July, 2015 - Week 5
Memphis police officer fatally shot during traffic stop
by Michael Sorrentino
A Memphis police officer was killed after being shot during a traffic stop Saturday.
Officer Anthony Bolton was conducting a traffic stop when he was shot by an occupant of the vehicle, according to Memphis Police Department Public Information Officer Karen Rudolph. The call for the incident came into the department at 9:18 p.m.
Bolton was taken to Regional One in critical condition before dying of multiple gunshot wounds, Armstrong said.
Armstrong says police have not made an arrest and the suspect is on the run. He said police are using all available resources to find the shooter.
It is the third Memphis officer to be fatally shot in slightly more than four years. Officer Tim Warren was killed while responding to a shooting at a downtown Memphis hotel in July 2011. In December 2012, Officer Martoiya Lang was killed while serving a warrant.
Armstrong said officers are grieving, adding that "this is just a reminder of how dangerous" the job is.
"Sadly to say, we've been here before," he said.
Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. told reporters Saturday that the incident "speaks volumes about the inherent danger of police work."
"Pray for the family and pray for our city," he said.
30 Police officers going to Northwest Fresno as part of operation
by Brian Johnson
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An operation for Fresno Police's Northwest District just got stronger.
Effective this week, 30 more officers are heading there to go after criminals and get to know residents-specifically in neighborhoods or hot spots known for violent crime.
"We go and saturate some areas making a lot of positive contacts with the community and take any enforcement action that we come across during that operation detail," Sgt. Chris Serrano said.
It's community policing, and it's making a difference in neighborhoods like one near Shaw and Holt, where Serrano says there's been a dramatic reduction in gang-activity and violent crime.
"It was pretty uncommon to see young children just playing out in the front yard, especially as the night falls, you definitely wouldn't see any small children within that area," he said.
Sgt. Serrano led a group of officers into this neighborhood near Fedora and Blackstone, where they spoke with the owner of a home recently shot up by gang members. A tip from another resident in that neighborhood then led them to the Manchester Motel, where officers knocked on the door of a room possibly connected to drug and firearm sales.
In the end, all they could is knock, and talk with the man in the room next door. But the bottom line is that they connected with community members and received valuable intelligence.
"This operation kind of allows those officers to get out of their cars, make personal contact with the community and members living within the affected areas, and find out exactly what's occurring in the neighborhoods," Serrano said.
For Serrano, it's going back to the tradition of community policing. The operation officially started about a month ago.
It will go through the summer and then be reevaluated by Chief Dyer.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Announces First-Ever Second Chance Fellow to Help Advance Vital Diversion and Reentry Strategies
Thank you, Secretary [Arne] Duncan, for that kind introduction – and for your outstanding leadership in our efforts to advance education and improve the lives of students throughout the United States. It's a pleasure to be here today and a privilege to join you, Cabinet Secretary [Broderick] Johnson, members of Congress, Dallas Pell, extraordinary advocates and role models like Glenn Martin and Vivian Nixon and our other distinguished guests to announce this important pilot program and to discuss the vital steps we are taking together to reorient our nation's approach to criminal justice while strengthening our country and empowering our communities.
This is an exciting moment in our ongoing, bipartisan work to reform this nation's criminal justice system. As Secretary Duncan has noted, postsecondary education provides individuals from all backgrounds and circumstances with the opportunity to better themselves and their communities. For incarcerated individuals, education can provide an avenue to redemption and a chance to earn their way back into mainstream society. It can allow individuals to see themselves as more than their worst decision and encourage them to value themselves for what they can achieve. And the results can deliver significant benefits for communities and taxpayers already burdened by the high costs associated with incarceration and crime.
We know from research that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education – including remedial, vocational and postsecondary programs – are more likely to stay out of prison; more likely to seek, gain and maintain employment; and substantially more likely to remain crime-free. We recognize that our communities are safer and more secure when those who have engaged with our criminal justice system are involved in positive behavior. And given that the vast majority of people behind bars will one day be released – with more than 600,000 individuals leaving state and federal institutions every year – we believe that it is incumbent upon us as a nation to ensure that people who have served their time are able to fully and productively engage in our society.
Lifting the ban on Pell Grants for a limited number of incarcerated students to pursue higher education is an important step forward as we seek to build avenues of opportunity from imprisonment to improvement. I am pleased to announce that the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance will provide technical assistance through the Vera Institute of Justice to correctional facilities that partner with institutions of higher learning to provide postsecondary education under the Pell Experimental Site. And I am looking forward to continued partnership on this important work.
The issues we are addressing today are not new – and I am proud to say that they have been a central focus of the Department of Justice throughout the Obama Administration. Under the outstanding leadership of my predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder and with Secretary Duncan's invaluable support, we convened the Federal Interagency Reentry Council in 2011 to reduce barriers to successful reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals. We directed every U.S. Attorney to designate a Prevention and Reentry Coordinator in his or her district to focus on building community engagement and creating positive outcomes. We asked our law enforcement partners and state Attorneys General to reconsider policies that create overly burdensome collateral consequences – often in the form of barriers to employment, housing and education – that are unlikely to improve public safety. Earlier this week, I chaired a productive meeting of the Reentry Council and introduced the first-ever Second Chance Fellow. And we are currently working to implement and advance the Smart on Crime initiative that Attorney General Holder launched in 2013 to reduce this country's reliance on incarceration; to increase investment in diversion and reentry programs; and to ensure that our criminal justice practices are carried out in a way that is both effective and fair.
Today's action is not the end of our effort. We have a great deal more to do in order to ensure that incarcerated individuals receive opportunities to turn their lives around. But with the partnership of the advocates and public servants joining us today and the hard work of individuals seeking to chart a new course – for themselves, their families and their communities – I am confident about where our work will take us from here. I am excited about the progress we will achieve together. And I am hopeful that today's announcement will be the beginning of a new era for dedicated students around the country.
At this time, I'd like to hand things over to Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, who will provide further information on today's announcement.
International students graduate from elite federal law enforcement program
GLYNCO, Ga. — Law enforcement students from Honduras and the Dominican Republic are the latest transnational criminal investigators to graduate from the International Taskforce Agent Training (ITAT) program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco.
The students, 12 from Honduras and 12 from the Dominican Republic, graduated Friday following training hosted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which has successfully trained hundreds of international law enforcement officials from about a dozen countries.
The graduates are joining the fight against transnational criminal organizations after spending nearly three weeks in classroom seminars and practical exercises as part of the ITAT program, which provides vetted foreign law enforcement officers with training similar to that of the HSI's special agents.
“The work done by our international partners under this program has been an unqualified success,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge, “Last year, TCIU agents made 466 criminal arrests and seized more than $13 million and nearly 3,000 pounds of cocaine. The ITAT program is achieving incredible results for participating nations.”
“We have already seen the increased capabilities this training provides to our nation's law enforcement programs,” said Major General Manuel Castro Castillo, chief of the National Police for the Dominican Republic. “This new class of graduates will have an immediate impact on our ability to counter the criminal organizations who threaten public safety in our communities.”
“While this training program provided my students with an excellent opportunity to sharpen their skills and learn new techniques, the greater benefit is the network of law enforcement agencies they are joining,” said Director General Felix Villanueva Mejia, Honduran National Police.
Transnational criminals recognize no borders, and Honduras is committed to working with other nations to root them out wherever they might be hiding.”
HSI instructors delivered a tailored curriculum developed to strengthen the students' ability to conduct criminal investigations. Classes covered investigation and interview techniques, evidence processing and warrant execution. The graduates were also exposed to physical training, defensive tactics and weapons practice.
The graduates are now part of an international law enforcement community that facilitates information sharing and the bilateral investigation of transnational criminal organizations involved in a variety of crimes, including weapons and narcotic trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, money laundering, cybercrimes and more.
FLETC serves as the largest law enforcement training organization in the United States, training a majority of the federal officers and agents in the country.
In addition to providing training for more than 90 federal partner organizations, FLETC also provides training to local, state, tribal and international police in select advanced programs. Approximately 70,000 students graduate from FLETC each year.
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS's Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign Adds AARP, VA, USPS, SBA to Partner Ranks; Reaches New Milestone of 180 Partners
Today the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign announced the addition of several new members to its partner program. Over the last several months, the AARP, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the United States Postal Service (USPS), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have joined the campaign. This has enabled the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Stop.Think.Connect. to directly convey their online safety messages to AARP's nearly 38 million members as well as millions more people through the campaign's 180 partners.
The addition of AARP, VA, USPS, and SBA to the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign's extensive partners significantly strengthens our ability to deliver critical cybersecurity messaging to help keep more Americans safe online. We are grateful for the support from these organizations and are confident that their partnership will benefit their members and customers by encouraging safer online behavior.
Stop.Think.Connect. partners represent a range of non-profit organizations; Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and agencies; as well as academic institutions. In 2015, more than 20 new partners have joined the campaign. Every campaign partner receives tools and resources to help their stakeholders understand online risks and promote safe online habits among Americans.
More about our new partners:
With nearly 38 million members, AARP works to support its members regarding healthcare, retirement planning, affordable utilities, and protection from financial abuse.
The Department of Veterans Affairs strives to provide our Nation's veterans with the support, benefits, and services they have earned through their military service.
The United States Postal Service employs over 600,000 Americans and provides trusted postal services across the country and internationally.
The Small Business Administration helps Americans start and grow businesses, providing aid and counsel to and protecting the interests of small business owners.
The Stop.Think.Connect. campaign is a national awareness effort led by DHS, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance and the Anti-Phishing Working Group. For more information about the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
Statement by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015
I strongly support the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015 (S.1869) that was approved unanimously by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday under the leadership of Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Tom Carper.
Cybersecurity is a top priority for me, for the President, and for this Administration. I am pleased that Congress has recognized that we need to work together to ensure that we have adequate resources and budget, and the legal authorities necessary to pursue the mission.
This bill will strengthen our cyber defenses by requiring all Federal agencies to implement stronger protections and state-of-the-art technologies to defend against cyberattacks. Importantly for DHS, S.1869 would accelerate deployment of a federal intrusion detection and prevention system across the federal government, increasing our visibility as a government into adversary activity. S. 1869 accomplishes this by ensuring agencies understand they are legally permitted to disclose network traffic to DHS for narrowly tailored purposes. S.1869 also sets forth several privacy protections that are consistent with DHS's current operations and privacy controls. The House has passed H.R. 1731, which contains similar provisions authorizing the EINSTEIN program.
As cyber threats continue to increase in frequency, scale, sophistication, and severity, we need to be as aggressive in strengthening our defenses. I thank Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Tom Carper for their bipartisan leadership on this vital piece of legislation. Now, I urge the Senate to move quickly and pass this bill.
Father who shot down drone hovering over his house as his daughter sunbathed is arrested - sparking new privacy debate
by Dailymail.com Reporter
A father shot was arrested after shooting down an $1,800 drone that was hovering over his sunbathing daughter.
William H. Merideth, 47, from Kentucky was charged with first degree criminal mischief and first-degree wanton endangerment.
The owner of the drone claims he was only trying to take pictures of a friend's house, when Merideth shot at the device, sending it crashing into a field near his yard last weekend.
'My daughter comes in and says, 'Dad, there's a drone out here flying,' ' he told WDRD.
'I went and got my shotgun and I said, 'I'm not going to do anything unless it's directly over my property,' ' Mr. Merideth said, noting that the drone briefly disappeared when his daughter waved it off.
'Within a minute or so, here it came. It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky. I didn't shoot across the road, I didn't shoot across my neighbor's fences, I shot directly into the air.'
Four men were about to confront him after the drone was shot out of the sky, but he says they soon changed their minds when they saw his personal firearms.
'I had my Glock on me and they started toward me and I told them, 'If you cross my sidewalk, there's gonna be another shooting,' ' Mr. Merideth told the station.
The police arrested the homeowner soon afterwards.
Mr. Merideth said he is looking into what legal action he could take in response to the incident. He said he only fired his weapon because it was hovering over his home.
Merideth said he was disappointed with the police response.
'They didn't confiscate the drone. They gave the drone back to the individuals,' he said.
'They didn't take the SIM card out of it…but we've got…five houses here that everyone saw it – they saw what happened, including the neighbors that were sitting in their patio when he flew down low enough to see under the patio.'
