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 3



Gunman Kills at Least 7 in Michigan


TEXAS CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — At least seven people in the Kalamazoo, Mich., area were killed and at least one more was injured Saturday night by a gunman who the police said randomly opened fire as he drove around the city and its suburbs.

Several anxious hours later, Undersheriff Paul Matyas of Kalamazoo County said in a text message that a suspect was in custody.

Shootings were reported at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, a Ford dealership and other locations, according to WOOD-TV, the local NBC affiliate. At the Cracker Barrel, in Texas Township, the victims were shot as they sat in their cars, according to the television report.

At 4 a.m. on Sunday, the Cracker Barrel parking lot remained wrapped in yellow crime scene tape, but the scene was quiet except for the hum of idling news trucks and cars whizzing past on the interstate below. The five people killed there included a 9-year-old, the authorities said.

A father and his son were killed at the car dealership, the authorities said.

Two more shootings occurred at an intersection near the restaurant and at a residence in Richland Township, where a woman was shot multiple times, according to WOOD-TV.

“They all appear to be related,” Undersheriff Matyas said. “We have multiple people dead. In summary, what it looks like is we have somebody just driving around, finding people and shooting them dead in their tracks.”

Lt. Dale Hintz of the Michigan State Police told WWMT-TV that the gunman had been driving around Kalamazoo County in a dark blue Chevrolet HHR.

The suspect in custody was driving a vehicle that matched that car's description, the authorities said, and the Chevrolet also appeared to match images of a vehicle from surveillance video at the Ford dealership.

The authorities described the suspect as a 45-year-old from Kalamazoo.

“It's very likely this is the person, but we have more work to do to be 100 percent sure,” Chief Hadley said.

He said that officers from the Department of Public Safety and deputies from the Kalamazoo Sheriff's Department spotted the suspect's car in downtown Kalamazoo, pulled him over and arrested him.

No shots were fired during the arrest, Chief Hadley said.



A Shocking Number Of Kids Are Fighting And Dying For ISIS

The use of child fighters creates a horrifying dilemma for forces battling the militant group.

by Charlotte Alfred

The so-called Islamic State group is recruiting children and sending them to die on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq at an “increasing and unprecedented rate,” according to a new study of the group's propaganda.

The survey from Georgia State University academics analyzed 89 images of children and youth who the extremist group said had been killed while carrying out militant operations between Jan. 1, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2016.

These children were among some 1,500 young people that the militants have enlisted to fight, said Mia Bloom, one of the study authors. She estimated that there are likely thousands more children who are being indoctrinated by the militants and could serve as potential recruits.

"This study is hinting at the fact that the problems are much greater than we ever imagined,” Bloom said of the report, published Friday by CTC Sentinel, the journal of the military academy West Point's Counter Terrorism Center.

The study finds 21 children died in suicide attacks using explosive-packed vehicles in the first seven months of 2015 -- two and a half times the previous estimate. In fact, the rate of child casualties seems to be accelerating. Last January, six children died in suicide operations for the militant group. This January, the toll rose to 11 children, and the number of suicide bombings involving children tripled from a year ago.

This disturbing trend is likely to continue, say the study authors. As it loses territory, ISIS may resort to more suicide attacks and ambushes, two of the most common causes of child deaths in the survey, they said. Militant groups tend to use these types of attacks when on the defensive, either out of desperation or as a form of psychological warfare.

The militant group has forced, intimidated and recruited children into its ranks since its early days in Iraq, according to the United Nations. As the group expanded into Syria, split from al Qaeda and seized a wide stretch of territory in the region in 2014, its use of child fighters has swelled.

ISIS captured hundreds of children, especially Yazidis, during its advance. In territories under the group's brutal control, fighters indoctrinate and recruit children through the school system and by desensitizing them to violence with public beheadings and crucifixions. Foreign fighters who have flocked to the region from Europe, Africa and the Middle East sometimes bring their children along to fight, too.

While an exact figure is hard to assess, one group reported that 1,100 children were recruited as fighters between January and August last year. Bloom estimates that at least 1,500 children are currently part of the core group of fighters. Friday's study sheds some light on who these young recruits are.

Of the 89 children killed since January 2015, 31 percent were Syrian and 11 percent were Iraqi. A further 25 percent came from one of those two countries but it wasn't clear which. Others came from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Nigeria.

Most of the children -- 60 percent -- were determined to be between the ages of 12 and 16. Six percent were under 12 years old. The United Nations previously reported that children as young as 8 were trained to fight in ISIS military camps.

Children who escaped the group's clutches have described long, grueling months at military camps. "I saw a lot of people being tortured," a 14-year-old former child fighter told The WorldPost last year. "Every day they whipped people, even the children. Nobody was allowed to leave."

The use of child soldiers is a global problem -- and one that is on the rise in war-torn countries like Yemen and South Sudan.

But ISIS differs from other militant groups in the way it uses children as fighters, the study found.

While other groups have deployed children to make up for a shortage of adult fighters or for specific tasks (like attacking civilian targets), ISIS uses kids in a very similar way to adult fighters. The study found child fighters were dying in broadly the same locations and types of attacks as adults were.

“Children are fighting alongside, rather than in lieu of, adult males,” the study says. “The use of children and youth has been normalized under the Islamic State's rule.”

This poses a horrifying dilemma for local and international forces fighting to combat ISIS.

U.S. forces fighting the militant group “need to be able to make a nuanced distinction between a child, and a child who might be dangerous," Bloom said. "American police can't even do that in our cities... The possibility for error is great, and the backlash could be horrific."

Further, the scale and methods of ISIS' youth recruitment make it even more complicated to help children who escape -- either during combat or in a future where the militant group is defeated. In other conflicts, religious institutions and children's families play a critical role in reintegrating them into society, Bloom said. But with ISIS, the families are often implicated in their recruitment and the religious indoctrination runs very deep.

“We're talking about taking children away from their parents, who have exposed them to this ideology and put them in danger, which is very challenging,” she said.



New York

Community Policing Coming To NE Queens

by Lynn Edmonds

Community policing is coming to the 109th Precinct, with an expected start date in April.

So far, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner Bill Bratton's community policing program has been rolled out in 20 precincts citywide, including three in Queens. It was piloted in two precincts in the Far Rockaways, the 100th and the 101st, as well as in Washington Heights, before the City decided to go forward with the program in a big way in June, most notably in South Jamaica.

The explicit goal of the program is to build up trust in the police in communities where it is lacking.

“We must win back community support and build productive partnerships with citizens, especially in communities of color, where resentment and fear of old police practices are most prevalent,” a message from Bratton says on a website dedicated to the new community policing program.

According to police data, class and race have something to do with who trusts them.

“White, more wealthy neighborhoods feel better about police performance,” their website says.

The community policing program is supposed to address that disparity by having cops form relationships with a specific neighborhood and its residents, business owners, religious leaders, and other figures. Neighborhood Coordinating Officers, or NCOs, are allotted 30 percent of their hours to simply patrol, network and outreach with the community rather than respond to 911 calls.

But unlike the Far Rockaways, where the program was piloted, much of the 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, Bay Terrace and College Point, didn't seem to have a problem with trusting the police – something that Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said happily at the community council meeting on Feb. 10.

“We have always stood with our first responders…and that's another reason we're so different and so amazing. There is nothing. They don't have to prove anything to us. We've got their back, they have ours,” he said.

Vallone advocated for the program to come to the 109th Precinct because the neighborhoods he represented in the precinct, including College Point, Bay Terrace and Whitestone, just wanted more cops.

“You always ask me to do what? Get more troops. Get more cops. Get more cars. Have more visibility,” Vallone said. “We know we have the greatest police department, but we want to see them more, beyond Flushing. When you have to take care of Main Street, and you have to take care of Flushing, the neighbors out here would love to see our officers a little more.”

Commanding Officer Thomas Conforti echoed the sentiment.

“Biggest complaint that I get is we don't see police officers anymore walking the beat,” Conforti said. “If it's a busy day, you don't see that police car in a quiet area just driving patrol, because they're too busy answering 911 calls.”

Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who represents Flushing, was not in attendance at the meeting, but he said he favored the program.

“Community policing allows for these officers to build trusted relationships with the public, allowing for a more proactive approach to law enforcement,” Koo said.

Conforti estimated that under the new program 50-60 additional officers would be patrolling the 109th Precinct. Those officers would be assigned to specific beats throughout the entire precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Malba, Beechurst, Bay Terrace, Broadway-Flushing, Murray Hill, Kissena Park, Auburndale, and part of Fresh Meadows.

“The beat officer in that sense is coming back,” Conforti concluded.



From the Department of Homeland Security

DHS And NASCAR Release New "If You See Something, Say Something™” Public Service Announcements Ahead Of Daytona 500

WASHINGTON— The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign and NASCAR today released two new Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and new campaign materials. The new PSAs, which feature Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., will be on display this weekend at the Daytona 500 International Speedway.

