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

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


February, 2016 - Week 1



State DOJ, FBI assisting in Manitowoc bomb threat investigation


MANITOWOC — State and federal authorities are investigating the two bomb threats that were made in Manitowoc, Wednesday night.

Neither turned out to be anything, but investigators are still trying to track down the suspect - or suspects.

"Is there any inclination as to where these calls may have originated from? In state, out of state?" I asked Capt. Larry Zimney with the Manitowoc Police Department, which is heading up the investigation.

"It's not known yet."

The Wisconsin Department of Justice says its Department of Criminal Investigation is now involved; as is the FBI, according the county sheriff's officials.

"This one was the most site-specific," said Manitowoc County Sheriff Inspector Gregg Schetter, adding that four threats - including Wednesday's - have been forwarded on to the FBI.

"It is exhausting, and it's exhausting on our employees," Schetter said Thursday morning. "While we try to hope that things are settling down and we can get back to business as normal. Those threats, take a toll on them. And it isn't just on the work side, it's on their family's side."

Zimney says a man told county dispatchers there were bombs in the building, and a car was packed with explosives in the parking lot shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"In the call, the caller made reference to 'justice for Steven' which is an apparent reference to Steven Avery, why it appears the call was made in the first place," said Zimney.

Shortly after the scene was cleared, Zimney says a second bomb threat call came in. Dozens of phone and email threats have been directed to the Sheriff and police departments since the Netflix series, "Making a Murderer," profiling convict Steven Avery was released.

Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted in 2007 of the killing of photographer Teresa Halbach in 2005. Avery is currently serving a life sentence, but has seen renewed support in light of the series.

Dozens of pro-Avery supporters held a protest on the Manitowoc courthouse square grounds last week.

However, Wednesday night's events have some in Manitowoc wondering when their city along the Lakeshore might return to normal, instead of being drawn in - unwillingly - to the Avery story.

Just down the road from where recent pro-Avery protests - and now bomb threats - took place is Jim Vogel's record store.

"Avery is a big concern around here, as of late, it seems," said Vogel.

His shop openly contrasts the old - and the new. Old albums, new record releases. But for Vogel, personally, Wednesday's threats are not rooted in justice for Avery, but a blatant contradiction to justice and safety.

"If you're going to end up doing something violent or threatening to someone else, as a result of (calling for justice for Steven Avery), you yourself are now a criminal," said Vogel

As a precaution, extra patrols have been added around the courthouse square which includes the Sheriff's Department, jail, courthouse and dispatch center.




Texas Department of Public Safety may deploy small surveillance balloons on the border


The Texas Department of Public Safety may deploy small, high-tech surveillance balloons on the border to monitor drug trafficking and immigrant smuggling.

During December, the Department of Public Safety started soliciting information on "small, rapidly deployable persistent surveillance systems," according to documents published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The request seeks information on balloons light enough for a medium truck to tow and simple enough for a three-man crew to operate.

The formal request for information doesn't require the Department of Public Safety to buy anything -- or indicate the agency will actually deploy surveillance balloons. Responses remain under review, said agency spokesman Tom Vinger, who didn't have any additional comment.

While preliminary, the Department of Public Safety mentioned the plan to State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and other lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Border Security.

"I would support DPS to the fullest," Lucio said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection already monitors South Texas with five surveillance balloons provided by the Department of Defense.

Called aerostats, the surveillance balloons hover near Donna, Peñitas, Sullivan City, Roma and Falfurrias. Agents monitor cameras mounted on the aerostats, watching for immigrants and drug smugglers.

Border Patrol recently moved an aerostat from Falfurrias to Donna.

"The comments I have heard? People welcome it," said Donna police Chief Ruben "Ram" De Leon.

Border Patrol regularly passes information collected by aerostats to state troopers and local law enforcement.

"It lets us know quite a bit ahead of time if there's movement in a certain area," said Roma Assistant Police Chief Francisco Garcia.

Located roughly five miles from Roma, the aerostat doesn't seem to deter smugglers.

"They know it's there," Garcia said. "They're going to try and beat the system anyway."




Chicago mayor: 780 new TASERs on the way for officers

The department will have over 1K devices

by The Associated Press

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the upcoming delivery of almost 800 new stun guns will ensure that every police officer will have access to a Taser, following a series of high-profile fatal shootings in the city.

Emanuel's office said late Wednesday that by June 1 all officers responding to calls will have Tasers that they will be issued at the start of their shifts.

The department will have 1,481 stun guns once the 780 new Tasers arrive.

Officers must go through training and certification.

Emanuel announced the city would increase the number of stun guns available for police on Dec. 30, after public outrage erupted anew over a video showing a white police officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.



From the FBI

Raising Awareness of Opioid Addiction

FBI, DEA Release Documentary Aimed at Youth

Every day, the nation's law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels—including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—use investigative resources to target the supply side in the war against drugs.

But even with numerous law enforcement successes in this area, the demand for drugs continues. And one of the more worrisome trends is a growing epidemic of prescription opiate and heroin abuse, especially among young people.

Today, in an effort to help educate students and young adults about the dangers of opioid addiction, the FBI and DEA unveiled a documentary called Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., before an audience of educational leaders from the region. The 45-minute film, whose title refers to the never-ending pursuit of the original or ultimate high, features stark first-person accounts told by individuals who have abused opioids or whose children have abused opioids, with tragic consequences.

“This film may be difficult to watch,” explains FBI Director James Comey, “but we hope it educates our students and young adults about the tragic consequences that come with abusing these drugs and that it will cause people to think twice before becoming its next victim.”

And according to Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “The numbers are appalling—tens of thousands of Americans will die this year from drug-related deaths, and more than half of these deaths are from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. I hope this [documentary] will be a wakeup call for folks.”

The individuals featured in the film—a few of whom are highlighted below—chose to tell their stories to help stop others from going down the same destructive path.

Katrina, a former business executive and mother who became addicted to opiates after self-medicating with pain pills and alcohol and whose own daughter died of a drug overdose. “You can't go back and say, ‘I'm sorry,' or set a better example, or talk ‘em out of it,” she says. And of her own addiction, she explains, “The spiral down is so fast...and I lost everything. I lost my daughter first and foremost. So all the work I did, all those dreams I had, it's like I'm starting over again with a huge weight on my shoulder...all for a pill.”

Matt, who began using marijuana at age 11 and became addicted to opiates at age 15. “In the beginning,” he explains, “I would always try to get pills because you know what you're getting. Eventually, that just got too expensive....so then you'd go for heroin because it's cheaper.”

Trish, whose daughter Cierra—an honor roll student at her high school—died after a heroin overdose. “Cierra did not take life for granted until she started using,” says her mother. “It is much stronger than you, and it will win.” Noting the broader impact of addiction, Trish adds, “It affects everyone in your family for the rest of their life...we're the ones stuck missing you.”

Chasing the Dragon also features interviews with medical and law enforcement professionals discussing a variety of issues, including how quickly addiction can set in, how the increasing costs of prescription opioids can lead to the use of heroin as a less expensive alternative, the horrors of withdrawal, the ties between addiction and crime, and the fact that, contrary to popular belief, opiate abuse is prevalent in all segments of society.

The documentary is available on this website for viewing or downloading. Copies can also be obtained by contacting your local FBI or DEA field office.



From the Department of Homeland Security

Blue Campaign Expands Partnerships Ahead of Super Bowl 50

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today is excited to announce two new partnerships between the DHS Blue Campaign, the unified voice for the Department's efforts to combat human trafficking, and the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CH&LA) and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) Altamont Corridor Express (ACE).

This announcement is especially important as the Department continues its efforts to help ensure the security of visitors and fans for Super Bowl 50. High-profile events, like the Super Bowl, draw large crowds and have become lucrative opportunities for criminals engaged in human trafficking. CH&LA and SJRRC ACE will display Blue Campaign materials at lodging and railway stops throughout California, providing residents and visitors to the area with information about the indicators of human trafficking and how to report it. Materials will also have resources and information on how to receive support for potential victims.

“It is our responsibility to speak up and act for those who cannot,” said SJRRC ACE Safety and Security Supervisor Steve Walker.

“As an industry, we recognize the important role that hotels can play in fighting human trafficking networks which often rely on legitimate businesses such as hotels to sustain their operations,” said CH&LA President and CEO Lynn Mohrfeld. “CH&LA is looking forward to partnering with the DHS Blue Campaign to help combat human trafficking within the hotel and lodging industry.”

Last year, ahead of Super Bowl XLIX, the Blue Campaign established partnerships with the City of Phoenix and the Arizona Human Trafficking Council of the Governor's Office for Children, Youth, and Families to provide training and awareness materials.

The Blue Campaign will continue to work in collaboration with local law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.



