LACP - NEWS of the Week
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Week

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view. We present this simply as a convenience to our readership.


December, 2015 - Week 2



Two arrested on suspicion of terrorism offenses; Geneva remains on alert

by Don Melvin

Swiss police have arrested two people with Syrian passports and found traces of potential bomb-making chemicals in a car as security remains high around Geneva amid a terrorism alert and a hunt for suspects, authorities said Saturday.

Authorities have been looking for at least two people with indirect links to suspects in the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks. It was not immediately clear whether Saturday's arrests were linked to the attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.

The two were arrested Friday and charged Saturday, according to a statement Saturday from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

They were arrested on suspicion of the manufacture, concealment and transport of explosives or toxic gases, as well as on suspicion of violating the prohibition of groups such as al Qaida, ISIS and similar organizations.

Geneva Minister of Economy and Security, Pierre Maudet, told CNN two people of Syrian origin were arrested in the greater Geneva area.

The two suspects had Syrian passports, Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot told reporters in Geneva Saturday.

Investigators still have to determine the link between the two suspects and the traces of explosives found in their vehicle, Jornot said. The presence of such evidence does not mean that the two were involved in transporting explosives in the vehicle, and they claimed that they had acquired the vehicle recently, the prosecutor said.

According to a European security source briefed on the investigation, the materials Swiss police found were traces of precursor products. Precursor products are chemicals which could be turned into explosives or other harmful substances.

'From a vague threat to a precise threat'

During a house search, which had no direct connection to the ongoing terror threat in the Geneva area, police discovered Thursday that an individual who was described as a right-wing sympathizer and survivalist had accumulated an "impressive" quantity of weapons, Jornot said.

The arsenal included Kalashnikovs, a M16, two Glock handguns, a MG42 machine gun and one pump-action shotgun, as well as other weapons, described as antique guns, Jornot said. Police also found a Nazi flag, he said.

The alert level in the city remains high, but Swiss authorities said various events planned over the weekend will go on.

The U.S. Embassy warned Americans in Switzerland to "maintain a high level of vigilance."

The Swiss alert came after a tip from U.S. intelligence officials, who told their Swiss counterparts that they had intercepted communications among extremists discussing the idea of attacking Geneva, as well as Chicago and Toronto, a source close to the investigation told CNN.

Authorities were looking for at least two other people with indirect links to suspects in the November 13 Paris terror attacks.

"We have gone from a vague threat to a precise threat," Emmanuelle Lo Verso, head of communications at the Geneva Department of Security, told CNN on Friday. She would not comment further.

Police chief: ISIS cell could exist in Geneva

Whatever the nature of that threat, it was likely more well developed than any possible danger for Chicago or Toronto, said CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.

Kayyem said she suspects that "the intelligence about Geneva was stronger, more specific than it was about the other cities because you're simply not hearing about that kind of reaction from either Toronto or Chicago at this stage."

Geneva police Chief Monica Bonfanti told radio broadcaster RTS that there is "the possibility of the presence of an Islamic State [ISIS] terror cell in Geneva."

Bonfanti said police were searching for suspected terrorists, but wouldn't comment on the number of people involved in the hunt.

In Switzerland, authorities raised the terror alert level and deployed more armed police officers on the streets.

At the United Nations complex in Geneva, security officials stood guard with heavier weapons than usual, spokesman Rheal LeBlanc told CNN.




Man With Guns and Machete Is Shot, Killed at Pa. Wal-Mart

by The Associated Press

EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. — Authorities say a man armed with two handguns and a machete has been shot and killed by police inside a northeastern Pennsylvania Wal-Mart store.

The Pocono Record reports that witnesses told police that a man entered the store shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday and began threatening customers. Officials say there were about 100 customers in the store at the time.

Authorities say police arrived at the scene, evacuated the store and then ordered the man to drop his weapons. When he refused, police fired at the man, striking him in the chest. The man was transported to Pocono Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead by the Monroe County coroner.

State Police Lt. Robert Bartel said early Sunday the name of the shooter would not be released until his family was notified.

Police said no customers or officers were injured.




Why the FBI was notified about cell phones bought in Missouri

Cellphones purchased in bulk raised alarm in Missouri when residents concerned about terrorist threats reported the Wal-Mart purchases to law enforcement and the FBI.

by Lucy Schouten

Who buys 59 pre-paid cell phones in a single shopping trip?

Several bulk purchases of cell phones in Missouri caused concern among Americans on alert for signs of terrorist plots.

The alarm began when two immigrants bought 59 cell phones at once from a Wal-Mart in Lebanon, Mo. on Dec. 5. Employees also notified police when someone bought 50 cell phones in Columbia, Mo., and news reports began stacking up, with a total of five cities in Missouri reporting unusual sales of pre-paid cell phones along with thefts of propane tanks in Kansas City, the Associated Press reported.

Law enforcement officials in Missouri notified the FBI, which investigated the cell phone purchases and left the propane tanks to local authorities, FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton told the Kansas City Star.

"You have local law enforcement acting out of an abundance of caution,” Patton said. "We have seen similar purchases of bulk cellphones in the past, and it has been concluded that these transactions were unrelated to terrorism."

Some law enforcement said such purchases occur intermittently as people buy the cell phones in bulk and sell them off.

"I do not feel there's an immediate threat to the community," said Macon County Sheriff Sgt. Curt Glover, according to the Kansas City Star. "This has been going on for the last 15 years."

Pre-paid cell phones are often called "burners" because people can use and then discard them anonymously. Immigrants and people without a stable income or a consistent residence often find them useful, the AP reported. Drug dealers are another possibility.

But social media users quickly linked the incident to imminent terrorism, and the rumor-investigating website Snopes published an article to fact-check the issue.

The rumors and concerns may be another indication of heighten American fears about terrorism.

In June, 49 percent of Americans reported they were "very" or at least "somewhat worried" that they or a family member would become a victim of terrorism, according to a Gallup poll.

A new Gallop poll released this week shows confidence in the US government to protect citizens from terrorism is down 12 percentage points since June , and is now 33 points lower than the 88 percent who said they had a "great deal" or "fair amount" of confidence shortly after 9/11.

A witness to the Missouri incidents said he became suspicious when he saw the men pay with cash.

"Right then and there I knew there was not something adding up about this," he told ABC 17 News. "Who's going to order 50 phones for Christmas? Who does that?"

Americans have not worried about terrorism this much since the month after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when 59 percent expressed concern.

While Americans are on alert, retired FBI agent Jeff Lanza told the Kansas City Star, that these bulk cell phone purchases are not likely to involve terrorists.

"If you were planning to use those in a terrorist act, you wouldn't be buying in bulk and attracting attention to yourself,” he told the Kansas City Star. “It would be a stupid way to start buying things to be used as bomb detonators because the first thing people do is call the police."




An Epidemic of Questionable Arrests by San Bernardino School Police

by Susan Ferriss

This story is from the Center for Public Integrity. It was reported in collaboration with The California Report, a production of KQED Public Radio.

SAN BERNARDINO, California — Josue “Josh” Muniz admits that he embraced his girlfriend during lunch, while the pair was out on the quad at Arroyo Valley High School in this city east of Los Angeles.

He admits that after a school cop ordered him to step away, he did, but lightly hugged his girlfriend again, minutes later, because she was upset.

But Muniz won't agree that he deserved what happened next. His girlfriend walked off, and Muniz saw the officer approaching again and directing him to go with him. The cop reached out and “put his hand on my throat,” Muniz said. “That's when I start freaking out. He tells me to stand up. And that's when his grip on my throat got a little stronger and when I started really panicking.”

Alarmed, Muniz pushed at the officer to get him “just a little bit off me,” he said. They tumbled to the ground and the officer “showered” the student with pepper spray, Muniz alleges in a civil lawsuit that's still pending. The cop handcuffed him, he said, dragged him into a nearby security office by the cuffs and planted a knee in between his shoulder blades while delivering “multiple blows” as Muniz lay face down on a carpet.

After it was over, the officer read the 17-year-old junior his rights and placed Muniz under arrest — for alleged misdemeanor assault on an officer.

“He told me that I had ‘f'd up,' ” Muniz said. “But I never wanted to fight.”

In an initial substantive response in court, the school district claims that Muniz was “careless, reckless, and negligent,” and is the one to blame for any alleged injuries he suffered during the altercation.

Muniz's arrest in November 2012 sounds extreme, but it was hardly isolated.

In fact, he was one of tens of thousands of juveniles arrested by school police in San Bernardino County over the last decade. The arrests were so numerous in this high-desert region known as the Inland Empire that they surpassed arrests of juveniles by municipal police in some of California's biggest cities.

The San Bernardino City Unified School District, where Muniz was a student, has its own police department, with 28 sworn officers, eight support staff and more than 50 campus security officers trained in handcuffing and baton use.

The department made more than 30,000 arrests of minors between 2005 and 2014. The area has a reputation for youth-gang crime, but only about 9 percent of those arrests were for alleged felonies. Instead, the vast majority of arrests were for minors violating a variety of city ordinances — such as graffiti violations or daytime curfews — and for nearly 9,900 allegations of disturbing the peace. That's a frequently-used catchall that raises questions among critics about whether most of these arrests were necessary for public safety.

The bulk of the minors arrested or referred to school police represent some of the most academically vulnerable demographics in the state: low-income Latino and black kids, as well as kids with disabilities, in disproportionate numbers, according to California arrest statistics and national education data examined by the Center for Public Integrity.

Based on 2011-2012 data collected from U.S. schools by the U.S. Department of Education, the latest available, Muniz's Arroyo Valley High referred students to law enforcement at a rate of 65 for every 1,000 students. That was more than 10 times the national and California state rate of 6 per 1,000.

Those kinds of statistics raise red flags for critics who charge that school officers in some districts, especially those with substantial minority and special-needs populations, are turning what should be minor disciplinary indiscretions into criminal justice matters that put kids on a road to bigger problems — the so-called ‘school-to-prison pipeline.” In San Bernardino, cops, school officials, parents and community groups have started wrestling with how to balance demands for order — and security — without criminalizing kids.

There's no state rule to define the role of school police, but some California districts have already taken steps to do that by imposing formal limits on police powers in school, and detailing what situations should require police involvement and what should be handled exclusively by educators.

The roots of a trend

The ranks of school cops have grown nationally since the 1999 massacre of students and faculty at Columbine High School outside Denver. Some inner-city school districts have developed significant police agencies of their own and deployed them on campuses. The fear of terrorism and mass shootings like the rampage in San Bernardino this month all but guarantee that schools will continue to seek out ways to put police officers on campuses.

But teens and officers don't always understand each other, and kids can pay a price when cops' own conduct gets aggressive.

In October, students in South Carolina precipitated a federal civil-rights investigation with videos they surreptitiously shot of a school cop violently arresting a high school girl who'd been using her cell phone, tipping over her desk and dragging her across the floor.

Last April, in the San Bernardino city district, an 8th grader was allegedly ordered to remove clothing and unhook her bra and shake her breasts to see if she was hiding marijuana, according to her mother, Anita Wilson-Pringle.

A female vice principal led the search, Wilson-Pringle said, which the district defended as a routine “pat down.” But Wilson-Pringle alleges that a male campus security officer who works for district police allegedly stood nearby. The district police chief denied that but was unwilling to release an internal review the chief said had been done — not even to Wilson-Pringle.

