January, 2016 - Week 3
From the Department of Justice
Boston: A City of Second Chances
Courtesy of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch
Joining the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden in the box during the State of the Union address Tuesday night was a woman named Sue Ellen Allen. Sue Ellen served almost seven years in prison for a fraud conviction and struggled through a maze of obstacles to get back on her feet when she was released. Determined to support others in her situation, she founded Gina's Team, a reentry service center dedicated to providing women a path out of prison and back into society. The center is named for her cellmate, who died behind bars.
Sue Ellen's journey, though unique in its own way, is shared by millions of formerly incarcerated men and women – and by countless more with a criminal record. More than 600,000 people come out of state and federal prisons every year, and more than 11 million cycle through local jails annually. One in four Americans has had some sort of contact with the criminal justice system, and they often encounter what must seem like an unending barrage of collateral penalties designed to keep them from returning to society as productive citizens.
The good news is that thanks to a growing number of programs like Gina's Team, more and more people with criminal histories are able to come back to their communities prepared to make a positive difference. Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting three such outstanding programs in Boston as part of the “State of the Union: Cabinet in Your Community” tour: the Common Ground Institute, is a 10-week instructional program designed to enhance employment skills for returning individuals; Community Reentry for Women, or C.R.E.W., which offers life skills instruction, job placement, and health care services to female inmates serving sentences of three months or longer; and the Boston Reentry Initiative, a public safety and service strategy that focuses on high risk inmates who will be returning to Boston neighborhoods. This last initiative in particular involves a broad range of partners, including the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, the Boston Police Department, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, and key service organizations, and an evaluation found that participants were approximately 30 percent less likely to be rearrested.
I met with several participants in these programs – both currently and formerly incarcerated individuals – and I heard them describe how the services they received were critical not only in giving them specific skills and tools, but also in connecting them to people who are in their corner and rooting for them to succeed. The Boston Reentry Initiative's director, True-See Allah, summed it up when he said, “I don't care how much you know, but how much you care.” Others in the program described the incredible support they have received and how that support has helped motivate them to want a different path. One participant, now crime-free for eight years after serving a number of jail stints earlier in his life, told us, “You've got to want it. . . and you've got to be with people who want it for you.” As he shared these words, he was looking not at me, but at a current participant whose release was days away.
The Department of Justice is dedicated to supporting efforts like these. Since 2009, we have made more than $400 million in Second Chance Act funds available to programs like the Boston Reentry Initiative to support comprehensive adult and juvenile reentry services. We have also been working through the Federal Interagency Reentry Council – which I have the privilege of chairing – to reduce policy barriers to successful reentry. The council and its 23 member agencies continue to make great strides, opening up opportunities in education, job placement, housing, and a host of other areas critical to successful reintegration. With the help of our new Second Chance Fellow, Daryl Atkinson – himself a formerly incarcerated person and now a prominent legal advocate working to promote effective reentry and justice reform – the council is raising awareness of the importance of reentry strategies that both increase public safety and fulfill our nation's commitment to the promise of individual redemption.
President Obama has said that “America is a nation of second chances.” People like Sue Ellen Allen, Daryl Atkinson, True-See Allah, and the many advocates and professionals who run reentry programs across the country are showing us what a second chance can look like: greater opportunity for those eager to make a fresh start, safer and healthier communities for those who welcome them back, and an affirmation of fundamental principles of fairness, dignity, and possibility for all Americans. As one of the women I met with said, “I want to be on the other side of the table,” referring to where the successful formerly incarcerated members of the group were sitting. “I've got the potential.” In the days and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to support reentry programs that recognize that potential, and that give formerly incarcerated individuals the chance they deserve to return home and succeed.
SF police focus on 1 city block
The high volume of incidents doesn't mean the block is particularly dangerous
by Joaquin Palomino
SAN FRANCISCO — Tourists snap photos of cable cars descending Powell Street with loosely gripped cameras, shoppers tear through racks of designer clothes hanging unattended in mall shops, and office workers pour out of the BART station with their eyes glued to their smartphones.
The stretch of Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets is one of the busiest parts of San Francisco. It also generates more crime reports than any other single block in the city. Excluding non-criminal and traffic-related incidents, nearly 1,400 police reports were filed from the 800 block of Market Street and its bordering intersections last year, according to police records, or an average of nearly four per day. (The blocks encompassing the Hall of Justice and San Francisco General Hospital were not counted, since many crimes reported at those locations actually took place elsewhere.)
The high volume of incidents doesn't mean the 800 block of Market is particularly dangerous. More than half of the reports were for theft or larceny last year, although there were also 100 reported assaults, 80 robberies and nine reports of sexual assault. The downtown block also did not record an outsize number of arrests; 357 people were booked as of late December, or about one per day.
But responding to the calls, investigating whether a crime was committed and writing the reports still takes time — San Francisco Police Department spokesman Carlos Manfredi estimates about an hour for each incident — which pulls officers away from combatting more serious issues, especially in the Tenderloin, which is part of the same police district.
“Theft is a simple incident to handle, but I would much rather use my resources dealing with the drugs and violence; I'd much rather be dealing with Leavenworth, Turk and Taylor, Hyde Street,” said Teresa Ewins, captain of the Tenderloin Police District, which oversees the block. “But the way the law is at this point, we have to handle the calls.”
Westfield San Francisco Centre and its surrounding area alone accounted for 23 percent of all calls for service made to the Southern Police District between 2011 and 2013, forcing the police to assign two people just to the shopping center, according to past reporting by SF Weekly. In essence, officers became mall cops.
Such frequent calls for service stemming from the busy stretch of Market Street aren't entirely surprising. The nine-story Westfield center is a dense urban mall packed with shoppers — and sometimes shoplifters. The cable car turnaround attracts tourists, and the Powell Street Muni Metro and BART Station draws commuters, creating a chaotic confluence that's ripe for crime.
“It's a central hub, so many people go in and out of that one block,” Manfredi said. “It creates the perfect storm of nefarious activities because it's so congested.”
As a transit hub, Market Street presents a challenge for policing.
“The location makes it easier to commit crimes,” UC Berkeley criminologist Barry Krisberg said. “You can get there on public transit easily; you can get away pretty quickly; the large crowds permit a level of anonymity where property crimes flourish; and the victims are preoccupied, they're shopping, they're not worried about protecting their valuables.”
Last summer, after years of data analysis and community meetings, the 800 block of Market Street stopped being a drain on the Southern Police District. The length of Market Street running from Third Street to Van Ness was folded into the Tenderloin Police District's jurisdiction. The decision ignited heated debates, as some worried the bustling stretch of the city — particularly the block encompassing Westfield — would pull police away from one of the city's neediest neighborhoods.
“We knew Westfield would draw energy from the Tenderloin,” said Pratibha Tekkey, director of community organizing at the Central City SRO Collaborative, which initially opposed the boundary changes before coming to support them. “We were hoping (the new boundaries) would bring more resources in.”
Tekkey said she's still waiting for those resources. Despite its expanded jurisdiction, the Tenderloin Police District is understaffed, much like police districts in the rest of the city. It did receive an additional 34 officers in the summer, though, bringing the total count to 103.
More than a dozen are former Southern District officers who are, and had been, specifically assigned to Mid-Market, according to the police commission.
“The staffing piece is important,” said Suzy Loftus, president of the San Francisco Police Commission, referring to the discussions on redistricting. “What we settled on was, as long as there were additional resources (in the Tenderloin) to go along with the additional calls for service, it would be fine.”
Along with the 1,400 incidents on the 800 block of Market Street last year, another 975 were reported between Fifth and Seventh streets. About a third were for larceny and theft — a crime that has become more common.
Citywide, the number of larceny and theft offenses jumped 13 percent from November 2014 to November 2015, from about 33,790 incidents to 38,145, according to Police Department Compstat data. Reports of shoplifting increased about 25 percent over the time frame, from 1,870 incidents to 2,320. On Market between Fourth and Fifth streets, the number of shoplifting reports went from 231 in 2014 to more than 400 in 2015.
The explanation for the uptick differs depending on whom you ask. Some cite the growing disparity between rich and poor in the city, or prison realignment, or the natural ebb and flow of crime. San Francisco police attribute the uptick, in part, to Proposition 47. Passed in November 2014, the bill downgraded certain drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Now, those caught stealing items worth less than $951 don't have to worry as much about a stiff prison term and are often just cited and released.
Such toned-down procedures are less time-intensive for officers in the short term (they don't have to book and arrest as many people), but they could be a drain in the long term.
“I have heard that people aren't afraid of being prosecuted,” Ewins said. “It's unfortunate that we have to see this type of increase, but we need to examine why it is occurring. ... People are stealing, so we need to go and we need to investigate.”
Officer Involved Shootings: Public Perception vs. Reality
by Jacob Eubanks
Why can't you just aim for the leg? How many times have you heard that question from the public, the media or even a family member or friend? Television and film consistently show action heroes flying through the air and rolling end over end while firing several rounds at a moving target with a 100% hit ratio. If they can do it, why can't we?
Hollywood is much different than reality, but we encounter many people on a daily basis who are surprised to find out we don't have the technology they watch everyday on CSI. So why are we surprised to hear people complain that we had the option to “wound” someone and chose not to do it?
Many factors must be considered when addressing public perceptions, but the answer is actually pretty simple. You just have to look at the human body.
When you picture the human body's exterior, you can see a head, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs. If you look at this from the target acquisition perspective what is the largest target that you can find in that group? If you said torso, you are correct. The largest target area on an individual is the torso and should, ideally, be the easiest to hit. The reason we aim for the largest target is mainly due to stress, believe it or not. Stress can mean many things to many different people.
In the law enforcement world, the stress we worry about the most involves lethal force encounters. It is the same stress that soldiers experience in combat and is, in essence, combat stress. This stress has many effects on the brain, all of which contribute directly to our physical condition.
One response to stress in combat is tunnel vision; the inability to use your peripheral vision. Another response to stress is auditory exclusion, defined as a temporary loss of hearing and is, in some cases, called “tunnel hearing.”
The loss of fine motor skills is a devastating effect of stress. This can cause an officer to lose the ability to clear weapon malfunctions. This has also been blamed for the inability to drop a ticket book during a lethal force encounter. All of these physiological responses can be deadly to officers in lethal force encounters. Training can illustrate a number of different effective counter measures to these dangerous responses.
Range training is fundamental and absolutely necessary for police officers. The more training we get, the better we will perform under stress. The training we receive not only prepares us for lethal force encounters; it also helps us to develop muscle memory.
Muscle memory is essential to performing under stress. Whether it is a magazine exchange, a malfunction clearance or sight picture development, it is vital to maintaining the skills necessary to overcome stress. The only way to develop this muscle memory is repetition over time.
