August, 2015 - Week 2
Amid tension, a community police squad in Springfield's Forest Park works to build trust
by Dan Glaun
SPRINGFIELD -- Officer Dan Billingsley did not want to be known as the guy who picked up the snow cone machine.
Standing by the basketball courts at Springfield's Johnny Appleseed Park on a warm July evening, Billingsley conferred in hushed tones with his commanding officer, Sgt. Reggie Miller. Miller, the leader of a newly-formed community policing unit tasked with reducing crime in a volatile section of Forest Park, had scraped together department funds to buy the snow cone maker after a rented one proved a hit at the unit's last-day-of-school event in June.
Children who might otherwise have been skeptical of talking to police crowded around the officers, learning their names and building what Miller describes as the trust necessary to stop gang activity and violent crime. That reasoning, however, was not likely to play well in department roll call. Billingsley, assigned to get the machine from a Best Buy outside city lines, was seeking permission to call in his errand on his cell phone rather than the general police radio, where listening officers could put him in line for some serious ribbing.
"A city like this, and we're buying a snow cone machine?" Billingsley said. "We'd be the joke of the department."
It is that attitude that Miller, a broad-shouldered Springfield native with close-cropped hair befitting his military background, is trying to change. His hand-picked unit, an extension of the C-3 anti-gang squad that city leaders have credited with dramatically reducing violence in the North End, is made up of officers who understand the benefits of policing with a human touch, he said. And, according to Miller, it is a shift for a department which, like many, can be resistant to change.
"You've got to like talking to people," Miller said. "You have some people who just want to do their eight hours, respond to calls and go home. It does take a special person."
Under the leadership of Commissioner John Barbieri, the Springfield police department has devoted more resources to proactive, community-based policing. The C-3 initiative, which fights gang activity through an intelligence and public engagement driven approach inspired by military anti-insurgency tactics, has won national attention for crime reductions in targeted neighborhoods.
Miller's unit is an expansion of the C-3 program that began in April, targeting a jagged stretch of residential streets northeast of Forest Park. The sector, made up of narrow single-family homes and townhouses, was chosen for its high number of calls for service, juvenile delinquency cases and elevated crime statistics.
While the department's crime analytics cannot yet break down the numbers for the unit's specific area, the overall Forest Park neighborhood has seen three homicides, 43 robberies and 127 felony assaults this year, according to department crime statistics. Those numbers are on pace to exceed, or have already surpassed, the area's 2014 crime rate.
His unit's neighborhood is a particular hotspot, Miller says, and it will likely take a year and a half before the initiative's impact can be evaluated by the numbers.
Miller, an 18-year veteran of the force, said the department's first push for community policing in the 1990s was quashed by budget cuts in the early 2000s. The resurgence since Barbieri was appointed commissioner relies on street-level communication with residents, even as recent high-profile killings of unarmed people by officers across the country have led to greater scrutiny of how police interact with minority and lower-income populations.
"I walk around. If I see some kids playing, I'll stop and throw the ball around with them, talk to their parents. We're trying to really get involved in the community, build a bond of trust," Miller said. "We're just portrayed the wrong way and if that's all kids are seeing, that's all they're going to perceive. But if they see me and go, 'I know that cop, he came and played with us,' that changes things."
MassLive accompanied Miller on two recent shifts, and observed that philosophy in action. On one evening, Miller leaned against the chain fence of the basketball court at Johnny Appleseed Park and traded banter with a group of teenage boys playing pickup. They asked him to join the game, a challenge he begged off on account of his court-unfriendly uniform and work shoes. He pledged to come back, though – with the rest of his unit as his team.
On another, rainier night, Miller cruised his beat in his unmarked cruiser. A call came over the radio; officers had chased a drug suspect into an apartment building. When Miller arrived at the scene, he was not the only backup. A group of nearly a dozen officers stood on a streetside patch of lawn, waiting as the arrest was completed.
That kind of strength in numbers is now standard practice for arrests in densely populated areas, Miller said; on numerous occasions, officers have found themselves hemmed in by crowds they feared could become unruly as a suspect was taken into custody.
What Miller wants, he says, is communication, not tension. The department has detailed, block-by-block intelligence on where gang members live and where gangs operate, Miller said; what is lacking are the phone calls from residents reporting crimes as they are committed.
"You wonder why drug dealers never hang out on corners in Longmeadow?
Because people will call the cops on them," Miller said. "Gang members and criminals look for depressed areas where people don't say anything."
On Saturday afternoon, the unit's territory was quiet. Residents traveled in ones and twos, on bikes or walking with headphones on, through the small commercial strip on Dickinson street, past a laundromat, an autobody shop and an Italian restaurant, a sign reading "closed for the summer" hanging in its front window.
Ram Karki, a resident of Springfield's Hollywood neighborhood, bought the convenience store at the corner of Dickinson and Oakland Streets two and a half years ago and quickly encountered violence. On the evening of December 11, 2013, two men – one in a mask, one with his shirt pulled over the bottom half of his face – robbed his store at gunpoint while he and his wife were at the counter, Karki said.
"I just looked up, and he was putting a gun to her head," he said.
The masked man ordered him to the ground while the robbers went behind the counter and took money from the register. Karki said he reported the incident to police, but the men have not been apprehended.
The robbery fractured their sense of security. Karki considered buying a gun, but dropped that idea when his wife objected. Since the robbery they have kept their store locked during the evenings, only opening the door to trusted customers. It is not good for business, but it is a necessary safety measure, he said.
Since Miller's unit began patrolling the neighborhood, Karki has noticed and welcomed the increased police presence. He has intended to participate in the unit's weekly community meetings at the Italian Bread Shop, but is unwilling to leave his wife alone in the store during the evening.
"Right now, it's a little better," he said. "Cops can sit over there all day, I don't mind – I like it that way. Right now, more cops are coming this way."
Joshua Gonzalez, 20, lives in the North End but spends time in Forest Park, he said while walking through the neighborhood Saturday afternoon.
"It's been quieter – things have been more calm with the shootings and stuff like that," Gonzalez said. "I think they're doing a pretty good job, the police. There's always a trooper around here – every time I walk around there's a couple. There's more than there usually were."
Neighborhood resident Raiza Delvalle, 18, said she has not noticed much of a change since the unit was launched in April.
"They're always in their cop cars because there's a lot of violence here," Delvalle said. "They're always watching, but they don't stop to talk to us or anything."
Miller hosts weekly meetings with community members at the Italian Bread Shop on Orange Street. A crowd of residents fills a circle of folding chairs in the bakery's back room, backed by shelves of paper towels and plastic utensils. Miller listens to their concerns – trespassing and petty theft from one man's backyard, rowdy neighbors, door-to-door solicitations – and gives out information: recent crime statistics, the names of newly released violent offenders, advice on keeping doors and windows locked to deter burglars.
The audience at these meetings is receptive and growing, Miller said; when he first started holding them earlier this year, the members of his unit outnumbered regular attendees. Now, upwards of 20 people might show up on any given week.
But reaching the people committing the offenses is more difficult. The audience at the meeting skewed older, with most people there above the age of 35. The young men whose names litter the department's police reports, and who are both the most common victims and perpetrators of the city's 13 homicides this year, are less eager to talk with police, Miller said.
Springfield has a legacy, both historical and current, of tension between police and residents. The 2009 beating of black motorist Melvin Jones III by white former Springfield police officer Jeffrey Asher led to Asher's conviction on assault and battery charges, and a $575,000 settlement with the city. This April, a group of activists protesting police killings of black people shut down traffic at the X intersection in Forest Park; police arrested 15 protesters during the demonstration.
Reducing mistrust between police and residents will not be easy, Miller said. But he hopes that each conversation, referral to a social service organization or snow cone given to a neighborhood kid might count as progress.
"The more they see you when you're walking around, waving, chatting with the community, they think 'oh, he's not like those other guys,' " Miller said. "It's going to take us time to win them back. We're fully aware of that."
New SDPD training pushes community policing
Department teaching new officers how to engage with residents to help them prevent crime before it happens
by Lyndsay Winkley
SAN DIEGO — Only a day after graduating from the 103rd police academy, dozens of officers in barely worn uniforms filed into the Islamic Center of San Diego for a crash course on customs within the Muslim and Arab-American community.
Officers peppered religious leaders with a variety of questions, from how to most respectfully search a Muslim woman to what code enforcement struggles the Islamic population faces.
The dialogue was just the sort the San Diego Police Department is encouraging its officers to have in a quest to re-energize its philosophy of community policing. That effort continued for the graduates on Saturday, which marked the start of a revamped training program with a special focus on community engagement.
The four-week program will teach new officers different ways to get plugged into a community – from visiting community groups and centers, like the Clairemont Islamic center, to attending neighborhood meetings and events.
Community policing is about solving problems now that might lead to crime later. It's more about prevention than response, and to do it well, officers need to work closely with the residents and merchants in their area. In the 1990s, few departments, if any, were better at it than San Diego's.
But when auditors finished a yearlong investigation into department misconduct in March, about 20 percent of the changes it recommended focused on how to better forge community partnerships.
The report confirmed what had been suspected for years. For a kaleidoscope of reasons, staffing shortages ranking near the top, San Diego officers weren't the community policing officers they once were.
“We're doing some good work here but we're not the problem solvers we used to be or engaging the community like we used to be,” said San Diego police Lt. Natalie Stone, who works with department training.
In response, department leaders have made a variety of changes, particularly in how it trains its newest officers.
The department was already in the process of overhauling training for recent academy graduates, but Capt. Brian Ahearn said it was the audit results that prompted leaders to design a program that would “expose, integrate and immerse trainees into the fabric of the community.”
Before, academy graduates would get a week of agency-specific training before starting their patrols.
Now, new officers will take part in a four-week observational period before hitting the streets. Training officers will demonstrate the daily duties of a competent police officer while placing a special focus on engagement with community members.
“We're helping them understand there's a lot more to being an officer than answering the radio, writing tickets and putting people in jail,” said Officer Ivan Sablan, who helps coordinate field training. “It's about reaching out to the community. That's part of being a cop, too.”
Trainers will work with community resource officers – expert liaisons between citizens and the department – to get acquainted with a variety of neighborhood resource centers and events that might make for good visits.
A San Diego spokeswoman for the ACLU said the training was an interesting development, but it's effectiveness would hinge on the quality of the interactions between officers and the community.
“It's certainly good that the department is emphasizing relationships and a closer connection with communities..., but I think the value or the impact will depend on what the trainees are doing,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, the ACLU of California's criminal justice and drug policy director. “What are they observing and to what extent are they engaging community members?”
Although the department is pushing trainers to make community engagement a priority, it didn't set a minimum number of community visits. Stone said that's because they don't want trainers to go through the motions just for the sake of a quota.
“Do we want quality, or do we want quantity?” she said. “... We want them to learn the importance of investing in community resources.”
Officers said they were are enthusiastic about the department's renewed focus on community interaction.
“This is hallway talk. People are excited about it,” said Officer Richard Valenzuela, who also helps coordinate training. “People are asking why we didn't do this before.”
Judging by the reaction at the Islamic Center of San Diego, community groups are cautiously optimistic about the change as well.
Basheer Yadwi, an education and outreach coordinator at the center, waved as the academy graduates departed after their visit. He described the center's relationship with the department as “working,” but “not optimal.”
He said he hopes that with more communication and understanding, the relationship would not only improve, but the dialogue would mature and evolve to address issues important to Arab-Americans, such as racial profiling.
“We have a long way (to go) in terms of having an open dialogue in terms of these issues that are on the back burner,” he said. “We want to bring them to the front burner, so to speak.”
Ahearn said the first batch of officers is scheduled to complete the new training on Sept. 11.
Police Drones: Public Safety Boon or Privacy Invasion?
by Fenit Nirappil
California law enforcement agencies are looking to fly drones as an affordable and efficient way to monitor crime scenes, pursue suspects and search for lost hikers.
But the capability of the unmanned aircraft to intrude on private spaces and videotape people from afar has raised major red flags among privacy advocates.
California lawmakers will try to strike a balance between protecting civil liberties and aiding crime-fighting when the Legislature reconvenes Monday and faces a Sept. 11 deadline to pass several bills related to drones.
The consideration comes as the use of drones by law enforcement is in its early stages in the country. The Federal Aviation Administration has greenlighted more than 100 agencies to fly unmanned aircraft, including the Ventura County Sheriff's Office in California.
Federal rules focus on air traffic safety, not privacy, prompting some advocates to call on states and courts to fill the gap before drones become widely used, smaller and more advanced.
“They have an enormous capacity to intrude upon personal privacy in a way that no technology currently, or in the past, has allowed,” said Kevin Baker, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We want to establish a clear set of guidelines up front.”
Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, is proposing to set those guidelines with a bill requiring warrants for surveillance operations over private property. In addition, law enforcement agencies would have to develop privacy policies and abide by standards for storing and deleting footage.
The ACLU, however, laments that Assembly Bill 56 doesn't go far enough to restrict surveillance in public places and says it should require local elected bodies to approve use of the technology.
Law enforcement groups also criticize the bill, saying it would present practical problems when suspects followed by drones weave through public and private places.
“There's a middle ground that nobody likes,” Quirk said, stressing that limits must be laid out in law before authorities are able to keep an entire city under surveillance.
“We have to be very careful about something like that,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation last year that would have required a judge's approval for police to conduct some searches with unmanned aircraft, mandating that footage be destroyed after a year. Brown said the measure was too restrictive on law enforcement — even though 17 other states require warrants.
The California Police Chiefs Association sponsored competing drone legislation with softer requirements for warrants and safeguarding footage. However, Senate Bill 262 by state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, failed to get out of a Senate committee.
Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson acknowledged that privacy concerns over drones are valid, including worry about the two quadcopters recently purchased by his department. However, other advanced technology has the same potential for abuse — from computer records to remotely operated bomb squad robots, he said.
“No question, drones evoke a certain reaction,” Nelson said. “If you misuse drones, you are going to get lambasted by the public. And you should.”
Authorities say concerns could stem from the use of remotely operated military planes that kill suspected terrorists abroad.