Secretary Johnson Highlights Super Bowl 50 Security Operations

SAN FRANCISCO - Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson met with local law enforcement officials and the National Football League (NFL) security team to oversee the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) security operations that will help ensure the safety and security of employees, players and fans during Super Bowl 50.

“Dozens of federal agencies and components, including multiple components of the Department of Homeland Security, are contributing to security measures seen and unseen in connection with the Super Bowl,” said Secretary Johnson. “Within the Department of Homeland Security itself, TSA, CBP, ICE, Coast Guard, the Secret Service, FEMA, our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and our National Protection and Programs Directorate are contributing to the security of this event. The public has a role to play too. “If You See Something, Say SomethingTM” is more than a slogan. Public vigilance and public awareness contributes to a safe and secure event.”

More than 15 million fans and visitors in and around the San Francisco area will see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message at airports, on bus and rail systems, billboards, magazines and visitor guides. Last year, for the first time ever, individuals using their smart phones to play games using the Game Day and NFL Experience mobile applications might have seen campaign messaging throughout Super Bowl Weekend. This year, fans will also see messaging that highlights the individual role of everyday citizens to protect their neighbors and the communities they call home, by recognizing and reporting suspicious activity when using mobile applications.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign is just one part of the support DHS is providing for the Super Bowl. Hundreds of employees from DHS, and assets from across the Department, will support our state and local partners charged with securing this event.

DHS Operations - Super Bowl 50

As the principal Federal official for domestic incident management, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has appointed Federal Coordinator Tatum King (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations San Francisco Deputy Special Agent in Charge) and Deputy Federal Coordinator Frank Calvillo (National Protection and Programs Directorate Regional Director to serve as the Secretary's representatives locally and federal points of contact for facilitating planning and support.

DHS is providing security assessments and training to state and local law enforcement, local hotels, and others to help them identify potential risks and take steps needed to address them.

DHS is continuing our partnership with the NFL with a newly revamped “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. Fans and visitors in the area will see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message at airports, on bus and rail systems, billboards and mobile applications. The message will also appear at NFL sponsored events as well as in the game day program, the official fan guide, and on the video board during the game.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is sending more than 100 additional officers and specialists to assist in security operations at Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Mineta San Jose International Airport for the influx of fans traveling for the game. In addition to Transportation Security Officers, TSA will deploy additional Passenger Screening Canine teams, Behavior Detection and Analysis Officers, Transportation Security Specialists – Explosives, and Transportation Security Inspectors.

TSA's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, which can be comprised of Federal Air Marshals, surface/aviation transportation security inspectors, Behavioral Detection Officers, TSOs, TSA certified explosive detection canine teams and local law enforcement agencies are helping secure mass transit locations in and around the San Francisco/San Jose area.

The U.S. Secret Service will support open-source social media monitoring for situational awareness and has been assisting with cyber security vulnerability assessments and mitigation. The Secret Service also conducted magnetometer training for security personnel.

The U.S. Coast Guard will provide maritime security and interagency support ahead of and during the Super Bowl. This includes increased patrol operations, deployment of Pacific Strike Team, ferry security operations and cruise ship security operations.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will conduct operations specifically targeting counterfeit vendors and local merchants of game-related sportswear. This is part of a crackdown on intellectual property rights violations and to ensure fans are getting official Super Bowl related memorabilia.

CBP officers and non-intrusive inspection equipment will scan the cargo entering the stadium for contraband such as narcotics, weapons, and explosives.

CBP will provide venue security at numerous locations including team hotels and practice fields, the Santa Clara Convention Center, the Great America Theme Park and at various NFL related events ahead of and during the Super Bowl.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) units to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, state and local security personnel could quickly link and coordinate with federal partners. MERS provides mobile telecommunications, operational support, life support, and power generation assets for the on-site management of a disaster.

DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) is deploying Mobile Detection Deployment Units (MDDUs), radiological and nuclear detection “surge” assets designed to supplement law enforcement and first responders' existing radiological and nuclear detection and reporting capabilities. The MDDUs include both fixed and mobile radiological and nuclear detection assets.

The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) is providing on-site intelligence and personnel support at various centers throughout the San Francisco area.

DHS Office of Health Affairs (OHA) will deploy a network of BioWatch detectors to provide public health officials with a warning in the event of a biological agent release. OHA's National Biosurveillance Integration Center is providing state and local officials with information on potential health threats and their indicators, increasing situational awareness for public health partners prior to the event.

DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD):

Emergency Communications: The Office of Emergency Communications Region IX Coordinator has been working with Federal, State, and local public safety to support communications planning and will serve onsite as the Federal Communications Coordinator.

Cybersecurity: The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) will have personnel from the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team on-site monitoring, coordinating, and reporting activities from the Super Bowl 50 Operations Center with regards to cyber or communications threats or incidents. NCCIC Watch will monitor sensors installed on the City of Santa Clara's network and respond to mitigate cyber/physical threats as necessary for restoration of critical infrastructure.

Site Assessments and Bombing Prevention Training: Since 2014, Protective Security Advisors conducted 95 site visits and 40 security assessments in the San Francisco Bay and Santa Clara Metropolitan area. The Office for Bombing Prevention conducted 20 National Counter-IED Capabilities Analysis Database Assessments. In addition, NPPD will have 12 Protective Security Advisors supporting the event.

Active Shooter Preparedness: NPPD Office of Infrastructure Protection conducted an active shooter preparedness workshop, training 170 public and private sector partners.

Securing Federal Facilities: The Federal Protective Service will provide protection to Federal facilities in the in the San Francisco Bay and Santa Clara Metropolitan area and ensure the continuance of government business and services to the public. FPS will also deploy a Mobile Command Vehicle to serve as the primary standby communications platform.

DHS Blue Campaign— the unified voice for efforts to combat human trafficking— will display awareness materials to help individuals and communities identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking. Blue Campaign materials are being displayed in airports, public transportation hubs, city buses, and throughout the lodging industry. HSI is also working with local, state, and Federal partners (including CBP, TSA, and the FBI) and service providers to combat human trafficking in the region.



New Jersey

What the feds are doing to improve community, police relations in N.J.

by Jonathan Lin

At a community policing forum on Saturday, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman described a few ways federal law enforcement is working to improve community-police relations in the state, including prosecuting police officers who violate others' civil rights and partnering with community outreach groups.

In a 10-minute speech in front of roughly 85 people at a forum organized by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice at New Jersey City University, Fishman said he appreciates the hard work of police officers, but they have to "behave in a way that is constitutional and respectful."

When officers don't behave in that way, he said, community members' thinking toward all police officers can be tainted.

Fishman said one way federal law enforcement has sought to bolster the community's trust in police is through the prosecution of police officers who break the law.

Fishman cited the prosecution of Bayonne police officer Domenico Lillo, noting Lillo "had a prisoner who was handcuffed, not resisting, and whacked him in the face with a flashlight, knocking out six teeth," he said.

Fishman also cited the prosecution of "four or five cops in Camden who were stealing drugs from the bad guys, planting them on other bad guys, and then arresting those other bad guys," likely referring to former Camden police officer Kevin Parry and Parry's co-conspirators.

Another way federal law enforcement has worked to improve community-police relations is through "pattern and practice" investigations of city police departments, like the one that is being finalized with the Newark Police Department, he said.

"We're literally weeks away from signing a consent decree for the city that will implement what I hope will be long-lasting systemic reform that will not just be great for Newark, but will also hopefully be a ... model for other police departments around the state of New Jersey," Fishman said.

Federal law enforcement also works with community outreach organizations to set up conversations between community members and police so both sides can learn from each other and discuss how policing can be improved, he said.

Other speakers at the event included Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop; Regional Disaster Manager of the American Red Cross of New Jersey Paul Gass; New Jersey City University President Sue Henderson; Jersey City Public Safety Director Jim Shea; Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez; state Sen. Sandra Cunningham; Director of the state Division of Criminal Justice Elie Honig; and state Attorney General John Hoffman.

Several Jersey City City Council members also attended the event, which featured a breakout session where the attendees divided up into groups to discuss topics like "Training for law enforcement personnel," "Building Trust Between the Police and the Community" and the "Role of Schools and Education," among others.




Community Policing training for Volunteers was hosted by TPD

by Key Budge

The Tehachapi Police Department hosted an introduction to community policing training day for law enforcement volunteers from six agencies in their community room on Wednesday.

“What we are really focusing in on here, is getting the community involved in our day-to-day police operations,” Lt. Darrel Brown of the Tehachapi Police Department said. By opening the lines of communication with citizens, they ultimately want communities to feel even safer, he said.

“The chief and I have had many discussions about the importance of bringing community policing to the City of Tehachapi and our region of law enforcement,” Brown said.

