August, 2015 - Week 3
Despite Political Rhetoric, 'Anchor Babies' Are Not Exactly Easy To Stop
by Danielle Kurtzleben
GOP presidential candidates are falling over themselves to get on record with tough immigration plans. A string of them — Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum — have spoken out in some form against birthright citizenship. That's the idea that being born on U.S. soil, regardless of your parents' legal status, automatically makes you a U.S. citizen.
Ben Carson went even further, saying he wants to secure the border — where he claims there are caves in which immigrants can hide — by using drones.
"You look at some of these caves and things out there, one drone strike, boom, and they're gone," Carson said.
When it comes to the issue of birthright citizenship, while some conservatives disagree, a lot of legal scholars believe it is settled law, enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and that it therefore would be fantastically difficult to overturn.
The flurry of tough positions on birthright citizenship is yet another sign of the power front-runner Donald Trump, with his inflammatory immigration rhetoric, has in the 2016 GOP race. The question for other Republicans is how to take tough — but still palatable for a general election — stances on the issue.
Both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have defended birthright citizenship, but they have said more needs to be done about women who might come into the U.S. expressly to have children. It's unclear exactly what they would — or could — actually do.
"If there's abuse, if people are bringing, pregnant women are coming in to have babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater enforcement," Bush told conservative radio host Bill Bennett this week, as reported by Politico. "That's [the] legitimate side of this. Better enforcement so that you don't have these, you know, 'anchor babies,' as they're described, coming into the country."
When pressed on his use of the phrase "anchor babies," Bush defended it. "If there's another term that I come up with, I'm happy to hear it," he said Thursday. (Hillary Clinton jumped at the opportunity, tweeting, "They're called babies.")
Rubio told voters in Iowa this week, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, "I'm open to doing things that prevent people who deliberately come to the U.S. for purposes of taking advantage of the 14th Amendment, but I'm not in favor of repealing it."
The problem is that it's not certain exactly what the government could do to stop this from happening. (Neither the Bush nor the Rubio campaign has responded to requests for comment from NPR.)
What the U.S. could do to prevent (the few) "birth tourists"
The closest thing to a law that could slow foreign women from having babies in the U.S. is that you can't lie about why you want a visa to the U.S., said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute's office at New York University.
"If you're a Chinese woman coming to the U.S. as a tourist, you are making a representation to the U.S. government that I am coming to be a tourist," Chishti said. "If it is established by a consular officer that the woman is not really coming for tourism, but is coming to deliver a baby, you can deny the visa. There's no doubt about that."
But that's tough to enforce under current regulations, says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that tends to advocate tighter immigration policies.
"It's not illegal [for a foreign tourist to have a baby in the U.S.], though the State Department could put through regulation if they wanted to try to stop it," he says, for example, by more pointedly asking pregnant women if they're coming simply to have a baby in the U.S.
This phenomenon of having a child on a tourist visa has come to be known as "birth tourism," and many of the stories about it in the past few years have tended to center around women coming from China, where families are restricted in the number of children they can have.
In addition to asking more questions of pregnant women entering the country on tourist visas, likewise, Chishti said the government could crack down more on the clinics — or "maternity hotels," as they are called — where these women routinely go to give birth.
Of course, that only applies to those who go through the visa process. The number of "birth tourists" may indeed be very small. Earlier this year, the Center on Immigration Studies, which favors more tightly monitoring "birth tourism," estimated that there are 36,000 such women annually.
Stopping other immigrants from having children is a different story
But there are millions of people who entered the country illegally. Because the law didn't detect many of them when they came in, trying to stop them from having children is difficult, to say the least.
Likewise, millions of people came in legally but have overstayed their visas. Improving the entry-exit monitoring system could do a lot to bring down the number of people who are in the country illegally, Chishti said. But that doesn't mean anything about their children.
"To be sure, this recommendation applies to reducing the pool of unauthorized in general," he said, but "does not specifically address the 'anchor babies' phenomenon, because most likely mothers would deliver babies during their periods of authorized stay."
It's also possible that trying to crack down on the birthright phenomenon simply means tightening existing laws and enforcement. Krikorian says that would have been a smarter answer to the birthright question for Bush and Rubio.
"A better-thought-out, more humane response would have been, when we enforce immigration laws better, in general, there will be fewer people here to give birth who are not citizens or green card holders," he says. But as it stands, he adds, simply calling for better enforcement against these so-called "anchor babies" is, to him, a non-answer.
"It's their way of seeming responsive without supporting a change in our citizenship practices," he says.
So, how many children are born to illegal immigrants every year?
There are no exact counts on the number of U.S. children with parents who are in the U.S. illegally, but some organizations have tried to count.
The Pew Research Center found in a 2012 report that around 5.5 percent of all K-12 students were U.S.-born citizens who also had at least one parent who was not authorized to be in the U.S. Still, many of those children may have one parent who is here legally.
The center also estimated in 2008 that 340,000 of the 4.3 million children born in the U.S. — not quite 8 percent — were born to immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally.
Those are rough estimates, but they suggest that while the so-called "anchor baby" population is relatively small, the practice of immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally having babies in the U.S. is a very real phenomenon.
And that puts candidates in the tough spot not only of deciding whether they think that's a problem, but also if and how they could fix it.
From the Department of Justice
Department of Justice Announces Program to Enhance Tribal Access to National Crime Information Databases
Department of Justice Tribal Access Program (TAP) Will Improve the Exchange of Critical Data
Department of the Interior Companion Program to Provide Name-Based Emergency Background Checks for Child Placement
The Department of Justice is launching an initial phase of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP) to provide federally-recognized tribes access to national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes. TAP will allow tribes to more effectively serve and protect their communities by ensuring the exchange of critical data.
This initial phase of TAP was announced today in a meeting with tribes held during the 2015 Department of Justice/FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division Tribal Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Federal criminal databases hold critical information that can solve crimes, and keep police officers and communities safe,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “The Tribal Access Program is a step forward to providing tribes the access they need to protect their communities, keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, assist victims and prevent domestic and sexual violence. Empowering tribal law enforcement with information strengthens public safety and is a key element in our ongoing strategy to build safe and healthy communities in Indian country. ”
“The FBI is pleased to participate in this initiative,” said Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess of the FBI's Science and Technology Branch. “This will be a positive step for the tribal agencies to receive valuable criminal information and also for those same tribal agencies to submit criminal information at the national level. Through this partnership, information becomes richer and communities can become safer.”
TAP will support tribes in analyzing their needs for national crime information and help provide appropriate solutions, including a-state-of-the-art biometric/biographic computer workstation with capabilities to process finger and palm prints, take mugshots and submit records to national databases, as well as the ability to access CJIS systems for criminal and civil purposes through the Department of Justice. TAP will also provide specialized training and assistance for participating tribes.
While in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 Congress required the Attorney General to ensure that tribal officials that meet applicable requirements be permitted access to national crime information databases, the ability of tribes to fully participate in national criminal justice information sharing via state networks has been dependent upon various regulations, statutes and policies of the states in which a tribe's land is located. Therefore, improving access for tribal law enforcement to federal criminal information databases has been a departmental focus for several years. In 2010, the department instituted two pilot projects, one biometric and one biographic, to improve informational access for tribes. The biographic pilot continues to serve more than 20 tribal law enforcement agencies.
Departments of Justice and Interior Working Group
In 2014, the Departments of Justice and the Interior (DOI) formed a working group to assess the impact of the pilots and identify long-term sustainable solutions that address both criminal and civil needs of tribes. The outcome of this collaboration was the TAP, as well as an additional program announced today by the DOI's Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) that provides tribes with national crime information prior to making child placement decisions in emergency circumstances. Under the BIA program, social service agencies of federally recognized tribes will be able to view criminal history information accessed through BIA's Office of Justice Services who will conduct name-based checks in situations where parents are unable to care for their children.
“Giving tribal government programs access to national crime databases through DOJ's Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information is a tremendous step forward towards increasing public safety in Indian Country,” said Assistant Secretary Kevin K. Washburn for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services' Purpose Code X program provides a much-needed tool for tribal social service agencies when they must find safe homes to place children during temporary emergency situations.”
In the initial phase of the TAP program, the biometric/biographic workstations will be deployed to up to 10 federally-recognized tribes who will provide user feedback. This phase will focus on assisting tribes that have law enforcement agencies, while in the future the department will seek to address needs of the remaining tribes and find a long-term solution. The department will continue to work with Congress for additional funding to more broadly deploy the program.
The Department of Justice's Chief Information Officer manages TAP.
“It is our hope that TAP can minimize the national crime information gap and drive a deeper and more meaningful collaboration between the federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice communities,” said Chief Information Officer Joseph F. Klimavicz for the department.
For more information on TAP, visit www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-tap.
For more information about the Justice Department's work on tribal justice and public safety issues, visit: www.justice.gov/tribal.
For more information about the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, visit www.indianaffairs.gov/
ICE arrests 300th foreign fugitive this year
MIAMI—U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrested the 300th foreign fugitive apprehended by the agency since October 2014, which marked the start of fiscal year 2015.
“Arresting and removing these kinds of fugitives is the lifeblood of what our officers do every day,” said Executive Associate Director of ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations Tom Homan. “Protecting the American people by taking dangerous criminal aliens off our streets has been and always will be our first priority.”
The 300th capture was Elmer Francisco Reyes, a 30-year-old Honduran man, wanted on a warrant for aggravated sexual assault by Honduran law enforcement authorities who issued a warrant for his arrest in August 2010.
Reyes entered the United States illegally and was removed to Honduras initially in May 2009. Reyes re-entered the U.S. and was re-arrested in Miami Beach, Florida in September 2014. He was issued a reinstated order of deportation and was referred for criminal prosecution.
In February 2015, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida convicted Reyes of illegal re-entry and sentenced him to four months imprisonment and three years supervised release. After sentencing, Reyes was transferred to the custody of Miami Dade Corrections pursuant to an outstanding armed robbery charge. Reyes was released by Miami Dade Corrections in April 2015.
On July 17, 2015, the ERO Miami Field Office Fugitive Operations Group along with the Miami Beach Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force tracked Reyes to a Miami Beach, Florida residence where he was arrested. Reyes was removed to Honduras on July 31, 2015.
The majority of this fiscal year's 300 arrests took place in California, Florida and Texas. The majority are violent criminals who had been convicted of or are wanted for crimes, which include 101 for murder, 15 for sexual offenses, 13 for assault, ten for kidnapping and 13 for robbery.
Since Oct. 1, 2009, ERO has removed more than 1,150 foreign fugitives from the United States who were sought in their native countries for serious crimes, including kidnapping, rape and murder. ERO works with HSI's Office of International Operations, foreign consular offices in the United States, and Interpol to identify foreign fugitives illegally present in the United States.
The ICE National Criminal Analysis and Targeting Center (NCATC) provides critical investigative support for daily arrest efforts, 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 combined efforts of the U.S. National Central Bureau-Interpol Washington, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Miami Dade Police Department.
Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives 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 file a tip online by completing ICE's online tip form.
3 Americans Credited With Stopping Attacker on Paris-Bound Train
by SABINA GHEBREMEDHIN, RACHEL KATZ, and DAVID CHIU
Three Americans -- two of them service members -- helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued an attacker on board a high-speed train bound for Paris.
Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler were on a train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday when a man armed with an automatic weapon and knife started attacking passengers. Sadler was visiting Stone, 23, an Air Force airman stationed in Portugal, and Skarlatos, 23, an Army National guardsman stationed in Afghanistan.
"I came to see my friends on my first trip in Europe and we stopped a terrorist," Sadler told Eurovision. "It's kind of crazy."
Sadler said during the ride, they heard a gunshot in the carriage behind them and glass shattering. They then saw an armed man entering their carriage and holding an automatic weapon as if he was ready to begin firing.
"Alek just yells, 'Spencer go!' and Spencer just gets up within five seconds of the guy being in the car and just rushes back there," said Sadler. "He gets up, I get up and Alek gets up and all three of us just rush back there."
Stone tackled the attacker to the ground, said Sadler. As the others jumped in to hold him down, the attacker pulled out a box cutter and slashed Stone.
"If anybody is a hero, it is pretty much Spencer," Sadler added. "He was bleeding himself, could barely see, blood running down his own face."
Stone was set to undergo surgery Saturday morning after he had his finger nearly severed, according to his family. He grew up with Skarlatos in Carmichael, California, and their families were neighbors.
"I just wish he [Stone] didn't have to get hurt, but they saved lives," Stone's mother, Joyce Eskel, told ABC affiliate KXTV-TV in Sacramento, California.
The attacker was taken into custody as the train was stopped in Arras, about two hours northeast of Paris. He was being interviewed by French counter-terrorism officials Saturday, said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Cazeneuve said the attacker may be a 26-year-old Moroccan national who was flagged by Spanish authorities last year for links to Islamic extremist movements, but his identity was never confirmed.
A French actor, Jean-Hugues Anglade, suffered non-life threatening injuries in the attack, said Cazeneuve, who also thanked the Americans for their courage and cool nerves.
Police trying to uncover motive in federal building shooting
by Michael Balsamo
NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators are trying to figure out why an armed veteran slipped through a side door of a federal building in Manhattan, fatally shooting a security guard before killing himself.
Federal agents swarmed Kevin Downing's home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, hours after the Friday evening shooting, searching for anything that could help them understand the shooting.
They said the 68-year-old former federal employee and armed forces veteran opened fire at the federal building on Varick Street that houses an immigration court, passport processing center and a regional office for the Department of Labor.
As he approached a metal detector, Downing shot FJC Security Services guard Idrissa Camara, police said. Camara was supposed to leave work at 4 p.m. but had agreed to stay for an extra shift, his company said.
After shooting the senior security guard in the head at close range, Downing walked toward an elevator where he encountered another employee, and then shot himself in the head, said James O'Neill, a chief with the New York Police Department.
"We're in the very early stages of the investigation and are working to establish his motive for coming here, if he had an intended target beyond the security officer, and what the motive was behind the crime," O'Neill said. There was no indication the shooting was terrorism-related, he said.
John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said Downing was a former employee at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Detectives still are trying to piece together his work history.
A New Jersey newspaper, The Record, reported that Downing had been fired from his job at the New York City office of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1999. In 2013, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell wrote a letter to the Department of Labor saying "there is evidence to indicate Mr. Downing's termination was inappropriate because it was in retaliation for his communication with Congressional staff regarding what he believed to be waste and abuse present in the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
Neither Pascrell nor a spokesman for the Labor Department returned calls from The Associated Press late Friday.
Asked about the prospect that Downing was a whistleblower, Miller told reporters: "That would go to potential motive. Part of the background we're conducting now is, 'What was his motive?'"
Miller said Downing had also collected Veterans Affairs benefits, but investigators were unsure which branch of the armed service he served in. A VA spokeswoman said the agency had offices in the building but did not immediately respond to questions about Downing's military service.
The FBI is assisting in the investigation because Camara was working as a contractor for a federal agency, police said.
Camara was armed but never had a chance to defend himself, the security company said.
"Camara ... was an extraordinary Senior Guard who was well trained, cared deeply about his job and knew that building better than anyone else," said Michael McKeon, a spokesman for the security company.
Hector Figueroa, the president of Camara's union, 32 BJ SEIU, said he was horrified by the news.
"Security officers around the city and country serve on the front line each and every day to keep us safe and secure," Figueroa said. "We are heartbroken that one of our own has fallen. We hope some of our questions in the face of this terrible tragedy will be answered. For now, we are keeping Camara's family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers."
Judge rules U.S. government must swiftly release immigrant children in detention
by Victoria Cavaliere
A U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered the government to swiftly release immigrant children held at detention centers, affirming a July ruling that said some minors who crossed the border illegally were being detained in violation of a long-standing settlement.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles gave the administration of President Barack Obama until Oct. 23 to comply with her order to release hundreds of unauthorized immigrant children, and in some cases their mothers, "without unnecessary delay."
Gee's ruling comes amid debate by U.S. presidential candidates over illegal immigration and follows an influx of immigrants from Central America across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Last year, more than 68,000 children traveling without a parent entered the country. The federal government has held unaccompanied children, or children caught with a parent, in special facilities.
The federal government has also taken steps to release unaccompanied immigrant children from border detention centers, often to a family member living in the United States.
Last month, Gee ruled the Department of Homeland Security was keeping children at detention centers in violation of a 1997 class-action settlement that said juveniles under the age of 18 cannot be held for more than 72 hours.
If a parent was caught with his or her child, authorities could justify keeping the adult in custody if the person is a "significant flight risk" or poses a safety concern, the ruling said.
The ruling was seen as a defeat for U.S. immigration authorities, who in court filings argued releasing undocumented immigrant children encourages families in Central America to undertake the dangerous journey north.
U.S. officials are holding 1,400 parents and children at three centers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Gee called conditions a the family detention centers - two in Texas, one in Pennsylvania - "deplorable" and said in some cases children were kept in crowded rooms for days without places to sleep.
The government said last month it was "disappointed" with the decision and was efforting to move children and their mothers through family immigration detention centers as quickly as possible.
The government is expected to appeal Friday's ruling. The agency could not be immediately reached for comment.
Summerville Police Department expands community outreach
by Alexis Simmons
SUMMERVILLE -- If you live in Summerville you might just get a knock on your door from a Summerville Police officer.
It's part of their community policing outreach and they're looking to learn more about the people they serve and their concerns.
"It was puzzling you know," says Summerville resident, Jim Harris. "Of course all the bad things kind of race through your head immediately when police show up ya know, but it turned out be a very pleasant conversation."
Harris says when he learned police were trying to get to know the community better he was all for it.
"It's much more personable that way and you're more relaxed, and you're more apt to talk about things that are going on or things that you'd like to know about," says Harris.
Captain Jon Rogers of the Summerville Police department says increasing communication and trust with the community is the goal.
"What we find is a lot of times residents will hear of crime, be a victim of a crime and however not contact us" says Rogers. "So this way it gets the officers into the neighborhoods so we get some relationships built in those neighborhoods."
Rogers says community policing is something the Summerville Police Department has done for years, but with a new leader of the Uniform Patrol Division, the mission is to expand the outreach to all officers.
"They do it a couple of times a month per shift," says Rogers. "Again, there are a lot of subdivisions in town so they're trying to hit them all."
Harris has lived in a Summerville neighborhood for 25 years and he's glad to see this type of presence.
"She said 'do you have any problems you want to talk about?' the only thing that we had were people running stop signs."
‘Meet Your Officers' Event Brings Police, Community Together In Camden
by Diana Rocco
CAMDEN — It's not every day you see police officers playing a game of pick-up basketball with neighborhood children, but Camden County Police are trying to change that.
“We can't arrest our way out of crime, but as a community we can do it together and this is something that brings us into the community,” said Camden County Police Lt. Zsakhiem James. “When you meet us on the street, we want you to know who we are.”
Health screenings, face painting, free ice cream and backpacks were all part of the event sponsored by Camden County Police Department who came out Friday night to meet their community.
“Something positive for these kids in Camden, they need it,” said Deedee Washington.
“It's starting to come around. I grew up in this community so I kind of know and they are trying to get back to the way community policing was some years ago where we knew all of the police who worked our neighborhood,” said Woodrow Wilson High School basketball coach Preston Brown.
It's part of a new way of policing throughout the county. Longtime resident and Woodrow Wilson High School basketball coach Preston Brown says he's seen it first hand.
“The Chief of Police actually stopped by our practice last week and wanted to talk to the kids and let them know that those guys are working with the kids in the community,” said Coach Brown.
A karate demonstration was also part of the event near 9th and Morgan Boulevard. This is the fourth meet and greet with police this summer and there are more planned for the fall.
“There's always challenges, but I think that if our neighbors stick together and support the police we can have a better neighborhood,” said community member Susan Dunbar-Bey.
The Camden County Police Department says they don't expect perspectives to change overnight, but they are committed to making a difference in their community one child and neighborhood at a time.
Bullet fired into home kills 9-year-old Ferguson girl doing homework
by Wilborn P. Nobles III
Police are searching for clues to identify the person who shot into a Ferguson, Mo., home, killing a 9-year-old girl doing homework on her mother's bed Tuesday night.
During a news conference Thursday, Ferguson police Sgt. Dominica Fuller said Jamyla Bolden was fatally shot while her mother, 34, was shot in the leg and treated at a hospital.
Fuller, also a mother to a 9-year-old girl, was one of the police officers present at the scene. She tried to provide aid to Jamyla, but the child died later from the gunshot.
“You have a 9-year-old child on her mother's bed doing homework and a bullet strikes her,” Fuller said. “Our concern is to get this person off the street.”
Jamyla's grandmother told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said she ran into the bedroom after someone opened fire about 9:30 p.m. She did not want her name used in the newspaper because she feared for her safety.
“I kept holding and holding her,” the grandmother told the Post-Dispatch. “I still have her blood on my hands. She was still breathing. I was telling her to just breathe.”
Police said a motive was not known, but they are working on leads they have gathered thus far. Police also said they don't know if the shots were fired from a car or from someone standing outside the home.
The Post-Dispatch reported there were five visible bullet holes on the exterior of the house: three in the screens of two windows with shattered glass behind them, and two more in the house's aluminum siding.
The Associated Press reported that the small ranch home sits on a street that intersects with Canfield Drive, where unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was killed a little more than a year ago by a white police officer. A house next to where Jamyla was shot has a yard sign that reads, “We Must Stop Killing Each Other.” Similar signs have sprung up around St. Louis as homicides are on the rise in the region.
“I never in a million years thought that I'd be laying my daughter to rest,” said James Bolden, Jamyla's father, to KMOV-TV.
A vigil for Jamyla was held Thursday night where more than 200 people called for people to share information to help find the shooter, the Post-Dispatch reported.
“We all have to work collectively to heal this community and this family,” said Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson, the newspaper reported.
Community policing forum focuses on education, outreach
Districty Attorney Nico Lahood was in attendance at forum
by Charles Gonzalez
SAN ANTONIO - Local law enforcement leaders including Bexar County Sheriff Susan Parmerleau and District Attorney Nico LaHood took part in a forum on civil rights and community policing at True Vision Church on Ackerman Road.
Most of the forum time was spent on introductory speeches by the panel members with the longest from DA LaHood when he used a PowerPoint presentation to explain the investigation procedure of an officer involved shooting, which many of the nearly 100 people in attendance appreciated.
“When you're informed about situations and have knowledge, you can directly judge a situation,” said Ella Marsh.
