December, 2015 - Week 5
Confusion reigns across Texas on new open carry law
by Morgan Smith
AUSTIN — As the New Year arrived, so did a new option for gun-toting Texans.
The state's roughly 826,000 handgun license holders, who previously had to keep their firearms concealed, can now carry them openly in a hip or shoulder holster.
Across Texas, law enforcement officials, city leaders and business owners are bracing for lawsuits.
That's because state officials have so far largely left interpretation of the new law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June, up to local authorities. Prosecutors and police chiefs across the state's 254 counties will now each determine their own answer to what was one of the most hotly debated questions of the 2015 legislative session: whether police officers can ask those visibly carrying guns to present their permits.
“There is a difference of opinion about whether or not just the mere fact that someone is walking down Main Street carrying a pistol in a holster is sufficient probable cause for a police officer to insist on seeing their handgun permit,” said Kevin Laurence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “We are going to wind up having to get court cases out of this defining exactly what authority police officers have.”
Heralding the new open carry law as a much-needed update to the state's gun regulations, Second Amendment rights activists say it lifts a burden unfairly placed on law-abiding citizens.
“I believe the state is prepared for a smooth, simple transition from concealed to open carry, though I expect most people will continue to carry concealed,” state Sen. Craig Estes, the Wichita Falls Republican who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. “I truly believe the new law will benefit all law-abiding Texans.”
But the legislation's critics have warned it could have negative consequences for tourism, retail and public safety in the state.
And when it comes to enforcement, confusion reigns.
Laurence said his organization, which represents more than 22,000 Texas law enforcement officers at the state, county and local level, has advised police officers to seek guidance from their departments on how they should approach open carry — and whether they need some evidence or suspicion of criminal activity to ask to see someone's gun permit.
“The biggest emotion going on out there is confusion,” he said.
While the law protects existing “gun-free zones” — school campuses, courthouses and certain public property, for example — there's still some uncertainty about where such zones begin and end.
In September, state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who opposes open carry, asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton whether the law merely gave schools the authority to prohibit guns in buildings and classrooms, or whether that authority extended to all district property, including parking lots, sidewalks and driveways.
Attorneys for Hays and Tom Green counties both asked Paxton to clarify their authority to limit handguns in multipurpose government buildings that also house courts. Their question boils down to whether officials may only ban guns in rooms where court proceedings take place — or if they can bar them from an entire building if the building houses a courtroom, said Hays County Criminal Attorney Wes Mau.
Paxton offered some clarification on the new law in three advisory opinions issued on Dec. 21. He ruled that school districts could prohibit weapons on all district property, including sidewalks and driveways, but that local officials could only ban guns from courtrooms, not entire courthouse facilities.
Complicating matters for government entities is a second law legislators passed in 2015, one that imposes a fine on local officials who improperly ban handguns in public places.
But it's not just government entities grappling with open carry. Businesses in Texas are choosing between allowing open carry of handguns — which can make patrons uneasy — or facing an angry backlash from gun rights activists if they don't.
Shortly after the law passed, Whataburger announced it would not allow open carry in its restaurants. Targeted outrage and calls for a boycott of the San Antonio-based fast food chain led CEO Preston Atkinson to make a public statement on the policy.
He said that while the company supports the Second Amendment, it made the “business decision” not to allow open carry in its restaurants “a long time ago.”
“We're the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games,” Atkinson wrote. “We've had many customers and employees tell us they're uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback.”
Under the open carry law, if a business wants to prohibit all handguns on its property, it must post two signs in English and Spanish, one banning concealed handguns and another banning open carry.
The new requirements — and the legal threat companies face for not complying — are especially burdensome for small businesses that lack corporate resources like an in-house lawyer, said state Rep. Diego Bernal, a Democrat.
Since October, Bernal has been distributing signs that meet state requirements to small businesses in his San Antonio district that wish to ban firearms.
“The state has zero plan to let people know what to expect — folks are kind of in the dark,” said Bernal. “There are going to be a patchwork of interpretations and probably a patchwork of lawsuits. It was so poorly done.”
Next Chicago police chief faces daunting mission, and demanding boss in Rahm Emanuel
by Bill Ruthhart and Annie Sweeney
Heal a deep lack of public trust. Cooperate with a federal civil rights investigation into the use of force. Reform a police department with a history of corruption. Deal with some of the nation's most intractable gun and gang problems. And work for a famously demanding mayor in the midst of his most severe crisis.
It's a daunting to-do list for Chicago's next police superintendent, a person Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hire to navigate the turbulent environment that has erupted since the court-ordered release of a video showing a white police officer shooting a black teenager to death more than a year ago.
Law enforcement experts say the new top cop should have a strong personality, understand police work and its dangerous nature, and recognize past abuses. And if Chicago is to realize true change, they say, it's important that the person have a large measure of independence from the mayor — or at least be working on the same reform goals — and the freedom to make decisions without political influence.
But relinquishing such authority to a strong-willed police superintendent could be difficult for Emanuel, who is known for hands-on governing and asserting tight control over many facets of city government. That includes calling Cabinet members and other top aides at all hours to question decisions, demand plans and express displeasure.
Garry McCarthy was no exception.
Chicago's former police superintendent received frequent phone calls from Emanuel, who micromanaged police headquarters from his suite of City Hall offices, sources familiar with McCarthy's tenure said. McCarthy also had to deal with what was described as Emanuel's approach of governing day to day and crisis to crisis and his lack of a broader vision of how to fight and prevent crime, the sources said.
Two senior Emanuel administration officials acknowledged that the mayor calls his top deputies often, but they challenged the assertion that he micromanages the Police Department.
"When you have some of the things that have gone on — kids and babies getting shot — the mayor wants to know what the plan is to address it, and you're going to get calls from him at 2 in the morning. It's an enormously stressful job," said one of the Emanuel aides, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "It's not about telling [the police superintendent] what to do.... The mayor gave Garry a pretty high level of deference, but you work for Rahm, so you're going to have to pick up the phone."
Emanuel's decision to publicly back McCarthy early during the Laquan McDonald shooting controversy only to fire him days later in the glare of the national spotlight could leave some candidates hesitant to apply for the job.
Emanuel aides say concerns should be outweighed by the chance to reform one of the nation's largest departments with the help of a federal civil rights investigation.
"This is a huge opportunity at this moment in time. The Department of Justice investigation will give the new leader a lot of cover to do things that he or she would not otherwise be able to do, because of internal and external politics," said the Emanuel aide. "It is an exciting opportunity to be able to come in and hit the reset button in Chicago and get a lot accomplished."
City Alderman Howard Brookins, who has worked as a public defender and assistant state's attorney, says City Hall has long had a heavy hand in the Chicago Police Department. That tradition, he says, will have to change.
"The next person needs to be a strong leader who has the ability to get the job done," Brookins said. "And whether or not that person will have free rein from the mayor to get in there and fix the problems will be the key."
Emanuel fired McCarthy on Dec. 1 in the midst of the fallout from the police shooting of McDonald, 17, in October 2014. The mayor and City Council signed off on a $5-million settlement for McDonald's family in April, just after Emanuel won reelection.
For nearly a year, Emanuel fought to keep a police video of the shooting under wraps. Hours before a video was released in November showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald as the teen walked away and then as he lay in the street, prosecutors charged the officer with murder. On Tuesday, Van Dyke, 37, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
The timeline has led some Chicagoans to take to the streets in protest, accusing Emanuel and Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez of being complicit in a cover-up. The subsequent release of city records revealed six officers at the scene of the shooting, including Van Dyke, filed reports saying McDonald had approached officers before he was shot, though he actually walked away.
The McDonald case and Emanuel's public acknowledgment that a "code of silence" exists in the Police Department when it comes to misconduct do not mark the first time a Chicago mayor has had to search for a new leader to restore confidence in a department mired in controversy.
In 1960, when then-Mayor Richard J. Daley was left searching for a reformer after a scandal, he made what even decades later seems like a radical move. He tapped criminologist O.W. Wilson, a dean at UC Berkeley, for the job. At the time, Wilson's scholarly background was criticized as not steeped enough in policing to address the misconduct, which had come to light when eight officers were named in a burglary ring.
Wilson ran the Chicago Police Department for seven years until he retired, and eventually was credited with an overhaul that included improving morale, upgrading equipment, boosting rank-and-file pay and increasing personnel.
His October 1972 Chicago Tribune obituary outlining the changes reads like a blueprint for what the city might again have in store today.
"New young faces began appearing in high places in the department, and outside consultants became a common sight. They were brought in to spot things that needed correcting," the obituary said. "Most important, Wilson obtained the complete backing of Mayor Daley."
It continued: "However, Wilson was not without his critics."
"In addition to the usual sniping from the City Council, many of the policemen who had risen through the ranks under the old system" had "suddenly found themselves purged" and offered "attacks that became personal."
Chicago Police: Some crimes dropped in 2015, homicides rose
The department pointed to reductions in overall crimes for the fourth straight year and the lowest number of violent crimes since the 1960s
by Don Babwin
CHICAGO — As it scrambles to regain public trust shattered by the video of a black 17-year-old being shot 16 times by a white officer, the Chicago Police Department released crime statistics Friday that reveal a drop in some major crimes in the city but a significant increase in the number of homicides and shootings.
The department pointed to reductions in overall crimes for the fourth straight year and the lowest number of violent crimes since the 1960s, something it has for months told a city that's seen mounting homicide numbers — 468 in 2015 after falling to 416 in 2014.
The release, which came weeks after Chicago made public the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting Laquan McDonald, also acknowledges that trust in the department "has been shaken." It does not mention the forced resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the murder charge against Van Dyke nor various federal and local investigations, but it does include several "major reforms" that were announced earlier this week.
"In addition to building upon our public safety accomplishments, our focus for 2016 will be to restore the trust of the people of Chicago by being more transparent and continuing to work ... to take a critical look at tour department to develop best-in-class policies and practices," Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante said in the statement.
In some ways, the release was similar to those issued under McCarthy, such as the mention of nearly 7,000 illegal guns confiscated by the department and criticism of the state's lenient gun laws.
More significantly, the release stressed "major reforms" and "policy revisions" that have been announced by the department in the wake of the McDonald video, such as implementing training for officers to "resolve confrontations using the least force necessary" and equipping every responding officer with Tasers by June 1.
The department and the city's leaders also have been criticized for what many view as a willingness to cover up the misdeeds of officers. Shortly after the McDonald video was released, the city released reports of police officers at the scene of that shooting, and this week, the city's law department released thousands of pages of internal documents as a way to demonstrate its commitment to transparency.
Shortly after he became interim superintendent, Escalante said that dashboard cameras were being inspected and that officers could face punishment of they are not in working order. And on Friday, the news release said that the department is expanding the use of body cameras.
Mississippi Councilman Kenneth Stokes wants people to throw rocks and bricks at cops chasing suspects
by Melisa Stumpf
A Mississippi councilman said that he wants people to throw rocks, bricks and bottles at officers chasing suspects wanted for misdemeanor crimes.
Jackson Councilman Kenneth Stokes said he's had enough and that police pursuits put area residents in danger.
“What I suggest is we get the black leadership together and as these jurisdictions come into Jackson, we throw rocks and bricks and bottles at them,” Stokes told WLBT-3 News on Thursday.
“That will send a message we don't want you here,” he added.
Stokes told the local news that he demands the same respect for Jackson that is given to surrounding cities in Mississippi.
His remarks follow several incidents of police chasing misdeamenor suspects, commonly originating in other cities and ending in Jackson.
Law enforcement officers, the governor, and the attorney general are all firing back as a result of his suggestion.
Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker was among those who took to social media to voice his anger.
Madison is located about 25 miles from Jackson.
“Any Madison county law enforcement that is attacked because of your ignorant statements, I will hold you responsible,” Tucker said on Facebook.
The Calhoun County Sheriff's Department, located approximately 140 miles from Jackson, joined in on the social media storm stating that they will no longer do business in Jackson.
They also urged all sheriffs and chiefs of police in the state of Mississippi to do the same until Stokes resigns.
Jim Hood, the attorney general of the state, posted a comment via Twitter on Saturday saying that “Actions that put law enforcement officers in harm's way cannot be tolerated.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is said to be threatening to investigate Stokes over his suggestion for violence, CNN reports.
On Friday, Bryant said on Facebook that he condemns “any such remarks in the strongest possible manner,” he said.
“This is nothing short of an outright assault upon all who wear the badge. I will be asking Attorney General Jim Hood to investigate whether Mr. Stokes' remarks represent criminal threats against law enforcement officers,” Bryant added.
Twitter users from across the nation were also outraged — calling Stokes “unfit to serve,” and saying that the rocks and bottles should be thrown at him instead.
"He is not fit to serve on the Jackson, Mississippi City Council,” said Cameron Gray on Twitter.
“Councilman Kenneth Stokes should resign. You should support your local police...not suggest citizens throw rocks and bricks at them #wrong,” said another.
Stokes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS releases end of fiscal year 2015 statistics
Department is better targeting its enforcement efforts to prioritize convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security, and national security
WASHINGTON — Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 statistics which reflect the Department's immigration enforcement efforts that prioritize convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security, and national security.
Overall, the Department apprehended 406,595 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 462,463 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol reported 337,117 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 486,651 in FY 2014. At the same time, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals in FY 2015, with 86 percent of these individuals considered a “top priority” (Priority One) – those considered border security or public safety threats.
The number of convicted criminals removed from the interior continued to increase, as 91 percent of ICE's FY 2015 interior removals and returns were individuals who were previously convicted of a crime, compared to 86 percent in FY 2014, and just 67 percent in FY 2011.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson made the following statement concerning these numbers:
“Last year's removal and return statistics are characterized primarily by three things: first, last year's removal numbers reflect this Department's increased focus on prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security. Second, the removal numbers were driven by the dramatic decrease in those apprehended at the border in FY 2015 – 337,117 – the second lowest apprehension number since 1972, reflecting a lower level of attempted illegal migration at our borders. Third, to improve the transparency of our efforts, for the second year in a row, we are releasing the immigration statistics of CBP and ICE together, rather than piecemeal, to provide a single, clear snapshot of our overall immigration enforcement picture.
FY 2015 was a year of transition, during which our new policies focusing on public safety were being implemented. In FY 2016 and beyond, I want to focus even more interior enforcement resources on removing convicted criminals. To that end, we are renewing and rebuilding ICE's ties with state and local law enforcement. A year ago, we ended the controversial Secure Communities Program, and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program. Of the 25 largest jurisdictions that had placed restrictions on their own cooperation with ICE, 16 are now working with us again for the good of public safety.
In FY 2016, we will be challenged again by a variety of factors driving illegal migration to the U.S., mostly from Central America, and we are redoubling our border security efforts now to meet that challenge.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Enforcement Efforts at and between Ports of Entry
The nation's long-term investment in border security continued to produce significant and positive results in FY 2015. Illegal migration continued to decline compared to the peak in FY 2000, when the Border Patrol reported 1.6 million apprehensions. This fiscal year, the Border Patrol reported 337,117 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 486,651 last fiscal year. This represents a 30 percent decline since last year and an almost 80 percent decline since the peak of apprehensions in FY 2000. Further, in FY 2015, Border Patrol apprehensions of Mexican nationals decreased by 18 percent from FY 2014, and apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico, predominately from Central America, decreased by 68 percent.
