September, 2015 - Week 4
Baltimore officer reportedly said Freddie Gray asked for medic during transport
by Fox News
One Baltimore police officer warned that Freddie Gray needed medical help while being transported in a police van, though he wondered whether Gray may have been faking his injuries, according to a published report.
The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday, citing investigators who reviewed the officers' statements during a departmental probe, that those statements – which haven't been revealed to the public – explain why each of the six officers charged in the incident are receiving separate trials. Statements provided by the officers reportedly tell different accounts of what happened.
Officer William Porter told investigators that after he checked on Gray on April 12, he told the police van's driver that the city wouldn't book Gray because he needed medical attention, according to the newspaper.
Once Porter helped Gray up, he asked him if he needed to go to the hospital. After Gray's response that he wanted to go to the hospital, Porter told the van's driver, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., that the booking facility wouldn't take Gray, but he wasn't sure if Gray was really in distress or just wanted to go to the hospital instead of jail, according to the Sun.
The statements Porter made helped launch the initial police review of Gray's death in police custody. Goodson was the only officer who was charged in Gray's death that didn't provide a statement to investigators, according to the Sun.
Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Judge Barry Williams on Tuesday to schedule Porter's trial first because he's “a necessary and material witness in the cases” against Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White.
Porter, Goodson and White all face manslaughter, misconduct in office, assault and reckless endangerment charges. Goodson also faces a charge of "depraved-heart" murder.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was arrested on April 12 after he ran from police in West Baltimore. Officers and attorneys maintain he had an illegal switchblade, but prosecutors say Gray was in possession of a legal knife.
While handcuffed and shackled in the police transport van, Gray suffered a spinal injury. He died in the hospital a week alter.
Porter wasn't there during Gray's arrest, but met the police van at one of several stops it made before delivering Gray to the Western District station house roughly 45 minutes after he was detained.
Prosecutors say Gray told Porter he couldn't breather and asked for medical attention, but instead of calling for medical help, Porter helped Gray off the floor and onto the bench and didn't secure him with a seatbelt, a violation of department policy.
Porter then followed the van to another stop, where prosecutors say Porter, along with Goodson and White, opened the van again to observe Gray, but this time the man was unresponsive.
However, the Baltimore Sun reports when Porter went to observe Gray in the police van, he told investigators Gray seemed “calm.”
White was also called to investigate citizen reports of a bungled arrest. White claims she couldn't see Gray's face and when she asked him what was going on, he didn't say anything. White said she assumed Gray was being uncooperative. White said Gray only responded when she called his name, not if he needed an ambulance.
An ambulance was summoned after police arrived at the station. Gray was unresponsive when he was taken out of the van, the Sun reports.
The Sun reports that White said in her statement that Porter told her Gray's medical problem was “jail-it is.” She said none of the officers told her that Gray had asked to be transported to a hospital.
Charging documents say that Gray wasn't breathing by the time officers tried to remove him from the van at the Western District station. When a medic arrived at the scene, it was determined he was already in cardiac arrest.
The first trial is scheduled Oct. 13. However, defense attorneys indicated in a filing that some defendants might seek postponements because of "discovery issues" regarding evidence and witnesses. Williams said in a memo they would get a chance to argue for postponements.
U.S. Attorney General discusses repairing community-police trust
RICHMOND, Calif. (BCN) -- U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Richmond Friday afternoon for a forum about community policing that both highlighted positive local efforts and made it clear that work has just begun.
The forum, which began around 2:30 p.m. today, focused on the work of Richmond police to strengthen relationships between law enforcement officers and the community.
Acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch of the Northern District of California, Director Ron Davis of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, as well as leaders from various community groups joined her for the discussion.
Richmond was the last stop in a six-city tour that built on President Barack Obama's commitment to supporting community police work after nationwide protests over police killings of black people by officers in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere.
"Particularly over the last year, we have seen how relationships between communities and law enforcement can grow strained and how longstanding, deeply-rooted tensions can erupt," Lynch said today.
After speaking privately with Richmond police officers and visiting teens at the RYSE Youth Center, Lynch arrived at the Richmond City Council chambers to deliver her initial remarks.
As guests and media filed into the space, a group of around 20 protesters outside met them with chants calling for justice for slain 24-year-old Richard "Pedie" Perez.
Perez was shot and killed by Richmond police Officer Wallace Jensen on Sept. 14 outside a liquor store.
In January, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office deemed the officer's actions justified in a letter to the Richmond Police Department. The department also internally concluded the officer acted appropriately.
But the family of the man, who was unarmed during the incident, is asking that the district attorney's office open a new investigation.
They don't believe their voices are being heard, protesters said.
And Perez's grandmother, Patricia, said the closed-door, invite-only nature of today's forum certainly didn't help.
"(Earlier this month), we heard the attorney general was coming, but we didn't hear where or when it was happening until (Thursday)," she said. "We also learned we weren't part of the invited few.
"(So) we're here today hoping to get a message to her: All is not well in Richmond," she said.
Inside, Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus did speak to an understanding that things aren't perfect in the city.
"We've got to keep it real ... this is a work in progress," he said.
He later added, "Trust is an ongoing process that's not as simple as a destination you arrive at."
He said the relationship between the community and police is fragile and that trust can be "easily broken."
Magnus spoke of Richmond going through a "healing crisis," during which there are symptoms that seem like evidence that treatment has failed. But really, he said, it signals that healing has started.
Lynch agreed, her addendum being that the country as a whole might be experiencing that same healing crisis.
She too acknowledged that change is a slow process.
"But from what I have seen in Richmond today," she said, "and from all that I have observed in the cities I have visited on this tour, I am more confident than ever that positive change is possible."
Before the media was asked to leave as a roundtable discussion started, Lynch praised what she thinks is already going right in the Richmond Police Department - namely, efforts to develop relationships with officers and residents, businesses, schools, faith organizations and community groups.
Among other initiates, she commended the early adoption of body-worn cameras by the department.
Lynch's visit came on the heels of a $125 million grant through the U.S. Department of Justice that expanded nationally a body-worn camera program.
She also arrived immediately following a commitment of funds to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, including $650,000 for five sworn officer positions in Richmond.
"These new investments build on the work we are already doing to ensure officers can do their jobs fairly, faithfully and effectively and that residents can be protected, respected and heard," she said
After a year of effort, community policing workshop is set in Wellfleet
by Marilyn Miller
WELLFLEET — It took more than a year, but the ad hoc community policing committee will finally realize its goal on Saturday, Oct. 3, when a six-hour “community input session” will take place at the Wellfleet Senior Center. Its purpose is for police officers and townspeople to work together, with professional guidance, to understand the principles and practice of community-oriented policing.
The meeting will be led by Stephen A. Morreale from the Dept. of Criminal Justice at Worcester State University and Denise Owens from the School of Justice Studies at Roger Williams University. They are the same facilitators who held a similar workshop in Provincetown last year. It will begin at 8:30 a.m., and Wellfleet Police Chief Ronald Fisette has urged all residents to attend.
According to Fisette, community-oriented policing “emphasizes the establishment of lasting police-community partnerships and adopts a problem-solving approach that is responsive to the needs of the community.” He added, “This requires the police to make a conscious effort to create an atmosphere in which community partners actively and willingly cooperate with the police. An ongoing consultation with the community, through a community policing forum, is of critical importance.”
Ray Squire, a member of the ad hoc committee, said on Tuesday, “This is what we have tried to get since the group began, a formal community police training workshop. I think it is great that will happen and that the police are in support of it. We have been trying to get this for over a year.”
In May, members of the committee, with the assistance of Wellfleet Lt. Mike Hurley, took new members of the force to various locations around town for an insider's view of Wellfleet, which ended with a lunch where they discussed what they had learned about the town.
Kristen Shantz, who formed the ad hoc committee and was one of a large group of residents who went to the selectmen and the chief with complaints about police behavior, told the selectmen after the May meeting with officers, “I certainly think we are making headway. It's important to build a process and pursue this.”
Selectman Paul Pilcher assured her then that the selectmen and town administrator supported community-oriented policing. “Let's move ahead with the training,” he said.
“This is the group that had hoped to do something in the spring, eight months ago,” said Fisette this week. “We talked and came up with a date in the summer, but it was too hectic for everyone in the summer. So we booked the Senior Center for the day and there will be plenty of room. We will have coffee and sandwiches available and I think it will be a very fluid and dynamic workshop. If someone wants to talk about something in particular, I'm sure they will be able to. It will not be locked in.”
