August, 2015 - Week 1
March, Moment of Silence Mark Anniversary in Ferguson
by JIM SALTER and JIM SUHR
One year after the shooting that cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, will be marked with a somber march and a moment of silence.
The march late Sunday morning begins at the site where Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November, but the shooting touched off a national "Black Lives Matter" movement.
After the moment of silence, a service commemorating the anniversary is planned at a Ferguson church. The events are among several this weekend in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis.
Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., led a parade involving several hundred people on Saturday. Brown said his family is still grieving, but he believes his son's legacy can be seen in the increased awareness of police shootings, and renewed skepticism when officers describe their side of events leading up to those shootings.
Some people who marched in the Saturday parade wore T-shirts with likenesses of Brown or messages such as "Please stop killing us" or "Hands up! Don't shoot!" which became a rallying cry during the sometimes-violent protests that followed the shooting a year ago. Some carried signs or wore shirts commemorating others who have been killed in confrontations with police.
But the focus of the weekend is largely on Brown, who graduated from high school weeks before the shooting and planned to go to trade school to study to become a heating and air conditioning technician.
Relatives and friends described Brown as a quiet, gentle giant who stood around 6-foot-3 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. But police said Brown stole items from a convenience store and shoved the owner who tried to stop him on the morning of Aug. 9, 2014. Moments later, he and a friend were walking on Canfield Drive when Wilson, who is white, told them to move to the sidewalk.
That led to a confrontation inside Wilson's police car. It spilled outside, and Wilson claimed that Brown came at him, menacingly, leading to the fatal shooting. Some witnesses claimed Brown had his hands up in surrender.
The shooting led to protests, some violent, and the unrest escalated again in November when a St. Louis County grand jury determined that Wilson did nothing wrong. He resigned days later. The November riots included fires that burned more than a dozen businesses.
The Justice Department reached the same conclusion in March, clearing Wilson. But in a separate report, the Justice Department cited racial bias and profiling in policing as well as a profit-driven municipal court system that often targeted black residents, who make up about two-thirds of Ferguson's populace.
Ferguson's city manager, police chief and municipal judge resigned within days of that report. All three were white. The new judge, interim city manager and interim police chief are all black.
Ferguson and beyond: how a new civil rights movement began – and won't end
by DeRay McKeeson
We did not discover injustice, nor did we invent resistance last August. But the terror of police violence continues. So, too, does the work of protest
Mike Brown should be alive today. He should be home from his first year at college, visiting friends and enjoying summer as he prepares to return to campus.
The movement began one year ago as Brown's body lay in the street of Canfield Drive here in Ferguson, Missouri, for four and a half hours. It began as the people of St Louis came out of their homes to mourn and to question, as the people were greeted by armed and aggressive officers. And the movement was sustained by a spirit of resistance that refused to be silent, that refused to cower, that refused to bow to continued hostility from the state.
We did not know each other's names last August, but we knew each other's hearts.
I will always remember that the call to action initiating the movement was organic – that there was no organizing committee, no charismatic leader, no church group or school club that led us to the streets. It is powerful to remember that the movement began as everyday people came out of their homes and refused to be scared into silence by the police. It is powerful, too, to remember the many people who came to stand with us in Ferguson, the many people who were radicalized in the streets of St Louis and then took that deep spirit of resistance to their own cities and towns, leading to sustained unrest across the United States.
In those early days, we were united by #Ferguson on Twitter – it was both our digital rallying cry and our communication hub. Back then, we were on the cusp of learning how to use Twitter as an organizing tool in protest. And once the protests began to spread, we became aware of something compelling and concise, something that provided common language to describe the protests: the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
As marginalized people, we have always faced erasure: either our story is never told, or it is told by everyone but us.
If not for Twitter and Instagram, Missouri officials would have convinced you, one year ago, that we simply did not exist. Or that we were the aggressors, rather than the victims. That we, and not they, were the violent ones.
But social media was our weapon against erasure. It is how many of us first became aware of the protests and how we learned where to go, or what to do when teargassed, or who to trust. We were able to both counter the narrative being spun by officials while connecting with each other in unprecedented ways. Many of us became friends digitally, first. And then we, the protestors, met in person.
Social media allowed us to become our own storytellers. With it, we seized the power of our truth.
There is nothing romantic about teargas. Or smoke bombs, or rubber bullets, or sound cannons.
I will never forget the first time I was teargassed, or the night I hid under my steering wheel as the Swat vehicle drove down a residential street. I will never forget that it was illegal – in St Louis, in the fall of 2014 – to stand still.
I remember these moments because they happened. Not because I enjoyed them, or because I want to re-live them. I remember the way the teargas made my face sting – I remember the time that officer shot pepper spray into my left eye as I was leaving a protest – because these things happened. They happened in 2014, during a period in America when many were seduced into believing that the police were infallible or that these things would never happen in America.
These moments continue to happen to us in 2015.
I am often asked what it is like to be on the “front line”. But I do not use the term “front line” to describe us, the protestors. Because everywhere in America, wherever we are, our blackness puts us in close proximity to police violence. Some of us have chosen a more immediate proximity, as we use our bodies to confront and disrupt corrupt state practices. But every black person is in closer proximity to police violence than we sometimes choose to acknowledge: in many ways, we are all on the “front line” – whether we want to be or not.
We did not discover injustice, nor did we invent resistance last August. Being black in America means that we exist in a legacy and tradition of protest, a legacy and tradition as old as this America. And, in many ways, August is the month of our discontent.
This August, we remember Mike Brown. But we also remember the Watts Rebellion, and the trauma of Katrina – three distinct periods of resistance prompted or exacerbated by police violence.
Resistance, for so many of us, is duty, not choice.
In a year, the truth about police violence has been exposed. And the truth alone has been so damning that it has radicalized people all across the world. It is now commonplace for people and even the mainstream media to question police narratives.
In the past year, the movement has focused primarily on police violence that can be seen and its impact, centered on broken bodies and death. But the police are violent in ways that cannot always be seen – the violence against the hearts, minds and souls of black folk. We must begin to address the sexual and emotional violence inflicted upon us by the police, too. We must begin to address the assaults on our self-worth and potential, too.
Naming this violence means one thing: the police and the state must change. It is not our job to shift the skin and identities into which we were born. It is up to systems of law enforcement, and the systems and structures that sustain its presence, to change.
The work in protest for the past year largely focused on exposing and convincing – in peeling back the layers of police and state violence and helping people understand. In that sense, the movement did well. As we move forward, there is an acknowledgment that strategies and tactics will change – that the strategies and tactics we used to expose and convince may not be those used to solve the problem.
We have exposed the terror of police violence. But the terror continues. The police have killed 700 people in 2015 so far. In the next phase of the movement, we will build common language around solutions – around how to end police violence, around how to win.
As much as this fight is about systems and structures, it is also a fight about hearts and minds. We will work hard to teach people that the safety of communities is not predicated on the presence of police – that safety is a more expansive notion than policing. Safety is strong schools, access to jobs, workforce development and access to healthcare, among many other things.
The solution-work will likely fall into two separate but critically related areas: removing barriers, and building and rebuilding.
There is much to be done to tear down systems and structures that oppress people, like mandatory minimum sentencing, broken-windows policing and police contracts that provide officers with protections that ensure they will never be held accountable for the crimes they commit.
And just as a path through a mountain is made passable not just by removing the stone but by supporting the mountain from crumbling back in on itself, we know that no barrier will ever truly be removed until a corresponding structure, system or policy has positively taken its place. In the place of mandatory minimums and broken windows must be a sensible approach to policing, particularly drug enforcement and proactive community building strategies. Contracts must be rewritten and police policies adjusted so that police and citizens alike receive the same set of protections and presumption of innocence under the law.
There is no one solution that will end police violence. Our work in the coming phase will be to help people understand a set of complex solutions, simply.
In this moment, as we reflect on where we are, how we got here and where we are going, I am reminded of the difference between accountability and justice – and of our commitment to both. Accountability is the consent decree between the US justice department and the Ferguson and Cleveland police departments, and the reparations for the victims of the torture of the Chicago police department. Accountability is important, but accountability is not our ultimate goal. Accountability is not justice.
We seek justice – not an abstract justice, but a living, breathing, tangible justice. Justice is a living Mike Brown. Justice is a playing Tamir Rice. Justice is Sandra Bland at her new job. Justice is Rekia Boyd with her family. Justice is Mya Hall with her friends. Justice is no more death.
We did not start this. We have never started any of it. They kill(ed) us. They creat(ed) systems to harm us. We did not start this. We are fighting to end it.
We are, and have always been, more than our pain. We will win.
Illegal immigrant held in rape, murder of California woman was on probation
by Paul Gonzalez
One of two men charged in connection with last month's home invasion, rape and fatal bludgeoning of a 64-year-old California woman was in the U.S. illegally and on probation, the News-Press has learned.
Victor Aureliano Martinez Ramirez, 29, who is charged along with Jose Fernando Villagomez, 20, in the July 24 attack in Santa Maria, Calif., was on probation for committing battery against an unidentified woman on May 22, 2014, while in possession of methamphetamine. He was charged twice this year for violating probation, once for possessing a concealed knife and the other for drugs, but a Santa Barbara judge allowed him to enter a substance abuse center in Santa Maria in lieu of jail. According to County Jail officials, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to issue an immigration detainer that would have required local authorities to hold him for deportation.
Police say Marilyn Pharis was beaten with a hammer and sexually assaulted in the morning attack, and died later at a local hospital. An autopsy was set for Thursday.
Ramirez fled, but was tracked from the scene by a police dog to a nearby home, according to authorities.
Ramirez pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, first-degree burglary, and assault with intent to commit rape. Those charges could be upgraded to murder following Pharis' death. He was being held on $1 million bail.
Villagomez was booked Tuesday into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of sexual assault and attempted murder. He was already behind bars after a July 28 arrest over a probation violation.
In May, Villagomez allegedly committed battery against Miguel Angel Romero and was found in possession of methamphetamine. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation June 17 and was also allowed to enter a drug treatment center in Santa Maria.
Both men will next appear in court on Aug. 13. The autopsy findings could result in murder charges against both.
James E. Holmes guilty of murdering 12 people
The Colorado jury that found James E. Holmes guilty of murdering 12 people in an Aurora movie theater three years ago has decided against the death penalty, instead giving him life without parole. As long-time opponents of the death penalty, we think the jury was correct in sparing his life since taking a life undermines the principle that killing is wrong. But even those those who favor execution as punishment should recognize that it would not have been right to execute someone who is mentally ill, as Mr.?Holmes so clearly is.
The Arapahoe County jury of nine women and three men, after deliberating for less than seven hours Friday, announced that it was not unanimous in favor of execution, as the law requires for its imposition. Mr. Holmes, 27, a once-promising neuroscience graduate student, has been on trial since April for one of the country's worst mass shootings in recent years. The savagery of his actions on the night of July 20, 2012, when he turned a multiplex screening of a new Batman film into a slaughterhouse is without question. In addition to the 12 people — including a 6-year-old girl — who were killed, 70 people were injured, some grievously. The pain of these people — whose stories moved the jurors to tears — cannot be imagined or ignored.
But, as defense attorney Tamara Brady persuasively argued in her plea to the jury, “The death of all these people cannot be answered by more death. Please, no more death.” In asking for mercy, Ms. Brady rightly focused the jury's attention on the fact it was dealing not with a monster but rather “a sick human being.”
Testimony during the trial laid bare Mr.?Holmes's history of mental illness. Diagnosed with some form of schizophrenia, he had been under treatment. His changing physical appearance — from Joker-like orange hair to a bug-eyed booking photo to dazed courtroom demeanor — underscored his struggles with mental illness. “A whole lot of crazy” is how his attorneys summed up a notebook that plotted his rampage and probed the psyche of what he called his “broken mind.” Pages were covered with the word “why.”
In sending Mr. Holmes to prison for the rest of his life, the state has held him legally responsible for his actions. Executing this sick man would have been wrong.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Los Angeles County to Implement Sweeping Reforms on Mental Health Care and Use of Force Throughout the County Jail System
The Justice Department has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the county of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff to protect prisoners from serious suicide risks and excessive force in the Los Angeles County Jails, announced Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Kappelhoff of the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California. The settlement agreement was filed simultaneously with a complaint this morning alleging a pattern or practice of inadequate mental health care and excessive force at the jails in violation of prisoners' federal constitutional rights. The Justice Department, together with the county and the Sheriff, has requested that the District Court enter the settlement agreement as an order to bring court oversight to the reforms, to ensure that the reforms are implemented fully and transparently, and to strengthen public confidence in the jails.
Today's settlement resolves claims stemming from the Justice Department's long-standing civil investigation into mental health care at the jails, which found a pattern of constitutionally deficient mental health care for prisoners, including inadequate suicide prevention practices. In addition, the settlement agreement includes remedial measures to address a separate civil investigation into use of force by jails staff. The Justice Department's investigations involved an in-depth review of thousands of pages of documents and other records, on-site visits and interviews with numerous jails staff members, prisoners and others. The Justice Department was assisted by subject matter experts in the fields of mental health care, suicide prevention and correctional practices. The county and the Sheriff cooperated with the civil investigations and have begun to implement many of the negotiated reforms in the settlement agreement, which was negotiated by attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
“This historic settlement represents a renewed commitment by the county and Sheriff McDonnell to provide constitutionally adequate care for prisoners with serious mental illness,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kappelhoff. “The agreement also puts in place a structure that will help turn around a persistent culture in which the use of excessive force on prisoners was sometimes tolerated. I want to thank the sheriff and county for their cooperation and leadership. Their efforts are critical to the long-term success of this agreement.”