“We appreciate the continued efforts of NASCAR to partner with the ‘If You See Something, Say Something™' campaign to help ensure that all fans, drivers and employees have a safe and enjoyable race event weekend,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “We will continue to work with our partners to expand this important public awareness campaign to ensure the safety and security of our communities.”

Fans using their smart phones 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. In addition to these efforts, the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign will also display public awareness materials at the Daytona Beach International Airport, on billboards throughout the area, and at gas stations around Daytona Beach, Fla.

Since 2011, DHS has partnered with NASCAR to create public service announcements and digital awareness products through the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign. This year, fans can see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message in English and Spanish at the track. Previously, DHS and NASCAR created two public service announcements featuring NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.

The Department launched the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign nationally to raise awareness among businesses, communities, and the general public about how they can remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe. The campaign has grown to include partnerships with numerous sports teams and leagues, including with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign was originally implemented by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and is now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign.

For more information, watch these public service announcements by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch or visit www.dhs.gov .



DHS Partners with Royal Canadian Mounted Police on “If You See Something, Say Something™” Campaign for NBA All-Star Game

WASHINGTON—This past weekend, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign materials were on display for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto, through a new partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This is the first time the Department's “If You See Something, Say Something™” materials have been used internationally.

“We thank the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their partnership on the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign and for helping to ensure that all fans, players and employees at the 2016 NBA All-Star Game had a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “We will continue to work to expand this important public awareness campaign to ensure the safety and security of our communities.”

“National security awareness should be everyone's concern, which is why we are pleased to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Basketball Association to encourage people to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to local law enforcement,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia, Officer in Charge of Federal Policing Operations.

Fans and visitors to the Air Canada Centre could see the “If You See Something, Say Something™” message throughout the games on the Jumbotron as well as on the ribbon board.

The Department launched the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign nationally to raise awareness among businesses, communities, and the general public about how they can remain vigilant and play an active role in keeping the country safe. The campaign has grown to include partnerships with numerous sports teams and leagues, including with the National Football League, where materials were on display at Super Bowl 50, NASCAR, MLB, and the NCAA.

The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign was originally implemented by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and is now licensed to DHS for a nationwide campaign.

For more information, visit: www.dhs.gov



U.S. air raid hits Islamic State in Libya, 43 dead

by Reuters

U.S. warplanes launched air strikes against a suspected Islamic State training camp in western Libya on Friday, killing more than 40 people, likely including a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia.

It was the second U.S. air strike in three months against Islamic State in Libya, where the hardline Islamist militants have exploited years of chaos following Muammar Gaddafi's 2011 overthrow to build up a presence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Pentagon said it had targeted an Islamic State training camp. The facility in the city of Sabratha was linked to Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian blamed by his native country for attacks last year on a Tunis museum and the Sousse beach resort, which killed dozens of tourists.

"Destruction of the camp and Chouchane's removal will eliminate an experienced facilitator and is expected to have an immediate impact on ISIL's ability to facilitate its activities in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and potentially planning external attacks on U.S. interests in the region," the Pentagon said, using an acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh.

U.S. officials said Chouchane is most likely dead but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he could not yet confirm the results of the air assault. He said the raid showed U.S. willingness to fight Islamic State.

"It's an indication that the president will not hesitate to take these kinds of forceful, decisive actions," Earnest said.

In Libya, photos released by the municipal authorities showed a massive crater in gray earth. Several wounded men lay bandaged in hospital.

The mayor of Sabratha, Hussein al-Thwadi, told Reuters the planes hit a building in the city's Qasr Talil district, home to many foreigners.

Locals officials said 43 people were killed.

The strikes targeted a house in a residential district west of the center, municipal authorities said in a statement.

The house had been rented to foreigners including Tunisians suspected of belonging to Islamic State, and medium-caliber weapons including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades had been found in the rubble, the statement said.

The air strikes came just days after a warning by President Barack Obama that Washington intended to "take actions where we've got a clear operation and a clear target in mind" against Islamic State.

Britain said it had authorized the use of its airbases to launch the attack.

Islamic State runs a self-styled caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria, where it has faced air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition since 2014.


Since Gaddafi was overthrown five years ago by rebel forces backed by NATO air strikes, Libya has slipped deeper into chaos, with two rival governments each backed by competing factions of former rebel brigades.

A U.N.-backed government of national accord is trying to win support, but is still awaiting parliamentary approval. It is opposed by factional hardliners and has yet to establish itself in the capital Tripoli.

Islamic State has expanded, attacking oil ports and taking over Gaddafi's home city of Sirte, now the militant group's most important stronghold outside its main redoubts in Syria and Iraq.

Calls have increased for a swift Western response to stop the group establishing itself more permanently and using Libya as a base for attacks on neighbours Tunisia and Egypt.

Western officials and diplomats have said air strikes and special forces operations are possible as well as an Italian-led "security stabilisation" plan of training and advising.

U.S. and European officials have in the past insisted Libyans must first form a united government and ask for help, but they also say they may still carry out unilateral action if needed.

The United States estimates that the number of militants directly affiliated with Islamic State or sympathetic to it now operating in Libya is in the “low thousands,” or less than 5,000, a U.S. government source said.

Last November the United States carried out an air strike on the Libyan town of Derna, close to the Egyptian border, to kill Abu Nabil, an Iraqi commander in Islamic State.

A U.S. air strike targeted veteran Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other jihadists meeting in eastern Libya last June. His fate is unclear.




15-year-old arrested, threatened to blow up Chelsea High School, sheriff says

by Jonathan Grass

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has arrested a Chelsea High School student who allegedly threatened to blow up a classroom.

Deputies say a parent notified them of the threat before school began Friday. The school was secured within minutes. No explosive device was found.

Deputies and school staff quickly determined the suspect was a 15-year-old student who was absent that day. Deputies located the student at home.

The student admitted making the threats but did not have the means to carry it out, according to the sheriff's office.

The student was charged with making a terrorist threat and is being held at the Shelby County Juvenile Facility.

"With the help of school administrators, we quickly determined the students and faculty of Chelsea High School were in no immediate danger. Despite the fact this young person did not have the capabilities to carry out the threat, it was taken seriously by school staff and the deputy assigned to Chelsea High School. I want to thank the County Commission and Board of Education who continue to support the Safe Schools Initiative program," said Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego.

A Shelby County Schools representative could not be reached for comment.



New York


Community Policing For Every Community

For the past few years since Police Commissioner Bill Bratton vowed to bring community policing back to New York City, there have been a lot of detractors; those who felt the idea was a pointless effort to change already effective policing in order to appeal to minority communities.

But the news that community policing would be coming to the 109th Precinct proves that this tactic isn't about pandering to one group, but rather a means to make policing a community-focused endeavor in a community-focused city.

New York City is a big city, with many diverse neighborhoods home to residents who identify with their communities. In Queens, we almost always identify by our neighborhoods. If you live in Bay Terrace, you don't tell people you live in Flushing. Ozone Park is Ozone Park, not Jamaica. Belle Harbor denizens don't identify themselves as Far Rockaway. The NYPD should police that way.

Half of those who live in the 109th Precinct command live in a small area around Downtown Flushing where the precinct house is. But for those living in Bay Terrace or College Point, where crime is typically low, it often feels as Downtown Flushing gets all the attention from the NYPD. While it is understandable why, people in these outlying communities want to see familiar faces in uniforms patrolling their streets, for same reason that black communities want it: Security.

Community policing puts cops back on local beats that allows residents in these communities to see officers on a regular basis and get to know who they are. It's a situation that allows for peace of mind, even in relatively “safe” neighborhoods. It improves the relationship between police and the people they serve and protect not only in black communities, but in every community.




Police-Community Collaboration: America's Public Safety Lifeline

by Vincent J. Bove

Police-community collaboration is critical to renewing the values of America and the lifeline of public safety throughout the nation.

Over the past two years, I have addressed the criticality of positive police-community relations in my columns for the Epoch Times, and respectfully encourage a review of these articles.

Although these articles honestly address police-community controversies, they always provide solutions and accentuate the positive by encouraging a unity of effort since protecting our communities is a shared responsibility.

America must rise to the occasion with an unwavering commitment to facilitate police-community collaboration, the lifeline of public safety.

Our communities deserve positive police-community relations to protect our way of life, values, and democracy. Failure is not an option, as without this cohesiveness; the results are disorder, chaos, and anarchy.

Police-Community Relations Demand Reform

Police departments must be continually collaborative and this is a time for transformational reform, ignited by a proper understanding of the principles of community policing.

Community policing must not be a superficial catch-phrase but expressed through a police department's personality and concrete initiatives in the community.

The responsibility is not incumbent on police departments alone but on all members of the community who have responsibilities of building bridges with law enforcement.

America's Youth: The Heart of Community Policing

It has taken generations to get to where we are and America needs the youth as catalysts to renew the nation.

America's youth will be the heart of transforming police-community relations as they are the irrefutable future of our nation.