Fla. man threw liter of urine at officer during arrest
The man was attempting to avoid being arrested and barricaded himself in his home
by Lulu Ramadan
PALM BEACH, Fla. — A West Palm Beach man is accused of tossing one liter of urine at a Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy's eyes and mouth to avoid arrest Tuesday morning.
Alfonsa J. Loftin, 40, was arrested at his home on Snead Circle in suburban West Palm Beach, where a deputy responded to a call and was met with a "splash" from a one-liter bottle of urine to the face, the deputy reported.
Loftin intentionally attempted to harm the deputy with the urine, which police are describing as a "deadly weapon" because it can cause respiratory infection or permanent bodily harm, the report states.
It is unclear who the urine belonged to.
The deputy called for backup soon after the urine assault, but by then, Loftin had barricaded himself inside the home behind a wooden door. After several hours of failed negotiation with Loftin, another deputy kicked a small hole in the door to gain Loftin's attention, the report states.
The deputy then kicked a larger hole in the door, exposing only Loftin's thigh. The deputy fired his stun gun through the hole in the door at Loftin's thigh, immobilizing him, according to PBSO.
The deputies gained access to the home by busting through the door with K-9. Loftin, who is described as a "large," 6-foot-3, 300-pound man, continued to toss urine and flail his arms as two deputies tried to handcuff him, the report states. Loftin also grabbed the head of the K-9 and refused to let go.
The deputies used the stun gun again on Loftin's arm, thigh and hip until he released the K-9's head, according to deputies.
Loftin has no previous criminal history in Palm Beach County, records show.
He is being held at Palm Beach County Jail and faces charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. He refused to appear in court Wednesday for a bond hearing, but is expected to appear Monday, court records show.
Seattle citizen police panel tells Justice Department official it's being ignored
The citizen commission created as part of federally mandated reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing
by Steve Miletich
SEATTLE — With U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch poised to visit Seattle Thursday, the Justice Department's top civil-rights attorney met Wednesday with the citizen commission created as part of federally mandated reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing in the Seattle Police Department.
Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division, heard a loud message from members of the Community Police Commission (CPC): that while the 15-member commission has voluntarily toiled to help bring about reforms, it has been given marginal status and not treated seriously at times under the terms of a 2012 settlement agreement between the city and the Justice Department.
“There have been challenges, there have been roadblocks and there have been difficulties that we've encountered,” said Enrique Gonzalez of the Seattle social-justice organization El Centro de la Raza.
“There has to be some real skin in the game,” added Melinda Giovengo, executive director of YouthCare in Seattle.
Their remarks referred, in part, to the fact the CPC is not a formal party in the court case under which reforms have been carried out. The CPC has been granted the opportunity to comment on matters as a friend of the court, but U.S. District Judge James Robart denied its request to become a party.
Robart has also strongly criticized efforts to expand the CPC's authority and make it a permanent body without seeking the court's approval.
In August, Robart asked key players in the process, including the CPC, to submit ideas for a comprehensive approach to establishing accountability systems throughout the Police Department.
Gupta, who acknowledged the CPC's important role and pledged to consider its concerns, is to continue her visit Thursday, along with Lynch.
Lynch, who is on a community-policing tour, has visited various cities across the country to call attention to what the Justice Department describes as “collaborative programs and innovative policing practices” to improve public safety and strengthen relations between police and communities.
She is expected to announce grants to combat human trafficking, meet with Seattle police officers, hold a roundtable discussion with local youth and discuss community policing.
Gupta, during Wednesday's meeting with the CPC at Seattle City Hall, called the commission a “model” for other cities undergoing reforms efforts.
Commission member David Keenan, a Seattle attorney, said it was critical to adopt “sustainable” changes in Seattle for long after the Justice Department and the court are no longer involved.
Commission co-chair Lisa Daugaard cited roadblocks in getting important issues to the court, with the understanding the CPC might not prevail.
“But we do expect to lose on the merits if we're going to lose,” she said of the difficulty of making its points.
Daugaard chided the Justice Department for its recent award of a $600,000 grant to Seattle police for its body-camera program, when the commission has raised serious concerns about the dignity and safety of people who are recorded on cameras.
While recognizing body cameras can be a useful tool for police accountability, the commission Wednesday renewed its request to Seattle police to hold off on plans to use the cameras until state public-disclosure laws are modified to address privacy concerns.
Gupta, who was flanked by U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes of the Western District of Washington, said the money isn't to dictate how it should be used, but to support the broad development of the program, including addressing issues.
Gupta later attended a briefing at Seattle police headquarters, where she was told of the department's crisis-intervention efforts under the settlement agreement.
Department data, recently released, shows it is on track to log roughly 10,000 incident reports annually involving contacts with the mentally ill and people in crisis. The numbers also show police are using force in a tiny fraction of the encounters.
The Justice Department, in its 2011 finding that Seattle police too often resorted to excessive force, noted many of the victims were people with mental illness or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
2 Texas officers cleared of wrongdoing in fatal shooting
The officers fatally shot a machete-wielding man after he ignored their orders to drop the weapon
by Jessica Priest
VICTORIA, Texas — The two Victoria police officers who fatally shot an Army veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will not face criminal charges.
Officers Robert Nichols and Jonathan Hein did not act criminally or negligently when they fired five shots at Brandon Lawrence the night of April 25.
"By his conduct, intoxication and emotional imbalance, Brandon Lawrence is not only the proximate cause, but the definite cause of his own death," the grand jury wrote in a report about the shooting.
"I do not agree with the outcome. I still stand by what I said. I believe my husband was murdered," Lawrence's widow, Yasmine Lawrence, wrote via a Facebook message on Thursday.
The officers responded to the 800 block of Simpson Street after receiving reports Lawrence was pacing erratically, ranting loudly and brandishing a 2- to 3-foot machete in his apartment complex's common area.
They had been there before for disturbances.
Before the officers arrived on April 25, Lawrence had fought with his neighbors, who said he had offered liquor to a child while playing video games, the grand jurors wrote.
Lawrence came outside his apartment when the officers ordered him to, but was still brandishing the machete. Although there is poor visibility there, the officers announced their identity between eight to 10 times and so did his wife, the grand jurors wrote.
The officers then ordered Lawrence to drop his machete more than 50 times. When he took two steps toward the officers holding it over his head, they fired the shots from about 20 feet away, the grand jurors wrote.
An autopsy revealed Lawrence was struck by three .45-caliber jacketed hallow-point projectiles. Two entered his chest, destroying his heart. One passed through his foot.
The grand jurors said the situation did not lend itself to safe de-escalation both because Lawrence could theoretically close the distance between them within one to two seconds and because officers are not universally equipped with non-lethal weapons.
"Officers in most law enforcement agencies are not trained in a tandem de-escalation of force at close distance in circumstances similar to those presented," the grand jurors wrote.
Although they found Nichols and Hein did not violate departmental procedures, the grand jury suggested the Victoria Police Department offer more training.
They also recommended officers involved in shootings undergo a psychological evaluation and counseling before returning to work.
Police Chief J.J. Craig said both training and counseling are already offered.
On Sept. 16, about 30 officers attended an eight-hour mental health first aid training at the Gulf Bend Center, for example.
Nichols and Hein, meanwhile, have returned to patrol.
Craig appreciated the grand jury's thorough review of the facts and supported its decision.
"The decision to use deadly force is not taken lightly. It is the most difficult and scrutinized action a peace officer will ever make and is the last resort to protect life," Craig said Thursday.
Kevin Lawrence, the executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, wondered why the grand jury considered availability of less-lethal weapons.
"It's a tragedy that this man lost his life," Lawrence said, "but when someone attacks you with a machete, are you supposed to sit there and say, 'Wait a minute. Do I need to use something less lethal before I defend myself or somebody else?'"
Lawrence, who graduated from a police academy in the late 1970s, said law enforcement officers have long been taught that there is not enough time to react to a suspect with a sharp edged weapon if he or she is within 21 feet.
He said he's found no empirical evidence through the years to disprove that.
Officers are also trained to shoot to stop the threat and that the most effective way to do that is to aim for the chest.
"If you shoot at his hand and miss, what happens? You die," Lawrence said. "Nobody is that good a shot. Nobody in the history of the world is that good a shot."
Brandon Lawrence was 24 and working as a diesel mechanic at the time of his death.
A veteran who had been deployed to Afghanistan in 2011, he was separated from the Army for disciplinary and substance-related issues, the grand jurors noted. His discharge was other than honorable.
They found he sought help from a VA hospital not only for PTSD but also for alcohol dependence, severe anxiety and irritability. They found he also had prescribed drugs, methamphetamine and marijuana in his system.
The father of two young children, Lawrence had just begun taking medicine for PTSD.