Many police departments only have one range event per year and that is the annual qualification. Although it is probably the minimum requirement, I implore you to re-examine your training standards so that you can provide your officers with the needed tools to overcome stress. Let's talk about the statistics that demonstrate why you should train hard and train often.
Ample research was conducted by Dr. Bill Lewinski with Force Science Institute and Tom Aveni with the Police Policy Study Council on officer-involved shootings. According to this research, the best-trained officers involved in shootings only hit their target 64 of the time in daylight encounters.
This percentage drops to 45% in diminished light encounters. If 77% of officer involved shootings occur in a diminished light encounter, that means that three-fourth's of the time, highly trained officers are missing their targets 55% of the time. These are highly trained officers that train with their firearms several times a year.
Let's go back to the public perception of “Why can't you just wound them?” Stress has a lot to do with it. Even the officers with a high level of training can only hit their targets 64% of the time and the target they are aiming at, the torso, is the largest target available to them.
If you take all of these factors I've reviewed into consideration, it would be extremely difficult to aim at an arm or leg during times of stress and many, if not all, of the rounds fired would miss their intended target. Since we don't want random bullets flying through the air toward the masses, we minimize the process involved in these encounters. This is why we aim for the largest target available to us in order to stop a suspect's engagement.
Jacob Eubanks has been a police officer for 13 years and currently holds the rank of Corporal with his department. Jacob is a use of force instructor and holds TCOLE licenses as an Instructor and Firearms Instructor. Jacob is certified as both a 1911 and AR-15/M16 armorer and is currently assigned to criminal investigations.
Congress Takes A Step Toward Declaring War on ISIS
Mitch McConnell has introduced a resolution to authorize military force against the Islamic State. Will it come to a vote?
by Clare Foran
Congress may be edging closer to formally authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quietly introduced a joint-resolution on Wednesday to authorize the use of military force against the terrorist group. It would grant the administration sweeping authority to combat the Islamic State, though it is far from certain that the measure will receive a vote.
Disagreement over how much authority Congress should hand the president in the fight against ISIS has so far stalled efforts to authorize force on Capitol Hill. McConnell has been sharply critical of the president's request for military force, and has thrown cold water on the prospect that the Senate would vote to approve it. Even close colleagues were surprised by the move. When the National Journal asked Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn to comment on the fact that McConnell had introduced the resolution, he replied, “He did?”
Whether or not a vote is held, the resolution may revive debate in Congress over how aggressive American military action against the Islamic State should be. It also creates an opportunity for Republicans to cast the president as overly passive in the fight against the terrorist group. The Senate majority leader's proposal is broader than what Obama asked Congress to pass last February. The president's proposal did not authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” It was also time-limited: The authorization was set to expire after three years.
Hawkish Senate Republicans such as former 2016 presidential candidate Lindsey Graham oppose such restrictions, saying they would tie the administration's hands as it works to fight a terrorist threat. Essentially a modern-day equivalent of a declaration of war, an authorization of military force, or AUMF, would allow Congress to spell out its priorities in the fight against the Islamic State. And the resolution introduced by McConnell highlights a clear contrast with the administration on foreign policy. It authorizes the president to:
use all necessary and appropriate force in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, its associated forces, organizations, and persons, and any successor organizations.
Nothing in its provisions constrains the length of that fight, limits its geographic scope, or imposes restrictions on the nature of the forces that could be deployed. That may be well received by Republican lawmakers concerned that the administration's proposal didn't go far enough. But it is likely to alarm war-weary Democrats fearful that the U.S. could become locked into a protracted conflict abroad.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Graham along with Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Joni Ernst and Daniel Coats.
The administration did not immediately signal opposition to the proposal on Thursday, instead indicating a potential willingness to compromise. “We certainly welcome Republicans taking an interest in specifically authorizing the continued use of military force against ISIL,” a White House spokesperson said, adding that the administration “remain[s] open to reasonable adjustments” to the president's proposal. But there was a warning, too: “The president has also been clear from the beginning that we will not be engaging in the type of armed conflict that we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that remains the case.”
It seems unlikely that a Senate vote is imminent. A spokesman for the senate majority leader said that McConnell would be open to supporting “an AUMF that doesn't tie the hands of this or any future commander-in-chief.” He added that if the president were to seek approval for such a measure: “it would be the intent of the leader to consider an AUMF through the regular order, working with Chairman [Bob] Corker and the Foreign Relations Committee.”
The president's undeclared war on ISIS puts Republicans in an awkward spot. GOP leaders don't want to look as though they have ceded authority, a perception Republicans risk if they fail to act as a check on the administration's power to deploy military force. But if Congress does authorize military force, such an action might be construed as a stamp of approval for the president's broader foreign-policy objectives, making it harder for the GOP to credibly level criticism against the administration as it fights the Islamic State.
For now, McConnell can point to the resolution as evidence that Republicans are working to hold the president accountable, and perhaps convince the administration to take a harder-line in the fight against ISIS. The measure also gives the majority leader a chance to paint a picture of a more assertive brand of Republican foreign policy compared to a more constrained approach from the administration.
If McConnell were to set up a vote on an authorizing measure, the House might be willing to do the same. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan recently told reporters: “it would be a good symbol of American resolve to have a new AUMF to go after ISIS.” In the meantime, the administration continues to rely on an authorizing measure dating back to 2001 as a legal justification for military operations already being carried out to combat the Islamic State.
Beyond the Badge: Community policing
by Brenna Long
In recent years, the Menomonie Police Department has undergone a paradigm shift.
This shift has taken the department's structure from a traditional law enforcement model -- which entails aggressive enforcement of violations of traffic laws, local ordinances and criminal laws -- to a procedural justice model of policing. One of the concepts stressed in this model is community policing: Creating collaborative partnerships between the police and members of the community to develop solutions to problems.
Many projects have been developed as a result of community policing. In late 2015, a satisfaction survey was developed by Menomonie Police Department interns, who then spent two months going door-to-door in City Ward 8 to distribute the survey in person.
Why conduct a community survey, you might ask? Many police departments across the nation conduct their own annual surveys. With the notion of community policing in mind, community surveys allow police departments to not only gauge efficacy and community perceptions, they allow police departments to gain a better understanding of the concerns of the community and potentially lead to identification of specific problems within neighborhoods.
This directly aligns with the mission of the Menomonie Police Department: “To collaborate with the community to provide a safe and peaceful environment while protecting the liberties of all persons.” We are committed to serving the community and to do this effectively, we need to understand the needs of the community.
The community survey is now available at the Menomonie Police Department website and via the MPD Facebook Page. The survey itself is extensive, but should take about five minutes to complete. We sincerely appreciate your input.
If you would like more information about the topic covered in this article or would like a presentation to a group you are affiliated with, please do not hesitate to contact me at 715-231-8504.
From the Department of Homeland Security
United States Begins Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program
WASHINGTON—The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.
Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.
Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:
Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.
Again, whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the terms of the law. In addition, we will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan.
Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.
The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation.
An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.
Information on visa applications can be found at travel.state.gov.
Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP's website at esta.cbp.dhs.gov.
LAPD Statement on Crime Fighting Strategies
Los Angeles : Earlier today, Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) held a press conference regarding the Department's efforts to fight crime in the City of Los Angeles. The LAPD and its nearly 13,000 sworn and civilian employees work hard every day to make Los Angeles the safest big city in the Nation despite a state-wide trend of increasing crime. While reported violent and property crime increased in 2015, it is important to note the following facts.
Crime in Los Angeles continues to be at historic lows.
•Crime per capita in 2015 was lower than it was in 1953 when the City's population was only two million residents compared to four million today;
•2015 marked the sixth year in a row that homicides were below 300 in the City. By contrast, in 1992, 1,094 people were murdered in Los Angeles; and
•Overall reported crime in 2015 represented a 21% decrease in crime compared to ten years ago.
Last year's crime increase was largely driven by the following factors:
•The potential unintended effects of Proposition 47 and AB 109 which reduced penalties for certain offenses and promised additional services which have not yet materialized;
•Stricter reporting of aggravated assaults under the federal Uniform Crime Report system;
•Increased outreach to victims of domestic violence, traditionally an underreported crime; and
•The increase in the homeless population which increased the number of potential victims vulnerable to a variety of property and violent crimes.
Despite these factors, and the statewide trend of increasing crime, the LAPD has implemented several strategies in partnership with other City agencies and community groups which have taken hold and have had a positive effect in the last quarter of 2015. These successful strategies included:
•Significantly expanding the number of specially-trained officers assigned to LAPD's Metropolitan Division who are flexibly deployed to rapidly respond to crime spikes and proactively prevent crimes throughout the City;
•Doubling the number of Domestic Abuse Response Teams (DART) enabling every LAPD patrol division to field specialized teams to prevent and respond to domestic violence incidents;
•Expanding the Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program to include twice as many GRYD zones that provide prevention and intervention services to at-risk youth;
•Combining City and County efforts to reduce homelessness comprehensively by increasing available housing and providing additional support services;
•Doubling the number of specially-trained teams of police officers and mental health professionals to respond to incidents involving a mental health crisis; and
•Expanding Smart Policing Initiatives to use sophisticated data analysis to deploy police resources in areas that will have the largest impact in preventing and reducing crime.
These proven strategies have not only reduced the much higher crime rates of past years but have shown positive results in the last quarter of 2015 and the initial weeks of this year. Through the expertise, creativity, and commitment of the officers and leaders who developed these successful strategies in the past, the LAPD will continue to work with the community to reduce crime throughout the City each and every day.
Man wanted for alleged ISIS-linked threats to Philly, NYC police turns self in
by Fox News
A man wanted in connection with alleged threats to police officers in Philadelphia and New York City that invoked the ISIS terror group turned himself in Wednesday.
The 36-year-old man has not been identified and no charges have been filed. However, all 36,000 NYPD officers have been ordered to be on alert for potential attacks.
The first alleged threat, which warned that someone was planning to shoot a police officer, was called in to Philadelphia police Tuesday night. Authorities there informed their counterparts in New York that they had traced the call to Manhattan.
Later Tuesday, the NYPD received a similar call, warning that someone planned to shoot officers in New York and Philadelphia. That caller said the man also made a reference to ISIS, though the context was not clear.
NYPD officers were alerted to be on the lookout for the man mentioned in the phone calls, who was on parole and had an open warrant for his arrest.
A police official told the Wall Street Journal that the man surrendered at a Bronx parole office for questioning Wednesday afternoon.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday the tip had not been verified, adding that both police departments and the FBI were investigating the matter further.
The alleged threats were made two weeks after Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett was ambushed and wounded by a man using a stolen gun. The suspect, Edward Archer, said he was acting in the name of Islam when he fired more than a dozen shots at Hartnett, who was sitting in an unmarked car.