Our youth must be the heart of community policing initiatives and we must be earn their trust and inspire their dedication to society.

A positive law enforcement presence as protective guardians is critical in our schools and communities. This presence must be manifested with initiatives including youth police academies, school resource officers, youth award assemblies, public safety expositions, police athletic leagues, police-youth mentoring, character education programs, and community action teams.

These action teams, inspired by character education programs in partnership with the police, demands sensitivity to the most vulnerable in society including the homeless, sick, unemployed, elderly, and the poor.

Police must have a heightened sensitivity that their mission to protect and serve demands earning the respect of youth. This mission demands an unwavering determination to inspiring youth through positive encounters.

There must be an enhanced dedication to youth in communities that have been wounded by police controversies as well as in neighborhoods adversely impacted by poverty, unemployment, gangs, broken families, dilapidated schools, and substance abuse.

There is hope for healing in our communities and police are in privileged positions as ethical protectors to enhance community relations that will be intensified by a focused concern for the young. Police have their role with assisting communities to renewal; by inspiring youth as models of character, ethics, and leadership.

Young people are impressed by authenticity, empathy, and kindness as these are qualities that will inspire them to be citizens of character.

Law Enforcement Dangers Deserve Community Support

Aside from community policing initiatives, the dangers of violence in our communities and against law enforcement officials deserve community support.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), there are over 900,000 law enforcement officers dedicated to serving communities throughout the United States.

This dedication has a painful price with over 60,000 assaults against law enforcement each year and nearly 16,000 injuries.

In 2016, eight police officers have already been killed by firearms-related incidents, a staggering 700 percent increase from this time last year.

America must appreciate these sacrifices, and all must be dedicated to protecting our communities and democracy. Our dedicated police officers are a national treasure and we must be eternally grateful for their courage, sacrifices, and service.

21st Century Policing Principles

In my article titled “Principles of American Policing” for the May 1, 2015 edition of the Epoch Times, I developed Nine Principles of American Policing to enhance dialogue, communication, and trust between police and communities.

These principles, inspired by the timeless teachings of Sir Robert Peel, father of modern policing, include the following:

Being pro-police and pro-community are inseparable, indefatigable, and pre-eminent. Police must at all times remain fully committed to protecting and serving the public through character, ethics, and leadership that is total and wholehearted. Police must be guided by a moral compass that honors the community, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

Respect must be the heart of the police and it must be unwavering for the profession, colleagues, and community. Respect can only be earned through integrity, accountability, and transparency. These qualities build trust, legitimacy, and collaboration.

Police require a discerning recruitment process, education credentials, and ongoing training/certifications, including constitutional policing, diversity, civil rights, race-relations, violence prevention, community policing, crisis management, ethics, leadership, gangs, private security, and use of force.

Complementing these principles is the “Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” also released in May 2015.

The pillars of this report include building trust and legitimacy, community policing and crime reduction, training and education, and officer wellness and safety.

The report recommends that “law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian mindset to build trust … and establish a culture of transparency and accountability.”

Final Reflections

Community policing must be infused into law enforcement agencies throughout the nation as it builds positive police-community partnerships.

When community policing is properly understood and cultivated, we are on the path to reawakening the nation by safeguarding our communities, promoting the dignity of all, and inspiring our youth, the future of America.

Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com




Tukwila Police officers reaching out to city's diverse communities

by Dean Radford

Tukwila's police officers have a new tool to build partnerships with the city's many diverse communities – their words.

Sgt. Kraig Boyd is leading the Tukwila Police Department's effort to develop a Community Outreach Strategy based on community policing strategies, with the help of a federal grant.

His research took him to Minnesota, San Diego and closer to home – Seattle. He tailored what he learned to create a community police team and strategy unique to Tukwila.

His efforts paid off: With a federal grant, the Police Department has hired one community liaison officer and is in the process of hiring a second one.

Boyd asked a Minneapolis police officer Carlos Escobar for his advice on how to start Tukwila's outreach during a visit to that Midwest city to learn what makes its program successful.

This is what Escobar, described by Boyd as a hardcore street cop, told him:

"It's not that hard. You go into the community and you open your mouth. That's what you do."

Boyd uses that quote when he talks with Tukwila's officers about how to reach out to the city's diverse communities to build relationships based on trust and to solve problems together.

"Instead of having our steel cocoon of your police car, you have to get out, you have to open your mouth, you have to contact people, and you have to make those connections. And that's what we are trying to do," Boyd said.

Tukwila's officers also must overcome inherent mistrust of police held by some in the city's immigrant population because of corruption and violence they faced from law enforcement in their home countries, he said.

Boyd's written strategies were part of the City of Tukwila's application for a $250,000 federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to hire two community liaisons. Tukwila was awarded the grant in September. The city's first COPS grant in 2009 was used to hire bicycle officers for the community-policing team.

The Police Department has hired its first liaison, Officer Matthew Valdez, who speaks Spanish. The search is under way for the second liaison; the candidates all have some language skills or experience in ethnically diverse situations, Boyd said.

"We are looking for people who want to work in a very diverse community," said city Administrator David Cline.

Cline said the city is also committed to having some officers "walking a beat, walking the neighborhoods."

The city's goal, said Mayor Allan Ekberg, is "to make sure we reach out appropriately to the diversity within the community." Taken together, the liaisons and the department's school resource officer mean "we have three officers who are always engaging with our community and that will just be positive," Ekberg said.

Because the Tukwila Police Department is small, the department won't have a liaison for each specific ethnic community, Boyd said. Instead, the two liaisons will reach out to any community, including the city's large Somali population.

Together, they will form the department's Community Liaison Team. But Boyd points out that all Tukwila police officers will receive training so the entire department will learn to develop the partnerships.

"I don't think you can become a good police officer without really knowing the community that you serve, because you are a servant of the community," he said.

The training began last fall. "The first thing I am trying to teach them to do is get caught doing something good," said Boyd, such as playing basketball. Unbeknownst to him, Boyd was caught playing basketball on video that received about 5,700 Facebook views.

Boyd himself developed an outreach program years ago with the city's Somali population. His relationship got off to a rough start, then quickly turned productive.

Years ago, officers chased a Somali youth into the Abu Bakr Islamic Center on Tukwila International Boulevard where Islamic men were in prayer, a "very sacred place," he said. "You don't go in there with your shoes on."

Later, there was a heated exchange in Boyd's office between Boyd and the mosque's executive director at the time. Calming down, they talked and searched for solutions to how to protect the sanctity of the mosque and still let police officers ensure public safety.

Boyd asked about an administrative door into the mosque. The executive director made some changes to his office, so now, if necessary, officers can come through that door and directly into his office. He will help solve any issues.

And there are now cloth covers next to the door so officers don't have to remove their boots.




Oregon Man Pleads Guilty to Hacking Apple E-Mail Accounts

LOS ANGELES – An Oregon man has pleaded guilty to a felony computer hacking charge related to a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to 363 Apple and Google e-mail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Andrew Helton, 29, of Portland, pleaded guilty yesterday to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically a charge of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.

Helton pleaded guilty before United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 2. As a result of yesterday’s guilty plea, Helton faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

“In today’s digital world, people use their e-mail and online accounts to store photos, music, notes, calendars, contacts, financial, and health information,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Through prosecutions such as the one announced here today, the United States Attorney’s Office is committed to assisting the continuing efforts of private companies to protect this sensitive and personal information from the malicious actions of sophisticated hackers and cyber criminals.”

According to his plea agreement, from March 2011 to May 2013, Helton engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims. He sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from Apple or Google and asked victims to “verify” their accounts by clicking on a link. Once the victims clicked on the link, they were taken to a malicious website that looked like an Apple or Google login page. When the victims entered usernames and passwords on the malicious website, Helton then had access to the victims’ e-mail accounts.

As a result of his scheme, Helton obtained approximately 448 usernames and passwords for approximately 363 e-mail accounts. Helton used this information to access and view the contents of the e-mail accounts.

Many of Helton’s victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. By illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Helton obtained 161 sexually explicit, nude and/or partially nude images of approximately 13 victims, some of whom were celebrities.

“The thought of a stranger accessing your private communications for sport or monetary gain can be devastating,” said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “This insidious crime has distressed scores of average individuals, as well as celebrity victims. The FBI is committed to holding accountable those who illegally intrude upon the cyber landscape, and to educating consumers about strengthening passwords and employing two-factor authentication, among other safeguards.”

The case against Helton is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen
Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
(213) 894-3756




'Grim Sleeper' trial: Prosecution opens its case, notes pattern in slayings

by Scott Glover

Thirty years after the first of the Grim Sleeper serial killer victims was found fatally shot and discarded in a South Los Angeles alley, Lonnie David Franklin Jr. is facing a jury in a downtown courtroom.

Franklin, a former garbage collector and police garage attendant, is charged with killing one girl and nine women ranging in age from 15 to 35 over a span of three decades. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Opening statements began Tuesday.