“What sheriffs' departments are using is closer to the guy in the mall flying a little RC ‘copter with a Go-Pro camera than a Predator helicopter that's going to be circulating above a city and taking pictures of everyone,” said Aaron Maguire, a lobbyist for the California State Sheriffs' Association, which supports a ban on armed drones.
Alameda County officials say its drones, which cost less than $50,000 each, are an affordable alternative to multimillion-dollar helicopters. The sheriff's office held public meetings before buying the drones and accepted ACLU recommendations in setting policies.
The department still needs federal clearance before it can send them on operations.
While lawmakers try to pre-empt problems with police drones, they are also dealing with the consequences of drones interfering with firefighting helicopters and other planes, and aiding neighborhood snoops.
Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, are carrying bills that would make it a crime to intentionally fly drones over prisons, public schools and near wildfire-fighting helicopters.
Two other bills would extend privacy laws that prohibit people from snooping around backyards and sending small planes over houses.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Releases Report on Law Enforcement Requests for Information from News Media
The Justice Department today released its first annual report following former Attorney General Eric Holder's pledge in February 2014 to make public information related to law enforcement requests for information from, or records of, members of the news media.
The report exemplifies the department's continuing commitment to increased transparency in its interactions with the media and to ensure that newsgathering activities by members of the news media are not unreasonably impaired by law enforcement activities. The report covers authorizations made during the 2014 calendar year and includes information provided by department divisions, including the U.S. Attorneys' Offices.
“Today's report is an important step in the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to promote the freedom of the press, to keep the American people informed and to improve transparency and accountability regarding media-related process,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “In addition to the statistical data former Attorney General Holder pledged to disclose, I have asked the department to provide information about each case or matter listed so that the public can better understand how the department is striking the proper balance among several vital interests: protecting national security, ensuring public safety, promoting effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice and safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society.”
A copy of the report can be found here.
ICE arrests 50 fugitives across the US during Operation No Safe Haven II
WASHINGTON— U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 50 fugitives sought for their roles in known or suspected human rights violations during a nationwide operation this week.
During the operation that concluded Thursday, the ICE National Fugitive Operations Program in coordination with the ICE Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center and the ICE National Criminal Analysis and Targeting Center (NCATC), arrested these fugitives via the ICE field offices of Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Detroit; Los Angeles; Miami; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Francisco; St. Paul, Minnesota and Washington.
The foreign nationals arrested during this operation all have outstanding removal orders and are subject to repatriation to their countries of origin. Of the 50 known or suspected human rights violators arrested during Operation No Safe Haven II , 10 individuals are also convicted criminal aliens in the U.S. This operation more than doubled the number of known or suspected human rights violators arrested during the first nationwide No Safe Haven operation, which took place in September 2014.
Those arrested across the country included:
an individual from South America who assisted for many years in interrogations involving electric shock torture and who beat prisoners;
an individual from Central America—an aggravated felon convicted of multiple U.S. drug-related charges—who served as a military police officer for several years and turned over victims to a regime perpetrating documented human rights violations;
an individual from East Africa who engaged in torture as an intelligence officer in a specific government regime known to perpetrate torture, murder, and other human rights violations;
an individual from the former Yugoslavia who arrested and interrogated victims on behalf of a paramilitary organization dedicated to ethnic cleansing;
an individual from Asia who performed forced sterilizations upon several female victim patients and supervised dozens of other forced sterilizations and/or forced abortions upon other victim patients.
ICE is committed to rooting out known or suspected human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. These individuals may use fraudulent identities to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States.
Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or complete ICE's online tip form.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 296 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 740 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations has more than 140 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,800 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 67,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 111 countries and stopped 161 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.
The NCATC provided critical investigative support for this operation, including criminal and intelligence analysis from a variety of sources. The NCATC provides comprehensive analytical support to aid the at-large enforcement efforts of all ICE components.
ICE credits the success of this operation to the combined efforts of the U.S. National Central Bureau-Interpol Washington, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Charles Co. Sheriff launches community policing training
WALDORF, Md. (WUSA9) -- It's rare for police training to come out of the academy classroom or off the firing range.
But on Friday, Charles County command officers for the first time were put in a banquet hall with members of the public to be trained face to face with community members.
"We are trying to learn from national incidents," Sheriff Troy Berry, the first African-American elected sheriff in the county's 356-year history, said.
The training included members of the local NAACP chapter who expressed fears about traffic stops and other routine interactions with officers spiraling out of control.
"People are afraid of getting shot," Benjamin Watkins, a local pastor, said.
Berry hopes to expand the training sessions to include all rank and file officers.
Police spend an average of 60 hours in firearms training but little more than 8 hours on subjects like conflict resolution, said training moderator Melanye Smith Ph.D., who is also a retired D.C. police officer.
Charles County aims to change that, Berry said.
IMPD officers pass out basketballs to kids in community policing effort
by Emily Longnecker
INDIANAPOLIS -- At first glance, it might appear IMPD Officer Noe Reyes is headed to a basketball game as he carries two basketballs to his police car.
That's not the case, though. Reyes is headed out to patrol the city's North District and the basketballs he's taking with him are policing tools as much as anything else he's got in his car.
"Just yesterday, I encountered a group of kids who were sitting around doing nothing and I asked them, 'Hey, do you guys play basketball?' and they said, 'Yeah, but we don't have a ball' and I gave 'em a ball," he explained.
So Reyes is doing the same thing again today if he sees an opportunity.
These are encounters, however brief, Reyes hopes these kids will remember the next time they see a police officer.
"I've had children that say policemen are bad because they take my family members to jail and that's not what we're here for and that's not what we're trying to accomplish," said Reyes.
This kind of community outreach started last fall when Jamie Huxhold, who works in sports equipment manufacturing, had an idea to donate a few hundred basketballs, soccer balls and footballs to IMPD to give to kids.
"I just felt like it was my turn to try to figure out a way to get involved and try to make a difference in some way," said Huxhold, who added it was important to him that the basketballs, footballs and soccer balls had IMPD's logo on them and that they were made of quality material.
Now others, like the Indianapolis Public Safety Foundation, are stepping up to do the same.
"As officers leave and that ball stays in the neighborhood, they remember where they got it," explained Huxhold.
That's what officers like Noe Reyes are counting on.
"We know why we're doing it and that's to make a difference in these kids lives," he said.
It's really a competition, said Reyes, between police and the criminal element for the hearts and minds of many of these kids, some who have bigger problems than not owning a basketball.
"They want to win these kids to help them commit crimes," he explained. "We have some kids that, at a very young age, they're seeing people get shot in their neighborhoods. The kids are definitely in the middle and I would say it's very sad because they're the innocent ones."
So if a basketball's what it takes to convince some of them that police officers are here for them, that's what Reyes is going to use.
"We care about these kids and they need to know that," he said.
So far, about 500 basketballs, soccer balls and footballs have been provided to police to pass out in the neighborhoods where they patrol.
Weekly Address: Continuing Work to Improve Community Policing
President Obama talks about the work the Administration is doing to enhance trust between communities and law enforcement
by David Hudson
In this week's address, the President spoke about the work the Administration is doing to enhance trust between communities and law enforcement in the year since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
In May, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing released their final report setting out concrete proposals to build trust and enhance public safety. And across America, local leaders are working to put these ideas into action in their communities.
The President noted that while progress is being made, these issues go beyond policing, which is why the Administration is committed to achieving broader reforms to the criminal justice system and to making new investments in our children and their future.
State of emergency in Ferguson, Missouri, extended at least 24 hours
by Fiona Ortiz
n"The government of St. Louis County extended for at least 24 hours a state of emergency in Ferguson, Missouri, which has been the scene of protests a year after an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer.
County Executive Steve Stenger extended the state of emergency in Ferguson, a suburb of the city of St. Louis, through at least Friday, said his spokeswoman, Allison Blood.
In consultation with police, Stenger put the state of emergency in place on Monday for Ferguson and surrounding areas after police officers shot and critically wounded a man in an exchange of gunfire Sunday night, marring what had been a day of peaceful demonstrations.
The man accused of firing at police, Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, was recovering at a local hospital and his condition was upgraded to stable on Thursday, a St. Louis County Police Department spokesman said.
Protests since Monday have been mostly peaceful, and there were no arrests on Tuesday evening or Wednesday.
The killing of Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9, 2014, set off a nationwide movement on police treatment of minorities.
New York City was the scene of demonstrations against police brutality on Thursday.
Dozens gathered for a rally in Times Square and marched to a New York Police Department station, where members of activist group Artists 4 Justice led the crowd in chanting "I can't breathe," the last words of Eric Garner, a black man who died after a white police officer put him in a chokehold on New York's Staten Island.
Several parents of children killed by police officers implored the crowd to stand up against violence.
Grammy-nominated singer Janelle Monae and other artists participated in the march and performed a new song that includes the names of people who were killed by police, including Michael Brown.
Texas woman says sheriff's deputies carried out cavity search in parking lot
by Jethro Mullen
A woman says a sheriff's deputy in Texas stripped her naked in a gas station parking lot and administered a cavity search of her genitals because of suspicions she was in possession of marijuana.
"It was embarrassing, degrading," Charnesia Corley told CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday. "I felt low, I felt helpless."
The incident happened during a traffic stop in June in Harris County. A male sheriff's deputy pulled Corley over and then searched her car after saying he smelled marijuana in it, she said.
After finding nothing, she said, he called a female officer out to search Corley.
"They took me around to the side of my car, and she tells me, 'Pull your pants down,'" Corley told CNN.
Corley, who was handcuffed, said she told the female deputy that she didn't have any underwear on.
The female deputy replied that it didn't matter, pulled Corley's pants down and then told her to bend over, Corley told CNN.
"I bent over and she proceeded to stick her fingers in me, and I popped up immediately and I told her, 'No! What are you doing? You can't do that to me,' she said.
'"I felt like they raped me'
The deputy told her that she could do what she wanted because it was a narcotics search, according to Corley.
After Corley resisted, another female deputy was apparently called to complete the search.
"I felt like they raped me," Corley told CNN.
Her attorney, Samuel Cammack III, said that what the deputies did in the middle of a parking lot was unconstitutional.
"It wasn't a strip search, it was a manual cavity search," he told CNN.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that it was unable to comment on the matter "until the completion of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, and pending the status of civil litigation."
"We anticipate that the office of Inspector General will share their findings with Sheriff Ron Hickman in accordance with state law and civil service procedures in the near future," the statement said.
But Harris County Sheriff's spokesperson Thomas Gilleland told CNN affiliate KTRK last week that the deputies did everything as they should.
Gilleland said one deputy wrote in the report that Corley said they could "strip search her if I needed to."
Corley denied that she had given them her consent.
Corley believes it was discrimination
Cammack said the district attorney's office has dropped charges against his client. According to KRTK, Corley had been charged with two misdemeanors: resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.
CNN wasn't immediately able to reach the district attorney's office for comment early Friday.
Corely, who is African American, told CNN that she believed the deputies discriminated against her.
She said the male deputy was white, the first female deputy who arrived on the scene was African American and the second was white.
Cammack said he wasn't sure he'd go as far as to call what happened discriminatory.
"It's more about police conduct, I think, than it is race," he told CNN.
Crime Spike in Richmond: A Challenge for Community Policing?
by Sukey Lewis
Richmond Police Officer Jennifer Cortez rolls through downtown in her black and white cruiser when her radio crackles to life. The call is from dispatch — a burglary in progress. Responding to the call, Cortez crosses into the city's south side, parking well out of sight of the address.
Richmond police have been getting a lot of these calls lately. Armed robberies are up 26 percent this year. And a shooting death last week brings the number of 2015 homicides in the city to 11 — the total for all of last year. While Richmond's community policing strategy has been a bright spot in the national conversation about race and police, the current uptick in violent crime has residents and police on edge.
Sgt. Nicole Abetkov says she can't identify a single cause that explains the crime spike. She thinks new laws like Proposition 47 and public safety realignment have put more low-level offenders on the streets. But there are very few statistics to rely on. One thing is known: Amid what it says is a shortage of police officers that's affecting many departments, Richmond is 11 officers short of being fully staffed, less 14 more who are injured, pregnant or otherwise not fit for active duty.
“On any given day you can have one team who is short four spots,” Abetkov says, “which has an effect on a whole bunch of things: response to calls, customer service.”
While the department is in the process of hiring five officers and working with a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force to combat the robberies, Abetkov says there are still systemic problems in the city.
“You're always going to have a drug problem,” she says. “You're always going to have the problem where two factions of different areas aren't going to get along, and that's just history.”
Devone Boggan, the director of Richmond's Office of Neighborhood Safety, agrees.
“The greatest challenge in this city is history and time,” he says, sitting in the antechamber of his office, just above the City Council chambers. “You've got a lot of lost lives in this war.”
The Office of Neighborhood Safety is unique among city departments across the country in that it tries to break this cycle of violence and history. Boggan and his staff reach out to those who are most likely to commit gun violence and be killed by it. These young people are offered a stipend of $1,000 per month to put down their weapons and follow a “life map” created with the help of office staff. They're mentored and taken on trips far away from their struggles at home.
A recent evaluation by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency found that the program seems to be working for most of the people that buy into it: They aren't ending up dead or in prison.
Still, Boggan says for every 50 people he sits down with, “You have five to 10 folks who will say, ‘Mr. Boggan, man I love what you're trying to do. I love what your team is trying to do, but quite frankly, I ain't ready to change. And I got some people I want to take out. And the police are going to have to earn their living.'”
Back at the robbery in progress, a few neighbors wander out of their houses to see what's happening. Five police cars are blocking the end of the street. A man drives by on his bike. He doesn't want to be identified but does have something to say.
“All they [the police] do is drive around and harass poor people,” he says. “They don't never do nothing to the rich people.”
Just then Cortez comes jogging back and jumps into the car parked nearby. She's out of breath from a foot chase with one of the robbery suspects — a race she won. The suspect is now in custody.
Another officer drives up alongside and rolls down his window.
“Did you catch the guy that outran me?” he asks.
“Yes, one,” she says.
“That's my girl.”
“But that's because you cornered him out,” she says. “Flushed him out.”
Cortez explains that most of the time her job isn't this dramatic. She isn't a beat cop; she's on special projects like keeping drunks out of the park, towing RVs that leave sewage in people's yards, and checking on illegal dumping spots. She says this is what community policing means — taking care of residents in a lot of small ways.
