December, 2015 - Week 1
San Bernardino shootings: What we know -- and don't know
by Faith Karimi
Days after a Southern California couple shot 14 people to death, federal authorities are treating the massacre as an act of terrorism.
But it's unclear what drove the couple to storm a holiday party in San Bernardino and spray the husband's coworkers with bullets.
Tashfeen Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, injured 21 others in the deadly attack Wednesday -- before authorities gunned them down in a shootout the same day.
As more details come in about the attackers, so do the questions.
Here's what we know -- and don't know -- about the massacre:
Was it a terror attack?
Shortly after the attacks, officials shied away from implying the massacre had any links to terror.
But the narrative changed Friday, when the FBI took over the investigation from San Bernardino authorities. The agency said it was treating the attack as an "act of terrorism."
There was "evidence ... of extreme planning" of the killings, said David Bowdich, an assistant FBI director.
And while the mass shooting may have been inspired by ISIS, a law enforcement official said, there's no indication the terror group directed or ordered the attack.
"This is looking more and more like self-radicalization," a law enforcement official said on condition of anonymity.
The couple did not have any trouble with the law, nor were they on any list of potentially radicalized people.
Relatives had no idea that the couple held radical views, according to family lawyers.
Was a religious dispute to blame?
Authorities have said in addition to terrorism, workplace issues with religion is a possible motive. Or a combination of the two could have fueled the attack.
With every suggested motive are lingering questions.
If the attack was a result of workplace dispute, why did the killers have pipe bombs and other weapons in the home they lived in with their 6-month-old baby?
Shortly after the massacre, authorities searched their house and found the pipe bombs, thousands of rounds of ammunition and more guns.
If it was terrorism, why did they choose to massacre his coworkers in a mundane, low-profile building?
Has ISIS claimed responsibility?
Yet the terror group has hailed the couple, describing them as "supporters."
But for a group quick to claim credit and thump its chest after high-profile attacks, it was notable that ISIS did not say the couple were members or that it was responsible.
When claiming responsibility for other terrorist attacks, ISIS normally hails attackers as "knights" or "soldiers." This time, it stuck to "supporters," using its official radio station to say it hopes God will "accept them as martyrs."
"What they're calling these two are supporters, which is kind of a lesser level," indicating it might not have had direct contact with the couple, said Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst and a former intelligence officer.
That said, the group has made general, vague calls urging sympathizers to carry out attacks on their own.
Did the two have ties to ISIS?
Female shooter Tashfeen Malik made a public declaration of loyalty to ISIS while the attack was underway. Three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation said she posted to Facebook a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Facebook said it took the post down because it violated community standards that prohibit the promotion of terrorism or the glorification of violence. It declined to go into details about the nature of the post.
While the couple's motivation for the attack is a key focus for investigators, the terror group's acknowledgment of them as supporters doesn't mean they were members or that someone from the group ordered it, Francona said.
Officials briefing President Barack Obama about the investigation told him they had "no indication that the killers were part of an organized group or a broader terrorist cell," the White House said.
Did they travel to the Middle East?
Farook was born in Illinois to Pakistani parents and raised in California. He made two trips to Saudi Arabia.
The first visit was in 2013 for the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to make at least once in their lifetimes.
The second time, he went to marry Malik, whom he'd met through an online dating service, family attorney Mohammad Abuershaid said.
The FBI said he went to Pakistan as well, but the family attorneys denied that.
Malik, 29, was born and raised in Pakistan and moved to Saudi Arabia around the ages of 18 or 20, the attorney said.
She came to the United States on a fiancée visa and became a legal permanent resident.
A federal official said Farook has "overseas communications and associations," but it's unclear how relevant they are to the shootings.
"We don't know yet what they mean," the official said.
San Bernardino attack raises fears outside big metro cities
People fear going to spaces where there isn't a strong police presence
by The Associated Press
HOOVER, Ala. — Anita Jefferson didn't know much about San Bernardino, California, before the apparent terror attack there. The West Coast town is nearly the exact same size as her hometown of Birmingham and hardly a high-profile target like New York or Paris.
Now, she finds herself worried about the possibility of an attack at a location like the suburban shopping mall where Jefferson works at a food kiosk for the Christmas shopping season. A place that's public but, unlike stadiums and other venues, has relatively lax security.
"You'd think they'd go to a larger place, but a smaller place may be easier," said Jefferson, 62.
The FBI announced Friday that it was investigating the mass shooting that left 14 people dead at a Christmas party as an act of terrorism. The couple who carried out the shooting, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, died in a gunbattle with police.
If there could be a terror attack at a social services center in San Bernardino, why not suburban Alabama, or downtown Louisville, Kentucky? The bloody attack made it all too obvious for some Americans that big cities with marquee names aren't the only potential targets.
"I can honestly say I don't feel as safe," said Tim Harrington, 50, of Jacksonville, Florida, while touring a museum in Louisville.
There is plenty of security at the suburban Birmingham mall — "and they're awesome," said Lindsay Alexander, 18, who also works there and feels safe. But her comfort level isn't what it was a few days ago.
"It could happen here," said Alexander. "They could just pick something random."
Psychology professor Marjorie Sanfilippo doesn't believe people will change their behavior because of the San Bernardino shootings.
"People are very resilient tend to get back to their regular lives," said Sanfilippo, who teaches at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
But, she cautioned, that could change if there were more "random attacks" in public places, such as coffee shops.
"That's when I think we would see fear," said Sanfilippo.
Residents in Lincoln, Nebraska — which didn't experience its first homicide of 2015 until last month — said the attacks hadn't affected their sense of security.
"If they're looking for a mass killing, they're going to go to places with more people," said Nate Jurgensmeier, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "They're not going to kill nearly as many people if they crash into a dorm building or a building in downtown Lincoln."
Matt Eckhardt, 30, of Lincoln also considers his city safe.
"If you were living in New York, I think your perspective would be a lot different than ours," Eckhardt said.
Yet in Louisville, Nautica Delacruz of Los Angeles said the attacks in her home state had shaken her sense of security.
"You kind of just want to go to work and home, or pick up your kid and go straight home," she said. "You really don't want to go anywhere. You kind of feel like you're violated in a sense of your freedom, in a way. You don't feel safe going anywhere anymore."
At the Louisville museum, Harrington said the threat of terror already is making him re-evaluate his safety. He has cut back on international travel for business, and he said he doesn't feel as safe as he once did in office buildings.
Harrington said he isn't changing domestic travel plans, and he feels secure going to NFL games in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.
"But definitely, I think if I'm in a crowd of people outside where I don't see policemen, I'd kind of be a little bit more fearful," he said.
Standing in the middle of the Alabama mall crowded with holiday shoppers, a brightly lit carousel twirling in the food court, Jefferson said she is doing her best not to worry, but: "It's in the back of your head."
Determined to kill: Can tough gun laws end mass shootings?
by Kristen Hwang and Rosalie Murphy
The flag at Desert Hot Springs' Condor Gun Shop flew at half-staff on Friday morning. Less than two days had passed since two shooters, armed with four guns, killed 14 people and wounded 21 more at an office holiday party in San Bernardino.
The shooting, which the FBI is investigating as an "act of terrorism," forced the nation's attention to the city 40 miles west of Desert Hot Springs. It also prompted a flood of calls to Condor Gun Shop, an unheated cabin across from a swath of open desert at the edge of the city.
"Since (Wednesday), my phone has been ringing off the hook," said Torrey Harris, whose family has owned the shop since 1971. "It didn't stop ringing until 11:30 at night."
Harris said that, after most mass shootings, longtime gun owners seek to stock up on weapons and ammunition that they think California will try to ban in reaction to the incidents of violence. The state legislature often passes a slew of gun control laws in the months after these tragedies.
But Harris said the response she saw after San Bernardino was different.
"I would say a good 40% of my calls (Wednesday) were people who have never owned a firearm in their life," Harris said.
Gun control activists already say Wednesday's shooting demonstrates the need for background checks for ammunition sales. But even California's gun control laws, among the strictest in the nation, haven't prevented seven mass shootings using legally purchased guns since 2006.
Gun rights advocates maintain that laws don't affect criminals and only make it more difficult for people to protect themselves.
Harris believes some of those people calling her shop have adopted a similar position.
"They looked at (San Bernardino) and said, 'You know what, we have to be able to fight back, and I'm not going to be the person cowering in the corner of a room waiting to be shot,'" she said.
Data on mass shootings is sparse, and even the definition of "mass shooting" varies widely. The FBI, for instance, defines the events as incidents where at least four people are killed, while a popular online "shooting tracker" states that a mass shooting occurs when at least four people, including the shooter, are injured by gunshots.
By the FBI's definition, as counted by USA TODAY, there have been 22 mass shootings this year; by the Shooting Tracker's analysis, San Bernardino was number 353 and one of two mass shootings that day.
Despite this variance, experts don't believe mass shootings are happening more often than they did in past decades. In California and across the country, violent crimes with firearms have declined significantly since the 1980s.
At the same time, however, we've become more afraid.
"It was Sandy Hook that really got people's attention and started this intense focus on (shootings)," said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminologist who's written several books on mass murder, referring to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Since then, he said, "Even though the incidence hasn't increased, fear has."
A 2015 Congressional Research Service report on mass public shootings found that 2012 was a particularly brutal year — seven mass public shootings, compared to an average of four per year — and suggested that the horrific year had a lasting impact on public opinion.
"Several such mass murders in 2012, seven incidents by most counts, compounded a fear among many people that, 'this could happen to me'," the authors of the report wrote.
After the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook, support for controls on gun ownership spiked to 51% of the U.S. population —its highest level in five years, according to the Pew Research Center. Support for laws protecting the right to own guns fell from 49% to 42%.
Polls showed a return to pre-Sandy Hook opinion levels about six months later. But in comparison, a shooting that killed six people at a 2011 rally for Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords didn't significantly impact public opinion on gun control, according to a poll conducted in the following days by the Pew Research Center. Neither did a 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people.
For some, that fear has resulted in a new desire to bear arms. Pew data suggests that, in 1999, nearly half of gun owners bought them for hunting, compared to 26% for personal protection. By Feb. 2013, those positions had almost reversed: nearly half of gun owners wanted weapons for personal protection, compared to 32% for hunting.
Condor Gun Shop owner Harris said, in the last five years, she's begun selling firearms to more women and first-time buyers. During the last 10 years, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for firearms manufacturers, has also seen a steady increase in first-time and female gun owners.
About 25 to 30% of customers are first-time gun buyers, who often purchase a gun for protection. More than 30% of customers are women, NSSF spokesman Mike Bazinet said.
Harris said she's started asking first-time gun owners what changed their minds about purchasing a firearm. More and more people tell her that they want to be responsible for their own safety.
"Just like buying car insurance, you go out and you buy it and you hope you never have to use it, but you're really thankful if you ever get into an accident. And a lot of people who buy these firearms do the same thing," Harris said. "It really has changed, the whole mindset of a lot of people who are buying guns now."
But, according to San Bernardino police, Syed Rizwan Farook — one of the San Bernardino shooters — purchased his two guns legally from a federal licensed firearms dealer. Another person bought two .223-caliber rifles —a DPMS A-15 and Smith & Wesson M&P15 — legally. Only the shooters' modification attempts to the assault weapons, to make one rifle accept 30-round magazines and one rifle fully automatic, made them illegal to possess.
So for gun control advocates, mass shootings are sirens, calling for further limits on access to guns.
In California, strict gun control
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, for example, the California state legislature passed at least 14 bills tightening restrictions on gun ownership — more gun laws than it had passed in the previous six years combined. Gov. Jerry Brown signed laws banning conversion kits for ammunition magazines, toughening mental health reporting requirements and closing a "loophole" that allowed single-shot handguns to bypass safety requirements.
In 2014, a bill cited a shooting in Isla Vista — when a University of California - Santa Barbara student fatally stabbed three people and shot and killed three others — as the reason for its necessity. That measure, now a law, allows judges to temporarily keep people from purchasing or possessing guns if family members or law enforcement think they might harm themselves or others.
While nearly 40 states have relaxed gun rules in the last two decades, California has enacted more than 50 major gun bills since 1994. The pro-gun control Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, based in San Francisco, gave California's laws an A- in 2014, the highest grade given to any state. Guns & Ammo Magazine, with a pro-gun rights stance, ranked the state fourth-worst in the country for gun ownership.
Already, in the wake of the San Bernardino tragedy, gun control advocates are touting a 2016 ballot initiative that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed in October. The measure proposes background checks for ammunition purchases and bans possession of high capacity magazines.
"Ammunition is what makes a firearm into a deadly weapon, and we should have background checks on firearms and ammunition," Law Center staff attorney Ari Freilich said. "These individuals, it looks like they stockpiled 3,000 to 4,000 rounds of ammunition. They did it without having to show ID, without having to pass a background check."
Prior to San Bernardino, California had seen seven public shootings since 2006 that claimed four or more lives (not counting those police believe were gang-related), according to USA TODAY's "Behind the Bloodshed" tracker. In four of those shootings, the weapons shooters used were purchased legally and registered to the shooters. In two other incidents, the guns were purchased legally but registered to other people.
In only one incident, the 2013 rampage near Santa Monica College, did law enforcement say that the weapons used were illegal in California.
"Here (in California), as pretty much everywhere in the country, anybody who isn't disqualified by virtue of them having a felony conviction can get a gun, and can get a bunch of guns, and can get guns that are quite deadly, because guns are deadly," said Eugene Volokh, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA and writer for "The Volokh Conspiracy," a legal blog hosted by The Washington Post .
Freilich believes mass shootings with guns that have been purchased legally, like Wednesday's in San Bernardino, emphasize the need for more stringent gun control.
"I do think (San Bernardino) highlights to legislators and to the California public that despite all that we've done — California has the toughest gun laws in the nation — more clearly needs to be done," Freilich said.
Since the late 1980s, the crime rate has dropped in California and nationally by about 50%, according to the California Attorney General's Office and the FBI.
Gun control advocates attribute that drop in California in part to gun control laws. However, some researchers, including Volokh, doubt that conclusion— pointing out that violence has dropped nationwide even though most states have loosened gun control laws and California is widely known to have the strictest laws in the nation. The percentage of homicide victims killed by firearms has remained steady in California since 1990, according to the California Attorney General's Homicide Report.
Realistically, the battle to prevent mass tragedies with legislation may be futile, Volokh said.
"Let's look at somebody who is a would-be mass shooter. This person has essentially decided to have the defining event of his life, and possibly the concluding event of his life, be mass murder," Volokh said. "This is somebody who is very motivated to commit the crime, and again, we know he is motivated because he's willing to give up his life to do that."
Wednesday's shooting was perpetrated by people determined to kill, Volokh said.
The shooters, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, have been identified as husband and wife, and investigators found a dozen pipe bombs and more than 4,500 rounds of ammunition in the home they were renting in Redlands.
The FBI is investigating the mass shooting as an 'act of terrorism.'
While gun control may help reduce violence in general, criminologist James Alan Fox doesn't think legislation will help prevent mass shootings like these.
"Gun control can do a lot in terms of impacting the kind of gun crime you see every day. Will it avert mass killings? Not really," Fox said. "They'll find a way to get a gun. If they can't get one legally, which most of them can, they'll borrow one, steal one — but they'll get one."
Business as usual
For Torrey Harris of Condor Gun Shop, this tragic conversation is becoming routine.
"I've gone through this so many times now, I know how the cycle goes," Harris said. "There are going to be people who are yelling and screaming for more gun laws and people who are going to be yelling and screaming for less, and unfortunately, probably nothing is going to happen, which I think frustrates both sides."
On Friday, it was business as usual at Harris' gun shop. A customer walked in the door, hoping to buy a handgun. Harris began the legal steps of selling a gun in California, asking the customer for identification, proof of residency and his Firearm Safety Certificate. Now, he'll have to submit to a background check.
In 10 days, he can pick up his gun.
The process of purchasing a gun in California
• Obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate by passing a knowledge test. The test, made up of 30 true-false and multiple-choice questions, is drawn from a 46-page study guide available online. Copies of the test are available in English and Spanish.
• Present the Firearm Safety Certificate, a California ID or driver's license and a utility bill or car registration with your current address to a licensed firearms dealer.
• Choose your firearm. According to the California Department of Justice, there are currently 822 handgun models approved for sale in the state. Long guns are subject to individual regulations rather than a pre-approved list.
• Complete federal and state background check paperwork.
• Get a handling demonstration from the seller, including how to load, unload and lock the gun. The seller and buyer must both sign an affidavit saying the demonstration occurred.
• Pay for the gun and keep your receipt.
• Return in 10 days to pick up the gun, provided you passed the background check.
• At this time, buy a gun lock or show a receipt to show that you bought one in the last 30 days.
Chicago police reports conflict with video of Laquan McDonald's shooting
by Steve Mills
H undreds of pages of newly released Chicago police reports from the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald are most striking for one simple reason: They are dramatically at odds with the dashboard-camera video that has sparked protests across the city, cost Chicago's top cop his job and embroiled Mayor Rahm Emanuel in scandal.
The reports, released by the city late Friday, show that Officer Jason Van Dyke and at least five other officers said McDonald moved or turned threateningly toward officers, even though the video of the October 2014 shooting shows the 17-year-old walking away. The scenario sketched out by Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez in charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder also contends McDonald was walking away.