The killings for which Franklin is charged came in spurts that were 13 years apart, resulting in the nickname "the Grim Sleeper" for the period of apparent inactivity.

Franklin, 63, has pleaded not guilty. His attorney has promised a vigorous defense of the man neighbors described as friendly, helpful and reliable.

"All I can say is stayed tuned," said the lawyer, Seymour Amster.

The trial is expected to last two to three months, said Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, the lead prosecutor on the case.

Silverman told the jury Tuesday that the murders "followed a pattern."

Victims were taken from a murder scene, and their bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins, concealed by garbage or mattresses, the prosecutor said.

"Most of them were in various states of undress," she said in her opening statement. "Some were missing their bras. ... Some were missing their underwear."

All bodies were "Jane Does" when first discovered, and relatives had to identify them later.

"All tested positive for cocaine, except one," Silverman said of the autopsies.

The defense reserved its opening statements until after the prosecution completes its list of witnesses, at which point the defense will begin presenting its side to the jury.

A case with a lot of notoriety

The case has already spawned a documentary about Franklin, an "official" website and a made-for-TV movie about a local reporter whose stories for the LA Weekly drew attention to the case.

The LAPD has been both criticized for failing to alert the community sooner that there was a serial killer on the prowl (before Franklin was identified by name) and heralded for doggedly pursuing the case once the more recent slayings were discovered.

Evidence in the case will span three decades of policing in Los Angeles: From the murderous, crack-fueled 1980s, during which at least two serial killers were operating in South L.A., to the relative calm of the 2000s and the creation of an LAPD cold case unit charged with taking fresh looks at unsolved slayings, to the modern era of advanced DNA testing.

Prosecutors say they have tied Franklin to the killings with physical evidence, including saliva collected from bodies, and ballistic matches between slugs recovered from crime scenes and a .25 caliber handgun seized from Franklin's home the day he was arrested.

A woman alleged to be a surviving victim of Franklin is expected to be a star witness against him.

Enietra Washington was shot in the chest with a .25 caliber handgun and sexually assaulted before escaping. She has since identified Franklin as her assailant. In addition to the 10 counts of murder, Franklin is charged with one count of attempted murder in Washington's attack.

Back to the 1980s

The first killing spree attributed to Franklin began in the summer of 1985 and seemingly ended three years later. Police did not know his identity at the time but had linked seven slayings to the same .25 caliber handgun. The bodies of the victims were found scattered in alleys around South Los Angeles, often covered in debris.

The then-unknown killer apparently fell dormant for years.

Before the arrest: The hunt for the Grim Sleeper

Decades later, in 2007, LAPD homicide detectives got word from the department's forensic lab of "case to case hits" linking one person's DNA to unsolved slayings in 2002, 2003 and 2007, according to Detective Dennis Kilcoyne.

Detectives were unable to match the killer's DNA to any known samples contained in databanks. The department formed a task force, which soon discovered that the killings in the 2000s were connected to the unsolved spree in the 1980s, Kilcoyne wrote in a statement submitted to a congressional subcommittee investigating the use of DNA in so-called cold cases.

In 2008, detectives submitted crime scene DNA from both sprees to the California Department of Justice to conduct a "familia search" to determine whether a close relative of the unknown killer was in a state databank of convicted felons' DNA.

The search came back negative.

But a second attempt, conducted two years later, yielded a hit, Kilcoyne wrote. It matched the DNA to a recently convicted felon.

The criminal's father turned out to be Franklin, according to authorities.

Detectives placed Franklin under 24-hour surveillance and came up with a plan to obtain a sample of his DNA.

An undercover officer posed as a waiter at a local restaurant and collected a pizza crust left behind by the suspect. DNA taken from the crust matched DNA left by the suspect in multiple murders, Kilcoyne wrote.

An arrest and puzzled neighbors

Franklin was arrested in July of 2010.

When police raided his South Los Angeles home, they discovered photos and videos of 180 women. Police have since accounted for the identities and whereabouts of most of them, but the circumstances surrounding about 30 of the women remain unknown.

In the wake of Franklin's arrest, neighbors told reporters it was difficult to reconcile the charges with the pleasant, helpful man they knew.

Grim Sleeper serial killer suspect known as nice, funny 'fix-it' man

Steve Robinson, who lived across the street from Franklin and said he knew him for more than 20 years, said he had no inkling that his friend could be capable of the acts he's alleged to have committed.

"He was just a good guy," Robinson said. But as the case heads to trial, Robinson said, "all the evidence points toward him."

"DNA don't lie," he added.

Silverman, the prosecutor, said multiple postponements of the long-awaited trial have taken a toll on the victims' loved ones.

The mothers of two of the victims died during the more than five years since Franklin's arrest, she said.

"That means they won't get to see justice for their daughters or be there for victim impact statements," if he's convicted, she said. "It's beyond frustrating."




IMPD plans to return to beat system

by Jack Rinehart

INDIANAPOLIS -- Community policing is returning to some of the city's most crime challenged neighborhoods.

The city is working on scaling back large zones in favor of small beats.

34th and Illinois is one of the six focus areas in the city. It has the highest rate of mental health incidents in the city, and some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment and crime. It's one of the areas targeted for community policing.

Bob Moore, who opened a barbershop 13 years ago in the 3300 block of North Illinois, longs for the day when he sees the police walking a beat in the neighborhood.

"I think when you get the neighborhood and the police department working together in unison for the betterment of the community, that would be great," he said.

Metro police would take the current configurations of large policing zones, and begin turning them into smaller patrol areas, much like they had before the city abandoned the beat system nearly a decade ago.

Police will re-introduce community policing, first in the focus areas, the six most crime challenged neighborhoods with only five percent of the population, but thirty percent of the homicides.

The focus areas also had a disproportionate share of non-fatal shootings, including in 2015 at nearly 30 percent.

"We're looking to target areas of town that are really struggling with their quality of life. We're going to make sure they've got officers they know where they can become a part of that community. So, we're going to start looking at some of these areas and go to beats, smaller areas," IMPD Chief Troy Riggs said.

The community policing model was applied last fall to the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood, hit hard by a rash of shootings and homicides, including one that took the life of a 10-year-old child. North District put officers into the area and instituted walking beats. The police engaged with area residents, and to this day, the outreach has become a model for community policing.

IMPD plans to begin rolling it out in April when 75 new police recruits hit the streets.




Why Are LA's Foster Kids More Likely to Be Charged With Crimes?

by Carrie Wang and Rachel Kohn

LOS ANGELES — Monserrat Zarza was 15 years old when she was assigned to a group home, only six months after entering the Los Angeles County foster care system. Group homes provide a placement option for hard-to-place children “with significant emotional or behavioral problems,” according to the state of California.

Being in an environment with several dozen other troubled kids was not what Zarza expected when she gathered the courage to pick up her phone and ask for help after a decade of physical and emotional abuse by her mother. She was hoping for a real family home. The idea of a group home scared her.

When Zarza first entered the system, she did live with a foster family for six months. During that period, Zarza's biological mother told her that she wanted to commit suicide because of the investigation and scrutiny that Zarza had put her through. In reaction to her mother's accusations and threats, Zarza said she began to abuse drugs to cope with all the trauma and stress she was feeling. That's why she was discharged from her foster family and reassigned to the Penny Lane Group Home in North Hills, California, after social workers told her they could not find her another foster home.

Now 20, Zarza has tried to make the most of her life since leaving her mother. At Penny Lane, she enrolled in a program to sober up. She said she believed in the system — until one day the group home staff caught her roommate using drugs and called the police. Zarza stood and watched as police officers arrested her friend. She never saw the girl again.

Arrests as behavior control

The use of arrests to control the behavior of foster youth is reportedly an all-too-common practice in many group homes. Denise C. Herz, associate professor of criminal justice at California State University, Los Angeles, has analyzed data on crossover youth in Los Angeles County since 2007. (Crossover youth, or dual status youth, is a term for children who are victims of abuse or neglect who also enter the juvenile justice system.)

In her most recent report, released in May 2015, Herz found that 32 percent of the foster youth who were arrested were living in group homes. She also found in the 15-month study that African-American kids were greatly overrepresented among the crossover kids. Plus 36.6 percent of the crossover population were girls, as opposed to 20 percent in the general juvenile justice population.

Zarza said Herz's study matched her experience. “When we had a problem, they [the staff in the group home] were supposed to help us get better.” Instead, when it came to her friend, she said, “they just threw the cops at her the first time they caught her using. They should have reached out to her drug counselor first. They should have confiscated the drugs and figured out another way instead of calling the police.”

Juvenile public defender Maureen Pacheco, who has been working with the juvenile justice system for 37 years, agreed that social workers in group homes tend to report youth too easily.

“Social workers see the delinquency court having this power to detain kids. It's almost like a mother turning to a father and saying, ‘Punish him,'” Pacheco said. “So they look at the delinquency system as having the power to control these kids. And the control is they get locked up. They think of that as a traditional method of disciplining the kids.”