“I wonder how many other kids have been violated,” Wilson-Pringle said. State law prohibits strip searches by school employees.

Muniz's lawsuit alleges that the San Bernardino city school district failed to properly train and supervise the officer who confronted him, Mark Clark. Clark coaches wrestling in the district and this past summer was promoted to sergeant.

In their defense, the district and Clark allege in court documents that Muniz “obstructed” a police officer, and that Muniz resisted arrest, causing Clark “to use only such force as was reasonably necessary … to overcome plaintiff's resistance.”

Dennis Popka, lawyer for Clark and the district, declined to comment on the case while it's pending.

Muniz, now 20, recalled his Mexican immigrant mother arriving at his school to find out how and why he'd been arrested and attempt to figure out what would happen next. Clark decided to write up his citation and release the boy to his mother pending his court date rather than put him in juvenile detention.

Muniz's mother signed papers in English she didn't fully understand and burst into tears when she was allowed to see her son, and noticed his abrasions and swollen eyes.

“I explained to her that I was hugging my girlfriend,” Muniz said. “It didn't make sense to her. How could a situation have escalated so quickly?”

Similar complaints of excessive school police intervention in other parts of the Golden State have pushed some prominent school districts to more narrowly define the role of school police on campuses and institute more oversight.

The Los Angeles and San Francisco school districts now have agreements forged in 2013 and 2014, respectively, defining discipline as the responsibility of educators, not police, and instituting limits on officer interrogations, arrests and tickets.

“Technically, a young person may commit a crime” by making threats, or getting into a physical fight, said Donna Groman, supervising judge of the delinquency division of Los Angeles County Juvenile Court. “It could be viewed as criminal conduct, but it might not be the type of conduct that really benefits a young person to be arrested and injected to the juvenile justice system.”

Police arrests should be selective — reserved for the most serious incidents — because any exposure to the juvenile justice system is harmful to minors, Groman said.

Groman arrived at her view from her experience as a judge. She also points to research finding that an arrest, a court appearance, and even brief detention, especially for minor infractions, actually increase a minor's risk of dropping out and getting into more serious crime.

“Whether it stops with just an arrest or a citation,” she said, “that doesn't matter. The harm has already been done and it's difficult to undo that harm. It's the beginning of a young person becoming disengaged from school, which is one thing you're trying to avoid.”

School police agencies' arrests surpass city cop arrests over 10 years

California schools can contract with local police or form police forces. Ten years of arrest data show that two school police forces in San Bernardino County arrested more minors than municipal cops in their cities. Low-level misdemeanor accusations, especially disturbing the peace, dominate school police arrests in these districts of mostly Latino and black students. Status offenses are infractions that apply only to minors — like truancy or curfew violations.

Alarming stats

In San Bernardino County overall, where political support for law enforcement traditionally runs strong, data show that 37 percent of minors funneled into the criminal justice system for misdemeanors were put there by just two school police departments — San Bernardino's and the Fontana Unified School District police. San Bernardino is the largest county in the nation, encompassing over 20,000 square miles and containing more than 20 distinct cities, vast swaths of unincorporated areas and 2.1 million people.

Over the last 10 years, municipal cops in the city of San Bernardino have arrested just 6,923 minors in all, compared to the 30,000-plus arrests by school district police in the city. School cops do engage in enforcement off campus. But their primary turf is a district of about 54,000 students. City cops patrol a city of 215,000 residents.

The state data also detail how few arrests by school police were for felonies.

More than 27,000 of the 30,000-plus arrests of minors by San Bernardino school cops were for misdemeanor charges. About 36 percent of those were for disturbing the peace — a charge that can range from disruptive, loud behavior to physical fights.

The data show that the department's arrests did decline, from 4,043 in 2005 to 1,078 last year.

But last year, based on state records, San Bernardino school cops still arrested more kids than municipal cops in Sacramento, Oakland or San Francisco. They even arrested more kids than police who patrol the nation's second largest school district — Los Angeles Unified — which has a student body that's more than 10 times larger than San Bernardino's.

“That level of arrests is an alarm,” said attorney Ruth Cusick of Public Counsel, an L.A.-based pro bono law group that has collaborated with Groman on school police reforms. Those who think it's natural for police in schools to arrest more kids than regular cops, she said, are denying the harm it does to kids and to relationships with police.

A steady stream of arrests, she said, “basically communicate[s] to students, ‘You're not part of the community.' "

Some school cops' 2014 juvenile arrests rivaled or surpassed California big city police departments' arrests San Bernardino City Unified School District police arrested more minors in 2014 than Los Angeles Unified School District police — even though the L.A. district's enrollment is 10 times greater than San Bernardino's. Arrests by San Bernardino and some other school cops declined in recent years. But in 2014, some departments continued to rival or surpass the volume of juvenile arrests in many large cities — including San Francisco, Oakland and for some, Sacramento.

Changing the MO

San Bernardino school police Chief Joe Paulino agreed to meet at Arroyo Valley High, where Josue Muniz was arrested in 2012, to discuss the historically high volume of arrests — and reforms he agrees are needed and that he says are underway.

“I believe we're emerging from that history,” Paulino said, “to this new place where we no longer believe that we have to attack these things [minor infractions] to be able to keep our youth safe. And we're looking at it from not a zero tolerance to more of a tolerance to these behaviors.”

The district in November started talks to identify circumstances that don't merit police intervention, Paulino said. Officers are already mindful to follow a new “matrix” calling for students to get an opportunity to correct misbehavior — like a first-time fight — before they face arrest.

Paulino also said officers are now handing out “positive tickets” and prizes to students identified as having done good deeds. The practice is part of a “different mindset,” he said, that police are developing.

There's still a maxim posted on the department's website that says the purpose of citations — the real ones that put kids into the justice system for alleged crimes — “is not to punish them but to help them change bad behavior patterns.”

“I don't believe that anybody should be handcuffed because they're kissing,” he said. “However, it if turns into where I request that you go to class and it becomes violent, then again, we as police officers have the right to be able to defend ourselves as well as others we believe may be injured by another's action.”

Trouble in Fontana

Elsewhere in San Bernardino County, there are other signs of problematic school policing.

Officers with the 40,000-student Fontana Unified School District, not far from the city of San Bernardino, arrested 10,741 juveniles over the last decade, a volume that also surpassed the 7,474 arrests of minors by Fontana city police.

Fontana school cops run the Fontana Leadership Intervention Program, a counseling and boot-camp program for students identified at school or in court as “at-risk.” In 2012, an officer who coordinated the FLIP program, which took kids on trips to colleges and prisons, was fired because he had allegedly boasted of having sex with mothers of kids in the program, according to documents in lawsuits filed by school staff.

In the community of Chino, the case of a student with Down syndrome who was arrested at his high school exemplifies concerns at the legal-defense group Disability Rights California that special-needs kids are getting criminalized at school.

Krystine Roldan, the guardian and sister of the student with Down syndrome, was shocked when she received word that her brother Christian had been arrested in 2013 at Ayala High School in the Chino Valley Unified School District. He was charged with resisting a peace officer. Roldan said she found her 16-year-old brother “crumpled up” and hogtied, inside the back of a sheriff's vehicle.

“His hands are behind his back and his feet are tied together with handcuffs and they're connected and he's sweating. He's crying,” Roldan recalled. “I kept saying you guys have to let him go. He has breathing issues.” The deputies said Christian had made threats. Roldan pointed out that Christian can only respond to questions with one- or two-word answers.

Ayala's school resource office — a county sheriff's deputy on contract — wrote up a report about an incident that led to Christian's arrest.

Christian left class to go to the bathroom, unsupervised, and was later found sitting in an outside area on two airsoft guns, replica firearms that shoot plastic pellets. Roldan said she doesn't know where he got the airsoft guns. The school officer doesn't speculate in her report. A teacher picked up the prohibited replica guns, and Christian walked with him to the police office.

The officer was told he had Down syndrome. She began questioning the teen about the guns. She wrote that he appeared agitated, “had his hands clenched in fists” and “would not cooperate with my commands.” She wanted to search him for any other weapons. He “mouthed” a profanity. She called for more deputies, and they “escorted him to the floor to gain control of his arms and body.”

Christian was restrained, searched and taken to a patrol vehicle. “No additional contraband was found on his person,” the resource officer wrote. Yet he was arrested.

After sitting in a jail cell with his sister, Christian was released to his sister that day, but out of school for months. Therapists said it was too traumatic for him to return to the school, but the district said it couldn't find another suitable placement for him, until after Roldan contacted Disability Rights for help, she said. She also had to take Christian to juvenile court two times to answer to his criminal charge before a judge was satisfied he had Downs Syndrome and dismissed the case.

“I thought they were there to protect him,” Roldan said of educators and police. He's still terrified of police, she said, and she's worried he won't ask for help when he needs it.

National data show that the Chino Valley district referred students to law enforcement at rate of 21 for every 1,000 pupils during the 2011-2012 year — more than three times the national rate of 6 per 1,000. Disabled students were referred at a rate of 61 students per 1,000 kids, compared to a national rate of 14 per 1,000.

Chino Valley schools' risk and safety manager Dan Mellon spoke for the district.

Confidentiality laws, he said, bar him from addressing Christian's arrest. But he explained that the district contracts with local police agencies for school resource officers and those officers decide if a student should be arrested in connection with incident.

“We're not going to interfere with a sworn officer's duties,” he said. And if the school didn't file a charge, administrators have no influence to get it dropped, he said.

In the San Bernardino district, Ray Culberson, director of the Youth Services program, is trying to ensure that changes occur in both disciplinary procedures and decisions to arrest kids. He grew up in tough circumstances here and feels that kids got more breaks back then than they do now.

Culberson is pushing for school leaders, campus by campus, to institute “restorative justice” circles, where students and staff air grievances about incidents and amends can be made.

With the backing of the district attorney's office in San Bernardino County, he also recently started an informal district “youth court” that he's urging both principals and police to make use of; they can send kids to this mock court rather than expelling them or sending them into real court. Juries of peers will try kids — if they admit to misconduct — and impose consequences such as an essay of apology, a visit to a hospital or a ride with police on patrol. If they fail, then they face the official system.

In October, a homeless boy, 13, facing possible expulsion, was tried for bringing a lighter to school and smoking cigarettes. He was told to write an essay, among other amends.

Culberson said he knows not everyone in the district is sold on reforms that include having to train in new ways to resolve conflict, like restorative justice, which take time that teachers often say they don't have. Adults habitually say they want to do “what's in the best interest of kids,” he said. “Do we do that? We don't do that with 100 percent fidelity.”

At a downtown San Bernardino County office, juvenile probation officers, some of whom are also posted right on campuses, said they approve of a lot of the new ideas. They also said they think schools have already been working hard to get students plenty of support before they end up arrested.

Kids arrested on first-time misdemeanors in this county can go to court if they want to contest a charge. But if they admit to a charge, they can get a “diversion” to probation officers, a less formal procedure, and receive referrals for counseling — as well as consequences for what they did, such as mandatory community service.

Officer Maria Barton said school cops care, and frequently consult with her before making an arrest. But there are times, she said, when cops have to “deal with the instant moment,” and may have to subdue and arrest kids — and ask questions later.

But does she think a school cop should intervene if kids are hugging, as Officer Clark allegedly did when he saw Muniz and his girlfriend? At most, that's a violation of school rules.