At least one patrol officer said that McDonald was advancing on the officers in a menacing way and swung his knife in an "aggressive, exaggerated manner" before he was shot and killed. Officers also said that even after McDonald had been shot by Van Dyke, the teen tried to lift himself off the ground with the knife pointed toward the officers, and though he had been mortally wounded, still presented a threat.
The reports, a collection of handwritten statements from the night of the shooting, and follow-up reports in the days and months after, often refer to Van Dyke as VD and call him the victim. McDonald is called O, for offender. Some reports are in police shorthand.
"VD believed O was attacking w/knife," said a report of Van Dyke's account. "Trying to kill VD. In defense of his life, VD backpedaled + fired. O fell to ground, continued to move/grasp knife. VD continued firing. O appeared to be attempting to get up, still holding knife. Pointing at VD."
The statements prompted police supervisors to rule McDonald's death a justifiable homicide just hours after he had been shot 16 times.
The reports — the first detailed accounts from the officers at the scene — offer a way to examine what Van Dyke and his colleagues say happened. Because they diverge so dramatically from the video of the shooting, they suggest one possible avenue for additional investigation.
The video, which prompted the city to pay McDonald's family $5 million without it filing a wrongful death lawsuit, shows McDonald briskly walking down the middle of the street when Van Dyke fired from the teen's left side.
In charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder, prosecutors said the officer began shooting six seconds after exiting his squad car, firing 16 rounds at McDonald in about 14 seconds as he was walking away, and was reloading when another officer told Van Dyke to hold his fire. For 13 of those seconds, McDonald was already lying on the street, prosecutors said.
The video did not show McDonald lunging toward officers as some of them said, although there appears to be a silver object in McDonald's right hand. The autopsy on McDonald found that he had the drug PCP in his system.
The reports hint at how Van Dyke may try to defend his actions and explain a perceived threat. A day after the shooting, Van Dyke recalled a bulletin from the department that warned about knives that also shoot bullets. Included in the reports is a December 2012 bulletin about such knives, attributed to an unnamed "Midwest intelligence organization" that warned officers to "remain cognizant of its threat to personal safety."
Van Dyke also told an investigator that he was aware of the dangers of spring-loaded knives and was familiar with the so-called 21-foot rule, which suggests a suspect armed with an edged weapon can injure an officer from that distance.
Federal officials also are investigating the shooting. A federal grand jury investigation has involved more than 80 witnesses and branched into possible obstruction of justice by the officers at the scene, sources told the Chicago Tribune. In particular, the sources said, federal prosecutors are investigating the officers who made statements as well as the officers who prepared the reports of the statements.
Armed teenager running toward school shot by police officer
by Bill Draper
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Wichita police say a black 17-year-old who was shot and wounded by a white police officer as he ran with a gun toward a high school gymnasium was a documented gang member who was registered as a student at the school.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon, Police Chief Nelson Mosley said a 20-year veteran of the police department fired several shots at the teen, whose name was not released, after the youth ignored repeated warnings to stop.
The incident happened after officers stopped a pickup truck as it was pulling into the parking lot of West High School around 6:30 p.m. Friday. Mosley said officers had been watching the truck after it left a Wichita home where police were told suspects in a double homicide earlier in the week might be located.
Four males were in the pickup truck when it was stopped in the parking lot, and one of them got out and started running, the chief said.
After being shot, the teen ran for about 100 yards before surrendering to police, Nelson said. The boy was treated at the scene before being taken to a local hospital in critical but stable condition.
The other three in the truck cooperated with police and were released after being questioned at city hall, he said. He said he didn't know why the teen ran, or whether he ever pointed the gun at police.
The shooting happened while a girls' basketball game between West and Northwest high schools was going on. There were 200 to 300 people in the school gym at the time, Nelson said.
The school went on lockdown for about 30 minutes before it was lifted, and a boys' game later that night went on as scheduled.
The police chief said the teen was hit once in the side-back area and once in the hand, with the bullet also hitting the gun.
Police released several pictures of the scene, including a blurry image taken from a police officer's body camera showing the teen running with what appears to be a gun. Police also provided a photo of the weapon.
Investigators determined none of the four in the pickup truck were involved in the double homicide, which happened on Tuesday in Wichita and was believed to be gang-related.
The officer who fired the shots is on administrative leave under department policy, Nelson said.
He said the case will be presented to the Sedgwick County district attorney's office for possible charges of possession of a handgun by a juvenile and possession of a firearm on school grounds.
Expert: Tamir Rice's hands were in his pockets during shooting
Previous reports concluded that officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir within 2 seconds of opening his car door
by The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — A 12-year-old boy shot to death by Cleveland police last year had his hands in his pockets when he was shot and wasn't reaching for the pellet gun he'd been carrying, according to an expert's review of a new video analysis of the shooting.
Tamir Rice did not have enough time to remove his hands from his pockets before being shot, and his hands weren't visible to the officer, according to the analysis released late Friday night by attorneys for Tamir's family.
The new report and two others from experts already used by the family are the latest analysis of evidence to be released as a grand jury considers whether to bring charges against the officers in Tamir's death. The boy was shot after authorities received a report of a man pointing and waving a gun outside a recreation center in November 2014.
Previous reports concluded that officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir within 2 seconds of opening his car door. The new analysis determined it happened even faster, within less than a second, according to the review by California-based shooting reconstruction expert Jesse Wobrock.
With the patrol car windows rolled up, Tamir could not have heard commands to show his hands, Wobrock added.
"The scientific analysis and timing involved do not support any claim that there was a meaningful exchange between Officer Loehmann and Tamir Rice, before he was shot," Wobrock said.
Two other experts who previously reviewed the shooting for Tamir's family looked at the new frame-by-frame and also concluded Tamir wasn't reaching into his waistband when he was shot, according to the reports released Friday.
The attorneys for Tamir's family said Wobrock is available to testify before the grand jury. In response, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said an investigation is the search for the truth.
"We welcome and will review all credible relevant evidence from any source," McGinty said in a statement Saturday morning.
Tamir's family has criticized McGinty for months over the length of the investigation and has demanded charges against the officers.
McGinty has previously made public reports by three experts saying Loehmann was justified in shooting Tamir outside a Cleveland recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014.
Last month, McGinty released an analysis of the video broken into 326 slides that was the subject of the new expert reports. Last week, he released statements by Loehmann and his training officer, Frank Garmback, who was driving that day.
Attorneys for Tamir's family say the officers gave up their Fifth Amendment rights by reading the statements to the grand jury and are now required to answer questions on cross examination.
The officers were responding to a 911 call when Tamir was shot. The caller told the dispatcher that the gun might not be real and that the man might be a juvenile, but that information wasn't passed on to the officers.
It turned out Tamir was carrying a nonlethal, Airsoft-type gun that shoots plastic pellets when Loehmann shot him twice outside the rec center. Tamir died a day later.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at White House Convening on Incarceration and Poverty
Well good morning everyone. Ok it's early – there's still energy – Good morning everyone.
Ok, we need that energy because we have a lot to talk about and we have a lot to do.
Let me echo Ms. [Valerie] Jarrett's words about the tragic events in California yesterday just before we move on to that. As you may have heard, the Department of Justice has dispatched the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the U.S. Marshals Service personnel to the scene as soon as that assault began, and we continue to work closely alongside our state and local law enforcement partners who are working so hard on the scene and its aftermath. And, let me assure you, that as this investigation unfolds we will be offering any and all assistance necessary to the local authorities and to the people of San Bernardino who have been so profoundly affected by this unspeakable crime. And let me simply say, that whatever the results of this investigation, we don't know a lot right now, but one thing is clear: that violence like this has no place in this country and in this nation.
This is not what we stand for, this is not what we do, this is not what we work for, it is not what we live for - it is antithetical to our values. Now I don't have any operational updates for you at this time, those will come later from the local authorities who are on the scene. But I do want to express not only my deepest condolences, but I also ask that you join me in standing with our colleagues, our friends, our partners in San Bernardino who are suffering with this, and add all of our thoughts and prayers to them at this time; along with them and also the brave public safety officials who have put themselves in harm's way to stop this assault and to save others. So I thank you, Ms. Jarrett, for that moment of silence and I thank all of you for your continued support as we move forward with this investigation.
Now of course, today's announcement is of a matter really of equal seriousness, but of long-standing concern. I'm really pleased to be able to be here today. I'm actually thrilled that this event is being held here today, now, at this time. We're at a point where these issues have come together really like never before in law enforcement thought and in our nation's history. And it gives us a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful moment to really make significant change. You all are such a distinguished group of advocates, of lawmakers, judges, experts – and we're all here to talk about today how we can ensure that our legal system serves every American faithfully, fairly, regardless of their economic systems.
So let me pose the beginning question of the day: What is the price of justice? What is the price of justice? Some 52 years after Gideon vs. Wainwright was decided by the Supreme Court, we are still – still seeing ways in which one of our most cherished ideals has been overlaid with costs that are really borne by those who can least afford to pay and few questions are more deserving of our time and attention. And I think this is really one of the leading criminal justice questions of the day because the work that we do in this area is not only intertwined with the experiences – the everyday experiences – of people in this country and the way in which those experiences shape their future. But it is also emblematic of the way in which we administer one of our most cherished and essential ideals.
And to begin to answer this question: What is the price of justice? Requires us to go back to the essential promise of our criminal justice system, which is equal justice for all. And it requires us to work to ensure that all of our efforts serve that end. Now, as you're going to talk about today and you've heard a little about in the preview, we have made great progress in recent years. I am tremendously proud of the work that the Department of Justice has been doing to keep this issue – equal justice for all – in all applications of the law at the forefront of everything that we do.
Under my predecessor, and your friend, former Attorney General Eric Holder, the department launched the Smart on Crime Initiative to make our criminal justice system more efficient, more effective and more fair. Today, we are seeing Congressmen and women from both sides of the aisle, lawmakers from both sides, in bipartisan support for legislation that would reduce the mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug crimes. Whether it is because of a recognition of the essential unfairness that has been visited on some of our population, or also a recognition of the economic cost that ultimately is also born by those communities, it matters not. It is a unique moment in time, in which we have come together to finally focus on the effects of our system. And also because at its heart an effective criminal justice system requires the faith and the participation of not just those in law enforcement, but those of us that we serve.
I have made it one of my top priorities as Attorney General to help repair community trust where it is has been eroded. Now in September, I recently completed a six-city Community Policing Tour which allowed me to learn from a variety of law enforcement agencies, civic leaders and local services in six very challenged jurisdictions that have worked hard to pull themselves back from the brink and to find a way to communicate. I've had the pleasure and privilege of sitting with everyday people who made it their job to find ways to find common ground between the mom at home and the cop on the beat, the kid at school and the police officer driving down the street, to build confidence in the system – not in any one person, but in a process that lets everyone have a voice.
Now these are important steps and it's been heartening for me as I travel the country to look for things and then share with other jurisdictions that are struggling with these same issues. But, as I travel the country it's all too clear that we have so much more work to do before we truly realize the idea of equal justice for all. Because, as is the topic of the day and the topic for all of you, it has become painfully clear – and that I do mean painfully clear – that in so many instances an individual's access to justice has become predicated on their ability to literally pay for it.
What is the price of justice? What is the price of justice? When bail is set unreasonably high, people are behind bars only because they are poor. Not because they're a danger or a flight risk – only because they are poor. They don't have money to get out of jail and they certainly don't have money to flee anywhere. Other people who do have the means can avoid the system setting inequality in place from the beginning. And when fines and fees are imposed on top of the jail sentences even after offenders have paid their debt to society – and that's what we have said. We have determined as a society, as a country, as a people, that the incarceration and the supervision and the specific fines for a particular crime are that person's debt to society.
And a debt must be capable of being paid, if it is not instead a lifetime yolk of servitude. Let me repeat that: a debt must be capable of being paid, if it is not instead a lifetime yolk of servitude. And even before, in Gideon vs. Wainwright , we had a Constitutional amendment that ended that. Now, as we've talked about also, the fines for minor things like traffic violations, literally getting to work, getting around and living your life, can often carry additional administrative fees, they can carry jail time, in a city, in a country where we have ruled that debtors prisons are unconstitutional, too many of our citizens are simply in jail because they don't have the money to get out. In America, because they don't have the money to get out. And of course, in some jurisdictions, we've seen the rise of a totally new issue – new to me, in my 20 years as a prosecutor. When I began, we didn't have the private probation companies that now work alongside many of our court-authorized probation companies. And many of these companies will supervise individuals who can't afford to immediately pay the final amount of their fines and fees. You might say, a laudable goal: private industry stepping in to relieve a burden on a challenged government agency. But what happens is, those who can't pay those fees and fines get charged additional probation fees on top of them. Only the people who pay are put on this type of probation. And people who can afford to pay walk out of court without any supervision. That is not probation; that's Wal-Mart: money talks and people walk? That is not our criminal justice system. It's not the one we wrote over 200 years ago. It's not the one that we fought for in the years since then. It's not the one that those of us who work in the system today intend to see go forward. Now, of course we still have, even after Gideon vs. Wainwright , a crisis in indigent defense. It was strikingly sad that on the 50th anniversary of Gideon, we were talking about cuts to legal aid services, we were talking about cuts to essential services at both the federal and state levels that would have meant more people of poverty did not have the ability to have their essential rights vindicated.
Now when you look at all this together, and I know this is what you all will be doing today, what we are seeing in this country amounts to nothing less than the criminalization of poverty – of poverty; not of actions, not of deeds, but of a condition that is not of peoples' making. This is not the criminal justice system in which those of us who are working for fairness, and for equality, are going to be pursuing. This is not where we are leading today. Because the consequences of the criminalization of poverty are not only harmful, but they are so far-reaching, they affect families beyond the individual lives; an individual's ability to support their family, eaten away by the deadly fines and fees from minor infractions – and more than that, more than the economic issues, more than the” inconvenience” that some might term this, what this does is it contributes to a fundamental erosion of a faith in our government. A fundamental sense of disbelief that government is there to serve people; when people see government, in many, many ways and forms, as simply a means of extracting money and pressing down on their necks. And we have all seen the results of this mistrust. We've seen how it has moved beyond these issues and affected our communities across the country and citizens' trust and faith – not only in law enforcement – but in all of us and in government writ large.
Ms. Jarrett noted, the Department of Justice's Ferguson report, which came out earlier this year, I'm tremendously proud of the work that was done by our Civil Rights Division, both on that investigation and that report. And people were looking of course, for a review of policing practices, but what that report did – because what was so obvious, when we went there and looked at what was occurring in Ferguson, and sadly in other towns – is that there were shameful and unacceptable municipal court and law enforcement practices that together worked to turn the justice system into a for-profit enterprise at the expense of public safety. So that the mistrust, and in fact the pain, that we saw in Ferguson went far beyond the single tragic incident of Mr. [Michael] Brown's death and was showcasing the disconnection and the pain people felt at their lack of connection to their city overall. And as we now know, these methods and procedures really caused catastrophic damage to the citizens' trust in their public officials, and without that trust, without that credibility, those of us in government have no capital to rely upon when we need to make change, when we need to move procedures and move policies and ask people to trust us and work with us as we do so. That's the damage in that. It goes so far beyond just those immediate incidents. In an example strikingly similar to what Ms. Jarrett talked about, one Ferguson resident received two traffic tickets – just two – in the year 2007. They totaled $152. Not an insignificant amount of money. But by the time our report was issued, earlier this year, in 2015, she had paid the city of Ferguson $550. She paid the city of Ferguson $550 in fines and fees, quite a profit, quite a markup. Was she buying furniture – what is going on? She had been arrested twice for these unpaid tickets, she had spent six days in jail and inexplicably, as of earlier this year – the time the report was issued – the city calculated that she still owed them $541. From $152 to almost $1000. We've outlawed usury, we've outlawed debtors prisoners, we cannot cloak it in the language of fees and fines and make it right.
Now these and countless other experiences cause daily struggles for people across this country and of course they lead to an environment in which these long simmering tensions affect us every day. Now this is an especially important moment for criminal justice reform as we've talked about and I know this is what you all are going to be focusing on today and I am so glad you are here because now is the time that we have to bring focus to this issue. We are at a critical juncture; we truly have the opportunity in this and so many important issues. And as so many of us in this room know, these challenges are not new. Indeed, for many of the Americans that I've talked about, who have been living under the yoke of these fees and fines, they're in fact a fixture of everyday life. But they are being seen and they are being heard to a degree never seen and heard before. And while the action to amend the practices like those identified in the Ferguson report and in other municipalities is long overdue. We now have a growing consensus among all people of political stripes and personal backgrounds that the shortcomings of our justice system are not only poor policy, as many of us who work in it have been saying and seeking change, but they are in desperate need of change. Now is the time and we have to seize this moment.
Now, we've talked about the Ferguson report but the Department of Justice is also determined to be an important contributor to this effort. Our Office of Justice Programs (OJP), led by Karol Mason – who is here today – we're looking to make funding available to local municipalities to make innovate alternatives to fees and fines and these legal financial obligations that contribute to the cycle of incarceration and poverty. OJP's Office of Civil Rights is also evaluating discrimination complaints against several court systems to determine whether their pretrial and bail practices violate federal laws.
