January, 2016 - Week 4
San Francisco police take anti-racism pledge. Will it work?
San Francisco police will recite an anti-racism pledge. Can a pledge restore public trust?
by Lucy Schouten
The San Francisco police department is trying a new approach to target racism in its ranks: a pledge against racism and intolerance.
The same forces of discontent between the police and the community that have sparked violent protest in some cities have touched liberal San Francisco, but the pledge announced Monday with an accompanying website is an effort by a popular police chief to restore trust.
"People that would use racial epithets, slurs and things like that clearly fall below the minimum standard of being a police officer," Police Chief Greg Suhr told the Associated Press. "A cop needs to show character and point that out."
The verbal reinforcement and clear statement of objectives is one effort to change attitudes, but the department is also training for more "less-than-lethal" deescalation techniques. Suhr plans to introduce stun guns and mandatory reporting each time a weapon is pointed at a suspect.
The new website shows officers reciting the pledge, which is designed to be repeated by officers at graduation and each January afterward.
"I will not tolerate hate or bigotry in our community or from my fellow officers," states one section of the seven-point pledge. "I will confront intolerance and report any such conduct without question or pause."
Suhr said this was focused both internally and externally.
"I really think it's important that the public hear us say the words," Suhr told the Associated Press.
The website states the pledge was developed by Yulanda Williams, president of a union for minority officers, in 2015. Ms. Williams began work on the pledge after text messages among police officers were released describing her and others with charged racial language. Chief Suhr fired eight officers over the scandal, Heather Knight and Emily Green reported for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.
"I don't think there has been a chief, at least in my time, that ever sent eight officers with the singular recommendation for termination to the commission like I just did," Suhr told the Chronicle in June. "We do have some racism within the Police Department, and I'm about getting rid of it.”
The pledge idea gained more urgency after protests erupted over the police shooting of a knife-wielding black man, Mario Woods, on Dec. 2. The pledge was endorsed by the local NAACP and police union, and nearly all the responses to the announcement on the department's Facebook page expressed support for the department.
Is asking busy cops to snitch on each other annually really the best mechanism for rebuilding community trust, or just a fast track to demoralize the police force? Suhr said he intends it to reinforce for the public that the San Francisco Police Department can fairly mete out justice for the city.
San Francisco is not the only city trying to improve relations with communities after a rough year for police. In Cincinnati, police adopted a new rule requiring prosecutors to release evidence about police shootings within 48 hours, Patrik Jonsson reported for The Christian Science Monitor. Using that rule, the police released video from an officer's body camera promptly after a black man was shot by police at a traffic stop, and the officer was charged for murder.
Chicago has also begun releasing videos as a means of keeping a riled public better informed – with the aim of improving the community's trust. Internal discipline has also been employed. In Cleveland, officers who used deadly force during a 2012 high-speed chase were cleared of charges in court, but the department on Tuesday fired six officers and suspended another six, Henry Gass reported for The Christian Science Monitor.
Florida Boy, 22 Months, Fatally Shot in 'Gang-Related' Drive-By: Police
by ELISHA FIELDSTADT
A 22-month-old boy was killed in a "gang-related" drive-by shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, police said Saturday while appealing for help in finding the gunman.
A $20,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to an arrest of the suspect who killed the child, identified as Aiden Michael McClendon. The reward was bumped up from $3,000 after business leaders in Jacksonville added funds to the cause, authorities said.
Aiden was in a car near a Jacksonville sports arena when the vehicle was hit by several rounds of gunfire Friday night, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said in a statement. He was struck three times in his shoulder and abdomen and taken to the hospital in critical condition, authorities said. He died at the hospital.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the shooting was "gang-related," but no one in the car with Aiden, including his mother and grandmother, were the intended targets. Investigators believe shootings in Jacksonville earlier on Friday might be connected to the shooting that killed Aiden, Williams said.
A white vehicle was seen fleeing the scene of the shooting.
"If anybody thinks that they can move across our city and spray bullets in to a car … we are resolute and determined to come after you," said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
Williams said that 13 people had been murdered in the city since the beginning of the year alone. "Our resolve is strong to stop gun violence and gang activity," he said.
"There's no excuse" for the boy's death, said Tom Hackney, the sheriff's office's chief of investigations, according to NBC affiliate First Coast News.
"Turn these people in," he said during a news conference Friday night. "They don't deserve to be walking the same streets that you and I walk."
FBI begins tracking animal abuse like it does murder, rape
For the first time ever, the FBI began collecting data on animal cruelty crimes
by Lisa Gutierrez
WASHINGTON — The plight last week of a malnourished Yorkshire terrier mix found wandering a Kansas City street with a muzzle that had been bound shut angered many people.
A police officer saw the dog running along Bannister Road and took him to the Kansas City Animal Shelter, where the friendly little pup quickly became known as “Bannister.”
One commenter who read Bannister's story on KansasCity.com wrote: “There is a special kind of hell for a person who would do this to an animal!”
As of this month, there's a special place in FBI databases for people who abuse animals like Bannister.
For the first time ever, the FBI began collecting data on animal cruelty crimes through its National Incident-Based Reporting System. Data collected this year will be available for public review in 2017.
Kate Fields, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, applauds the move.
“I think it's brilliant that the FBI is recognizing it, finally, and doing something about it,” she said.
Every Monday morning, Fields begins her week by reading emails and listening to phone messages from people reporting suspected animal abuse around the metro. This week, someone called to report cats living in a house where no one had been seen in three weeks.
The FBI defines animal cruelty as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.”
Law enforcement officials will choose one of four categories to report animal abuse to the FBI: simple/gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse such as dog-fighting and animal sexual abuse.
Bannister, a malnourished Yorkshire terrier mix, had his mouth bound shut
Bannister, a malnourished Yorkshire terrier mix, was found on Monday by a Kansas City police officer and taken to KC Pet Project for help. After matted fur was removed around the mouth, wounds from someone binding the dogs mouth were found.
The cases are heinous. Pets chopped up with machetes. Puppies set on fire. A pit bull named Rosie was doused with hydrochloric acid in one of the cruelest cases in San Antonio history.
Animals are thrown out of cars and buildings, as with the Tibetan spaniel who lost his eyes after he was thrown from a third-floor balcony in Kansas City in November 2014.
Last winter someone left a puppy in a crate to freeze to death in a Michigan park; a young girl found it frozen and covered in feces.
Earlier this month in West Virginia a dog named Cuffs was found with his testicles bound by zip ties.
The move to track the crimes reflects research that shows a connection between animal abuse and violence against people.
A study from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, for instance, revealed that 76 percent of animal abusers also abuse someone in their family.
“I think what really prompted this was that there are just so many studies out showing a relationship between violence against humans and the relationship to abuse against animals,” said Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation in St. Louis.
The research has been very clear on that connection, but it has taken the law enforcement community a while to recognize it, John Thompson, the deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association, told NPR recently.
“If you look back at the Son of Sam and (Jeffrey) Dahmer and Ted Bundy in Florida, if you look at the serial killers, the majority of them abused animals prior to turning on humans, and even one admitted, ‘I did it to see how the animal would die before I killed a human,' ” Thompson said.
“It's amazing. The school shooters — Pearl, Mississippi, and Columbine — they all abused animals and killed animals prior to their shooting spree. The data's there, and it's not just guesswork, it's actual documented data.”
Acting on that data, the city of Milwaukee two years ago launched a first-of-its-kind public awareness campaign to stop both animal and domestic abuse.
The goal: convince people to call 911 when they suspect animal cruelty.
The message: People have the power to stop two forms of abuse with one phone call.
The campaign unleashed a blitz of radio and TV ads and social media messages. Billboards showed pictures of abused pets next to pictures of young children with the provocative message: “She's next.”
“We need a new way to expose domestic violence and catch the abusers,” John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County District Attorney, said of the campaign.
“It's just simple math. If we can increase the number of opportunities the police have to investigate domestic abuse inside the home, the more families we can help get the resources they need and move them into safer environments.”