The Missing Data on Gun Violence
Restrictions on research, and a subsequent lack of evidence, make it hard to pinpoint the best ways to prevent firearm deaths and injuries.
by Clare Foran
The recurrent, violent phenomenon of mass shootings, including recent attacks in California and Oregon, has fueled Americans' anxieties and reinvigorated a tense national debate over gun control. The presidential race has certainly put a spotlight on gun laws. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has loudly promised to take on the National Rifle Association and has accused her rival, Bernie Sanders, of cozying up to the gun lobby. This has led Sanders to retort proudly that he has a “D-” rating from the NRA. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Republican candidates have denounced President Obama's executive actions to expand background checks for gun purchasers and have taken pains to highlight their own stellar NRA ratings.
As the debate intensifies, candidates on both sides are staking out strong policy stands—and yet, gun violence is far more of a mystery than most people realize. Evidence and research that could be used to develop effective laws that might decrease deaths and injuries from firearms is severely lacking. Why? It's partly the result of longstanding restrictions on federally funded gun-violence research. In the mid-1990s, Congress declared that funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shouldn't be used to advocate for gun control, and it effectively blocked funding for the study of gun violence at the agency. It wasn't an outright prohibition, but the action had a very real chilling effect on research.
“It's actually kind of appalling,” said Sherry Towers, a professor at Arizona State University who has done research on mass shootings. “We're one of the richest nations in the world, and we aren't exactly forbidding scientists to look at this, but the federal government is strongly discouraging it.”
Many basic questions remain largely unanswered as a result. It's difficult, for example, to pin down the precise impact of specific gun laws—like laws that allow people to openly carry firearms. Do open-carry laws make gun violence worse, or do they cut down on firearm injuries and deaths? Researchers can't say with certainty. They also don't know much about the path that guns take in order to fall into the hands of criminals, or how gun laws impact firearm sales on the black market. For that matter, the psychology of gun violence is not well understood. What motivates people to use guns to commit a crime or suicide, and what are the most effective ways to stop mass shootings, gun-related homicide, and suicide? Limited research makes it challenging to reach well-supported conclusions.
“I think people assume that we have a lot more information than we really do when it comes to guns, and that's definitely not the case,” said Daniel Webster, the director of Johns Hopkins's Center for Gun Policy and Research. “We have precious little data.”
Of course, gun violence is not the only area of research where politics and science clash. Climate change is a contentious subject that proves evidence doesn't eliminate controversy. In the case of climate change, research has yielded a scientific consensus that man-made global warming is a real threat. But that hasn't stopped a political debate over the existence of climate change from raging on Capitol Hill. Still, the ability to cite that consensus helps frame the debate, making it possible for the media, and anyone else, to more easily discredit the arguments of politicians who deny the science. Data acts as a check on rhetoric that has become untethered from reality, and evidence informs the creation of effective policy to deal with the threat.
In contrast, a scarcity of statistics on gun violence allows the political debate over gun control to take place in a realm that is often largely separate from actual fact. A lack of research makes it difficult to know which laws and regulations would reduce injuries or deaths from firearms and under what circumstances they might do so. When it comes to talking about gun laws, politicians are, to some extent, operating in the dark. “It's very concerning that there's been an attack on science and the ability to carry that out,” said Fred Rivara, a professor at the University of Washington who helped conduct a study on guns in the home in the early 1990s. “It's resulted in a sort of stalemate in terms of being able to develop effective policy.”
To be clear, it's not that there isn't any research. Private foundations have stepped up to try and fill the void of federal gun-violence research. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, President Obama called for the CDC to conduct research on the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it. But Congress was unmoved and continued to withhold funding. Still, there are some signs that government agencies are daring to defy political pressure from lawmakers and the gun lobby. A year after Sandy Hook, for example, the National Institutes of Health put out a call for research on firearm violence in a direct response to the president's plea.
Studies that do exist point to some potential conclusions. Research suggests that comprehensive background checks help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Experts say that additional studies are needed to confirm that finding, however. Research indicates that safe gun storage can help reduce shootings. And evidence shows that firearms are often trafficked from states with fewer gun restrictions to states with tighter gun laws, which means that an uneven application of gun laws across the United States may fuel an illegal firearms market.
Researchers warn that a lack of data shouldn't lead to paralysis. Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by gun violence, a phenomenon that medical experts describe as a pressing public-health problem. “You don't need lots of studies to realize that it's probably better to make sure that everyone has background checks,” said David Hemenway, the director of Harvard's Injury Control Research Center. “Various studies have found that background checks are effective, and it would be great to have lots more studies that could essentially prove that, but whether you have them or not, you can still take common-sense action.”
Firearms owners, and the gun lobby, however, fear that research ostensibly carried out to study gun violence will be used to promote gun control. (It's worth noting, too, that there isn't universal agreement over what constitutes “common-sense action.” Some gun owners believe background checks of any kind are a violation of constitutional rights, for example.) The NRA remains unyielding and has continued to press its case: “There is no shortage of biased, privately funded research that contorts the data to support gun control,” NRA lobbyist Chris Cox wrote in a recent Politico article titled “Why We Can't Trust the CDC with Gun Research.”
That suspicion is part of what makes gun research so controversial in the first place. It also puts a strain on anyone who opts to study gun violence—even if they aren't tapping federal funds. Some researchers say they actively discourage undergraduates from pursuing gun research, since the money simply isn't there. Those who persist can face intense scrutiny and, in some cases, intimidation. “I've received death threats. It kind of comes with the territory,” said Garen Wintemute, the director of the violence-prevention research program at the University of California, Davis. “But … there is a tremendous social injustice here, and to acquiesce to that by not jumping into the fray is to be part of what makes those conditions possible in the first place. I'm not willing to accept that.”
Besides, Wintemute is all too aware of the possible repercussions: “I ask myself all the time: How many thousands of people have died as a result of our not having the answers to questions because we have not been allowed to do our work?”
Visa overstays swell ranks of illegals as 500,000 broke law in 2015
by Stephen Dinan
More than 500,000 visitors overstayed their visas in fiscal year 2015, the Homeland Security Department said in a report released Tuesday night that signals the problems of illegal immigration extend well beyond the land borders and include the millions of people who enter by air or sea.
Overall compliance was 99 percent, meaning almost all of the 45 million visitors the department checked left before their visas expired. But the 1.17 percent defiance rate still meant some 527,127 individuals overstayed, with many of them drifting into the shadows to join the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
More than a quarter of visitors from Laos and Djibouti broke the rules and overstayed their visas. And so-called “special interest countries” considered to be training grounds for terrorists also had high rates of overstays, with Afghanistan posting an 11 percent rate, Iraqis overstaying 7 percent of the time, and Syrians breaking the rules 6.5 percent of the time.
“By not enforcing visa overstays, the administration has flung the border open — millions get temp visas and then freely violate their entry contracts and shred their eviction notices,” the Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee said in a statement.
Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, plans to explore the overstay rate at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Homeland Security said in the new report that agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement do try to monitor visa overstays to spot potential national security threats.
“This is accomplished through both broad intelligence-driven criteria on subjects that exhibit similar characteristics of known radical organizations and their participants and by activity which focuses ICE investigations on those subjects that are considered to pose a higher risk to national security,” the department said.
Homeland Security said it's still trying to improve its data collection so it can try to figure out who's leaving.
By late this year, Customs and Border Protection, the agency that screens arrivals, said it will begin testing the collection of biometric data for those departing the U.S. by air. Such an exit system is decades overdue.
Most of the attention to illegal immigration has gone to the southwest border, where a new surge of Central Americans has challenged Homeland Security's ability to enforce the law.
But analysts have long said airports and seaports are a major part of the problem for those from other continents, with visitors admitted on visas and then refusing to leave when their time is up.
Indeed, at least five of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack had arrived on legal visas but overstayed, leaving them in the country to carry out their plot.
Tallahassee Commissioners Encourage Community Policing
by Ashley Tressel
The Tallahassee City Commission is setting its agenda for the year and that includes increasing community policing in high crime areas.
City Commissioner Curtis Richardson says neighborhoods have to take policing into their own hands.
“The message has to go out to the criminal element, ‘Not this neighborhood. You know, you go somewhere else, we're policing ourselves, we're taking back our neighborhood and making it a better place, a place where people want to be and want to live.'" He said.
Richardson says Wilson Green is a neighborhood finding success with community policing. Community members have partnered with police, acting as their eyes and ears. The city has also hired more officers.
The commission's conversation on the issue comes after a spate of violent and gun-related crimes hit the city last summer.
SAPD Community Policing Program Takes Off
by Darian Trotter
SAN ANTONIO - Creating safer neighborhoods is the focus of a community-based police initiative that's getting every day people involved.
The SAPD program is called "Citizen on Patrol."
Darian Trotter has details about the program and how you can get involved.
Tinker Mass, community leader said, "I'm thrilled about that because that was my vision in the first place and I was hoping that it would spread exactly like this."
She's talking about the widespread interest she's received since the Prospect Hill Neighborhood Watch was featured on Fox News at Nine partnering with police.
They were the first to enroll in the new community-based police program called "Citizen on Patrol."
It allows every day citizens to be the first line of defense against crime in their neighborhoods.
Mass said, "Obviously they are the professionals. We aren't going to get involved in doing their job but we can certainly assist them in being better witnesses."
Last week Prospect Hill neighbors walked with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and several patrol officers and they discussed problem areas on the west side, and ways to address them.
Since then Tinker Mass has had calls from leaders in 14-different neighborhoods who want to get involved in the "C.O.P Program."
She's told them how she got the support of her neighbors.
"I introduced myself, I went house to house, business to business," Mass said, "I talked to business owners, I talked to homeowners and that's what I told them you need to do you need to get out you need to get people involved."
"If we have more eyes and more ears out there on the streets that helps us tremendously and that makes your neighborhood safer," Douglas Greene said.
SAPD Spokesman Douglas Green says you too can get involved by completing a registration form and two 4-hour courses at your neighborhood substation.
You can even go on an 8-hour ride along with police.
Greene said, "Through this training we talk to them about how to recognize suspicious activity, how to report that activity."
Mass said, "That's imperative. You've got to go there to know the perameters under which you can operate and how you can approach people."
It all amounts to safer neighborhoods when more people are involved.
"It's something that we're very excited about and we want to encourage more people to get involved," Greene said.
Follow this link if you are interested in "Citizen on Patrol" program.
New Mexico governor calls on lawmakers to make public safety top priority
by Fox News
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez called on state lawmakers to crack down on violent crime and put public safety at the top of state priorities as New Mexico's Legislature convened Tuesday for a 30-day budgetary session.
Legislators are tasked with crafting a budget aimed at keeping pace with soaring health care costs for low-income residents, stimulating a sluggish state economy and possibly increasing pay to teachers and police.