“I really appreciated DA LaHood going line by line and explaining the process very detailed,” added Kinton Armmer.
The panel only had enough time to answer two of the 15 submitted questions but planned to give detailed responses to the people who submitted the unanswered questions. The forum was brief but a step in the right direction according to the attendees.
“I think it does go a very long way,” said Armmer. “It's not a situation where it's going to be a one answer that addresses all the concerns of the community.”
Others on the panel were attorney Stephen M. Foster, San Antonio Police Deputy Chief Roy Waldhelm and State Senator Jose Menendez who served as moderator.
New chief affirms commitment to community policing
by Beth Walton
ASHEVILLE – The city's new police chief reaffirmed her intent to strengthen relations between law enforcement and the community Wednesday at a meeting of the Stop the Violence Coalition.
At her first visit to the group made up of ministers, activists, nonprofit and government leaders, Tammy Hooper discussed community policing, procedural justice and departmental priorities, including the use of body cameras.
Hooper said that officers with APD will be held to high standards and that the agency is committed to building trust. Law enforcement needs to treat people with respect and help ensure people have a voice in what is happening to them, she said.
APD is focusing on improving internal processes and getting "the house in order," Hooper added. A policy regarding the use of body cameras should be in place within the next two weeks and officers are being encouraged to step up their community engagement.
"Agencies that operate by working in a vacuum in their community are not successful agencies and they don't have relationships with their peers," Hooper said. "Community policing is about partnerships and problem solving and this group is a perfect example of that."
The Stop the Violence Coalition has been meeting twice a month for just over a year. Focused on education, employment, law enforcement and social services, the group uses a holistic approach to combating violence and racism.
"Even though the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' has come about this year, one of the reasons we got together was because we were concerned about black lives and wanted to say that they matter," said the Rev. Jim Abbott, a retired clergyman from St. Matthias Episcopal Church, as he welcomed the new police chief to the meeting.
Hooper started her tenure as APD's leader on July 20. She was chosen for the position from among 141 candidates in a national search. She replaced William Anderson, the city's first black police chief who retired amid controversies. She is Asheville's third police chief in four years and is the first white woman to hold the position.
As he introduced her at Wednesday's luncheon, Asheville's City Manager Gary Jackson said the department sought input from all segments of the community before hiring Hooper. The city wanted someone who had a high level of sensitivity to the African-American community, as well as an extensive background in community policing and community outreach.
Hooper comes to Asheville from a job as deputy chief at the Alexandria, Virginia, police department, where she spent 26 years.
The Rev. Keith Ogden, an outspoken advocate for retired Chief Anderson facilitated the Stop the Violence Coalition meeting. The Hill Street Baptist Church pastor withdrew himself from the police chief selection process in May citing a lack of transparency. On Wednesday, he welcomed Hooper to Asheville.
"It's never easy taking over command and getting to know the people who you entrust to do the right thing and vice versa," he said. "You have my full support."
Vilifying police has chilling effects on public safety
by Scott G. Erickson
President George H.W. Bush, when dedicating the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in 1991, remarked that, “When society asks someone to put on a badge and place it over his or her heart, we make a sacred covenant – a covenant that says: ‘We as a society stand behind those who enforce the law against those who break the law.'”
A lot has changed in the past quarter century. Today, a cacophony of dissent has sought to marginalize the American police officer and cast him in the role of villain instead of hero.
The sentiments of a few, echoed through a complicit and sensationalized media and often devoid of context or perspective, have sown mistrust and skepticism within communities whose very survival depends upon trust and faith in the justice system.
The same men and women whom society has tasked with upholding the rule of law and protecting the vulnerable from victimization have now been told they no longer matter, that they're untrustworthy and that the same society that conferred those responsibilities upon them will no longer stand behind them.
The vilification of the American police officer has had an effect on the law enforcement community, as well as society itself.
Recruiting and retention efforts have become strained, with some cities seeing a drop in police recruit applications upward of 70 percent. Patrol officers have seen their work load increase, and in some agencies, the number of officers available to assist in a crisis has shrunk to unsafe levels.
Crime is on the rise. Baltimore, a city at the epicenter of strained police-community relations, has seen its violent crime spike to its highest level in decades.
The 208 homicides (as of Aug. 19) in Baltimore so far this year are roughly 10 times the number of homicides in San Diego, a city more than twice as large – and it almost matches Baltimore's own total of 211 murders for the entirety of 2014.
Police officers are retreating from the proactive policing tactics that have contributed to a historic drop in crime over the past 20 years. The result: an emboldened criminal element.
The movement away from proactive policing toward an almost wholly reactive model is rooted in fear. Not fear of injury or of the basic dangers associated with police work. Rather, the fear is rooted in uncertainty. Will I be the next officer on the evening news if I have to use force to subdue a violent suspect? Will the community turn against me?
Make no mistake, every officer working the streets right now is asking himself or herself these same questions. Unfortunately, in today's political climate a greater number of officers are deciding that the risks to their reputations and livelihood are simply too great to engage in the type of proactive policing that has been so effective at reducing crime.
It is time to acknowledge that while individual police officers, imperfect as human beings are, have at times committed indiscretions deserving of public rebuke, the vast majority of officers and the profession itself must no longer be vilified as the root cause of society's ills.
Scott G. Erickson is a police officer and executive director of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement.
Calif. cop dedicated career to suicide prevention
CHP Officer Kevin Briggs patrolled the Golden Gate Bridge for 23 years and encountered over 200 people 'over the rail'
by C.W. Nevius
SAN FRANCISCO — Kevin Briggs spent much of his career listening to strangers. He'd chat them up, get to know them. Then he'd hope they'd change their minds and not kill themselves.
Briggs, now retired, patrolled the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge for the California Highway Patrol for 23 years. In that time, he came upon more than 200 people who were “over the rail” — a step from falling 220 feet to the water below.
They were mostly men, and most were on the east, or city side of the bridge. All but two of the people Briggs met gave themselves a second chance.
It turned out Briggs was assigned to a location that has become an international destination of despair. The Bridge Rail Foundation, based in Sausalito, says nearly 1,600 people have died leaping off the Golden Gate, “more than any other location in the world.”
It isn't as if officials don't have ideas to address the problem, but they have been slow to implement them. A suicide barrier was approved by the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors in June 2014, but it isn't expected to be installed until 2018.
Meanwhile, September is National Suicide Prevention Month, when we will hear the grim numbers. In 2013, the most recent accounting by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41,149 people committed suicide in the United States, far more than the 16,121 who were victims of homicide.
Briggs, who has written a book about his experiences called “Guardian of the Golden Gate,” doesn't have a scientific answer, but he does have experience.
His takeaway? Reach out, talk to people. And listen.
“Most of them are not angry,” he said. “They feel they've let people down. They don't want to die, but they feel they have to. They don't want to hurt their family or friends, but they just don't see a way out.”
Inches From Death
Kevin Berthia knows the feeling. When a sports career and a marriage fell apart, he fell into a deep depression. He attempted suicide twice, and in March 2005, he found himself over the rail on the Golden Gate Bridge, his sneakers precariously perched on a small pipe over the abyss.
It was the last place in the world he expected to be.
“I had never been to the Golden Gate Bridge,” he said. “I never knew that it was known for suicides. I'm afraid of heights, I hate to be cold and hate to be the center of attention. And here I am freezing cold, 220 feet in the air, and I'm in the most uncomfortable position I've ever been in my life.”
As it happened, a Chronicle photographer, John Storey, was there. He captured a series of photos that still give viewers chills. Berthia isn't even holding on. His hands are jammed in his black basketball shorts, and he's balanced on the pipe with his chest leaning against the barrier.
“The only thing keeping me on that ledge is the wind,” Berthia recalls. “If it stopped, it's over.”
In those situations Briggs, who attended the FBI's well-known Crisis Intervention Unit, says he looked for “a hook,” a life detail that would resonate.
“He targeted the one thing that meant the most to me,” Berthia said. “My daughter's first birthday was the next month and I would have missed it.”
Berthia came back over the rail. But that was only the beginning. He was still depressed and conflicted. When he left the hospital he was embarrassed to find that a photo of his near-death experience had been on the front page of The Chronicle.
“Between going to the hospital and that photo, I said, ‘I am done with this,'” he said. “I never want to talk about this horrible day in my life. If anything, I was getting worse.”
By his count, that changed “2,988 days from the time I went to the bridge.” He was invited to the annual Lifesavers Dinner, hosted in New York City by the American Society for Suicide Prevention. Briggs was receiving an award for his work, and they asked Berthia to speak about their shared experience.
‘Story To Tell'
“That night was the first time I talked about it,” he said. “I felt like there's no point to having a life-changing experience if you don't do anything about it. I started to share my life and accept who I was in that picture. I felt like I had a story to tell and I'd been given a platform to tell it.”
Today, he is a suicide prevention campaigner who frequently speaks to groups.
“I get to be an advocate,” he said. “I just feel like I am conquering fear every time I tell the story.”
Haunted By Losses
For Briggs, Berthia's story is a validation of what he learned leaning over that railing, although he's the first to admit he's haunted by the two men he couldn't help.
“One guy actually turned and shook my hand, three times,” he says. “The third time he said, ‘Kevin, sorry I have to go,' and jumped. It wears on you for the rest of your days. I think a little piece of me went down with him.”
Still, his core principle remains untouched — listening to someone in despair. He'd love to prevent suicide, but he's hoping the takeaway is something simpler — take the time to talk to people. And listen.
“Maybe it's a colleague at work,” he said. “Just kick back on a park bench for a few minutes and talk.”
His message is it doesn't take much.
“You take a few minutes and you might save a life,” he said. “Imagine that.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish
Rise of officer-involved shootings brings Miss. cops to class
The Ferguson effect and trend to videotape police actions has made many departments refocus their efforts
by Robin Fitzgerald
GAUTIER, Miss. — Police attending an officer-involved shooting class Thursday said thoughts of "to shoot or be shot" and "to kill or be killed" weigh on their minds daily.
The Ferguson, Mo., officer-involved shooting and a trend in videotaping police actions are changing the way law enforcement officers do their jobs, said Tim Rutledge. He is teaching the free course at cities around the state in day-long classes.
Higher visibility of police actions indicates a growing need for officers to protect themselves legally with video, Rutledge said. He is founder and director of the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support in Madison and training director for the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy in Meridian.
"If your agency doesn't provide you a body cam, buy your own," Rutledge said. "You need to clear your name."
Six of 11 police departments across Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties have body cameras for all their patrol officers.
Joel Smith, district attorney for Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties, said he expects all the region's law enforcement officers will soon have body cams.
A day before the class, a Corinth police officer was shot in a struggle and a Jackson County deputy shot a man who reportedly pointed a gun at him and refused to put it down.
About 100 people, including police, prosecutors, dispatchers and chaplains, signed up for the class at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's Jackson County campus. They came from Coast cities and areas from Mobile to Petal.
Rutledge is one of several who said they've been involved in a shooting.
"We want officers to know we are here for them," he said, referring to an adrenaline rush followed by gut-wrenching emotions, fear of losing their jobs and worries of public ridicule or retaliation.
Most Shootings Justified
Rutledge said a review of more than 500 officer-involved shootings in Mississippi shows "only two were bad shoots."
The training includes videos of shootings. Some videos were filmed by bystanders who cursed police and blamed them for shooting an unarmed man; in most cases, close-up views or other videos showed the suspects were armed.