She rolls past a popular dump site that's right next to a row of very tidy apartments. Three stained mattresses lie askew on the ground alongside a broken mirror and a busted headboard.
“This is pretty minimal,” she says. “Usually there's a pile up there. I just feel bad for the people that live here.” Later, she'll notify public works and get the trash hauled away. While these issues might seem mundane, she says they have a big effect on people.
“You can work together on low-level crime such as that,” she says, “which creates a stronger bond between the police and the community because they trust that you can take care of problems.”
While some residents still don't trust police, Cortez says there are others who appreciate what she's doing.
“This woman came up to me. She said, ‘From the bottom of my heart, I really just wanted to tell you that I appreciate you coming out to work for the city when you don't know if you're going to go home that day,' and I was like, ‘Oh my God, don't make me cry right now.' I was like, ‘Get out of here lady!'”
“I was really, really touched, you know.”
The department says community policing isn't going to solve all of Richmond's problems. It hasn't prevented the current crime spike. But Cortez says it's still the best way to do her job.
Nearly 200 People Apply for Cleveland Community Police Panel
by The Associated Press
Two former Cleveland police chiefs, a former Ohio lieutenant governor, a prominent civil rights attorney and a number of activists are among the nearly 200 people who've applied to become members of a commission that will recommend how to improve Cleveland police officers' interactions with the public.
The Community Police Commission is viewed as a key provision in a reform-minded consent decree between Cleveland and the U.S. Department of Justice. The agreement was finalized in May after the DOJ issued a blistering investigative report late last year that said Cleveland police too often use excessive force and violate people's civil rights.
The DOJ report was especially critical of how Cleveland police officers relate to black residents, who comprise more than half the city's population.
The 105-page agreement is supposed to govern how officers use force, both deadly and nonlethal, and increase accountability for officer conduct and discipline. The agreement mandates that the commission make recommendations to the police chief, mayor and city council on "policies and practices related to community and problem-oriented policing, bias-free policing and police transparency." An independent monitoring team will be hired to oversee how the consent decree is implemented.
Ten of the commission's 13 members are required to live or work in Cleveland and must come from minority communities and advocacy groups. The other three members will belong to Cleveland's police unions. Terms on the commission are four years.
Among those who have applied are former police chiefs Mary Bounds and William Denihan, who is now head of Cuyahoga County's board for mental health and drug addiction services. Former Ohio lieutenant governor and attorney general Lee Fisher also has applied along with several members of a group that formed to protest how Cleveland and Cuyahoga County has handled the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy holding a pellet gun.
A selection panel will make its recommendations to the city about who should serve on the commission early next month.
Flint Facing 'Public Safety Crisis' With 11 Murders in 2 Weeks
With all the troubling crime in Detroit, it's easy to overlook the serious crime problem in Flint, just an hour north.
But Steve Carmody of Michigan Radio reports that after 11 murders in two weeks in Flint, law enforcement officials say the city is facing a crisis.
Michigan Radio reports:
Police have made five arrests and have suspects in four other cases. But the double murder of a one-year-old boy and a 71-year-old woman remains unsolved.
Flint Police Captain Collin Bernie says his detectives are stretched.
“We've been working non-stop for two weeks. Not a whole lot of sleep involved. Not a whole lot of rest involved,” says Bernie.
“We understand that we're in a public safety crisis right now,” says Lt. Tom Kish, the new commander of the Flint state police post.
Michigan Radio reports that the Michigan State Police is stepping up its presence in Flint, including nightly helicopter patrols.
Hold It! San Francisco Uses Paint to Fight Public Urination
by The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Public urination has gotten so bad in San Francisco that the city has painted nine walls with a repellant paint that makes pee spray back on the offender.
It's the latest effort to address a chronic problem in a city where the public works director calls himself Mr. Clean: Walls are coated with a clear, liquid repellant material that goes on much like paint. Hit with urine, it splashes back on a person's shoes and pants.
Mohammed Nuru, director of San Francisco's public works department, says offenders will need to make the mistake only once to get the idea.
"If you have to go," he said, "go in the right place."
Nuru got the idea from Germany, where walls in Hamburg's St. Pauli quarter are painted with the material to encourage late-night beer drinkers to find a bathroom rather than an alleyway.
Public urination has long been a problem in San Francisco, where a light pole corroded by urine recently fell on a car. The city appears to be the only one in the nation using Ultra-Ever Dry from a Florida-based company, and it's already receiving a stream of queries about the product's success.
"We are getting calls from all over the place: Washington, D.C., Hawaii and Oakland," said Nuru, who Tweets under the handle @MrCleanSF.
Potential offenders get fair warning about the consequences of urinating on the coated walls that sit on public and private property around the city.
Signs hanging above some walls read: "Hold it! This wall is not a public restroom. Please respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place."
Other efforts also are underway to stop or curb public urination.
Solar-powered toilets roll through city streets several afternoons a week, attendants are manning public toilets to encourage people to use them, and city crews will check thousands of light posts to make sure they won't topple.
Public urination is a health concern, and keeping the city clean is a 24-7 battle, said Kevin Sporer, superintendent of the building repair bureau.
The new paint is paying off.
"There's a lot less activity, and the result is noticeable," Sporer said.
Public urination is illegal, but a fine of up to $500 passed in San Francisco in 2002 has seen little success.
On a recent weekday, resident Jon Kolb was in a public transit plaza in the Mission district, where crews recently painted a low wall with the liquid repellant paint.
Kolb said he believes the idea is a good one. He has seen people who sleep in the plaza become visibly upset when others do their business on the walls.
"People will actually get violent about it," Kolb said.
But will the paint really be a deterrent?
"It would be to me," he said.
The paint and the labor to apply the material have cost the city only a few hundred dollars, opposed to the $80 an hour to steam clean walls and sidewalks.
Since January, there have been 375 requests to steam clean urine from sidewalks and other areas. But that's a 17 percent drop in the past year.
Another addition is attendants in a few of the 25 green Pit Stop public bathrooms around San Francisco. They clean and restock supplies and make sure people don't use drugs or sleep inside the restrooms.
"We want people to have clean and safe bathrooms, so having an attendant there has made all the difference in the world," Nuru said. "We want everyone to become educated. Don't unzip. Hold it, and use the bathroom that is available."
Meanwhile, the public utilities commission is checking the city's 25,000 light posts for corrosion and other problems and replacing the ones that need it. This comes amid a recent tumble of a three-story-tall light post that was old, corroded with a likely mix of human and dog urine, and weighted down by a large banner.
Public safety must come first
We could all see this coming, a little at a time, hoping it would resolve itself before another right needed to be stifled by legislation.
But it appears that drones used for recreation are going to have to be regulated, in some fashion.
We first became aware of drones —remote-control aircraft that can go where no private citizen can — as the U.S. government began using them as spies or as launch pads for weaponry in warfare.
They were an inspired idea: Since they were not piloted by humans on board, they were safer to use on dangerous assignments.
Apparently, they fascinated hobbyists, who began buying them for any number of pastimes. They were, in essence, sophisticated model airplanes.
Cameras could be mounted on them and photographs taken in places where ordinary citizens could never go on their own.
But the hobby has started to become a danger to other people and an impediment to critical responsibilities.
Pilots at our nation's airports are beginning to encounter drones flying in paths that present real peril to commercial flights. The frequency of drones being reported interfering with takeoffs and landings has increased alarmingly.
Now, helicopter pilots trying to help squelch the out-of-control blazes out West and rescue fire victims are meeting up with drones that present a threat to their aircraft, their mission and their lives.
Owners of drones are apparently sending the devices into the middle of the action to take videos and photographs to sell to the highest bidders.
Just about the last thing any government body ought to want to do is to pass a law to limit another freedom for Americans. Regulating the use of drones — even up to an outright ban on them — should be loathsome to every legislator in America.
But safety must be the first order of business. If owners of drones used them responsibly, no such regulation would be needed or contemplated.
But owners can't be counted on to do that. To take a chance on crashing a public-safety aircraft, injuring or killing first responders in a tragedy and interfering with the restoration of order out of chaos is not something that should be protected by laws.
News organizations have used drones to gather news, but if that activity were deemed a threat to public safety, responsible news organizations would surely adjust the practice.
And so should anyone else whose use of drones is determined to be detrimental to the public good.
As much as it pains us to say it, laws need to be enacted to at least make sure privately owned drones are not being used to compromise public safety. And, of course, to ensure that government drones are not misused to spy on innocent civilians.
If owners of drones cannot or will not act with common sense in the face of devastation, laws must be passed to oblige them to do so.
St. Louis County chief regained control of Ferguson protests
Police chief strode directly toward demonstrators, telling them to get out of the street and urging calm
by Jim Salter and Alan Scher Zagier
FERGUSON, Mo. — As another protest on Ferguson's beleaguered West Florissant Avenue began to turn rowdy, Jon Belmar was among the first to confront protesters.
Wearing neither a helmet nor a shield, the St. Louis County police chief strode directly toward demonstrators, telling them to get out of the street and urging calm.
"They're not going to take the street tonight," Belmar told an Associated Press reporter standing nearby. "That's not going to happen."
One night earlier, things turned dangerously violent when shots rang out and an 18-year-old black suspect was shot by police after he allegedly fired a handgun into an unmarked police van. Police used smoke to disperse the crowd. Three officers were injured.
The scene was markedly different on Monday night and early Tuesday, after the St. Louis County executive declared a state of emergency, a move that gave Belmar — instead of interim Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson — control of security.
This time, the police presence was far greater. Officers lined several blocks of West Florissant, rather than staying confined to a smaller area. And each time protesters left the sidewalk for the street, police converged.
Unlike Sunday, there was no gunfire, no injuries and no reports of looting or property damage.
More than 20 people were arrested. Police never deployed smoke or tear gas, though they were at times pelted with water bottles and rocks.
Reaction from protesters was mixed.
"I think they took command out of the hands of the new chief of Ferguson pretty fast," Charles Mayo, leader of a moderate protest group that has sought to improve relations between protesters and police, said Tuesday. "They put the response in Belmar's hands. Me personally, I think Belmar did a great job."
Ferguson resident and military veteran Hershel Myers Jr. criticized the police response as aggressive and unnecessary. He said Ferguson police should have been in charge.
"This is treatment we've been putting up with forever," Myers said. "It's always St. Louis County pushing us around and making up rules."
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III disputed the notion that the county taking over was a negative reflection on Anderson and Ferguson police. It simply marked a change in tactic, he said.
County Executive Steve Stenger said the state of emergency could be lifted as soon as Wednesday, depending upon how Tuesday night unfolded.
Events marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's death were peaceful until Sunday night, when multiple shots were fired and Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot. He is accused of firing into an unmarked police van. The four plainclothes officers inside returned fire. Harris was struck multiple times and is hospitalized in critical condition.
"Obviously, there's a point at which you've got to put an end to it," Knowles said. "Property and life needed to be preserved. Their (police) tactics were going to have to change."
St. Louis County police on Tuesday released a 13-second clip of security camera footage they say shows Harris minutes before he fired at plainclothes officers. The clip shows a person police identify as Harris grabbing a handgun from his waistband and running toward a parking lot, police say in response to other shots being fired during the protests.
Harris' father disputed the police account Monday but declined to discuss his son's shooting Tuesday.
Demonstrations around the region had long been planned to mark the anniversary. Brown, 18, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot during a confrontation with Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.
Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing by a St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice, but his death spurred a national "Black Lives Matter" movement.
Earlier Monday, nearly 60 people were arrested for blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis, where they called for the dissolution of the Ferguson Police Department and asked the federal Department of Justice to "do your job."
Later during afternoon rush hour, more than 60 others were arrested for blocking lanes of Interstate 70 in St. Louis County, a few miles west of Ferguson.
The nighttime protest in Ferguson involved several hundred people, most of them well-behaved. On a few occasions, groups of people wandered onto the street and blocked traffic, even as an officer with a bullhorn threatened them with arrest.
At one point, the group began marching aggressively toward police. That's when Belmar directly approached the protesters and made it clear they needed to stop.
Monday's police presence was far more conspicuous compared with Sunday night. Perhaps 200 officers — mostly from St. Louis County and the Missouri State Highway Patrol — lined one side of West Florissant, allowing protesters to mingle on the other side, except when skirmishes arose.
On Tuesday, Belmar was critical of an armed militia group patrolling the streets of Ferguson, saying the overnight presence of the Oath Keepers, who wore camouflage bulletproof vests and openly carried rifles and handguns along West Florissant Avenue, was "both unnecessary and inflammatory." Stenger expressed a similar view.
The far-right anti-government activist group is largely comprised of past and present members of the military, first-responders and police officers. John Karriman, an Oath Keepers leader from southwest Missouri, said members plan to remain in Ferguson at least through the end of the week.
Last year, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson led Ferguson security efforts during the massive protests that followed Brown's death. Johnson took over after the county's initial response was criticized as too heavy handed. Belmar and St. Louis city Police Chief Sam Dotson assisted.
St. Louis city police have not been involved in security so far this year. Johnson has assisted, but Belmar was clearly in charge Monday and Tuesday.
Brutal attack on Ala. cop celebrated on social media
Bystanders took photos and uploaded them to social media, where the cop's attacker was praised by commenters
by PoliceOne Staff
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A suspect who pistol-whipped an officer until he was unconscious with his own service weapon has been charged with attempted murder, and the attack was celebrated by commenters on social media, Alabama.com reported.
Janard Shamar Cunningham, 34, stole the detective's weapon, then pistol-whipped and repeatedly hit him in the head after he was pulled over for questioning. The detective's name has not been released, but he is already out of the hospital and recovering at home with his family, according to the publication.
Shortly after the attack, photos taken by bystanders were posted on social media showing the detective lying in a pool of his own blood. Most of the comments praised the man who beat the officer. The department is outraged by the public support of the incident.
"He was laying there lifeless and people were standing around taking pictures,'' said Birmingham police Sgt. Heath Boackle, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "If the tables were turned, and that was a suspect lying there, they would be rioting."
