April, 2016 - Week 2
No change a year after Freddie Gray's death, marchers say
by The Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) — Dozens of people marched Saturday in Baltimore to mark the anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray.
Sharon Black, an organizer with the Peoples Power Assembly, the group that planned the march, said the marchers don't believe anything has changed for the better in Baltimore since Gray's death. Black says "deep-seated anger" remains in the community a year later.
The 25-year-old Gray died on April 19, 2015 after his neck was broken in a police transport van. His death triggered unrest and riots across the city.
The march began near the CVS store that was badly damaged during last year's unrest. It was to end with a dinner at a park.
Six officers were charged in Gray's death. None of the cases has been resolved.
Louisville Councilwoman Calls For More Community Policing
by Jacob Ryan
Louisville Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green wants police officers to spend more time patrolling on foot and bike in an effort to build better relationships with communities.
The call for more community-focused policing is one element in her five-point plan released Friday morning. She hopes the plan will spur broader conversation about halting the spiking violence in the city's westernmost neighborhoods.
Green is also calling for more active parenting, more community involvement, more access to community centers and for more residents with knowledge of criminal activity to speak up.
She said she'll push Mayor Greg Fischer and her colleagues on the Metro Council to increase funding for police overtime in the upcoming budget cycle.
“We need our police officers to have the resources so they can work for us and keep our streets safe,” she said.
Green said officers patrolling on foot, bike and ATV make it easier to talk with residents and build trust. “If the people do not trust you, they will not work with you,” she said.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad echoed Green's sentiments. He said trust between police and communities is vital for fighting crime.
“We buy into that,” he said.
But finding time to meet the call for increased community policing efforts can be difficult.
Conrad said in recent years, the city's police officers have been dedicating more time to foot patrols “as time allows.” Spending entire shifts walking neighborhoods is difficult because officers are still responsible for responding to emergency calls, which require quick responses, he said.
Conrad said 10 officers hired with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services would help further the city's community policing effort. He said these officers would not be responsible for taking 911 calls, but rather they'd be tasked with engaging with residents, working to build trust and furthering community relations.
Ron Davis, director of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services office, visited Louisville Friday, just hours after Green released her anti-violence plan.
He acknowledged community policing requires departments to have resources to afford officers the time to get out of their cruisers and onto sidewalks and porches, and into community centers.
Davis said building an effective community policing initiative takes time.
“It's an operational philosophy, it's a culture, it's the way the police department, as a whole, does business,” he said.
Davis praised LMPD for taking steps to use the federal grant money in a way to advance community policing philosophies. And Davis said he's pleased with the current state of police and community relations in Louisville. He added that it's not perfect, but no city is when it comes to policing.
Oshtemo to get community policing deputy under amended sheriff's contract
by Rex Hall Jr.
OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, MI – A deputy who will focus on community policing may soon be patrolling the streets of Kalamazoo County's largest township thanks to an amended contract with the sheriff's office that has been approved by the Oshtemo Township Board of Trustees.
"The majority feel that there's been enough change in the township with population, with development and the community policing officer would begin to address some of the chronic issues that come with that growth and development," Oshtemo Township Supervisor Libby Heiny-Cogswell said. "We'd like to help the retail community with some of the retail fraud issues and we'd like to help some of the multi-housing areas."
The amendments to the township's 2016 police-protection contract with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office was approved 6-1 by the Osthemo Township Board on Tuesday. The amendments are now awaiting final approval from the county's Board of Commissioners.
The amendments come a little more than three months after negotiations between the township and the county stalled over the 2016 police services contract. The stalemate could have led to the layoffs of six deputies, a sergeant and lieutenant who are assigned under contract to patrol Oshtemo.
However, the county and the township came to terms on the 2016 contract at the end of December.
Sheriff Rick Fuller said since that time he and other county officials have met with Heiny-Cogswell and other township officials almost weekly in putting together the contract amendments.
Fuller said officials plan to continue to meet regularly as they work to put together future police protection contracts for 2017, 2018 and 2019. "These weekly meetings helped us dive into those issues and and helped us gain a better understanding of one another," the sheriff said.
Said Heiny-Cogswell: "I would agree that we are sitting down at the table and rolling up our sleeves."
Currently, Oshtemo is one of four townships in Kalamazoo County that contract with the sheriff's office for additional deputies. The others are Comstock, Ross and Texas.
Heiny-Cogswell said the addition of the community policing deputy, which will bring the total number of sheriff's personnel contracted to the Oshtemo Township to nine, will cost the township an additional $122,000 per year. She said monies for the new deputy are being pulled from the township's police fund reserve.