According to The Humane Society of the United States, surveys suggest that people who intentionally abuse animals are predominately male and younger than 30, though children as young as 5 have been known to abuse animals.
The fact that the FBI is now tracking the data doesn't change local or state laws concerning animal cruelty or make it easier to prosecute abusers. But it's a start, animal welfare activists say.
“People think it's really easy to get someone charged with crimes, and it's not,” Baker said. “So when the FBI announces that it's serious, we hope that it spurs other agencies to take it seriously also.”
198 Arrested in County-wide Sex Trafficking Operation
Los Angeles: In observance of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, The Los Angeles Police Department Detective Support and Vice Division, Human Trafficking Unit (DSVD-HTU), in partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Innocence Lost task Force (FBI-ILTF) conducted a County-wide operation that focused on the rescue and recovery of commercially sexually exploited children.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild took place during the week of January 18 through January 23, 2016. Vice Investigators across the County conducted field operations to raise the public awareness of human trafficking by searching for potential sex trafficking victims, rescue them and attempt to locate and arrest the pimp.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild resulted in 198 potential human trafficking suspects taken into custody. Six pimps were arrested and 12 minors were rescued who had been trafficked for the purposes of sexual slavery. Six adults were also identified as trafficking victims and received appropriate victim services. All recovered minors were placed in protective custody and will receive assistance and social services from the Department of Children and Family Services, as well as other non-governmental organizations.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild was extremely successful and the quantity of arrests sends a strong message to the community that Human Trafficking is not tolerated. Most importantly, the operation provided 18 victims of sexual exploitation the opportunity and ability to reclaim their freedom and rebuild their lives.
Anyone with information on this crime or any other crimes related to Human Trafficking, Pimping, and Pandering are asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department, Human Trafficking Unit Detective Lina Teague at 213-486-0957. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters "LAPD." Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.
Puerto Rico community leaders to form third nationwide ICE-sponsored Citizens Academy
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A group of 14 community leaders representing government and the bank, security and media industries formed Thursday the third cohort of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-sponsored Citizens Academy. The participants join a group of 21 citizens who have graduated and become the first graduates of an HSI Academy in the nation.
The HSI San Juan Citizens Academy was developed by HSI San Juan special agents to provide members of the general public with an inside look at HSI and how the agency enforces immigration and customs laws.
The Academy provides selected participants with a unique opportunity to learn about the mission of HSI, a premier federal law enforcement agency, while bolstering a relationship that will enhance agency and community relations. Through this academy HSI will identify the agency with the community it serves and protects while allowing the community to interact and learn from actual special agents. This will brand the agency with the community while serving as a force multiplier by creating awareness of HSI's mission and developing an information network.
The 14 selected participants will undergo a 10-week academy, meeting once a week for three hours from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The selectees will be given a unique opportunity to experience and learn about the agency through classroom and field training exercises.
The proposed curriculum provides for hands-on and interactive activities to keep participants engaged and make the experience memorable. They will have the opportunity to visit the HSI San Juan Computer Forensics Laboratory, the only laboratory of its kind in the Caribbean, and learn how HSI special agents retrieve information and evidence from electronic/digital devices and conduct child exploitation investigations and spend time at a firing range, honing their marksmanship skills. Participants will also learn how HSI special agents conduct a variety of investigations ranging from drug trafficking to human smuggling and trafficking to financial crimes and fraud cases. All that while hitting the books learning firsthand about HSI from some of the agency's special agents and leaders.
The selectees were nominated by HSI San Juan employees and the final selection was made by the HSI San Juan Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricardo Mayoral.
“As with the prior two cohorts of the HSI San Juan Citizens Academy, I am very proud to welcome these group of men and women to the HSI San Juan family,” said Ricardo Mayoral, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “I am honored to have among our ranks this distinguished group of professionals who, as with the past two academies, are now part of the HSI legacy.”
The following community leaders compose the third cohort of HSI San Juan Citizens Academy:
Carlos H. Martino
Francisco J. Diaz-Lozada
Jose E. Pico Del Rosario
Luis A. Bermudez
Luis A. Ocasio-Perez
Nuria G. Sebazco
Wallace R. Ocasio
From the FBI
New FBI Academy Program Integrates Agents and Intelligence Analysts
Today's special agents and intelligence analysts graduating from the FBI Academy are beginning their first assignments fully prepared for collaborative work in the field thanks to an innovative training program launched in 2015.
Dubbed the Basic Field Training Course (BFTC), the new program offers an integrated curriculum that places new agent and intelligence analyst trainees together in a squad-like environment—the way agents and analysts work in actual FBI field offices. During the course, trainees learn skills like conducting investigations, interviewing, and providing briefings. Their academic training culminates with criminal and counterterrorism exercises modeled after real-world scenarios.
“The BFTC serves as an important element of our continued efforts to improve collaboration throughout the organization,” said Mark Morgan, assistant director of the Bureau's Training Division. “From their first days in the FBI, special agents and intelligence analysts sit side-by-side, wear the same uniforms, and learn the necessity of working as a single, integrated, cohesive team. This is an exciting shift in the way we do things.”
Prior to launching the BFTC, agents and intelligence analysts historically trained under separate programs. While the new program integrates trainees where appropriate, specialized courses are still provided to students based on what their roles will be in the field. For example, special agents are instructed on the fundamentals of operating firearms and tactical driving, while intelligence analysts are taught how to analyze emerging threats and provide intelligence reports.
“We changed the way our students learn by integrating special agent and intelligence analyst instructors in the classroom—the lessons are presented by a team,” said Zachary Lowe, chief of the Training Division's Instruction Section. “Having great instructors with current field experience integrating intelligence and operations has been critical to the success of the BFTC.”
The first group of graduates to complete the new training course walked across the stage at the FBI Academy this past fall to receive their credentials. One of those graduates was Alexandra, who now serves in the field as an intelligence analyst. Like other students in her class, Alexandra felt the program provided her with an invaluable experience.
“There was a great deal of cohesion within our group. We didn't see each other as agents and analysts—we were just one class,” she said. “Having this type of integrated training, I believe, is the right step for the future of the FBI. Since we're going to be working together in the field, it only makes sense to start us off so that collaboration is the only thing we know.”
The BFTC was developed in response to a key recommendation made in the 9/11 Commission Report, which called for the FBI to integrate its workforce and implement a dedicated team approach to national security operations. The curriculum of the new program answers this call by providing trainees with the necessary building blocks to further the FBI's dual law enforcement and intelligence mission.
“Students completing the course now have a broader knowledge base to help them acclimate to the workforce,” said Catherine Fletcher, chief of the Training Division's Curriculum Management Section.
Fletcher's group played an integral role in developing the program's learning components. Numerous subject matter experts as well as Headquarters and field office personnel were enlisted to provide input on the fundamental aspects of the program. Once the course's curriculum was produced, it was thoroughly reviewed to ensure the content was relevant, current, and met the needs of the FBI's mission. In all, the program was built from the ground up over the span of three years.
“During the BFTC development process, we focused on areas that would deliver the foundational skills needed for agents and analysts to understand each other's roles,” said Fletcher. “By bringing in specialists from the field, holding focus groups, and connecting to the FBI's current policies and procedures, we believe that this new curriculum achieves the end goal of instilling a team culture.”
Now in its 10th month at the FBI Academy, the BFTC is providing hundreds of new agents and intelligence analysts with the tools to succeed in the field as a seamless unit. Over time, the program will continue to evolve as new investigative and intelligence-gathering techniques emerge.
“We all have a stake in this new holistic approach to training, and we'll need to stretch and learn accordingly,” said Fletcher. “In the end, we're working as equal partners to support the FBI and the intelligence community as a whole.”
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Johnson Meets with Local Communities in Georgia and Alabama
This week, Secretary Johnson traveled to Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama to discuss critical homeland security issues with local communities.