Now our Civil Rights Division, writ large, led by Vanita Gupta – who is also here today – and our Access to Justice, led by my classmate Lisa Foster – so glad to see her – have also filed statements of interest where the federal government has a unique voice to lend and role to play in a number of cases already filed in this area. Including cases about unlawful bail, the right to counsel and the criminalization of homelessness – something we have to address particularly as more and more of our people who are facing mental illness and more and more of our returning veterans fall into this category. And they also continue to evaluate whether pending lawsuits warrant new statements of interest from the department. This work is ongoing. And the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center will be preparing a report from this convening, from this meeting to outline a national research and policy agenda that will help to advance the agenda about criminal justice reform. And that's another reason why I thank all of you for being here today because you need you for this, we can't do this alone. So much of this work, as it must, at the state and local levels – where you leave and where you work alongside the people we all serve.
The breadth of the original Gideon decision was its application of the right to counsel to all cases not just the federal/capital level but at the state level as well, where so much procedural justice begins. The face of justice for so many of our citizens is not in the federal court house, where I live and work, but it's at the Parking Bureau, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the county court house – that face of justice must be open in fair at every door and at every window. Whether you're a state legislature with a say in the use of fines and fees as a source of revenue, whether you're a judge who sets bail and passes sentences – we're not encouraging you to abdicate any responsibility in terms of safety or making sure that people who should not be on streets are – you may be a court administrator who collects fines and fee, you also may be a thought leader who studies crime and poverty; you may also be an advocate who stands beside those most directly affected - you're making a real difference. Please know that. And you are indispensable to bringing all of these efforts to completion. To ensuring that in the United States there is indeed no price tag on justice.
And I commit to you, as the Attorney General that this Department of Justice and this entire administration will continue to stand with you and to do everything in our power to further this important mission. Now, let me end, as I began. What is the price of justice? But let me now point out the fundamental error in the question I posed, that it is a question at all. The fundamental error of the question I posed, and the one sadly so many of us start with and of the policies that seek to answer that question with a specific amount is in thinking of justice as a commodity that can be quantified rather than a right inherent to all who stand under the sheltering arm of our constitution. Because to reduce this essential ideal, this precious ideal, that I know means as much to me as it does to you, to try and reduce this ideal to mere coin is an effort not only doomed to fail but ultimately it is an effort that cheapens us all.
Now, as we know, Gideon won his case before the Supreme Court. He won a new trial and he was acquitted and released and he went on to live several years thereafter. But he kept in touch with his attorney Abe Fortas, in the pre Supreme Court days and when he died, his headstone is inscribed with a line from a letter that he wrote to him. And the inscription reads “Each era finds an improvement in law for the benefit of mankind.” Now let this be not only the issue for the day, let it be the improvement of our era.
So I want to thank all of you who've come today, to work on these important issues, to continue the work and the thoughts of you who have begun at the local level to come together, to talk together, to learn from each other, to listen to each other and to commit again to the issue of this day and the improvement of our era. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
Police Face Unanswered Questions in San Bernardino Shooting
by Meghan Keneally and Kelly Stenevson
Investigators in California are working their way through the family history and background of the married couple that turned into mass shooters when they opened fire at a work conference event Wednesday.
Suspects Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed by police in a shootout after their deadly attack, which they had apparently planned, officials said. In addition to having plenty of ammunition for another attack, officials add, they also made sure to cover their tracks.
Police detailed the extent of the arsenal of a dozen pipe bomb-style devices and more than 4,500 rounds of ammunition that were found at the couple's Redlands, California, home, as well as the 1,600 rounds they had in the rental car they were driving during their face-off with police.
Investigators were concerned when they went to search the couple's home that there might have been explosives rigged to go off, because there was a pipe bomb at the scene of the shooting that had a remote detonator attached.
"We took our time in securing it, making sure we went in that house, secured it safely. That's where we discovered the other pipe bombs," San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Thursday.
Burguan noted that police did secure "some other evidence -- computer evidence, cellphones," but that does not mean that investigators will have instant access into the suspect's digital trail.
Sources have told ABC News that mobile phones, hard drives and virtually anything with digital memory associated with Farook and Malik had been smashed when they were found by investigators.
FBI computer forensics analysts in Orange County, California ,and at the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, will try to reconstruct and extract any digital information they can, which sources said will be painstaking work.
One law enforcement source told ABC News that while investigators have some capabilities to mine information from damaged digital media, “they are not miracle workers."
Another main focus of the investigation is to determine whether the deadly attack -- which left 14 victims dead and 21 others injured -- legally qualifies as an act of terrorism.
The terrorism classification will be determined once investigators are able to work out the motive of the attack, which remains unknown.
"We do know that the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry in their homes. But we don't know why they did it," President Obama said Thursday.
"It is possible that this was terrorist-related but we don't know. And it's also possible that this was workplace related."
What we talk about when we talk about community policing
by Eric Walter
NewsWorks hosted a public discussion on Nov. 17 about how to strengthen the relationship between the police and the communities they serve by asking: What should the future of policing look like?
Guests were encouraged to share their personal stories in an effort to identify opportunities to improve public safety and cooperation. The discussion was largely optimistic. Dr. James Peterson, host of WHYY's "The Remix" podcast, led the conversation.
A panel of four started discussions off, including neighborhood leaders LaVeta Jones (Mount Airy), Tyrone Wrice (Mantua), and Amelia Price (Tioga), as well as outgoing Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel.
A key theme of the evening was the responsibility on the part of both the police department and community members to work toward solutions through interaction and dialogue. It's not just about crime fighting, it's also about building relationships.
Another recurring realization is that what residents want from community-police relations differs by population and by neighborhood. It's hard to define community policing. One participant said this is a good thing, because it means that anyone with a heart is qualified to help keep their community safe.
Here are some ideas that came up in group discussions.
Community cohesiveness, vigilance
Effective policing starts with investing in the community, being vigilant. For example, neighbors can be on the lookout for women walking home late from work.
Neighbors have to be connected with each other. It's important to attend meetings, exchange phone numbers, and get to know people.
One participant spoke about parents in Mantua, Philadelphia, encouraging younger people to help keep the neighborhood clean as a version of community policing. In Mantua there is poverty, and there is pride, he said. Having opportunities to engage with police officers as a kid gave him an appreciation of police officers and the work they do.
Children are watching the adults in their community. If neighbors and police don't come to terms, the kids will carry those prejudices forward.
The burden is on neighbors to document crimes to make them "real issues."
Interactions affect perceptions
Cops are often seen as a bad thing, outsiders, not a part of the community. Working one on one with police helps to change perceptions.
When police keep their promises and when they use de-escalation strategies, they can gain community trust.
One participant spoke of an officer-involved shooting last year. Neighbors asked the police very hard questions, but because of the existing positive relationship, they were more willing to wait for formal resolution to the situation. In a situation like this, that resolution — how it is arrived at, and how it is communicated to the public — is essential to inspire trust.
Panelist Tyrone Wrice told a story about being attacked by a police dog when he was young. The police commissioner at the time, Frank Rizzo, who was not loved among African-American communities, visited to see how he was and to apologize for the incident. Wrice said he has a fear of dogs to this day, but as a result of Rizzo's actions, he didn't leave that incident fearing or hating police.
One participant described an experience as a teenager when police pulled him and a friend off of a SEPTA bus to take him to a McDonald's that had just been robbed. The manager said immediately that it was not him. It was another black man, who otherwise looked nothing like him. "Why do they do that?" he said.
A woman from Southwest Philly talked about calling the police to help with a problem in her neighborhood. Neighbors went with her to the district headquarters to identify the perpetrator, and she gained an appreciation for the police because of their help.
One participant who frequently connects with the court system for work said she has seen officers change their stories while on the witness stand to justify an illegal search — which leads to a community's distrust of the police. This is one reason kids are taught to run or walk away from the police.
A young black man described positive interactions with police after being mugged twice. Their responsiveness and the accuracy of their report made him feel better about what had happened, that he was able to do something about it.
What police see
One attendee asked what influences police's perception of the community. Some acknowledged that police can have lower expectations of certain communities. Their training influences what they see and how they interpret it.
Their experience colors their view, because they have to protect themselves and others. They are always on guard.
Police need to learn to ask themselves: "How do I walk into this situation and not buy into what I am seeing?"
Residents need to figure out how to get police officers to see what is possible in a neighborhood instead of the existing problems. More planned, positive interactions will help them see the good in a community — seeing and meeting "good people" in the community, e.g., elders, Town Watch members, church leaders, neighborhood activists.
Rotating officers to different districts and neighborhoods can keep them from getting jaded from repeated interactions with the same "bad people" — but it can be disruptive to relationship-building.
An officer in attendance said that 90 percent of calls are for domestic violence. People don't know how to talk to each other. Cops mediate conversations. They have a new form for reporting incidents of domestic violence that requires a lot of questions. More information can lead to better responses and gives them more process, more opportunities for follow-up, closer involvement.
An officer described a situation when he encountered a man who appeared to be doing drugs. Instead of arresting him, he talked to the guy about how he might change his life. "It's not about how many pinches you get," he said, but rather how you build trust with the people you serve.
I became a police officer because I wanted to help people, an officer said. I get more than I give.
It's important for police to see what people are talking about in the community. An officer said he tried to see what residents are seeing by going out to the field. Sometimes people don't report minor crimes in high-crime neighborhoods, but those issues, which might still be major concerns for some, could more easily be fixed. It's important for neighborhoods to communicate their needs to the police.
Witnessing violence results in trauma every day. If trauma is not dealt with, it can lead to aggression. What can we do to deal with this? We all have trauma — we lose neighbors, police lose partners. I get nightmares. If people knew what I see, they may not keep calling me names.
A participant said that the police department should ensure that there is a decompression routine built into training and support services. The department should provide mental health first aid, and behavioral and mental health training, for police — and broadcast that such training is available.
Impediments to positive interaction
Because of their visibility and ubiquity, police often bear the brunt of social issues that they might be be able to fix , e.g., race, poverty, poor government.
Police have an overwhelming job, both in terms of the number of calls they have to respond to and in terms of the social work tasks asked of them — mental health counseling, family counseling, domestic violence counseling.
Lack of continuity is a problem. It often takes a couple of years for relationships to gel. Also, relationships come "from the top." Police officers move around a lot from district to district. The captain is there longer, so building a relationship with the district captain is important. So it can be helpful to go even higher. Build a relationship with your state representative. Panelist LaVeta Jones said Rep. Cherelle Parker has provided continuity and leverage to ensure the police district is consistent in their efforts to work with the community.
Community meetings need to be a priority. Where and when they occur is not always made clear to neighbors. Often the police officers themselves do not know about them or do not share information.
A participant who works at Women Against Abuse said the panelists' positive experiences of community relations are different from what she hears working with victims of crimes. Many victims don't take the steps — or even have access to those steps — to create positive police relationships.
In large cities, opportunities for one-to-one relationships between community members and police officers can be limited.
Some who want to have a healthy relationship with the police may be scared, because doing so can raise suspicion among neighbors and get them labeled as a snitch. One South Philly woman said that she doesn't always call the police right away to deal with neighborhood issues like drugs and prostitution. She calls her brothers, who are police officers, or she goes to the district to report it instead.
A resident in East Falls saw surveillance cameras appear without anyone in the community being asked if they wanted them or, if they did, where to put them. Some residents called about the cameras, and the people at the other end didn't know anything about them.
There are so many different police departments throughout Philadelphia — city, university police, SEPTA, Philadelphia police, federal officers, even store security — and there is no unifying approach.
A woman representing South Philly's South Asian immigrant community had a couple of points from the "limited English-speaker perspective." Language assistance is important. There is a segment of the city that is overlooked and living on the fringes, scared to talk to police because they don't know how to.
Immigrants also face fears of incrimination, of being profiled, of being deported. "You can be deported, even if you're a legal immigrant, for carrying two pills of ecstasy when you're 19 years old." Refugees can be sent back to the countries they tried to escape from.
It's important to have police who look like us, she said. There should be more active outreach and recruitment for police officers who can communicate with and relate to immigrants. if you have drugs on you.
Ways of supporting interaction, collaboration
When we open up the conversation, cops become more approachable. The stereotype is that police don't listen, if we can listen, we can work together. With a more open dialogue, people will realize they can go to the police and not be afraid of what the response might be.
Police do not snitch on each other. Holding police accountable for misconduct can build community trust, help residents recognize the role of authority in police. Healthy community relationships are valuable for both police and community members.
Police won't mistreat you if they know you, said one African-American man. He said he isn't afraid of the police in his own community, but rather the police in other communities.
Foot patrols are a big help toward building trust and an important way for officers to get a realistic view of about what being in a community is like. Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel indicated that this kind of training is happening in only six out of 21 patrols in Philadelphia. He said that motorizing the police force helped speed their response, but also lost some personal interactions along the way.
A police officer in attendance shared how much relations are changing between police and civilians. There are more forums, more people coming out, and more collaboration between community leaders and police.
There needs to be work on both sides to close the communication gap. Residents must report problems to the police, and police and community leaders must share more about what's being done. Neighbors ask police for help all the time, but the police need help from people in the community too.
The role of news media
Positive interactions happen all the time, but there is a perception that they are not getting enough attention in the news media. The focus tends to be on the volatility of individual situations, and not on big-picture positive efforts. Maybe the negative stories stand out more or simply reinforce the pessimistic narrative that people expect.
News media should make an effort to focus on positive, solution-oriented stories. For example, there have been 1,500 - 2,000 officers trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation strategies. Reporters should talk to rank and file officers about what works.
There's a role to play in helping the community understand the role of the police department.
Great community-policing work is being done in business corridors, for example the SafeGrowth " crime prevention through environmental design " program at work in eight neighborhoods throughout the city.
The community has to reach out to the police and ask them for participation, begin two-way communication.
There should be major community events in each police district several times a year to build and mend relationships between neighbors and cops — events with schools and children, especially.
The police department needs a marketing campaign that includes different levels within the force and sets a more positive direction for how the community perceives police, to rebrand police as caregivers to communities.
Investigations into inappropriate behavior should be sped up, and the department should be transparent about the consequences, making it clear that misconduct will not be tolerated.
Set up a mixed-race mentor program to break down cultural divides.
Create or enforce a policy that allows police officers to explain why they are stopping someone.
Some suggested a top-to-bottom evaluation of the entire police force.
Rotate police officers among districts so they are exposed to different people throughout the city, but keep the district leadership in place to maintain consistency.
Transitions of officers and leadership should be planned, phased-in and gradual. Communities need time and a process to say goodbye to people they have gotten to know, and to be introduced to new officers and district leadership.
Public safety, trust depend on work of police and community both
by Eric Walter
NewsWorks presented a public discussion on Nov. 17 at WHYY studios about the relationship between the police and the communities they serve. Four guests shared personal stories to illustrate some ways of strengthening that relationship. Two common threads that ran through their stories are that it takes deliberate effort on the part of neighbors to work together, and it takes time and consistency for the police to gain a community's trust.
~~ LaVeta Jones, Mount Airy
LaVeta Jones, a block captain and community organizer in Mount Airy in Philadelphia's 14th police district, began her story by summing up the three components that effective community policing depends on: government agencies, community leaders, and community participation.
Her role as a neighborhood leader began in 2011, when she contacted her state representative, Cherelle Parker, about prostitution and illegal drug activity happening in her driveway. She began to make contact with the police department, including Lt. Anthony Buchanico and Capt. Sekou Kinenebrew, at community meetings.
She began attending monthly captain's meetings, open to the public, where she said attending officers drove home the point that "the police can't do everything alone. They need community members involved." So she started a community town watch. Neighbors across three blocks are now in frequent communication via phone and email, and they know each others' patterns well enough to spot anomalies.
~~ Tyrone Wrice, Mantua
Tyrone Wrice, who lives in Mantua in the 16th police district, echoed that need for neighbor involvement. "You have to have a basic interest in the community, otherwise you're not going to look at that community as something that you are investing in," he said.
"I can't remember a time that I wasn't involved in community policing."
When he was a kid, his father took him and his brother on walks through their West Philadelphia neighborhood. "We didn't know what we were doing, but we were policing the community," he said.
Wrice lived in Iowa and Nebraska for a while, where he worked with police and community planners in rural communities. Their strategies are really the same as a community watch in an urban environment, he said.
As a member of the Mantua Civic Association's safety committee, he looks beyond the crisis management of fixing problems today and works toward a strategy for police relations 10 to 15 years into the future.
~~ Amelia Price, North Philadelphia
After losing her mother and sister and being laid off from her job, Amelia Price filled the void in her heart by working with her church and becoming a commercial corridor manager in the 25th district. Through a partnership among the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, Called to Serve CDC and Philadelphia LISC, she was selected for training in the SafeGrowth program. With that training, rooted in the theory of crime prevention through environmental design, or CPTED, she learned how to connect neighborhood businesses to block captains and community stakeholders to turn around blighted areas.
"If people were to ask what is a corridor manager professionally, she or he is a person that gives technical assistance to the merchants on the corridor," she said. "But if you were to ask personally, I think anybody can be a corridor manager if they have a passion for the community and the neighborhood and you want to see a change."