“Absolutely,” Barton said. “Any adult who works on a school campus is entitled to anything that deals with those kids. If it's a custodian, an administrator, a teacher, a clerk, a probation officer, a police officer, when we see something inappropriate it should be addressed.”

There's quite a bit of inappropriate hugging on campuses, Barton said, and parents want to know that officers are keeping their kids safe.

But did the officer go too far?

Kimberly Epps, another probation officer, said it's difficult to judge without knowing the details. All adults on campus have to watch out for sexual harassment, she said. And she advises juveniles that when a cop gives you orders the best course of action is “to cooperate in the situation and do what's being asked of you — and it doesn't go, perhaps, where it doesn't need to go.”

Ironically, Muniz said, the day he was arrested he was trying to stay safe. He was sitting in the vicinity of Officer Clark's office because some “gangster” kids had been picking on him and his mother wanted him to stay close to security while out on the quad.

He'd never been in trouble with police, he said, and he was startled at how angry Clark allegedly appeared to be when he came over after the second hug.

“It was actually a pretty big event in my life,” Muniz said of the arrest. “I think if it weren't for that, a lot of things would be different right now.”

Because of the seriousness of the charge, Muniz said, a vice principal he got along well with had no choice but to recommend he be expelled. But at the school-based hearing, Muniz said, “his face was showing regret more than anything else.” Officer Clark spoke out against Muniz at the hearing, identifying him as the aggressor, and to Muniz appeared “the only one determined to win” the recommendation to expel him.

Ultimately, Muniz prevailed, and the school expulsion panel decided not to eject him from the district. It helped, he said, that his girlfriend had quickly used Google while he was in custody at school, and found him a lawyer. When he went to court later, he said, the fact that he was spared from expulsion seemed to help. Prosecutors decided not to pursue the case and the charge was dropped.

By that time, though, he felt he'd been stigmatized.

He'd missed a lot of class time. He'd been forced to transfer to a special campus for troubled kids that he didn't like. He and the girlfriend drifted apart. He ended up dropping out, his confidence shaken. He regrets it now, but at the time it seemed like nobody cared. He wants to pursue a GED diploma, but time is limited, as he needs to work and is constantly scrambling to get temporary jobs at warehouses here that are big employers.

But Muniz also said he lost something else with his arrest. Not long before, he was at church with his mother and conversed with a police officer about his career. He began dreaming of becoming a cop. But he says now that he couldn't stand by and “keep my mouth shut” if he saw a fellow cop abusing people.

He decided to pursue his lawsuit, which is slowly moving along with pre-trial motions, because he felt that Officer Clark thought he was “basically, nobody.” The legal challenge, he said, has helped him feel that's not true.

“It's like the only way” he said, “that I feel like I have some sort of power.”




Community violence task force updates on enforcement changes

by Lucas Geisler

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Columbia Police Department went through federal training and expanded its unit for community policing, according to a staff update given Friday.

The Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence met as part of a series of updates to its 2014 recommendations. The group was formed in 2013 to find ways to reduce violent crime, and submitted its findings the next year, breaking them down into four categories - prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry.

Friday's meeting focused on "enforcement." Lieutenant Geoff Jones, the head of the new Community Outreach Unit, answered questions audience members had about changes to the department since late 2014. The task force called for a stronger, more trusting relationship between the department and the community. ABC 17 News reported earlier the growth of the COU to six officers starting next week, and CPD receiving the Department of Justice's procedural justice training.

Irwin Schneider, president of the Columbia Neighborhood Watch program, said he supported the new community outreach program.

"Find ways to reach out to the communities and folks who may have problems, whoever they may be, and help them deal with it on a level other than strictly law enforcement," Schneider told ABC 17 News.

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, a co-chair of the task force, said the police department will announce the neighborhoods officers will work in next week. The department looked at overlapping maps of crime and poverty rates, along with other data, to determine the list.

ABC 17 News first reported that the department ended its Traffic Unit to staff the COU. Schneider said the police department needed the money for more officers to appropriately deal with the routine call log, as well as staff a unit for community policing.

"What they feel is more important, now, is having a community outreach unit, and hopefully deal with violent crime by having police more involved, and also getting the communities more relating to the police department."

Lt. Jones said he hoped community policing, like the work the COU hopes to accomplish, will become the norm for police work in the city, instead of a special unit.

The task force will meet on January 12 to discuss "re-entry" programs dedicated to reducing recidivism and crime.



Washington D.C.

Washington DC Crime Rate 2015: Amid Gentrification, A Public Safety Crisis Worries Some Neighborhood Leaders, Police Union

by Adam Lidgett

It's not uncommon for Vicki Wright-Smith to see drug transactions on her block in Washington, D.C,'s bustling Columbia Heights neighborhood. She's seen the same hand-to-hand deals for nearly six years, something she said police in the area seem to give little attention to.

“I don't know how hard they're working,” Wright-Smith, who has lived in Columbia Heights since 1988 and is a retired neighborhood commissioner. “I just don't know what they're doing. All you have to do is go and sit on our block for a good hour or two and see hand-to-hand transactions going on, but no one will do that.”

Now, Wright-Smith, as well as other community and law enforcement leaders, are worried about the future. A recent report from the D.C. police union claims officers are leaving the department in droves, suggesting the size of the local police force may shrink. While D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has denied the alleged “manpower crisis," the police department is experiencing a retirement bubble, and has had trouble keeping young officers on the force and attracting recruits. As many D.C. neighborhoods gentrify, pushing up rent, some law enforcement professionals are worried that having fewer officers serving the nation's capital will prove troubling for communities striving to improve.

“If criminals get word that there is a reduction in the number of police officers, that's going to lead to more robberies, more assaults, more trespassing,” Wright-Smith said. “They know if there's a reduction in the police officers, they know there will be less police officers that know what they're doing.”

D.C. is the midst of a population boom that saw a massive growth in young professionals driven by community leaders' efforts to reverse years of people moving out to safer suburban enclaves. More than two decades ago, Washington was known as the murder capital of the country. While the crime rate has dropped since those days, the nation's capital, known to many for its gleaming monuments and world-class museums, has recently faced a growing crime problem in its increasingly diverse and upscale communities. Rents in gentrifying neighborhoods — including Columbia Heights and Petworth — have increased by up to 48 percent, according to a recent report by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

Crimes with guns have increased 34 percent in Petworth this year compared to last year, and 9 percent in Columbia Heights. There were 154 homicides across D.C., this year, compared with 97 last year, a 59 percent increase and the highest rate since 2008, according to government statistics.

Patrick Flynn, a former neighborhood commissioner in Columbia Heights, said in the nine years he has lived in the area there has never been an adequate police presence. Police presence has only been recognizable when there is a significant event, such as the three killings in the neighborhood this year, he said.

Some areas thought to be hotbeds of criminal activity were frequently unpatrolled by police until recently. One of these spots was at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Lamont Street, where Morgan's Seafood is located, an establishment that has been in owner Romeo Morgan's family for more than 80 years.

He said he has petitioned elected officials for a long time to get a police presence in the area, where on an average day passersby might see people selling drugs, people using drugs, prostitutes and thieves. It wasn't until Derrick Black, 24, was killed in front of a bus stop near the intersection in July that police began to make their presence known there, Morgan said.

“Literally you couldn't walk down the street, I had to stop my daughter from coming down that [area] because I didn't want anything bad happening to my daughter,” Morgan said. “It wasn't until a young kid died, now we get police,” he added.

By the D.C. police department's own estimates, 764 officers have left since January 2014, more than half of which were retirements, and 562 have been hired in the past two years. The department said in a statement that resignations have been consistent with the historical average, but the union claims more people want to leave because of a toxic work environment and bad scheduling.

The D.C. police department's retention of young officers has also proved a problem, said Delroy Burton, the police union chairman, with many leaving for departments in other areas or the federal law enforcement agencies located in the area.

“We used to have people that would stay here 30 or 40 years,” Burton said. “Now we have people working here that have countdown apps on their cell phone,” he said, referring to the last day of duty retiring officers wait for.

Lanier said in a statement that she had received fiscal funding for 2016 to get more people on the police department, and that $2.5 million has been invested in a program to provide education incentives to young officers. Local officials have expected the retirement bubble for years after the department went on a 1,500-person hiring spree in 1989, meaning many officers were expected to retire around the same time. Lanier said she was hiring as many officers as she could given her budget, training resources and background check capacity.

But the department isn't working quickly enough for its critics. When one calculates the approximately 200 officers on modified duty — those who have been hurt or who are on leave — and the officers in leadership positions, that only leaves about 3,100 officers actually patrolling the streets, Burton said. If the officer numbers decrease, response times will increase and it will take longer for officers to respond to some crimes, he said. Some victims could end up waiting hours for a police to respond to their calls, he added.

“You have a finite resource and you have a growing city, you have a lot of residents,” Burton said. “The city has grown, the police shrunk. The response times are lower, the ability to patrol, less.”

To be sure, other local governments around the country have struggled in recent years with shrinking police departments and budgets while confronting growing crime rates. Part of the problem is that many recruits can't complete the physical fitness tests while at the academy, and even more are excluded because of an unfit background, such as having a history with drugs, a prior arrest or psychological problems, Ron Martinelli, a California forensic criminologist who has served as an expert witness in many national police cases, said.

Some public safety leaders also claim that increased media scrutiny over how officers police their communities has created a disincentive for people to go into law enforcement. A debate over police use of deadly force made national headlines after the August 2014 shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by police officer Darren Wilson, prompting mass protests and more people to question how police officers act in their communities.

Burton said recruiting has been difficult in the past year and a half, which he attributes partly to the focus on police brutality. “Who is going to want to come out of college and want to put up with this stuff," he said.

But problems in the nation's capital go beyond police staffing numbers, said Sylvia Robinson, a Washington community organizer. Crime is a byproduct of dilapidated social structures and people often turn to violence because of issues like unemployment, inadequate job training and a lack of affordable housing, all problems Robinson said she works on.

Washington, D.C., was about 50 percent black in 2014, with a homeownership rate of 42 percent, according to Census data. Nearly 20 percent of residents live in poverty, compared to a national rate of 15 percent.

“Policing isn't the only way to deal with crime,” Robinson said. “We need to have a lot longer and deeper conversation, and the time to have that longer and deeper conversation is now. We don't want to wait for the crime to spike to talk about these deeper issues."

Audra Grant, a community activist, said she and others have worked with the D.C. police department to stop crime near the lower Georgia Avenue area where Black was killed this summer. While the area isn't as rife with crime as it once was, it isn't very well lit and still has many vacant properties, making it a popular loitering and drug dealing spot, she said.

Grant is part of the Georgia Avenue- Lamont Public Safety Task Force, which works with D.C. police to reduce crime in the Park View neighborhood near Howard University, the historically black research university. She said after the task force asked for additional police patrols, more officers could be seen in the area. But Grant said she fears a reduction in the number of officers could curb progress.

“To see a depletion of police ranks as a result of retirement would reverse a lot of the positive changes that have happened, and make the area vulnerable again, even more vulnerable that it is," she said.




Thanking public safety personnel who work on Christmas

Notes of appreciation, donations for meals being collected for those who serve

by Andy Kozlowski

MADISON HEIGHTS — For many police officers, firefighters and paramedics, Christmas Day is not spent at home with loved ones, but on duty at the station, ready to stop crimes, put out fires and respond to medical emergencies.

It's thanks to their dedication that the community can rest easy on Christmas. And that's why some thanks are in order.