Community oriented policing philosophy is a direct line of communication between the residents of Tehachapi and police. The volunteers will talk to community members taking surveys to finding out what issues are most important to them.

“Many times the community says there are traffic problems, nuisances and other quality of life issues,” Brown said.

Brown reached out to the Regional Community Police Institute through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to ask them to teach local volunteers about the community oriented policing philosophy. The program is free through RCPI and the benefits could have a lasting impact, Brown said.

“We decided to make introduction to community policing a program for the volunteers because they are more of our eyes and ears, but they are also community members,” said Sgt. Vic Zavala of the LASD/RCPI, who taught the day's lessons.

Zavala said training covers the history of community policing philosophy, tools to talk to the community and how to take surveys with the public. Including citizen volunteers is in the training is only a year old; it follows two decades of teaching the strategy to police officers.

Zavala said he was pleasantly surprised to see six agencies attend the training because it helps spread the philosophy to a larger region. The goal is to spread the new program, which began in Whittier last year, across California.

The 23 students participated in group discussion and also broke into small groups to discuss how they would tackle the lessons Zavala presented. Zavala said the sharing of ideas among volunteers was a great way for them to network.

The citizen volunteers participating in the training day represented the Tehachapi Police Department, Bear Valley Springs Police Department, Stallion Springs Police Department, California City Police Department, Ridgecrest Police Department and Simi Valley Police Department.

“One of the chief's goals is to make Tehachapi, which is centrally located here in Kern County, one of the training hubs (for law enforcement agencies),” Brown said.



North Carolina

Community policing: Newer tact building confidence in neighborhoods

by Larry Renkava

ASHEBORO — When gunshots were fired in a high-risk area recently, a resident of the neighborhood said he wasn't surprised, noting that a police street crimes team had been disbanded.

Indeed, the street crimes team was abandoned in 2013, according to Master Lt. Richard Thompson of the Asheboro Police Department. “That was not to take the focus off crimes on the street,” he said, “but to add in a community aspect.”

That community aspect is the Community Resource Team, which Thompson heads. The goal is to partner with citizens, who become “eyes and ears to help solve crimes,” he said.

“The Community Resource Team is still police officers enforcing laws,” Thompson said. “It's the same as street crimes. We encourage people to report what they see, open the lines of communication between the police department and citizens.”

Thompson said the number of Community Watch groups, an integral part of the CRT, has more than doubled since the Community Resource Team was formed. “(The program) has been very successful, not only to meet citizens and start a relationship but to open lines of communication.”

He said face-to-face relationships are the best way to work with the community. As a result, there are now 28 Community Watch groups in the city, including engagement with the Hispanic community by Officer Jim Mendez. He has been working with Hispanic leaders in meetings to establish relationships. Those meetings have attracted as many as 500 people.

“Some (of the Hispanics) have come up and said they were reluctant to report crimes until now,” Thompson said. “But when you establish relationships, it makes them more comfortable. We want to make them feel a part of the community. It's not only positive for the community, it's positive for the officers.

“One of the goals of Chief (Jody) Williams and me is to try to reach out to as many citizens as we can.”

Since the community meetings began, he said, residents have embraced the police department and provided needed information. “Last month, we had several meals where we could sit and socialize with citizens,” Thompson said. “North to south, east to west, we want to include all citizens.”

That includes Community Watch meetings, book readings in conjunction with Partnership for Children and mentoring at elementary schools. Thompson said engagement with a child can be long-lasting.

Asheboro police are also partnering with the Salvation Army, churches and other organizations to do food and toy drives for the needy. They'll do safety talks to any group that asks, with a goal of doing something every month. And at any special event in the city, the Community Resource Team tries to use the opportunity to engage the public in a positive way, Thompson said.

“The goal of this job is to help people,” he said.

Thompson said that while officers are spending time engaging with the community, “we're not going to ignore crimes taking place.” In fact, the police hope relationships with the public will lead to solving crimes, he said.

“The CRT is working with the vice unit and patrol teams for problem-oriented policing,” Thompson said. “We solve as a team.”

Hopes are to include the public as part of the team. Listening to citizens, he said, even those with differing views, provides a door to communication.

Thompson said his department wants to be proactive rather than reactive, especially with problems “popping up in a location.” He said there are certain areas where people tend to congregate, sometimes creating problems.

“Sometimes we have incidents (in such locations) and we'll engage with the problem areas to try to solve the problem,” he said. “We appreciate the public's response. They see the world through their own glasses. A number of ideas are better than one idea. The team approach includes the community.”

A big part of reaching out is through the Community Watch program, Thompson said. Some areas communicate through email, others have face-to-face meetings. “Each community is different,” he said.

One Community Watch Thompson mentioned was Hamlin Street.

The good news

Sandra Brown is chair of the Hamlin Street Community Watch. She said she's lived in the neighborhood all her life and could see it going downhill, primarily with drug crimes.

She contacted the police and was told to solicit the homes in the area to notify everyone of a Community Watch meeting. Thirty-five showed up at the first meeting, she said.

“Within a couple of weeks, five people moved out,” Brown said. “They didn't want us watching them.

“We let everybody know we're serious about getting the neighborhood cleaned up. The police have helped us so much” with regular patrols and attending Community Watch meetings.

The program has brought the neighbors together, Brown said, even getting together for holiday celebrations.

“It's made us tighter on our street,” she said. “We know each others' cars. We let each other know when we see somebody who doesn't fit in.”

Brown stressed the necessity of citizens being the eyes and ears for the police, not putting themselves in danger but calling.

“It's so much better to lay down at night and not hear guns shooting,” she said. “I can't say anything bad about the police department. They've changed our street.”

Alice Hill echoed Brown's words, saying the Community Watch “has really helped our neighborhood.” She and her husband Richard had experienced three break-ins in four years. She said they haven't had any problems since the police have increased their presence.

“The area has improved quite a bit,” Richard Hill said. “More police coming around has helped. You never know at what moment another police car is coming around.”

Hill said he had installed an alarm on his outbuilding that can be set off even when an animal comes near. “Every time the alarm goes off, the police respond in less than 10 minutes,” he said. “I've learned a lot of things from them, how to look after yourself.”

The bad news

A woman in another part of town wishes she had the peace of mind expressed by Sandra Brown. The woman spoke on condition that she not be identified for fear of reprisals.

She said she lives in an area where “drug dealers hang out all the time.” She said one house has no running water but people are living there. When a patrol car drives by, she said, she can hear them laughing at the police.

The men who hang out, she said, have informers on another street who call when a patrol car is coming. “I've learned by listening to them on my front porch. They know how to play the system.”

The woman, a widow and retired school teacher, said her grandson sometimes comes over to spend the night with her. But he's scared to sleep in a room alone because of the activities he hears going on outside. “No one should have to live like that,” she said.

There are Community Watch meetings in her neighborhood and, she said, she's told her stories to police and city officials. When she calls the police and they come out, they've told her their hands are tied.

The woman said she and her husband worked hard all their lives and built their home. Most people in the neighborhood don't do drugs, she said, but are harassed by those who do. “It's an everyday thing,” she said. “It tears my nerves up.

“We are law abiding citizens. I've never been in trouble. I just want to live peacefully.”

Help coming?

When Thompson heard the woman's story, he expressed concern and understanding. He said he would pass it on to officers dealing in vice and to the Community Resource Team.

“We'll definitely get more people in that area,” he said. “We'll up our presence there and get something going.”

He urged anyone who sees suspicious activity to call 911 and not have to use their name.

“I agree with her,” said Thompson, “that we need to get people over there and be seen.”

Sheriff's Office involved with communities

The Randolph County Sheriff's Office also sponsors Community Watch programs. Sgt. Jim Sparks works with Community Watch and sent this release:

“Community Watch program is paramount for the educational experience of the good citizens of Randolph County. With the support of the community and the proactive teams that we have in place from the Sheriff's Office, crime is challenged head on. Community Watch and Crime Stopper programs are essential in the war on crime. These two programs work hand in hand in developing positive solutions to today's situations.

“Professional quality Community Watch signs have been produced and are available at a reasonable price. These signs, of course, don't stop crime; however, it does show solidarity that the neighborhoods are strong and united in their belief of law and order.

“Citizens have always used 911 for emergencies and we still ask them to do so. However, some people hesitate to call or think they are bothering us. If there is a situation where a suspicious person or activity is taking place, you now have a tool to help document and even take photos and send the info directly to the office.

“The new tool allows you to leave contact information or you can be anonymous.

“This marvel is called the Randolph County Sheriff's App.

“The Sheriff has implemented a way for the citizens to be and stay connected to the office by means of using your smart phone. This new Sheriff's App is free for the asking, and can be used to help all the communities by being watchful eyes and reporting crime and suspicious activity.