Enforcement actions at ports of entry continued to yield important border security achievements. In FY 2015, CBP officers at ports of entry arrested 8,246 people wanted for serious crimes, including murder, rape, assault, and robbery. Officers also stopped 225,342 inadmissible individuals from entering the United States through ports of entry, an increase of 14 percent from FY 2014. Depending on the circumstances, these individuals were arrested for removal, allowed to voluntarily return to their country of origin, or allowed to withdraw their applications for admission into the United States. Inadmissibility grounds included those related to previous immigration violations, as well as criminal and national security-related reasons. As part of these efforts, CBP also identified 11,611 high-risk travelers who would have been found inadmissible had they traveled to the United States, and who were instead prevented from boarding flights destined for the United States.
In addition, CBP officers and agents played a significant counter-narcotics role in FY 2015, seizing more than 3.3 million pounds of narcotics across the country.
For a comprehensive breakdown of CBP's FY 2015 enforcement efforts, please click here.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Interior and Border Enforcement Efforts
In FY 2015, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals. Of this total, 165,935 were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States. The remaining 69,478 were apprehended in the interior of the United States and the vast majority were convicted criminals who fell within ICE's civil immigration enforcement priorities.
98 percent of ICE's FY 2015 removals and returns fell into one or more of ICE's civil immigration enforcement priorities, with 86 percent falling in Priority 1 and 8 percent in Priority 2. In addition, ICE's interior enforcement activities led to an increase in the percentage of interior removals that were convicted criminals, growing from 82 percent in FY 2013 to 91 percent in FY 2015. These numbers clearly illustrate the agency's continued commitment to focus on the removal of convicted criminals and others posing a threat to public safety in the interior of the United States,[i] and the removal of individuals apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.
The Department's civil immigration enforcement priorities impact how ICE conducts removals, as they underscore a heightened focus on the greatest threats to national security, public safety, and border security. Rather than expending limited resources on individuals charged or convicted of traffic and other minor offenses, ICE instead focused its resources on those who pose a threat to public safety and on recent unlawful entrants.
Refining Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities
In FY 2015, ICE prioritized its limited resources by refining its focus to our most serious threats to national security, border security, and public safety, as directed by Secretary Johnson in his November 20, 2014 Memorandum entitled Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.
Although the revised civil immigration enforcement priorities were only effective for the final three quarters of FY 2015, ICE's removal statistics demonstrate strong alignment with the revised priorities. For example, 86 percent of all individuals ICE removed in FY 2015 were in “Priority One” (recent unlawful border entrants, convicted felons and aggravated felons). Additionally, 59 percent of total ICE removals were convicted criminals, and of those, 81 percent fell within Priority One.
The nature and scope of ICE's civil immigration enforcement is further impacted by a number of factors, explained more fully below. These include: 1) the level of cooperation from state and local law enforcement partners; 2) the level of illegal migration; and 3) changing migrant demographics. As the new enforcement priorities become even more engrained, ICE expects continued heightened focus on priority individuals and those that represent threats to public safety and security.
Level of Cooperation from State and Local Law Enforcement Partners
A significant factor impacting removal operations has been the number of state and local law enforcement jurisdictions limiting or declining cooperation with ICE. When law enforcement agencies decline to transfer custody of removable convicted criminals and public safety threats to ICE, the agency must expend additional resources to locate and arrest these individuals at-large.
To address this problem, on November 20, 2014, Secretary Johnson announced the creation of the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) as part of the President's immigration accountability executive actions. Implemented in July 2015, PEP is designed to be flexible, allowing ICE to tailor the program to fit the needs of each jurisdiction and achieve mutual law enforcement goals. PEP improves the process of transferring those most dangerous from state and local custody by enabling ICE to take custody of priority individuals without damaging trust with local communities.
Throughout 2015, DHS and ICE conducted a nationwide effort to implement PEP and promote collaboration, reaching out to thousands of local law enforcement agencies and government officials. The agency's Field Office Directors have briefed the program to over 2,000 law enforcement jurisdictions. Of note, 16 of the top 25 jurisdictions with the largest number of previously declined detainers are now participating in PEP, representing 47 percent of previously declined detainers. Most law enforcement agencies are now cooperating via PEP. On December 22, the City of Philadelphia announced it has agreed to work with us again, and ICE is continuing its outreach to other jurisdictions.
As ICE continues to strengthen and improve relationships with state and local law enforcement partners, more jurisdictions will participate in PEP, increasing the number of convicted criminals transferred to ICE for removal.
Decreased Illegal Migration and CBP Apprehensions
Historically, a large number of ICE's removals have been based on CBP's significant border apprehensions. However, with the exception of one year, apprehensions along the southwest border – a key measure of illegal border crossings – are at their lowest level in more than 40 years. In FY 2015, the total number of U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions was approximately 337,117, a decrease of 30 percent from FY 2014. The lower number of CBP apprehensions resulted in a decrease in the number of overall ICE intakes, falling from 263,340 intakes in FY 2014 to 193,951 intakes in FY 2015.
Changing Migrant Demographics
Changing migrant demographics over the last few years have also impacted ICE removal operations. In FY 2014, the number of Central Americans apprehended at the southwest border significantly increased. Although the numbers of apprehensions for this population dropped in FY 2015 in comparison to the number apprehended in FY 2014, the numbers were still high. Higher numbers of Central Americans crossing our border require greater resources, as the removal process for this population takes more time, personnel resources, and funding to complete compared to the removal process for Mexican nationals. Additionally, many of these Central American nationals are asserting claims of credible or reasonable fear of persecution. Such cases require careful adjudication, and therefore, take longer to process. Early data indicates that some individuals have successfully obtained asylum in the removal proceedings process.
For a comprehensive breakdown of ICE's FY 2015 removal numbers, please see the FY 2015 report here.
Obama to impose new gun control curbs next week
by Juliet Eilperin
HONOLULU — President Obama will meet with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch on Monday to finalize a set of executive actions on guns that he will unveil next week, according to several individuals briefed on the matter.
White House officials declined to comment on Obama's plans beyond releasing his weekly radio address on Friday, a day earlier than usual. But according to those familiar with the proposal, who asked for anonymity because it was not yet public, the president will expand new background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume gun dealers.
The president will also use his executive authority in several other areas, these individuals said, but the overall package has not yet been finalized.
In the radio address, Obama said he was moving unilaterally because Congress had failed to address the growing problem of gun violence.
“A few months ago, I directed my team at the White House to look into any new actions I can take to help reduce gun violence,” he said in the recorded address. “And on Monday, I'll meet with our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to discuss our options.”
“Because I get too many letters from parents, and teachers, and kids, to sit around and do nothing,” Obama continued. “I get letters from responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time these tragedies happen; who share my belief that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms; and who share my belief we can protect that right while keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”
[President Obama on current level of U.S. gun violence: 'This is not normal.']
Obama began examining how he could tighten the nation's gun rules after October's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., but administration lawyers have spent months reviewing any proposals to ensure they can withstand legal scrutiny. The idea of requiring informal gun dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and perform background checks on potential buyers first came up two years ago, but was shelved over legal concerns.
The current federal statute dictates that those who are “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms need to obtain a federal license — and, therefore, conduct background checks — but exempts anyone “who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”
Gun control advocates — including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was gravely injured in a 2011 mass shooting, and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — have met personally with Obama over the past month to push for the background checks expansion and other measures.
Everytown spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb, whose group was founded with Bloomberg's support, said the current interpretation of what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling firearms is “a hazy definition that allows high-volume sellers to transfer thousands of guns without background checks, no questions asked.”
[This is what the White House wants to do on guns]
Other proposals the administration has been weighing include requiring federally-licensed gun dealers to report any lost and stolen guns to the National Crime Information Center; publishing aggregate background check denial data for guns sold by unlicensed sellers; clarifying that convicted abusers are prohibited from having guns regardless of their marital status; and instructing federal law enforcement to identify and arrest criminals who attempt to buy illegal guns.
Any action by the president is sure to trigger a major backlash from gun rights activists, and Republican lawmakers who have blocked legislative action in the past. On Thursday, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action launched the first in a video series attacking gun control advocates.
The first ad targets Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who revived the plan to expand background checks in the wake of the Roseburg shooting by proposing it on the campaign trail. The ad is labeled “New Year's Resolutions of the Rich and Anti-Gun (Actually, Just Hillary Clinton),” and it shows a woman outlining her plans on Clinton's campaign stationary beside a photo of the president and his former Secretary of State as “Auld Lang Syne” blares in the background.
“Stop trying to ban guns,” she writes as her first point, in black marker, followed by, “Read the Constitution.”
“Meet an actual gun owner,” the Clinton impersonator scribbles, before adding, “In Person!”
At that point the woman crosses out all three points, crumples up the paper and throws it aside, as Clinton's laugh is heard in the background.
Groups such as MoveOn.org, however, have begun to mobilize firearm owners to support expanded background checks and other measures aimed at curbing gun violence. David Mark Williams, a farmer in Halfway, Ore., described guns as “a tool. If you're hunting or living a rural lifestyle, you're going to have a firearm.”
But Williams, who came to Washington this fall with MoveOn.org to meet with members of both parties, said he resigned his NRA membership after its president opposed stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I'm also a supporter of rational reasonable gun control measures,” he said.
Advocates from groups such as the Metro Industrial Association said the president could do much more to curb the nearly 90 gun-related deaths that take place each day in the U.S., by not coming to the aid of gun manufacturers who are being sued for negligence; providing additional funding for the development of “smart gun” technology; and failing to use the federal government's purchasing power to pressure gun manufacturers to take more responsibility for reducing gun violence.
But Arkadi Gerney, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said in an email Thursday it was “extremely encouraging that the president appears poised” to enhance the enforcement of existing gun laws given congressional resistance to such measures.
“Along with progress in state legislatures and actions taken by governors and attorneys general, the steps the White House is considering would make it somewhat less likely that guns will end up in the wrong hands,” Gerney said. “And, with gunfire claiming the lives of 33,000 American a year, even incremental steps can have life-saving impact."
Militants from Syria and Iraq were said to be planning attack in Germany: police
Germany received a tip hours before midnight that militants from Iraq and Syria were planning attacks in Munich but police have been unable to find the suspects and are not even sure if they are in the country, the Munich police chief said on Friday.
Hubertus Andrae told a news conference that German officials had received a "very concrete" tip that suicide attacks were planned at train stations in the southern city at midnight.
"We received names. We can't say if they are in Munich or in fact in Germany," Andrae said.
‘Open Carry' Goes Into Effect Across Texas
by Jennifer Lindgren
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The new year means new gun laws across Texas. Open Carry is now in effect, meaning that all licensed gun owners throughout the state can begin carrying their weapons in plain sight. The new law impacts approximately 914,000 Texans who are licensed to carry.
But do not expect to see guns out in the open everywhere you go.
Those gun owners can now have their holstered firearms visible rather than keeping them concealed. This law has raised a lot of debate and questions about how prevalent guns will now be in the public.
Jared Sloane is the operator of Shoot Smart Indoor Range & Training Center in Grand Prairie. He does not expect to see much of a change in customer preferences. “I think people will continue to conceal carry,” Sloane explained, “at least predominantly, because they're just not interested in advertising that they're carrying firearms.”
There are restrictions on Open Carry as well.
The law bans handguns from hospitals, jails and some places where alcohol is served. Businesses also have the option to ban a customer for carrying a gun. Several shopping malls have already said that they will remain weapon-free including North East Mall, Grapevine Mills Mall, Collin Creek Mall and Galleria Dallas.
Other shopping areas are split. Grocery store chain H-E-B said that it will ban guns, however, Kroger will allow its shoppers to openly carry firearms.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit is allowing riders to openly carry firearms on board their trains and buses, but the drivers are being given permission to use discretion. The new rules state that a DART driver may stop a bus or train and call DART police when someone with a gun gets on board. Police can then ask to see the gun owner's ID and license.
Police expect to receive more 911 calls initially, as people adjust to the new sight of guns in the public. But authorities said that the only reasons to call for help is if the gun owner has removed a weapon from its holster, if the gun owner is intoxicated or if the armed person is actually committing a crime.
Several cities across DFW will be holding forums to address the concerns of community members. Consult your area's website for more information about such events. It is worth noting that Open Carry is different from Campus Carry, which does not go into effect until August.
New year brings minimum wage hikes for Americans in 14 states
by Eric M.Johnson
As the United States marks more than six years without an increase in the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, 14 states and several cities are moving forward with their own increases, with most set to start taking effect on Friday.
California and Massachusetts are highest among the states, both increasing from $9 to $10 an hour, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. At the low end is Arkansas, where the minimum wage is increasing from $7.50 to $8. The smallest increase, a nickel, comes in South Dakota, where the hourly minimum is now $8.55.
The increases come in the wake of a series of "living wage" protests across the country, including a November campaign in which thousands of protesters in 270 cities marched in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights for fast food workers. Food service workers make up the largest group of minimum-wage earners, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With Friday's increases, the new average minimum wage across the 14 affected states rises from $8.50 an hour to just over $9.
Several cities are going even higher. Seattle is setting a sliding hourly minimum between $10.50 and $13 on Jan. 1, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are enacting similar increases in July, en route to $15 an hour phased in over six years.
Backers say a higher minimum wage helps combat poverty, but opponents worry about the potential impact on employment and company profits.
In 2014, a Democratic-backed congressional proposal to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time since 2009 to $10.10 stalled, as have subsequent efforts by President Barack Obama. More recent proposals by some lawmakers call for a federal minimum wage of up to $15 an hour.
Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University and former chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said a federal minimum wage of up to $12 an hour, phased in over five years or so, "would not have a noticeable effect on employment."
Some employers may cut jobs in response to a minimum-wage increase, Krueger said, while others may find hikes allow them to fill job vacancies and reduce turnover, lifting employment but lowering profits.
In recent years, an increasing number of states and municipalities have enacted their own wage floor policies. Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia and about two dozen cities and counties have their minimum wage at levels higher than the federal minimum.
Many are now in the midst of multi-year phase-in plans that will ultimately take them to between $10 and $15 an hour.
The 14 states where increases take effect on Friday are: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated 2014 federal proposal would have raised the wages of 16.5 million Americans and lifted 900,000 of them out of poverty but would have cost as many as 1 million jobs.
Salisbury expands community policing efforts
by Vanessa Junkin
Lt. John Felts and a few fellow members of his Salisbury Police Department squad are standing outside an entrance to Bethesda United Methodist Church in Newtown, greeting people who walk up for a Monday night meeting.
The officers aren't there because of criminal activity, and they aren't there on patrol. They are there to meet with area residents to share information and find out what's on their minds.
Felts makes it clear early on that the police want to hear from community members.
"You can contact us anytime," he tells the group of about nine or so residents, who are sitting in pews at the church.
And later, he expresses how important the community's role is in keeping the area safe.
"We all have to be in this together," Felts tells the residents who are at the meeting, hosted for the residents of Newtown, Johnson's Lake and the Emerson Avenue areas.
The meeting was part of a new effort that expands upon the community policing the Salisbury Police Department does.