In Atlanta, Secretary Johnson met with Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson and members of the Delta Airlines Executive Board to discuss the Department's aviation security efforts. Partnerships, like the one between the Department and the commercial airline industry, are critical to our nation's security. Secretary Johnson also recognized the important contributions that the men and women of TSA make to aviation security every day.
Secretary Johnson also spoke to members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta and paid a visit to his alma mater, Morehouse College, where he met with current Morehouse students and groups from nearby Spelman College. Secretary Johnson addressed students' questions regarding his career and the Department's missions.
Secretary Johnson also sat down with Morehouse candidates for the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI), which is a program for students who have demonstrated a high-level of academic and leadership excellence and who desire to serve their country in the U.S. Coast Guard. Secretary Johnson praised their desire and commitment and spoke to the importance of cultivating the next generation of homeland security leaders.
During breakfast in the school cafeteria on Tuesday morning, Secretary Johnson spoke highly of his time as a student at Morehouse and encouraged his fellow Maroon Tigers to consider a career in public service.
In Birmingham, Secretary Johnson attended a luncheon hosted by the local Kiwanis Club. During the luncheon, Secretary Johnson addressed club members and discussed his priorities for the Department in this, his last year as Secretary. In his remarks, Secretary Johnson said:
“We have in this Administration, I have exactly 359 days left. I do not intend to coast. I have given my senior staff and the leadership of DHS a very aggressive timetable for things that I want to see us achieve in the remaining 359 days in this Administration. Our mission today is as urgent as it was 25 months ago when I took office and I promise and pledge to all of you, here in this room, and in this community that I will continue to work as hard as I can on your behalf, for your homeland security, and for public safety.”
Throughout his trip, Secretary Johnson underscored the Department's commitment and continued efforts to work with community organizations and state and local officials to safeguard local communities.
Data Privacy Day 2016: Value Your Personal Information
Data Privacy Day is an annual international effort to create awareness about the importance of privacy and the protection of personal information.
In today's connected world, we share more personal information online than ever before. And it happens not only when we're sitting at our computers, but also when we use our mobile devices to shop, bank, conduct business, and connect with loved ones. These activities often require the use of personal information such as our names, email addresses, credit card information, and other sensitive details. However, when this information falls into the wrong hands, it can be exploited and used to steal our identities and money. As sharing personal information online becomes commonplace, it is increasingly critical to take steps to protect our personal data and privacy.
Protecting your personal information can appear to be a daunting task, but there are simple steps all Americans can take to protect themselves and their privacy online. Start with these tips from the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign, the Department of Homeland Security's national cybersecurity awareness effort:
Secure your devices. Take advantage of screen locks, passwords, and fingerprint recognition capabilities to secure your smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Set strong passwords. Make your passwords complex and change them regularly.
Own your digital life. Think carefully about what you post online. Everything you put on the internet – photos, tweets, and blogs – will be out there for people to see forever. Take ownership of your digital life by only posting what you want to be seen.
Customize the settings on your accounts and apps. Many accounts and apps include default settings that encourage users to share more types of information. Check your account settings to ensure that your information is only visible to people whom you authorize.
Think before you act. Be wary of communications that offer something that sounds too good to be true, ask for personal information, or suggest you click on links or open attachments. Such communications may contain malware or redirect you to potentially malicious websites.
Today, on Data Privacy Day, and throughout the year, we encourage all Americans to weigh the benefits and risks of sharing information online, to understand how their information is being used, and to take steps to protect their identities and personal data.
For more information on how to get involved with and promote Data Privacy Day, visit www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day
For more information on how to stay safe online, visit Stop.Think.Connect.
Murder in ‘The Jungle': Deadly mass shooting at Seattle homeless camp deepens crisis
by Michael E. Miller
It was the speech of a lifetime: an impassioned pitch for Seattle to rally together to solve the spiraling crisis of homelessness.
“I hear your frustrations and I share them,” said Seattle mayor Ed Murray in a special television address on Tuesday night. “People are dying on our streets. We are working on a complex problem in real time.”
Murray had no idea how true his words would soon prove to be, however. Moments after the mayor finished his speech, he learned that a shooting in a homeless camp called “The Jungle” had just killed two people and injured at least three others. Two suspects, maybe more, remained on the loose.
Two homeless men had been fatally shot inside of a tent, police said. Three other homeless people, including two women, were injured in the shooting, which cops called “very targeted.”
The deadly incident underlined the mayor's desperate plea for state and federal assistance to combat vagrancy in Seattle. In November, after 66 homeless died during the year in King County, Murray declared a state of emergency, comparing the epidemic of deaths to a natural disaster.
But Tuesday's shooting also ratcheted up the already intense debate over crime and homelessness in Seattle, and whether Murray's administration has done enough to combat either.
News of the shooting immediately overshadowed Murray's speech, as the mayor was criticized from all sides on social media.
As dozens of Seattle Police squad cars cordoned off the area around The Jungle, near King County International Airport, the mayor arrived and struck a defiant note.
“I think it would be a travesty if some people use this tragedy to try and paint all homeless people as criminals,” he said.
Asked for his immediate reaction to hearing news of the shooting, however, the mayor sounded somber.
“I can't help but wonder, did I act too late?” he said. “That's my reaction. Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier. We have tried to do the best we can given the circumstances we've been given. Obviously I'm going to ask if I did a good enough job. It's on me in the end.”
Frustration with Murray and other city officials has mounted over the past year as many Seattleites have complained about the city's swelling ranks of homeless people and crime rates, which have risen since 2010. In some neighborhoods, residents have recently taken to hiring private security, according to the Seattle Times.
“The blatant lawlessness has been a whole new era” this past year, Angie Gerrald told the newspaper. She complained of illegally parked RVs, open drug deals and piles of used needles in her neighborhood of Ballard. “There is so little response — so little they [police] can and will do about it.”
Details of the shooting were still vague as of Wednesday morning, with police saying only that they had scoured the neighborhood around The Jungle for sign of at least two suspects, who cops declined to describe because they were still interviewing witnesses.
The shooting is the worst in Seattle since 2012, when five people were killed at a local cafe, according to KIROTV.
Gunshots rang out over south Seattle just as the mayor was delivering his 7 p.m. address at a newly established homeless center in the north of the city.
“Tonight I want to speak to you, the people of Seattle, about the growing crisis of homelessness, but also about public health, public safety and the disorder that we see on our streets,” Murray said. “This is a difficult conversation that we as a city have been engaged in, not just in recent months, but for decades.”
The shooting at The Jungle seemed to prove his point. In the summer of 2009, the same wooded area was the site of two murders in as many months. Neither crime was ever solved, KIROTV reported.
Problems at The Jungle go back much farther, however.
“You don't want to go down there,” Nicole Brodeur wrote in the Seattle Times in 2007. “Not even in broad daylight, and certainly not alone. … Homeless encampments are a health hazard, not only for those who live in them, but for neighbors concerned with their safety, and the rats and campfires that threaten their homes.”
As the mayor suggested in his speech, The Jungle and other homeless encampments contain many types of people, from down-on-their-luck citizens to drug addicts to criminals.
“The Jungle is not a homeless camp,” community activist Craig Thompson wrote in 2012. ” The woods have historically contained camps of people. … When cleanups, sweeps or whatever you want to call them have been suspended, people living in the woods have been victimized by violent criminals. Sometimes, those criminals have been other homeless people; sometimes by those in the narcotics trade.”
After learning of the shooting, Murray acknowledged that The Jungle has been “unmanageable and out of control” for almost 20 years.
In many ways, the mayor's speech seemed to anticipate the fierce debate that would be reignited by Tuesday night's shooting. He asked Seattleites to set aside “extreme rhetoric about who homeless people are” and instead focus on how to solve the crisis.
Murray laid out the city's struggle with homelessness in stark terms. The city's homeless population had exploded, he said, and Seattle needed state and federal aid to keep up.
“Before the Great Recession, there were 13,000 children in the state of Washington who were homeless,” he said. “Today that number has grown to 32,000 children statewide. This year in Seattle alone, the number of homeless school age children in our public schools has risen to 3,000.”