She gave high praise to officers Gary Sinclair and Marcus Salas, members of her CPTED team who she says have already made a huge difference.
"We were all color-blind," she said. "Although we all looked different, we never looked at skin; we look at each others' heart. And I noticed right away that they also had a passion for their community."
Now she says merchants look forward to seeing the officers. "They don't just ride around and patrol in a car. They park their cars, and they go out every week into the field with me, and they take time to listen to the concerns and complaints. But not only that — they take notes and they tell the merchants and they tell the community exactly what they are going to do."
~~ Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, Philadelphia Police Department
"Community policing is such a broad term. It's like reading the bible. Everybody has a different interpretation of what they believe community policing is," said Kevin Bethel, outgoing deputy commissioner of the Philly Police Department.
He cited last summer's Secure Our Future summit, which connected the department with 300 young people from across the city, resulting in a report of concerns and suggestions that the department is now working from. That's community policing, he said.
He mentioned a 2009 project with Temple University, putting foot patrols in the community, which helped the department show that having police on the ground made them better officers. Now, he said, every officer comes out of the academy and spends six months on foot learning what's going on in the community and how to work with residents. That's community policing.
Ten years ago, when he was a captain in 17th District, Bethel said it took him a year to get the community to trust him. Part of that was making commitments and keeping his promises, he said.
"This process is not that complex. It is about how you treat people at the point of contact and how you sit down with people and you want to make things better for them," he said.
How 4 bold traffic enforcement changes can boost police-community relations
Improving today's police-community relations can be an expansive effort that will take time but a transformation of our current enforcement model is a good start
by Tom Wetzel
America's police officers have been taking some hits lately. Whether it is biased media coverage on use of force or widespread anti-police protests, many police leaders may be wondering what can be done to reverse this negative trend.
An important area where police leadership could make an impact on the public's perception of police and on the safety of their constituents is a radical rethinking of traffic law enforcement. The current model — where officers are often pushed to meet ticket quotas to generate revenue used to support city and court budgets — needs to change.
This standard has too often caused the public to perceive officers as de facto tax collectors and has put an unreasonable financial burden on the driving public. It is a big reason that more voters are tossing traffic cameras out of their cities because they see them for what they are — a revenue generator.
Four Simple Steps
The bold realignment that is needed is really quite simple. First, all money generated from fines would go into a separate budget which can only be used for traffic safety. This can include more rumble strips on roads, better street lighting, improved signage, and more guardrail protection at dangerous curves. Although receiving a ticket will never make a driver happy, a driver may feel somewhat better knowing that the fine will be used to improve roadways.
Second, all traffic fines should be reduced with an exception for more egregious violations. These fines can be a real drain — especially for drivers who are poor. Often times, drivers simply cannot afford to pay their fines, resulting in warrants for their arrest. This issue has caused people who are generally law-abiding citizens to become desperados until they can pay an exorbitant fine.
Guess who gets to arrest them and place them in a degrading situation when they can't pay? That's right, police officers! Don't think for a moment that this hasn't caused some of the officer/citizen friction we currently see.
A third component is to discourage any quota system. It seems that cops only have quotas for tickets. We have a drug problem in this country but we don't demand officers arrest a certain number of people for heroin possession each month. Cops appreciate their role in trying to change driver behavior for the better but don't like being pressured to write tickets. Cops are a suspicious type and recognize phony when they see it — which is essentially what so many of these quotas are.
Finally, in the vein of community policing, officers should be used more as educators to teach young drivers about the perils of speed and dangerous driving. We reach out to little kids in Safety Town programs but should be more active in school driver instruction programs. These efforts can help develop harmony with teenagers who are at an age when they may begin to develop negative opinions about cops based on music, social media and other outlets.
Improving today's police-community relations can be an expansive effort that will take time, but a transformation of our current enforcement model is a good start.
About the author
Lt. Tom Wetzel is a 27-year veteran police officer of a northeast Ohio suburban police department. He is a certified law enforcement executive, graduate of Police Executive Leadership College, ILEETA member, department training coordinator, OC instructor, TASER instructor, DT instructor, and trainer in traffic stops. Wetzel has had oversight of department community policing efforts, led his department SWAT team prior to serving with a regionalization team. An instructor for Northcoast Polytechnic Institute, Wetzel is an internationally published author for numerous police trade publications and a black belt in Goshin Jujitsu. Wetzel co-developed a school/community policing children's Internet and stranger danger safety program called e-Copp, an educational Children's online protection program. More information about e-Copp can be gleaned from www.e-copp.com.
Regents' vote may lead to armed police at community colleges
by Susan Haigh
Hartford, Conn. — The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education moved closer Thursday toward allowing armed security on all state community college campuses, with proponents acknowledging "the world is a different place."
On a voice vote, the board approved a resolution that changes the board's policy barring weapons on campus, with the exception of Naugatuck Community College. The General Assembly is now expected to take up a bill during next year's regular legislative session that would allow armed, "special police forces" to patrol the state's 12 community college campuses.
Ultimately each college would decide whether it wants armed police on its campus. Currently, the type of security personnel varies by school.
"I'm very confident that this one of the many things that we need to do," said Manchester Community College President Gena Glickman. "The world is a different place than it was."
The police forces would be similar to those on the four state university campuses and at the University of Connecticut. Besides being certified in Police Officers Standard Training, or POST, the officers would receive special training in community policing on a college campus and train with the nearest state university force.
"We recognize that colleges are different. They're not like municipalities," said Board of Regents member Merle Harris, chairman of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Harris said more than half of the community colleges in the nation have armed police forces.
The move to allow armed security on Connecticut's campuses comes amid a spate of mass shootings, including at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 1, and one day after 14 people were shot dead in California.
The state hired a consulting firm to assess each of the campuses. The firm determined that campus security would be enhanced by armed officers who are POST-certified and that the current policy, which prohibits weapons on community college campuses except for Naugatuck, would have to be changed.
Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and University System, said having armed officers will make students and faculty feel safer, while improving the school's response to a potential armed shooter.
"We saw that there are mass shootings going on in this country. And we need to be better prepared to deal with those situations," said Ojakian, who was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief of staff during the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. He said the move to change the weapons policy is part of an overall effort to look at campus safety, as well as mental health services available at the community colleges.
He said the ultimate goal is to have consistency across the whole system, with adequate numbers of police who have adequate training. With the special police force designation, officers at each campus would be legally protected from lawsuits and departments could be eligible for emergency personnel vehicles.
Ojakian, who has been visiting each campus, said he's heard from students who support having armed security. He said he hopes, after meeting with each community college president, that each school will ultimately agree to one model of armed security.
"This is something students want," he said. "They want to feel safer on their campus."
Two dead suspects named after mass shooting that killed 14 at California office party
by William Dauber, Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF. — At least two gun-wielding assailants opened fire on a holiday party for county employees Wednesday, killing 14 people in the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre three years ago this month.
Hours after the shooting, law enforcement officials said two suspects — Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27 — had been killed in a police shootout several miles from the site of the original attack.
In between were four hours of terror that brought the city of San Bernardino to a standstill. Fearful residents sheltered in homes, emergency responders rushed to get bleeding victims to safety, and dozens of law enforcement officers were embroiled in a car chase that took them from a residential street in nearby Redlands to a shootout back in San Bernardino that left both suspects dead, an officer wounded and one more community permanently changed.
The motives behind the mass shooting — the 355th in the U.S. this year — are still unclear. At a late-night news conference, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that Farook is a U.S. citizen who worked as a health inspector for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, which was hosting Wednesday's holiday party.
Police did not know where Malik was born or where she lived. A third suspect who had been seen fleeing the shootout was also taken into custody, though it was not clear whether he had been associated with the attack.
Asked about the third suspect, Burguan replied, “Right now, as we continue to drill down our information, it looks like we have two shooters. We are comfortable that the two shooters that went into the building are the two shooters that are deceased.”
Farook was at the gathering Wednesday, Burguan said, but he left early “under circumstances described as angry or something of that nature.”
Shortly after, Farook apparently returned with Malik, who officials believe is either his wife or fiancee. Then he allegedly opened fire.
Burguan declined to comment on what may have precipitated the attack. But, he said, the couple seemed too well-prepared for the shooting to have been set off solely by something that happened earlier that day.
“Based upon what we have seen and how they were equipped, there had to be some degree of planning that went into this,” Burguan said. “I don't think they grabbed the guns and tactical gear on a spur-of-the-moment thing.”
He and other law enforcement officials said that terrorism has not been ruled out.
“One of the big questions that will come up repeatedly is: ‘Is this terrorism?'?” said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said at an earlier news conference. “It is a possibility. We are making some adjustments to our investigation. It is a possibility. But we don't know that yet. And we are not willing to go down that road yet.”
A senior U.S. law enforcement official told The Washington Post that Farook had not been under FBI investigation.
The mass shooting Wednesday erupted at the Inland Regional Center, a three-building complex that houses a conference center and a facility that serves people with developmental disabilities. Dressed in black masks and tactical gear and carrying multiple weapons, the assailants barged into an auditorium where an annual gathering of health department employees was underway.
The barrage of gunfire set off a tense, confusing and terrifying day in Southern California as the shooters — their number unclear, their identities unknown, their motives unimaginable — fled the center in a black SUV and eluded capture for hours.
Police followed a tip that led them to a house in the nearby city of Redlands. During a stakeout there, they spotted an SUV that matched the description of the suspects' vehicle, and when the occupants drove away, police gave chase. A law enforcement source said the suspects threw objects — possibly pipe bombs — out the window.
The suspects drove back into San Bernardino and, reaching a residential neighborhood, stopped and began exchanging gunfire with more than 20 officers. One officer was injured in the firefight, but police said the wounds were not life-threatening. The two suspects were killed, their vehicle riddled with bullets.
The immediate aftermath was captured by helicopter news crews, who provided a live feed to a national audience watching on television and online. Police officers swarmed the neighborhood, guns drawn, taking cover behind walls and armored SWAT vehicles. Three armored vehicles surrounded the SUV, and officers slowly and methodically determined that no one inside had survived the hail of gunfire.
The two slain suspects were armed with assault rifles and handguns, Burguan said. Three explosive devices were also recovered from the shooting scene.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Wednesday night it had recovered two rifles and two handguns and is conducting “urgent traces” to determine where the weapons were bought.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Wednesday night it had recovered two rifles and two handguns and is conducting “urgent traces” to determine where the weapons were bought.
Later, ATF spokeswoman Meredith Davis told the Los Angeles Times that said officials had “successfully traced” the four guns recovered in connection with the San Bernardino shooting and determined that two of the weapons were purchased legally. The origins of the two other weapons are still being investigated.
The two legally purchased guns were bought by an individual associated with the investigation, Davis said, but she declined to name the person.
Recent mass shootings in the United States have typically involved a lone gunman, often someone mentally unstable or consumed with rage. Multiple-shooter events are extremely rare: According to a recent FBI report on 160 “active shooter incidents” between 2000 and 2013, all but two involved a single shooter.
Witnesses reported seeing shooters in black clothing using long guns akin to assault weapons.
“They came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said. “They were dressed and equipped in a way that indicate they were prepared.”
That level of preparation is under scrutiny as law enforcement probe for a possible motive in the shooting.
Details about suspected shooters are hard to come by. According to the Los Angeles Times, Farook was born in Illinois, and his parents had immigrated to the U.S. from Southeast Asia. He had worked for the county health department for five years, officials said, and he attended the annual holiday party the year before.
Doyle Miller, who owns the house in Redlands on which police converged Wednesday, said that Farook and Malik moved in five or six months ago. They lived there with their young child and a “grandmother,” he told USA Today, and rarely posed any problems.
"The only thing we complained about is that he didn't take care of the backyard,” Miller said.
Speaking on behalf of the family, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations's Los Angeles office Hussam Ayloush said that Farook and Malik were married.
On Wednesday morning, the couple left their infant daughter with Farook's mother, telling her that they were headed out for a doctor's appointment.
By evening, the couple was dead, killed in a standoff with law enforcement, and it was clear that their story about the doctor's appointment had been a ruse.
The two left behind little in the way of a paper trail — no apparent criminal record, no Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.
An online dating profile for a “farooksyed49? from Riverside, Calif. resembles the suspect described by law enforcement. The profile, on the “Indian matrimonial and dating service” iMilap.com, describes a 22-year-old man from a “religious but modern family.”
"I work for county as health, safety and environmental inspector,” it reads. “Enjoy working on vintage and modern cars, read religious books, enjoy eating out sometimes travel and just hang out in back yard doing target practice with younger sister and friends.”
The man in the profile picture is tall and bearded, posed jauntily in front of a nondescript building flanked by palm trees and a smooth, green lawn. He writes that he is interested in “matrimonial.”
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, coworkers who knew Farook described him as a quiet and polite man who held no obvious grudges against people in the office. They said he recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a woman he met online.
The officer had recently held a shower for the couple's new baby, and two seemed to be “living the American dream,” said Patrick Baccari, a fellow inspector who shared a cubicle with Farook.
Griselda Reisinger, who worked with Farook before leaving the agency in May, and other colleagues told the Los Angeles Times that Farook was a devout Muslim, but not vocal about his religion
“He never struck me as a fanatic, he never struck me as suspicious,” Reisinger said.
Even before law enforcement named the two suspects, CAIR held a press conference in response to the name that was being circulated in media reports — apparently to preempt potential backlash to news about the assailants' religion.
“The main intention was to strongly condemn what had happened, Ojaala Ahmad, the organization's communication's director, said in a phone call after the press conference.
"If it ends up the suspect was Muslim, people are going to — there will be that whole wave of Islamophobia,” she said. “We wanted to say that we grieve as Americans.”
Farhan Khan, who was introduced as a brother-in-law of the suspect, said he had no clue what might have driven his relative to such a crime.
“Why would he do that. Why would he do something like that?” Khan said, his expression weary, his eyes red. “I have no idea. I'm in shock myself.”
Khan said he spoke to his brother-in-law a week ago, but would not answer other questions or give the man's name. He would not comment on whether his brother-in-law is a religious person.
“I cannot express how sad I am today,” he said.
When the family heard that a shooting had taken place at party for Farook's office, they feared that he had been hurt, CAIR-LA's executive director Hussam Ayloush said. They never imagined that their relative might have been the gunman.
In addition to the 14 dead, at least 17 people were being treated in local hospitals for injuries suffered in the rampage. A spokeswoman for Loma Linda University Medical Center said Wednesday that two of the five patients treated there were in critical condition.
"We don't know who the gunmen are, or why this happened. It's devastating,” said Marybeth Feild, president of the Inland Regional Center's board of directors, who was not in the building at the time of the shooting. “I just don't know how we're going to recover from this. It's just overwhelming. Why would anyone target a social service center?”
The Inland Regional Center is a three-building complex that houses a conference center and serves more than 30,000 people with developmental disabilities. Nearly 700 staff members work there, according to the organization's Facebook page, promoting “independence, inclusion, and empowerment.” The organization says that it is committed to eliminating barriers for individuals with developmental disabilities so that they can “live a typical lifestyle.”
The center held its own holiday party Tuesday, and a brief video clip showed staffers and clients in wheelchairs dancing to the 1980 mega-hit “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.
On Wednesday, the city's public health department had rented out the conference center's first-floor banquet room for a holiday party, complete with Christmas trees and other decorations. The event was in full swing when the first reports of gunfire came, at 10:59 a.m.
Initially, when the gunshots went off, few people registered them as such.
Dorothy Vong thought it was a drill. The nurse told the Los Angeles Times that drills are common at the Inland Regional Center, where patients and clients occasionally erupt into anger.
She texted her husband, “Drill started,” then began filming the scene outside. Police officers were pouring out of vehicles in the sun-lit parking lot and racing toward the building.
"Look, they're all there!” a woman in the background said, her tone bright. She didn't realize what's happening. “This is scary, they're all geared up.”
Someone else said, “They're coming onto here,” but a quaver of concern had crept in. The reality of their situation was dawning on them. The video switched off.
Moments later, Vong texted her husband: “Well, it's real.” She waited out the massacre in a locked office.
Chris Nwadike, an employee of the public health department, said he heard something like explosives while he was on a bathroom break from a meeting.
“Big sounds first, then a few seconds, then we heard the gunshots,” he recalled. Someone in the bathroom said, “Everybody lie down,” so he did. After about 10 minutes, the police came and directed everyone out of the building.
For Melinda Rivas, a social worker who works at the center, realization struck when a woman down the hall shouted, “There's a shooting!” Rivas and co-workers barricaded themselves in a conference room.
She called her two adult children: “There's a shooting going on. Be safe,” she told them. Finally, a SWAT team evacuated those hiding, telling them to keep their hands raised as they walked out of the building. Rivas texted her children, with relief this time: “I'm safe.”
"This is one of those things I've often seen on the news, and now I was a part of it,” Rivas said later in the day. She recalled leaving the building to the sight of people in panic, yelling and screaming, with clothing and emergency equipment strewn about.
“It was almost like a bloody warpath,” she said. “… This is one of those things I've often seen on the news, and now I was a part of it.”
The shooting shut down much of Southern California's “Inland Empire,” which stretches into the desert east of Los Angeles. Schools and county buildings were put on lockdown for fear that gunmen were on the loose and prepared to attack again. The Federal Aviation Administration imposed temporary flight restrictions over the city at the request of local law enforcement. Police went to stores and restaurants miles from the scene of the shooting and warned people to stay inside.