“Education about Community Policing is paramount, the communities are welcoming the information with open arms. Communities are holding meetings and working together to deter crime from their backyards. Together we can build a safer environment to live and raise our families.

“The Sheriff's Office offers free safety and security checks on homes and churches and will gladly help you start a community watch program for your neighborhood.”

Sparks, in an interview, said his office is happy to meet with anyone who wants information about home security. He said that although some neighborhoods have little crime, one breaking-and-entering is too many. Sparks urges everyone to lock their doors and keep the lights on when they leave home.

“We'll come out and do a safety check when people ask,” he said. “It makes them feel more secure in their homes.”

From the Partnership for Children of Randolph County:

Reach Out and Read: Books and Badges

In conjunction with Reach Out and Read, a Partnership literacy program delivered through local medical providers, we have teamed with the Asheboro Police Department to offer “Storytime Wednesdays.” The event is held the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. at Randolph Medical Associates-Pediatrics. Children and parents will be able to listen to age-appropriate stories, read by members of the Asheboro Police Department, and participate in fun-filled activities while they wait to be called for their well-child visit.

An evidence-based program, Reach Out and Read provides children from 6 months to 5 years of age with a new book at each well-child visit. This book is also used in the visit as a tool for doctors to provide parents with information on how to read to children at each developmental stage. Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. Randolph Medical Associates-Pediatrics has participated in Reach Out and Read since 2012. On average, about 3,000 books are distributed to children and families each year.

Lt. Richard Thompson said, “Any time police officers can interact with children in a positive way, it leaves a lasting impression.”




Arlington police will use federal grant to bolster community relationships

by Traci Peterson

A $1.8 million federal grant recently awarded to the Arlington Police Department will fund 15 new officers and promote positive community relationships — essential when problems arise, according to the department.

The money is part of the COPS Hiring Program, a project of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The federal office provides grants for state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire officers and provides salaries and benefits for three years.

The 15 new Arlington officers being funded through the grant will come from the Arlington Police Academy's 50th class, which started training Jan. 19.

In announcing the grant last fall, Police Chief Will Johnson said the partnership with the COPS hiring program “is instrumental in advancing public safety in our community.” Arlington police had funding for 627 officers before the grant came in.

Community policing is a natural part of the department's focus on “procedural justice,” said Lt. Christopher Cook, the department's chief spokesman. Procedural justice involves building awareness about the work that police officers do in the community and empowering residents to promote public safety, he said.

“It takes boots on the ground to really have time to have these relationships. If you're strapped on staffing, you're running from call to call to call, and there's not a lot of time to interact with your businesses, your community groups, your residents. Additional staffing allows for time to build those relationships,” Cook said.

In its application for the grant, the Police Department cited “a number of activist groups” such as Cop Watch Arlington and Open Carry Tarrant County that had shot video of conflicts with officers in 2014 and 2015 and placed them online. The application said more officers on the street would help the city rebuild and restore trust in the department by giving police more time for “proactive policing,” including involvement in activities such as youth outreach programs and crime prevention strategizing.

Cook said the department has been working to reorganize staffing to match peaks in demand so that officers are deployed in the right areas at the right times. To that end, a pilot program started in 2016 has officers in the city's south and west police districts working four 10-hour shifts, instead of the traditional five eight-hour shifts. The change creates overlaps and decreases overtime, he said.

One of the community groups that department officials point to as a success is the Arlington Clergy and Police Partnership, or ACAPP. ACAPP allows clergy from all denominations to interact with police and participate in an academy where all facets of the department are explained. Burton Purvis, senior pastor at White Stone Fellowship in southwest Arlington, is an ACAPP board member.

He said the academy classes and riding along with officers give the pastors a perspective on the police that he's happy to share with others in the community.

“To see them respond to adversarial people with professionalism and quality on a daily basis is an amazing thing to observe. … I want people to know our police, especially in Arlington, are outstanding,” Purvis said.

He said sharing his experience is especially important given recent national attention to situations involving police officers. Purvis said strong connections between police and pastors helped diffuse tension after an Arlington officer fatally shot Christian Taylor, a 19-year-old Angelo State University football player, during a suspected burglary at a car dealership in August.

Trust between the community and police is essential, Purvis said.

“If you know somebody, then you're going to have a better chance of being able to communicate and work with them than if you don't know them,” he said.




San Bernardino police praised for attack response but say not all went smoothly

Officers who responded to the worst terror attack on US soil since Sept. 11, want to consider several changes

by Paloma Esquivel

LOS ANGELES — San Bernardino police have been widely commended for their quick and effective response to the Dec. 2 terrorist attack. Within four hours of the mass shooting that left 14 people dead, the suspects had been tracked and were later killed in a gun battle.

But when San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan reflects on what happened in those frantic hours, he knows not everything went smoothly.

“We've had a lot of people who have come to us and they've said this appeared to be a perfect response or a textbook response, and I think a lot of that is a byproduct of how it ended,” Burguan said last week. “But we know that internally we still had some pretty chaotic things going on.”

Officers who responded to the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, have asked Burguan to consider several changes to help police respond in similar situations, the chief said.

They include improving medical training and supplies, buying more rifles and equipping officers with body armor that protects against rifle fire.

Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were armed with semiautomatic rifles when they entered a gathering of county health employees at the Inland Regional Center and opened fire.

Last week, the Police Foundation, a Washington, D.C., research group, began a U.S. Justice Department-funded review of the response to the shooting. The group reviewed police actions during the 2013 manhunt for Christopher Dorner, praising police but also highlighting significant shortfalls.

Robert Chapman, deputy director of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services, said the review is meant to help train law enforcement in the event of future attacks.

“We really are going to objectively review the entirety of the law enforcement response (to) ultimately develop lessons learned that law enforcement nationwide can use to help prepare,” he said.

Officers around the nation respond to active shooter incidents in ways that are strongly influenced by the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. The goals, experts say, are to stop the killing and then stop the dying. Time is essential.

“If you've been here since Columbine, you've probably been through that training 10 times,” Burguan said.

The lessons kicked in Dec. 2. The first officers arrived about four minutes after the attack was reported. Unaware that the shooters had fled, they quickly formed into a team of four and entered the building to track the suspects down. Another four-man team soon followed.

Most officers who first entered Inland Regional Center were equipped with handguns, Burguan said. They wore soft body armor, which is not designed to stop rifle fire.

Other officers at the scene — about 300 emergency responders arrived that day — searched the building for explosive devices, escorted people out of the center and began interviewing witnesses.

Burguan calmly coordinated with various agencies and began informing the public as best he could.

As police worked, the suspects were driving around San Bernardino in a rented black SUV with Utah plates, at one point even showing up about one mile from the chaotic scene, federal officials have since learned.

The bulk of the response was focused on the scene, not on the possibility that the suspects might be driving around nearby.

“Almost everybody was working the event itself, there were not many units out just looking for cars,” Burguan wrote in an email.

Police found the suspects about four hours after the shooting, when they drove past their Redlands home.

Meanwhile, officers, who know basic CPR and first aid but do not have specialized medical training, carried injured victims out of the building and put them in trucks to get them to emergency medical providers at a triage site.

Pete Blair, of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, said asking officers trained only in first aid and CPR to move victims could mean delaying their access to lifesaving medical care.

Some departments have begun giving officers basic medical training based on lessons learned by the military in combat zones, Blair said.

Others are also training officers to stand guard so emergency medical workers can go directly to victims, he said.

A report commissioned in the aftermath of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., recommended that departments improve officers' medical training and provide them with better medical equipment.

Todd McGhee of Protecting the Homeland Innovations, which trains law enforcement, said some departments are also reconsidering four-man teams, like those that joined together to enter the Inland Regional Center, in favor of allowing one or two officers to enter.

San Bernardino police showed a “tremendous response,” arriving within four minutes and quickly gathering together, he said.

But every second is crucial for victims, he said, adding, “How does an individual survive in those life-threatening moments?”

Burguan said giving officers some basic medical equipment, such as blankets to carry injured victims, could be an easy fix.

“Nothing there stopped officers from doing” what was needed, he said. “They did the best they could, they improvised with everything, but … that's a relatively low-cost item potentially.”

He's also thinking about increasing medical training for some or all his officers and weighing requests for more rifles and improved body armor. The department of about 230 officers has 30 rifles, he said. Some officers purchase their own.

As Burguan considers the changes, he's also trying to determine how the cash-strapped city might pay for them. Local business leaders have expressed interest in funding the efforts, he said.

He also knows that giving officers more rifles and armor plates could raise questions about the militarization of police.

Stanford Law School professor David Sklansky, who has studied policing, called for balance when it comes to beefing up equipment.

“There are legitimate uses in policing for military-style equipment,” he said. “At the same time, that type of equipment can be overused.”