With little time to spare, lawmakers already are clamoring to push through major policy initiatives designed to address concerns about public safety and political corruption.
Addressing the Legislature, Martinez described a state under siege from violent criminals, habitual drunken drivers, marauding teens and "turnstile thugs" set loose by the courts. She placed public safety at the top of her agenda, followed by education and jobs programs.
House Republicans are calling for indelible changes to the criminal justice system in response to a string of high-profile cases over the last year, including the shooting deaths of two police officers and a 4-year-old girl killed during a road-rage incident in Albuquerque. Martinez, who has wide discretion over which bills are heard, threw her support behind proposals to expand crimes subject to three-strikes sentencing rules and to allow judges to deny bail to dangerous defendants.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and state court administrators are backing a constitutional amendment to overhaul New Mexico's bail system not only to give judges more authority to deny bail but also to allow low-risk defendants to be released pending trial if they don't have the means to make bond. Martinez made no mention of the proposal for broadening pre-trial release for nonviolent offenders.
Democratic Senate floor leader Michael Sanchez of Belen characterized the governor's public safety agenda as pro-incarceration and lacking in rehabilitation funding.
"That's contrary to what's going on in the rest of the country, where people don't want to lock people up," Sanchez said.
He said violent crime problems are centered in Albuquerque, where dissatisfaction with the police force runs high.
Martinez welcomed to the House Chambers the widows of slain police officers Nigel Benner and Dan Webster and invoked their pain and sadness in her call for criminal justice reforms.
"We have vicious, heinous criminals among us who are willing to take the lives of our greatest heroes," Martinez said. "Our laws are too lax, our justice system too weak — particularly when it comes to violent, dangerous offenders."
The governor and lawmakers also are under pressure from the federal government to resolve a stalemate over immigrant driver's licenses and the state's failure to comply with the REAL ID Act.
Democrat Senate leaders remain at odds with the governor's proposal to replace driver's licenses for immigrants with a driving privilege card. Some immigrant-rights advocates complain new requirements for immigrants would be onerous and could make them targets for persecution by authorities.
Political stakes will be high during the session, with every legislative seat coming up for election in November. Republicans hope to extend their control of the lower House to the Senate, where Democrats hold 24 out of 42 seats.
Legislative leaders have largely agreed with the governor on priorities for a nearly $6.5 billion budget proposal that increases spending 3.7 percent. A third of new spending would go toward new state Medicaid expenses.
At the same time, political fractures are appearing as revenue estimates tighten unexpectedly because of low crude oil prices linked to state royalties and severance taxes. An influential legislative committee wants to put on hold $77 million in state pay raises primarily for school teachers — over the objections of the executive branch.
The bulk of those pay raises would go to entry-level teachers under the governor's budget recommendations, while leading Democrats favor pay raises for all teachers and support staff. Martinez also wants to expand the ranks of law enforcement and raise pay for State Police, prison guards and child abuse case workers.
House Democrats have urged the governor to call up a raft of proposals for reforming the campaign finance reporting system and creating a statewide ethics commission.
Calls for reform were sparked last year by a scandal that brought down former Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds to fuel a gambling spree. She completed a 30-day jail sentence on Sunday.
Martinez touched on campaign finance issues briefly, endorsing a cooling off period for former public officials who go to work as lobbyists and greater disclosures about ties to private clients and infrastructure projects.
Cops respond: What 1 word best defines the police mindset?
Whatever it's called — guardian, warrior, both, or something different — mindset matters immensely
by Val Van Brocklin
The mindset of America's police has become a topic of national debate in the wake of highly publicized officer-involved shootings, national protests, and a Presidential Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing that included in its recommendations, “Law enforcement should embrace a guardian — rather than a warrior — mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.”
The task force partnered police, non-profit and community organizers, and criminal justice scholars. They traveled the nation holding town-hall style meetings to listen to testimony and gather input before issuing their report in May 2015.
But the police profession was debating mindset well before Ferguson and the task force report. One of the less publicized reasons for that internal debate was the number of cities coming under settlements or consent decrees with the Department of Justice for unconstitutional patterns of police practices.
Cops Make Two Lists
These legal mandates are costly on many levels. Their implementation — requiring changes in training, policies, and procedures — demand a look at what led to the unconstitutional police practices. Police mindset is one of the factors examined. Whatever it's called — guardian, warrior, both, or something different — mindset matters immensely.
In the last several months, I have had the opportunity to deliver a training session entitled The Winning Mindset for 21st Century Policing: Warrior, Guardian, Both, or Something Different. During those seminars, I've had the opportunity to pose the following question to LEOs in attendance in places like Plano (Texas), Anchorage (Alaska), and Loveland (Colo.):
“What do you think are top strengths and weaknesses of a 21st century police officer?”
Here's a compilation of police officers' one-word answers (not in any particular order):
Quick to judge
Lack of communication
Lack of confidence
Knowledge vs. Attitude
I then asked the officers to decide whether each of the listed strengths and weaknesses is primarily knowledge-driven or attitude-driven and to put a K or an A next to the trait. I invite you to do the same.
In every training session there was a decisive pattern. Officers decided that 80 to 90 percent of the strengths and weaknesses were primarily driven by attitude. Even those that were first considered knowledge based, such as “knowledgeable,” had a strong attitude component upon further examination.
Have you ever known someone who knew a lot — who was a super subject matter expert — who acted like an idiot? Or was so arrogant or had such poor communication skills that their knowledge was of little use to them or anyone else? Knowledge alone isn't a strength unless it's empowered by wisdom, humility, and effective communication — all of which are attitude driven.
Attitude is just another word for mindset. According to cops as widely scattered as Texas, Colorado, and Alaska, 80 percent to 90 percent of what it takes to be a great or lousy police officer in the 21st century is determined by mindset. The above lists prove that whatever we call the winning mindset, cops have decided what it embodies.
The debate about what to call the winning mindset for 21st century policing is continuing within the profession and on a national stage. Opinions vary amongst police and the public, likely informed by their different perceptions of what different words mean. Frequently bandied terms include warrior, guardian, both, or something different such as sheepdog, sentinel, paladin, blue knight, or just plain ‘cop.'
Words matter — as this debate demonstrates. Whatever term is settled on to describe the winning police mindset for the 21st century, that mindset should reflect the strengths listed above, and disavow the weaknesses.
About the author
As a state and federal prosecutor for over 10 years, Val's trial work has been seen nationally on ABC'S PRIMETIME LIVE, Discovery Channel's Justice Files, in USA Today, The National Enquirer and REDBOOK.
Described by Calibre Press as "the indisputable master of entertrainment," Val is now an international law enforcement trainer and writer who appears in person and on TV, radio, video productions, webcasts, newspapers, books and magazines. She has been a regular contributor to a number of law enforcement publications and has been featured in the Calibre Press Online Street Survival Newsletter, Police Chief magazine, The Law Enforcement Trainer magazine, and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Gazette.
When she's not working, Val can be found flying her airplane with her retriever, a shotgun, a fly rod, and high aspirations. Visit Val at www.valvanbrocklin.com and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FBI investigating Kent State professor for ties to ISIS
by Fox News
An Ohio college professor who called Israel “the spiritual heir to Nazism” and spoke openly about “Jihad” is being investigated by the FBI for possible links to ISIS.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that the bureau was looking into Kent State University associate professor Julio “Assad” Pino for ties to the terrorist group, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. Pino is an associate professor of history specializing in Latin American history and the third world.
“Because it's an ongoing investigation, I can't say too much about it,” the spokeswoman said.
Pino, who is from Cuba and is a convert to Islam, denied the allegations.
“I've never broken the law,” he told the Beacon Journal. “I support no violence or violent organizations. One man or one woman's interpretation of events can be very different from another's. As they say, ‘Haters gonna hate.' Truth always prevails, and truth will prevail in this case.”
Pino blamed his past rhetoric for possibly inspiring the probe.
“I can only imagine, given my past record at Kent State dealing with controversial issues about the Middle East, some people may be favorable or unfavorable,” he said. “Rumors start, and that's the only thing I can think would draw attention from a government agency.”
The FBI has already questioned several of Pino's colleagues and students, the Beacon Journal reported.
Emily Mills, the editor-in-chief of student newspaper the Kent Stater, said she was among those interviewed.
“They said they were looking into his alleged ties to the Islamic State,” Mills told the Beacon Journal. “They said it was an ongoing investigation and that they were questioning faculty and other students.”
A Kent State spokesperson said the FBI assured the college there was no threat to the school.
Pino has a long history of making controversial and anti-Semitic statements.
In a 2014 “open letter” to “academic friends of Israel,” he accused pro-Israel members of the academic community as being “directly responsible for the murder of more than 1,400 Palestinian children, women and elderly civilians.” He signed that letter “Jihad until victory!”
He also shouted “Death to Israel” during a presentation by a former Israeli official in 2011, eulogized a Palestinian suicide bomber in the Kent Stater and allegedly posted jihad-promoting messages on a jihad website in 2007.
ClarionProject.org has posted several screenshots of Islamist postings originating from a Facebook account in Pino's name. In the "Intro" section the account claims Pino studied "Overthrowing the Government at UCLA."
A May 2015 posting appears to directly praise Usama bin Laden.
"Sheik Osama (may Allah be Pleased with Him) was the greatest, and desrves (sic) praise for kicking off this jihad," the post says.
On Sept. 14, 2014 the account posted a photo of two masked Islamist fighters with the comment, "Keep it a secret: That's me on the left!"
In August 2012, the account posted a photo of Pino standing in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. A comment below the picture from Pino's account said, "I come to bury D.C., not to praise it."
Utah officer was paying off cancer bills when he was killed
The fatal police shooting is among the first on-duty officer deaths in the country for 2016
by The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah police department is grieving for a fellow officer slain while working overtime to pay for his cancer treatments amid questions about why his shooter was on the streets in the first place, despite a long rap sheet.
Officer Douglas Scott Barney, of Unified Police of Salt Lake County, was killed Sunday after coming across Cory Lee Henderson, who later died in a shootout with other officers.
Henderson, 31, had walked away from a state-run parolee drug treatment center last month. It was his latest cycle through federal prisons and halfway houses as he faced multiple gun and drug-related charges over the past decade.
Gang investigators had tracked him to a Salt Lake City suburb Friday night, but missed capturing him, said Lt. Lex Bell of the.
"They're taking it a little bit hard," Bell said.
Henderson had run a red light and crashed a car Sunday, then walked away. Barney, 44, who was responding after the crash, was found shot in the head, his gun still in the holster.
The father of three teenagers was working an overtime shift he'd taken to help pay off debt from his bladder cancer treatments. He had been a police officer 18 years.