Some say the goal of a police officer is to make it home safely. However, Rutledge said the first priority is to support the Constitution and be willing to die to save others.
"If you are not willing to use force, you are in the wrong line (of work)," he said.
'You Just Go On'
Petal police Officer Wayne Bounds said he thinks about the possibility of a shooting daily.
"You just go on and do the best you can," Bounds said.
Retired Pritchard, Ala., police Capt. Eddie Ragland, who now works for the Mobile Airport Authority, was involved in a fatal shooting in the 90s. He and two reserve officers found five burglars inside a home.
"I fired two shots as they tried to get out the front door to stop them from getting away," Ragland said. "I wasn't trying to hit them. I was protecting myself."
A shot fired by another officer killed one of the burglars, he said, and the other four pleaded guilty.
"This training shows officers what prosecutors look for in evidence that can be used at trial or before a grand jury," said Tony Lawrence, district attorney for Jackson, George and Greene counties.
The course also covers emotional, legal and constitutional issues, public sentiment and working with the news media. Rutledge said police chiefs should release as much information as possible immediately after a shooting.
Sponsors of Thursday's training were Rutledge's groups, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, U.S. Attorney's Office, Gautier Police Department and MGCCC.
Special Assistant Attorney General Paula Broome said the training may prompt agencies to consider if they need more help with use of force, legal protocol or other issues.
"We've seen what happened in the Ferguson case and the Baltimore case," Broome said. "We certainly would not want to be going down those paths."
City to Pay $1.1 Million to Homeless for 'Discriminatory' Crackdown
Venice Councilman calls for gentler regulations, and an attorney says suits challenging city's crackdown on homelessness are just beginning.
by PAIGE AUSTIN
City News Service
The City Council approved a $1.1 million payment today to resolve a lawsuit filed on behalf of four homeless people in the Venice area who were cited or arrested as part of a 2010 crackdown on people living in their cars in the beach-side community.
Carol Sobel, the attorney who challenged the law that served as the premise for the crackdown, said she plans to use proceeds from the settlement to challenge future and existing laws targeting homeless people in the city.
The settlement is “a good result for us,” Sobel told City News Service. “It allows us to mount a challenge to the next, newly enacted restrictions and criminalizations that the city seems hell-bent on passing.”
City attorneys have drawn up draft language to replace the 1983 law against living in cars, which was struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2014. The proposed new law is expected to be taken up by the City Council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee.
Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice, urged his colleagues today to try a different approach to the issue of homeless people living in their cars.
If the city decides to “try to find another way to tell people they can't live in their vehicles,” such as passing laws to replace the one that was struck down, “we're going to wind up paying Carol Sobel another million dollars or so,” said Bonin, who noted that the heightened enforcement of the law in 2010 occurred before he took office.
He suggested the city could follow Santa Barbara's example by setting up a “safe parking program” in which a lot is set aside where people can park their cars as long as “they are enrolled in social services” that help them find a place to live.
Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, said the requested settlement was $1.3 million.
The city law that was struck down said that “no person shall use a vehicle parked or standing upon” city streets and parking lots owned or controlled by the city or county “as living quarters either overnight, day-by- day, or otherwise.”
The plaintiffs' attorneys argued that the law allowed police to cite or arrest individuals for arbitrary reasons, with officers arresting people even when they were not actually living in their cars.
Often the citations or arrests would be made during a traffic stop, after officers observed personal belongings such as clothes, bedding, water bottles and portable radios in the cars.
On behalf of the appeals court, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in June 2014 that the law -- known as Section 85.02 -- allowed homeless people to be arrested while “eating, talking on the phone or escaping the rain in their vehicles,” which are activities that mimic “the everyday conduct of many Los Angeles residents.”
The law “provides inadequate notice of the unlawful conduct it proscribes, and opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the poor,” Pregerson concluded.
Protests Break Out in St. Louis After Police Shooting of Black Suspect
At least nine arrested after killing of black teenager Mansur Ball-Bey
by The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS—Officers arrested at least nine people and deployed tear gas amid protests in St. Louis over the death of a black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by police after he pointed a gun at them, the city's police chief said.
Chief Sam Dotson said at a news conference late Wednesday night that a group of protesters who had blocked an intersection threw glass bottles and bricks at officers and refused orders to clear the roadway. Inert gas was used and when that didn't have any effect on the crowd, police turned to tear gas to clear the intersection, Mr. Dotson said. Those arrested face charges of impeding the flow of traffic and resisting arrest, he said.
The demonstration was one of several Wednesday after the killing of 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey of St. Louis. It comes with tensions already high in the area after violence erupted during several events marking the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old fatally shot last year by a police officer in nearby Ferguson.
Two police officers serving a search warrant Wednesday afternoon at a home in a crime-troubled section of the city's north side encountered two suspects, one of which was Mr. Ball-Bey, the chief said. The suspects were fleeing the home as Mr. Ball-Bey turned and pointed a handgun at the officers, who shot him, Mr. Dotson said. He died at the scene.
Both officers, who are white, were unharmed, according to a police report.
Police are searching for the second suspect, who they said is believed to be in his mid- to late teens.
Mr. Dotson said four guns, including the handgun wielded by the dead suspect, and crack cocaine were recovered at or near the home, which last year yielded illegal guns during a police search.
A man and woman who were also inside the home were arrested, Mr. Dotson said.
Roughly 150 people gathered Wednesday afternoon near the scene of the shooting, questioning the use of deadly force. Some chanted “Black Lives Matter,” a mantra used after Mr. Brown's death.
As police removed their yellow tape that cordoned off the scene, dozens of people converged on the home's front yard, many chanting insults and gesturing obscenely at officers. Several onlookers surrounded individual officers, yelling at them.
“Another youth down by the hands of police,” Dex Dockett, 42, who lives nearby, told a reporter. “What could have been done different to de-escalate rather than escalate? They [police] come in with an us-against-them mentality. You've got to have the right kind of cops to engage in these types of neighborhoods.”
Another neighborhood resident, Fred Price, said he was skeptical about Mr. Dotson's account that the suspect pointed a gun at officers before being mortally wounded.
“They provoked the situation,” Mr. Price, 33, said. “Situations like this make us want to keep the police out of the neighborhood. They're shooting first, then asking questions.”
In addition to the nine arrests at the Wednesday night demonstration, officers responded to reports of burglaries in the area and the fire department was called after a car was set ablaze, according to Mr. Dotson.
He blamed the crimes on people seeking “notoriety” in a neighborhood “plagued by violence.”
The area is near where a 93-year-old veteran who was part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen—the U.S. military's first black aviators—was the victim of crimes twice within a few minutes Sunday, being robbed and then having his car stolen. The veteran was unhurt, and his car was found Tuesday blocks from where it was taken.
Protests have become a familiar scene across the St. Louis region since Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to charge Mr. Wilson, who resigned in November.
Some of those who protested Mr. Ball-Bey's killing had already spent the morning in downtown St. Louis, marching to mark the anniversary of the fatal police shooting of Kajieme Powell. He was fatally shot by two St. Louis officers after police said he approached them with a knife. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce is still reviewing the case to determine whether lethal force was justified.
Richmond's community policing in national spotlight
by Kerri O'Brien
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Police Department's community policing programs earned national attention on Wednesday on CSPAN's ‘Washington Journal '
Police Chief Alfred Durham and Mayor Dwight Jones appeared live on the show, answering questions from callers for three hours.
Durham told the show's host, “Transparency leads to credibility and credibility leads to legitimacy.”
Durham believes transparency is critical to building a relationship with the community. He also told CSPAN callers the department's community outreach, which includes patrols on foot and bike, events like shop with a cop or badges for baseball, where officers play ball regularly with city kids, has been also been the key to building a partnership with the public, deterring crime and preventing the tension with police we have seen in other cities across the country.
“We are starting to see those relationships build about three weeks ago — we had a homicide probably about 4:00 in the afternoon and within a half hour, we had six tips from residents in that public housing community. That's unprecedented,” said Durham.
Watching the unrest in Baltimore, Md. and Ferguson, Mo., Capt. Harvey Powers told CSPAN that recruit training has now been adjusted to include recruits getting out of the classroom and into the community. Training also places heavy emphasis on trying to tap into those unconscious biases we all have.
“The more integration we have with people that are different than us, the more likely we are to dispel those biases,” Powers explained.
Jones believes diversity is also key.
‘”Our police department is diverse,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people in the community have an ability to look at leadership and see a reflection of themselves.”
Despite a violent night in the city just hours before the interview, Durham pointed out overall violent crime is down 13 percent and he noted in the last year police have taken more than 500 illegal guns off the streets.
Durham also mentioned City Council and the mayor have approved funding for a 200 body cameras. He told CSPAN he believes the cameras are long overdue.
To view Durham's interview, click here.
To view Powers' interview, click here.
To view Jones' interview, click here.
Sacramento forms new Community Police Commission
by Ryan Lillis
Responding to months of community meetings, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to form a Community Police Commission that will analyze the Police Department's diversity, policies and “bias-free policing” training.
Mayor Kevin Johnson organized a series of meetings last year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked riots and a national discussion over community-police relations.
Francine Tournour, the director of the city's Office of Public Safety Accountability, said community members suggested replacing the Community Racial Profiling Commission with a commission that had broader oversight. The racial profiling commission had “experienced diminished participation due to the limited authority (given to it) beyond traffic stop data analysis,” according to a city staff report.
Last year, Johnson appointed council members Allen Warren, Angelique Ashby and Rick Jennings to a public safety council committee – and the new commission is the result of their work. The mayor said the council committee formed a commission that “has real teeth in it and that the community feels very good about.”
“This commission, made up of the community, gives us a chance to have real accountability, real community input and it gives you (the community) the chance to have real oversight,” the mayor told the audience in the City Council chambers.
Tournour said the commission will be made up of 11 members, including representatives from faith, civil rights and business communities. A former law enforcement official will sit on the commission, along with an appointee of the city police union. Johnson will appoint the members, pending City Council approval.
The commission will report to the City Council on police activity each year.
Clifton Roberts, a member of the former racial profiling commission and an Oak Park resident, said “this ordinance (to form the new commission) has the potential to close the trust gap between the police and various communities that feel targeted.”
Warren said “at the top of the list” for the commission's priorities is analyzing the Police Department's diversity and sensitivity training policies; the Police Department is more than 70 percent white.
“It's going to make our city safer and our citizens happier,” Warren said.
The city and the Police Department also have launched an initiative called Officer Next Door that is creating a gang task force, engaging churches to promote cooperation between officers and residents, and focusing on recruiting a diverse police force by partnering with local high schools.
Community, police help historic Kennett Square neighborhood rebound from years of crime
by Laura Benshoff
Teresa Bass sits on the steps outside the Bethel AME church on East Linden Street in Kennett Square Borough, Pennsylvania, surveying the small street where she's spent most of her life.
"My mom, she still lives in the same house at 323 East Linden," Bass says. As an adult, Bass moved a few houses down the street, to 331 East Linden.
East Linden is a stone's throw off the town's main drag, and many of its 80 or so historic houses date to the 19th century. The street is home to a community of black residents with very long roots in a borough that's traditionally white. Before slavery ended, the street was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Growing up on an out-of-the way street in a small town was idyllic, Bass says. But as the local economy sputtered during the 1980s, she says her neighborhood slid into crime.