Meanwhile, SWAT team members went room by room through the three buildings in the IRC complex. Numerous victims were seen in television footage being carried away on stretchers. Medical teams set up a triage area on a nearby public golf course.
By mid-afternoon, police were bringing relatives of victims to the Rudy C. Hernandez Community Center. At least 100 family members could be seen sitting in the bleachers at the community center, where authorities assembled clergy and grief counselors.
“I'm worried, petrified, scared,” said Sherry Esquerra, whose daughter and son-in-law, Shawna and Daniel Timmons, work at the IRC. She said she'd left phone messages but hadn't heard back.
“She would text me. I know she would know that I am worried,” Esquerra said. “They do social work. I don't know how anyone could do this to them.”
Nearby, pastor Wiley S. Drake comforted a woman whose co-worker had been killed.
The co-worker had said, “I hear firecrackers,” the distraught woman recalled to Drake as she sat beside her husband on the community center's bleachers.
The woman looked up, and suddenly the other woman was on the floor. Her co-worker had been shot dead before her eyes.
After nightfall, an impromptu vigil coalesced at the scene of Wednesday's bloodbath. People clutching candles in paper holders formed a tight circle, heads bowed in prayer.
The San Bernardino massacre follows a series of mass shootings just in the past six months. They include attacks on a black church in Charleston, S.C.; at a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tenn.; in a movie theater in Lafayette, La.; at a community college in Oregon; and just last week at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs.
One Internet site that tracks mass shootings — defined as events in which four or more people are killed or injured — reported that San Bernardino's tragedy was the 355th such shooting this year, a pace of more than one a day. Earlier on Wednesday, a gunman in Savannah, Ga. shot four people , killing a woman and injuring three men.
“Obviously our hearts go out to the victims and the families,” President Obama said in a television interview. “The one thing we do know is we have a pattern now of mass shootings in the country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”
Obama called for “common sense” gun-safety laws. And he noted that while people are fearful of a terrorist attack, under current law, people on the U.S. no-fly list can still legally buy a gun.
“Those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm, and there's nothing that we can do to stop them,” Obama said.
Earlier in the day, even before the shooting, doctors in white lab coats descended on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to lift a decades-old ban on research on gun violence.
Most of the presidential candidates took to Twitter to respond to the massacre, with Republicans and Democrats taking different tacks. The GOP contenders almost universally offered prayers for the victims.
“California shooting looks very bad. Good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!” tweeted Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
The three major contenders in the Democratic race, meanwhile, specifically cited the need to stop gun violence.
“I refuse to accept this as normal,” tweeted Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. “We must take action to stop gun violence now.”
We cannot accept mass shootings as the new normal
by Mary McNamara
"Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic and fear.”
That's how the BBC chose to open its coverage of Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino. And while the tone was certainly questionable, the accuracy was not.
The real shock and horror was the near universal lack of shock and horror.
In its place was something far more dangerous than terrorists or highly armed psychopaths, more fundamentally terrifying than butchery or bombs: Numbed acceptance, bordering on disassociation.
Democracy can survive violence, invasion and even fear, but it cannot survive malaise.
From the moment the killings were first reported, it became instantly clear that a year filled with senseless slaughter — there have been 355 mass shootings in 2015 , according to the Washington Post, including two on Wednesday — had left its mark on those who report the news and those who consume it.
The shooting at the Inland Regional Center was called the deadliest since the 2012 killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., but even as the number reported of dead climbed into the teens and the wounded flooded hospitals, the reporting, though thorough, was strangely subdued.
News outlets, including this one, flooded the area with a frightening efficiency born of repetition. Gone was the stutter-step of disbelief, the voice-choked sorrow, the barely concealed rage that marked coverage of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown and Aurora. Gone was the first stage of denial or cautious diminishment, the hope that the harm done would not, could not, be as great as feared.
In its place was the grim reality of a nation that knows better, a near mechanical acceptance of a now-familiar scenario. Everyone hit their marks, were, in fact, horribly aware of hitting their marks, but no one knew what else to do.
Phrases like, “In what has become an increasingly commonplace scene” and “In yet another mass tragedy” opened news reports on virtually every medium. The tones of news anchors varied from personality to personality, but the terrifyingly rote nature of the script everyone followed did not.
Presidential candidates dutifully took to Twitter and Facebook to make the same statements they uttered during the last mass shooting — the Democrats called for stricter gun control, the Republicans offered prayers and praised law enforcement officials.
On social media, the split was similar. The BBC opener was passed around, along with stories and charts about this year's extraordinary number of mass shootings (“mass” meaning four or more people were shot), answered by the equally predictable responses: “Gun control won't cure insanity” or “If the victims had guns, they wouldn't have been victims.”
Prayers were offered by many, and rejected by others as, at worse hypocrisy, at best an excuse to preserve the status quo.
Infusing it all was a sense of reluctant acceptance, even helplessness. Every time a gunman mows down a group of random people, we begin a conversation about guns that invariably devolves into an red state/blue state feud about the 2nd Amendment, laced with bitter complaints about the power of the NRA.
Here's the thing about the NRA: Far fewer Americans belong to it than do not. So if everyone who opposes the ironclad grip it purportedly has on Congress, if they would stop tweeting and start organizing, voting, boycotting and protesting — exercising all the amazing freedoms this still astonishing democracy allows — that great and powerful NRA might just shrivel to a couple of men pulling levers behind a curtain.
As many have noted, the 2nd Amendment was passed long before the invention of automatic weapons, which is the target of most gun control legislation. Very few Americans support the criminalization of handguns or rifles, just the weapons built for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people in a small amount of time with minimal effort.
The 2nd Amendment is also part of the Constitution, which was written to protect this young democracy and (eventually, with a few additional amendments) all its citizens.
Not its guns, its citizens.
In the days following the agonizing killings at Sandy Hook, it seemed impossible that this country would not take big steps to curtail gun violence. Instead we argued politics and let things get worse.
Whether the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings are foreign or domestic terrorists, disgruntled employees or a simply a band of killers shouldn't distract us from the inescapable, unacceptable trend of gun violence. We do not live in an occupied nation, we should not have to instruct our children how to dodge gunfire, we should not fear sudden senseless death in the workplace. We must not allow ourselves to be held hostage by the mental illness or murderous intent of our fellow citizens.
The only way 355 mass shootings in 336 days becomes an acceptable reality is if we accept it.
And if we do, we can no longer blame Islamic State or Al Qaeda or the axis of evil for threatening the American way of life.
We will have destroyed it ourselves.
Police Tear Down Protest Camp at Minneapolis' 4th Precinct
by The Associated Press
Officers in riot gear broke down an encampment early Thursday outside a Minneapolis police precinct where protesters have been demonstrating for nearly two weeks over the fatal shooting of a black man by police.
Officers told about 50 demonstrators outside the Fourth Precinct to disperse about 4 a.m. and began tearing down tents about 15 minutes later. City dump trucks carried away tents and supplies. Demonstrators headed by the local Black Lives Matter group have gathered at the site since the Nov. 16 death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark following a confrontation with police a day earlier.
Police spokesman Scott Seroka said there were a few arrests, but provided no details.
The Star Tribune reported police presented an eviction notice to protesters that said the department remains steadfast to its commitment to help facilitate demonstrations outside the Fourth Precinct. "It is a city building within city grounds and people have the right to peacefully demonstrate or protest," the notice said. But it said that neither structures nor fires will be allowed on city property and that access to the police station must remain open.
Several precinct neighbors upset about noise, vandalism and blocked streets voiced their concerns at a City Council safety committee meeting Wednesday. Patricia Anderson said her daughter's car window has been smashed, bricks have been taken from a wall on her property and she's having trouble sleeping. She said she wants the protesters to leave.
Police say they were responding to an assault call on Nov. 15 in which Clark was a suspect and arrived to find Clark interfering with paramedics who were trying to treat the victim. Police say a scuffle followed and Clark was shot. Some community members have alleged Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, but police dispute this. State and federal investigations are underway.
UNC Public Safety Chief: Lockdown was not an overreaction
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Law enforcement officials from five agencies descended on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wednesday morning to investigate a report of an armed person walking on campus.
Authorities found no such person in nearly 30 minutes of searching, but the response prompted a campus lockdown that included sirens warning students, staff and faculty to shelter in place.
UNC Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff McCracken said the initial call to police originated on campus at about 8:22 a.m.
"A call was received stating that an individual armed with a rifle was seen entering our Naval ROTC building," McCracken said in a 10:30 a.m. news conference.
In the 911 call, a woman can be heard saying that she saw two women wearing military uniforms running "really fast" out of a building and saying there was an armed man inside. The caller states that those women asked her to call police.
"I saw two women run out of the ROTC armory building and they told me to call 911 because there's a man with a rifle," said the caller.
Officials from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Orange County Sheriff's Office, Chapel Hill Police Department, Carrboro Police Department and UNC Department of Public Safety all responded to the area, near the intersection of South and McCauley streets, cleared the ROTC building and were unable to locate any armed individuals.
"At this time, there is no apparent threat to the campus," McCracken said.
The alert to students went out about 20 minutes after the initial call. Catherine Wellen was in her dorm room a block away when the alert went out.
"I had friends calling me, telling me they were crying because they had roommates walking around and everyone was worried because we thought there was a gunman on campus who could be aggressive," said Wellen.
McCracken said officials are now working to contact and follow-up with the caller to learn more about what may have prompted the call.
Considering recent terror attacks in Paris and Wednesday's shooting incident in San Bernardino , McCracken said he wouldn't consider the response to Wednesday's call an overreaction. He said that high profile cases, including cases of terrorism, played a role in the university's response.
"I don't think, given the circumstances that have occurred across the country, it would be considered an overreaction," said McCracken.
McCracken stressed that even if it turns out to be nothing, nobody should ever hesitate to call if they see something suspicious.
"We absolutely want anybody who sees anything they deem suspicious to call us so we can investigate," he said. "We don't have any way of knowing exactly what we're dealing with until we begin to investigate."
Students believe that campus police handled the scare appropriately.
"I think that any time there is any kind of warning that there's any students in danger, that the police should take any kind of precaution to keep people safe, because that should be the biggest priority," said Wellen.
Second incident investigated near UNC campus
After the all-clear signal was given and UNC resumed normal activities, authorities received another call about a person using a gun at a home near campus.
McCracken said it involved a homeowner who was using an air rifle on his property. Authorities investigated the call and determined there was no connection.
After San Bernardino Shooting, Local Public Safety Officers Say ‘We're Ready'
by Julie Parise
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — After Wednesday's deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the third deadliest mass shooting in the United States over the last 20 years, local police officers tell us they are ready, should anything like this ever happen.
“I can tell you that we train, and we train, and we train,” said North Augusta Public Safety Officer Larry Turner.
An “active shooter” call is one of the most serious calls a department can get, but Turner tells us that officers have a plan in place.
“The most important thing is that we want to ensure the safety of the public,” said Turner. “We want to ensure the safety of the first responders that arrive on scene. There is a protocol, no matter what type of situation it is, no matter what type of call it is, there is a protocol.”
Last night, President Obama saying this is now a pattern, though it's one no one ever hopes to see happen close by.
Turner says that when he is called into duty, he knows other first responders will have his back.
Chicago police superintendent fired by mayor amid outcry over video of shooting
by Mark Berman and Mark Guarino
CHICAGO — The head of the Chicago Police Department was fired Tuesday amid widespread criticism over how authorities responded to the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer last year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he formally asked Garry F. McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent, for his resignation on Tuesday morning, a week after video footage of the shooting was released and the officer was charged with murder.
" He has become an issue, rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction,” Emanuel said. He added that while he is loyal to McCarthy, whom he praised for his leadership of the department, the needs of the city are more important.
Even as the embattled Emanuel dismissed his police superintendent and made other vows of increased police accountability, announcing a task force to review police oversight, another Illinois official suggested that federal intervention was needed for the Chicago police. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter Tuesday asking the Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department.
Anger has erupted in Chicago since authorities released footage of Jason Van Dyke, a city police officer, shooting Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old, last year. In the video, Van Dyke is seen firing a volley of shots at McDonald, many of them after the teenager had already fallen to the ground.
Emanuel said he began talking to McCarthy on Sunday, after several days of heated protests, about “the undeniable fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded.”
The end of McCarthy's time atop the Chicago force marks a abrupt shift for a law enforcement officer who became nationally known as he worked in three of the country's biggest police departments.
When Emanuel announced McCarthy's appointment in May 2011, he praised him as someone who proved “reducing crime and working closely with the community are not conflicting goals.”
Before McCarthy, 56, came to Chicago, he served as the police director in Newark and was an officer and deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department. In New York, he oversaw the CompStat system, which is used to monitor crime data and was adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country. He spent a quarter of a century with the NYPD before the department said he retired in 2006 as deputy commissioner for operations and headed to Newark.
During his time in Newark, the number of homicides declined, according to FBI data. The same month his appointment in Chicago was announced, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the Newark police force, looking at reports of how officers used force and complaints of excessive force that occurred before and after McCarthy took over the Chicago police force. The Justice Department said last year it had found “patterns of misconduct” in Newark, releasing a report that did not mention McCarthy, and reached an agreement with the city to have its force overseen by an independent monitor.
When McCarthy arrived in Chicago to lead the country's second-biggest local law enforcement agency, he was seen as an outsider who did not understand the nuances of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods. He also stepped into a culture tainted by a legacy of police abuse going back decades. The city was struggling to confront that legacy through settlements with victims and an effort to rebuild trust on the streets — trust that, for many, was irrevocably broken. Gun violence also mounted: In his first year in office, homicides jumped above 500, creating a crisis that screamed across national headlines.
McCarthy also dealt with anger directed at the city's top officials resulting from Emanuel's decision in 2013 to close dozens of public schools as well as an ongoing foreclosure crisis that worsened neighborhoods that were already marginalized from booming development downtown.
Despite those challenges, police reform experts say McCarthy was a progressive in implementing preventive policing programs. Among them was the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, a partnership funded by the MacArthur Foundation and led by several academic institutions, including the University of Chicago, that created a database to monitor gang activity to the granular level in order to predict and prevent violence.
Andrew Papachristos, a sociologist at Yale University who works with the Chicago Police Department in developing the database, said McCarthy was “a very forward-thinking cop” compared to his predecessors. He said McCarthy also implemented violence-prevention reform programs in Chicago that highlighted rebuilding trust and legitimacy before they took hold on a national level.
According to police data, civilian complaints against police have fallen 38 percent between 2011 and 2015.
" He was at the forefront of police leaders in this country,” Papachristos said. “From the research side of things, he opened the door and was one of the first people who said, ‘Let's try this.'”
McCarthy had also been very outspoken about tightening gun laws, calling for harsher penalties for people who have violated gun laws and saying that illegal gun possession in Chicago was directly tied to the number of homicides.
" There's very few police chiefs in the country that have his institutional knowledge of crime-fighting,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit that guides departments on policies and practices.
While Emanuel said Tuesday he had “a lot of confidence in the work” McCarthy has done in Chicago, he said the move was necessary to rebuild public trust and confidence in the police force.
City leaders and demonstrators had called on Emanuel to remove McCarthy, arguing that new leadership is needed to reassure a troubled public. Last week, a dozen members of the City Council's black caucus gathered to reiterate these calls for new leadership.
Many demonstrators and activists say they didn't feel the effect of McCarthy's efforts.
Asiaha Butler, president of RAGE, a community advocacy group for Englewood, a South Side neighborhood, said the only noticeable policy change under McCarthy that she saw was “an abundance of cops” on the streets, but with little effort to build relationships.
"It was like the only solution [to violence] was to get so many cops in this space,” she said. “It didn't defuse the tension. We just saw more of a presence, and the more presence we saw, we saw more bad apples and more disrespect.”
Tio Hardiman, a community activist who was one of several who marched last week demanding McCarthy's resignation, said the superintendent's tactics were ineffective on the street level.
“None of his plans have worked. He said he would hold the police accountable with CompStat numbers, but who is holding them accountable? Nobody,” he said. “They wanted the people of color to work with police and have a good relationship with them, but they are not returning the favor.”
McCarthy is now the second head of a major police department to be dismissed in recent months after unrest over a fatal encounter involving officers. In July, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake fired her police commissioner, Anthony Batts, saying he had been a distraction as the city reeled from rioting after the death of Freddie Gray.
Emanuel's decision to dismiss McCarthy also coincides with growing public anxiety over a rise in violent crime in Chicago and other big cities across the country. More than 2,700 shootings have been reported in Chicago so far this year, topping the total for all of last year, and more than 430 of them have been fatal.
During an October meeting of more than 100 of the country's top law enforcement officers and politicians in Washington, Emanuel said his police department has turned “fetal” due to increased focus on how police use deadly force and protests after high-profile deaths at the hands of police. He also said this prompted officers to pull back from policing. That drew a rebuke for Emanuel back home, as the head of the police union argued that officers are not backing down.
More recently, though, outrage has mounted over the long lag between McDonald's death in October 2014 and last week's release of the video and charges against Van Dyke. In the interim, Emanuel was reelected to a second term after an unexpected runoff.