Each of the agency's squads is assigned areas in the city, and the officers on that squad will get to know what's going on from residents in those neighborhoods, Capt. Rich Kaiser said. They'll be taking the pulse of both residential and business areas, he said.
It began in early November, Kaiser said.
"It's just an ongoing effort," he said.
Residents will learn from officers in their area about upcoming meetings; depending on the squad, there may be an email list, he said.
"I think it's a good step forward," Kaiser said.
At the Monday evening meeting, Felts shared an email specifically for residents in the northwest part of the city to express any kinds of issues they're experiencing.
As only one squad is on duty at a time, Salisbury police will still patrol and work in the entire city — not just their particular focus neighborhoods. The information each of the squads receives will be shared with the rest of the agency, Felts told the group at the church.
Felts encouraged people to call about suspicious activity, even if they aren't sure what they are calling about is a crime. The police might be able to stop or discourage something from happening, he said.
People can also call the non-emergency police line about public works-type items that are causing problems, such as bushes that are too high, Felts said.
He also shared information such as area crime statistics and information about the agency's bicycle registration. There will be additional meetings, Felts said.
"We want to try to get feedback periodically," he said.
Tom Truitt, a Newtown resident who attended the meeting, liked the opportunity to cooperate with the police, and would like to see more meetings. He would have liked to have seen more residents come out.
"I'm disappointed in the turnout," he said.
But he did note the residents who came to the meeting were engaged.
The community was given an open forum, which ranged from briefly talking about a neighborhood watch program to someone asking if police were still getting calls about prostitutes in the area to an interest in additional foot patrols.
Felts said he and other officers got the word out about the meeting by walking in the neighborhoods, stopping at homes and knocking on the doors, leaving information at the homes of people who were not there.
The same squad also has the Naylor Mill Road area, which would have a different community meeting, he said.
The effort provides a way for police and residents to work together.
"It's kind of a partnership between us and them," Felts said.
On Twitter @VanessaJunkin
To share a non-emergency concern with the Salisbury police, the phone number is 410-548-3165.
For an emergency, call 911.
Deadly hesitation and de-policing: 2 troubling trends that affected officer safety in 2015
If deadly hesitation and de-policing continue to become more prevalent, some places in this country are in peril of becoming practically lawless
by Doug Wyllie
The year 2015 has been a tumultuous one for police. Officers seem to have to respond to a rapid mass murder incident about once every few weeks. The media's over-inflated coverage of such events, coupled with the conflation of terms like “active shooter,” “active killer,” “mass murder,” and “mass shooting” make it all but impossible to put a definitive number on how many incidents took place this year, but indisputably the issue has been on the front burner for LEOs in the past 12 months.
Officers have witnessed anti-cop rhetoric by politicians and protestors ratcheted up to levels we haven't seen since the 1970s. Similarly, unprovoked sudden ambush attacks and assaults on our officers harken back to the bad old days of the 70s. There is a serious lack of statistical data on either of those trends, but it's easy to observe the uptick simply by watching the number of such news headlines compared to years past.
In addition, vital life-saving equipment acquired by departments under the 1033 program has been ordered to be returned to the federal government. At a time when armored vehicles and other important gear is needed more than ever to protect officers and civilians alike, a presidential pronouncement in October gave agencies until April 1st 2016 to send the stuff back or be out of compliance with federal regulations and at risk of losing federal funding.
Indeed, there have been myriad individual events and trends of consequence for law enforcement in 2015, but none have the same potential for far-reaching future implications as the inexorably linked phenomena of officers hesitating to act when action is necessary, and officers disengaging from the practice of proactive policing. Many in the law enforcement universe have dubbed this the ‘Ferguson Effect' — the consequence of Officer Darren Wilson losing his career (and his life as he knew it) after justifiably using his sidearm to defend himself against a deadly threat on that summer Saturday afternoon on Florissant Street in 2014. Let's examine each element.
Following Ferguson, we have seen incidents in which an officer failed to use justifiable force when deadly force was precisely what was required at the time. Some officers are more afraid of being labeled a fascist or a racist than they are of dying at the hands of an assailant. Some are more afraid of becoming the next YouTube sensation. Some are afraid of a lawsuit. We have taken to calling this ‘deadly hesitation' — cops failing to save themselves from potentially fatal injuries because they fear the aftermath of a deadly force encounter more than they do the incident itself.
For example, in April video surfaced of an Ohio officer backpedaling away from a subject — charged for the fatal shooting of his 25-year-old girlfriend and a person of interest in a second slaying in Kentucky — who was rapidly approaching the officer with one hand in his pocket.
Officer Jesse Kidder later said, “I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force” and he was lauded for his restraint by his chief and many in the media. But by giving up his position of advantage behind the squad car, backpedaling away from the subject with gun drawn, and falling to the ground (lasing homes and his own leg in the process), Kidder endangered himself and the public had the subject killed him and escaped in the cop's squad car (which was equipped with a long gun).
There was also the incident in Birmingham (Ala.) in which a cop was pistol whipped (with his own gun) by an assailant. The officer later told CNN, “I hesitated because I didn't want to be in the media... A lot of officers are being too cautious because of what's going on in the media.”
Well, he ended up in the media anyway, and he very well could have ended up in the morgue.
In some cities, the practice of proactive policing is in danger of becoming lost to history. Not only are officers reluctant to use force when force is necessary, many — of their own volition and their own admission — have declared an end to approaching unsavory individuals on the street to conduct field interviews and gather investigative information.
Further, this practice of de-policing has even been seen in agency-wide directives. In the North Carolina city of Greensboro, command staff has ordered cops to “no longer initiate traffic stops for minor infractions such as broken headlights or tail lights.” The problem is, traffic stops have a tendency to lead to much more serious investigations that ultimately take dangerous criminals off the street.
What if that had been the policy in Springfield (Mo.) last July, when police found an improvised explosive device in a vehicle stopped for a minor infraction? The device found that day consisted of a containment vessel, an explosive charge, a fuse and a trigger, as well as shrapnel in the form of coins capable of “causing severe injury or death.” And of course we all know that Timothy McVeigh was arrested after Trooper Charlie Hanger stopped a yellow Mercury missing a registration tag. McVeigh was booked on a concealed weapon charge, and when FBI investigators began to focus on him, he was easy to find in a nearby jail cell.
The biggest single step toward de-policing a city happened to America's largest police force — the vaunted NYPD — as Mayor Bill De Blasio has all but ended the investigative tactic of stop-and-frisk. According to a report, “NYPD statistics show only 4,747 New Yorkers were targeted citywide by the divisive policing tactic in July, August and September — the lowest quarter since numbers were first released in 2002, police officials said.”
Although the policy of stop-and-frisk is unpopular with many in the public, it is completely constitutional in the eyes of the Supreme Court, which declared in the landmark 1968 case of Terry v. Ohio that reasonable suspicion that a suspect was committing a crime — or was about to commit a crime — was enough to justify an investigative stop by police, and that a pat down of the subjects outer clothing was reasonable to ensure the officer's safety during the contact and field interview.
At this time, overall crime in New York is down 2.4 percent and there has been a three percent decline in the number of shootings, but let's see what those numbers look like a year from now.
2016: The Year of the Criminal?
Two sides of the same coin, if deadly hesitation and de-policing continue to become more prevalent, some places in this country are in peril of becoming at least more dangerous, if not downright lawless.
As I wrote back in August, “If taking the initiative to put criminals behinds bars puts an officer at risk of landing in court, in jail, or in the grave, the obvious outcome is that cops may just choose to do the minimum...they will become so demotivated that they'll be hesitant to conduct any self-initiated crime fighting whatsoever.”
Cops who disengage from proactive policing effectively become firefighters — hunkered down, waiting for the next radio call, going out only in a reactive mode, after an event has already taken place. The bad guys will quickly figure this out, and they will be emboldened to commit more crime. They will also have the knowledge that an encounter with a cop may involve an officer who is more fearful of a lawsuit than of a throw-down fight, and may hesitate to act when attacked.
In cities populated by emboldened criminals and demotivated cops, the innocents will be the ones who suffer. Law abiding citizens cannot ‘coexist' with criminals who are trying to kill, rape, maim, and take from them all that they hold dear — that's why we have police officers to protect our society. If these troubling trends of deadly hesitation and de-policing continue, a year from now we may be writing about 2016 as the year of the criminal. Let's not let that happen.
Mo. lawmakers try again with bills to address Ferguson police conduct
The measure would align Missouri law with a 1985 Supreme Court decision
by Summer Ballentine
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Some Missouri lawmakers plan to try again in January to overhaul laws regulating police conduct in response to calls for change following the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
A bill changing Missouri's outdated law on when police can use deadly force to match federal policy will be brought back up in 2016. Mandated body cameras for police, which failed in 2015, also will get another look.
Other bills will seek to establish a civilian review board to investigate shootings involving officers, promote officers' presence in schools to foster positive interactions with youth, and require departments to investigate potentially biased policing if data shows disparities in how officers interact with minorities.
But it's unclear whether any of the bills stand a better chance of passing in 2016 than they did in 2015. Republican legislative leaders didn't cite them among their priorities. House Majority Leader Mike Cierpiot, for example, said he doesn't expect legislation to require body cameras to "get much traction." Speaker Todd Richardson said he doubts there's an appetite for such a bill in the House, but said there's a "good opportunity" to change the use-of-force statute.
Those measures were among more than 60 bills aimed at changing policing policies or the justice system that failed in the 2015 legislative session. Only one bill, a proposal by Sen. Eric Schmitt to limit the powers and revenues of municipal courts, made it into law.
That law, set to take effect in 2016, reduces the amount of revenue that cities can get from fines and court costs for minor traffic violations. Supporters say it is a step toward restoring trust in government and addressing the predatory revenue-generating policing practices detailed in a federal Justice Department report about Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.
While the measure received bipartisan support, it also left some Democratic lawmakers frustrated that more wasn't done.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat who was among the Ferguson protesters, said the court-fees measure has "absolutely nothing to do with why Michael Brown is dead."
At issue are differences of opinion between the political parties about how to tackle underlying issues that gained attention after the Ferguson protests.
"Part of the problem within the body is a great deal of disagreement on what is a valid response to it," said Cierpiot, a Lee's Summit Republican. "A lot of Democrats want to make it more difficult for policemen to do their job. A lot of Republicans disagree."
So far it appears only Democrats, for example, have proposed requiring police to wear body cameras.
Democratic St. Louis Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, who also protested in Ferguson, said the community faces a "crisis" and there's a disconnect with law enforcement. She touted her body-camera bill as a potential solution.
"If we want to regain that trust and allow for community and law enforcement to come together like they should, then this is the best way to get it done," Nasheed said.
Republican bills last session would have either banned state requirements that police use body cameras or made recordings closed to the public.
Cierpiot said another bill by Schmitt, a Glendale Republican, to ban traffic ticket quotas might garner interest in 2016.
When legislators convene Jan. 6, it will have been almost a year and a half since 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, during a confrontation in a street. The Justice Department later cleared Wilson, concluding evidence backed his claim that he shot Brown in self-defense. Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police force.
A separate Justice Department report sharply criticized Ferguson's law enforcement for racial bias and using its courts to generate revenue.
Though Ferguson is no longer in the daily national news, "that spotlight is actually still on us," said the Rev. Starsky Wilson, co-chairman of the Ferguson Commission created by Gov. Jay Nixon to propose policy recommendations in response to underlying issues raised as a result of what occurred in the community. "We would do well to remember that people are still watching Missouri."
Sen. Bob Dixon, who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he sees a "renewed bipartisan effort" to address related issues. The Springfield Republican said he plans to hold a hearing on his version of a bill on deadly force early in the session.
The measure would align Missouri law with a 1985 Supreme Court decision, which says deadly force used against a fleeing suspect is unconstitutional unless the officer has cause to think that person poses a serious threat.
Despite training, Chicago police still accidentally shoot bystanders
The department's training figures to be one component of the U.S. Justice Department's investigation
by Jeremy Gorner and Annie Sweeney
CHICAGO — In their training, Chicago police officers are presented with scenarios in which they're confronted by dangerous individuals while other people are nearby. The goal is to eliminate the threat while keeping bystanders safe.
Yet over the years, innocent victims have been shot by police, most recently last weekend when an officer shot and killed Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old mother of five. Interim police Superintendent John Escalante quickly acknowledged the shooting was an accidental misfire by an officer aiming at a 19-year-old student who police said had a baseball bat and was being combative.
The fatal shooting of Jones and the student, Quintonio LeGrier, has come under especially intense scrutiny in light of the federal civil rights investigation prompted by the release last month of a dashboard camera video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at Laquan McDonald.
The department's training figures to be one component of the U.S. Justice Department's investigation. One longtime Chicago officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said firearms training includes teaching officers to assess their surroundings, taking into account whether people are nearby.
But they must balance everything against the threat they try to stop.
"You assess the situation and respond accordingly, but what the bottom line is if it is your life or someone else's life is in danger, that takes precedence over everything," the officer said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the department does not keep track of innocent bystanders shot by police officers.
In the split-second that life-or-death decisions must be made, mistakes clearly happen. In 2010, an officer on the West Side accidentally shot a fellow cop while aiming at a man carrying what turned out to be a paintball gun.
Some situations might seem an obvious call — a report of a gunman at a crowded downtown festival, for example, would dictate not firing a gun.
Yet one of the most infamous examples of a police officer taking an innocent life was the 2012 killing of Rekia Boyd, who was mistakenly shot in the head when off-duty Detective Dante Servin fired into a group of people outside his West Side home.
Servin fired from his car at a man he claimed was pointing a weapon toward him after the officer told the man and his friends to keep the noise down. Servin struck and wounded his intended target, Antonio Cross, early morning March 21, 2012, but also hit Boyd, who was standing a few feet away.
Servin's actions led to rare criminal charges against a Chicago police officer in the death of a civilian. He was acquitted in a trial that turned largely on legal questions of whether the off-duty officer fired his weapon intentionally or was reckless. But the department's internal investigation into his actions focused on whether he violated Chicago police policy that morning, including firing into a crowd.
Servin has maintained he feared for his life that night. And, according to the Independent Police Review Authority documents, he said he did not believe anyone else was in harm's way when he fired his weapon. In the end, the IPRA concluded that though Servin "could reasonably believe" there was a "threat to his or her safety," he should not have fired.
"However the same officer would also reasonably identify the inherent danger that could result in firing his or her weapon at a subject in close proximity to innocent bystanders," an IPRA investigator said in a report. "The level of care and concern expected of an officer with similar training and experience, in a similar circumstance, makes Detective Servin's use of deadly force objectively unreasonable, and therefore in violation of policy."
IPRA recommended in September that Servin be fired, a move that was backed by former Superintendent Garry McCarthy shortly before McCarthy was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel amid the McDonald video fallout. The matter is now before the nine-member mayoral-appointed Chicago Police Board.
According to the Chicago police general orders, officers are not allowed to fire into crowds, fire warning shots or fire into buildings or through doors, windows or other openings when the person being targeted isn't visible. They're also prohibited from shooting people trying to kill themselves or firing at a moving vehicle when the vehicle is the only weapon being used against the cop.
David Klinger, an expert on police use of force, said officers being trained for shootings must take into account people standing behind the person they're targeting, as well as others to the side or in front of the suspect. Klinger said officers must practice what he calls "subject discrimination," getting an idea of who is the likely innocent bystander and who is the likely suspect when pulling up to a scene.