Coming home from the second shift at machining company, Bass says, "I could barely get on the sidewalk to get in my house because there were guys standing there ... stopping traffic, handing things in the [car] window, doing what they do."
Men from other towns around Chester County were coming to East Linden to deal drugs and loiter.
"At the time, most of the [homeowners] were African-American that live here," said Bass. "I was feeling that the town really didn't care as long as you didn't go outside that one district here." Fights and disorderly conduct citations were frequent.
Attending to history, drug problems
Mention Kennett Square to most people in the region and "mushroom farms" come to mind more readily than "open-air drug market." Contrary to the pastoral image its name conjures, the borough itself is compact and densely settled, a single square mile sharing a name with the more affluent surrounding township.
The economic struggles of residents on East Linden Street were mirrored by the street itself. Old appliances accumulated in yards and many of the older folks stayed in their homes. By 2002, Bass was ready to leave. Her own brother, Avery, had battled drug and alcohol addiction but was able to kick the habit.
"I was done," said Bass. "I said, 'I'm getting out of here.'" A conversation with close friend and nurse Joan Holliday changed her mind. "She said, 'OK, there's a problem but what are you going to do about it?'"
Bass, Holliday and representatives from the Alliance for Better Housing started organizing the residents and holding monthly meetings in the church.
Around the same time as those first meetings, Kennett Square received one of the first Elm Street grants, state funds aimed at revitalizing the borough's historic core -- including East Linden Street.
Residents who contributed $500 could access $5,000 to fix up their facades. The newly founded Historic East Linden Project helped those would didn't have $500 to buy-in raise funds.
While the meetings and the money started to reshape the neighborhood, residents in East Linden wanted help tackling the neighborhood's drug problem. That meant getting police to be a part of the community, not just dashing in and out when something went wrong.
Police officers "would come, and then the guys would leave, and then they'd come back," said Bass. She invited police to join public meetings, supported by Chief Edward Zunino. She also credits Zunino with mentoring her brother when he was struggling.
Officer Sarah Capaccio said residents' requests drove the force to be more present.
"Instead of having to be down there because we were needed, we were down there because we wanted to have a positive police presence," Capaccio said. At the residents' request, officers started regularly foot patrolling through the area and made efforts to get to know locals.
When you know the people you police, she said, it's easier to keep things from escalating.
"We can roll up and be like, 'Hey, what are you doing? Go inside. Knock it off,'" Capaccio said. "Even that has gone away."
Crime declines, community thrives
Two years ago, Bass and the Joseph and Sarah Carter CDC (the group that replaced the Historic East Linden Project) celebrated a victory over crime in the neighborhood, in the form of objective proof of improvement. In 2009, East Linden and its surrounding lanes had 53 disorderly conduct citations; in 2013, that number dropped down to three.
The decline in crime corresponds to an increased focus on children and education.
Carter CDC conducts a tutoring program called Study Buddies out of the AME church basement. About 60 kids get help with homework during the school year. In the summer, the group also supplies free lunch and dinner -- provided by a food program through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia -- to neighborhood kids.
"It's really different," said Bass. She said joggers now cut through the neighborhood on the way to Anson B. Nixon Park. Historical tours take architecture buffs down East Linden Street to admire the early buildings.
Police also take the time to learn kids names and favorite colors. During a recent National Night Out, the annual block party celebrating community policing, children made a game of learning what they had in common with different officers.
The only down side now, said Bass, is the increasing value of East Linden homes and consequent property tax hikes in the newly desirable area.
Old-timers on fixed incomes, such as Bass' mother, Ophelia, are the ones getting hit by the upswing in value, according to Bass. Does that mean they'll leave?
"It could happen. It's a concern," she said.
FBI joins probe in 'cheating' website data leak
Website boasted that 'thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands sign up every day looking for an affair'
by Raphael Satter
LONDON — Hackers say they have exposed unfaithful partners across the world, posting what they said were the personal details of millions of people registered with cheating website Ashley Madison.
A message posted by the hackers alongside their massive trove accused Ashley Madison's owners of deceit and incompetence and said the company had refused to bow to their demands to close the site.
"Now everyone gets to see their data," the statement said.
Ashley Madison has long courted attention with its claim to be the Internet's leading facilitator of extramarital liaisons, boasting of having nearly 39 million members and that "thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands sign up every day looking for an affair."
Its owner, Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., has previously acknowledged suffering an electronic break-in and said in a statement Tuesday it was investigating the hackers' claim. U.S. and Canadian law enforcement are involved in the probe, the company said.
The Associated Press wasn't immediately able to determine the authenticity of the leaked files, although many analysts who have scanned the data believe it is genuine.
TrustedSec Chief Executive Dave Kennedy said the information dump included full names, passwords, street addresses, credit card information and "an extensive amount of internal data." In a separate blog, Errata Security Chief Executive Rob Graham said the information released included details such as users' height, weight and GPS coordinates. He said men outnumbered women on the service five-to-one.
Avid Life Media declined to comment Wednesday beyond its statement. The hackers also didn't immediately return emails.
The prospect of millions of adulterous partners being publicly shamed drew widespread attention but the sheer size of the database — and the technical savvy needed to navigate it — means it's unlikely to lead to an immediate rush to divorce courts.
"Unless this Ashley Madison information becomes very easily accessible and searchable, I think it is unlikely that anyone but the most paranoid or suspecting spouses will bother to seek out this information," New York divorce attorney Michael DiFalco said in an email. "There are much simpler ways to confirm their suspicions."
Although Graham and others said many of the Ashley Madison profiles appeared to be bogus, it's clear the leak was huge. Troy Hunt, who runs a website that warns people when their private information is exposed online, said nearly 5,000 users had received alerts stemming from the breach.
Although many may have signed up out of curiosity and some have little more to fear than embarrassment, the consequences for others could reverberate beyond their marriages. The French leak monitoring firm CybelAngel said it counted 1,200 email addresses in the data dump with the .sa suffix, suggesting users were connected to Saudi Arabia, where adultery is punishable by death.
CybelAngel also said it counted some 15,000 .gov or .mil addresses in the dump, suggesting that American soldiers, sailors and government employees had opened themselves up to possible blackmail. Using a government email to register for an adultery website may seem foolish, but CybelAngel Vice President of Operations Damien Damuseau said there was a certain logic to it. Using a professional address, he said, keeps the messages out of personal accounts "where their partner might see them."
"It's not that dumb," Damuseau said.
How many of the people registered with Ashley Madison actually used the site to seek sex outside their marriage is an unresolved question. But whatever the final number, the breach is still a humbling moment for Ashley Madison, which had made discretion a key selling point. In a television interview last year, Chief Executive Noel Biderman described the company's servers as "kind of untouchable."
The hackers' motives aren't entirely clear, although they have accused Ashley Madison of creating fake female profiles and of keeping users' information on file even after they paid to have it deleted. In its statement, Avid Life Media accused the hackers of seeking to impose "a personal notion of virtue on all of society."
Graham, the security expert, had a simpler theory.
"In all probability, their motivation is that #1 it's fun, and #2 because they can," he wrote.
Maine cops also use Facebook to try and snag drug dealers
Another department has employed the viral social media post that asks drug dealers to out their competition
by The Associated Press
WINSLOW, Maine — A Maine police department is offering drug dealers a free service to get their competition off the streets.
The Kennebec Journal reported the Winslow Police Department posted a flier on its Facebook page Monday afternoon encouraging drug dealers to fill out a form detailing the names, addresses and cellphone numbers of their competitors.
The flier also asks them to list where and to whom their competitors sell and who their supplier is.
In bold red letters, the flier begins, "Attention Drug Dealers." It continues: "Is your competition costing you customers, and MONEY?"
The flier says, "We're here to help!"
Winslow Police Chief Shawn O'Leary acknowledges the posting was meant to be humorous but says he's hopeful it could lead to good police tips.
The Winslow Police Department isn't the only law enforcement agency trying the unusual approach. Authorities in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Georgia are among those who have made their own tongue-in-cheek postings.
Sandra Bland's death launches new hearings on jail suicides
by Paul J. Weber
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The death of Sandra Bland in a rural county lockup launched a new review of jail safety in Texas, but state lawmakers were noncommittal Tuesday about whether Bland's family would be part of the process.
Republican Lt. Dan Patrick did not say Bland's name while announcing that legislative hearings on jail suicides would begin in September. He said a new Senate committee is not focused on any one death, and when the question of whether Bland's relatives would be involved was raised, noted that the family had recently filed a lawsuit.
But Democratic Sen. John Whitmire, who will chair the committee, made it clear that Bland's death July 13 in a Waller County jail was the impetus. Authorities say Bland hanged herself with a garbage bag, a finding her family has questioned.
"There's no question that Ms. Bland's tragedy has led us to this point," said Whitmire, who added that he has yet to determine who will be invited to the hearings.
A message left with attorneys for the Bland family was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Texas has seen an average of 25 suicides in county jails each year since 2012. There have been 29 this fiscal year, including Bland, who was found dead three days after she was arrested. She had been pulled over for signaling a lane change, but the routine traffic stop quickly became confrontational after the trooper asked her to put out a cigarette in her car.
Authorities have said that Waller County failed to keep a close watch on Bland and that jailers didn't get additional mental health training that they were supposed to receive. Bland indicated on a questionnaire that she had previously attempted suicide.
Bland's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit earlier this month against the trooper who stopped the 28-year-old Illinois woman and other officials, including the Waller County Sheriff's Office and two jailers. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.
Patrick said nearly half of jail suicides in Texas occur during the first week of custody and that half of those occur within the first 36 hours.
"Our goal would be to have a zero tolerance on suicides," Patrick said.
Special Texas legislative panel to investigate jail safety
by Bobby Blanchard
AUSTIN — Lawmakers will study and investigate best safety practices in Texas jails on a special interim committee, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Tuesday.
The committee is expected to begin meeting in September. Patrick's announcement comes about a month after the Texas Rangers and the FBI announced they would investigate the arrest and death of Sandra Bland, whose case drew national attention after she died in the Waller County Jail.
Patrick said the committee was not about a specific person or case but acknowledged that jail suicides have been in the news.
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who joined Patrick for the announcement, said the issue is more dire.
“There is no question that Ms. Bland's tragedy has led us to this point,” Whitmire said, noting the Waller County Jail was in violation of state safety standards. “This is not the exception but it is quite often the routine across the state.”
In the state fiscal year that ends this month, 29 people have died by suicide in Texas jails.
“I am as serious about this issue as anything I've ever done,” Whitmire said. “We're talking about human lives.”
Whitmire, who will head the interim study committee, called for reviewing the jail bond system and expanding the number of employees who work for the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
“I'm going to have zero tolerance for suicides or deaths in jails,” Whitmire said.
Bland was pulled over after she failed to signal a lane change in July.
She was arrested when the routine traffic stop escalated. Her death in a jail cell three days later was ruled a suicide but is still under investigation.
The incident drew national attention and prompted questions about jail safety standards in Texas.
Sheriff's Office to Aid Parsippany in Community Policing
Education of crimes against minority groups, drug take back programs being used to help residents.
by Jason Koestenblatt
The Parsippany community is getting some attention from the Morris County Sheriff's Office with the hopes of slowing crime and clearing the streets of unwanted medicines.
Mayor James Barberio recently met with Undersheriff William Schievella to go over opportunities of outreach in the Parsippany community. An initiative that has worked in the past is providing education and awareness programs about specific crimes against the Asian community.