He was eager to teach his son basketball and thought his daughter would one day be an actress, his family said after his death.
They are still in mourning.
His wife thought the officers could have handled things differently.
She also clarified on Thursday that Lawrence's separation from the Army was because of alcohol, not drugs.
"He used alcohol after he got back from Afghanistan. It was his way of dealing," she wrote. "He was a very hard worker, and everyone loved him there. His kids were his pride and joy."
It was not clear whether the officers called the Gulf Bend Center for assistance the night of the shooting.
Kevin Lawrence said it is a shame law enforcement have been encountering more mentally ill people since the legislature in the 1980s placed the burden of treating them back on the community. Specifically, the mentally ill are no longer getting the in-patient care they need, Lawrence said.
"Police officers don't have the ability, the time or the training to go out and diagnose mental disabilities in a split second situation," he said.
Lawsuit: On jailers' watch, Mich. man imprisoned for ticket died from ‘excruciating' drug withdrawal
by Sarah Kaplan
David Stojcevski's violent disintegration and death over the course of 16 days is horrifying enough — his hallucinations, his rapid weight loss, the way he twitched and shook from the pain of drug withdrawal.
But that it happened in jail — under 24-hour video surveillance and the eyes of more than a dozen corrections officers and medical staff — “shocks the conscience,” Robert Ihrie, an attorney in the lawsuit over Stojcevski's death, told the Detroit Free Press .
Stojcevski was sent to the Macomb County Jail in Mt. Clemens, Mich., on June 11, 2014, to serve a 30-day sentence after failing to appear in court over a ticket for careless driving, according to the lawsuit . During the 16 days between his imprisonment and his death, the lawsuit alleges, staff at the jail knowingly allowed him to suffer through “excruciating” acute withdrawal without treatment.
The last days of Stojcevski's life were captured by a surveillance camera that monitored him constantly during his time in the jail's mental health unit. Inmates in those units are stripped of clothing for precautionary reasons and checked on regularly, according to Detroit TV station WDIV.
That surveillance footage was published by WDIV Wednesday, sparking national interest in the lawsuit, which was filed several months ago. The video, which shows graphic and upsetting images of Stojcevski's withdrawal, is on WDIV's Web site.
Before his incarceration, Stojcevski had been prescribed Xanax, Klonopin and oxycodone — drugs used to treat anxiety and drug withdrawal. He was not given any of these medications during his time in jail, according to the lawsuit, despite the fact that Stojcevski asked for his medications and his prescriptions were easily checkable on Michigan's Automated Prescription System.
Stojcevski's brother, Vladimir, filed the lawsuit in March against Macomb County, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, several officers from the Macomb County Jail and jail health-care provider Correct Care Solutions and several of its staff. In the suit, Vladimir alleges that he too was refused medication for several days before being released to a local hospital.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants violated the brothers' constitutional rights by denying them medical care — treatment that constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
“The various defendants with malice, recklessness and callous indifference failed to provide or obtain care and treatment necessary to save David's life,” the lawsuit says.
Vladimir Stojcevski is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
Wickersham declined to comment on the case to the Detroit Free Press because it involves pending litigation. County Corporation Counsel John Schapka told the newspaper that “knowing the facts and circumstances of the case, I'm confident the county will prevail.”
Macomb County officials told Michigan Public Radio that jail staff followed “proper procedures” in Stojcevski's case.
The lawsuit alleges that jail officials and medical staff knew from the start that Stojcevski was on medications for pain and addiction. During intake, he told corrections officers that he had a prescription for Methadone and was identified as having a “potential for withdrawal.”
But four days after Stojcevski was booked, he was marked as having completed his detox. Two days after that, his withdrawal symptoms began.
First, Stojcevski was found “lying on his back, unable to speak and blinking his eyes,” according to the lawsuit, citing jail records. Then he began having hallucinations, telling a member of the jail's medical team that his organs had been removed and his heart shredded. During that conversation, he also said that he was taking Xanax and oxycodone for pain before his incarceration. He was seen “twitching on the floor,” according to the lawsuit, but was examined by a member of the medical team and pronounced “cleared.”
On June 17, Stojcevski was moved to the high-observation mental health unit.
Stojcevski's symptoms seemed to worsen with time. He rapidly lost weight — 50 pounds in a little over two weeks, more than a quarter of his body weight — and his limbs spasmed constantly. At one point, in the surveillance video published by WDIV, he hid under his bed to escape the constant light in his cell. For the last two days before his death, he lay listless on a thin mattress on the floor of the cell, then rolled onto the cement floor itself. He was found there, struggling to breath, on June 27.
Jail personnel rushed Stojcevski to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead 95 minutes later, according to the lawsuit.
An autopsy found that the causes of his death were acute withdrawal, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and seizures or “seizure-like activity.”
“It's unconscionable that they let this human being suffer like this,” Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist who specializes in addiction and withdrawal problems, told WDIV while watching the footage. “… It's a very obvious sign of withdrawal and anybody who has two minutes of training knows that.”
The Macomb County Jail is currently facing another lawsuit from six inmates over conditions in its mental health units, according to Michigan Public Radio. The suit claims that inmates are “tormented” by one corrections officer, “punished” by having their blankets and mattresses taken away and denied access to legal resources and, in one case, medication.
If Stojcevski had been able to pay a $772 fine on his ticket, he would not have been jailed at all. And, according to the lawsuit, a June 19 court order would have allowed Stojcevski to be released if he had enrolled in a community corrections program. But it wasn't followed.
Very disturbing video: VIDEO
NAACP Wants Special Prosecutor in Death of Man in Wheelchair
by Randall Chase
The fatal shooting of a man in a wheelchair by Wilmington police is being investigated by a new unit within the Delaware attorney general's office that was established to help instill public trust in government, but the state NAACP is calling for an independent investigation by a special prosecutor.
Authorities say Jeremy McDole, 28, was shot Wednesday afternoon after police responded to a 911 call about man who had shot himself and was still armed with a handgun.
Police Chief Bobby Cummings said Thursday that McDole, who was left paralyzed by a shooting 10 years ago, failed to obey officers' commands to show his hands and put his weapon down, and that he was shot as he began to remove the gun from his waist.
Cummings said he did not know if McDole pointed the gun at any of the four officers, "but when he went to remove the weapon, they engaged him."
Video of the shooting posted online, which the chief said appeared to be authentic, shows an officer approaching McDole with a gun drawn, shouting "show me your hands" and "drop the gun." Other officers then appear in the video with their guns drawn, yelling similar commands.
McDole moves around in his wheelchair and reaches into his jeans, but it's unclear from the video what he is doing. The officers, who are not in the video at this point, fire multiple shots and McDole falls out of his wheelchair.
Cummings said he was not aware of any attempt by officers to use nonlethal force before shooting McDole, who was black. He also would not say whether he thought the situation should have been handled differently.
"Only our thorough investigation will reveal that," noted Cummings, who said he didn't know whether McDole was depressed or suicidal, or why he might have shot himself. Police said they recovered a .38 caliber handgun next to McDole's body.
The shooting is being investigated by the police department's criminal investigation and professional standards units, as well as the Delaware Department of Justice's Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which will determine whether any officers will be charged. The state agency investigates all police shootings that result in injury or death.
Former Lt. Gov. Matt Denn formed the civil rights and public trust unit in January after succeeding the late Beau Biden as attorney general. Among the new unit's responsibilities is conducting investigations where the Department of Justice's other responsibilities might present the appearance of a conflict, such as investigations of use of force by law enforcement officers.
But while praising Denn for doing a good job as attorney general, Richard Smith, head of the Delaware chapter of the NAACP, said he did not trust the state Justice Department to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. He cited the results of its previous investigations into police shootings that resulted in injury or death.
"There's been so many shootings, and every time it comes out it was a justified shooting. We cannot continue having all our folks being shot and nobody held accountable," said Smith, who met with Denn on Thursday. ".... Every time there was a shooting, it came back justified shooting. Everything can't be justified."
A DOJ spokesman declined to respond to Smith's call for a special prosecutor.
"As with other police-involved shootings, this will be investigated by the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust," spokesman Carl Kanefsky said in an email.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jack Markell, whom Denn served as lieutenant governor, joined Smith on Thursday night to visit McDole's family and to express his condolences.
"I have a lot of confidence in the attorney general," Markell said when asked about the NAACP's demand for a special prosecutor.
At the same time, Markell described the video of the police shooting as "troubling."
"I think it's troubling for everybody who sees it," the governor said.
McDole's mother, Phyllis McDole, has decried her son's shooting as "unjust."