As an example, Pacheco points to a client (called Robert, to protect his anonymity). He lived in a large group home for seven years, she says, dealing with such problems as being adopted and unadopted multiple times. Recently, after tracking down his birth mother, Robert and his sister escaped from their group home to meet her. The experience has caused a flood of emotional issues for him.

Once during lunch, during an argument with a social worker, he mouthed off angrily, saying “I'm going to kill you” as he had a wrench in his hand. The social worker called the police, and Robert was put on probation for 17 months and is still on probation today.

Pacheco said the boy had never been known to be violent, but had often expressed his distress using empty threats. “To me that means this is a kid who is expressing his anger, but he is not somebody who is going to be a danger,” she said. “But because they [the group home staff] have liability for other people in the group home, they almost have to overreact in order to not have a situation where other kids get hurt. It is very discouraging because the liability has become their number one concern, not the well-being of the kids,” she said.

“With my two teenage sons, there were times when they would say horrible things to each other and make threats to each other. In a private home you are not likely to say, ‘I am going to call the police and have you arrested.' You realize it is normal teenager behavior,” said Pacheco.

‘The system doesn't parent'

Attorney Barbara Duey agrees with Pacheco. Duey, who is an attorney and crossover director for the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, said that because social workers often do not have the patience, time or training to adequately assess a kid's emotional reaction in a high-stress situation, their first response is to pick up the phone and call the police when kids act out, as kids often do.

“The system doesn't parent, the system just reacts,” she said.

“When I was growing up at home with my sister, we shared a bathroom. We got in fights all the time. If I picked up my hairbrush and threw it at her, and shattered the glass, I'm going to get grounded by my parents,” she said. “However, our kids get arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism if that same thing happens in a group home setting.”

According to Duey, the overreaction continues after police are called. When a foster youth is arrested while in the group home system, the offense with which he or she is charged is likely to be more serious than if the child is arrested outside the system. For example, the hairbrush toss could be categorized as assault with a deadly weapon. The youth in question would be taken to juvenile hall and the case would go to the District Attorney's office.

“The next thing you know, they are in court facing felonies. It happens all the time,” Duey said.

Social workers as parents

One of the problems contributing to the overcriminalization of foster children, experts say, is the fact that social workers often have high caseloads and thus do not make good parents.

Zarza was rushed into a group home because her social worker was going to leave town in a week. The social worker promised Zarza she would only stay in the group home for at most three months, after which she would find Zarza another foster home.

“I was really scared at the beginning. I thought something bad was going to happen to me and I kept waiting for her to come back.” But the social worker did not return. “I ended up staying there for 1½ years,” Zarza said.

When the social workers in her group home were overwhelmed, they would often take out their frustration on her and other girls, according to Zarza.

One time, she said, when she asked one social worker for keys to open a closet of clean clothes because she planned to take a shower, the worker asked her to wait. When Zarza came back to ask a third time, the worker told her that she was a “failure.” That's why Zarza was in a group home, the social worker said, and that was why she would be a loser for the rest of her life like all the other girls.

“I was really hurt because I wasn't expecting to get insulted like that when I simply asked to get my belongings to take a shower,” Zarza said.

The Los Angeles Department of Family and Children's Services is short on foster families, so when a family cannot be found for a child, many reportedly wind up in situations similar to Zarza's.

Judge Michael Nash, the former presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court who was recently appointed director of Los Angeles County's new Office of Child Protection, said the group home is the least preferred placement for children and youths because it is an unnatural setting.

“We see that kids in group homes cross over from child welfare to juvenile justice at a higher rate. We see that kids in group homes have lower education outcomes. We see that a higher number of the kids in group homes are receiving psychiatric medication,” he said.

According to Zarza, when she was in a group home, there were only four social workers in charge of 45 girls. The girls had no privacy and were only allowed to close their dorm doors for five minutes when they were changing. Some girls used this time as an excuse to pick fights. Zarza never adjusted to this living situation.

“I could never live a normal life like any other kid in my age,” she said.

Zarza had no one to turn to when she had problems within the group home. For over a year she and her friends filed grievance complaints but never heard back from anyone.

“It's not like somebody's there in your corner as your advocate like a parent would be,” Pacheco said.

‘We are failing them'

The situation Zarza described is not an individual occurrence; it is a problem with the system, according to Pacheco.

“The delinquency system is treated as a dumping ground by the foster care system,” she said. “Social workers use the juvenile justice system when they are frustrated by kids' noncompliance with the plan. They see the juvenile system as a place where they can lock the kid up. It is a tremendous problem.

“We are failing them,” Pacheco said.

Youth advocates hope that California's Assembly Bill 403, passed last year, will help ensure that foster youths like Zarza are placed in a healthy living environment. The legislation, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, will replace group homes with short-term residential facilities designed to provide temporary support to kids with identified needs before returning them to a “family setting.”

During his time leading the Los Angeles Juvenile Court and as supervising judge of the Juvenile Dependency Court, Judge Nash wanted to find a way to ensure that the foster care system accurately focused on kids' individual needs and that youths were not placed into group homes as a last resort. So he and his colleagues implemented a protocol in 2014 to improve the group home system.

“It [the protocol] says every time the agency wants to place a child in a group home, we need to get a report that tells us why a group home and why this group home,” said Nash. “What's the specific case plan for the child in this group home? How long is it contemplated that this child will be in this group home?”

Nash admits it will take a while to see solid results from AB 403 and his group home protocol, but he is confident that both will ultimately help foster youths.

Pacheco said she would also like to see some revisions in the role of social workers who help and care for foster youths.

“Having a mentor who understands the system and helps them navigate the system” is important, she said. “Nobody is acting as a parent for the kids so having somebody who can at least advocate for them would be helpful.”

Zarza too is trying to make changes in the system. With this goal in mind, she has joined California Youth Connection to be an advocate for foster youths. She will age out of the system in a year, at 21, and says she wants to do all she can so that other youths in the system won't experience the same pain she went through.

“I just want my past be my past, my present be present, and my future be different,” Zarza said.



South Carolina

Report: More people pulled guns on SC police in 2015 than 2014

With 48 officer-involved shootings, 2015 marked the highest number in South Carolina since 1999

by Glen Luke Flanagan

COLUMBIA, S.C. — More people pulled guns on police during a record number of officer-involved shootings in 2015 compared to the previous year, and the number of police injured in shootings rose by half.

With 48 officer-involved shootings, 2015 marked the highest number in South Carolina since the State Law Enforcement Division began keeping track in 1999. That's because more people are pulling guns on police officers, who had to defend themselves, law enforcement officials say.

In 26 of the 48 instances, suspects pulled guns on officers. That's up almost 45 percent from 18 instances in 2014, according to SLED numbers.

26: Officer-involved shootings in 2015 in which a suspect pulled a gun on an officer

18: Officer-involved shootings in 2014 in which a suspect pulled a gun on an officer

“It sure seems to me, and I think most officers would agree, that criminals are more likely to use a firearm against an officer today than what they did in the past,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott agreed, saying today's generation lives by the gun.

“When I first started my career, you'd lock up bad guys and nobody would have guns,” Lott said. “If you chased somebody, you might have to chase them down on foot and fight them. Nobody had guns back then. Now, everybody has guns. All these kids have guns.”

Nearly 45 Percent

Increase in the number of times a suspect pulled a gun on an officer in 2015, from 2014

Lott said that change comes as gangs expand their reach and control the drug trade.

“They're willing to take a chance and shoot a police officer and think they can get away with it,” he said. “In years past, they would not even consider anything like that.”

The sheriff added that a recent court ruling limiting the use of stun guns in several states, including South Carolina, will make the situation worse for officers and suspects alike.

“I think that's going to have a significant impact on our safety, have officers not sure what they're going to do,” he said. “When you have that, you have officers hesitate. Sometimes when you hesitate, you get killed, you get injured.”

No Small Consequences

The consequences of more shootings are often severe.

Fourteen officers and 14 suspects were injured during last year's 48 officer-involved shootings. One officer, Greg Alia of the Forest Acres Police Department, and 19 suspects were killed, according to SLED.

In 2014, there were 42 officer-involved shootings, with nine officers and 20 suspects injured, SLED records show. One officer was killed in 2014, along with 18 suspects.

The year 2014 saw a significant uptick in officers injured. During 42 officer-involved shootings in 2013, six officers were injured and none were killed. In that same time, 16 suspects were injured and 18 were killed.

What shooting numbers mean is hard to say without detailed context for each shooting, cautioned Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina who studies police use of force. But he said part of the issue comes down to culture.

“We live in a gun culture, and the South is probably the most prolific area of the country where guns are present,” he said.

There were 276,084 active concealed weapons permits in the state as of Dec. 31, 2015, according to SLED. But Alpert, Keel and Lott all agree that the problem is with people carrying guns illegally, not with CWP holders.

Alpert contrasted police culture in America with that of Scotland, where most officers do not carry firearms.