“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously protect the federal civil rights of all individuals, including those who are imprisoned and who must depend on jail officials for their most basic needs and safety,” said U.S. Attorney Decker. “The settlement agreement avoids protracted litigation and provides a blue print for durable reform that will foster continued collaboration among sheriff deputies, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders. We commend the county and Sheriff McDonnell for their cooperation and for their commitment to make this historic settlement agreement possible.”
Under the settlement agreement filed today, the county and the Sheriff have agreed to implement comprehensive reforms to ensure constitutional conditions in the jails and restore public trust. The settlement agreement will be court-enforceable once approved by the District Court and will be overseen by an independent monitor and a team of mental health and corrections experts. The settlement agreement is designed to prevent and respond more effectively to suicides and self-inflicted injuries through measures that include:
additional steps to recognize, assess and treat prisoners with mental illness, from intake to discharge;
significant new training on crisis intervention and interacting with prisoners with mental illness for new and existing custody staff;
improved documentation in prisoners' medical and mental health records to ensure continuity of care;
improved communication between custody and mental health staff and increased supervision of mentally ill and suicidal prisoners;
steps to mitigate suicide risks within the jails;
increased access to out-of-cell time for mentally ill prisoners; and
improved investigation and critical self-analysis of suicides, suicide attempts and other critical events.
With respect to use of force, the settlement agreement expands critical reforms agreed to by the county and the Sheriff in Rosas v. McDonnell to cover all facilities within the jails system. These reforms include:
enhanced leadership and executive staff engagement;
significant revisions to use-of-force policies, which should significantly reduce the use of excessive force, with added protections for use of force against prisoners with mental illness;
enhanced training for custody and mental health staff;
enhanced data collection and analysis;
enhanced accountability measures, including use-of-force reporting, use-of-force reviews and discipline; and
enhanced grievance procedures.
The Justice Department's investigation was originally opened in 1996, under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). The Justice Department found constitutional deficiencies in mental health care, suicide prevention and the use of excessive force against prisoners with mental illness. In 2002, the Justice Department entered into a memorandum of agreement with the county and the Sheriff to address these concerns. Despite considerable progress over the years of monitoring the memorandum of agreement, the Justice Department concluded in 2014 that the jails were failing to provide adequate mental health care, including suicide prevention, and that conditions under which prisoners with mental illness were housed exacerbated the risk of suicide.
In addition, in 2013, the Justice Department initiated a separate civil investigation into allegations of use of excessive force by jails staff under both CRIPA and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. While the use of force investigation was ongoing, the county and the Sheriff settled, the Rosas v. McDonnell class-action lawsuit, which alleged excessive force by jails deputies in three downtown facilities. The settlement agreement incorporates all of the reforms in Rosas and extends them to all jails facilities to cover prisoners throughout the jails system.
The civil investigations were conducted by attorneys and staff from the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section and the Civil Division of the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
Officers and agents from Newark Field Office bring immigration expertise to federal agency task forces
Years before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its immigration enforcement directorate Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) were established, law enforcement leaders espoused the wisdom of collaboration and law enforcement sharing. In the words of the legendary Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director J. Edgar Hoover, “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation…The efforts of all law enforcement agencies with the support and understanding of the American people.”
Today, the ICE ERO Newark Field Office in Newark, New Jersey, is a model of active engagement in joint effort initiatives with regional and interagency partners. These partnerships are paying dividends in terms of locating, targeting and arresting criminal aliens, gang members, terrorists, fugitives and previously deported aliens subject to federal prosecution. These are criminals with records that include offenses such as murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, narcotics offenses, carjacking, aggravated assault and sex offenses.
“These are not people we want roaming our communities,” said Newark's Field Office Director John Tsoukaris. “Our office is lending some of our best officers and agents to our partnering agencies to take serious criminals off of our streets and, when the case warrants, out of our country.”
The ERO Newark Field Office is unique in that 11 of its law enforcement officers are assigned, either full or part time, to task forces led by ICE's law enforcement partners; most notably the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).
Deportation Officer Luke Margraff, assigned full time to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Newark, said, “I've been assigned to a number of counterterrorism cases specifically because of the immigration knowledge I possess as an ERO officer. More than 40 different federal, state and local agencies are represented on the JTTF in Newark, and as an ERO officer, I'm able to access all databases and share human intelligence information among my law enforcement partners.”
Margraff contributed to one of a series of investigations that led to the arrest of four subjects who conspired to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the foreign terrorist group known for carrying out bombings, shootings, mass executions, kidnappings, rape and beheadings. Working on this case, Margraff conducted surveillance and interviews surrounding the investigation of Alaa Saadeh, 23, an American citizen who was living in West New York, New Jersey. Ultimately, Saadeh was arrested and charged with conspiring with other individuals in New Jersey and New York to provide services and personnel to ISIL. He was also charged with aiding and abetting an attempt to provide services and personnel to ISIL and attempting to persuade a witness to lie to the FBI. Saadeh could face up to 20 years in prison for each charge.
“I could not be more thrilled to have representatives of ERO present on FBI task forces,” said Scott Allee, supervisory special agent of the FBI Newark Division. “These officers provide critical skill sets, filling a critical gap we had in accessing the immigration population at the street level. ERO's participation has led to the development of sources, witnesses and cases for both ERO and the FBI.”
Another high-profile case in which deportation officers advanced a task force investigation involved the MS-13 Trenton Locos Crazies Salvatruchas, who were committing violent offenses throughout the Trenton, New Jersey area. Most of the gang members were in the United States illegally. The primary strategy, therefore, was to target gang members for violating federal immigration laws. ERO officers from the Marlton sub office, working with the U.S. Marshals Service Counter Gang Unit, arrested eight MS-13 members; all eight have been deported from the United States or are awaiting deportation.
“USMS and ERO working together embodies the true spirit of what a task force is,” said U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos, Jr. “We work in a very culturally diverse environment, and we routinely encounter individuals with questionable immigration status. Having ERO officers now working hip-to-hip alongside domestic fugitive investigators with the U.S. Marshals Service New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force has helped to lessen the time we interact with these individuals and reduce the impact to the public during our investigations.”
The Newark Field Office's joint effort initiatives also extend to law enforcement partners at the local and state levels. The office partners with each of the county prosecutor offices, sex offender units and local municipalities throughout New Jersey.
“Our task force participation with federal, state and local law enforcement has significantly reduced organizational barriers, improved information sharing with law enforcement agencies and made ERO an integral part of the law enforcement community, furthering public safety in New Jersey,” said Tsoukaris.
Chicago Police OK Independent Stop-and-Frisk Evaluations
by DON BABWIN
The Chicago Police Department will allow independent evaluations of its stop-and-frisk procedures and increased public disclosure of the practice under an agreement announced Friday with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The agreement follows a March 2015 report from the ACLU that found Chicago officers disproportionately targeted blacks and other racial minorities in hundreds of thousands of stop, question and frisk encounters.
"This unprecedented agreement with the ACLU is a demonstration of CPD's commitment to fairness, respect, transparency," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
Under the agreement, former U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys will provide public reports twice a year on Chicago police investigatory stops and pat downs, looking at whether the city is meeting its legal requirements. It goes into effect immediately.
The ACLU report identified more than 250,000 Chicago stop-and-frisk encounters in which there were no arrests from May through August 2014. African-Americans accounted for nearly three-quarters of those stopped, even though they make up about a third of the city's population.
The ACLU did not file a lawsuit against the city. Instead, the parties said in a news release that it comes after months of negotiations between the city, the department and the ACLU that aimed to avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation.
"What we have done here is move past the litigation process and advanced directly to a collaborative process, to insure that stops on Chicago streets meet constitutional and legal standards."
The Chicago Police Department faces a separate private lawsuit filed in April and seeking class-action status. In that lawsuit filed in federal court, six African-American residents of Chicago claim the street stops have led to constitutional abuses, including unlawful searches and seizures as well as excessive force.
The city and department have agreed to collect additional data about investigatory stops. That includes officers' names and badge numbers, the race, ethnicity and gender of the person stopped, the reason for the stop, the location, date and time of the stop and other details.
That information will be given to the ACLU and Keys, who will oversee the agreement's implementation. The agreement also calls for more officer training to make sure stops are conducted only when necessary and pat downs are done only when legally justified.
Police kill a white teen, and the silence raises questions
by Lonnae O'Neal
Many of us are just hearing about the police shooting that claimed the life of 19-year-old Zachary Hammond on July 26.
The news lands with that familiar, convulsive ache that the death of young people brings. That a year of police-involved killings has given us.
The teenager, on a first date, was stopped in the parking lot of a Seneca, S.C., Hardee's during a drug bust, and the officer contends he fired in self-defense as Hammond tried to run him over. His 23-year-old date was charged with possession of 10 grams (.35 ounces) of marijuana. And it feels like a life gone over so much nothing.
Yet Hammond's killing, under cloudy circumstances — a police report never mentions the fatal gunshots — has not sparked national protests. It has not pricked us the way Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Brandon Jones, Eric Harris and Freddie Gray did. The way the killing of Samuel DuBose most recently and under the most similar circumstances did. (DuBose was also behind the wheel; the Cincinnati officer who shot him alleged that DuBose was dragging him as he was taking off.)
Hammond's family contends that the unequal outrage is because Hammond is white.
“It's sad, but I think the reason is, unfortunately, the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black teen,” the family's attorney, Eric Bland, told my colleague Abby Phillip this week. “The hypocrisy that has been shown toward this is really disconcerting.”
Unlike the high-profile cases, no video has surfaced, so there is no objective standard of truth to judge the shooting against. That aside, says Michael Jenkins, a University of Scranton community policing expert, the family's assertion about race has merit.
“The reason why the death of black citizens by police are much more likely to get attention is simply because of the history of policing in the U.S. This happens time and time again,” Jenkins says. What whites are “not understanding is that these individual reactions that receive so much attention are speaking to a much longer history and a much deeper feeling of injustice that is even presently felt by certain groups.”
For those who don't fear it, experience it or hear about it firsthand, he says, “these cases are just blips and outliers.” For folks in the affected communities, they feel like standard operating procedure.
Racism and unconscious bias result in a disproportionate number of black deaths at the hands of police, activists contend. According to a Washington Post database, blacks account for 25 percent of people shot dead this year by police.
But the Hammond death is important because it speaks to the broad issue of how police use deadly force, Jenkins says. “In cases where they are doing it excessively, that is an issue that in some respects is beyond race.”
It's so often about that deeper, gut-level fear of danger that colors too many interactions police have with citizens. About the officers' icy feeling that this could go badly, and they won't make it home.
This should be part of the national conversation, Jenkins says. It should be “about training and the reflexive assumption of danger in that training when the vast majority of interactions don't require the use, really, of any force. That fear is what's driving officers to shoot, and to interpret situations much more vigorously than they need to be.”
And aside from just failing citizens, it feels as if it's failing officers as well, most of whom, we have to imagine, do not want frighten or kill people.
The death of Zachary Hammond distills to the finest of points.
These are the margins of life and death in America. These deaths are happening over and over, and they are among the most important issues facing our communities.
There is always a moment when police don't know if you are friend or foe, and they fear for their lives. The job of police officers, who are trained, who have taken an oath, is to hold that moment — to manage their anxieties long enough to assess the threat, even when things feel most unclear.
And if someone can't hold that moment — which most of the time will be fine, but does carry a chance of grave harm — they mustn't join the police force.
Community policing coming back to North Providence
Community policing is coming back to North Providence. The mayor is now calling on the department to hit the streets and get to know the people they're protecting.
"I'm everywhere, police officers and firefighters know that it bothers me when I drive up Mineral Spring Avenue and see a police officer parked and he may be on patrol, or I see two of them stopped and chatting with each other," said Mayor Charlie Lombardi.
The department is now expected to get out of their car and onto the streets to bring back community policing.
"I think it's time better well-spent talking to the taxpayers in the neighborhood. They may see our youth playing basketball, stop them, befriend them, and talk to them. I feel like we need to get back to our roots," the Mayor continued.
This is something Police Chief Christopher Pelagio has already started implementing and agrees will better the entire town.
"With policing changing since Ferguson and Balitmore, I've asked my guy to get back into the neighborhoods," said Pelagio.
So far the feed back I town has been positive. The Chief and mayor say they want North Providence to be known as the town where everyone knows your name.
The department also has more officers patrolling on bikes.
Dancing Lakeland police officers engage community
Two videos of dancing Lakeland police officers are going viral.
by Holly Bounds
(Video on site)
LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The Lakeland Police Department is getting a lot of attention for all the fancy footwork on the force. It started last year when a video of two Lakeland police officers dancing at the Hispanic Festival went viral. That video has been viewed nearly 5 million times.
And now it's happening again. This week a camera captured Officer Preston Chatmon boogying down with adults who have mental and physical disabilities. The video was taken at the Sunshine Community Center while celebrating National Night Out.
This is an example of community policing, Sergeant Brian Wallace said. “It brings a little levity to the job,” Sgt. Wallace said. “People see that police officers are people, too. I think it bodes well for the police and the community to know we're not just robots out there taking care of what we're taking care of.”
Officer Chatmon has his own moves, such as “building a pizza pie.” He'll take the laughs because he's seen first-hand how showing his true colors in light situations can have an advantage when it gets tough on the street.
