October, 2015 - Week 1
4 students arrested for Calif. school shooting plot
by Bianca Graulau
Four students were arrested Saturday after police discovered a shooting plot involving Summerville High School in Tuolumne, Calif.
Among the evidence, deputies said they found a list of the names of the targeted victims. Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele said the students confessed.
When asked what they said, Mele responded: "that they were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible."
The sheriff's department said they were contacted on Wednesday by school administrators regarding students who were making threats against faculty and staff.
"As each one of them was identified they were removed from campus," Robert Griffith, Summerville Union High School District Superintendent, said. "Their parents were called."
Deputies said the four students were in the beginning stages of the plot, and no one was hurt.
Kristin and Levi Wilson's daughter attends Summerville High.
"I can't imagine getting a phone call that something like that had happened at that school," Kristin said.
Deputies said the suspects were in the process of obtaining the weapons they were going to use in the attack.
All four students were arrested for conspiracy to commit an assault with deadly weapons. Their names will not be released because they're juveniles.
California Governor Signs Bill to Fight Racial Profiling
Law requires agencies to collect demographic data on police stops
by The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Gov. Jerry Brown has approved legislation to change California's definition of racial profiling and require local law enforcement agencies to collect demographic data on the people they stop, his office said Saturday.
The law would give the public and police data to gauge reports of racial profiling that have become a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of unarmed black men during encounters with police, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D., San Diego) said of her bill.
Legislators in nearly every state this year proposed measures stemming from the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who had scuffled with a white officer in Ferguson, Mo. Mr. Brown's death triggered large protests and repeated clashes between demonstrators and heavily armored police.
Twenty-four states passed at least 40 measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force, and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press.
Still, far more proposals have stalled or failed, and few states have done anything to change their laws on when police are justified to use deadly force.
In California, Ms. Weber's measure was one of the few police reform bills to reach the governor's desk. Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the governor's Capitol office in early September to support the legislation, which requires local law enforcement agencies to collect the data and the state attorney general's office to compile it.
Data already collected by the attorney general's office recently showed that while 6% of Californians are African-American, they are involved in 17% of arrests and a quarter of deaths in custody. Young black men are 25% more likely to be booked into jail than whites.
Under Ms. Weber's bill, agencies would have to include the race of the person who was stopped, the reason for the stop, and whether the stop resulted in a citation or arrest. The largest police departments will have to start reporting in April 2019 and the smallest by April 2023.
It also requires the attorney general to create an advisory board with the goal of eliminating racial and identity profiling and improving diversity and racial sensitivity among law enforcement.
Several Republicans opposed it, saying such record-keeping would require onerous, costly reports and might be unnecessary as police agencies begin using body cameras. They fear it could prompt officers to engage in racial profiling against whites to skew the statistics.
The total cost to state agencies and the California Highway Patrol for the extra reporting has been pegged at $9 million, but supporters argue that collecting such data ultimately could avoid costly financial settlements when police unlawfully kill people.
The governor also signed separate legislation by Sen. Jim Beall (D., San Jose) SB11 would require the state's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to increase training on mental-health issues. It would mandate 15 hours in basic training courses for police recruits, with additional training for supervisors every four years.
“These bills are essential in a day and age where officers are now the first responders for incidents involving untreated mental illness,” Mr. Beall said in a statement Saturday.
California governor faces final call on right-to-die bill
by Kathy Lynn Grossman
California Gov. Jerry Brown has until midnight Oct. 7 to sign or veto a controversial bill that would legalize physician-assisted dying in the nation's most populous state.
Both supporters of the bill, who say it fosters “death with dignity,” and opponents, who call it legalized suicide, urge calls to the governor's office and prayers to the Almighty while they wait out the clock.
And both sides expect this decision is a tough call for Brown.
“Just like everyone who struggles with the meaning of the end of life, he'll have that struggle, but I don't see him vetoing the bill,” said Toni Broaddus, the California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, the national organization leading the push for the bill.
“What's more fundamental about being human than whom you love or how you die? Decisions around these reside with the individual, not the state,” said Broaddus, a veteran LGBT activist who was a co-founder of the California Freedom to Marry Coalition.
Disability rights activist and evangelical author Joni Eareckson Tada is fervently praying for a veto but she, too, said, “I think Brown is struggling with the issue and listening to both sides.”
Tada blogged at “Joni & Friends” that the bill undermines compassion and would be “very bad news for the elderly, the disabled, and the medically fragile.”
The End of Life Option Act (the bill's formal name) passed in legislative special session in mid-September and reached Brown's desk Sept. 25. But few expected the former Jesuit seminarian would sign it during Pope Francis' U.S. visit.
The Catholic Church has been one of the most outspoken groups battling nationwide to halt laws that allow physicians to write a lethal prescription for someone who is terminally ill.
Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez condemned the bill, saying in a church column, “Helping someone to die — even if that person asks for that help — is still killing,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Compassion & Choices disagrees. It is the Oregon-based action group that 29-year-old Californian Brittany Maynard turned to for help in dying on her own terms rather than succumbing to an aggressive brain tumor.
Maynard made international headlines in October 2014 when she announced her plan to die Nov. 1 in Oregon. In a series of videos she taped promoting national campaigns for the right to die, Maynard called on listeners to “advocate.” The End of Life Option Act is closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon.
Tada, quadriplegic since 1967 and a cancer survivor, had publicly urged Maynard to step back and let God decide on life and death. Maynard died Nov. 1 after taking the lethal drugs.
Nearly a year later, Tada's objections are unchanged.
She holds a deep religious conviction that choosing a day to die, rather than leaving that decision in God's hands, separates someone from God for eternity. It also separates the dying person from the compassionate care of loved ones. “It unravels compassion,” she said in an interview Thursday (Oct. 1).
For a doctor to write such a prescription and for loved ones to stand by and let someone swallow the drugs “is a form of abandonment.” As social policy, legalizing what she calls “suicide” is to “radicalize one's right to privacy. It dresses up our willful determination as rights,” she said.
Others argue that legalizing physician-assisted dying allows individuals to make their religious determinations about death and dying by their own spiritual lights. It's a view that is gaining ground inch by inch in state legislatures.
Compassion & Choices has an interactive state-by-state map tracking right-to-die bills. It shows Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont allow medically assisted dying but it's caught up in the courts in New Mexico, where supporters are seeking a review by the state Supreme Court.
And campaigns are under way for legislation in 24 states and the District of Columbia. But in many states, the topic lingers for years in legislative subcommittee. If Brown signs the bill in California, or allows it to become law without his signature, it will jump-start the conversations nationwide.
A Gallup Poll in May found that 68 percent of Americans support the idea of physician-assisted dying. Statewide polls show a majority of Californians agree.
Broaddus said surveys show that 60 percent of California Catholics support right-to-die legislation and so do 57 percent of evangelicals in the state. In focus groups, she said they found, “People, no matter how they felt personally, believe every person should be able to make their own decisions about the end of life.”
Broaddus said, “Marriage and death are both fundamental issues and most Californians agree that the biggest decisions of your life you should be free to make without government interference and to make according to your own values and religious beliefs.”
Community Policing Goes Viral in Santa Cruz County
by Jessica A. York
LIVE OAK -- For the public, it's a no-brainer.
Following local law enforcement agencies' Twitter and Facebook accounts may mean direct pipeline access to the latest and most immediate danger alerts, a chance to be directly involved in car thief's apprehension or to point police to the latest whereabouts of a missing child or dog.
For law enforcement officials, there has been more trepidation in embracing technology that can expose a department's inner workings and open agencies to the threat of botched investigations or straightforward public criticism.
In Santa Cruz County, even those hesitations have been dropping away in the past four years, as local officials turn to social media for more than just suspect surveillance and undercover investigations.
Local departments, however, each take a different view on how the technology is best used, perspectives that are often reflected in their communities' social media engagement level.
Santa Cruz Police Department kicked off the county's trend of interactive online public outreach in 2011, in line with a national shift in law enforcement's view on the technology. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office recently has taken the lead with most social media accounts, at four as of this summer with the addition of its own Pinterest pages. Scotts Valley, still at a crossroads with its social media involvement, recently gave its authorized personnel social media training and now allows comments on its Facebook page, after freezing out such interaction in the first six months it was active. Watsonville has expanded its nearly 2-year-old Facebook account's early focus from strictly positive community updates to crime-solving community outreach, and is the only department with a photo-centric Instagram account. Capitola police's minimal personnel are prioritizing in-person over virtual interaction, the department's chief said.
According to a 2014 International Association of Chiefs of Police poll, some 7.4 percent of law enforcement agencies studied first began using social media in 2009. By 2012, a peak of nearly 25 percent of 600 agencies first created their agencies' accounts, the study shows. An estimated 3,500 agencies use social media nationally, according to information gathered by the Virginia-based association's Social Media Center, agency spokesman Ben Gorban said.
ENTERING DIGITAL WORLD
Scotts Valley Police Department Chief John Weiss said he began rethinking his approach to social media after talking with neighboring law enforcement agencies and others.
“In this day and age, with public scrutiny of law enforcement, with people wanting to make sure that law enforcement is doing everything right, I think it's important that we show them what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Weiss said. “So you don't just see the anomalies and the negative incidents that happen.”
In using social media, Weiss said he has been careful to set rules that the department not dwell on “public shaming,” show family members of those accused of crimes, pose photos or hype interactions for low-level crime such as public drunkenness or encounters with homeless people.
Gorban, of the International Association of Chiefs, said there is no one way the center recommends that police agencies use social media. One Massachusetts police agency took to Facebook to post every gun seized and drug pulled from the street, until finding out at a community forum that residents would prefer not to know how unsafe their city was, Gorban said.
“The department is ultimately the one who owns the page, so they have to do what they're comfortable with. Even for things as minor as humor,” Gorban said.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office has increased its social media outreach exponentially in the past year, posting some arrests as they happen. Often, more low-level crimes are highlighted through the agency's social media than would merit a full press release to traditional media outlets, department spokesman Lt. Kelly Kent said. On Twitter, the agency posts play-by-play live calls, while its Facebook posts often feature longer narratives of concluded events accompanied by photos of suspected criminals snapped during their arrests.
“We don't want to post anything sensational. It's about getting information out in what we believe to be a professional manner,” Kent said. “It's basically a news source. If I was in a neighborhood and this stuff was going on, if someone was arrested on my block, I'd want to know. I know there's people who disagree with it.”
Under Kent's oversight, some of the responsibility of posting has been shared with lieutenants, most sergeants and some patrol staff, Kent said. A consultant conducts monthly four-hour training for the agency's social media users, Kent said.
The department this summer expanded photo bulletin board site Pinterest from a traditionally do-it-yourself and home decoration inspiration site to displaying people's recovered lost and stolen items, with everything from bicycles to surfboards. Other interest pages cover everything from new deputy introductions area to seeking leads on cold cases. The agency also uses small neighborhood-centric Nextdoor for public service announcements such as drug take backs, volunteer soliciting and scam alerts.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
In Watsonville, the Police Department's social media outreach is managed by Lt. Saul Gonzalez. He asks his peers to submit information for him to post. Until recent months, the department's Facebook page avoided posting crime, as that type of news was distributed in press releases through traditional media sources, he said. However, after initial efforts to gain public assistance in finding suspects and missing persons proved successful, Gonzalez said the department is more open to drawing public comments, private messages and general tips from the community.