"The difference with the community policing officer and the other deputies is the idea is to be able to focus on problems over a longer period of time to really be able to address the underlying causes," Heiny-Cogswell said.
Fuller said having a deputy committed to community policing in Oshtemo will allow for a proactive approach to addressing crime and other issues.
He said the deputy will be a presence in local schools in the township and also work with local businesses and neighborhood watch groups.
"A community police officer, in our minds, is someone that responds to the community's needs and is out in the community making contacts ahead of the need," Fuller said. "... That is something we've need out in that community for a very long time."
The sheriff said he, along with County Board Chairman John Taylor and Corporate Counsel Thom Canny, will discuss the amended contract with county commissioners during a Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 19.
Fuller and Heiny-Cogswell agreed that the addition of the community policing deputy to the police force in Oshtemo is the most significant amendment to the 2016 contract.
Additionally, Heiny-Cogswell noted the amended contract includes language to clarify the role of the sheriff's lieutenant assigned to the township. Also, she said it allows for more detailed reports from the sheriff's office regarding crime statistics, trends and calls for service in the township.
Fuller said the sheriff's office also is working to implement a crime-mapping system that will allow residents in Oshtemo, as well as other townships, to track crime and calls for service near their homes.
Big job ahead for Chicago's top cop
The new police chief will be charged with changing the culture of the department and rebuilding trust
by The Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council's Public Safety Committee cleared the decks Tuesday for a quick resolution of the search for a new police superintendent, approving a pair of measures to allow the mayor to bypass the Police Board and give the job to interim chief Eddie Johnson. The full council should wave them through Wednesday and let Johnson get to work.
Aldermen know there's no point in conducting a pretend search for a second set of finalists, which is what's supposed to happen when a mayor rejects all three candidates recommended by the Police Board. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made his pick. And Chicago needs a new top cop now.
This job has been open since Dec. 1, when Emanuel fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy — a move that did little to quiet the uproar over the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
A week earlier, acting on a judge's order, the city had released a video that showed Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald in the back and continuing to fire as the teenager's body twisted on the pavement. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder hours before the public saw the video.
On Monday, the statistical wizards at FiveThirtyEight published an analysis (chicagotribune.com/538chicago) that pegs both an alarming rise in violent crime and a troubling drop in the number of arrests to the release of that video.
According to FiveThirtyEight: From Dec. 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, homicides increased by 48 percent and nonfatal shootings by 73 percent, compared to the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, arrest rates for those crimes dropped by 48 percent and 69 percent, respectively.
"Using Chicago's open portal data, we were able to pinpoint the start of the increase in violence — and the concomitant policing slump — to the wake of the release of the video showing McDonald's slaying," the analysts wrote.
Other common explanations for those trends — a mild winter, a new and burdensome paperwork requirement — were discounted, if not refuted, by the data.
It's true that violence in Chicago tends to correlate with temperature. Cold weather keeps troublemakers and potential victims inside and off the streets. But this winter's numbers are much worse than in 2012, an even milder winter. And warm weather can't explain the 31 percent drop in overall arrests this season.
It's also reasonable to conclude that more time spent on paperwork means less time for crime-fighting. Since Jan. 1, Chicago police have been required to complete a lengthy form after making an investigatory stop as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union. But FiveThirtyEight points out that arrests dropped significantly in the five weeks after the release of the video but before the new paperwork requirement took effect. Arrests have actually gone up slightly since Jan. 1, though they are still down compared to a year ago.
There's also the so-called "Ferguson effect" — the theory that white-hot public scrutiny over police shootings causes cops to worry about being next in the spotlight. They think twice about making stops that could lead to those encounters, and arrests go down. It's been used to explain a drop in arrests after similar shootings in Baltimore, New York and Ferguson, Mo. As the president of the Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police put it, "No one wants to be on that next video." We get it.
And therein lies the challenge for Chicago's new police superintendent.
On the one hand, there's Emanuel, promising that his Police Department is ready to kick butt and take names: "We know who the individuals are who are creating the preponderance of violence," the mayor said last week. "We know where you live, we know what you look like and we're putting you on notice."
On the other hand, there's a major report due Thursday from a police accountability task force, launched the same day Emanuel fired McCarthy. A draft of the report's executive summary obtained by the Tribune on Tuesday slams the department and its chief oversight body, blames its collective bargaining agreements for supporting a police "code of silence" and calls on the superintendent to publicly acknowledge the department's "history of racial disparity and discrimination."