“If you are able to build a community of togetherness, the community will be more apt to contact law enforcement and not be so afraid,” Chatmon said. ”When they see us as their friends, they come to us and give us information that we may be missing.”
The police department also has other ways of community policing, including walking neighborhoods and spending time with children after school.
Letter to the Editor
Embracing Immigrants Strengthens Public Safety
To the Editor,
On July 1, 2015, Kathryn Steinle was shot in broad daylight in San Francisco. She later died. Since the alleged perpetrator of this heinous crime is an undocumented immigrant, debate has flown around the country challenging the wisdom of municipalities, like San Francisco, which adopt policies that embrace immigrant members of their communities regardless of their immigration status. Although the scope of these policies varies, towns that take inclusive steps are often called “sanctuary cities”. While not calling itself a sanctuary city, Princeton has made crucial strides to build a welcoming community for our town's immigrant population, and we appreciate and respect the contributions that immigrants, both documented and not, make – as they have throughout our history.
In response to the thoughtful pro and con comments addressing this issue that appear on Planet Princeton and in the Town Topics, it's important to keep in mind several points:
1) Princeton does not have a policy that provides a safe-haven for criminals.
2) Unlike the federal government's immigration enforcement agencies, Princeton's local police, and the municipal government in general, is charged with ensuring the safety and welfare of all individuals living or spending time in our town. Federal immigration enforcement officers enforce federal laws on immigration, border control, customs, etc. Local police enforce local and state laws on crime and public safety.
3) While the murder in San Francisco raises understandable concern, Princeton's continuing challenge has been to gain the trust and cooperation of undocumented immigrant victims and witnesses of crimes, not with a rash of undocumented perpetrators. Because immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, fear the possibility of immigration consequences, they do not report crimes, even when they are victims. Several of us, who work with immigrants, have been called upon by the police to encourage immigrants to help in the investigation of crimes that include victims within and beyond the immigrant community. The lack of trust within immigrant communities, amplified by immigration officers presenting themselves as public safety officials (even wearing clothing identifying themselves as “police”), undermines public safety not just for immigrants, but for the entire community.
To the benefit of all Princeton residents and those who value what our town has to offer, Princeton's policy embracing immigrants strengthens public safety, not weakens it.
Liz Lempert, Mayor of Princeton
Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, Princeton Council
Ross Wishnick, Chair, Princeton Human Services Commission
John Heilner, Chair, Immigration Committee, Princeton Human Services Commission
Leticia Fraga, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Maria Juega, Executive Director, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Mason Drive, Princeton
Ryan Stark Lilienthal, Maple Street, Princeton
Roger Martindell, Prospect Avenue, Princeton
Interoperability: It's Vital to Next-Gen Public Safety Communications, for Saving Lives
Many agencies buy a new radio system only to get an unpleasant and costly surprise soon after implementation.
by Robert Stack
With nearly 28 years of experience with the Lexington Division of Police and 15 months as director of Lexington Enhanced 911, I've seen the realities of next-generation public safety communications — what it can be and what it should be.
You can't go 60 seconds in a conversation about public safety communications without someone using the word “interoperability.” Plus, the number of interpretations — and misinterpretations — of what it actually means is directly related to the number of participants in the conversation. That's because “interoperability” means something different to the industry's many facets.
One commonality, however, is that regardless of how the term is used, interoperability is vital to realizing the true potential of next-generation public safety communications and how we can better protect lives. But in order to realize that potential, everyone who has even a cursory stake in public safety operations should be aware of the breadth and impact of interoperability in each of its expressions, chief among them network and component considerations.
Disasters, man-made or natural, can happen to any city, county or municipality, regardless of size. In public safety, we throw around “interoperability” as if it were a panacea to solve all issues during a disaster or large event.
However, at the disaster exercises I've assessed, the topic of interoperability often appears prominently in after-action reports, where technicians are observed spending the vast majority of the exercise huddled around an integration device trying to get it to work. When it comes to real-world disasters, the lack of interoperability typically translates into response agencies not being able to communicate across radio systems.
This is why network interoperability is so vital. When jurisdictions can seamlessly connect to neighboring radio systems, first responders can step in and collaborate quickly and efficiently, which can make the difference when lives are on the line. For instance, if a natural disaster rips through a small town, it's easy to imagine that police, fire and EMS could be simply overwhelmed with the volume of emergency calls and requests. And with the influx of manpower support from nearby jurisdictions, the lack of communication and coordination from conflicting network infrastructures can complicate an already dire situation.
Fortunately agencies across the nation are taking note and have invested a significant amount of funding in temporary integration systems, multiband radios, command posts, emergency operations centers and other solutions to achieve network interoperability. If used properly, these resources are money well spent.
However, an even better investment would be the deployment of an Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) Gateway, which integrates cities in close proximity of each other.
A high degree of interoperability can be achieved if Project 25 (P25) radio systems from different manufacturers are linked through an ISSI. What you get is a network of shared systems that allows users to roam freely in the coverage area. Imagine police, fire and other first responders moving throughout an area without the fear or doubt of their ability to connect and communicate. This is possible when several cities or counties with different P25 800 MHz radio systems connect through an ISSI gateway. That's the future we should strive for. That should be the end goal when purchasing radio systems.
It's astonishing how many agencies buy a new radio system only to get an unpleasant and costly surprise soon after implementation. This shock comes in several forms, but usually involves functions and features that are proprietary to the system.
A common example is when a land mobile radio (LMR) vendor's bid is presented as the best value because it includes a “free” capability, such as encryption or interface capabilities. Here is where the surprise comes in: Since the “free” feature is proprietary to the vendor's system, agencies are only able to benefit when using this same vendor's handheld and mobile radios. The proprietary nature locks you into using a single vendor, which limits choice and control.
I recently met two E911 directors who were stung by this approach, and it opened my eyes to the importance of component interoperability, or the lack thereof, in radio systems. One lamented that his city paid thousands of dollars more for each radio because of proprietary “freebies” included with the radio system that were absolutely necessary for certain routine operations, such as encryption, talk-around and group paging.
Both directors bemoaned the fact that the initial cost savings of the radio system evaporated when they learned that their handheld and mobile radios could only be purchased from the same vendor — at nearly double the cost of similar radios. The price hike for radio units typically sneaks in during the year after the initial system purchase.
So how do you avoid this situation?
Begin with a bid process that requires vendors to disclose all proprietary features. Understand how these features directly or indirectly impact your ability to purchase replacement components, handheld and mobile radios, as well as how the features will interface with legacy radio systems and other agencies' systems in the region. An important point is to find out if the vendor's price is contingent upon acceptance of one or more of the proprietary features.
These simple actions on your part increase your ability to evaluate proposals in an “apples to apples” comparison. Fortunately there are industrywide changes taking place that can help.
Industry standards offer the hope of reshaping the LMR marketplace for the better, but only if cities, counties and states insist upon it.
The infrastructure behind digital radio systems involves computers that perform multiple functions, switches, combiners and antennas. Industry veterans may remember the days when spare parts for many systems could be purchased from electronics vendors without the need to go through the original system installer. Today that's not necessarily the case. A vendor can install a complete system that includes core components that can only be purchased from that same vendor. So when a computer performing a key function fails, it's not as simple as reinstalling software onto another computer—even if it's completely capable of running the application. Without industry standards for interoperability, customers must buy a replacement computer from the original system vendor.
Clearly the vendor controls the life of its products, but what happens when the vendor decides that a core component is at its “end of life” and will no longer offer it? For some agencies, the shock comes in a letter from the vendor notifying the agency that their six- to eight-year-old multimillion dollar radio system will be phased out and support will cease on a specified date. Imagine delivering that news to your elected leaders just a few years after installing a state-of-the-art system. That's when public safety agencies begin shopping for used parts on the Internet to keep their legacy systems in operation as long as possible.
So what should agencies do?
A good first step is to ask your vendor which components must be purchased from them and which can be purchased on the open market. When opting for open-market items, it may be necessary to ship a replacement part to a vendor for configuration, and it may help to have the vendor integrate the replacement component into the larger system. But bottom line, you will have the part.
Those who manage radio systems should demand the option of pricing components on the market to get the best value for the agency, and more importantly, the taxpayers.
When it comes to regulating industries, it seems counterintuitive to suggest that having the federal government weigh in on radio systems, integration and interoperability would yield a positive outcome for all public safety agencies. However, that is exactly what it may take for us to install new radio systems and continue to be able to use the handheld and mobile radios purchased earlier for previous systems. But there's a better way—interoperability testing.
Interoperability testing is a rigorous examination process where vendors have their products tested and certified to work on the radio infrastructures of competing vendors before going to market. Once on the market, agencies can test radio communications between their existing handheld and mobile radio units from their old system to the new radios on the new network and determine feasibility and functionality. Agencies can also ask a manufacturer to test sample radios on a new system in a lab environment to confirm point-to-point communication and determine which functions will and will not operate properly.
While this process is demanding, it's nevertheless the most cost-effective approach. It ensures that every piece of equipment is used to its fullest potential and that there are no issues that hamper emergency response.
Although interoperability testing ensures functionality between systems, many vendors are reluctant to participate. Clearly they would rather you buy everything from them, from the handheld to the dispatch console. However, this backs agencies that have a large quantity of handheld and mobile radios into a corner if they select a radio system from another vendor. The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials' (APCO) P25 standard was meant to alleviate this issue and promote interoperability within the industry.
When a large contract is at stake, manufacturers will express interest in testing their radio units and commit to interoperability, but they rarely follow through. These same manufacturers will be quick to caution that they're not responsible if their brand fails to perform properly if used on another manufacturer's infrastructure. Of course, this framework is designed to keep customers locked into a single source for their radios — and to pay the price for it.
To be fair, manufacturers have the right to proprietary features, and they have the right to only make them available on certain systems, but the core capability and functions essential to public safety should work universally.
Basic connectivity and communication should be seamless. This is where the government can step in to help.
Interoperability for the Next Generation
Interoperability is forever evolving. With the next generation of public safety in the works, smartphones, tablets and other commercial devices are delivering a vast amount of information, intelligence and evidence to public safety — more than we ever thought possible. Text-to-911 has rolled out in some jurisdictions, but that's only the beginning. Within the next decade, live video will be streamed to responders in the field, often in real time, and law enforcement will get a live view inside a facility using Internet protocol (IP)-based video surveillance systems. Soon interoperability will call for public safety agencies' ability to capture and store the images, video and text in an archival manner required for instant replay and evidentiary purposes.
The meaning of “interoperability” continues to expand. It no longer simply refers to exchanging handheld radios between agencies at an emergency scene. It means requiring radio systems that work together through a gateway, either permanently or on an as-needed basis. It means ensuring that the radio system core comprises components that can be obtained from multiple sources and don't become obsolete the moment a vendor decides a master site controller will no longer be manufactured or supported. Interoperability also includes the ability for multiple radio brands to work on a manufacturer's infrastructure, which provides agencies choice in selecting equipment while also demonstrating good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. The ability to integrate entirely separate systems is critical to achieving large-area or statewide interoperability. It also ensures jurisdictions have access to public safety communication systems should they lose their master site.
Regardless of how it is defined, we should demand that our federal government and public safety industry work together for the common goal of interoperability. We can't afford not to.
Robert Stack is the director of Lexington Division of Enhanced 911.
Kalamazoo public safety officers look to strengthen community connections
by NEWSCHANNEL 3
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Kalamazoo Public Safety officers partnered with the Douglass Community Center Thursday, for an event aimed at strengthening community connections.
Crime is down in Kalamazoo, and while it's a great thing, what officers say they're excited about is the relationships they are building with their community.
In true summer fashion, it's dancing in the streets at a block party Thursday on Kalamazoo's north side.
"It opens a lot of doors, we want them to turn to us, and obviously we can't do it without their help," said KDPS Sergeant Matt Elzinga.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety played host, giving residents a chance to interact with officers.
"This is a way to engage in a non-confrontational way," Elzinga said.
This event, and a number of others are making an impact here in Kalamazoo.
"They are really nice to us, they accept us," said Special Olympics athlete Carley Hall at a softball scrimmage with KDPS on Wednesday.
The KDPS team scrimmaged Special Olympics athletes preparing for a softball tournament later this month.
In July, they battled blight in the Edison neighborhood, and this block party is one of a number of planned events.
"I was a drug dealer, he raided my house, sent me to prison in 2006, did a couple years, and decided to do something else with my life," said Michael Wilde, a program emcee and ex-felon."
As a result, relationships are changing.
"The same police officers that chased me as a drug dealer, they support me," Wilde said.
On top of it all, violent crime in Kalamazoo is lower than the last two summers.
In 2013, there were 2 murders in July; last year one; this year none. Shots fired and calls for service are also down. And calls to help coming in are up.
"Our phone is ringing more with people calling and telling us things that we don't know," Elzinga said.
These residents are grateful that new relationships are being established early-on.
"Help the young people understand that, it's not us against them," Wilde said. "As long as we push positivity, we push the negativity back."
There is another event planned for the Vine neighborhood in September.
Police Walk Fine Line in Wake of Ferguson Shootings
In places such as Baltimore a decline in arrests has been accompanied by a rise in some crimes
by Scott Calvert and Zusha Elinson
BALTIMORE—A small crowd gathered around more than a dozen police officers last week as they arrested a man outside a public-housing complex. Tensions mounted as some shouted at the officers. Police and onlookers took cellphone video of each other.