The plan is to continue the program this year and possibly include other groups as well, the mayor said.
In addition, Parsippany is planning on actively participate in setting up a location to collect unwanted medications as part of Operation Take Back, an initiative that allows residents to safely rid their homes of unwanted, unused, or expired medications.
“Working together with the Morris County Sheriff's Office empowers Parsippany to create a community policing initiative that will enable us to foster stronger community relations with the public as we continue to ensure their safety,” Barberio said in a statement.
Union official says Conservation police layoffs will affect public safety
by Steve Stout
The director of the union that represents the state's Conservation Police says looming layoffs of 33 of its officers — including five field officers in Central Illinois Region 1 — could have devastating consequences on public safety.
The region includes La Salle County.
"This situation is appalling," said Sean Smoot, director of the Conservation Police Lodge of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association. "The planned layoff is a 22 percent reduction of the entire state force and will leave seven counties in Region 1 without any Conservation Police officers."
"Just Sunday, at the Illinois State Fair, Gov. (Bruce) Rauner repeated how he backs the veterans, but here he is laying off 25 veterans out of the 33 officers that will be cut from the force," Smoot said. "That's ridiculous."
The association maintains the cuts will affect the ability of officers to respond in a timely manner to potentially critical situations.
Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly says the cuts are a result of Democrats sending Rauner a budget that's $4 billion short of revenue. Union officials have maintained layoffs could be avoided if Rauner would drop his "extreme political agenda."
Smoot argues the cuts do not make any financial sense as "a lot of what Conservation police do in the field is reimbursed by such federal agencies as the Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife, Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard."
He said the federal reimbursement includes 100 percent of any boating or water activity performed by the Conservation officers.
According to the Effingham Daily News, the cuts will affect 20 current field officers and 13 recent graduates of the Conservation academy.
"These officers are specialists," Smoot said. "They are trained in vehicle, criminal and wildlife codes as well as water regulations. Cuts target only the CPO's, not the administrative staff."
Smoot expressed his frustration with the reduction in force.
"Clearly, this agency was singled out," he said. "Other non-public divisions within the Illinois Department of Natural Resources were not cut."
The director said, "These professionals perform life-saving activities. These are the men and women who make sure that people enjoy the outdoors safely.
"And, at the end of the day, this is a bad decision by the Governor's office."
In the Effingham newspaper, Troy Williams, vice president and chief steward of the association, said it was not fair to use these law enforcement positions as a political carrot.
"If it's a political game — it's foolish for the department to use these officers as pawns when public safety is at stake," he said.
In-building coverage critical for public-safety personnel and the people they protect, panelists say
by Stephanie Toone
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Fourteen years after 9/11, providing optimal public-safety communications inside buildings remains an unsolved problem, especially in the case of multi-level buildings in densely-populated areas, speakers on the APCO 2015 “Making Buildings Safer Through Wireless Technology” panel said yesterday.
Alan Perdue, executive director of Safer Buildings, Mike Collado, vice president of marketing for SOLiD, and IWCE Communications Editor Donny Jackson spoke about the lingering challenges with public-safety personnel utilizing land mobile radio (LMR) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) to communicate with each other and with occupants in buildings.
Large occupancy buildings that would have once been primarily wire-lined are now supported by wireless networks, Jackson said. The FCC estimates that about 40% of households no longer have a landline connection, and those household need reliable in-building connectivity to call 911 during an emergency.
“It's probably a greater percentage in places like apartment complexes, where you have single people trying to make ends meet,” Jackson said. “The one communication tool that they have is the wireless device, as opposed to a wireline phone.”
Some of those apartment complexes have had to undergo public-safety communications tests to ensure radio frequency from LMRs will permeate through newly constructed buildings due to the codes set by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Fire Code (IFC). However, even with minimum standards and requirements for building owners, buildings old and new still fall through the cracks.
“Often times in large buildings, RF signals are prevented from communicating throughout the building,” Collado said. “That's a real threat, that's a real challenge. That's a challenge that industries—public safety, the wireless industry, cellular industry and venue owners need to work to solve.”
Though stakeholders have been aware of the ongoing in-building communications challenges, progress has been slow, Perdue said. In some cases, standards require building owners to deploy distributed antenna systems (DAS) that can extend public-safety mobile coverage and capacity, but some building owners have delayed the deployment due to costs or conflict over whether to integrate public safety and cellular DAS or deploy a separate system solely for public safety.
Making the right decision will require collaboration and initiative. Combining forces for fiber systems may be the answer, Perdue said.
“Fiber into the building, can that fiber also serve my fire alarm system, my in-building communications system and my automation system on the building side?” Perdue said. “The answer is ‘Yes,' if it's done right … We need to be looking at how do we share when it's reasonable and effective, and then go our separate ways when it's not.”
Implementing a public-safety DAS system that follows code includes requirements like providing battery backup and hardening, Collado said.
“The cost to do that, from a manufacturing perspective, isn't significant,” Collado said. “It's in our DNA. It's keeping people safe.”
As is the case with many public-safety communications issues, funding is a challenge. Possible approaches include providing building owners with financial incentives—lower insurance premiums or tax breaks—for deploying in-building solutions that serve for public safety and citizens and implementing a rating system that would rank safety levels of buildings based on public-safety communication coverage. Such incentives could generate momentum for enhancing in-building communications within new and old buildings, Perdue said.
“The fire-alarm system, the fire-sprinkler system—those systems have been around since the 1800s,” Perdue said. “When you're building a building you don't think, ‘Do I have to do this?' They know it's a requirement—part of the life-safety ecosystem of that building. In-building communications is that third piece to that life-safety ecosystem.”
Lack of volunteers puts public safety at risk
by Bob Confer
Volunteer organizations are struggling to get the people they need to deliver the services that their clients need and expect. I see that in my volunteering as well. As president of the local Boy Scout council, I have a difficult time filling critical board and operational positions.
These experiences are more than just anecdotal. The volunteer rate in New York is dead last in the country. Only 1 out of every 5 New Yorkers gives their time — even just once a year — to assist a non-profit or their church.
While that lack of civic-mindedness is a great frustration for our organizations, it's not life or death. It is, though, when you consider that volunteer fire and emergency medical service companies have the same staffing problems that we do.
Policymakers will tell you that terrorism is the greatest threat to public safety in this country. It's not. The lack of fire and EMS volunteers is. You might not know it, but we're in the middle of a crisis and it seems like there is no end in sight.
If you regularly listen to the police scanner, you know what I am talking about. Quite often, especially with EMS, the call to the initial provider goes unanswered. And, it's become common for fire companies respond to what once was a call that they could handle on their own and now find themselves calling for backup from neighboring fire halls.
Consider two recent local calls that highlight these developments.
On the Fourth of July, a woman in her 60s fell down and was believed to have broken her arm. Dispatch put out the call multiple times and the primary service organization never responded; there wasn't enough manpower available. I can only imagine the pain the lady was in because it took almost a half-hour from the first 911 phone call before she was properly attended to.
Also last month, a fire broke out in a farm field in Gasport on a weekday. In years gone by, there would have been enough firemen responding because shift workers who were employed by Harrison's were available during the day. Now, there's not. Only a half-dozen folks responded to the call. They also had to get creative and have Tri-Town block the roads with their ambulances, a task that would normally be done by fire police.
Stories like these have become normal occurrences, which does not bode well for public safety. There were ultimately happy endings to both, but imagine, if you will, if something truly catastrophic happened. What if a school bus careened out of control on an icy road? What if a train carrying ethanol derailed? What if a heavily-occupied apartment complex caught fire? What if, God forbid, an act of terror or violence occurred in one of our neighborhoods?
There wouldn't be enough people to respond with the immediacy needed. Property would be lost and, worse yet, so would lives.
The manpower just isn't there anymore to handle such crises. From 1990 to 2010, the number of firefighters in New York State dropped a whopping 24 percent. Over that same period, the number of calls across the state doubled.
How did we get to the point that all the firefighting and lifesaving – and more of it — is on so few people? Many reasons have been kicked around: the aging-out of the rural population; two-income households which don't give first responders the scheduling flexibility they once had; onerous training mandated by state and federal governments that requires too much money and too much time; the time constraints of keeping fire halls monetarily viable in an increasingly competitive fundraising “market”; and the introversion of our culture created by the breaking of America's real-life social structure and sense of community due to the alleged one created by social media.
Regardless of the cause, something needs to be done. Goodness knows the firefighters have been trying. Recruiting open houses have become a regular feature of spring across New York State. They've reached out through newspapers, radio and TV. They've installed Explorer posts in their halls and schools.
But, all that will go for naught if the citizens aren't interested in being good citizens. While I might want more people to help me out with scouting, we need people to fight fires and save lives. Somehow, someway, volunteerism needs to become sexy again in America.
What will the wake-up call be? A catastrophe of epic proportions that kills innocent civilians and the few good souls who come to their need? Sadly, we already had that on 9/11 and it did almost nothing to inspire people to do good after the dust settled.
The wake-up call might have to be the consideration of paid companies that will kill the budgets of rural communities, hitting people where it hurts them the most: their pocketbooks and not their hearts.
After decades, Guardian Angels resume Central Park rounds
Guardian Angels volunteers made a pointed return this month to Central Park for the first time in over two decades, citing a 26 percent rise in crime there so far this year
by Jennifer Peltz
The squad in bright-red jackets and berets strode through Central Park, on guard for signs of crime.
It was a familiar sight a generation ago, when New York was plagued by lawlessness that police have worked for years to quell. Yet Guardian Angels volunteers made a pointed return this month to Central Park for the first time in over two decades, citing a 26 percent rise in crime there so far this year.
"We realize things are much better than they were" in the crime peak of the 1980s and early '90s, founder Curtis Sliwa says, but "we want it to stay that way."
City officials stress that crime is down citywide, and the park is far safer than it once was. Still, the renewed patrols by the Guardian Angels — known for both crime-fighting and controversy over their 35 years — are bright-red signals of unease about whether New York, touted for years as the nation's safest big city, is slipping.
Sliwa and eight other Guardian Angels, ranging from graying long timers to a 20-year-old woman, trooped along roadways, paths and rocky, dark trails for hours one night this week, shining flashlights into thickets, asking people whether they'd had any trouble and eyeballing a quartet of teenagers who quickly took off on bicycles.
Onlookers' reactions ranged from thumbs up to raised eyebrows. "Time warp!" one passing jogger exclaimed.
"I didn't even know they were still in business," Harlem resident Christine Adebiyi said, but "it's great to see them here."
After years of celebrating crime drops, the nation's biggest city has seen killings rise by 9 percent so far this year, though serious crime overall is down 5 percent. Forty-six percent of city voters in a recent Quinnipiac University poll said crime was a "very serious" problem, a record going back at least to 1999.
A quarter-century after the "Central Park jogger" rape case made the park a symbol of urban danger, officials boasted in recent years that the 842-acre (341-hectare) expanse was one of the safest urban parks of its size worldwide.
Despite this year's increase — largely a result of robberies going from 11 at this point last year to 22 so far in 2015 — overall crime in the iconic park is down more than 80 percent compared with two decades ago, the New York Police Department said. Even with the recent spike, crime is lower than just two years ago, NYPD statistics show.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the park remains "absolutely safe" and suggests police need no help from the Guardian Angels. "The NYPD is the best-qualified force to handle the situation," he said this week.