The incident began when the plainclothes detective in an unmarked car stopped Cunningham's SUV in connection with some burglaries in the area. When he approached, he asked the suspect to stay in his vehicle while he waited for backup.
The suspect refused to comply with the officer's commands, approached the officer and questioned him about why he was being stopped. A fight ensued and the suspect assaulted the detective with his own weapon.
The detective was rushed to the hospital and backup pursued the suspect. He was arrested along with a second man. The second man has not yet been charged with any crime.
Cunningham has a long criminal history dating back to 1999 that includes charges such as assault, robbery, attempted murder, breaking and entering a vehicle, receiving stolen property and disorderly conduct. He was recently arrested in June for driving without a license.
"The boots-on-the-ground officers across this country are at war, and if we do not have the help of citizens and local governments to stand behind us, we'll never win," Boackle told Alabama.com.
Police embrace their community through social media
National Fraternal Order of Police Conference discussed departments across the country utilizing social media
by Megan Guza
PITTSBURGH, Pa.— As they faced off again Monday night in Ferguson, Mo., police joined protesters on social media to tweet about what was happening and to warn against violence. Some livestreamed developments on Periscope.
Officers in Pittsburgh for the National Fraternal Order of Police Conference say departments across the country are trying to embrace social media.
“We're a small village in Ohio, and even we're utilizing social media,” said Officer Lawrence Zakrajsek of Brooklyn Heights police. “Utilizing social media has led to all kinds of good things.”
The biennial FOP conference, in Pittsburgh to celebrate its 100th year in its birthplace, offered two seminars relating to social media Tuesday. Topics included how FOP lodges can use social media for recruitment and outreach, as well as privacy issues surrounding the use of social media and body cameras — tools that are far different from early 20th century handcuffs and batons in a Heinz History Center display set up because of the conference.
Eddie Lopez, an officer in the Harrison County Sheriff's Office in Texas, said positive outreach is a must.
“No one wants to be a police officer anymore,” he said. “We've not had a training academy for six years.”
Zakrajsek acknowledged that social media can work against police, when officers use it inappropriately or when videos of wrongdoing or abuse of authority are posted.
“If you're doing the right thing, you don't need to worry about it,” he said.
Cellphone video of police confrontations such as the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina or body camera footage from the shooting of Samuel DuBose by a now former University of Cincinnati officer have brought police and social media to a crossroads.
“Things are different now with cameras and everything,” agreed Bernard Brannum, an officer in Temple, Texas. “We've always been under a microscope, but it's been more prevalent.”
Social media can be used just to get the word out.
The St. Louis County Police Department has been assisting Ferguson police in dealing with protests and violence marking the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of a black 18-yer-old by a white officer. St. Louis used its @stlcountypd Twitter account Monday night to keep the public aware and to communicate with protesters.
Ill. governor signs police guidelines for body cameras
State has become first to establish wide-ranging law enforcement rules for bodycams
by Sophia Tareen
CHICAGO — Illinois has become one of the first states nationwide to establish wide-ranging law enforcement rules for body cameras, bias-free policing and more data collection on arrests under a measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The plan beefs up reporting guidelines for officers making pedestrian stops and arrests, largely prohibits chokeholds and adds guidelines for training to help officers become aware of bias and cultural competency. The new law doesn't mandate body cameras, but does specify how they should be worn, when they have to be turned on and how long recorded videos should be kept. Illinois would help departments pay for the cameras and training for officers with grants funded by a $5 increase in traffic tickets.
"We are taking steps to strengthen the relationship between our law enforcement officers and the public they protect," Rauner, who signed the bill in private, said in a statement. "It will have a lasting and positive impact on the people of Illinois."
Dozens of U.S. states have passed police reform measures in the wake of two fatal police encounters last year: the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of a black man in New York who died after being placed in a white officer's chokehold.
But only three states — Illinois, Colorado and Connecticut — have approved comprehensive plans, according to a recent Associated Press analysis. Supporters said the Illinois law could be a model for other states as police practices come under heightened scrutiny.
The Illinois measure had strong bipartisan support as well as backing from police unions, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP. Members of those groups attended a closed-to-reporters bill signing at Rauner's state Capitol office. The legislation takes recommendations offered by President Barack Obama's police task force.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, was one of the bill sponsors.
"Illinois has set the standard, set the standard nationally," he said at a news conference in Springfield.
The law, which fully takes effect in January 2016, also calls for independent reviews of all police-involved deaths and creates a database to help track officers dismissed for misconduct. Effective immediately is the forming of a commission that will review training requirements and other issues and report to legislators and the governor by the end of January.
Protests follow cop's firing for fatally shooting teen
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A police officer who killed an unarmed college football player during a suspected burglary at a Texas car dealership was fired Tuesday for making mistakes that the city's police chief said caused a deadly confrontation that put him and other officers in danger.
Arlington officer Brad Miller, 49, could also face criminal charges once police complete their investigation, Police Chief Will Johnson said.
Called to the scene of a suspected burglary early Friday morning, Miller pursued 19-year-old Christian Taylor through the broken glass doors of a car dealership showroom without telling his supervising officer, Johnson said.
Instead of helping to set up a perimeter around the showroom, Miller confronted Taylor and ordered him to get down on the ground, Johnson said. Taylor did not comply. Instead, he began "actively advancing toward Officer Miller," Johnson said.
Miller's field training officer, who had followed Miller into the showroom, drew his own Taser. The training officer heard a single pop of what he thought was Miller's Taser, but Miller actually had drawn his service weapon and fired it at Taylor, who is believed to have been 7 to 10 feet away from the officer, Johnson said. After Taylor continued to approach, Miller fired his gun three more times.
"This is an extraordinarily difficult case," Johnson said. "Decisions were made that created an environment of cascading consequences and an unrecoverable outcome."
The Arlington Municipal Patrolman's Association issued a statement Tuesday night decrying Johnson's decision. The group said it supports "Miller's right to be judged fairly and completely on facts instead of a snapshot developed in only days," and also expressed sympathy for Taylor's family.
"We again ask that citizens obey the commands of police officers in order to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future," the association said.
An attorney for Miller did not have an immediate comment on Johnson's announcement. Taylor's family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At a protest Tuesday night outside the Arlington police headquarters, about 60 demonstrators demanded that Miller be charged with a crime.
The firing was "not enough justice," said Matthew Higgins, 20, one of Taylor's former high school classmates. "If it was a white person, it probably would have been different."
Taylor's death came two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Taylor, who was black, was a graduate of an Arlington high school and a football player at Angelo State University in West Texas. Miller is white.
"Although the investigation is not over, my hope is that the information shared today can assist in the healing process," Johnson said. "Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges."
There is no video of the shooting itself, though security camera footage from Classic Buick GMC dealership's parking lots shows Taylor walking around and damaging some vehicles.
The Arlington Police Department had earlier released surveillance video of Taylor kicking in a car windshield and then driving his SUV through the glass wall of the Arlington dealership, reports CBS Dallas.
Police on Tuesday released audio of a 911 call made by the company manning the exterior cameras. In the audio, the caller tells a 911 operator that a "thin black man with a blond Mohawk" was seen jumping on the windshield of a gray Ford Mustang.
Before his final confrontation with Miller, Taylor allegedly held up a set of car keys and told another officer that he intended to steal a car, Johnson said. He had driven a vehicle through the glass front doors of the showroom and, after officers arrived, was slamming his body into the side of a different part of the building to try to escape, the chief said.
"It is clear from the facts obtained that Mr. Taylor was non-compliant with police demands," Johnson said.
But the chief said he ultimately decided Miller's mistakes required his firing. While he said he had "serious concerns" about Miller's use of deadly force, Johnson said it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether Miller's actions were criminal.
Miller joined the police department in September and graduated from the city police academy earlier this year. Police said Miller cannot appeal his firing because he was a probationary employee.
He was undergoing field training and assigned to a more senior officer, though he was a licensed police officer authorized to carry a weapon. Police have previously said that he had never fired his weapon in the line of duty before.
But Johnson stressed that officers in training "have the skills, the decision-making process, the authority" to act correctly in the field.
Texas officer fired after fatal shooting of unarmed black teen
A white police officer has been fired after he shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in a car dealership in Texas on Friday.
Christian Taylor, 19, was a star college football player at Angelo State University.
The incident happened two days before the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police chief Will Johnson said that rookie police officer Brad Miller shot Mr Taylor after police responded to a call for a suspected burglary at the car dealership.
"This is a extraordinarily difficult case," Chief Johnson said.
"Decisions were made that have a catastrophic outcome."
Officer Miller was still in what police call 'field training'.
Chief Johnson said there were several instances of bad judgement by Officer Miller that led to his being fired.
Mr Miller's tactical misjudgement in the shooting officially led to his firing, but the fact that Mr Taylor was shot and killed did play a role in the chief's decision, police spokesman Christopher Cook added.
The case may be given to a grand jury but no charges had been filed as of yesterday.
Chief Johnson also said the FBI, cooperating in the case, would "act accordingly if it's determined that a civil rights violation occurred".
Outrage over the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and other unarmed African Americans has been channelled into a sustained nationwide movement.
Christian Taylor's father feels for fired cop: ‘There isn't a winner in this … We are both losers'
by Michael E. Miller
Hours after a Texas police officer was fired for fatally shooting an unarmed college football player, the athlete's father said he found little comfort in the decision.
“Relieved wouldn't be the word,” Adrian Taylor told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “We are all human and make mistakes and there isn't a winner in this. You know what I mean? We are both losers.”
Adrian's 19-year-old son, Christian, was fatally shot on Friday by Arlington police officer Brad Miller during a suspected burglary.
On Tuesday, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said Miller had made mistakes during the incident that necessitated his firing, according to the Associated Press.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult case,” Johnson said. “Decisions were made that have catastrophic outcomes.”
The shooting is the latest in a string of deadly interactions between white police officers and unarmed black suspects in America.
Taylor's killing came just two days before the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old fatally shot Aug. 9, 2014, by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo.
As in Ferguson, Taylor's death has led to protests.
On Tuesday evening, after Johnson announced Miller's firing, roughly three dozen people stood outside the police station to protest. Some demanded that Miller be prosecuted for shooting Taylor, who was about to start his sophomore year at Angelo State University in West Texas.
“He got what he deserved,” Ricinda Turner, said of the police officer, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I'm just glad that he didn't get off with killing him.”
But Taylor's father said he felt little satisfaction in knowing that the rookie cop who killed his son had been fired.
“I'm not a man of revenge, and the results can't bring my son back,” Adrian Taylor said. He added that he and his family were primarily concerned with burying Christian, not holding Miller to account.
“We'll deal with that when the time comes,” he said of the possibility that Miller could be criminally charged for the killing. Taylor said he even sympathized with the cop.
“Right now I just feel sorry for my family and his family and for the whole nation,” Taylor said. “I just hope it makes a change because this is happening too much.”
In the days since his son's death, Taylor has complained of being kept in the dark by authorities. He told the Guardian that he only learned the details of Christian's death through a series of leaked video and audio clips, some of them reportedly obtained and released by the hacking group Anonymous.
“I'm having to find out about how CJ died on social media,” he said, using his son's nickname.
On Tuesday, Taylor told The Post that he still had no answers as to why his son had spent his last moments smashing cars and store windows at an Arlington car dealership.
“I don't know what's going on. I only know what you know. I don't know any more information than anybody else in the world,” he said. “We were hoping of finding out some more information because that [person in the video] was not my son.”
Surveillance videos from the incident show Christian Taylor pulling up to the Classic Buick GMC car dealership on Friday at about 1 a.m. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound defensive back then left his own car and began wandering around the dealership's parking lot before smashing the windows of several vehicles.
A security guard called the cops, and when six Arlington police arrived they discovered Taylor had driven his car through the dealership's window and entered its showroom on foot.
While five of the officers remained outside of the showroom, Miller, a 49-year-old rookie who was still on probation and had no previous policing experience, pursued Taylor inside.
The rookie cop confronted Taylor and ordered him to get down on the ground, Johnson said, according to the AP. Instead of complying, Taylor began “actively advancing toward Officer Miller,” the police chief said.
Miller's field training officer followed Miller into the showroom and drew his own Taser. Before he could deploy the stun-gun, however, the training officer heard a pop.
The training officer initially thought Miller had fired his own stun-gun, but then realized the rookie had actually shot Taylor from a distance of between 7 and 10 feet, Johnson said. When Taylor continued to approach, Miller fired his gun three more times.
During his press conference on Tuesday, Johnson said he had “serious concerns” about Miller's use of deadly force, but that it would be up to a grand jury to decide whether the rookie's actions were criminal.
Miller cannot appeal Johnson's decision to fire him because Miller was a probationary employee, police said, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that an attorney for Miller did not have immediate comment on Johnson's announcement.
It is unclear what role the FBI might play in the investigation of Miller's actions but Johnson sounded a conciliatory tone Tuesday.
“Although the investigation is not over, my hope is that the information shared today can assist in the healing process,” the police chief said, according to the Associated Press. “Some communities and our nation have been torn apart by similar challenges.”
On Tuesday evening, Adrian Taylor said seeing Miller behind bars wouldn't make him feel better.
“Nothing makes me happy because nothing brings my son back,” he said.
Taylor said his family has been sorely tested by the tragedy, which is all the more cruel because Adrian is himself a community activist.
“Thankful for God giving him another chance at life,” reads Adrian Taylor's biography on the Web page of his non-profit, Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc. “Being a hoodlum in the rough streets of Fort Worth, breaking rules and ignoring laws at a young age and later in life suffering several heart attacks which resulted in a quadruple bypass, allowed him to see how blessed he truly is.”
“The growing number of young men incarcerated is proof that our present, and future generation is in trouble,” the biography continues. “Being a father of three young men which have graduated, and still attending college, I know that we can do something, and not allow our youth to continue to self destruct.”
“That's what I do,” Taylor said of his non-profit work. “So for this to happen to my family when I'm trying to help everyone in the world, or every community, it's part of God's plan. And it strengthens me to do more so I know it's going to help.”
Religion was helping him and his family, including Christian's two older brothers, cope with the killing.
“Faith is the only thing getting us through,” Taylor said.
He added that his son's funeral is tentatively scheduled for Saturday but that the family was scrambling to arrange the service.