“They deal with people on a totally different plane,” he said. “Even with (people who have) knives, officers don't respond with guns. Now, it's a different culture (there). The citizens aren't as likely to shoot police.”

Another contributing factor, according to Keel, is simple math. The population in South Carolina has continued to increase – going from about 3.5 million in 1990 to about 4.8 million in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means more interaction between citizens and law enforcement.

A key part of addressing the issue is de-escalating situations to avoid injuries and deaths, law enforcement officials say. And that requires training – teaching officers to navigate difficult situations in a way that doesn't end with lethal force.

“We've got to train better,” Keel said. “We've got to look at these incidents and figure out how can we handle these incidents better so they would not have led to a shooting. On the other side, the public, they need to comply with law enforcement.”

But changing training methods is easier said than done. The current, mandatory officer training program at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy is 12 weeks long. If the academy had more funding and more manpower, Director Hubert Harrell said, he'd like to add another two or three weeks.

“We're trying to change a person's whole cultural aspect, his entire demeanor, to fit the mold of a law enforcement officer,” Harrell said. “The military can do it in 12 weeks of boot camp, but even then, they don't always make the transition.”

Harrell also emphasized the importance of on-the-job training, when agencies send new officers out with field training officers or experienced cops who know the community well.

Closer Scrutiny

South Carolina's rise in officer-involved shootings comes at a time when police use of force is being scrutinized nationally.

Law enforcement fatally shot 990 people in 2015 in the United States, according to numbers compiled recently by The Washington Post. Of those, 856 were armed with a deadly weapon, 61 with a vehicle and 39 with a toy weapon; 97 were unarmed. In 40 of those deaths, the database lists “unknown” in the weapon category.

The FBI intends to substantially expand its system for tracking fatal officer-involved shootings in 2017, according to published reports. At the moment, there isn't a comprehensive national database.

“It's kind of embarrassing the media has better data than the government or researchers,” Alpert said.

South Carolina is one of only a few states that keep statewide statistics on officer-involved shootings, he added.

But while much attention has focused on teaching officers to communicate and understand people from various backgrounds, Harrell said building such skills takes time and experience.

“How do you teach those to a 21-year-old in those 12 weeks, especially when you're trying to teach him the basic skills he needs to survive?” he said.

Officers injured

2015: 14

2014: 9

2013: 6

Suspects injured

2015: 14

2014: 20

2013: 16

Officers killed

2015: 1

2014: 1

2013: 0

Suspects killed

2015: 19

2014: 18

2013: 18




Miss. officer shot in face, police questioning suspect

The officer, Cpl. Derrick Couch, was in critical condition at the area's top trauma center

by The Associated Press

CLARKSDALE, Miss. — A man believed to have shot a northwest Mississippi police officer point-blank in the face and a man believed to have joined him in an earlier robbery were being questioned Sunday by police, Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett said.

Luckett says the first man's father brought him to the police station Sunday afternoon. Officers with a search warrant found "telling evidence" at the family's home earlier Sunday, he said.

The officer, Cpl. Derrick Couch, was in critical condition at the area's top trauma center, Regional One Health in Memphis, Tennessee, nursing supervisor Vivian Crawford said Sunday.

Couch is on a ventilator, has lost one eye, and the bullet remains lodged in his brain, Luckett said.

He said the shooting occurred about four blocks from a convenience store that two men in masks had just robbed Saturday night. The store and City Hall are at opposite ends of the same block, facing different directions, Luckett said.

He said video from a nearby law office shows Crouch getting out of his car, apparently to question the man.

"I've seen the video. It's harrowing," he said. "As soon as the officer approached him, he just swung around and, bam!"

Before the shooting itself, the mayor said, the video shows Couch's patrol car approaching two men, one of whom runs.

"I'm not sure if Officer Crouch saw him run or not," Luckett said. "Then you see the officer's lights turn and illuminate the second guy, who's walking. He walks with a noticeable limp, which is telling" because a video of a robbery last month at the same store, the Corner Grocery, shows a man with a limp.

Couch and both suspects are African-American, he said.

He said Couch is a veteran officer in his mid-30s, and worked for the Tunica County Sheriff's Office before coming to Clarksdale, where he was a narcotics officer until recently. He is married and has one or two children; other relatives live in Southaven, the mayor said.

"This is not a homicide yet. It would be our first this year if it turns into one," he said. "I can't remember an officer in Clarksdale shot by a suspect."



New York

NYPD has used cell tracking technology 1K times since '08

Police records show the technology has helped catch suspects in kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders

by The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department has used secretive cellphone tracking technology more than 1,000 times since 2008, according to data released Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

A cell-site simulator, also known as a Stingray, is a suitcase-sized device that can sweep up basic cellphone data from a neighborhood by tricking phones into believing it's a cell tower, allowing it to identify unique subscriber numbers. The data are then transmitted to the police, helping them determine the location of a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

Police records show the technology has helped catch suspects in kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. Missing people have been discovered. In some cases, no arrest was made or the phone was located but had been ditched. Officers with warrant squads, robbery squads and homicide units all used the technology, according to the records.

Federal law enforcement in September said it would be routinely required to get a search warrant before using the technology — a first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities. But the policy applies only to federal agencies within the Justice Department and not, as some privacy advocates had hoped, to state and local law enforcement whose use of the equipment has stirred particular concern and scrutiny from local judges. The NYPD would be required to get a warrant if the investigation was a joint effort with federal officials.

The NYPD said it has no written policy for use of the technology, according to the records released by the NYCLU, but general practice is to obtain a "pen register order" — a court order with a lower standard than a warrant. The department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The civil liberties union urged the department to create a strict policy on use of the technology and to obtain a warrant.

"New Yorkers have very real concerns about the NYPD's adoption of intrusive surveillance technology," NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Mariko Hirose said in a statement. "The NYPD should at minimum obtain warrants before using Stingrays to protect the privacy of innocent people."

The NYCLU requested documents under the Freedom of Information Law and received the first round of information that it asked for in November. Last year, the NYCLU released records showing the Erie County sheriff's office used Stingrays 47 times in the past four years and indicating that the office obtained a pen register order only once, the agency said.



From ICE

ICE removes suspected Filipino human rights violator captured in Bay Area

Former undercover agent admitted spying for task force tied to disappearance of rival politicians

SAN FRANCISCO – A Filipino man who admitted conducting surveillance for a law enforcement task force in his native country linked to the disappearance of several opposition politicians was removed to the Philippines Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), less than two months after his capture by ICE officers in the Bay Area.

Regor Cadag Aguilar, 42, arrived in Manila, Philippines, mid-day Wednesday Pacific Standard Time, on board a commercial flight escorted by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers. Aguilar's repatriation to the Philippines follows his arrest Jan. 5, 2015, in Union City by members of one of ERO's Fugitive Operations Teams.

Aguilar originally entered the U.S. on a visitor's visa 15 years ago and overstayed that visa, leading him to be placed in removal proceedings. In testimony offered during those proceedings, Aguilar acknowledged that, from 1998 to 2001, he worked as a surveillance agent for a law enforcement task force in the Philippines that targeted rival political figures. While he maintained he was unaware of the task force's illegal activities at the time, Aguilar testified he knew that one of his surveillance targets disappeared and was presumed dead. He further testified that his superiors informed him that other members of the task force relied on his surveillance to abduct and murder a political figure. Aguilar also testified that he heard superiors order task force members to torture abducted individuals.

In 2010, a San Francisco immigration judge ordered Aguilar removed and, following the exhaustion of all of his appeals, ICE carried out his removal order.

“This day has been in the making for more than a decade, but it should leave no question about ICE's resolve to hold human rights violators accountable for their actions,” said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. “The successful outcome of this case is owing to the outstanding work by ICE attorneys and ERO officers who were determined to see justice served. We simply won't stand by and allow the U.S. to serve as a safe haven for those whose actions have caused incalculable harm to others.”

ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. These individuals may use fraudulent identities to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States.

Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 360 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 780 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.

Currently, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations has more than 125 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries. Over the last four years, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 70,100 lookouts for individuals from more than 111 countries and stopped 193 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email HRV.ICE@ice.dhs.gov or complete ICE's online tip form.



DHS officials issue warning about scams targeting senior citizens to unknowingly act as international drug smugglers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials issued a warning today about a scheme that conned dozens of elderly U.S. citizens into being unwitting drug mules to countries with severe penalties for drug-related charges, like Australia and New Zealand. The announcement was made by A. Scott Brown, Acting Assistant Director of Investigative Programs for ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), during a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The average age of the 144 couriers was 59; the oldest of these was 87. The oldest individual conned as a part of this scheme was 97; however, HSI special agents identified him before he left the United States to participate in the endeavor and convinced him to abandon his travel plans because he was likely to be another victim. The victims were recruited via social media, cyber begging and telemarketing fraud. Investigators believe over 30 individuals from the United States remain incarcerated overseas.