The new police chief will be charged with changing the culture of the department and rebuilding the trust of the community, all while reversing the rising tide of violent crime. It will take a rare brand of leadership to eliminate the scourge of police abuse while giving the brave and upstanding majority of Chicago's police officers the confidence they need to do their difficult and dangerous jobs. Godspeed, Chief Johnson.
From The Department of Justice
Justice Department Closes Investigation After Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Takes Significant Steps to Reform its Use of Solitary Confinement
The Justice Department announced today that it has closed its investigation into the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) following significant improvements made by PDOC to its policies and practices that are intended to protect prisoners with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities from the harmful effects of solitary confinement.
The department opened its statewide investigation into the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities in May 2013 after finding a pattern of constitutional violations as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the State Correctional Institution in Cresson, Pennsylvania. After working in cooperation with PDOC to conduct an intensive review of prisons across the state, on Feb. 24, 2014, the department notified PDOC that the same violations discovered at Cresson were present across the system.
In its closing letter to PDOC, the department noted that PDOC demonstrated its commitment to reforming its use of solitary confinement by working closely with the department and beginning improvements at the outset of the investigation. Since then, PDOC has worked to ensure that prisoners with serious mental illness and/or intellectual disabilities are no longer subjected to solitary confinement and are instead provided with specialized treatment to meet their individualized needs. The closing letter also identifies areas where continued efforts at improvement would be appropriate.
“Solitary confinement should be used only when necessary—never as a default solution,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “Today, Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction. We commend the state for beginning to reform its system to ensure that prisoners with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities receive care, rather than suffer harm. Those prisoners are in a much better position than they were three years ago to return to the community.”
“Our civil rights enforcement efforts have led the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to provide effective mental health treatment to all prisoners throughout the Commonwealth so that they can successfully reenter their communities,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton of the Western District of Pennsylvania. “We remain dedicated to vigorously enforcing the civil rights of those who have serious mental illness throughout Pennsylvania, regardless of their situation.”
The department initiated this investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which prohibits a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities. This investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Civil Rights Division's Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Pennsylvania. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.
Recently, the department also conducted a broader review of solitary confinement – and other forms of “restrictive housing” – to formulate policy solutions for reducing the use of these practices throughout the nation's criminal justice system. The department concluded that while there are occasions when correctional officials have no choice but to segregate inmates from the general population, as a matter of policy, this practice should be used rarely, applied fairly and subjected to reasonable constraints. The department's report, including a series of “Guiding Principles” for limiting the use of restrictive housing, is available on its website at https://www.justice.gov/restrictivehousing.
From the FBI
FBI Recognizes Leaders from Around the Nation
Director's Community Leadership Awards Presented
Today at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., 56 individuals and organizations—all leaders within their communities—were recognized by Director James Comey on their extraordinary contributions to education and to the prevention of crime and violence within their communities.
Comey called today “one of the very best days in the FBI's year.”
Each recipient received the Director's Community Leadership Award, presented every year since 1990 by FBI field offices around the country to publicly honor those who have gone above and beyond the call to service by tirelessly working to make their own cities and towns a better and safer place for their fellow residents.
The 2015 award recipients come from all backgrounds, all professions, and all parts of the country, and the issues they focus on vary greatly. But according to Comey, “They are united by a single thing—an effort to do good.”
Comey explained why the FBI publicly recognizes community leaders in this annual ceremony. “First,” he said, “we want to thank them, because they're doing the same things we're doing, which is trying to make life better for the American people.”
“And secondly,” added Comey, “we want to show the world what America looks like...and that this is what we do in communities all over the country.” He also hopes that the honorees inspire others, especially young people, to follow in their footsteps.