“Nobody prepared for this,” he said.
New California law bars grand juries in police lethal force cases
Gov. Jerry Brown also signed a separate bill that affirms civilians' rights to film police in public spaces
by Massoud Hayoun
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed into law a bill prohibiting grand juries from ruling in cases involving police use of lethal force.
Proponents, including racial equality advocates and police brutality opponents had argued that grand jury trials are “shrouded in secrecy” and prevent prosecutors from accountability to the public.
State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, authored bill SB 227 after grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City decided not indict police in the killings last year of unarmed black men Michael Brown, 18, and Eric Garner, 43. In both cases, the decision sparked public outcry by Black Lives Matter and other activists across the country.
“Criminal grand jury proceedings differ from traditional trials in a variety of ways; they are not adversarial. No judges or defense attorneys participate,” Mitchell said in a statement.
“There are no cross-examinations of witnesses, and there are no objections. How prosecutors explain the law to the jurors and what prosecutors say about the evidence are subject to no oversight. And the proceedings are shrouded in secrecy.”
The measure was opposed by law enforcement groups, including the California Assn. of District Attorneys, which argued the grand jury system was a useful prosecutorial tool, according to the Los Angeles Times.
When cases like those of Brown's and Garner's arise, prosecutors can choose to convene a preliminary hearing or convene a grand jury to decide on indictment, according to a bill analysis conducted by State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.
In such cases, facing pressure from law enforcement to not file charges and pressure from the community to file, convening a grand jury allows the prosecutor to “pass the buck, using grand jurors as pawns for political cover,” Hancock said.
Another bill signed into law Tuesday, SB 411, reaffirms the right of civilians to record a police officer in a public space, the Sacramento Bee reported.
The Bill Bratton Rope-A-Dope: Community Policing and More People in Jail
by Nick Malinowski
This week, perhaps feeling more prickly than usual following a year and half of getting, as he says, pretty much whatever he wants from the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio, progressive New York's most powerful person (according to some) suggested we need to put more people in jail, and to keep them there for longer.
While the rest of the country's political class frets about how to reduce the prison population without disrupting the social order or the power dynamics that leave the indigent and people of color most vulnerable to criminal law enforcement, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton wants more people in jail, going back to the future with the 1990s-era super-predation myths.
Here is Bratton on Wednesday:
"There are people in our society -- I'm sorry, they're criminals. They're bad people. You don't want to put them in diversion programs. You don't want to try to keep them out of jail. We need to work very hard to put them in jail and keep them there for a long time, because they're a danger to the rest of us," Bratton said on the John Gambling radio show.
In a recent fear-mongering mix-up bordering on parody, Bratton showed reporters videos he claimed were of people acting unpredictably after consuming what he described as "weaponized weed;" he was busted when journalists exposed the videos as 2002 COPS reruns showing PCP arrests in the Midwest.
While just about any social scientist would dispute Bratton's assertion, the fact also remains that Rikers Island, New York's largest jail complex, as is becoming increasingly well-known, is not actually filled with baby-killers (despite claims to the contrary by Norman Seabrook). According to the Independent Budget Office, of the 13,049 daily population average (2010) in New York City Jails, 9,765 (or 75 percent) are awaiting trial having not even been convicted of a crime. Instead they are in jail simply because they cannot pay their way out - an unfair situation the city and state are limply attempting to address over Bratton's opposition. (About 10 percent of pre-trial cases are remanded.) The most common charge class for people on Rikers Island is actually non-violent misdemeanors (16 percent of the daily population according to the IBO). Adding all of the drug charges, both felonies and misdemeanors, together tallies another 27 percent. Assaults and Robberies make up another 14 percent.
The combined number of all murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape, attempted rape, and weapons cases makes up just 7 percent of the daily jail population according to the IBO.
Another note on the City jails: 95 percent people of color.
Here is New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on the Rikers Island population: "Far too many individuals awaiting trial who pose no risk to public safety are incarcerated simply because they [don't have money]."
Here is De Blasio: "Too many people have been detained at Rikers, sometimes for years, while they wait for trial. For the first time, our city will work with the courts, law enforcement, district attorneys and the defense bar to immediately tackle case delays head-on and significantly reduce the average daily population on Rikers Island."
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wants to set up a $1.4 million fund to pay bail for people who otherwise would be ticketed for city jails, despite committing only minor crimes and infractions.
Bratton, meanwhile, implies that people need to be in jail forever: "The problem with letting them out is there's nothing to do when they come out. They can't find jobs, so a lot of them go back to the crimes that put them in jail in the first place." (Earlier this year Bratton explained to the Guardian how the lack of diversity in the NYPD was a result of so many Black people having criminal records; he seemingly missed the irony of his own mass-criminalization, racial profiling policies playing a role in everyone's criminal background check).
And remember, it was only this May when Bratton, sitting in front of City Council, said: "These black and Hispanic lives matter." It's laughable. But hey, the cheese stands alone.
Bratton's deputy commissioner for operations, Dermot Shea, like deputy commissioner for collaborative policing Susan Herman last month, tried to make the case for the NYPD's precision enforcement - going after only the "bad guys."
"We know exactly what we are facing. We know exactly who is responsible," Shea said Tuesday. But that's simply not reflected in the way the NYPD goes about their business, according to a new report by the Police Reform Organizing Project.
PROP cataloged the extensive nature of NYPD enforcement activities: 1,913,015 incidents in 2014 alone, according to the NYPD's own stats. A recent report by the NYPD's federal monitor Peter Zimroth suggested that many police interactions, such as stop and frisks, are not being reported by officers. So much for the "peace dividend."
This breaks down, PROP says, to 5,700 enforcement actions a day; 40,000 each week; and 159,000 every month - all the while Bratton is saying crime has never been lower, and, of course, more people should be in jail. Not even 10 percent of police interactions involve felonies - the most serious crimes.
Of course, these enforcement actions are not equal opportunity. It's not that a quarter of the city has punitive interactions with the police each year - rather the activity discriminates by place and race. In fact, 80-95 percent of these interactions occur between the NYPD and Black and/or Latino people between the ages of 15 and 59, according to PROP. In Mott Haven, a mostly Black neighborhood in the Bronx, there were three times as many summonses issued in 2014 as there are residents.
In 2014, 94.4 percent of juvenile arrests involved Black and/or Latino people and 87.5 percent of stop and frisks involved people of color. The NYPD gave out 74,345 tinted windows violations in 2014 (I wonder where?). In PROP's survey, 89 percent of defendants were people of color. #deblasiosnewyork
Once people are dragged into court for these "crimes," District Attorneys use bail and jail to exact leverage from people unable to pay their way out of jail, and judges fearful of being splashed out on the front page of the NY Post frequently acquiesce to their demands.
When the City Council advocated fiercely for more police officers earlier this year (much credit due to Inez Barron as the lone dissention) - they tried to pitch the nonsensical idea that more cops would mean less arrests. Bratton put any such notions to bed this week:
"Good news is as we're going forward, that the now soon-to-be-enlarged NYPD will have an even stronger capacity to keep this city safe, both in terms of serious crime as well as the quality of life crime," he told amNY.
The rest of us, I guess, can assume more of the same.
Of course, Bratton's own house is a bit of a trainwreck with cops currently involved in trials for rape, road rage assault and homophobic hate crimes.
The PROP report ends with a call: "It's time that our city's leaders, particularly Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, take off their blinders and recognize the institutional racism inherent in the NYPD's current practices and direct the Department to abandon "broken windows" tactics. Until then, corrosive law enforcement policies will continue to exacerbate the racial, social, and economic inequities that plague our city."
While Bratton might long for the day when every homeless person is confined to a cage, and there is no longer graffiti to see on his Sunday drives out to the Hamptons, others long for those two glorious weeks in December, when the NYPD turned their backs on the Mayor and Commissioner and stopped working; summonses dropped by 90 percent, arrests by 66 percent, and crime fell as well - the PROP report notes.
"To many of us from these communities, the past two weeks have amounted to a vacation from fear, surveillance, and punishment. Maybe this is what it feels like to not be prejudged and seen as suspicious law breakers. Maybe this is a small taste of what it feels like to be white," Aurin Squire wrote in the New Republic.
Bratton meanwhile has nearly wrapped up selling the City his bill of goods: community policing and neighborhood cops in the morning, predictive-policing-I-can-do-Minority-Report-right-now in the afternoon, and more people in jail during the long, dark night.
Attorney General on Community Policing and Restoring Trust
by Vanguard Administrator
The following remarks were delivered on Monday by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch at Community Policing Roundtable in Pittsburgh
Restoring trust where it has eroded is one of my top priorities as Attorney General. That's why I am convening roundtable discussions like this one as part of a six-city community policing tour to highlight some of the most promising work that citizens and law enforcement are doing around the nation. In Birmingham, Alabama, I heard from young people whose new friendships with officers had profoundly and positively changed their perceptions of the men and women who wear the badge. In Cincinnati, Ohio, I heard from civic and public safety leaders who described how their collaboration had transformed their city into a more welcoming and inclusive place. And in East Haven, Connecticut, just three years after the Justice Department found that police officers routinely used excessive force and discriminatory tactics against Latinos, residents and officers alike now report a fundamentally different reality. In each of those cities, I heard a common theme: that when police and community members unite to construct new foundations of trust, respect and mutual understanding, cities can make extraordinary progress.
I'm here in Pittsburgh today because this community has demonstrated the determination and the ability to find and implement effective solutions to the kinds of challenges we have seen across the country. Through programs like Cops and Kids and initiatives like the Community Police Relations Group, you are working to close the rifts that divide us, restore the trust that unites us and forge the new and brighter path forward that will serve the people of Pittsburgh for years to come. U.S. Attorney [David] Hickton and Chief [Cameron] McLay have provided vital and conscientious leadership in these initiatives, ensuring that law enforcement officers not only protect and serve the neighborhoods in their jurisdiction, but also become an integral part of those communities as mentors, teachers and friends.
I want you to know that the Department of Justice is committed to partnering with every community that is working to identify and implement strategies to advance public safety, strengthen relationships and foster enduring trust and respect. We're promoting the capacity of local jurisdictions with Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds; establishing projects like the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program to bolster safety and accountability; and helping precincts and districts throughout the country to hire or retain officers through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – led by Director Ron Davis, who I'm pleased to have with us here today. Just last year, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice in six pilot cities, including Pittsburgh, in order to develop and implement a wide-ranging new approach to training, policy development and research geared toward advancing procedural justice, promoting racial reconciliation and eliminating implicit biases.
Going forward, the Justice Department will continue to provide resources, guidance and training to Pittsburgh, including an on-site coordinator who will work with Chief [Cameron] McLay on the National Initiative and its related projects by conducting outreach, gathering feedbackand working closely with residents. Next month, the National Initiative team, through the work of the Office of Justice Programs under the leadership of Assistant Attorney General [Karol] Mason, who I'm also delighted to have here with us here today, will return to Pittsburgh to conduct surveys and interviews of residents, provide training for law enforcement officers on issues like procedural justice and implicit bias and work with them to incorporate these core concepts into Bureau of Police policies. And in order to support the National Initiative's efforts to build trust throughout the criminal justice system, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance will be working with the Center for Court Innovation to assess procedural justice issues in the Allegheny County courts – one of four sites that we have selected. These are all important and exciting projects and we are hopeful that the progress Pittsburgh will make over the next several years can be a model for other communities around the country.
Of course, that progress won't happen on its own. It must be built on the engagement, the commitment and the hard work of everybody in this room. The issues we face are deeply-rooted and complex, but it is clear – from the work that you have already done and from the dedication you have already shown – that we are headed toward long-awaited change. We are marching together, arm in arm, at a transformative moment in our nation's history. And with the help of committed individuals like all of you, I am not only hopeful, but confident that Pittsburgh, its sister cities and this country can come together to build the stronger nation and the more empowered communities that we all need to thrive.
Thank you, once again, for your partnership, your leadership and your dedication to the future of this city. I'm excited to speak with you today. And I look forward to working with all of you in the days and months ahead.
Ferguson, Under State of Emergency, Falls Into an Uneasy Calm
by Alan Blinder, John Eligon and Mitch Smith
FERGUSON, Mo. — With scores of police officers in the streets and a portion of the region under a state of emergency, an edgy calm prevailed in this St. Louis suburb early Tuesday, one night after bursts of gunfire led to fears of renewed unrest.
Although nightfall brought intermittent clashes between protesters and the police — the St. Louis County police said the authorities had made 23 arrests along West Florissant Avenue — there were few signs of widening turmoil that might draw a sterner response by local officials or Gov. Jay Nixon, who last year deployed the National Guard here.
“During the protest events, there were no shootings, shots fired, burglaries, lootings or property damages,” the St. Louis County police said in a statement early Tuesday, not long after many officers and state troopers left West Florissant, the street that has seen dozens of tense standoffs since a white police officer killed Michael Brown, a black teenager, on Aug. 9, 2014.
Earlier Monday night, bottles and rocks had occasionally flown through the humid summer air as hundreds of people gathered, but the police said they knew of no injuries to demonstrators or officers. Although law enforcement officials were reported to have sometimes used pepper spray to control the crowd, they said that no tear gas was used.
Demonstrators occasionally blocked the road, and officials often responded with threats of arrest.
“This is the St. Louis County Police Department,” one officer said through a loudspeaker as other officers, many wearing riot gear, formed a skirmish line. “Get out of the roadway.”
The calm, uneasy as it sometimes seemed, stood in sharp contrast with the Ferguson of roughly 24 hours earlier, when gunfire echoed through the streets and police detectives wounded an 18-year-old man they said had shot at them. St. Louis County prosecutors on Monday filed charges against the man, Tyrone Harris Jr., of St. Louis, and said he remained in critical condition at an area hospital.
The authorities said they had recovered a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer next to Mr. Harris that was reported stolen last year.
But Mr. Harris's grandmother said that his girlfriend, who was with him, told her that Mr. Harris had been running across West Florissant to escape gunfire. The grandmother, Gwen Drisdel, said that she did not know whether Mr. Harris had been armed. It would not have been unreasonable for him to carry a firearm given how violent the streets are, she said, but she added, “I don't believe that he would disrespect police like that.”