Officer David White had raced to the scene in West Baltimore, accompanied by a Wall Street Journal reporter, after his colleagues radioed for help. Minutes later, while speeding off to another emergency, he said the crowd could have been much larger and more hostile: “That situation right there, it was pretty tame. A lot of times they surround us by swarms—50, 60 of them.”
Police around the country have been under a magnifying glass since Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown last August in Ferguson, Mo.
More cops than ever are now outfitted with body-worn cameras to promote transparency, with experts estimating that about 40% of the nation's police departments use them. Baltimore aims to start a three-month pilot program with body cameras as early as October, with the goal of outfitting the entire department a year or two after that, a city official said.
In other changes, more law-enforcement agencies are starting to offer training on de-escalation and implicit bias. On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called for improved training in areas such as tactics and “fair and impartial” policing. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama ended the transfer of certain surplus military equipment like grenade launchers and tracked military vehicles to local police.
At the same time, the scrutiny has caused officers in some places to pull back in ways that experts say can weaken public safety.
In Baltimore, arrests had already been declining this year but plunged after six officers were charged May 1 in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, who sustained fatal spinal injuries while in custody. The number of people arrested between May 1 and Aug. 1 was down 45% from the comparable period of 2014 despite a recent uptick. Meanwhile, homicides rose 78% in that span, and shootings more than doubled.
Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, named to the post last month, blamed the crime surge largely on a small number of violent repeat offenders and has enlisted federal law-enforcement agencies to assist police. “When there is probable cause to make good arrests and develop cases that can be successfully prosecuted, the department will do so,” he said through a spokeswoman.
Nationally, arrests have been falling at the same time the violent crime rate has continued a decadeslong decline, although data aren't available yet for the time period after Ferguson.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington think tank, said the past year's incidents involving police and black suspects have led to “enormous introspection and soul-searching as to how can the police do better.”
His group is examining ways to reduce the use of force.
“There are situations where you do have to make split-second decisions,” he said, “and others where you have to slow things down, step back, call in additional resources if necessary.”
Perhaps the most tangible effect on day-to-day policing has been the introduction of body-worn cameras. Cops at between 7,000 and 8,000 U.S. police departments, out of about 18,000 nationally, now clip these tiny video cameras to their uniforms or glasses, according to estimates by Michael White, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University who wrote a Justice Department report on body cameras.
Sales at police-camera makers have soared. As of the second quarter of 2015, Taser International saw a 154% increase in camera sales over the last 12 months from the previous year. Safariland, a closely held company that recently purchased camera maker Vievu, said revenue from cameras alone in the year ended July 31 increased 80% from the previous year.
In Baltimore, Officer White said he looks forward to the eventual departmentwide rollout of body cameras because he thinks they will reduce the likelihood of false accusations of police brutality.
While he laments the decision to charge the six officers and thinks it has emboldened criminals, he said he hasn't changed how he polices West Baltimore, where Mr. Gray was arrested and major rioting occurred after his April 27 funeral. “There are citizens out there who need us, so nothing can change,” he said. “We have to continue to get out here and fight crime.”
Suspect in Latest Theater Attack Had Psychological Issues
by Erik Schelzig and Lucas L. Johnson
What initially appeared to be another mass shooting at a movie theater ended up being an attack by a disturbed homeless man who wasn't armed with a real gun was eventually shot and killed by police.
Vincente David Montano, 29, bought a ticket for "Mad Max: Fury Road" at a theater in a middle-class community in southern Nashville on Wednesday and entered with pepper spray, an airsoft pellet gun and an ax, Metro Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said.
Some of the theatergoers in the audience ran outside and alerted police officers who had responded to a vehicle crash nearby, police said in a news release issued late Wednesday.
South Precinct Officer Jonathan Frith, a six-year veteran, was the first officer to encounter Montano, the news release said. Montano pointed his pellet gun at Frith and pulled the trigger, prompting Frith to fire one round from his patrol rifle in self-defense, the release said. Frith then backed out of the theater while keeping Montano contained inside as SWAT officers responded.
At that point, Montano began to use the pepper spray and officers said they encountered a cloud of it as they entered to take Montano into custody. Montano fired his pellet gun again and four SWAT members fired back, the release said. Montano attempted to flee out the rear door of the theater and as he emerged with ax in hand and started toward officers, five opened fire, according to the release. Montano was struck and killed.
No one other than Montano was killed. One man was cut on the shoulder, evidently by the ax Montano was carrying, and that man, his wife and daughter were treated for pepper spray, Aaron said.
Aaron said police had not uncovered a motive, but he said Montano had been committed for psychiatric treatment at least four times, twice in 2004 and twice in 2007. It wasn't immediately clear why he had been committed or if that commitment was involuntary.
"This individual has had significant psychiatric or psychological issues," Aaron said.
The news release said Montano had been committed at least three times while living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; that he was reported to have lived in a number of states over the years, including Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Illinois, and Florida; and that he was most recently believed to be homeless.
Aaron also noted that Montano had been arrested in Murfreesboro in 2004 for assault and resisting arrest, and said he was reported as a missing person to the Murfreesboro police department on Monday.
As more details of the attack and Montano's troubled past emerged, it began to appear less likely that he intended to inflict mass casualties such as those attempted by a theater shooter recently in Louisiana and carried out two years ago by a shooter in Colorado.
Instead of a packed house showing a newly released popular film, Montano waged his attack in a theater where only seven others besides himself were present at midday, watching a movie that had already been out for some time. He was armed with a pellet gun, not a weapon with bullets, and chose to use pepper spray, not the gun, when he began his assault. One of Montano's two backpacks was detonated and found to contain a fake bomb, Aaron said. The other backpack contained nothing harmful, according to the news release.
It is impossible to say for sure whether Montano knew that the pellet gun would easily be mistaken for a pistol, which is exactly what authorities say happened.
Aaron said the responding officer thought the gun was real and that he heard popping noises when Montano pulled the trigger, prompting him to fire his service weapon.
"The gun is a very realistic looking gun that strongly resembles a semiautomatic pistol," Aaron said. "If someone confronted you with it, you would think it was a real pistol."
The violence at the Carmike Hickory 8 complex comes about two weeks after a 59-year-old drifter opened fire inside a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, fatally shooting two before killing himself. It also happened while jurors in Colorado decide whether the man who killed 12 and wounded 70 others during a theater shooting in 2012 should get the death penalty.
Such attacks have become all too common, said Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson.
"To the general public, anywhere we gather there is likely to be an incident," Anderson said. "Obviously, in this day and time we need to be mindful of our circumstances, mindful of our surroundings. But this is maybe what we call the new normal. We can't just shut down America, we can't say we're not going to theaters, we can't say we're not going to church. We carry on. But we need to be mindful of our surroundings as we do that."
The man who received the cut on his shoulder spoke briefly to reporters outside the theater Wednesday afternoon. He was identified only as Steven, Aaron said, because he did not want to bring any more attention to his family.
"The only thing that I would like to say is that I'm eternally grateful to the Metro Police Department for their fast response today, and the fact that no one else got injured other than the person who did this," Steven said.
"And I would also like to thank all the citizens who gathered around us, helped my daughter when we were pepper-sprayed. That kind of gives me a little bit more faith in humanity again."
Steven added that he had "no idea why this gentleman decided to attack us."
The entire event Wednesday lasted less than an hour.
Plumber Chris Nelson was loading his truck for a job near the theater.
"We heard a couple shots, then a few seconds later a couple more," he said. "And then you just hear them fly open."
"You always assume the worst," Nelson said. "I just didn't want it to come here."
The theater complex sits in a commercial area in Antioch, a middle-class community in the southern part of Nashville. It's next to the Global Crossing mall, a past-its-prime shopping area recently upgraded with an ice rink developed by the Nashville Predators professional hockey team.
More guns, less guns? Let's talk about public safety
by David Plazas
The last time I went to the movies was on July 28 at Regal Cinema Opry Mills.
A colleague and I had tickets to see "Cast Party," a revue of podcasts performed on a New York stage and simulcast live into theaters across the nation.
We had seats near the entrance, and while I did my best to enjoy the film, I felt deeply concerned for my safety and that of the other moviegoers.
Just five days earlier a man began a shooting rampage in a Lafayette, La., movie theater during the showing of "Trainwreck" and killed two women, including Jillian Johnson, who grew up in Nashville and attended Belmont University.
On Wednesday Metro police say a 29-year-old man brought a gun and a hatchet to a showing of "Mad Max" at Carmike Hickory 8 in Antioch. Three people sustained minor injuries, and the suspect, Vincente Montano, was involved in a confrontation with police that left him dead.
We should be grateful that no moviegoer was killed and thankful to the Metro police officers who responded so quickly.
However, as the Lafayette shooting and the 2012 Aurora, Colo., massacre shows, there is really not much you can do if someone enters a movie theater or any public space with a gun and starts firing.
It's frightening to think that we must be on constant alert in order to enjoy entertainment with our friends and families.
Yet the gun violence debate changes little, be it a movie theater shooting or tragedies like those in Chattanooga on July 16, at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17 or Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
On the extremes, one side calls for taking away or severely restricting people's guns, as if that would stop criminals or deranged people from getting their hands on them. The other side calls for putting more guns into people's hands, as if stoking a firefight in a near-empty or crowded theater is the answer to keeping us safe.
The problem with a lot of the legislation that has passed in Tennessee — allowing people to take their guns into parks and other public places — is that they are predicated on fearmongering by the individuals and organizations that want us to believe that if we don't pass these laws, our constitutional rights are at stake.
I believe people's gun rights should be respected, but I don't think everyone should have a gun and guns don't have to be everywhere.
I acknowledge that even though felons and mentally ill people are among those who are not supposed to be able to have guns, these tragedies prove over and over that these individuals can find, get, buy or steal the weapons.
I also acknowledge that at the end of the day, it is not the gun that kills the victim, it's the person who pulled the trigger.
That is why we need to refocus our discussion on how all of us, including those who revere the Second Amendment and those who abhor guns, can come together to talk about the community's safety.
Let's stop the cycle of blame, fearmongering and knee-jerk-ism.
The next time I go to the movies — should I choose to go back — I would like to know that I can enjoy the movie without feeling I need to fear for my safety.
Louisiana police officer dies in shooting, manhunt underway for suspect
by Fox News
A frantic manhunt for a gunman was underway Thursday after a Shreveport, La. police officer died Wednesday after being shot on duty.
Shreveport Police Cpt. Marcus Hines told a press conference late Wednesday that the officer, whose name has not been released, was shot at around 9:15 p.m. local time while responding to a report of a suspicious person inside a home. Hines says an armed man was apparently inside the residence, threatening to harm people.
Hines initially said the officer was in “very serious” condition at a hospital, but later told KTAL that the officer had died.
Hines said the Shreveport police, Caddo Parish deputies and canines are searching for a male suspect. A press conference will be held at 9:30 a.m. local time to outline details of the deadly shooting and release the name of the dead officer.
Shreveport police spokesman Bill Goodin told The Associated Press that investigators believe they know who the suspect is and are obtaining a warrant for his arrest.
"Last night, we lost one of our brave, uniformed officers in the line of duty. Our hearts are saddened," Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler told KTBS. "We ask for the community's prayers for this officer's family and SPD as we grieve the loss of one of our own who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting the citizens of this city."
The station reported that the last fatal shooting of a Shreveport police officer took place in October 2010. Shreveport is the third-largest city in Louisiana with a population of around 200,000 people. It is located in the so-called Ark-La-Tex region, where the borders of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas meet.
Polls: Ferguson shifted whites' views
A majority of whites now say the country should do more to make sure equal rights become a reality.
by the Tribune News Service
WASHINGTON — After a year of high-profile police shootings of black Americans, many captured on video, racial attitudes among Americans – particularly whites – have undergone a significant shift.
A majority of whites now say the country needs to do more to make equal rights a reality, and a significantly larger number of white Americans say blacks are treated less fairly than others by law enforcement officials, according to several newly released polls.
The share who say racism is a “big problem” in the U.S. has grown significantly as well.
Asked whether the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” or whether it already has “made the changes needed,” Americans by just short of 2-1 now say more change is needed, according to a new survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
A majority of whites, 53 percent, agrees that more change is needed, according to the Pew survey and a separate poll by The Washington Post and ABC News, which asked the same question.
ONE YEAR LATER
The polls, both released Wednesday, come as the country approaches the Aug. 9 anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the black teenager whose shooting by an officer in Ferguson, Mo., focused new attention on police use of force against blacks and other racial minorities.
The shifts are significant. For the last several years, fewer than 4 in 10 whites have said that the country needs more change to achieve equality. Instead, a majority of whites consistently has said that the country already had “made the changes needed.”
Some of the activists involved in protests the last year over police shootings took the shift in public opinion as at least a partial vindication.
“Man, that's good, that's huge,” said Tony Rice, one of the most prominent of Ferguson's activists.
Rice, who has spent considerable time over the past year on a campaign to persuade white and black voters to recall Ferguson's mayor, said white residents have often told him that the news during the last year has caused them to rethink racial issues.
“They said, ‘We had no idea what you guys were being treated like,'” he said. “My thing was, ‘Hey, we tried to tell you, you just didn't listen,'” Rice said.
“Now they're starting to listen. That's what it comes down to,” he said. “I'll take it.”
DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, called the shift in attitudes “an acknowledgement of the impact of racism” that black Americans have long experienced. That's a testament to the impact the protests in Ferguson and elsewhere have had, he said.