Ultimately, training and experience come into play, the longtime Chicago officer said. "When the stress level goes up, normally performance goes down unless you have been in pressure situations before, and you are able to still perform with a clear head and see things," he said.
In another case in which IPRA ruled against an officer, police responding to a domestic argument were told there was a man with a handgun in a bedroom. In the mayhem that left the man dead, three officers fired their weapons and one of them shot into a wall without clearly seeing his target. IPRA found that officer violated department policy and in 2013 recommended a three-day suspension.
On New Year's Day 2014, Kierra Williamson, who was pregnant, was struck by a stray bullet from a Chicago police officer's gun while inside a Roseland neighborhood home. The on-duty officer who shot her, Wilfredo Ortiz, also shot Michael Williamson and Princeton Williamson after police say one of the men fired a gun into the air.
Although one of the men faces a criminal trial on weapons violations and other charges, they and Kierra Williamson have filed a federal lawsuit against Ortiz, other officers and the city. That case is pending. The police shooting is still be investigated by IPRA.
Klinger, the use-of-force expert, said the slightest mistake may leave an indelible mark with the officer even if the cop shot their intended target.
"Human beings who go into law enforcement are human beings before they become cops, right?" he said. "And they don't go into law enforcement to kill people, and certainly not innocent people."
Brian Warner, a Chicago police officer who runs a support group for officers involved in shootings, said the trauma of a shooting for an officer is complicated when a bystander is involved.
"It's tragic. You don't want to take a life," he said. "It's the last thing officers want to do. If he shoots the intended threat, that is difficult enough. I can't imagine what the officer is going through."
Will 'pot breathalyzer' pass the smell test?
Just three years ago, marijuana was illegal for recreational use nationwide
by William Bender
PHILADELPHIA — It's all happening so fast.
Just three years ago, marijuana was illegal for recreational use nationwide.
That changed when voters in Colorado and Washington legalized it in 2012. Oregon, Alaska. and the District of Columbia passed similar legislation last year.
Philadelphia has reduced possession of a small amount of marijuana to a $25 citation, and Mayor-elect Jim Kenney - South Philly Mummer turned pot-friendly progressive - has said he would like to eliminate weed citations altogether.
A total of 23 states have passed medical-marijuana laws, and at least five more are expected to vote on recreational-use ballot questions next year.
Smoke it for your glaucoma. Smoke it to chill. Or don't smoke it at all. But pot is here to stay. It's likely only a matter of time before most American adults can get a prescription for marijuana or buy it as easily as a six-pack of beer.
But things get murky when it comes to driving. Motor-vehicle laws have not kept pace with the legalization trend.
The problem: Marijuana's main psychoactive component, THC, remains in blood longer than alcohol, so you could get busted for drugged driving well after the effects of your last joint have passed.
Mike Lynn, an emergency-room doctor and reserve deputy sheriff in California, wants to change that.
The proposed solution: a pot breath analyzer.
Oakland-based Hound Labs announced this month that it had developed technology that can determine with one or two breaths whether someone has recently smoked marijuana.
The company is working with scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, to build a handheld device that cops could use for roadside tests - to test for alcohol and weed.
"We are creating this marijuana breathalyzer that not only detects THC in breath but also measures the level," said Lynn, Hound Labs' chief executive. "By measuring levels, you can actually start correlating those levels with true driving impairment, then create standards like we have with alcohol."
Lynn said THC remains in someone's breath for only two to three hours. Blood tests, such as those used by Philadelphia police, often can detect THC or its metabolites many hours - or, sometimes, days - after smoking. Lynn said that makes it difficult to distinguish between a chronic user who smoked the day before driving and someone who was ripping a bong just before getting behind the wheel.
"People are worried they're going to be arrested for testing positive when they're not impaired. But we don't want people that are truly stoned on the road," Lynn said. "This is a way of helping solve that problem."
Hound Labs plans to start clinical trials early next year with the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco General Hospital, and conduct tests with law enforcement officials. The breathalyzer could be on the market by the end of 2016.
"We need to identify those people that shouldn't be driving. This is about saving lives and preventing tragedies," Lynn said. "The guy that smoked yesterday and didn't get behind the wheel, that's not the person we're focused on at all."
Hound Labs isn't the only company working on this technology, but it says its prototype can accurately measure THC levels using a proprietary method that is more than one million times more sensitive than alcohol breathalyzers.
But some cannabis activists, drug-recognition experts, and law enforcement officials are skeptical.
Chris Goldstein, a PhillyNORML board member who last year lobbied Kenney, then a councilman, to decriminalize marijuana in Philadelphia, calls the breathalyzer "both the holy grail and the unicorn of regulation and law enforcement when it comes to marijuana."
Cops would love to have an instrument that could instantly confirm a suspicion that someone is high. But establishing an impairment threshold for marijuana has been elusive.
What does it actually mean to be stoned? Can the effects of marijuana be reduced to a single number on a machine, like those of alcohol?
"The real crux of the issue is that there is no standard for what actually constitutes impairment for marijuana," Goldstein said. "The science is just not there yet to show us what real impairment means."
Pot affects people differently. A regular user could be several times over Pennsylvania's ultra-strict threshold - one nanogram of THC per milliliter of blood - and demonstrate little to no impairment. But someone who rarely smokes could be high as a kite with a THC level in the same range.
Different strains of marijuana can produce sedative or uplifting effects with varying cognitive impact. Some tend to induce "couch lock" and dull the senses, while others can spur creativity and heighten awareness.
"Unlike alcohol, the impairment standard can be very different among individuals," Goldstein said.
George Geisler, a drug-recognition expert who provides technical assistance to Pennsylvania law enforcement officials, said a breathalyzer that only detects marijuana smoked within a few hours could cast a narrow net - clearing drivers who perhaps shouldn't be on the road, due to the lingering effects of smoking.
Geisler, who has examined drugged drivers at Philadelphia DUI checkpoints, said that in his experience, the "Cheech and Chong effect" of marijuana might last only a few hours, but it can affect a person's attention span and the ability to perform complex tasks significantly longer.
"Although it has short-term effects as far as obviously being impaired, the psychophysical impairment we see lasts up to 24 hours, and I've seen that personally," Geisler said.
Philadelphia Police Sgt. Joseph Rossa of the Accident Investigation Division said relying on a breathalyzer for marijuana would miss other drugs that would be caught by a drug test, such as PCP and Xanax.
"When we do blood, it tells us pretty much everything that's in there. I see it more as limiting," Rossa said of the pot breathalyzer.
"It might be good for parents to buy to see if their kids are getting high," he said. "Maybe they're looking at the wrong market."
Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said, "The data on whether relaxing marijuana laws increases impaired driving is still very rudimentary, since this trend of relaxing marijuana laws is relatively new. But we're monitoring it, and if there's a clear causal connection then we'll look for ways to address it."
Lynn, of Hound Labs, said the next step is to use his device to evaluate how well a person can operate a vehicle on a course at varying THC levels.
He hopes that will lead to a discussion about the need for national marijuana-impairment standards that are more accurate than current tests using blood or oral swabs.
"It's really pretty darn arbitrary," Lynn said of current testing methods.
Robert McGrory, a former California Highway Patrol lieutenant whose son was killed by a driver who tested positive for marijuana use, said the Hound Labs breathalyzer would expose stoned drivers who argue - either on the road or in court - that the THC in their blood is days old.
"It will totally eliminate that argument," said McGrory, who has been working with Lynn in developing the breathalyzer. Conversely, he said, "it's going to help us not arrest people that shouldn't be arrested."
Dwight "Spike" Helmick, a former California Highway Patrol commissioner who is working with Hound on the breathalyzer, said cops need to be prepared if increased marijuana availability leads to an uptick in stoned driving.
Helmick said he tries to avoid the debate over legalization, mostly because it's a moot point.
"The reality is, it's coming," he said, "so my concern is the safety of the motoring public."
Security and terrorism: Jittery backdrops to New Year's Eve around the world
by Jason Hanna and Euan McKirdy
Disrupted terrorist plots. Increased police presence. Warnings to stay alert.
Fears of terrorism and stepped-up security provide a sobering backdrop to planned New Year's Eve celebrations around the world.
In the United States, federal and local security officials are tightening security in high-profile locations, including New York's Times Square and the Rose Bowl festivities near Los Angeles. In Belgium and Turkey, police said they disrupted terrorist plots that would have targeted celebrations to ring in the New Year in the capitals of those countries.
Here's a look at the latest news on that front around the world:
Before President Barack Obama left for his Hawaii vacation, his top security officials briefed him about a threat, originating from overseas, of possible attacks in New York, Los Angeles and Washington between the Christmas and New Year's holidays, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the matter.
The officials said the threat was uncorroborated and was based on a single source, and it didn't mention specific locations in the cities. But they said they are always concerned about "soft targets" such as large gatherings and mass transit systems.
In the wake of attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, California, and elsewhere, the FBI is boosting the number of agents and staff in some of its 24-hour command centers around the country, including in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
About 6,000 police officers will fan out around Times Square for the annual New Year's Eve celebration there, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
"We are not aware of any threat at this time that we deem credible," he said.
Among the tools the police will use to guard against would-be criminals or terrorists: cops on helicopters and boats along with hundreds of additional mobile cameras and radiation detectors. It's a grim reminder of the threats posed by terrorist organizations from around the world. In addition, hundreds of officers will carry rifles, said James O'Neill, a top police official in New York.
"We are ready," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week. He called New York "the best prepared city in the country to prevent terrorism and to deal with any event should it occur."
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, and Mayor Bill de Blasio say the city is ready. They're shown in a photo from a few weeks ago.
There will be more cameras watching the route of the Rose Bowl Parade, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez told reporters.
"It's not the first year we've had cameras, but there will be more of them installed by (the Department of Homeland Security)," Sanchez said.
The additional cameras are part of more resources and money being used for the event and the Rose Bowl game, which are considered elevated security events for the first time.
The chief of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department said more officers will be at the parade and later at a celebration at Grand Park.
"This is probably largest deployment they've ever had," he said.
There will be no New Year's festivities in Brussels, not even fireworks, the capital city's mayor told CNN affiliate RTL.
Mayor Yvan Mayeur cited the nation's heightened terror alert.
Belgian authorities have arrested two people on suspicion of being involved in a plot to attack "emblematic sites" in Belgium's capital during New Year's celebrations, the country's federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
The men are members of a Muslim biker gang called the Kamikaze Riders and are suspected to have discussed attacking Brussels' Grand Place square and other places where crowds gather, as well as police and military facilities, a senior Belgian counterterrorism official told CNN on condition of anonymity.
The plot appears to have been inspired, but not directed, by ISIS, the counterterrorism official said.
Turkish police say they've arrested two people with alleged ISIS ties on suspicion of planning a bombing attack in Turkey's capital on New Year's Eve.
The two were arrested Wednesday as they allegedly scouted potential attack locations in the capital, Ankara, the Ankara governorship said.
The pair had a vest with explosives and a backpack "ready for use" -- with iron marbles and sticks and other materials for use in bomb-making -- the governorship said.
Investigators believe the pair intended to target two locations near Ankara's Kizilay district, the country's semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported, citing the Ankara chief prosecutor's office.
On October 10, two bombings outside Ankara's main train station killed more than 100 people. No group claimed responsibility for that attack, though Turkish officials have blamed ISIS, which captured vast swaths of neighboring Syria and Iraq.
Counter-terror specialists will be amongst a record police presence in the Australian city of Sydney as the clock ticks over to 2016. The city reeled earlier almost exactly a year ago, as a lone-wolf gunman took hostages in a downtown cafe and chocolate shop on December 15, 2014.
The counter-terrorism units will join mounted police, the public order and riot squad, tactical operations officers and the police force air wing, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. A police spokesman said that the precautions were not entirely motivated by an enhanced terror alertness, but more due to rising attendances at public events in the city.
The French capital will usher in the new year "without fanfare," said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, as memories of multiple attacks that left 130 dead in November remain fresh. A planned firework display has been canceled, and celebratory projections on the city's Arc de Triomph, which sits at the head of the celebrated Champs Elysses will be shorter than normal.
The thoroughfare will remain open -- it is the traditional center of Paris' new year celebrations -- but security will be ramped up to reflect the city's jitters just weeks after the devastating attacks, which saw football fans and concertgoers targeted by militants with ties to ISIS.
The Russian authorities have been accused of orchestrating a cover-up of terror threats in Moscow's famous Red Square, a favored spot for Muscovites to ring in the new year. The UK's Telegraph newspaper reports that security chiefs announced last week that the square would be closed due to a clash of scheduling with a film crew who would be filming at the location. As the production company reportedly has denied that it will be filming on Dec 31 , some suspect that the purported clash is actually a smokescreen to downplay potential threats from ISIS.
Russia has recently ramped up its involvement in the civil war in Syria, ostensibly targeting ISIS positions but, analysts allege, targeting a range of rebel groups and enemies of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In apparent retaliation, ISIS also claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jet above the Sinai desert.
There is heightened security in Vienna after police there said several European cities were warned of possible terror attacks. The warning did include the names of several possible attackers Vienna police investigated without finding "concrete further results," authorities in the Austrian capital said Saturday.
Police will initiate more thorough security checks, ensure quick readiness in case of an emergency and increase vigilance in terms of empty suitcases and bags for New Year's, Vienna police said.
One of the big events on New Year's Eve is the Hofburg Silver Ball. There are also big outdoor events on Graben Street and in front of city hall.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh warned U.S. citizens this week that attacks against hotels and clubs are possible in the capital, Dhaka, in the next few days, perhaps in connection with New Year's Eve celebrations.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh warned of possible attacks in the capital, Dhaka.
The embassy did not say what led to the warning.
Read the embassy's warning about possible attacks
The warning came a month after the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Americans traveling to the South Asian country, citing what it described as a potential for extremist violence in light of recent attacks claimed by ISIS.
Those attacks included a September 28 killing of an Italian national, an October 3 killing of a Japanese national and October 24 bombings against Shia Muslims in a religious procession, according to the State Department.
In its warning Tuesday, the embassy said Dhaka police have increased security measures for New Year's Eve, including a ban on outdoor parties after 8 p.m.
The Shanghai government said there will be no organized New Year celebrations on the Bund, a popular riverfront area, China's state-broadcaster CCTV reported.
Shanghai spokesman Xu Wei warned people who go to the Bund of their own on New Year's Eve will have to comply with public order rules.
The announcement follows last year's NYE stampede in Shanghai that killed 36 people and injured 49 more.
Belgium Arrests 10th in Paris Inquiry; 2 Held Longer in New Year's Plot
by Sewell Chan
LONDON — A 10th man has been held on terrorism charges in Belgium in connection with the investigation into the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, the authorities said on Thursday, as a court prolonged the detention of two men accused of plotting a terrorist attack in Brussels on New Year's Eve.
The suspect, identified only as Ayoub B., a Belgian citizen born in 1993, was arrested after the search of a house in the Molenbeek section of Brussels on Wednesday.
The arrest came as two men already in custody — identified in Belgian news reports as Mohamed Karay, 27, and Saïd Souati, 30 — had their detention extended in connection with a plot, along with other security concerns, that prompted the Brussels City Council on Wednesday night to cancel the New Year's Eve fireworks that traditionally take place at the Place de Brouckère.