The troubles of Sunday night prompted Steve Stenger, the St. Louis County executive, to declare a state of emergency and to place Jon Belmar, the county's police chief, in control of police operations related to protests in Ferguson. Mr. Stenger stopped short of imposing a curfew, however, as the governor did last summer, and the relative calm of Monday night raised hopes that the city had averted another enduring crisis.
But the question that has followed Ferguson for about a year — and that is poised to shadow the city into Tuesday — is whether the calm will last. Even though the authorities mostly maintained order on Monday, an occasional feeling of lawlessness pulsed through Ferguson, where cars and motorcycles sometimes appeared to drag race just yards away from officers who did nothing to stop them.
There was also some concern about the presence of a national group, the Oath Keepers, which is sometimes described as a citizen militia and whose members walked West Florissant and openly carried rifles. Law enforcement officials have been wary of the group in the past, particularly after they took up positions in Ferguson during the unrest there in November.
“We're just Americans trying to keep our fellow man safe,” said John, an Oath Keeper who did not provide his last name but said he was from Missouri.
Others said they were deeply skeptical.
“We don't trust them,” said Leah Humphrey, a 24-year-old demonstrator from Indianapolis who stood nearby. “We don't trust the white people with assault rifles. They didn't bring one black person with them, and they walked up on us like they're asserting their white privilege.”
She added, “They don't care about the actual struggle, Mike Brown, the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Before dusk on Monday, protests around Ferguson led to scores of arrests, including more than 60 after a brief shutdown of Interstate 70. The United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, Richard G. Callahan, also said that 57 people were arrested outside the federal courthouse in St. Louis.
FBI won't investigate death of an unarmed black teenager during reported robbery at Texas dealership
by Tobias Salinger
The FBI won't investigate the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer at the scene of a reported robbery at a Dallas-area car dealership, officials said Monday.
Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson had asked the agency to examine the early Friday death of Angelo State University student Christian Taylor, 19.
Relatives and supporters of Taylor questioned the official account that Taylor wouldn't surrender to cops at a vigil outside the Arlington Police Department Monday night.
But officials in the FBI's Dallas office declined Johnson's request to assist in the probe into the shooting of Taylor by a first-year Arlington officer, KXAS-TV reported.
“The Dallas FBI has full confidence in the ability of the Arlington Police Department and Tarrant County District Attorney's Office to conduct a thorough investigation of this matter,” FBI spokeswoman Allison Mahan said in a statement. “If in the course of the investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”
Arlington police interviewed the officer who shot Taylor, Brad Miller, on Monday as part of their probe, police spokeswoman Tiara Richard told The Dallas Morning News. Miller, 49, is on administrative leave. But he was completing his field training the night security cameras showed Taylor breaking into Arlington's Classic Buick GMC.
Taylor's friends and family protested Miller's conduct at the department's headquarters. Roughly 35 demonstrators chanted the names of unarmed black men who have died in shootings by police officers around the country.
Taylor's brother Joshua Taylor isn't upset with the police, but he thinks “things could have been handled differently,” he said.
“It's pretty much their story against somebody who's not here anymore,” Taylor, 23, said. "It's kind of hard to I guess justify or clarify, but at the end of the day I know my brother. I know he wouldn't attack any officer or anybody in authority at all, or attack anybody for that matter.”
The former Angelo State Rams football player shouldn't have ended up dead, said Collette Flanagan, the co-founder of Dallas-based Mothers Against Police Brutality, in an interview with the Morning News.
“Nineteen-year-olds make mistakes, but they should be able to correct them,” Flanagan said. “He was a child. Vandalism is not a good thing, but it's not a death sentence.”
Police won't disclose more about the struggle between Taylor and the officers at the scene until they've finished their interviews, said Arlington Sgt. Christopher Cook. The department is investigating any possible criminal case or policy violations in his death.
Judge rules Wisconsin teens in 'Slender Man' stabbing case to be tried as adults
by The Associated Press
WAUKESHA, Wis. – A Wisconsin judge ruled Monday that two 13-year-old girls accused of stabbing a classmate to please the online horror character Slender Man will stay in adult court, where they could face a sentence of decades in prison.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren said he was worried that the girls would stop receiving mental health treatment and be released into the community with no supervision when they exited the juvenile system at age 18. Keeping them in the adult system would protect people longer, the judge said.
"The real issue is what happens in a few years," Bohren said. "They've committed an offense that was ... frankly vicious."
The two girls, both wearing dresses and in shackles, said nothing during the 45-minute proceeding. One of them bounced in her chair until a bailiff whispered to her. She spent the rest of the hearing hunched over and glancing at the ceiling. The girls' attorneys also said nothing to the judge.
One of their attorneys, Maura McMahon, told reporters outside the courtroom that she was "of course" disappointed and her client didn't understand what had happened. She said she planned to discuss an appeal with the girl and the attorney then left. The other defense attorneys and prosecutors departed without speaking to reporters.
The girls are both from Waukesha, a conservative Milwaukee suburb. They each face a charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the May 2014 attack on their classmate, Payton Leutner. According to a criminal complaint, the girls plotted for months before they lured Payton into some woods after a sleepover and attacked her with a knife. Payton was stabbed 19 times but survived.
The girls told investigators they hoped killing Payton would please Slender Man, a character they had read about in online horror stories. The tales describe Slender Man as an unnaturally thin, faceless creature who preys on children.
Police captured the girls on the outskirts of the city that same day. They told investigators they planned to walk 300 miles to the Nicolet National Forest, where they hoped to live as Slender Man's servants in his mansion.
All three girls were 12 years old at the time. Anyone 10 or older charged with first-degree attempted homicide is automatically considered an adult under Wisconsin law.
The girls could face up to 65 years in the state prison system if they're convicted as adults. The juvenile system, in contrast, is geared more toward rehabilitation than punishment. The girls could be held as juveniles for only five years.
Their attorneys had argued they belong in juvenile court because their brains aren't fully developed, they suffer from mental illness and they won't get the treatment they need in the adult system. They also asked Bohren to find the state law forcing 10-year-olds into adult court unconstitutional because it leads to cruel and unusual punishment.
Bohren refused to find the statutes unconstitutional on Thursday, writing that juveniles aren't as culpable for their actions as adults but that doesn't exempt them from adult sentences.
He rejected the rest of the defense teams' arguments on Monday. He acknowledged what he called the girls' delusions and mental illness, but said if he moved them into the juvenile system they'd be free and clear at age 18 with no oversight and no more treatment. If they are convicted as adults, they'd eventually be released on extended supervision and treatment would continue.
He said keeping the girls in the adult system would protect the community, noting again that their alleged crime was no accident.
"This was an effort to kill someone," the judge said. "This was premeditated murder."
The judge set the girls' arraignment, the point in the criminal justice system when defendants enter pleas, for Aug. 21.
The Associated Press isn't naming the girls because an appeals court could still move their cases to juvenile court, where proceedings are closed to the public.
Community policing producing results
by Astrid Solorzano
BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - The chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown's death brought a national debate over race and policing.
There are new policies today to improve police and community relations. And for a year, local police have worked hard to strengthen ties in their community.
Benton police officers take turns going out into the community. Parks, churches, schools, daycares- it's all part of a recent push to have people get to know the person behind the badge.
Kirk Lane is the Benton Police Department Chief. "We did put out numbers at mid-year, and we're up 3,000 calls for service for where we were last year," said Lane. He can attribute the incoming community calls to their campaign efforts.
Sargent Lisa Stuart has been on the job for 20 years. "Absent of the uniform, the uniform and the gun and the badge, we're just ordinary people," said Stuart. She explained when officers go out into the community, that is exactly the message they want people to understand.
Other police departments also pushing similar initiatives. Little Rock Police have about ten officers that focus on community oriented policing. These officers reach out to activist groups in the community. And in North Little Rock, police are launching a new campaign that will help them bond with middle school students.
Chief Lane says all of the initiatives have one end goal: to break down the barrier between police and the community.
Boston police commissioner wants law to push back on camera-toting cop watchers
Commish: Cops face risks of citizens on patrol
by Matt Stout
Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans is calling for laws to regulate the proliferation of cellphone-toting citizens and so-called cop watchers dedicated to recording potential police misconduct — a trend that has given rise to new challenges and risks for officers at crime scenes.
“If we can get legislation that protects both sides, I'm all for it,” Evans told the Herald late last week. “Should you be up in a police officer's face and agitating them? Absolutely not. Because we've seen it through all these demonstrations. It interferes sometimes with us (being) able to look at the crowd and focus on what our mission is.”
The attention around the public filming of police has exploded in recent months after cases in Charleston, S.C., and Baltimore showcased the power of citizen video to document misconduct by cops. More recently, cases have emerged locally of allegations involving
officers from Chelsea and Medford.
But law enforcement officials say its proliferation has spawned new risks, ranging from distractions at a tense crime scene, to putting up barriers to community policing, which has become such a focus of local
Evans, in a sit-down Herald interview, said officers are “very much aware that everyone has eyes and ears on us all the time.”
“But when you're just out there for the very reason of, you know, trying to get a gotcha moment, that's irritating to us,” Evans said, pointing to instances on July 4 and following the
March shooting of officer John T. Moynihan, when police were met by a group of vocal video-takers at the edge of the scene.
Evans said he'd support legislation dictating the space between police and video-takers. “Would I love to see a little distance? I'd love to see it,” he said.
He also pointed to an Aug. 3 incident when a man with outstanding warrants kicked an officer in the chest and knocked another to
the ground as they tried taking him into custody on Summer Street.
“During the altercation, as officers struggled to subdue the suspect, they noted that they were being videotaped by the large crowd that had gathered,” officers wrote in their report. “In need of help, officers asked members of the crowd and a security guard for help. No help was offered.”
Evans said that should never happen. “I'd also like to see some legislation that if a cop is on the ground struggling with someone, like he was the other night and everybody is videotaping, someone should be held accountable for not stepping up and helping them,”
Such legislation, however, could face challenges. A bill in Texas proposing a required distance for cop watchers was met with heavy opposition. And Matt Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said he believes any law — either dictating a required distance or charging those who choose to videotape rather than intervene — would be overturned.
“As long as someone is not obstructing a police officer's movements, they have a right to record,” Segal said.
Robert Bloom, a Boston College Law School professor and civil rights attorney, said legislating distance “makes some sense.”
But, he said, “My primary objective is getting an accurate record. In the past, the police automatically were thought to be telling the true version. It doesn't mean a (camera) is going to solve everything. … But at least there's a record. And that becomes important.”
The impact of cameras, police say, has cut in various ways. Chelsea police Chief Brian Kyes said officers who stop to talk to at-risk youths, including those with criminal records, are often met immediately by smartphones set to record.
“Maybe it's to act as a deflector or a shield,” he said. “But if you're having that conversation, and 30 seconds in they realize this guy is not a bad guy, they get tired of holding that phone in the air. And that shield is now down. … (Cameras are) becoming a quote-unquote given. It's not a bad thing. It's something to be mindful of.”
Police say they recognize that the filming of officers is a legally protected right that civil liberty advocates say is only growing in importance.
“I think it's important that people finally feel they have something in their hand that allows them to bring the truth to the surface,” said Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts, which has helped train local cop watchers on the legalities around filming police.
How Do Cell Phone Videos Affect Community Policing?
by Radio Boston
It was just over one year ago that a cell phone video showed Michael Brown's body to the world, uncovered on a street in Ferguson, Missouri for hours.
In April, another cell phone video showed Baltimore police officers shackling Freddie Gray before putting him in the back of a police van where he later died.
And in South Carolina, yet another video caught a police officer shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away.
Those cell phone videos have had an enormous impact on the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. And it's in that light that Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans told the Boston Herald that he's “very much aware that everyone has eyes and ears on us all the time.” He then told the Herald he'd support some regulation on the public recording of law enforcement officers.
“If we can get legislation — to make it fair — that protects both sides, I'm all for it,” said Evans. “Should you be up in a police officer's face and agitating them? Absolutely not. Would I love to see, yeah, a little distance? I'd love to see that.”
Note: Commissioner Evans declined our request for an interview, but a BPD spokesman confirmed Evans' support for legislation that would dictate minimum spaces between police and citizens taking cell phone videos. No such regulation is pending in Massachusetts, but at least 10 other states have proposed such laws this year.
On supporting legislation that would dictate minimum spaces between police and citizens taking videos
William Brooks : “I'd have to see exactly what it says. … Thanks for pointing out on the show that I'm not speaking for the police commissioner. There are instances where people do get too close to the police, to the point where they're interfering. And it's not the fact that they're recording, it's the fact that they've gotten so close. I think what you're seeing — you don't see a lot of it now, but you're seeing some of it, where people get so close where they do interfere.”
“I have not discussed this with the commissioner, but what he may be talking about is setting some white line rules — you know that outside a certain radius, within that radius it becomes an issue. We've seen just a few videos on YouTube where you could see within the frame being shot, people kind of gathering around to the point of holding their phones over the shoulders of officers who are struggling with a suspect. You know, that is a problem. And quite frankly, those people are probably subject to a sanction anyway whether they're disorderly or whatever … it could be that the commissioner is just looking to set some boundaries.”
Carl Williams : “Citizens and non-citizens have that right. It's a first amendment right, it's freedom of expression, it's freedom of speech: to be able to be your own media, to say I want to monitor what my government does. And as the chief said, there are already laws, this would be another law, to actually limit citizens and non-citizens behavior. … What the commissioner is saying now is we need to limit more, not what the police could do, but what citizens and non-citizens can do in relation to the police. … One, there might be some constitutional problems with that, and two, is that the direction we want to go.”
WB : “This sounds to me like the commissioner framed that by saying actually it would be good if there are rules for both sides. … I think he took the opportunity to make the point that people can interject themselves too close when an arrest is being made. … Sometimes when an officer is trying to arrest someone who is resisting, that's a very difficult spot for everybody. And the last thing you need is somebody trying to straddle your legs as you're on the ground with somebody trying to get the best cellphone shot, maybe in some cases agitating the person you're trying to take into custody.”