Burguan said he's trying to find that balance as the department adapts in the aftermath of a terror attack few ever imagined would happen in his city.

“We're still policing a community,” he said.




Ferguson residents worried about cost of US-mandated police changes

The cost of implementing the mandated changes would be significant with preliminary estimates at $500K

by Jim Salter

FERGUSON, Mo.— Many Ferguson residents expressed concern Tuesday that a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice could financially ruin the St. Louis suburb where a police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.

About 100 people crammed into the tiny Ferguson City Hall chambers for the first public meeting on a proposal that seeks to avert a civil rights lawsuit against the city. An equal number of residents were turned away due to space limitations. The City Council could approve the agreement as early as Feb. 9.

The city has been under federal scrutiny since the August 2014 shooting of Brown, who was black and unarmed, by white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. The killing led to protests and promoted a wave of national scrutiny about police use of force and law enforcement's interactions with minorities.

The Justice Department cleared Wilson in the shooting, but issued a report in March criticizing the city's police force and a municipal court system that made money on the backs of the poor and minorities.

Residents who spoke at Tuesday's hearing were about evenly split on whether the city should go along with the agreement, which includes overhauling police policies, training and practices. Cost concerns were a common refrain among opponents.

The cost of implementing the Justice Department-mandated changes would be significant — preliminary estimates are at least $500,000, Mayor James Knowles said. The city already faces a $2.8 million deficit in part to legal fees, lost sales tax revenue from businesses damaged in protests that followed Brown's death, overtime costs for officers handling the protests, and lost revenue from municipal court changes already implemented.

Knowles said in an interview that the city has already made cuts to pay and benefits for all employees. Ferguson voters will consider two tax increases in April — one imposing an economic development sales tax, the other a property tax increase that would cost about $76 annually for a home worth $100,000. If voters turn down the tax increases, the city will have to make even deeper cuts, he said.

"Obviously if we agree to this we're going to have to find some way to fund it," Knowles said.

The city is also seeking grants to help fund improvements to the police force.

Many of those opposing the consent agreement were white. Supporters were split between blacks and whites.

Tom Sansevere, who is white, said the Justice Department should help pay for improvements.

"Don't put it on the backs of the people that really had nothing to do with any problems caused in the city of Ferguson. The residents here didn't do this, but we're going to pay for it," Sansevere said.

Blake Ashby, who is white, believes the agreement would lead to dissolution of Ferguson.

"If you want to see Ferguson wiped off the map, sign this consent decree," Ashby said.

Adrian Shropshire, who is black, urged the council to approve the deal.

"What the DOJ has presented are not punitive demands, they're constitutional demands," Shropshire said. "There's so much in this consent decree we need so badly."

In its March report, the Justice Department found officers routinely used excessive force, issued petty citations and made baseless traffic stops in Ferguson, where about two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black but nearly all police officers are white.

Within days of the report, Ferguson's police chief, municipal judge and city manager resigned.

The agreement envisions a top-to-bottom reshaping of basic policing practices — how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations. Ferguson officials also agreed to rewrite their municipal code to restrict the use of fines and jail time for petty violations.

Also, officers and jail workers would be required to wear body-worn cameras and microphones within 180 days of the agreement's implementation. Cameras would be activated for all traffic stops, arrest, searches and encounters with people believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis.



A Record Number of People Were Exonerated in 2015 for Crimes They Didn't Commit

"Making A Murderer" isn't just a problem in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

by Matt Ferner

The Netfilx hit true-crime series “Making a Murderer” leaves many people wondering: Just how common is the story of a wrongful conviction in America's criminal justice system? Too common, according a new report that tracks exonerations.

Researchers found that 149 people were cleared in 2015 for crimes they didn't commit -- more than any other year in history, according to a report published Wednesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School. By comparison, 139 people were exonerated in 2014. The number has risen most years since 2005, when 61 people were cleared of crimes they didn't commit.

“Historically, this is a very large number for a type of event that we'd like to think almost never happens or just doesn't happen,” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor who helped write the report, told The Huffington Post.

The men and women who were cleared last year had, on average, served 14.5 years in prison. Some had been on death row. Others were younger than 18 when they were convicted or had intellectual disabilities. All had been swept into a justice system that's supposed to be based on the presumption of innocence, but failed.

The high number of exonerations shows widespread problems with the system and likely “points to a much larger number of false convictions” that haven't been reversed, the report said.

“That there is an impetus at all to address the underlying problems that create false convictions is of course good news,” Gross said. “But the other side is equally important, probably more so: When you see this many exonerations, that means there is a steady underlying problem. We now know that this happens on a regular basis.”

Here are some patterns the organization found in 2015 exonerations:

Official Misconduct

About 40 percent of the 2015 exonerations involved official misconduct, a record. About 75 percent of the homicide exonerations involved misconduct.

The wrongful conviction of Debra Milke, detailed in the report, was among them. Authorities accused Milke of conspiring with two men who shot her son in the back of the head to keep him from her ex-husband and to cash in on an insurance policy. Milke's conviction was built largely on the testimony of now-retired Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate Jr., who said Milke offered him sex during questioning and confessed to the murder. The interrogation wasn't recorded, and Milke's defense argued Saldate had a long history of misconduct that the state had concealed. In multiple other cases, the defense lawyers said, judges had tossed out confessions or indictments because Saldate had lied or violated defendants' rights.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Milke's attorneys and overturned her conviction. Milke had always maintained her innocence. She spent 26 years in prison -- 22 on death row -- before she was exonerated.

False Confessions

Almost 20 percent of exonerations in 2015 were for convictions based on false confessions -- a record. Those cases overwhelmingly were homicides involving defendants who were under 18, intellectually disabled, or both.

Bobby Johnson, of New Haven, Connecticut, was 16 years old with an IQ of 69 -- just below the threshold for intellectual disability -- without a parent or guardian present when he confessed to two detectives that he murdered 70-year-old Herbert Fields.

Johnson received a 38-year sentence in 2007. But in 2015, a new defense attorney argued that Johnson's confession was coerced by the detectives, who lied that they had evidence linking him to the murder that would subject him to the death penalty. The lawyer also argued police ignored evidence that the murder was linked to two other killings committed by others. Nine years after his conviction, Johnson was exonerated and set free.

In a separate analysis of hundreds of cases since 1989, false confessions were found to be a leading cause of wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to correcting wrongful convictions. Overall, about 31 percent of wrongful conviction cases included a false confession. For homicides, that number balloons to 63 percent.

Guilty Pleas

An innocent person pleading guilty to a crime they didn't commit may seem unfathomable. But the National Registry of Exonerations said the number of false guilty pleas has been increasing for seven years, and has risen sharply in the past two years.

More than 40 percent of people exonerated in 2015 were convicted based on guilty pleas made by an innocent defendant, a record. The majority of these cases involved drugs. Some were homicide cases.

“Many people, including judges, take comfort in knowing that an overwhelming number of criminal cases are resolved by guilty plea rather than trial,” Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote last year in a paper critiquing the criminal justice system. But Kozinski said this attitude fails to account for issues surrounding plea deals that include the trend of bringing multiple counts for a single crime, the “creativity” of prosecutors in “hatching up criminal cases where no crime exits” and the general “overcriminalization of virtually every aspect of American life.”

Plea bargains can be an efficient way to resolve cases without draining taxpayer resources. They aren't always bad. But a 2013 Human Rights Watch study found the U.S. system often creates situations where a federal prosecutor will "strong-arm" a defendant into a plea deal. And the deep fear of a harsh sentence -- one “so excessively severe, they take your breath away,” in the words of Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York -- can lead a defendant to plead guilty in order to obtain a shorter prison term, even if they're accused wrongfully.

One example of plea deal complexities is the case of Shawn Whirl, who pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Chicago cab driver Billy Williams in 1991, according to the report.

Whirl's defense argued he was being chased by an assailant the day he wound up in the back of Williams' cab. The same assailant later killed Williams in retaliation for rescuing Whirl, the lawyers said. Whirl confessed to the crime, but said it was because he was tortured by a Chicago cop. When prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty, Whirl agreed to plead guilty to murder and armed robbery to save his life -- even though he said in court on the day he received a 60-year sentence that he was innocent.

It wasn't until 2012 that the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, formed to investigate claims of torture against Chicago police, found that Whirl had indeed been tortured by a subordinate of Jon Burge -- an ex-Chicago cop who led a police torture ring that used electrical shock, burnings and beatings on more than 100 black men.

Whirl was cleared of all charges on Oct. 13 and freed.

No Crime Was Actually Committed

In about half of the exonerations in 2015, no crime was actually ever committed by the people put behind bars -- a record, according to the report. Most of these cases involved drugs. Some included homicide or arson.