“Those who target vulnerable populations, to include our elderly, are among the worst kinds of criminals. Heart breaking does not begin to describe some of these case details,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “It is the job of law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice, but it is all of our jobs to teach our own loved ones to be vigilant against these kinds of schemes.”

The ruse entices victims with a promise of an inheritance or business opportunity and the requirement that they fly to various countries to meet with “attorneys” or “business partners,” with all travel and expenses paid by the transnational criminal organization. On the final leg of the trip, the victims are asked to take seemingly harmless items along with them for their business contacts at the next location. Upon arrival and inspection, these innocuous items are found to contain drugs resulting in detention and arrest by local authorities. The drugs are concealed in everything from chocolates, picture frames, tea and markers to canned goods, shampoo bottles, soap and wooden hangers.

To date, HSI and CBP have worked with their foreign counterparts to intercept 144 couriers carrying a total of 272 kilograms of methamphetamine, 209 kilograms of cocaine, 4 kilograms of ecstasy and 11 kilograms of heroin. Fifteen facilitators affiliated with the transnational criminal organization were also arrested.

It should be noted, that while HSI makes efforts to prevent potential elderly couriers from departing the United States, the short window of opportunity and the strong relationship scammers have established with their victims makes this difficult. The recruited individuals are often so engaged with the criminal organization, they do not believe the truth when they are confronted with it because these organizations warn their victims not to believe anyone who approaches them as law enforcement. HSI has warned elderly unwitting couriers concerning their potential role in this scheme, only to have them book travel and be intercepted in another country with narcotics.

While organizations like these will victimize consumers of all ages, backgrounds and income levels, the elderly are disproportionately targeted, according to investigators. Perpetrators take advantage of the fact that elderly Americans may be lonely and not have the Internet savvy to recognize the scam.



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.




Md. sheriff posts open letter to Obama on social media

The sheriff criticized President Barack Obama's public silence on an uptick in officers killed by gunfire in 2016

by Heather Norris

WESTMINSTER, Md. — In an open letter posted on Facebook, Carroll County's top law enforcement officer criticized President Barack Obama's public silence on an uptick in officers killed by gunfire in 2016 nationwide, including two Harford County sheriff's deputies who were killed this week.

"Dear President Obama," Sheriff Jim DeWees wrote in the post Saturday morning. "In case you haven't heard, eight American police officers over the past eight days have been killed in the line of duty. Two of these police officers were Harford County sheriff's deputies that were gunned down at a Panera Restaurant just 50 miles from where you live. I've watched and listened intently for words of encouragement and sorrow to come from you, but haven't heard or seen anything."

Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a nonprofit that honors fallen law enforcement officers, recorded seven officers killed in the line of duty nationwide between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11, and three in January. Of those 10, eight were killed by gunfire, according to ODMP.

Over the same time period in 2015, one officer was killed by gunfire in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

DeWees goes on to commend Gov. Larry Hogan for his support of police around Maryland, noting that the governor made the trip to Harford County to meet with members of the Harford County Sheriff's Office the day after the shooting.

Conversely, he said, the president has shown no sign of support for members of the police community in the wake of the uptick in violence against police officers.

"I understand that you are a busy man and are being pulled in multiple directions every day of the week," DeWees wrote. "But, when my president doesn't take the time to openly recognize the sacrifices that brave men & women of law enforcement make each day to keep domestic peace, I'm disappointed! I suspect that if these same deputies walked in to a restaurant, and without provocation shot and killed an innocent man, you and your staff would quickly whisk their family away to Washington for a future speech to make an example of police officers nationwide."

DeWees, who is a Republican, said the letter was not intended to be political. He decided to pen it out of a feeling of frustration with the president's silence on an incident that occurred within driving distance of the White House, he said.

"I kind of wrote that out of a sense of disappointment," said DeWees in an interview Saturday evening. The Facebook post had been shared more than 13,000 times and had received more than 15,000 likes by 9 p.m. Satuday.

Among many members of the law enforcement community, he said, there is a perception that Obama does not support police officers.

Whether or not that is true, he said, "unfortunately, perception is reality, and it's certainly that way with me."

In September, Obama released a statement calling the targeting of police officers "unacceptable" and "an affront to civilized society." On Feb. 11, the day after the Harford shooting, Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke to the Major County Sheriffs' Association, acknowledging the Harford killings and praising law enforcement officers' courage and commitment.

That is not enough to make officers feel they have the support of their country's top commander, DeWees said.

"That's not good enough," he said. "I think the president should have come out and said something. We need to hear from our president."

He continued, "I think law enforcement has been waiting a long time to hear something from him that has some substance."

Although the president's silence on the issue has made many question whether he supports law enforcement, it's not too late for something to be done, DeWees said.

Visitation for Senior Deputy Mark Logsdon is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Mountain Christian Church at 1824 Mountain Road in Joppa. Services for Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Mountain Christian Church, 1824 Mountain Road, Joppa. At those funeral services, DeWees said, he will be there, keeping the spot next to him empty.

"If he shows up, I'll step aside and give him the spot to the right of me," he said.

DeWees' open letter in full

A Letter from me to our president:

Dear President Obama:

In case you haven't heard, eight American police officers over the past eight days have been killed in the line of duty. Two of these police officers were Harford County Sheriff's Deputies that were gunned down at a Panera Restaurant just 50 miles from where you live. I've watched and listened intently for words of encouragement and sorrow to come from you, but haven't heard or seen anything.

Conversely, just two weeks ago my governor, Larry Hogan, spent the better part of a week placing a call each day to one of my deputies that was involved in a severe traffic collision in Carroll County. He wasn't satisfied with speaking to me in order to send his prayers and regards; he called every day after the collision until he spoke with my deputy's wife. Governor Hogan also drove to Harford County the day after two deputies were slain to meet Sheriff Gahler and the men & women of his office to grieve with them. The governor is in the middle of the 2016 Legislative Session and is pretty busy, yet found time to call, visit and pay his respects to me & my deputy, and the men & women of the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

I understand that you are a busy man and are being pulled in multiple directions every day of the week. But, when my president doesn't take the time to openly recognize the sacrifices that brave men & women of law enforcement make each day to keep domestic peace, I'm disappointed! I suspect that if these same deputies walked in to a restaurant, and without provocation shot and killed an innocent man, you and your staff would quickly whisk their family away to Washington for a future speech to make an example of police officers nationwide.

For me Mr. President, it has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat; black or white, male or female; but, it has everything to do with leading or following. I'm not shocked that you haven't openly reached out or acknowledged publically the recent rash of deaths in law enforcement, but I'm tremendously disappointed!

Mr. President, your silence about these events SPEAKS VOLUMES!!!!

PS: I'll be standing outside in the cold next week with my deputies for the funerals of the Harford Co deputies; I'll save you a spot next to me!



New Mexico

Police find "credible explosive device" at Albuquerque rental car facility


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Federal and local authorities declared a suspicious device found on a rental car at Albuquerque's airport to be safe Sunday and are now launching investigations into how it got there.

Avis Budget Rental next to the Albuquerque International Sunport was initially shut down when the device was found during a check of a returned car, police spokesman Simon Drobik said. A bomb unit was called in to secure the device.

Drobik said the police bomb unit initially inspected the device but has now handed it over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Agents from ATF and the FBI will conduct a separate investigation. They will look into the location from where the vehicle was rented and who was the last to occupy it, Drobik said.

All roads in the area reopened by the early afternoon. Police also declared a parking terminal secure.




Police push community outreach, revised anti-violence strategy

Some departments found methods to solve more murders and reduce violence. Can Pittsburgh?

by Jeffrey Benzing

Pittsburgh police officers are fighting bad blood with basketball.

At Westinghouse Academy in early December, officers towered over the middle school squad, jumping to an early lead. That crumbled when the high-schoolers took over at halftime.

Bad for officers' egos. But the game's goal goes beyond the scoreboard; It's an attempt to heal years of strained relations.

Pittsburgh Police Zone 5 Commander Jason Lando said he was amazed when students contacted him about organizing the event. Police had previously met with the Westinghouse kids as part of their outreach efforts. It started tense, Lando said, with a lot of anger directed toward the officers. Over about two hours, the two groups started to connect, and the youth were eager to meet again.

That's not how it's always been.

Pittsburgh's black communities have for years complained about city police treating them with disrespect and, sometimes, outright brutality. A city initiative to reduce violence stalled, even as homicides spiked and police failed to solve roughly half of all killings – many involving young black men.

So police are trying again. The bureau is actively courting community support, bolstered by federal assistance and the relaunch of the city's anti-violence intervention program.

Success means a break from years of baggage and false starts. Failing means continued violence, ongoing distrust, and a growing backlog of unsolved homicides.

“For a long time, we kind of just let the community stuff go by the wayside,” Lando said. “We can't ever let that happen again.”

Old interventions

It's been a tumultuous period for the city police force. And, simultaneously, certain Pittsburgh neighborhoods have been enduring some brutal years.

