March, 2016 - Week 1
This judge says toddlers can defend themselves in immigration court
by Molly Hennessy-Fiske
A ederal immigration judge believes migrant toddlers can defend themselves in court, according to a deposition in a court case brought by advocates seeking government-appointed attorneys for the youths.
"I've taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience," Judge Jack Weil said. "They get it. It's not the most efficient, but it can be done."
The startling statement from Weil, a Virginia-based judge responsible for training his peers, comes at a time when the number of young unaccompanied migrants crossing the southern border has sharply risen.
In immigration court, there is no guarantee of counsel for adults or children. Advocates for immigrants have long argued that a person's ability to make informed decisions — and their chances of being allowed to stay in the U.S. — are enhanced if an attorney represents them.
Last month, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats introduced legislation that would require the government to appoint attorneys for children in immigration court who crossed the border alone or were victims of abuse, torture and other violence.
A total of 20,455 unaccompanied youths were caught at the border from October through the end of January, more than double the number during the same period the previous year, which also saw an increase over the year before that, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Youths started streaming in large numbers across the border illegally during the summer of 2014.
In July of that year, the American Civil Liberties Union and several other groups filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of youths in Seattle federal court seeking court-appointed counsel, including a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy who joined his father in Los Angeles after fleeing gang violence, a common motive for Central American migrants.
The lawsuit alleged that immigration courts, the Justice Department that runs them and other federal agencies violated the youths' due process and right to a "full and fair hearing" under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
On Friday, the ACLU posted a transcript of the deposition in that case in which Weil asserted that toddlers can represent themselves in his court.
"Are you aware of any experts in child psychology or comparable experts who agree with the assessment that 3- and 4-year-olds can be taught immigration law?" Ahilan Arulanantham, a Los Angeles-based deputy legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, asked Weil during the deposition in October.
"I haven't read any studies one way or another," Weil said, according to the transcript.
"What about like a 1-year-old?" Arulanantham said.
"I mean, I think there's a point that there has to be communication," Weil said.
But he later maintained: "I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law. You can do a fair hearing."
Weil went on to note: "It's going to take you a lot of time. But I really think that a great alternative to terminating a case for a child who may be eligible for relief where there's no counsel is to proceed very slowly, very carefully, and I'm going to tap every single resource I can to see if I can get the some help."
"By help, you mean counsel?" Arulanantham said.
"Counsel allows me to be effective. They allow me to be efficient," Weil said, but without an attorney for the child, "I can trudge on."
He noted that "part of the training is working with very difficult respondents, whether it's due to a mental disorder, an uncooperative person, a child. Good attorneys and good judges are used to working with difficult respondents."
The government had offered Weil as an expert witness in the case, and submitted his deposition to the court in January to support its position that attorneys should not be mandatory for youths in immigration court.
A graduate of the University of Maryland and its law school, Weil served first as a law clerk in San Diego immigration court before rising through the ranks as an immigration judge in El Centro, Calif., and finally assistant chief immigration judge responsible for overseeing policies in the country's 58 immigration courts. He also oversees the training of judges, court administrators, interpreters, legal technicians and law clerks.
Weil did not respond to email or calls Friday. He emailed the Washington Post to say his comments don't "present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic" and were being "taken out of context."
Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, said in a statement: "The assistant chief immigration judge was speaking in a personal capacity when he made that statement."
"The Department of Justice recognizes that immigration court proceedings are more effective and efficient when individuals are represented," she said, and noted that the administration has urged Congress to support legal representation for unaccompanied children.
Susan Terrio, an anthropology professor at Georgetown University, interviewed dozens of unaccompanied minors as well as immigration attorneys and judges for her book published last year, "Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody."
All of the attorneys she interviewed received special training in immigration law before representing children in court, Terrio said.
"If a graduate of an American law school needs specialized training in order to provide competent legal representation, it strains credulity for an immigration judge to insist that he can train a young child in complicated legal concepts and procedures," she said, "particularly when that child is from a different culture, does not speak English, does not yet read in her native language, is apprehended and held in custody after an often dangerous and traumatizing journey to the U.S., and has no government-appointed attorney or child advocate."
All 31 of the immigration judges she interviewed supported providing legal representation for youths in immigration court, Terrio said, "because it would be more ethical and efficient."
The ACLU lawyer who deposed Weil said he was "mystified" and "flabbergasted" by the judge's comments — and by the department's backtracking.
Arulanantham said Weil's comments were "obviously not out of context. He says it repeatedly and at great length."
As for the Obama administration, "if that's not their position, then what is it?" Arulanantham said. "Far from it being one random judge, this is what the government in practice is doing in immigration courts around the country every day."
He said he plans to raise the issue again at the next court hearing, set for March 24.
Minn. county tries new approach for some 911 crisis calls
Mental health professionals provide in-person assessments and assistance over the phone
by The Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A call comes into 911: “My roommate hasn't been taking his psychiatric medicine. He's acting strangely.”
Typically, a dispatcher would send a police officer to check with the individual, but such a call will likely be treated differently starting Tuesday in St. Paul and most of suburban Ramsey County.
Some calls about people experiencing mental health problems, which don't involve a crime or immediate safety risk, will instead be referred to Ramsey County's mental health crisis line, which has existed for about 20 years. Mental health professionals provide in-person assessments and assistance over the phone.
“People are calling 911 for a police response because they know they need help, but they don't necessarily know that mental health crisis services are available,” said Alyssa Conducy, who manages the county's adult mental health and chemical services. “This is an opportunity to connect people to the right resource at the right time, so that they can get whatever services they might need.”
The pilot program, which begins Tuesday, has the potential to head off situations that could lead to a police officer shooting an individual or otherwise using force, said St. Paul Police Cmdr. Mary Nash. Since 2004, at least 29 percent of the people fatally shot by police officers in Minnesota have been mentally ill, according to a Pioneer Press analysis.
Sometimes the very presence of a uniformed officer responding to a call can amp up a person who is in a crisis, especially if the individual is delusional or paranoid, Nash said. That could lead to a person in crisis fighting with the police or brandishing a weapon, she said.
Under the pilot program, people might get help from a mental health professional before their crisis becomes more severe and police are called to respond, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness' Minnesota chapter.
“A mental health professional really does know how to de-escalate, how to engage the person and how to support them,” she said.
Two of the three people fatally shot by a St. Paul police officer last year had histories of mental illness, but the calls that drew police to them would not have resulted in a non-law enforcement response under the new system, according to Ramsey County and St. Paul police officials. The pilot program is intended only for calls that meet particular criteria, including ones that do not report a crime, a weapon, and a person having hurt himself or others or threatened to.
In one of the St. Paul officer-involved shootings last year, a 911 caller reported Justin Tolkinen was outside a residence with a rifle; he got into a standoff with police and aimed his weapon at officers, police said. In the other, Philip Quinn's fiancée reported in her initial call that Quinn had recently cut himself; later in the day, he lunged at an officer with a screwdriver. Grand juries found officers justified in their use of force in both cases.
Abderholden called the 911 pilot program “a good starting place,” but said more needs to be done to train officers responding to calls about people in crisis. In St. Paul, about one-third of front-line patrol officers have been certified in Crisis Intervention Training. The department has said its goal is to train all patrol officers.
Last year, St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith asked Nash, who conducts policy work and research for him, to examine the department's response to calls about people having a mental health crisis. The department had noticed an anecdotal increase in such calls (hard numbers aren't available because the reports could be categorized in different ways, a police spokesman said).
“If there is a call about someone not taking their medicine, should officers really be sent to tell somebody they need to take their medicine?,” said Nash, a St. Paul police crisis negotiator for 20 years who leads the department's team of negotiators. “Do we go to something like that and does it go from bad to worse? We were asking, ‘How do we utilize our community partners to have a better response?' ”
The idea for the pilot program bubbled up during a meeting last fall with St. Paul police, Ramsey County staff and others. The gathering came a little over a month after Quinn was killed, but the internal discussions about crisis calls had already been happening, Nash said. Still, the Quinn case underscored the importance of agencies working together to find better ways to get people the help they need, hopefully before they are in serious crisis, Nash said.
The ECC dispatched 573,600 calls last year, and about 4,400 were coded as involving someone “emotionally disturbed,” according to Ramsey County, an average of 12 a day. The county anticipates the ECC will transfer two or three calls a day to its crisis line under the pilot program.
Conducy said she believes the crisis line can handle the increased volume with its current staff. If they get more calls than expected, “we'll have discussions about how we need to adapt our systems to make it work,” Conducy said.