This year, Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis is working together with longtime volunteer Laurie Geralds to collect monetary donations that will buy hot meals for public safety personnel on Christmas Day. A dinner will be served to the firefighters and paramedics during their 24-hour shift, and three meals will be delivered to the police: one for the morning shift, one for the afternoon shift, and one for the night shift. In all, more than 40 people will be served, including dispatchers.

They're also collecting holiday cards that will be set up inside the Police Department and the Fire Department for the employees to see.

People are encouraged to include a note of thanks in the cards to brighten up the employees' day as they work on Christmas.

Monetary donations and cards can be delivered to Soltis in the City Manager's Office at Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road.

Those with questions can call Soltis at (248) 219-6381.

Soltis said they could also use volunteers to help prepare the meals on Christmas. The meals will likely be purchased the day before Christmas, when more businesses are open, and then heated back up on Christmas Day.

“I worked EMS years ago, and I remember working the holidays,” Soltis said. “I just think this is a way to pay tribute to our public safety men and women. They're working on one of the biggest holidays of the year. They're away from their families, doing city work. I'm certain this is something they would appreciate, and I just want to play a part in that. It's a way to express our gratitude for all of their hard work and dedication, and to let them know they're not forgotten.

“I think police are getting a bad rap, a blanket judgment, because of a few officers who did some unfortunate things elsewhere in the country,” he added. “But most police pour their heart and soul into their work and do an excellent job protecting the citizens, which nowadays is critical. Look at the terrorist attacks that are happening now — our police would be the first to arrive on scene, and without hesitation. God bless them.”

It's with this in mind that Soltis attended the recent Project Blue Light ceremony that was held at St. Justin Church in Hazel Park Dec. 1. He brought his sons with him, so they could understand the sacrifice made by public safety personnel. They've been keeping a blue light in their window to remind officers on patrol during the dark nights of December that they're appreciated.

“A lot of people take for granted that their safety will be intact,” Soltis said. “We shouldn't, though.”

Geralds echoed this sentiment, pointing out in an email how the community is sometimes insulated from what goes into keeping the community safe.

“We take so much for granted in our communities, just knowing that our police and fire departments will be available when we need them, regardless of the time of day. How often do we stop to think about what they're giving up with their own families while we are celebrating with ours? I know I don't, so I was honored that Dave included me in his idea,” Geralds said. “It's a privilege to do something special like this, and the (community) groups we're reaching out to think so too. What a great way to bring a community together to show our appreciation.”

Those who want to make monetary donations for the meals or give thank-you cards for the police officers, firefighters and paramedics can do so by visiting the City Manager's Office inside Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road, and dropping them off for David Soltis. For more information about how you can help, call Soltis at (248) 219-6381.



South Carolina

Officers on the beat see changes as tension rises on patrol

Police feel their job has changed after more than a year of high-profile deadly confrontations

by Jeffrey Collins

LEXINGTON, S.C. — Police feel their job has changed after more than a year of high-profile deadly confrontations between police and unarmed black men in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore.

Officers on the beat said there is more tension on the streets. Their supervisors worry officers, concerned about public perception, might overthink what should be split-second decisions in dangerous situations, putting themselves or others at risk.

Police shootings that have led to charges against officers like the one in Chicago where a black teen with a knife was shot by a white officer 16 times or in South Carolina this past April where an unarmed black motorist running from a traffic stop was shot several times in the back by a white North Charleston police officer strengthen calls for body cameras.

But beat cops around the country worry that the greater use of cameras — as well as the easy spread of clips filmed by bystanders over social media — leaves them vulnerable to being judged by an out of context moment.

Here are ways some front-line officers across the United States view the way their jobs have changed:

Under Threat

Sgt. Jeff Weed used to do paperwork on his 12-hour shift while parked in an empty lot in his Lexington County Sheriff's Department patrol car. But, with the current tensions, that common practice just seems too dangerous as police officers fear an ambush, he said. Weed has been a beat cop in this South Carolina county that ranges from the Columbia suburbs to rolling fields and peach orchards for his entire 26-year law enforcement career.

"I've got to be more vigilant," Weed said, not long after authorities said an officer near Houston was killed as he pumped gas.

He has been a police officer long enough that he said he doesn't obsess over each specific incident and whether it will put police in danger. But he said his wife and three kids do.

Getting Out Of The Car

Minneapolis is getting officers out of cars to do more foot and bicycle patrols, officer Tim Gorman said.

Gorman walks his beat in downtown, and said he is more aware of his surroundings.

The bike and foot patrols started a few years ago, after complaints that officers were out of touch. It's much easier to talk to people and be a friendly presence while walking or pedaling around instead of inside a car, he said.

"If someone wanted to get to you, you're more vulnerable. But there's no way you can have both. You can't be not vulnerable and be out among the people," Gorman said.

Extra Scrutiny

In the past few years, Greenville County deputy Shane Reece moved from an undercover job back out on the road patrolling.

The first thing the South Carolina deputy noticed is the instant attention he draws when he goes somewhere like a nightclub to investigate a problem or arrest someone. Some people yell insults and question everything he does. Others praise him. But he knows he is being watched, and likely filmed.

"Both sides are more vocal. You don't get to go in quietly many places anymore," Reece said.

Reece said the attention just seems to build and build after each high-profile incident involving police.

The Faces Behind The Badge

In Richmond, Virginia, Brian Sheridan is making an extra effort to be friendly in the area he patrols, talking to people in the neighborhood on every shift.

"I really do believe that the best thing we can do now is show that we are people and not just a uniform," said Sheridan, who was an officer in Detroit before moving to Richmond.

Sheridan is doing such a good job making connections with people that Richmond sends him into specific neighborhoods where they want more community involvement.

He is embracing body cameras because he said they are an unflinching witness to an incident. He just hopes when people view the videos they remember there is a person trying to make split -second decisions potentially about life or death behind the badge.

"We're not robots or machines. We're humans just like everyone else," Sheridan said.

Second Guessing

Los Angeles Police Department Detective Jamie McBride thinks body cameras will hurt police work. He is a director for the department's union.

Officers will be hesitant to talk to or engage people unless they are questioning or arresting them because they will be on tape every moment, he said.

When a police shooting or brutality video is put on the Internet, people can review it over and over, frame by frame, scrutinizing a decision that an officer made in perhaps fractions of a second, McBride said.

"I've been in six shootings. I know how fast things turn," McBride said. "When your life is on the line you make a split second decision to act upon it for your life, then they have all the time in the world to look frame by frame at what you did wrong."

Offering Thanks

Lexington County Sheriff's Sgt. Terry Govan said he is taking the positive out of the extra attention paid to police officers.

Govan rarely goes more than a week without someone paying for coffee or a meal to thank him for his work. But the 17-year patrol veteran said it felt strange at first.

"The other day, they told me, 'Hey, somebody paid for your food.' At first, I was like OK,'" Govan said. "But it's nice to have people appreciate what you do."




Connecticut to ban gun sales to people on watch lists: governor

by Scott Malone

Connecticut would become the first U.S. state to ban the sale of guns to people on government watch lists under an executive order that Governor Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said on Thursday he will sign.

The measure, which Malloy said needs federal approval, would require state police to review whether a potential gun buyer was on the federal no-fly list or on a watchlist for people suspected of ties to terrorism.

It would also revoke existing gun permits issued to people whose names were found on such a list.

The move follows a call by President Barack Obama for Congress to prohibit people on the no-fly list from purchasing firearms in the wake of the last week's massacre in San Bernardino, California, of 14 people by a married couple inspired by Islamic State militants.

"I am taking this commonsense step with this executive order simply because it's the right thing to do," Malloy told reporters in Hartford. "If you can't fly without clearing government watchlists, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun."

State gun-rights groups were quick to criticize the move, which they said they believe runs afoul of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.

"I think it is downright dangerous and above and beyond what is constitutionally acceptable," said Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League.

Almost three years ago a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

Following that attack, Malloy pushed through one of the strictest gun laws in the United States, banning more than 100 types of military-style rifles and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 bullets.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest welcomed Connecticut's move but said that the Obama administration was determined to press ahead with federal action on guns, noting that people can travel across jurisdictions to circumvent local laws limiting firearm purchases.

"There are necessarily some shortcoming to that approach," Earnest told reporters at press briefing on Thursday. "That is why ... the president's commitment to keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them continues to be a priority of his federal legislative strategy."

The ban would not have stopped the California attack as the shooters were not on any government terrorism watch list.



Washington D.C.

Suspicious substance forces evacuation of Muslim group's office

by Tal Kopan

The office of the largest U.S. Muslim civil liberties group in Washington was temporarily evacuated on Thursday afternoon after it received mail containing a suspicious substance.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said police evacuated its Capitol Hill office after a "foreign substance" was received in the mail.

Later Thursday afternoon, employees were given the all-clear to return.

The substance was a white powder that spilled out of a letter when opened by an employee, and several people inside and outside the office were being quarantined, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. The letter was described as hate mail.

A spokesman for D.C. Fire said Thursday the site had been cleared and that an initial field test on the substance came back negative, but added there will be further testing.

Firefighters set up a decontamination area in front of one of their trucks, complete with bleach and dish soap on the ground nearby. Firemen in full bunker gear and gas masks entered the building, and crews could be observed hosing off workers in hazmat suits.

Washington police were on the scene, and traffic was blocked off as officials investigated.

CAIR released a statement on social media alongside pictures of authorities responding to the scene.

"We receive hate messages daily because of our advocacy on behalf of the American Muslim community," staff attorney Maha Sayed said. "It's frightening to experience the hate manifest itself to such a real level. This will not deter us from continuing to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Americans."

Communications coordinator Nabeelah Naeem told CNN that police were called after employees opened the mail and saw the substance inside. She said such suspicious items are sent to their offices "periodically" while hate mail is received "daily."

The evacuation comes amid rising tension in the U.S. over terror threats. Since the Paris terrorist attacks, there has been a renewed focus on fighting terrorism and a political debate over Islamic ideology.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump this week called for a ban on all foreign Muslims entering the U.S., which was widely repudiated by both Democrats and Republicans.

"Since the Paris attack, there has been a spike in hate crimes in the Muslim community in America," Naeem told CNN.



North Carolina

4 North Carolina officers on leave after man died custody

by The Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Police in North Carolina say four white officers are on administrative duty after a black man who was subdued with pepper spray died in custody.

Winston-Salem authorities said in a statement that 31-year-old Travis Nevelle Page became unresponsive after he was taken into custody Wednesday night following a brief struggle with officers. Page died at a hospital.

Police say they responded to a report of a firearm being fired, adding that they found a handgun on Page.

Family members told the Winston-Salem Journal that Page had health problems, including high blood pressure and bronchitis.

Two of the officers have been with the department for 20 years or more; the others, one year and three years.

The State Bureau of Investigation is handling the case. Placing officers on administrative leave is standard procedure in such cases.



Americans are twice as willing to distance Christian extremists from their religion as Muslims

by Phillip Bump

The Islamic State's effort to terrorize the United States appears to be working.

A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute released Thursday shows a sharp increase in the number of Americans who are actively worried about terrorism. In November 2014, a third of Americans said they were "very" or "somewhat" worried about themselves or a family member being a victim of a terrorist attack. This year, after attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., nearly half of Americans say they share that concern.

Terrorism is also the issue Americans consider critical — far more than illegal immigration and slightly more than mass shootings.