“We were kind of late in the game, and a lot of law enforcement agencies were doing it around us already,” Gonzalez said. “We were always cautious about giving too much information and we didn't know how our community would respond to it.”
Now, for Watsonville police's Facebook, crime-related posts are part of a diverse mix of traffic delay notifications, upcoming community events, department personnel's newborns announcement and updates on cadet training exercises.
Gonzalez said direct public engagement led the department to find a missing girl within 20 minutes of a social media post, and launched a heated public debate over healthy eating options due to a photo of a fast-food restaurant's groundbreaking.
“We're using social media as a tool for community policing,” Gonzalez said. “We're not just using it say hey, we have a Facebook and this is all the great things we do. It was an extension of our reach to our community.”
Gonzalez said that many citizens use the department's social media's private messaging functions to raise concerns and questions, and sometimes even report crimes. He said crime reporting this way is discouraged, because someone is not always monitoring the social media accounts.
Zachary Perron, a social media consultant and public affairs manager for Palo Alto Police Department, said he envisions a future where dispatchers keep an eye on a scrolling Twitter feed for emergency tips and information and more departments have dedicated social media personnel.
While offering a unique opportunity to spread far and wide a verbatim message to a large population near-instantaneously, said Perron, a Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group steering committee member, there are some issues departments must still grapple with as they move forward.
“The downside of social media use by law enforcement is when you are talking about crime that is happening in your community, it could potentially create a perception in that community that there is more crime,” Perron said. “Agencies need to combat that by putting out accurate statistics about things. ‘This is the eighth robbery that we've had this year. By comparison, this is the lowest number of robberies in the past five years.' Whatever it is, give some context.”
The Santa Cruz Police Department utilizes social media to draw the public back to its 5-year-old website, santacruzpolice.blogspot.com. In 2010, it was the first law enforcement agency to move away from the more traditional Web page provided by most municipalities for each of its departments when it created its own blog. Now, under civilian department spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke, most social media posts, no matter the platform, briefly describe an item and then refer readers back to the blog.
“Everybody's using social media, but they're tricking out these tools to the department's needs,” Blaschke said of law enforcement. “Our consideration when we use social media is how we're going to engage with the community, and we see it as a great way to engage with the community.
Prior to Blaschke's arrival, Santa Cruz Police Department's blog featured a folksy “plain speak” tone largely penned by Deputy Chief Steve Clark for years. For a period the blog posted security footage photos of accused petty criminals for a segment dubbed “Name that Thief.” In a September 2014 post, the department asked readers to “Be a ‘Hero' and help us ‘Submarine' this sandwich-stealing suspect,” and in another earlier that month offered a pint glass with a mustache painted on it as a reward for information on suspected thief “El Mustachio.” The accused criminal, a “probation all-star,” was arrested by month's end after a public tip on the man's identity.
“I'm kind of opening up discussion about the many areas that the police department is involved with. Let me tell you, they're still very busy arresting people and dealing with crime in Santa Cruz. So we're still doing that,” Blaschke said. “I think people forget they're also human.”
Capitola Police Department, under the watch of Chief Rudy Escalante, has remained mostly hands-off. The department, Escalante said, prefers to use its resources to walk the streets and speak to the community one-on-one. Although it uses Facebook and Nextdoor occasionally, Escalante said he does not see an imminent social media use increase.
“We have to be selective in what the response is and how the response is, because you don't want to be getting into a debate, be debating back and forth about things. But you do want to be able to reach out to people,” Escalante said. “We also don't want to get away from those traditional community policing efforts, especially when you can establish a trust with people. That's a stronger building of trust when you're communicating face-to-face with people.
“Getting out and attending events takes a lot more work, but I've found the payoff to be substantial. Because then you don't have that misinterpretation of what is being transmitted,” Escalante said.
SOCIAL MEDIA DEFINED
Facebook: Social network encouraging public interaction on posts.
Twitter: Microblog, short real-time updates.
Nixle: Virtual reverse 911, can be sent to emails and texts.
Nextdoor: Private neighborhood-by-neighborhood updates.
Blogs: Department-run websites with wide range of posting options.
YouTube: Video uploads.
Pinterest: Photo-based virtual bulletin board.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SOCIAL MEDIA
• 95 percent: Of 600 agencies surveyed use social media.
• 82.3 percent: Use for criminal investigations, the most common use.
• 95.4 percent: Use Facebook.
• 66.4 percent: Use Twitter.
• 38.5 percent: Use YouTube.
• 55.9 percent: Those not currently using social media but considering its adoption.
• 71.7 percent: Have a social media policy.
• 78.8 percent: Say social media has helped solve crimes in their jurisdiction.
• 77.5 percent: Say social media has improved their police-community relations.
Source: International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media
From the Department of Justice
Remarks at Justice Department's Annual Violence Reduction Network Summit
by Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates
Thank you, Karol [Mason], for those kind words and for all that you and your team at the Office of Justice Programs do to support our criminal justice professionals and to keep our cities safe.
I'm delighted to be here in Detroit with Karol, Senator [Gary] Peters, Mayor [Mike] Duggan, Chief [James] Craig and my good friend, Barbara McQuade – as well as several other outstanding U.S. Attorneys; Chris Thyer, Paul Fishman, Eileen Decker and Brian Stretch. It's great to see all of you.
Let me also thank our terrific colleagues from the FBI, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and the U.S. Marshals Service, including David Harlow, the Marshals' Acting Director. They are all critical members of the Violence Reduction Network (VRN) and I'm glad to have them with us. I also want to recognize the leadership and staff from our Office of Justice Programs, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) who are spearheading this effort. Thank you all for your hard work getting this network up and running and for your expert guidance.
And I want especially to thank our partners from communities around the country—the mayors, sheriffs, police chiefs, state and county prosecutors and other critical partners—who have joined us here today. I applaud your commitment to the safety of your cities and I'm grateful to each of you for being a part of this important and innovative collaboration.
Everyone in this room is committed to doing everything we can to build safe communities. For this country to grow and thrive, Americans must feel safe in their communities. Parents should be able to drop off their kids at school without worrying about whether the metal detectors are working. Local residents should be able to walk down to the corner store without fear of a stray bullet and homeowners should be able to sit on their front porch without fear of gang violence.
And, fortunately, that's the case in most places. We are lucky to live in an extraordinarily safe society. Many Americans go their whole lives without being touched by violent crime. In many communities, violence is an aberration, not the norm. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most important is the exceptional work of our country's law enforcement officers. Whether they're local beat cops or experienced federal agents, these officers protect our neighborhoods and stop violence before it happens. These men and women perform their work under tough conditions and with limited resources and they do it with professionalism and great bravery.
It's also true that many communities are far safer now than they were two or three decades ago. We have witnessed a remarkable drop in crime since the 1980's – both violent crime and crime overall. Entire cities have been transformed, unlocking tremendous potential and releasing a wave of prosperity.
But despite these successes, we know it's not true everywhere. There are still neighborhoods – far too many neighborhoods—where bloodshed has become a fact of life. This violence often begins with dangerous criminals, but it quickly consumes whole communities, pulling innocent bystanders into the crossfire. And even though crime is trending downward in most places, we are seeing pockets of rising violence in various locations across the country.
We don't always know why violence descends on one place but not another. But we know that many of the neighborhoods hardest hit by violence are also grappling with other social ills, like poverty, unemployment and widespread lack of opportunity. In these communities, too many young kids have a parent behind bars and too many teenagers wind up with a rap sheet rather than a diploma. In these communities, it's too easy to get a gun and too difficult to get a job. A vicious cycle of poverty and incarceration breeds resentment and hopelessness. Fairly or not, it's easy for residents to lose confidence in the public institutions we represent. There is no easy solution for these problems. But it is a challenge that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is tackling head on.
Just as there is no single cause for violence, there is also no single answer. We know that we can't arrest our way to safer communities and we know that we can't address violent crime without addressing the social conditions that allow it to take root. At the Justice Department, we are taking a three-pronged approach to reducing violence—a strategy that incorporates prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation. We must stop crime before it happens. When crime does happen, we must swiftly identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. And once those perpetrators have served their time, we must equip them with the tools they need to reenter as productive members of society. Each prong supports the other.
The Justice Department is uniquely well-suited to take advantage of all three approaches. Our law enforcement agencies investigate crimes. Our Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) and Trial Attorneys prosecute those crimes. The Bureau of Prisons provides rehabilitative services. And then there's the Office of Justice Programs, which offers support throughout the process, by funding research, developing best practices and assisting states and local agencies in developing similar programs.
Part of the reason why the Violence Reduction Network is so promising is because it takes a similarly holistic approach. We use every tool in DOJ's toolbox to help communities help themselves. We work with VRN cities to figure out what resources would best serve their crime-fighting efforts, whether it's the operational expertise of agents at FBI, DEA, ATF or the Marshals Service, or the training and technical assistance of the COPS Office or the Office of Violence Against Women. And we deploy these resources in a targeted, strategic, data-driven way to get the most bang for our buck.
It was this time last year when former Attorney General Eric Holder announced the launch of VRN. Five communities were selected for this maiden voyage: Detroit; Chicago; Camden, New Jersey; Wilmington, Delaware; and the neighboring towns of Oakland and Richmond, California. And while we're still early in this process, we're encouraged by the progress we've made so far. While we have not accomplished everything we set out to do, we are creating a crucial foundation that will help these communities for years to come. Consider Wilmington. The city has struggled with a stubbornly high murder rate for years. Wilmington's police force did the best it could investigating all these homicides, but it was easy to get overwhelmed, especially given their limited resources. At one point, the police department had a clearance rate of about ten percent—which meant that they were only solving one out of every 10 murders. That, in turn, meant that a lot of dangerous criminals remained out on the street, thumbing their nose at the system.
To tackle the problem, Wilmington created a new homicide investigation unit. Through the VRN network, Wilmington had access to a range of resources to back this effort, including training and other support from federal and state law enforcement agencies. Within a year, the homicide clearance rate has tripled. Each person they arrest is one less person causing trouble on the street. And just a few weeks ago, city and state officials announced the indictment of 13 gang members and 91 charges, including several murders. That's real progress – and it sends a clear message to everyone else in Wilmington that violent crime will not be tolerated.
Or consider Camden. For years, the city has been plagued by gun violence. As many of you know, shootings are notoriously difficult to investigate, especially when eyewitnesses refuse to come forward. Oftentimes, the best evidence comes from shell casings, which are helpful not only to identify the gun used in the crime, but also to link the incident to other shootings involving the same weapon. The best way to analyze these shell casings is by using a technology called the National Integrated Ballistic Information network, or NIBIN. But a NIBIN machine can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—and while Camden certainly had a need for one, they didn't have the funds. That meant police had to send their shell casings to other law enforcement agencies elsewhere in the state to do the analysis, which slowed down their investigations.
Through VRN, the federal government helped Camden purchase a NIBIN machine of its own. Now, Camden police can scan shell casings within hours, allowing them to move quickly on investigative leads. Even in the short time that the program is up and running, Camden officers have already identified a number of matches, helping them solve cases that would've taken longer in the past. These are two of many examples of how VRN is matching resources to the needs of the local community – not just in Wilmington and Camden, but also in Detroit, Chicago, Oakland and Richmond. We can expect additional progress in the months and years ahead.