"He was in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down," she said. "There's video showing that he didn't pull a weapon ... I need answers," she said.
McDole has an arrest record that dates back at least to 2005, the same year he was left paralyzed after being shot in the back by a friend with whom he had been walking around a neighborhood, smoking marijuana, according to court documents. He has convictions for drug possession and disorderly conduct, but other charges, including carrying a concealed deadly weapon and resisting arrest, have been dropped. In November, McDole was found to have violated his probation.
OPM Fingerprint Hack 5 Times Worse Than Previously Thought
Ben Sasse, who has previously accused the current administration of not taking cybersecurity seriously, the announcement by the OPM revealed that officials were viewing the hack not as a threat to national security but as a public relations issue. Mr. Josh Earnest, spokesman at the White house mentioned in his talk on Wednesday that the data breach could likely affect at least 21.5 million federal worker.
Hackers who stole security clearance data on millions of Defense Department and other US government employees got away with about 5.6 million fingerprint records, around 4.5 million more than initially reported, the government announced yesterday.
OPM and the Department of Defense were reviewing the theft of background investigation records when they identified additional fingerprint data that had been exposed, OPM said in a statement. So those affected by this breach may find themselves grappling with the fallout for years. Overall, the latest disclosure in the OPM breach investigation is unlikely to be the last update as more detail may still emerge, security experts said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) didn't hold back in his disdain for OPM and how it “keeps getting it wrong”. “I have zero confidence in OPM's competence and ability to manage this crisis”.
Asfingerprints increasingly replace passwords as aday-to-day security measure for unlocking your iPhone or even your home, security experts have grown concerned about how hackers might leverage them.
Although OPM described the threat of fingerprint data being misused as “limited”, says Wired , the agency noted that evolving technology could cause this to change in the future.
The agency added that if means would be developed in the future to abuse the stolen fingerprint records, the government of the United States will be providing additional information to the affected federal employees.
OPM says it is still in the process of notifying everyone caught up in the breach.
China is widely suspected of being behind the breaches, perhaps as part of move to build a massive database on Americans.
Nevertheless, the notion that the Chinese entities may have gained access to the fingerprints of millions of federal security clearance holders – including, potentially, intelligence officers serving overseas – is “troubling” for USA intelligence agencies, the Guardian assessed. China has strongly denied all the allegations.
'Our Land': A Youth Minister's Perspective On Community Policing
by Tony Ganzer
Today we have another piece in “Our Land”: a conversation on community policing in Cleveland. This occasional series is featuring many diverse Cleveland perspectives always beginning the same way: asking what should community policing look like, and how far are we from it? Today we hear from Steven Williams, the youth minister at Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood.
WILLIAMS: “I believe we're getting close there in this community, because we have police officers walking the beat now. That's community policing to me: having the police officers walking the streets, checking on the business owners, the citizens, getting to know the youth in the community, all those type of things. And for the last few months or so we have seen officers walking the daily beat here in the community on 105, so that's really good, I think that's some forward progress.”
GANZER: “The police union criticized that, saying this is just for show having officers walk down the street. But you think it's actually making a difference?”
WILLIAMS: “I think naturally when folks see police walk by they're going to either stop doing what they're doing, or even run away, you know, depending on what type of business they're involved in. But just that presence, because you know a police officer can talk to you, arrest you, and all those types of things, so that makes a huge difference for safety.”
GANZER: “These young people, especially in this neighborhood, they face a lot of pressures from gang elements, but also just socioeconomic pressures. How are they responding to the changes of the police? Do you see any reaction, I guess, to all the discussion that's going on at City Hall and the Justice Department, or not so much?”
WILLIAMS: “I don't know that that's making a huge difference with our youth, particularly with our young black males, because they're in the belly of the beast. A lot of the young males we work with here at Bethany, which is prevalent throughout our low-income communities, they don't have a father figure in their lives. We're dealing with some youth that are in foster homes. They are kind of raising themselves out here, and they're looking for love, so a gang that's where they feel comfortable. So the conversations that's happening at City Hall and things like that I believe don't really affect them per se…”
GANZER: “What would affect them? What needs to happen and is not happening to affect them?”
WILLIAMS: “Our fathers needs to step up, especially for our young black males, anybody who doesn't have a father especially in a low-income environment. We need fathers to step up, be positive role models, be God-fearing brothers who teach our young brothers to go in a positive direction. A father's there to protect, to lead, to guide, to instruct. When fathers are being put out of the household, now you've got these young brothers and sisters you know just going whichever way they're being led. You know, and if we don't have the fathers in place, we need mentorship programs for our young brothers and our sisters, where they can have somebody that loves them, and looking out for them, and praying for them, and conversing with them, talking about issues, taking them out, all those type of things so they can get a positive alternative to what they're facing on a daily basis on the streets.”
GANZER: “I heard you did reach out to some young people, and there wasn't much interest to talk about this. Why do you think that is?”
WILLIAMS: “I believe there's just an unnatural relationship with, especially with our young folks and police officers, well, the black community with police officers, especially with a lot of things that's going on, because they know about the shootings. That might affect them in a way where they, even without having direct contact with a police officer and getting to know someone personally, they just have that anger and angst with police. And depending on what a young person is doing, what they're involved in, they're not trying to be involved with police at all. There's a lot of factors in play, but when you don't have a good relationship with police officers, you're going to tend to, or anybody, any type of relationship, if you don't have a good relationship, you're going to sometimes stay away.”
Find more parts of this series here, including with the pastor of Bethany Baptist, Stephen Rowan.
Some Progress, But Still a Failure to Communicate
by Adam Elmahrek
(Part one of a two-part series)
When Vanessa Cerda was told about a man with a camera talking to a police officer one afternoon last month in Jerome Park, which is adjacent to her Townsend Street neighborhood, she didn't waste any time confronting him.
"We don't like people who talk to cops," she said emphatically. And her tune didn't change when the man introduced himself as a Voice of OC reporter working on a story about the city's community policing program.
“We don't talk to [police] because they're not with us, they're against us,” Cerda explained as her young daughter peddled around on a scooter and chanted the anti-police brutality slogan commonly uttered in minority communities, “no justice, no peace. Fuck the police.”
“There's no such thing as community police,” Cerda said.
To be sure, the Townsend Street area, which has been under a controversial gang injunction since summer of 2014, is not your typical Santa Ana neighborhood. And Cerda, who is militantly anti-police and a leader of the opposition to the gang injunction, is not your typical Santa Ana resident.
But she is far from alone in condemning the Santa Ana Police Department's community policing efforts. Many agree that community-oriented policing is virtually non-existent in Santa Ana despite a mandate in the city's strategic plan to overhaul the program.
“I know growing up in Santa Ana, police officers don't want to talk to people,” said Ben Vasquez, a local high school teacher and activist. “They are in fear of the community. If you approach a police officer, they're going to tell you to stop, and turn around or don't talk to them.”
Better 'Customer Service'
Department officials, meanwhile, insist they take community policing seriously and Chief Carlos Rojas will rattle off a list of initiatives the department has implemented to better connect officers to residents.
Commander Ken Gominsky, tasked with spearheading the city's attempt to remake community policing, said he believes it comes down to good “customer service.” The strategy revolves around working with neighborhood associations and programs like the Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership, he said.
And at a recent community forum near Townsend Street, Rojas talked about the department's "Coffee With a Cop" program and an effort to bring residents into the department to participate in actual police work.
Rojas says the volunteer program, which includes some 70 to 80 people, opens up the “house of the people” to residents and is one of the most effective avenues toward building trust.
Community policing is “really about us [community and police] as a team,” Rojas said when asked at the forum to define the term. “One team. One mission.”
But a disconnect remains. In interviews and at forums, residents from many corners of the city scoff at the notion of being on the same team as the police, and say an "us versus them" mentality is in reality far more pervasive.
Brian Leal, a youth advocate who was also a panel member at the forum, said he remembers them hauling off friends and family and acting “unprofessionally” when they were called for help.
“Growing up in Santa Ana, I never really had a positive opinion of the police department,” Leal said.
Step Out of the Car
Such a gap between the perceptions of police brass and the residents they serve is certainly not unique to Santa Ana. As community eruptions in recent years following acts of police brutality in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and New York City show, there is in many respects a nationwide failure to communicate, especially in cities with large minority populations.
And experts say bridging this gap requires changes in police culture at an elemental level.
“It's not about doing basketball leagues, it's not about going to meetings. It's about every single officer you employ operating from a problem solving, community oriented, this is how we're going to take care of business” point of view, said Chris Burbank, retired Salt Lake City police chief and director of law enforcement policy at the Center for Policing Equity.