(I asked the folks at PRRI if they'd considered asking about the extent to which Americans were afraid of being the victims of a mass shooting. "We toyed around with that idea, but ultimately decided against including it," PRRI's Dan Cox said via email. "We thought that because the ideas are not mutually exclusive — a terrorist attack could certainly take the form of a mass shooting. The usefulness of the question would be limited.")

Perhaps the most striking questions, though, were a pair in which the pollsters asked whether people were willing to distance terrorists from the religions in whose name they claimed to be acting. (The questions were: "When people claim to be Muslim/Christian and commit acts of violence in the name of Islam/Christianity, do you believe they really are Muslim/Christian, or not?")

Americans were nearly twice as willing to assume that those saying they were committing violent acts in the name of Christianity weren't real Christians than they were to make the same distinction for Muslims. (Many terrorist acts, of course, are a subset of this category.)

Part of that is probably a result of familiarity; more Americans understand the basics of Christianity than Islam and may be likely to assume that Islam provides more allowance for violent acts (47 percent of respondents considered the values of Islam "at odds with American values").

Regardless, this also shows that the Islamic State is being successful. Its goal of driving a wedge between the West and the Muslim world relies on precisely these sorts of distinctions.



New York

Girl Who Lost Family in Fire Only Wants Christmas Cards as Presents

by Julia Jacobo

The magic of Christmas is the ability to spread cheer and joy despite the hardships one faces, and that's the message one determined little girl is spreading this holiday season with a simple wish.

Sa'fyre Terry had lived in and out of foster homes when an arson fire killed her father and three siblings on May 2, 2013, in Schnectady, New York. She was 5 years old at the time. The blaze burned 75 percent of her body and eventually claimed her right arm and left foot. Now 8 years old, she said the only gift she wants this Christmas is cards from all over the world, her aunt, Liz Dolder, told ABC News today.

Dolder brought home a gold metal Christmas tree stand from a Goodwill store in Schnectady for $4 and Sa'fyre told her that she “couldn't wait” to fill it with Christmas cards. That's when Dolder, who has custody of Sa'fyre, posted a message to Facebook requesting for cards to be sent to a local post office.

“When the first card came in, it was like she won the lottery,” Dolder said. But she didn't want Sa'fyre to get her hopes up, so she told her they would probably get “a few” more. Instead, dozens more came.

“This thing has taken a life of it's own,” she said.

Firefighters found Sa'fyre next to her father, who used his body to shield her from the flames. It took Sa'fyre 10 months to recover from the fire in the hospital. Dolder credits Sa'fyre with helping her get over the death of her 18-year-old daughter, who died three years before the fire.

“She's a living message to people that there's hope, and no matter what you can get through anything,” Dolder said. “That's why we share Sa'fyre with everyone.”

“She helped me move forward,” Dolder added. “I will never be able to repay her.”

She described Sa'fyre as spunky, a go-getter, and hilarious.

“She loves to dress up. She loves to feel pretty. She wants to be a pop star,” Dolder said, adding that she's the “most popular girl at school.”

Dolder and her husband, Mike, have four children of their own and they're currently looking to buy a home in the Rottadam, New York, area for their extended family.

On Monday, the charity Baking Memories 4 Kids will present the family with a trip to Walt Disney World, which the Dolders will visit in February.

If you would like to send a Christmas card to a'fyre, address your card to:

Sa'fyre Terry

P.O. Box 6126

Schenectady, NY 12306




California shooters discussed martyrdom before meeting: FBI

by Julia Harte and Mark Hosenball

A couple who massacred 14 people at a California holiday party were discussing martyrdom online a year before they met in person and married, FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday.

Investigators were tracing the radicalization of Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, who married in 2014, and evidence mounted that both were interested in Islamist-inspired violence before they became acquainted.

"They were actually radicalized before they started ... dating each other online, and as early as the end of 2013 they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they became engaged," Comey said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A U.S. government source said Farook may have been plotting an attack as early as 2011. This diminishes the likelihood of early theories after the Dec. 2 shootings in California that Malik had radicalized her husband. Twenty-one people were also wounded in the attack.

Classifying the massacre as a terrorist act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes that the couple, who were killed in a shootout with police a few hours after their attack on Farook's San Bernardino County co-workers at the party, were inspired by foreign terrorist organizations.

Comey said it would be "very, very important to know" if their marriage had been arranged by a militant group as a way to carry out attacks in the United States, although he said there was no evidence yet indicating that.

The investigation of Farook, who was born in Illinois to Pakistani immigrants, and Malik, who was born in Pakistan and lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia, is looking into his relationship with his boyhood friend Enrique Marquez.

According to media reports, Marquez had converted to Islam a few years ago and was connected to Farook's family by marriage.

A government source said Farook may have planned an attack in 2011 or 2012 but did not follow through.

The source gave no details, but CNN cited two U.S. officials as saying Farook and an unnamed second person selected a target but abandoned their plan after terror-related arrests in the area. Fox News reported Marquez told investigators about the aborted plot.

The San Bernardino Sun newspaper quoted investigation sources as saying multiple photographs of Carter High School in Rialto, California were found on Farook's phone.


The FBI said that in 2011 or 2012 Marquez legally bought the AR-15 assault-style rifles that Farook and Malik used in their attack on the San Bernardino party. A government source familiar with the investigation said authorities were trying to determine if Farook had asked Marquez to buy the weapons so as not to draw attention to himself.

Marquez, who worked at a Walmart Supercenter in Corona, California, has not been arrested in the case, but he was questioned by the FBI on Tuesday and his family home was raided over the weekend.

Marquez checked himself into a Los Angeles-area psychiatric facility soon after the shooting.

State documents showed that last year Marquez married Mariya Chernykh, whose sister is married to Farook's brother, Syed Raheel Farook, a U.S. Navy veteran.

It could not be immediately determined if Marquez lived with his wife. The New York Times reported that he split his time between his family's home and that of a girlfriend. Gasser Shehati, a friend of Farook's from a San Bernardino mosque, said Farook told him several years ago that Marquez had converted to Islam.

On his marriage certificate, Marquez and his wife listed their religious society/denomination as Islamic Society of Corona/Norco.

In a Facebook posting before the attack, Malik pledged loyalty to Islamic State, the militant group that has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria. Coupled with Islamic State attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people, the San Bernardino assault has elevated concerns about security and immigration in the United States.


Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Comey about the attack and criticized the Obama administration's response to the militant group Islamic State. If the San Bernardino shooters are proven to have been inspired by Islamic militants, theirs would be the largest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The committee's chairman, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, said the San Bernardino shootings had shown Obama to be "spectacularly wrong" about the security of the U.S. visa screening process since Malik arrived in the United States on a K-1 fiancée visa on which he said she listed a false address.

"Our government apparently didn't catch the false address in Pakistan that she listed on her application," Grassley said.

Comey said in response to a question that he has no reason to believe Islamic State already has cells in the United States.

"They are trying to motivate people already in the United States to become killers on their behalf and they would very much like to - as they aspire to be the leader in the global jihad - send people here to conduct attacks," Comey said.

He said the latter scenario "has not been seen yet."



Washington D.C.

FBI director: U.S. facing greatest threat from terrorist groups since 9/11

by Eugene Scott

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the U.S. is at its greatest threat level from terrorist groups since 9/11.

Comey shared the information at a Senate FBI oversight hearing after Sen. Lindsey Graham questioned him on his agency's knowledge of terrorism.

"Do you agree with the following statement: There are more terrorist organizations with men, equipment and safe havens, along with desire to attack the American homeland, anytime since 9/11?" the South Carolina Republican asked.

"I agree," Comey said.

Comey said budget cuts imposed by Congress in recent years have reduced the FBI's ability to protect America from terrorism.

"What do you think the likelihood of another 9/11 against the homeland will be if we don't destroy the caliphate in Syria and in Iraq in the next year?" Graham asked.

"That's certainly a hard question for me to answer," Comey said. But, he added, "Their ability to have a safe haven from which to gather resources, people, plan and plot increases the risk of their ability to mount a sophisticated attack against the homeland."

Comey's comments were made following several global terrorist attacks over the last month in France, Egypt and Nigeria, as well as the attack in San Bernardino, California, last week which claimed the lives of 14 people.

Comey said the attack in San Bernardino was an act of terrorism committed by people radicalized by organizations at least inspired by ISIS.

Comey added that "people who know better than I" agree that "fiery rhetoric" about Muslims puts the lives of American soldiers, diplomats and FBI agents in the Middle East in jeopardy, a reference that comes in the wake of controversial statements made by GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.




Emanuel apologizes for Laquan McDonald police shooting, repeats call for change

by John Byrne, Hal Dardick and Bill Ruthart

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday apologized to aldermen for the police shooting of Laquan McDonald "that happened on my watch."

"If we're going to fix it, I want you to understand it's my responsibility with you," Emanuel said in a rare speech to the full Chicago City Council. "But if we're also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I'm sorry."

Emanuel — who has dismissed his police superintendent, parted ways with the head of the police shooting review agency and dropped opposition to the release of the McDonald shooting video during the last two weeks — framed up the situation as "a defining moment on the issues of crime and policing — and the even larger issues of truth, justice and race."

The address of about 40 minutes, coming during a crucial time of Emanuel's tenure, was more of a political speech designed to assuage Chicagoans than one filled with specific plans that several aldermen called for this week to deal with entrenched problems in the Chicago Police Department. Those problems were highlighted nationally by the fatal shooting of 17-year-old McDonald, an African-American, by a white police officer, the 13 months it took for video of the incident to be made public by court order and for a murder charge to be brought only shortly before the video's release.

And so the mayor on Wednesday talked about many Chicagoans' lack of trust in police officers, and returned to his oft-discussed argument that there are too many guns on Chicago streets. He reiterated his frequent argument that elected officials and community leaders have a responsibility "to earn back that trust and to change that narrative," and said there's a need for police to build trust with young African-Americans.

Emanuel spoke of the larger challenges as ones shared by people throughout Chicago.

"This time must be different. It will be a bumpy road, make no mistake about it," Emanuel said. "It is a painful process, and it is a long journey because of the issues we need to confront. But we as a city will not hesitate in the pursuit of what is right. We cannot shrink from the challenge any more than we can ignore the wrenching video of a troubled young man, a ward of the state of Illinois, failed by the system, surrounded by the police and gunned down on the streets of Chicago."

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, said the mayor still has a lot of work to do to regain the city's trust.

"That's the challenge he has, quite honestly, and it's going to be judged by his actions, not his words," Sawyer said moments after the mayor's speech. "So, we hope the ensuing actions will be substantive and will show real meaning to make that connection back with the community so we can establish that trust."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson sat in the front row of the gallery in the City Council chamber to watch Emanuel deliver his speech, which he called "an impassioned address on the extreme duress" of the city.

"The word must become flesh, and we'll know the value of it then," Jackson said of Emanuel's speech. "It must become a practice, and it must happen immediately. We now know police saw the killing of Laquan McDonald and filed a false report. They should be addressed immediately."

Jackson called on the federal government not to limit its Justice Department probe to the Police Department, but also investigate Emanuel's office and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office. He said many questions remain about what Emanuel and Alvarez knew and when they knew it.

"Who saw the tape when and delayed the tape for 13 months?" Jackson asked. "When subpoenas are issued to testify under oath, then we'll know who knew what when."