“When you say that it's perfectly legal — and it is — but you should keep in mind that this is a real shift that's occurred in a very short amount of time. … Between things that have evolved in the country and the evolution of technology where people essentially carry video cameras in their pockets — virtually everyone has them now on their phones. Actually, I think the police have adapted to it fairly well. We understand now that really in 99 percent of the circumstances where we find ourselves, it's completely lawful for somebody to video tape us.”
CW : “There's only one side here — it's the people of the United States, and the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people of our towns. And that's everyone. That's the police, that's everyone else. And what we want is a democratic society. And part of that is to watch what our legislature does, part of that is to watch what our police do, what our mayor does.”
“People back in the day said you didn't really have free speech unless you had a press. Right now people have Twitter, people have Facebook, people have YouTube and people have cameras in their pockets and that's a good thing. And I'm sure all the officers under [the chief], those men and women are doing a great job, and it's good to know that, and we've seen videos like this where officers go out and do something — buy a pair of shoes or do something great in the line of duty. And that's wonderful and that is out there. Sometimes, people do very bad things. Very bad things. And it's very difficult for citizens and non-citizens to say, ‘Well, this officer beat someone, this officer killed someone.' We saw that in some of the situations you mention in the beginning — where the officer's account of it is very different until the video came out.”
Carl Williams, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts, which tweets @ACLU_Mass.
William Brooks, Norwood police chief and the second vice president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. Norwood Police tweets @NorwoodPolice.
Ramsey Weighs In On Nation's Community Policing Progress 1 Year Post-Ferguson
by Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson sparked protests across the country, including in Philadelphia, over police use of deadly force. Today, the city's top cop weighed in on the country's progress one year after Ferguson.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the controversy forced a shift in policing nationwide:
“It's caused police departments to take a second look at use of force policies, training and the like and there has been a lot of progress.”
As one of leaders of the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Ramsey visits police departments across the country. He says many of the departments are having conversations, reviewing their practices and many are making changes.
In Philadelphia, the Department of Justice issued roughly 90 recommended changes in March after reviewing Philadelphia police for months. The inquiry was in response to a request by Ramsey.
“We're making pretty good progress,” he says.
Some of the changes include more transparency when it comes to police-involved shootings, a better relationship with the Police Advisory Commission and more staff dedicated to implemented DOJ recommendations.
But for many, the change is not coming fast enough. According to the Washington Post, more than 580 people have been killed by police this year alone in the U.S. According to the Philadelphia Police Department website, since Ferguson, four offenders have died at the hands of police.
Ramsey notes increased pressure on police, but he says there must be balance and an understanding of the intense danger officers face:
“You have a decent law-abiding community, but you also have a community of criminals out there too.”
Philadelphia Police Officer Robert Wilson III was gunned down during a robbery at a North Philadelphia GameStop this year. In addition, Ramsey points out that shots fired at police in Ferguson during a peaceful protest commemorating the anniversary of Michael Brown's death underscore the need to push for a reality check:
“It's not like police officers are just deciding today to shoot some unarmed person. There are dangerous situations that may at times require the use of deadly force, but many times they are resolved without the use of deadly force.”
For more on police-involved shootings in Philadelphia CLICK HERE, or CLICK HERE to follow the progress of Philadelphia Police Department's implementation of the DOJ recommendations.
Combating the Home Grown Violent Extremist through Community Policing
by James A. Zammillo
The US intelligence and law enforcement communities have been successful in preventing another orchestrated large-scale attack on our homeland like the one on September 11, 2001. In spite of this success, though, our streets still aren't safe from terrorism. Today, the homegrown violent extremist is the greatest threat to our homeland in terms of both recurrence and lacking a means to preventing them from carrying out attacks.
Community-based information is the first step in preventing future attacks. Although many law enforcement departments have community oriented policing efforts, there hasn't been a universal collaborative platform or initiative that can be broadly applied to prevent terrorist activities. It is important to note that there is a dramatic difference between this approach and efforts by federal authorities to either form partnerships within the community or law enforcement undercover operations. The local police officer is part of the daily landscape within each community, and it is this daily contact that is the principle of community oriented policing.
The future terrorists live within our communities, hiding in plain sight, and it is the community that forms the first defense. One of the core principals of community oriented policing is the opportunity to engender local cooperation in identifying suspicious activity. It's this sort of community awareness that can enable law enforcement to be as proactive in preventing terrorist attacks as they are in responding to attacks.
Read the complete report here in the current June/July, 2015 Homeland Security Today .
Councilman: CLE Police missing outreach opportunities
by Tom Beres
CLEVELAND -- One major goal of the consent decree to transform the Cleveland Police Department is to implement successful community policing.
The critical report issued by the Department of Justice claimed the department failed to use community policing and did not know what it was.
In May, when the terms of the consent decree were finalized, Police Chief Calvin Williams pledged to make community policing part of the department's DNA.
He urged officers to think less like warriors and more like guardians.
Councilman Zack Reed claims the department is missing opportunities at summer festivals and events to better connect with residents, especially juveniles.
At Reed's Family Festival last month, Chief Williams and Cleveland Police Mounted Unit horses connected with the crowds of young people.
But Reed claims the department needs to be more engaged at all community events. His residents are telling him they are still not seeing more police on foot patrols or police interacting with people on a daily basis.
"They're still saying we're not seeing the police officers," said Reed. "We're still not seeing them walking ... We need to be interacting with them, not only a formal, but informal basis."
He says there should have been a booth at this weekend's gay pride event and Glenville Community Festival, and he hopes there will be one at this week's Feast of the Assumption.
A department spokesman claims police brass marched in the gay pride parade, but Reed says outreach efforts should go further.
Reed's criticism comes as the administrative part of the consent decree is busy putting key players in place.
Next month, there's a deadline to appoint the monitor who will oversee implementation of the decree and make it reality. Also, 13 members will be picked for the Community Police Commission, more than 100 people have submitted applications.
There are problems to be addressed. The police union claims parts of the decree will violate its existing union contract.
And critics, including the NAACP, have asked a federal judge to make changes in the decree. A ruling is awaited on that.
In Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice's proposed consent decree was rejected by city leaders. Apparently, cost is an issue.
In Cleveland, the decree is being implemented step-by-step. Body cameras are now in use in four of the five police districts.
Crime fighter: McLay takes a new approach to public safety
Seven months after declaring the rising number of homicides and falling rate of solving them “a public health emergency,” Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay has announced a reorganization designed to address the crisis.
The chief said he believes the bureau is understaffed overall, but the city's budgetary constraints and the challenges of recruiting officers aren't likely to change anytime soon.
Starting in September, the bureau will be reconfigured so that homicide investigators and the robbery squad will be combined into one unit, with 32 detectives assigned to the task, 15 more than are now working on homicides alone. In addition, the city's burglary squad is being dissolved and, instead, six detectives will be working to prevent gang violence.
This is not the first time the city has combined robbery and homicide detectives in one section, but that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Given the unenviable high-water mark reached last year with 66 homicides — the highest number since 2008 — and fewer solved cases, maintaining the status quo was no longer acceptable.
The challenge is one shared by urban police departments across the country, and Pittsburgh is looking for advice from the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that plans to study investigative practices in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and four other cities.
Pittsburgh could also benefit from the city's renewed commitment to a violence prevention initiative promoted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York. Chief McLay said last week that police staff members will be sent to to the college for training next month.
It's important for the police bureau to be flexible so it can pursue as many options as possible to prevent violent acts and bring to justice the individuals who commit them. The residents of Pittsburgh are eager to see results.
Man Is Shot in Ferguson After Police Say He Fired at Officers
by JOHN ELIGON and MITCH SMITH
FERGUSON, Mo. — St. Louis County police officers shot and critically injured a man who fired at them here late Sunday night, the authorities said, setting this region on another tense and uncertain course on the same day that hundreds gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white officer.
The shooting came after rival groups began shooting at each other on the west side of West Florissant Avenue, the center of the Ferguson protests, Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department said. Chief Belmar said that there had been two more shootings in the area, and that the police had used smoke canisters.
The injured man, who was not publicly identified, was part of one of the rival groups, the chief said, and four plainclothes officers saw him running across a parking lot on the opposite side of the avenue.
The officers drove their unmarked sport utility vehicle, with its interior lights flashing, toward him, and he opened fire on the car, Chief Belmar said. The police returned fire from inside the car and then chased the man on foot, he said. Dozens of gunshots were fired, and all four officers shot back and hit the man, who fell to the ground, he said.
A gun that the police recovered from the shooting victim was a 9-milimeter Sig Sauer that they said was reported stolen last year, the authorities said. Chief Belmar said that the four detectives who had shot the man had between six and 12 years of experience, but he declined to provide information about their race.
The shooting, which followed an otherwise peaceful day, was another vexing turn for activists and the authorities alike. It was the second consecutive night of gunfire on West Florissant Avenue.
“They were criminals; they weren't protesters,” Chief Belmar said of the groups exchanging gunfire. “Protesters are the people out there talking about a way to effect change. We can't afford to have this kind of violence, not only on a night like this but any point in time if we're going to move forward in the right direction.”
The flash of violence signaled a cruel end to a day that in many ways had seemed festive and hopeful, with activists from across the country descending on Ferguson to push for changes in the police treatment of blacks. Under the humid daylight, people spoke with renewed vigor of the movement that was started after Mr. Brown, 18, was shot and killed here by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.
After hundreds gathered around the spot where Mr. Brown was killed to speak of remembrance and defiance, the dead 18-year-old's father led a march to a nearby church for a service.
As night came, a large crowd gathered on West Florissant Avenue. The crowds appeared to dwindle after heavy thunderstorms swept through the area.
But even under the wet sky, problems started. A group broke into a beauty supply store, the police said, and stole a cash register. The police quickly responded, however, and the men dropped the machine and ran.
The authorities sent a group of officers to stand in front of the stores that had been burglarized. The police tried to secure another strip of stores across the street, but their cars were pelted with objects, Chief Belmar said, so they pulled out.
As the skies cleared, the protest became more intense.
Protesters blocked the road, and the police donned riot gear and used a megaphone to order them to move.
“This is the Ferguson Police Department,” Sgt. Harry Dilworth, one of the department's few black officers, said into a megaphone. “You must leave the roadway immediately and remain on the sidewalk or be subject to arrest.”
After the demonstrators had largely cleared out of the street, a caravan of police cars with their sirens blasting came racing down West Florissant Avenue, and dozens of officers in riot gear formed a skirmish line. That drew the protesters back into the street, running toward the line.
Amy Hunter, the director of racial justice for the YWCA, stood to the side and shook her head. She said she believed that the decision by the police to race down the street and form a skirmish line only provoked the protesters into a staredown in the middle of the road.
“We learned the last time we did it this way, there was more violence,” she said.
As the protesters chanted in the street and the police held their position, the situation started to get out of control in a strip mall about 300 yards down the street, where dozens of young people appeared to be hanging out but not protesting.
People broke through the storefront of a hair salon and began to rob it, said Antonio French, an alderman in St. Louis. A reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch stumbled away with a bloody face and said he had been assaulted and robbed after he posted on Twitter that people were breaking into the stores.
Gunshots rang out soon after from the direction of the strip mall around 11:15 p.m. People scattered and crouched behind cars. Officers drew their weapons.
“Officer-involved shooting,” crackled over police radios.
Chief Belmar began directing his officers toward an abandoned building that used to be a Ponderosa restaurant.
Behind the building, Tony Rice, an activist, said he saw a bloodied, handcuffed young black man splayed on the ground with an officer standing over him. In a video that Mr. Rice posted to Twitter, he can be heard frantically saying to the officer: “Hey, he bleeding. Get him some help, man. Please get him some help. He's bleeding out, man. You see it. He's breathing, man. Please get him some help.”
Officers eventually did so, Mr. Rice said, and the young man appeared to be alive when he was placed into an ambulance.
As the bullets flew, Mr. French said he ducked behind a sport utility vehicle. He saw a young woman running and told her to come take cover, but, he said, she screamed: “No! No! Where's my brother?”
“It's sad and disappointing,” Mr. French said of the evening's turn of events. “You have some people here who use the cover of this anniversary to commit some violent acts. To see violence happen on this day in this city is really disappointing.”
Community policing work is on target
by Ben R. Williams
Although the Martinsville Police Department's strategy on the basketball court could probably use some improvement, its strategy toward community policing is right on the money.
On Wednesday, I watched two city police officers square off on the court at J. Frank Wilson Park against the Martinsville High School Bulldogs and other local residents, all of them about high school age.
It was miserably hot, even if you were drinking a bottle of water and standing in the shade, which is what I was doing, because I'm a reporter, not a basketballer.
Still, everyone was having a great time. The young people were ribbing the cops; the cops were ribbing the young people; the folks on the sidelines were chatting and enjoying the day.
The night before the "Hoops with Cops" event, the police department and the city sheriff's office were at National Night Out, again mingling with the public in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. And just a couple of weeks before that, the city police were at McDonald's next to the mall, drinking coffee with area residents who showed up for the department's inaugural "Coffee with a Cop." It was a well-attended event, and according to the officers I spoke to, most locals just wanted to come out, say hello, and thank the cops for their service.
Martinsville Police Chief Sean Dunn told me Wednesday that events like these will become a regular part of the department's overall mission: if they are going to call themselves a community policing department, he said, then they're going to do everything they can to positively engage with the community whenever possible.
The Henry County Sheriff's Office also has worked to engage with the public. At the annual Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) event at Jack Dalton Park, both Dunn and Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry – along with plenty of other law enforcement staff – were milling around, speaking with anyone who wanted a moment to say hello or share a concern.
I'm as critical of law enforcement as anyone, and unfortunately, there have been plenty of incidents in the news recently that justify that criticism completely. You don't have to look far to find instances of police brutality and abuse of power all across the country.
I absolutely believe that law enforcement should be held to a high standard.
In my opinion, law enforcement in Martinsville and Henry County is doing all it can to meet that standard.
In conversations with Dunn and Perry, it's clear that they're both aware of the spotlight on law enforcement in this country. They're aware that their departments are under a microscope, and that any abuse of power could have devastating, far-reaching effects on their departments and on the community as a whole.