Henderson also shot one of Barney's partners through both legs before he was killed. Officer Jon Richey, 51, was released from a hospital on Tuesday after his wounds were treated.
Officers didn't know Henderson was a fugitive until hours after the shooting, Bell said. Police are often frustrated to see violent offenders out of jail weeks after arrest, he said.
"We'll risk our life to find somebody. A month or two later, they go back on the street," he said.
Henderson had been paroled from prison in April, after serving 14 months on a gun charge. He got out early after finishing a drug treatment program.
He was picked up on federal firearm and drug possession charges months later, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse ordered him to a state-run treatment center for parolees as he awaited trial last month, according to court records.
That's not unusual in such cases, said Randy Richards, president of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, speaking generally.
Within days, Henderson checked out to look for work and never came back.
He was with a woman during the Sunday car crash. She has since talked to police, but wasn't arrested or publicly identified since she could be a witness. She wasn't with him at the time of the shooting, police said.
Police are planning a candlelight vigil to honor Barney and Richey for Wednesday, and Barney's funeral is set for Monday.
Some 10,000 people are expected at the funeral for one of the first officers in the country to die on duty this year, and the first ever for the Unified Police Department since it formed in 2010 to serve communities in the Salt Lake City area.
Bell had worked closely with the slain officer and said the two shared Twizzlers candy and their memories of their first patrol jobs last week. Even people he put in handcuffs appreciated Barney's sense of humor, his colleague said.
"He's got them laughing before they ever go to jail," Bell said.
3 armed suspects attempt to rob off-duty NY cop, 1 wounded
One of the suspects yelled 'shoot him' upon seeing the officer's badge
by PoliceOne Staff
NEW YORK — A New York City Police Department officer who was off-duty wounded one of three men attempting to rob him, NBC New York reported.
Three armed men approached the officer while he was walking and using FaceTime to speak with his son. They held him at knifepoint and stole his cellphone, police told the publication.
During the robbery, one of the suspects saw the officer's badge and yelled “shoot him” in Spanish.
The officer drew his weapon in fear for his life and shot one of the suspects in the body. The other two ran off and dropped the officer's stolen belongings.
The officer was not injured during the incident. The wounded suspect was taken to a hospital.
Two suspect have been arrested, according to AMNY, while one is still on the run.
FBI: Violent crime rose in first 6 months of 2015 over 2014
Police officials have struggled to pinpoint specific reasons for the homicide increase
by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — Violent crime rose across the country in the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period the year before, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the FBI.
The statistics show a 1.7 percent jump in the overall number of violent crimes reported by local law enforcement, with increases in murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The FBI said violent crime rose most dramatically, at 5.3 percent, in cities with populations between 250,000 and 499,999.
Burglary and property crimes, however, dropped in the first six months of last year, as did arson offenses, the FBI said.
The statistics provide some support for assertions, voiced in the last few months by local and federal law enforcement officials, of a crime spike in 2015. But the snapshot is widely understood to be incomplete since the data from local law enforcement is reported to the FBI voluntarily, and not all agencies participate.
Crime in the United States drew public attention last year as many major American cities reported increases in the number of homicides in their communities. The FBI statistics, pulled from 12,879 local law enforcement agencies nationwide, show a 6.2 percent jump in murders from January to June 2015.
"While the overall violent crime rates remain historically low, and it is too early to draw any long-term conclusions, the Justice Department is acutely focused on the increases being experienced in some communities of the country," Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said in a statement.
The department is planning next month to convene representatives from U.S. attorneys' offices for training on anti-violence strategies. Last fall, it hosted a crime-fighting summit for mayors and local law enforcement officials.
Police officials have struggled to pinpoint specific reasons for the homicide increase, and the FBI release does not offer possible explanations.
Many criminal justice experts have cautioned against making too much of the increase given that the totals are far below where they were some 20 years ago, and have noted that after years of drops, the numbers could not be expected to keep going down.
FBI Director James Comey in October raised the possibility that officers, in the aftermath of the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri shooting, had turned to less proactive tactics for fear of being captured on viral videos and attracting public condemnation. But the White House distanced itself from that idea.
Report: Arapahoe High-School dismissed warning signs before 2013 Colorado shooting
by Amy R. Connolly
LITTLETON, Colo., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Arapahoe High School administrators repeatedly ignored signs an 18-year old student was a threat before he killed a classmate and himself in 2013, a report said.
The school and the school district could have intervened on Karl Pierson long before he stormed the school in 2013 with a shotgun, a machete and homemade bombs, the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and the University of Northern Colorado's Department of Criminal Justice found in the report released Monday.
Pierson killed Claire Davis, 17, and then himself on Dec. 13, 2013.
The center found administrators failed to share vital information, perform critical threat assessments and made continual poor decisions -- 27 in total -- about Pierson that allowed the shooting to unfold. Records dating back to his elementary school days show a pattern of violence, an early indicator for continuing problems.
"[Arapahoe High School's] and [Littleton Public School's] system failed at many points to get a handle on [Pierson's] problems, in spite of the fact that there were many warning signs and many opportunities," the report found.
"Not one [Arapahoe High School] teacher, administrator or staff person had a complete record of [Pierson's] history of concerning behaviors over his more than three years at [the high school], making it challenging to adequately assess the threat he presented," the report found.
The report came as part of an agreement between the school district and Davis' family not to sue.
"The angry young man that murdered our daughter was a student in crisis who desperately needed guidance in a different direction from the one he pursued," Michael and Desiree Davis, Claire's parents, said in the report introduction. "The lesson to learn is not that our schools should be less tolerant and more punitive, rather that our schools are now, as never before, in a unique position to identify and secure help for troubled students."
The report made several recommendations for changes, including greater sharing of information and better access to mental health assistance.
"The institutional barriers within schools, districts and our culture will need to be dismantled, including the belief that schools are powerless to manage mental health issues," the report said. "Schools can manage mental health and social support issues. The task is complicated but it is not impossible. The promotion of school safety will require the implementation of multiple mitigations in parallel."
Chronic Condition: A Portrait of a Neighborhood Under Community Policing
by Azeezat Adeleke
Ten protesters stand in the shadow of the New Haven County Courthouse, waving construction paper signs toward the busy street. They have come seeking justice—not for the first time, and certainly not for the last. As the cars whiz by on Elm Street, a major artery through the heart of the city, pedestrians amble along. Some crane their heads to look; others make a study of the sidewalk. I strike up a conversation with one of the protesters, a woman named Jane Mills. She tells me she's with a group called the People Against Injustice. I ask her why she is here.
She says that, on August 17, Mykel Armour, a 21-year-old New Haven resident, uploaded a video to Facebook. The video shows his being detained and then arrested by officers of the New Haven Police Department for interfering with an officer and resisting arrest. Armour, and those protesting in his name, say he was really arrested for filming the police. In Connecticut, this is not a crime at all. In 2011, NHPD released a general order stating that police officers cannot interfere with citizens who are filming them, unless the filmers obstruct police activity or pose a threat.
In the video, Armour appears to be doing neither. He stands in the street with his camera trained toward the sidewalk, where four or five police officers, mostly white, have stopped a few young adults, all black. Armour narrates with a playful cockiness, occasionally turning the camera around to mug for the viewer, in typical selfie style. He steps from the street onto the sidewalk and asks, “Hey, what's going on?” The police officer asks if he has ID. He responds, “I do got ID. For what, though?” Another officer, whose name tag reads K. Malloy, fills the frame, asking again for ID. Armour and Malloy begin to argue—Malloy grabs Armour's phone, Armour complains, the pitch of his voice rising with his indignation. Malloy says the ID is fake; Armour insists it isn't. “I'm mad y'all fucking with me right now,” Armour says.
Malloy tries to assuage him—keep your phone in your hands, he says, “I don't want you to be scared. You're looking very scared right now.” Armour retorts, “The way they've been beating these black kids up, I should be scared.” As the six-minute video ends, Armour is placed under arrest. On the day of this protest, September 24, he will go to court.
This confrontation did not have to happen. According to New Haven's own policing philosophy, it should not have happened. In 1991, Chief of Police Nicholas Pastore and his Deputy, Dean Esserman, brought to New Haven a new policing strategy that was sweeping the country: community policing. Given poor relations between the police and low-income neighborhoods of color, community policing was meant to be two things at once: a cure and a prophylactic. The policy asked police officers not just to patrol and protect neighborhoods, but also to become part of them. Officers were to walk the beat, meet the families, and understand the neighborhood. The policy was meant to lower crime rates and make crime less likely to happen in the first place.
Community policing is the most popular policing innovation of the past three decades. And in New Haven, it worked—for a time. In the 1990s, crime rates fell across the city. But Esserman left New Haven for New York in 1993, and Pastore resigned, after a sex scandal, in 1997. Over the next twenty years, the police department backed away from its community engagement. Crime rates inched up again. In 2011, Esserman returned, this time as Chief, and resuscitated community policing.
In a perfect world of community policing, Officer Malloy would have known Mykel and Mykel would have known him. There would have been no anger, no fear, no confrontation, no escalation. Mykel wouldn't need to film anything at all—why film the police if you trust them? Why film the police if you don't feel threatened?
I doubt that anyone, Chief Esserman included, would argue that community policing could be implemented perfectly, here in New Haven or anywhere else. But among New Haven residents and activists, there is a sense that community policing is not a cure or a prophylactic, but just another symptom of the underlying condition: racial inequality.
At the courthouse, as members of Black Lives Matter New Haven, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the People Against Injustice continue their protest, I ask Jane Mills how the petition to get Armour's charges dropped has been received. Any word from the mayor? The alders? “Not a thing,” she responds. Have any elected officials been helpful? Mills nods because one name comes immediately to mind: State Senator Gary Winfield. He, she says, is always helpful.
Senator Winfield (or Gary, as he is more commonly known) is not a grassroots activist. But he used to be—in the early 2000s, he was even a member of the People Against Injustice. And that might explain why he has focused so squarely and so successfully on addressing the issues that collided on the day that Mykel Armour filmed the police: racial justice, juvenile justice, and police reform.
Last June, a bill Winfield co-sponsored, SB 1109: An Act Concerning Excessive Use of Force, became law. Among other provisions, it requires police officers to wear body cameras and makes their departments liable when officers stop citizens from filming them. In a press release following its passage, Winfield said, “We can no longer hold to the notion that fictive boundaries of the state hold out the real failings of human beings because they wear the uniforms of law enforcement.”
This sounds like the exact opposite of the sunny rhetoric that usually surrounds community policing. It's clear that Winfield's criticism of the police comes from what he sees every day, right on his doorstep. From his doorstep—or more precisely, two feet to the left of it—I survey the neighborhood. Winfield's house, a buttercup yellow colonial, faces Winchester Avenue and sits a block away from Newhall Street, which bears the same namesake as the neighborhood: Newhallville. We are on the edge of Winfield's district, which covers half of New Haven, from Yale and its Golf Club to the black, working class neighborhoods of Dixwell and Newhallville. It's been two centuries since George Newhall made this the home of his Carriage Emporium, which reached global prominence—that is, until the world changed, his fortunes changed, and the money ran out.