"We live in this post-Ferguson environment, where the public demand for openness and transparency is often at odds with a more deliberate, bureaucratic system that doesn't always have the same sense of urgency in dealing with allegations of police misconduct,” Wexler said.
Since the video's release, Emanuel has said he fully supported McCarthy, a position he held publicly until word leaked shortly before the news conference that he had asked him to step down. On Sunday, Emanuel and McCarthy announced plans to put body-worn cameras onto officers in several new city districts by the middle of next year.
As recently as Tuesday morning, McCarthy was conducting interviews and responding to the calls for him to step down.
McCarthy acknowledged missteps, saying in an interview with NBC Chicago on Tuesday morning that the initial press release about the shooting, which said McDonald had continued to approach officers and disregarded orders to drop his knife, “was mistaken.”
In addition, a spokesman for the police union had said after the shooting that McDonald lunged at police with a knife. Last week, that spokesman said he was relaying information told to him by other people on the scene and said he never spoke with Van Dyke.
But McCarthy said his authority in the Van Dyke case was limited, as an outside agency and federal officials investigated what happened. A federal probe into the shooting is still ongoing.
" The things that I have authority over are training, policy and supervision,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also defended how the city has responded to the protests that have erupted since the shooting video was released last week, praising “incredible restraint by officers.”
However, calls for McCarthy's ouster have continued in the days since the video was released. On Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial saying McCarthy “has lost the trust and support of much of Chicago.”
A coalition of Latino political leaders in Chicago has also called for the resignation of Anita Alvarez, the two-term Cook County state's attorney who announced the charges against Van Dyke last week.
In addition to announcing that McCarthy would step down, Emanuel said Tuesday he had created a task force focused on police accountability that is intended to improve independent oversight of the police and the way authorities respond to police officers who receive multiple complaints. The task force is also meant to determine if the city should change its policy of not releasing footage of police shootings.
This group's recommendations will be presented to Emanuel and the Chicago City Council at the end of March, he said.
Despite that announcement, some are wary. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa said the city needs a police reform investigation independent of City Hall and not accountable to Emanuel.
McCarthy's resignation is “a step in the right direction,” Ramirez-Rosa said, but he added that the City Council must act now to push for an independent inquiry into the McDonald shooting.
Many are already warning that McCarthy's resignation should not be mistaken for true police reform, the kind they say is desperately needed in Chicago.
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law school professor who works with police accountability issues, said the challenge for Emanuel now is to “not simply replace the figurehead” with someone new who will fall short of expectations because needed structural changes are not implemented.
" It is critically important not to be distracted by this firing when the real challenge is addressing the fundamental issues that have created this crisis of confidence,” he said. “We can go from scandal to scandal and fire one leader and put in another, but if we fail to address the underlying issues, it will be the same script two years later.”
Claims of Deleted Video Among Questions in Chicago Shooting
by Michael Tarm
The release of squad-car video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times set off a dramatic chain of events, from days of demonstrations to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's firing of the city's police superintendent.
But it's unclear what will happen next.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says it is still actively investigating the case. That raises the possibility the federal officials are looking into authorities' handling of the incident beyond the initial shooting. Activists contend city and police department officials dragged their feet on the investigation and video release and perhaps even sought to cover up what happened.
Here's a look at some unanswered questions about the case and what might be ahead:
The video footage of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald's fatal shooting the night of Oct. 20, 2014, contradicts initial accounts police officials gave.
Pat Camden, at the time a police union spokesman, described McDonald lunging at officers before shooting began, while a police statement just after the shooting said McDonald had refused to drop a knife and "continued to approach the officers." Initial media reports based on police information suggested McDonald was killed by a single shot to the chest.
But the video shows McDonald walking down the middle of a four-lane street. He then appears to veer away from police as Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is now charged with murder, opens fire. The video seems to show McDonald with something in his hand. Prosecutors say a 3-inch blade recovered from the scene had been folded into the handle.
In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Dean Angelo Sr., the president of Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, agreed McDonald didn't appear to lunge. But he also said McDonald did seem to slightly "square his shoulders" toward Van Dyke, which he says Van Dyke may have perceived as a threat.
He said Camden, who is still affiliated with the union but not as a spokesman, is currently declining interviews. He added that he hasn't asked Camden about his initial comments because "one of the investigative agencies wants to talk to him," so it wouldn't be appropriate for the union to question him.
LACK OF AUDIO
The dash-cam video of the shooting initially released by the city has no sound, nor do videos released later from other police cruisers at the scene. But they typically should have.
Chicago police cars are set up so audio records along with video, police have said.
Sound is often critical to understanding what's happening and why an officer or suspect acted the way they did, said Ed Primeau, a Michigan-based audio and video forensics expert.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi suggested that the absence of audio was most likely a technological glitch. In an emailed statement, he wrote, "As with any technology, at times software issues or operator error may keep the cameras from operating as they normally should."
But Primeau said it is hard to believe none of the police vehicles had workable audio.
"It's a red flag," he said. "I see it all the time — not just by police but by people trying to cover things up." Most officers, Primeau said, would want to make sure the video equipment is working properly so "internal affairs or investigators know exactly what was going on."
Among witnesses who testified before a federal grand jury investigating the shooting was a district manager for a Burger King near the shooting scene.
Jay Darshane told reporters that several police officers entered his restaurant and viewed surveillance video. Police spent almost two hours going through the footage, Darshane said, and staff determined later that around 90 minutes of footage had been erased. He said the deleted portions included the timeframe when McDonald would have been shot.
The camera angle would not have caught the actual shooting, but it could have provided clues about how matters escalated or how officers treated the scene and witnesses afterward.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who approved the murder charge against Van Dyke, said that forensic testing was done on the Burger King video as part of the investigation, and that no tampering was found. In a statement, a spokesman for the independent police review board also said it had "no credible evidence at this time that would cause us to believe CPD purged or erased any surveillance video."
The U.S. attorney's office has not specified what issue it's investigating.
If it found evidence of a cover-up, any indictment would most likely involve a charge of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine on each count.
Another possibility is that prosecutors are looking into whether to charge Van Dyke with violating McDonald's civil rights. Because the shooting resulted in the teen's death, Van Dyke could face a maximum life sentence if convicted of such a federal charge.
Van Dyke's attorney, Dan Herbert, maintains that Van Dyke feared for his life, acted lawfully and that the video does not tell the whole story.
On Tuesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate whether the Chicago Police Department's practices violate federal and constitutional law. Madigan in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked that the investigation weigh, among other things, the department's use of deadly force and whether a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing exists.
Tamir Rice Case: Officer Says He 'Knew It Was a Gun' and Aimed for Weapon, According to Statement
by James Hill and Emily Shapiro
The officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last year, said he "knew it was a gun and it was coming out" before he opened fire and repeatedly warned the boy to put his hands up, according to newly released statements from the cop and his partner.
The unsworn statements given Monday to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department and released today by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, mark the first time that officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner's versions of events has been made public.
Rice had been holding a toy gun when officer Timothy Loehmann allegedly shot him in November 2014 and claimed in his statement that he was aiming for the 12-year-old's weapon.
Loehmann said he and his partner responded to a report of a "male waiving [sic] a gun and pointing at people" and he saw the suspect put something into his waistband.
When Rice turned towards the patrol car, Loehmann claimed he "yelled continuously 'show me your hands' as loud as I could," the statement said.
Loehmann said the suspect "appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds."
"The suspect lifted his shirt reached down into his waistband. We continued to yell 'show me your hands.' I was focused on the suspect," Loehmann wrote. "Even when he was reaching into his waistband, I didn't fire. I still was yelling the command 'show me your hands.'"
Loehmann said the suspect "had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands," according to the statement. "He was facing us. This was an active shooter situation."
"I had very little time as I exited the vehicle...I observed the suspect pulling the gun out of the waistband with his elbow coming up," he wrote.
Video shows rice being shot in less than 2 seconds after car door opens.
Loehmann said he and his partner were still yelling "show me your hands."
"With his hands pulling the gun out and his elbow coming up, I knew it was a gun and it was coming out," he wrote. "I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active."
He said he fired two shots, aiming towards the gun in Rice's hand, the statement said, based on "tap-tap" training.
Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, wrote that he saw Rice pulling the gun "from the right front area of his waistband. I thought the gun was real," his statement said.
Garmback said he and Loehmann both directed the suspect to show his hands. He also wrote that he believed the suspect was over 18.
The investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office has been unable to substantiate any claims that Loehmann and/or Garmback issued any verbal commands to Rice prior to the shooting; the investigation determined that no witness was close enough to the scene to hear the alleged commands.
A grand jury is currently hearing evidence in the Rice shooting to determine if any charges will be brought against the officers.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office would not comment on whether the officers' statements have been presented to the grand jurors but said the statements were "released in keeping with our determination to be as transparent as possible in this and other police use of fatal deadly force cases." Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said, “The investigation is continuing and ultimately the Grand Jury will make its decision based on all the evidence."
The officers' statements to the sheriff's office were not sworn, the prosecutor's office said.
The officers' attorneys could not be immediately reached today for comment.
Rice family attorney Jonathan Abady slammed the statement.
"Allowing defendant police officers to submit unsworn statements in response to grand-jury subpoenas that call for their live testimony is again a stunning irregularity further tainting these proceedings," he said. "No regular target of a criminal investigation would be afforded this opportunity."
Abady also said the officers' statements were "inconsistent with each other" and "flatly contradicted" by video footage.
Reports released in October from two outside experts who examined the use of deadly force in the case concluded that the shooting was "reasonable."
The family's law firm submitted to the prosecutor last week, two reports from outside experts which reach an opposite conclusion, that the shooting was unreasonable.
“We understand that the presentation of these reports, making clear the shooting of this 12-year-old-boy was completely unjustified and unreasonable, will likely not undo the damage already done to the grand jury process, but we think it important that the grand jury be given the opportunity to consider the testimony and findings of true experts to explain why this killing was unjustified,” Abady wrote.
Cutting Off Another Route for Terrorist Travel
Lawmakers want to tighten the visa-waiver program to keep Islamic State militants out of the U.S.—and this time, they have the White House's support.
by Russell Berman
In the days after terrorists killed 130 people in coordinated attacks in Paris, lawmakers in Washington rushed to try and suspend the nation's Syrian refugee program. Now, they're turning their attention to the U.S. visa-waiver program in the hopes of preventing militants from slipping into the country undetected.
The twin efforts have drawn a night-and-day response from the Obama administration: Whereas the White House aggressively fought the attempt by House Republicans to block the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East, it is eager to see Congress tighten up a program that it views as more vulnerable to infiltration by the Islamic State.
The difference, in the administration's view, is the security risk. As officials from President Obama on down have pointed out, it would take an ISIS fighter well over a year to enter the U.S. by seeking resettlement as a refugee—a process that is the most stringent for any foreign traveler to the country. “If you are an extremist hell-bent on carrying out an act of violence on American soil, it doesn't make a lot of sense that you're going to apply for a program that will take you two years before you can enter the United States,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, on Tuesday.
By contrast, the visa-waiver program allows citizens from any one of 38 countries—including most of Europe—to visit the U.S. for up to three months without being interviewed at an embassy or consulate. Created in 1986, the waiver initiative was designed to promote tourism and business travel by making it easier to visit the U.S. without jumping the bureaucratic hoops needed to get a visa. About 20 million visa-less travelers enter the country each year. “It's served its purpose economically,” said Representative Candice Miller, a Republican from Michigan. “However, it's a much different world today, and so I think these terrorists are using our freedoms and vulnerabilities against us. And this we believe is a big vulnerability.”
That's an assertion that Obama administration officials probably wouldn't dispute. In the face of the threat posed by ISIS foreign fighters traveling in and out of Iraq and Syria, the Department of Homeland Security has tweaked the rules of the program three times over the last year. While those two countries aren't partners in the waiver program, the concern is that a citizen of say, Belgium, could have gone to Syria to train with ISIS and traveled to the U.S. after returning to Europe.
The most recent change came on Monday, when the department announced it would begin asking applicants whether they had traveled to countries that constitute “a terrorist safe haven.” Homeland Security officials also said they would accelerate a review of the waiver program and deploy “foreign fighter surge teams” to counter terrorist travel.
Miller said the additional questions on the travel form were a good start, but not enough. “I'm not sure how much self-reporting a terrorist would do,” she said with a chuckle during a phone interview on Tuesday. Miller has written legislation supported by the administration that would allow the government to suspend the participation of countries in the waiver program if they don't provide the U.S. with enough intelligence or background information on travelers. That bill has languished since it was approved unanimously by the Homeland Security Committee back in June, but after the Paris attacks it may come up for a vote in the next few weeks.
Yet lawmakers in both parties in Congress are eyeing measures that go further than Miller's bill, and that has the travel industry worried about a politically-driven overreaction that would be costly and damaging to tourism and business. “We're realistic when it comes to the desire of lawmakers to prove their on the case,” said Jonathan Grella, the executive vice president for public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association. “We need to keep calm, and then legislate.”
The trade group is particularly concerned about a bipartisan Senate proposal unveiled Tuesday that would require all first-time travelers through the visa waiver program to use an electronic passport and submit fingerprints and a photograph to security officials before they board a plane or ship to the U.S. Doing so would be costly and cumbersome, industry officials say, because it would require either airports or partner countries to set up offices or kiosks to process travelers in the program. The added bureaucracy could also defeat the whole purpose of the program, which is to expedite travel to the U.S.
“That's an enormously complex and expensive undertaking, and in practice, is then very little different from what you have to do to get a visa,” said Marc Frey, a former director of the visa-waiver program at DHS who now advises the Travel Association. “It effectively undercuts the entire visa waiver program if you're sending these travelers to get fingerprinted.”
Frey told me that the additional biometric data rarely yielded information that security officials weren't already gaining from the current screening process.
“The practical experience is that we're not turning up people on a daily basis who are otherwise unknown security threats but we've only identified because of biometrics,” he said. The additional requirement, he said, “gives you very little security at enormous cost.”
The politics are turning out to be tricky both for the travel industry and the White House. Unlike in the fight over the refugee program, Republican leaders are not proposing changes to the visa waiver that go far beyond what the administration is advocating. But it is a Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who is leading the push requiring that travelers submit biometric data even if they don't get a visa. “This issue doesn't cut cleanly across partisan lines,” Frey said. An aide to the senator noted that her proposal, which is co-sponsored by Republican Senator Jeff Flake, would give the Department of Homeland Security time and flexibility to implement the changes.
The White House hasn't said whether it supports the Feinstein bill. But in contrast to the heated rhetoric over Syrian refugees, the post-Paris debate over changing the visa waiver program is—so far—shaping up to be far less of a fight.
Student Turns Gun In; SRO Credits Community Policing
by Brianna Smith
A 14-year-old student turned a gun into his SRO at Hillcrest High School on Monday. The juvenile was charged with unlawful carry of a weapon and bringing a gun on school property.
The School Resource Officer, Simpsonville Officer Darren Payne, says that he credits community policing in the school, for the reason the student turned the gun in.
“If I'd never spoken to that student at all, I don't see that there's anyway possible that he would have turned himself in yesterday,” said Payne.
Payne said that the student was one he would reach out to often, checking in to make sure he was doing okay.
The Hillcrest High SRO's say they make sure the students know who they are, and that they're there to help.
“If they know we're here and know who we are and get comfortable with us, they're more likely to come to us whenever they had an issue or problem,” said officer Morris Madden.
San Diego Police Department's Revisionism on Community Policing
by Liam Dillon
San Diego police leaders past and present seem to be rewriting history when it comes to the department's use of a strategy called community-oriented policing.
A lengthy Union-Tribune story this weekend covered the department's history with community-oriented policing, which focuses on crime prevention rather than crime response. Think cops helping community members paint over graffiti rather than simply trying to arrest taggers. Twenty years ago, San Diego was one of the leaders in the field.
But in the story, former Chief William Lansdowne, current Chief Shelley Zimmerman and other SDPD police officers lamented how the department's community policing initiatives fell by the wayside amid years of budget cuts during Lansdowne's decade-long tenure. Zimmerman said in the story that she is trying to bring it back after the U.S. Department of Justice called out SDPD's failures:
When Shelley Zimmerman became police chief in 2014, restoring community policing initiatives was immediately made a top priority, because, department leaders said, the federal report just confirmed what many already knew: San Diego police officers weren't the problem solvers they once were, and it was time for an intervention.
Lansdowne and Zimmerman are now claiming that department leaders knew SDPD had abandoned community policing efforts during the economic downturn.
That is the exact opposite of what both claimed four years ago – during the economic downturn.
In 2011, we detailed the ways in which SDPD had abandoned community policing. The department's reaction was swift. Zimmerman, who was in charge of community policing efforts before her ascension to chief, responded in an op-ed titled “ Community Policing Is Going Strong.” It begins like this (emphasis added):
San Diego's crime rate is at its lowest in nearly half a century and we now rank among the top five safest cities in the United States. Much of the credit for this incredible success comes from the police department's tremendous partnership with the community.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I read voiceofsandiego.org's bizarre conclusion that the San Diego Police Department had “moved away” from community policing. VOSD seems to come to this faulty conclusion based in large part on the San Diego Police Department's reduced participation in a problem-oriented policing conference and the fact that it has not submitted as many projects for a Herman Goldstein award as in previous years.