Police circulating in patrol cars and shining high-powered lights maintain a visible presence in the park at night. But Sliwa says officers don't penetrate into the secluded spots where criminals could lurk.
Guardian Angels feel much of their function is deterring crime, but if they see it, they're ready to make citizens' arrests, call police and defuse potential problems. This week, they prompted some young men to move on amid reports that the youths had been throwing rocks at people in the park and broke up a shoving match between two other men, Sliwa said.
A talk-radio host, Sliwa is an untrammeled critic of the first-term Democratic mayor, whom he accuses of hamstringing police. De Blasio has emphasized changing policing to build trust in minority communities and says the overall drop in crime shows his approach works, though he has had a fraught relationship with the police department.
To some extent, the Central Park patrols signal that those "unhappy with the direction that he wants to take the city are starting to mobilize," said Queens College political science professor Michael Krasner.
The Guardian Angels began in 1979 and quickly expanded to other cities, welcomed by some people as a tough-minded neighborhood watch, derided by others as loose-cannon, publicity-seeking vigilantes.
By the mid-1990s, some chapters folded and the Guardian Angels' reputation took a hit when Sliwa acknowledged fabricating some of their early exploits.
But the Guardian Angels endured and evolved: They now count about 5,000 members in 18 countries, Sliwa says.
In New York, Guardian Angels still patrol parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx regularly. But shortly after Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty began in 1994, they felt policing had intensified enough that they weren't needed to fight crime in Central Park, Sliwa says.
"It got better," until recently, he says. "That's why you need to nip it in the bud now."
Police training is seriously lacking in actual science
by Sarah Zhang
Michael Brown was, at best, stopped by police for stealing cigarillos. Sandra Bland for failing to signal a lane change. Freddie Gray for carrying a switchblade. Yet these encounters all ended with them dead. Distrust running both ways between police and the communities they're supposed to protect have sparked cries for reform to prevent rapid escalation of police violence. What's missing in the conversation, though, is science.
That's because the science often doesn't exist. Police rarely cooperate with outside researchers, especially those perceived as reformers. “In New York where I've done a lot of my work, I can't get anyone to talk to me,” says Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College who has studied how police respond to protests. And even when social science research points to a need for reform, getting new ideas into police academy training and thousands of local police departments fractured all over the country is, put charitably, a slow endeavor.
Since 1994, the Department of Justice has funneled more than $14 billion to state and local police departments to support community policing initiatives, to limited success. The idea behind the so-called Community Oriented Policing Services program comes out of contact theory, which suggests the best way to reduce prejudice is to interact with people who are different. Police officers—particularly white officers working in black neighborhoods—only encounter people different from them when they're responding to a crime. They rarely see the community in a positive light. Get officers out in the community in ordinary situations, and they'll become less defensive and negative. That much bears out in the science.
The big question, though, is what that means when officers actually hit the streets. More foot patrols? Knocking on doors to chat? “We're still trying to figure that out,” says Charlotte Gill, a criminologist at George Mason University. Gill looked at 65 community policing studies for a 2014 meta-analysis she co-authored, only to find no clear evidence that the approach reduces crime. The results are so muddled, in part, because there is no concrete definition of community policing. The US has spent $14 billion on an undefined goal.
That's especially frustrating because the science that exists about bias—police or otherwise—clearly points to a need for reform. Dozens of psychology studies show that people hold implicit biases against African-Americans—they might not admit or even be aware of these biases, but reaction times give them away. Police statistics bear them out in the real world, too:The Department of Justice's investigation into Ferguson found that police were twice as likely to search blacks than whites during traffic stops, even though contraband was found 26 percent less often with blacks.
And those biases become especially serious when they extend to deadly force. A 2007 video game simulation study of Denver police officers found that that officers are faster to shoot blacks than whites. At least, the authors pointed out, the officers were less likely to mistakenly shoot unarmed blacks than the untrained general public—a result that they chalked up to high-quality gun training for officer, also called use of force training.
But what kind of training really works—and whether it can be designed to reduce the influence of racial biases—is yet another open question. The Force Institute is one of the leading organizations that provides use of force training. Its founder, Bill Lewinski, a former Minnesota State professor, was recently the subject of a profile in the New York Times, which criticized him as a psychologist for hire who got cops off in deadly shootings. (The institute declined a request for an interview with WIRED.)
Little research into this area exists, and what does exist is carried out by people with a vested interest. Lewinski, for example, has argued that suspects can draw a gun more quickly than an officer can draw from a holster and aim, so police are justified in reacting before they see a gun. An American Journal of Psychology editor who reviewed one of the studies for the Justice Department called the research “invalid and unreliable."
As protests have erupted around some of those preventable police shootings, departments have turned to de-escalation training for officers. Here too, peer-reviewed research is lacking, and even police trainers turn to personal experience. “Most of the stuff we have done and I've done is at a personal level. A lot of them use our own experience,” says Gary Klugiewicz, a former sheriff's department captain who now teaches conflict management at Vistelar. When asked about research into the effectiveness of de-escalation tactics, he pointed to the Force Science Institute's Lewinski as a leading researcher.
The personal experiences of police officers are of course relevant to effective policing, but police departments have generally resisted lessons from research. Carl Bell, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has done key work on de-escalation with the mentally ill, said his attempts to introduce techniques to the Chicago police never got anywhere. “There's no systematic incorporation of research,” says Gill, who has a student studying how community policing is being taught in police academies.
Even with training, officers may not think it's important to use the de-escalation techniques taught. “The universal greeting is taught to most of the country yet it's not done,” says Klugiewicz, referring to how officers introduce themselves and explain their presence. “Officers get lax. Officers may not think it's that important. They might be angry.” In the much circulated dashcam video of Bland's arrest, the officer snaps after Bland refuses to put out a cigarette. He yells her to get out of the car. “You ask ‘Can you get out of the car?,' not say ‘Get out of the car," says Klugiewicz.
But police trainers and scientists alike seem to agree that the moment for change is now. Klugiewicz calls the recent events a perfect storm: “A perfect storm can be really disruptive but it can also create change.” Gill says a police department recently approached her to do a study, rather than the other way around. “It was really surprising to she say. "That rarely happens."
Science alone obviously doesn't hold all the answer for policing—there are cultural and social factors to consider. But if we want empirical evidence behind the reforms we demand, then researchers can certainly do better work when they aren't sidelined in their ivory tower.
Ferguson, one year later: From a city to a symbol
Today, to America and to the world, the word “Ferguson” means far more than just another city
by Kevin McDermott
Today, to America and to the world, the word “Ferguson” means far more than that. The fury that ripped through the small city in the summer and fall of 2014 inaugurated a national debate about police tactics against African-Americans that continues a year later. Ferguson now dwells on an exclusive list of locales — Little Rock, Selma, Watts — that have lent their names to key chapters in the sprawling tale of race in America.
The story of how Ferguson went from a city to a symbol began with a midday confrontation between two people on a street. Exactly what happened between Michael Brown Jr. and Darren Wilson one year ago Aug. 9 may be forever controversial. What resulted — an unarmed black man lying dead at the feet of a white police officer — provided a blueprint for outrage in other police-related deaths of unarmed black males in New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and South Carolina.
The Ferguson riots came in two waves: in August 2014, immediately after the fatal shooting of Brown, an 18-year-old African-American Ferguson resident, by Wilson, a 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer; and again in late November, after a grand jury declined to criminally charge Wilson in Brown's death.
All told, it resulted in a dozen nights of violence, dozens of injuries, hundreds of arrests and millions of dollars in property damage. Perhaps miraculously, there were no additional deaths.
By the time it was over, it had added a twist to America's intractable discussion about race, with a new focus on police militarization. It revealed how cities use traffic fines and court policies as mallets against their most vulnerable citizens. It underlined the idea that a police force should reflect the cultural makeup of its community, and drove home the reality of how often it doesn't.
It validated the principle that, as syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson put it, “policing is something that should be done with a community, not to it.”
Politically, it was a minefield. It drew America's first black president into what has so often proven a risky topic for him — racial strife — and figured prominently in his 2014 State of the Union address. It probably ended whatever national political ambitions Missouri's current governor might once have had. It has already made an appearance in the 2016 presidential campaign, and almost certainly will again.
“This is not going away” as a political issue, says Ken Warren, a political scientist at St. Louis University who is conducting a study of municipal court issues raised by events in Ferguson. “The gut reaction of politicians has always been to defend the police … but now people are taking pictures of white cops roughing up blacks. It's going to continue to be in candidates' faces, and they will have to address it.”
As with most epic conflicts, Ferguson engendered some myth-making. Most notably, it fostered a devastating new civil rights slogan — “Hands up, don't shoot!” — that a U.S. Department of Justice report would later determine was based on a fiction.
But the shooting alerted a sobered nation to some broader truths about police-minority relations in an era that not so long ago was being smugly declared “post-racial.”
“It really pulled the covers back on how people of color have been treated for years” by police, says Miranda Jones, vice president of the Better Family Life Neighborhood Resource Center, a nonprofit community service organization based in Ferguson. “It was a national wake-up call.”
Aug. 9, 2014, a Saturday, was overcast and mild in Ferguson, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s as noon approached. Brown and Dorian Johnson, 22, were walking down the middle of the 2900 block of Canfield Drive, a curving residential street that snakes through the Canfield Green apartment complex.
Wilson, who had been on the Ferguson police force for five years, pulled up in his SUV squad car and told the pair to move off the street. They ignored the order. It was then, Wilson would later say, that he realized they might be suspects in the theft of a package of cigars that had been reported from a nearby liquor store minutes earlier.
At 12:02 p.m., Wilson radioed in: “Put me on Canfield with two,” meaning two suspects. “And send me another car.”
By the time the backup arrived, less than two minutes later, Brown lay dead in the middle of Canfield, with six bullets in his body from Wilson's gun.
There was dispute from the beginning about what happened. Some witnesses claimed Wilson killed Brown as he was attempting to surrender, literally with his hands up. But the Department of Justice report would ultimately conclude that Brown attacked the officer, tried to take his weapon and was charging at him when Wilson shot him in self-defense.
“While credible witnesses gave varying accounts of exactly what Brown was doing with his hands as he moved toward Wilson … they all establish that Brown was moving toward Wilson when Wilson shot him,” the report said.
What isn't in dispute is that Brown's body lay in the street, face down under a white sheet that wasn't big enough to completely cover him, for four hours after the shooting.
Police would blame the delay in part on shots fired and the potential danger that the angry, growing crowd posed to officers at the scene. But to many of the black area residents who gathered at the site, it was one more indication of the long-festering animosity between them and the mostly white police force that patrolled their community — a rift that would soon be on display for the world.
“They shot a black man, and they left his body in the street to let you all know this could be you,” Ferguson resident Alexis Torregrossa, 21, said at the time.
Within hours of the shooting, residents had set up a makeshift memorial and launched protests at the site. The protests continued peacefully through the day Sunday.
Then, with nightfall, they morphed into full-fledged rioting — the first of 10 consecutive nights of unrest — with two police injuries, 32 arrested, several businesses looted and one gutted by fire.
“I don't think it's over, honestly,” protester DeAndre Smith, 30, told the Post-Dispatch the following morning, as he stood near the smoking debris of the QuikTrip convenience store on West Florissant Avenue. “I just think they got a taste of what fighting back means.”