And to that end, I'm pleased to announce today that we are expanding VRN to an additional five cities. After traveling to a number of different locations and meeting with local officials across the country, we have selected Flint, Michigan; Compton, California; Little Rock, Arkansas; West Memphis, Arkansas; and Newark, New Jersey. Like the five original sites, all five of these cities experience violent crime at a rate above the national average. But more importantly, all five of these new cities have demonstrated a commitment to tackling the problem and a readiness to partner with DOJ to develop new and innovative strategies. Sheriff [Jim] McDonnell, Chief [James] Tolbert, Chief [Kenton] Buckner, Director [Eugene] Venable and Chief [Donald] Oakes—on behalf of everyone in the Department of Justice, we thank you for leadership and dedication and we welcome you to the VRN network.
To be clear, the Department of Justice is not limiting its efforts to reduce violent crime to the 10 VRN sites; we are actively working with our state and local law enforcement partners in communities across the country on this issue. In July, at the request of Attorney General [Loretta] Lynch, U.S. Attorneys from over a dozen districts met with our state and local law enforcement partners to discuss the possible causes of violent crime in their respective communities and to develop and implement possible solutions.
And next month, the Attorney General will host a summit with federal, state and local government and law-enforcement leaders from across the country to discuss violence reduction strategies. Some of these leaders are from communities where there has been a recent uptick in violent crime, while others are from cities where violent crime has decreased. We want to explore what measures are working in certain communities and discuss the ways in which the department and local law enforcement can work together to tackle this problem.
Now, we all recognize that reducing violent crime takes more than dedicated leaders and bright ideas—it takes resources. And so the Department of Justice will continue to provide the tools and funds that cities, including our VRN partner sites, need to combat violent crime.
As the federal grant-making season draws to a close, I'm pleased that this year, we are awarding substantial funding to support a range of anti-violence activities, including at current VRN sites.
We are expanding the Smart Policing Initiative, which analyzes crime data in select towns, to include Chicago and several other communities. We are directing $17.7 million through our COPS Program to support various violence prevention programs, including our anti-gang initiative. We are providing a grant to Chicago to enhance its human trafficking task force and a grant to Camden to expand its work with the national forum on youth violence prevention. We are issuing grants to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in a number of cities, including in Detroit and Wilmington. And through the Office of Violence Against Women, we are awarding $26 million to 44 communities, including three VRN sites, to encourage enforcement of sexual assault and domestic violence offenses. Taken together, these various projects reflect our continued commitment to support communities across the country as they tackle violence in all its forms.
But make no mistake: we have our work cut out for us. Even with everything we've announced today, there is much to be done to make our country safer and more secure—not just in the VRN cities, but in every community across the country. The challenges are substantial. The answers are not always obvious. But looking around this room, I am confident that we will succeed. Our success may not be immediate and at times it may be halting. But as long as we remain focused on our goals and stay true to our mission, we will overcome whatever obstacles we inevitably encounter.
Our greatest asset is our ability to work together. By bringing together the very best of federal, state and local actors, we can develop solutions that no one entity could produce on its own. These partnerships will be crucial in the months and years ahead. I hope you use the rest of your time at this summit to cultivate those relationships—to listen to each other, to learn from each other—so that we can all improve the work that we do back home. I want to thank all of you for your dedication and commitment to ensuring the safety of our fellow citizens and wish you luck in the task before us. I am excited about everything we can accomplish together.
From the FBI
National Cyber Security Awareness Month
Securing Cyberspace is a Shared Responsibility
October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, administered by the Department of Homeland Security. This is the perfect time of year for individuals, businesses, and other organizations to reflect on the universe of cyber threats and to do their part to protect their networks, their devices, and their data from those threats.
Within the past year, personally identifiable information has been stolen in a number of significant cyber data breaches, impacting industries like health care, government, finance, corporate, and retail.
The use of malware by online criminals continues unabated, and of the available intrusion devices, the “bot” is particularly pervasive, allowing attackers to take control remotely of compromised computers. Once in place, these “botnets” can be used in distributed denial-of-service attacks, proxy and spam services, additional malware distribution, and other organized criminal activity.
Cyber criminals perpetrate a wide variety of crimes online, including theft of intellectual property, Internet fraud, identity fraud, and any number of financial fraud schemes.
Sexual predators use the Internet and social media to target the youngest and most vulnerable victims.
And many criminals use the so-called “dark web” or “dark market” websites that offer a range of illegal goods and services for sale on a network designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on it.
The FBI—working in conjunction with its many partners at the local, state, federal, and international levels, as well as with industry—takes its own role in cyber security very seriously. That role involves operational efforts—including investigating and disrupting cyber-related national security threats and cyber crimes and collecting, analyzing, and disseminating cyber threat intelligence. It also involves outreach efforts to industry.
Here are just a few examples of how we're doing all of that:
The FBI-led National Cyber Joint Investigative Task Force serves as the national focal point for coordinating cyber threat investigations. The work of the NCJITF includes a national public/private initiative to mitigate the use of botnets and malware by criminals, which has emerged as a global cyber security threat.
Cyber task forces in all 56 field offices coordinate domestic cyber threat investigations in local communities through information sharing, incident response, and joint enforcement and intelligence actions.
InfraGard —an information-sharing and analysis effort with private sector partners who own, operate, and hold key positions within some 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure—equips its members to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities, develop incident response plans, and enact security best practices.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) accepts online submissions for Internet-related crime complaints, often involving fraudulent claims to consumers. These complaints can not only lead to culprits getting caught, but also help identify regional, national, or international trends to educate the public about constantly evolving cyber threats and scams.
The FBI's Safe Online Surfing website, an online program that promotes cyber citizenship by educating young students in the essentials of online security in an effort to help protect them from child predators, cyber bullies, malware, a multitude of schemes, and other dangers on the Internet.
The Bureau will continue to work jointly with our national security and law enforcement partners to address threats to the nation's cyber security from nation-states, terrorist organizations, transnational criminal enterprises, and child predators. But government can't do it alone—assistance and vigilance from the public is vital.
Stay tuned to this website during the month of October—we'll be providing you with tips that will help keep your families and your businesses safe from cyber criminals.
Latest Crime Stats Released
Decrease in 2014 Violent Crimes, Property Crimes
Today, the FBI is releasing the 2014 edition of its annual report Crime in the United States, a statistical compilation of offense, arrest, and police employee data reported voluntarily by law enforcement agencies that participate in the Bureau's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. This latest report reveals that the estimated number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement to UCR's Summary Reporting System during 2014 decreased 0.2 percent when compared with 2013 data. And the estimated number of property crimes decreased 4.3 percent from 2013 levels.
Here are some highlights from Crime in the United States, 2014:
There were an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes (murder and non-negligent homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) reported by law enforcement.
Aggravated assaults accounted for 63.6 percent of the violent crimes reported, while robberies accounted for 28.0 percent, rape 7.2 percent, and murders 1.2 percent.
There were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement. Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion.
Larceny-theft accounted for 70.8 percent of all property crimes reported, burglary for 20.9 percent, and motor vehicle theft for 8.3 percent
Police made an estimated 11,205,833 arrests during 2014—498,666 for violent crimes, and 1,553,980 for property crimes. More than 73 percent of those arrested during 2014 were male.
The highest number of arrests was for drug abuse violations (1,561,231), followed by larceny-theft (1,238,190) and driving under the influence (1,117,852).
What's new this year? For one, the 2014 publication includes the inaugural Federal Crime Data report, which contains traditional UCR data from a handful of federal agencies, as well as FBI arrest data on human trafficking, hate crimes, and criminal computer intrusions.
Also included for the first time in Crime in the United States is UCR's second report of human trafficking data submitted by state and local law enforcement.
It is expected that law enforcement participation in data collection for both reports will expand over time, which will help provide a more complete picture of those crimes.
Message from FBI Director. Included in the report is a message from Director James Comey, who said that UCR plans to begin collecting data about non-fatal shootings between law enforcement and civilians, and he encouraged all law enforcement agencies to submit their data about fatal shootings and justifiable homicide data, which is currently collected. Once the FBI begins collecting the expanded data, UCR plans to add a special publication that will focus on law enforcement's use of force in shooting incidents. That report will outline facts about what happened, who was involved, whether there were injuries or deaths, and the circumstances surrounding the incidents.
Explains Comey, “We hope this information will become part of a balanced dialogue in communities and in the media—a dialogue that will help to dispel misperceptions, foster accountability, and promote transparency in how law enforcement personnel relate to the communities they serve.”
In his message, Comey also encourages law enforcement agencies to participate in UCR's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), created to improve the quantity and quality of crime data collected by law enforcement by capturing more detailed information on each single crime occurrence.
Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police—with the Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Sheriffs' Association, and the Major County Sheriffs' Association—released a joint position paper supporting the adoption of the NIBRS to replace the Summary Reporting System. The group says that the NIBRS “provides a more comprehensive view of crime in the United States and offers greater flexibility in data compilation and analysis.”
Looking ahead. Beginning in January 2016, data collection will begin for the newest UCR Program initiative—animal cruelty offenses—requested by the National Sheriffs' Association and the Animal Welfare Institute.
Father of Umpqua college shooting victim: Gunman singled out Christians
by Ed Payne, Sara Sidner and Kyung Lah
(CNN) -- The gunman who opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College singled out Christians, according to the father of a wounded student.
Before going into spinal surgery, Anastasia Boylan told her father the gunman entered her classroom firing.
"I've been waiting to do this for years," the gunman told the professor teaching the class. He shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.
Others were hit too, she told her family.
Everyone in the classroom dropped to the ground.
The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.
"And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second,'" Boylan's father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.
"And then he shot and killed them."
Boylan, 18, was hit in the back by a bullet that traveled down her spine. While she lay bleeding on the floor, the gunman called out to her, "Hey you, blonde woman," her mother said.
She played dead -- and survived.
The massacre on the Umpqua campus Thursday left nine people dead and seven wounded. The gunman also died, although it's unclear whether he was shot by police or committed suicide.
Speaking to reporters Thursday night, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin refused to say who the shooter was.
"I will not name the shooter," Hanlin said. "I will not give him the credit he probably sought."
Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation identified the gunman as Chris Harper Mercer, 26.
One law enforcement official said the shooter had body armor with him and was heavily armed, with a large amount of ammunition -- enough for a prolonged gunfight. Authorities recovered three pistols and one rifle at the scene, one official said.
Authorities credited a quick response by law enforcement for keeping the death toll from climbing higher.
The gunman's death means officials will never definitively know what compelled him to carry out the attack at the Roseburg campus, about 180 miles south of Portland.
"He was a little odd, like sensitive to things," said Rebecca Miles, who took a theater class with Mercer.
Throughout the night Thursday, investigators talked to the gunman's family and neighbors to try and piece together the puzzle.
"Obviously it's been a devastating day," Mercer's father, Ian, told reporters outside his house in Tarzana, California. "Devastating for me and my family."
Bronte Hart, who lives in the building where Mercer lived said the man would "sit by himself in the dark in the balcony with this little light."
Hart said a woman she believed to be Mercer's mother lived with him and was "crying her eyes out" Thursday.
Another neighbor, Steven Fisher, described him as "skittish."
"His demeanor, the way he moved, always looking around," Fisher said. "I got a bad vibe from him."
The blog posts
One avenue investigators were pursuing are five blog posts on a website left by someone with an email address associated with Mercer.