In 2014, police investigated 70 homicides, one of the most violent totals in the 50 years of available records. Nearly half remain unsolved.

The city's former police chief had already resigned in scandal, officers fled in droves, and the department for years botched deployment of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime.

The main strategy is simple: focus enforcement and social services at the city's most violent residents. It's been used in Boston – then adopted in numerous other cities – since 1996.

David Kennedy, architect of the Boston program, called the lack of support from Pittsburgh police one of the worst embarrassments of his career, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A 2014 report on street violence by Allegheny County faulted Pittsburgh police for failing to share adequate intelligence on serious offenders with others involved in PIRC program, and for saturating whole neighborhoods with patrols rather than targeting suspected offenders.

“We didn't involve the community in the manner that was needed, in a manner that was meaningful,” Pittsburgh Police Major Crimes Commander Larry Scirotto said of the program launched in 2010.

In the meantime, scores of young men died. The scenes are clustered in Homewood and the Hill District, victims killed in exactly the type of violence PIRC was designed to reduce.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said the name “PIRC” has so much baggage it needs to “be buried someplace never to be uttered again.”

So now there's Group Violence Intervention – another try at the same concepts that have cost the city more than $1 million.

Jay Gilmer, who coordinates the anti-violence program outside the bureau, said improvements under McLay have been “staggering.” So while the ideas behind PIRC and GVI are theoretically the same, he said the support from police and emphasis on national research have essentially made it a new program.

“It's a change of thinking,” said Gilmer, describing the reincarnation as still in its infancy.

Success depends on follow-through.

Sam Bieler, a research associate at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said intervention programs don't work unless they have broad community support and “sustained buy-in” from leadership to the rank and file, even through initial failures.

“The community is not a tool in the police's toolbox,” Bieler said. “The community needs to be the leader.”

Political will

Solving murders isn't impossible.

As chief in Santa Ana, Calif., Paul Walters faced a high number of gang homicides. Witnesses wouldn't talk. Police routinely failed to make arrests.

But then the department changed how it did business. They separated homicides involving gangs into a separate unit, hired back retired detectives to focus exclusively on old cases and emphasized DNA work, community policing and cost-free collaborations with other agencies.

It worked. The city, which has about 30,000 more residents than Pittsburgh, had 78 homicides in 1993, with only a fraction of them solved. Compare that to 14 murders in 2015. In several recent years, Santa Ana police have cleared murders as they've occurred and put old cases to bed.

Resources were scarce. While Santa Ana's population rose to 334,000 people, the size of its department actually shrunk, said Walters, now retired and an executive fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation, which conducts research and consults for police organizations.

“You can't just say ‘We can't do it 'cause we don't have the resources,'” Walters said.

Nationally, 64.5 percent of murders result in an arrest, according to 2014 FBI figures.

Solving cases is a matter of political will, said Thomas Hargrove, founder of the Murder Accountability Project, a nonprofit that tracks unsolved homicides. Officials often don't make solving homicides a priority, he said.

“We are convinced that inadequate resources are being applied to homicide in most places in America,” said Hargrove, a retired investigative journalist.

He points to Philadelphia as an example of how things can improve.

In 2007, police there cleared less than 60 percent of homicides. Then, Mayor Michael Nutter was elected on a crime-conscious platform; the department made solving murders a priority; and the clearance rate rose to 75 percent. The city has “gangs galore” and organized crime, Hargrove said. Yet arrests were made.

Still, Philadelphia's homicides jumped 12 percent to 277 killed in 2015, with a solve rate of barely 50 percent. The city's retiring police commissioner said drug-related killings and a lack of witness cooperation could have been contributing factors.

Recent progress

Homicides in Pittsburgh dropped 20 percent in 2015, McLay's first full year as chief. The total of 56 murders, however, is the second highest in seven years. Shootings spiked, as did gun assaults.

Most of the city's violence is segregated in predictable, commonly vilified neighborhoods.

Kevin Acklin, the chief of staff for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, said solving crimes is a top priority in neighborhoods like Homewood that have suffered from years of disinvestment. He also stressed the importance of economic efforts like increasing job training and affordable housing.

In September, police moved homicide detectives into a joint unit that also investigates robberies and non-fatal shootings. The intent is to increase the number of detectives involved in murder investigations and to improve efficiency, even as the department struggles to recruit officers.

Commander Scirotto said the new efforts have led to quicker arrests and a notable increase in community cooperation.

Police are also working more closely with county prosecutors, Acklin said, and increased emphasis on grand juries also gives more protection to witnesses.

Pittsburgh was also selected as one of six pilot cities for a $4.75 million Justice Department initiative to improve community policing, a major principle of McLay's leadership. The city is also getting federally-funded guidance on improving the effectiveness of murder investigations. These initiatives give the department added resources without straining the city's budget.

Lasting change?

McLay says “hope” is not a sound leadership strategy.

Progress takes work.

It means officers going to community meetings, walking neighborhoods instead of driving by in anonymized squad cars, being courteous in the face of distrust and fear and playing basketball in Homewood.

And it means working smarter, sharing information with partners, using data and technology, learning from other departments and accepting and encouraging community support.

McLay said he's seen a positive shift.

He knows police shoulder much of the blame for past failings and much of the responsibility moving forward. He also knows community support is crucial. Otherwise progress won't last.

“I'm extremely optimistic about our future,” McLay said, “but I know that trust is built one positive interaction at a time, and I know all it takes is one bad incident to quickly erode a lot of those.”




Walking the Beat with Toledo Police


TOLEDO - From Ferguson to Baltimore, we are used to law enforcement officers dominating the headlines, often with public backlash against them. So what's happening with the Toledo Police Department? We checked in on what's being done to gain your trust and make the department more transparent.

We spent some time with officers on the afternoon shift this week as they got out of their cruiser to walk the streets of East Toledo. It's becoming part of the job for Officers Ryan Rutkowski and Dominic Silva.

"I think it adds a face to us. If you call 911 you don't know what you're getting. If they actually see us and they talk to us they know who we are, we work this area every day," Silva said.

Toledo Police Chief George Kral is mandating his officers walk their beats at least one hour a day whenever possible.

We talked with him about his vision for 2016 as he starts his second year heading the department. He says policing is becoming much more personal.

"It's going to be more about becoming guardians than warriors. So that's what we are trying to do. We are trying to change the mindset to get the officers out of their cars so they can get to know what's going on in their neighborhoods," Kral said.

Officers Silva and Rutkowski say they like this new wave of policing because it means more interaction with the people they serve.

"We want to be more approachable. We don't want people to see us and think automatically oh we are arresting somebody, we are trying to change things so that everybody sees us as positive people," Rutkowski said.

"I think it's a good thing for them to be walking around getting more into the community instead of just in their cars," said East Toledo resident Tanesha Harkins.

"I think it's a good idea. They need to get out and know the public a lot more and what's going on around the neighborhood's more. We hear gunshots all the time around here so it's getting pretty bad," East Toledo resident Tammy Stanton said.

Rutkowski said he loves having the freedom to tackle the issues that are hitting the area the hardest, like prostitution, gun violence and ridding the community of heroin and its trickle down effects.

"I always wanted to help people. I thought I wanted to be a doctor and in a sense this job is that. You go out, you help people every single day," Rutkowski said.

Chief Kral said his mission is more than just reducing crime.

"Just as important for me as lowering those actual crime numbers, I want the people's fear of crime to reduce at the same level," Kral said.

Another big goal of the department is being as transparent as possible. To help do this, Kral is asking the city for $120,000 to buy about 300 body cameras for all operations division officers. Currently only the afternoon shifts wear body cameras. Kral expects to know by the end of March if this request is approved.

"With everything that's been going on in the country recently regarding the opinion of law enforcement in general, if spending $120,000 to put a body camera on every officer helps ease some of Toledoans worries or concerns, it's well worth it in my opinion," Kral said.

"We can turn this on from the beginning of a situation all the way to the end and you get the whole story. So it protects us, it protects the other people. All in all it's a very good thing," Silva said.

Officers are also getting new classes this year on procedural justice and de-escalation techniques.

"You don't have to go in hard all the time. You can take a step back, you can speak with the person, talk down, diffuse the situation. It's just to keep everybody safe," Kral said.

We saw these techniques in action as Officer Silva calmed down a disruptive student on a school bus.

"Showing up and listening and doing the best we can with helping them with whatever problem they have just makes the day a little bit better, then it's all worth it," Silva said.

As the officers walked their beats they were invited inside Ahmad Elorra's store to get warm and share laughs, a relaxing moment in the middle of a stressful job.

Kral highlighted other changes this year including an open page concept on the department's website. You'll soon be able to access real time crime statistics with the click of a button.

He mentioned new, but classified, approaches to reducing gun violence, and starting community outreach programs like Blue Lunch Special and Coffee with Cops. He says these changes are making Toledo a safer place to live.

"The old command and control style of law enforcement is dead and buried. It's dead and buried. Now it's all about inclusion, it's all about communication and it's all about honesty."