This is Newhallville: a neighborhood of changing fortunes. Sitting next to Senator Winfield on his porch, I see outsized signs for Science Park, Yale's extensive, expensive, attempt to fill in the gaping hole created by the late 20th century decline of Newhallville's industry. Five minutes down the street looms the old Winchester Repeating Arms Factory, once a bustling industrial giant, now luxury lofts that look straight from the pages of Dwell. And yet, Newhallville still has a reputation. It's the sort of place where the headlines are all muggings, mayhem, and murder. That means it's also the sort of place where community policing is meant to do its best work, bringing the police and the community together to solve persistent problems.
Despite the deadlines, on this Saturday morning in October, Newhallville is beautiful: the light filters through scarlet and gold leaves, and the houses are as colorful as a box of crayons. I have come to ask about policing, but we begin by talking about the neighborhood. Winfield, 41 years old, a state senator since 2008, tells me about Newhallville's promise, and its problems, tightly intertwined.
“It's an easy place to see that there could be potential value,” he says. Newhallville, within walking distance from Yale, is a prime candidate for gentrification. Winfield continues, “People are coming to extract that value out of the community.” Those people include Yale, the real estate magnates who redeveloped the Winchester Factory, and white people buying houses in a neighborhood that is 85 percent black.
“Two years ago,” Winfield says. “I came out of my house; it's like 2:30 in the morning. And there's a white girl, and she's got the blonde ponytail, and she's got the shorts on and she's running down this way.” He points in the opposite direction of the lofts and Yale. “And I'm like, you're running deeper into the hood? This is amazing! Because you never would have seen it before.”
But while new money and new people came in, Winfield saw that life was not getting better for Newhallville's residents. And so, he decided to run for office and “find out why the hell this was going on.” He ran an unsuccessful campaign for alder and then became a state representative in 2008. In 2013, he launched a bid for mayor, got elbowed out of the primary by current Mayor Toni Harp, who had the blessing of the Democratic establishment, and eventually took the state senate seat she vacated in 2014. He is one of three African-Americans state senators, out of 36 total, in Connecticut.
While Winfield has used his reputation as an outsider, an insurgent, to chip away at some problems, Newhallville's deeper issues—the structural problems of segregation, poverty, and disenfranchisement—remain. And those issues contribute to its fraught relationship with the New Haven Police Department. We talk about these problems as I accompany Winfield in doing what he says won him his elections: walking the neighborhood. We step off of the porch and hit the sidewalk.
Winchester Avenue and Thompson Street
At the end of the block, where Winchester intersects with Thompson Street, we walk past the Taurus Club, where drug dealing and gunshots bring the police time and time again, and reach the International Package Store. Neon signs advertise Budweiser and Coors Light, posters hawk $8 bottles of wine and dreams of the lotto. This store, and a tiny grocery a block away, are the only places to get food for a few miles. Winfield tells me that the Package Store is a gathering place, “but not for people who are going to work, not for people who are staying out of trouble.”
In Newhallville, jobs are hard to come by. “You know the chances of a young black person from this community getting a job downtown?” Winfield asks me. I picture the stores that surround Yale's campus in the center of the city: the Urban Outfitters, the J. Crew, the coffee shops bathed in the glow of MacBook screens. He doesn't wait for an answer before he dismisses the question with a chuckle.
“Go to Hamden?” Hamden is a middle class town just five miles away, praised by CNN for its job opportunities and “quaint New England charm.” But, says Winfield, “They don't want you in Hamden.” And there is a mall in Milford, a town 15 minutes away by car. Perhaps Newhallville's teenagers, like their peers across the country, could get jobs at Footlocker or Forever21. The bus to Milford, though, takes an hour and a half each way. Most people here rely entirely on public transportation. So, Winfield asks, “How are you gonna work? Where do you work?”
We keep walking. There's a pause in the conversation and playground sounds—peals of laughter, the rhythmic creak of swing sets—fill the air.
“So, I wanted to ask about community policing,” I say. Winfield laughs out loud.
“Here's my thing,” he begins. “When you think about it, the mayor and the chief are interested in community policing because it's gonna fix whatever the problem is, right?” But according to Winfield, “We never defined the problem.”
The problem might be violence. Or unemployment. Or racial inequality. Or all of the above. Have the mayor and the police chief revived community policing because it solves these problems? Or because it solves a public relations problem?
For Winfield, and the other people who live on Winchester, and Newhall, and Hazel, and Ivy, and Lilac, even a friendly police presence is still a problem. Because it's still a presence. And for Winfield, that presence is inextricably linked to race. His voice rises, “If you were in a white neighborhood, do you really think the answer to any problem would be we need to put more police in that community?” I try to imagine Officer Malloy walking the beat in the wealthy East Rock neighborhood, past the stately Italianate mansions, stopping to talk to the people there about what they're doing and where they're going. I try to imagine him inserting himself into their lives, hovering at the edges, a constant presence. I stop trying to imagine this. There's no point.
Though the powers that be in this city—Mayor Toni Harp, Mayor John DeStefano before her, and Chief Dean Esserman—offer community policing as a solution, those who work for justice reform see it as the symptom of the underlying problem. Certain neighborhoods and their residents are labeled as criminal. The constant policing makes the label stick.
Winfield says he has butted heads with Harp and Esserman over community policing. He adds, “I know it irritates the Chief every time I say, what you say you're doing is not what's happening.” But he plans to keep at it. “I'm going to keep sticking them until they do what they need to do.”
I think back a few days, to when I spoke to Barbara Fair, one of the city's staunchest advocates for racial justice. When I asked her about community policing, her reaction was similar to Senator Winfield's: a dismissive shake of the head. There was, she says, a time when there was “real” community policing: cops got to know the neighborhood not because they were always on patrol, but because they lived there. It was their community, too. And yes, they were still law enforcement officers, but for residents, they didn't feel like outsiders. Those cops, many black, have largely retired. Most of the force now lives in the suburbs.
“Now, the officers, you can't even ask them a question. They're so belligerent,” she said. “They look at you like you're a suspect. And people get tired of that.”
In the video, Mykel was tired of it—you can hear it in his rising voice, colored by indignation and fatigue. And you can hear it in what he says, more to himself than to anyone else: “The way they've been beating these black kids up, I should be scared.”
And, I would guess, Officer Malloy was tired, too. How does it feel to be sent to police a community that does not even want you there? To be the physical manifestation of the disconnect between New Haven's leaders and its residents?
A few weeks later, on an early Saturday evening, I walk with Officer Jennifer McDermott from the austere headquarters of the New Haven Police Department to the parking lot around back. I slide into the passenger seat of her squad car and try not to gawk at the holding pen behind me.
McDermott checks in with dispatch and in a second we're zooming down State Street, headed to the beat she has patrolled for two of her three years as a cop in New Haven: District 7, which covers Cedar Hill, East Rock, and Newhallville. For the first half of her eight-hour shift, which lasts from 4:00pm to midnight, I will ride with McDermott to see what community policing, and Newhallville, look like from her eyes.
Winchester Avenue, Again
McDermott, blonde hair pulled into a tight bun, looking younger than her 36 years, begins by taking me on a tour of the neighborhood. We drive past Senator Winfield's house, windows aglow, and turn onto Sheffield Avenue. “I'm here more than I'm with my own kids,” she says. “And I see the same people over and over.” There's the woman in the white house addicted to PCP, the men who spend hours on the stoop in front of a yellow house, smoking and drinking and lounging.
The regulars aren't just people: over the next eight hours we pass a dozen corner stores. They all have the same flavor: tiny establishments advertising check cashing and more lotto dreams. “Every one of these corner stores is selling,” she tells me. Crack and PCP are usually in stock. Tonight, though, McDermott says the corners are emptier than usual.
An electronic chime dings: it's McDermott's first call of the night, to an automated alarm at a church on Division Street. We arrive and wait a moment for backup. It comes in the form of two officers in another car, both young guys. “Need some help, Jen?” one asks. For a moment, they exchange jokes: of the alarm, one says, “Could just be Jesus!” There's nothing to be done here—the building is locked, and as we pull away, the sound pulsates down the block. Yet, none of the neighbors has called 911 to report the possible break in. “Even after shots fired, people sometimes don't call the police,” McDermott says. “They're afraid.”
We drive by a small park, where teenagers stand around and little kids run around. “The officers usually kick them out of this area,” McDermott says, probably for loitering. She wouldn't, though. “Where else are they going to go?” She decides that we should go talk to them. We approach three girls, no older than ten, sitting a tree. Officer McDermott is all friendly hellos as she walks up to them, and I trail behind. The girls look our way and then back at each other. “What are you all up to?” McDermott asks. Building a tree fort, they respond. The ground is littered with construction debris: a broken tree branch, a bundle of paper streamers. “Are you guys gonna clean up?” McDermott asks, sounding very much like a mother of four kids. They nod quickly.
In one sense, there is no tension here. The girls aren't in trouble—this sounds like the gentle chastisement you would get from the lady next door. But the dark blue uniform and the New Haven Police Department car are enough to put the kids on edge.
This scene – friendless met with edginess – plays out all night, in ways big and small. On Winchester, we pass a house where a black woman with a lined face stands on the porch, immobile. McDermott slows down the car and calls out, “Hi, how are you doing?” The woman barely reacts, barely nods. “She gets beat a lot,” McDermott says, telling me that she and her boyfriend drink a lot, and fight a lot.
As we complete circuits around the neighborhood, we pass a group of a few kids, led by a teenage girl sporting magnificent purple box braids. “What are you guys doing?” McDermott asks. The kids stop and look at each other. “Nothin'” one responds. Over the course of the night, we pass them at least twice more. It looks like they, too, are spending their night completing circuits of the neighborhood, though I wonder why. Each time we see them, they eye us over their shoulders.
If community policing means being engaged and friendly, then Officer McDermott has succeeded. But policymakers promised more than that. Community policing was meant to close the gap between officers and residents not just by improving their demeanor, but by getting them to solve problems together. Tonight, though, it seems like the barriers to trust may be too high.
The sun has gone down, and the streetlights cast light and shadow against the pastel houses. On a low concrete wall abutting an empty lot, someone has spray painted Black Lives Matter. I ask McDermott about this movement and the high-profile police killings over the past few years: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland. How have they changed her time on the beat?