The crisis line fielded 19,232 phone calls last year and conducted 1,573 in-person assessments. It had a 67 percent increase in calls compared with a decade ago.
The pilot program will be used in the areas covered by the ECC: St. Paul and all of Ramsey County (except White Bear Lake, which has its own 911 center). Calls to 911 or a police nonemergency number that meet the criteria will be sent to the crisis line between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. The crisis line is answered 24-7, but the small number of overnight calls is contracted out to Dakota County, Conducy said.
Though NAMI Minnesota pushed in 2009 to make the law clear that 911 operators can make referrals to mental health crisis teams, Abderholden said she has not heard of other 911 centers in the Twin Cities doing so.
At the Minneapolis 911 center, most of the mental health calls are about people in crisis who need an immediate law-enforcement response, said Christine McPherson, Minneapolis Emergency Communications assistant director. Hennepin County has a community psychiatric outreach program that works with the city and county 911 services as needed, and individuals often call them directly, McPherson said.
PILOT PROGRAM WILL BE EXAMINED
In Ramsey County, 911 calltakers have been trained to assess which calls could be referred to the crisis line, said Nancie Pass, the ECC's deputy director. Operators will ask callers if they feel comfortable being transferred versus having law enforcement respond. If they do, the 911 operator will stay on the line to be sure they've connected with the crisis line before getting off the call, Pass said.
Mental health staff conducts a crisis assessment over the phone and then determines next steps, such as talking an individual through a crisis or providing them with referrals, Conducy said. If the crisis line staff decides an individual is at immediate risk to harm himself or others, they will contact the ECC again to ask for a police response. The county's mobile crisis team already asks officers to accompany them about two-thirds of the time, Conducy said.
Ramsey County will examine how the pilot program goes and make changes as needed, Conducy and Pass said.
Abderholden said she hopes the criteria about what calls to transfer to the crisis line will not be set in stone.
“If someone is suicidal, why wouldn't you want to send the crisis team out?” she asked.
But Conducy said there will still be times, including when someone is threatening suicide, that an immediate law enforcement response is needed.
“If there's a health or safety risk to a person or to other community members, that's not the time to wait for us to respond, and the police still have an important role in that process,” she said.
Senate votes to toughen penalty for attacking K-9s
Currently, if the wounded animal returns to service, the attacker faces a misdemeanor
by The Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate has voted to toughen the penalty for attacking and wounding police dogs.
Under the bill clearing the Senate on Friday, anyone attacking a police service animal with a gun or knife would be guilty of a felony, regardless of whether the animal returns to duty.
Offenders would face one to five years in prison. Currently, if the wounded animal returns to service, the attacker faces a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
The same felony offense applies if someone kills a police service animal.
The bill also would require people convicted of attempted murder to serve more prison time before parole eligibility. Domestic violence victims convicted of attempted murder would be exempted from serving more prison time before parole eligibility.
The bill goes to the House.
From the FBI
FBI Tip Line
Web Portal, Created in 2001, Receives ‘Actionable' Tips Daily
In the pre-dawn hours of October 22, 2014, a New Hampshire man was browsing a popular Internet message board when he came across what appeared to be an anonymous threat: “I'm going to shoot up University of Louisville's Miller hall [sic] tomorrow at 10 a.m.”
The man went to the FBI website and submitted a tip at 4:23 a.m. Eastern Time. “Some idiot is making threats,” he wrote on tips.fbi.gov, and included a link to the suspicious post. Within a minute, an FBI agent in the unit that administers the FBI's global tip line picked up the tip, setting in motion a process that happens on average 1,300 times a day. Several analysts assessed the tip and deemed it credible. The unit's supervisory special agent immediately called the university's campus police as well as local police. They were on the scene by 8 o'clock that morning and quickly arrested an 18-year-old student suspected of posting the threat.
The case illustrates how a tip—no matter how cryptic, innocuous, or far-fetched the information may seem—can help prevent violent acts. Tips to the FBI have led to captures of Top Ten fugitives and short-circuited scores of criminal and terrorist plots. Established in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the tip line receives about 100 “actionable” tips every day related to possible criminal, cyber, terrorism, and espionage acts. Since its inception, the public has submitted more than four million tips via the Internet at tips.fbi.gov. In addition, phone calls to FBI field offices result in thousands of pieces of reporting a day.
“We will check them all,” said William Dayhoff, head of the tips unit, which is staffed around the clock by about two-dozen Bureau employees. In most cases, after tips are assessed they are routed to FBI field offices and local law enforcement agencies for follow-up.
Intensified efforts by foreign extremist groups to radicalize individuals in the U.S.—and recent arrests of individuals apparently heeding their call—raise the necessity for the public to send tips or contact their local field office when something looks awry.
“We don't want to wait for an incident,” said Jane Rhodes-Wolfe, of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. “The whole push is for us to identify the next shooter or the next bomber who goes from troubled thoughts to evil deeds.”
Dayhoff said the public shouldn't worry about whether a tip contains good or bad information. The most helpful tips, however, contain context—the more information, the better. Sometimes it's like a mosaic, with different pieces coming from different places. In the case of the Louisville school threat, the tip was submitted by an individual nearly 1,000 miles away. In the 48 hours after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, more than 50,000 tips were submitted to the FBI, half of those through tips.fbi.gov. “It's our job to put the pieces together,” Dayhoff said.
Some of the most valuable tips come from people closest to subjects—people who can see changes in mood and habits and can make a common-sense assessment that things aren't right.
Rhodes-Wolfe said she understands that it can be a very hard decision for someone to contact the FBI. “We don't take that lightly,” she said. “But this is a way you can help family members or friends, and potentially save lives.”
Council approves consulting firm to examine community policing
by Philip Jankowski
The Austin City Council on Thursday approved spending $200,000 to help determine the best way for Austin police to get better at community policing.
Even over concerns of the effectiveness of hiring a Mountain View, Calif., consulting firm to figure out the needs of Austin, the council approved hiring Matrix Consulting Group 10-1. Council Member Don Zimmerman, a consistent skeptic of community policing, was the lone dissenter.
The Cliffs Notes version of the concept of community policing is that police can improve public safety if officers are allowed more free time to interact with the people they serve in more informal, positive situations, as opposed to running from call to call. The philosophy has come in vogue in recent years just as departments abandon an old standard of maintaining a ratio of two cops per every thousand residents, which is now considered low by many.
Austin Police Department's broad goal is to increase “community engagement time” to somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of a patrol officer's time. Last year, it was roughly 17 percent, police said.
“I'm going to be real honest with you; I see this as a way to ask for more police staff,” Council Member Ora Houston said.
During negotiations in last year's budget cycle, several council members scoffed at the idea of community policing. Some council members successfully worked to limit new staff hires in part because they said police did not provide enough data or details on how to develop community policing and measure its success.
Thursday's approval of the consulting contract was rushed to allow the company time to prepare its report before budget negotiations start up again in the coming months. The $200,000 line item had already been approved in the current budget.
Matrix's work will include conducting meetings with community members and other stakeholders to develop best practices as well as ways to measure the success of community policing.
“I'm pretty confident you'll be happy with the result,” police Chief Art Acevedo told the council.
Georgetown Introduces New Community Policing Tool
Georgetown police officers and animal control officers are working with the community through an initiative to improve the way officers and animals interact when responding to calls. Georgetown Police and Georgetown Animal Services recently introduced a new program called Please P.A.W.S – Pets Are Worth Saving, designed to encourage safe interactions between first responders and resident pets.
Through the program, residents place a 3'x3'sticker with the P.A.W.S. symbol on it in a window or near the front gate or door of their home to alert emergency officials that a dog or cat live on the premises.
The sticker features a red stop sign that gives a bright visual warning to first responders as they approach a residence and alerts them to the presence of an animal at the home, and it provides a quick alert to police officers when they respond to a home for an alarm or a 911 call and need to make entry into the home to search it or provide assistance to the resident. Fire and EMS responders also benefit from this visual warning when they are called to help an injured home owner or are evacuating a home because of a fire or disaster response.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one out of four people in the United States own at least one dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that police and other first responders encounter an animal on one out of every three calls, whether stray animals or owned pets.
The program is a new proactive community policing program initiated by Captain Evelyn McLean and Animal Control Officer Kelly Thyssen. “We believe that a first responder's heightened awareness of pets, especially canines, in a home will hopefully decrease negative and potentially dangerous encounters,” Officer Thyssen said.