Mr. Karay and Mr. Souati were said to be members of a motorcycle club called the Kamikaze Riders. The group's Facebook page suggests that the members, all Muslims from the Brussels region, attend motor sports events, but it makes no mention of radicalization, extremism or violence.
The authorities also said on Thursday that they had conducted seven house searches in the Brussels area and had taken six people in for questioning.
The house in Molenbeek where Ayoub B. was arrested, on Rue Delaunoy, is the same one where Salah Abdeslam, a fugitive and the only direct participant in the attacks who is still believed to be alive, is thought to have hidden after the attacks.
About 10 cellphones were seized during the search that led to the arrest of Ayoub B., and they are being examined. No weapons or explosives were found.
The man was “charged with terrorist murder and participation at the activities of a terrorist organization,” according to a statement from the federal prosecutor's office in Brussels.
Molenbeek, a working-class neighborhood just west of the Brussels city center, was the home of at least three men believed to have taken part in the attacks: Mr. Abdeslam and his brother Ibrahim, who died in the attack, and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is believed to have been a planner of the attacks.
Nine other men have been put in preventive detention in Belgium in connection with the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people. They are:
Mohamed Amri and Hamza Attou, accused of being the getaway drivers for Mr. Abdeslam;
Abraimi Lazez and Ali Oulkadi, who are accused of helping Mr. Abdeslam after the attacks;
Abdellah Chouaa, who is suspected of being an associate of Mr. Abdeslam's;
Mohamed Bakkali, who lived at a house in the Belgian town of Auvelais that may have been used as a hide-out;
Two men, identified only as Samir Z. and Pierre N., who are believed to have been friends of Bilal Hadfi, one of the attackers;
Abdoullah C., who is suspected to have had contacts with Hasna Aitboulahcen, a cousin of Mr. Abaaoud. Mr. Abaaoud died in a police raid outside Paris on Nov. 18.
FBI Offers $5,000 Reward After Man Places Bacon on Mosque Door
by VOA News
The FBI says it is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of whoever wrapped strips of raw bacon on the door handles of a mosque in Las Vegas.
In a statement, the FBI said it and the Las Vegas police department are investigating the act of vandalism at the Masjid-e-Tawheed mosque as a possible hate crime.
Authorities are searching for a white male with dark hair, long thin sideburns, and glasses who was seen in a surveillance video placing the bacon at the mosque on the morning of December 27.
The mosque was empty at the time. No one was injured and no property was damaged, according to the FBI.
Muslims are forbidden from consuming pork products, and pigs or pork are sometimes used as an attempt to taunt or offend Muslims.
“This type of attempted desecration must be investigated as an act of intimidation and hate, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Earlier this month, a severed pig's head was found on the doorstep of a mosque in Philadelphia.
There have been more than 70 incidents targeting American mosques and religious facilities this year, according to CAIR.
The acts of vandalism have apparently grown in frequency after 14 people were killed by suspected Islamist extremists earlier this month in California.
Traverse City Police Department Switches to Community Policing Approach
by Adora Namigadde
The Traverse City Police Department is taking a new approach to how they help the community.
It's called team or community policing, and they hope it helps cut down on crime.
The Traverse City Police Department says it's comparable to selling a car -- if you walk into a dealership, you're more comfortable with the person you know.
“We're not doing a good job with our race relations,” said Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O'Brien. “We're not doing a good job with our people that have mental health issues.”
A problem O'Brien says is prevalent in law enforcement across the country.
But for every problem there is a solution. In this case, they say it's community policing.
“Community policing decentralizes your police department.”
“We divided the city into four small areas. We assigned a sergeant to each area, and we assigned four officers to each area,” said Traverse City Police Sergeant Keith Gillis.
Now, every Traverse City police officer is a community police officer.
Instead of waiting for crime to happen, the department tries to get ahead of it by building relationships
With area businesses, neighborhoods and neighborhood watches.
“We're gonna try and implement a walk and talk,” Gillis said. “One part of an officer's job is going to be walking a couple blocks, making contact with the neighbors in that block.”
Helping to prevent crime and when something bad does happen, people feel more comfortable approaching their officers.
“You can't piece a crime together without a tip,” O'Brien said. “You need someone to come forward and have the trust and confidence to come forward to say 'This is what has happened.'”
A change they say is essential.
“If we don't do something, we're going to be behind the ball. And I'm actually afraid of what the results will be. We want to make sure as police officers were putting citizens in that comfort zone,” Gillis said.
In February, a community meeting will help Traverse City Police build on that concept and develop a five-year plan for the department.
New police tactics take time to enact
by Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Call it unfinished business.
New police tactics and policies are rarely implemented overnight. Criminologists and police leaders frequently tell me it can take years before we see the true impact of changes that happened yesterday.
As 2015 turns into 2016, I took a look at three new concepts and initiatives in Charlotte policing that got off the ground this year and could begin to have a major impact next year.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police began a body camera pilot program in late 2013. In September, the department announced that all officers had received the cameras and had been trained how to use them.
Officers are supposed to activate the cameras during interactions with the public.
In November, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said the department had already reviewed a handful of complaints in which body camera footage could be a factor.
But the cameras are now a part of officers' uniforms and could be a factor in more cases.
The most recent example may have been on Christmas Eve, when an officer fatally shot a man at Northlake Mall after police say the suspect pointed a gun at the officer. If the officer's camera was activated, it would give an unbiased view of what happened.
Community policing 2.0
Chief Putney was a deputy chief under Darrel Stephens, one of the nation's foremost proponents of community policing, a philosophy that seeks to form partnerships to solve the root causes of crime.
He was also a deputy chief under Rodney Monroe, who in 2008 dismantled some aspects of Stephens' community policing to move more officers to patrol. Stephens was criticized for crime increases. Monroe brought down crime rates to historic lows.
But Putney has said he wants to keep the best aspects of Monroe's policies and hold police responsible for making more inroads with the community.
“If all you ever do is respond to calls, you never get a chance to fix the reason people are calling you,” Stephens said in a recent interview.
CMPD and community leaders were lauded by the White House for the Cops & Barbers program. The program sparks dialogue – sometimes heated – between police and the community. Officers hope the conversations will ease tension during interactions with citizens.
City leaders I've talked to say they want to see more innovation like that. And Putney has said his department has to work with the community to find long-term solutions to the root causes of crime. “We are making progress with things like Cops & Barbers,” Mayor Jennifer Roberts said. “We need to let our officers and our community really be partners. ”
Islamic State ruling aims to settle who can have sex with female slaves
by Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and Phil Stewart
Islamic State theologians have issued an extremely detailed ruling on when "owners" of women enslaved by the extremist group can have sex with them, in an apparent bid to curb what they called violations in the treatment of captured females.
The ruling or fatwa has the force of law and appears to go beyond the Islamic State's previous known utterances on slavery, a leading Islamic State scholar said. It sheds new light on how the group is trying to reinterpret centuries-old teachings to justify the rape of women in the swaths of Syria and Iraq it controls.
For a U.S. government translation of the fatwa click here (in original article).
The fatwa was among a huge trove of documents captured by U.S. Special Operations Forces during a raid targeting a top Islamic State official in Syria in May. Reuters has reviewed the document, which has not been previously published, but couldn't independently confirm its authenticity.
Among the fatwa's injunctions are bans on a father and son having sex with the same female slave; and the owner of a mother and daughter having sex with both. Joint owners of a female captive are similarly enjoined from intercourse because she is viewed as "part of a joint ownership."
The United Nations and human rights groups have accused the Islamic State of the systematic abduction and rape of thousands of women and girls as young as 12, especially members of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq. Many have been given to fighters as a reward or sold as sex slaves.
Far from trying to conceal the practice, Islamic State has boasted about it and established a department of "war spoils" to manage slavery. Reuters reported on the existence of the department on Monday.
In an April report, Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 female escapees who recounted how Islamic State fighters separated young women and girls from men and boys and older women. They were moved "in an organized and methodical fashion to various places in Iraq and Syria." They were then sold or given as gifts and repeatedly raped or subjected to sexual violence.
DOS AND DON'TS
Fatwa No. 64, dated Jan. 29, 2015, and issued by Islamic State's Committee of Research and Fatwas, appears to codify sexual relations between IS fighters and their female captives for the first time, going further than a pamphlet issued by the group in 2014 on how to treat slaves.
The fatwa starts with a question: "Some of the brothers have committed violations in the matter of the treatment of the female slaves. These violations are not permitted by Sharia law because these rules have not been dealt with in ages. Are there any warnings pertaining to this matter?"
It then lists 15 injunctions, which in some instances go into explicit detail. For example:
"If the owner of a female captive, who has a daughter suitable for intercourse, has sexual relations with the latter, he is not permitted to have intercourse with her mother and she is permanently off limits to him. Should he have intercourse with her mother then he is not permitted to have intercourse with her daughter and she is to be off limits to him."
Islamic State's rape of female captives has been well documented, but a leading IS expert at Princeton University, Cole Bunzel, who has reviewed many of the group's writings, said the fatwa went beyond what has previously been published by the militants on how to treat female slaves.
"It reveals the actual concerns of IS slave owners," he said in an email.
Still, he cautioned that not "everything dealt with in the fatwa is indicative of a relevant violation. It doesn't mean father and son were necessarily sharing a girl. They're at least being 'warned' not to. But I bet some of these violations were being committed."
The fatwa also instructs owners of female slaves to "show compassion toward her, be kind to her, not humiliate her, and not assign her work she is unable to perform." An owner should also not sell her to an individual whom he knows will mistreat her.
Professor Abdel Fattah Alawari, dean of Islamic Theology at Al-Azhar University, a 1,000-year-old Egyptian center for Islamic learning, said Islamic State "has nothing to do with Islam" and was deliberately misreading centuries-old verses and sayings that were originally designed to end, rather than encourage, slavery.
"Islam preaches freedom to slaves, not slavery. Slavery was the status quo when Islam came around," he said. "Judaism, Christianity, Greek, Roman, and Persian civilizations all practiced it and took the females of their enemies as sex slaves. So Islam found this abhorrent practice and worked to gradually remove it.”
In September 2014 more than 120 Islamic scholars from around the world issued an open letter to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi refuting the group's religious arguments to justify many of its actions. The scholars noted that the "reintroduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam."
The Other Children Killed in Cleveland
The deaths of Davia Garth, Ramon Burnett, and Major Howard aren't as political as Tamir Rice but they should be just as shocking.
by Justin Glawe
CLEVELAND -- Philip backed his silver Pontiac into the driveway next to his mother's home in the 900 block of East 131st Street on Tuesday night.
He looks tough but has an easy smile.
“Momma, open the door!” he knocked. “It's a reporter here.”
Inside was Sonya Garth in a red t-shirt that reached to her knees and a living room lit by a TV and a single bulb overhead. She sat down in a recliner and told the story of her daughter's death.
Davia, 12, died last October when Sonya's estranged husband lost it and shot up the home on East 131st street. Sonya took a few bullets and lived. Davia ran toward her mother that night and was struck in the side — Sonya points to her own ribs to demonstrate — and died.
“Once her one year came around,” Sonya said of the first anniversary of her child's death, “it became real to me.”
The East Side of Cleveland where Sonya and Phillip live is not an easy place. The signs of decay, abandonment, and violence are all around. On the corner of 93rd and Union a strong stone building with the backbone of a bank and an inscription, “Association Savings and Loan Bank,” is now a payday loan shop. Boarded up shops and abandoned shops. Lots where homes homes once stood now collecting whatever trash finds its way into their unkempt grass.
Fifteen minutes across town is Cudell Recreation Center, where the only faces on Tuesday were on the stuffed animals piled on a picnic table commemorating the death of Tamir Rice. School is out until after the new year, but there were no children there on this gray day.
The spot where Rice was killed is a macabre tourist attraction of sorts. Tuesday afternoon a news van idled while catching b-roll; a man parked, got out of his car and snapped a few photos in the overcast light.
Like Ferguson, which is much more than Mike Brown, and Baltimore, which is much more than just Freddie Gray, there is a lot going on in Cleveland that doesn't make it to the satellite trucks beaming news from this Rust Belt city every time there is a development in the Tamir Rice case.
There have been more than 100 homicides in Cleveland so far this year, an increase for the second straight year. If you consider the youth of our society to be especially innocent and undeserving of murder, like Tamir at the hands of Officer Timothy Loehmann last year, what happened over the summer should make you shudder.
In August a child inside her mother's womb died after the baby's father lost it and shot them, the child succumbing several days later. In October a 6-month-old was riding in a car on East 145th Street when a shooter let loose with a gun, striking the baby. She died, too.
In September, 5-year-old Ramon Burnett caught a stray bullet while tossing a football outside of his grandmother's home. They called him “Dink.”
Then there was “Deck,” 3-year-old Major Howard who was caught in the crossfire in mid-September. His death is memorialized on East 113th Street. The spray paint on the asphalt reads “Flex like Deck.” Stuffed animals are soaked, candles flooded. The balloons are running out of air and beginning to fall.
A grand jury's decision not to indict the Officer Loehmann prompted another round of mourning for the family and community, another round of posturing for activists and politicians, and another round of upkeep for those who maintain the 12-year-old's memorial at Cudell.
Meanwhile, Dink and Deck's memorials are fading away.
“It's confusing,” said a woman near Deck's memorial, peeking her head through her screen door, “because I don't know if that's for him or the other boy who had got killed near downtown.”
She wasn't sure which toddler the memorial next to her home was for.
“I don't know… All I know is if they don't mess with me I don't mess with them.”
Sonya Garth's daughter Davia was the first 12-year-old to be killed in Cleveland last year, followed by Tamir Rice. Sonya speaks in the tone of a survivor now. She attributes her daughter's death to a system that failed to recognize the danger her former husband and abuser posed, but she also says she could perhaps have done more to protect her family.
The husband, who as since been convicted for the crime, emerged from the basement of the home on East 131st Street on a late-October day with a gun. Sonya screamed. He fired. Davia ran.
“I thought he was her father,” Sonya said, “but I thought wrong.”
Phillip makes a sandwich as his mother talks, then goes upstairs as the 5 p.m. news reports protesters gathering and disrupting traffic over Tamir Rice's death. Phillip has kept more to himself since Davia's death, Sonya says, playing video games often.
“Everybody has to deal with it in their own way,” she says.
“I think Davia would want me to keep going.”
Outside on East 131st Street, there is no traffic and no protesters. Just a new wail of police sirens.
Rhetoric over police force escalates in first full year post-Ferguson
by Robert Salonga and David DeBolt
In the first full year after the infamous 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, cities across the country have grappled with unprecedented scrutiny from community members, civil-rights groups and media over police use of force.
"There was an America before Ferguson, and there is an America after Ferguson, and there is no going back," said Raj Jayadev, director of the social-justice group Silicon Valley De-Bug. "The physics of how communities respond is different, and permanently so."
The Bay Area is firmly entrenched in that national conversation, but like the rest of the country, it appears that what has risen is the awareness of events like officer-involved shootings rather than the actual frequency of those incidents, which have either stayed steady or seen only modest fluctuations. ?But in places where those figures have risen noticeably in the past year, such as San Jose, is it because of a more hostile environment toward police, more aggressive police, or some combination of both?