Burbank and other experts agree that a good first step toward better community policing – especially in neighborhoods with historically bad police relations -- is for officers to step out of their patrol cars. The thinking goes that by being on foot, bicycle or even horseback, officers become familiar faces, members of the community, and by nature of the process more trustworthy.
It also gives a chance for residents who don't normally seek out interactions with police a chance to get to know them.
“Something that promotes direct, non-confrontational, neutral or positive interactions between the police and the community,” said Philip M. Lyons, dean and director of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas Lyons.
But experts are also quick to say that such a strategy only works when other components – like changing focus from enforcement to community problem solving – are in place. Having officers on foot patrol and focused on arrests would likely only worsen an already negative dynamic.
“That's no help at all,” said Elliott Currie, professor of Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine. “It's got to go along with that broader commitment to building trust and taking the community seriously.”
Just as important as regular face time between residents and officers is the change in crime fighting tactics. Under a community oriented policing model, officers help organize neighborhood watch groups, analyze crime trends, attempt to find the root cause and employ the residents in the solution.
For example, an elderly woman complains about speeders in her neighborhood. Lyons says a traditional approach would be to dispatch an officer to hand out tickets. Under a community policing approach, police study the traffic patterns of the neighborhood, and determine what the problem really is.
It might be that the road needs speed bumps, Lyons said. Or it might be that you have a little old lady who needs something to do. Whatever the solution is, officers then go back and study to see whether the fix worked, he said.
When community trust has been established, residents will take the initiative to tell officers who are creating problems in the neighborhood, Burbank said. But the response has to be something different than going in for an arrest. It has to be what can police do short of an arrest that will change his behavior, and also involve the community in the process.
“You will never have enough cops in the world to prevent crime from occurring. But we have enough good citizens,” Burbank said.
And to say police don't have enough resources for this transition isn't a good reason for not doing it, according to Lyons.
“To some extent, the we're too busy for this, is a bit of a red herring. If you really are too busy that suggests all the more the need to drill down and solve this in a more meaningful way,” Lyons said.
Once a Bastion of Progressive Policing
Ironically, a good example of a progressive approach to community policing can be found in Santa Ana -- 30 years ago.
In 1983, former Police Chief Ray Davis announced that the city would no longer be cooperating with federal immigration officials in their sweeps for undocumented immigrants.
It was seen as daringly progressive, and immigration officials blasted Davis for it. But Davis defended the move as necessary to earning the trust of the entire city, including immigrants.
Davis was also among the first police chiefs to implement foot patrols, create neighborhood substations and community watch groups, and turn his department towards a real community oriented policing model.
But Davis' retirement in 1987 coincided with a historical spike in crime rates brought on by a combination of demographics and the crack cocaine epidemic that gripped cities during that era. As a result, Davis' successor, Police Chief Paul Walters, placed more emphasis on putting bad guys in jail and ultimately shifted away from the foot patrols of the Davis era.
In the 1990s, Walters and other city leaders spearheaded the construction of a new downtown jail to cope with a reality in which officers would arrest suspects, only to be turned away at the county jail because there wasn't enough room to house them. But by the time the jail was built, crime rates were declining, and today the jail rarely houses local criminals.
In order to subsidize the jail, the city reversed its policy regarding undocumented immigrants and contracted with the federal government to house immigration detainees in exchange for revenue. Since then, the jailing of undocumented immigrants has been a sore point for some residents and community activists.
Still, Walters maintains that he also presided over a community oriented policing focused department. In response to questions about the issue, Walters provided a reporter with examples of how specific problems in the city – homeless criminals at a shopping plaza and the “cruising” phenomenon that some complained had brought crime to Santa Ana – were solved by closely analyzing the issues and deploying detailed plans to solve them.
Abraham Medina, director of Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color, sees the Ray Davis approach to policing as a much better model. He said the ICE contract, gang injunctions and other “tough on crime” measures show a department out of step with true community oriented policing.
Medina also has criticism for Gominsky, the police commander in charge of implementing a new community policing model.
Words describing community policing as customer service “reflect that what we see is the police department is being run like a business, not like an organization accountable to the needs of the community and provide safety to everybody, not just a few,” Medina said.
How Santa Ana will overhaul its community oriented policing model isn't yet clear. Rojas said at the forum they haven't yet begun the transition because they are waiting on assembling a citywide community engagement plan. City officials say the plan will be completed at some point in the current fiscal year, which ends next June.
According to Gominsky, the city will also hire academics to put together a community survey so the department knows what residents expect from community policing. The contract is supposed to come before council in the next month, Gominsky said.
And just this week, city officials announced a $1.25 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The city has been awarded $2.5 million total in such grant funds, with the money going toward hiring 20 new police officers. Officials also say the funds will allow the department to create a new community relations division focused on community oriented policing.
But there are no indications that local law enforcement will be ending the ICE contract or gang injunctions any time soon, steps that activists say are crucial to begin the process of building trust in the department.
It is also unlikely that the department will accede to demands from residents and activists to be more transparent in how it disciplines officers. Rojas has defended the current system, saying that he “takes officers to the mat” if they engage in misconduct that stems from a problem of the “heart” rather than the “mind.”
If there are disciplinary actions, they're rarely made public. The state Police Officers Bill of Rights guarantees confidentiality on that front. Past efforts to unwind the bill have been defeated.
Yet there are signs the police department is taking steps toward greater community engagement. For one, it is considering requiring officers to wear body cameras while on patrol and held four community forums on the issue.
But even these forums show there is a significant gulf to be bridged.
At the most recent forum, held at the downtown headquarters of Latino Health Access, Medina and officer Mike McCarthy had an exchange about policing in the era of ubiquitous cell phone video.
McCarthy told Medina that in the last year, he's encountered more people resisting police orders than he ever had before. And conflict between police and residents usually begins when a resident refused a police officer's order, McCarthy said, adding that in those situations it's incumbent upon the resident to obey the order.
McCarthy chalked it up to a new culture created by more prevalent video and a media obsession with airing cops behaving badly.
But Medina and others say that if police officers put a little less emphasis on being obeyed and showed a little more empathy toward the plight of residents, they might earn more respect.
Sandra Sastegui, a 26-year-old resident of a neighborhood just east of Townsend Street said many residents in her neighborhood don't have driver's licenses due to their undocumented status.
Most of them have either never had an interaction with a Santa Ana police officer, and she says most residents in the neighborhood don't trust police enough to call them when they're needed. Of those that have interacted with police, it's been limited to a traffic stop, with the officer then impounding the resident's car for driving without a license, she said.
Sastegui said her husband's only interaction with an officer in Santa Ana occurred when he was pulled over for having tires slightly too large for the vehicle he was driving. The car was then impounded, she said.
Yet despite having only those kinds of negative experiences, Sastegui isn't necessarily anti-cop. She said she wants to see officers every now and then, walking the beat, getting to know her and her neighbors. That alone, she said, would go a long way.
“They should get out of their cars and talk to people.”
Taking Community Policing to the Next Level
by Adam Elmahrek
(Second in a two-part series)
The hardscrabble working-class Bay Area city of Richmond has an ugly history of violence -- so ugly that a state senator once compared it to Iraq.
In 1990, during the peak of the nation's crack epidemic, the city, which at the time had 86,000 residents, recorded 62 homicides. In 2007 -- during a period of generally falling crime rates nationwide -- Richmond still notched 47 killings.
Desperate to quell the violence, city leaders hired a new police chief and turned to a concept called community-oriented policing. When he arrived, Chief Chris Magnus' first job was the daunting task of reengineering the department's tough-guy culture.
“When the officers were dealing with the gang members, it was basically we're tougher than you,” Captain Mark Gegan said about the department's previous attitude. “It was a very occupational force.”
That changed under Magnus.
He started by awarding promotions based on how well an officer commits to community engagement, not on how many bad guys they bust. Officers started walking the beat, and the ability for senior officers to choose quiet beats was taken away. The idea was to turn the community from an adversary into a partner.
It was a difficult transition, and, according to Gegan, required a police chief willing to stand up to the police union and the status quo.
The early results have been clear. Last year, there were 11 reported homicides -- the lowest since at least 1971, according to a list in the Contra Costa Times.
The apparent success in Richmond comes as the Santa Ana Police Department is considering an overhaul of its own community oriented policing model. The Santa Ana City Council is expected next month to contract with an academic consultant to conduct a survey studying what residents expect from community policing.
And Santa Ana's actions come as deteriorating police-resident relations has become a nationwide issue in the wake of riots last year following high-profile officer-involved brutality in Ferguson Mo, and Baltimore.