'Our rights are being trampled daily,' he said. 'Not on a local level only — but on a state and federal level. We need to have some laws in place to handle these kind of things.'
'You know, when you're in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy,' he said. 'We don't know if he was looking at the girls. We don't know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.'
According to the Academy of Model Aeronautics safety code, unmanned aircraft like drones may not be flown in a careless or reckless manner and has to be launched at least 100 feet downwind of spectators.
The FAA says drones cannot fly over buildings -- and that shooting them poses a significant safety hazard.
'An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,' said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.
City councilman looking to use drones in public safety operations
by Valerie Gonzalez
LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) - The police department could soon obtain a new type of technology that would give them a different perspective in emergency situations.
Next week, the city will be hearing how the use of drones could enhance the performance of first responders.
Councilman Alex Perez of District Three has put the item up on the agenda for Monday's meeting.
But he says it's been a project in the making for a couple of years.
They're light, fast, and unmanned.
Drones have become the new couriers and even alternatives for commercial photography.
But aside from enhancing life, they can also help save them.
Joe Baeza with the police department explains why the department is looking to acquire this new technology.
"In the uses of drones, these new models are coming in able to fly further and give you live video feed of whatever you're trying to access - whether it be a standoff, a swat situation, or some sort of a fire that has encompassed a general area", said Baeza.
It's been a project in the works for years; but, come Monday, city council will hear a status update on what is considered an investment in the department.
"This is going to be a big investment. It's going to be about a $30,000 to $40,000 investment, but I feel it's very important for our police department", said Councilman Alex Perez.
Drones are a more affordable than the traditional alternative.
"Helicopters are very expensive. The maintenance is extremely expensive. The fuel that they use and the fact that you have to train two pilots to be prepared to be up in the air. It could be quite pricey", said Baeza.
The police department will be footing the bill, but councilman Alex Perez says a drone could also help in emergencies handled by the fire department.
"For example, in a large grass fire we can send it up and see which way it's travelling and look at the access roads to be able to meet up with it and be able to find the best strategy to be able to deal with the emergency" said Chief Steve Landin of the Laredo Fire Department.
Councilman Alex Perez says aside from the cost for the drone, someone would have to be trained by the FAA in order to get a license to operate the device.
The funding would come from the police department's budget.
Should everything go accordingly, the plans to purchase the drone could start in October when the city's budget is approved.
Now that's community policing! Photo of Jersey City cop showing youngster how to tie a tie goes viral
by Caitlin Mota
JERSEY CITY -- As he enters retirement, a Jersey City police officer is receiving a lot of positive attention on Facebook for a picture of him helping a young man on the street a few weeks ago.
On Thursday, Lashambi B. Moore shared a photo of Officer Charlie Casserly on Martin Luther King Drive with a local teen, wearing khakis a button-down shirt and sweater vest. The teen did not know how to tie his tie and asked Casserly for help.
"Charlie pulled the patrol car over, got out and spent nearly a half an hour teaching the young man how to tie a tie," Moore wrote on Facebook.
The photo was taken on July 9, just before 10 a.m.
Moore told The Jersey Journal she took the picture because it was something good that she thought others would want to see.
"I only posted it to make others feel good because it made me feel good," Moore said.
Moore said Casserly first demonstrated how to tie the tie on himself. The young man tried for himself, and Casserly then fixed it to look proper.
Since the post surfaced, Facebook users have been chiming in to thank Casserly for being a dedicated officer on the force and congratulated him on his retirement.
"Outstanding. More of this please," Fletcher Gensamer wrote on the post. "Thank you Officer Charlie for your service."
Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers' Benevolent Association, said Casserly's actions are representative of the department.
"This picture represents 40 years of Charlie Casserly not just of being a law enforcement officer, but also of being a role model, a leader, and a mentor," Disbrow said. "It also is an accurate depiction of why Officer Casserly, and so many other men and women, choose to wear the badge, and their efforts to make the communities they serve better and stronger."
Commenters who know Casserly wrote that he is a great man and are not surprised of his kindness.
"I'm not surprised. Casserly is one of the nicest guys on the force," Juan Lopez commented. "There are plenty more like him. Well done!"
Some even sent well wishes to the young man in the photo.
"Thank you for posting this. Jersey City has many very fine officers," Laurie Lukaszyk wrote. "Bless Officer Casserly in his retirement and bless the young man for asking the right person to help him. I wish that young man much success."
Casserly declined to comment on the picture that is quickly going viral.
"This unknown young man and I are grateful for his service to the community," Moore wrote in the post.
Moore said Casserly, who patrolled the South District, had been working as a Jersey City police officer for 36 years and his last day on the force was Thursday.
"That was the epitome of community policing," Moore told The Jersey Journal. "He's interacting with the community. This is the right way to do it."
Read what others are saying on Facebook:
Colleen Higgins: "Best way to go out ,after 40 year's of service ,amen"
Joseph Kelly: Simply heart warming!! Congratulations on a "Tie well tied!"
Bob Cavanaugh: I saw Charlie last week and he said he only had a few days left before he retired. What a fitting and positive way to go. Definitely one of JC's finest! Happy retirement Charlie!
Brian K Smith: Very well said and very well noticed. Charlie is a good man with a good heart and that's something that you don't see too much of these days. I applaud him not only for this incident but for being the person that he is, if his heart contained any malice this would not have taken place. All I can say is "To God be the glory"!!!
Rebecca Uhl: Made my day!!! We have the best here!!! Jersey City is amazing
Commander of 120 Precinct discusses community policing initiative at mosque visit
by Andrew V. Simontacchi
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The commanding officer of the NYPD's 120th Precinct in St. George discussed the Police Department's new community outreach program while visiting a prayer service at Masjid Un-Noor mosque in Concord on Friday.
Deputy Inspector Robert Bocchino talked about the NYPD's plan to strengthen officers' relationships with businesses and people around the community.
"We know there's complaints, we know there's issues. Whether it's parking, noise, whatever, even something minor; we now have the time to address these issues, and were really looking forward to having a good partnership," he said. "Everyone working together makes it a nicer place to live."
Each precinct's neighborhood coverage is broken down into sectors, and the plan calls for the same officers to patrol the same sector daily.
Officials are confident that this neighborhood model, which will be rolled out in the next month, will further the relationship between officers and the businesses and residents because they will be working with them on a day-to-day basis.
"Crime is down tremendously in the city, and we're trying to reach out to communities and find out what problems are happening and personally try and address them for you," said Bocchino.
The 120th Precinct will be the first on Staten Island to boost the model, after two successful "trial waves" in several Manhattan precincts, he explained.
"We work closely with the NYPD and other members of the government and it is our goal to keep everyone in this community safe and happy," said Suhail Muzaffar, a board of trustees member of the Muslim Majlis of Staten Island, who heads the mosque in Concord.
Md. department attains ''gold standard'' in policing
The department worked hard to become certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
by Erika Butler
ABERDEEN, Md. — Aberdeen residents can rest a little bit easier, knowing their police department meets a national standard of professional excellence in all areas of policing, its chief says.
The Aberdeen Police Department worked for more than three years to become certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which it received last Friday during a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo.
"They know the department is held accountable, from the crossing guard to the chief. We're held accountable to the public," Chief Henry Trabert said Wednesday. "We feel that we are part of the community, not separate. Being part of the community means making them feel safe, preventing crime, solving crime. It's what we do because we're all part of the same community."
The Aberdeen Police Department became the ninth municipal department to obtain the certification, Trabert said. Only 5 percent of all police departments in the U.S. are accredited with what is called the "gold standard for policing," he said. Maryland State Police attained CALEA accreditation last year.
The accreditation is good for three years and must be renewed.
When Trabert, who has been with Aberdeen Police Department since 1986, took over as interim chief in October 2010 after Chief Randy Rudy retired, he began preparing the department for accreditation.
"It's something I always wanted to do for the department because I wanted to increase our professionalism, have a better working relationship with the community and hold all of us in the department, including myself, accountable for everything we do," said Trabert, whose interim title was removed in November 2011.
When he looked at other departments that had accreditation, "they were squared away," he said.
"They were considered one of better police agencies, from recruitment, to procedures, to how they handled themselves on the job. They were just very professional," Trabert said. "That's what I was striving for. It's a lot to strive for it, and some, for one reason or another, can't get there."
Aberdeen hired an experienced CALEA manager, Shirley Echols, first to help the department achieve accreditation and now that it has it, maintain it. She will stay on as a city employee to maintain CALEA records.
Echols was brought on in 2011 to help the department "evaluate ourselves from top to bottom," Trabert said.
The CALEA standards address six major law enforcement areas: role, responsibilities and relationships with other agencies; organization management and administration; personnel administration; law enforcement operations, operational support and traffic law enforcement; detainee and court-related services; and auxiliary and technical services.
"The bottom line is, everything we do, we had to analyze it, evaluate it, see if it met national standards and if it didn't, we had to change it to get to the standard," Trabert said.
What did they learn during the evaluation?
"We needed a lot of change. We needed to redo a lot of standards. We weren't doing anything wrong, but we found we can do it better," Trabert said. "We run a lot smoother right now. We're very efficient. I've always considered us a professional law enforcement agency, but now we have documentation to show it in what we do, everything we do."
The chief said the officers and other employees look at the department in a different way, too.
"They find we're at a different level and they hold themselves accountable. They want to adhere to these standards. They make changes," he said. "They bought into it."
One of the biggest changes to occur is how the department recruits its officers, trying to better reflect the diversity that makes up Aberdeen.
"We look at the community makeup. We strive to get the department makeup to reflect what the community is," Trabert said.
To do that, the department has begun working with local and state colleges and partnered with the local NAACP and the Hispanic Law Enforcement Association in Baltimore
"We know nationally that's an issue, getting departments to reflect their community. It gives us better working relationship with the community to meet that standard," Trabert said. "Ferguson [Mo.] didn't reflect the community and there was a disconnect. I don't feel like we have a disconnect, and this will only strengthen our relations with the community."
In Colorado Springs, Trabert and his staff appeared for a formal interview with the CALEA commissioners, who had already reviewed an assessors' report.
"They talked about that, the things we're doing, what the evaluation said, and we were approved," he said.
The chief said he took a large group with him to Colorado Springs "because it wasn't me that got accredited, it was the whole department. It was three years of very hard work, long days, not always fun days."
Trabert wanted to take a cross section of the department, "to tell them how I appreciate their help. And a sense of pride. It wasn't the chief's award, it was the department's award. "
"I might be the head of the agency, but we all did this," he said.
Also traveling with Trabert and Echols were his deputy chief, Kirk Bane, Officer Danielle Follosco, Sgt. Shannon Persuhn, Sgt. Albert Severn and Lt. Daniel Gosnell. Aberdeen Mayor Michael E. Bennett and City Manager Douglas R. Miller accompanied them.
Trabert pointed out the police department never would have obtained the certification without the city government's support.
"They wanted this as much as I did. They're proud of their police department, they want the best police department they can have," he said. "They know what happens when you don't have a professional police department. They gave us all the support we needed."
"You don't have to be the biggest department to be the best department," he said. "Like most, we want to be the best. We consider ourselves one of the best and we consider this validation that we are up there."
Rapid Response: Prepare for unrest following murder indictment in Ohio OIS
Too often in the post-Ferguson era we've seen public protests turned into violent clashes with burned buildings and injured persons on both sides of the fray
What Happened: Officer Ray Tensing of the University of Cincinnati Police Department has been indicted on murder charges for the shooting death of a 43-year-old motorist named Samuel DuBose.
By all accounts, the indictment comes as no surprise. Earlier this week, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell forecast the news when revealed that he had seen Tensing's body-camera footage of the fatal shooting and said, “It's not good.” Further, Tensing's own attorney, Stewart Mathews, even said that he thought an indictment was likely “given the political climate” and recent comments made by city officials.
Now that the indictment has been handed down, we must prepare for whatever comes next.
Why it's Significant: In announcing the charges against Tensing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters released video of the July 19 traffic stop. This was also probably inevitable. Deters had been under pressure from DuBose's family, and various news organizations had sued Deters to get it released under Ohio open records law. The video may incite many who already have anti-police feelings, and has the potential to spark civil unrest similar to the mayhem following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
Anticipating the possibility of unrest, the University of Cincinnati had already closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case, according to the Associated Press.