The real test, Jackson said, will be how Emanuel deals with the stringent Fraternal Order of Police contract that limits police discipline.

Aldermen — many of whom have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for victims of police brutality while demanding little change in how the department operates — had mixed reactions to the mayor's talk.

Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, a congressional candidate who has long spoken out about police abuse, said he thought Emanuel's speech was "genuine and heartfelt," but that many in the public will be skeptical and he'll have to follow up his words with actions.

"Everybody will be cynical that we're just doing this, or it was just said to get past this particular crisis at this time," Brookins said. "I'm saying that the public will hold us to the standard that 'talk is cheap, let's see what your actions will be.' "

Ald. Will Burns, 4th, a mayoral ally, said Emanuel will have to take real action. "I think that in order for our city to function, for our city not to tear itself apart, the reforms have to happen," Burns said.

Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, said "it's going to be a tall order" to make the type of real improvements in policing that Emanuel called for Wednesday. "It's going to take a lot of funding, and given the state of the city, we're going to have to find the resources to do this," she said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, a frequent Emanuel critic, said the mayor surprised her by not delivering "just the regular speech" she expected.

"It seemed to be real. It hit me. It hit me. It went straight to the core, and that's what I appreciated about it," Hairston said. "This is something we haven't heard before. It was not window dressing. It talked about some of the core and key things that are problems here in the city of Chicago, and I think that's a very big step."

Emanuel has appointed his own five-person task force to recommend Police Department reforms in response to the McDonald shooting fallout, and the task force is set to announce its findings by the end of March. In his speech, Emanuel said the panel has already recommended the hiring of a "senior officer for civil rights" at the Police Department to implement the panel's recommendations and those of federal investigators.

As he has in recent days, Emanuel focused much of his talk on the broader implications of McDonald's death after being shot 16 times by police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014.

"Nothing, nothing can excuse what happened to Laquan McDonald," Emanuel said. "Our city has been down this road before. We have seen fatal police shootings and other forms of abuse and corruption. We took corrective measures, but those measures never measured up to the challenge."

The mayor was at his most emotional when he discussed the need for respect between officers and young black men, and when he mentioned parents who have lost children to violence and people who get out of jail with few options.

He talked about a recent lunch with young men who had been in trouble with the law.

"So I asked them, tell me the one thing I need to know," Emanuel said. "And rather than tell me something, one young man asked me a simple question that gets to the core of what we're talking about. He said, 'Do you think the police would ever treat you the way they treat me?' And the answer is no, and that's wrong," Emanuel said, his voice rising before he began to pound the lectern. "And that has to change in this city. That has to come to an end and end now. No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago. If my children are treated one way, every child is treated the same way."

Aldermen applauded the mayor when he noted that double standard.

As he often does when talking about the parents of gunshot victims, the mayor choked up as he recounted "their extraordinary grace."

And without giving specifics, he called for residents to have a forum to talk about their problems with the police. "We have to have better oversight of our police officers to make sure they are living up to the high standards we expect of them, and we also have to create a place for the community to vent their understandable feelings and fears about the police without it devolving into acrimony and finger-pointing," he said.

Emanuel said the next police superintendent who will replace the recently fired Garry McCarthy will need "to address the problems at the very heart of the policing profession."

"This problem is sometimes referred to as the Thin Blue Line," Emanuel said. "Other times it is referred to as the code of silence. It is the tendency to ignore, deny or in some cases cover up the bad actions of a colleague or colleagues. No officer should be allowed to behave as if they are above the law just because they are responsible for upholding the law. Permitting and protecting even the smallest acts of abuse by a tiny fraction of our officers leads to a culture where extreme acts of abuse are more likely, just like what happened to Laquan McDonald."

Emanuel, who once tried to settle a police brutality lawsuit that found a code of silence existed in the Police Department, said Tuesday evening on "Chicago Tonight" that such a code exists. "The short answer is yes," Emanuel said.

Access to City Council chambers was limited Wednesday. The administration said there was a list of those who were to be allowed in but later said some members of the public were admitted. Protesters chanted outside council chambers after the speech, and more protests were unfolding against Emanuel later Wednesday.




San Bernardino detective who promised to 'take a bullet' says he's no hero

by Eliott B. McLaughlin and Christina Zdanowich

Detective Jorge Lozano was hailed as a hero for his collected demeanor during the San Bernardino, California, shootings.

With fear and the sound of gunshots filling the air, he assured dozens of people taking cover that before the shooters got to any of them, they'd have to go through him.

Lozano of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office flatly brushed off the accolades during a Tuesday news conference in which 30 of the 300 law enforcement officers who responded to the scene last week shared their stories, according to CNN affiliate KCAL-TV.

"I don't feel like a hero whatsoever," he said. "Any one of the 300 people that were there would have said the same thing. That's our job, to put ourselves on the line of danger to protect the community."

Radio station KPCC posted on Facebook a video of Lozano attempting to quell the fears of 47 stunned people inside the Inland Regional Center. It's been viewed more than 1.3 million times since Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, exacted a massacre during a holiday party for the environmental health department where he worked. Fourteen people were killed, and 21 more were wounded.

In the short clip, Lozano is at the end of a hall, ensuring he has the all-clear before ushering the frightened employees down the hallway to an elevator. The employees, some of them wide-eyed, stand in a line with their arms raised and identification badges in hand. Some held hands, while others monitored their phones.

As the elevator dinged and the door opened, the officer said, "Go, go, go, go."

"Try to relax, everyone. Try to relax. I'll take a bullet before you do. That's for damned sure," Lozano tells the employees as they pass him.

During Tuesday's news conference, he explained that his powerful promise was aimed at one child, in particular.

"There was a female there with a small child, had an 8-year-old little boy that was just terrified -- just shivering almost, to the point of shaking life a leaf," he said. "And I said what I said. I meant what I said. I said it for them just to kind of calm down, relax, that we were going to do everything we can to get them out of that building safely."

His actions weren't extraordinary for a police officer, he insisted: "It's nothing short of what any other person in law enforcement would do."




SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING: Former Redlands police chief calls for emphasis on community policing in wake of attack

by Ali Tadayon

In the wake of Wednesday's attack in San Bernardino, Former Redlands Police chief Jim Bueermann said law enforcement agencies everywhere should connect with the communities they serve.

Bueermann operates the Police Foundation, a think tank out of Washington, D.C. He said that a focus on creating strong relationships with communities will help make people more comfortable reporting suspicious activity. Bueermann said that also means agencies should connect with Muslim communities within their jurisdictions.

"Police need to fully engage with the communities they serve, so that people that might detect something as suspicious can come forward," Bueermann said. "In this case, it means connecting with members of the Muslim community... This is their community, they know what is suspicious and what is not."

Bueermann said he doesn't doubt that Muslims from the Inland Empire would have come forward if they knew about the attack. Still, law enforcement agencies throughout the country should be motivated to connect with Muslim communities, he said.

"If we have trust and confidence in an authority figure we are more likely to notify them," Bueermann said. "That's just the way human beings interact with each other."

Bueermann said some law enforcement officials may "mistakenly assume" that a "warrior mindset" is what's needed to avoid incidents like Wednesday's attack.

"What we really need are guardians that are capable of both community policing as well as responding with force when we have another similar attack," Bueermann said.

Bueermann said law enforcement agencies should consider appropriately arming their officers in order to not be out-gunned in the event of a shootout. But each agency is different and should assess what is appropriate and what isn't. Bueermann said an example of officers being inappropriately armed would be if officers showed up to a peaceful protest with semi-automatic rifles.




After tragedy, the trauma

by Shari Botwin

Less than a month ago, the world was shocked to hear about the Paris massacre. For several days afterward, the media bombarded us with stories of loss and horror, and those affected by the terrorist attack are still reeling from those events.

Last week, I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend when breaking news flashed across multiple television sets. "Another mass shooting," headlined one of the channels. Immediately, those around me asked the staff to please "turn that off." Nobody wanted to hear about the latest mass shooting in the United States.

These days, with news of terror attacks all around us, the world we live in can appear unsafe and uncertain. Though the chances of being a victim of terrorism are low, most of us - up to 80 percent, according to the research - will experience some type of trauma in our lifetimes. Of those, at least 20 percent will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. And each time the media focuses on another tragedy involving deaths and injuries, some of those who have lived through war or violence and suffered traumatic stress can start to relive the events that caused them so much pain. Too often, the trauma can be a nightmare without end.

For 18 years, I have been counseling men and women who have survived natural disasters, combat, domestic and child abuse, and other related experiences. A recurring theme with patients is, How am I supposed to live with this nightmare?

Comprehending events like the San Bernardino tragedy can seem like an impossible task for family members, witnesses, and the survivors of the attack. What struck me the most were the calls home during the rampage, with moms saying "I love you" as they did what they could to stay alive. How will people go on after suffering such senseless losses? The 37-year-old father of six. The 42-year-old man who worked to keep that facility safe. The 27-year-old woman who worked for the county. Think of all the children who either lost a family member or are still visiting their loved ones in the hospital as they recover from critical injuries.

Where does one start to heal the wounds of such a profound and life-altering event? And as patients often ask, How long is it going to take to move beyond it? I can't give a date and time when the pain will end, but I do know the process starts by reaching out for help.

I got myself into therapy as a young adult after surviving multiple losses and childhood abuse. Early in the process, I felt hopeless. I didn't think I would ever lead a full life. What I came to realize, though, as I went through treatment, was that the more support I had outside of therapy, the better the chance that I would learn how to love and trust myself and then others.

On countless occasions, I called friends and told my therapist, "I quit." The agony and pain that came with my memories felt insurmountable and crippling. Some days, I would just sit in a chair and stare at the television. I couldn't express the pain I felt or even cry. Then someone would say, "Don't give up" or "Keep fighting for your life," and I would find a way to march forward. Simple words of hope gave me the energy to stay in the fight.

I run a therapy group for trauma survivors. Each person comes with a very different history and experience, but what they share are feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and being overwhelmed as they try to rebuild their lives. Week after week, they share their frustrations with life challenges that are the result of their trauma and abuse. And despite it all, I am amazed as I witness the power they have in instilling hope.

When group members feel stuck or in pain, others remind them of why they are sitting in this group and of the importance of owning their experience. And that is exactly the kind of love and support that family members and survivors in San Bernardino are going to need. Creating a place where those people can process, talk, and receive support can make the difference between reliving the events of that day vs. navigating the grief and finding a way to live with it.

There is no such thing as too much support, and this terrorist attack in California is a reminder that there are millions of people who suffer awful losses and have no place to grieve and heal. Our world would be more connected if we all found ways to share our pain, even if each of us has had a totally different experience.

As difficult as trauma is, that's not what leaves us in shambles. The real issue is not having people to hear us out or tell us that we are OK, even when what happened isn't.

Shari Botwin, a counselor in Cherry Hill, is working on her second book, "Conquering Trauma: A Healing Guide for Survivors and Families."



Washington D.C.

Top House Republican Michael McCaul Fears Terror-Linked Individuals Targeting US Refugee Program

by ABC News Radio

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. intelligence officials believe individuals linked to terror groups in Syria have tried to enter the United States as refugees, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in a national security address Monday.

McCaul's comments were sourced to an unclassified letter from the National Counterterrorism Center he received earlier this week, which said the center has identified “individuals with ties to terrorist groups in Syria attempting to gain entry into the U.S. through the U.S. refugee program.”