In June, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced a major initiative to assign hundreds of police officers to neighborhoods. The officers won't be responding to 911 calls and will instead focus on addressing neighborhood issues. New York calls it “neighborhood policing.”
Closer to Santa Ana, the Los Angeles Police Department is placing renewed emphasis on the idea and just last month opened its new Community Relationship Division. Commander Ruby F. Malachi, head of the division, said Los Angeles has always done community policing but that the new effort includes a significant increase in the number of foot patrols throughout the city.
Malachi described the foot patrols as “critical” to community policing. They allow officers to be there for “non-enforcement” encounters, for “the good times and the bad times.” It can even mean an officer joining a neighborhood basketball game or helping a single mother put on her son's tie.
The main idea, similar to what happened in Richmond, is to get officers to change their mindset from “warrior” mindset to community “guardian.”
Malachi said there are creative ways for officers to get out on foot, like taking the bus or just taking a walk between calls. “You have to get out of the car. You have to get out of that barrier or that wall between us,” Malachi said.
The department also works with the Los Angeles mayor's office to host "summer night lights" events in neighborhoods, including those that are under gang injunctions. The restrictions on gang members are relaxed during the events, which feature meals, sports and other activities.
The purpose of such initiatives, said Gegan of the Richmond Police Department, is to get everyone on the same team. If prostitution comes up as a neighborhood problem, Gegan says the police organize the community to help solve it.
Specifically, that means organizing residents to walk the neighborhood daily, logging the license plates of Johns, noting which street lights are out, and chatting up business owners. It means the police “empower the good people,” Gegan said.
And if there's a park in Richmond with gang problems, residents have the opportunity to help redesign the park and work with city officials to clean it up -- trimming the bushes and washing out the graffiti, Gegan said.
“What I'm talking about is so sort of easy to do,” he said. “If [residents] are involved in that process, and it has the same result, which is displacement of the problem... their appreciation [for the police] will be tenfold... it will be talked about for years like, ‘look at what we did.'”
The difference in attitude was probably best visualized when Magnus himself joined an anti-police brutality protest and held a “Black Lives Matter” sign. The gesture, unfathomable in most cities, made national headlines.
The department in Richmond has also taken advantage of a U.S. Department of Justice program, called "Operation Cease Fire" whereby youth considered likely to join a gang are given the opportunity to move to a new city where jobs and schooling are waiting for them.
While not all of them go for the offer, some do, Gegan said.
“Those most likely to offend, are focused on, very thoughtfully,” Gegan said. “We know you're very at risk. We know you're going to end up dead or in jail.”
Gegan has been around since the 1990s. He said he saw how the department was before, the “downward spiral” of crime and mistrust in police, and the unsuccessful tough guy, enforcement-based approach. He said community oriented policing, at least the way Richmond does it, made a difference.
“Now that I'm a captain, and I'm in charge, I know that it works.”
York City receives $1 million community policing grant
by SEAN PHILIP COTTER
The federal Department of Justice has awarded York City more than $1 million in grants that will go toward community policing in the city.
The purpose of the $1,090,917 grant that comes from the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services is to expand "the capacity of law enforcement agencies to engage in community policing," according to the news release from the local U.S. Attorney's office.
York City applied for and received this grant, which provides funding for five officers, according to the DOJ website. Each law enforcement agency's request was capped at 5 percent of the current force of sworn officers; right now, York City Police Department has just over 100.
The program, which is intended to allow departments to "hire or rehire community policing officers," provides salaries and benefits for officer hires for three years, according to the release.
York City Police Chief Wes Kahley wrote via text message that the department wouldn't be ready to make a statement about the grant or what they might plan to do with the money until they see the specifics of it, which will happen on Oct. 1.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey didn't respond to a message Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.
The city also has been awarded a $60,699 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, according to the news release. That money can be used for a wide range of law enforcement or court programs or supplies, the release states.
Decatur Police officers taking community policing to new level with soccer tournament
by Al Whitaker
DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - Michael Kitchens and Jonathan Macklin are members of the Decatur Police Department's Anti-Crime Unit. They're more than just partners on the job, they're related, by marriage. So this summer, both families went on vacation together and to Central America, where they ventured into portions of Honduras tourists are warned to stay away from.
"And we paid a cab driver, we paid him a good amount of money to take us to the Honduras, to the real Honduras. And at first he didn't want to do it. You know, we had a guide with us and he finally gave in and was like, look, I'm going to take y'all to a place but y'all stay together," Macklin explained.
They say they wound up in a ghetto where they saw the real dangers of the area, but they also saw something more.
"And there was a lot of children and one of the things they loved doing was soccer, and us getting to watch them play soccer, and thinking how something like that could be a joy for so many," Kitchens said.
It was from that experience the idea of an international soccer tournament was born. The police department formed their own team, and then Kitchens and Macklin set out to find sponsors for the event. Next month, Decatur will host a number of teams from across the area and across the equator. And the simple goal behind the idea is to bridge the gap, and bring people together.
"This is what being a police officer is all about. It's about, first, serving your community, protecting those that need to be protected. But we serve everybody, all nationalities here in this city," Macklin says.
To protect and serve, no matter their nationality.
The Decatur Police River City Cup is scheduled for October 2nd, 3rd & 4th at the Jack Allen Recreational Complex. That's on Modaus Road in Decatur. In addition to the games, there are a lot of family activities planned. And admission is free.
Community policing is the safety solution the ID needs
by Ben Henry and Sharon Maeda
When Donnie Chin was murdered outside of a hookah bar last July, it sent shockwaves through the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community. Our sheriff, the Protector of the Chinatown/International District (ID), was slain, and we demanded that the outlaws be brought to justice.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's response was to launch an effort to shut down all of Seattle's hookah bars. Eventually, he backed off.
And for that, we are grateful. After all, the solution doesn't lie with closing down all the hookah bars; rather, we must address the underlying cause of the problem: The ID is unsafe due to the fundamental way the Seattle Police Department (SPD) works in neighborhoods.
True justice lies in a shift to culturally appropriate community policing. It's about building a trusting relationship between police and the people they protect. It should be more a partnership than an institution enforcing on a community. Police should be seen as trusted allies making a community stronger, not an outside entity there to keep people in line.
That starts with hiring a diverse police force that grew up, looks and feels like us.
According to an analysis by Governing Magazine, three out of four SPD officers, or 75.3 percent, are white, as of 2013. That means less than 25 percent of the police force are comprised of people of color, compared to 34 percent of the overall population in Seattle. And just 8.6 percent of SPD are Asian, compared to 13.9 percent citywide.
“Service, Pride, and Dedication” is the SPD motto. But the badge is not there to hide behind. It is not just the role of police to protect, but to serve. And that happens by being a part of a community.
True community policing is not a box you check, a tidy program you launch, or shutting down a hookah lounge. It's about transforming the fundamental way you do business.
It might be complex, but community leader Maxine Chan, who served as an SPD community liaison to the Chinatown/ID neighborhood for 12 years throughout the'90s, boils it down to one question.
“What is going to make people feel safe? And that's the key,” she says.
However, it's more than just importing cops to the ID. Yes, Donnie called for more police presence, but the long-term answer is what Donnie did all his adult life: being someone the community could trust who cared about them.
Whether it be the elder in the high-rise apartment or the homeless guy on the street; the tourist or the API families who—despite living all over the region—come back to where their cultures and ethnic identities are not questioned.
“It's great to have police presence, but it has to be in partnership with the community and businesses down here,” Chan says. “Police that come down here have to know what's happening. Donnie always knew what was happening.”
Donnie was deeply involved and empathized with everyone he knew in the neighborhood. But this kind of empathy can also be taught. Chan recalls “cultural awareness, cultural competency game” that used to be part of police basic trainings when she was an SPD community liaison.
Cadets were divided into different “families,” or pods, she remembers. The scenario was like this: the cadets were refugees who just arrived in the U.S. after their home country got nuked. The goal of the game is to get a job, learn the language and support your family. And no one speaks English to you the whole time.
Then the participants get arrested.
“I remember, I watched these people,” Chan says. “In those few hours of simulation, people got what it's like to be a refugee. It started out, people were laughing, and it was fun. Then, people got put in jail. People were no longer laughing; they got pissed. ‘I know it was a game, but I was ready to punch out the jailer,' they would say. That shifting, for that brief second, that gave me hope.”
Donnie's death does not have to be in vain. We urge Mayor Ed Murray and the SPD honor Donnie's gift of building trust in the community by engaging with us. Without this service, true public safety cannot be attained.