"It depends on where you're at. I think both sides, police and communities, are much more aware of individual encounters," said Robert Taylor, a former police officer and now criminology professor at the University of Texas in Dallas who specializes in use-of-force and community policing. "People see police in an encounter, especially if it involves a weapon, and the phones go up. So there has been a rise not only in sensitivity but in the popularity of these videos."
Perhaps no other Bay Area police department has been more scrutinized than Oakland, where police are monitored by a federal judge as part of a settlement in the infamous Riders police brutality scandal of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Officer-involved shootings in Oakland have fluctuated since 2010, ranging from zero in 2014 to eight in 2011. But a larger and more instructive sample would be the number of use-of-force incidents involving Oakland police officers, which have trended steeply downward. In 2014, the latest data released by the department, there were 611 incidents, down from 836 in 2013 and significantly lower than 2,186 incidents in 2009.
Oakland police Chief Sean Whent credits the drop to changes in training and policy. Officers are now trained on when to use or not use force and the department has done away with chasing people into backyards, where often force was used to make arrests, he said.
"It was a very intentional act on our part," Whent said.
In 2015, seven people were shot by Oakland police, five of whom died. In San Francisco, where the recent high-profile police shooting of Mario Woods has spurred equally high-profile protests, police are re-evaluating how officers escalate the force they use. That city has recorded eight officer-involved shootings in 2015, continuing a general downward trend since a recent peak of 14 in 2010.
There are no easily identifiable across-the-board trends in the Bay Area with regard to officer-involved shootings, particularly given that outside of the three largest cities -- San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland -- the numbers are typically in the low single digits and fluctuate from year to year.
The most pronounced rise of 2015 occurred in San Jose, with 12 officer-involved shootings, six of them fatal. It is the highest total the city has seen in more than a decade, the most since eight in 2011, and a sharp increase from the four recorded last year.
"That number is intolerable," Jayadev said. "I just know we have to do better moving forward."
Jayadev added that the amplifying effect of the Internet has made keeping pressure on police much easier than it had been in the past.
"It's just a few keystrokes away to be part of this conversation, seeing these events happen in real time," he said. "The numbers are striking in particular because you can understand it much more viscerally."
That shift in awareness is believed to have influenced an $11.3 million payout a federal jury awarded to a San Jose man who was shot and paralyzed by a San Jose officer during an encounter in January 2014. It is the largest law-enforcement payout in the city's history.
"Certainly, the national spotlight has raised the knowledge level of everyone about police conduct, including jurors, which is helpful," said John Burris, the wounded man's attorney. "Before, people sat with their arms folded."
San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle made a similar acknowledgment after the award was announced, contending the political climate in the country about use of force was an "obvious" factor in the jury's decision.
But as critics assail each officer-involved shooting, police advocates are trying to curtail the ire by pointing out the inherent risk that officers face every day on the job, risk embodied perhaps most this year by the on-duty deaths of police officers in Hayward and San Jose.
Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia, who is set to become chief of the San Jose Police Department in mid-January, recognizes how both sides of the issue are contending escalating tactics by the other, however the numbers fall.
"I do think that events that have occurred nationally have created fear both ways. That's the reality," Garcia said. "The community looks at police with a level of skepticism that quite frankly wasn't always there. That can lead to confrontations."
Garcia added that the department has to increase transparency with citizens in a world where everything's being recorded on video, both to provide context when even lawful uses of force have the look of being excessive, and to provide cover for a rank-and-file who may feel beleaguered by media portrayals.
"There has been an attack on law enforcement nationally, but let's face it, there have been incidents that law enforcement has brought on themselves. We need to recognize that, and get better," he said. "When it's time to hold someone accountable, we will do that, but the vast majority of the department does an outstanding job, and it's our job as command staff to be louder (than critics) and make sure they're appreciated."
Taylor, the criminology professor, went as far as to align himself with an assertion, made in the fall by FBI Director James Comey, that the increased scrutiny has made some officers less proactive, hampering their ability to prevent crime.
"What I see are that police officers are much less likely to get out of their cars," he said. "If they're sent to a specific disturbance, they get out, but officers now are not being aggressive on patrol because they are aware this encounter could evolve into much more."
Like much of the debate, those are anecdotal assertions; there is not enough data collected and there has not been enough analysis to definitively say that the emotional climate of the past 18 months is the cause of any spikes and drops, especially as overall crime rates continue to descend from the peak levels of the early 1990s.
But the post-Ferguson era spawned important tangible effects, chief among them inspiring a national push to outfit officers with body-worn cameras -- which Oakland pioneered as the first large city to equip the whole department with the devices. Whent, whose force put the cameras to work in 2010, says "everybody behaves better" when they are being recorded. But he also stressed pragmatism.
"These are high public interest issues and rightfully so," Whent said. "The police taking somebody's life is a very serious thing. It's important for the community to be concerned about that and we've tried to put out as much information as we possibly can. We can do a lot of things to reduce the likelihood that officer-involved shootings occur but they are still going to occur."
Shift in Chicago police response seen after latest OIS
The city isn't waiting for the DOJ review to address problems, and they have already made moves to restore confidence
by Annie Sweeney and Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — A definitive statement from the Chicago Police Department about an officer's fatal shooting of two people — one by accident — came Saturday night, 16 hours after the incident.
But when it did arrive, the comments from interim Superintendent John Escalante were notable. In the late-evening press release, Escalante not only announced a major policy shift on returning officers to duty after a shooting, he also took the unusual step to acknowledge that an innocent victim had been hit by an errant police bullet.
"The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed," the statement read. "The department extends its deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends."
In contrast, the 2012 department statement on the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, who was also an unintended target of a police shooting, simply noted that a female had "sustained a gunshot wound."
Both the policy announcement and Escalante's condolences reflect the emerging reality for the Chicago Police Department in the wake of last month's release of video of a white police officer fatally shooting an African-American teen. The disturbing 2014 dash-cam video showed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald carrying a pocket knife and walking away from Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot 16 rounds at the teen within seconds of arriving at the scene and now faces first-degree murder charges.
The video, which was released only after a judge's order, has led to swift — even dizzying — changes. The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into excessive force. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, and the head of the independent agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct was forced out. Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly apologized.
The shooting about 4:30 a.m. Saturday in the 4700 block of West Erie Street was the department's first lethal use of force since the McDonald video was released, providing a glimpse of how it is responding to the biggest crisis of Emanuel's tenure in office.
Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Sunday that Escalante and his command staff had started working on the policy change a week and a half ago. But in the wake of learning details from the West Side shooting, Escalante insisted the statement acknowledge the accidental killing of Bettie Jones, Guglielmi said.
"It was a tragic loss of life. The superintendent was adamant that the department express our deepest condolences," Guglielmi said. "... The climate we are in is causing us to look at this. We are really trying to make the department better."
In the Saturday shooting on Erie, Harrison District officers were responding to a domestic violence call of a man wielding a bat.
Police shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old engineering student, after he became combative with them, the Chicago police statement said. During the altercation, Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who lived downstairs from LeGrier's father, was shot and killed by accident.
Hours after the West Side incident, Chicago police were involved in yet another shooting, though this one nonfatal. At 1:30 p.m. in the 1000 block of West 103rd Place, officers confronted a man with a gun, leading one officer to open fire, wounding the man.
Such confrontations with the public are the focus of the Justice Department civil rights investigation, which was announced earlier this month by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The probe will include a detailed examination of how and when officers use force in the department, as well as how the city investigates the incidents.
The investigation was prompted by the McDonald shooting but comes after years of civil lawsuits against the department and outcries from the public over police-involved shootings.
The review is expected to be lengthy, taking at least a year, and will likely lead to a court-enforced consent decree demanding systemic reforms. Recommended changes could cover anything from training to how firearm discharges are recorded and documented in the department.
But Chicago doesn't have to wait for the Justice Department review to address problems, and Escalante has already made some moves aimed at restoring public confidence.
Soon after Escalante took over as interim superintendent, he announced a policy change on dashboard cameras. Because there was missing audio in the dashboard cameras from responding vehicles the night of McDonald's shooting, Escalante has sent out inspectors on random checks to see if the dash cams are working property. If an inspector finds that an officer didn't tell a supervisor about a faulty camera, that officer could be disciplined.
Then on Saturday night, the interim superintendent announced another policy change: Officers involved in shootings will be shifted to mandatory administrative duty, returning to their assigned bureau for desk duty for 30 days. The new policy includes the officer or officers involved in Saturday's shooting, according to the police statement.
That is a big shift from the current policy in which officers generally had three days to see a counselor and be cleared for return to duty unless it was determined that they need more time off. Officers were also required to report for a one-day retraining at the academy — though that could happen after they returned to duty.
During the newly established 30-day period, the officer will be required to attend the training class at the academy, commanding officers will monitor and evaluate if the officer is prepared to return to street duties, and the officer will have to see a department counselor.
Guglielmi said Escalante reviewed other cities' departments and settled on the 30 days because "it seemed like a fair amount of time to get all those objectives done."
Providing officers with time off following a shooting is not unusual. It is considered essential to making sure an officer is coping with any psychological issues in the aftermath of the incident and is getting whatever support he or she needs. Getting the proper help for officers is not an easy task in a profession where admitting weakness has historically been frowned upon.
During the time off, however long, the critical task is that the officer get competent counseling and that the department is able to determine if training issues need to be addressed, policing experts said.
"It could be anger management. It could be that officer has forgotten how to maintain their presence on the street," said Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and expert on police accountability. "… There are tactical mistakes that officers make that can be corrected with immediate retraining."
Walker and other experts say there is no standard time that departments use, but he wondered why Chicago's department did not tailor the time to the individual officer's needs.
"The length needs to be tailored to the circumstance. And the seriousness," he said.
Under New York Police Department guidelines, officers involved in shootings are automatically reassigned to administrative duties for a minimum of three consecutive days.
In Los Angeles, officers also are required to see a department psychologist after being involved in a shooting, and they are automatically shifted to administrative duty. Within three to five days, the chief of police meets with a specialized unit that reviews shootings to decide if the officer is fit to return to duty, said LAPD Detective Meghan Aguilar, a department spokeswoman.
That meeting could also result in a recommendation that the officer get additional training before returning. There is no fixed number of days to be on desk duty, Aguilar said.
Chicago's new 30-day requirement caught the head of the Fraternal Order of Police off guard.
"We are surprised," said Dean Angelo, FOP president. "We haven't been involved. There is an awful lot going on now with the DOJ here, with the world media attention on Chicago, and I think there are some very reactionary decisions going on."
Guglielmi said the department reached out to Angelo last week and planned to have a more detailed meeting with him after the holidays. But the shootings Saturday led Escalante to "accelerate the process."
In the wake of the McDonald shooting, there have been steady protests calling for defunding of the Police Department, not to mention demands for the resignation of Emanuel and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, who has been criticized for not moving fast enough to charge Van Dyke.
But even before the McDonald video release, activists and organizers had been regularly attending the Chicago Police Board meetings expressing concerns about the department and the number of shootings.
The fatal shooting of Boyd, an unintended target of an off-duty officer's shooting in 2012, was a key rallying point.
That Escalante responded so quickly to Jones' death is a "significant gesture," said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader who heads the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
But Jackson said the department still has a long way to go toward building community trust.
"This shooting is a result of excessive force, and Bettie Jones should not be seen as collateral damage," Jackson said. "This is a pattern and practice we're looking at. … I'm not sure administrative leave is the answer."
No indictments, but prosecutors cite police mistakes in Tamir Rice's death
Prosecutors say plenty of mistakes were made that led to the tragedy
by The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — A grand jury declined to indict two white Cleveland police officers in the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who had a pellet gun. But prosecutors say plenty of mistakes were made that led to the tragedy. Among them, they say, were:
— Someone had removed an orange tip to the gun that would have identified it as a toy. The gun's owner had warned Tamir about playing with it because of the possibility it could be mistaken for a real one.
— No one intervened despite Tamir wielding the toy gun for at least two hours, drawing it from his waistband and pointing it at other people at a recreation center before police were called.
— Dispatchers failed to relay to officers that the person scaring people at the recreation center likely was a juvenile with a toy gun. Officers thought they were confronting an adult. Tamir, at 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, could pass for a grown-up.
— Officer Frank Garmback, upon arriving at the rec center, stopped the police cruiser, as it skidded on wet, slippery pavement, no more than 10 feet from Tamir. The close proximity heightened the tension when the boy turned to approach the cruiser while drawing the gun from his waistband, leading Officer Timothy Loehmann to fire two shots at him. Tamir died later at a hospital.
Wis. bill looks to penalize immigrant 'sanctuary cities'
Critics say the bill conveys the wrong message to immigrant communities
by The Associated Press
MADISION, Wis. — Republican legislators in Wisconsin say they will continue pursuing a bill penalizing communities that block law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status or cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
The bill seeks to prevent so-called "sanctuary cities" in which policies prevent them from helping federal authorities deport immigrants living in the country illegally, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Under the bill, communities could be challenged in court and could face the loss of shared revenue of $500 to $5,000 each day they aren't in compliance.
Critics say the bill conveys the wrong message to immigrant communities and could undercut efforts by local law enforcement to investigate crimes and build relationships. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Milwaukee-based immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera, said the bill could leave municipalities open to lawsuits if citizens don't think enough is being done locally to police federal immigration policy.
"The job of immigration is an extremely complex role and should be left to the federal government," Neumann-Ortiz said.
Bill author Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, said the bill doesn't require communities to enforce federal immigration law.
"What people are saying this bill does, it doesn't do," Spiros said. "It's not there to get rid of illegal aliens. It's really those who commit a crime."
It's not clear whether any Wisconsin cities would be affected by the legislation. The bill has a line that says it wouldn't apply to municipalities with existing policies or previously adopted resolutions.
Madison passed a resolution in 2010 calling on the county sheriff to stop reporting immigration status to federal authorities, though the resolution had no legal effect.
The state legislation was scheduled for a public hearing of the Assembly Committee on Urban and Local Affairs earlier this month. Spiros said he asked it be removed from the agenda so the committee could book a larger room.
The committee plans to hold a public hearing on the bill Jan. 20, according to a spokesman for committee chairman Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg.
TSA increases screening of airport and airline employees
by Scott Mayerowitz
NEW YORK (AP) — The Transportation Security Administration is increasing random checks of airport and airline employees who hold badges that enable them to bypass security checkpoints.
The decision follows instances in the past two years in which employees used restricted entrances to smuggle guns and launder money. It's also part of a larger push to increase airport security after the Paris terrorist attacks and the crash of a jet flying between Egypt and Russia, believed to have been brought down by a bomb.
In a memo to employees this month, Jose Freig, American Airlines' managing director of corporate security, wrote that "we anticipate the random screening process to increase throughout December and during the 2016 calendar year."
TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson wouldn't say how frequent the additional checks would become, but pointed to a Nov. 30 statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson saying that since April, the department has "enhanced the continuous, random screening of airport/airline personnel in secure areas and encouraged U.S. airports to reduce employee access points."
"The TSA Administrator and I have recently concluded that we need to double-down on these airport security efforts and will be consulting with airports and airlines to do so," Johnson said.