It is important to note that large scale protests related to officer-involved shootings are no longer a local affair. Just as the potential exists for people to gather in the streets of Cincinnati, it would be wise for police and political leaders in communities across the country to consider the prospect of sympathetic crowds gathering in the streets many miles from the “City of Seven Hills.”
Top Takeaways: We know from recent experience in Baltimore that a failure of leadership to swiftly put in place strategies and tactics aimed at preventing rioting can result in widespread and long-lasting damage to the community.
As John Stanley recently wrote, “When failures occur in these situations, they can almost always be traced back to poor leadership and misinformed or timid direction from community leaders.”
We can only hope that officials in Cincinnati have learned from the recently released documents detailing the ineptitude of Baltimore's mayor and other officials, and are lucky enough to avoid having a similar experience. However, because hope is not a strategy and luck is not a tactic, here are some key takeaways to keep in mind in coming days and weeks:
1. In Baltimore, Kaliope Parthemos — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's chief of staff — resisted calls for deployment of the National Guard, writing that such assets are to be used “only when there is a state of emergency.” Wrong. Earlier presence of the Guard very probably would have prevented many of the 60+ buildings from burning to the ground, not to mention the more than 400 other buildings that were damaged during the rioting. By the time the Guard got there, the damage was already done. Remember the adage: You'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Make your calls early.
2. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said in an email that “we needed to give them space” during the vandalism. Don't do this to your community. Law enforcement must use appropriate restraint in the use of force, but to withdraw entirely from the crowds is tantamount to announcing an open invitation for looting and violence. As Dan Marcou wrote, “Peacekeeping is a balance between the tolerance of lawful protest and the ability to recognize and respond effectively to criminality, which threatens the peace.” As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The Tipping Point that “crime is contagious” and it can quickly spread throughout an entire community.
3. The Baltimore documents reveal that the absence of visible leadership from city officials, as well as a lack of tactical equipment needed by officers on scene, contributed to the rapidly-unfolding situation. Deploy your resources strategically, even while openly engaging in a vigorous dialog with your citizens about how they may and may not act. Create a venue for people to have their voices heard, but be clear about the consequences for people who commit acts of violence and vandalism. Do what Seattle police and political leaders did prior to this year's Mad Day protests. They clearly stated that should protesters gathering at Seattle City College begin to engage in acts of anarchy on the streets, agitators would be quickly arrested, and the rest of the crowd forced back onto the campus grounds.
What's Next: With Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters calling the shooting “senseless” and “asinine” and making inflammatory comments like “He purposely killed him” and “He should never have been a police officer,” we can be reasonably sure that the legal proceedings to come will be something of a media circus.
We can also surmise that — as has happened in recent months — mainstream national broadcast media will churn the story, highlighting at every opportunity the fact that Tensing is white and DuBose was black. The effect of this will be to fan the flame of racial tension, anti-cop fervor, and potentially increase the specter of retaliatory attacks on officers such as the murders of Offices Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in New York City.
Remain situationally aware, and stay safe.
Glare of Video Is Shifting Public's View of Police
by RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA and TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
They began as workaday interactions between the police and the public, often involving minor traffic stops in places like Cincinnati; North Charleston, S.C.; and Waller County, Tex. But they swiftly escalated into violent encounters. And all were captured on video.
Those videos, all involving white officers and black civilians, have become ingrained in the nation's consciousness — to many people, as evidence of bad police conduct. And while they represent just a tiny fraction of police behavior — those that show respectful, peaceful interactions do not make the 24-hour cable news — they have begun to alter public views of police use of force and race relations, experts and police officials say.
Videos have provided “corroboration of what African-Americans have been saying for years,” said Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a former prosecutor, who called them “the C-Span of the streets.” On Thursday, the family of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was shot to death by a University of Cincinnati police officer on July 19, said the officer would never have been prosecuted if his actions had not been captured by the body camera the officer was wearing.
To the police, that poses a new challenge in trying to regain public confidence. “Every time I think maybe we're past this and we can start rebuilding, it seems another incident occurs that inflames public outrage,” said James Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Police officers literally have millions of contacts with citizens every day, and in the vast majority of those interactions, there is no claim of wrongdoing, but that's not news.”
Some polling bolsters such concerns. In a Gallup national survey conducted in June, 52 percent of people said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, down from 57 percent two years earlier, and 64 percent in 2004. In 2007, 37 percent of Americans had high confidence that their local police would treat blacks and whites equally, the Pew Research Center found, but last year that was down to 30 percent. l
At the same time, video may be changing the way prosecutors handle cases in which the police are accused of misconduct. Not only can video contradict an officer's account of what happened, it can also create immense public pressure for action against officers.
Such was the case with fatal police shootings in North Charleston and Cincinnati, and with the arrest in Baltimore of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries he sustained while in police custody. In all three cases, prosecutors brought rare murder charges against officers within days — remarkable speed for a process that in the past could take weeks or months. Those swift actions have been applauded by many African-Americans.
But some prosecutors have raised concerns that the public outcry generated by video can also put pressure on prosecutors to file charges. “We don't want to rush to judgment simply because of what the video shows,” said Peter Weir, the district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties in Colorado, who says he believes police body cameras enhance public trust in the system.
In the Cincinnati case, video from a camera worn by a University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, provided crucial evidence, and contradicted the officer's official account, in the July 19 shooting death of Mr. DuBose. A grand jury indicted Mr. Tensing, who was fired by the university police department on Wednesday, on charges of murder and manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Hamilton County Municipal Court, and Judge Megan E. Shanahan set his bail at $1 million.
Mr. Tensing later made bail and was released.
There are no definitive figures, but officials say that most police forces do not use body cameras, or use them on a very limited basis. But according to a 2013 survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, a research group, about one in four of its member forces regularly used body cameras. And the number is rising quickly as the federal government provides grants for cameras, said Lindsay Miller, a senior research associate at the group.
San Diego has equipped hundreds of its police officers with cameras and is expanding that program, and Los Angeles recently decided to put cameras on all of its patrol officers but has not yet done so. New York, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and other cities have trial programs.
Dashboard cameras are far more prevalent — more so among state police and highway patrol forces than among local police forces — but experts say they know of no national tally of those, either.
Yet despite the growing use of police video cameras, evidence is mixed about what effect they are having on police behavior. Experts say that cameras probably change for the better how the police and the public treat each other, but they do not know how much. And the fact that one viral video after another surfaces, showing officers treating civilians harshly, demonstrates the limits of that change.
Recent studies showed that when officers in Rialto, Calif., and in Mesa, Ariz., wore body cameras, complaints against the police fell sharply. But body camera advocates and skeptics alike say they do not know how much that reflects a real decline in police misconduct, and how much was a drop in spurious civilian complaints; it may be that both groups behave better when they are on camera.
“Over all, body cameras and dashboard cams deter police misconduct, but at this point, it's hard to know how much, and there are officers whose behavior is not going to be changed,” Professor Butler said.
The proliferation of video has coincided with a paradox: Public views of the police have grown worse, yet experts say police use of force has probably been lower in the last few years than in generations. (There is, however, no precise accounting of the number of people killed by police officers each year.)
Polls show overwhelming public support for police body cameras — 92 percent in a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted April 30 to May 3. But law enforcement officials warn against unrealistic expectations of a simple transition that will provide a kind of impartial witness to every interaction.
Routine use of cameras raises multiple questions for police departments: how to pay for them, how much discretion to give officers in turning cameras on and off, how long to store recordings, when to make them public, and how to safeguard the privacy of people, like crime victims, who might turn up on video.
“The benefit of being able to hold police accountable in many situations where they are now largely immune is probably worth the cost alone,” said Jonathan Simon, the director of the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. “But even more so when you consider how often the same cameras will provide damning evidence against criminal suspects as well.”
Police commanders and prosecutors generally support camera use, arguing that they provide useful evidence, and will usually show the officers conducting themselves professionally. Views among officers and the unions representing them are more mixed, varying from place to place.
“A negative is that police might say, ‘We just won't put ourselves in bad situations,' that they say, ‘We are not going to jeopardize our lives because if we make a good-faith mistake, it is going to look like a crime, and we're going to get prosecuted for murder,' ” said Francis T. Cullen, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati.
Another drawback, experts say, is that the public may have too much faith in video. It can give an incomplete, even misleading, picture, they say, and it cannot really put the viewer in the shoes of an officer having to make split-second decisions under pressure.
“Body cameras are helpful, but they are not the magic elixir,” said Sim Gill, the district attorney of Salt Lake County, Utah. “What a camera sees is not necessarily what the officer sees. It's not always going to be conclusive.”
NYPD body camera program needs tweaks, community input
by The New York Daily News
Across our city — and across the nation — the use of police body-worn cameras is on the rise. More than any other technology, body-worn cameras have the dual role of helping fight crime while promoting greater transparency and public trust in law enforcement.
The NYPD rolled out its own pilot program last December, equipping 54 officers across several precincts with body-worn cameras. So how is the program going?
On Thursday, the Department of Investigation's Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD released the first comprehensive review of the NYPD's program. Our report is based on extensive investigation and research, including interviews with officers, NYPD leadership, the city's district attorneys, community advocates, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and an examination of the body camera programs of over 20 other police departments across the country.
While the NYPD's current body-worn camera policy reflects a strong start, we identified several issues that need to be remedied before the NYPD expands its program. Our 23 recommendations — which cover camera activation, protecting the anonymity of certain groups, retention periods, and access to video — will help improve police-community relations while also protecting the safety of officers and the public.
Furthermore, any expansion of the NYPD's program must include community input. Consistent with Commissioner Bill Bratton's desire to partner with the public, the NYPD will benefit from incorporating the perspectives of New York City's thoughtful and diverse communities.
As the NYPD expands its body-worn camera program, it has the opportunity to be a nationwide model. Resolving these complicated issues, with community input, is a critical step to getting there.
Mark Peters is commissioner of the city Department of Investigation and Philip Eure is the department's inspector general for the NYPD.
RI Co. NAACP calls for body cameras, better community policing
by Tara Becker
Leaders of the Rock Island County chapter of the NAACP called on local law enforcement Thursday to provide more community policing and form a better relationship with the black community.
Chapter president Berlinda Tyler-Jamison also called for more transparency in the investigation of officer-involved shootings during a nearly hour-long news conference at the House of Fire Ministries in Rock Island.
“We are not anti-law enforcement,” Tyler-Jamison told a small crowd at the church. “We are for good policing.”
Tyler-Jamison's comments come nearly four months after Darrin A. Langford, 32, was shot and killed by Rock Island Police Officer Ryan DeRudder.
About 10:50 p.m. April 2, Rock Island police were called to 12th Street and 10th Avenue for a report of shots fired.
A foot chase ensued with police and Langford, who police say was observed with a handgun. DeRudder confronted Langford in an alley around 12th Street and Glenhurst Court and fired his gun, striking Langford.
A handgun other than DeRudder's also was found at the scene, according to police.
The Rock Island County Integrity Task Force turned over its findings to State's Attorney John McGehee on June 2.
Tyler-Jamison said two main concerns arose from Langford's shooting: mistrust between the minority community and law enforcement and the timeliness of the investigation and a resolution in the case.
“It became very concerning that things seemed to be done in secret,” she said.
McGehee told the Quad-City Times in June that he would review the hundreds of pages of investigative documents once he completed the prosecution in the unrelated murder case of Timothy J. McVay, which concluded July 17.
McGehee said Thursday that he began to review the evidence last week and expects to render a decision next week on whether or not to charge DeRudder in Langford's death.
Rock Island Police Chief Jeff VenHuizen, through a spokeswoman, declined comment Thursday.
Several high-profile cases involving the deaths of black men and women by police nationally and locally have renewed discussions about racial profiling.
This week, a white University of Cincinnati police officer, Raymond Tensing, was charged with murder for fatally shooting Samuel Dubose, an unarmed black man, after a routine traffic stop. The incident was recorded on Tensing's body camera.
Tyler-Jamison called on local law enforcement officers to use body cameras to ensure transparency and expedite investigations into police-involved shootings.
“For the public, it certainly documents the encounters with police officers, she said. “It also promotes public safety, it improves police relations and police behavior.”