MORE CHANGE NEEDED
But a change in attitude is only partial progress, he added. “It will be important,” he added, “that knowledge translates into action, that people use their privilege to dismantle racist structures and systems,” he said.
Even among African-Americans, the already large number who say the country needs to make more changes has grown in the last year, the polls found, reaching 86 percent in the Pew survey. Latinos also say by large margins that more changes are needed.
Among whites, a big part of the shift in attitudes has come from Republicans.
The Republican Party remains more conservative on racial issues than either Democrats or Americans who do not identify with either party. A majority of Republicans, for example, say that the country already has made the necessary changes to achieve equality.
But among Republicans, the share who say the country needs to change further has grown 15 points over the last year, Pew found.
Another measure – the share of Americans who say that racism in the U.S. is a “big problem” – has also shown a significant increase. Today, half of the country says racism is a “big problem,” Pew found, up from one-third who said so five years ago.
From the Department of Justice
Office on Violence Against Women Announces Online Resource Center for Institutions of Higher Education
The U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) today announced the launch of The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture, a new comprehensive online clearinghouse on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on campus. This new website provides the latest information, materials and resources for campus administrators, faculty and staff, as well as campus and community law enforcement, victim service providers, students, parents and other key stakeholders to use to improve campus safety.
“The launch of this website reaffirms the department's commitment to providing campuses with tools to develop and implement effective responses to sexual and dating violence on campus,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “The department commends campus leaders for championing these issues and for their dedication to bringing about lasting changes on their campuses.”
Since the release of Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault on Jan. 22, 2014, the Justice Department, in partnership with the Department of Education, has strengthened federal enforcement efforts and provided institutions of higher education with tools to help combat sexual assault and domestic violence on campus.
“Colleges and universities across the country are looking for resources to improve their response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus," said Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women. "Visitors to the website will have access to cutting-edge tools, including sample policies, protocols, and best practices, that can be adapted and replicated on colleges and universities across the county."
Content for The Center for Changing Our Campus Culture website was provided by OVW and its Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program technical assistance providers, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The center will continue to work collaboratively to update and maintain the website and will seek guidance and input from campus-based experts, campus communities, and grassroots groups committed to ending sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
PTSD – Addiction Not Required
Not All PTSD Cases Are Created Equal: An Educational Effort from Serve & Protect and Tennessee State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police
by Robert Michaels
Addiction is not a symptom of PTSD, it CAN be a byproduct, or a reason to look deeper. And, not all addictions are substance abuse.
This is a critical distinction, one we have encountered in calls from Public Safety professionals needing help. Know the difference!
“My department said I can't have PTSD because I am not an alcoholic.”
Public safety pros individually respond differently to traumatic experiences. For some, the incident is no problem. For others, various symptoms of PTSD can present themselves. LEFT UNTREATED addictions of various kinds may occur to mask the emotional turmoil experienced. For some, no symptoms develop. Know what to do and what to look for in yourself and others.
A Physical Wound If a first responder responds to an event, let's use a serious vehicle accident for example and on arrival the initial observation is smoke billowing from under the hood. The first responder will work to extricate the driver. Suppose the door is locked or jammed. The window is broken and the driver pulled to safety. Further imagine that first responder cut their hand deeply while making the rescue. Immediate attention to stopping bleeding and a temporary bandage will by the proper action – followed by a trip to the ER where proper evaluation and treatment will occur.
An Emotional Wound Now suppose in that same scenario, the first on scene, after extricating the driver, observes a child in the back seat. If rescue is not possible, or if the impact caused death, that may well cause an emotional wound. Likely there will be a critical incident diffusion and/or debriefing. For some, the mental image of the dead child may well be a deep-seated traumatic memory. More than a debriefing may be needed. But, we are tough guys, and do not want to show emotional weakness.
Either a physical wound or an emotional wound, if left untreated, can cause serious repercussions. Physically, an infection, gangrene, perhaps death if left untreated. No one would do that. However, significant emotional wounds left untreated can lead to symptoms of PTSD – signs first responders try hard to mask. Self-medication or other escape mechanisms may be employed. Such can spiral out of control. Suicide may be seen as the only way out.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience. It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. (PTSD.com/uk)
Let me say it again, addiction is not a symptom of PTSD, rather, can be a byproduct. Those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress try to escape from the emotional toll whether from cumulative incidents, or for some, a primary event.
For some, the escape can be excessive exercise, while others find different attempts to cope – like a sex addiction, becoming a workaholic, isolation, or other such means. For some, the addiction is substance abuse, whether alcohol or narcotics. Each poor coping effort can become an addiction to divert thoughts from traumatic memories triggering the symptoms. In no way do I excuse addictions. Can an addiction precede PTSD symptoms? Of course. The addiction may have been an issue prior to joining a public safety profession. There could be prior personal issues driving the addiction.
Buyer Beware The point is, if the emotional components of PTSD are properly treated, concurrent with treatment for the addiction, the first responder can recover well and be productive. However, if only treated for the addiction at an addiction treatment center, where the PTSD elements are either ignored or not adequately addressed through proven modalities, the addiction will most likely return, or another coping mechanism can become a problem, perhaps even more than before.
Specifically, if there is a diagnosis of PTSD with a co-occurring addiction, a true dual diagnosis treatment is paramount – moreover, treating the PTSD is the critical component, because it is possible the traumatic memories can drive the client to the addiction.
To say someone in public safety professions can stop an addiction if they choose is a misunderstanding of the likely motivators for the addiction, masking emotional turmoil, PTSD symptoms. Far too many do not ask for help because they fear the PTSD diagnosis out of concern for their job.
Sadly, some administrators with antiquated views on mental health and wellness reflect old school, uninformed understanding of PTSD and the emotional toll possible from trauma encountered on the job, whether traumatic incidents on the street or through administrative issues. Such management philosophies exacerbate the fear of asking for help.
How to Get Help
The first step is locating a properly trained trauma therapist for evaluation for PTSD and/or an addiction. If residential treatment is deemed necessary after assessment, the trauma therapist would recommend that step. By calling our Serve & Protect crisis line, trained professionals can connect the caller directly with a well trained intake professional to evaluate the immediate needs, or on the other hand, referral to a trauma therapist to begin the process of restoration.
Depending on the therapist, addiction therapists may not be as well trained in PTSD, and if treating it as an addiction do little if anything for the cauldron of emotion brewing in the mind. When the addiction does not subside, the addiction therapist will likely refer to psychiatrists – who too often prescribe pills. Pills likely ruin careers – unnecessarily. For some, medication may become necessary, but not until other means of treatment are attempted and exhausted.
The point is, not all addictions are created equal because we each have unique emotional makeup and backgrounds. If people could just choose to stop on their own, short of a miracle from God (which I have witnessed), there would be no need for all the addiction centers in America. Freedom from addiction can coincide with freedom from emotional bondage to traumatic memories.
To that end, Serve & Protect, and our partner Safe Call Now are committed to addressing PTSD and related addictions find-solution-crisis-tear-paper-to-out-50746111through dual diagnosis residential care facilities properly vetted with on-site visits and evaluation by our Safe Call Now partners. The quality of care, understanding of trauma and addictions, and understanding of the professions we serve is of paramount importance.find-solution-crisis-tear-paper-to-out-50746111
On the other hand, there are some addiction treatment centers that are focused on facility census, that is, filling beds for profit margins. Some initially recommend coming to their facility for assessment. Our care partners do a thorough initial assessment over the phone, and, if residential care is not warranted, we work together to locate adequate trauma therapist care locally. The focus is finding the best solution for each caller's needs.
Certainly there are resources through employers, such as EAP, peer support, or Chaplains. Many in public safety are hesitant to utilize those for fear of breach of confidentiality and / or reprisal. Sadly, for some, that fear proved to be reality. For those afraid to ask in-house help. We provide a safety net, a confidential resource you can trust – absolutely. We are YOUR advocate.
The Process is Client Need Centered
Both Serve & Protect and Safe Call Now are 501(c)(3) non-profits. Neither charges anything for our service for callers, nor for referrals to care partners.
Whereas Safe Call Now addresses the crisis line and facilitates residential care assessments, Serve & Protect facilitates trauma therapist care. We identify all therapists specializing in trauma in the client's area – specifically, we go further and locate one who takes their insurance and has openings for care. We emphasize trauma therapists who have tools like EMDR and Rapid Resolution Therapy, among others in their toolbox. Both of those modalities of treatment have proven to be very effective for our clients.
We also can facilitate Equine therapy, service dogs, recreational therapy, and more through relationships we developed over the years. The bottom line – people can respond better to one therapy than another.
Rounding out what I call 360Care. We serve the caller from the first call, whether referring to a therapist or residential care, and following residential care treatment, we facilitate the same process of locating a therapist for aftercare at home.
The emphasis – real solutions for real problems.
Both Serve & Protect and our partner Safe Call Now charge callers nothing for our services, nor do we receive fees from those to whom we refer. We operate on the good graces of individuals and businesses that believe in the importance of the services we provide to our homeland heroes.
We provide confidential, collaborative, comprehensive, and compassionate care 24/7/365 at 615-373-8000
A Parting Thought
The impact of PTSD and/or addictions – and related behavioral issues directly impact relationships. High divorce rates and too often multiple marriages, estrangement from children, domestic violence, loss of friendships, not to mention the physical issues, are all potential ramifications of ignoring the elephant in the room. Too often, thoughts turn to suicide to end the problem, thinking all would be better of. Do not buy that lie. I personally have helped families pick up the pieces of shattered lives following the suicide of a public safety professional. The tragic impact is lifelong.
If you are reading this and feel at the end of your rope, or know someone who is, silence will kill. Say something, be engaged in reaching out. If it is you, please, call us. It truly breaks my heart to hear of yet another public safety suicide while knowing help is but a phone call away. It takes us all working together to get the job done – Peers, our Serve & Protect team, Safe Call Now, therapists, treatment centers. Our comprehensive and collaborative support team all focused on real solutions for real problems. Your problems.
Lastly, as a Christian, I can absolutely assure you that if you call out to God for help, He will respond. He did for me. No matter where you are, how deep the well, I have found the teaching of Psalm 23 to be true and assuring. The Good Shepherd knows His flock, cares for their needs, and watches over them to help them through good times and hard times.
For help, please call us at 615-373-8000. One of our peer advocates – each of whom have experience in public safety – will help you identify the best solution for YOUR need.
Now. Be aware of these signs and symptoms of PTSD:
From Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.org
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include: Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:
Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Always being on guard for danger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Being easily startled or frightened
Finally, if you or someone you know is presenting these symptoms please call our crisis line. 615-373-8000. We are on call 24/7/365. Visit www.serveprotect.org where we have several videos illustrating the issues of PTSD and suicide among public safety professionals as discussed here. There are several articles available too.
Serve & Protect, working with the Tennessee State Lodge and Williamson County TN Morris Heithcock Lodge 41 of the Fraternal Order of Police are working to impact our state with information to help understand PTSD and suicide in public safety. Several resources are available from the home page at Serve & Protect.
Download our free mobile app from our Serve & Protect website. (Apple/Droid) Access multiple videos suitable for roll call or in-service training. Download our FREE PTSD Awareness Poster – RESOURCES Request business sized cards with crisis line information We have 50+ topical posts in archive on our site – feel free to use as you need. Consider a seminar / in-service with a Serve & Protect speaker to address these issues. Call 615-224-2424 for more information.
Most of all, remember – you are not alone. Many peers across the country experience the very same issues. Our mission is to serve families and save lives – yours and those just like you.
This article and related resources are part of an educational campaign from Serve & Protect and the Tennessee State Lodge and the Williamson County TN Morris Heithcock Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. Our hope is to educate peers and provide insight into PTSD and suicide in public safety professions. Together we hope to serve families and save lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Michaels is the CEO / Founder of Serve & Protect, an organization dedicated serving public safety – police officers, firefighter/rescue/ems, dispatch, emergency management, and corrections professionals and their families through comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate, confidential care for emotional and spiritual needs.
In launching Serve & Protect, Michaels returns to his roots. He served in law enforcement first with the 229th Military Police Battalion of the Virginia Army National Guard, as well as with Norfolk (VA) Police Department, both on patrol and in the detective bureau.
Based in Brentwood Rob serves as the Chaplain for the FBI Memphis Division, Nashville R.A., State Chaplain for Tennessee Fraternal Order of Police, and is a Chaplain and Sergeant at Arms for FOP Morris Heithcock Lodge 41 in Williamson County TN, where he is an active member. Rob is on call with area agencies for critical incidents . Rob also leads a area Bible study – Guns'n'Hoses – for Public Safety and Veterans.
Rob is a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, National Center for Crisis Management, International Conference of Police Chaplains, Federation of Fire Chaplains, , and Luis Palau Association Next Generation Alliance. He holds a B.A. from Columbia International University and a M.A. from Wheaton College (IL).
For speaking invitations at Criminal Justice classes, in-service training, Churches, special events and conferences, as well as media interviews, please contact our office.
615-373-8000 / crisis line
615-224-2424 / office
The Memphis police officer was the 18th officer shot and killed so far this year
by Mark Berman
Authorities on Monday arrested a man accused of shooting and killing Sean Bolton, a Memphis police officer, over the weekend. Tremaine Wilbourn, 29, turned himself in following a manhunt that began with Bolton's death on Saturday. Wilbourn is set to make his first court appearance on Wednesday morning.
Police say Wilbourn shot Bolton multiple times after the officer approached a car that was illegally parked and “apparently interrupted some sort of drug transaction,” according to a statement from the Memphis Police Department.