The American memo, for instance, reminded employees that if they work in a secure area and plan to travel after their shift is over, they must exit the sterile area and go through TSA screening, with their carry-on luggage, in order to board a flight.
Thousands of U.S. airport workers are permitted to skip security lines after undergoing a background check and obtaining a Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge. The system is designed to free up staff at passenger checkpoints and to clear individuals who are considered a minimal security risk.
There have been instances, however, when that system has been exploited.
In December 2014, an Atlanta Delta Air Lines baggage handler was arrested, charged with using his security badge to bypass security and deliver guns to a smuggler on a number of occasions. A month later, a Federal Aviation Administration employee used his badge to bypass security for a flight from Atlanta to New York with a gun in his carry-on bag, though he was not authorized to carry a weapon.
And in May 2014, five airline employees were charged with using their security clearances to smuggle more than $400,000 in cash through Boston's Logan Airport.
Newburgh Police Crave Community Connection
by Charlie Cornacchio
Newburgh has long been a city in turmoil, but the Newburgh Police Dept., behind the capable and compassionate leadership of Acting Chief Dan Cameron, has impacted the high crime rate with an intriguing mix of programs designed to shake things up.
“One of our primary goals in 2015 and going forward is to realign with our community,” said Cameron who, since succeeding former Chief Mike Ferrara this past January, has made a compelling argument for fulltime tenure at the post. “I'm not reinventing the wheel.
I'm just making more initiatives, and trying to find time to do more community oriented events, while we continue to address the crime levels.
“We have had reductions in crime,” he added. “However, while we concentrated on that, because of lack of manpower, we left out the community policing part of it. And that ‘s crucial.”
There are a number of programs being utilized by the NBPD, including:
Group Violence Intervention. With the technical support of the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC), the City has confirmed that a small number of people are committing a large portion of the violent crime. Since many of these subjects are active members of groups, Newburgh is primed for a Group Violence Intervention model.
“We bring them in, and we deliver a message,” said Cameron. “We want you to be safe; we want you alive, and out of prison. But we offer alternatives. And there's a whole social services component that we've aligned with to offer them these alternatives.
But it's not just about them, it's about their friends. And they're there as messengers, and they go out and give that message to other members of their group. The message we give them is ‘Take the Help'
If you don't take the help, and you're considered the current, most violent group in the city, then we're going to focus all our attention on you. And you don't want us focusing all our attention on you.”
As run by Sgt. Joe Cortez, the Youth Police Initiative has been successfully interacting with the city's younger citizens since 2013, and recently graduated 11 girls from the program. “Our officers meet with the kids; they role-play and they learn what it's like to be a police officer,” said Cameron.
“Speaking with the kids on a one-on-one basis, and talking about ‘deconfliction' in the city of Newburgh is paramount with the police and the community getting along,” said Cortez, whose groups role play The kids really do understand, and they can really see that their choices do make a difference. But what I like most about it ¬– especially when new officers go through – is that they're also seeing through the eyes of the kids. It's a two-way street.”
The Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) grant, specifically focusing on “Bullet to Body Shootings and Homicides, and utilizing evidence-based practices for gun violence reduction. GIVE funding also supports the Youth Police Initiative (YPI), crime analysis and field intelligence in Newburgh.
For more information, go to to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services GIVE page:
In the past, Foot Patrols were so infrequent that when neighborhood children saw an officer walking in their neighborhood, they would ask if the patrol car had broken down. With its reintroduction, everyone benefits.
“When we announce the schedule for them, the officers sign up right away,” said Cameron. “They embrace it, and they enjoy it. We want to keep that momentum going. We can't solve crimes if we don't get help from the community.”
If the police can continue to successfully assail the city's forbidding crime rate with visionary and humane problem-solving, it will be interesting to see just how safe Newburgh can become.
Rahm Emanuel aide allegedly assaulted by man who said ‘police are killing us'
by Justin Wm. Moyer
On Saturday, after an officer in Chicago fatally shot an anti-violence activist who had just hosted relatives for Christmas and an emotionally disturbed college student home for holiday break, the city was again roiled by what looked like an unnecessary police killing. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), already under fire for his handling of a 17-year-old shot 16 times by police last year, faced more protests — and calls for his resignation.
Now, the already charged debate about police killings has itself turned violent. An Emanuel aide was allegedly assaulted on Sunday — at a vigil for Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier, the two people killed by police over the weekend. And it appears the assailant was a man who criticized law enforcement and the mayor's police policies during the attack.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Vance Henry, an aide to Emanuel who has worked with the mayor on law enforcement issues, was walking at the vigil when two men attempted to kick him. “What are you doing here, you should be downtown doing something about this,” one said before the attack, “cursing Emanuel,” as the Tribune put it. The man also said: “The police are killing us.” One attacker also made an anti-Semitic remark; Emanuel is Jewish.
The alleged attack was thwarted by Chicago Alderman Jason Ervin, who was walking with Henry at the time. Neither he nor Henry, who was not seriously injured, were immediately available for comment. No one was arrested, though an unnamed source told the Chicago Sun-Times that Henry knew his alleged attacker “from a previous altercation.”
“We are aware that on Sunday afternoon there was an altercation involving one of our staff members,” City Hall spokesman Adam Collins said, as the Sun-Times reported. “We take this matter very seriously and the incident is under review.”
Henry, a minister and community organizer, has long worked on policing issues in Chicago.
“The hallmark of community policing in Chicago is the people,” he said in 2008 while serving as community policing director under Mayor Richard Daley (D). “Be the eyes and the ears.”
If Emanuel's staffers are being openly attacked in the streets of the city he governs, that does not bode well for a man who left his post as President Obama's chief of staff in 2010 to pursue his dream job — but, since then, has seen his visions of mayoral glory turn to dust amid intractable controversies. Emanuel doesn't just face endemic problems with his police force — he's also had to tackle a budget crisis and an outbreak of violence that has led some to refer to Chicago as “Chi-raq.”
A man known for his love of control seems less and less able to exercise any.
“Emanuel's reflex is to try to control the story, the news cycle, the basic information about the operation of this city,” the Tribune editorialized earlier this month. “He has been burned by his own instincts.”
Synthetic drugs threaten public safety, and they're arriving by international mail
by Don Soifer
Law enforcement agencies nationwide are confronting an increasingly prevalent threat: a flood of cheap new synthetic drugs from overseas.
They're generally ordered online, arrive by international mail, and are delivered to buyers in the United States by the U.S. Postal Service. Frighteningly, they're breaching our shores undetected, and largely uninspected, by federal customs authorities.
This security hole must be fixed. Failing to screen packages from foreign postal services threatens public safety and the economy. If U.S. law enforcement is unable to stem the flow of these harmful new drugs, the risks they pose will grow.
Synthetic drugs threaten public safety; they can trigger unpredictable, violent behavior and are susceptible to overdosing, but they dodge anti-drug laws with constantly changing chemical structures.
Police departments in many communities are struggling to combat these drugs, which are often sold at corner markets in shiny packets labeled with names like Bizarro, Trainwreck, and K2. Synthetic cannabinoids are now the second-most abused drug by American teenagers, trailing only conventional marijuana.
Abuse of synthetic drugs has serious consequences. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of calls to poison control centers related to these synthetics more than tripled. Bath salts, another type of synthetic drug that has surged in popularity, were responsible for nearly 23,000 hospital visits in 2013.
Earlier this year, 18 people in South Florida were killed by one batch of a synthetic compound called “flakka.” Other recent incidents, arrests, and even deaths from overdoses of synthetic drugs have been reported in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
In each of these cases, the drugs had been received from outside the country via U.S. mail.
Foreign drug producers rely on international mail to deliver their wares, because they know American authorities won't inspect their packages.
Private express carriers must submit security data on their foreign shipments to U.S. Customs. Many federal agencies rely on this information to identify potentially high-risk packages before they reach American shores.
Foreign postal systems are not being required to provide such data. And they don't offer it voluntarily. Without it, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has little idea whether a package from a foreign post is harmless or contains dangerous contraband. About 179 million non-letter packages enter the United States every year by mail.
Criminal enterprises aren't just sending illegal drugs. They're also flooding the market with counterfeit pharmaceuticals. A recent study by LegitScript, a company that verifies online pharmacies, found that all 29 of the illegal online pharmacies it examined relied on foreign postal operators to present their packages for delivery in the United States.
Lax monitoring of foreign postal packages also saps our nation's finances. According to a new study conducted by Copenhagen Economics, foreign posts don't submit customs declarations to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, robbing American taxpayers of over $1 billion annually in unpaid fees.
Researchers looked at 104 packages sent by 10 different foreign posts. None submitted advanced customs forms, even though they're legally required to if the contents of a package are worth over $200.
Federal officials are finally starting to respond to the safety risk. An audit last month by the U.S. Postal Service's Inspector General expressed concern that large numbers of international packages were going straight into the domestic mail stream without being presented for required customs inspection.
With e-commerce from online shopping growing every year, the U.S. Postal Service is preparing for even greater volumes of international packages. Federal officials must ensure that foreign drug dealers don't contribute to that growth.
Don Soifer is executive vice president of the Lexington Institute.
Baltimore mayor recommends 11 changes to police 'Bill of Rights'
Baltimore has authorized paying out more than $12 million since 2010 to settle suits alleging wrongdoing by police
by Luke Broadwater
BALTIMORE — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is recommending 11 changes to Maryland's Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which critics say is too protective of officers accused of wrongdoing.
In a letter sent to state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh and Del. Curt Anderson, the Baltimore Democrats who co-chair the General Assembly's Public Safety and Policy Workgroup, Rawlings-Blake said she is endorsing nine policy changes recommended by Maryland's police chiefs and sheriffs, calling them "common sense."
Currently, state law mandates that disciplinary actions against police go through a trial board that makes decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence. Before the board's decision, the police commissioner may suspend an officer without pay only if he or she is charged with a felony.
The law gives officers 10 days to get an attorney before they can be questioned by superiors, and the law states that an officer may not be investigated on a brutality accusation unless it was made within 90 days of the incident.
The Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriffs Association have recommended extending the statute of limitations in the law beyond 90 days and cutting in half the number of days an officer has to get an attorney and submit to questioning. The associations also recommend changing the law to authorize subpoena power for internal affairs investigations and allow commanders to fire officers more quickly if they are convicted of serious misdemeanors.
"I believe Police Chiefs and Sheriffs need additional authority to terminate without a hearing if the officer is convicted of a serious misdemeanor," Rawlings-Blake wrote in her letter.
Rawlings-Blake also added two of her own recommendations: She wants police chiefs empowered to suspend without pay an officer charged with a serious misdemeanor and chiefs to have more time to review a trial board's decision before deciding a final punishment.
"These will provide real and substantive change to the disciplinary process that will put the power in the hands of a Maryland police chief — in Baltimore's case, its Police Commissioner — to effectuate discipline in a timely and meaningful manner," the mayor wrote.
A panel of state lawmakers, led by Pugh and Anderson, is currently studying how to improve police accountability. The issue has gained national prominence as black men in Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Mo., died in widely publicized police-involved killings.
Baltimore has authorized paying out more than $12 million since 2010 to settle suits alleging wrongdoing by police.
But police unions, including the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, have resisted changes to the law, warning against sweeping changes that could undermine an officer's protections from unfair treatment by police brass. Baltimore's police union has argued that the law simply gives an officer "his day in court."
In most jurisdictions, police commissioners already have the authority to fire officers even if a trial board recommends a lesser punishment.
For instance, in 2010, then-Baltimore Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld fired a police officer who was seen on video berating and pushing a 14-year-old skateboarder at the Inner Harbor in 2007. A trial board recommended the 19-year veteran officer, Salvatore Rivieri, be suspended for six days and lose six days of leave. But Bealefeld argued that Rivieri had brought "discredit upon and undermined public confidence" in the department.
5 Things to Look For With ISIS in 2016
These key clues may indicate whether the Islamic State group can continue its reign of fear.
by Paul Shinkman
From the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris the first week of January to the San Bernardino shootings in December, the kind of self-inspired, small-scale brutality the Sunni Muslim Islamic State group has seeped into the cracks left by a Western security apparatus hardened around preventing a 9/11-style massive attack.
Now intelligence agencies scramble to adapt to a more nimble and unorthodox extremist movement that nobody could have predicted would have become so effective at sowing violence and fear from the Iraq-Syria border to the outskirts of Los Angeles. “2015 was a year of transition in the nature of the ISIL threat,” as one analyst observed, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.
No longer do those in Washington refer to the group and its far-flung band of sympathizers as the “JV” team, as President Barack Obama once famously did.
A new year beckons, with the Syrian civil war entering its sixth bloody year, the Iraqi government needing to prove it can protect all of its people, not just the Shiites, and Muslims worldwide coming under greater scrutiny by a fearful public, all of which hinge in part on the future of the Islamic State group.
Here are the five key points Western observers and policymakers will be considering as they monitor the terrorist network in 2016:
Retaking Territory, and Governing It
The Islamic State group has proven frustratingly adept at lingering in areas it once held. It repeatedly attacked the key oil hub at Beiji, Iraq, in the summer of 2014, losing and retaking territory in protracted skirmishes with government forces. Fighting continues there, requiring strikes from U.S.-led coalition aircraft as recently as late December.
Even before it seized Mosul last summer, the Islamic State was able to infiltrate its criminal and black market networks and begin undermining the local government. That connective tissue reportedly remains in places like Sinjar, which were formally cleared of Islamic State group control by Kurdish forces in November.
In late December, the Iraqi security forces began their siege to chase Islamic State group fighters out of the city of Ramadi. Even if they are successful, however, the real success will lie in whether Baghdad can convince the citizens of this largely Sunni Muslim area that it can serve them as a trustworthy federal government. Otherwise, the Islamic State group will continue to capitalize on Sunni dissent toward a government they see as dominated by the Iraqi Shiite majority and influenced by fellow Shiites in neighboring Iran.
“Their thinking allows them to cede territory sometimes, even while utilising delaying tactics that maximize casualties on the other side,” says Firas Abi Ali, London-based senior manager of violent risk analysis with IHS. “This comes from a realization they will always be outnumbered by their rivals, and they seem to plan accordingly.”
"That lets them lose territory because they think they can regain it."
In Sinjar, reports emerged that the Yazidis who had been targeted by the Islamic State group as heathens had subsequently began executing Sunnis in an act of retaliation. Similar concerns abound regarding the highly effective Shiite militias partnering with government troops, known as popular mobilization forces, and whether they will exact similar violence on Sunnis after clearing extremists out.
That kind of uncontrolled retaliation will only drive Sunnis back toward extremist forces like the Islamic State group or whatever replaces them if the Iraqi government doesn't focus its attention on establishing the rule of law after the fighting ceases.
Expanding to Libya, a "Plan B"
Multiple terrorist organizations around the globe have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the only place military officials believe the Islamic State group has direct connection beyond its symbolic homeland in Iraq and Syria is Libya, with its eyes on even shinier prizes nearby.
“That's where the biggest connection has been, in Libya, because of the chaos there and the government challenges,” U.S. Africa Command's Gen. David Rodriguez told reporters in late November. Civil unrest throughout Libya since the 2011 NATO mission that ousted despot Muammar Gadhafi has created the kind of environment in which the Islamic State group can thrive and, as the Army general observed, allow Islamic State group operatives and resources to slip back and forth between North Africa and the Middle East.