The report details the 1981 conviction of Raymond Mora, William Vasquez and Amaury Villalobo on six counts of murder for starting a fire in a Brooklyn, New York, building that killed a mother and her five children. The convictions were based on the building owner's account that she saw the men leaving shortly before the fire, and a fire marshal's testimony that the blaze had multiple origin points and was started with accelerants -- signs of arson.

Each of the men's wives gave alibi testimony that the men weren't near the building when the fire started. All three men were convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.

Mora died in prison in 1989. Vasquez lost his eyesight due to untreated glaucoma, according to the report. In 2012, Vasquez and Villalobos were released on parole, and Villalobos sought the help of a legal clinic. Records from the case were reexamined and, using modern science, John Lentini, an arson expert, concluded that the original fire marshal's interpretation of the evidence was mistaken, based on science that has since been disproven. This kind of expert testimony has likely resulted in "numerous" wrongful convictions, Lentini said.

Moreover, the building owner, just before she died, admitted lying about seeing the three men leaving the building at the time of the fire. She also hid an insurance settlement.

After this new evidence was presented, the convictions of all three men were vacated in December.

Flawed Forensic Evidence

Many of last year's exonerations involved flawed or invalid forensic evidence. According to the Innocence Project, improper forensic science is a leading cause of wrongful conviction.

Too often, the group says, forensic experts speculate when they testify, asserting conclusions that stretch the science. Further, some forensic techniques aren't backed by research, but are nevertheless presented to juries as fact. And there are honest mistakes. The FBI has admitted that from 1972 to 1999, almost every examiner in the bureau's elite forensics unit gave flawed testimony in nearly every trial in which they presented evidence.

Forensic fields like ballistics, bloodstain pattern identification and footprint and tire print analysis, have been “long accepted by the courts as largely infallible,” Kozinski said in his paper, arguing that the techniques should be viewed with skepticism.

Faulty Eyewitness Identification

False identifications of innocent people happened in several cases the exoneration registry report outlined.

The Innocence Project says eyewitness misidentification of a suspect plays a role in more than 70 percent of convictions that are later overturned through DNA evidence. Hundreds of studies have shown that eyewitness identification is frequently inaccurate and that human memories are not reliable, especially with traditional identification procedures. While simple reforms have been proposed, only about 14 U.S. states have implemented them, according to Innocence Project.

Kozinski called for states to adopt rigorous procedures for witness identification.

How Many More Wrongful Convictions?

There's no clear data on how many innocent people have been wrongfully convicted. The Innocence Project, citing multiple studies, estimates from 2 percent to 5 percent of prisoners are actually innocent. The U.S., which leads the world in incarceration of its citizens, has approximately 2 million people behind bars. That means a wrongful conviction rate of 1 percent would translate to 20,000 people punished for crimes they didn't commit. On death row, 1 in 25 are likely innocent, according to a recent study.

“Because these things happen regularly, we should be more open-minded about reconsidering the guilt of convicted defendants when substantial new evidence emerges after conviction,” Gross said. “The impulse to say: ‘It's over, I don't want to think about it anymore' is very strong. However, there are cracks in that position."




Ferguson residents get a say on police overhaul agreement

The consent decree envisions a reshaping of how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms

by Jim Salter

FERGUSON, Mo. — Ferguson city leaders have spent months negotiating a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, a plan that calls for sweeping changes to police practices in the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot. Now, residents get their say.

The first of three public meetings on the proposed consent decree Tuesday night will be followed by comment sessions Saturday and Feb. 9, when the city council could approve the agreement.

If approved, the agreement would likely avert a civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson. The consent decree envisions a top-to-bottom reshaping of how police officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations. Ferguson officials also agreed to rewrite their municipal code to restrict the use of fines and jail time for petty violations.

The city's cost of implementing the changes will be significant, with preliminary estimates of at least $500,000, Mayor James Knowles III said, though a final analysis was not yet complete.

It would add to the financial difficulties of a municipality that's already facing a $2.8 million deficit due to legal fees, lost sales tax from businesses damaged in protests over the shooting, overtime for officers during the protests and lost revenue from reforms to its municipal court, which the DOJ found made money on the backs of poor and minority residents.

Ferguson already has made across-the-board cuts to pay and benefits for all employees, Knowles said. And voters will consider two tax increases in April — one imposing an economic development sales tax, the other a property tax increase that would cost about $76 annually for a home worth $100,000.

Between the cuts and hoped-for tax increases, Ferguson should be able to pay for the changes required by the agreement with the DOJ and balance its budget, Knowles said. But if voters turn down the tax increases, the city will have no choice but make even deeper cuts, he said.

"Obviously if we agree to this we're going to have to find some way to fund it," Knowles said. "If you don't have the money you have to cut."

Regardless of whether the tax increases are approved, the city is seeking grants to help fund improvements to the police department, including a grant through the Justice Department's COPS program. Knowles said federal officials could not guarantee the city would receive any funding help.

The Justice Department investigated after the killing of Brown, who was black and unarmed, by white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in 2014. A St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November 2014. But the shooting resulted in protests and promoted a wave of national scrutiny about police use of force and law enforcement's interactions with minorities.

In March, the Justice Department issued a report critical of Ferguson's police practices and municipal court system. It found officers routinely used excessive force, issued petty citations and made baseless traffic stops in Ferguson, where about two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black but the vast majority of police officers are white.

Within days of the report, Ferguson's police chief, municipal judge and city manager resigned.

Knowles and other city leaders began negotiating with the Justice Department in July. Recommendations were detailed in a 131-page proposed consent decree released Wednesday.

Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote to Knowles that the agreement will "ensure that police and court services in Ferguson are provided in a manner that fully promotes public safety, respects the fundamental rights of all Ferguson residents, and makes policing in Ferguson safer and more rewarding for officers."

A statement from the city called the proposal "the best agreement that the city's representatives were able to obtain for the citizens of Ferguson."




Report: Weaknesses in state's response to Baltimore unrest

It discovered that there was a general 'lack of understanding' about the various functions of the state operations center

by The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Weaknesses in Maryland's response to last year's civil unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray included the inexperience of some emergency management staff and reliance on inaccurate information, according to a new state report.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency report, released Monday to The Baltimore Sun, said the rioting last spring "presented unique public safety challenges" and "many opportunities for improvement."

The report also said it found that the State Emergency Operations Center was relying on inaccurate information from media coverage during the riots because it received few details from official channels. It also discovered that there was a general "lack of understanding" about the various functions of the state operations center, particularly who was in charge of decision-making in some areas.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man from west Baltimore, was arrested April 12. Authorities have said he died a week afterward from a critical spinal injury he had suffered in a police van.

Clay Stamp, then MEMA's executive director, said the state's response wasn't perfect but that the issues highlighted in the report were "sub-notes to a great story — one of success." The MEMA report is the first to focus on the role of the state rather than the city or its police force. It also noted several strengths in the state's response, including use of social media to deliver information and its use of a virtual "Business Operations Center" to keep Baltimore business leaders apprised of developments.

"The state of Maryland performed in a strategic manner by leaning forward and leveraging resources within Maryland and the five states around Maryland in 36 hours," Stamp said.

MEMA Executive Director Russell Strickland said in a statement that the agency since April has "addressed gaps by improving our resource management processes and implementing new and enhanced training." He also said the state is "prepared to respond quickly and efficiently the next time" it needs to support a locality experiencing unrest.




Los Angeles Officials Mistakenly Release Alleged Murderer From Custody


Authorities in Los Angeles were hunting a murder suspect Tuesday morning after they mistakenly released him from custody while he was awaiting trial.

Steven Lawrence Wright, 37, was "erroneously released" from Los Angeles' Inmate Reception Center before his trial for the gang-related murder in January 2011, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement Monday.

"He should be assumed to be armed and dangerous because he is a known gang member," LASD spokesman Cmdr. Keith Swensson told NBC Southern California.

Wright was "erroneously released" around 12:55 p.m. Saturday (3:55 p.m. ET) and the sheriff's department said it "became aware of the release" at 9:30 p.m. Sunday — more than 32 hours later.

Cmdr. Swensson told NBC Southern California the suspect was released because of a "clerical error" in which "our employees missed the additional information provided by the court on a separate page."

The staff believed they were releasing Wright after he served a five-day contempt-of-court stay, but they failed to spot the murder charge, Swensson said.

"The Sheriff's Department takes this matter very seriously and is fully engaged with returning inmate Wright to custody, aggressively pursuing a number of leads as to his whereabouts," the statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

In addition, as is the case with all "erroneous releases," the sheriff's department said it would conduct a critical-incident review "to make necessary improvements to the system."

Wright was arrested in April 2011 for the alleged gang-related murder in Pasadena, California, three months earlier.