Bolton, 33, was the 18th police officer shot and killed by a suspect so far this year, according to nonprofit organizations that track line-of-duty deaths.
The total number of police officers killed in the line of duty has increased this year when compared to the same point last year, although the number of officers who died after being shot by suspects has declined. The year-to-year increase is largely due to more fatal traffic accidents, according to a report released National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Traffic accidents were the leading cause of death for police officers over the first half of this year, the fund said in a midyear report, responsible for 30 deaths during that period.
Through the first half of the year, 16 police officers were shot and killed, down from 23 officers killed that way during the first half of 2014, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that tracks all line-of-duty fatalities.
Through Wednesday morning, 18 police officers have been shot and killed, down from 27 officers killed that way at the same point in 2014, the memorial page's records show.
Officers have been shot and killed responding to calls, as occurred in Fulton County, Ga. , or happening upon robberies, which is what happened to an officer in Philadelphia. Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco was a few hours from starting maternity leave when she was shot serving an arrest warrant for a suspect in a different shooting. Sonny Kim, an officer in Cincinnati, was killed exchanging gunfire with a suspect who had called 911 to summon police.
Pittsburgh police chief announces latest violent crime numbers, pledges more community involvement
by Beau Berman and Katelyn Sykes
PITTSBURGH — Better communication between police zones, increased staffing in the homicide unit and a deeper level of community involvement were among the changes that Police Chief Cameron McLay and Mayor Bill Peduto say are necessary to reduce gun violence in Pittsburgh.
At a news conference Tuesday to announce the city's latest violent crime numbers, McLay said there have been 20 homicides since January -- down from previous years -- but shootings, gun assaults and calls for shots fired are all up.
In response, McLay said all six zones in the Pittsburgh Police Bureau are working together by sharing information and working in each other's zones.
A new crime response protocol is also in place, breaking down crimes into three levels that McLay said will help police with their response.
The chief also said the homicide unit has increased from 17 to 32 officers.
Regarding community efforts, McLay said police will direct their attention toward the most violent individuals instead of a neighborhood as a whole, while also reaching out to community members to find out who has influence and try to develop relationships that will help them identify people responsible for the violence and put an end to it.
"It's going to take a very focused effort with police, the criminal justice system, service providers and the moral voice of the community all looking at these young people together and say, 'The violence stops today because we're all together and we're not going to support you anymore,'" McLay said.
Police must establish a greater level of trust within the communities they patrol so the residents of those neighborhoods will share information without fear of retaliation, McLay said, adding that officers have recently been working on that issue.
Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block in Homewood, welcomed the news.
"When you blanket a whole neighborhood as bad, then the good law-abiding citizens of that community do take offense to that," Jackson said.
He believes police have already shown a tendency to communicate better with leaders in Homewood, and believes a return to "community policing" is needed.
"Having officers walking the beat who are from the neighborhood, who know the neighborhood, know the people of the neighborhood, I think we got a lot of good results," Jackson said.
During a one on one interview with Pittsburgh's Action News Four at the National Night Out Event in Garfield Tuesday night, Mayor Peduto said he is encouraged by the new policing plan.
“The restructuring provides additional resources and really has a new effect of crossing across police zones in order to be able to go after the bad guy," said Peduto.
He continued to stress the need for community involvement.
“We don't solve crime unless we have the eyes and ears of the community helping us to solve crime. We couldn't hire enough police officers to do it themselves. It's a team effort," said Peduto.
Peduto spoke before a Garfield audience about the change in that neighborhood from 1995 until now, with a drop in crime and safer streets.
He's now hoping for a similar change in violence-plagued neighborhoods like Homewood and the Hill District.
Police will continue to analyze crime numbers and move forward with the new policing plan, but the mayor said he is keeping the big picture in mind.
“It has trends that go up and down and those fluctuations aren't really the true analysis, the true analysis is whether people feel safe in their neighborhood," Peduto said.
Ky. sheriff's office asks drug dealers to turn in their rivals
A new poster going viral tells drug dealers it will help them eliminate their competition for free
by The Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky sheriff's office has posted a flyer on its Facebook page asking drug dealers to turn in their rivals.
Multiple media outlets report the Franklin County Sheriff's Office posted the flyer Monday afternoon. It features an image of a marijuana leaf and says, "Is your drug dealing competition costing you money? We offer a free service to help you eliminate your drug competition!"
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton says the post is funny, but the sheriff's department is not joking around.
At the bottom of the letter, people are asked to fill out information about the drug dealer they are reporting, including the dealer's name and vehicle.
Melton says he got the idea from the McIntosh County Sheriff's Office in Georgia.
Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
As of Tuesday morning, the post had 394 online shares.
Advocates, Analysts See Pivotal Moment in Push for Reforms
by Sarah Barr
President Obama's sweeping speech on criminal justice reform last month included a familiar refrain for juvenile justice reformers: “Kids are different.”
“Don't just tag them as future criminals. Reach out to them as future citizens,” he told the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia.
The president's speech was one marker in a recent string of political pronouncements, legislative rumblings and on-the-ground policy developments that have reformers hoping this is a moment for criminal justice reform — one that will include juvenile justice.
It's early to say exactly how the momentum will play out for young people and their families who come into contact with the criminal justice system. But there are guideposts for whether and how that momentum is building, say advocates and analysts.
“It definitely feels like a pivotal moment. The question is what happens next,” said Marc Schindler, the executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that works to reduce incarceration.
In recent months, some states have taken action against the use of shackles and solitary confinement for juveniles. Reports on the success of “close to home” programs that try to keep juveniles connected to their families and communities while they are incarcerated were released, and high-profile raise the age campaigns were waged.
Experts say lawmakers, prosecutors and judges are more receptive than ever before to science that shows children's and teenagers' brains are still developing, so they need to be treated differently in the justice system.
More broadly, there is bipartisan sentiment that the United States has an unsustainable and unproductive level of mass incarceration. Several major reform bills focused on the adult system have been introduced in Congress this year.
Derek Cohen, deputy director of the conservative group Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said it is important to look at each state individually because each has a unique starting point.
But he's hard-pressed to think of places where change isn't at least under discussion.
“I think that the prevailing winds have changed, that the fundamental landscape has changed,” he said.
Cohen expects juvenile justice reforms, which he said typically have had more support than adult reforms, not to get tossed out even as lawmakers focus on the criminal justice system broadly.
One federal indicator for juvenile justice reforms will be the ongoing reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which sets federal standards and supports for juvenile justice programs in state and local jurisdictions.
A bill to reauthorize the law, which was last updated in 2002, sailed through a Senate committee in July with bipartisan support and is headed to the Senate floor. What happens there and in the House will be telling about the strength of that bipartisan agreement, reformers say.
Schindler said the amount of funding dedicated to JJDPA will also be a key clue about how juveniles will fare in the coming years, as will the kinds of programs state and local governments decide to invest in. He wants to see programs that emphasize healthy communities with opportunities for adolescents to learn and mature in safe ways.
“Those are the types of things we know from the research make kids less likely to end up in the juvenile justice system,” he said.
Schindler said alongside signs of progress is evidence reforms are still needed, such as the increasing rates of racial disparities in the juvenile system even as the number of incarcerated juveniles has come down.
“We are not anywhere close to a fair system, so we've got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Schindler said he also will be watching to see whether the broad discussions of criminal justice reform look beyond nonviolent offenders to how violent offenders are treated within the system.
In addition, he's interested in whether the consensus around the science that says kids are different will also spur reforms for young adults older than 18.
“People are starting to ask the right question, which is that if 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds are more like 15-year-olds than 40-year-olds, why are we treating them like 40-year-olds?” he said.
Elizabeth Clarke, founder and president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, an advocacy organization in Illinois, said the criminal justice reform movement does seem to be at a unique moment.
But she also thinks the reform push could fall short of its potential if it fails to consider what's happening in the United States in the context of international human rights.
“The problem really is that our whole notion of what is proportionate for punishment has not kept pace with the rest of the world,” she said.
Reforms should begin with the question of what is most humane, whether offenders are juveniles or adults, nonviolent or violent, Clarke said.
“Without that frame, the inroads that we're able to make are going to be really narrow,” she said.
U.S. Violent Crime Rate Drops Significantly Since 1980s
Reduction may be due to programs that try to break cycle of violence, experts say
by Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Violent crime rates have decreased dramatically over the past three decades, largely due to crime prevention efforts that focus on the root causes of violence, researchers say.
Murders in the United States have dropped by more than half, from a peak of 10.7 per 100,000 persons in 1980 to 5.1 per 100,000 in 2013, a new study revealed.
Aggravated assaults also have declined, from a peak of 442 per 100,000 in 1992 to 242 per 100,000 in 2012. And the percentage of assaults that result in death has been halved since the 1960s, the study reported.
Findings from the study are published in the Aug. 4 issue of JAMA .
Researchers chalk up the reduction to improved coordination between the criminal justice system, social services and public health officials.
By helping children and adults affected by violence or crime, officials are breaking the cycle that can lead victims to become victimizers, said senior author Dr. Debra Houry, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We're encouraged that we are seeing rates of severe violence decrease," Houry said. "It really speaks to the fact that violence is preventable, and we can do something about it."
However, there's still much room for improvement. Despite these decreases, every year there are more than 16,000 homicides and 1.6 million assault injuries that require treatment in emergency departments, the researchers found.
Experts also are concerned that we don't know the true extent of the violence occurring around us, due to lack of reporting.
For example, more than 12 million adults experience domestic violence annually and more than 10 million children younger than 18 years of age experience maltreatment ranging from neglect to sexual abuse, but only a small percentage of these violent incidents are reported to an official, researchers said.
"You've got a lot of questions about what is really reported, and what is really going on," said Daniel Flannery, director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Violence began declining in the 1980s and 1990s as efforts shifted to an approach that emphasizes prevention, Houry said.
"Violence is really interconnected," she said. "For example, if you are a victim of child abuse, you might go on to perpetrate youth violence or partner violence. So if you can impact one type of violence through prevention, you can decrease other types of violence."
As experts have gathered evidence on tactics that work best, they have been able to refine and hone programs aimed at preventing violence, Houry and Flannery said.
They've found that the most effective violence prevention strategies include parent and family-focused programs, early childhood education, school-based programs, and therapeutic or counseling interventions, the study said.
For example, a systematic review of early childhood home visitation programs found a 39 percent reduction in episodes of child abuse, compared with families not participating in the program.
"It's not just an individual person issue, it's not just a family issue, it's not just a neighborhood issue, it's not just a policy issue," Flannery said. "It's all of these things combined. Violence is a complicated social problem. You can't just address it from one level, nor can you address it effectively from one system."
Law enforcement and courts have started working more closely with social services, child protective services and public health officials, which has helped get at the roots of violent crime, Flannery and Houry said.
Examples include the advent of drug courts and mental health courts, programs where kids exposed to violence are provided counseling, and initiatives that steer juvenile offenders away from jail and into treatment programs, they both noted.
"We have a program here that we've been tracking kids for about 10 years where they get diverted into community-based treatment, as opposed to the juvenile prisons here in Ohio," Flannery said. "We've seen a significant reduction in the prison population, but also improvement in things like trauma symptoms and substance abuse and rates of offending."
But there's one huge hole in America's approach to preventing violence, Flannery pointed out -- few efforts are focused on the role of firearms in violent crime. Even the new report provided scant information on gun-related violence.
"That's a hot topic, but yes, I think we haven't been doing research on this for a bunch of policy-related reasons," he said, adding that President Barack Obama has issued executive orders that should jump-start research into firearms violence.
For more information on violence prevention, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Maryland Town Fires Its Black Police Chief, Exposing a Racial Rift
by SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
POCOMOKE CITY, Md. — Kelvin Sewell figured he had landed his dream job in 2010, when he retired as a Baltimore police officer to help run the tiny 16-member force in this little riverfront city, which calls itself “the friendliest town on the Eastern Shore.” A year later he became its first African-American police chief.
Blacks and whites have coexisted, sometimes uneasily, in Pocomoke for centuries, but Chief Sewell, with his easygoing manner, quickly fit in. He prodded officers to patrol on foot, pleasing business owners. He helped poor students fill out college applications. Crime, everyone agrees, went down on his watch.
But the chief's abrupt dismissal in June, without explanation, by a white mayor and majority white City Council that voted along racial lines, has torn Pocomoke asunder, wrecking old friendships and exposing a deep racial rift in this community of roughly 4,100 people, split almost evenly between black and white.
The drama in Pocomoke is a tiny slice of America's searing national conversation about race, playing out largely in big cities like Baltimore, St. Louis and most recently, Cincinnati, around police mistreatment of African-Americans. A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll found nearly six in 10 Americans, including majorities of blacks and whites, think race relations are generally bad, and nearly four in 10 think they are getting worse.
What makes Pocomoke unusual is the way that conversation is tearing apart a small town, forcing lifelong friends and neighbors to confront how differently they see the world. A black minister who went to high school with the white mayor — and worked to elect him — is pushing for his ouster. A white city councilman provoked gasps by addressing black citizens as “you people.”
“There is so much history here, with everybody being raised here — except the chief,” said Monna VanEss, 53, the former city finance director, who is white. “A lot of these people on both sides went to school together and have known each other all their lives. We've never been this divided.”