The posts were left under the username lithium_love. Two of them were specifically about recent shootings: Vester Flanagan, the gunman who killed two local news reporters in Virginia, and the officer executed near Houston in August.
Speaking of Flanagan on August 31, the blog post reads: "I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."
The post also said, "And I have to say, anyone who knew him could have seen this coming. People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them."
The shooting appears to have started in one building, before the gunman moved to the school's science building. Those killed and wounded were found in at least two classrooms.
For freshman Sarah Cobb, Thursday was her fourth day at the college. She was in a nearby building when she heard the first gunshot.
"I looked over outside and people were running away from the building so I knew exactly what had just happened," she said. " I said to the teacher, 'We got to get out of here. There's people running. We need to go.' Then I heard the second and third gunshots happened."
Another student, Cassandra Welding, said when the shots rang out, the students in her class dropped to the ground -- huddling together behind backpacks and chairs, or underneath tables.
"We locked the doors, turned off the lights, and we were all pretty much in panic mode," Welding said.
"We called 911 and called our parents, our loved ones ... We didn't know what was going to happen, if those were our last words or not."
Officials haven't released the names of the victims, with Sheriff Hanlin saying investigators are "still trying to confirm a great amount of information floating around."
"Our victims and their families are our priority. Everything that we do from hereon will be for them," Hanlin said Thursday night.
Identities may be released Friday or Saturday, the sheriff said.
The picturesque campus sits on a hill in a logging community, which is fairly rural but easily accessible from Interstate 5.
Roseburg has about 22,000 residents and Umpqua isn't a traditional college. The average age of its 13,600 students was 38 during the 2013-2014 school year.
The interim leader of Umpqua Community College President Rita Cavin called Thursday "the saddest day in the history of the college."
Crowds gathered Thursday night at a park to honor the victims. Some hugged, others wept as candles flickered in the dark. Bagpipes played in the background.
From 2009-2012, the area reported no sex offenses, assaults, liquor law violations, weapons possessions or hate crimes. Not even a robbery. The only crime listed was burglary: eight in 2009-2010, 11 in 2010-2011 and two in 2011-2012, according to the school's own reporting.
"This is so out of character for this whole area," Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst who lives in the area.
News of the shooting quickly reverberated through Washington and the 2016 campaign trail.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton called for "sensible gun control measures," while Republican presidential contender Ben Carson said more gun control is not the answer.
A visibly upset President Barack Obama, delivering the 15th statement of his presidency addressing gun violence, said these incidents are becoming all too regular.
"Somehow this has become routine," he said. "The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this," he said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America -- next week, or a couple months from now."
American deaths in terrorism vs. gun violence in one graph
by Julia Jones and Eve Bower -- CNN
(CNN) During his presidency, President Barack Obama has had to deliver statements on gun violence 15 times.
After a gunman opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, killing nine people and injuring seven, a visibly upset Obama said the shootings were becoming all too routine.
The gunman also died, although it's unclear whether he was shot by police or committed suicide.
"The reporting is routine," he said. "My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this."
He then asked news organizations to tally up the number of Americans killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and compare it with the number of Americans who have died in gun violence.
Using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that from 2004 and 2013, 316,545 people died by firearms on U.S. soil. (2013 is the most recent year CDC data for deaths by firearms is available.)
According to the U.S. State Department, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism from 2004 to 2013 was 277 .
In addition, we compiled all terrorism incidents inside the U.S.* and found that between 2004 and 2013, there were 36 people killed in domestic acts of terrorism. This brings the total to 313.
*Includes the following incidents for domestic terrorism incidents:
Miss. crime stats revealing
by Therese Apel
Of Mississippi's 10 largest cities, only seven report their crime statistics to the FBI for the twice-yearly Uniform Crime Report.
Jackson, the state's capital and largest city, reports their crime stats each year, and 2014 was no different. But while the FBI suggests that law enforcement agencies send in their information each year, a large number of the cities in the state don't.
That includes Gulfport, Southaven, and Tupelo, all of which are in the state's 10 largest cities.
The others, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, Meridian, Olive Branch, Greenville, and Horn Lake, all have numbers in this year's UCR.
Jackson, with a population of 172,376, reported 1,593 violent crimes, 61 of which were homicides. They reported 117 rapes, 801 robberies, and 614 aggravated assaults.
In the property crimes category, Jackson reported 10,382 overall, with 2,952 burglaries, 6,303 larceny/thefts, 1,127 motor vehicle thefts, and 241 arsons.
Jackson's crime numbers in 2015, which have not been released by the FBI, have thus far been lower than 2014, attributable to several law enforcement initiatives aimed at cutting crime in the area, police have said. As of August 30 of this year, rape is up (91 as opposed to 86 this time last year) as is carjacking (98 as opposed to last year's 76), but all the other violent crimes and property crimes are down.
Police attribute that change to several programs and initiatives aimed at cutting crime, including the 120-day initiative done over the summer with the ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office which helped put many of the repeat offenders that are being released by the justice systems in Hinds County through the federal system and off the street.
“A big part of the success in bringing the numbers down is some of the partnerships we have with some of our federal law enforcement partners,” said JPD Chief Lee Vance. “We've seen participation with boots on the ground, federal agents working side by side on Jackson streets with JPD officers. That's historic, and I think that's had a lot of impact on some the success we've had.”
Community outreach efforts and building relationships have also been important to bringing crime rates down, Vance said.
“Crime prevention is the best way to approach all these things. What we try to do is have a large amount of visibility out in the community,” said Vance. “We've had a great deal of participation from the public-- a great deal, I can't overstate that -- giving us information about criminals, being vigilant, watching out for each other and being vocal about support of our police department.”
The FBI clarifies each year in the UCR that the numbers are simply numbers to track trends and progress, as opposed to any system to compare city to city.
“There are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place,” the UCR report states in its advisory against rankings. “UCR statistics include only jurisdictional population figures along with reported crime, clearance, or arrest data. Rankings ignore the uniqueness of each locale.”
So to compare Jackson, which has a large urban population, to some of the smaller towns in the state, even per capita, would be inaccurate, according to experts.
Gulfport the second-largest city in the state, did not have any crime data listed with the FBI. They did not return calls seeking comment.
Southaven, the third-largest city, and Tupelo the seventh-largest city in the state, both said they regularly report, but that there have been changes in the system.
“The FBI has changed their system and they were not able to get our information transferred into their system for this year,” said Southaven Deputy Chief Steve Pirtle. “We're working on that. We've always submitted reports and are planning on continuing to. We're working now to get past that glitch so it doesn't happen in the future.”
Chief Bart Aguirre said he's not sure why his numbers didn't show up in the UCR. He said Tupelo has recently switched reporting software and that he didn't realize his numbers hadn't registered.
“It probably didn't have enough data to give a report,” he said, adding that they send data once a year in the fall.
Hattiesburg, the fourth-largest city in the state with a population of 47,930, reported 125 violent crimes, 11 of which were homicides. They reported 21 rapes, 40 robberies, and 53 aggravated assaults.
In the Metro area, Clinton, Pearl and Canton did not have statistics listed with the FBI either.
Nationwide, the FBI reports that in 2014, an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 0.2 percent from the 2013 estimate. There were an estimated 365.5 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens in 2014, which was 1 percent lower than 2013's estimated violent crime rate.
Aggravated assaults accounted for 63.6 percent of violent crimes reported last year. Robberies made up 28 percent of violent crime offenses; 7.2 percent were rapes; and homicides accounted for 1.2 percent.
Firearms were used in an estimated 67.9 percent of the nation's homicides, 40.3 percent of robberies, and 22.5 percent of aggravated assaults.
Jackson rates fourth in the nation this year in homicides per capita of reporting agencies, but officials advise against using the UCR to rank cities for several reasons. The main one is that there are cities which do not report.
Among other reasons are the population density and degree of urbanization in an area; composition of the population, particularly youth; mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors; economic conditions; crime reporting practices of the citizens; and cultural factors such as educational, recreational, and religious characteristics.
Another factor that is unmapped, however, is the impact of improved emergency medicine on the numbers. Medical professionals said EMTs, paramedics, and ER personnel are saving more lives than in past years. Therefore, they say homicide rates versus aggravated assault rates have some conceivable overlap when boiled down to violence.
“Advancements in trauma care in our state over the last ten years now give a better chance of survival to crime victims who suffer life-threatening injury,” said Dr. Jim Thompson, medical director for AMR Central Mississippi, a full-time emergency physician in the University of Mississippi Medical Center's adult emergency department and serves on the Central MS Trauma District board.
Dr. Alan Jones, emergency department chairman at UMMC said the organization of emergency care, as well as the sophistication of care, has contributed to saving lives. In addition, he said, advances in training over the last few decades are finally starting to find traction in today's medical scene.
“The first residency programs weren't organized until the early to mid 70s, and didn't have widespread numbers until the early to mid-80s, so those people started graduating and populating hospitals in the 80s-90s, but there weren't a lot of them,” he said. “So not until the 90s and the first decade of the 21st century did we start to have emergency medicine-trained physicians in enough areas that provided a different level of care.”
Mississippi's top 10 cities:
1. Jackson, pop. 172,376; homicides: 61; all violent crime: 1,593
2. Gulfport, pop. 70,113; does not report
3. Southaven, pop. 49,831; does not report
4. Hattiesburg, pop. 47,930; homicides: 11; all violent crime: 125
5. Biloxi, pop. 45,008; homicides: 2; all violent crime: 212
6. Meridian, pop. 41,148; homicides: 9; all violent crime: 240
7. Tupelo, pop. 35,490; does not report
8. Olive Branch, pop. 35,314; homicides: 2; all violent crime: 90
9. Greenville, pop. 32,197; homicides: 6; all violent crime: 97
10. Horn Lake, pop. 26,766; homicides: 3; all violent crime: 30
~ Numbers as reported to the FBI for 2014
Pulse of Policing: PoliceOne's report on the state of the law enforcement in 2015
We at PoliceOne have gathered our resources and set about a comprehensive examination of the health of our industry, focusing on agencies, individuals, and private sector police enterprises
by Doug Wyllie
We at PoliceOne have observed a number of current trends which have had an effect on the health of the profession of law enforcement as a whole and on individual police officers across the country. Police officers in many places perceive that they are the focus of an increasing level of vehemently negative attention from the public, the press, and politicians. The level of esteem held by citizens for the cops who serve and protect them seems to have withered in many quarters, leaving a negative impact on officer morale, and on agencies' effectiveness in fighting crime.
On top of a weakening morale, there's the issue of physical and mental health — we are still losing too many cops to heart attacks. And despite increased awareness of the effects of PTSI and the emergence of peer support groups and professional psychological services to address the issue, too many cops are suffering in silence — with some even taking their own lives.
If these ailments weren't enough, the level of budgetary support for law enforcement efforts has been either frozen or reduced in agencies across the nation. Severely strained for infrastructure investment and stretched thin with fewer rank-and-file cops, agencies are being forced in many cases to do more with less, even as citizen complaints and criticism grows. There have been a number of efforts in the private sector which have begun to address those matters, but we must understand what more can be done.
Addressing the Issues
All of these issues and challenges have impacted everyone in law enforcement, from the patrol cop to the command staff — some have even affected the vendors and service-provides who serve our police agencies. As a consequence of these observations, we at PoliceOne have launched Pulse of Policing: Law Enforcement in 2015, an ongoing research venture aimed at examining the current state of policing from all angles.