He called homelessness a “national tragedy” and linked it to decades of cuts to federal programs for affordable housing, substance abuse clinics and mental health treatment.
“We are in the midst of one of the largest heroin epidemics in our country's history,” he said. “Addiction is on the rise in every community across the nation: urban, rural, suburban, in New Hampshire, in Kentucky, in Oklahoma and across the Pacific northwest.”
In Seattle, he said, “We see the tents under freeways, rundown RVs in our neighborhoods, people on the sidewalks with signs that read ‘disabled veteran, anything helps.' This is what income inequality looks like. This is what a disappearing middle class looks like.”
The city would spend nearly $50 million to combat homelessness this year, he added, touting new shelters and a program to provide “safe lots” for people living in their cars and RVs. Murray compared the task at hand to the challenge of stopping the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 90s. “I have seen it done before,” he said optimistically.
But the magnitude of the problem remaining was brutally highlighted by Tuesday night's shooting.
As police continued to search for the suspects on Wednesday morning, a line from near the end of the mayor's speech seemed to capture the challenge lying ahead.
“The reality is that the people on our streets are living harsh and dreadful lives,” Murray had said, just seconds before learning of the shooting. “Ending homelessness will be as difficult as any challenge that we face as a city.”
Flint, Michigan: Did race and poverty factor into water crisis?
by Michael Martinez
The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, has so outraged community advocates that they now pose a powerful question: Was the city neglected because it is mostly black and about 40% poor?
Several advocates say yes. They charge that Flint residents are victims of "environmental racism" -- that is, race and poverty factored into how Flint wasn't adequately protected and how its water became contaminated with lead, making the tap water undrinkable.
Flint water crisis: AG seeks to avoid conflict of interest
"Would more have been done, and at a much faster pace, if nearly 40 percent of Flint residents were not living below the poverty line? The answer is unequivocally yes," the NAACP said in a statement.
Others go further.
"While it might not be intentional, there's this implicit bias against older cities -- particularly older cities with poverty (and) majority-minority communities," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents the Flint area.
"It's hard for me to imagine the indifference that we've seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community," he said.
For the record, Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino and 4% mixed race; more than 41% of its resident live below the poverty level, the U.S. Census says.
NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks drew a direct equation between Flint's socioeconomic factors and the toxic drinking water.
"Environmental Racism + Indifference = Lead in the Water & Blood," he tweeted.
Governor points the finger at bureaucrats
State officials, however, vehemently dispute the claim.
"Absolutely not," Republican Gov. Rick Snyder told MSNBC. "Flint is a place I've been devoted to helping. ... Several cities -- Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw -- I've made a focused effort since before I started in office to say we need to work hard to help people that have the greatest need."
For sure, "there were major failures here," Snyder added.
But he blamed the crisis on incompetent bureaucrats, specifically citing "a handful of quote-unquote experts that were career civil servant people that made terrible decisions," he said.
Already, Susan Hedman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator for Flint, Michigan, has resigned in the wake of the crisis.
Brooks met with the governor Tuesday.
"His tone was one of remorse and regret and I took that to be genuine," he said. "I think the residents and citizens of Flint will take the remorse of government to be genuine when they see safe, pure, quality water coming out of the tap."
Brooks is pressing for a definitive plan of attack.
"We're trying to take action that is specific, that's focused, that's urgent and speaks to the people's needs," he said. "Talking with a deadline that has dollar symbols represents action, and that's what we're trying to do."
Michael Moore: Arrest governor
The matter has been discussed in social media, particularly by filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore.
Moore said the governor should be arrested for his role in the Flint water crisis. A state plan to save $15 million on Flint's water bills may now cost $1.5 billion in clean-up, Moore said in his online petition for help from President Barack Obama.
"This is a racial killing. Flint MI is 60% black. When u knowingly poison a black city, u r committing a version of genocide #ArrestGovSnyder," Moore tweeted at one point.
"Just to be clear: all 102K residents of Flint have been exposed to toxic water, all of Flint's kids have ingested lead, & 10 ppl have died," Moore tweeted on another occasion.
The Black Lives Matter group said African-Americans, especially those in rural and poor area, have long been denied equal access to clean drinking water.
"The crisis in Flint is not an isolated incident. State violence in the form of contaminated water or no access to water at all is pervasive in Black communities," the group said on its website.
On Monday, state Attorney General Bill Schuette said he is appointing an ex-prosecutor and Detroit's former FBI chief to join the investigation into Flint's water crisis, creating a "conflict wall" between the state's inquiry and the lawsuits targeting the state.
The prior announced investigation will determine "whether any Michigan laws were violated in the process that created a major public health crisis for Flint residents."
"I would certainly not bathe a newborn child or a young infant in this bad water, and if you can't drink the bad water, you shouldn't pay for it," Schuette said.
Flint's state of emergency -- declared at municipal and state levels -- began years ago when the city suffered a financial emergency. The state took over the city's budget and decided to temporarily switch Flint's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure until a new supply line to Lake Huron was ready.
The river, however, was long-known as befouled. Locals call it the "General Motors' sewer."
After the April 2014 switch, residents complained their water had problems. Virginia Tech researchers found the water was highly corrosive. A class-action lawsuit alleges the state Department of Environmental Quality didn't treat the water for corrosion, in accordance with federal law, and because so many service lines to Flint are made of lead, the noxious element leached into the water of the city's homes.
The city switched back to the Lake Huron water supply in October, but the damage was already done to the lead pipes. The state is now handing out filters and bottled water with the National Guard.
Milwaukee man arrested after allegedly plotting mass shooting to 'terrify the world'
by Justin Wm. Moyer
Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, 23, had a plan, the Justice Department said: Kill more than two dozen people at a Masonic temple in Milwaukee and become an international jihadist superstar.
"I am telling you, if this hit is executed, it will be known all over the world," Hamzeh told two unnamed FBI sources in Arabic. "All over the world, all the mujahedeen will be talking and they will be proud of us. . . . We are marching at the front of the war."
The larger the number of victims, the better, Hamzeh said. But 30 sounded about right.
"Thirty is excellent," he allegedly said. "If I got out, after killing 30 people, I will be happy 100 percent . . . 100 percent happy, because these 30 will terrify the world."
Now, Hamzeh's alleged plans have been derailed. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with possessing machine guns and a silencer, as the DOJ announced.
"Samy Mohamed Hamzeh devised a detailed plan to commit a mass shooting intended to kill dozens of people," Acting United States Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad said in a statement. "He also said that he wanted this mass shooting to be 'known the world over' and to 'ignite' broader clashes. It is difficult to calculate the injury and loss of life that was prevented by concerned citizens coming forward and by the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force."
Arrested after reportedly purchasing weapons from two undercover FBI agents, Hamzeh's plans were detailed indeed, prosecutors said. Though he originally intended to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, he settled on the Freemasons' lodge, and discussed the need for high-powered weaponry at length.
"We want two machine guns," Hamzeh, who was placed under surveillance in October, told the FBI's sources. "You now have one, so we want two more, and we need three silencers, that's it. Find out how much all together these will cost, and then we will march."
According to the DOJ, he had plotted the whole attack out, down to where he thought his conspirators would stand at the temple.
"One of us will stay at the door at the entrance and lock the door down, he will be at the main door down, two will get to the lift up, they will enter the room, and spray everyone in the room," he allegedly said. "The one who is standing downstairs will spray anyone he finds. We will shoot them, kill them and get out."
Hamzeh also allegedly had an escape plan.
"We will walk and walk, after a while, we will be covered as if it is cold, and we'll take the covers off and dump them in a corner and keep on walking, as if nothing happened, as if everything is normal," he said, according to prosecutors. "But one has to stand on the door, because if no one stood at the door, people will be going in and out, if people came in from outside and found out what is going on, everything is busted."