Rather than building a wall around their respective departments to shield them from view, their response instead has been to knock down as many walls as possible. Effective police work will always require a certain amount of secrecy, but as long as the information doesn't compromise an active case, I've found city and county law enforcement to be remarkably transparent.
The concept of community policing is an important part of that transparency. Most of us encounter law enforcement in one of two ways: either something terrible has happened and we need help, or we've done something we shouldn't have and we're about to face the music.
In stressful situations like those, it is easy to view law enforcement as a faceless, dispassionate force, a tool to be used or an obstacle to be overcome.
But when you're shooting hoops, eating a hot dog or drinking a cup of coffee with law enforcement officers, everyone is able to let their guard down and see the other side of the coin: Ultimately, cops are just regular people doing their jobs.
And occasionally whiffing three-pointers.
Ward County Deputy embraces lifestyle of community policing
by Jull Schramm
Don't tell Ward County Sheriff's Deputy Ann Millerbernd that law enforcement is a thankless job. She's heard that before, and she disagrees.
"Anytime I am out in the community and I get a smile, a handshake or a hug, that's priceless," she said. "I don't think I have had a day since I started, no matter how hard the day and I have some hard ones that I didn't feel a sense of pride when I put on this uniform and go out and get in my car. I don't have a day I don't want to be here, because there's a new opportunity to change a life every day."
Millerbernd is out to change as many lives as possible by making every minute count.
Her volunteer appearances at many community activities have made her a familiar face in the county. Whether it's Minot's National Night Out block party or a motorcycle club's event for youth, Millerbernd gets involved. She especially has a heart for Special Olympics and working with people with disabilities. She is an adviser with the Minot Police Department's Police Explorers program, which exposes youth aged 13 to 21 to law enforcement careers.
"My calendar is always full," she said.
She said her passion for volunteering really developed while in Minot. However, even before coming to Minot, she had received a President's Volunteer Service Award for more than 270 hours of volunteer service in Minnesota in 2008.
"The only way to actually give to your community is to be out there and give yourself," she said. "When I said the oath to protect and serve, I believe that. The service aspect means so much more because you don't have to do so much protection if you are actually doing the serving."
Millerbernd, 36, joined the sheriff's department Dec. 1, 2011. She initially was a road deputy. She now is a civil processor and crime prevention officer, speaking in schools and to various groups.
Millerbernd said she was drawn to community policing, but the Ward County department didn't have a program or the resources to offer any extensive outreach. Telling Millerbernd something can't be done only fuels her fire, though. She credits Sheriff Steve Kukowski for encouraging her to attempt whatever project she devises.
Kukowski said Millerbernd is the department's go-to person when it comes to organizing outreach.
"She just takes on a lot of extra duties and is always willing to help," he said. "A lot of times she does it on her own time. She does a good job with it. She's very good with the public. I get a lot of comments on how good she is."
Millerbernd also is a CPR/AED/first aid instructor who has trained 133 corrections and law enforcement officers so far. She has taught civil process to future law officers at Lake Region State College. She also is an instructor with the N.D. Peace Officer Standards & Training.
This year, she became an instructor in Traffic Occupant Protection Strategies, teaching proper seat belt and car seat use to law officers. She said she felt the need to promote the training after responding to a crash in which an improperly restrained child was killed.
It was another experience saving a vehicle occupant from drowning after a watery crash last year that led her to change her job role. The high-risk incident, for which she earned her second life-saving award and a bravery award, took an emotional toll. She was ready for a new assignment.
Civil process jobs aren't in high demand. They aren't deemed the most exciting of law enforcement work.
"It's what you make of it because I certainly have my share of excitement and fun on the job," Millerbernd said. "It's more hands-on with the community. It gives me a chance to really get to know the community I am serving ... I get to actually hear what's going on in the person's life."
It's a part of law enforcement that resonates her because her own story has had its ups and downs.
Millerbernd's work history started at McDonalds Restaurant, where she worked for nine years. She became a bank teller and loved it.
She left the last bank she worked for because she was at ethical odds with some practices. The bank later was closed down. That experience and her involvement with a neighborhood watch sparked a latent interest in law enforcement. But it wasn't until after operating a child-care center in her home in Lexington, Minn., for four years that she acted on that interest and enrolled at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn.
She graduated with a bachelor degree in law enforcement in 2-1/2 years while also running a 24-hour child-care home. Classes that weren't online were at night.
"I even took kids with me. We always found a way to make it work," she said.
She grew up in a home of nine children, where a priority wasn't placed on higher education. So Millerbernd was determined to prove herself to family members dubious about her ability to pull off a degree, which she did in July 2011.
At that time, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota weren't hiring. Desperate for a job with school loans coming due, Millerbernd did a computer search of cop jobs in North Dakota and found some openings. She interviewed at the Bismarck Police Department and Ward County Sheriff's Office, landing a job just in time to make her first student loan payment.
One of her hardest decisions came the next month when Bismarck responded with a job offer. She turned it down.
"The fact that Ward County took a chance on an unknown person and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, I can never say thank you enough," Millerbernd said. She decided she would give Ward County two years. That was nearly four years ago.
Coming to North Dakota meant leaving behind family, including two teenaged children who live with their father. It gives her cell phone and frequent traveler miles a workout, but she's not complaining.
"I know for a fact I would not be able to impact people and have the opportunities that I have now had I not been here," Millerbernd said. "People say, 'Once a cop, it's in your blood. I agree. It's a lifestyle now. It's not a job. It's not a career. It's who I am."
Millerbernd's efforts have earned her the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce's Eagle Award, which recognizes people who go beyond the call of duty, as well as an exceptional performance award in connection with a methamphetamine and weapons seizure. Her time with Ward County also has shown her a side of law enforcement that differs from her perception at the time she left child care for the new career.
"I wanted to do something else to fight for the good guys. Now that good-guys, bad-guys concept is completely gone for me. There's no such thing as good guys, bad guys. There are people who make bad choices because of circumstances in their lives," she said. "Every day we make decisions that impact how we move forward."
Sometimes it's lack of information about local resources that result in poor choices and contact with law enforcement. Millerbernd travels well stocked with referral phone numbers and resource information, not to mention kids' toys, blankets, pet food and snack items she gives away.
"I am more about the community-oriented policing and reducing recidivism," she said. "When I have to make a decision to make an arrest, I don't take that lightly. You are taking their life, liberty and happiness, the ability to support their family. You are taking that away the moment you put the handcuffs on them."
She hands out her business card everywhere to people she meets, even if she's arresting them. Some people actually call her, and she feels honored when they turn to her with whatever matter they are facing.
Nor does she feel defeated if someone she arrested doesn't immediately make better choices. Maybe they will tomorrow.
Down the road, the number of drunk driving arrests or warrants served isn't going to matter, Millerbernd said. What will matter is whether she positively influenced people.
"That's why I try to make sure that all of my encounters are positive. If they don't start out that way, they are going to end that way," she said.
In doing that, Millerbernd said, she has discovered that even though she is paying it forward, she somehow still gets to keep all the reward.
"I go home with a full heart," she said. "That's what drives me to do my job every day."
Attorneys say prosecutors hid evidence in Gray case
Attorneys for officers said prosecutors hid information about Gray's previous encounters with law enforcement
by Juliet Linderman
BALTIMORE — Attorneys for the six police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death say prosecutors steered investigators away from allegations about Gray's behavior in past interactions with law enforcement. The attorneys claim detectives were told Gray had a history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes in which people hurt themselves to collect settlements — a piece of information attorneys say would be useful for their case.
Gray died on April 19, a week after suffering a critical spinal injury in the back of a police van. Gray's death spurred days of largely peaceful protests followed by rioting and looting last April 27.
Six officers were charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor assault to "depraved-heart" murder.
In a motion filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, defense attorneys allege that investigators for the Baltimore Police Department had information that Gray had a history of intentionally injuring himself in order to collect insurance money. The attorneys allege in the filing that police investigators knew that Gray once injured himself so severely while in a Baltimore jail that he required medical attention. The attorneys say in documents that when police investigators tried to follow up on the evidence, prosecutors in the state's attorney's office told them "not to do the defense attorneys' jobs for them."
Defense attorneys also say in the motion that high-ranking members of the state's attorney's office met with Dr. Carole Allen of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner a week before Gray's autopsy was complete and his death ruled a homicide. In addition, attorneys say the prosecutors didn't provide the medical examiner's office with a copy of the statement of Donta Allen, a man who had been inside the police van where Gray suffered his injury. Investigators initially said Allen told them that Gray had been making banging noises in the back of the van. But Allen later told the media that police had exaggerated his account.
Rochelle Ritchie, spokeswoman for State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, declined comment on the recent filing.
The officers are scheduled to face trial in October, with a hearing on motions set for one month prior. Defense attorneys have asked a judge to move the trial out of Baltimore, arguing that pre-trial publicity will taint the integrity of the jury pool. Additionally, defense attorneys have asked for State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her office to be removed from the case, citing alleged conflicts of interest. The most recent filing is in support of that request.
"The statement to investigators 'not do the defense attorneys' jobs for them' would seem to indicate some level of knowledge that exculpatory evidence exists which could benefit the officers charged in Mr. Gray's death and that the prosecutor did not want this information uncovered by investigators," the attorneys wrote in the motion.
An attorney for the Gray family did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.
NYC sees surge in synthetic pot use, with dire consequences
The harsh side effects have authorities already grappling with how to deal with unstable suspects
by Tom Hays
NEW YORK — Ignoring the police officers standing down the block and the disingenuous fine print on the foil packet peeking out of his front pocket — "Warning: Don't Smoke" — a homeless man openly lit up a synthetic marijuana joint and explained why it's not like the real thing.
"It's a zero-to-60 high," said the 47-year-old, who gave his name only as J.C. because of his frequent run-ins with the law. "I've done plenty of drugs in my life, and it only compares to dust," he said, referring to PCP. "But it doesn't last as long."
The tutorial was offered in broad daylight on a bustling street corner in East Harlem, one the neighborhoods where the New York Police Department says it's seen an alarming increase in consumption — mainly by homeless men — of the leafy substance known as "K2." The cheap knock-off weed is spiked with unknown chemicals that are supposed to mimic the more mellow effects of pot, but often comes with harsh side effects that have created a quandary for authorities already grappling with how to deal with the city's homeless population.
"When people talk about synthetic marijuana, it's kind of bad misnomer because we don't know what these chemicals are," said Robert Messner, a police official in charge of civil enforcement.
What's known is that in recent months, there's been a spike in emergency room visits in New York City by users suffering from high blood pressure, hallucinations, hot flashes and psychotic meltdowns that can turn violent or deadly.
On July 24, five patients at a psychiatric facility on Wards Island off of Manhattan were rushed to the hospital after smoking synthetic marijuana. Less than a week later, a man in the West Village jumped into the Hudson River and drowned. A friend told police the victim was high on K2.
New York City health officials issued warnings in April after synthetic marijuana sent 160 people to hospitals in a little over a week. Statewide, there have been more than 1,900 emergency department visits from April through June alone, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call for tighter regulations on an existing list of banned substances to include new chemical compounds.
The risks of synthetic marijuana aren't limited to the smokers: An internal NYPD memo issued last month warned officers that some people strip off their clothes, become impervious to pain and go berserk if confronted, and advised to call for backup and use a Taser if necessary to get them off the street. At a recent new conference, Police Commissioner William Bratton described how a suspected user who locked himself inside a home and began tearing it apart suffered a gruesome injury when he deliberately grabbed the blade of an electric saw that emergency service officers were using to get him out.
Users can go "totally crazy," Bratton said. "Some of the normal takedowns we use aren't going to work. ... It's something we're very concerned about."
Worries over synthetic marijuana aren't new or confined to New York. In 2013, Washington DC launched a zombie-themed website — K2ZombieDC.com — to warn teenagers of its dangers. Earlier this year, the National Association of Attorneys General wrote to gasoline companies to demand that they outlaw sale of synthetic drugs — which can come in the form of herbal incense and potpourri — at gas stations and convenience stores.
Authorities in New York have largely treated the trend has a public health issue, with police officers calling ambulances for users in distress, sometimes after handcuffing them for their own safely. But they've also sought to put a dent in the market by using health codes to raid small businesses to issue and seize thousands of packets of K2 believed to be produced in China — under brand names like "Green Giant," ''Smacked" and "AK47" — that go for as little as $5.
In East Harlem, the packet carried by J.C. was called "What's Up?" and — despite the warning not to smoke its contents — had the wording, "lab certified, no banned chemicals," and "it's legal." J.C. and other homeless people gathered on the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue pointed to a deli and a smoke shop where they said K2 was sold, though none was on display in either location that day and workers denied having any.
At one point, J.C. gave a pinch of his stash to another man, who rolled a cigarette and smoked it without making an effort to hide it. Nearby, a homeless woman, Victoria Parks, talked about dabbling in synthetic marijuana but preferring vodka. She called the scare overblown.
K2 "changes your reality," said the 32-year-old Parks. "It heightens your senses."
Passer-by Carol Shoemaker, 58, looked on with disgust. The lifelong Harlem resident called the open use of synthetic marijuana a blight.
"They got rid of all the crackheads and here come the K2 smokers," she said. "It's just terrible."
San Francisco PD's ‘Instagram officer' fights crime online
SFPD looks for criminals on social media
by PoliceOne Staff
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Police Department is ahead of the game on social media, Business Insider reported.
After an appeals court upheld a firearms conviction that cited Instagram photos as evidence, insight into the department's social media digging was revealed.
In the case last month, a minor under the Instagram account “40glock” posted pictures of himself with a gun in his waistband in 2013. Police saw the images and did a probation search of his house, which led to a conviction.
The court documents revealed SFPD employs their “Instagram officer” to routinely check social media for evidence. The court ruling identified the officer and how he tracks criminals through the social media sites.
“Officer Ochoa scanned Instagram, a social media website, looking for postings,” the ruling said. “Officer Ochoa was the ‘Instagram officer' in his department and has been so for three or four years. His training and experience had taught him ‘how to monitor and track individuals through Instagram'.”
An SFPD spokesperson told the publication they use officers on all social media sites during the course of investigations. Based on their expertise, they may be assigned to a specific website, informally naming them the Instagram or Facebook officer.