We've gathered our resources and set about a comprehensive examination of the health of our industry, focusing on agencies, individuals, and private-sector police enterprises.
In this series of articles, we will bring you first person perspectives of individuals as well as roundtable discussions and case studies that ask and aim to answer questions such as:
• What are the most common, wide-spread problem areas for agencies? What has caused the shift in public support, weakened community relations, and strained race relations? What can be done about it? Can we put programs in place to ensure officers of different ethnic and minority backgrounds can be successfully recruited and retained at the department?
• Are PTSI and heart health — silent killers continually taking officers' lives and yet two of the least-discussed physical and mental afflictions officers face —affecting individuals more today than ever before? How can we raise awareness and lower the number of these preventable problems?
• Has the current negative public perception on ‘police militarization' impacted businesses that produce tactical products? What problems are being solved — and how — by vendors and service-providers in the cloud technology industry right now? What technologies and products are on the horizon?
A Results-Driven Enterprise
Our aim is to identify problem areas in all aspects of law enforcement, and uncover suggestions for remediation. Where we see core areas of strength, we'll cast a spotlight so others can learn and adapt those successes. We hope that the Pulse of Policing will provide positive case studies which can serve as inspiration — even a template for success — for agencies facing similar situations.
In the coming weeks and months, we'll feature articles addressing these topics and others, so watch for regular installments in this series in our newsletters and on our homepage, and visit this special coverage page.
Juvenile Reforms Included in Senate Criminal Justice Package
by Sarah Barr
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators today unveiled a criminal justice reform bill that includes provisions to help juveniles during and after their incarceration.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 would change parole, expungement and solitary confinement policies for juveniles in the federal system as part of a broader package of sentencing and prison reforms for adults.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a co-sponsor of the legislation who has championed an end to solitary confinement for juveniles, called the bill a comprehensive effort, in part because it doesn't neglect young offenders.
“It focuses on our children who are too often forgotten in these discussions of criminal justice reform,” he said at a press conference.
The bill would limit the use of solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison. It also would permit nonviolent offenders who are tried as juveniles in federal court to seek to seal or expunge their records in some circumstances, according to a summary of the bill's provisions.
“The goal is to enable youthful offenders who live a crime free life to seek employment without regard to earlier errors in their life,” the summary said.
The bill also would allow juveniles convicted as adults in the federal system to seek parole before a judge after they have served 20 years of their sentence. The judge would consider specific factors to decide whether parole was merited. If denied, an inmate could apply twice more after a waiting period of five years, according to the summary.
“Those people will be able to demonstrate that they're not the same child they were when they committed the crime,” said James Dold, advocacy director at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. Fourteen states have banned life-without-parole sentences for children, including nine during the last three years.
Dold said the provision is a continuation of a trend toward recognizing children and adolescents differ from adults because their brains are still developing.
The bill is the result of months of wrangling among a small group of senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Grassley's support is considered key to the bill's momentum.
Naomi Smoot, senior policy associate at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, said the bill is complementary to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act. The legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary committee this summer and could reach the Senate floor in the coming weeks.
“We would love to see the movement toward reform for juveniles continue. I think this bill and JJDPA show us there is a bipartisan consensus on this front: Our kids deserve better,” she said.
The bill's other sponsors are Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The bill's introduction comes in a week of national announcements related to juvenile justice.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a high-profile speech Wednesday about ending the school-to-prison pipeline, calling for states and localities to reinvest money now used to pay to incarcerate nonviolent offenders for paying teachers.
In addition, President Obama issued a presidential proclamation making October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month.
“This month, we rededicate ourselves to preventing youth from entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems and recommit to building a country where all our daughters and sons can grow, flourish, and take our Nation to new and greater heights,” the proclamation said.
Alleged Arizona freeway shooter could face 100 years in prison
by The Associated Press
PHOENIX – A man suspected in some of the freeway shootings that rattled the Phoenix area could go to prison for 100 years if convicted, Maricopa County's top prosecutor said Wednesday.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said each of the four shootings that Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., 21, is accused of committing carries a possible sentence of 20 to 30 years. With the shootings happening on different days, sentences could be issued consecutively. However, prosecutors cautioned it was too early to predict sentencing or the outcome of any trial.
Still, Montgomery called Merritt's arrest significant enough that the public can rest easier now.
"It appears to be the person who initiated what was going on at that time," Montgomery said. "We haven't had any incidents since then."
Merritt, of suburban Glendale, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on 15 felony counts, including aggravated assault and carrying out a drive-by shooting. He has previously said in court that authorities arrested the wrong man.
Jason Lamm, one of two attorneys hired this week to represent Merritt, said he has not had a chance to review any police reports or other evidence against his client. "We're looking for the truth, and there is no stone that will be left unturned to find it," Lamm said.
Merritt was arrested Sept. 18 at a Wal-Mart in Glendale. Using ballistics tests, Arizona Department of Public Safety detectives tied him to four of the 11 shootings that occurred on Phoenix-area freeways between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10. Investigators continue to review information, and more charges are possible, Montgomery said.
His arrest brought relief to some, with Gov. Doug Ducey announcing it on Twitter. His tweet of "We got him!" drew criticism for seemingly implying that Merritt was guilty.
Montgomery called Ducey's tweet a non-issue in relation to Merritt's ability to get a fair trial.
"Unless there were 6 million followers of that Twitter account, I don't think you can fairly say everyone was aware of it or could be impacted by it," Montgomery said.
The tweet illustrated the high emotion surrounding the case, Lamm said.
"Nevertheless, we will handle this from an objective assessment of the facts and evidence as opposed to hunches and emotion," he said. "By the way, Doug Ducey will not be on my jury. So I feel better about that."
Meanwhile, the investigation into the other shootings remains open. Eight cars were hit with bullets, and three were struck with projectiles such as BBs or pellets, most while driving along Interstate 10, according to authorities. The only injury was a 13-year-old girl whose ear got cut by glass in a shooting of an SUV on Aug. 29.
Community policing pays real dividends
by The Herald Editorial Board
Assigning a Rock Hill police officer specifically to walk the downtown beat was a terrific idea. Maybe the department should expand that program to other parts of the city. Officer Wayne Maury hopes to become the familiar and friendly face of the police department in downtown Rock Hill. He has been the community service officer in the city's historic downtown since June.
Maury, a veteran of several years on the force, performs all the regular functions of a police officer – keeping an eye out for crime, listening to issues of downtown merchants, discouraging littering and other minor infractions. But a big part of his job is public relations.
“I'm tasked to basically develop good community relationships in the area and problem solve,” he explains. That includes greeting and getting to know the people downtown, whether they're shop owners, lunch customers or construction workers. He also makes it a point to talk with business people to learn what's on their minds and if there are problems he and the police department can help them with.
Maury said the department usually approaches city administrators about adding manpower and makes its pitch. In this case, however, it was the city that approached the department about adding an officer to patrol downtown.
Downtown is not one of the city's major crime sectors. Jaywalking, shoplifting and illegal parking are likely be the worst offenses an officer is likely to encounter on a day-to-day stroll through downtown.
Again, though, this beat is not just about crime. It's also about fostering good relations with the public and serving as an easily approachable liaison for the police department.
Some are old enough to remember when cops walked a regular neighborhood beat, interacting with children and their parents, helping to deter crime just by being there. And those who are younger probably have seen old-time neighborhood police depicted in movies.
Walking a beat requires more time and, in many cases, more police than patroling in a squad car. And officers can cover far more ground in a patrol car than they can on foot.
But the benefits derived from having Officer Maury walk the streets of downtown Rock Hill several times a week are considerable from the standpoint of promoting good will and deterring crime. And that is likely to apply in other parts of the city as well.
Developing the trust of residents is a big plus. People who might be reluctant to mention a problem to an officer with whom they are aren't familiar are more likely to open up to a beat cop they see and talk to frequently.
The city has experimented with different types of community policing, including bicycle patrols and neighborhood substations. We like to believe those efforts helped establish a better rapport between residents and the department.
And we think that putting Officer Maury downtown will have similar results. Community policing is a good idea that should be a part of the police department's strategic approach to making streets safer throughout the city.
Clearlake Police Department reactivates Community Policing Project
CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A program to foster community relationships with the Clearlake Police Department is being reactivated.
The Community Policing Project, initially introduced in 2012 and suspended after a six- to eight-month run due to reduced staffing, will return over the coming weeks, the agency said this week.
Staffing is approaching levels to make a return to the Community Policing Project viable, according to Lt. Tim Celli.
“We feel the reimplementation of this project should be a priority,” Celli said.
It has been an uphill struggle, according to Celli, who said that finding, hiring and training qualified officers has taken longer than hoped.
The idea behind the community policing effort is to further develop partnerships between officers and community members and to develop strategies to reduce crime.
A group of four sergeants will be assigned as project managers to four designated quadrants of the city, offering community members a sounding board to express their concerns and an opportunity to work with officers to develop plans for solving problems in their areas.
Reflecting on the successes of the earlier Community Policing Program effort, Celli drew examples of how the program can provide for the community.
“Apartment managers met with officers who helped them establish a Neighborhood Watch program for their apartment complex,” said Celli.“We also had officers respond to a business owner. Vagrants were hanging out in a structure of a nearby park causing problems for his business. Our officers coordinated with the Public Works department to remove the structure. The owner was happy with the response. We also had an officer set up a graffiti removal program at that time as well.”
Community Policing project managers will be initiating community gatherings in the near future to introduce themselves and the programs goals, Celli said.
A map of the city – shown above – has been segmented into four project areas:
– Area 1, North: Focuses on the city north of Olympic Drive including Clearlake Park and will be served by Sgt. Rodd Joseph.
– Area 2, West: Covers central Clearlake between Olympic Drive and Lakeshore and west of Highway 53. It will be served by Sgt. Tim Hobbs.
– Area 3, East: centers on the city east of Highway 53 and north of 18th Avenue. Sgt. Travis Lenz will serve these citizens.
– Area 4, South: encompasses the city west of Highway 53 and south of Lakeshore drive and 18th Avenue. It includes the Walmart shopping area and surrounding residences. This area will be served by Sgt. Dominic Ramirez.
Reporting of crimes and general policing questions should still be directed to the department's main number at 707-994-8251. Emergency calls should always be directed to 911.
“This new program should not be perceived as a new way of reporting crime or seeking information about a crime that has been reported,” said Celli.
Information about the Community Policing Program is available on the city of Clearlake Web site at www.clearlake.ca.us, including a map of the areas served by each sergeant and direct contact phone numbers.
Those without computer access can call the Clearlake Police Department's main number and request the number for the sergeant assigned to their area.
Trenton conference on community policing draws federal, state and county law enforcement officers
by Stefanie Dazio
TRENTON — Federal, state and local law enforcement officials who gathered for a daylong conference here on Wednesday stressed the importance of building and maintaining relationships with the communities they serve as a way of defusing crises before they arise.
"The community sees the police as a problem, not part of the solution," said Angelo Onofri, the acting Mercer County prosecutor, noting officers sometimes are targets of violence "simply because they wear a badge."
The forum, called "Building Trust: Strategies to Strengthen Police/Community Relationships," drew county, state and federal prosecutors and officials, as well as the leaders of faith organizations and some law enforcement officers, to the Trenton War Memorial.