Though a Freemasons' lodge was targeted in Istanbul in 2004, Hamzeh's purported choice of target appeared to be novel. Freemasons, or Masons, have been in America since before the founding of the United States. There were an estimated 1.5 million Masons in the country in 2009; Wisconsin now has 11,000, according to the Associated Press. George Washington was a Mason; so were both Presidents Roosevelt and John Wayne. Masonic symbols appear on our currency, and they influenced the design of Washington, D.C. Many conspiracies have been attributed to the group's allegedly insidious aims, and entire political parties have been devoted to reducing their influence in politics.
"The Freemasons were the first, the biggest, and the best-known gentlemen's organization in the world," Christopher Hodapp wrote in "Freemasons for Dummies." "Up until about 1960, if you weren't a Mason, you at least knew what one was. As secret societies go, they were a pretty badly hidden one."
Hamzeh allegedly took the view that Masons, though now known primarily for their charity work, deserved to die. The DOJ said he toured the lodge in Milwaukee with the two people he thought were his co-conspirators.
"They are all Masonic; they are playing with the world like a game, man, and we are like asses, we don't know what is going on," Hamzeh allegedly said. "These are the ones who are fighting, these are the ones that needs to be killed, not the Shi'iat, because these are the ones who are against us, these are the ones who are making living for us like hell."
"Masons are a part of an organization that helped build this country," Frank Struble, the grand master of Free and Accepted Masons in Wisconsin, said. "I can understand from that standpoint where someone who is against this country would target us."
A physical trainer who recently lost his job at a local gym, Hamzeh was not known for his gift of gab -- and was fired for being "too intense," according to the AP.
"He wasn't very conversational," Kiela Hoeldel, a former client, told WTMJ.
Hitting the streets: A look at community policing in downtown
by Maria Sestito
When Napa Police Officers Tom Degerstrom and Kyle Upchurch cruise the downtown area in an unmarked car, they aren't just checking license plates.
They're talking to the homeless hanging out in the Triangle on Franklin Street, inquiring about any disruptions at the United Methodist Church, making connections at the HOPE Resource Center that serves the down-and-out.
This is neighborhood-based policing, a philosophy adopted by the department three years ago, according to Sgt. Scott Holliday, head of Neighborhood Services. Degerstrom and Upchurch monitor just one of 26 designated neighborhoods throughout the city.
On a typical day, Degerstrom and Upchurch will ride through downtown Napa looking for any suspicious activity and anyone they know. Stopping and talking are the rhythm of their work shift.
“We don't always get flack,” Degerstrom said. People often will come up to say “hello,” shake his hand and tell him how their day is going, he said.
Last Friday afternoon, they ran into a familiar face at the Triangle — a patch of land bounded by three streets just south of downtown. He shared with the officers that he had been sober for a while and had secured a job at Applebee's. He smiled as he parted ways with the officers and headed down the block.
Other pedestrians waved or nodded as the officers, now a familiar presence in the neighborhood, cruised by.
Instead of arresting everyone committing offenses, the officers spend a lot of time working to get the homeless the help they need. The payoff can be reduced criminal activity, they said.
“As you can see right now, it's pretty quiet, but it wasn't always that way,” said Degerstrom of the Triangle in Old Town.
Then the officers noticed a man sitting on the curb by the intersection of Franklin and Fourth streets. When he spied them, he appeared to hide a bottle of alcohol.
When approached by Degerstrom and Upchurch, he handed over a nearly full 200 ml bottle of Taaka vodka. Only after failing to get permission to drink it dry did he relent and hand the bottle over.
The officers casually questioned the man, who said he is from Vallejo. They were trying to figure out what was going on and how he ended up drinking on their turf.
The man said he was waiting for a bed in the winter shelter, but wouldn't mind staying in Vallejo or with a relative.
He received a warning for public intoxication and a ride to the police station where he could wait for a ride back to Vallejo. During the drive, the man told a joke about a drunk who kept entering a bar through different doors, not realizing he was reentering the same bar that wouldn't serve him. The officers shared a small laugh.
Then Degerstrom and Upchurch were back on the streets.
Over the course of the day, the officer's prevented a fight from breaking out on Division Street, stopped people from loitering on church property, checked in with church employees and met with representatives from the HOPE Resource Center.
They said they often follow up on what they hear from people in the neighborhood, what the service providers tell them and try to make sure the street people stay on the right track.
“We're trying to do things beyond just responding to a call – we're trying to problem solve,” Degerstrom said.
Each person they encounter may need a different kind of help, so they try to stay up-to-date on available services and resources, he said. They try to find out if the person in question has attempted to use any services before and if they are able to receive any housing or benefits.
Some people might be able to get help because they are a veteran or if they're on SSI, he said. If someone wants to get help for a drug or alcohol problem, which the officers encourage them to do, they direct them McAlister Institute Treatment & Education or another treatment option. They will even take them to the institute if they need a ride.
Police Chief Steve Potter said that community policing helps put a face on the department and allows officers to focus on needs specific to each neighborhood.
Degerstrom and Upchurch are this face for the downtown area.
“It means a better connection – a more personalized connection – between the police department and the community members,” Potter said. The focused approach has led to fewer calls for service and more officer-initiated activity in other areas, he said.
Another aspect of the community policing effort includes neighborhood meetings throughout the city. Holliday said he tries to schedule at least two a month so residents can have an opportunity to express what's important to them in their specific neighborhoods. They sometimes host “Talk to a Cop” events as well, he added.
The important thing, Potter said, is to have the support and cooperation of the community. It is better to deal with issues when they are small, not large, he said.
Washington D. C.
Obama bans solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prison
by Juliet Eilperin
President Obama on Monday announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system, saying the practice is overused and has the potential for devastating psychological consequences.
In an op-ed that appears in Tuesday editions of The Washington Post, the president outlines a series of executive actions that also prohibit federal corrections officials from punishing prisoners who commit “low-level infractions” with solitary confinement.
The new rules also dictate that the longest a prisoner can be punished with solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days, rather than the current maximum of 365 days.
The president's reforms apply broadly to the roughly 10,000 federal inmates serving time in solitary confinement, though there are only a handful of juvenile offenders placed in restrictive housing each year. Between September 2014 and September 2015, federal authorities were notified of just 13 juveniles who were put in solitary in its prisons, officials said. However, federal officials sent adults inmates to solitary for nonviolent offenses 3,800 times in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2014, suggesting that policy change will have more sweeping ramifications.
The reforms come six months after Obama, as part of a broader criminal-justice reform push, ordered the Justice Department to study how solitary confinement was being used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The move is another example of the extent to which the nation's first African American president now seems willing to tackle delicate questions of race and criminal justice as he closes out his presidency. Obama has also been focused on trying to put in place programs to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society once they have left prison.
“How can we subject prisoners to unnecessary solitary confinement, knowing its effects, and then expect them to return to our communities as whole people?” Obama wrote in his op-ed. “It doesn't make us safer. It's an affront to our common humanity.”
He said he hoped his reforms at the federal level will serve as a model for states to rethink their rules on the issue.
At least a dozen states have taken steps in the past two years to curtail the use of solitary confinement, either in response to lawsuits or through legislative and administrative changes. An increasing number of studies show a connection between isolating prisoners and higher rates of recidivism.
In recent weeks, Illinois and Oregon, in response to lawsuits, have announced they will exclude seriously mentally ill inmates from solitary confinement, and last month New York state reached a five-year, $62 million settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union in which it pledged to significantly cut the number of prisoners in solitary as well as the maximum time they could stay there. California reached a settlement in September, pledging to overhaul the way it treats almost 3,000 inmates who are frequently kept alone for more than 22 hours a day in their cells.
Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union and director of the group's Stop Solitary Campaign, said that the Bureau of Prisons “has lagged behind a number of the states in reforming solitary confinement and in restricting its use and abuse.”
“It's absolutely huge,” Fettig said of the president's decision to change the way the federal system isolates inmates. “We rarely have presidents take notice of prison conditions.”