Mr. Sewell, 53, says his firing was “racially motivated” punishment for standing up for two black officers who experienced harassment. (Before his dismissal, his lawyer said, he had also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that he was paid less than his white predecessor.) Black residents, led by two prominent African-American ministers, have demanded the chief's reinstatement — they say they have more than 500 signatures on a petition — and the resignation of Mayor Bruce Morrison.
Blacks are also organizing politically, accusing the city — with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland — of voting rights irregularities involving the cancellation of a municipal election, which cleared the way for a white city councilman to take office in April with no opposition in a majority black district. The situation is so tense that the Justice Department recently sent mediators to hear black residents' concerns.
“This is political and racial,” said the Rev. James Jones, an associate pastor at the New Macedonia Baptist Church and the mayor's former classmate. He says African-Americans were so furious about the chief's firing he feared Pocomoke would break out into a riot. “The political structure of Pocomoke, they are not ready for a black chief. They don't like us at the top.”
Not so, insists Mayor Morrison, who said the chief's dismissal is a personnel matter, which he cannot discuss. He has no intention of quitting. “I've never been called a racist in my life,” he said during a brief interview at his desk in Pocomoke's small, brick City Hall. “And I don't appreciate it.”
While some whites are withholding judgment, at least one, Michael Dean, a funeral director and part-time forensic investigator with the state medical examiner's office, has openly criticized the chief. He said he has “lost respect” for Mr. Sewell but would not say why. Others seem unable to fathom that race may have played a role.
“Nobody knows why he was let go, but there was a reason and it wasn't racial,” said Marc Scher, who owns a bridal shop downtown. Mr. Scher says the wife of the Rev. Ronnie White, the other black minister pressing for the ouster of the mayor, does seamstress work for him, and the pastor's grandmother was the Scher family's housekeeper when Mr. Scher was a boy.
“They're still my friends,” he said. “I don't agree with them.”
Nestled between the Chesapeake and Chincoteague Bays, and surrounded by corn and soybean fields, Pocomoke City is part of Maryland's lower Eastern Shore, a world away and much poorer than fancy shore communities like St. Michaels, where prominent Washingtonians keep summer homes. Its history of racial tensions runs deep.
Resistance to slavery was strong in Maryland, but the lower Eastern Shore, just across the border from Virginia, was home to Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. The early 20th century brought lynch mobs. The region was slow to desegregate its schools and even slower to elect blacks to government, said Deborah Jeon, legal director for the A.C.L.U. of Maryland, which in the 1990s brought a voting rights case that forced changes in the way Pocomoke's surrounding county, Worcester, held elections.
“It's not like the rest of Maryland; it's more like the Deep South,” Ms. Jeon said. “They fought us tooth and nail to prevent changes in the election system, even though the county had an all-white government for 250 years.”
Poverty is a concern. Pocomoke's per capita income is $19,243, about half that of Maryland as a whole, and 27.1 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The rough side of town, known locally as “the back burner,” is overwhelmingly black, with run-down cinder block homes and a reputation for drugs and crime.
“Coming to Pocomoke from Baltimore City,” Mr. Sewell said, “it feels like you go back in time.”
Mr. Sewell's troubles began, both he and his lawyer Andrew McBride said, when a black detective, Franklin L. Savage, complained of racial harassment while assigned to a regional police task force on combating the drug trade.
After a string of racially charged incidents — including receiving a text message addressing him with a racial epithet and being driven by fellow officers down a street they called “K.K.K. road” — Detective Savage asked to go back to his regular work in Pocomoke and complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Mr. McBride of the law firm Wiley Rein.
But upon his return, Mr. McBride said, Detective Savage faced questions from city officials about his credibility, and wound up on night duty, which he construed as retaliation. Another black Pocomoke officer, Lt. Lynell Green, accompanied Detective Savage to a commission mediation session, and later complained of harassment as well. After that, Mr. McBride said, both officers were branded troublemakers, and city officials began pressuring Chief Sewell to fire them.
When he would not, said Mr. McBride — who is representing all three men with the nonprofit Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs — the chief was fired. The other two officers remain on the force.
William C. Hudson, the Pocomoke City solicitor, said that was not an accurate accounting of events, though like Mayor Morrison he would not offer specifics. “When all the facts are known,” he said, “it will be clear that the city is guilty of no improprieties and that the action taken to relieve Chief Sewell was in the best interest of the community.”
Perhaps, but ill will abounds. Diane Downing, the lone member of the City Council to oppose Chief Sewell's removal, said the mayor pushed the council to fire him — in violation of the city charter, which does not give the mayor hiring or firing authority — and begged her to vote in favor.
“I am not stupid, and I was not born last night,” she said. “He wanted my vote because I am black.”
The firing has stirred a new spirit of African-American activism. Black residents — many wearing T-shirts bearing Mr. Sewell's likeness — jammed the City Council chambers during a tense meeting after his dismissal. Pastor Jones and Pastor White have formed a coalition, Citizens for a Better Pocomoke, to prod blacks to get more involved in city government. Pastor Jones said they will not rest until the chief is back and the mayor is gone.
“They woke the sleeping giant,” said Gabe Purnell, an African-American activist from nearby Berlin, Md., who is advising the group.
Whites, too, are organizing. At the Salem United Methodist Church, a white congregation, more than 100 people signed a letter Thursday backing the mayor. Both blacks and whites are bracing for the next City Council meeting, Monday night. A Justice Department spokeswoman said its mediators, who have no authority to investigate, “remain available” to “facilitate any discussions” if needed.
Some wonder if Pocomoke will ever heal. Mayor Morrison insists everything will be fine: “It's still the friendliest town on the Eastern Shore,” he said, “and I'll stick by that.”
Baltimore calls in federal agents to help homicide cops deal with spike in violence
by Fox News
Baltimore's police and civic leaders launched a two-month partnership Monday that will see ten federal agents embed with the city's homicide detectives in the latest bid to curb a surge in violent crime that has not been seen in decades.
Under the program, two special agents from each of the federal government's five crime-fighting agencies (the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service and the ATF) will help investigate cases for the next 60 days. The city's acting police commissioner, Kevin Davis, told reporters that the agents met with officers Monday to discuss cases where officers have identified suspects, but need additional evidence to file charges.
The homicide rate in Baltimore began to skyrocket in May, when the city saw 42 homicides in a single month. There was a brief dip in June, with 29 killings, however the number shot up to 45 in July, breaking a record set in 1972. The uptick comes after rioting in the spring over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who was critically injured while in police custody.
In total, the city has recorded 192 homicides so far this year, according to The Baltimore Sun. By contrast, 208 murders were committed in all of 2014. The three-month total of 116 homicides for May, June, and July is the highest since at least 1970.
Adding to the urgency of Baltimore's violence is the relatively low "clearance rate" of closed homicide cases. Last week, Davis said the city police department's "clearance rate" was at 36.6 percent, down from the department's mid-40s average.
For several years "American cities have not seen an uptick in homicides we're seeing in 2015," Davis said Monday. "Now we're back at the table, and our cities are looking at Baltimore. They want to know what Baltimore's going to do about it."
Davis had said Sunday that more people are arming themselves on the streets, and that the department has seized 20 percent more guns than it had by this time last year. Davis also said the influx of prescription pills — 32 pharmacies were looted during the April 27 riot and nearly 300,000 doses of prescription medication stolen — has contributed to Baltimore's spiking violence.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby attributed to the spiking violence to violent repeat offenders, whom she called "a small number of individuals responsible for the majority of the crimes." Mosby warned those inclined to reach for a weapon that "we are going to go after you with everything that we have. Collaboratively, we will get the job done and convict you."
ATF spokesman Special Agent David Cheplak told the Sun that his agents were assisting Baltimore police with controlled drug buys and surveillance. Officials from the DEA and FBI told the paper that their agents would provide a supporting role for officers.
"We've got to take a different look at things," DEA spokesman Todd Edwards said, "whether it's fresh eyes or just looking at it in a different way."
At Monday's press conference announcing the program, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. made a plea to the residents of his home city.
"The only people making good now are the morticians," Cummings said. "And I say our city is better than that. It's not just the murders and the shootings. I'm begging you, put your guns down."
Referencing the riots after Gray's death, Cummings said, "I hear over and over and over again, 'Black Lives Matter'. And they do matter. But black lives also have to matter to black people."
Ferguson spurs 40 new state measures; activists want more
Police groups have been urging lawmakers to proceed with caution when altering laws on the way they do their jobs
by David A. Lieb
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — When a white Ferguson policeman fatally shot a black 18-year-old nearly a year ago, the St. Louis suburb erupted in violent protests and the nation took notice. Since then, legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public.
The result: Twenty-four states have passed at least 40 new measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
Despite all that action, far more proposals have stalled or failed, the AP review found. And few states have done anything to change their laws on when police are justified to use deadly force.
National civil rights leaders praised the steps taken by states but said they aren't enough to solve the racial tensions and economic disparities that have fueled protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere following instances in which people died in police custody or shootings.
"What we have right now in the country is an emerging consensus as to the need to act," said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks. "What we don't have is a consensus as to how to act, what to act on and how to do this in some kind of priority order."
The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who had scuffled with Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, came just a few weeks after Eric Garner — an unarmed black man accused of illegally selling cigarettes — died in a struggle with white New York City officers. Garner's death was captured by an onlooker's video. Brown's was not, and word quickly spread that he had been shot while surrendering with his hands up — an assertion uncorroborated by state and federal investigations.
Some Ferguson protesters burned stores and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at heavily armored police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds — all under the lens of live, national media coverage. The protests again turned violent when a Missouri grand jury decided not to charge Wilson. And similar riots broke out in Baltimore in April following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured in police custody.
The AP analysis of legislation passed in all 50 states found the greatest interest in officer cameras that can capture what transpires between police and civilians. Sixteen states passed body-camera measures this year, ranging from resolutions merely creating study panels to state grants subsidizing cameras and new laws on how they can be used. Numerous cities from coast-to-coast, including Ferguson, also began using the cameras without waiting for legislative direction.
"Right now, all law enforcement has an image problem," said California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles whose budget subcommittee allotted $1 million for a pilot project outfitting some Highway Patrol troopers with cameras. "They've got to show that they can police their own."
Just three states — Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois — have passed comprehensive packages of legislation encouraging body cameras, boosting police training on such things as racial biases and requiring independent investigations when police shoot people. Colorado and Connecticut also are among several states that bolstered citizen rights to take videos of police.
Police groups have been urging lawmakers to proceed with caution when altering laws on the way they do their jobs. They stress that officers involved in shootings deserve fair investigations and that surplus military equipment typically is used by police for defensive purposes. Any Ferguson-inspired changes should focus on training police commanders to make better decisions on when and how to use their officers and equipment, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Police are frustrated by the tone of the national debate, he said.
"While we're trying to save lives, politicians are trying to save their jobs," he said.
Police unions still hold considerable sway in some states, including in Missouri, where lawmakers filed about 65 bills stemming from the events in Ferguson. Legislators passed just one of them — a measure limiting municipal court fines and traffic tickets in response to complaints about aggressive law enforcement designed to generate revenue. Most notably, Missouri made no change to its law on when police can use deadly force, even though it apparently doesn't comply with a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring deadly force against unarmed fleeing suspects who pose no serious danger.
"As a state, we have not done much," said Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents Ferguson and was among the protesters who were tear-gassed by police. "We have a bunch of chumps who are elected right now who are more comfortable keeping the status quo."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has rallied with relatives of Brown and Garner, described Missouri's response as "disappointing" and indicative of an "institutional denial" of the need for change.
But Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the "landmark" municipal courts bill is an "important step." A commission he created has proposed 148 steps to improve police and court policies, racial and economic equality and local schools. Nixon also created an Office of Community Engagement and a summer jobs program for young people in the St. Louis area.
Other governors also have acted without waiting for legislators. After a rookie Cleveland patrolman fatally shot a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun in November, Ohio Gov. John Kasich created a panel to develop the state's first-ever standards for police use of deadly force. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing appointment of special prosecutors to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians.
In South Carolina, the Ferguson-inspired bills didn't pick up steam until the issue hit closer to home, when a bystander's cellphone video showed a white North Charleston officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the back in April. Two months later, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill allowing state aid for police agencies to buy body cameras.
Advocates for police accountability pushed hard in Maryland this legislative session with limited success, winning passage of bills covering body camera policies and fatal incident reporting. Gray's death occurred shortly after the session ended. Now Maryland lawmakers have formed a panel to further examine public safety and police practices, and civil rights activists there are urging lawmakers to do more.
Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's criminal law reform project, said states can't expect to make real progress by merely equipping officers with cameras or providing more training. He said states must also provide better education, employment and housing opportunities for residents.
"There's been a tremendous amount done over the past year," Edwards said, "but there is a massive amount of work that is left to do going forward."
Meetings to be held by panel examining Ferguson decisions
Panel promised to scrutinize why gov. didn't send in the National Guard to save burning Ferguson businesses
by The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A legislative panel that said it would investigate Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's decisions involving the state's response to protests that followed a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown has met just twice since December, with the chairman citing difficulty in coordinating members' schedules.
The Joint Committee on Government Accountability promised to scrutinize why Nixon didn't send in the National Guard to save burning Ferguson businesses after a grand jury decided not to charge Darren Wilson in the August death of the unarmed, black 18-year-old — a shooting that galvanized the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer said he likes to have everyone present at each meeting and that he's aiming to hold one in September, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
"There's no real immediacy" because legislative recommendations can't be made until lawmakers are in session, he said.
Nixon declared a state of emergency before the grand jury's decision in November, saying St. Louis County police would be in charge in Ferguson with the National Guard deployed to assist them.