Within three days of the shooting, Ferguson had made its debut on the front page of The New York Times, where it would remain for months to come. “The speed with which the shooting of Mr. Brown has resonated on social media has helped propel and transform a local shooting into a national cause,” the paper reported.
President Barack Obama also stepped into the smoldering issue in those first days, releasing a statement calling the shooting “heartbreaking” and urging peace: “We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.” But in fact, the wounds were just beginning.
The fuse had been set long before Brown's death lit it.
For years, Ferguson, like many other African-American or mixed-race communities around Missouri and the nation, had quietly simmered in tension between the black population and a police force that was mostly white — a little-noticed remnant of the urban “white flight” trends of the late 20th century.
In 1980, Ferguson's racial makeup was 85 percent white and 14 percent black; by 2014, it stood at 29 percent white and 69 percent black. But the town's power base didn't change with the changing racial makeup. At the start of the Ferguson riots, the mayor, police chief, five of six city council members, and six of seven school board members were white. Of 53 sworn officers on the Ferguson police force, just three were black.
Police contact with the community had long been similarly out of whack with its demographics. Black drivers in Ferguson were twice as likely to be stopped as white drivers, according to an annual report by the Missouri Attorney General's office in 2014.
A March 2015 Department of Justice report found that when Ferguson police documented using force between 2010 and 2014, 88 percent of the time it was against a black person. And every time a police dog bit a civilian during that time, the civilian was black.
The report found that almost all of the people who were cited for “Manner of Walking Along Roadways” were black — 95 percent of those citations were issued to African-Americans.
“It is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,” then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in releasing the DOJ report.
The second powder keg, in November, was different from the first in that officials knew it was coming and had months to prepare for it, as a St. Louis County grand jury considered whether to level criminal charges against Wilson in Brown's death.
With August's destruction still a fresh memory, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in advance of the announcement and readied hundreds of National Guard troops. Obama cautioned that “using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.”
Still, when St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch announced the no-indictment decision Nov. 24 — in a contentious, early-evening news conference at which he blamed social media and “the 24-hour news cycle” for the unrest so far — the speed and ferocity with which the violence re-ignited appeared to surprise everyone.
Later that night, Obama urged calm in a nationally televised address, saying: “There will inevitably be some negative reaction, and it will make for good TV.” He was right. The images of flying rocks, blazing buildings and surging crowds fighting police were juxtaposed with Obama's address on split screens.
More than two dozen businesses were damaged or destroyed. The FAA diverted flights around Lambert-St. Louis International Airport because of gunfire from protesters. Police made scores of arrests.
In a news conference at 1:30 a.m. Nov. 25, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar reported that there was basically “nothing left” along West Florissant Avenue between Solway Avenue and Chambers Road. “What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August,” Belmar said. “Frankly, I'm heartbroken.”
Just as news footage of Southern civil rights abuses in the 1950s and Vietnam War scenes in the 1960s helped mobilize public opinion on those topics, so the images coming out of Ferguson in 2014 molded the debate over police tactics in black communities: police in riot gear leveling military-grade weapons at civilians; clouds of teargas wafting through crowds of protesters; armored assault vehicles rolling down the streets of a small American city.
The scenes would prompt Congressional review of the practice of supplying U.S. military equipment to local police forces. “(M)ilitarizing police tactics are not consistent with the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights,” U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in one Senate hearing. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called the situation “crazy out-of-control.”
Police tactics, too, were criticized as out of control. Police initially enforced a “keep moving” policy against protesters to prevent them from standing in one place, ultimately prompting an injunction from a federal judge prohibiting the tactic on First Amendment grounds. Police snipers “lowered their rifle sights to monitor the crowd,” according to a draft Department of Justice report that called the tactic “inappropriate as a crowd control measure.”
It wasn't just the police whose performance was criticized during the crisis. Nixon, a Democrat, was accused of ignoring the growing threat in Ferguson in its first days — and then of implementing a flailing, uneven use of National Guard troops that ultimately angered both sides.
“Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has VP aspirations. His handling of (hashtag)Ferguson ends that conclusively,” tweeted Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas, in one typical assessment. Nixon defended his shifting strategy as necessary to a shifting situation, saying in late August: “We didn't know that folks were going to start throwing Molotov cocktails.”
Underlying the newish debate over police militarization was the age-old one over race.
The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at Brown's funeral Aug. 25, telling mourners, “All of us are required to respond to this.” In a late November NFL game, five black Rams players gave a “Hands up, don't shoot!” pose as they came onto the field. The St. Louis Police Officers Association responded with a statement slamming players for ignoring “mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury” and engaging in “a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”
In December, The New Yorker magazine featured one of the more sobering covers in its 90-year history: an image of the Gateway Arch, one half white, the other black, with a gap at the top between the two halves.
Looking around Ferguson today, you wouldn't know it had been the violent epicenter of a national movement.
There are still some boarded-up windows along West Florissant Avenue and elsewhere, and some vacant lots where buildings stood before August 2014. But for the most part, the only visible remnants of what happened here are the occasional yard signs — “We Must Stop Killing Each Other,” and “Our City Matters” — and places such as the “I (heart) Ferguson” storefront on South Florissant Road, where volunteers sell T-shirts and coffee mugs to help area businesses damaged by the conflicts.
“It's always been a diverse area,” says volunteer Cecelia Webber, who is white and not happy with the media portrayal of her town as a hotbed of racial strife. “We raised our children here because we wanted them to live in the real world and not in some enclave where all they see are people like themselves. The majority of the people who live here feel that way.”
But across town, on Canfield Drive, within sight of where Brown died a year ago, racial tension, particularly involving the police, is still a reality. Lewis Washington stood outside his Canfield Green apartment and shook his head when asked whether things had changed.
“No, sir,” said Washington, who is 27 and black. He pointed out to the street. “The day before yesterday they pulled up on two guys right here and said they fit the description for a burglary.” Rather than arrest them, “they just kept searching them, searching them, searching them — had them standing out there for 30 minutes. So they were basically just free-casing,” a term for when police manufacture a case against someone. “I see it all the time.”
Still, some things clearly have changed, in Ferguson and around America.
Ferguson officials now require officers to wear body cameras, an idea that is catching on around the country. In July, the city hired its first black police chief, on an interim basis. A new Missouri law limits local court revenue, the result of a DOJ report that slammed Ferguson's court fee collection practices as essentially a shake-down of Ferguson's poorest citizens. Obama banned in May the federal government's transfer of certain military equipment to local police departments.
But even as those and other changes inspired by Ferguson have unfolded, police-related deaths of black males around the country continued — and, to many, now looked like part of a theme:
—On Nov. 22, Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer who mistook a toy gun Tamir was holding for a real one. Resulting protests would be joined by about 40 Ferguson residents who traveled to Cleveland. “They know our pain. We know their pain,” said an organizer.
—On Dec. 3, a grand jury in New York declined to indict a white police officer in the choke-hold death in July 2014 of Eric Garner, prompting thousands of protesters to surround New York's City Hall. “It's about the no-indictment of Eric Garner's killer,” one protester told a television reporter. “It's about the no-indictment of Darren Wilson.”
—On April 4 of this year, unarmed forklift operator Walter Scott was fatally shot in South Carolina by a white police officer as he ran away during a traffic stop. Scott's family later implored Sharpton to stay away from the funeral, saying: “We don't want another Ferguson type of circus here.”
—On April 19, Freddie Gray, 25, who was unarmed, died of a spinal injury while in custody of Baltimore police, triggering rioting and arrests. Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez vowed that police wouldn't overreact, saying: “This is not Ferguson.”
“Michael Brown … may not have been without blame in the altercation with a white police officer that led to his death,” wrote political commentator David Horsey in The Los Angeles Times in April. “Brown, though, no longer needs to be the prime example of an innocent victim killed by a cop. More compelling and appalling examples keep showing up.”
4 lessons from Ferguson on how cops should communicate with the public
Ferguson taught us that in this era of instant information, we need to quickly use the tools that are available to us to educate and inform those we serve
by Duane Wolfe
In the moments after the shooting in Ferguson, American law enforcement entered an intense period of scrutiny and criticism that persists to this day. As a result of a justified use of deadly force by a police officer in defense of his life, we have been saddled with an ongoing international story of police abuse.
All officer-involved shootings have lessons that can be learned. In this case, we learned that a failure to progress with technology can be almost as dangerous as bullets. We learned that failing to quickly communicate our message allows false information to become widely believed as true.
Here are four lessons about police communication with citizens that should be indelibly etched in the minds of every officer and department across the country.
1. Participate in Social Media
In the moments after the Ferguson shooting — and in other incidents since then — false information was sent out at the speed of a text message. In fewer than 140 characters, the false narrative of “hands up” was spread so rapidly the department could not keep up with it.
Once that false narrative started “trending,” the national news media picked up on it and it became a worldwide story.
Law enforcement has to prepare for this. Department s must have a robust social media presence and engage with the people that they serve. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and it will remain powerful. Law enforcement needs to empower itself with social media, not be defeated by it.
2. Discontinue “No Comment”
As Brian Willis so eloquently states in his TEDx Naperville talk, “ The Most Dangerous Weapon in Law Enforcement ” when law enforcement fails to furnish timely information to those in the media who are seeking it, the press will find it elsewhere. Then, false information — often provided by people with no knowledge about policing or who have an anti-police agenda — will fill the void.
Some departments have used this knowledge to quickly deal with the aftermath of shootings that could have been a repeat of Ferguson. They prevented a media fire storm by giving an appropriate media response through press conferences and announcements. When we leave things blank, the blanks will be filled in by others according to their own beliefs and agendas.
3. Educate the Community
By using programs such as Citizen Academies, departments have an opportunity to teach the community about the “how's and the why's” of the job. Most people have little knowledge about police use of force. Our job as cops is to educate people about the law. We do a good job when it comes to traffic law. We need to expand that education to those laws and situations that can cause the most negative responses from the public and do everything we can to bring about a positive response.
4. Engage Your Local Media
If you are knowledgeable about use of force, you can quickly identify those talking heads in the media who have a poor understanding of state statute and Supreme Court rulings regarding police use of force. I have lost track of the number of “experts” speaking on national television who clearly do not understand the basics of this complex matter.
By taking the time to educate your local media, your department becomes their source of knowledge. By creating that relationship, you can foster a partnership where your department becomes their local “experts” and the resource that they will seek out and trust.
Across the country, departments have taken the time and effort to invite local community activists to participate in use of force scenarios with some amazing results. Once the participants had an opportunity to be educated in the law and experience the physiological effects of stress and the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances of a live force-on-force scenario, their attitudes about law enforcement's response dramatically changed in a lot of cases.
Having only heard and seen one side of the issue, they had a one-sided perspective. It is each department and officers job to do their best to educate those that they serve. You won't change everyone's mind, but you will never change anyone's mind until you try.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Never attribute to malice, what can be easily explained by ignorance.” Ferguson taught us that in this era of instant information, we need to quickly use the tools that are available to us to educate and inform those we serve — both when we get it right and when we get it wrong. Failing to do so is an invitation for others to rush in and do it for us, and we have seen the catastrophic results for those departments that have failed to learn the lessons from Ferguson.
About the author
In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University. Duance has previously published articles on Calibre Press and IALEFI and served on the Advisory Board for Lt. Col. Dave Grossmans book, On Combat. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=