The Islamic State group prioritizes Libya and its chaotic smokescreen because of its geographic position at the apex of all major smuggling routes in Africa, providing it with an alternative flow of resources as Western agencies try to choke off it off in Iraq and Syria. Libya also serves as a potential staging ground for attacks on Europe, and for strengthening the Islamic State group's presence in volatile Tunisia, from which thousands of fighters have joined its extremist movement. It's also a pathway to Egypt, where an established Islamic State group presence among existing extremists in the Sinai would be a great win for the terrorist network.
Still, leaders of the Islamic State group inspire their following by a perversion of Islamic history, centered around Raqqa and the city of Dabiq, where they believe an apocalyptic battle between Islam and the West will take place.
“They can't just roll up shop and flee to Libya. That totally undercuts their credibility and their claims,” says Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical analysis for Texas-based security firm Stratfor.
A foothold in Libya could only bolster the Islamic State group's existing presence in Syria and Iraq to maintain that premise, not replace it, or serve as a “Plan B” if some leaders need to flee to relative safely.
Finding Unity in the War, and Choking Off the Extremists
One of the largest obstacles to victory against the Islamic State group in Syria is the country's porous border with Turkey, and convincing Ankara to become more involved in the fight. Kurdish fighters from groups like the peshmerga in Iraq or the YPG in Syria have proven themselves the most capable fighting force for retaking ground from the Islamic State group. But the Turks have a wary view of the Kurds, particularly those it believes are aligned with groups it considers terrorist organizations at home.
Finding some sort of unity between the two, and assurances that empowering the Kurds would not necessarily lead to their attempting to form a breakaway state, is key to closing off the Islamic State group's borders and rallying those who must help destroy it.
Another major obstacle lies in the Sunni populations throughout Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State group, which evolved from al-Qaida in Iraq, was largely able to seize and hold territory during its initial onslaught last summer due to support, or at least complicity, from the Sunni populations in the areas they now control. The brutal rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the U.S.-backed government in Iraq under then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave high preference to the Shiite Muslim populations, and, in the case of Iraq, reneged on promises made for equality in government that secured the so-called “Sunni Awakening” during the last Iraq war and united the country against al-Qaida.
Until the Sunni populations in these regions believe the West has a vested interest in their security, and that they will ensure inclusion at the top levels of government, the Islamic State group will never be defeated, or another like-minded insurgent group will pop up in its place.
That work remains a gargantuan effort, particularly amid a new poll that shows a majority of people living throughout Iraq and Syria believe the U.S. literally created the Islamic State group. A glimmer of hope emerged through the U.N. Security Council resolution in late December that plots a path to peace in Syria – albeit an unspecific one.
“That doesn't change what's happening on the ground,” IHS' Ali says. “Regional Sunni forces will likely stall in the hope a future U.S. president will support them more.”
A Coordinated Attack on the U.S.
The U.S. has so far been spared from an attack on the U.S. coordinated by the Islamic State group headquarters in Syria, as authorities suspect happened with the shooting in Paris in November. The attacks in San Bernardino, California, were carried out by a married couple who were reportedly inspired by the Islamic State group. But investigators currently do not believe there was any direct connection either through planning or sharing of resources.
“I believe we're going to continue to see more attempts and more attacks by grassroots-type jihadis, whether they are returnees or whether they are more the people who are not directed but influenced by the Islamic State group and al-Qaida,” says Stratfor's Stewart.
It would be a major leap, particularly in public perception, if an attack arose that was orchestrated by terrorist masterminds overseas, and undercutting what has become the chief focus of American intelligence agencies since the 9/11 attacks.
Yet those limited-scale attacks with a loose connection to the Islamic State group may be enough for them to maintain their version of success. Its brand of diffused leadership makes the group less vulnerable to the kind of “decapitation strategy” the U.S. has employed against al-Qaida.
“It may imply they can't pull off a 9/11,” says Michael O'Hanlon with the Brookings Institution. “But if they can do a lot of Parises and San Bernardinos, arguably they don't need to pull off another 9/11, if their main goal is to keep the world on edge.”
“In radical terms, I'm not sure what their goal can ever be. Even if they keep killing us now and then, it's hard to see that that accomplishes anything and it certainly won't lead to the end of Western civilization.”
Shutting the Islamic State Group's Mouth
One of the extremist network's greatest successes has been its use of propaganda, both to control those under its rule but even more potently to recruit disenfranchised young people from overseas, who continue to flock to its homeland.
Western security agencies remain befuddled how affluent young people see something in the slick messaging the Islamic State group puts forth, and its elusive use of social media as a way to directly connect with potential recruits.
The solution, however, cannot come from the U.S., as that would be too easily dismissed by extremist leaders who see America as the living symbol of everything they oppose. Instead, finding a solution must come from one of the other greatest holes in the anti-Islamic State group strategy, which is greater support from Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
These nations have long been the recipients of U.S. military aid and support, and touted by President Barack Obama as evidence of the potency of the coalition he leads, even though the U.S. and its European partners carry out almost all of the military strikes. But questions among their top leadership of U.S. priorities, and the extent to which America is willing to go in the Middle East, has resigned them to focusing on their own internal problems, such as the refugee crisis spilling into Jordan or Saudi Arabia's war in neighboring Yemen.
But, perhaps merely exposing the reality of life under the Islamic State group is the most potent form of counter-propaganda.
Reports have emerged from Iraq saying the Islamic State group has begun to ban access to satellite broadcasts for those under its control.
“We're starting to see a change in their behavior that may be related to some desperation,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition, told reporters Tuesday from his Baghdad headquarters. “They appear to be trying to hide information regarding the recent string of defeats as we continue to kill their leaders, to increase the security capacity of our regional partners and to strike them across the battlefield and all of their formation. It seems like they're beginning to feel the pressure.”
PUBLIC SAFETY: Overdose antidote moves to mainstream
by Jenna Chandler and Sandra Stokley
A new state law that makes the drug overdose antidote naloxone available without a prescription is giving rise to a push to have it available not just to police and other first responders, but to the family and friends of drug users.
The antidote would basically be available to anyone in a position to provide quick treatment to someone suffering a drug overdose and possibly save a life.
“Everybody should have it,” said Riverside resident Katie Chamberlain, who is attempting to start a local needle exchange to provide clean hypodermics to drug users to stop the spread of viral hepatitis, HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
Chamberlain said if she is successful, providing drug overdose kits will be a big part of her effort.
Naloxone has been around for decades. Despite the rising incidence of opioid abuse in some areas of Riverside County, however, officials have been slow to embrace it.
In the desert region, opioids, a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription painkillers such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine, are the drug of choice for addicts, said Rhyan Miller, administrator of Riverside County's Substance Abuse Treatment Program. The program has nine county-run clinics and 54 contracted provider sites.
“We don't stock (naloxone) currently,” Miller said. He acknowledged naxolone is making a great impact in some areas.
Miller said he has asked an analyst to research any grants related to naloxone provided by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Opioids affect the part of the brain that regulates breathing. During an overdose, breathing slows, and may stop altogether. Naloxone binds to the same receptors as opioids and knocks the opioids off so an overdose victim can breathe again.
Doctors say it's not addictive, and it's easy to administer: It can be sprayed into the nose or jabbed into arm or leg muscles. It also comes as a much more costly auto-injector, a small, pre-filled plastic cassette that, when opened, plays audio instructions.
Naloxone is mostly safe but can trigger serious side effects such as a spike in blood pressure or seizure, and withdrawals, especially for people with heart and neurological conditions. That's why some argue it's safe only when medical professionals administer it. (When nonmedical professionals are given the drug, they're trained how to administer it and are advised to dial 911 immediately.)
Equipping users, families and friends
Putting the antidote in the hands of police is helpful, but equipping users and their family and friends is critical, advocates say.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health was the first local public health department in the state to fund naloxone distribution in the community. Officials say the availability of naloxone has reduced the number of overdose deaths from 120 in 2000 to 10 a year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Members of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department do not carry or have access to naloxone, sheriff's Sgt. Mike Manning said.
“There are no plans to implement its use by our staff,” Manning said.
It's the same for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
The Riverside Police Department doesn't issue naloxone to officers, Police Chief Sergio Diaz said.
Diaz said he could see the need for law enforcement to carry naloxone in more rural or desert regions where there may be a delayed response by firefighters or emergency medical technicians.
The Top Public Safety Apps for Emergency and Aid Workers
by PC Tech Magazine
Whether it's an earthquake or a terrorist attack, it's important for humanitarian organizations and police to be able to respond quickly and efficiently. Due to the constantly shifting nature of operations of this scope, mobile apps and services can be a very useful way for responders to communicate with one another and access real-time communication on the ground. They need to be briefed before they even arrive, which is why the following apps are so useful in the realm of security and public safety.
H.Kiosk was set up by the United Nations to provide real-time information for responders. It covers emergencies as they happen all over the world. The applications is broken up into numerous independent ‘kiosks,' each providing its own set of information for areas with a UN presence or where there are continuous humanitarian conflicts.
Today, global public safety relies just as much on trained emergency staff as well as the citizens who are on the ground trying to survive in the midst of a catastrophe. ubAlert is a social network that lets each user gain access to safety alerts, statistics, maps, or images, which can be shared.
Workplace emergencies and violence are of major concern to businesses. Preparis is a subscription-based app which helps work to protect employees from natural disasters, terrorism, or other threats. It allows businesses to create and share crisis plans, contact information, live news feeds, and any other pertinent documents.
Global Emergency Overview
With conflicts and disasters all over the news on a daily basis, it can seem an impossible task to keep up with all of these public safety issues. The Global Overview helps provide a basic snapshot of what's happening each week, giving users a succinct summary of the current crises.
American Red Cross Public Safety Apps
In the USA, when disaster strikes it's often the American Red Cross on the scene first. This organization offers a wide range of public safety apps, including a Shelter Finder as well as an app for volunteers. They cover potential disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, while giving basic first aid tips in a step-by-step format. You'll also receive warning alerts if you live in a flood or tornado-prone area.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also offers their own app similar to the Red Cross's, including nearby shelters, safety tips, and emergency meeting room locations. It offers disaster safety tips that help give both citizens and government responders the information they need to stay organized in often confusing situations. Of course, one issue that's important to think about is staying connected enough to use apps like this. Carriers like Nokia Networks offer LTE mobile broadband to scale including a portable network that can be used by responders after the usual networks have been knocked out by hurricanes or other natural disasters.
NIOSH Chemical Hazards
Public safety also involves daily hazards like chemical exposure on the job, which is where NIOSH Chemical Hazards comes in. This app gives a quick roundup of the recommended exposure limits for hazardous materials, allowing users to search by formula, CAS No. or chemical name.
In emergency situations, having information like this at your fingertips can save lives, making apps like these a vital tech tool.
2015 in Review: Celebrating 6 police heroes who saved lives
Here are some selected examples of people who are with their families this Christmas because of the courage and decisive action of American police officers
by Dan Marcou
When police officers nationwide find someone in deadly peril they act time and time again in a manner that demonstrates that all lives matter to them, even over their own. Here are some selected examples of people who are with their families this Christmas because of the courage and decisive action of American police officers.
In December 2014 — technically last year but too late to be included in 2014's edition of this annual article and most certainly worthy of mention — an Austin (Tex.) Mounted Officer named Adam Johnson heard shots as he was stabling two horses.
Homegrown terrorist Steven McQuilliams was armed with a rifle and was firing at a Federal Court House, the Austin Police Department, and the Mexican Consulate. He managed to fire 200 rounds before Sergeant Johnson — who was still holding the reigns of the horses — spotted him. Johnson drew and fired one shot while holding his duty weapon with only his strong hand. He instantly dropped the shooter, who was 104 yards away.
It is impossible to determine how many lives were saved by Sergeant Johnson's incredibly difficult shot. The follow-up investigation revealed documents and maps in McQuilliams' possession in which he had marked 34 intended targets, including two churches. The innocent human beings who occupy these targets on a daily basis are enjoying Christmas this year quite possibly thanks to Sergeant Johnson's 312-foot shot.
In March 2015, Sergeant Joe Hudson of the Griffin (Ga.) Police Department arrived at the scene of a fire, where a woman reported that her three-year-old grandson was still inside the burning house. Fire-rescue was not on scene and the smoke and fire emanating from the house suggested the child – if still alive – could not survive much longer. Sergeant Hudson disregarded his own safety and entered the house. After 60 tense seconds, Hudson exited with the child safe in his arms.
During an interview after his heroic actions Hudson said simply, “…there is so much negativity, it felt good that day. I felt good when I went home.”
In May 2015, a Garland (Tex.) police officer who has requested his name not be released stopped terrorists Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who had intended an attack on the Curtis Culwell Center. The two armed men drove up to the entrance, which was blocked by a squad, and exited their vehicle.
This happened to be the post of a Garland PD traffic officer working security for the event. He exited his squad and joined the gun fight started by these two wannabe-mass-murderers. The rifle-toting terrorists would kill no one on this day because they ambushed the wrong officer. He instantly engaged and killed both terrorists in a gun fight that was over in 15 seconds.
ISIS later claimed responsibility, identifying Simpson and Soofi as soldiers of the Caliphate. Their targets were 200 cartoonists and the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
In October 2015, Cleveland Police Officer David Muniz responded to a domestic disturbance with other officers at which 64-year-old Theodore Johnson was drinking and waving a gun around. As Muniz arrived, the suspect suddenly appeared and shot the officer in the chest. Thankfully, the bullet was stopped by Muniz's vest.
Amazingly, Muniz went to extraordinary lengths to save Johnson from himself. As expected, Muniz leveled his duty weapon at Johnson. Johnson still held the gun he had just shot Muniz with down at his side. Instead of shooting, Muniz declared, “We don't want to kill you. Drop the gun. You need some help. I know you shot me, but we're not going to shoot you.”
Sadly, Johnson did not possess Muniz's restraint. Instead, he shouted angrily toward the officers and raised his gun to fire again, but this time he was shot by the officers on scene. The lives saved by these officers' actions on this night were their own.
Also in October 2015, Oklahoma City Police Officer Sergeant Jacob Cole was at the scene of a jumper on the I-35 bridge. Cole tried to calm the subject as he precariously risked his own life to inch closer and closer to the despondent man. As Cole got within reach, the man jumped.
As he fell, Cole snatched the suspect's shirt and held tight. Bystanders breathlessly watched the jumper dangle, momentarily suspended above imminent death. The only thing saving him was the determined grasp of Sergeant Cole. Cole held tight until other officers arrived to assist him in pulling the man back onto the bridge. Pure muscle and grit won the day.
In October once again, Montgomery County (Md.) Police Officer James Herman was on his way home at the end of his shift when a driver spotted his squad and pulled up to it. A frantic grandmother reported her nine-month-old granddaughter was not breathing and was unresponsive.
Herman immediately began CPR on the child and an off-duty fireman stopped to lend a hand. The child, who was breathless and cyanotic, was brought back to life. Little Kenzie was discovered to have a heart defect. Thanks to Officer Herman, she survived.
The selfless actions of all of these officers — and so many others, too many to mention here — prove that we must believe there is good in the world, and that American police officers are a force for good in the world. Here's to these wonderful “Knights of Christmas.”
About the author -- Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou