January, 2016 - Week 2
Families still await release of two Americans believed to be detained in Iran
by Fox News
Despite the celebrated, “one-time only” deal the Obama administration made with Iran to release four detained Americans Saturday, two others are still believed to be imprisoned in Iran and weren't part of the prisoner swap.
The exchange for the four Americans – Washington Post reporter Jason Razaian, pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati and Nasratollah Khosravi – didn't include Siamak Namazi or Robert Levinson.
Namazi, 44, is an Iranian-American business man who advocated better ties between Iran and the U.S. The Washington Post reported Namazi was arrested on unknown charges in Tehran while he was visiting a friend in October 2014. Namazi immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 and returned to Iran after graduating college to serve in Iran's military.
“I don't know what's going on,” Ahmad Kiarostami, a friend of Namazi, told the Post Saturday. “I'm still hopeful he's going to be released in the next few days. That's what I hope.”
Kiarostami said he was surprised when Namazi wasn't released with the others.
Obama Declares Emergency for Michigan City's Water
by VOA News
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency Saturday for the northern state of Michigan, freeing up money for federal aid for the city of Flint. Residents have been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water for almost two years, and children are testing with high levels of lead in their young bodies.
Flint, about an hour's drive from Detroit, is home to 100,000 people. Most are African American. Forty percent of the population lives in poverty.
The water crisis began in April 2014 when the financially-strapped city began drawing water from the Flint River to save money instead of continuing to use Detroit's water system.
Flint officials did not properly treat the corrosive Flint River water to prevent metal leaching from old pipes. Flint residents were not told about their tainted drinking water supply for a year and a half.
Flint has returned to using water from Detroit, but officials say its water distribution system may now need to be replaced, costing as much at $1.5 billion.
'People, pets and even plants' affected
The Detroit Free Press newspaper says "people, pets and even plants have been affected by the poisonous, lead-contaminated water." The newspaper says some people stopped using the water immediately after the switch because of the water's "smell, color and taste," while others continued to drink and cook with it.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of pediatric residency at Hurley Children's Hospital, is credited with bringing the problem to the public's attention after state agencies initially dismissed her concerns. Lead-contaminated water "has such damning, lifelong and generational consequences," Hanna-Attisha says.
The World Health Organization says, "Too much lead can damage various systems of the body including the nervous and reproductive systems and the kidneys, and it can cause high blood pressure and anemia... Lead is especially harmful to the developing brains of fetuses and young children and to pregnant women... High blood lead levels in children can cause consequences which may be irreversible including learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation. At very high levels, lead can cause convulsions, coma and death."
Michigan Governor Rick Synder declared a state of emergency earlier this month, enabling Flint residents to go to fire stations for a daily case of water per household. But many blame Synder for the current crisis, saying he failed to act until what The New York Times describes as "an outpouring of rage from Flint residents, city leaders, journalists and independent researchers forced him to wake up and focus on the calamity."
Bloomington Police will expand community policing efforts in 2016
by Kendall Downing
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Jan. 16, 2016)-- The new year will bring expanded community policing in Bloomington. Officers will soon be designated to work in neighborhoods across the city, in an effort to promote a positive relationship with police.
The chief said they'll be building off success they've already seen.
“We're looking for a different way to do it,” said Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff.
Bloomington Police started getting complaints about aggressive panhandling and public intoxication downtown a few years ago. In 2014 and 2015, the department moved toward the downtown resource officer program to help the homeless and transient populations.
There are now six officers.
“It's a different approach,” said Brett Rorem, a downtown resource officer, “Our main focus is calls that deal with individuals who are honest, homeless, have nowhere to stay.”
His beat includes driving around the downtown area in an SUV, not your typical police car. He also wears a Bloomington Police polo-style shirt, which he said makes him more approachable.
“Things like that kind of help bring some of the barriers down,” he said.
Rorem and the other resource officers get out of their cars, walk around, and develop relationships with those special populations, eventually connecting them to social services.
“We found out the other day, another individual that's been hanging out downtown for about six months, one of our social workers let us know he got housing, and that's great,” he said.
The alternate approach is about to expand. Chief Mike Diekhoff said Bloomington Police will soon designate neighborhood resource officers, though he isn't sure of a number yet.
He said the specifics of that program are still being worked out.
“That program is more community policing at its basics, making sure that officer is known in the neighborhood,” he said, “The neighborhood resource officers, they're going to be encouraged to go to neighborhood meetings, get out, and walk around.”
Diekhoff said officers like Rorem are proof that alternative methods can work and be successful.
He said he wants residents to feel like they can connect easily with police, along with setting aside fears of an adversarial relationship.
“It's not traditional police work,” he said, “You hear a lot of disconnect between police departments and the community, and we're wanting to make sure that doesn't happen here.”
Diekhoff said he hopes the neighborhood resource officer program will be in place sometime this spring.
From the Department of Justice
Two Virginia Men Charged with Terrorism Offenses Related to Attempted Travel to Syria to Join ISIL
Joseph Hassan Farrokh, 28, and Mahmoud Amin Mohamed Elhassan, 25, both of Woodbridge, Virginia, were charged today for criminal activity relating to Farrokh's attempt to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI's Washington Field Office.
Farrokh was arrested yesterday afternoon at the Richmond, Virginia, International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Chicago, where he intended to board a flight to Amman, Jordan, with an ultimate destination of Syria. Elhassan was arrested yesterday evening in Woodbridge after returning from driving Farrokh to Richmond and being interviewed by FBI agents.
Farrokh, who is a U.S. citizen originally from Pennsylvania, has been charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIL, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Elhassan, who is a legal permanent U.S. resident originally from Sudan, has been charged with aiding and abetting Farrokh's attempt to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
According to the criminal complaints, since at least Nov. 20, 2015, Farrokh has been engaged in efforts to leave the United States and join ISIL in Syria. Farrokh met several times with confidential human sources in attempts to work out the details of how and when he could travel to Syria to join ISIL. Farrokh purchased airline tickets on Dec. 21, 2015, for flights departing yesterday from Richmond with an ultimate arrival destination of Jordan. He planned to thereafter travel to Syria to join ISIL. According to the criminal complaints, Elhassan introduced Farrokh to a person who Elhassan believed maintained connections to individuals engaged in jihad overseas, Elhassan knew of Farrokh's plans to travel to Syria to join ISIL and he acknowledged to others that Farrokh was falsely telling his family that he intended to travel to Saudi Arabia to study.
According to the criminal complaints, Elhassan picked up Farrokh yesterday morning and drove him to Richmond, to a location approximately one mile from the airport. Farrokh subsequently took a cab to the airport, checked in for his flight, cleared security and was arrested. After driving Farrokh to Richmond, Elhassan returned to Woodbridge yesterday afternoon and voluntarily consented to an interview by FBI agents. Elhassan acknowledged to the interviewing agents several times that he knew it was illegal to knowingly lie to federal agents, then proceeded to make a number of false statements in response to the agents' questions, according to the criminal complaints.
The initial appearance for both defendants is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2016, at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
If convicted, Farrokh and Elhassan each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress, and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case is being investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gordon D. Kromberg and Dennis Fitzpatrick of the Eastern District of Virginia, along with Trial Attorney D. Andrew Sigler of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section.
Two Members of Al-Shabaab Sentenced for Conspiring to Provide Material Support to the Terrorist Organization
Ali Yasin Ahmed, aka Ismail, 31, and Mohamed Yusuf, aka Abu Zaid, Hudeyfa and Mohammed Abdulkadir, 33, were each sentenced to 11 years in prison by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York for conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization.
The sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez of the FBI's New York Field Office.
As stated in court today and according to court documents, between approximately December 2008 and August 2012, the defendants served as members of al-Shabaab in Somalia, where they supported al-Shabaab and its extremist agenda. In early August 2012, the defendants were apprehended in East Africa by local authorities while on their way to Yemen. On Nov. 14, 2012, the FBI took custody of the defendants and brought them to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution. They pleaded guilty on May 12, 2015.
“Ahmed and Yusuf travelled to Somalia to fight on behalf al-Shabaab as part of the terrorist organization's cadre of foreign fighters,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “The National Security Division remains committed to identifying, disrupting and holding accountable all who seek to provide material support to and fight on behalf of designated foreign terrorist organizations.”
“These defendants left their adopted European homes to support al-Shabaab, a violent terrorist organization that has demonstrated its capabilities and motives in numerous terrorist attacks overseas and has publicly called for attacks against the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Capers. “Today's significant sentences reflect the seriousness of the defendants' criminal conduct and will serve as a strong deterrent to others considering the path to violence.”
“The guilty plea and sentencing of these men for providing material support to al-Shabaab, demonstrates the U.S. government's commitment and leadership in prosecuting persons whose intention is to violently assault societies different than their own,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez. “We remain steadfast in identifying and stopping such attacks. We will continue to work within the framework of the U.S. justice system to hold terrorists accountable for their malicious intentions and criminal actions. Special thanks to all our law enforcement and intelligence community partners on the JTTF, whose joint efforts keep us safe. We are also grateful for the international cooperation we received to bring these terrorism subjects to justice.”
The defendants, both naturalized Swedish citizens, traveled to Somalia intending to wage violent jihad on the U.N.-sanctioned African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government forces that were attempting to bring stability to that war-torn country. Once in Somalia, the defendants participated in numerous attacks on government forces. Yusuf is featured in an al-Shabaab propaganda video in which he encourages young men to travel to Somalia and join al-Shabaab and threatened a cartoonist who had depicted the prophet Mohammad. A third defendant, Madhi Hashi, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 29, 2016.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Capers in thanking the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who participate in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Seth D. DuCharme and Richard M. Tucker of the Eastern District of New York, along with Trial Attorney Annamartine Salick of the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section. Trial Attorney Shanna Batten of the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs and Dan Stigall of the National Security Division also provided invaluable assistance.
From the FBI
Investigators and Prosecutors Join Forces
The success of the Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) program hinges on bringing together U.S. and Central American law enforcement officers who share a common cause in the fight against violent transnational gangs. During the most recent CALEE, an important new partner was added to the group—prosecutors.
“We have seen that when prosecutors and investigators work together from the outset, cases tend to have more successful outcomes,” said Special Agent Grant Mann, who helped plan and administer CALEE 2015, the sixth session since the program began in 2009.
In the U.S, it is typical for FBI agents and prosecutors to sit down at the beginning of an investigation to discuss possible charges and investigative strategies. Historically, that collaborative process is less common in Central America—but thanks to programs such as CALEE, it is gaining acceptance.
During the recent three-week training program focusing on transnational gangs MS-13 and 18th Street, a federal prosecutor from Los Angeles who specializes in gang cases briefed the approximately 40 CALEE participants about recent prosecutions and investigative techniques in his jurisdiction, and he traveled with the group from Los Angeles to Houston and then to El Salvador.
El Salvador Attorney General Luis Martinez assigned prosecutors to brief the group in San Salvador and embraced the concept of his office and the police working together from the beginning of an investigation. “Gang members are terrorists who have penetrated our institutions,” he said. “We have to fight this for a better future, for the well being of our families.”
Also in attendance during the El Salvador portion of CALEE was Sean Torriente, a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor who is part of a special program in Central America. “I am in El Salvador working with the local police, prosecutors, and judges to help develop their judicial system,” he said. “The mission is to strengthen the rule of law within El Salvador and also to establish partnerships with local police, prosecutors, and judges that will be beneficial to U.S. cases.”
Torriente is part of DOJ's Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training (OPDAT). “We work with anti-gang prosecutors in El Salvador on their cases,” he said. “We mentor them on techniques that have worked on our cases, with the idea that the things that work for us in the U.S. may work for them. And they help us build our cases as well.”
There are currently three OPDAT prosecutors in Central America. “Most of the crimes here—whether drug trafficking, extortions, or murders—have some kind of gang involvement, Torriente said.” What the OPDAT program is doing, he added, “is setting a good example of how close relationships with police and prosecutors can help benefit cases. So far, it's been a great success.”
Since the first CALEE six years ago, approximately 300 U.S. and Central American police officers have trained together and become part of a network that share information and help each other with transnational gang cases. Now, with the addition of prosecutors, that network is expanding.
Nearing the close of the most recent session, FBI Special Agent Julian Igualada, who works gang cases in El Salvador, noted that CALEE participants “will depart El Salvador in a few days with a better understanding of what it takes to investigate these international criminal matters committed by the gangs. They will also have the ability to reach out to officers who do the same thing in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, and the United States,” he said. “Being able to exchange information will help them disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations.”
Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, director general of El Salvador's National Civilian Police, has participated in every CALEE session and is a strong supporter of the international alliance to fight transnational gangs.
Because of the cooperation among governments and FBI assistance with training and the Transnational Anti-Gang Task Forces, Landaverde explained, “there is an exchange of information going on constantly. Not only can we resolve our own cases, we can collaborate—for example, to search for fugitives and capture them—on whatever is important to each country.”
“We are very thankful for this cooperation,” he said, adding that in the fight against the gangs, “it is one of the most important tools that we have.”
Jakarta attacks: Convicted militant named as attacker
by the BBC
Police in Indonesia have identified four out of five of the Jakarta attackers. Two were previously convicted militants.
Police named one - Afif Sunakim, seen carrying a gun and rucksack during the attacks. He was given a seven-year jail term for attending a militant camp.
All five died in Thursday's attacks, which left two civilians dead and were claimed by Islamic State (IS).
Three arrests were made on Friday but it is unclear if they are connected.
Security forces battled militants for hours in the busy commercial district where the militants struck.
A Canadian and an Indonesian national died, and at least 20 people were injured.
The assault ended when two attackers died in a suicide bombing, police say, with the other three killed in gun battles.
Following recent IS threats, the country, which had been attacked by Islamist militants several times in the past, had been on high alert.
Gen Badrodin Haiti, the national police chief, said Sunakim and one other attacker had both been convicted criminals.
Jakarta's chief of police, Insp Gen Tito Karnavian, said a hunt was under way for terror cells believed to be behind the attack.
A police spokesman, Anton Charliyan, confirmed on Friday that those who organised the attacks were associated with IS.
Two of the perpetrators, he added, were "known to have committed similar radical activities some time ago".
Earlier, Bahrum Naim, an Indonesian believed to be fighting with IS in Syria, was named as the suspected co-ordinator.
Insp Gen Karnavian said Naim's "vision" was to unite various IS-supporting groups across South East Asia.
IS released a statement saying it had targeted citizens of countries which are part of the international coalition fighting the group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.
Life is getting back to normal on the junction where the attack happened - but only up to a point.
Traffic is flowing and the road sweepers are busy but the police post which was hit remains boarded up, and the Starbucks cafe at the centre of the attack is surrounded by iron fencing, curious onlookers and media using anything at hand to peer over the top at the blown out windows.
The condolence flowers have now been removed - probably to stop the crowds gathering to take selfies, risking their lives in the morning traffic.
But with the city's police chief admitting Thursday's assault is likely to be a game-changer for Indonesia, there is no doubt the risk of another attack has taken a new form. And no matter how "tiny" the group, as he called them, they have proved they can kill.
Insp Gen Karnavian told the BBC the main culprits were "connected to other cells in Java and Sulawesi and we are chasing them".
He said one IS plot had been foiled at the end of 2015 and a number of people detained, among them a man who said he had been instructed by Naim.
Naim has been linked to the IS-allied East Indonesia Mujahidin Group (MIT), which is based on the island of Sulawesi.
Insp Gen Karnavian said Indonesia had significantly developed its understanding of domestic militant networks since the 2002 bomb attack in Bali, which killed 202 people.
Some 1,000 people linked to radical networks had been brought to justice in Indonesia since 2000, he said, but some had since been released from prison and had "the potential to pose a threat".
"What we need to do today is strengthen capability and also sharing information with others because it is not home grown in Indonesia but it is part of a global network," he said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo tweeted on Friday that there was "no place for terrorism on Earth" and that "every citizen in the world" needed to fight it.
Indonesia has suffered militant attacks in the past, but has been relatively successful in curbing home-grown Islamist extremism after a spate of attacks in the last decade. Some of the deadliest include
July 2009: Seven people killed and dozens wounded when two suicide bombers target Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta
Oct 2005: Suicide attacks in Bali leave 23 dead, including the bombers
Sept 2004: Bomb outside Australian embassy in Jakarta kills at least nine people
Aug 2003: Bomb at Jakarta's Marriott Hotel kills 12
Oct 2002: Bali bombings kill 202, including 88 Australians
Dec 2000: Church bombings across the country kill 19
City Introduces Community Policing App
by JULIA RITCHEY
The city has released a new mobile app aimed at making it easier for the community to report and track crimes. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.
Called myRPD, the new app is meant to boost community policing by making it easier for regular citizens to report crimes.
"It puts it all in one place, makes it really easy to access and it gets our community to engage with their police department," says Reno Interim Police Chief Jason Soto.
The app will have interactive crime mapping and registered sex offender information. Users can submit crime reports in English or Spanish or anonymously connect to Secret Witness to submit tips or report suspicious activity.
There's also a place to submit complaints or compliments to Reno PD's internal affairs division.
City Councilman Oscar Delgado says this tool will be important for communities such as north Reno that have seen a recent uptick in crime.
"The incidents that took place at Pat Baker Park, I think this may be something of value in the sense that we try to empower the community to have more eyes on the street and call in information to the City of Reno," he says. "And this is just one of those extra resources."
The city spent $35,000 to develop the app in-house. It's available on both iPhone and Android phones.
Preventing violent extremism requires new police programs
January 14, 2016
The U.S. strategy to prevent homegrown violent extremism through community policing holds promise, but faces significant challenges and needs reforms, according to a new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University.
Community policing strategies promote collaboration between police and communities to solve problems that undermine public safety. Such strategies could help prevent violent extremism but are being employed by less than half of police agencies, the report states.
The report recommends expanding community policing efforts and making them entirely separate from police counterterrorism intelligence collection and criminal investigations.
"One of the best ways to prevent violent extremist attacks is for the police to develop trusted and deep relationships with the communities they serve," said the report's lead author David Schanzer, associate professor at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the center.
"Once trust is established, communities can work with police to build resilience against extremism and identify threats to public safety."
However, building trust with Muslim-Americans has become especially challenging. Muslim-Americans interviewed for the report said they have suffered widespread discrimination and harassment since 9/11 that has increased with the rise of ISIS. They resent that police terrorism prevention efforts appear to be directed only at Muslims and are suspicious of police intentions, the study finds.
The report, "The Challenge and Promise of Using Community Policing to Prevent Violent Extremism," assesses the Obama administration's national strategy for using community policing approaches to prevent violent extremism.
The findings are based on a survey of law enforcement agencies, as well as hundreds of hours of interviews with police departments and community members in eight cities. The report is sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. It includes recommendations for the federal government, for police agencies and for Muslim-American communities.
"Community members are natural allies for law enforcement, if they are approached in a consistent, nondiscriminatory way," said co-author Charles Kurzman, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "To reduce the perception of discrimination, and to prevent violent extremism across the board, law enforcement should consider outreach initiatives for all communities that are being recruited for violent extremism, not just Muslim communities."
Although preventing violent extremism is a pressing national issue, it is not a top priority for local police who must also address violent crime, drugs, gangs and other public safety concerns with limited budgets, the authors found. Most agencies do not have a full-time officer dedicated to community engagement.
"Our research shows that the most effective way for police departments to build strong relationships is through a holistic outreach program that focuses on all of the subsets of the community they serve, not just a particular group, and the entire range of public safety issues, not just violent extremism," said co-author Jessica Toliver, director of technical assistance for the Police Executive Research Forum.
The recommendations include:
Separate community outreach and engagement programs from police units that collect intelligence and conduct criminal investigations. Police officers cannot expect to be welcomed to community events and be considered a partner in addressing public safety concerns if the same officers are collecting information that is fed to criminal investigators, the authors state.
Police agencies should recruit and hire a workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic and religious composition of their community.
The federal government should provide long-term funding directly to police departments to support outreach and engagement personnel.
The federal government should redouble efforts to prevent discriminatory treatment, profiling and harassment of law-abiding citizens at airports and immigration checkpoints.
The federal government's "Countering Violent Extremism" terminology, adopted in 2011, is disliked by both police departments and communities and should be abandoned. As an alternative, the report authors suggest the term COMPLETE Public Safety (Community Partnerships with Law Enforcement to Enhance Public Safety).
Muslim-Americans should work with the police to help community members learn how to identify and report potential criminal conduct to law enforcement.
Explore further: New report shows terrorism is top of mind in US
More information: "The Challenge and Promise of Using Community Policing Strategies to Prevent Violent Extremism: A Call for Community Partnerships with Law Enforcement to Enhance Public Safety (COMPLETE)" by David Schanzer, Charles Kurzman, Jessica Toliver and Elizabeth Miller is available online at tinyurl.com/TCTHS-Community-Policing
Crime up across board in LA; homicides, rapes rise 9 percent
A number of factors are driving this year's overall uptick, including a spike in gang violence
by Amanda Lee Myers
LOS ANGELES — Although crimes including murder and rape are up across the board in Los Angeles, the city is still far less violent than it has been in the past, city leaders said Wednesday as they released citywide statistics for 2015.
Homicides and rapes each jumped by 9 percent in the nation's second-largest city last year compared with 2014, while robberies went up by 13 percent, according to statistics released by the Los Angeles Police Department. Violent crime overall increased by 20 percent, and car theft went up by 17 percent.
The increase in Los Angeles crime comes as police departments across the country, including in New York and Chicago, are scrambling to confront rising bloodshed after years of plummeting crime numbers. Police officials and experts say the increases could reflect deepening distrust of police that leads people to settle disputes themselves, officers who are afraid of being second-guessed and court rulings that make it easier than ever to own a gun. Tighter budgets that result in cuts to law-enforcement agencies could also play a role, they say.
At a Wednesday news conference in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and police Chief Charlie Beck emphasized the big picture. Viewed in greater historical context, the department says crime levels are still among the lowest Los Angeles has seen in the past 50 years and still far below where they were in the 1990s and early 2000s.
For instance, overall violent crime in 2015 was down by 23 percent compared with 2005. While 283 people were murdered last year — up from 260 the year before — that figure is still far below the 489 people killed in 2005. In 1992, when murders peaked in Los Angeles during the crack cocaine epidemic, 1,092 people were killed.
"We have numbers in this past year that two or three years ago, let alone decades ago, we would be jumping for joy to see," Garcetti said.
He praised the city's efforts to drive down the crime statistics earlier this year, when the increases were even more dramatic. For instance, violent crime was up 36 percent in the first quarter of 2015, a figure that dropped to 20 percent by the end of the year.
"The 60-year trend is still to me is still an incredibly good one," Garcetti said. "The one-year trend is a troubling one, and the six-month one gives me great hope."
A number of factors are driving this year's overall uptick, including a spike in gang violence over the summer that the department said could possibly be attributed to a number of gang members being released from prison. Of the 283 murders in 2015, Beck said 165 are considered gang-related. That's 58 percent.
Overall gang crime jumped by 15 percent in 2015, the first increase in gang crime in Los Angeles in eight years, Beck said. "Gang crime is truly what steals the youth of Los Angeles," Beck said.
Police are working to address the increases in a number of ways, including deploying hundreds of elite officers to crime hot spots, increasing the number of officers walking the streets versus patrolling in cars, and creating a community relationship division dedicated to building the public's trust in police officers.
The department also has stepped up programs targeting gangs and domestic violence.
Police: Miscommunication led to fatal shooting of fugitive who ignored 24 commands
In the days that followed, authorities learned that the fugitive was not wanted for attempted murder
by Sally Ho
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas police got a call from U.S. marshals on New Year's Eve asking for help arresting an armed fugitive wanted for attempted murder. Within moments, the suspect, Keith Childress, a 23-year-old father of two, had been shot five times by police and later died.
In the days that followed, authorities learned that Childress was not wanted for attempted murder and had been carrying a cellphone, not a weapon.
The revelations have raised concerns about miscommunication and decision-making in the police department that has already been under fire for its use of deadly force.
Las Vegas undersheriff Kevin McMahill called the death of Childress a tragedy that could impact how his department relays information and provides assistance to other agencies.
"You all are very familiar with much of the challenges that we've had as an organization in the past," he told reporters after the death of Childress. "We endeavor to ensure that we learn as much as we can from each and every one of these incidents in the hope that we never repeat it again."
Childress was the second unarmed person shot and killed by Las Vegas police in the past two years.
Other high-profile shootings prompted the U.S. Justice Department to begin working in 2012 with Las Vegas police to address officers' use of deadly force. The review led to a number of training reforms, including how to de-escalate a high-stakes encounter to avoid errors and fatalities.
Still, authorities say a series of miscommunications led to the killing of Childress.
McMahill said police were initially told that Childress had fled from a vehicle with a gun inside. It turned out the gun legally belonged to the driver, not Childress.
Dispatchers also told responding police officers that federal marshals were seeking Childress on a warrant for attempted murder. It was later learned that he was actually sought for missing a court appearance in Phoenix involving convictions on armed robbery and aggravated assault counts.
Further concerns were raised when Childress concealed one of his hands when he was approached by police.
Javier Jimenez, assistant chief deputy U.S. marshal in Las Vegas, declined to discuss the case.
A police body camera video released in the case showed that Childress did not respond to veteran police Sgt. Robert Bohanon and first-year Officer Blake Walford when they ordered him to drop his gun and not approach them.
The scene played out over two minutes, ending with the officers shooting Childress after yelling out more than two dozen commands. No shots were fired by the two armed U.S. marshals at the scene.
Brad Reinhart, an attorney for Childress in the Phoenix case, said Childress was not a violent person, though his crimes were serious.
"Keith was not listening to the commands to not approach but there was a lot going on, including one officer telling him to drop a weapon he didn't have," the lawyer said about the video. "From what I saw, Keith appeared to be surrendering and did not appear to be a threat."
An internal investigation is underway and a decision on whether the shooting was justified will be made by the Clark County district attorney's office, a process that usually takes about a year.
"Anytime an unarmed individual is shot, in today's environment, it's a big deal," McMahill said.
Childress' mother, Jacqueline Lawrence, wouldn't discuss her son's death but said the family has retained Dale Galipo, an attorney who has handled high-profile police shooting and brutality cases in Southern California. He didn't return calls or emails seeking comment.
Bush Sweeps Aside Police Violence to Discuss Black-on-Black
by Candace Smith
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush sat down with the influential Des Moines Register Editorial Board today, discussing a plethora of topics including the shootings of unarmed African Americans by police officers.
Bush was asked if he sees a role for the federal government in investigating such cases. He expressed support for the idea if there was "overt discrimination" by the officers.
"Putting aside a police officer shooting a black man, most of the crimes are black on black in the communities. Most by far," he said. "The police shooting of unarmed black males, which is what the conversation is about as I understand, it is very small."
Bush added that investigations from the Justice Department can deepen the mistrust between law enforcement and community residents.
"Police need to be community policing. They need to be engaged in the community, and if they feel that the risk is too high to do it…that people don't have their back, then you're gonna have serious problems,” Bush noted.
Bush's presidential competitors have also been reluctant to criticize law enforcement. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has said that the debate over federal involvement must not “demonize” law enforcement, though he added that there were some departments where “police officers use excessive force.”
Donald Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have been more bombastic in their responses, criticizing advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter.
Trump has called Black Lives Matter "trouble" while Christie warned the group's organizers not to "call me for a meeting."
Democratic candidates have taken a markedly different approach.
During the recent Black and Brown Forum hosted by the Fusion network, Hillary Clinton said, "[Our current system] is such a violation of what we say our values are. We have systemic racism and bias that is implicit in our system, and unless we begin to go after that and expose it and end it, we won't solve this problem.”
During ABC News' Democratic debate in December, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders advocated for sweeping criminal justice reform.
“For a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans," the Democratic presidential candidate said.
Reduce incarceration while keeping the public safe
by Rep. Reid Ribble
Taxpayers are spending nearly as much on federal prisons today as they spent on the entire Justice Department — including the FBI, DEA and every U.S. Attorney's office in the nation — in 1980. Between 1980 and 2013, the incarceration rate skyrocketed by 800 percent, and we now incarcerate the largest percentage of our citizens of any country in the world. As a result, annual spending on the system has surged from $970 million to more than $6.7 billion when adjusted for inflation. Clearly, something is broken in our criminal justice system.
The build-up in incarceration was largely driven by an explosion in the number of federal laws carrying criminal penalties as well as the lengthening of sentences and abolishment of federal parole. Given concerns about high crime rates in the 1980s and 1990s, harsh “tough on crime” approaches were persuasive at the time but ultimately came at great financial and human cost.
Fortunately, I have seen growing interest on both sides of the aisle to support real criminal justice reform to address both of these costs. Thanks to independent research and the data from more than two dozen states that have enacted criminal justice reforms, we simply know more today about effective corrections than we did decades ago when many of the current laws were enacted.
Data make it clear that it is possible to reduce mass incarceration while keeping the public safe — and saving taxpayers money in the process. For many lower-level offenders, prison is often not the most effective punishment for the crime. Community supervision and mandatory programs that are carefully tailored for risk level and needs, such as mental health care or drug treatment, are often more effective means to help nonviolent offenders turn their lives around.
A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that between 2008 and 2013, 32 states reduced both their imprisonment and crime rates through criminal justice reform. In fact, the 10 states with the largest incarceration decreases saw crime fall by an average of 13 percent, while the 10 states with the largest increases in imprisonment reduced crime by an average of only 8 percent.
In order to help save taxpayer dollars, improve public safety and ensure that the criminal justice system is acting in a fair and efficient manner, I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the SAFE Justice Act. As a believer that the states can teach the federal government how to implement effective reforms and save money, I believe we have a duty to apply what they have learned to the federal government. The SAFE Justice Act applies the most successful state criminal justice reforms from the last decade to the federal system moving forward.
With the House and Senate scheduled to take up bills based on some of the proposals in the SAFE Justice Act, I am proud to be a part of the bipartisan coalition working to apply lessons from the states to improve public safety and reduce spending. We'll continue to work to ensure that our federal criminal justice system serves Americans in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble is a Republican from Wisconsin.
A look at buffers that can shield officers from scrutiny
Critics say the shields tailored for police create an impression that the scales of justice are tipped in favor of them
by The Associated Press
CHICAGO — Union contracts, state laws and departmental directives often offer police extra protections when they are accused of wrongdoing on the grounds that their jobs are uniquely dangerous. Critics say the shields tailored for officers create an impression that the scales of justice are tipped in favor of police.
The kinds of protections can differ from city to city. Here's a look at some of them:
— Requirements to show officers transcripts of initial interviews before interviewing them a second time, which critics say make it difficult to flag inconsistencies.
— In some cities, statements an officer makes at the scene of a police shooting can't be used against that officer later in any criminal investigation.
— Prohibitions against civilians interviewing officers, which critics say can preclude the kind of closer civilian oversight reformers want.
— Internal investigators in some cities have to wait for hours or days before they can question officers. It's often two days; in Maryland, it's 10.
— Requirements that complaints against officers be destroyed after a certain period. In Chicago, that's supposed to happen after five years.
— Bans on launching inquiries on the basis of anonymous complaints. Critics say those complaints can expose serious wrongdoing.
— Rules that if officers aren't shown existing video of an incident before being interviewed, they can't be disciplined for lying even if they did lie.
From The Department of Justice
FACT SHEET: State of the Union: Cabinet in Your Community -- Department of Justice
In the days immediately following the State of the Union, Cabinet officials are embarking on the “State of the Union: Cabinet In Your Community” road tour to engage Americans in small towns, big cities and Indian country about the advancements the Administration has made on the most important issues facing the American people, as well as the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The President will make clear in his State of the Union address that the true test is not the challenges we face, but how we approach those challenges. That's why he and his Cabinet will keep their feet on the gas in this final stretch to continue driving toward solutions that will move this country forward for generations to come, while highlighting the progress that has been made over the past seven years.
The Department of Justice has taken major steps during the Obama Administration to make our criminal justice system more just, fair, and effective at reducing recidivism and promoting successful reintegration into society. Our ultimate aim has been to break the cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that grips too many of our communities, and to ensure that each component of our justice system is more closely aligned with our fundamental belief in opportunity and justice for all. A vital part of that task involves examining what happens to our fellow Americans when they exit prison and return to our communities, and addressing the obstacles to successful reentry is a top priority for the Justice Department and the Obama Administration.
More than 600,000 individuals are released from federal and state prisons each year, and 11.4 million cycle through local jails annually. In addition, a broader population – some one in four Americans – has an arrest record, mostly for relatively minor, non-violent offenses, sometimes from decades in the past. The long-term-- sometimes lifelong-- impact of a criminal record keeps many people from obtaining employment and accessing housing, higher education, loans, and credit – even if they have paid their debt to society, turned their lives around, are qualified, and are unlikely to reoffend. At the same time, research shows that people who stay out of trouble for just a few years are largely indistinguishable from the general population in terms of their odds of another arrest.
The Justice Department is committed to breaking the cycle of incarceration and improving reentry outcomes by reducing barriers to education, employment, housing and civic engagement, and by instituting various reforms at the federal Bureau of Prisons that are designed to improve the reentry success of those returning from incarceration in federal prisons.
Today, following President Obama's 2016 State of the Union, Attorney General Lynch traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to speak with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, corrections and law enforcement partners, and service providers. She is visiting the Boston Reentry Initiative – a program proven to reduce recidivism – and other innovative programs that prepare people for their return to the community. The Justice Department's first-ever Second Chance Fellow, Daryl Atkinson, is accompanying the Attorney General and participating in a roundtable at the South Bay House of Correction in Suffolk County, MA. The visit highlights the Department's committed actions on this issue, including the following recent and ongoing efforts:
The Federal Interagency Reentry Council [external link], chaired by Attorney General Lynch, brings together the efforts of more than 20 federal agencies to reduce recidivism and improve employment, education, housing, health, and child welfare outcomes.Recent policy actions championed by the Reentry Council include “banning the box” in federal employment to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance to reduce barriers to HUD-assisted housing, and the Department of Education launched a Second Chance Pell initiative, providing a limited waiver of the statutory ban to help pay for postsecondary education and training programs. And the Departments of Labor and Justice are establishing a National Clean Slate Clearinghouse that will provide local jurisdictions technical assistance to help with record-cleaning and expungement.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons embraces a corrections philosophy that “reentry begins on day one.”Accordingly, the Bureau has made significant strides to better prepare inmates for successful reentry while they are still incarcerated.Under the Obama Administration, the Bureau created the Reentry Services Division, which has expanded mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, improved work and educational opportunities inside prison, and better equipped inmates with the tools necessary for success outside the prison walls.Recognizing that education reduces the risk of recidivism, the Bureau has also launched a comprehensive assessment of its education program and identified opportunities for improvement across its 122 correctional institutions. This focused evaluation will increase the Bureau's capacity to provide high quality education services to inmates with special learning and literacy needs. To date, these ongoing efforts have enabled the Bureau to more effectively identify and serve inmates between the ages of 18 and 21 who require learning accommodations to successfully engage in education programming, and to pilot a specialized curriculum using education technology for individuals requiring instruction at grade levels Pre-K through 5.
The Justice Department is encouraged by, and strongly supportive of, the bipartisan efforts in Congress
These efforts build on achievements by the Justice Department under the leadership of President Obama:
Since 2009, the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs has made close to 750 Second Chance Act grants totaling more than $400 million.These grants are being used for the full range of reentry assistance, focusing on populations at moderate and high risk of recidivism.The programs offer a range of resources and support, including substance abuse and mental health treatment; job training; expansion of services to children of incarcerated parents; and help to secure driver's licenses, modify child support orders, and expunge criminal and juvenile records.They also support states designing recidivism reduction strategies as well as new interagency reentry grants to expand access to education for juveniles, permanent supportive housing for those at risk of homelessness, and records expungement for youth in public housing.In addition, Second Chance funds support the National Reentry Resource Center [external link], a one-stop resource for reentry-related research, best practices, and technical assistance managed by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
The Department is committed to strengthening and supporting Federal Prison Industries (FPI or trade name UNICOR).Founded in 1934, FPI is a voluntary industrial work program that provides federal inmates with work experience, job training, and life skills, thereby increasing the likelihood they will find meaningful employment upon release and become productive citizens.FPI is the Bureau's largest and most effective reentry program, employing over 12,000 inmates nationwide.Research has shown that participating inmates are 24 percent less likely to be rearrested or returned to custody.As a result of new authorities granted to FPI in 2012, FPI launched approximately 45 new repatriation projects and employed more than 1,000 inmates who manufacture items that would otherwise be made outside of the United States.In 2016, FPI will welcome a new Chief Executive Officer who will oversee further expansion of this critical recidivism-reducing program.
For more information, please visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/sotu.
From the FBI
Countering the Threat with Strong Partnerships
At the start of the FBI's recent Central American Law Enforcement Exchange (CALEE) program, participants from U.S. police departments and their counterparts from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Panama were strangers, but they shared one thing in common: a commitment to make their communities safe from violent gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street.
By the end of the three-week program, the men and women had overcome language barriers and become friends as well as partners—and they were armed with new resources to fight the transnational gang threat: a network of intelligence sharing, expanded contacts, and access to FBI-led task forces throughout Central America.
“There's a synergy between the gangs that helps them grow and become stronger,” said Special Agent Jason Kaplan, the FBI's legal attaché in El Salvador. “As law enforcement, we need to develop that same relationship with each other, because the gangs are doing it, and if we don't we are going to fall behind.”
CALEE was developed in 2009 with that spirit of collaboration and partnership in mind. This year's group of nearly 40 participants traveled to Los Angeles and Houston before spending a final week in El Salvador, where the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs have grown powerful and extremely violent. In each venue, participants received training and information about different jurisdictions' approaches to managing their gang threat.
In El Salvador, besides getting a first-hand look at gang neighborhoods and a prison whose inmates are exclusively violent gang members, participants were briefed on the latest cases and trends within the gangs. Many MS-13 and 18th Street leaders—some of whom are incarcerated—are located in Central America and order crimes to be committed in the United States.
CALEE participants also learned about the Transnational Anti-Gang Task Forces (TAGs), in which FBI agents are embedded with vetted Central American police officers to work cases and gather intelligence. Currently there are TAGs in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They have been in existence for more than five years, and they are highly successful.
“Before the Transnational Anti-Gang Task Forces were set up,” Kaplan explained, “gang investigations in the United States that led to subjects in these countries often came to a dead end. There was no mechanism for us to really further those investigations.” Since the TAGs were established, he said, “we now have a liaison here, a resource for investigators in the United States. When they get to that point where they realize that one of their principal subjects is located in Central America, they now have resources where they can go to further that investigation. Similarly, the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can do the same.”
Kaplan added that intelligence gathered by the TAGs has stopped crimes—including murders—from taking place. “Dozens of lives, possibly hundreds, have been saved since the establishment of the anti-gang task forces.”
“Certainly the value of the TAGs can't be understated,” noted Special Agent Grant Mann, who works in the Safe Streets and Gang Unit at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and helped organize this year's CALEE program. “One of our main goals for the group in El Salvador was to fully expose participants to what the FBI has here by way of resources.”
Mann's unit also administers the FBI's Safe Streets Violent Crime Initiative. Established in 1992, the program is designed to bring local, state, and federal law enforcement together in their U.S. communities to fight gang-related crime. Today there are 164 Safe Streets Task Forces throughout the country, and U.S. CALEE participants are drawn from the ranks of Safe Streets Task Force officers.
“The Safe Streets model combines the strengths of all these different agencies and all of our FBI resources,” Mann said. “The goal is to make everyone's community safer. Our efforts with the TAGs and our international partners are an extension of that goal, because there is no doubt that the gang problems in El Salvador have an impact on gang crime in the U.S.”
Speaking of the cooperative efforts between the U.S. and El Salvador to fight the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, El Salvador's Attorney General Luis Martinez noted, “There is something very important that both countries are aware of: that we share the same serious problem and that we have to work jointly in order to find resolutions. That is why an event like CALEE 2015 is very important,” he said. “This training will be very valuable for every single participant here.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Blue Campaign and The District of Columbia Announce New Partnership to Combat Human Trafficking
In recognition of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced a new partnership between the DHS Blue Campaign—the unified voice for DHS's efforts to combat human trafficking—and the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights to raise awareness about human trafficking.
“The DHS Blue Campaign is pleased to partner with the District in the fight against human trafficking,” said DHS Blue Campaign Chair Maria Odom. “A partnership like this is important because no one can fight human trafficking alone. Enabling citizens to recognize and report this heinous crime will help to identify and rescue victims and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Through this partnership, the District of Columbia will post Blue Campaign awareness materials throughout the Metro system to raise public consciousness of human trafficking. Blue Campaign tools and resources, including posters, will also be placed at relevant District agency offices to help employees identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking. In addition, these materials will be made available for interested local businesses and the general public to provide information on how to report suspected cases of human trafficking and to help potential victims seek support.
The DHS Blue Campaign works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
By Presidential Proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Throughout January, the DHS Blue Campaign will highlight the Department's work to end human trafficking and continue to bring awareness to this terrible crime.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign.
Wilmington police to disband community policing unit
by Jenna Pizzi
Amid an effort to repair the relationship between the community and police in Wilmington, Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings said Monday night that the city will disband its Community Policing Unit and have all officers engage with the community.
“It is a philosophy that has to be fostered throughout the police department and not as a unit,” said Cummings, explaining the change to the members of the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Monday night. “Everybody is a community policing officer”
Cummings said the 16 officers assigned to the unit would be reassigned to DISRUPT, a unit that addresses quality of life issues in high crime areas. That unit will grow from six officers to 22.
The move comes the same day as the city hired former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey as a consultant, in part to improve community policing.
The community policing unit was rolled out this summer when Cummings announced a new policing strategy.
The officers of the community policing unit had been the first line of contact for many community members and a lifeline for civic associations, which Cummings said will not change. The officers will continue to have their cell phones and all contact with the civic associations or community groups will be made through police captains. The new deployment will become fully effective on January 18.
The move was necessary to have more officers focused on bringing down violent crime, Cummings said.
“What we are looking at is attacking violent crime in the city,” he said. “We need a component to address those issues, so the complaints that the officers would have responded to would have come from the community anyway, so our entire department has the philosophy that everybody as you see individuals, you should treat them with fairness, kindness and respect. That is across the board.”
But some community leaders said they do not believe that the new solution will fill the void of the officers they knew by name
“I am disappointed with Chief Cummings' assertion that ‘every officer is a community officer,'” said Ben Cohen the public safety chair for the Midtown Brandywine Neighbors Association, who attended the meeting. “It is a nice piece of rhetoric, but it's out of touch with the reality of living in Wilmington. Community dedicated officers build relationships that yield trust and bring about a sense of safety – something that is desperately needed in Wilmington.”
Desmond Hatch, president of the Highlands Community Association, said he and the residents have had excellent contact with the two officers assigned to their community and their proactive and responsive interactions were valued.
“We had one person to go to with whom we could communicate and it was very comfortable,” said Hatch.
The 40 Acres Civic Association has leaned on their community policing officers as a string of burglaries tore through the neighborhood this spring and again when items went missing from front porches.
“If there was an emergency you called 911, but if there were other issues, we could call or email,” said Tracey Schofield, who is active in 40 Acres. “We are hoping that it will eventually be brought back.”
Rev. Sandra Ben, pastor at Praying Ground Church at 41 E. 22nd Street, said even though her assigned community policing officer is no longer deployed to her neighborhood, he will still come around for her weekly community walks.
“They told me they are going to try to keep that happening,” said Ben. “I'm a big advocate for keeping police in the community and they should try to somehow work that out so they can do that in all the neighborhoods.”
Because her neighborhood off of Vandever Avenue is a high-crime area of the city, Ben said there will still be many officers, but noted that it is difficult for some communities that will be losing their community policing officers in favor of them being deployed in other areas.
“There should be consistency everywhere,” she said.
Birmingham city leaders turn to community for feedback on how to stop violence
by Jamiese Price
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -- From murders, to home invasions, and carjackings, Birmingham has seen its fair share of crime lately.
"What we're hoping to do is change that,” said Andrea Watson, Executive Director of Community Policing and Revitalization.
Watson is hoping a new service project on Martin Luther King Day will put the city on track for a major community turnaround.
The Mayor's Office of Community Policing and Revitalization, along with Project Safe Neighborhoods are teaming up on January 18 to go door-to-door
in Ensley and East Lake to ask neighbors a series of questions in an effort to find out how safe they feel in their community. They would also like to know what can be done to stop the violence.
"We have a great city, but so often we get a bad rap based on the fact that things happen in our city. I think the police department is doing everything they can possible do, the mayor's office is doing everything we can possibly do and this is something we can possibly do to enhance what we already know is an existing problem but to find solutions for it,” continued Watson.
The two neighborhoods involved were identified as high crime areas by stats from the Birmingham Police Department. The data from the surveys will be compiled by UAB and kept to help determine a comprehensive action plan to help end violence.
The Community Policing Department will also use that info to determine ways to decrease crime.
The project will take the help of about 300 volunteers. If you're interested in participating, you're asked to call 205-297-8016. Additional information can be found at http://www.handsonbirmingham.org/. Just scroll down until you see an image on the right hand side for the Community Policing Revitalization project.
Body cameras coming to Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety by June
by Emily Monacelli
KALAMAZOO, MI — Officers with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety will be wearing body cameras by June, the department's chief said Monday.
Chief Jeff Hadley told the Kalamazoo City Commission Monday evening one significant initiative in 2016 is to purchase body cameras and train officers to use them.
Hadley said the department will buy an estimated 170 cameras at about $1,000 each, plus data storage and other supporting technology. The department's patrol officers will wear the cameras, along with some Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team officers and community policing officers, he said.
Hadley said the total cost of the cameras and related equipment and technology is $340,000. The program will be funded, in part, by the department's funding, along with $50,000 from a private foundation that will remain anonymous. The Michigan Municipal Risk Management will fund half of the cost of the cameras, Hadley said.
Hadley said he applied for federal funding, but was unable to get that funding in this round.
Several police departments in Michigan, including Grand Rapids and Detroit have started using body cameras or have received federal grant funding to use body cameras, amid a national debate about police transparency and tactics sparked by the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Hadley said he will work with the city's Citizen Public Safety Review and Appeal Board to develop a policy for using the cameras. He said department officials will need to train officers on how to operate the cameras and upload the data.
Hadley said the cameras Public Safety will use are among the nine different body cameras his department started field testing in 2014.
Philly cop assigned to ambushed officer's hospital attacked
The suspect asked the officer for money then tried to grab his handgun from the holster
by Ron Todt
(Video on site)
PHILADELPHIA — Police in Philadelphia are investigating a tip that a man charged in the ambush shooting of a patrolman is connected to a radical group that may continue to pose a threat to officers.
The police department said Sunday evening that someone approached an officer on the street and alleged that the man who attacked Officer Jesse Hartnett "had an affiliation to a group with radical beliefs."
Police say they are working with the FBI to investigate the credibility of the information. They have alerted all department employees about the tip and will continue to require officers to work with a partner until further notice.
Harnett was last reported in stable condition at the hospital after a man charged his car as he patrolled his usual west Philadelphia beat shortly before midnight Thursday, firing at least 13 shots, hitting the officer three times. Hartnett got out of his car, chased the man and returned fire, wounding him in the buttocks before he was captured by other officers about a block away.
Edward Archer, 30, of Yeadon, was charged Saturday with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault of a law enforcement officer and several firearms crimes. He is being held without bail pending a Jan. 25 preliminary hearing. The Defender Association of Philadelphia, listed in court documents as representing him, couldn't be reached over the weekend to offer comment on the charges.
Investigators said Archer told them he was "following Allah" and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, and he believed the police department defends laws that are contrary to Islam. Authorities believe Archer traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and to Egypt in 2012 and are investigating the purpose of those trips. FBI special agent Eric Ruona said Sunday that as U.S. authorities work with partners overseas, it would take time to find any potential terror connections, and it was too early for any meaningful comment on the subject.
Earlier, police said a man tried to grab the gun of a Philadelphia officer working a detail at the hospital where Hartnett is recovering, but they believe the incident is unrelated to the ambush shooting.
Police said the man approached the officer outside Penn Presbyterian Medical Center shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday and asked for money, saying he hadn't eaten in five days. The officer handed the man a $5 bill and entered the medical center, but later, when he was standing near the emergency room exit doors, the man tried to grab the officer's handgun from the holster. The officer, with the aid of hospital security and other officers, subdued the 40-year-old suspect, who said he wanted the gun to rob a store, police said.
Police said the incident appeared unrelated to Hartnett's shooting but was "an example of the type of individuals that our officers face daily when performing their duties as Philadelphia police officers."
Meanwhile, a fundraising page has been set up to raise money to help pay the expenses of the wounded officer, who was shot three times in the arm and will require multiple surgeries. The GoFundMe page had recorded $17,530 on Sunday afternoon.
Colo. cop reflects on mass casualty incidents, major 2015 events
The officers were rattled, changed from the events in the past year
by Chhun Sun
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A few weeks before the end of 2015, the Colorado Springs Police Department organized an employee expo. It lasted a couple nights. Officers and their families were invited to have some food and talk about what was on their minds — not long after they experienced two horrific mass shootings that claimed seven lives in a span of 28 days.
The officers were rattled, changed.
And Police Chief Peter Carey was there to listen, learn, and understand.
"When we go through things," he said, "we go through things together."
2015 was a year highlighted by the aforementioned mass shootings, a discrimination lawsuit against the department, two officers-involved court cases and an internal affairs investigation detailing a police officer's actions during a traffic stop of a black man. The city had 26 homicides, three more than the year before. And those events will be on the minds of Carey and his officers as they move forward in 2016.
This month marks the start of Carey's fifth year as the head of the Colorado Springs Police Department - part of a law enforcement career that started in 1982. He says he's not ready to retire, though he has thought about it. He says he has a few things to finish first.
His focus this year seems to be the department's body-worn camera program.
In September, police were awarded a $600,000 grant to purchase the equipment. The grant required the department to match the funding to cover the cost of the program for two years. The department hopes to have 50 to 100 officers wear the body cameras in April, with all 471 officers equipped by October. A pilot program was completed, and the department is in the process of choosing a vendor and finalizing an internal policy code.
Such national stories as the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 encouraged the department to look into bringing body-worn cameras in. In that case, witness accounts conflicted with what the officer said happened.
Body-worn cameras, Carey argues, could bring accountability to an officer's day-to-day activities.
"I think that's a good thing," he said during a sit-down interview with The Gazette last month. "I think the details of having good, sound policy when an officer turns on and off the camera, how they share that information. I think they're important ,and I think they help guarantee a good balance the benefits of accountability and individual's privacy rights, and I think that's always the balance we're striving for."
In the conversation, Carey also touched on the department's Community Impact Teams making 500 felony arrests and seizing nearly $750,000 in stolen property and $300,000 in drugs. "So they were very, very effective," he said.
But one thing was clear: Last year, as he put it, was extremely busy and challenging.
- Twelve female officers filed a discrimination lawsuit in April seeking to bar the Police Department from enforcing physical testing protocols and monetary damages for earning opportunities after the women failed the test. In November, the city of Colorado Springs and the Police Department agreed that officers were not required to take the test this year and those who failed no longer faced penalties. The outcome of the lawsuit is pending.
- An internal investigation suggested that an officer might have escalated a March 25 traffic stop involving Ryan Brown, who said he did not know why he was stopped. He was pulled from his vehicle by the officer and pushed to the ground. He believed he was racially profiled. Ultimately, the complaint was dismissed by the District Attorney's Office.
- Two officers were caught up in court cases. Sgt. Bradley Pratt returned to work after he was acquitted in August of entering his ex-girlfriend's house without her permission, and former police detective Paul Patton is awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty of attempting to influence a public servant and official misconduct while investigating a kidnapping and allegedly sleeping with the victim.
"When complaints are made against the Colorado Springs Police Department, I hope the takeaway in the community is that officers are held accountable for their actions," Carey said. "They're well-trained and we're a transparent police department. I believe the takeaway should be that when complaints are brought into the police department, we look at them objectively and thoroughly and we make a finding. And if in some cases an officer did something wrong, we hold them accountable."
Besides those cases, two mass shootings happened toward the end of the year made it hard on the Police Department. The first one was Oct. 31, when investigators said Noah Harpham, 33, shot and killed three people in downtown Colorado Springs before he died in a shootout with police. Then, on Nov. 27, suspected gunman Robert Lewis Dear Jr. allegedly killed three people, including a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer, in a shooting at the city's lone Planned Parenthood clinic. He surrendered to police.
"I think when you look at some of the very high-profile situations that we handled, we have to recognize there were times when we can't handle each situation as one police department," Carey said. "We have to depend on other people to assist us, that comes from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, many police departments, and I think we all came together as first responders to render medical aid to proper investigation. I think that's one of the first things that I learned."
1 critical lesson from the ISIS-inspired attack on a Philly cop
There is one very significant yet simple takeaway from this incident which requires our attention and consideration: shot doesn't equal dead — the will to win is a potentially life-saving force
by Doug Wylie
What Happened: In a sudden ambush, a Philadelphia police officer was shot multiple times late Thursday by an attacker who later said he had pledged loyalty to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. The assailant — identified as Edward Archer — used a gun stolen from police in the assassination attempt conducted “in the name of Islam.”
Despite being struck by multiple rounds (according to initial reports, three gunshots to the arm), Officer Jesse Hartnett not only survived the attack, he was able to get out of his vehicle, chase the suspect, and return fire, wounding his attacker. Other officers later apprehended Archer, who was treated at the hospital and released into police custody.
Hartnett is reportedly in stable condition and his father, Robert Hartnett, said his son was “in good spirits.” Having just shot a terrorist who tried to kill you can have that effect.
Why it's Significant: The tactic — used countless times overseas — to attack police in the name of jihad has hit American soil. Despite the fact that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Archer's “abhorrent” and “terrible” actions had “nothing to do with being a Muslim or following the Islamic faith,” we know better.
So does the mayor's newly appointed Police Commissioner. Richard Ross said at a news conference that Archer said that he targeted police because “he believes they enforce laws that are contrary to the Koran,” according to the Washington Post.
Jihadi rhetoric in online videos — as well as in recruiting / how-to magazines like Inspire and Dabiq — has for some time called for attacks on military and police. In fact, the latest issue of Dabiq contains the following passage:
“You must strike the soldiers, patrons, and troops of the tawaghit. Strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Ruin their sleep. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. …kill them in any manner possible.”
The military has already come under attack on our shores several times from self-radicalized jihadis, and now police are being targeted. Unprovoked ambush attacks such as this one can come from all manner of attacker, but clearly there is now a new threat to be cognizant of.
The good news in all of this — aside from the obvious fact that Officer Hartnett will be okay — is that the attacker failed. Probably the worst thing for a jihadi is failure.
Top Takeaways: There is one very significant yet simple takeaway from this incident which requires our attention and consideration: shot doesn't equal dead — the will to win is a potentially life-saving force.
This case once again offers stark evidence that surviving an attack depends in large part on what's happening between your ears, and what you've got between your solar plexus and your spine. In coming weeks we will likely learn more about the number and nature of Officer Hartnett's injuries, but regardless of where he was struck, this cop clearly used his training and his willpower to not only survive, but prevail in the fight.