Federal officials have previously indicated that terrorist groups have wanted to exploit the refugee program into the United States.

The Texas Republican said the United States has entered a new phase in the fight against terror, citing last week's San Bernardino, California, shooting that killed 14 people as “a call to action.”

“Make no mistake: we are a nation at war,” he said. “Fourteen years after 9/11, the fight against Islamist terror rages on, and our adversaries have opened up new battlegrounds across the world. Our own city streets are now the front lines.”

Panning President Obama's primetime Sunday address on the terror threat for containing no new policy announcements, McCaul touted the actions taken by the Republican-led Congress since the Paris attacks, including a refugee bill that would add security requirements to the vetting of Iraqi and Syrian refugees and plans to vote on a bill to tighten the visa waiver program this week.

“We must do more, urgently, to shut down the jihadi superhighway to and from the conflict zone,” he said.

He said 250 Americans with terror links have traveled to Syria, and that 50 have returned to the United States. But law enforcement officials have said that not every individual who has returned from Syria is linked to terror, and that many traveled to the country for humanitarian and personal reasons.

McCaul said he plans to introduce legislation that would form a panel of tech, law enforcement and privacy experts that would help lawmakers craft legislation addressing concerns about terrorists' communicating via encryption.

“We should be careful not to vilify ‘encryption' itself, which is essential for privacy, data security, and global commerce,” he said. “But I have personally been briefed on cases where terrorists communicated in darkness and where we couldn't shine a light, even with a lawful warrant.”



New York

New Rochelle PD wants to reconnect with the community

by Christopher J Eberhart

The commissioner wants to implement a community-policing policy that would require 10 more cops and cost $1 million a year.

NEW ROCHELLE - Police think the best way to reduce crime in troubled sections of the city and reverse some anti-law enforcement sentiments felt nationwide is to reconnect with the community.

"Every major city is one bad incident away from a disaster," said Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll, specifically mentioning events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore. "Every community should take lessons from where there's unrest and understand why. And it's because police weren't in touch with their communities."

New Rochelle police want to implement a community policing program which focuses on developing friendly relationships with the public and building trust in law enforcement. Officers would walk the neighborhoods and interact with locals to help solve recurring problems.

"I can't say how important it is to build trust between the community and the police," Councilman Jared Rice said. "You can turn on the TV on any day and in any city and you see a lot of turmoil around the country. We don't want that here in New Rochelle."

A 15-member committee, consisting of two council members — Rice and Lou Trangucci — along with local experts in criminal justice and police officers concluded a six-month discussion last month about how to implement a community policing program.

Its conclusions were laid out in a report issued before the Nov. 24 City Council meeting that included 10 recommendations, including hiring 10 more officers. Over the last 15 years, budget cuts decreased the size of the department from 187 officers in 2000 to 157 now.

Carroll said without 10 additional officers, the department couldn't implement the program.

"Ten is a good start," Carroll said. "Ideally, we'd need to add 20 officers, to get back into the 174-to-180 range."

But hiring 10 officers would increase the proposed 2016 police budget of $33.4 million by $1 million, more than doubling the proposed 1.3 percent tax rate for next year, City Manager Chuck Strome said. Mayor Noam Bramson said the city will revisit this topic early next year.

Jim Burch, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Police Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based research center that uses social experiments to conduct research in the policing field, said many departments across the country have moved away from community policing because of personnel cuts.

The growing distrust of law enforcement over the past few years has police departments going back to a philosophy that was widely adopted in the 1990s, he said. Determining the program's effectiveness, however, depends on the goal.

"Are you trying to achieve crime reduction or better relationships between the public and law enforcement?" he asked. "Studies have shown community policing has been effective at rebuilding relationships. In terms of crime reduction, it doesn't always have an impact."

Resident Bob McCaffrey said the idea of community policing is good, but urged the city to determine what the needs are in each section of the city and concentrate police efforts downtown.

"Besides added manpower, changes and reviews of the department policies and procedures must be done," McCaffrey said. "So if the new community policing will do that, then I'm all for it."




Jamar Clark shooting, protests continue strained history between community, police

by Brandt Williams and Meg Martin

MINNEAPOLIS — When Jamar Clark was fatally shot by Minneapolis police in November, the incident touched off nearly three weeks of protests — including a freeway shutdown, a weekslong vigil outside the 4th Precinct police station and multiple rallies at city hall.

It brought Minneapolis one step closer to the outrage in Chicago, North Charleston, Baltimore and St. Louis — and countless other cities across the country where the relationships between police and black communities have come under scrutiny.

"We have been saying for a significant amount of time that Minneapolis is one bullet away from Ferguson," activist Jason Sole of the Minneapolis NAACP said the day after Clark was shot. "That bullet was fired last night."

Minneapolis didn't see the level of violent unrest that erupted in Ferguson, Mo., last year after police shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb. But decades of anger and tension in north Minneapolis, where Clark was killed, and other city neighborhoods has built a history of turbulent relations between the city's black community and police.

The distrust has been fueled by not only police shootings, but by what many in the community see as a lack of accountability for officer misconduct.

1967: The "long, hot summer" comes to Minneapolis

The summer of 1967 was a turbulent one for race relations in American cities. More than 150 intense and sometimes violent demonstrations broke out, from Newark to Detroit to Milwaukee.

In Minneapolis, the unrest centered on the city's north side — and along Plymouth Avenue, the same street where Jamar Clark was shot nearly half a century later.

Mayor Arthur Naftalin and Gov. Harold LeVander called in 600 National Guard troops to quell the crisis.

"It is not a comfortable feeling when you see a jeep driving up and down the street with at least three military personnel and a 30-caliber machine gun," longtime resident Ron Edwards recalled.

The unrest was part of a larger wave of flareups across the country, as black Americans called attention to the inequities and injustices they navigated daily.

"People were just sick and tired of it because back in the '50s there were all kinds of problems," Edwards said. "Beatings were kind of the order of the day."

The frustrations of the 1967 protesters were echoed in the demonstrations that began in mid-November, just after Jamar Clark was shot. There was a sense, Edward said, that City Hall was unable or unwilling to hold officers accountable for misconduct.

"We were angry," Edwards said. "We felt disillusioned. But at the same time, we had a sense of perseverance."

1989: Botched drug raid kills elderly neighbors

By the late 1980s, Minneapolis had hit record levels of crime, murders and drug arrests.

The violence came at the height of a nationwide cocaine epidemic, which had gripped the city and continued into the next decade.

In a botched drug raid on Jan. 25, 1989, police fired a flash grenade into a home they mistakenly thought was empty. The grenade started a fire in the house — where senior citizens Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss died of smoke inhalation.

The deaths sparked protests, and demonstrators marched to City Hall and the office of Mayor Don Fraser, demanding the officers be arrested.

Despite the marchers' appeals, the officers were neither arrested nor charged.

1990: Tycel Nelson's death and parallels of Jamar Clark

Just less than two years after Smalley and Weiss were killed, Minneapolis' black community rose again to protest a death by police — the circumstances of which, like that of Jamar Clark, were disputed by police and community members.

It was a Friday night party turned violent in December 1990. Police arrived at the scene in north Minneapolis after two people had been shot. There were rumors of a gang dispute — a detail that itself became a point of controversy.

What's not disputed: Officer Dan May fired a fatal shot at 17-year-old Tycel Nelson. Police said Nelson had raised a handgun toward officers; partygoers said Nelson had no gun and had been running from police when he was shot. Police said Nelson was shot in the chest; witnesses at the party said he had been shot in the back.

A week after Nelson's death, neighbors gathered at a raucous, two-hour community rally at North High School.

An MPR News report on the event said the meeting "rocked with anger."

"Everybody's talking about, 'gang, gang, gang.' Let me tell you something ... the police are just as big of a gang as any other!" Rev. Jerry McAfee told the crowd, to cheers and applause.

A special investigator examined the shooting, but a grand jury cleared May of criminal charges. He was awarded the department's medal of valor in 2006 but returned it amid a flurry of community outrage.

2002: Jordan neighborhood erupts after 11-year-old injured

Another familiar echo in this year's protests: Federal oversight of the Minneapolis Police Department. Some of the demonstrators who gathered after Jamar Clark's death in November have demanded the city's police be supervised by the federal government.

The same calls echoed through the Jordan neighborhood of north Minneapolis after an officer's stray bullet hit and wounded an 11-year-old boy. The officer had reportedly fired at a charging pit bull as he entered a home during a drug raid.

More than a hundred people, most of them African-American, poured into the intersection of 26th and Knox Avenues. Rioters damaged a local TV news truck, burned an automobile and assaulted two newspaper reporters.

A mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice's community relations arm was summoned to the city. Her work led to the formation of the Police Community Relations Council, a group comprised of community activists and police officials. It disbanded in 2008 after the city declined to renew the mediation agreement.

2004: Courtney Williams, 15, killed after brandishing pellet gun

Police-community relations in Minneapolis were strained once again in October 2004 when a police officer shot and killed a black teenager.

It was another situation of mistaken cues.

Police said 15-year-old Courtney Williams pointed a gun at an officer, who then shot at the teen.

It was a pellet gun that police found near Williams afterward.

Family members said Williams didn't have the pellet gun when he was shot — and they said many details from the night of the shooting that don't make sense.

Police urged the community to remain calm in the aftermath.

A Hennepin County grand jury declined to charge officer Scott Mars in Williams' death.

1990-present: Review boards and skepticism

After Tycel Nelson's death, the Minneapolis City Council created a Civilian Police Review Authority to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

Advocates for police accountability worried the group would be ineffective, because it lacked subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify. The city's police union worried that civilian complaints could wind up on an officer's record even if the officer wasn't eventually disciplined.

The Civilian Police Review Authority was shuttered in 2012 after, according to the Star Tribune, it "fell apart amid complaints from its members that their rulings on police misconduct cases were routinely ignored by the police chief."

The city's Office of Police Conduct Review, which replaced that group, has met with much of the same criticism — that very few officers named in civilian complaints receive any discipline.

According to city records, out of nearly 1,200 complaints processed by the new body between October 2012 and September 2015, 13 have resulted in discipline. The most common allegation is use of inappropriate language or attitude.

But that doesn't mean officers' actions go uncorrected. Jenny Singleton, a commissioner with the Police Conduct Oversight Commission, said many minor offenses are forwarded to police supervisors for "coaching" that doesn't show up on an officer's record.

"So, while there might be corrective action being taken," Singleton said, "I think that because it's not called discipline, it can be unsatisfying to a lot of people."

Now: Fostering relationships and aggressive policing

Efforts to foster better relationships between police and the community have been complicated by data showing disparate treatment of African-Americans by police. A 2002 analysis of traffic stops found that minority drivers in Minneapolis were more likely than whites to be pulled over and searched. And a recent analysis by the ACLU found that people arrested for low-level offenses in Minneapolis were nearly 9 times more likely to be black than white.

Police chief Janee Harteau has said she welcomes input on addressing such disparities. She wasn't available to comment for this story. But earlier this year she said a large part of why African-Americans are arrested at higher rates is because many live in high-crime neighborhoods.

"Frankly, if my officers weren't in those areas, I'd be asking the question, 'Why aren't you where the crime is?' That would be my question," she said. "And so it's not surprising to me that you're going to have lower level offenses at a higher rate in an area where officers are to try and combat violent crime."