John J. Hoffman, the acting state attorney general, said his office has formed community groups to talk about the use of body cameras by police officers and the response to police shootings. It's easy to criticize from the "cheap seats" without being involved in the solution, he added.
"True, real lasting engagement is not easy," he said. "And it has a price: accountability and oversight."
CMPD considers no-go areas for criminals
by Steve Harrison
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Charlotte City Council are discussing whether to create “public safety zones,” city areas where people with past arrests would be prohibited from entering.
Under the controversial proposal, Chief Kerr Putney could designate a high-crime area as a safety zone in response to crimes such as drug sales or discharging guns that were committed on public property.
Someone who has been arrested for crimes in the area could be issued a notice that they are no longer allowed to enter, for as long as the safety zone is in effect. Entering the zone after being prohibited would be a misdemeanor.
The bans could be appealed for reasons that include entering the area to go to work or to pick up a child from school.
The idea isn't new to Charlotte.
The safety zones would be similar to the city's “prostitution-free zones” that were started in 2005. That ordinance had a three-year sunset and wasn't renewed in 2008.
In 2013, the city also received an injunction against the Hidden Valley Kings gang. It prohibited some Kings members from “driving, standing, sitting, walking or appearing together in public view” to possessing firearms or drugs, or being in the presence of anyone who does.
That injunction expired last year, though CMPD said it could seek another injunction against members of the gang.
Council member Al Austin represents northwest Charlotte, including some high-crime neighborhoods. He said he first floated the idea of the zones to former Chief Rodney Monroe.
“We were looking for additional tools that could address some of the criminal behavior,” Austin said. “We want something more flexible.”
The city has been experimenting with different tactics to lower crime. In addition to the injunction against gang members, the city has used a public nuisance ordinance, which gives it the ability to seize private property from owners who continually have police come to their property.
There is some urgency to finding new solutions. Violent crime, including homicides, are up this year compared with 2014 and previous years.
“Truthfully, I don't know if they will do any good,” said City Council member Claire Fallon, who chairs the public safety committee. The committee heard a CMPD presentation about the zones in early September. “If someone doesn't obey the law, do you think a safety zone will impress them?”
Fallon also said she's worried the safety zones would simply move crime from one part of the city to another.
“We would take it off the plate of one community and then put them on another community,” she said.
A CMPD presentation to council members notes the zones could be an “additional tool to assist in maintaining or repairing a neighborhood or location's reputation” and could also “disrupt nuisance criminal activity.”
But the department also acknowledges that there are downsides.
Among them: a perception that the zones would be “an overhanded arbitrary government action” and would place a harmful “brand” on a neighborhood.
Portland, Ore., created drug and prostitution exclusion zones in 1992. But former Mayor Tom Potter led a push in 2007 to end the zones, saying they just moved criminal activity to a new area and that African-Americans were being disproportionally excluded from the areas.
The safety zones could be triggered by crimes that occur on public property, such as a sidewalk or street. Some crimes, such as prostitution, easily fit that category. Others, such as drug dealing, could qualify as well, if the buyer and seller met on a street corner and then moved inside a home to make the actual sale.
The proposal will come back before the public safety committee for further discussion. It would need to pass the committee as well as a full City Council vote to be enacted.
Community policing taking turns for worse
by Deborah Simmons
The U.S. Justice Department on Monday doubled down on the number of cities cloaked in its coast-to-coast Violence Reduction Network.
At issue is whether America is moving toward a nationalized police state or a decentralized form of policing.
Neither Baltimore, which remains under a national microscope since riots erupted this spring following Freddie Gray's death, nor D.C., whose homicide rate has topped last year's, is on the list of 10 cities. The list includes two Arkansas cities, two New Jersey cities, two Michigan cities and three localities in California — Compton, Oakland and Richmond.
The news came the same day the FBI released its annual crime stats: There were 444 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcers in 2014, a 5.7 percent decrease compared to the 471 logged in 2013. Local and state agencies voluntarily submit their data.
That the “winning” cities chosen by the Justice Department are in what political consultants used to label “blue” states is no surprise. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Democratic political machine in Newark, New Jersey, may not have lost considerable sleep over their respective crime spikes, but they are hoping their constituents will at least feel safe enough to lay their heads down at night (before heading to the polls on Election Day).
It's been really tough in and around America's top urban areas, especially when homicide is the cause of deaths. Killings in Baltimore and D.C. have outpaced those in 2014, with a full three months to go before we ring out 2015. D.C. hit 116 killings over the weekend, and Charm City's website said it had 246 as of Sept. 24.
President Obama promised last year to get a handle on violence and crime prevention efforts with his Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He created the panel by executive fiat, and the panel immediately zeroed-in on policing. This year saw funding the five inaugural localities — Chicago; Detroit; Wilmington, Delaware; Camden, New Jersey; and Oakland-Richmond, California.
One of the inaugural members is task force co-chair Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University and a former assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs. She reportedly has called the FBI data flawed and unreliable.
“There is a lag in the reporting of the data,” the Guardian.com quoted Ms. Robinson as saying. “The public and professional consciousness on these issues really has occurred in 2015, even though Ferguson occurred in 2014. So I'm not sure that one would expect there would be a dramatic change in behavior in law enforcement in the last couple of months in 2014.”
She also said that while FBI Director James Comey is correct in his assessment that the FBI needs to collect additional data, “we're still at the mercy of having embraced this very, very decentralized state and local law enforcement system. I'm not criticizing it; it's just what we have.”
As in politics, all crime is local. People pack their families in SUVs when violence overwhelms, and they seek more peaceful climes when law enforcers do not appear to know how to prevent it.
As things now stand, police departments are trying to figure whether they want to police themselves by adding tools such as body cameras. The temptation is to move forward since the federal government is enticing them to do so with $23.2 million in federal grants. (D.C. got $1 million.)
But what happens when your town or city does not get a piece of the federal pie? Who foots the bill?
Community policing on campus: A lovely thought or a realistic goal?
A U.S. Justice Department survey sheds some light
by Diane Dietz
Most U.S. campus police aspire to community policing, but progress toward the ideal is incomplete, a U.S. Justice Department survey showed.
The movement toward fully sworn police agencies at universities arose nationally in the wake of desegregation and Vietnam War protests — out of concerns that city police did not reflect campus culture, according to a report in the current The Atlantic magazine.
“A lot of places started thinking, ‘If we had a police force on the campus (it would be) more attuned to our student body … our community,'” Bill Taylor, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, told The Atlantic.
Community policing, according to the Justice Department, is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime
The University of Oregon Police Department is relatively new. It evolved out of campus security in 2012 and was intended to provide “community-oriented, trust-based” policing, according to UO leaders at the time.
Community policing is a priority for most — 82 percent of — campus forces nationally, according to the Justice Department survey that was published in January:
62 percent of agencies assigned officers to beats
68 percent offered ride-along programs
55 percent actively encouraged officers to engage in problem-solving projects
54 percent partnered with citizen groups to use feedback to develop strategies
48 percent included collaborative problem-solving projects in officer evaluations
24 Had a formal, written community policing plan
The case of former UOPD security officer James Cleavenger, which ended last week, raised questions about the UOPD orientation regarding community policing.
Graveyard shift UOPD officers were shown disparaging bicycle riders and student leaders, for example, as part of a vulgar joke.
UO attorney Andrea Coit, in her opening statement, described community policing on campus as a “lovely thought” but unrealistic.
The Atlantic, which questioned the success of community policing on campuses nationally, pinned the problem on officer hiring practices.
“In hiring sworn campus-police officers, Justice Department data showed a screening process weighted heavily toward personal interviews, criminal background checks, and a clean driving record—less emphasis was given to understanding cultural diversity, conflict-management skills, and problem-solving ability,” according to the magazine.
Restrictive Wash. law shields police from prosecution after fatal shootings
The law says police can't be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith
by Steve Miletich, Christine Willmsen, Mike Carter and Jusdtin Mayo
SEATTLE — Killings by police in the line of duty have surged in Washington state over the past decade, according to a Seattle Times analysis.
During that period, only one police officer has been criminally charged in state courts with the illegal use of deadly force on the job.
In fact, that case is the only one to be brought in the three decades since Washington enacted the nation's most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.
In 1986, Washington's Legislature decided police officers shouldn't be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without malice, or what the law calls “evil intent.”
“This almost perfect defense to a mistaken use of force has kept police officers out of court as defendants,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has said.
The Times analyzed all 213 fatal police encounters from 2005 to 2014. Although the vast majority of the cases were deemed legally justified, others were controversial. But with the malice and good faith requirements, it was nearly impossible for prosecutors to bring criminal charges even if they concluded that an officer committed a wrongful killing.
In the lone case, an Everett police officer was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after he fatally shot a drunken man through the rear window of his car in 2009.
A Snohomish County jury, instructed to consider whether he acted with malice, acquitted the officer.
The Times also determined that a disproportionate number of the 213 deaths were African-Americans — a troubling finding as the nation wrestles with a spate of police encounters that have led to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans, spawning the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Prosecutors from the state's 39 counties, some concerned about the justifiable police homicide statute, will discuss whether to have the law changed at an Oct. 1 public meeting of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
Just how often police kill citizens in the line of duty and under what circumstances is difficult to determine. While the FBI collects data nationally on justifiable homicides by police, law enforcement agencies are not required to submit the incidents. According to studies, the FBI totals each year are significant undercounts and unreliable.
To authoritatively examine the issue in Washington, The Times used public records requests, death certificates, interviews and other research to collect, measure and analyze a decade of killings by police in the state's 39 counties.
The numbers of people killed by police from 2005 to 2009 averaged 16 deaths per year. From 2010 to 2014, it averaged 27 per year.
In 84 percent of the cases, police officers who used deadly force in Washington confronted people who had a weapon, typically a firearm.
Only three of the 213 were female, and seven were in their teens. Nearly 41 percent occurred during the day, defined as 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Some numbers underscore the national concerns about deadly force.
About 10 percent of those killed were black, a group that accounts for 3.6 percent of the state's population. Blacks were also overrepresented among those without a weapon, accounting for nearly 15 percent of that group.
In King County, where blacks represent 6.3 percent of the population, they accounted for more than 20 percent of deaths.
Satterberg said he saw the recent videos of police encounters nationwide that “make you sick.” He said it's no surprise these “awful but lawful” cases have people demanding change.
The law's malice language creates a bar that is “almost impossible to get over” and is difficult to explain to the public, Satterberg, president of the prosecutors association, said in a recent interview.
In Seattle, for example, the 2010 shooting of John T. Williams sparked outrage when patrol-car video and audio revealed then-officer Ian Birk had given the First Nations woodcarver about four seconds to drop a knife before opening fire.
The Police Department found the shooting unjustified under its policies, Birk resigned and the city paid Williams' family $1.5 million. The fallout from the shooting led in part to the U.S. Justice Department demands that Seattle police adopt reforms to curb excessive force.
But no criminal charges were filed, which caused some community outcry. Despite believing Birk misread the situation, Satterberg decided his office wouldn't be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Birk acted with malice and bad faith and didn't have a “subjective belief” he needed to defend himself.
In Pasco recently, the Franklin County prosecutor came to a similar conclusion after Pasco police officers fatally shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes, a man who had been throwing rocks. That decision also sparked protest.
Well before the recent national focus on questionable law enforcement shootings, the issue of whether police can effectively be held accountable in Washington was raised by the homicide of Otto Zehm, an unarmed, mentally challenged man in Spokane.