We've seen multiple times an officer's mindset, training, and determination being critical factors for staying in the fight. Officer Steven Hough took a round to the face, got up, scrambled for cover, and instinctively began combat breathing. As he later wrote on PoliceOne, “I was calm and focused.”
Sergeant Mark Chesnut was shot in right arm, through his left wrist and hand, and into his right side between his vest panels, angling down into his abdomen. Despite these horrific wounds, Chesnut was able to get his right hand on the gear shift and left left hand on the wheel, gunning his unit backwards out of the fray. As he later told PoliceOne, “I didn't know if I was going to die or not, but I absolutely wouldn't close my eyes on that ambulance ride.”
Lieutenant Brian Murphy was shot 15 times while responding to the shooting rampage at a Sikh Temple and was able to crawl away on his elbows, survive, and even return to active duty. He later described what was going through his head: “My wife and I had tickets to go on vacation in Florida, and I was thinking, ‘We're not going to Florida anytime soon, and she's gonna be pissed.”
We have similar stories from James Van Alstine, Jared Reston, Marcus Young, and others.
PoliceOne Columnist Dick Fairburn evaluated this incident perfectly when he said, “Last night in Philadelphia we saw the best possible outcome from an extremely dangerous ambush attack. The ambush attacker scored at least three serious wounds on Officer Jesse Hartnett, yet in less than ten seconds from the first shot, Officer Hartnett was returning fire and chasing down his assailant. Press reports suggest the officer also logged three hits — on a running target while himself running — after taking serious wounds. Here is our example for counter-ambush response!”
What's Next: Two things will happen with certainty. Weak politicians will ignore this attack's connection to radical Islamic terrorism — in fact, they probably won't even utter those words. And when he is fully recovered, we at PoliceOne will reach out to give Officer Hartnett the opportunity to talk about his experience in this incident, if he wishes. In the meantime we wish Officer Hartnett a speedy recovery, and we salute him for his excellence.
What we learned from California's Prop 47 in 2015
It will be several years before the full effects of Prop 47 are seen, but 2015 offers a good glimpse into the ramifications
by Harriet Fox
The year 2015 was the year of early release. In October, some 6,000 prisoners were identified for early release into their communities as part of the federal government's “retroactive sentencing reductions for nonviolent drug offenders.” That was only the latest news on the topic. Probably the most important example of early release programs in 2015 is the yearlong aftermath of California's Proposition 47, a ballot measure which passed 13 months ago.
The California initiative converted certain “nonviolent offenses” from felonies to misdemeanors in an attempt to decrease the overcrowding California prison population issues. The measure's plan made all shoplifting, embezzlement, writing bad checks, and other theft crimes under $950 to be a misdemeanor (a far cry from the $400 that had always made these crimes a felony charge). Other charges that are no longer felonies include most drug possessions. Under Prop 47, those charged with the abovementioned crimes would receive a citation with a court date about one month away instead of being booked into jail on what would previously have been a felony count. California had hopes to reduce 40,000 felony convictions per year, which represents 1/5 of the annual convictions in the state.
The measure won — with 59 percent of the vote — on the promise of saving hundreds of millions of dollars on correctional spending and to be able to avoid building new prisons. The saved funds were said to be going toward funding school programs as well as mental illness and drug treatment programs.
The Crooks Win
Since Prop 47 went into effect, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) have released almost 4,800 prisoners from state prisons due to resentencing under Prop 47. Cops and COs largely have nothing good to say about Prop 47, but criminals think it's the best thing since sliced bread.
Inmates are fans of Prop 47 because it keeps them out of jail, allowing them to keep using illegal drugs and keep committing crime. Even if they miss their court date (which in turn gives them a warrant), inmates know the crimes and the misdemeanor warrants will not keep them locked up long. Inmates view misdemeanors as “not a big deal” and shrug their shoulders. It does not matter that there are hardworking citizens who are being victimized. Criminals usually never show remorse or empathy for their victims. Criminals have a great way of decriminalizing and minimizing their crimes. With Prop 47, the state and the criminals both are doing just that.
Prop 47 sends a message that it's not serious to commit these crimes since they are classified only a misdemeanor. A known gang member in Palm Springs was caught and arrested with a stolen gun and when the officer told him he would be receiving a citation, his response was, “But I had a gun. What is wrong with this country?” If these are the words of a gun-toting gang banger, this speaks volumes.
When the Federal release made national headlines, one California law enforcer was vocal in his assessment of what he'd seen in his state throughout the year. San Diego Police Department Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said, “It's a slap on the wrist the first time and the third time and the 30th time, so it's a virtual get-out-of-jail free card…we're catching and releasing the same people over and over.”
The law no doubt has provided the freedom for allowing repeat offenders to continue to break the law without much consequence. As soon as they receive a citation, they are sent on their merry way to burglarize, steal or retrieve more dope. Some have been arrested and cited out more than once in a day, still out on the streets offending.
The day Prop 47 passed, the majority of correctional officers and police officers could not believe anyone thought this was a good idea. Everyone agreed that crime would no doubt increase. Within one week of this law passing, it was apparent that Prop 47 was going to continue to change the world of law enforcement and corrections as we know it. Today, thirteen months later, our views have not changed — they have only been proven.
California police officers and deputies working the streets agree that crime is up. They see Prop 47 as one of the primary reasons property crimes have become rampant and narcotics arrests have gone down.
The property and violent crime statistics in particular are alarming. Los Angeles shows an 11 percent rise in property theft. San Francisco's robberies are up 23 percent. Sacramento shows a 25 percent increase in violent crimes including homicide, rape, robberies, and aggravated assaults. The sad truth to all these statistics is that these are just the reported numbers; the numbers are likely much greater. Some smaller cities within the state show a 20-40 percent increase in crime.
Further, a California Highway Patrol office shows statistics for pursuits in 2015 to have more than doubled. Most of these pursuit arrests included offenders with a rap sheet riddled with drug possession and property crime.
Not Played Out as Promised
Government legislators made promises that Prop 47 would focus on rehabilitation as opposed to long sentences. The money “saved” by Prop 47 was promised to assist schools with programs for truancy, drug treatment, and the mentally ill. But those dollars apparently will not be disseminated until August 2016.
Like all government issues, it all ties back to money. And having not seen any money leaves us with the question of how long it will take before we even know if the promised programs can make any difference.
The government believes we cannot incarcerate our way out of a drug problem — that rehabilitation is the key factor. This is true, but they fail to recognize that these programs are not going to work unless the person wants the help and wants to make the change. An addict needs to hit rock bottom before being ready, and the majority of addicts are never ready. Inmates have told me rehabilitation will not work for them as they do not want to stop using. Now with Prop 47, there is no incentive to go into a program when their jail time will be less than six months and they can be back out on the streets.
While I understand why we want to offer rehabilitation to those who are ready and want help, for the majority of the state's recidivists, how many chances do we have to give? How many more innocent people need to become victims? Why are we catering to our criminals instead of keeping them locked up? These individuals have a choice and if they choose to continue to harm society, they belong off the streets. Why not build a new prison and create new jobs while protecting society? We should be working at making the state the best we can be, not helping it fall apart.
Learning from 2015 California
Other states are looking into fixing their overcrowding issues with similar laws to the one adopted in California. But let's look at California's experience in 2015 and make a sober assessment of it.
Statistics have shown an average of 10 percent rise in property crime in California cities in 2015. Some smaller towns were much higher.
Is this what we really wanted or expected out of Prop 47? Is that what the nation wants or expects with their early release and reclassification propositions?
The nation does not need more crime. We need to quell crime, fight for protecting Americans, stop criminals before they strike, and build another prison or two if necessary. Lock up those who continue to terrorize time and time again.
Sadly, nothing is likely to change for California until or unless someone prominent or famous is killed or harmed from the effects of Prop 47. It will be years before the full effects of Prop 47 are seen, but the year 2015 offers a good glimpse into the ramifications. At this rate, we are plain in trouble. Crime will continue to rise and these criminals will not be locked up for longer sentences until a horrific act of violence occurs while they are high or trying to get away from the police.
As a national trend moving forward, I believe we could be further in trouble if other states adopt a concept like California's Proposition 47. With violence and assaults against police on the rise, property crimes skyrocketing, and shorter sentences being imposed, it is a recipe for disaster.
About the author
Harriet Fox is a Correctional Officer in a county jail in Northern California. She is a Jail Training Officer, Emergency Response Team member and has worked as an Intake Classification Officer. Having an inquisitive mind, Harriet is intrigued by the criminal mind, gangs and mental illness within the walls of the correctional system. Prior to becoming a Correctional Officer, Harriet worked several different law enforcement positions including Reserve Police Officer and 9-1-1 Communications Dispatcher. Harriet has a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology.
Philadelphia police looking into report that man who shot officer had radical ties
by Michael Pearson
Philadelphia police say they're looking into a report that the man accused of trying to assassinate a police officer last week had ties to a group with radical beliefs.
Police issued a statement Sunday saying a citizen had stopped a Philadelphia police officer on the street and claimed the suspect, Edwin Archer, had "an affiliation to a group with radical beliefs."
The statement doesn't name the group or say where it is located or whether the alleged association is past or present.
The department and the FBI are looking into the claim "in an effort to verify the credibility of the information given," police said.
Archer allegedly told police after he ambushed Officer Jesse Hartnett that he had pledged allegiance to the ISIS terror group, according to Capt. James Clark, commander of the Philadelphia Police Department's homicide unit.