In Illinois, a bipartisan measure that would set clear, comprehensive standards for police departments to use body cameras has been sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Rev. Jarrod Parker of the Word Church in East Moline said there seems to be a growing sentiment across the country that those in the the black community are “police haters.” That's not the case, he said.
Rather, there has been a growing movement of dissent with methods of policing that are resulting in deaths that are unwarranted, Parker said.
“There's an element in our community that is hell-bent on destruction,” he said. “We need aggressive policing. On the other side, there is a time where police need to understand that every event or every interaction is not an aggressive interaction.”
Parker called on local police departments to engage in community policing and establish a better relationship with the black community.
The estate of Langford filed a wrongful death lawsuit in June against the city of Rock Island, DeRudder and an unidentified officer in U.S. District Court, Rock Island.
‘Sanctuary cities' are focus of new immigration fight
by Christopher Cadelago
Donald Trump, at his presidential campaign announcement, offered a provocative warning about the dangers lurking at the U.S. Mexico border: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best.”
“They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists,” Trump said, generating boycotts, protests and numerous severed business pacts.
The next month, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot to death walking with her father on Pier 14 in San Francisco. The alleged gunman, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been convicted of seven felonies and was deported from the U.S. five times. Many, including Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star, wondered why Lopez-Sanchez was in the county to begin with. Trump, a Republican, blamed the unsafe border, writing on Twitter, “We need a wall!”
As the case unfolds, the rekindled immigration debate is shifting beyond the theatrics of presidential politics and defying traditional partisan lines. Congressional Republicans are working to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” localities that effectively shelter unauthorized immigrants. And California's Democratic senators have signaled their interest in participating in the debate as pressure from the public intensifies.
Jim Steinle, Kate's father, recently implored federal lawmakers to pass legislation “to take these undocumented immigrant felons off our streets for good.”
“Unfortunately, due to unjointed laws and basic incompetence of the government, the U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets in this country,” Steinle said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Also speaking was Susan Oliver, the widow of Sacramento County sheriff's Deputy Danny Paul Oliver, whose alleged shooter, Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes, was deported several times for various felonies. Republicans have put forward legislation they believe would address concerns that prevent localities from enforcing federal immigration law, including a pair of measures named in honor of Oliver and the late Placer County sheriff's Detective Michael Davis Jr.
A separate bill would require a minimum five-year prison sentence for people who re-enter the U.S. after being deported.
The efforts are sure to meet fierce opposition from a Democratic White House that has repeatedly stood behind sanctuary cities.
In threatening to veto another GOP-backed bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, that seeks to deny certain federal funding to sanctuary cities, the Obama administration said in a statement that it fails to offer needed comprehensive immigration reforms, undermines its efforts to remove dangerous convicted criminals and to collaborate with localities, and threatens Americans' civil rights by authorizing state and local officials to collect information about anyone's immigration status.
Instead, they advocated for policies that focus enforcement on the worst offenders – “national security threats, convicted criminals, gang members and recent border crossers.”
Still, among the measure's supporters is Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who broke with most of his party. Bera said he's gotten to know the Oliver family since the October rampage, adding “we must ensure preventable tragedies like these don't happen in the future. He called the bill “a step in that direction.”
Hunter said in a statement after the vote that it's about accountability.
“I think we can all agree that any state or locality must comply with the law – and they are required to coordinate and cooperate with the federal government,” he said. “If an arrest is made, the federal government should be notified. The fact that San Francisco, L.A. and other cities disagree with the politics of federal enforcement doesn't mean they should receive a pass to subvert the law.”
In California, state Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula, plans to introduce a bill requiring localities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, particularly in cases where the person in custody is there on a drug-related offense. The measure, a long shot in the Democratic-dominated Legislature, would mandate that those in the country illegally be held for 48 hours so U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could consider deportation or prosecution.
More than 200 jurisdictions nationwide do not fully enforce federal immigration policies. Some discourage or bar workers from asking about immigration status. Others like Sacramento, considered a de facto sanctuary county, do not honor federal immigration detainers for fear of the legal repercussions.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones pointed to a federal court ruling out of Oregon that said local officials do not have to comply with ICE hold requests and that they could be liable for wrongful detentions.
While only applicable in that jurisdiction, Jones said pleas by him and other sheriffs for the federal government to challenge the decision were rejected.
“Although advocates would have you believe that these ... jurisdictions are recognizing the value of their community and decided not to cooperate with ICE – or other such rationales – the truth is far more simplistic,” Jones said in an email. “We don't want to be sued because the feds won't back us up. That's why there is a growing number of jurisdictions refusing to honor ICE detainers, plain and simple.”
He wants to make detainers mandatory on local jails, bar sanctuary cities from enacting laws that run counter to the federal government's, and have ICE share its resources with local law enforcement agencies.
Critics of sanctuary cities believe their growth is eroding public trust in government. In congressional testimony, Jessica M. Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies pointed to what she sees as the consequences. Vaughan said over eight months last year, more than 8,100 unauthorized immigrants who were the subject of detainers were instead released as a result of locals not cooperating with ICE.
Nearly 1,900 went on to commit another crime, she said, and less than 30 percent were reapprehended by ICE.
Despite the renewed legislative push, the group's executive director, Mark Krikorian, said he's concerned that congressional Republicans may compromise on a solution that provides little relief to families like the Steinles and Olivers. Rather than settling for “the lowest common denominator that Obama might sign,” Krikorian wants the GOP to advance “something that would actually have an effect – and dare Obama to veto it.”
Democrats, meantime, have largely sought to protect sanctuary cities. Many side with their local government and law enforcement leaders who believe they shouldn't have to dedicate their time and resources to enforce federal immigration laws. They contend that under their rules, unauthorized immigrants are more comfortable approaching police officers to report crimes and comply with investigations.
Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, joined in deriding Hunter's measure as “The Donald Trump Act.” And big-city mayors, from Bill de Blasio of New York City to Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, warned in a letter to congressional leaders that their efforts would compromise public safety.
Also endorsing the letter was Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown. “Politicizing the death of Kathryn Steinle by threatening to withhold federal public safety funding puts everyone in targeted communities at greater overall risk,” he told The Bee.
Immigrant-rights advocates worry the dynamics could shift with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California expected to unveil her own legislation. In a letter Monday, they urged Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer not to subvert policies tailored by local law enforcement in a state with the most immigrants.
“It would send a very concerning and disturbing message to immigrants in this state,” said Angie Junck, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
Boxer has said while sanctuary cities promote trust between residents and law enforcement, she remains open to “exploring ways” to address the issue. In an opinion piece, Boxer also noted that a California law limiting deportations does not ensure that serious or violent felons are detained, “and that is what I hope will be addressed by the state.”
At the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein said her planned measure would require local and state law enforcement governments to notify ICE about the imminent release from a detention center of an unauthorized immigrant who had been convicted of a felony, if federal officials requested such notification.
Turning to the Steinle case, Feinstein said she strongly believes that local law enforcement should have notified immigration authorities about the slaying suspect.
Said Feinstein: “It seems to me that a simple notification to ICE could have prevented Kate Steinle's death.”
Is Community Policing Effective? Here's What It Would Take For The Strategy To Solve Police Brutality
by Madhuri Sathish
On Tuesday night, some Bernie Sanders supporters got on a nationwide conference call to discuss the state of emergency that is structural racism in this country. Among the topics discussed was the nature of policing in the context of both local police departments and immigration, and community policing was presented as a possible solution to police brutality. But is it really a viable solution? There's a lot that would need to happen between a community and the police force before it could be successful.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, community policing “is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.” In practice, this might manifest in a couple of different ways. Community policing could entail the creation of community police review boards, or it could involve a process by which police officers become more effectively integrated into their communities to ultimately build a sense of trust between them and community members. The latter might look something like this: A police officer who lives in the community or county in which they are working, knows and understands the problems facing that community, attends community events, and gets to know community members.
Programs like neighborhood watch try to implement community policing in local communities to keep police departments and community members accountable to one another while encouraging them to work together to solve problems. But as the case of Trayvon Martin revealed, neighborhood watch is not infallible. Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator who followed Martin because he looked “suspicious.” At that time, a police department official who had worked with Zimmerman to establish a neighborhood watch program in his community said it was the job of law enforcement, and not civilians involved with neighborhood watch, to pursue “suspicious” individuals. So in the end, neighborhood watch does not eliminate the discriminatory treatment of marginalized communities that is perpetuated by policing institutions.
Neighborhood watch does get part of the way toward achieving the ultimate goals of community policing. But for community policing to actually work, structural problems have to be confronted and tackled head-on. For example, if racist police brutality is a significant issue in a specific community — as it is throughout the country — effective community policing would require sincere, open-minded, and frank discussions between law enforcement officials and community members about deeply ingrained institutional racism and other types of institutional violence.
Jerry Wilson, a pioneer of community policing, told Time during the civil rights movement that the “use of violence is not the job of police officers.” He's right, obviously — policing should focus on deescalation over the use of brute force — so why is it so hard to see that in practice?
After Michael Brown was killed by a white policeman in Ferguson, protests erupted in the community and around the country, and law enforcement officials weren't always sure how to respond. Despite Ferguson's predominantly black demographic, its police forces were more than 90 percent white. In short, the people of Ferguson — and in other parts of the country where police brutality has accelerated into the national spotlight — do not see themselves reflected in the police forces that claim to serve and protect them. Additionally, the officers in question do not often have enough of a stake in the communities in which they work to serve them in the best possible way.
For community policing to work, it needs to address the structural issues faced by the community, and as long as law enforcement remains a powerful institution, police officers need to be held more accountable by serving their own communities and developing a sense of respect for the lived experiences of the individuals with whom they must interact.
Community police effort moving on campus
by Dan Nienaber
MANKATO — Stephanie Wilkins will be one of many new faces walking the Minnesota State University campus this fall, but her clothing will help her stand out from the crowd.
She won't be wearing wrinkled pajamas, a toga or one of those skin-tight, bright-colored body socks that have grabbed the attention of fans at Maverick sporting events. She'll be dressed in crisp blue, in an official Mankato Department of Public Safety police uniform with a badge, name tag and sidearm.
Wilkins said she wants to stand out so students and faculty get to know her quickly. The campus is her new beat and she wants to get to know as many people as possible because that will help her define her department's newest community policing position.
“When this position came about, I was very excited about it,” Wilkins said. “I'm from Mankato and I graduated from MSU, and I think I relate well to college students.”
Wilkins is an experienced officer who joined the police force in 2012. She graduated from Mankato East in 2005, MSU in 2012 and worked a couple of years at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter before being hired by the Mankato Police Department.
Her connections in Mankato and past duty experience made her a good fit for the new position, said Todd Miller, director of Public Safety.
“The new role has not been defined,” Miller said. “So we hired someone with the ability to problem solve and create. She will be asked to identify the needs of the campus community.”
Wilkins has been working the new beat for about a week already, patrolling on campus and walking through buildings to introduce herself to faculty and other staff. Once classes start in late August, she will be giving public safety presentations in classes, participating in student activities at apartment complexes near campus, working athletic and entertainment events, and spending a lot of time on and around campus during the first few weekends of the semester.
She will be working closely with MSU security staff and two police officers already working in the campus area, existing neighborhood officer Sean McClinton and Cmdr. Matt DuRose.
In many ways the position will be similar to the police liaison officer position funded by Mankato Area Public Schools at a cost to the district of about $95,000 per school year. The MSU position is fully funded by the city, but Miller said one goal is for the university to see the value of having a licensed police officer on campus. Ideally, Miller wants the university to pay for two more police positions.
Three officers have been hired to work on the St. Cloud State University campus at a cost of about $280,000 per year to the university, Miller said. With one position already funded by the city, MSU could budget less than $200,000 to cover the cost of additional officers.
City and police officials plan to meet regularly with campus leaders to assess the job Wilkins is doing.
David Jones, MSU vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, said the university is happy to have a licensed police officer dedicated to the campus. The Police Department has a response plan in place for emergencies on campus that has worked well, but having Wilkins available will help.
“It will be nice to know we have someone who is familiar with the campus,” Jones said. “We like the spirit and thought behind having a neighborhood police officer, someone we can approach with questions.”
However, convincing the university to fund one or two new positions will require a persuasive pitch from city and Police Department staff, Jones said. St. Cloud was dealing with issues on campus that required more of a police presence. Those issues don't exist at MSU, he said.
