospital.
The facility has since been closed down, as were thousands of others like it during the wave of "deinstitutionalization" in the 1960s and '70s. Some state mental hospitals remain, but they are much less prevalent than they once were.
However, the shoe leather treatment lives on in jails and prisons around the country, which have become surrogate institutions for people with mental illnesses and where violence, neglect and abuse of prisoners labeled with psychiatric disabilities is on the rise.
Callous and Cruel
There is no hard data nationwide on the use of force against people diagnosed with mental illness, but a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) released at the end of May documents, for the first time, the extent of the problem across the approximately 5,100 jails and prisons in the United States.
"We have no data to make any kind of statistical assertion on the issue," Jamie Fellner, senior adviser to the US program at HRW and author of the report, explained to Truthout, "but it is fair to assume that it happens in every state, and that it exists in small and large jails, and in small and large prison systems."
Entitled "Callous and Cruel," the research confirms what news items, court cases and personal anecdotes have been suggesting for years: that corrections officers nationwide systematically assault prisoners living with psychiatric disabilities with chemical sprays, strap them down for days on end, shock them with electric stun devices, fling them into isolation and leave them with burned skin, broken bones or damaged organs from beatings.
their very architecture, prisons are highly regimented places; the inability of prisoners with psychiatric disorders to immediately and unquestioningly respond to the endless orders and routines that dictate prison life means they are frequently at the receiving end of excessive force.
HRW estimates that 58 percent of state prisoners nationwide with a diagnosed mental illness have been charged with rule violations, compared to 43 percent of prisoners who were not diagnosed with mental disabilities.
These "violations" usually involve issues related to their disabilities or altered states of consciousness: paranoia, self-harm, hallucinations or delusions. Prison records document mentally ill prisoners screaming incessantly to drown out the voices in their heads, inserting sharp objects into their penises and smearing feces on the walls.
A serious dearth of comprehensive policies guiding the use of force in thousands of institutions that comprise the US prison archipelago means that guards with no psychiatric experience are free to exert extreme punishment for even the most minor offense.
The case studies are endless, though some prove more instructive than others.
Take Christopher Lopez, a 35-year-old Colorado man living with schizophrenia, whose last hours in the San Carlos Correctional Facility, caught on videotape, reveal the most extreme consequences of incarcerating people in places that are at best indifferent to their state of mind - and at worst deadly.
Lopez was serving his second stint at San Carlos, spending 22 to 24 hours each day in solitary confinement. In the early hours of March 17, 2013, he was found lying facedown on the floor of his cell in a vegetative state. Unable to respond to commands, he was shackled, forced to wear a spit mask and tied to a restraint chair by officers in riot gear.
Over the next several hours, CCTV footage shows Lopez having two seizures, neither of which prompt the staff to take or call for medical action. At 9:10 am, he appears to stop breathing, but the nurse on duty merely shouts at him through the food slot and appears to carry on laughing with her coworkers.
It is not until 20 minutes later when staff members enter the holding cell that they call for backup. By then, it is too late.
As Fellner points out in an interview with Truthout, it is "difficult to make generalizations based on one single case." What she does concede is that Lopez's tragic death showed "an astonishing level of callousness and disregard for a human being."
Recently, at the Vienna Crime Commission on May 22, the United Nations passed a resolution cosponsored by the United States on the basic minimum standards for treatment of prisoners.
The so-called Mandela Rules contain a clause that deals explicitly with mental illness, stating: "Persons who are ... diagnosed with severe mental disabilities ... for whom staying in prison would mean an exacerbation of their condition, shall not be detained in prisons, and arrangements shall be made to transfer them to mental health facilities as soon as possible."
The resolution reiterates commitments made decades ago to uphold the human rights of all prisoners, but at the time of writing, the United States could not be further from the realization of these obligations.
Far from holding the country accountable, the agency tasked with overseeing fair and effective criminal legal systems worldwide, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has made no mention of numerous reports alleging serious rights violations of mentally ill prisoners in the United States.
Asked specifically about the comprehensive research conducted by groups like HRW and others, David Dadge, spokesperson for the executive director of UNODC, told Truthout in an email, "We would not normally comment on a report of another organization, especially where we are not aware of the nature of the report or the methodology used."
From the Hospital Bed to the Jail Cell
In 2015, nearly half a century after the closure of most state mental health facilities, there are 10 times more people with psychiatric disorders living in prisons or jails than are living in hospitals.
The Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) told Truthout that correctional facilities hold 356,000 mentally ill prisoners, compared with 35,000 public hospital patients.
On May 26, 2015, for the first time in US history, a psychologist was assigned as head of a corrections facility: the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois. Nneka Jones Tapia's appointment as jail director came on the heels of a proposed $82 million budget cut for the state's mental health division and a doubling of the jail's mentally ill prisoners over a five-year period.
"In 44 states, the largest institution housing people with severe psychiatric disease is a prison or jail," explained TAC's communications director. The organization says this punitive strategy for addressing mental illness contributes to prison overcrowding, relegation in "grossly disproportionate numbers" of mentally ill prisoners to solitary confinement, deterioration in many prisoners' mental health and far higher costs to taxpayers.
Recidivism rates are high for mentally ill people leaving prison, likely in part a result of receiving little to no psychiatric aftercare.
Research carried out by TAC in 2010 found that 90 percent of mentally ill prisoners from the Los Angeles County Jail were repeat offenders, with 31 percent having been incarcerated 10 or more times.
This is the tip of the iceberg: Jonathan Goode, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail 49 times in just 40 months between March 2006 and July 2009. A prisoner of Virginia's Roanoke County Jail, Linda Kraige, has spent so much time on the inside that she once named the jail's deputy as her "best friend."
Meanwhile, suicide rates have soared. A Survey of States carried out by TAC found that "half of all prisoner suicides are committed by people who are seriously mentally ill."
But possibly the worst fallout of the use of prisons as "treatment" has been the continuation of the violence and abuse that marked asylums for closure in the first place, and propagation of the very behaviors and attitudes that allowed Christopher Lopez to die under the eye of a closed-circuit television.
Philosophical Liberals Meet Fiscal Conservatives
According to Paul Bermanzohn, a retired psychiatrist who spent over 20 years researching schizophrenia, deinstitutionalization was the child of "philosophical liberals and fiscal conservatives."
Bermanzohn, a survivor of the 1979 Greensboro massacre by the Ku Klux Klan, told Truthout that the process of deinstitutionalization didn't account for the fact that "a lot of these folks had been completely dependent on the institution for feeding, housing and clothing them."
Turned out by the tens of thousands, scores of patients have been trapped between the worst of both worlds, free to do anything - except receive or participate in user-led, community-based care services.
As disability justice scholars and advocates have pointed out, the mass closure of asylums and "psych" hospitals did not end the forced segregation or confinement of people with disabilities. The systems of power that gave rise to asylums are alive and well.
As a result, institutionalization continues in earnest to this day, and in fact has expanded its scope, not only into prisons and jails but even into the so-called "community-based" alternatives that are modeled on biomedical psychiatry and medical authority - the very practices that advocates of deinstitutionalization had fought to destroy.
In the recently published anthology Disability Incarcerated , a range of disability justice scholars and prison abolitionists argue that in order to fully understand the extent of incarceration of people with disabilities in the post-deinstitutionalization era, it is necessary to take a broader view of imprisonment as a condition that occurs not only in jails but also in group homes and community-based treatment centers.
As Liat Ben-Moshe, one of the editors of the anthology and assistant professor of disability studies at the University of Toledo, points out in her chapter, "Alternatives to (Disability) Incarceration," the most compelling alternatives to institutionalization of those labeled with psychiatric disabilities "are conceptualized, imagined and practiced through national and international networks and organizations created by psychiatric survivors, ex-patients, and consumers, as well as people within the anti-psychiatry movement more generally. ...
"The importance of such organizations is that they build an alternative community to psychiatry, one that is supportive, caring, and often defiant. [The] point of these networks is not to restore the person to some sort of normative mental health but to discuss the social conditions that led to distress and, in many instances, to increased distress and oppression caused by attempts to biomedically 'treat' a perceived behavior or outcome."
However, as Ben-Moshe noted in an interview with Truthout, even among communities advocating for substantive change in current practices, there are significant splits. In fact, Ben-Moshe said, "In the disability community in general there is a chasm between parents' wishes and views on disability and that of their disabled children."
At the end of May, 100 family members calling themselves the "families of the 4 percent" - in reference to the segment of the population suffering from severe mental illness in the United States - convened on Capitol Hill to demand that the government reform the country's mental health system. They called for a "right" to treatment in order to avoid the "devastating consequences" of denying treatment people are asking for (and sometimes "giving" treatment that is the opposite of what is needed).
One of those who shared their personal experiences during a packed press conference on May 30 was Jennifer Hoff, whose 22-year-old son is currently serving out a 15-year sentence in California State Prison after several stints in county jails.
Hoff told Truthout that hers has been a battle with the state to place her son under a "conservatorship" whereby she would have control of his treatment, or have him admitted to a facility under 5150 - a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code that allows a "qualified" officer or physician to involuntarily confine a person deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Disability justice advocates say that conservatorships and similar laws contribute to the stereotype of persons with intellectual disabilities as "incompetent ... and completely dependent on families and professional guidance."
Many scholars argue that such laws cut against the grain of self-determination, whereby people living with disabilities or altered states of consciousness are denied the liberty to direct their own wellness.
For parents like Hoff, however, a conservatorship represents the only way around arbitrary laws that bind treatment and therapy to the so-called "danger" threshold, a catch-22 stratagem in which the state both defines and punishes psychiatric disabilities.
Everyone down to her county health director allegedly told Hoff that in order for her son to get treatment outside of the prison system, he needed to prove that he was enough of a danger to the public . When he finally did demonstrate this danger - by walking into a Bank of America and demanding $1,000 by way of a sticky note - he was still not offered care.
Instead, he was charged with multiple felonies including making terrorist threats.
Both inside and outside prisons, the bar for danger is set high, but tolerance for it is low. The result is a powder keg, whereby those with mental illness are goaded into proving their "dangerousness" and then punished brutally for it.
According to a new investigative report published by Disability Rights Oregon earlier this year, resorting to self-harm is often the only way prisoners can ensure medical attention. But it also provokes extremely violent reactions from guards.
The report, "Behind the Eleventh Door," looks at the behavioral health unit (BHU) of the Oregon State Penitentiary where prisoners are confined to 6- by 10-foot cells with no natural light, no fresh air and no contact with other prisoners.
The Oregon Department of Corrections believes that more than half of the state's prison population has been diagnosed with a mental illness, but the BHU is reserved for those most profoundly impacted by psychiatric disorders.
Among many incidents involving self-harm - including one prisoner who reportedly used staples and Velcro to cut himself, filling a cup with his own blood every day just to experience some "release" - the report documents the case of a prisoner they refer to as Elliot Wynan*, who was placed on suicide watch in 2013.
Wynan alleges that he repeatedly requested a transfer to the mental health infirmary (MHI), where he believed he would receive more appropriate care. But he was refused. One correctional officer told him: "You have to get pepper sprayed to go to MHI."
So he hung a sheet across his cell door, prompting a cell invasion - caught on Oregon Department of Corrections videos - in which a team of guards in riot gear pepper sprayed his cell for 20 seconds, forcibly pulled down his pants and administered a shot to his buttocks.
He was then told he would be transferred to the infirmary.
"That's all I wanted in this first place. Why was all of this necessary, man?" Wynan is heard asking on the tape. "I've been asking for this for a month."
In an even starker example, a woman named Gloria Rodgers of Memphis, Tennessee, was arrested 259 times before being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Until then, she was neither considered sick enough, nor dangerous enough to be granted help.
Hoff says this lopsided logic has also skewed statistics on mental illness. Her son, for instance, does not count toward the widely touted figure that one-third of prisoners suffer from a mental illness, because he self-identifies as being mentally sound.
"So what's the real number of prisoners in need of care? I am thinking it's somewhere along the lines of 79 percent."
As Ben-Moshe told Truthout, "It is really important to remember that many people end up in prisons because of harms ("offenses") they did in relation to their mental difference ... but that some started to have mental health challenges simply because of how disabling the prison system is. It is harming prisoners and cannot be therapeutic."
Families and advocates have any number of recommendations on how to fix the problem.
Rights groups are pushing for enactment of the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act of 2015, which at a minimum would support and authorize funding for crisis intervention training and alternatives to solitary confinement.
Still, this legislation alone will not prevent the excessive use of force against prisoners with mental illness. Fellner says an equally important task is for each state or county to introduce comprehensive use of force policies that make special provision for people with mental illness.
The Treatment Advocacy Center says the government must halt the wholesale closure of psychiatric hospitals and introduce mental health courts as a means of diverting mentally ill people away from prisons and jails.
But those who position themselves at the intersection of psychiatric disability and the prison industrial complex say that reforms like these won't stem the tide of violence. In fact, some say that the reforms being proposed could actually expand the scope of institutionalization.
"The most holistic approach to ending violence against prisoners, of any kind, is to decrease the number of prisoners and abolish the current system of incarceration we have now," Ben-Moshe told Truthout.
"It sounds simplistic, but there cannot be any healing or rehabilitation or treatment in a cage. The inhumanity of prisons and other carceral spaces (like psych hospitals or residential institutions for people with intellectual disabilities) is inherent in its construction. It was built to separate the so-called free from the so-called dangerous or sick/defective. This inhumanity and violence seeps into the lives of those incarcerated and those who work there.
"In short, these carceral spaces are inherently violent. To be surprised when violent acts occur and claim it as an anomaly ('a few bad apples') is to miss the point of why these spaces are there and what they are meant to do," she argued.
Joel Kovel, a retired professor of psychiatry and author of 10 books, including The Age of Desire , traces what he calls the "dispensability" of persons with psychiatric disabilities back to the period of deinstitutionalization, which took place at a "moment of crisis for the capitalist system."
"This was the age of neoliberalism, of post-Fordism," Kovel told Truthout. "It was marked by an attack on living labor, the automation of the workplace, the shipping overseas of jobs and the endless breaking up of tasks and the scientific management of workers."
His analysis is that the neoliberal period displaced a crisis within capitalism onto poor and working people across the United States, and then responded to the ensuing trauma by "pumping people full of drugs" and flinging them out into the streets.
"Neoliberalism is essentially capitalism with all of the aggressive and inhuman potentials augmented," Kovel said. "It increases the incidence of mental illness, as well as the brutality and heartlessness of its treatment."
The alternative, suggests Ben-Moshe, is to "create accountability systems to harm that do not solely rely on banishment and punishment of people."
She pointed to examples of peer-led organizations that veer away from state- or guardian-led models of forced medication and confinement, such as the Icarus Project - a radical mental health support network that is "by and for people struggling with dangerous gifts commonly labeled as mental illness" - or the Hearing Voices Network, an international collaboration between "professionals, people with lived experience, and their families to develop an alternative approach to coping with emotional distress that is empowering and useful to people, and does not start from the assumption that they have a chronic illness."
Such networks of inclusivity and support, which work to destroy myths of worthlessness, and of disabilities as "aberrations," shine as bright lights in the annals of brutality and violence that mark the incarceration of disability in the United States.
* Elliot Wynan - not his real name. Name changed for confidentiality purposes
Chattanooga Shooting: FBI Recovers Gunman's Disturbing Diary
by BRIAN ROSS, DOUG LANTZ and JAMES GORDON MEEK
With more than 30 FBI agents due to arrive today in Chattanooga, a diary belonging to the gunman and FBI interviews with his parents paint a picture of a disturbed, suicidal young man using drugs, preparing for bankruptcy and facing an appearance in criminal court, according to a representative of the shooter' s family.
Four days after the shooting, the FBI has not found any connection to overseas terrorist groups, but Mohammod Abdulazeez's diary says that as far back as 2013, he wrote about having suicidal thoughts and "becoming a martyr" after losing his job due to his drug use, both prescription and non-prescription drugs, the family representative said.
In a downward spiral, Abdulazeez would abuse sleeping pills, opioids, painkillers and marijuana, along with alcohol, the representative said.
Most recently, the 24-year-old was having problems dealing with a 12 hour overnight shift, and had to take sleeping pills, according to the representative. The young man was also thousands of dollars in debt and considering filing for bankruptcy.
Three months before the shooting, Abdulazeez was arrested on April 20 -- a day celebrated annually by marijuana users -- and charged with drunk driving. The arresting officer noted a smell of marijuana in the car.
The discovery of the diary comes as investigators also work to solve the mystery of Abdulazeez's actions in the days leading up to the deadly shooting. The family representative told ABC News Abdulazeez rented the silver Mustang Tuesday, showed up at the local mosque and took a friend on a “joy ride” until 3 a.m. He did not sleep at his parents' home for the next two nights and the FBI is seeking to retrace his steps.
“He bragged about [the car], and was showing it off to friends about how fast it would go,” the family representative said Sunday.
On Wednesday, Abdulazeez shot and killed four Marines and fatally wounded a Navy sailor after opening fire on two unguarded military facilities in Chattanooga.
The family representative said Sunday that the family told the FBI there were no outward signs of radicalization but added Abdulazeez “was susceptible to bad influences” and would be affected by watching news accounts of “children being killed in Syria.” For all his struggles with drugs, the representative said, Abdulazeez also struggled with being a devout Muslim.
The family representative said Abdulazeez had a number of guns in his house and often used them to go hunting or for target practice with friends at nearby firing ranges. FBI agents recently focused on the Walmart in Hixson, where officials tell ABC News Abdulazeez bought ammunition for his guns on July 11. Two young men, seen with Abdulazeez in the store, are being sought for questioning although they are not believed to be accomplices.
The family representative said Abdulazeez's family sought, without success, to get him treatment for his mental illness, and to keep him away from a group of friends with whom he would drink and smoke marijuana.
A seven-month trip to Jordan last year was an effort to “get him away from bad influences in the U.S.,” not part of a path to radicalization, the family told agents.
Abdulazeez's family released a statement Saturday saying that there are "no words to describe our shock, horror, and grief."
"The person who committed this horrible crime was not the son we knew and loved," the statement said. "For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence."
North Carolina police officer to face trial for 2013 shooting
by Greg Lacour
Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the manslaughter trial of a North Carolina police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in one of a series of killings that have sparked a fresh debate on race and justice in the United States.
The case dates back to the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 14, 2013, when a 24-year-old former Florida A&M football player, Jonathan Ferrell, wrecked his car and went looking for help in a subdivision outside Charlotte, provoking a 911 call from a young woman who was surprised to find him knocking on her door in the middle of the night and feared a home invasion.
Three Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers responded and when Ferrell approached them, officer Randall Kerrick fired 12 shots at the man, 10 of which hit, killing him.
Attorneys for Kerrick, who is white, contend that Ferrell had ignored orders to stop approaching the officers and to lie on the ground. The other two officers involved in the case, who are black and were more experienced than Kerrick, did not draw their weapons.