The Please P.A.W.S. stickers are available for no charge at the Georgetown Public Safety Operation and Training Center (PSOTC), the Georgetown Animal Shelter, and directly from Animal Control Officers in the field.
The City of Georgetown Police Department is located at Public Safety Operations and Training Center at 3500 DB Wood Road, which is next to Fire Station 5. Contact the department at 512-930-3510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter is located at 110 W.L. Walden Drive near the McMaster Athletic Fields. Contact the shelter at (512) 930-3592 or by email at email@example.com. The City of Georgetown Animal Shelter website is pets.georgetown.org.
CHPD Accepting Applications for Community Police Academy
by Chris Grunert
The Chapel Hill Police Department will host its Community Police Academy beginning Tuesday April 5 and now is your chance to apply.
The Community Police Academy is a chance to get an “inside look” at the workings of the police department said Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore.
“It's a good opportunity to spend a few hours on two different days learning about the police department, meeting a lot of our police officers, finding out how we train, who we are, why we do the things we do,” said Mecimore.
Participants will have the chance to do exercises that simulate real police scenarios, learn about arrest procedures and investigative policing over a two day period.
“On the Saturday you'll get to meet out K-9 units and then learn a lot of stuff about fair and impartial policing,” said Mecimore.
Mecimore said the academy is a great opportunity to have a positive interaction with the police.
“I think it's a good opportunity for people to learn about us and not have it be like that five minute interaction you might have when you get stopped for a speeding ticket or something,” said Mecimore.
Mecimore said they usually have about 30 participants and afterwards those participants often form a closer bond with the police department.
“We've had a lot of fun, I think most of them have enjoyed it. I've stayed in contact with quite a few, some of them regularly call to talk about things or to find out what's going on around the community,” said Mecimore, “So it has been good for us and I hope it's been good for the people that went through it.”
Anyone over to age of 16 is invited to participate. The application is open until Monday March 14.
K-9 killer indicted for shootout with Ohio police
He could get more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges
by The Associated Press
CANTON, Ohio — A man accused of shooting and fatally wounding an Ohio police dog after robbing a grocery store has been indicted by a grand jury.
Twenty-two-year-old Kelontre Barefield is charged with six counts, including aggravated robbery, assaulting a police dog and shooting at police. No attorney is listed for him in the Stark County court record.
Prosecutor John Ferrero tells The Repository that Barefield could get more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Canton police say the 3-year-old German shepherd named Jethro was shot three times during the January confrontation in Canton and died the next day.
Jethro's police handler returned fire and shot Barefield in the leg. He was treated at a hospital and has been jailed on $5 million bond.
Feds to review Minn. response to shooting protests
Protesters staged an 18-day occupation outside the police station
by The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — A spokesman for the Minneapolis mayor says the U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to review how the city responded to demonstrations after a black man was fatally shot by police last year.
The Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services won't release details until Thursday. But Mayor Betsy Hodges' spokesman David Prestwood told The Associated Press on Wednesday the COPS Office will assess how the city responded to protesters' occupation of a north Minneapolis police station.
Prestwood says the review will not be limited to the Minneapolis Police Department.
Hodges and Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau asked for the independent review last month.
Protesters staged an 18-day occupation outside the police station after 24-year-old Jamar Clark was fatally shot Nov. 15 during what police said was a struggle.
Maryland high court to hear appeals in Freddie Gray death
by Donna Owens
Maryland's highest court is set to hear oral arguments on Thursday on whether prosecutors can force a Baltimore City police officer to testify against fellow officers also charged in the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who had been in police custody.
Six officers face a variety of charges related to the death of Gray, 25, who was arrested on April 12 in West Baltimore. He suffered a fatal neck injury while being transported in a police van and died one week later, setting off protests and later rioting on the day of his funeral.
Gray's death was one in a series of controversial killings of black men by police officers that sparked a wave of protests in cities including Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland and New York and gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Seven judges on the state's Court of Appeals will consider whether officer William Porter, whose criminal trial ended with a hung jury in December, can be compelled to testify against his colleagues even as he faces a scheduled retrial in June.
Both the prosecution and the defense have lodged appeals, after Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who is overseeing all six cases, handed each side a victory on the issue.
Williams previously ruled that Porter, 26, must testify against both Officer Caesar Goodson, who was driving the van and faces second-degree murder charges, and Sergeant Alicia White, one of his superiors.
But the judge also denied the state's motion to force Porter to testify against the other three officers - Lieutenant Brian Rice and Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero - saying prosecutors were trying to stall those trials.
Porter was granted immunity to testify against Goodson and White but has nevertheless asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The trials have all been put on hold pending a decision from the court and it is unclear when it will come.
The court hearing comes days after a Baltimore citizen's advocacy group released a report culled from six months' of interviews with residents in the area where Gray lived. It noted a need for increased reforms between police and the communities they serve, citing an atmosphere of mistrust and abuse allegations.
Hong Kong officers look to Austin for community policing models
by Katie Urbaszewski
When Hong Kong police leaders wanted ways to improve ties with the community, they looked for examples 8,200 miles east — in Austin.
Hong Kong police Superintendent Connie Yau said she was impressed by the number of community outreach programs the Austin Police Department has, including its regular public forums, in which neighborhood residents and patrol representatives can discuss crime trends and solutions; Operation Blue Santa, which brings officers and community volunteers together to help families in need; and its decision to assign an officer to every policing district as a community liaison.
Last week, Yau and two senior investigators who run the Hong Kong police department's youth and senior outreach programs visited Austin to observe officers at work.
“Community relations is important to every police force in the world,” Yau said. “We need support. In Hong Kong, we have a huge population — 7.5 million people — so we have to work with the community.”
Over three days, the Hong Kong officers met with their Austin counterparts, including Austin officers in the Police Activities League, which organizes sporting events for kids; Operation Blue Santa; and Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, which meets monthly to discuss law enforcement issues of interest to Austin's older residents.
Senior officer Joshua Visi, who is an Austin police district representative for Southwest Austin, talked to the Hong Kong officers Friday about some of the work he does, such as helping residents build neighborhood watch groups, walking children to school in areas with high crime, hosting ice cream socials for residents and running soccer tournaments for kids.
What makes those outreach efforts possible, Visi said, is that district representatives like him don't have to respond to calls or investigate cases all day.
“I'll be honest with you: Most patrol officers at that rank, they don't get that level of freedom,” Visi told them. “It's a tremendous amount of freedom that I have. And I'm grateful for that, because it gives me the opportunity to do so many things I wouldn't be able to do at this rank.”
The Hong Kong agency has programs similar to the Austin Police Department's, but they're not as comprehensive, Yau said. Hong Kong's Junior Police Corps has existed since the 1970s, but other programs are newer.
“We've started our SPC (senior police corps) two years ago,” Yau said. “So we think it's time to go out to really see the program, where it is done somewhere else in the world. That is why we are here.”
Man released from jail hours before killing Texas officer
Officer David Hofer, 29, was struck before other officers shot and killed the gunman
by The Associated Press
EULESS, Texas — The family of the man who they say fatally shot a Texas police officer described the 22-year-old as a drug addict who was released from jail the same day the shooting occurred.
Jorge Antonio Gonzalez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday that his son, Jorge Brian Gonzalez, was high on methamphetamine when he was jailed Monday for stealing money.
He said his son was released Tuesday and then hours later engaged in a firefight with officers at a park in the Dallas suburb of Euless. Officer David Hofer, 29, was struck before other officers shot and killed the gunman. Hofer died Tuesday during surgery.
Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the shooter. A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
The elder Gonzalez told the newspaper that Hofer had been called to the family's apartment before and knew his son. He was remorseful over the actions of his son but also questioned why he was released from jail if still under the influence of meth.
"It's their fault," Gonzalez said. "Why would they let him out when he was on that stuff?"
Tarrant County court records show the younger Gonzalez had a lengthy criminal record that included charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and threatening family members.
Many people remembered Hofer on Wednesday by leaving flowers, stuffed animals and other items in front of the Euless police station, with some saying a quiet prayer before leaving.
Hofer had moved from New York City to the Dallas area in 2014 because he wanted to be somewhere safer, his mother has said.
A 2008 graduate of New York University, Hofer served in the New York Police Department for five years before coming to Euless, Police Chief Mike Brown said.
The New York Post reported Hofer, the son of European immigrants, formerly worked in the 9th Precinct on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
"He was wonderful child, a wonderful police officer," his mother, Sofija Hofer, told the newspaper. "He was working this very difficult precinct, so he had a lot of traumatic experiences ... He decided to go to a safer place."