Dancing police officer builds strong relationships in community
by Maggie Green
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR (WMC) - - Kids in North Little Rock have a big reason to smile-- they get to see their friend Officer Tommy Norman every day.
"Uncle Tommy," as he likes to be called, has been a patrol officer with the North Little Rock Police Department for 17 years. Early on, he started what he calls "community policing."
"The community and the police coming together as one," Norman explained. "We can't do it on our own, so we need help from the community. You know, to just get out of your police car, step out of the box, don't be ordinary."
And Officer Norman is far from ordinary. His social media presence has reached people across the country, with videos on Facebook and Instagram of him dancing on street corners, sitting in dunk tanks at community picnics, and bringing birthday presents to the kids that love him.
"Your impact with kids is probably going to be the biggest," said Norman. "In a sense, police officers are superheroes to these kids. The fact that they can shake our hands every day and hang out with us and dance with us, it makes them feel so much better about themselves."
And boy, does Officer Norman like to dance
He said his favorite dance right now is the Whip/Nae Nae, featured all over his Facebook page. Norman dances at bus stops, at birthday parties, with the young and with the old.
"I can't really do the other part, the stanky leg," Norman admitted with a laugh. WMC Action News 5 has him beat on that part of the dance.
"The dances, the whip and nae nae or the quan, those kids can relate to those dances because they see them on the TV and they perform them," Norman added. "If you have a police officer performing those dances, it really wins them over. 'Is that officer really out here dancing with us?'"
Norman said it's all about being different and thinking outside the box. "Kids really appreciate that."
And through all the fun, there's a greater mission. Norman said what's most important is talking to the kids.
"I've been a police officer for 17 years. I've been a patrol officer all those years, so I'm on the front line every single day," he added. "These kids, they make the most of what's dealt with them, dealt to them, and it's really powerful. I go into these neighborhoods, I look for the worst areas and that's where I spend most of my time."
Norman said he wants the kids to view him less as a police officer and more as a friend and mentor.
"Obviously, they see the gun and the badge and the uniform and the police car, so that presence alone, typically they're gonna respect that. But to me, instead of Officer Norman, you're more Uncle Tommy, because you're a family member to them. You're really, a lot of people out there consider police officers family. Some call me 'uncle' or 'daddy.' Which is cool. They'll turn to you in more ways than one."
But Norman said that relationship takes commitment and consistency. "If you go through a neighborhood one day, you have to come back the next day and the next day, you can't wait a month or two to come back because kids can tell if you're being genuine or not."
That's one thing Norman prides himself on-- whether he's on or off duty, he keeps coming back to his neighborhoods.
"When your shift ends as a police officer, your job as a police officer, your calling as a police officer doesn't end. Just because you're off the clock, you're still expected to make a difference."
Officer Norman said that kind of commitment is a big part of being a police officer. He not only spends time with kids, but also with Special Olympics competitors and clients at Cerebral Palsy United. He mentioned two clients at that organization, who he calls Officer Pickens and Officer Sharpe. He explained that their eyes light up and they smile really big when a police officer walks into the room.
"You have the opportunity to impact the lives of people there that maybe other people in society turn their back on or maybe don't take the time to spend with them because they look different or talk different, but obviously those are the people we should gravitate towards."
In fact, Norman said he thinks it's an officer's obligation to become integral parts of their community.
"We've done everything, water balloon fights, kids lock us in the back of the police car. It can be pretty wild and crazy sometimes."
Norman said he often lets kids play with his handcuffs and sit in his police car because he feels that makes them better understand what he does and respect him.
"Going back to when I was a kid and grew up in North Little Rock, and a police officer drove down the street and waved and I thought that was the coolest thing that he just waved," Norman recalled. "But I could imagine that if he had stopped and got out, showed me his handcuffs and let me sit in the police car and turn on the sirens, I mean, it doesn't take a lot of effort, but the impact, you know, it lasts a long, long time."
Despite what Officer Norman calls the pain in the world, he said he sees an atmosphere of trust in his community.
"There's so much love out there. Even as a police officer, you know, we see the worst in people's life. We see people deceased and horrific crime scenes and vehicle accidents. But at the end of the day, you know, people in the community know they can also count on us if they need something. So I would say that the positive relationship is just a special thing that is formed."
At the end of the day, Norman said he wouldn't trade it for anything.
"I'm just thankful to be a piece of the puzzle. It's just a blessing to be an officer here for 17 years. I spent a lot of time here, I'm thankful. I'm thankful and humbled by it, and I don't take any of it for granted."
It Ended Before It Began: Criminalizing a Young Brain
by Merritt Juliano
Recently, there has been an uptick in neuropsychological research highlighting the differences between the adult and teenage brains. When we distill the output, this research tells us that the teenage brain is an underdeveloped work in progress, particularly in areas relating to impulse control, executive function, and pleasure-seeking behaviors. We now understand that the brain does not reach full maturation until some point in our 20s. This overwhelming research has spurred important new policy discussions surrounding the criminal culpability of adolescents, including the age at which an adolescent should be considered an adult for legal purposes.
These new discussions have moved us in the direction of offering adolescents more legal protections. In 2005, the Supreme Court ended the juvenile death penalty, and in 2012, the Supreme Court prohibited states from imposing mandatory life without parole sentences on defendants under the age of 18, except in the case of murder. As a result of these new policies, rehabilitated adolescents who committed crimes may receive a second chance at life. Despite these advancements, however, there are still far too many injustices in the ways young offenders are treated in the legal system throughout the United States.
During my training, I worked as a therapist in a residential treatment facility for young adult men, mostly in the 18-26 age group, struggling with substance abuse issues. The program also served as an alternative to incarceration for some who committed crimes involving illegal drugs. In New York, many young adults who commit non-violent crimes are fortunate enough to participate in alternative to incarceration programs where they receive rehabilitative and vocational services enabling them to re-enter society as a productive member.
Unfortunately, many young offenders across the country do not have similar opportunities, and for them, their lives can be effectively derailed before their adult lives can begin. Criminal convictions have long lasting economic and emotional effects on the lives of these offenders, many of whom can be left to feel as if they are outcasts from society. They can struggle to find jobs, which can create a feedback loop to a life of crime. Setting the age of adult responsibility for legal purposes at 18 years of age -- an age at which we are still biologically wired to experiment with risky behavior -- simply may not be just if the brain does not mature until sometime in our 20s.
If you are wondering what the emotional life of an adolescent offender could be like, I recommend checking out the independent film Another Earth. At its core, the film follows a young woman, recently released from prison, and struggling to re-enter society. The young woman -- who landed in prison after killing a mother and child in a drunk driving accident -- is unable to rationalize her horrendous decision-making (alarmingly, the rate of drunk driving is highest among the narrow 21-25 age band). Even armed with a powerful intellect, she is overwhelmed by complex feelings of guilt, loss and grief, not just for the mother and child she killed, but for their survivors, her own family, and her own life. In the film, the young woman is offered a second chance of sorts, though she ultimately declines the offer after finding some degree of peace on her own. Perhaps it is fitting that this second chance exists in a science-fiction movie; in real life, however, second chances are much harder to come by, especially for young offenders in lower socioeconomic populations where opportunities are already fewer and further between. Had a police officer stumbled upon a meeting of the "Choom Gang" circa 1979, would our president have been granted one?
A blanket rule absolving all young offenders from criminal culpability is not the answer. Trying to identify those circumstances where an 18- to 25-year-old might fairly be treated as a juvenile, difficult though it may be, should be a priority for a modern society, particularly for non-violent offenders with a low outlook for recidivism. This will, of course, be a hard sell politically in our country where we draft so many politicians from the prosecutorial ranks, and where a "tough on crime" mantra is an easy pitch for voters. The issue presents a profound struggle on the more micro level as well. (If you doubt his, ask yourself how you would feel if your 18-year-old son or daughter were arrested and charged with a felony. Then pivot and ask how you would feel if you or a loved one were victimized by the actions of "somebody else's" 18-year-old felon.)
Although it came in a case in which the Supreme Court did not raise the age at which an offender is eligible for the death penalty, the Court eloquently noted in Roper v. Simmons, "The qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18." While we certainly need to draw the line between adolescence and adulthood somewhere, 18 may be too young given recent data. Most of the young offenders I encountered at the residential treatment facility made risky decisions indicative of an immature prefrontal cortex, the area in the brain that provides adults with the ability to fully control one's impulses, and appropriately judge risks and rewards. Like teenagers are wont to do, they made bad decisions, but this should not necessarily cost them their adult lives.