While Obama is leaving the details of policy implementation to agency officials, the Justice Department's report includes “50 guiding principles” that all federal correctional facilities must now follow. They include increasing the amount of time inmates placed in solitary can spend outside their cells, housing prisoners in the “least restrictive setting necessary” to ensure their safety and that of others, putting inmates who need to be in protective custody in less-restrictive settings and developing policies to discourage putting inmates in solitary during the last 180 days of their terms.
A congressionally mandated audit of restrictive housing in federal prisons, published last year by the Center for Naval Analyses, found that roughly 60 percent of the inmates whose solitary cases were reviewed had serious underdiagnosed or untreated mental illnesses. That study also found that many individuals put in protective custody for their own safety, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender prisoners and those who are disabled, were regularly placed in solitary confinement.
Some of the states that championed reforms early, including Washington, have found that prisoners placed in restrictive housing — especially just before their release — are more likely to be repeat offenders. One study found that Washington state prisoners who were confined in solitary had a 20 to 25 percent higher recidivism rate than those in less-restrictive housing, and that those who spent time in solitary directly before reentering society were more likely to commit violent crimes.
Early Tuesday morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Charles E Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement that while he'll “be studying it over the next few days,” it appeared to be justified.
“At first glance I was happy to see an effort to end solitary confinement of juveniles,” Grassley said. “The good news is that the Judiciary Committee has already taken steps to minimize the solitary confinement of juveniles in both the Sentencing and Prison Reform bill and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act reauthorization that I authored.”
Kevin Ring, vice president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, served 15 months in federal prison on fraud charges in connection with a a scandal surrounding former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He spent two days in solitary in October because of a scabies outbreak in a Cumberland, Md., facility. Although the isolation was not designed to punish the inmates, Ring said guards took away all his possessions — including paper and pen — and put him in a small cell with just a metal bed, shower and small window. The lack of human contact was the most disorienting part, he said, since guards pushed a tray of food through a slot at assigned meal times and he could “only hear voices down the hall.”
“I don't know how people do it. I'm not solitary material,” Ring said, adding that it should be used only “as a last resort.”
As many as 100,000 state and federal prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States at any given time, according to the White House.
The president begin his op-ed by recounting the story of 16-year-old Bronx resident Kalief Browder, who was sent to Rikers Island in 2010 to await trial after being accused of stealing a backpack. He “spent nearly two years in solitary confinement,” Obama wrote. Browder was released in 2013 without ever having stood trial or being convicted. He committed suicide at 22.
“Today, it's increasingly overused on people like Kalief, with heartbreaking results — which is why my administration is taking steps to address this problem,” Obama wrote. “In America, we believe in redemption.”
Man Killed by Chicago Police Called 911 Before Being Shot
by Monica Davey and Mitch Smith
(Audio of 911 call on site)
CHICAGO — A man who was fatally shot by the police in December as he emerged from a home with a baseball bat had called 911 seeking help from the police three times in the minutes before the shooting, but was met with curt dispatchers, according to audio of the calls made public on Monday. One of the dispatchers hung up on him when he was unwilling to elaborate on what was wrong.
The man, Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old college student whose family members have said experienced emotional troubles in the months before his death, first called 911 from his father's house at 4:18 a.m. on Dec. 26. He said he needed a police officer to come to the house, but would not give details about why or provide his last name.
“I just need an officer over here, O.K.?” Mr. LeGrier said.
“No,” the dispatcher answered, “it don't work like that. What's your emergency?”
Pressed three times to explain what was wrong, Mr. LeGrier finally said, “Someone is threatening my life,” then pleaded for an officer to be sent, as the dispatcher continued to seek his last name.
“There's an emergency!” Mr. LeGrier said. The dispatcher answered: “O.K., if you can't answer the questions I'm going to hang up.”
“I need the police!” Mr. LeGrier said.
“Terminating the call,” the dispatcher responded.
The 911 exchanges — three of them within about a three-minute period — raised new questions about the way Chicago officials handled events leading up to the death of Mr. LeGrier, who was shot six times after the police pulled up outside his father's home a few minutes after the calls. Bettie Jones, a neighbor who had gone to answer a shared front door of the home, was also shot and killed. Ms. Jones was shot once in the chest, and the police have apologized for her death and said it was an accident.
The shooting of Mr. LeGrier and Ms. Jones came as residents here have been focused on police conduct after the release of a video showing the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times by a police officer in 2014. The video has stirred calls for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a broad inquiry into the practices of the Chicago Police Department by the United States Department of Justice.
A lawyer for the family of Mr. LeGrier, which has filed a lawsuit against the city, described the calls as deeply disturbing and raised questions about why an investigative agency assigned to review police shootings had told the public about only two of the four calls, including one from Mr. LeGrier's father, until now. A spokesman for the agency, the Independent Police Review Authority, said officials there had not learned of the two additional calls until this month. All four recordings were released for the first time on Monday.
“You have a situation here — Quintonio is looking for help,” Basileios J. Foutris, the lawyer, said. “He's calling for police assistance. The first time he does that, he's hung up on. The next two times, he's met with rude, offensive, crude, inappropriate dispatchers who basically treat him like trash.”
Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said the first call-taker violated policy by not dispatching an officer when Mr. LeGrier said his life was being threatened. That employee is now in disciplinary proceedings, Ms. Stratton said, but will remain at work until the process is complete.
In a statement, the emergency management agency said they receive about five million 911 calls each year, and dispatch someone to respond to about half of those. “Call-takers are required to ask specific questions to determine the nature of the event” and decide whether the police should be sent, the statement said. “Call-takers follow specific protocols and may only terminate a call as a last resort.”
Mr. Emanuel's office said the mayor did not learn of the two additional 911 calls until Monday.
In a second and third call to 911, Mr. LeGrier is repeatedly asked his name and for details. He sounds increasingly frustrated, muttering and using expletives.
“Your name?” a second dispatcher said.
Mr. LeGrier answered, “Can you please send the police?”
The dispatcher responded: “After you tell me what's going on. What's your name?”
Mr. LeGrier said again, before the call ended, “Can you please send the police?”
Not long after, police officers were dispatched to the home after a fourth call — this one from Mr. LeGrier's father, Antonio LeGrier, who sounded breathless and said his son had a baseball bat and was trying to break his bedroom door.
Daniel Holtzclaw and the Limits of "Community Policing"
by Victoria M. Massie
AT THE SENTENCING last week of Daniel Holtzclaw — the 29-year-old former Oklahoma City police officer convicted on 18 counts of rape and sexual assault of African-American women in the neighborhood he was assigned to patrol — District Attorney David Prater told the media: “I think people need to realize that this is not a law enforcement officer that committed these crimes. This is a rapist who masqueraded as a law enforcement officer. If he was a true law enforcement officer, he would have upheld his duty to protect these citizens rather than victimize them.”
Holtzclaw was sentenced to 263 years in prison for his crimes. From December 2013 to June 2014, while working the night shift in a low-income neighborhood on Oklahoma City's northeast side, Holtzclaw developed a modus operandi: By design, he targeted black women, and among them, women who had a history of drug abuse or an existing criminal record. By framing his unsolicited sexual advances as an exchange for reprieve from warrants or jail time, he used his badge to leverage the women's backgrounds as blackmail.
Yet his crimes, while egregious, are not an aberration. Sexual misconduct is the second most common form of police misconduct after excessive force, comprising 9 percent of cases reported in the media, according to an analysis by the Cato Institute's National Police Misconduct Reporting Project. In November, the Associated Press published an investigation uncovering around 1,000 officers who lost their badges over a six-year period for sexual assault or other sex-related allegations; some avoided criminal prosecution by agreeing to have their law enforcement licenses revoked.
Holtzclaw's sentencing comes as police brutality is at the forefront of national consciousness, thanks to the momentum of Black Lives Matter and the visibility afforded by cellphone recordings and dashcam footage. Law enforcement is facing a crisis of legitimacy, and as a method of alleviating mistrust, political figures have invested heavily in “community policing” — defined by the Justice Department as a partnership between police and local residents to develop cooperative problem-solving strategies to address neighborhood issues at the root. Since its inception, however, the tactic has been more concerned with public perception than effective implementation, and it fails to adequately account for the power differential at the core of Holtzclaw's abuses.
Community policing was first conceived as a response to the civil unrest of the 1960s, when the American state apparatus was exposed for domestic and foreign policies that citizens found increasingly unconscionable. As its extension, law enforcement faced a wave of public skepticism. Special commissions like the 1968 Kerner Report and the 1970 Knapp Commission were convened, yielding findings that police forces often exacerbated tense situations and suffered from corruption within their own ranks. Community policing was proposed to repair the damage, and for decades, it has resurfaced as a vague buzzword for rectifying law enforcement and community relations.
Community policing is a pillar of the final report of the President's Task Force on 21st-Century Policing, released in May 2015, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch has committed $12 million in DOJ funding to advance community policing efforts. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has advocated for community policing as an integral component of criminal justice reform, and her rival, Bernie Sanders, has offered it as a solution for police brutality.
In an October address to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, President Obama acknowledged the troubled public image police forces have had to bear in recent years. “With today's technology, if just one of your officers does something irresponsible, the whole world knows about it moments later,” he said. “And the countless incidents of effective police work never rarely make it on the evening news.” Obama described community policing as a “two-way” street.
According to Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and critical race theorist at UCLA and Columbia, however, this idea of reciprocity does not honestly assess the conditions of engagement. “Cooperation in conditions of extreme disparities in power is what is otherwise known as occupation and oppression,” Crenshaw told The Intercept. “So this is like: ‘We're not going to look at the broader context in which police have a sort of unmitigated power here. What we're going to do here is say, are there ways in which we can get along better in this context?'”
As Holtzclaw's case unfolded, prosecutors highlighted the “mistake” that got him caught: He “messed up,” according to one Oklahoma County prosecutor, by targeting his final victim, Jannie Ligons, a 57-year-old grandmother who did not have a criminal record and felt empowered to report his actions. “He just picked the wrong lady that night,” Ligons told the media.
But in fact, Ligons was not the first to come forward. Another survivor, T.M., had previously reported sexual assault by a police officer, and according to court documents reviewed by The Guardian, the Oklahoma City Police Department's sex crimes unit had begun investigating Holtzclaw more than a month before Ligons was attacked. He reportedly remained on duty, sexually assaulting at least four women during this period.
This points to negligence, and several survivors have filed a civil suit against the city and Holtzclaw for the alleged violation of their civil rights. But it also speaks to an institutional disregard for black women that puts their safety at risk.
In a report titled “Say Her Name,” which examines police violence against black women, the African American Policy Forum noted that the unequal power dynamic between officer and victim is exacerbated by a criminal justice system that has historically failed to see black women beyond racialized gender stereotypes of promiscuity and sexual availability — the sources of trouble, not its victims.
In the testimony of the 13 women who accused Holtzclaw, fear that they would be discounted if they came forward was a theme that played out again and again.
“It's my word against his, because I'm a woman, and, you know, like I said, he's a police officer,” said one survivor, C.J., according to court documents. “So I just left it alone and just prayed that I never saw this man again, run into him again, you know.”
“I know that, like, I've been in trouble before, so I mean, like, who am I to a police officer?” T.M. testified.
One of the ways community-policing programs have tried to assure residents that officers can be trusted is through community meetings. But according to Mariame Kaba, a Chicago-based organizer and co-founder of the grassroots group We Charge Genocide, the trust fostered in these meetings can come with conditions. “They turn into these kinds of meetings where the police deputize community members to basically become arms of the state,” Kaba told The Intercept. “Community members are empowered to tell police everything.”
In October, WCG released a report evaluating Chicago's community-policing program — Chicago Alternative Police Strategy, or CAPS. Gathering data at CAPS meetings across several neighborhoods over a period of six months, WCG found that the program left intact the power imbalance that sidelined vulnerable local residents.
The residents who forged partnerships with law enforcement, according to the report, were “disproportionately white property owners, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods.” Describing the CAPS meetings, the report highlighted the parallels between community policing and broken-windows policing:
Police encourage attendees to organize block groups and form phone trees, all with the goal of reporting “strange” license plates, “suspicious” behavior, and descriptions of cars and people passing through the neighborhood. This monitoring often includes focused surveillance on specific “problem buildings,” and group discussion of how to increase surveillance and reporting with the goal of evicting tenants seen as undesirable.
“The really important question is: what do we mean by community policing?” Sandra Park, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, said in an interview with The Intercept. “Are we talking about forms of policing that really try to work toward solving problems and affirming community members' dignity, or are they measures that are really aimed at cracking down on a particular community?”
The degree of influence wielded by law enforcement can filter down to community organizational support. Candace Liger, an activist and co-founder of Oklahoma City Artists for Justice, described how her efforts to collaborate with a prominent anti-violence group in support of Holtzclaw's victims were initially tempered by the group's fear of risking “very close alliances” with law enforcement.
“We were asking for more public, vocal opinion out there so people know your stance on sexual assault and that you do advocate for women of color in these very taboo and intersectional types of cases,” Liger said of OKC Artists for Justice's efforts to engage the group. “And they weren't willing to do that initially. So we went ahead and decided we were going to do it without them.” Once the case garnered national attention, Liger says, the anti-violence group stepped up its advocacy efforts.
“We realized throughout the course of this whole process,” Liger added, “that there was a definite need for specialized services for women of color that can be transparent, that don't have that political type of umbrella that prevents them from being able to publicly advocate.”
In response to the criticism, the group, YWCA Oklahoma City, told The Intercept: “YWCA Oklahoma City is a supporter of the Start By Believing campaign and stand by all victims of sexual assault, especially those in our community including the 13 women victimized by Daniel Holtzclaw. While we have a long-standing relationship with many systems partners, including local law enforcement, all of those systems partners are aware that YWCA OKC's loyalty is to victims.”
Resources should be redistributed to those communities seen as most disposable, but on terms that do not necessarily depend on police. The WCG report makes this case, suggesting that funding directed toward policing neglected communities with high rates of poverty and crime would be better spent strengthening local social services.
Holtzclaw is a predator, but he took advantage of a system in which people are afforded differential protections and police abuse of power is too often tolerated and protected. His case illustrates how racial and gendered bias within policing tactics can render the most vulnerable populations susceptible to further exploitation. The growing national push to “get along” with officers overlooks these dynamics.
Mechanisms must be implemented to hold officers accountable to the same laws they are tasked with enforcing, and to make room for criticism that won't jeopardize an individual's or an organization's well-being. Without these, Holtzclaw's prosecution and sentencing will remain an exception to the rule, and the safety community policing purports to provide will be little more than superficial rhetoric.
Things to know about police shootings and mental illness
Advocates for the mentally ill say too many people who belong in mental health treatment wind up in jail cells
by The Associated Press
ST. MARTINVILLE, La. — The killing of a mentally ill man in his south Louisiana home during a struggle with sheriff's deputies last month appears to fit a troubling, tragic pattern. Michael Noel, 32, struggled for years to get treatment for his paranoid schizophrenia. The deputies who confronted Noel last month were carrying out a protective custody order so he could be involuntarily hospitalized. Experts see evidence suggesting the problem of deadly confrontations between law enforcement officers and people with mental illness has worsened as governments dismantle networks of health care services.
Bearing The Burden
Advocates for the mentally ill say too many people who belong in mental health treatment wind up in jail cells instead.
A 2014 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center of Arlington, Virginia, estimates that 15 percent of inmates in state prisons have a serious mental illness. The center estimates that the number of people with serious mental illness in jails and state prisons is roughly 10 times greater than those in state hospitals.
Mentally ill people also account for a disproportionate percentage of the people whom police officers encounter.