Brown said Hofer was one of the officers who responded to a report of shots fired around 3 p.m. Tuesday near J.A. Carr Park, which is in a residential area near an elementary school.
"Officers encountered a suspect with an unknown weapon," Brown said. "The suspect immediately fired upon officers, striking one of them. Officers returned fire, striking the suspect."
Two nearby schools were placed on lockdown until the situation was resolved.
Hofer's fiancée was out of town on Tuesday and needed to be called home and given the news, the Post reported.
Sofija Hofer said her son wanted to write a book about his experience with the NYPD.
"I thought he might be a scientist, like his father, but he always wanted to be a policeman, ever since he was a little boy," she said.
David Hofer is the second officer to die in the line of duty in Euless, a suburb of more than 53,000 residents west of Dallas and east of Fort Worth. The other officer was Michael Williamson, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1982, according to the city website.
Summonses, not arrests, for minor offenses in Manhattan
The change applies to low-level, nonviolent offenses
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Authorities in New York City say minor offenses like urinating in public will now result in summonses, not arrests, in Manhattan.
The policy shift was announced Tuesday by the New York Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney's office in an effort to reduce a backlog of cases. It's to take effect next Monday.
The change applies to low-level, nonviolent offenses including riding between subway cars, drinking alcohol in public and littering.
There will be no arrests for minor offenses unless there is a demonstrated public safety reason.
Offenders with open warrants will still be taken into custody but will only have to deal with a summons, not a new criminal case.
Authorities estimate that the changes will result in 10,000 fewer cases going through Manhattan Criminal Court each year.
Henderson police launch app for public safety
by Brenda Yahm
HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) -- The Henderson Police Department said it launched a new app for residents to stay informed on public safety issues.
According to Michelle French, of Henderson police, through the use of a smart phone or tablet, residents can access information about animal control, the jail, view a map of local sex offenders, research available positions within the police department and more.
"With our new mobile app and Nextdoor, we have the ability to connect with, inform and engage our residents on a daily basis," Chief Moers, of Henderson police said.
The department partnered with Nextdoor, a free private social network for neighborhoods to create the mobile application. Officers can post information to the entire area or certain neighborhoods, French said.
The app is available for download from the Apple app store and Google Play. User cans sign up for Nextdoor online.
Uber public safety tips
by Noelle Gardner
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A New Haven Uber driver tells News 8 riders should never get into an Uber ride they didn't order. The only way to request an Uber is through the Uber app.
“Anyone can say I'm an Uber driver now,” said Uber driver, James Caraglior.
In a month, he picks up 400 rides. Caraglior says with so many college students in the area, New Haven is a hot spot for Ubers and those claiming to be Uber drivers.
“You can just sit on the side of the road and literally people will come up to you and ask you are you an Uber?” said Caraglior.
He says college students are too trusting.
“You got New Haven, all the bars are pouring out at quarter to 2 on a Friday night. There are so many kids, they are coming out intoxicated. They are in groups they are not paying attention. They jump right in the car,” said Caraglior.
There is the recent arrest of an Iraqi refugee who police say posed as an Uber driver in New Haven. Police say Ahmad Bahjat sexually assault a woman after he picked her up outside of a bar in an area designated for Uber and taxi drivers. Uber tells News 8 street hails are not allowed on the Uber platform. The only way to request an Uber is through the Uber app. State police have some safety tips.
“Before you get into a taxi, before you get into an Uber, before you get into a car that they say they are going to take you to a specific location, send a text, make a phone call. Make sure other people know who you are with or if you are by yourself where you are going, the license plate of the car that you're in. Give them some information,” said Trooper Kelly Grant with the Connecticut State Police.
Uber says make sure you check that the license and car model displayed in the app match the vehicle you are getting into.
“Pay attention to your app. Look at who's coming. Check the car. Check the license plate, look at the face. Just don't expect to see cars. They are not Taxis. They are not lined up at the train station with a sign, we don't have signs,” said Caraglior.
Enclaves a menace to public safety
by Mark Krikorian
Sanctuary cities are a menace to public safety. A recent move in the House of Representatives to cut their funding is long overdue.
There are more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions nationwide, including cities like New York, counties like Chicago's Cook County, and even whole states like California. These jurisdictions refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities and release deportable criminals back onto the streets.
In 2014, more than 9,000 criminals who entered the country illegally and whom the Department of Homeland Security wanted to deport were released instead because of local sanctuary policies, according to the department's records.
More than 2,000 of them went on to commit new crimes, including murder, sexual assault on young children, rape, burglary, assault, dangerous drug offenses and drunken driving. Many are still at large.
One of the many American victims of sanctuary policies was Kathryn Steinle, killed last year by a felon whom San Francisco refused to turn over to immigration authorities for return to his home country.
Another was high school football star Jamiel Shaw Jr., murdered in 2008 by a gang member in the country illegally and protected by Los Angeles' notorious Special Order 40, one of the nation's first sanctuary measures.
Congress prohibited local sanctuary policies in 1996 as an intrusion on the federal role in immigration enforcement, but the law had no teeth.
The best way to get compliance is to cut off federal funding to jurisdictions that continue to defy federal law. Half-hearted attempts have been made in the past to do this in budget bills but none have been successful.
That may change. Rep. John Culberson (R., Texas), chairman of the House subcommittee in charge of funding for the Department of Justice, recently wrote the attorney general demanding, among other things, that three grant programs that give more than $1 billion to state and local governments be made off-limits to sanctuary jurisdictions.
As he noted in his letter, "Communities that do not work with federal law enforcement officials, in violation of federal law, should not expect to receive federal grant funding from the Department of Justice."
In addition, the congressman made clear that he and his Senate counterpart, Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), would use their authority over Justice Department spending to pressure the administration. This matters because federal agencies often need to "reprogram" funds - in other words, use them for a different purpose than specified in the original budget bill.
This can only be done with the prior approval of the relevant House and Senate committees. Culberson has said no reprogramming requests for Justice Department headquarters funds would be approved until sanctuary funding is cut off.
Culberson successfully used this tool last year to get the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to drop a proposed ban on a certain kind of ammunition sought by gun-control advocates.
The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so it's possible that the Obama administration will somehow make it until then without having to go to Culberson for "reprogramming" approval. But if he keeps his word and includes a sanctuary cities ban in next year's budget bill, it could set up a conflict if Senate Democrats choose to filibuster it or the president vetoes it.
That could actually be a useful fight to have, with one side working to deport criminals in the country illegally and the other working to protect them.
Laura Wilkerson, whose son Joshua was brutally murdered by a criminal in the country illegally, told a Senate hearing last fall: "I don't want the sympathy. I want you to do something."
She's right. Doing something about the scandal of sanctuary cities is long overdue.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies
Need a smoke alarm? Farmington Public Safety can help
by Joni Hubred-Golden
Thanks to a donation from Alexander's True Value Hardware in Farmington and the Farmington Police Officer's Association of Michigan, the Farmington Public Safety Department is offering smoke alarms to Farmington residents who need one.
The smoke alarms are available, on a first-come, first-served basis, at the department, which is located inside City Hall, 23600 Liberty Street.
According to Fire Marshal Reg Madeline, roughly three out of five fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or the alarms are not working. Working smoke alarms provide an early warning to occupants so they can get out of the home quickly. Smoke alarms should be installed inside of every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home.
For additional information about fire safety, please contact Fire Marshal Reg Madeline at 248-474-5500, ext. 2241
Texas officer killed in gun battle
The suspect was also hit multiple times and was killed
by The Associated Press
EULESS, Texas — North Texas police department has identified the officer who was fatally wounded in a shootout with a suspect.
Euless Police Chief Mike Brown identified the officer as 29-year-old David Hofer, who died during surgery after the Tuesday afternoon shooting.
Brown said Hofer served in the New York Police Department for five years before coming to Euless in 2014. He was a 2008 graduate of New York University.
Brown said Hofer was one of the officers who responded to a report of shots fired near J.A. Carr Park, which is in a residential area near an elementary school. He says the suspect opened fire, fatally wounding Hofer, before his partner returned fire and killed the suspect.
The suspect's identity hasn't been released.
FBI, Apple clash before Congress as encryption fight simmers
Law enforcement and the world's second-largest cellphone maker agreed on one point: It's now up to Congress
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government calls it a "vicious guard dog" that hurts national security. Apple says it's critical to protecting consumer privacy against increasingly sophisticated hackers.