Among the individuals and organizations recognized during 2015 by FBI field offices were:
Anchorage: Samuel Johns, for helping homeless Alaskan native reconnect with their families, friends, and culture through Forget Me Not, the non-profit organization he founded. More
Baltimore: Operation Pulse (People United to Live in a Safe Environment), for its work to reduce violent crime in and around East Baltimore through a variety of crime prevention programs for churches, senior groups, churches, and businesses. More
Honolulu: Roy Sakuma, who for the past 50 years has taught, mentored, inspired, and brought hope to thousands of people in Hawaii and even Japan, and who has spent countless hours speaking to school children, candidly sharing his experiences regarding bullying, suicide, and insecurity. More
Houston: The Houston-based non-profit K9s4COPS organization, for providing K-9s to help police find explosives, drugs, and weapons in some of our nation's most at-risk communities and for assisting in the apprehension of more than 400 violent fleeing suspects. More
Los Angeles: Omar Siddiqui, for bringing Muslim community leaders to the table to meet with Los Angeles FBI representatives and for encouraging young Muslim adults to participate in FBI-sponsored community outreach programs. More
Memphis: Zulfat Suara, for her work with students in Hardeman County involving the Junior Achievement Program, which teaches students skills like managing finances and making good career choices. More
San Francisco: The KlaasKids Foundation, established by the family of murder victim Polly Klaas, for its efforts in locating and assisting children exploited by perpetrators of child sex crimes in the Bay area. More
St. Louis: The Fortune 500 company Emerson, through its Ferguson Forward initiative, for donating $8.5 million and operating 30 programs—focused on areas like early childhood education, youth jobs, college scholarships, and technical and trade careers—for the young people of Ferguson and North St. Louis County, Missouri. More
A special thanks to the winners for giving of their time and talents to enhance the lives of others.
Terror Suspect Arrested at Gatwick Airport; 4 Others Held: Police
by ALEXANDER SMITH and EMMA ONG
LONDON — Five terror suspects have been arrested in the U.K. in an operation involving British, French and Belgian authorities, officials said Friday.
Three men and one woman were arrested in the central city of Birmingham on Thursday night and one man was arrested a London's Gatwick Airport early Friday, the U.K.'s West Midlands Police said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police would not say specifically whether the detentions were linked to arrests in France and Belgium relating to the Brussels and Paris attacks, only telling NBC News that they had "followed on from recent arrests in Europe."
However, a British security source told NBC News security consultant Duncan Gardham that the arrests were "Paris and Brussels-related."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source told Gardham that Mohamed Abrini, the man prosecutors say confessed to being the so-called "Man in White" who was among the Brussels airport bombers, was the main focus of the British investigation.
Abrini traveled to Birmingham in the summer of 2015, according to Interpol.
Rohit Kachroo, security editor for NBC News' British partner ITV News, also tweeted that the investigation was related to the attacks in the Belgian and French capitals.
The operation came after an "extensive investigation" by counter-terror police, working with Britain's MI5 domestic security service and "and international partners including Belgian and French authorities," West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said in the statement.
"There was no risk to the public at any time and there is no information to suggest an attack in the U.K. was being planned," he added.
The three men arrested in Birmingham were aged 26, 40 and 59 and the woman was 29, according to police. The man arrested at London's Gatwick Airport was 26.
All five remained in custody and were being questioned by counter-terror officials Friday. Police also confirmed that number of searches were ongoing in Birmingham.
Robstown officer uses selfie stick to engage with community
by Natalia Contreras
ROBSTOWN — Police officers are known for carrying a gun, handcuffs, a radio and a flashlight on their duty belt.
Robstown police officer Sandra Villarreal, 36, carries another important tool on her belt — a selfie stick.
Villarreal joined the department about a year ago and is the head of the community policing division. She said the selfie stick has helped her succeed during community outreach events.
"It's such a good ice breaker," Villarreal said. "People, especially children are just drawn to it. As soon as I pull it out they come running to be in the photo."
Villarreal said she loves people and that's why she decided to become a police officer about two years ago.
She had been a self described housewife for several years.
After a divorce, she found herself working administrative jobs where she didn't get as much interaction with people as she would have liked.
She felt unfulfilled.
One day, Villarreal decided to do a Google search for "the best jobs to be around people."
"Police officer was the first one to pop up," Villarreal said. "I said, 'I'm going to do this and this is going to connect me to people.'"
From the start, Villarreal used social media to connect and stay in touch with everyone she met on the job.
"I started friending everyone. That's my strategy and I started taking selfies with everyone I met," Villarreal said. "I started going everywhere with my selfie stick."
After she was out on patrol for a couple of months, Robstown Police Chief Derly Flores noticed Villarreal's people skills, he created the community policing division and made her the leader.
"I needed someone who would be able to interact with the community full time, and to visit with people one on one," Flores said. "People tend to think that when police (are) around there's something wrong. She has helped change that image. She's just really good with people and they trust her."
Flores said the department was in need of better communication with schools, neighborhoods and other organizations, in which Villarreal has helped create a bridge.
"We are constantly getting calls from residents, giving us tips, making reports," Flores said. "She helped send the message that we are here to help."
About 50 children at the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Bend Robstown Unit listened to Villarreal talk about 911 calls April 6.
Villarreal visited with the children who had questions and they flocked to her to take selfies after the presentation.
Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Bend Robstown Unit director Maria Medina said Villarreal visits often with the children and they have gotten to know her.
"She's able to connect with children and with everyone, that's a gift she has," Medina said. "We finally have that connection that we needed with the police department. From the moment she walks in, she has the children's attention and what she has to say is important."
Villarreal recently took a position with the Meadows Place Police Department, outside Sugar Land. She said the community policing division in Robstown will continue to focus on crime prevention, education and community outreach.
"A collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the community is the key to safety," Villarreal said. "This job has allowed me talk to people, listen to their issues and try to help them solve the problem. It's my calling."
Proactive policing, community key to reducing crime
by Kayleigh Sommer
SAN BENITO — The recent vandalism case may be in the rearview mirror, but Interim Police Chief Michael Galvan is encouraging the community to be more vigilant to help stop future incidents.
Galvan discussed heavily the need for more community policing during the Chamber of Commerce “Coffee With” session Wednesday morning.
Earlier this month, six adults and two juveniles were charged with criminal mischief in connection to the vandalism of more than 60 cars around town.
Police estimated the damage at or around $50,000.
City residents took a hit when the teens rode around town in a pickup truck late at night randomly spray painting cars and breaking car windows in multiple neighborhoods.
“These were kids who were bored,” Galvan said.
Now, Galvan's goal is to team up with the school district and other groups to write grants and fund programs for kids.
The aim is to catch kids at an early age deterring them from committing any sort of crime.
“That's one of the big things we are trying to push. Our little ones are where everything starts. If we don't reach out to them and try to grab their attention then the people on the street will,” Galvan told members of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce.
“We need them to look at us as their role models. Right now they're watching TV and these crazy games and that's what they are living off of.”
With only about five or six police officers patrolling at one time, Galvan said it's difficult to catch everything.
The interim chief suggested everyone, including parents, business owners and children, be educated and informed.
“We need to start working smart and not hard,” he said. “We need to be proactive.”
There are several ways residents can own their city. Some of those are through neighborhood watch groups, volunteering and registering on the social network Nextdoor.com.
Galvan said Nextdoor is a social network that can be used by everyone in the community.
It's an easy way for you and your neighbors to talk online and make all of your lives better in the real world.
The use of this social network is free.
According to its website, people are using Nextdoor to quickly get the word out about a break-in, organize a neighborhood watch group, track down a babysitter, find out who does the best paint job in town, staying informed with neighbors and asking for help.
“We need to start owning our own city, neighbor hood and block,” Galvan said. “We need to reach out to our neighbors. A lot of people say that they don't know their neighbors and that's a shame.”
With Nextdoor, users can join their neighborhood online and interact with each other.
“The people in that bubble will share information and we will also put out information, too,” Galvan said.
Prior to the vandalism, Galvan said, weeks before, several arrests were made regarding other reports of vandalism.
Those reports were made through Nextdoor.
“They had license plates and names of the kids,” Galvan said. “That's the kind of help we need.”
Ambushed Houston deputy constable shot 4 times expected to recover
The officer had a bullet lodged near his heart, plus abdominal wounds
by The Associated Press
HOUSTON — A deputy constable is expected to recover after undergoing several hours of surgery after he was shot four times while talking to another constable after a traffic stop, authorities said Thursday.
Harris County Deputy Constable Alden Clopton was wearing a protective vest when he was shot from behind about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, Constable May Walker said during a Thursday morning news conference.
A motive for the shooting is unknown. Asked if authorities believed the shooter was targeting law enforcement, Houston police spokesman Kese Smith told The Associated Press that both deputy constables were in uniform and had marked vehicles.
"I can't see how someone can mistake them for someone other than law enforcement," Smith said.
The suspect fired six shots, four of which hit Clopton, Walker said. Officials had said earlier that Clopton had a bullet lodged near his heart, plus abdominal wounds. The other shots hit the other deputy constable's car and the ground.
"It was virtually an ambush is what it was," Walker said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Clopton's protective vest likely saved his life, and Walker said he faces a long recovery.
Authorities were questioning a male who showed up a nearby fire station after the shooting and matched the description of the suspected shooter, Smith said. The person had not been arrested or charged, he said, but authorities also were not currently looking for anyone else.
Clopton is an 11-year veteran of the force who is married and has five children, said Pamela Greenwood, spokeswoman for the Harris County precinct seven constable's office. He comes from a law enforcement family, with three brothers who are law officers.
According to Smith, the shooting came after a female reserve deputy constable made a traffic stop and called Clopton to assist. The vehicle that was pulled over left and Clopton was standing outside the window of the female's vehicle when he was shot.
The female deputy constable got out and shot back, but it was unknown if she hit the fleeing suspect, Smith said. The person being questioned at the fire station did not have any injuries, Smith said, adding that he didn't think the shooting was related to the traffic stop.
Clopton is the second Harris County law officer to be shot from behind in an unprovoked attack in the past year. Texas prosecutors in August charged a 30-year-old man with capital murder in the killing of sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, who was gunned down while filling his patrol car with gas in what officials described as a "senseless and cowardly act."
'Textalyzer' allows police to scan phones of suspected distracted drivers
The new technology can help police discover whether a driver was texting at the time of an accident
by PoliceOne Staff
NEW YORK — Police in New York may soon implement a device that allows officers to discover whether a driver was texting at the time of an accident, FOX 5 reported.
State lawmakers are trying to implement the ‘textalyzer,' a play off the breathalyzer. The device would allow responding officers to scan a driver's phone to see if they were texting.
Developed by an Israeli company, the new technology would not be able to read texts or gain access to contacts -- it would only detect if a user was texting. The New York Civil Liberties Union was not convinced the device would protect civilians' privacy.
"I think there is much that is needed to be done and that can be done both to address the problem and respect the privacy rights of drivers," NYCLU Director Donna Lieberman told the news site.
Under the current legislation, if a driver refused to show police their phone, they could lose their license.
Minn. considers changes to police civilian review commission
The civilian commission reviews complaints of officer misconduct
by Jessie Van Berkel
ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul officials on Wednesday discussed an overhaul of the civilian commission that reviews complaints against police officers — and the process for filing such complaints.
It's one of several changes facing the next police chief, who is expected to start work this summer. The new chief will step into the role as the department reviews its practices for hiring and promoting officers.
Chief Thomas Smith, who is retiring in May, discussed those efforts at a City Council Organizational Committee meeting Wednesday, where members weighed potential changes to the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission.
The civilian commission reviews complaints of officer misconduct. In October, an audit suggested 18 changes to ensure that it holds police accountable and builds trust in the community. The audit said the commission should stop holding meetings in police headquarters and the reports that the group reviews should not include recommendations from internal affairs investigators. Complainants should also be invited to appear at meetings, City Attorney Samuel Clark said.
"A lot of this sometimes boils down to people not feeling validated in their negative experiences," he said.
The audit also suggested improving the process for handling complaints. Citizens are currently not able to file a complaint online, Clark said, and changing that "would go a long way toward accessibility questions."
Other recommendations from the audit would change city ordinances and require council approval. Those include allowing more residents to serve on the commission, which currently is made up of five citizens and two St. Paul Police Federation members, and removing those two police representatives as voting members.
City Council members were divided on whether active St. Paul police officers should be making disciplinary decisions about their co-workers.
Council member Dan Bostrom said it's critical to have the input of officers who have been in such difficult situations and understand the nuances of the profession. But Council President Russ Stark said law enforcement officials do the initial review of internal affairs cases before they go to the civilian commission, and the police chief makes the ultimate decision on discipline.
The Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota conducted last year's audit. Berkshire Advisors also reviewed the commission in 2009. Smith said some of the recommendations from that report were not enacted, partly because of the cost.
Clark said Mayor Chris Coleman will have to decide how to proceed on the recommended changes to city ordinances. He anticipates the mayor will reach a decision by late spring or early summer, and the City Council will vote on the changes by the end of the summer.
Smith and council members also discussed how the police department is building relationships in the community and closing racial disparities in its ranks.
It is key to catch people at a young age and connect them with resources to keep them out of trouble, Smith said.
"Making mistakes when you're a young person can stop you from becoming a police officer — ever," he said.
Staff have looked at possible barriers, such as certain questions on the test to become a sergeant, that may keep people of different ethnicities from being promoted, Smith said. The department is also trying to recruit staff that speak multiple languages, he said. About 22 percent of the people who work for the police department are at least bilingual, Smith said.
Ten people applied to run the department. This week their applications will be sent to a community selection committee for consideration.
LA Police Commission: Homeless man's shooting unjustified
Investigators concluded that the man was on his stomach
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — A police officer who shot and killed an unarmed homeless man near the Venice boardwalk last year violated departmental policy, the Police Commission ruled Tuesday.
The civilian panel concluded that Officer Clifford Proctor wasn't justified in shooting Brendon Glenn twice in the back as Glenn, 29, was on the ground last May 5.
The officers tried to detain Glenn after reports that he had been harassing people and they saw him struggling with a bar bouncer, police said.
Proctor has said he shot after Glenn grabbed his partner's holster but video from the bar security camera contradicted the account, Chief Charlie Beck said in a report to the commission.
Investigators concluded that Glenn was on his stomach trying to push himself up when Proctor shot him.
A call to Proctor's attorney, Lawrence Hanna, seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.
Beck has recommended the officer face criminal charges. It is the first time Beck has done so in connection with more than 100 fatal police shootings.
Glenn's family has sued over the death in state and federal courts. The suits allege that Glenn was leaving when officers grabbed him without justification.
The suits also contend that the police chief failed to adequately discipline his officers, "creating a culture of impunity within the LAPD that encourages such violence and incidents of unreasonable force against the public."
Report: Chicago police have 'no regard' for lives of people of color
The group concluded that fear and lack of trust in law enforcement among minorities is justified
by Don Babwin and Jason Keyser
CHICAGO — Police in Chicago have "no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color" and have alienated blacks and Hispanics for decades by using excessive force and honoring a code of silence, a task force declared Wednesday in a report that seeks sweeping changes to the nation's third-largest police force.
The panel, established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel late last year in response to an outcry over police shootings, found that the department does little to weed out problem officers and routine encounters unnecessarily turn deadly.
The group concluded that fear and lack of trust in law enforcement among minorities is justified, citing data that show 74 percent of the hundreds of people shot by officers in recent years were African-Americans, even though blacks account for 33 percent of the city's population.
The task force pointed to a painful history spanning generations, including the 1969 killing of Black Panther Fred Hampton, allegations of torture from the 1970s to the 1990s under former commander Jon Burge and controversial stop-and-frisk practices in the 2000s.
The report "raises consciousness," activist Greg Livingston said. "It shines a light into the darkness."
The city's new police chief said the department welcomed "a fresh set of eyes" but was not waiting for recommendations from the task force or from a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department before making changes. Eddie Johnson, an African-American with 27 years on the force, was Emanuel's hand-picked choice to take the top police job. The City Council confirmed the appointment Wednesday in a 50-0 vote.
"We have racism in America. We have racism in Chicago. So it stands to reason we would have some racism within our agency. My goal is to root that out," Johnson told reporters after he was sworn in.
In a summary of the report, the Task Force on Police Accountability recommended replacing the "badly broken" independent review authority that currently investigates misconduct with a "new and fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency." It also suggested creating the post of deputy chief of diversity and inclusion.
Emanuel did not rule out doing away with the existing body known as the Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA.
"There's no doubt we have a lot of work to do," the mayor said, adding that "people have to have confidence" in whatever agency reviews police behavior.
"Whether it's IPRA or not, the function needs to be there," he said.
The mayor declined to talk about specifics in the report, saying he had not been briefed by the task force or seen the whole report.
The task force also called out police unions, saying that the collective bargaining agreements between the city and the unions have "essentially turned the code of silence into official policy." The code refers to the reflex of some officers not to report colleagues for misconduct.
Officers, for example, can wait 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting, given them enough time to get their stories straight with fellow officers. And not only are anonymous complaints prohibited, the task force found that accused officers must be given the names of people who filed complaints.
Among other problems: Some of those in charge of training are teaching while they themselves are under investigation for a range of alleged offenses, and there is a disturbing lack of legal counsel for those in custody. Last year, for example, only 6 out of every 1,000 people arrested had an attorney at any point while in police custody.
"Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again," the report said.
The task force chairwoman, Lori Lightfoot, called the four-month review a "blueprint for change" and urged the city and the police to forge a better relationship with the citizens they serve.
"The pain and the anger and the frustration that people across this city have articulated to us ... is something that has to be understood, has to be respected, and it has to be embraced if we are ever to move forward," she said at a news conference.
The task force report was released just two days after the fatal shooting of a black 16-year-old. Police say he was armed, though his mother says he did not have a gun. Around 100 people gathered for a vigil on Tuesday and some marched through streets, blocking traffic.
Emanuel announced the creation of the task force at the same time he fired police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the wake of public protests over the 2014 shooting by a white police officer of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black. A video of the shooting, released last year, contradicted police accounts that McDonald was threatening officers before he was shot.
"Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment," the report summary said. Change must start with an acknowledgement of Chicago policing's "sad history."
Also Wednesday, the City Council approved a change in municipal code allowing Emanuel to name Johnson the next superintendent instead of picking from a list of finalists given to him by the city's police board.