Hartnett was shot three times in the arm Thursday while sitting in his patrol car.
Images released by police from surveillance video show the gunman -- wearing an ankle-length, white garment -- on a crosswalk taking aim and firing at the patrol car at close range.
In one photo, the shooter is standing next to the car with his arm through the lowered driver's side window, close enough to be shooting at point-blank range.
Despite bleeding heavily, Hartnett was able to get out of his car and shoot Archer, whom other officers then arrested, authorities said.
Hartnett survived the attack with what police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. described as "very serious injuries."
Police said Archer was armed with a Glock 17 pistol stolen from a police officer's home in 2014.
According to Clark, Archer told investigators: "I follow Allah. I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic State and that's why I did what I did."
The shooting in Philadelphia is the fourth attack in the United States believed to have been inspired by ISIS, including the December shootings that left 14 dead in San Bernardino, California, the shootings outside a cartoon contest in a Dallas suburb in May in which images of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed were being displayed, and a hatchet assault on four police officers in New York in October 2014.
Officials have said they do not know whether the latest attack was part of a broader conspiracy or whether Archer had contact with terrorists.
Philadelphia police said all officers will continue to work in pairs until further notice.
The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score'
by Justin Jouvenal
FRESNO, Calif. — While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect's potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report.
The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man's social- media postings. It calculated his threat level as the highest of three color-coded scores: a bright red warning.
The man had a firearm conviction and gang associations, so out of caution police called a negotiator. The suspect surrendered, and police said the intelligence helped them make the right call — it turned out he had a gun.
As a national debate has played out over mass surveillance by the National Security Agency, a new generation of technology such as the Beware software being used in Fresno has given local law enforcement officers unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens.
Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, ensure the safety of officers and the public, find suspects, and crack open cases. They say that last year's attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have only underscored the need for such measures.
But the powerful systems also have become flash points for civil libertarians and activists, who say they represent a troubling intrusion on privacy, have been deployed with little public oversight and have potential for abuse or error. Some say laws are needed to protect the public.
In many instances, people have been unaware that the police around them are sweeping up information, and that has spawned controversy. Planes outfitted with cameras filmed protests and unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo. For years, dozens of departments used devices that can hoover up all cellphone data in an area without search warrants. Authorities in Oregon are facing a federal probe after using social media-monitoring software to keep tabs on Black Lives Matter hashtags.
“This is something that's been building since September 11,” said Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. It's the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from state and federal governments to purchase it.”
Few departments will discuss how — or sometimes if — they are using these tools, but the Fresno police offered a rare glimpse inside a cutting-edge $600,000 nerve center, even as a debate raged in the city over its technology.
An arsenal of high-tech tools
Fresno's Real Time Crime Center is the type of facility that has become the model for high-tech policing nationwide. Similar centers have opened in New York, Houston and Seattle over the past decade.
Fresno's futuristic control room, which operates around the clock, sits deep in its headquarters and brings together a handful of technologies that allow the department to see, analyze and respond to incidents as they unfold across this city of more than 500,000 in the San Joaquin Valley.
On a recent Monday afternoon, the center was a hive of activity. The police radio crackled over loudspeakers — “subject armed with steel rod” — as five operators sat behind banks of screens dialing up a wealth of information to help units respond to the more than 1,200 911 calls the department receives every day.
On 57 monitors that cover the walls of the center, operators zoomed and panned an array of roughly 200 police cameras perched across the city. They could dial up 800 more feeds from the city's schools and traffic cameras, and they soon hope to add 400 more streams from cameras worn on officers' bodies and from thousands from local businesses that have surveillance systems.
The cameras were only one tool at the ready. Officers could trawl a private database that has recorded more than 2 billion scans of vehicle licenses plates and locations nationwide. If gunshots were fired, a system called ShotSpotter could triangulate the location using microphones strung around the city. Another program, called Media Sonar, crawled social media looking for illicit activity. Police used it to monitor individuals, threats to schools and hashtags related to gangs.
Fresno police said having the ability to access all that information in real time is crucial to solving crimes.
They recently used the cameras to track a robbery suspect as he fled a business and then jumped into a canal to hide. He was quickly apprehended.
The license plate database was instrumental in solving a September murder case, in which police had a description of a suspect's vehicle and three numbers from the license plate.
But perhaps the most controversial and revealing technology is the threat-scoring software Beware. Fresno is one of the first departments in the nation to test the program.
As officers respond to calls, Beware automatically runs the address. The searches return the names of residents and scans them against a range of publicly available data to generate a color-coded threat level for each person or address: green, yellow or red.
Exactly how Beware calculates threat scores is something that its maker, Intrado, considers a trade secret, so it is unclear how much weight is given to a misdemeanor, felony or threatening comment on Facebook. However, the program flags issues and provides a report to the user.
In promotional materials, Intrado writes that Beware could reveal that the resident of a particular address was a war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, had criminal convictions for assault and had posted worrisome messages about his battle experiences on social media. The “big data” that has transformed marketing and other industries has now come to law enforcement.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said officers are often working on scant or even inaccurate information when they respond to calls, so Beware and the Real Time Crime Center give them a sense of what may be behind the next door.
“Our officers are expected to know the unknown and see the unseen,” Dyer said. “They are making split-second decisions based on limited facts. The more you can provide in terms of intelligence and video, the more safely you can respond to calls.”
But some in Fresno say the power and the sheer concentration of surveillance in the Real Time Crime Center is troubling. The concerns have been raised elsewhere as well — last year, Oakland city officials scaled back plans for such a center after residents protested, citing privacy concerns.
Rob Nabarro, a Fresno civil rights lawyer, said he is particularly concerned about Beware. He said outsourcing decisions about the threat posed by an individual to software is a problem waiting to happen.
Nabarro said the fact that only Intrado — not the police or the public — knows how Beware tallies its scores is disconcerting. He also worries that the system might mistakenly increase someone's threat level by misinterpreting innocuous activity on social media, like criticizing the police, and trigger a heavier response by officers.
“It's a very unrefined, gross technique,” Nabarro said of Beware's color-coded levels. “A police call is something that can be very dangerous for a citizen.”
Dyer said such concerns are overblown, saying the scores don't trigger a particular police response. He said operators use them as guides to delve more deeply into someone's background, looking for information that might be relevant to an officer on scene. He said officers on the street never see the scores.
Still, Nabarro is not the only one worried.
The Fresno City Council called a hearing on Beware in November after constituents raised concerns. Once council member referred to a local media report saying that a woman's threat level was elevated because she was tweeting about a card game titled “Rage,” which could be a keyword in Beware's assessment of social media.
Councilman Clinton J. Olivier, a libertarian-leaning Republican, said Beware was like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel and asked Dyer a simple question: “Could you run my threat level now?”
Dyer agreed. The scan returned Olivier as a green, but his home came back as a yellow, possibly because of someone who previously lived at his address, a police official said.
“Even though it's not me that's the yellow guy, your officers are going to treat whoever comes out of that house in his boxer shorts as the yellow guy,” Olivier said. “That may not be fair to me.”
He added later: “[Beware] has failed right here with a council member as the example.”
An Intrado representative responded to an interview request seeking more information about how Beware works by sending a short statement. It read in part: “Beware works to quickly provide [officers] with commercially available, public information that may be relevant to the situation and may give them a greater level of awareness.”
Calls for ‘meaningful debate'
Similar debates over police surveillance have been playing out across the country, as new technologies have proliferated and law enforcement use has exploded.
The number of local police departments that employ some type of technological surveillance increased from 20 percent in 1997 to more than 90 percent in 2013, according to the latest information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The most common forms of surveillance are cameras and automated license plate readers, but the use of handheld biometric scanners, social media monitoring software, devices that collect cellphone data and drones is increasing.
Locally, the American Civil Liberties Union reports that police in the District, Baltimore, and Montgomery and Fairfax counties have cellphone-data collectors, called cell site simulators or StingRays. D.C. police are also using ShotSpotter and license plate readers.
The surveillance creates vast amounts of data, which is increasingly pooled in local, regional and national databases. The largest such project is the FBI's $1 billion Next Generation Identification project, which is creating a trove of fingerprints, iris scans, data from facial recognition software and other sources that aid local departments in identifying suspects.
Law enforcement officials say such tools allow them to do more with less, and they have credited the technology with providing breaks in many cases. Virginia State Police found the man who killed a TV news crew during a live broadcast last year after his license plate was captured by a reader.
Cell site simulators, which mimic a cellphone tower and scoop up data on all cellphones in an area, have been instrumental in finding kidnappers, fugitives and people who are suicidal, law enforcement officials said.
But those benefits have sometimes come with a cost to privacy. Law enforcement used cell site simulators for years without getting a judge's explicit consent. But following criticism by the ACLU and other groups, the Justice Department announced last September that it would require all federal agencies to get a search warrant.
The fact that public discussion of surveillance technologies is occurring after they are in use is backward, said Matt Cagle, an attorney for the ACLU of Northern California.
“We think that whenever these surveillance technologies are on the table, there needs to be a meaningful debate,” Cagle said. “There needs to be safeguards and oversight.”
After the contentious hearing before the Fresno City Council on Beware, Dyer said he now wants to make changes to address residents' concerns. The police chief said he is working with Intrado to turn off Beware's color-coded rating system and possibly the social media monitoring.
“There's a balancing act,” Dyer said.