Although the university doesn't pay property tax to help cover city costs, students living in the apartment complexes surrounding campus and faculty and staff who live in the community are paying those taxes. So, in a way, funding is already being provided to the city for police services, Jones said.
“We know as a state university and college we want to be careful with our money,” he said. “We will look at where benefits are coming through, but we don't want to be in a position where students are paying twice for something. We will be looking at it in July and entertain those conversations then.”
32nd Annual National Night Out is Tuesday; Neighborhoods, Police To Join Forces Across the USA
On Tuesday, August 4 th , citizens, law enforcement agencies, community groups, businesses and local officials in over 16,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide will join forces to mark the 32nd Annual National Night Out (NNO) – a community safety event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW). Nationally, over 37 million people are expected to participate in 'America's Night Out Against Crime' this year. National Night Out corporate sponsors are ADT, Nextdoor.com, Associa and Funflicks.
"Communities are making a united stand for safer neighborhoods," said Matt Peskin, creator of the event. "It's a powerful night which provides tremendous benefits for the entire community throughout the year." Minneapolis alone has over 1,500 registered events for NNO '15.
Along with the traditional "lights on" and front porch vigils, there will be thousands of crime prevention block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, ice cream socials, neighborhood visits by local police, flashlight walks and neighborhood meetings.
National Night Out is designed to:
Heighten crime prevention awareness;
Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships;
Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Peskin added, "Because of events like NNO, police-community partnerships are growing stronger and more people are getting involved in local prevention programs."
For more information, visit nationalnightout.org.
Baltimore's mayor, interim police commissioner kick off series of public safety forums
by Catherine Hawley
BALTIMORE - July is now the second month this year to hit more than 40 killings, a record no one should be proud of. The sad milestone comes as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the city police department's top cop kick off a series of community meetings.
The sight of flashing lights and crime scene tape should not be normal in Baltimore. But sadly, for many people who live in the city, it is.
"I'm tired of balloons wrapped around poles, and teddy bears and funerals,” said Wayne Baker. “I'm tired of losing lives, we really are."
It's a frustration Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she feels too. It's the reason she was in East Baltimore Wednesday night with the Police Department's top cop. They kicked off the first of at least nine public safety forums being held across the city. The goal is to hear from people about how they can work together to make the streets safer.
"Listening is one thing, following up and execution is another, and that's what people are looking for, follow up and execution and I promise that you will see that from the Baltimore City Police Department," said Baltimore City Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
But not everyone in the packed room is confident all this talking will do anything to stop violence and bloodshed. People say there are desperate needs on the streets, especially when it comes to the children.
"We need mental health facilities in these communities, these kids witness things on a daily basis that people witness in Iraq," said one man.
"There are at least 75% of the kids in need who have nowhere to go and then they end up on my block gambling,” another woman said. “And I'm afraid they're gonna end up in a wheel chair, a body bag or jail."
Last year the Mayor and Police Commissioner held a series of 10 public safety forums that more than 2,000 people attended. Rawlings-Blake says the feedback folks gave at those meetings helped shape police decisions like posting lawsuits against officers online, and reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.
Dempsey warns world risks becoming immune to crises
by Fox News
The world risks becoming immune to the suffering caused by escalating global security threats, the top U.S. military official warned Tuesday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be a “historical shame” if the world doesn't realize it's reaching a point where it becomes desensitized to the abundance of problems caused by international crises.
"The world is at genuine risk of becoming immune to suffering, and if that happens I don't know where it stops," Dempsey told several dozen ambassadors and military attaches at an event sponsored by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Dempsey urged world leaders to “shake ourselves back into the reality that we can do something about it.”
"In my 41 years of military service, I've never witnessed such significant shifts in the international security environment as we are seeing all around us today," he said. "The complex array of threats and, let's call it geopolitical jockeying, requires all of us to contend with an unpredictable landscape."
Dempsey is stepping down and retiring on Oct. 1 after four years as the top military adviser to President Barack Obama. He said today's security challenges cut across geography, diplomacy, economics and ideology with no clear-cut boundaries, making them difficult to contain. He also said the U.N.'s peacekeeping operations must keep pace.
"Peacekeeping operations are under greater strain than ever before," Dempsey said. "Simply stated, a disproportionate responsibility is being borne by some few to ensure the stability and security of so many. This imbalance is unsustainable."
Dempsey called for greater political and diplomatic backing from the 193 U.N. member states to ensuire the viability of U.N. peacekeeping, which currently involves more than 120,000 peacekeepers deployed in 16 far-flung operations.
The United Nations does not have a standing army, but Dempsey urged the creation of rapid reaction forces and called for more highly skilled military and international police personnel. He also urged governments to provide more sophisticated equipment "or else risk failure of ongoing — and future — U.N. peacekeeping missions."
Dempsey said Obama will be co-hosting a summit on peacekeeping with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and several other world leaders on the sidelines of the annual ministerial meeting of the General Assembly in late September to "solidify the commitments needed to ensure an increasingly capable and reliable U.N. peacekeeping mission."
Members of Congress put the onus on gun dealers to enforce safety laws
by Sabrina Siddiqui
Faced with little appetite in the US Congress to strengthen federal gun laws, a group of senators on Tuesday called on firearm dealers to help reduce the scourge of gun violence in America by performing more robust background checks, even when it's not required by the law.
Their mantra: “No background check, no gun.”
Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with 11 of their Democratic colleagues, sent a letter urging three large firearms dealers – Cabela's, EZ Pawn and Bass Pro Shops – to stop allowing for “default sales” and refuse to sell guns without a completed background check. Current federal law includes a loophole that allows gun dealers to complete a sale without any background check, if the check takes longer than 72 hours.
Blumenthal and Murphy also made their case at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, where they were joined by New York senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, and relatives who lost loved ones to gun violence. The senators cited the national retailer Walmart as an example of a company that took steps to toughen its requirements for gun transactions.
“For the gun dealers of America, why not do the right thing? Insist that there be a background check before you sell the gun,” Blumenthal said, while also encouraging a ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchases, steps to address mental health, and the enhancement of school safety.
Murphy said there was “absolutely no justification” for retailers not to follow Walmart's lead, arguing that it caused “no inconvenience to the retailer” to perform safer background checks to ensure that criminals or mentally ill people do not walk out of their stores with a gun.
“The temporary inconvenience to a smidgen of gun purchases is certainly worth the lives that we know we could have saved or can save in the future if retailers make this change,” Murphy said.
For Blumenthal and Murphy, the push on firearm dealers is the latest in a two-year effort to confront gun violence – which personally impacted their constituents in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Both senators acknowledged it had been a tough road ever since. The US Senate failed to pass universal background checks in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six educators.
“We were there to see the cries and faces that expressed that grief. We know that we will never be the same because of that experience,” Blumenthal said. “We should take heart that this struggle, this battle, is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Despite a series of high-profile mass shootings since Newtown, Congress hasn't budged on any proposals to improve America's gun laws.
Murphy said the lack of even a debate on the issue was “an abomination” while acknowledging that the National Rifle Association had for decades built “one of the most politically powerful forces in the country” and, at least for now, maintained the upper-hand.
Although Murphy said he and Blumenthal would continue to press upon “the consciousness of our colleagues”, Republicans who control both chambers of Congress have shown little indication they will revisit a debate over guns.
West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to expand background checks after Newtown, said the votes for his legislation simply weren't there.
“That bill's not going to come up unless Republicans vote for it,” he told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Manchin said he still believed that his proposal, which he co-authored with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, was “pure, common gun sense”.
“It's not gun control,” Manchin said. “I don't think there's a law-abiding gun owner that doesn't believe that someone who has been mentally adjudicated or been criminally adjudicated shouldn't be able to get a gun. I really believe that. And that's all we're trying to do.”
An overwhelming majority of Americans support the universal background checks bill, which fell victim to a Republican-led filibuster two years ago. Arizona senator John McCain, one of just four Republicans who voted for the Manchin-Toomey bill after the Newtown shooting, said he didn't expect to see the background checks bill – or anything else pertaining to guns, for that matter – resurface.
“Frankly, with all the things that are going on right now, I don't see anything real soon on this issue,” McCain told the Guardian in the Senate hallway.
McCain added, nonetheless, that he still supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal.
“There's no reason not to,” he said.
Murphy implored lawmakers to do the same, or at the very least to start talking about ways to better protect Americans.
“There is a deafening silence coming from Congress,” he said. “Our silence is becoming complicity in these murders.”
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at the White House Community Policing Forum
Thank you, Ron [Davis], for those kind words and for your outstanding leadership of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Ron's leadership in this field is truly exceptional. His recognition of the importance of peer to peer connections and information sharing and the value of the knowledge that resides in the field, is a key reason for the success of our COPS program. It's a pleasure join so many law enforcement officers, youth representatives, faith leaders and community officials. And it's a privilege to be a part of such a rich and rewarding day of conversation and collaboration. I hope today's forum has given you some new ideas to take back to your communities, as well as some fresh approaches you can bring to our shared mission of promoting public safety, safeguarding national security and defending the rights of everyone who calls this nation home.
That has been the essential mission of this task force since it was established by President Obama just a few months ago – to recognize long-simmering tensions; to examine the challenges we face; and to find new and innovative solutions to some of the most pressing – and most persistent – issues confronting our nation today. This forum is just one of many events that will ensure that those solutions and recommendations make their way into the field, where they can make the positive and lasting difference we all want to see for generations to come.
I am pleased to say that the Department of Justice has been dedicated to the task force's work since its inception and going forward, we intend to do our part to see that its promise is realized. Our Civil Rights Division is working with police departments around the country to ensure constitutional policing – in part by combating discrimination, ending excessive use of force and promoting accountability systems – in order to help rebuild community trust where it has eroded. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance, under the Office of Justice Programs, is administering a $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program to equip law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to protect themselves and their communities. Under Ron's outstanding leadership, our COPS Office is issuing $163 million in grant solicitations to support state, local and tribal law enforcement in implementing the report's recommendations and is looking to the field – to partners like you – to seed additional innovation through its field-initiated project grant. And last September, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which is investing in training; advancing evidence-based strategies; spurring policy development; and supporting research that promotes credibility, enhances procedural justice, reduces implicit bias and drives racial reconciliation. Looking forward, securing the resources necessary to continue investing in our communities and in these programs, is critical. That's why the President has been clear about his commitment to stand up to those who are determined to cut investments in our communities at any cost – cuts to preschool, cuts to job training programs, cuts to affordable housing, cuts to community policing – shortsighted cuts to investments that make this country strong.
I want you to know that our commitment to implementing the task force's recommendations is felt strongly at every level of the department – including in the Office of the Attorney General. I understand on a fundamental level how important it is to form strong relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. After all, when officers and residents share reliable and resilient bonds, residents are more likely to help with investigations; victims and witnesses of crime are more likely to come forward; and law enforcement officers are better able to assist our neighbors and constituents when they are in trouble – or simply in need of a helping hand. Above all, we must ensure that our citizens feel safe in their communities. And I am committed to working with all of you – on a local level – where cities are already responding to the recommendations you have put in place. Throughout the task force process we have looked to you – local law enforcement, community, youth and faith leaders – for insights and recommendations, because you know the contours of the problems we all face. You live them every day. And your insights have been invaluable as we all work to fashion solutions.
That is why two months ago, I began a six-city tour to highlight some of the most promising work that citizens and law enforcement are doing together to build new foundations of trust, respect and mutual understanding. In Cincinnati, Ohio, I spoke with civic and public safety leaders from all backgrounds who described the way their collaboration has transformed the city into a more welcoming and inclusive place. Cincinnati is now facing another challenge with a life lost and our hope is that the relationships that have been built will produce an informed citizenry, a responsive police force and an open and transparent process towards justice. In Birmingham, Alabama, I heard from community members who praised their police leadership and from young people whose new friendships with officers had fundamentally and positively changed their perceptions of those who wear the badge. And just two days ago, I was in East Haven, Connecticut, where the police department has experienced a profound cultural shift in just the last four years, leading to progress that an independent monitor overseeing East Haven's reforms described as “truly remarkable.”
In the coming weeks, I will continue my tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; and Richmond, California. I look forward to seeing the innovation and collaboration that all of these cities have spearheaded. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities of sharing their efforts, their lessons and their insights with all of you. And I am excited about discussing how we can apply those insights in communities from coast to coast that are struggling with similar issues. Translating good ideas and effective solutions from one jurisdiction to another is what this gathering is all about and it is how the President's Task Force will be able to have the nationwide impact President Obama intended.
Of course, there is much work left for us to do and I have no illusions that it will be simple or straightforward. We face challenges whose causes are deeply rooted and our commitment to addressing them must be equally deep. But thanks to leaders like you – the women and men in this room and your colleagues and counterparts across the country – I also have no doubt about what we can accomplish. I am excited about the progress we will make. And I am confident that this gathering will provide a shining example of what we can achieve when dedicated public servants, passionate community members and devoted law enforcement officers come together to create the stronger, safer, more united communities that all Americans deserve.
Thank you, once again, for your service to this country, your leadership within your communities and your surpassing devotion to the cause of justice. I urge you to keep up the outstanding work.
NSA will destroy millions of American calling records 'as soon as possible'
On Monday, the Obama administration said in a statement phone records would no longer be examined in terrorism investigations after 29 November
by The Associated Press
The Obama administration has decided that the National Security Agency will soon stop examining – and will ultimately destroy – millions of American calling records it collected under a controversial program revealed by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
When Congress passed a law in June ending the NSA's bulk collection of American calling records after a six-month transition, officials said they were not sure whether they would continue to make use of the records that had already been collected, which generally go back five years.
Typically, intelligence agencies are extremely reluctant to part with data they consider lawfully obtained. The program began shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, but most of the records are purged every five years.
The NSA's collection of American phone metadata has been deeply controversial ever since Snowden disclosed it to the Guardian in 2013. President Barack Obama sought, and Congress passed, a law ending the collection and instead allowing the NSA to request the records from phone companies as needed in terrorism investigations.
That still left the question of what to do about the records already in the database. On Monday, the director of national intelligence said in a statement those records would no longer be examined in terrorism investigations after 29 November, and would be destroyed as soon as possible.
The records cannot be purged at the moment because the NSA is being sued over them, the statement said.
The NSA queried the database around 300 times a year against phone numbers suspected of being linked to terrorism. But the program was not considered instrumental in detecting terror plots.
It later emerged that some officials inside the NSA wanted to unilaterally stop collecting the records, both because they were concerned about the civil liberties information and because they did not believe the program was effective. Many mobile phone records, for example, were not collected.
Still, in the event of an attack, the records currently being stored would allow the NSA and the FBI to quickly map connections going back several years. Without the database, that task will be somewhat harder because the records will have to be obtained. And the top terrorism fear among American officials at the moment is an attack by a disgruntled American who has been radicalized by an Islamic State operative abroad.
“There's a potential reduction in capability that they are accepting under pressure,” said Steven Aftergood, who writes about intelligence and secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists.
“Whatever intelligence and analytical value might reside in this data will be eliminated. It's a political choice that they are making, and it shows that at the end of the day they are a law-abiding organization. They are not putting their intelligence interests above external control.”
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts lied about meeting with Freddie Gray's family: report
by Jason Silverstein
As racial tensions in Baltimore exploded earlier this year following the death of Freddie Gray, former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts allegedly lied about meeting with Gray's family, according to a letter from their attorney.
That accusation could add another disgrace to the career of the man who was fired earlier this month following the city's violent riots and rising homicide rate.
As protests escalated following the death of the 25-year-old Gray, who died a week after suffering a spinal cord injury in police custody in April, Batts told media he had met with Gray's grieving family.
But on April 24, just days before the most destructive night of rioting, the family's lawyer called out Batts' claim, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“It has come to our attention that you made statements claiming to have met with the family of Freddie Gray, Jr. about the investigation into his death,” the attorney, William H. Murphy, Jr., wrote in a letter to Batts.
“These statements are not true. Stated succinctly, you have not met with Mr. Gray's family. Please cease and desist making such statements.”
Murphy noted in his letter that he would have helped arranged any such meeting.
Murphy copied Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the letter. Rawlings-Blake eventually chose to can Batts, saying he failed to make the city safer after the riots and “the people of Baltimore deserve better.”
His ouster came around the same time a city police union criticized the handling of the riots,
The riots resulting from Gray's death led to about 200 officers getting injured and cost the city millions in damages from looting and fires. Police commissioners later revealed Batts and other top cops instructed officers at the riots to "not engage" demonstrators, even after violence broke out.
Six Baltimore officers now face charges for Gray's death, which came after an alleged "rough ride" in a police van shattered most of his spinal cord.
46th Precinct launches community policing program
THE BRONX - The NYPD's 46th Precinct in the Bronx is looking to sports as a way of getting kids off the streets and away from violence this summer.
The "Cohesion Thru Sports" program is intended to be a new form of community policing. The 46th Precinct is the first to enact such a program.
The program's goal is to teach leadership, discipline and enhance police relations with kids ages 8-15. It also aims to end youth violence plaguing some communities, says NYPD Capt. Keith Walton, who adopted the initiative.
"We realized some of our youth are being victimized and some of our youth are being led or misled in the right direction," Walton says.
"Cohesion Thru Sports" is now in the hands of three veteran officers - Fiol, Maria and Rivers. The trio was taken off duty so they could focus on the program.
3 takeaways from community-police relations forum in Muskegon Heights
by Ben Solis
MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI -- Muskegon Heights residents and Muskegon Heights Police made strides toward better relations on Monday with a Michigan State Police-hosted public safety forum.
The discussion brought 60 resident stakeholders and police together to share feedback on public safety issues. Stakeholders included political, community and religious leaders in Muskegon Heights.
Muskegon Heights Police Chief Lynne Gill and Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of Michigan State Police, co-led the discussion at the Christ Temple Apostolic Church.
The forum was organized by the Governor's Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives. One of Gov. Rick Snyder's top priorities is securing urban cities so they can flourish economically, Etue said.
Muskegon Heights is on the state's list of priority "secure cities." Other forums were held this year in Flint, Saginaw and Inkster.
Residents were asked to have small, round-table dialogues with a focus on candid conversation. Media outlets were asked not to participate in this portion, but were invited to the opening presentation.
Here are three takeaways from the opening portion:
1. Renewed trust and communication will make the difference
Gill said tearing down the walls between police and residents is the first step in ridding Muskegon Heights of violent crime.
"There's been a lot of speculation about why and how it is that this wall got between us," he said. "It's there because we stopped communicating. (Residents) will see us drive by in our cars, but we don't interact."
Rebuilding that relationship is his foremost concern, even when looking at the gravity of that task. The issue of mistrust isn't endemic to Muskegon Heights, Gill said, but it is one that every urban community must surmount.
"If you look back to the '20s, police in urban communities were often members of (hate groups), so you had mistrust there," Gill said. "The mistrust moved on from that point, but now we see it warping back into something really bad."
Muskegon Heights' police chief hopes that the mindset will be different now for residents who see the anguish that even just one violent crime can bring to their neighborhoods.
"At this point residents are tired of just surviving," Gill said. "I think that's what it's going to take -- for the citizens to be tired of the violence and say 'enough is enough. Let's get together and make a difference.'"
2. Candid -- and honest -- feedback from residents is a must for better policing
Gill believes that the more residents know an officer or trooper on a personal level, the more apt they'll be to helping.
Etue agreed, and cited open feedback as one of the forum's top priorities.
"I want to see what people have a problem with in law enforcement, and I don't want to be shy about it either," Etue said. "I want you to tell us what we're doing wrong and especially what we're doing right."
The positive aspects of police work, Etue said, can only be fortified if they can identify them sooner.
"We don't want to stop doing something that works because we don't get that kind of feedback," she said.
Many of the participants at Monday's meeting were considered community elders. The wisdom shared in the room goes a long way, but lasting change in relations hinges on a strong youth voice, Etue adds.
"We've got to have the trust of young people in Muskegon Heights because that's the next generation of this community," she said. "We need to know what it is we can do to build that trust again, and what they want out of law enforcement. These kids are not shy, but they won't tell if you don't ask, and some can be brutally honest."
3. Reinvigorated youth and spiritual leadership can curb the violence
Other state police forums have included many young people, many who are the most vocal about police interactions in their communities.
Gill also holds youth leadership in the highest regard when used as a deterrent against violence.
"That aspect is lacking in the youth of our society today," Gill said. "We need to get young people to participate (in these discussions if it's going to work)."
Gill implored community leaders to not give up hope on the work of youth leadership programs. They will make a difference, he said.
It all goes back to dialogue, and knowing what it was and at what point there was a split between youth and police. It also requires communities to not lose hope.
Etue said the state's CAUTION program is one of the mechanisms police can use to raise spirits in times of great strife. CAUTION works with clergy members as local partners in investigations and crowd control.
The program asks pastors to arrive on the scenes of violent crimes as a way to help residents keep the faith.
"It calms things down when they see their pastor on the scene," she said. "This is something we are implementing here in this community, as well. It's important that everyone is on board to make this a true team effort."
Possible links between dead man, missing Ohio women investigated
Officials are investigating due to similarities between women and their deaths
by Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI — West Virginia police said Sunday they are sharing information with authorities investigating suspicious deaths and missing women in southern Ohio.
The chief of detectives in Charleston told The Associated Press that no direct link has been established between an Oregon man killed by a woman he attacked there this month and the cases in Chillicothe, Ohio. But Lt. Steve Cooper said the possibility is being looked into because women were the victims in both places and because of proximity — less than a two-hour drive from Charleston.
"Geographically, the cities are fairly close," Cooper said, adding: "He has not been connected to the Chillicothe cases."
Cooper had said earlier that police are also investigating whether 45-year-old Neal Falls has links to several unsolved murders in Las Vegas.
Four women have died in Chillicothe under suspicious circumstances and two others remain missing. Messages were left Sunday for Chillicothe investigators.
Cooper said Friday that Falls likely attacked others before he beat and choked a woman he had met online. The victim grabbed his handgun and shot him once July 18, police said.
Investigators said they later found axes, a shovel, handcuffs, cleaning supplies and other items in Falls' vehicle.
Authorities said Falls, of Springfield, Oregon, rented a room in Henderson, Nevada, from 2000 until 2008. During that time, four prostitutes went missing. The dismembered bodies of three were found along highways.
The southern Ohio deaths and disappearances spurred the creation of a task force including Chillicothe police and the Ross County sheriff's office, the FBI, state investigators and other local law enforcement. Authorities said the women were had drug problems and some became prostitutes to feed their habit.
Kan. cops, community have open dialogue
Police chief expects that when officers interact with the public, they show each individual respect and dignity
by Kelton Brooks
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Natasha Russell has a simple question for police.
"When did we lose our focus on protect and serve?" Russell asked.
Law enforcement across the nation have been heavily scrutinized by communities in the wake of police shooting deaths in Baltimore, Charleston, South Carolina, and Ferguson, Missouri.
In multiple encounters with the public, some officers have been arrested and indicted on murder charges for shooting and killing citizens behind accusations of discrimination, resigned after excessive use force and terminated after dashboard, body or camera phone video showed the officer using racial slurs.
The tension, as well as the understanding of police actions, have trickled down to Hutchinson, as community members voice their opinions on the relationship between the Hutchinson Police Department, Reno County Sheriff's Office and the community.
As Russell leaned back in her chair and contemplated that relationship, she described law enforcement in Hutchinson and nationwide as an entity of its own, instead of a piece that fits into a puzzled community looking for answers.
"Law enforcement is seen as an exterior occupying force," she explained. "It can accurately be said we have a police state in effect. In general, there is a perception of police as an occupying force as opposed to protect and serve."
Both Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson and Chief of Police Dick Heitschmidt insist that their officers maintain a presence in the community by visiting schools and the Boys and Girls Club. The two of them attend monthly meetings with the NAACP and Hispanic groups.
Henderson described the relationship as good, and Heitschmidt explained that when officers interact with the public, they need to show each individual respect and dignity.
"I think there is always going to be segments of the community that don't believe that, but I think it's important that we recognize that," said Heitschmidt. "In this day and age, we make some gestures to the minority community to help them see or believe that we are trying to do a good job regardless of race, ethnicity or sex. But still, somebody is going to walk away with their encounter with law enforcement unhappy and, unfortunately, that's part of the game."
Heitschmidt and Henderson mentioned the use of body cameras and how dashboard videos record interaction between an officer and a civilian. Henderson recalled a time when a citizen made a complaint about an officer during a traffic stop.
The man explained how the officer yelled and used profane language towards his daughter.
Henderson said the father was allowed to come and view the video for himself, however, and discovered the altercation was the other way around.
"Body cameras and car cameras are beneficial, and nine times out 10, those cameras will be in the officer's favor," Henderson said.
If a citizen has a complaint, they can fill out a form at the law enforcement center and City Hall. Citizens can also pick up and fill out a complaint form at the local NAACP office, where the organization's president, Darrell Pope, said he understands that some people are hesitant to make written complaints about an officer at the police station.
Pope said the relationship between the community and law enforcement is "adversarial nationwide, but cordial in Hutchinson." He spoke of meetings, where he's able to sit down and hash out issues with each department.
"When there are public events, law enforcement needs to be available and out there mingling with people, talking to them, and letting them know that protect and serve applies to everybody," Pope said.
Drew Moody, a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College who was walking with friends after class, explained how he doesn't feel he is offered the same protection from police as others.
"I feel like police don't protect black people," Moody said. "I feel like they try to lock us up. I don't see any positive in them. They think we have drug-related things going on when we're walking together or we're in a gang. We just play football and go to school."
Pope, along with Hutchinson Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho, suggested the possibility of community policing to tighten the relationship between patrons and law enforcement. While Piros de Carvalho believes the relationship is positive, she also believes there is room for improvement.
"Our local police force is a dedicated group that does a difficult, often thankless job," she said. "In my view, relations between the community and law enforcement are good, but I believe they could be strengthened through the adoption of a community policing model. Officers would find their jobs safer and easier to do if the public had less fear of the police."
However, Piros de Carvalho added community policing takes resources for which taxpayers might not be willing to invest.
Hutchinson Police Capt. Troy Hoover expressed his desire to reinitiate the Citizen's Police Academy, which he believes will allow the community to get a much closer look at the department and provide a better understanding of their mission and operation.
The San Diego, California, Police Department and Taylor, Michigan, force explain how they use a Neighborhood Watch program consisting of community coordinators, watch coordinators and block captains as a liaison and a crime prevention education program designed to educate residents and businesses on how to best protect themselves, their families and their homes.
Hutchinson resident Dawn Courson acknowledges that it takes a certain person to work in law enforcement and is well aware of how officers can easily burn themselves out from working numerous calls.
But they have to find ways to de-escalate situations instead of inciting them, be proactive instead of reactive, and treat people with respect, she said.
"I don't hate police," Courson said. "I know they have a hard job, but you're dealing with people's lives. You have to know you're using the right amount of force."
Ind. cops ride to remember fallen
For 13 grueling days, Indiana law enforcement officers ride the perimeter of the state, just under 1,000 miles
by Ellie Bogue
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Lt. Gary Dudley of the Indiana State Police started a bike ride back in 2004, and it became a tradition that continues today.
For 13 grueling days, Indiana law enforcement officers ride the perimeter of the state, just under 1,000 miles. Along the way they visit families of officers lost in the line of duty. At each stop, they read remembrances of fallen officers: Their names and ranks, when and how they died. Some died within the past year, while others died over a century ago. On the side of the box truck that accompanies the bicyclists, new faces appear each year as officers who have died in the past year are honored by having their photos placed there. Markers are available for people to write a memory on the side of the truck at each stop.
Riders Rich Crawford, of the Indiana State Police; Steve Knight, Indianapolis Police Department; and Capt. Monica Zahasky, Bloomington Police Department, were all there at the beginning, before the ride started. In 2002, Dudley told Knight he was riding to Washington, D.C., for the Police Unity Tour. A year later he told him he was riding to Washington, D.C. with Crawford and Zahasky. Knight decided to tag along.
Zahasky said the first time she rode with Dudley to Washington she remembers thinking, as a former high school athlete, it would be easy. But that are some pretty big hills between here and Washington D.C., Dudley pushed Zahasky up many of those.
"He would say the pain you are feeling right now is nothing compared to the pain those survivors feel on a daily basis," Zahasky said.
The ride was an adventure, a nine-day ride with six of those days in the rain. Coming back, Knight said Dudley told them he would like to organize an Indiana ride, build a foundation that would assist fallen officers' families and recognize those fallen officers so they would never be forgotten. And so he put together the Indiana ride.
Dudley was an instructor in Plainfield for the Indiana State Police. Because of his position, he had connections with officers all over the state. When it came time to put together the ride, he was able to tap into those connections to help make the ride happen.
"He trained a good portion of the state police," Knight said.
In the early years they struggled to find a support truck and places to stay and to eat that would donate food and accommodations so they could keep the money that came in to go to the charity with the Indiana COPS organization.
Two years into the organized Indiana ride, in 2006, the group was cycling south on Indiana 63 two miles south of Interstate 74 near Perrysville around 12:30 p.m. The driver of a freight truck rear-ended the riders' support van, pushing the van into the riders. The van had a large banner warning of the cyclists and was using flashing amber lights at the time of the collision. Lt. Dudley and Deputy Chief Gary L. Martin of the Lake County Sheriff's Department died at the scene from their injuries. One of the other cyclists and the drivers of both vehicles were injured.
Every year the riders go past the scene of the accident. Crawford said that is the hardest day of the ride. The closer they get, the more the vivid the memories of what happened grow. Nine years later, Crawford said it is as fresh in his mind as it was then.
After the accident they all paused, wondering if what they were doing was safe, if they should continue. But to end the ride seemed like a disservice to Dudley's memory.
"We kept going to honor his memory, " Zahasky said.
After the accident, the Cook Foundation gave the Indiana COPS organization a $1 million donation and another company donated a box truck. Where once they would have only had six riders on a few days of the ride they now had many. The response from law enforcement was overwhelming Crawford said. They had more offers to escort the ride than they knew what to do with.
A couple of years ago they broke from the Indiana COPS organization and became their own nonprofit organization. Crawford said it was a natural progression and they continue to have a good relationship with Indiana COPS.
"I don't think any of us would be here right now if it hadn't have been for Gary Dudley," Crawford said.
The red helmets on the riders, on their ride jerseys and on the t-shirts all represent Dudley. Illinois Cops Cycling for Survivors also has the red helmet on their jerseys. The Indiana ride now includes friends of law enforcement and survivors.
Law enforcement officers are given priority if the number of riders for a day is full.
"The back of our jerseys has our mission statement: 'riding to remember.' We ride to remember fallen officers and support their families," Knight said.
On the side of the box truck is the Cops Cycling for Survivors logo: a man pedaling, wearing the red helmet to symbolize Gary Dudley. Written over the logo with a marker is a message from Crawford to Dudley: "Rest in peace Gary Dudley, we'll take if from here."
And so they have.
White officer pepper-sprays crowd at Black Lives Matter summit in Cleveland
An encounter with an ‘intoxicated' 14-year-old outside the conference to discuss police brutality ends with a transit officer spraying the crowd
by Afi Scruggs
(Video on site)
A transit police officer has pepper-sprayed a crowd in Cleveland protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old at a Black Lives Matter conference inspired by police brutality.
The incident occurred near Cleveland State University in the city's downtown where the first Black Lives Matter conference was taking place. More than 1,200 participants spent the weekend organizing and discussing a range of social justice issues.
According to the Greater Cleveland regional transit authority, its officers were taking an intoxicated teenage bus rider to a police station just as the conference was ending about 5pm. A large crowd blocked the squad car and tried to get the youngster out. One of the officers turned and began pepper-spraying the crowd.
Other law enforcement agencies responded, including Cleveland police department. The youngster was taken examined in an emergency medical service unit, and released to his mother about 6pm.
No arrests were made. The transit authority did not release the officer's name. The agency's officers are not affiliated with the city's police department.
A video of the incident quickly went viral, and lit a community that is tense from three police-related deaths.
For months, Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson and its top law enforcement officers, as well as Cuyahoga county prosecutor Timothy McGinty, have been pressured by activists unhappy with the handling of the cases of Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson and Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
Rice, a 12-year-old, was fatally shot in November when Cleveland patrolman Timothy Loehmann mistook his toy gun for the real thing. Neither Loehmann nor his partner, Frank Garmback, have been charged.
Anderson died that same month after police restrained her during a mental health episode. And Russell and Williams were killed in November 2012 after a high-speed chase when dozens of police officers mistook a car backfiring for a gunshot. The lone officer charged, Michael Brelo, was acquitted of manslaughter.
Local activism in response to those cases – as well as the Department of Justice investigation into the police department's use of force – convinced organizers to hold the conference in the city.
“Cleveland looks just like Ferguson, looks just like Baltimore, looks just like all of these places that have high oppression,” local organizer Malaya Davis told the Northeast Ohio Media Group referring to the cities which have seen unrest in the wake of black men at the hands of police. “We wanted to highlight that and bring some attention to what's going on in this city and the state of Ohio as well.”
Texas county where inmate died has history of racial tension
by Michael Graczyk
HEMPSTEAD, Texas -- In the searing 100-degree Texas heat, Sylvester Nunn uses three worn beach umbrellas to protect himself and the produce piled in the bed of his old Chevy pickup truck as he carries on a generations-old summer tradition.
The 78-year-old is selling watermelons by the roadside just outside Hempstead, where the perfect combination of sandy soil and rainfall make this the watermelon capital of Texas. During the first half of the 20th century, the area was the nation's largest shipper of the sweet red fruit.
But it's a more troubling tradition — of racial strife — that has resurfaced here in the days since a black woman named Sandra Bland died in the county jail after a traffic stop by a white state trooper.
Video of the confrontational stop ignited long-simmering passions and caused some blacks to raise their guard around law enforcement in Waller County and the county seat of Hempstead, once known as "Six Shooter Junction" because of white supremacist violence in the 1800s.
"I've lived here my whole life," said Nunn, who is black. "I know how it could happen, but nothing's happened to me. It's been all right with me."
Other people insist the area about 50 miles northwest of Houston has left its troubled past behind.
Bland, a 2009 graduate of nearby Prairie View A&M University, had just accepted a job at her alma mater when she was jailed July 10 for allegedly assaulting the trooper who pulled her over for an improper lane change.
Three days later, the woman from the Chicago suburb of Naperville was found hanged in her cell — a suicide, according to a medical examiner. Bland's relatives and other supporters dispute that finding.
The FBI is leading an investigation.
"It's a sad thing," Michael Wolfe, Hempstead's mayor since 2004 and the city's third black mayor since the 1980s, said of Bland's death and the negative attention it has drawn. "It is not a true reflection of people who live here. It creates a level of animosity that may not be true. The community has changed tremendously."
District Attorney Elton Mathis acknowledges the county "does and did have a lot of things that went on here that we're not particularly proud of, as far as racial interaction."
Mathis said he could understand how some people "looking at some of the bad things in our past would jump to the conclusion that this was a murder and not a suicide."
But, he added, "people need to realize there is a new generation in control of government here ... a more progressive generation."
Waller County was named for Edwin Waller, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836, who four years later became the first elected mayor of Austin. Whites make up 44 percent of the 47,000 residents, Hispanics 29 percent and blacks 25 percent.
First settled in the early 1820s, the area became home to slave-labor cotton plantations. Hempstead was incorporated in 1858 thanks to a railroad terminus.
The plantations were dismantled with the end of the Civil War in 1865. Three years later, historical records report a race riot, followed by unrest in the 1880s, when a White Man's Party was established to blunt active black political participation in the county where blacks outnumbered whites.
That's when violence blamed on the Ku Klux Klan and other extremist groups gave it the "Six Shooter" sobriquet.
More recently, voter intimidation and voting-rights complaints have arisen from students at Prairie View A&M University, a college established in 1876 specifically to train black teachers.
The complaints led to a federal lawsuit. The district attorney at the time, in 2004, reached a settlement and apologized. But the issue resurfaced only two years later and again in 2008, when additional early voting sites in the county were established only after federal pressure.
"There's a lot of prejudice going on," said Eugene Hood, citing a history of police harassment as he cut hair at Chad's Barber Shop on University Drive, just south of where Bland was arrested outside the main entrance to the university.
Marie Armstrong of Dallas, a Prairie View senior, remembers being pulled over and ticketed for a broken brake light and being forced to go court. She wished police would exercise some judgment.