As the debate over built-in iPhone encryption has deadlocked in the courts, law enforcement and the world's second-largest cellphone maker agreed on one point Tuesday: It's now up to Congress to set boundaries in a long-simmering fight over who can legally access your digital life.
"There's already a door on that iPhone. We're asking Apple to take the vicious guard dog away and let us pick the lock," FBI Director James Comey told a House judiciary panel on encryption Tuesday.
"The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products," Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell countered later that afternoon.
Tuesday's hearing shifted attention from the courts — where judges in the last month have issued significant but conflicting opinions — to Congress, where both sides say the policy debate belongs.
The hearing also provided an extraordinary public forum for the Obama administration and Apple Inc. to stake out competing positions that could have sweeping ramifications. Apple's recent opposition to bypassing security features for the government has pushed that dispute from tech circles into the mainstream.
The strong positions articulated Tuesday make clear the deep divide between Silicon Valley and the government, even as the Obama administration advocates open dialogue and resolution.
"Is it the right thing to make our society overall less safe in order to solve crime? That's the issue we're wrestling with here?" Sewell asked.
On Monday, a federal judge in Brooklyn said the Obama administration couldn't force Apple to help it gain access to the phone in a drug case. U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein said Justice Department attorneys were relying on the centuries-old All Writs Act to "to produce impermissibly absurd results."
But two weeks ago, a different magistrate judge in California, Sheri Pym, directed the company to help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people.
With those two conflicting rulings in mind, Congress needs to get involved to address the broader collision between private safety and public safety, according to both the FBI and Apple.
Regarding the San Bernardino case, Comey said, "Other courts, other prosecutors, other lawyers, other companies will look to that for guidance."
That case involves an iPhone 5C owned by San Bernardino County and used by Syed Farook, who was a health inspector there. He and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, later died in a gun battle with police.
Comey acknowledged Tuesday there "was a mistake made" shortly after the San Bernardino attack, when the FBI asked the county — which owned the phone — to reset the password for Farook's iCloud account.
That data, stored on Apple servers, kept backups of his phone. Had the password not been reset, the phone may have made a fresh backup available to investigators for further examination. Still, Comey said, "The experts tell me there's no way we would have gotten everything off the phone from a backup."
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, a critic of the administration's domestic surveillance practices, asked Comey whether the FBI had first asked Apple for the underlying iPhone software — called source code by developers — before trying to force the company to create its own digital workaround.
Issa suggested the FBI hasn't exhausted its own efforts before the government went to court. Comey said the government has tried hard to break into iPhones, like the one in California, but he seemed unaware if those methods were successful.
The Obama administration last year decided against a legislative fix. Now, "Congress must decide this issue," said Sewell, while also criticizing the U.S. government for simultaneous supporting encryption used by activists and journalists in countries with fewer free-speech rights.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said technology is moving toward newer generations of encryption and security, and "we're going to have to figure out a different way to help law enforcement."
"But I don't think we're going to say we're not going to ignore the vulnerabilities that exist," said Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia. "And not change the fact that law enforcement is going to have to change the way it investigates and gathers evidence."
Alex Abdo, a staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's speech, privacy and technology project, said the debate is "ultimately about whether we trust our devices."
"If the government prevails, then there is nothing to stop it from turning every major tech company into a tool of government surveillance," Abdo said. "Companies will be required to spy on, rather than secure, their customers."
Minn. police body cameras would record most encounters
Body camera advocates say the technology will help bring clarity to controversial encounters
by The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Police Department has released a draft of a new body camera policy that calls for recording most interactions with civilians.
However, the Star Tribune reports that the tentative guidelines unveiled Tuesday don't address when such videos should be released publicly.
City officials say those recommendations would come later, following input from state lawmakers.
Body camera advocates say the technology will help bring clarity to controversial encounters, such as police shootings. Opponents, meanwhile, say the cameras represent an invasion of privacy.
The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a plan last month that would put body cameras on all officers this year, starting in May.
Raleigh officer-involved shooting spurs state investigation
by Catherine E. Shoichet and Susannah Cullinane
State authorities are investigating a fatal police-involved shooting in Raleigh, North Carolina, the city's police chief said.
Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said the man killed was wanted on a felony drug charge.
Police haven't identified the man. But Rolanda Byrd told CNN affiliate WRAL that the man was her son, 24-year-old Akiel Denkins.
She said police had no reason to shoot him.
"Everybody out here said he was running, didn't have a gun, (was) trying to jump a fence, and that officer shot my son seven times. For what? For nothing," Byrd told WRAL. "My son didn't have no gun on him. My son wasn't threatening that officer."
WRAL showed Byrd shouting at a police line: "What did he do to your child? What did he do to your mama?"
Police officer named
Police have not said why the officer opened fire or detailed how many times the man was shot. State authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting, and the department's internal affairs unit is also investigating, Deck-Brown said.
The police chief said such investigations are customary, adding that she will release a report to city officials with initial findings within five working days.
The officer was pursuing the man on foot Monday afternoon and trying to detain him, the police chief said.
"During the course of the pursuit, the suspect was shot and killed by the officer," she said. "Initially, it is known that a firearm was located in close proximity to the deceased suspect. That weapon, along with other elements available at the scene, will be processed."
In a statement Monday night, police identified the officer involved as Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy. The 29-year-old officer, who has worked for the department since 2009, has been placed on administrative duty pending the completion of the state's investigation, police said.
Video from WRAL showed a crowd gathering at the scene of the shooting for a vigil Monday night.
Casanova Womack, who lives in the neighborhood, told the affiliate that tensions were high in the neighborhood.
"People are just frustrated, angry, upset and disappointed," he said.
Denkins was well known in the community, WRAL reported.
'Time for change'
The Rev. Chris Jones, the pastor at a church several blocks from the shooting scene, also told WRAL that Jenkins could have been his son.
"I treated him like my son. I've fed him at my church before," Jones said. "Now, he's lying back there, dead."
At the vigil Monday night, Jones asked police why they had to kill Denkins, WRAL reported.
"If he ran from you today, you could have arrested him tomorrow. Why did you have to kill him today?"
Community leader Diana Powell said Denkins' death was a defining moment.
"They want to lock you up as a modern day slave," she said.
"It is time for change. It is time for all of us to get together and say no to the injustice."
Police body cameras
The Raleigh City Council had been due to discuss body cameras for officers Monday, but removed the item from the agenda after the shooting, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina said.
"On a day when the Raleigh City Council was scheduled to discuss officer worn body cameras, this shooting points to the urgent need for North Carolina's second-largest city's police department to adopt this crucial technology and an accompanying policy that guarantees it will be used to promote officer accountability and transparency," acting Executive Director Sarah Preston said in a statement.
She said ACLU expressed its deepest condolences to Denkins' family and was trying to learn more details about what happened.
"What we do know is that far too many people of color are victims of wrongful targeting and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers across the country, and North Carolina is not immune to that reality."
Preston urged the State Bureau of Investigation and Raleigh Police Department to conduct a "thorough and transparent investigation."
‘They stood over him and watched him die': Outrage in Alabama after white cop kills unarmed black man
by Michael E. Miller
Colvin Hinson heard his neighbor die.
It was around 3 a.m. Thursday when Hinson was awoken by a commotion outside his Montgomery, Ala., home. Someone was frantically pounding on his window and shouting his name.
As Hinson searched for his phone to dial 911, a flurry of gunshots suddenly split the night in two.
When he looked outside, however, Hinson realized it was pointless to call the police.
An officer was already there, with a gun in his hand.
“By the time I got to the door, the officer was standing there, my neighbor lying dead,” Hinson told the Montgomery Advertiser.
Details are still vague, with police providing few details, but the little that is known about the fatal Feb. 25 shooting already has stirred outrage.
The officer is white. His victim, a 58-year-old grocer named Gregory Gunn, was black and unarmed. Police say he was acting suspiciously, carrying a retractable painter's stick and that the shooting followed some sort of struggle.
Now Gunn's family is claiming he was killed because of the color of his skin.
“I know he was racially profiled,” Franklin Gunn, Gregory's younger brother, told The Washington Post early Tuesday morning. “He was black. That was the only thing suspicious about him.
“They thought he was a low-life nothing, walking the street,” he said. “They didn't see a man. They didn't see a black man. They saw somebody who needed to die and they executed him. Now they are trying to cover it up.”
Authorities say that isn't true. Local police say they have turned the case over to state investigators, and the mayor has promised a thorough and impartial investigation.