Police charged Kerrick, 29, with voluntary manslaughter within hours of the shooting. He was the first police officer in Mecklenburg County charged in connection with an on-duty fatal shooting in more than 30 years.
Then-Police Chief Rodney Monroe, who has since retired, said Kerrick had used excessive force and that the facts of the case warranted his arrest. A grand jury indicted Kerrick in January 2014. In May, the city of Charlotte agreed to pay Ferrell's family $2.25 million in a civil settlement.
The department's swift action stood in contrast to other police killings of unarmed black men in the United States over the past two years, including cases in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, that prompted months of occasionally violent protests.
But officers in Baltimore and North Charleston, South Carolina, have been charged this year following a pair of killings of unarmed black men.
Jury selection is expected to take several days with the Superior Court trial forecast to last several weeks. The judge hearing the case, Robert Ervin, twice denied defense attorneys' change of venue motions, saying a jury pool in a neighboring county would be as likely to have seen pretrial news coverage as one in Charlotte.
A toxicology report found no traces of drugs in Ferrell's system and a blood-alcohol level below the legal limit for driving.
Cleveland community policing commission panel to meet
by The Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) - An 11-person panel is meeting as it prepares to select a commission responsible for making recommendations on how Cleveland police officers can build better relationships with the communities they serve.
Two pastors and directors of an LGBT center and a community development group are part of the panel that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced earlier this month.
The selection panel has 60 days to pick 10 members for a community policing commission. It holds a meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) Community College's Advanced Technology Training Center.
The city and U.S. Justice Department agreed in May to the terms of a consent decree that aims to make Cleveland police officers problem solvers who are free from bias in how they do their jobs.
Racial turmoil in Md.'s ‘Friendliest Town' after black police chief is fired
by DeNeen L. Brown
POCOMOKE CITY, Md. — The crowd gathered outside City Hall last week, demanding that their community's first black police chief — fired amid allegations leveled against white officers of departmental racism — be given his job back.
In a place that bills itself as the “Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore,” angry residents marched with posters that read “We Support Chief Kelvin Sewell” and jammed inside the quaint red-brick building to voice their outrage to the Pocomoke City Council.
Pocomoke City has been on edge since Sewell was fired by the council June 29. According to the former chief and his supporters, he was sacked for refusing to dismiss two black officers who described working in a hostile environment.
The officers alleged in complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that they faced racism that was overt and rampant — allegations the city denies. Among the incidents alleged: a food stamp superimposed with President Obama's face that was left on a black detective's desk and a text message that read, “What is ya body count nigga?”
“This is one of the most egregious cases of primary racial discrimination and retaliation for assertion of rights before the EEOC that I've seen,” said Andrew G. McBride, co-counsel for the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which is representing Sewell. “Chief Sewell has a fantastic record as a police officer. He was terminated because he stood up for two African American officers who filed an EEOC complaint.”
Because of the EEOC cases, Pocomoke City Attorney William Hudson said he could not comment on the decision to get rid of Sewell, 52, who took over the 15-officer department five years ago and made $71,000 a year. The council has not offered a public explanation for its action, but Hudson said, “We deny there was impropriety whatsoever on the part of the city, the former city manager, as well as the mayor and the council.”
In a town of just 4,000 evenly split between blacks and whites, the case has pitted Sewell's mostly African American supporters against the mostly white city council.
On Monday night, dozens of residents praised Sewell's performance, pointing out that arrests have risen and serious crimes have fallen since he took over the department. His supporters told the five-member council that Sewell helped get rid of drug dealers who did business on Pocomoke City's streets. He championed community policing, requiring officers to get out of their patrol cars and walk their beats. He checked on elderly residents.
“You terminated a man who made a difference,” said the Rev. James Jones, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, who presented the council with a petition with 500 signatures seeking Sewell's reinstatement.