“Let's say I go to a call and someone gets arrested. The whole community comes out. They'll bring up issues of police brutality and they'll bring up race,” she says. McDermott makes an effort: going to community management team meetings, getting to know the local alders. “But sometimes,” she says, “They don't want me involved in what they're doing… they don't want police in there.” The city pushes community policing, but McDermott adds, “Sometimes they don't want us here.”
That statement lingers in the air. I'm unsure of how to respond, so I ask her about her body camera, a black plastic square clipped to her shirt. Does it change how she interacts with people here? “I don't change the way I speak to people,” she says. “This is just another tool that could help me. I don't think it could hurt me.” Sometimes, after she gets back to the station, she re-watches the footage, hoping to learn something.
The police may be filming, but the people are too. When she goes to calls, she says, many residents announce, “I'm videotaping you!” She says doesn't have a problem with it—after all, she's videotaping them, too. I gingerly ask if she's seen the Mykel Armour video. No, she says. “But show me!” We pull into an empty parking lot and I pull up the video on my phone.
At 0:46 seconds, Armour steps from the street onto the sidewalk, where the police officers were in the middle of asking the men they had stopped for ID. “You don't have ID?” one officer says. “For what though?” Mykel responds.
McDermott pinpoints this moment. “He walked into the scene,” she says. According to her, that meant he was interfering, and thus became part of the loitering complaint. As we watch Armour and Officer Malloy's confrontation, she tells me that Malloy is a seven-year veteran of the force, and a “very good officer.”
Re-watching the video with Officer McDermott, I begin to think that Officer Malloy and his colleagues don't seem that unreasonable. “We got a call, all you guys hanging out here…a suspicious person call, so we're all showing up,” Malloy says, shrugging. Another officer chimes in: “You can't gamble in the park, guys. We told you this many times. We give you breaks and breaks and breaks.”
Armour, having been told to sit down on the curb, calls out to Malloy, “That's not a fake ID either, you heard?” Malloy asks him where he got it. “Uh, I got it down at a pawn shop.” So, it's fake, Malloy says.
“Word? It's not a regular card?”
“Word. Until we figure out who you are, can you put your hands behind your back?”
This was not quite the narrative put forth at the protest outside of the County Courthouse. They say that Armour was arrested because the police didn't like being filmed. McDermott says, “He got his balls broken because he stepped into the scene and was sassy…It's not about photography. We get filmed all the time.”
We can wonder who's telling the “truth” here, but to do so misses the point. Instead, we can examine the reality: in the video, a young black man and a police officer have a needless confrontation. Mykel Armour didn't pose much of a threat and he probably didn't need to be arrested. (And, on September 24, his charges were dropped). Officer Malloy was aggressive in some moments, like when he tussled with Armour over the phone, but kind in others: “I don't want you to be scared.” I can believe McDermott when she says that he's a good officer. But this incident shows that, even under petty circumstances, the underlying tension between communities of color and the police can easily spiral out of control.
Ferry Street and English Street
It's just after 7:30pm. Suddenly, there's another electronic ding. McDermott says something into her radio and turns the on the flashing lights. She hits the gas. Hard. I'm pushed back into my seat. I don't ask what's happening.
We speed to the corner of Ferry and English, joining at least four other police cars. They illuminate everything in pulsating blue and red light. Police officers, mostly white, have a pinned a man to the pavement. A woman is screaming. Both are black.
“If something happens to him, we've got him on record!” In her hands, a cellphone. Filming the police. She bellows, “HE SAID HE CAN'T BREATHE. CHECK HIS CHEST!”
Standing on the opposite corner, those words ring through my head. He said he can't breathe. I think about Eric Garner, about his horrific death on a hot city sidewalk, about the movement to save black lives like his, and this one, and mine. I press my fingernails into my palms.
The woman says that one of the officers kicked the man in the chest. In a second, they walk him to the back of a police wagon. Officer McDermott goes to talk to the woman and assure her that the man is not injured. “That's why black people these days are getting hurt—because of officers like you,” the woman spits.
Back in the car, my time with her almost over, McDermott tells me that she tried to do some “community policing after the fact”: calm the woman down, offer the suspect some water. “She was pissed,” McDermott says. “But I didn't see anything about black and white when I went on scene…I saw two police officers trying to detain him.”
It sounds like something she said an hour ago, when we were talking about the video. “I can honestly say that I don't know any officers in this department who are racist,” McDermott told me. I know that she is thinking of the naked, open racism that has defined so much of American history: the slurs and epithets, the black bodies toiling in cotton fields. McDermott, like many of us, doesn't recognize that racism today is usually much less visceral. Instead, it's become insidious: persisting in the structure of our public policy, and in the subtleties of everyday life here. It is not just in the blood of this country, but in its very bones, seeping through to the marrow.
Community policing–and for that matter, any kind of policing–cannot address history or its lingering effects. But there are those who, given the pain of the past, and the obstacles of the present, continue the fight for justice. These are the people I met on September 24, when they took to the sidewalk in front of the New Haven County Courthouse to defend Mykel Armour. They were black and white, twenty-somethings and senior citizens, veteran activists and those protesting for the very first time. It wasn't just about a six-minute video or one man or one police officer: it was about speaking out for racial equality, in the face of indifference and hostility. There was one moment that I cannot forget: a white woman in a shiny gray SUV stopped at the intersection of Elm Street and Church Street and rolled down her window. “My father's a cop,” she shouted. “If you weren't doing anything wrong, you wouldn't get arrested!” The protesters respond to this outburst with derision; the harsh words don't hurt them. They just prove their point.
Policing the USA: Mistrust devastates health, community
by Jayne O'Donnell
Some Baltimore teenagers think they are so destined to die young, they have accounts on social media with headings such as “RIP Me.” When I heard that from the group Cure Violence, my mind immediately went to the mothers. What would it possibly be like to see that?
Rushing around the Bronx while reporting on the Montefiore Health System's urban initiatives this fall, I met social workers who described a single mother they were trying to help because she was about to be evicted. Oh, and she has multiple sclerosis and her toddler son is autistic. How do you even get up in the morning when your life's challenges seem that insurmountable?
And I often think I have a lot to stress about.
Like most parents of teenagers, I worry about my daughter's grades and use of social media. Soon, I'll be stressing about her getting into cars driven by teenage boys (the risk of death increases with each additional teen who gets in the car, especially when young men are driving). After all, so much of what our teenagers do is learned behavior.
So imagine if the behavior they were learning wasn't to race around corners, deadly as it could be, but to resolve conflicts with guns? That it wasn't fears of speeding tickets from police but violence at the hands of officers?
As I report on health care challenges among the poor, I've learned these are among the grave concerns of my parental peers in many inner cities. In these urban areas, gunfire doesn't just injure and kill intended targets and the occasional bystander. The regular rat-a-tat-tat sears the psyches of all who live around it, from babies to the elderly.
Health care experts are starting to pay more attention to the violence that can envelop inner-city life. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced $157 million in funding recently for programs that link people to social services that address issues including adequate housing, food and interpersonal violence.
Harvard health researchers recently called for deaths by police officers to be officially reported in public health data. In a paper published in PLOS Medicine, researcher Nancy Krieger and colleagues noted that the British newspaper The Guardian was tracking U.S. deaths by police officers, yet there was no reliable official database here.
Trust in police has been low for a long time in many minority communities, and despite some progress, residents have good reason to fear turning their teens over to law enforcement, says Gary Slutkin, the physician who founded the group Cure Violence in 1995. Slutkin, an epidemiologist who worked on infectious disease outbreaks around the world before turning his attention to Chicago's violence, says the health field has a clear advantage over law enforcement.
“We don't have arrest powers, and there is more trust,” says Slutkin. Our presence "never makes a situation worse.”
Mothers call Cure Violence all the time when things at home begin to spiral out of control. Slutkin describes a common scenario when a mother sees her son run in the house, grab a gun and run out of the house. “She's at her wit's end worrying that it's the last time she's going to see her son,” says Slutkin. “She doesn't want to call the police seeing he was loading weapons with four or five friends” and may already be committing a crime.
Even though police don't always make the situation worse, Slutkin says their presence can make “very hot situations escalate.” And all these mothers need to hear is “one of those stories” about an innocent young person killed by police to quickly rule out law enforcement.
Besides, mothers call Cure Violence's outreach workers to settle things that police wouldn't bother with anyway. “Police don't care if someone slept with someone. Police don't care if someone owes someone money,” says Slutkin.
On the other hand, Cure Violence's trained workers "come from the same life and can stop retaliations and prevent other events from happening in the same place," he says. Often, the police aren't spending the time on killings in their neighborhoods that many think they should be, which further erodes trust.
In her powerful book, Ghettoside, Los Angeles Times reporter Jill Leovy chronicles the Herculean efforts Detective John Skaggs makes in violence-ridden South Los Angeles to actually solve murders that other officers often write off. His efforts and those of a small group of partners help rebuild ties between officers and the community they are supposed to police.
Skaggs overcomes challenges to investigations including intimidation tactics that make eyewitnesses unwilling to cooperate. And he wins over the mothers of victims who can't trust the police to get justice.
"If every murder and every serious assault against a black man on the streets were investigated with Skaggs' ceaseless vigor and determination ... conditions would have been different," Leovy concluded.
"The violence could not have been so routine."
Gunman hunting for cops killed one in Ohio, officials say
by CBS News
DANVILLE, Ohio - Officials say they were warned a gunman was hunting cops in Ohio this weekend, and by Sunday evening they realized the terrible truth behind the warning when they found a bloody hat but no patrol car and no officer.
Police say a woman in Danville called dispatch Sunday evening around 11:20 p.m. to warn them her ex-boyfriend, identified as 34-year-old Hershel Ray Jones III, was armed and "looking to kill an officer," reports CBS affiliate WBNS-TV in Columbus.
The woman said officers in the area of Danville, near Columbus, were in danger.
Dispatchers frantically put out a call and failed to make contact with Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell. Deputies from the Knox County Sheriff's officer were dispatched, but all they turned up initially was a Cottrell's hat with blood on it, and nothing more.
Their worst fears were later realized 20 minutes later when they Cottrell's body behind the Danville Municipal Building, clearly dead from gunshot wounds. His gun and patrol car had been stolen.
He was the first officer killed in the state of Ohio in 2016, reports WBNS.
Jones was tracked down a short while later, and spotted at 1:30 a.m. running out of a house. Police gave chase, and caught him near Danville Park. He has been named as the prime suspect in the murder.
No charges have been announced yet.
Leading new lives, ex-cons deliver clean water to Flint residents
by Darcie Moran
It wasn't quite Cher's 181,000 bottle pledge, but a group of best friends from Ypsilanti spent Saturday quietly aiding Flint residents facing the current water crisis.
Within 72 hours of coming up with the idea, 10 Ypsilanti men collected and distributed several hundred cases of water to Flint shelters and residents.