In a state with a less-restrictive law for justifiable police homicide, the Zehm case might well have resulted in local criminal charges against an officer.
Zehm, 36, only wanted a candy bar and a soft drink when he entered a Spokane convenience store named Zip Trip in 2006.
A few minutes behind him was Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson Jr., responding to a report, later proved false, that Zehm might have stolen money from a cash machine.
Thompson raised his baton and hurried to Zehm, who was holding a 2-liter plastic bottle of Diet Pepsi. Without questioning Zehm, Thompson twice struck the man in the head. Zehm collapsed to the floor and curled into the fetal position.
Standing over him, Thompson fired Taser probes into Zehm's chest, then smashed him with at least seven more baton strikes. Several other officers hogtied Zehm and held him on his stomach.
Zehm ended up in a coma and died two days later after his ventilator was turned off. His last words in the store: “All I wanted was a Snickers bar.”
Thompson would later say he felt threatened by Zehm's soda bottle.
On its face, the death of Zehm appeared to be terrible police work. In addition, Thompson, trying to protect his career, interfered with the death investigation. Even so, Steve Tucker, Spokane County prosecutor at the time, chose not to bring charges against Thompson and other officers on the scene.
Only later did the federal Justice Department indict Thompson on a criminal civil rights charge and for obstructing the investigation. After studying security camera video of the March 18, 2006, incident, jurors found Thompson guilty of using excessive force and obstruction. He was sentenced to 51 months in a federal prison.
Much of how and when police can use deadly force today stems from a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court decision about the killing of Edward Garner, an unarmed 15-year-old in Memphis, Tenn., suspected of being a prowler.
Responding to a night police call, an officer shined his flashlight on Garner in a fenced backyard, determined he was unarmed and told him to halt. When the 100-pound teen tried to climb a 6-foot fence and flee, Officer Elton Hymon shot him in the back of the head, killing him.
The Supreme Court ruled that using deadly force to prevent the escape of an unarmed suspect violated his constitutional rights.
The Garner decision established that police could use deadly force to apprehend a suspect only when they had a belief they or others faced a significant threat of death or serious injury.
In Seattle, the Garner decision was condemned by Bill Conn, who was president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. “If you can't shoot fleeing felons, then you are relegated to a foot chase and being expert at karate and jiujitsu and all that exotic stuff you see in the movies and on television,” he said.
Leo Poort, legal adviser to the Seattle police chief then, said the Garner decision was a “sea change” for officers. “It was a kind of a shock. It was so different from how they'd been trained,” Poort said in a recent interview.
Only about half the states had laws in line with the Garner ruling. In Washington, killing a fleeing suspect had been a justifiable police homicide since 1909. In the wake of Garner, police unions and conservative lawmakers resisted bringing Washington law in line.
In 1985, state Sens. Phil Talmadge, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and George Fleming, D-Seattle, co-sponsored a bill that they hoped would help cities avoid costly wrongful death lawsuits while protecting lives.
“The concept that the officer has to perceive he or she is in peril or someone else is in peril and then the use of deadly force is merited — that's not an unreasonable standard,” Talmadge recently recalled.
“But back then that was shocking for many.”
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs already had studied the issue for more than a year. The group presented a bill that limited use of deadly force except for cases that involved those suspected of dangerous crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.
But Talmadge and Fleming faced heavy opposition from senators who were adamant that police officers should have the power to use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect of any crime.
“Now, crime begets crime,” Sen. Kent Pullen, R-Kent, said in debate on the floor. “And theft leads to burglary, burglary leads to robbery, robbery leads to murder. … Passing a bill like this is telling the criminal that ‘We're condoning your crimes and you don't have to worry about any sort of penalty.'”
Fleming, the first African-American to serve in the state Senate, countered: “Just because a person is running down the street with a TV in his arm, shouldn't give you reason to blow him away!”
“Let's not put that kind of price … on life. Life is too precious.”
A year earlier in a resolution to the Legislature, the sheriffs and chiefs association included language that gave police protection from criminal liability if “acting in good faith.” The same year, a law was enacted that provided peace officers with immunity when making an arrest for violation of a domestic violence order if acting “in good faith and without malice.”
As Talmadge and Fleming's deadly force bill was being hashed out, nearly identical wording was included in the proposed legislation. But the bill failed to pass.
Talmadge and Fleming tackled the issue again during the next Legislative session.
This time, rather than limiting when police could use deadly force by the types of suspected crimes, lawmakers substituted general language that allowed deadly force when a suspect posed a threat of serious physical harm to an officer or others. The words “good faith” and “malice” from the earlier bill remained. This bill passed the Legislature and became a law in 1986.
Poort, now retired from the Seattle Police Department, said he and the sheriffs and chiefs association can take credit for making sure those words ended up in the bill.
“We wanted it clear that if you were acting in good faith, that a prosecutor should not be able to charge a crime,” he said. But police wanted even further protection from prosecutors. “We did not want them to even come at all close,” Poort explained. That was ensured, he said, by first requiring malice to bring criminal charges.
The law, he said, “was not intended to be a free pass for taking someone's life.”
Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe believed he and his team had what they needed to bring the first homicide case against a cop since the restrictive 1986 law.
His office brought charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter against Everett police Officer Troy Meade in the fatal shooting in 2009 of Niles Meservey, 51.
Meade had responded to reports that a drunken driver was attempting to drive away from the parking lot of Everett's Chuckwagon Inn.
The prosecution's case rested largely on another officer at the scene. He testified that he never believed that he, Meade nor nearby citizens were in imminent danger of death or serious injury.
The officer quoted Meade as saying, “Enough is enough. Time to end this,” then opening fire.
Roe and his team sought to show malice with those words.
At his trial, Meade told jurors that Meservey refused commands to get out of his car, which was parked between two other vehicles.
Meade said he feared the car was about to back up and hit him, so he shot the man in the back.
A Snohomish County jury — given jury instructions that included the law's malice, or evil intent, language — found Meade not guilty of either charge. He was later fired for violating department policy about deadly force.
In a June report, “Deadly Force: Police Use of Lethal Force in the United States,” Amnesty International found Washington state's good faith and malice language stood alone among the 50 states.
“Washington — it's the most egregious,” said Jamira Burley, an Amnesty International official who handles gun violence and criminal justice issues.
Jeff Robinson, a longtime Seattle defense attorney who directs The Center for Justice of the national American Civil Liberties Union, wants the law changed.
Putting himself in the mind of the police officer, he explained: “Unless you can demonstrate that I have this evil motive, I'm not guilty.”
Speaking as a lawyer, he said, “It is virtually a license to kill.”
Even without the malice element, he noted, Washington would still have one of the country's strongest self-defense laws: Citizens and police can mistakenly use deadly force and not be charged as long as their actions are reasonable.
“Why do they need more than that?” Robinson asked.
The policy reasons for the law are understandable, Prosecutor Satterberg said. Police are expected to “run toward danger,” make split-second decisions and put themselves at risk, meaning they will make mistakes, he said. Fear of prison over a mistake might create “timid” officers.
Satterberg declined to reveal his own position on changing the law, saying he did not want to get ahead of the prosecutors association.
If only the malice language were removed, Satterberg said, it might not make a difference because proving lack of good faith is still a high bar.
The ACLU of Washington wants the law changed regardless.
When Pasco police were not charged earlier this month after the homicide of rock-wielding Zambrano-Montes, executive director Kathleen Taylor said:
“The current law makes prosecutors exceedingly unwilling to file charges against police and thereby makes it almost impossible to hold police accountable for wrongfully killing civilians.”
When Roe, Satterberg and other prosecutors meet Oct. 1 in Tacoma, they will consider whether to recommend changing the law.
Roe, the only prosecutor who actually brought a murder charge against a cop, leans against changing the law.
“We have to be careful here and not try to quench some national desire for a sacrificial cop by changing the law until we can convict somebody,” he said.
Tom McBride, executive secretary of the prosecutors association, said there are three options.
They could recommend to the Legislature that the malice element be eliminated.
Or without making a formal recommendation, they could ask the Legislature to review the law's language to decide if it should be changed, McBride said.
They could recommend the current law remain unchanged.
That would still leave Washington, in McBride's words, as an “outlier.”
New NY law will mandate reporting on school metal detectors
That law requires the police and the department of education to issue reports twice a year with student arrest information
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The New York City Council is expected to pass a bill requiring the school system to disclose how many students must pass through metal detectors to get to school.
The Council will vote Wednesday on amendments to the 2011 Student Safety Act.
That law requires the police and the city Department of Education to issue reports twice a year with information including how many students are arrested and how many are suspended.
The amended law will require additional information to be reported including how many schools have metal detectors.
Authorities will also have to report how many students are placed in handcuffs or other restraints.
Backers of the amended law rallied at City Hall on Tuesday.
City Council Member Mathieu Eugene says the new data-reporting rules will increase transparency.
Record number of guns found in U.S. airport searches - TSA
by Carey Gillam
U.S. airport security agents discovered a record 67 firearms in luggage passengers intended to carry on to airplanes during one week in September, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Of the 67 firearms found during the week ended Sept. 17, 56 were loaded and 26 had a round in the chamber, the TSA reported. The tally set a new weekly record. The prior record was 65 firearms found during a week in May 2013, TSA said.
For the most recent week, ending Sept. 24, TSA said it found 64 firearms in carry-on bags at airports. Of those, 55 were loaded and 22 had a round chambered, TSA said.
In July, new TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told a congressional panel that his top priority would be to close security gaps at airport checkpoints.
Lawmakers opened a U.S. House of Representatives hearing after a Department of Homeland Security report that found TSA airport screeners did not detect banned weapons in 67 of 70 tests at dozens of airport checkpoints.
Guns in airplane luggage have been found all around the country. TSA said its agents stopped a man Thursday at a Greater Rochester International Airport checkpoint in New York when they detected a gun in his carry-on bag. A day prior, on Sept. 23, TSA found a loaded firearm in a passenger's carry-on bag at the Des Moines International Airport in Iowa.
Nationwide, TSA officers have found more than 2,000 firearms at airport security checkpoints so far this year.
Weapons, including firearms, firearm parts and ammunition, are banned from carry-on bags, but can be transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, and declared to the airline. Passengers who bring firearms to the checkpoint face possible criminal charges and civil penalties up to $11,000.
Aim of Dubuque rally against gun violence -- public safety
About 75 people attend event at the University of Dubuque, where speaker advocates for stronger background checks.
by Erik Hogstrom
Nick Utter marched because of escalating gun violence.
"It's kind of terrifying, the effect it can have on a neighborhood," said Utter, 21, of Cross Plains, Wis.
Utter, a Loras College student, was among about 75 people Sunday who marched to University of Dubuque for a rally against gun violence.
"It's not about people owning guns; it's how they're using them," Utter said.
Four area peace- and faith-based organizations -- Children of Abraham, Dubuque Coalition for Non-Violence, Dubuque Area Congregations United and Dubuque International Day of Peace -- held the event, which included marches from Loras College, Clarke University and Wartburg Seminary.
"It's all about ending gun violence," said Loras student Michelle Kavanaugh, 21, of Tinley Park, Ill.
The rally culminated in an address by Jeremy Brigham, executive director of Iowans for Gun Safety.
Brigham, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hopes to strengthen the background-check system for purchasing guns.
"It's about getting enough information from the instant background-check system about people coming into an area to know who has been convicted of felonies," Brigham said.
Brigham said not all criminal activities information or mental health records are relayed through the background-check system. He said some newcomers to the community arrive with troubled backgrounds not readily known to authorities.
"People who move here come for a better life, but some of them come with bad habits. But it's not just them. The whole system needs to be strengthened," he said.
Brigham said he wants gun transactions better controlled, not gun ownership.
"It's a public safety issue, a public health issue, rather than a gun issue. We're trying to find areas where there is general support. We don't want to take guns away," he said.
Charles Schultz, 20, is a University of Dubuque student from Milwaukee.
"Where I come from, there's a lot of violence. You have innocent children getting killed for no reason," Schultz said.
Schultz said he marched to end that violence.
"I'm not sure what needs to be done, but you have to start somewhere," he said.
From the Department of Justice
Remarks at the White House Champions of Change Event on Building Bridges Between Youth and Law Enforcement
by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch
Thank you, Roy [Austin], for that kind introduction – and for the extraordinary work that you and so many of your colleagues at the White House do to lift up our communities, to inspire our young people and to mobilize change agents like those we're here to honor today. It's a pleasure – and an immense privilege – to join so many passionate advocates, dedicated public servants and devoted law enforcement officers as we recognize 14 truly remarkable civic leaders: our Champions of Change.
These outstanding individuals exemplify the selfless men and women across the United States who are asking what they can do to improve the lives of others – and then doing it. They are working to ensure that our youth have the chance to fulfill their potential; that cycles of poverty, criminality and incarceration are dismantled; and that those grappling with homelessness, violence and addiction obtain a second chance at a better life. And by devoting their precious time and wide-ranging talents to the causes they champion, they are helping to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive. They exemplify what we have come to know: that change that can galvanize a nation often begins with a single human connection.
Actions like theirs are needed now more than ever. Over the course of the last year, we have seen all too frequently how relationships between communities and law enforcement can grow strained; how trust can be broken or lost; and how simmering tensions can erupt into unrest. The consequences are real – for sincere public safety officers, the guardians, who seek to ensure that all are sheltered under their umbrella of protection and for residents, particularly residents of color, who feel a sense of disconnection and despair that is all too familiar from a long and painful history of discrimination – and who often feel like they're not being heard; like they're not being believed; and like they're not being protected. This is an intensely challenging issue and I could not be more proud of these Champions of Change and those like them throughout the nation, who believe that – despite the magnitude of the challenges we face – all of us can play a part in working together to ensure that every American is treated with fairness, with dignity and with respect; to maintain safe neighborhoods and supportive environments; and to establish a sense of community – of common aims and common efforts – in cities and towns across America. We are here today to honor those who exemplify nothing less than the essentially American belief that no matter the odds or the problem, change is possible and that it can begin with them.
The Department of Justice is committed to doing our part to help. Last September, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a comprehensive effort to modernize training; develop evidence-based strategies; and advance research that will bolster law enforcement credibility, enhance procedural justice, reduce implicit bias and drive racial reconciliation. Our Civil Rights Division continues to work with police departments around the country to ensure constitutional policing in their jurisdictions. And our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is leading and supporting a variety of community-centered efforts to reduce youth and gang violence.
Of course, real change is spearheaded by those who are grappling with real problems every day. Our goal is to also tap into the innovative programs and exciting ideas that are emerging from communities across the country. That is why I've convened a series of community policing roundtables that have allowed me to see the extraordinary work that's underway in diverse neighborhoods from coast to coast. In Birmingham, Alabama, I learned about the Citizen's Police Academy, which allows local young people to form positive relationships with law enforcement officers and to understand the difficult jobs they do every day. In Cincinnati, Ohio, I observed an innovative mentoring program that puts police in the classroom as tutors, helping the children they work with see them as helpers, friends and peacemakers. In East Haven, Connecticut, I saw community leaders and public officials speak with pride about the strides they had made together just three years after a Justice Department investigation uncovered discriminatory tactics and the use of excessive force. And in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I saw a police department newly committed to operating with accountability and to pursuing excellence. Later this week, I will complete the first phase of my tour with roundtables in Seattle, Washington and Richmond, California and I am excited to keep these important conversations going as more communities undertake the difficult but necessary work of growing more cohesive, more unified and more empowered. all of these cities have come back from the brink of profoundly challenged police community relationships to build a working relationship that recognizes that our communities are large enough to encompass those who protect them, that our guardians are strengthened when they truly know their charges and their needs and that all voices must be at the table to create and sustain meaningful change.
All of us at the Justice Department strongly support and encourage that work and those goals. That's why I'm proud to announce today that the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – more commonly known as the COPS Office – is providing more than $107 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of approximately 870 officers at roughly 200 agencies and municipalities throughout the United States. These awards will not only keep more officers on the beat – they will address specific issue areas like violent crime, school safety, homeland security and that which underlies it all: community trust. They will help local agencies deliver on the recommendations for community policing developed by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. And they will extend the remarkable record of support, leadership and results that the COPS Office has earned over the last two decades.
I am also pleased to give you a major update on the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program that we kicked off in May. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance designed the program to assist local jurisdictions that are interested in exploring and expanding the use of body-worn cameras in order to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility. Initial expectations were that we would be able to support approximately 50 agencies. But today, I am happy to report that we intend to fund 73 local and tribal agencies across the country with more than $19.3 million for their body-worn camera programs. An additional $2 million will go toward training and technical assistance for agencies looking to develop or expand their programs. And another $1.9 million will support research in three police departments – Miami, Milwaukee and Phoenix – on the impact of body-worn cameras on a range of outcomes, including community relations. That kind of evaluation is crucial as we continue to weigh the advantages of more widespread use of cameras in policing.
A third and final piece of news comes from our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is launching a new initiative to bring young people together with the police officers in their communities. OJJDP is awarding $500,000 to a joint effort of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice to convene a youth and law enforcement roundtable and to develop an institute for disseminating best practices and sharing new approaches on issues of juvenile justice. Their unique partnership will go a long way toward fostering strong, collaborative relationships among young people, their families and those charged with their protection. And it unites a wealth of experience and expertise that will be an asset to law enforcement agencies developing strategic plans for their long-term improvement.
Each of these new efforts gives me hope that we can help to address these vital and complicated issues through sustained attention, honest conversation and thoughtful public policy. Each of the leaders here this afternoon gives me confidence that our commitment will yield progress. And each of the Champions we're here to celebrate reminds me that our ultimate success depends on the goodwill, imagination and determination of motivated men, women and children across this country. I want to thank each of you for your exceptional work. I want to applaud each of you for your inspiring example. And I want you to know that I am honored to stand beside you and proud to count you as partners in our common pursuit of equality, opportunity and justice for all.
And now, I invite everyone to join me in saluting our Champions of Change, whom it's my privilege to introduce at this time:
Sergeant Alex Bielawski from Grand Prairie, Texas – a 30-year veteran of the Grand Prairie Police Department and founder of a youth boxing program that brings together police officers, young athletes, parents and school officials.
Indeya Smith from Grand Prairie, Texas – a student at Tarrant County Community College, an intern with the Grand Prairie Police Department and a nationally ranked boxer who has trained with the Grand Prairie Police Youth Boxing Program.
Anthony Davis from Bonner Springs, Kansas – a School Resource Officer for the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville School District and a criminal justice teacher at Bonner Springs High School.
Blake McMahan from Bonner Springs, Kansas – the President of the Criminal Justice Club at Bonner Springs High School and a volunteer for the Bonner Springs Police Department.
Ric DeLand from Portland, Oregon – a 25-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau and the leader of an innovative, relationship-based foot patrol pilot project that reduced crime by 25 percent and strengthened community cooperation.
Celia Luce from Portland, Oregon – a Peer Mentor with Outside In, an organization helping to connect homeless youth with the resources and the support they need.
Captain Jacques Gilbert from Apex, North Carolina – a 25-year veteran of the Apex Police Department for over 25 years who worked with young people to build a public skate park for local youth.
Tracy Stallworth from Apex, North Carolina – an aspiring professional skate boarder who worked with Captain Gilbert to make the Rodgers Family Skate Plaza a reality.
Hiram Otero from Hartford, Connecticut – a Faith Based Initiative Community Service Officer for the South District of Hartford and organizer of the Charter Oak Cultural Center's Good Vibrations youth mentoring program.
Kayke Lopes from Hartford, Connecticut – a seventh-grader at Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and a participant in the Good Vibrations program.
Laurie Reyes from Montgomery County, Maryland – a 17-year veteran of the Montgomery County Police Department and founder of the Department's Autism and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Outreach Program.
Jake Edwards from Germantown, Maryland – a seventh-grader at Kennedy Krieger School and an advocate for enhanced understanding between law enforcement and those with autism.
Bill Singleton from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – an officer in the Milwaukee Police Department's Office of Community Outreach & Education and a National Advisor for the Center for Court Innovation's Police-Youth Dialogue Project.
And finally, Erica Lofton from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a 14-year-old violence-prevention advocate and founder of Girls in Action, Inc., an organization that promotes leadership among young girls.
ICE, Cumulus announce synthetic drugs awareness PSA campaign as school year begins
DETROIT – In an effort to reduce the number of young people impacted by synthetic drugs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced a public service announcement partnership today with Cumulus Radio to generate awareness about the drugs' harmful effects.
The PSA campaign comes at the beginning of the school year and is a warning to parents of teens, who are the primary targets of synthetic drugs marketing efforts, with packaging featuring cartoon characters and flashy or colorful designs.
As part of the PSA campaign, Talk 760 WJR-AM will air a 60-second PSA, which features HSI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Marlon Miller discussing some of the harmful side effects of synthetic drugs.
“Tragically, people die or sustain serious health issues every day at the hands of illegal designer and synthetic drugs,” said Miller. “Our partnership with Cumulus is a vital next step in ICE's ongoing effort to curb the use of synthetic drugs and arm parents with valuable information about the inherent dangers of these drugs.”
Each year, ICE and its partners seize thousands of pounds of illegal designer drugs and arrest hundreds of individuals involved with their illegal sale and distribution.
Communities, families and individuals across the United States have experienced the scourge of designer synthetic drugs, which are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner or plant food.
These dangerous drugs have caused significant abuse, addiction, overdoses and emergency room visits. Those who have abused synthetic drugs have suffered vomiting, anxiety, agitation, irritability, seizures, hallucinations, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. They have caused significant organ damage as well as overdose deaths. Over the past five years between 200 and 300 new designers drugs from eight different structural classes have been identified, the vast majority of which are manufactured in China.
According to a June 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between January and May 2015, poison centers received 3,572 calls linked to synthetic cannabinoid use – a 229 percent increase over the 1,085 calls received during the same period in 2014.
The most commonly reported adverse health effects were agitation, tachycardia, drowsiness or lethargy, vomiting and confusion. Among 2,961 calls for which a medical outcome was reported, 335 callers had a major adverse effect (signs or symptoms that are life-threatening or result in substantial residual disability or disfigurement); 1,407 had a moderate effect (signs or symptoms that are not life-threatening and do not result in residual disability or disfigurement, but usually require some form of treatment). A total of 1,095 had a minor effect (signs or symptoms that are minimally bothersome and generally resolve rapidly with no residual disability or disfigurement), and 109 (3.7 percent) had no effect. A total of 15 deaths were reported during the period.