"I'm not saying he was wrong," she said of the officer who stopped her. "We're college students. I was just going down the street. I got it fixed the next day."
Resa Henderson, 48, has lived in the area all her life and said she has never felt discrimination.
"I try to stay out of trouble," she said from behind a counter at the A-1 Variety Flea Market, Beauty Supply & Apparel shop where she works now after a 20-year nursing career.
Sheriff Glenn Smith has been singled out by some activists as the first head that needs to roll in the wake of Bland's death.
Smith was suspended for two weeks in 2007 and ordered to take anger-management classes after using profanity and pushing a black man during an arrest, according to Patricia Cernosky, Hempstead's mayor pro tem.
He was fired as Hempstead police chief in 2008 and then elected county sheriff.
"I'm not a racist," Smith insisted, blaming "small-town politics." He plans to seek re-election next year.
Jessica Cotton, a junior at Prairie View from Houston, said she's never had any problems with law enforcement, but what happened to Bland gave her pause.
"It could have been me," she said.
America's Youngest Convicted Murderers Are Being Released
by NBC News
In 1999, Curtis and Catherine Jones were siblings in middle school when they gained notoriety as confessed killers.
For their crime — the fatal shooting of their father's live-in girlfriend, whom police say they grew jealous of — prosecutors sought a distinct punishment: They were, at the time, the youngest children in America to be charged as adults for first-degree murder. He was 12. She was 13.
But on Tuesday, after 16 years behind bars, Curtis is set to become a free man when he is released from a correctional facility in Central Florida. Catherine is scheduled to get out four days later, from another prison over 200 miles away, records show. He is now 29. She is 30.
Little has been shared publicly about their experiences growing up in prison, but psychologists and former incarcerated youth told NBC News that what awaits them in the outside world as adults will be a sort of culture shock.
In a nation where reportedly two-thirds of prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release, what are the prospects for two people who have known only the inside of a cell for most of their lives?
T.J. Parsell, who spent four years in adult prison after holding up a Michigan Fotomat with a toy gun when he was 17, knows the expectations firsthand.
"You feel so lost, and it's scary," said Parsell, now 55 and living in New York City. "Now you're out in the world, and you have to build a life for yourself. It's a shock."
Young prisoners thrown into the adult system already face higher rates of abuse, mental health problems and attempted suicide, said Georgetown University psychology professor Jennifer Woolard.
They also can be separated in adult prisons and isolated to protect them from the general population, she added. The effects can be devastating on young people who are still developing, studies have shown.
"On one hand, you think you're younger and more malleable to what happens to you," Woolard said. "But on the other hand, these are your formative years that are happening in a deprived environment."
In Florida, Curtis and Catherine grew up in a quiet neighborhood of Port St. John where their dad, the elder Curtis Jones, raised them. In this coastal community, the sky seemed limitless - young dreamers only had to tilt their heads to the heavens to watch the rockets launched from Cape Canaveral.
On Jan. 6, 1999, their father's girlfriend, 29-year-old Sonya Nicole Speights, was doing a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle at the dining room table when Catherine used his 9mm handgun to shoot her in the torso, police said. She dropped the weapon as it discharged. Curtis picked it up, emptying the remaining bullets into Speights.
Investigators said they tried to cover up the crime scene as a robbery, and fled into the woods overnight before they were captured.
The motive was simple: "At one time they had been a trio, sort of like the 'Three Amigos,'" Brevard County Sheriff's Agent Todd Goodyear said of the children and their father, the Orlando Sentinel reported at the time. "Now they were a foursome, and they were resentful and jealous of the fact."
But in 2009, Catherine told the FLORIDA TODAY newspaper that there was more to it. She said that she and her brother were being sexually abused by a family member who had stayed at their home. When she told her father and Speights, she said, they didn't believe her.
Investigators later acknowledged they knew of sexual abuse claims, but found no concrete evidence at the time, FLORIDA TODAY reported.
In the newspaper interview, Catherine said that she regretted taking Speights' life. But in prison, she found solace in her solitude.
"At one point I was just so happy to be away," Catherine said. "I know that sounds, like, really messed up, but there was a point where I was just away from all that and I was by myself and I was safe."
Curtis, after being charged, had asked his attorney if he could bring his Nintendo to prison.
The siblings' father stood by their side in court.
He could not be reached for comment, nor could Curtis' and Catherine's mother, Stacie Parks, whose last known address was in Kansas. According to reports, she had let the children live with their father after they broke up.
Two years ago, Catherine married a Navy officer, Ramous Fleming, who had read about her in the news and struck up a pen pal relationship. They were wed in the chapel at the Hernando Correctional Institution in Brooksville, Florida.
Fleming declined to be interviewed by NBC News, he said, out of respect for the family.
Curtis, who got a panther and "MOB" tattoos in prison, has not spoken publicly over the years. Catherine said in 2009 that she had only seen him once since they were incarcerated.
"We're best friends," she said. "Nobody understands what you go through in here except someone else that has been in here."
The siblings in 1999 took a deal with prosecutors, allowing for their release if they pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. As that freedom nears, the siblings will undergo a lifetime of probation.
That's why transitioning with the help of a support system and counseling will be crucial for the pair, said Parsell, the former inmate.
Parsell cleaned up from a period of heavy drinking and drug use when he got out, and eventually went on to become a filmmaker and wrote a memoir about the sexual abuse he suffered as a juvenile in adult prison.
There are difficult days ahead, he added, but inmates such as Curtis and Catherine can overcome if they anchor themselves to a purpose and find structure. But that takes time.
"It sounds crazy, but there was a time when I felt more content when I was in prison than when I was out," Parsell said. "At least in prison I had something to look forward to. But out in the world, I had no club, no map and no guidance. I was free, but I wasn't really."
Black community, police need joint action to find solutions
by Ernest Hooper
We're going to get a real sense of where the Tampa Police Department stands with the African-American community at a forum being staged by the family of Arthur Green Jr. from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Hope Center, 4902 N 22nd St.
The family has filed a suit against the Police Department, alleging the police encounter with the 63-year-old Green, who was suffering from a diabetic seizure, resulted in his death because officers ignored his worsening condition, handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground.
The forum, however, seeks to go beyond the incident and focus, as its title suggests, on "Injustice and inequality in Tampa's African-American community in the Buckhorn era."
The overarching topic is undoubtedly fueled by the roiling controversy surrounding the department's bike-citation program, which has disproportionately targeted African-Americans.
It's also rooted in the ongoing national controversy involving law enforcement's treatment of African-Americans.
In short, people are angry, understandably so.
Yet the forum, like any discussion, must go beyond diatribes and push toward solutions.
The need for more culturally sensitive training seems obvious. Increased community policing will make a difference.
Yet, the community also must look within and ask what can it do to foster a better relationship.
There will be pushback to such a suggestion. Some will say they're supposed to serve and protect us .
All true, but every strong relationship involves a two-way street. Not all cops are bad.
Achieving empathy in any dispute always proves challenging, but, with this issue, you can't craft a solution without it.
That's all I'm saying.
Youths learn lessons, build relationships with city school police at camps
Cpl. Ronnie McCain opened the floor for questions, and on cue, a wave of arms rose into the air.
He took a step back in surprise, his smile broadening at the group of 25 middle-school girls in the small classroom at Vanguard Collegiate Middle School — where they had spent three weeks of their summer at the Girls Expecting More Success (GEMS) school police camp.
It's one of two camps being run by the Baltimore school police department this summer. Another camp, the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, ended Friday at Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School.
The camps are bringing more than 50 youths and law enforcement together as the city debates whether keeping officers in schools is beneficial, and the nation is calling for public safety reform as the next civil rights movement.
At the camps, students engaged in lessons about everything from the recent violence and unrest in the city to bike safety.
For many of the girls in GEMS, a casual conversation led by police officers was uncharted and uncomfortable territory.
With this in mind, McCain eagerly dove in, knocking down misperceptions one hand at a time.
"Do some people become officers to drive fast and turn on the siren just to go through red lights?" the questions started. No, he said, sometimes police turn their sirens off so they don't alert offenders they're coming.
"Do you ever feel like the community doesn't appreciate you?" another student asked. It doesn't matter, he said. "If you say you don't like me one minute, and someone does something to you the next, you'd expect me to help you," he said.
"How does it feel when you first had a gun — did you feel like a big man?" another student asked. No, he said, he first felt like a man when at 13 years old, his father, a police officer, told him he was one.
"What could police have done better during the Freddie Gray stuff?" another asked. Police officers are not psychic, he responded, and they didn't expect their community to start destroying the city after Gray died of injuries suffered in police custody.
And finally, asked seventh-grader Logan Deshazo: "What's your favorite part of your job?"
"This," McCain answered.
The question culminated the lesson on community policing, one that was chosen carefully by school Police Officer Betty Covington, who started the GEMS program in 2007.
The camp session was one example of how city and public safety leaders are trying to reach, teach and connect with children in a post-Freddie Gray Baltimore.
Changing the experience that the city's youths have with police has emerged as a priority in the months after the city fell into looting and rioting — which started when city students had a violent standoff with police at Mondawmin Mall. It came hours after the funeral for Gray, a 25-year-old who died in police custody.
Some students and educators say the standoff was a spillover of emotions, built up from a longstanding tension and misunderstanding between students and police.
These tensions have been central in debates about whether school police officers who are stationed in schools should be armed during the school day.
This month, in several public forums held by the school system, the community has argued about whether armed officers create a safer or more hostile environment. The school district will recommend a new deployment strategy for school police in August.
Logan, who will attend Bethlehem Christian Day School next year, said the lesson on community policing led by McCain changed some of her feelings.
"I kind of didn't like police officers from the Freddie Gray situations and my family situations, and now that we've talked about it, I feel that they are protecting us, they're not trying to harm us," she said.
Olivia Holden, an eighth-grader who will attend Greater Grace Christian Academy next year, was also surprised that her feelings about police officers began to change. She said she had many biases against police, and harsher feelings toward white officers who she felt were more arrogant than black ones.
Olivia said she learned that in order to build safe communities, "it takes more than just the police, because they can't help some things."
At Charles Carroll Barrister, a character-building lesson titled "Staying cool when the heat is on," helped Vernon Thomas, a sixth-grader at James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, understand what he should do if he becomes angry, whether it was with his peers in the school cafeteria or an adult in the neighborhood.
Among the things he and 30 students learned from School Police Officer Danaena White was that if they are breathing rapidly or balling up their fists, those are signals that they should control their tempers.
"I have anger issues, and I'm trying to control them, that's why I came to this camp," Vernon said. "I don't like when people yell at me and when people put their hands on me. But now I learned I have to count to 10."
White helped write the state curriculum for cultural competency training for police officers , one of the many ways that city school Police Chief Marshall T. Goodwin says he encourages his officers to stay up on the challenges students are facing.
Covington approached Goodwin in 2007, his first year on the job, and asked to start the GEMS camp, a program that specifically targets girls.
With his blessing, she picked 30 of the most troubled girls at Digital Harbor High School that year, including gang members, and recruited them to the program. She knew she was on to something when 90 percent of them ended up graduating from high school.
She was inspired to start GEMS from her days as a rookie in 1998 at Southern High School, now Digital Harbor High. When she graduated from the police academy, she felt unprepared for the challenges of working in a school. She said she felt like a bystander as students were murdered or dropped out.
"We could see the problem, but in my rookie year, I didn't have a solution," Covington recalled. "I was just like: We got to do better. We're losing kids."
Covington has been running the mentoring program out of Digital ever since and has taken iterations of a female mentoring program on the road to schools across the city.
She was able to put on a summer camp this year with the help of a grant from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has also been a guest speaker at the girls group.
The program has won numerous awards and citations from government officials, and Covington secured nonprofit status for it this year.
"I'm telling you: It's easier for me to arrest these kids in my uniform than to work with them out of it," Covington said. "But I'm not changing lives this way."
When asked what they were most surprised to learn at the girls camp, students pointed to Covington bedecked in her purple GEMS T-shirt, which they were also wearing.
"I didn't know she was a police until she just said so, because she's not in her suit," said Antnia Moore, a seventh-grader at Vanguard.
"And she was nice," Logan chimed in.
"And she was respectful," Olivia concluded.