"They ended before they began, but there were moments when they almost made it. Glimpses, tragic and bloody and wonderful, into the love that almost was." --Unknown
Los Angeles panel proposes homelessness emergency, funds
by Christopher Weber
LOS ANGELES -- It's no secret to people who walk or drive the streets of Los Angeles that homeless people — tens of thousands of them — are everywhere.
On Tuesday, having looked at numbers showing the city's homeless population has increased more than 10 percent over the past two years, officials announced they have decided enough is enough.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and several other elected officials stood outside City Hall — a few feet from several homeless people dozing on a lawn — to announce they plan to declare a state of emergency on homelessness and spend $100 million to eradicate it.
"These are our fellow Angelinos," the mayor said. "They are those who have no other place to go, and they are literally here where we work, a symbol of our city's intense crisis."
Six blocks away, on the city's notorious Skid Row, thousands more live permanently in tents, makeshift cardboard shelters and sometimes just on the sidewalk itself.
"If you walk five blocks south and one block over, you'll enter the largest concentration of homeless in the country — about 4,000 homeless living in Skid Row," said Councilman Jose Huizar, who co-chairs the City Council's homelessness & poverty committee.
"Unfortunately, that is just a small percentage of the city's homeless population," he continued. "Yes, 85 percent of the city's homeless population lives outside of Skid Row, throughout the city."
The emergency declaration and the funding will require action by the full City Council. Officials didn't say exactly where the money will come from, but Council President Herb Wesson promised it would be found "somehow, some way."
Huizar spokesman Rick Coca said afterward that officials anticipate it will come from the city's general fund, adding "a more robust financial forecast for the city" is anticipated in the months ahead.
Councilmembers said they hope to have a draft strategic plan on homelessness by December.
The first rollout of funds — projected for Jan. 1, 2016 — would go toward permanent housing and shelter, according to Wesson's office.
Garcetti had already announced plans Monday to release nearly $13 million in such newly anticipated excess tax revenue for short-term housing initiatives. The bulk of that money would be dedicated to housing homeless veterans.
Alice Callaghan, a longtime advocate for the homeless on Skid Row, said the proposed funding would not be nearly enough to stop the loss of affordable housing, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas of downtown and on the city's west side.
Skid Row itself has been touched in recent years by that gentrification as aging hotels and abandoned buildings have been turned into expensive lofts, condos and apartments. Upscale coffee shops and restaurants now compete for space with homeless shelters and flophouses on the area's 50 square blocks.
"A hundred million dollars won't even buy all the homeless pillows," Callaghan said, contrasting LA's proposal with New York City's $41 billion affordable housing plan unveiled last year. "A hundred million certainly won't build much housing — and what we really have here is a housing crisis."
Experts blame that crisis on several factors, including the long recession, the city's gentrification and its rapidly rising rents and home prices. Those events have combined to push the homeless population steadily higher since 2013, to a figure now estimated at 20,000.
Those factors also have helped push some out of Skid Row and many more all across the city. Some homeless now reside on bluffs overlooking freeways, in ocean-front parks and in hillside nooks and crannies. Others have moved right into suburbia.
A graphic map published by the Los Angeles Times in June — and drawn from statistics provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority — revealed people living in cars and tents in such fashionable areas as Brentwood and the wealthiest sections of the San Fernando Valley.
Earlier this year, a study by the city's top budget official found Los Angeles already spends $100 million a year to deal with homelessness — much of it on arrests and other police services —but its departments have no coordinated approach for addressing the problem. Without clear guidelines, departments instead tend to rely on ad hoc responses, according to the report by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
Callaghan said she fears this latest initiative is aimed more at "reducing the visibility" of the homeless ahead of a proposed bid to bring the Olympics to Los Angeles in 2024, rather than getting homeless people off the street permanently.
"They can spend billions on getting the Olympics," she said of the proposal that anticipates spending $6 billion in public and private financing to bring the Games to LA. "But not on getting people off the sidewalks."
NYC starts construction on affordable housing project that includes homeless shelter
by Jennifer Fermino
For the first time, the city is tackling two of its most pressing issues — homelessness and affordable housing — under one roof.
De Blasio administration officials Tuesday broke ground on a first-of-its-kind combination homeless shelter/affordable housing development in the Bronx, part of an effort to maximize resources to combat the parallel problems.
The new $62 million “Landing Road Residence” in the borough's University Heights section will feature 135 units of housing alongside a 200-bed shelter for homeless working adults.
The permanent housing is reserved for people with very low-incomes, with the majority of the studios for people who earn $21,175 a year or less.
The shelter and the housing development will have separate entrances, but will share some of the same social services from the provider, the non-profit Bowery Resident's Committee.
In addition to providing a new type of mixed-use housing, the development is also a marked departure from past city policy, which relied heavily on for-profit providers to run homeless shelters
By law, the non-profits must funnel any extra money they make back into the development.
“Doesn't it make a lot more sense to pay the good guys to run the shelters and have them take the same money and put it back into affordable housing?” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen. “That's the big idea.”
Several other developments that will be run by non-profits and include shelter beds and permanent housing are in the pipeline, she said.
The new Landing Road Residence — which is primarily funded by the city, but also includes state and federal monies — is expected to open within two years.
Fayetteville police receive $530K grant for body cameras
by The Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The Fayetteville Police Department has announced that it has been awarded a federal grant of $530,000 to provide body cameras to police officers.
The Fayetteville Observer (http://bit.ly/1KNJATG) reports that the U.S. Department of Justice's 2015 Bureau of Justice Assistance Body Camera Competitive Grant, announced earlier this week, includes a Fayetteville Police Department match of $530,000.
The city's police chief, Harold Medlock, is pushing to equip about 275 officers with body-worn cameras over the next several months. Medlock announced last month that the department had received a $74,800 grant from the Governor's Crime Commission toward body cameras.
Numerous police departments nationwide have installed body cameras in the wake of high-profile police encounters, including the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
U.S. attorney general to hold community policing forum in Seattle
by The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch will visit Seattle as part of a multi-city community policing tour.
Justice Department officials said in a news release that Lynch will hold a community policing forum Thursday in Seattle that will highlight policing practices designed to strengthen police-community relations.
The meeting will include law enforcement, local leaders, youth and other community members.
While in Seattle, Lynch is also expected to attend a human trafficking task force meeting and announce grants to fight human trafficking.
Justice Department officials say Lynch's tour builds on President Barack Obama's pledge to improve police-community relations. Recommendations by a task force Obama created in December include more community policing and officer training.
Columbia to spend $100,000 for community policing efforts
by Louis Geisler
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Lorenzo Lawson calls himself "old school." He remembers a time when people in his neighborhood knew the name of the police officers who patrolled the area, and the officers knew theirs. He said that relationship changed the way police officers handled potential problems.
"If they see a young man out there, doing something, they knew their mother, their grandmother, and they could go and talk to them, and try to do some alternative things before locking them up," Lawson told ABC 17 News Tuesday.
The head of the nonprofit Youth Empowerment Zone, and former member of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence, Lawson supports the Columbia's efforts for a community policing model. The idea gained traction and attention after tensions between law enforcement and St. Louis communities arose through a violent year.The Governor-appointed Ferguson Commission recommended police departments adopt the model, and practice new ways of interacting with diverse neighborhoods to rebuild trust between the people and police.
On Monday, the Columbia City Council voted to spend $100,000 from its reserves in 2014 for community policing efforts. City Manager MIke Matthes said the city has done research into the topic, but did not have any specifics as to how the money would be spent on the model of policing.
Lawson said he most recently saw the Columbia Police Department practicing it at the Silence the Violence rally in Douglass Park last month, mingling with the crowd and praying with them.
"'We're gonna be here, and we're gonna speak to you. We're people,'" Lawson said of the police's attitude there. "And that type of thing, it has been shown that it makes a difference with bringing crime down in the community."
When the Task Force on Community Violence made its recommendations to the city council in November 2014, it explicitly suggested CPD take on a community policing model. It acknowledged a shortage in police officers would hamper the ability for patrol officers to spend their whole shift in one neighborhood. The report said the "cultural competency" portion of the model could be implemented right away, to help build a trusting relationship with minority communities in Columbia.
"We think if the police officer get to know the community that they're patrolling, and the people get to know them, then these types of [violent crimes] won't happen," Lawson said.
$2M for more community policing in GR, Kzoo
by Wood TV
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan's U.S. senators on Tuesday announced a more than $2 million grant to hire and retain officers for the police departments in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
The Grand Rapids Police Department will receive $1 million to support eight police officers, while the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety will receive $1.25 million for 10 officers.
The grants from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) are part of the COPS Hiring Program (CHP). That program aims to promote community policing and improve departments' relationships with the citizens they serve.