“We will get to the facts. It will be open. It will be transparent, and wherever the facts lead us, that will then tell us what our next steps will be,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange on Friday, according to WSFA. “I understand that there is frustration right now. The [state investigators] will not do a quick investigation, they will do a thorough investigation.”
But in Montgomery, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, those promises have done little to soothe the anger of Gunn's family, friends and neighbors — some of whom are now calling for white police to stay out of their historically black neighborhood.
“I want to see all white officers out of the black community,” Chris Miles, a close friend of the Gunn family, told the Advertiser. “I don't want them patrolling here anymore, because we're either ‘suspicious,' or if something happens, they say they were in fear of their life. Those ‘talking points' get them not indicted. We can't live under those conditions anymore.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has organized protests. Meanwhile, Franklin Gunn has gone so far as waging a literal staring contest with the mayor over Gregory's death.
Sixty years after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery bus, the city is again a cauldron of racial tension.
“We cannot sit idly by and let our young men be shot down,” Alvin Holmes, a state representative, told the Advertiser on Monday. “We don't want to start marches or massive demonstrations in Montgomery again, but we will unless something is done about this case.”
Little is known about the shooting, other than the shock, sadness and anger it has left behind.
Police have identified the officer as A.C. Smith, a white male with less than four years on the force.
According to Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley, who is black, the officer thought Gunn looked “suspicious” when he spotted him walking along McElvy Street in Mobile Heights at around 3:20 a.m.Thursday morning.
As Gunn neared the house he shared with his 87-year-old mother, the officer exited his patrol car and approached Gunn. A struggle ensued and the officer fired several shots, fatally wounding Gunn, Finley said, according to the Associated Press.
Neither Finley nor Mayor Strange has said what, exactly, was suspicious about Gunn, although Strange said there has been rash of burglaries in the area.
In an interview shortly after the shooting, however, Finley told the Advertiser that Gunn was killed while holding what appeared to be a weapon and was later identified as a retractable painter's stick.
Franklin Gunn says that story is bogus.
“He was not carrying a painter's stick,” he told The Post. “I do know the painter's stick is a lie and they know it's a lie.”
Gunn tells a different tale. He said his older brother was a “good man” who was the glue holding their family together. He said that as far as he knew, Gregory's only past offenses were “two or three traffic violations.”
According to the Advertiser, Gregory Gunn did have a criminal record, but nothing foreshadowing Thursday's fatal shooting.
“Gunn was arrested a dozen years ago for stealing a refrigerator and hand trucks,” the newspaper reported. “He had charges for bad checks the year before that. And he had outstanding traffic tickets. But there was no violence, no altercations with police, no signs of a dangerous man.”
Kenneth Gunn, another brother, pointed out that their father had been one of Montgomery's first black police officers.
Gregory was “scared to death of police,” Kenneth told the Advertiser. “He might run from them, but he wouldn't attack one. No way.”
Franklin says his brother was on his way home from a late-night card game after a shift at the grocery when he was attacked by an officer for no other reason than being black.
“When they use the word ‘suspect,' it's a code word for ‘black,'” he told The Post.
“He was hollering ‘Help' and he was beating [on the neighbor's door] like it was the last breath of his life,” said Franklin, who was at his Virginia home when the incident occurred but said he spent the last four days in his hometown talking to witnesses.
He claims the city is covering up the truth about the police-involved shooting. He says that the painter's stick was on the neighbor's porch, there were several officers involved and that his brother was shot as many as five times, including two rounds in the back.
Most controversially, Franklin Gunn claims police let his brother die.
“They didn't call [the paramedics] for 20 minutes as my brother laid on the ground and they stood over him and watched him die after they executed him,” he said.
Officials have strenuously denied that claim. They have also said the officer's record does not show any history of racial discrimination.
In interviews with the media, however, several neighbors have given fragmentary accounts.
“He was banging on the window and calling my name as loud as you could call it, his voice raising more and more,” Hinson told the Advertiser. “That was the only voice I heard. I didn't hear anybody say, ‘Stop, halt, lay down.' Nothing.”
Another neighbor, Scott Muhammad, said he spotted someone get “thrown around” and went outside to break up what he thought was a fight.
“It escalated. You could just feel the energy,” Muhammad told the Advertiser. “I turned around and told my wife to call the police. Then I saw him shoot four or five times and said, ‘Damn, that was the police.'”
He also said Gregory Gunn was shouting for help when he was shot.
“I saw when they killed him,” Muhammad said. “He was calling for his mother, his neighbor. He was knocking on the window.”
Muhammad said he saw two officers on the scene, one standing over Gunn and another laying in Hinson's yard with a hand over his head.
“The paramedic never even made it over” to Gunn, he told the Advertiser. “Nobody came and actually checked on this brother. Nobody tried any lifesaving techniques or anything like that. I watched the whole thing.”
Those accusations have sparked intense interest in the shooting. On Sunday, Mobile Heights was packed with Black Lives Matter protesters and state politicians.
“There was no evidence that they had to kill him. He had no weapon, he did not attack the police officers. He was knocking on the next door and police shot him,” Holmes, the state representative, told the Advertiser. “What we are asking is that the district attorney file first degree murder charges against [the police officer] and bring him before the Montgomery County Grand Jury.”
The officer is currently on 72 hours of administrative leave, according to Finley.
“We will make sure that he's whole when he comes back,” the police chief told the Advertiser. “We talk about external, but internal, we have to make sure that our folks come back whole.”
Tensions were strained even further by the fact that Mayor Strange, who is white, was on vacation in Central America when the shooting happened. In his absence, rumors circulated that there were problems with the officer's body camera.
On Monday, Strange sought to dispel that rumor, saying that all evidence had been turned over to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). He also expressed condolences for what he called a “tragic” event.
But the community meeting quickly turned into a strange staring contest when Franklin Gunn demanded five minutes of silence to honor his dead brother.
“I want five minutes, five minutes for my brother. Five. Can I get that right now?” Franklin Gunn asked the mayor. When the mayor agreed, the two proceeded to stare uncomfortably at one another. At one point, the mayor offered a tissue to Gunn, who was crying.
Gunn said he was asking for the five minutes of silence because that's how long it would have taken the officer to figure out his brother wasn't doing anything wrong.
“A man who runs and says ‘Momma, help' and beats down on the door, he is not suspicious,” he said during the meeting. “He was fearing for his life.”
He said the worst part of the whole ordeal was that their 87-year-old mother heard her son get shot, but wasn't able to come and help him as he lay dying.
“She is torn up,” he told The Post.
The incident could have an impact beyond the Gunn family, and perhaps beyond Montgomery.
It's a sad and ironic twist to history in the city where segregation began to crumble 60 years ago.
“Should a young, white male police a black community?” wondered Muhammad. “They don't know us. The police brought violence to the community last night.”
Students give chilling account of shootings at Ohio high school
'I heard a shot. I saw one of the kids go down'
by Greg Noble
MADISON TWP., Ohio - Gunshots. Disbelief. Fear. Panic. Pain. Heartache.
It was lunchtime for many of the students at Madison Sr./Jr. High School, until it became their worst nightmare.
"I was right next to the table that was shot at," eighth-grader Toby Kinin said. "I heard a shot. I saw one of the kids go down and grab her leg and everybody running out of the building."
One of the youngest students at the school said the shooter spoke to her before he opened fire.
"He said, 'Just go ahead and be quiet' and he won't hurt us," she said. And he didn't.
An 11th-grade student was near the cafeteria, heard the shots and alerted others to take cover behind locked doors in the library.
"My legs won't stop shaking for another hour," Zayd Ahmed said after recounting his ordeal.
Another student, Rebecca, told WCPO she was in class when someone sounded a warning on the intercom.
"We're on lockdown! We're on lockdown!"
"It was panic," Rebecca recalled later. "No one knows what to say when you hear that. Every time we have had a drill, we all know it's a drill. But when you hear it, the first thing is, 'Oh, my goodness! What is going on?'"
Rebecca and her classmates didn't know – they hadn't heard the shots – so they did what they were instructed to do. They locked the doors, turned off the lights and went to the back of the room and tried to stay calm and silent.
"Immediately there was some messaging from outside the school," Rebecca said. "Nobody in the school knew what was going on, but we were getting some information from the outside. As soon as we found out it was a shooting, obviously, we all stopped and prayed."
When you say "active shooter" or "shots fired" at a school, today's students think of Sandy Hook. Their parents think of Columbine. Those weren't school shootings. Those were massacres.
The scene outside Madison Jr./Sr. High resembled TV images of Columbine. Students running from the building. Worried parents gathering, hoping, praying.