This conclusion is fundamentally flawed and does not reflect reality .
Experts believe community policing builds trust between police and neighborhoods. In redoubling the department's community-policing efforts, SDPD is acknowledging that those efforts backslid at some point – something police leaders weren't willing to say a few years ago.
LA school police see success in counseling rather than arresting students
Across the nation, campus officers are facing criticism that they're pushing children into a 'school-to-prison pipeline'
by Teresa Watanabe
LOS ANGELES — Just before 8 a.m. at Peary Middle School in Gardena, a boy was refusing to leave his mother's car. The school police officer on duty could have barked orders at him to get to class. He could have written him up for truancy. He could have forcibly moved him — as a South Carolina police officer did to a student last month, sparking a national uproar.
But Los Angeles Unified School Police Officer Henry Anderson did none of that. Instead, he tried to cajole the boy with friendly persuasion and ever-so-subtle appeals to guilt.
"What's up, man?" the lean and lanky officer said, greeting the boy. "You're all dressed up and ready to go. C'mon."
Anderson told the boy that he'd be bored at home. He told him he would trouble his mother. He called in a school administrator to help. In the end, the mother decided to take her son home and try again later.
"Instead of sending kids to court on tickets, we're using diversion programs to counsel them and talk about why they're truant," said Anderson, a 20-year school police veteran. "We try to work with parents. Our main goal is to get the kids to school."
Anderson is one of 405 sworn L.A. Unified police officers who, along with more than 125 safety officers, make up the nation's largest independent school police force. Across the nation, campus officers are facing criticism that they're pushing children into a "school-to-prison pipeline" with citations, arrests and excessive force for issues that could be resolved by other means. National studies show that one arrest doubles a student's odds of dropping out.
But in L.A. Unified, police Chief Steven Zipperman and his force worked with community organizations to launch a landmark reform last year that has ended citations for most fights, petty thefts and other minor offenses in favor of redirection into counseling programs. In the last year, he said, about 460 students who would otherwise have been cited were sent to counseling instead, with only 7% failing to complete their programs.
The reform builds on earlier efforts to end tickets for truancy, which resulted in a steep decline in citations to 3,499 in 2013 from 11,698 in 2010. In the last year, he said, about 460 students who would otherwise have been cited were sent to counseling instead, with only 7% failing to complete their programs.
All told, more than 770 students were sent to counseling in lieu of tickets for truancy, minor offenses and misdemeanor battery charges during the 2014-15 school year.
Manuel Criollo of the Community Rights Campaign, a Los Angeles civil-rights organization that helped forge the new approach, has praised police for embracing the reforms. But he advocates eliminating all law-enforcement officers from campus and using the $59 million annual police budget for more counselors, social workers and other student support staff instead.
"While our organizing has brought greater protection for [district] students from being criminalized, South Carolina shows us what can be the consequences of having police in school," Criollo said. "They don't belong in our schools."
Zipperman, however, said campus police were essential.
"We're here to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff," he said. "Our school police officers aren't storm troopers coming onto campus. These are officers who interact with the kids every day. They are role models."
At Peary, a campus of 1,500 largely low-income minority students, Anderson describes himself as not only an officer but also a counselor, parent and friend. His multiple roles were apparent during a recent visit.
Roaming the campus throughout the day, Anderson called out to students, asking what they had for breakfast and joking about football. A group of students surrounded him, asking questions about his sharp blue uniform, metallic badge and heavy belt holding his black holstered gun.
A scowling boy told the officer that a girl had hit him. Anderson took out his notebook, wrote down the girl's name and promised to talk to her. "Don't let any girl get you upset," he said.
Shortly before lunch, he mediated a conflict between two boys and their families. Sporting two blue band-aids covering cuts sustained after being pushed to the ground, sixth-grader Justin Burdette told Anderson that seventh-grader Isaiah Cerpa hit him when Justin tried to break up a fight between Isaiah and a smaller student. Isaiah admitted guilt but said that Justin had insulted his mother.
"When you put your hands on someone, that's battery and you could go to jail," Anderson told Isaiah. "If it happens again you might get arrested. If you have problems with anyone, come see me or the dean. Don't take it into your own hands."
Isaiah nodded, then at Anderson's prompting apologized to Justin and the parents. Both sets of parents said they were satisfied with the outcome.
Later, Isaiah came back to Anderson's office.
"You have any advice to get away from getting into trouble?" the boy asked him.
Anderson told him to stay away from bad influences, including his friends who hop the school fence and sneak off to the snack store.
"Don't hop with them. You know right from wrong. Anytime you do something wrong, there's going to be a consequence. Why even take that chance? You have any problems with anything, we'll help you get through it. The last thing I want to do is arrest you and write a ticket."
Isaiah smiled. "Thank you," he said.
Anderson, a 48-year-old South Los Angeles native who attended University High, said he was drawn to law enforcement after visiting courtrooms as a messenger in a law firm. After completing police training, he applied to seven agencies; L.A. Unified was the first to call.
Over the years, he has dealt with students who have smoked marijuana, stolen cellphones and laptops, assaulted others and texted sexual photos of schoolmates. He has also handled difficult parents who he says are failing to teach their children responsibility, or give up on them completely and ask him to throw them in jail.
"Our job isn't easy," he said. "We deal with kids with a lot of emotional problems. We deal with defiant kids who won't listen to you if you don't have a gun and a badge, and even then they may not listen."
But the job brings joy, he said — especially when he can help others out. In one case, he used his rapport with students to find out who stole a teacher's cellphone. The perpetrator had denied his involvement to the teacher and his parents but confessed to Anderson after the officer said it was probably caught on camera (it wasn't) and if he came clean Anderson could help him avoid an arrest.
During his six years at Peary, he has come to know many of the students: the kid with a "mouth on him." The "little instigator." The "good kid who makes dumb decisions." And they know him.
"He be cool about problems — he doesn't yell. He gives us warnings," says Jaquazz Harvey, 13.
In the dean's office, several boys suspected of throwing water balloons at passing cars gave Anderson a thumbs up. Ivan Andrew Luna, an eighth-grader, said Anderson listens to everyone's side of the story with patience.
"I feel safer with him around school," Ivan said. "He protects us."
But not everyone agrees. "You need to get them off campus," one boy said of school police.
Before the day ended, Anderson would break up two schoolyard fights, counsel a girl about her rocky relationship with a teacher, gently chide a boy who left campus for the snack store and get tough when he needed to. He gave a stern talk to two boys about their treatment of a teacher that was caught on video.
"Stay out of his face unless you want a problem — I'm talking about a problem with me," he told the boys.
But most of the time, Anderson projects himself as a positive, fatherly mentor, Principal Marva Patton says.
"He shows the police in a different light — not as someone to fear but as someone to help you," said Desdra Butler, an operations coordinator with the district's local office covering South L.A.
"I have 1,000 kids," Anderson said. "I like them to feel I do care for them but they need to know they've got school rules to follow. "
As the day winded down, Anderson had a final task: telling parents that their children had gotten into scuffles that day. He assured them that the issues would be resolved. "Well, as long as it's over," one parent said.
Anderson headed back to his office, breaking into a grin.
"Made it through the day," he said.
Chicago mayor to announce police accountability task force
by Holly Yan
Embroiled in a political firestorm over his city's handling of a shocking police shooting, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is seeking to mend fences.
Tuesday morning, Emanuel will announce the creation of a task force on police accountability, his office said. The task force will review how the city trains its police officers and the kind of oversight they face.
The move comes after outrage that Officer Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times -- mostly while the teen was on the ground.
Adding to the anger: Video of the shooting was kept from the public for 400 days.
Protesters have called on Emanuel to resign and the chief of police fired.
Chicago's new task force will include the input of victims' rights representatives, law enforcement organizations as well as youth and religious leaders, the mayor's office said.
The panel's recommendations will be presented to the mayor and city council by the end of March.
Officer out of jail, new suspect in
Van Dyke, who is charged with first-degree murder, is now free on bond. A judge set his bail at $1.5 million.
But a man who allegedly threatened to shoot up white men to avenge McDonald's death is behind bars. Jabari Dean, 21, was arrested and accused of threatening to kill students and staff at the University of Chicago.
According to a criminal complaint, Dean posted a threat on social media over Thanksgiving weekend.
"This is my only warning. At 10 a.m. on Monday mourning (sic) I am going to the campus quad of the University of Chicago. I will be armed with a M-4 Carbine and 2 Desert Eagles all fully loaded. I will execute aproximately (sic) 16 white male students and or staff, which is the same number of time (sic) Mcdonald (sic) was killed," the post read.
"I then will die killing any number of white policemen that I can in the process. This is not a joke. I am to do my part to rid the world of the white devils. I expect you to do the same."
Dean is charged with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
Big-hearted mystery Minnesota couple leave $500,000 check in Salvation Army kettle
by Laurie Hanna
A mystery Minnesota couple left a $500,000 check in a Salvation Army kettle.
The big-hearted strangers made the incredible donation because of the help their family has received from charity over the years.
According to the Salvation Army, the donors previously faced money struggles of their own and would often rely on discarded food from a local grocery store.
“You get to a point in life where it's time to take care of others, the way you were taken care of,” the donors said in the statement, reported The Star Tribune.
The couple have chosen to remain anonymous but said they hoped the gift would encourage others to donate.
"We are simply stunned and honored to have received such a generous gift," said Major Jeff Strickler, Twin Cities Salvation Army commander.
"This is a true blessing and it could not come at a better time for The Salvation Army and the people we serve."
The couple, from Rosemount, said they were honoring a family legacy with the donation.
The charity revealed that one of the couple's father served in the trenches of World War One, where he was always grateful for the coffee and donuts supplied by the Salvation Army Donut Lassies.
“That simple act of kindness and comfort made a lasting impression and created a family legacy of supporting The Salvation Army," Major Strickler added.
Will Congress Finally Declare War on ISIS?
The Paris attacks have brought new proposals, but legislators seem no closer to passing a resolution.
by Nora Kelly
When Senator Lindsey Graham introduces a new authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State, as he's expected to do shortly, it'll be a high-profile reminder to Republican voters that he'd like to be the most hawkish candidate in the 2016 primary field.
What it won't be is a groundbreaking move to empower President Obama to take down the terrorist group, even after November's attacks in Paris raised the stakes.
That's not just because Graham's AUMF will be more wide-ranging, and thus less palatable to Democrats, than the president's plan. Rather, a combination of congressional inertia and lack of appetite from Hill leadership makes a united war resolution increasingly unlikely—and Congress remains no closer to reckoning with its constitutional obligations than it was months ago.
Congressional debate over Obama's authority to combat the Islamic State flared, then quickly quieted after he introduced his AUMF in February. The two parties couldn't agree on the scope of the president's authority, and Obama didn't want too much of it at all. As Paul Kane described it in The Washington Post , “the Obama administration has found itself caught in a position of sounding the alarm about potential terrorist attacks ... but offering a war resolution that includes limits on the scope of battle against the Islamic State.”
Republicans rejected those constraints, including a three-year time limit and restrictions on ground operations, with then-House Speaker John Boehner calling for “a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options.” War-weary Democrats, who want to temper the executive's authority, had their own concerns: They worried that the AUMF's limit on “enduring offensive ground combat operations” was far too vague, and could be used to justify a long, Iraq-or-Afghanistan-style military campaign.
At the time, congressional critics on both sides of the aisle were dismayed at the form the debate had taken. Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California, for one, previewed the resolution's death back in March: “I am increasingly concerned that Congress will take the path of least resistance and least responsibility and let the resolution die.” Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine hoped, to no avail, to reset the conversation in June when they introduced a new AUMF.
Now, the Paris terror attacks have spurred some senators to call for renewed discussion about combatting the Islamic State. Kaine, Flake, and Senator Dianne Feinstein —who suggested that the U.S. look beyond its bombing campaign—have all publicly advocated for Congress to do more. And Graham announced in mid-November that he'll be introducing his AUMF, which according to a recent Post story has no temporal or geographic constraints, and doesn't forbid the use of American boots on the ground.
But even if some are serious about a renewed discussion, it's likely Congress would get bogged down by the same obstacles it's faced before: not only because it's divided over the particulars of the president's authority, but because members don't seem willing to act on their constitutional obligations.
Calling the Constitution “the biggest casualty in the struggle against the Islamic State,” Bruce Ackerman suggested in The Atlantic in August that the current standoff between the White House—which issued its AUMF request months into military operations against the Islamic State—and Congress dismantles “all serious restraints against open-ended war-making” by a president.
The constitutional question hasn't escaped some senators. In early November, Senator Chris Murphy called holding debate around an AUMF Congress's “responsibility.”
“I accept that the final product may be one that I oppose,” Murphy said, “but what is more offensive to me is that we're not even trying to get a product.”
Similarly, in a post-Paris Time op-ed, Kaine and Flake took Congress to task for “abdicat[ing] its fundamental duty to debate, vote on and shape the extent of the current war on ISIS”:
A Congressional debate, at long last, about this war on ISIS will educate the American public about the stakes involved. It will force the administration to give thought to, and lay out a clear strategy that encompasses military and non-military dimensions—including diplomatic and humanitarian measures—for degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS, and for U.S. involvement with other nations in this struggle. It should let our troops, our allies and our adversaries know of our unity and resolve. Finally, it will vindicate the Constitutional role of Congress in making the sober decision about when military force is necessary.
For now, Congress seems more or less content with Obama using a 2001 resolution to justify anti-Islamic State military operations. Though the framers wanted Congress to decide when America goes to war, its members haven't really tried to decide at all—not many months after military operations have already started and not after a terrorist attack.
Frustrated groups want quicker action on Seattle police reforms
by Steve Miletich
A frustrated coalition of Seattle community groups called Monday for the immediate adoption of long-delayed police-accountability measures, including proposals to make the Community Police Commission (CPC) a permanent body and bolster the independence of the police department's internal-investigation watchdogs.
The groups issued their plea at a City Hall news conference, three days after the federal monitor overseeing court-ordered reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing in the Seattle Police Department filed a memorandum outlining a slower, more deliberate approach.
The monitor, Merrick Bobb, wants to complete more assessments of the department's progress before meeting with parties involved in the reforms and then making recommendations to the court no later than Jan. 20 on how to proceed with police-accountability systems.
Mayor Ed Murray, who has supported the CPC proposals, said in a statement Monday he would adhere to the monitor's timetable.
Among the community groups urging faster action were the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, El Centro de la Raza, United Black Clergy, the King County Native American Leadership Council and CAIR-Washington, the Washington state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Nearly 50 community organizations, including many who signed a 2010 letter asking for a federal investigation of the SPD, sent a letter to Bobb on Monday, saying “further delay in moving forward with the full package does not meet the expectations of our communities for substantive and timely reforms.”
Estela Ortega, of El Centro de la Raza, said the delay in passing accountability reforms could result in a lack of trust in police that may soon spill into the streets.
“We've waited too long” for reforms, added Diane Narasaki, executive director of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service and former co-chair of the Community Police Commission (CPC).
Narasaki said Bobb only promised to initiate a “process,” without committing to substantive change.
Lisa Daugaard, co-chair of the CPC, declined to comment Monday.
The split over how to proceed reflected the latest tension between those who want the City Council to immediately move forward with the CPC-backed measures and a more deliberate pace set by U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over the reform effort with Bobb acting as his agent.
The 15-member CPC, which is made up of civilian volunteers, has repeatedly described its role as the community's voice in the process, and the community groups expressed that view Monday.
But some people involved in the effort have grown concerned the CPC has strayed from its original mission as a bridge to the community and, instead, sought to grab power, according to a source close to the process who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity.
In August, Robart asked key players to submit ideas for a comprehensive approach to establishing accountability systems in the police department. His request stemmed, in part, from his strong criticism during a June hearing of efforts to expand the authority of the CPC without the court's approval.
Robart instructed the city and the U.S. Justice Department, the parties to a 2012 consent decree requiring reforms, to provide a “framework” to him. He also directed the CPC, established as part of the consent decree, to submit a response, along with the civilian director and civilian auditor of the police department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), which oversees internal investigations.
With those responses in hand, Bobb filed his memorandum Friday. He noted the responses, along with a recent review of the police department's Force Review Board and soon-to-be-completed assessments of the OPA, would help develop a “better framework” for independent oversight of the police department.
Among the reforms that could emerge is the creation of a civilian inspector general, an idea previously suggested by a consultant to Murray.
The CPC was designed to serve as temporary body, with the authority to issue reports on the reform process. But it sought to become permanent and expand its role last year when it drafted a package of police-accountability measures.
Murray adopted many of the recommendations in November 2014 but proposed legislation stalled over some differences with the CPC. After months of talks, the two sides reached an accord in June with a plan to submit the package to the City Council.
But Robart halted the plan at the June hearing, saying the consent decree can't be amended without the court's approval.
Key planks of the CPC-backed plan include provisions to strengthen the independence of the OPA director and auditor. Both could only be removed by the mayor for cause, with the agreement of the City Council and input from the CPC.
The mayor also could remove the CPC's executive director only for cause, with the concurrence of the City Council.