The Treatment Advocacy Center says severe mental illness is believed to be a factor in up to half of all deadly law enforcement encounters, while people with severe mental illness generate no less than 10 percent of calls for police service.
How Big Is The Problem?
No one keeps track of how many people are killed and wounded by police each year, much less how many are mentally ill and whether the problem has been getting worse in recent years, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit formed to reduce barriers to treatment of mental illness.
A 2015 report by the center said official undercounting of fatal police shootings has received attention, but the role of severe mental illness has been "barely noted."
It noted that The Washington Post and The Guardian compiled databases suggesting that mental illness was involved in about one-quarter of the cases of people killed by police or in police custody. The Center's own 2013 review of academic journals, media reports and other sources agreed with "published speculation" that the mentally ill make up at least half of all people shot and killed by U.S. police.
When police kill someone with mental problems, it reflects a failure of the mental health system, said Laura Usher, crisis intervention training program manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
What's Happened To Mental Hospitals?
Although the U.S. population has doubled since the 1950s, the number of psychiatric beds has fallen more than 90 percent, the report said.
A 2012 report by the same group said that just between 2005 and 2010, the number of state hospital beds available for psychiatric patients fell from 50,509 nationwide to 43,318. That worked out to about 14.1 beds per 100,000 people — about the same level as in 1850.
Mental institutions had been overcrowded and psychiatric medicine became more effective. Both developments contributed to the philosophy that, when possible, people should be treated at home or in community centers rather than in overcrowded institutions.
What Can Be Done?
Recommendations in the Treatment Advocacy Center's 2015 report:
—Establish a clear policy about use of deadly force and how to avoid using it.
—Programs to get help for people whose mental problems put them in the most frequent contact with police.
—Intensive training to teach police how to deal with mental patients.
—Team trained officers with mental health professionals for psychiatric emergency calls.
—Courts can order supervised treatment to make sure patients take medication and see therapists.
—Governments can open more mental treatment beds
—Governments can make involuntary hospitalization for mental illness less difficult.
Supreme Court gives juvenile killers chance for reduced sentences
by Richard Wolf
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday granted hundreds of prisoners who were convicted of murder as juveniles the chance to have their mandatory sentences of life without parole reconsidered.
The decision could give those previously locked away for life the same chance for lesser sentences now given to all such juvenile killers, following the court's 2012 ruling striking down mandatory life sentences for juveniles. It also could make them eligible for parole.
About 1,500 prisoners in states such as Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes some of them committed decades ago when they were teenagers. Such mandatory sentences are banned for juveniles today but that ban had not been applied retroactively.
"Allowing those offenders to be considered for parole ensures that juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity — and who have since matured — will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's 6-3 majority. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's liberal bloc.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Scalia said the decision, while preserving states' ability to declare a prisoner "incorrigible" and deserving of his sentence, "a devious way of eliminating life without parole for juvenile offenders." The dissenters also said the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to overrule states such as Louisiana.
The case focused on 69-year-old Henry Montgomery, who murdered a deputy sheriff in 1963 when he was 17.
"Henry Montgomery has spent each day of the past 46 years knowing he was condemned to die in prison," Kennedy said. While the state still can attempt to show that he deserves that fate and judges can impose it, Kennedy added, "prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored."
The case is a logical extension of the high court's juvenile justice jurisprudence. In 2005, it barred the death penalty for those whose crimes were committed before they turned 18. In 2010, it prohibited life without parole for non-homicides. Then in 2012, it blocked all future mandatory life sentences, even for murder.
Since then, it's been left to state courts or legislatures to decide whether the mandatory sentences of those previously locked away for life should be reconsidered. Hundreds of them were imprisoned in the 1980s and '90s, when the battle against juvenile crime peaked; some date back to the 1950s. Fourteen state supreme courts have said the ruling must be applied retroactively. Seven others, as well as four federal appeals courts, have said it does not.
Supreme Court rejects appeal to outlaw death penalty
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is rejecting a Pennsylvania inmate's appeal to consider banning the death penalty across the United States.
The justices did not comment Monday in turning away a challenge from death row inmate Shonda Walter.
Walter's appeal plays off Justice Stephen Breyer's call in an impassioned dissent in June to re-evaluate the death penalty in light of problems involving its imposition and use.
Breyer renewed his plea last week when he was the lone justice willing to give a last-minute reprieve to an Alabama death row inmate who was later put to death.
LA Public Safety Committee Calls for Meeting with LAPD after Crime Spike
by Chelsea Edwards
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander filed a motion Friday morning asking the LAPD to report to the council's Public Safety Committee to discuss the troubling spike in crime across the city.
Crimes in L.A. rose by 12.6 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the LAPD.
Violent crime rose 20.2 percent, and property crime went up by 10.7 percent. In the violent crime category, the homicide rate went up 8.8 percent.
Aggravated assaults went up 27.8 percent, and reported rapes jumped 9.1 percent.
"There's no excuse. Looking at statistics and numbers is critically important, but let's put a face on it. let's talk about the victims and ways that we can make sure that every community in the corner of the city is safe," Englander said.
Englander says in addition to being under-policed, there are a number of factors that could be contributing to the spike.
"We've decriminalized so many types of crimes and drug offenses. We're letting them out early, we're not incarcerating, there's no help for them, homelessness has gone up. There's a plethora of difficult situations, and things that we've got to now deal with," he said.
During the hearing, police union officials will be "at the table" with police department officials "to share problems, questions and suggestions moving forward to address this crime spike," he said.
Englander will also ask the L.A. Police Protective League to help the city council come up with solutions on how to stop the increase in crime.
He says he wants to get in front of the problem as soon as possible and ease the minds of worried Angelenos.
"It is time to bring the department to the table and say, 'What can we be doing better?'"
Philly's former police chief to advise Chicago force
Former deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police is returning to help reform a force that's trying to regain public trust
by Don Baldwin
CHICAGO — A former deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police who left to head departments in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia is returning to the city to help reform a force that's trying to regain public trust in the wake of a video showing a white officer fatally shooting a black teenager, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office announced Sunday.
Charles Ramsey, one of the nation's most respected law enforcement figures, has twice — first in Washington and then in Philadelphia — invited federal reviews of those agencies similar to the civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department that the Justice Department announced last month. He has said that police-involved shootings in both of those cities subsequently declined.
Ramsey, an African-American from the city's South Side, returns to Chicago amid protests that have called for Emanuel to resign over the release two months ago of the video of Laquan McDonald's shooting death by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The video sparked the biggest crisis of Emanuel's administration and cost Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy his job.
"The situation in Chicago is not unlike many cities across the country, but the people of Chicago should know that their leaders are working hard to restore trust where it has been lost," Ramsey said in a statement.
What kind of recommendations he will make is unclear, but last month he said that he wanted state police in Pennsylvania to head investigations of police-involved shootings in Philadelphia.
The 65-year-old Ramsey joined the Chicago Police Department as a cadet in 1968, rose through the ranks over three decades and had a key role in the establishment of community policing in Chicago. Since he left in 1998 to head Washington's force, his name has come up repeatedly as a candidate for Chicago superintendent. He has applied a number of times, including in 2011, before Emanuel selected McCarthy.
Ramsey retired this month as Philadelphia's police commissioner, and following Emanuel's firing of McCarthy in the wake of the McDonald video's release, had said he was not interested in the job. In fact, earlier this month, the mayor of Wilmington, Delaware, announced that Ramsey had been hired as a public safety consultant.
Dashcam video released Nov. 24 of the shooting more than a year earlier shows Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times as he walks away from police officers with a knife at his side. Van Dyke is charged with murder and has pleaded not guilty.
The shooting has turned a spotlight on longstanding concerns about a "code of silence" in the Chicago Police Department, in which officers stay quiet about or even cover up possible misconduct by colleagues. Police Board President Lori Lightfoot has said the 39 applicants for the superintendent job will be asked for "creative solutions" to motivate officers to come forward when they see misconduct.
Lightfoot says she hopes to present Emanuel with the names of three finalists by the end of February.