Moments after the grand jury announcement, some protesters began looting and setting fires to businesses and vehicles. The National Guard stayed away, and Nixon later said officers sacrificed property to save lives.
During a meeting of the legislative panel in February, St. Louis County fire district officials said they were promised National Guard protection if protests turned violent. They said they learned that wouldn't be case on the day of the grand jury announcement.
The Ferguson mayor said he was unable to get the National Guard to help control the protests. He said he tried to contact two members of the governor's staff but couldn't reach them.
Without another committee meeting, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he may never disclose more details about how and when he learned the National Guard wouldn't be in Ferguson.
"I don't want to get into a situation of dueling depositions," he said.
Duluth officers to increase focus on community policing
by Tom Olsen
The Duluth Police Department will see a significant shift in its community policing efforts beginning next year.
The department plans to reassign two of its community police officers to the patrol division, the first step in eventually bringing the community policing and patrol operations under one umbrella, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said.
The change is brought on at least partially because of an ever-increasing number of police calls, which have placed extreme demands on patrol and extreme demands on patrol officers, Ramsay said.
But Duluth residents and business owners shouldn't fear that they will see a diminished relationship with their local officers, according to the chief.
"Our community policing program is evolving," Ramsay said. "Rather than just having a specialized unit, it's going to be department-wide. We're going to start integrating community policing and have the expectation of patrol officers to do problem-solving."
Community-oriented policing, a strategy that focuses on establishing ties between officers and the citizens they serve, came to prominence in the United States in the 1990s. Ramsay, who worked as a Central Hillside community officer early in his career, has been an adamant supporter of the initiative.
But those efforts aren't as effective when handled by only a few officers, he said.
"If you look at the overall evolution of community policing, that was the plan from the '90s: to have everybody doing it, and not just a specialized unit," he said. "It needs to be spread out department-wide, and we're evolving into that."
For the time being, Duluth will maintain its full force of downtown community officers, along with two officers on both the east and west sides of town. But those positions, too, are expected to eventually be merged with patrol operations.
Ramsay, in a recent post in his online "Chief's Blog," noted that the Duluth Police Department's staffing levels are similar to those of the 1970s. However, the department has gone from handing about 30,000 cases a year to more than 100,000 last year, he said.
Transferring the two community officers to patrol will help "beef up" those operations, he said. But it comes with some added responsibilities for current patrol officers.
Going forward, every officer will be assigned to work in a particular area, based on the city's 34 voter precincts. When they're not responding to calls, officers will be expected to embrace the community policing philosophy and work closely with residents and business owners.
Ramsay acknowledged it would be a change for some officers who have worked exclusively in patrol.
"The expectation is that it goes to the patrol officers to do more," he said.
That philosophy, Ramsay said, will be engrained in future classes of recruits. That includes seven new members who are expected to be sworn in this week.
Massena police chief introduces new interactive community policing initiative
by RYNE R. MARTIN
MASSENA — David D. Dubray walked out of his home and saw his son and his son's friends talking to two police officers.
This is a scene that might make a parent's heart skip a beat or two, but it isn't unusual to see village police officers out on the streets shooting baskets or playing street hockey these days.
It's part of a community policing initiative unveiled last month by Police Chief Mark E. LaBrake. When possible, he wants his officers to start up to a half hour of their shift each day on the streets with youth in the community.
“I think it is great,” Mr. Dubray said as he watched Sgt. Adam J. Love and Patrolman Cody J. Wilson shooting baskets with a handful of neighborhood children in front of his house. “If they come out and do things with the kids, that way the kids might not be afraid to talk to them when something is going on.”
Chief LaBrake said he initiated the True Blue program in June.
“It's all about getting youth familiar with the police to help them make positive decisions. When I was a kid in Potsdam, there were cops in Potsdam who stopped and talked to me. I ate it up,” he said, remembering time spent with former village police officers Dan Manor, Dick Hill and Jim Mason and retired state Trooper Leo Grant. “They took time to talk to kids, and it made an impression on me.”
He said the interaction with the community's youngsters and young adults can take place in a number of locations.
“It can be playing street hockey or basketball, hanging out with kids that are fishing, spending time with kids that are at the library or the playground. We even had one guy see some kids camping in a backyard, and he played Can Jam with them. I just want our guys out of their cars and spending time with our youth,” he said.
Chief LaBrake said the program is also a response to some of the unflattering portrayals of police officers that have dominated national media reports in recent months.
“Every day police officers in this community and other communities do positive things. I know some people think police officers take their jobs for the money. We take these jobs because we want to see positives in our communities,” he said.
The village police chief said he has received a lot of feedback — and the majority of it has been positive. Chief LaBrake said his officers have also embraced the program.
Sgt. Love said he has enjoyed the chance to interact with young people in the community while in uniform in a capacity unrelated to a criminal investigation.
“It's a positive for the kids to see there is more than one side to law enforcement; that we are human,” he said. “They see we aren't just out there to arrest people, that we are good people and we are out there for them.”
He said one day he stopped at Alcoa Field and played basketball with a group of young adults, including several who had arrest records. He said that was also a positive experience.
“They couldn't believe we were there and wanted to play basketball with them,” Sgt. Love said.
Patrolman Wilson said he has seen that same positive reaction in his interaction with youngsters in the community.
“I lost in a game of PIG. When I pulled up, they asked me if I was going to tell them to move their backboard off the curb. They were surprised when I said I wanted to shoot baskets with them. When I started playing, there were two kids. When I left, there were seven,” he said.
Chief LaBrake and Mayor Timmy J. Currier, the former village police chief, are aware some village property owners don't think the initiative is an effective use of tax dollars. They disagree.
“I think it is a good use of taxpayers' dollars,” Chief LaBrake said. “I'm a firm believer that by doing this we will save some kids from making wrong decisions down the road. It's a lot cheaper to prevent crime. If we save one kid from spiking a needle in his arm, it is worth it.”
Mayor Currier pointed out the initiative is only a small portion of each officer's shift.
“Community policing is not a new part of law enforcement,” he said. “It can pay dividends in the future.”
He said forming relationships is always important, whether it's police officers with young people in the community or other relationships.
“Life is about relationships. It is important to have relationships with family members, neighbors, fellow employees, physicians,” he said. “When we have improved relationships with those around us, our lives are better.”
He said police officers taking time to get to know the young people in the community is a valuable use of time.
“I think it is very worthwhile. It improves our connection to the community. We know there are public safety issues that have to be dealt with through enforcement. But interaction that builds trust can go a long ways. Kids that have that positive interaction are more likely to make right decisions, to come forward when you are looking for information,” Mayor Currier said.
“Some people like to portray law enforcement as simply people who are enforcers. It is vital for kids to learn law enforcement's responsibility is far beyond that. That can pay great dividends in the future,” he suggested.
Mayor Currier acknowledged there are challenges facing young people growing up in Massena. The community, like many others in the nation, is on the front lines in a growing heroin epidemic that is hitting young adults across all social strata in the community.
“We're not going to arrest our way out of it. There aren't enough treatment beds available in the state to help those that need it,” he said. “We need our young people to make right decisions. Hopefully we can be a positive influence to help them make those right decisions.”
Community Policing Efforts Working in Houston
by Nik Rajkovic
This year's spike in violent crime across the U.S. comes amid mounting tension between law enforcement and the public, yet Houston so far has been immune to the large-scale protests and riots seen elsewhere.
HPD Officer Saddiqi credits Chief Charles McClelland for setting the tone of the department's outreach efforts.
"We have all these liaisons that we can go out and talk to the the community and be pro-active dealing with the community," says Saddiqi. "And the chief goes out and meets with community leaders so whenever they have any issue or problem we'll take care of it."
"We don't have that many incidents just because our academy trains to diffuse that kind of situation, so our cadets are well-trained when they come out," he says.
Just last week, HPD cadets took a bus tour to meet and hear from leaders in different parts of the city.
"We're in the academy now and things are a controlled environment," says cadet Elias Vigo. "Once we get on the streets there will be a lot of variables, so its good to just have an idea because when we get out there we want to have the pulse of the community."
"If you look at our class we're just as diverse as the community so I think that's a beautiful thing that helps us relate to the people," he says.
Harris County to be first in nation with public-safety broadband network
by Gabrielle Banks
Someday in the not-too-distant future, first responders may be able to livestream video, vital signs and EKG results while en route with a patient to the Ben Taub emergency room. Doctors then may transmit back life-saving treatment protocols to the medical technicians inside the ambulance. That is, if the paramedics can get a signal.
Telecommunications advances have minimal value for emergency personnel if they can't connect to cellular towers. But there soon may be a reliable alternative thanks to a project authorized by Congress in 2012.
Harris County is on track next year to become the nation's first jurisdiction to launch a fully operational wireless broadband network for exclusive public safety use through the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet.
FirstNet grew out of the 9/11 Commission's finding that it was critical to improve, prioritize and expedite communication between overlapping agencies and local, state and federal jurisdictions. Specifically, the commission recommended that a portion of the Federal Communication Commission's radio spectrum be set aside for public safety purposes.
In other words, it was no longer prudent for government agencies to rely on commercial networks.
"September 11 and then hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike were all wake-up calls that first responders needed to figure out how to share information with each other," said Bruce High, head of Central Technology Services for Harris County.
During catastrophic events like the Sept. 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, commercial cellular networks become overburdened by calls - between spouses, friends, children and parents, for example - to the extent it prevents emergency personnel from getting a line out.
A decade later, public safety crews must compete with far less urgent transmissions for data capacity. As smartphones and tablets become commonplace, commercial Wi-Fi networks are increasingly gridlocked with mundane bulletins, civilians uploading wacky cat videos or posting brunch photos on Instagram.
In 2012, Congress passed a law authorizing FirstNet to occupy its own spectrum. In partnership with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Harris County volunteered to be one of a handful of jurisdictions to test FirstNet. The other pilot sites are Los Angeles County, Adams County, Colo., and the states of New Mexico and New Jersey.
'Sky is going to be the limit'
For local jurisdictions the critical step in setting up the broadband network is infrastructure.
On July 14, Harris County Commissioners Court approved $5.7 million to pay for construction and installation of 34 LTE, or long-term evolution, cell towers that will allow federal and DPS agents as well as firefighters, sheriffs, SWAT teams, HAZMAT units and paramedics to transmit large quantities of data and streaming video without competing for bandwidth with commercial users. These and other emergency units will be able to access a secure space to share information on the fly.The county has 14 LTE sites currently running that cover about one-quarter of the 1,777 square miles of Harris County.
"We are trying to design a network that is public safety grade - with generator backups, that is properly fenced in - so if a hurricane comes through, 34 towers will still be up and running," said Shing Lin, who is spearheading the broadband project for Central Technology Services. "It will be robust, highly available and fast."
Data sharing and video streaming are the primary advantages of broadband.
"We struggle to share data when big incidents happen that affect a lot of people or a large geographical area," said Rodney Reed, deputy chief of planning for the Harris County Fire Marshal, who is directing the FirstNet transition for his department. He said there's a great need to share data at an emergency site as well as during a national or global incident.
"The LTE system will greatly enhance the way we do things. We will operate in a more time-efficient and safer manner than we've done before," Reed said. "Where the technology goes from here, the sky is going to be the limit."
To hear Reed and other early adapters in the public safety world speak of it, the public safety broadband network recalls the fingertip efficiency that emergency responders can muster 0nly in blockbuster action films.
Reed envisions sending the county's HAZMAT-1 truck, which is armed with a high-definition thermal camera on a 65-foot-pole, to a train derailment where it can transmit streaming video. He foresees an out-of-state train company picking up the feed and identifying exactly which cars flipped and which cranes and equipment to send along.
If there's a hazardous chemical leak from the train wreckage, the truck could transmit atmospheric data it has collected through the network to the TranStar Emergency Management Center. Harris County Office of Emergency Management may send back computer-generated plume models and wind speed data that correspond to the location of the derailment.Lin can rattle off dozens of scenarios that have yet to be attempted: "If it's a fire, I want to show you the floor plans or an image of the fire. If there's a bomb threat, maybe I'll send in a robot, and it's streaming back a video. The command staff can be watching, and they can be making tactical decisions about how to tackle the issues they see."
Video-chat with doctors
The Houston Fire Department is piloting a new health care initiative in the field of community para-medicine called Emergency Tele-Health and Navigation project. Firefighters bring along a tablet on emergency calls so patients can video-chat with their doctors and avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital. If the doctor sees an infection or a condition that requires medication, firefighters will help arrange transportation for the individual to a nearby pharmacy. But at the moment, the tele-health project is hooking up through Verizon.
"Community para-medicine projects are not always able to connect," said Chris Collier, emergency service and response coordinator for the SouthEast Regional Advisory Council. He said he believes FirstNet will be much more reliable.
In the realm of law enforcement, the key platform for broadband is the mobile data terminal, which is basically a laptop inside a squad car. Although police have messaged for decades over radio waves, calls now get dispatched and cleared through MDTs. Officers use MDTs to get criminal histories and driver's license information, to run license plates and to check for open warrants.
Major Kevin Scruggs, with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, said work gets delayed relying on commercial broadband. Scruggs said as law enforcement becomes more data driven, access to more information faster is critical.
He offered the example of deputies on duty at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, who are regularly impeded by the network capacity at NRG Park. "It's a dense population there, and everyone's using their phones and portable devices," Scruggs said. "So we can't get on our network and do personal histories or criminal background checks."