"It's just stuff that needed to be done," said 56-year-old Harry Hampton, who owns and operates There and Back Transportation.
Hampton and a number of the 10 men and additional helpers in the distribution have criminal histories, Hampton said.
Since Hampton's last drug-related conviction about nine years ago, he's worked hard to turn his life around. He said he's been drug-free for almost nine years, runs a successful business and has worked with friends on fundraisers and charity drives over the years.
"I took a lot, and it's time to give back," he said.
It's a sentiment the group of men share, said Gerald Cole, 46.
It's been almost 30 years since Cole's own drug-related conviction, and he said the group of friends is focused on second chances – for themselves and to aid Flint residents.
"We all grew up together in the '80s, we all got in trouble, we all have a felony on our record — the thing is all of us changed our life around, and it's just about being there for people in need," he said.
"I took a lot, and it's time to give back."
Therefore, the friends had no reservations when Hampton thought of the idea to help while he watched television coverage of the Flint water crisis.
The origins of the crisis date back to a 2014 decision to use the Flint River as a temporary water supply.
Lead levels in the blood of young children and in the water spiked in 2015. Officials are also trying to determine whether an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease that killed 10 people in Genesee County may have a connection to the Flint water supply.
Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration have come under scrutiny for their handling of the crisis, and a protest ending in front of his downtown Ann Arbor home is planned for Monday.
President Barack Obama declared an emergency on Jan. 16 -- something the Ypsilanti men noticed after their successful distribution.
After the idea hit him, Hampton called a few friends, and they called a few more. They rented a 26-foot U-Haul truck and bought $500 worth of water from Sam's Club on Friday night. Then they got permission from Wal-Mart, 2515 Ellsworth Road, to park out front and collect water on Saturday morning.
By word of mouth, other Ypsilanti residents showed up to contribute.
Local businesses including Puffer Reds boutique, J & J Car Wash and Finesse Hair Salon made additional donations, beyond the deals Wal-Mart and U-Haul provided, men in the group said.
A Michigan Department of Corrections officer even stopped by to make a donation after Hampton recognized her uniform and yelled "Count clear," a term used in prison to note that inmates can return to their activities after being counted, he said.
Wal-Mart employee and Ypsilanti resident Tamarick Williams, 20, said he helped load the truck with purchased cases of water and was touched by the mens' efforts.
"You hear a lot of bad stuff about the city -- a lot of crazy things," he said, referring to violence reported and stereotypes about the city. "It shows the better side of the city .. that people actually care."
"We ran out of bottled water," Williams said, noting the water was quickly restocked. "It felt good to be a part of it."
The group took an estimated 800 cases of water to Flint, making it to the Shelter of Flint, 924 Cedar St., by about 2:30 p.m. There, they delivered 90 cases of water.
The gesture was greatly appreciated, said residential assistant at the homeless shelter, Brenda Myers.
"We have filters but the drinking fountains are shut off," Myers said. "That's what the clients use is the bottled water, Myers said.
The shelter received a donation of water from girl scouts in Port Huron earlier in the year, but staff members purchased water on their own to supply the shelter, Myers said.
They were down to their last few cases when the group of buddies from Ypsilanti called.
Next, the group dropped cases of water off at My Brother's Keeper, 101 N. Grand Traverse St. in Flint.
Husain Carter, a case manager at the shelter, said the shelter relies on donations and it's one less thing for those using the shelter to worry about.
Carter, 40, said the group then asked where the poorest part of town was, and Carter directed them to his own neighborhood, which he said has faced significant issues with poverty.
He sent them to the plaza at Martin Luther King Avenue and Pierson Road and a few hours later, he saw them still passing out cases of water to residents.
"They actually started flocking up there," Carter said. "They got a couple of guys helping put cases in people's cars. People really appreciate that."
Carter, who noted he has a criminal history of his own from his younger days, said he would have never guessed that the thoughtful, polite men who came to help his city and shelter were former inmates. He said it shows you can have a criminal history and still be a good person.
"I believe that's a beautiful thing to show the community and the world that just because you have a criminal history doesn't take away from the fact that you're still a human being," he said.
And imagine that – ex-convicts are willing to help quicker than the government," he said.
Hampton said the work and lifestyle changes by him and his friends show anyone can overcome the struggles in their life.
"Anybody that has a desire to do anything can do it," he said.
Sam "Bernard" Cook, 49, said all the efforts were worth it to see the looks on Flint residents' faces and receive a few hugs.
The crowd cheered when they learned the group was from Ypsilanti and yelled "Ypsilanti, we love you," as they headed home with several cases of water, several men on the trip said.
Residents also came out and showed them what their water currently looks like.
"It brought tears to us," Cook said, of the response. "We didn't know that it was that bad. Just to hear the story on the ground level touched us."
Now the men hope, with a little bit more time, they'll be able to have an even larger impact.
Hampton said he's hoping to bring a couple semi-trucks full of bottled water next time.
Local police seek diversity, community relations
by Abbptt Brant
In response to the violent, often deadly national-wide incidents between law enforcement and black youth, local police agencies say they are strengthening their efforts to promote existing practices that increase community relationships and diversify their departments.
Deaths of black men and women in police custody and shootings of unarmed people have led to protests around the country. Police departments have come under greater scrutiny for not only policies for dealing with suspects, but also community outreach and the diversity of the police force.
Dutchess County is growing in ethnic and racial diversity, putting a greater emphasis on the opportunities and challenges of policing.
“We're not training in response to what's happening (nationally), because we've always trained that way. From the academy to in-service training, we train to be cognizant and respectful of someone's situation,” said acting City of Poughkeepsie Chief Tom Pape. “We work for the taxpayers. Whether that's responding to a traffic accident or a domestic dispute. This is a big deal in someone's life, and we treat them with respect."
Though the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department has “always had a pretty good relationship with the community here,” the department's past community policing allowed a stronger bond with city residents to form, according Pape.
“We would routinely attend community meetings, block association meetings — this way the residents of the community could put the face to the name, exchange phone numbers to get in contact with us more easily,” Pape said.
Such involvement within the community would result to small changes, Pape said — street lights turned on, brushes cleared out — that in turn led to a safer city.
When community policing ended in the city in 2010, Pape said he lost the work force to continue on with the program. And though Pape still attends community meetings when invited, his hope is to rebuild a strong citizen-police rapport through community policing in the near future.
“You got a new council, a new mayor. I think things are moving back to that,” he said.
"The NAACP is very concerned about the increase in police brutality and shootings of young black men across the nation," said Eloise Maxey, president of the northern Dutchess branch of the New York State NAACP.
Maxey said the northern Dutchess branch, which is based in Poughkeepsie, has established an initiative to promote better working relationships between the community and local law enforcement.
"This will include several meeting held by our criminal justice committee, the police departments and the community," she said.
The plan is to hold these meetings two to three times a year, Maxey said.
Maxey said she is looking to collaborate with city police, the sheriff's office and state police to determine a date and time for the meetings. All meetings will be open to the public, she said.
Within the city police department, an effort is made to have a diverse workforce reflective of the city's population, Pape said. With the department's Careers in Law Enforcement program, high school students of various ethnicities attend nightly classes where they are introduced to careers in policing and law.
Last year, eight teens trained within the program to specifically take the police exam, Pape said.
Capt. John Watterson of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department said nation-wide incidents between youth of color and police serve as a cause to strengthen community awareness and department accountability.
Watterson said these often deadly incidents are isolated incidents, and the sheriff's office works to shed light on that fact through its interaction with the public.
“Just because police in a certain area did a certain thing, it does not mean all police officers do that in that situation,” Watterson said. “When you think about Ferguson, Cleveland with Tamir Rice, Eric Garner — they are tragic and they were horrible cases. But in comparison to the millions and millions of police interactions each year, they're a very, very small number. I think it's really an awareness issue as far as we're concerned. It's really spreading the awareness of what is the truth, what is not the truth, what we do and what we do not do, and how we help people."
The sheriff's office works with Dutchess County Department of Human Resources to ensure the opportunity to take the entry exam is available to all county residents from every ethnic group and every walk of life, Watterson said. Test preparation sites across the county provide classes and study material to guarantee any qualified candidate has the same chance to become a deputy, he said.
State police also work to increase the state-wide department's diversity by “creating a pool of highly qualified applicants,” according to the New York State Police public information office. The agency accomplishes this through recruiting in minority communities, including frequent visits to minority job fairs and trips to inner city middle and high schools.
“State police primarily serve rural areas and suburban towns, but also assist local police departments in urban centers,” according to the state police. “Cultural sensitivity has always been a training priority (for us) because of the diverse communities we serve. Members receive cultural sensitivity and diversity training, first as recruit troopers, and on a continuing basis throughout their careers.”
As a community organizer for Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a co-founding group of the Hudson Valley Black Lives Matter Coalition, Margaret Kwateng said local departments here are just a piece of the larger picture.
"Policing reflects national trends. The issues go beyond one specific department," she said.
Rather than increasing community policing, Kwateng said the city should focus on the economic-based issues that lead to crime.
"If you look at where crime comes from, if you look look at how many people don't have jobs, the problems with the schools. It's the underlying problems that cause people to break the law. How do we better the way of life?" she said.
The role of cameras and video in the taping of these publicized incidents between police and people of color is recognized by all three agencies as now a common occurrence in modern day policing.
“We have talked to our deputies and reinforced that there will more than likely be cameras in a lot of their interactions with the public,” Watterson said. “We do extra training in that we let them know and reinforce that the cameras will be out there and to get used to it. It's not going away. And they need to do their job regardless.”
And while the body cameras remain under consideration by both the state police and the sheriff's office, city police have implemented a pilot program for the wearable technology, according to Pape. The four body cameras are currently used within the department's traffic division.
“I try to impress upon my officers, do the right thing when no one is watching. But know that everyone is watching," Pape said.
Duke University Original Study
To Fight Homeland Terrorism, U.S. Police Must Build Trust
Posted by Jackie Ogburn-Duke
A new report says the United States needs to expand community policing efforts to fight violent extremism at home—and to keep those efforts separate from police counterterrorism programs.
Building trust with Muslim-Americans will be a key challenge, according to the analysis.
“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,” says the report's lead author David Schanzer, an associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University.
“Once trust is established, communities can work with police to build resilience against extremism and identify threats to public safety.”
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 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 US 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,” says coauthor 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,” says coauthor Jessica Toliver, director of technical assistance for the Police Executive Research Forum.
1. 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.
2. Police agencies should recruit and hire a workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, and religious composition of their community.
3. The federal government should provide long-term funding directly to police departments to support outreach and engagement personnel.
4. The federal government should redouble efforts to prevent discriminatory treatment, profiling, and harassment of law-abiding citizens at airports and immigration checkpoints.
5. 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).