The mistaken release comes less than two weeks after three inmates escaped a jail in Orange County, before one surrendered and two were recaptured over the past.




Fla. man arrested after pipe bombs, bomb-making material found in home

by CBS

TAMPA, Fla. -- Federal authorities say they've taken a Tampa man into custody after finding eight pipe bombs and bomb-making materials in his home.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports in a news release that ATF agents, along with FBI bomb technicians and Tampa police, executed a search warrant Monday at the home of 24-year-old Michael Ramos. Tampa police had passed along a tip about the explosives to ATF.

CBS affiliate WTSP reported the authorities found eight pipe bombs as well as a large number of ammunition and weapons.

The news release says Ramos had previously expressed anti-government sentiment and acknowledged being in possession of explosives. Besides the bombs, agents reported finding an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, a .45 caliber pistol and large amounts of ammunition.

The ATF didn't immediately report any charges against Ramos. It wasn't known whether he had an attorney.



Washington D.C.

Law enforcement leaders examine new use-of-force principles

Nearly 200 law enforcement leaders gathered in Washington to review and discuss new guiding principles

by Tami Abdollah

Police across the United States are rethinking how they use force amid national outrage over questionable shootings and violent arrests.

The changes include efforts in Dallas to train officers to de-escalate situations by moving backward during target practice and arming some with sponge projectiles rather than guns. In Camden, New Jersey, officers are taught about the sanctity of life and encouraged to take time to defuse a situation, even if a suspect is wildly waving a knife at them.

After months of work, nearly 200 law enforcement leaders gathered in Washington on Friday to review and discuss new guiding principles that, if enacted by the roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, would significantly remake how policing has been done for decades. The 30 principles include an unprecedented acknowledgment from leading law enforcement professionals that officers should go beyond the Supreme Court-adopted basic legal standard that asks what a "reasonable officer" would do in such a situation, and that officers should focus on preserving all human lives in any encounter.

"There's an expression, 'Lawful but awful,'" said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, who led the effort to develop the principles. "I think (these principles) would impact on some level these really tragic shootings of the mentally ill, the homeless person, the unarmed person. It could have an enormous impact."

The group's principles, which will be released officially in an upcoming report, also require officers to respond proportionally to a suspect, imagining the public's perception of that response, and to communicate effectively instead of, for example, repeatedly telling a suspect to drop the weapon. The principles also recommend departments stop training on what it called "outdated concepts," such as the "21-foot-rule," which refers to the distance an armed suspect with a knife can close before an officer can draw their weapon. Instead, officers are encouraged to create more distance and use cover, so that they give themselves more time to respond.

Researchers traveled with police chiefs to Scotland last year to study how police there, who are nearly all unarmed, use distance, often backing away from suspects with their hands up, for example, to encourage calm. In one video shown Friday, officers in downtown Camden encountered a man high on narcotics who had threatened a man in a restaurant with a knife last November. Video showed officers walking with the man for four city blocks, clearing pedestrians ahead of him and telling other responders to standby, as he wildly waved his knife at them.

"About a year and a half ago we would've shot and killed him, there's no doubt in my mind," said Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson. But "we were very happily trying to walk him back to Philadelphia," he joked. A little over a year ago the department added the sanctity of life to their use-of-force policy.

In Dallas, the department is providing 100 blue-tipped sponge projectiles to trained patrol officers who may use those less-lethal rounds as early as June. Once on scene, patrol officers would back up and put their guns away and allow specially trained officers to take over the problem, said Dallas police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Cotner.

"We're trying to instill in every opportunity, de-escalation, distance," Cotner said. He said when officers begin qualifying on the gun range in March they'll move away from the targets, not toward them.

But Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, said what's key is not only having these principles, but that law enforcement uses and enforces them.

"I think a lot of departments have them," Alpert said. "A lot of departments have very good policies, very good procedures and good training, but they're not followed."

Los Angeles Police Protective League Director Jamie McBride, a detective who is one of nine representing the LAPD's 9,800 sworn officers, said the new principles weren't new and were common sense. He also noted that American officers, unlike those in Scotland, patrol communities that are often heavily armed and violent.

"It's always been about preservation of life. That goes to both sides — the police and the suspect," McBride said. "We've always learned to try to communicate. We've always tried to de-escalate. We know all this stuff. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world."




San Francisco police face DOJ review

The review will be done by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which promotes officers' ties to public

by Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Justice launched a review of the San Francisco Police Department, an agency facing scrutiny over the shooting death of a young black man and the emergence of homophobic and racist text messages exchanged between officers.

The review will be done by the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which promotes improvements to officers' ties with communities.

Law enforcement experts say the review is a less onerous process for the police than if the DOJ's civil rights division had launched an investigation.

The civil rights division can force departments it investigates into court-monitored legal settlements after finding constitutional violations like it did recently in Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri.

The review from the so-called COPS office is usually designed to help the targeted department improve its operations, said University of Missouri-St. Louis criminal justice professor David Klinger.

"It's much more a partnership to improve policies and practices as opposed to a court takeover," Klinger said.

The review comes amid persistent calls for the resignation of the city's police chief, who has asked the Justice Department to examine police operations. Last week, Mayor Ed Lee also called on the DOJ to look into the department following similar calls from the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyers representing the family of Mario Woods, 26, who was shot dead by officers on Dec. 2.

Police said Woods stabbed a stranger and then refused to drop a knife when approached by officers. Authorities said only one of the five officers involved in the shooting was white, but protests over Woods' death have persisted.

The department already was grappling with rising racial tensions when Woods was shot.

Earlier in the year, a judge ruled that Police Chief Greg Suhr waited too long to discipline officers who he discovered had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages. Suhr is appealing the judge's order, which bars him from firing eight of the 14 officers implicated in the scandal.

Suhr said he delayed disciplining the officers because he didn't want to interfere with a federal corruption investigation into several officers. So far, the mayor has stood behind the chief, who says he has no plans to resign.

An attorney for Woods' family welcomed the review.

"It is the right and decent thing to do and a step in the right direction toward healing in the African American and Latino communities," attorney John Burris said in a statement.




Monitor to submit 1st-year plan for Cleveland police reform

Under the plan, Cleveland is required to devise policies over the next 12 months on training

by The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — The city must devise a new use-of-force policy and have officers trained to implement it by the end of 2016, according to the first-year plan for a consent decree aimed at reforming the troubled Cleveland Police Department.

The monitoring team hired to oversee the consent decree was scheduled to submit the plan to U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. on Monday. Cleveland and the U.S. Justice Department agreed last year to allow the court to oversee police reform after a DOJ investigation concluded that there was a pattern and practice of Cleveland police officers using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.

The first-year plan includes requirements that the city create policies and programs to address those concerns, including the development of a "comprehensive and integrated community and problem-oriented policing model." A key element of the consent decree is the fostering of better relationships between police officers and the communities they serve. The consent decree requires officers to do their jobs free of bias and prejudice.

Matthew Barge, who heads the monitoring team that reports to Oliver, said the plan was devised with the support and collaboration of Cleveland officials. City officials declined to be interviewed about the plan last week.

"The specific plan sets up a framework for accomplishing some key work in fundamental areas," Barge told The Associated Press. "That's something everyone involved thought made sense."

Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, said in a statement that the amount of input and collaboration on the first-year plan is evidence of the commitment to reform the police department.

"This 70-page, painstaking to-do list delivers a clear public message — as Clevelanders we are not afraid to get down to work," Dettelbach said.

Under the plan, Cleveland is required to devise policies over the next 12 months on training; create a new recruitment policy that better reflects the makeup of the city, which is more than half black; come up with a procedure on dealing with people who are having mental health crises; hire a civilian to head the department's internal affairs unit; and overhaul the city's Office of Professional Standards, which investigates citizen complaints about police.

Mayor Frank Jackson has said the consent decree will cost the city millions of dollars over the coming years. The plan requires the city to conduct a study in the next year to assess its needs and priorities for equipment and resources, including the number of officers needed to "fulfill its mission and to satisfy the requirements of the agreement."

All the changes and the crafting of new policies will be done with input from the community and officers across the ranks, Barge said. He said reforming the police department "isn't going to happen in a conference room."

"To change an organization and to change the culture, you have to do reform in a bottom-up kind of way," Barge said.




Police: Chicago homicides climbed dramatically in January

Chicago has been a focal point of gun violence since 2012

by The Associated Press

CHICAGO — Chicago police say the number of homicides in the city climbed dramatically in January to 51, in the bloodiest start to a year in at least 16 years.

The police department said Monday that there were 22 more homicides this January than in January 2015 and that the number of shooting incidents during the same period more than doubled to 242.

Chicago has been a focal point of gun violence since 2012, when the number of homicides passed 500. After falling the next two years, the number climbed again last year, raising new concerns about the bloodshed.