Sewell arrived in Pocomoke City in 2010 after spending two decades as a police officer in Baltimore, where he worked undercover for five years with the Drug Enforcement Administration and finished his career as a homicide investigations supervisor.
He became Pocomoke City's first black chief in a part of Maryland with a history of racial tension. Socially and economically, the Eastern Shore, which has huge pockets of poverty, is often described as detached from the rest of the state.
“It's one of those places where people are upfront about racism,” said Kathryn Barrett-Gaines, assistant director of African American studies at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
In the 20th century, the Eastern Shore was the site of several lynchings, according to the Maryland State Archives . In Pocomoke City, a farmhand named Edd Watson was the target of a mob on June 14, 1906.
Today, Pocomoke City is a poor place with a median household income of less than $30,000 a year and an unemployment rate double the state's average of 5.3 percent.
“My whole life, we have been treated as lower than Caucasians when it comes to getting jobs,” said Kelli Cropper, 42, a teacher in Pocomoke City, which is about a three-hour drive southeast of Washington across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The police department employs eight white officers and seven black officers, Sewell said. Its current troubles began three years ago when detective Franklin L. Savage was detailed to the Worcester County Criminal Enforcement team. The eight-member task force was made up of officers from Ocean City, Dorchester County, Maryland State Police and Pocomoke City. Savage was the only African American assigned to it.
Savage said that during his two years on the task force, he was consistently subjected to racism and discrimination, including the repeated use of the “n-word” and references to the Ku Klux Klan.
In December 2013, he walked outside for a lunch break and found a bloody deer tail on the windshield of his unmarked police car, he said in his EEOC complaint. A group of white officers stood nearby, laughing. Four months later, he alleged, the food stamp with Obama's face superimposed on it was left on his desk.
Savage, now 35, reported the incidents to his supervisor, but he said the behavior did not stop.
“Each day I went to work, I felt hurt, ashamed and confused. Racism still exists,” Savage said. “And we took an oath to do the right thing each day.”
The Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division eventually found that Savage's complaints against one corporal were justified and promised in a letter that the offender would be punished.
Last year, Savage returned to the Pocomoke City police department, where he said the harassment and discrimination continued. Savage said he was stripped of his title of detective and moved to administrative duty, checking computer serial numbers and clearing old files. He filed a complaint with the EEOC on July 21, 2014.
Lt. Lynell Green said the harassment against him began after he attended a mediation session in support of Savage.
“It all started when I stood behind Detective Savage,” said Green, 49, who said his overtime pay was cut. “I've never experienced anything like that in my life.”
Green, a former Baltimore police officer who began working for Pocomoke City in 2011, filed an EEOC complaint March 15.
During this time, Sewell said he was being pressured by Mayor Bruce Morrison, the city manager and the Worcester County Sheriff's Office to fire the officers.
Sewell filed an EEOC complaint March 9 and was fired after a 4-to-1 vote by the city council three months later.
Inside the council room Monday night, Diane Downing, the body's only black member, said there was no reason for the chief's firing. “I was there, and there was no justification for firing him,” Downing said to applause.
“We want to know tonight, by whose authority was the chief fired?” said the Rev. Ronnie White, pastor of House of Love Outreach Christian Center in Pocomoke City. He noted that long-time City Manager Russell W. Blake retired the day after Sewell was fired.
Jones demanded that the council change the town's sign: “Please send somebody to the South End to take ‘The Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore' off that sign.”
The crowd cheered. The mayor banged the gavel.
George Tasker, a white council member who is pastor of Abundant Life Apostolic Church, tried to calm the crowd. “I'm just a mountain boy,” he said. “I don't know how to address y'all African American people.”
Afterward, resident Vanessa Jones, 56, said the way Sewell and the black officers have been treated reveals just how entrenched racial attitudes remain in her home town.
“Pocomoke City has always had a history of prejudice,” she said. “It's always been racial here, always. It's supposed to be one of the friendliest towns on the Eastern Shore, and that is not true.”