Harteau and other police officials have said one of the best ways to repair relations with communities of color is to make their neighborhoods safe.

But aggressive policing can come at a cost.

Since 2003, the city has paid out $23.7 million in settlements for police conduct lawsuits, judgments and claims. One of the largest payouts was made to the family of Dominic Felder, an African-American man shot and killed by officers Lawrence Loonsfoot and Jason King in 2007. The jury award and attorney fees set back city taxpayers more than $2 million. The officers were both cleared by grand jury and internal affairs investigations.




San Francisco police chief wants to arm officers with TASERs

Critics of TASERs say the weapon can kill suspects

by Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco's police chief renewed calls Monday for adding Tasers to his department's arsenal, saying the electrical "stun guns" could have prevented officers from shooting to death a knife-wielding suspect last week.

Thursday's shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the city's Bayview neighborhood was captured on two video clips, both circulated widely online. One 15-second clip shows five officers firing their weapons as Woods is seen holding his left side, limping down a sidewalk along a wall and appearing to show him approaching an officer with gun drawn who is walking toward Woods.

Chief Greg Suhr said one clip isolated from the 15-second video appears to show Woods raising the hand holding the knife.

The clips fueled anger against police in the predominantly black Bayview neighborhood. Several residents and community leaders called for Suhr's resignation during a three-hour meeting Friday he convened at a church a few blocks from the shooting.

On Monday, Mayor Ed Lee told reporters at City Hall that the police department would implement more training, review its policy on the use of force and start carrying protective shields in patrol cars. Lee didn't take questions or address the calls for Suhr's dismissal. Suhr appeared at the City Hall press conference with the mayor, police commission President Suzy Loftus and other community leaders.

Suhr said he will also ask the city's police commission to arm officers with Tasers, a weapon meant to shock and briefly incapacitate suspects with an electrical jolt. Suhr withdrew a similar proposal two years ago amid police commission opposition.

Critics of Tasers say the weapon can kill suspects and that police officers sometimes grab and shoot their guns when they meant to use a Taser.

Loftus said Monday that she still has "lingering concerns" about Tasers, but she is now open to arming San Francisco police officers with the weapons after opposing their use two years ago. Loftus said the department has implemented more crisis intervention training and made significant changes to its policies and procedures since her original opposition.

Suhr said the five officers who fired their guns have been put on leave with pay pending the outcome of the department's investigation. The San Francisco district attorney is also investigating. Suhr said the identities of the officers involved will be released by "the end of the week."

The NAACP has scheduled a meeting Monday night to discuss the shooting.



FBI: San Bernardino killers had been radicalized 'for quite some time'

The FBI would not release details on where the husband-and-wife killers practiced their shooting

by Amanda Lee Myers and Justin Pritchard

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The San Bernardino killers had been radicalized "for quite some time" and had taken target practice at area gun ranges, in one instance just days before the attack that left 14 people dead, the FBI said Monday.

In a chilling twist, authorities also disclosed that a year before the rampage, Syed Farook's co-workers at the county health department underwent "active shooter" training in the very conference room where he and his wife opened fire on them last Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear whether Farook attended the late-2014 training session on how to react to a workplace gunman, San Bernardino County spokeswoman Felisa Cardona said. It was held for members of the department's environmental health division, where Farook was a restaurant inspector, she said.

On Monday, two employees who had been in the room during the attack on a holiday luncheon said colleagues tried to do just as they had been trained — drop under the tables and stay quiet so as not to attract attention.

"Unfortunately, the room just didn't provide a whole lot of protection," said Corwin Porter, assistant county health director.

Farook, a 28-year-old born in the U.S. to a Pakistani family, and Malik, a 29-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, launched the attack at about the same time Malik pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group on Facebook, authorities said. The Muslim couple were killed hours later in a gunbattle with police.

"We have learned and believe that both subjects were radicalized and have been for quite some time," said David Bowdich, chief of the FBI's Los Angeles office.

He added: "The question we're trying to get at is how did that happen and by whom and where did that happen? And I will tell you right now we don't know those answers."

He also said the couple had taken target practice at ranges in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with one session held within days of the rampage.

In addition, authorities discovered 19 pipes in the couple's home in Redlands, California, that could be turned into bombs, Bowdich said. The FBI previously said it had found 12 pipe bombs.

Newly released emergency radio transmissions from the fast-moving tragedy show that police identified Farook as a suspect almost immediately, even though witnesses reported that the attackers wore black ski masks.

An unidentified police officer put out Farook's name because Farook had left the luncheon "out of the blue" 20 minutes before the shooting, "seemed nervous," and matched the description of one of the attackers, according to audio recordings posted by The Press-Enterprise newspaper of Riverside.

In addition to the 14 killed, 21 people were hurt. At least six remained hospitalized, two in critical condition.

President Barack Obama said in a prime-time address Sunday night that the attack was an "act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people."

The killers had "gone down the dark path of radicalization," he said, but there was no evidence they were part of a larger conspiracy or were directed by an overseas terror organization.

The two assault rifles used in the attack had been legally purchased by an old friend of Farook's, Enrique Marquez, authorities said, but they are still trying to determine how the couple got the weapons.

Marquez has not been charged with a crime.

The FBI would not release details on where the husband-and-wife killers practiced their shooting.

But John Galletta, an instructor at Riverside Magnum Range, said in a statement that Farook had been there on Nov. 29 and 30, two days before the attack, and "nothing was out of the ordinary regarding his behavior."

Galletta told reporters that he never spoke to Farook and that no one had seen his wife around there.

Asked whether in hindsight he or others in the shop should have been suspicious of Farook, Galletta said: "How are you able to determine what somebody's intents are?"

Meanwhile, most of the county's 20,000 employees went back to work for the first time since the rampage five days earlier plunged the community into shock and mourning.

"To honor them, to express our gratitude for their unimaginable sacrifice, we have to fight to maintain that ordinary," County Supervisor Janice Rutherford said of the victims. "We can't be afraid of our lives, of our community, of our neighbors, of our co-workers."

Authorities said that they have tightened security at county buildings and that counseling centers and a hotline have been set up for employees in distress.

Employees in the environmental health division, where many of the victims worked, will be off until next week.

In announcing the return to work, Trudy Raymundo, county health director, recalled that she was about to give a presentation when the killers opened fire.

"We held each other and we protected each other through this horrific event," she said, "and we will continue to hold each other and protect each other."

Porter, her colleague, said neither shooter spoke before firing.

"We weren't quite sure if it was an exercise the staff were throwing that they forgot to tell us about," he said, "but we all reacted instinctively and went under our tables."

At the same news conference were some of the doctors who rushed to treat the victims.

"What really bothers me most," said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, chief of surgery at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, "is that none of the 14 who perished had a chance."



Washington D.C.

Obama to Nation: Terrorist Threat to U.S. Is 'Evolving' but Beatable

by M. Alex Johnson, Tim Stelloh, Chris Jansing and Andrea Mitchell

In only his third address to the nation from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama reassured Americans on Sunday night that the United States is equipped to meet the dangerous and "evolving" threat of terrorism.

As U.S. and other Western responses have gained ground against organized, wide-scale terrorist attacks, "growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds" of home-grown attackers are evolving, the president said.

"As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and co-workers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino. I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris," Obama said.

"And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure," he said, before answering: "The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it."

Full Transcript: President Barack Obama's Address to the Nation

The president offered no new details on the investigation into the San Bernardino attack, saying that "so far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home."

Instead, Obama compared the mass killing to attacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Fort Hood, Texas, and Boston, where, he said, "terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence" and where the Internet erased "the distance between countries."

Outlining the U.S. strategy against ISIS, which Obama described as a "cult of death" that "does not speak for Islam," the president cautioned against a "costly ground war," which he said would serve only as a recruitment tool.

"That's what groups like [ISIS] want," he said.

Obama said the United States and its allies would continue disrupting plots, targeting terrorist infrastructure and finances, and providing training and equipment to Iraqi and Syrian fighters. He said he would also pursue a cease-fire agreement in Syria, which would allow for a "common goal" between the United States and Russia to pursue ISIS.

At home, Obama said, the State and Homeland Security departments will review the visa program that allowed Tashfeen Malik — who with her husband carried out the San Bernardino attack — into the country to determine whether stronger screening is needed.




Justice Department will investigate practices of Chicago police

by Sari Horwitz, Ellen Nakashima and Wesley Lowery

The Justice Department plans to launch an investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department, a wide-ranging review similar to those that scrutinized the police departments in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, according to several law enforcement officials.

The civil probe, which the officials say could be announced early this week, comes as Chicago continues to grapple with protests after the release of a video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, which prompted murder charges for the officer involved and the resignation of the city's police chief. The Justice Department is already investigating the McDonald shooting, but this new investigation by the department's civil rights division would focus on the police department's practices broadly to determine whether any of them contribute to civil rights violations.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said Sunday morning that he did not know anything about the possibility of a second, broader federal probe into the force. A Justice Department spokesperson did not confirm that a new probe into Chicago PD is imminent.

“Civil rights division lawyers are reviewing the many requests for an investigation, which is the department's standard process, and the attorney general is briefed regularly on the review and expects to make a decision very soon,” a department official said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), a former top aide to President Obama, called the possibility of a civil rights investigation “misguided” last week. But, a day later, he reversed course and said he would welcome such an investigation.

Emanuel has come under fire for his administration's handling of the McDonald video, specifically for fighting its release for more than a year, which some have suggested was a politically motivated decision meant to insulate the mayor from political backlash while he was locked in a tight reelection effort. One week after the McDonald video was released, Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy.

"I welcome the engagement of the Justice Department,” Emanuel told reporters during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. “We have a long road ahead of us as a city, and I welcome people from many views to help us do what exactly we need to do.”

Adam Collins, a spokesman for Emanuel, said in a statement Sunday night: “We will let the Department of Justice address what action they will or will not choose to take, but as was made clear last week, we welcome the engagement of the Department of Justice as we work to restore trust in our police department and improve our system of police accountability.”

On the same day that McCarthy was fired, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter to the DOJ urging them to open an investigation into the police department.

“The McDonald shooting is shocking, and it highlights serious questions about the historic, systemic use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse by CPD,” Madigan (D) wrote.

Under Obama, Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and her predecessor, Eric Holder, have used patterns-and-practices investigations to aggressively probe police departments for potential constitutional violations, investigating dozens of departments since 2009. Those probes have found patterns of excessive force by police in Cleveland; Albuquerque; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Portland; New Orleans; Seattle; Puerto Rico; and Warren, Ohio.

Congress empowered the federal government to conduct such investigations in the aftermath of the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles officers and the riots that followed. A law passed in 1994 gave the Justice Department the power to investigate and force systemic changes to local police departments — and to sue the departments if they do not comply.

“We have called for police reform as it relates to this police department…and we've also called for accountability in city government,” said Rose Joshua, president of Chicago South Side NAACP, which had previously called for a Justice Department probe into the city's police. “It should be something that's broad. It should be a detailed probe and should look into the specific civil rights complaints filed over the years by activists here on the ground.”

Joshua said that she welcomes the federal probe and hopes that it will address the underlying policing issues. She also said she is hopeful that the federal investigation will be a step toward policing reform — even more so than the resignation of McCarthy.

“We have systemic problems, and if we can find a solution to systemic issues, it's going to take the community to do that,” Joshua said. “At this juncture, I'm saddened and afraid and I'm wondering if we can do that.”