The rise in homicides comes as the department scrambles to regain public trust in the wake of the release of a video of a white police officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald.




Driver pulls over Miami-Dade cop for allegedly speeding


(Video on site)

A driver turned the tables on a Miami-Dade Police officer when she pulled him over near Downtown Miami and accused him of speeding, triggering an investigation into the topsy-turvy situation.

Claudia Castillo, the concerned citizen who stopped the officer, said she was running an errand for work on Friday, at around 1:30 p.m., when all of a sudden a squad car sped by her. "He passed me with so much speed, so much force, my car shook," she said. "It scared the daylights out of me. I mean, he woke me up."

Castillo said she had her cellphone hooked up near her rearview mirror and began recording the officer as he sped down the Dolphin Expressway without his emergency lights on. "I just thought, 'Holy Jesus, how fast is this man going?" said Castillo.

Castillo said she increased speed herself, but only for a few moments, in order to gauge how fast the officer was going. Eventually, he pulled over because he thought Castillo had an emergency. But once the law enforcer approached her car, she started to question him. "The reason I pulled you over today, and I'm asking you to come over and have a conversation, is because I saw you since Miller Drive when you were first jumping onto the Palmetto, and you were pushing 90 miles an hour," Castillo is heard saying in the video.

"Really? OK," replied the officer.

Castillo later posted video footage of the cruiser in transit, as well as the conversation she had with the officer, on YouTube. "I pushed 80 [mph] to try and catch up to you, and I was still eating your dust," she is heard saying to the officer. "You were leaving me behind, and I was going 80 miles an hour, and I just wanted to know, what's the emergency?"

The officer then denied he was going over the speed limit. "I don't know how fast I was going, but I can tell you this: I'm on my way to work right now. I don't believe I was speeding, but, like I said, you're entitled to your opinion," he said.

Castillo said she didn't post the video to cast a shadow over this officer or law enforcement. "They're not bad guys, but they are held to certain principles," she said.

The officer eventually assured Castillo he would drive more slowly. "Well, I apologize, and I'll be sure to slow down, ma'am," he said.

Castillo then stressed the need to be a good role model. "I just think that we should all set an example," she said.

"I agree," replied the officer.

Castillo's YouTube clips quickly went viral with more than 500,000 hits to date. She said she wouldn't take back what she did, and would do it again to hold accountability. "I think it was the right thing to do. if it were to happen again i would do it again"

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez responded to the videos on Sunday, releasing a statement that reads, "The Miami Dade Police Department will have his immediate command staff investigate the matter, once the officer and citizen are identified. The appropriate course of action will be taken at that point."

Investigators said Castillo will not be reprimanded for pulling over the officer or for speeding in order to catch up to him.




Report: Small group of Chicago cops cost $34M in settlements

by The Associated Press

CHICAGO — A group of 124 Chicago police officers has cost the city $34 million in misconduct settlements since 2009, according to a newspaper report.

While the officers represent a fraction of the police force's roughly 12,000 officers, they are identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009. The Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/23zYtBt) reported one officer had seven lawsuits against him that were settled.

Unlike high-profile police brutality cases that have triggered federal investigations, most of the settlements involve less serious claims such as injuring arrestees during traffic stops, making false arrests and using racial slurs. The lawsuits have largely escaped City Council scrutiny because the settlements have been at or under $100,000. If they're larger, aldermen must approve them.

Also, the Tribune found many of the incidents didn't occur in high crime areas as union officials have argued and officers were rarely disciplined.

A Chicago police spokesman acknowledged it's been a decades-old problem.

“There is no question the department needs to do a better job identifying officers with problematic behavior to hold them accountable and restore trust in the police,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Tribune.

He added that improving early intervention will be a focus of a new police accountability task force and U.S. Justice Department Investigation.

Federal authorities announced a civil rights investigation after the November release of a police video showing a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times in 2014.

The Tribune reports the vast majority of CPD officers, roughly 82 percent, aren't named in any settlements.

Still, experts say the toll is greater than financial.

Defense attorney Terry Ekl, a former prosecutor, said that not punishing officers, even in less serious crimes, eats away at public trust in police, particularly in Chicago.




Police talk community involvement

by Amye Buckley

Police in Northwest Arkansas say they are working to build community relationships prior to emergency calls.

What that looks like is different in each community. Rogers started the year by sending day shift officers out to talk to local businesses. Bentonville is reviewing call data to make sure officers are in the right place at the right time. Springdale set up neighborhood zones last summer so residents could get to know officers patrolling their area. Fayetteville, hit hard by recent retirements, has not launched a new initiative this year.

Policing with justice, transparency, giving residents a voice and treating all with dignity and respect are core pillars of community policing, according to the The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The report's recommendations include assigning officers to a geographic area on a consistent basis, building positive relationships with community members and programs for at-risk youth.

There's a simple way to define community policing, said Lt. Derek Wright, Springdale police spokesman.

"It's talking to people when they haven't called us first," Wright said.

That could be chatting with residents, maybe organizing a trash pickup day or talking to a landlord about fixing something that is broken or explaining a question of law -- whatever is going to make the neighborhood better, Wright said.

Last summer Springdale officers tested dividing the city up into four main zones and 12 sub-zones. That lets neighbors get to know their officer, Wright said. Officers have the ability to partner with a nonprofit agency or a city department to get things done for their assigned community.

Community involvement and positive interaction have value, said Hayes Minor, Rogers police chief.

This year Rogers police launched an initiative where day shift officers visit two businesses each day where they would not normally be called to.

"I'd very much call it a listening tour," Minor said.

The concept is geared to businesses that don't usually call police, but it could extend to property owner association visits, Minor said. It shouldn't take a special meeting for a person to call an officer, he said. Maybe businesses have a problem with mail theft or cars speeding past, he said. Maybe they have a question about building security.

The stress of an emergency call isn't there when officers drop by, Minor said

"It gives people a chance to talk with us without any level of fear," Minor said. "Our hope is we make some new friends."

Rosa Vega, manager of Taqueria Vega, has called Rogers police twice: once to walk her and another woman out when they were closing and the one time she left money in the till and the shop was burglarized. The Michoacan-style Mexican restaurant has been at 1553 W. Hudson Road for 16 years, Vega said.

She was surprised when an officer walked in a couple weeks ago and asked if it was OK if they patrol the parking lot, Vega said. The strip shopping center has a grocery, the restaurant, a salon and a tire shop.

People sometimes park in the small lot overnight, Vega said. She welcomes an extra police presence. She hasn't seen anyone patrolling in the lot yet.

"That's good," Vega said. "You don't feel like only when you call they're going to be here."

An officer was parked in the lot outside Somewhere in Time, 717 W. Walnut St., on Thursday afternoon. Inside the shop owner Mike Meyers said that when an officer dropped by recently he encouraged night patrols as there are some displays set up outside the shop.

Thieves are looking for quick cash and his shop isn't a common target, he said.

"They're not looking for this kind of thing," Meyers said, gesturing toward a shop filled with booths of antiques and decor.

A routine patrol is good, but not if it's going to cost more for taxpayers, Meyers said.

Police pointed to school resource officers, bike patrols and community involvement as ways they can interact with the community.

Fayetteville has a community policing division that usually handles community presentations and installation of child safety seats, but many of those officers have retired in the last year. The idea, however, isn't dead, said Sgt. Craig Stout, department spokesman.

"You can't have one officer responsible for community policing. It's a department-wide philosophy," Stout said.

He pointed to bike patrols on Dickson Street as a good example of officers accessible to the public and on hand when needed.

Bike patrols let officers say "hello" without the barrier of a car, Wright said.

Bentonville has bike patrol and a citizens' academy, said Gene Page, community officer.

The city has started a new process that will map emergency calls and the amount of time officers are on those calls in different neighborhoods. Page, who started working on the project about three weeks ago, said that the number of hours officers are needed isn't set by demographics or economics but by the density of the housing. Officers spend more time on calls near apartments or a hotel than most neighborhoods of single-family housing.

The number of calls and geography played into sub-zones set up in Springdale, Wright said.

Page is trying to set a baseline that will allow the department to predict about how many officers are needed and when.

Bentonville residents trust the police department so the charge isn't to win trust, but not lose it, Page said. The best gift to residents will be to maintain a low crime level as the city grows, he said.

That could mean foot patrols in downtown in the future as more people fill the streets, Page said. Or it could be how many officers they need to police a planned housing development efficiently.

An officer working the same streets knows addresses they're called to routinely.

"That comes with experience," Page said.

Data collected by the department's computer system can provide that same level of detail and the data can be used for schedules and budgets, he said.

While knowing the community through data won't be as visible as officers joining in a basketball game, it will write a playbook for them, similar to the way businesses use data strategically, Page said.