"At first I didn't believe it," sophomore Joie Robinson said. "Honestly, nobody would think it ever happened, because it's such a small school. And an eighth-grader? He was a really good kid, too."
Thank goodness this was no massacre. Thanks goodness no was killed. Thank goodness the two students who were shot will recover from their non-life threatening wounds, according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.
The 14-year-old shooting suspect is in custody. Jones said authorities think they know why James Austin Hancock fired a .380-caliber handgun at 15-year-old Cameron Smith and 14-year-old Cooper Caffrey, but the sheriff said he wasn't ready to discuss a possible motive. Hancock and Caffrey are on the wrestling team.
Two other students, Brant Murray and Katherine Doucette, both 14, were injured by flying shrapnel or while trying to get out of the way, Jones said. They will be OK, too.
But nobody knew that at 11:15 Tuesday morning, when the first call went out. There was an active shooter in the high school.
Toby's mom, Stephanie Kinin, rushed to the school and wound up at a staging area set up for parents.
"My heart went to my hands, literally," she said.
Students who were in the cafeteria when the shots rang out, like Toby, ran out of the building in panic, she said.
"I didn't know what it was at first. I thought it was a bag or something [popping]," Kinin said. "Then I thought it was too loud for a bag. Then I saw everybody running out of the building."
Kinin said she followed the marching band director and "a couple of the lunch ladies" to the marching band room and stayed there until it was safe.
Before taking cover, Kinin said she saw the gunman run out of the building. As he ran up a hill, he tossed his handgun on the ground, the sheriff said. A K-9 unit caught him before he got off campus, and police recovered the gun, Jones said.
The threat was over, but nobody knew that at the time. Inside the school, there was still fear – of the shooter and the unknown. Police didn't know if there were other shooters, so they kept the school on lockdown until they could search it. Students and staff who heard the shots went into hiding, worried that the shooter would find them.
Ahmed said he heard the shots as he was walking out of the library, next to the cafeteria.
"I hear 'Bang!' so I thought someone dropped a tray because that always happens," he said. "Then maybe a pause for five seconds, then 'Bang! Bang! Bang' – a total of four shots. I'm like, 'What is going on?' I know that's a gun. All the police from the resource officers room, they ran out straight to the cafeteria."
Ahmed said he "ran back in the library" and no one there was aware of the shooting.
"Nobody really heard anything in the library. I'm like, 'How could you not hear that?' It was very loud. They're just sitting there like, 'Oh, what was that?' I said, 'No, there's a shooting.' And I knocked on the door for the teacher and she opened the door and she's like, 'Don't knock so loud,' and I'm, 'No, there's a shooting. We need to get out of here.'"
Ahmed said the teacher led the students in the library to another room where they could hide.
"She got her keys and we went back through a little hall in the library and went to another room," he said.
They locked the doors and went into the corner, Ahmed said. "We got some crackers out and just kind of sat there and waited," he said.
Ahmed said he was nervous not knowing what was going on. He said an hour passed before they heard messages on the intercom that assured them "things were not so crazy." Eventually, police and staff came through to give everybody the all-clear, but Ahmed said they passed by his group.
"They're walking around, but we're not in the classroom. They really didn't talk to us. We were in that little cubicle so it was very suspenseful," he said.
Likewise, Rebecca said her class wasn't sure what to make of the situation. They were "freaked out," she said.
"We just assumed it's something going on outside. Everybody starts talking. People make assumptions and rumors fly around. Nobody knew what to think for sure, but we were awfully freaked out - even everybody who was [saying], 'Oh, this is probably no big deal.' Everybody was panicking."
After about 45 minutes, Rebecca said her class heard the all-clear on the intercom. They heard two students had been shot but they were going to be OK.
Rebecca said she was reassured when a SWAT team came in her classroom.
"A SWAT team came into the room with our principal and they said, 'Is everybody OK? Is everybody here? Do you have anybody you're not supposed to have?'
"They were checking numbers, making sure students were accounted for. I'm assuming everything was taken care of outside first," she said.
It was. By 1 p.m., students were dismissed, and they greeted their anxious parents with hugs at the staging area.
Classes were canceled Tuesday, Rebecca said, which will give everybody in the community time to reflect.
"I think tomorrow everybody is going to try to figure out how to deal with it," she said.
Ahmed said his immediate reaction was disbelief.
"Right now, I'm shocked. I'm thinking, 'Eighth graders, little eighth-graders ... what are they doing with a gun?" he said, referring to the shooting suspect. "I'm just thinking the parents need to lock their guns up and be more cautious. And if a kid's being bullied, they need to talk to him more and have more resources – stuff like that."
Rebecca said she was afraid to go right back to school, even though she felt good about how staff and police handled the situation.
"You always hear about things happening and we think back to the Sandy Hook school shooting. Nobody knows what to think and everybody says, "Oh, it can happen anywhere. It can happen anywhere' and then it happens to you and it's entirely different when the situation actually happens than when you just talk about a hypothetical situation.
"It makes me nervous," she said.
"The staff handled it very well, though, and that was good to see. It was one of the things that caught everyone's eye. We were in shock about how quickly everybody came together and the law enforcement and the SWAT team. That makes me feel a little bit better."
Rebecca said she was sure the small community would come together and help each other through the anxiety and heartache. She said her mother, a teacher, would be especially affected.
"We knew these kids' first names. It's definitely a tragedy, it really is. But we will handle it together," Rebecca said.
"It's been eye-opening, I think, for the community to see that this can happen here," youth pastor Mary Taylor said.
NY judge: US cannot make Apple provide iPhone data
Apple's opposition to the government's tactics has evoked a national debate over digital privacy rights
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The U.S. Justice Department cannot force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data in a routine Brooklyn drug case, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein's written decision gives support to the company's position in its fight against a California judge's order that it create specialized software to help the FBI hack into an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terrorism investigation.
Apple on Thursday formally objected to the order in a brief filed with the court, accusing the federal government of seeking "dangerous power" through the courts and of trampling on the company's constitutional rights.
The San Bernardino County-owned iPhone 5C was used by Syed Farook, who was a health inspector. He and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people during a Dec. 2 attack at a county holiday party that was at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group. The couple died later in a gun battle with police.
Apple's opposition to the government's tactics has evoked a national debate over digital privacy rights and national security.
Orenstein concluded that Apple is not obligated to assist government investigators against its will and noted that Congress has not adopted legislation that would achieve the result sought by the government. Orenstein's ruling — while not considered binding or precedent setting for the California case — will likely still have influence on the arguments put forth before Judge Sheri Pym at a hearing next month. The New York case is far less onerous or invasive for Apple and its technology; the extraction technique exists for that older operating system, and it's been used before to assist investigators.
In California, Pym ordered investigators to create specialized software — which since late 2014 doesn't exist for newer phones — to help the FBI bypass security protocols to test random passcode combinations in rapid sequence.
Orenstein said he was offering no opinion on whether in the instance of this case or others, "the government's legitimate interest in ensuring that no door is too strong to resist lawful entry should prevail against the equally legitimate societal interests arrayed against it here."
He said the interests at stake go beyond expectations of privacy and include the commercial interest in conducting business free of potentially harmful government intrusion and the "far more fundamental and universal interest ... in shielding sensitive electronically stored data from the myriad harms, great and small, that unauthorized access and misuse can cause."
"How best to balance those interests is a matter of critical importance to our society, and the need for an answer becomes more pressing daily, as the tide of technological advance flows ever farther past the boundaries of what seemed possible even a few decades ago," Orenstein wrote. "But that debate must happen today, and it must take place among legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive."
The Justice Department said in a statement that it's disappointed in the ruling and plans to appeal in coming days. It said Apple had previously agreed many times prior to assist the government and "only changed course when the government's application for assistance was made public by the court."
A senior Apple executive said the company policy has been to produce information to the government when there is a lawful order to do so, but that in New York the judge never issued the order, and instead asked attorneys to file briefs addressing the constitutionality of the request for Apple to bypass its security protocols under the 1789 All Writs Act. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a pending legal matter.
Orenstein invited Apple in October to challenge the government's use of the catchall law to compel it to help law enforcement recover iPhone data in criminal cases, noting that another law on the books already covered the issue.
The Cupertino, California-based computer maker did, saying in court papers that extracting information from an iPhone "could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand.
It followed up by declining to cooperate in a dozen more instances in four states involving government requests to aid criminal probes by retrieving data from individual iPhones.
In ruling, Orenstein wrote: "I believe Apple has the better argument" because the other law covering wiretaps for telecom companies "explicitly absolves a company like Apple of any responsibility to provide the assistance the government seeks here."
Federal prosecutors say Apple has stopped short of challenging court orders judicially, except in the cases before Orenstein and the California jurist who ruled about the San Bernardino shooter's phone.
"Ultimately, the question to be answered in this matter, and in others like it across the country, is not whether the government should be able to force Apple to help it unlock a specific device; it is instead whether the All Writs Act resolves that issue and many others like it yet to come," Orenstein wrote. "For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that it does not."
Law officers protect our backs each day, it's time we protect theirs
One man expressed his opinion on a growing national trend
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Usually I ignore all those dressed-up inspirational quotes everyone seems to post on social media. But I came across one I happen to agree with:
“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”
You can apply that to pretty much any profession, but especially law enforcement.
More and more officers aren't feeling appreciated. Too many are realizing that they likely are going to toil for several years earning low wages and accruing less-than-attractive benefits.
And oh, by the way, there's the heightened chance of getting injured or killed at work. Every day.
It's one of the most stressful, dangerous and underappreciated professions you can enter.
And gosh, who would have guessed? Fewer folks are applying for the job, opting for something with higher pay and less danger.
It's a nationwide problem. “You can get shot at for $40,000, or be home with your family for $60,000,” Seattle Police Department recruiter Jim Ritter explained to ABC News last July.
Actually, in Georgia, $40,000 starts to look good. Starting pay for pretty much any county deputy statewide is not too far above $30,000. It varies county to county, but not much.
It's no better for the Georgia State Patrol. One recent nationwide ranking of state police starting pay placed Georgia dead last. In California, a highway patrol officer can start at $74,700 a year. Texas' starting highway patrol officers lead all Southern states at $60,613.
A Georgia trooper? Try $35,741. That's unforgivable.
To find out more, I reached out to one of my high-school classmates – Derick Durden. For you trivia buffs, he might be the tallest captain in the Georgia State Patrol. He's also the commander of the GSP's Troop E, which covers 20 counties, including Richmond and Columbia.
And he can tell you firsthand how the GSP is suffering.
Low pay is just one problem. Several troopers under Capt. Durden's command spend their off-duty time working other jobs.
And that's among the officers who stay. Others simply leave. In fiscal year 2015, the GSP lost 52 troopers. Since last July, Capt. Durden said, 64 troopers have left.
So why not just hire more? It's not that simple.
The GSP also struggles to compete. The state's pay and benefits don't look so good these days to a gradually shrinking pool of applicants who meet the qualifications even to become a trooper cadet. Applicants simply go where benefits are better.
“Becoming a Georgia state trooper is not an easy task,” Capt. Durden said. “In a previous assignment, I served as the agency training director for five years and was responsible for the training of trooper cadets for seven trooper schools during my tenure. Trooper school is eight months long and very demanding, physically and mentally. Not everyone can be a trooper. Of those who make it through our stringent hiring process and are selected for trooper school, usually only 50 percent graduate.”
So they can earn the princely sum of $35,741 a year.
Realistically, the state can't lower standards to get more troopers, because that aggravates yet another problem facing the GSP. The agency is seeing a rise in disciplinary problems among their newest troopers.
Capt. Durden added something else: Law enforcement is being publicly viewed under an increasingly harsh microscope.
FBI Director James Comey told The New York Times that last October – that “additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers” is harming law enforcement.
Certainly officers deserve public scrutiny like any other government employee or elected official – but not to an extreme that drives potentially qualified officers away from the profession.
When you're losing troopers at double or triple the rate that you can successfully train them, that's a critical problem that cries out for an immediate solution.
Retaining troopers also makes sound business sense. The state invests about $122,000 into training and equipping every single trooper. So every time a trooper leaves, that's public money down the drain.
If you're a taxpayer, you should be outraged.
Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mark W. McDonough appeared in January before the Public Safety Subcommittee for the Georgia House Appropriations Committee. He asked for any funds freed up through attrition to be used to fund future trooper schools.
The GSP is authorized to have 953 officers. As of last month, Georgia has only 770 – the lowest number in more than a decade.
With circumstances this dire, Col. McDonough shouldn't have to sit before a board of politicians, shaking a tin cup asking for funding. They should be coming to him, asking: What do you need, and how fast can we give it to you?
As a Georgia citizen, do you really appreciate having such a low price placed on your public safety?
Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is March 2 at the Georgia Capitol. A splendid way to mark it is if lawmakers can successfully work to give certified peace officers competitive paychecks and benefits that are much closer to what they deserve.
Educators Rethink Discipline, Learn New Moves to Dismantle School-to-Prison Pipeline
by Stell Simonton
ATLANTA — When communities want to snip the school-to-prison pipeline, how do they do it?
They revise their code of conduct, redefine the role of school police, address bias, build a positive school climate and address problematic behavior in a positive way, among other things.
School officials in the Southeast learned some of these new strategies at the Rethink Discipline Regional Convening in Atlanta last week.
The conference was sponsored by the Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative of the U.S. departments of Education and Justice.
The goal is to reduce suspensions and expulsions — which are used disproportionately with youth of color and create a pipeline into the criminal justice system.
“Everybody is talking about this topic,” said Lisa Thurau, founder of the nonprofit Strategies for Youth, which provides training to improve police-youth interactions. The school-to-prison pipeline is seen as a real and serious problem, she said. “It's not deniable anymore.”
Participants in the conference included Adolphus Graves, chief probation officer of the Fulton County (Georgia) Juvenile Court. “There's a lot more movement toward understanding the effects of exclusionary discipline practices by schools,” he said.
He is currently working with Fulton County and Atlanta city schools to set up mediation, peer counseling and diversion programs to lower suspension rates and keep kids out of the court system.
School principals from Florence, South Carolina, were at the conference to revise their district's code of conduct for students.
“What we've been doing has really never worked,” said Carol Hill, principal of South Florence High School.
Some schools have made changes that have worked. The city of Baltimore, for example, undertook a reform that reduced its school suspension rate from 26,324 students in 2004 to 7,550 in 2014, according to data from the Maryland State Department of Education.
When the Baltimore district began looking at its code of conduct, it found that suspension was the final consequence for numerous small offenses, such as dress code violations.The district really had no other tools to use for these offenses, one presenter noted.
A positive approach to discipline
The Safe and Supported Schools Initiative advocates a multitiered approach to school discipline as opposed to one-size-fits-all. Rather than providing a handbook to students and talking about unacceptable behavior, schools focus on positive behaviors, and staff model them.
The conference sent the message that positive school climate can be intentionally created.
With the multitiered approach, schools have several levels of response to problematic behavior, including using different instructional methods and interventions.
The approach takes into account the various supports students may need, both behavioral and academic.
In schools, it's routine to provide academic supports, but not behavior supports, said Ginny O'Connell, program manager for special education services and supports at the Georgia Department of Education.
“If a child has trouble learning to read, no one would send the child home,” she said. “If a child has behavior issues, why not treat those issues?”
Thurau, of Strategies for Youth, said schools should address the role of police. Are police in schools going to be a protective factor or a risk factor, she asked.
In far too many school districts their role is not clear, and policies should be written to clarify it.
“Too many police and school resource officers are used and misused by principals and others in authority,” she said.
Officers are sometimes caught between the principal and the police department, who may disagree on a given situation, she said.
It's also important to recruit officers who are right for schools.
“You don't want John Wayne. You want a parental figure who will dig deeper into a kid's misbehavior rather than slapping on the handcuffs,” Thurau said.
Schools and communities need to rethink the emphasis on punishment, undertake effective alternatives and take care in planning the right relationship between schools, police and courts, she said.
Another issue that schools need to address is implicit bias, said Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.
He pointed to a recent experiment from Stanford University in which 250 teachers read a narrative of student behavior and were told the behavior was a second offense.
When the student's name in the narrative was presumed to represent a black student (such as Deshawn) teachers recommended suspension far more often than when the name (such as Greg) was presumed to be a white student.
“If we expect black students to be disruptive and disrespectful and want to correct bad behavior, we look for it more, and we see it more often,” Losen said.
“Black students are aware of the extra scrutiny,” he said.
Lewis Brinson, chief diversity officer of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Florida, said some teachers — both black and white — and some schools were addressing and moving beyond bias.
“What we have to do is replicate [those] who are doing it right,” he said. “We need brave leaders to step up and identify those [staff] who are falling short.”
“We need things in place where we can wake up those who are unconsciously mistreating kids,” he said. Then they can “leave their biases in the car.”