On Monday, Murray said, “Passing and implementing police accountability reforms must follow the process set forth by the Court and the Monitor. I am encouraged that the Monitor has now set a timetable to respond to the joint recommendations.”
City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the council's public-safety committee, said Monday he agrees with the community groups that action is needed. While he agreed the CPC should become permanent, Harrell said the community groups will have to wait for him to introduce legislation.
“We cannot jump ahead of the judge and the monitor,” he said. “The court has made that clear.”
Councilmember Lorena González expressed support for making the CPC permanent and echoed the community concerns about delay. “It's a stark example of the disconnect between the Federal Judge's and the Monitor's opinion on the progress made by SPD, as opposed to the community's experience and interpretation of that progress,” she said in a statement.
The Justice Department, in a statement Monday, cited the “important contributions” of the CPC and other community groups to the proposed accountability measures.
“On Friday, the Monitor proposed a path forward for reviewing that legislation,” the statement said, welcoming it as next step and pledging to work with the community, the monitor and the city to move the discussion.
Baltimore police, community face off in Unity Bowl
BALTIMORE (WBAL/CNN) - Police and residents in Baltimore came together to play a little flag football.
The first Unity Bowl took place Sunday at a Baltimore High School.
The game was part of the city's police department's efforts to address concerns about community policing, in the wake of Freddie Gray's death while in police custody this spring.
"We reach those moments in the coming months of questions and doubt and frustration or anxieties. We'll know each other in a different way, and if we know each other in a different way, then we also know that we won't have a repeat of April and May," said Commissioner Kevin Davis, Baltimore Police Department.
Gray's death sparked riots in Baltimore and protests nationwide.
Sunday's game came one day before the first of six officers charged in Gray's death goes on trial.
Officer William Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment.
He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Public Safety Committee opts to welcome refugees
by Elizabeth Pagnano
In news that will surprise roughly no one, the City Council Public Safety Committee has dismissed a resolution to stand with Gov. Greg Abbott and rhetorically ban Syrian refugees from entering Austin.
The committee voted against the resolution and in favor of the statement “We are welcoming of all refugees in Austin.” Council members Greg Casar and Ora Houston voted in favor of the revised statement, and Council Member Don Zimmerman voted in opposition. Council Member Leslie Pool was absent.
The proposed resolution, embedded below, would have asked the city manager to “fully comply with the sentiments expressed” in Abbott's November letter to President Barack Obama. It also would have prohibited city agencies and departments from taking any action or spending any city funds that “would facilitate the resettlement of Syrian ‘refugees' within the jurisdiction of the City of Austin, Texas.”
The notion that governors can ban refugees from their states has been debunked, but debate over the issue continues. As chair of the Public Safety Committee, Zimmerman was able to extend that debate in Austin slightly by placing his resolution on the agenda without a co-sponsor.
He found no support among his fellow committee members, who spoke against the resolution without equivocation.
“Unfortunately, I don't think this debate is about facts,” said Casar. “It's about politics and using the people that you serve as a political tool. I'm sorry to see that happening today.”
Houston said that she was “going to err on the side of humanity” and vote against the resolution.
“I understand some people's concerns about the Other in our midst; however, I am more concerned about those mass murderers and domestic terrorists that were born in our United States and have the ability to move freely from state to state and to kill innocent people to make a statement,” said Houston. “I feel that we have a compassionate obligation to care for other people who are part of the human race regardless of their ethnicity, culture, background or affiliation.”
At Monday's meeting, committee members heard from people on both sides of the issue. Those who spoke against the resolution worked for Caritas of Austin, which has been helping to settle refugees in the city since 1974. They tried to clear up any misconceptions about the refugee process, which they described as rigorous, lengthy and highly regulated and unlikely to attract terrorists.
Caritas Executive Director Jo Kathryn Quinn was blunt. “If you are a terrorist and you are trying to get into this country and you want to come through using the refugee system, you're not a very smart terrorist,” said Quinn. “Terrorists are not coming through the refugee process. The people running from terrorists are coming through the refugee process.”
Those who spoke in favor of Zimmerman's resolution did so from a military background and warned that the threat of terrorism was real, and that welcoming Syrians to Austin could have dire consequences. Their testimony led Zimmerman to question “something he had struggled with in this whole debate,” he said.
“We have homegrown suicidal killers – mass murderers – that show up at a movie theater, they show up at some public place, and they just start killing people. These homicidal maniacs are homegrown. They are born here, speak our language, go to our schools, play our video games, and we can't vet our own homegrown potential killers,” said Zimmerman. “How do we vet people from a foreign country?”
Prior to the committee meeting, Mayor Steve Adler publicly denounced the idea of denying entrance to refugees in a Facebook post that read, “Helping those in need and ensuring the safety of Austinites are not mutually exclusive goals. It's okay for us to accept refugees because it's safe. Syrian refugees undergo the toughest background check of anyone entering this country. And the folks at the front of the line are women, children and the elderly. This is about the most vulnerable. Austin welcomed Katrina evacuees and rushed to help the families from Central and South America fleeing violence. That's the kind of city we are and I want the rest of the world to know.”
Adler later expanded on his statement in an article that he penned for The Texas Tribune.
University of Chicago cancels classes over gun-violence threat
by Lindsey Bever
A top-ranked university has canceled classes after federal authorities revealed an online threat of gun violence to the college community.
The University of Chicago announced that all classes and activities at its main Hyde Park campus would be canceled Monday after the FBI informed the school that someone made a threat to the campus.
As students were preparing to return to school from the Thanksgiving holiday, university president Robert Zimmer, sent an e-mail to students and staff members Sunday, instructing them to stay home or, for students who live on campus, to stay indoors. He said FBI counterterrorism officials told him that “an unknown individual posted an online threat of gun violence against the University of Chicago, specifically mentioning ‘the campus quad.' ” The threat, Zimmer said, was for Monday morning at 10 a.m.
"In response to the threat, the university will have an increased police and security presence on and around campus, including police personnel with visible weapons and other additional measures,” Zimmer wrote in the announcement. “University security personnel are keeping in close contact with the FBI, which is continuing to investigate the threat.”
It comes amid threats on college campuses across the country.
Last week, Western Washington University canceled classes after racist threats were posted on social media, according to the Seattle Times. Sunday morning, Ohio State University police were called when a former employee vandalized school property and then killed himself, authorities told the Columbus Dispatch.
Sunday night, film students from Moorpark College in California were arrested after they triggered a panic with replica weapons, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Officials at the University of Chicago said Sunday that all events at its Hyde Park campus would be canceled Monday, including those at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the University of Chicago Charter School campuses, university libraries, the Quadrangle Club, as well as other campus facilities.
The University of Chicago Medical Center will remain open for patients, “with added security measures.”
Zimmer, the university president, said classes and activities are expected to resume Tuesday.
Pa. officer shot, killed during call; suspect in custody
Officer Lloyd Reed was shot and killed Saturday night after officers were called to a domestic situation
by The Assoicated Press
NEW FLORENCE, Pa. — A man suspected of fatally shooting a police officer responding to a domestic dispute was in custody at a Pennsylvania hospital Sunday after a six-hour manhunt, police said.
Ray Shetler Jr., 31, was captured around 3:15 a.m. while walking near a power plant outside New Florence, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Police believe Shetler shot St. Clair Township Officer Lloyd Reed on Saturday night after officers were called to the domestic situation in New Florence. Reed, who had been an officer for more than 20 years, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
A female involved in the domestic dispute suffered minor injuries, police said.
Shetler was being treated for a gunshot wound to the right shoulder and was under state police guard at a hospital, Trooper Stephen Limani said. Limani said he expected a warrant to be obtained Sunday for Shetler's arrest.
Shetler will be charged with homicide and two other counts related to the domestic situation, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Reed arrived at the scene and identified himself as a police officer before shots were fired, Peck said.
"This is another horrible tragedy that brings to light how difficult a police officer's job can be on a daily basis," Peck said.
County Sheriff Jonathan Held told the newspaper he had met Reed several times.
"He was a dedicated officer, down to earth," Held said. "He really cared for the community. It's hard when it hits your own backyard. It really is tough. But, unfortunately, it seems to be happening more and more today."
Reed worked at the St. Clair department — which employs all part-time officers — for about five years.
Ohio suspect shot dead after confronting trooper
Armed man ordered an Ohio highway patrol trooper out of his car before the trooper fatally shot him
by The Associated Press
CELINA, Ohio — Police say an armed man ordered an Ohio highway patrol trooper out of his car before the trooper shot him to death.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says it's unclear why 22-year-old Justin McHenry approached the officer around 1:30 a.m. Sunday in Celina.
Investigators say the trooper was completing paperwork in his parked cruiser when McHenry parked nearby, approached on foot and ordered the trooper to get out. Investigators say McHenry then pointed a 9mm handgun at the trooper.
Patrol officials say the trooper tried to disarm McHenry before shooting him.
McHenry died later at a hospital. The trooper was uninjured.
'No more baby parts': Colo. rampage suspect's words draw focus
Police are trying to discern the motivations for a shooting attack carried out Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three people, including a police officer
by Sadie Gurman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Robert Lewis Dear was reclusive, and he seldom spoke to neighbors in a desolate stretch of land in rural Colorado where he lived.
Now, it's his words that are drawing the most attention as police try to discern his motivations for a shooting attack they say he carried out Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs that killed three people, including a police officer.
After his arrest, Dear, 57, said "no more baby parts," according to a law enforcement official, who could not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.
Planned Parenthood cited witnesses as saying the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion.
The attack thrust the clinic to the center of the debate over Planned Parenthood, which was reignited in July when anti-abortion activists released undercover video they said showed the group's personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.
Planned Parenthood has denied seeking any payments beyond legally permitted reimbursement costs for donating the organs to researchers. Still, the National Abortion Federation says it has since seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide.
Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the organization has faced hateful speech.
"I can't believe that this isn't contributing to some folks, mentally unwell or not, thinking that it's OK to — to target Planned Parenthood or to target abortion providers," she said.
Anti-abortion activists, part of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, denounced the "barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman" and offered prayers for the dead and wounded and for their families.
The Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs provides women's health services and has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. The Rev. Bill Carmody, a Roman Catholic priest who has held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, said Dear wasn't part of his group.
Neighbors described Dear, who is expected to make his first court appearance Monday, as reclusive. They said he stashed food in the woods, avoided eye contact and warned neighbors about government spying.
At a vigil Saturday at All Souls Unitarian Church, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a "domestic terrorist." In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said, "Women's bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town."
Cowart, of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit. She promised to quickly reopen the clinic.
"We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on," she said.
After her remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a "political statement" and left.
Cowart said the gunman "broke in" to the clinic Friday but didn't get past a locked door leading to the main part of the facility. She said there was no armed security when the shooting began.
He later surrendered to police after an hourslong standoff.
In the parking lot of the two-story building, one man said the gunman shot at him as he pulled his car out, blasting two holes in his windshield. Inside, one worker ducked under a table and called her brother to tell him to take care of her kids if she was killed.
At one point, an officer whispered reports into his radio as he crept through the building. Others relayed information from surveillance cameras and victims in hiding.
In the end, a six-year veteran University of Colorado police officer was killed. A man and a woman also died, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday, without elaborating. A city official said the two would not be identified until after autopsies were performed Monday.
Nine other people were hospitalized, including five officers. Cowart said all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.
Cowart said the organization would learn from the attack. When asked if the clinic should have more security, she said the clinic's clients shouldn't have to walk through metal detectors.
The attack marked the latest mass shooting to stun the nation. It drew the now-familiar questions about a gunman's motives and whether anyone, from government to relatives, could have done anything to prevent an attack.
Those who knew the 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Dear said he seemed to have few religious or political leanings.
Neighbors who lived beside Dear's former South Carolina home say he hid food in the woods as if he was a survivalist and said he lived off selling prints of his uncle's paintings of Southern plantations and the Masters golf tournament.
John Hood said Saturday that when he moved to Walterboro, South Carolina, Dear was living in a doublewide mobile home next door. Hood said Dear seemed to be a loner and very strange but not dangerous.
He pointed to a wooden fence separating their land and said he put it up because Dear liked to skinny dip.
Hood said Dear rarely talked to him, and when he did, he tended to offer unsolicited advice such as recommending that Hood put a metal roof on his house so the U.S. government couldn't spy on him.
"He was really strange and out there, but I never thought he would do any harm," he said.
Dear also lived part of the time in a cabin with no electricity or running water in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He kept mostly to himself, his neighbors said. When he did talk, it was a rambling combination of different topics that didn't make sense.
He tended to avoid eye contact, said James Russell, who lived a few hundred feet down the mountain from Dear's cabin.
"If you talked to him, nothing with him was very cognitive," Russell said.
Other neighbors knew Dear, too, but they didn't want to give their names because they said they were scared of him.
Russell and others said the only companion they saw with him was a mangy dog that looked to be in such bad shape that they called animal control because they worried he was beating it.
Dear bought land about a year ago in the small town of Hartsel, Colorado, about 60 miles west of Colorado Springs, property records indicate.
Authorities on Saturday searched a small white trailer belonging to Dear located on land surrounded by the Rocky Mountains but found no explosives, another law enforcement official said.
The official, who has direct knowledge of the case, said authorities also talked with a woman living in the trailer. The official, who lacked authorization to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Zigmond Post, who lives near Dear's trailer, said he didn't have many interactions with Dear but that Dear once gave him a pamphlet opposing President Barack Obama.
"He didn't talk about them or anything. He just said, 'Look them over when you get a chance,'" Post said.
Jamie Heffelman, owner of the Highline Cafe in Hartsel, said residents would occasionally see Dear at the post office to get his mail, but he never said much.
"Nobody really knows him. He stays to himself," she said.
Judges not supposed to be 'tough on crime'
by Casey J. Hoff
The predictable criticism by a segment of our society that routinely lambasts judges for being “soft on crime” because of sentencing decisions they make is generally misguided because the critics often fail to appreciate the adverse consequences of excessive sentences.
It is not hard to find the critiques. Read the online comments after just about any news article covering a person convicted of a crime and you will find them.
The critics of so-called “soft on crime” judges write letters to the editor expressing an unquenchable thirst for longer and harsher punishment. The writer of one recent letter to the editor in The Sheboygan Press, titled “Criminals not being punished enough,” stated, in part, “[i]f we want crime off the street, then our judges need courage to give maximum sentences.”
Much of the criticism of judicial sentencing decisions is based on an emotional reaction to a news article that does not, and cannot, include all of the specifics of the case. Despite a lack of knowledge of the case or the convicted person, some have no problem condemning and calling for the person to be imprisoned for decades — or even life.
Myriad reasons factor into a judge's sentencing decisions. By law, probation is the first option a judge must consider. Did the person reform his life? What is his background? Was he sexually abused as a child? Does he suffer from mental illness? If he has a drug or alcohol problem, did he seek treatment for it? Does he show remorse?
A judge is only supposed to sentence a person to prison if confinement is necessary to protect the public, the person needs correctional treatment available only in confinement, or it would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the offense to not confine the person.
The United States is hardly “soft on crime.” Our country incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation on earth. With just 5 percent of the world's population, we incarcerate 25 percent of the world's prisoners. From 1970 to 2005, the U.S. prison population rose by an alarming 700 percent, with more than half of the inmates serving time for non-violent offenses. The annual Wisconsin Department of Corrections cost to taxpayers amounts to nearly $1.3 billion and more than $32,000 per inmate per year.
This is not to suggest those convicted should never be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Indeed, it is appropriate to give some people long sentences, depending on the facts and circumstances of the specific case. But only those who truly know the details of the case can make an informed, objective critique of a particular sentence.
As a criminal defense attorney who is in court on a regular basis, I can say it is a rare occurrence to see members of the public (other than victims and defendants along with their families or friends) in court simply to observe a case. This is understandable because many people have full-time jobs, child responsibilities or other obligations.
Judges across Wisconsin who hear the arguments of prosecutors and defense attorneys and know the critical facts of a particular case are in the best position to make informed sentencing decisions.
People obviously have a First Amendment right to criticize judicial sentencing decisions, but judges ought not be blasted simply because they choose not to impose a lengthy sentence. A good judge may take unfair heat because he or she chose to place someone on probation rather than sending the person to prison.
Sometimes handing out a long sentence is the wrong, but easier, path to take. A 2004 study titled, “Accountability and Coercion: Is Justice Blind When It Runs for Office?” found some judges actually hand out harsher punishments to defendants in criminal cases as their elections near. Some defendants who happen to have the misfortune of being convicted close to a judicial election suffer from unfair sentences.
The argument that sending people to prison for longer and longer periods of time will necessarily reduce crime rates is wrong. A 1999 study titled “The Effects of Prison Sentences on Recidivism,” which controlled for risk factors like criminal history and substance abuse, found that longer prison sentences were associated with a 3 percent increase in repeat offenders. Alternatives to incarceration that allow the defendant to prove themselves through diversion programs and save countless taxpayer dollars have been found to be more effective in reducing recidivism, in many cases.
Judges are not supposed to be “tough on crime.” Judges are supposed to be fair and independent. Justice is supposed to be blind. Our Constitution and our system of justice demands that judges adhere to this principle of fairness and justice based on the facts of a specific case, not based on emotional and ill-informed demands for draconian sentences.
Casey Hoff is a criminal defense attorney, based in Sheboygan.