Kansas Overhauls Juvenile Justice System, Emphasizes Community-Based Reinvestment
by Sarah Barr
Kansas has become the latest state to overhaul its juvenile justice system, with a set of reforms projected to reduce the number of juveniles in custody by more than half and save tens of millions of dollars.
Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican, signed the sweeping legislation, SB 367, after it cleared the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this year with only a handful of dissenting votes during a tough budget season.
“This bill is about being smart on crime. It aligns our juvenile justice system with what research shows works best to reduce victimization, keep families strong, and guide youth toward a better path,” he said in a news release.
Like recent reforms in other states, the law aims to reduce the juvenile justice system's reliance on youth incarceration and emphasize the use of community-based treatment programs for young offenders.
Adam Gelb, director of the public safety performance project at Pew Charitable Trusts, said the reforms address the system from top to bottom.
“It is easily one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive juvenile justice reforms in recent memory,” he said. Pew assists states with analyses and policy recommendations.
The reforms are projected to cut out-of-home placements by 60 percent by fiscal year 2022 and save $72 million during a five-year period beginning in fiscal year 2018. Each year, the state will direct any savings from a reduced reliance on youth incarceration to a Juvenile Justice Improvement Fund that will pay for community-based programming.
“It provides a continuous, positive feedback loop when savings are reinvested in the programs that are improving the success rate, which in turn saves more money,” Gelb said.
The law also:
establishes a multiagency Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee;
phases out the use of group home placements except in limited circumstances; and
establishes case length limits that determine how long a juvenile can remain under the court's jurisdiction.
Some prosecutors in Kansas are skeptical of the new law.
The Kansas County and District Attorneys Association said in a news release that the law will "undermine the discretion of the courts to hold offenders accountable and protect the public."
The group also is concerned about whether funding will be adequate to support the reforms and said prosecutors should have had more say in shaping it.
"A bill this expansive, and potentially impactful deserved more input from those ultimately responsible for its successful implementation. That said, the KCDAA will remain vigilant and actively engaged in the process necessary to ensure this bill achieves the stated goals," the group said.
Kansas is the sixth state to participate in a juvenile justice reform project run by Pew, after Georgia, Kentucky, Hawaii, South Dakota and West Virginia. A bipartisan group of judges, district attorneys, law enforcement officers and public defenders began studying the juvenile justice system in June 2015 before making recommendations to the legislature in December.
The group found that while the juvenile arrest rate in Kansas had dropped more than 50 percent from 2004 to 2013, the number of youth under community supervisions or in residential placements hadn't fallen as fast. In addition, a growing number of juveniles in out-of-home placements were lower-level offenders, a trend the group attributed to a lack of community-based options.
State Sen. Greg Smith, a Republican who participated in the working group, said he was skeptical about the idea of reforms at first.
“My initial reaction was this is just another way to coddle kids,” he said.
But the data won him over, turning him into a champion for the bill in the Senate. He said it became clear that early intervention and community-based treatment held the most promise to get young people on the right track, rather than locking them up — a case he also made to his colleagues.
“Rather than keeping kids from reoffending we were teaching them to reoffend,” he said.
Benet Magnuson, executive director of the nonprofit justice center Kansas Appleseed, a member of Kansans United for Youth Justice, said he's thrilled with the legislation.
The group will be encouraging communities to embrace reforms, especially the promise of reinvestment.
“The law's in place, the funding's coming into place, but now it's up to the communities in Kansas to really implement the reforms,” he said.
Task force: Chicago police must acknowledge troubled past
by Don Babwin
CHICAGO — A task force Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel established to look into police practices said the department must acknowledge its racist past and overhaul the way it handles excessive force allegations, as City Council members neared a final vote on Emanuel's hand-picked choice for chief — an African-American with 27 years on the force.
In a draft executive summary first obtained by the Chicago Tribune and published Tuesday, the Task Force on Police Accountability recommended replacing the independent review authority that currently investigates misconduct with a “new and fully transparent and accountable Civilian Police Investigative Agency.” It also suggests creating the post of deputy chief of diversity and inclusion.
Task force chairwoman Lori E. Lightfoot said in a statement that the panel hasn't presented its report to Emanuel or the City Council and is disappointed “incomplete accounts of the a draft summary” were released. She added the task force “will provide full and accurate information on their finding and recommendations” on Wednesday.
Emanuel spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said the group is scheduled to brief the mayor on its recommendations Wednesday.
“The task force spent more than four months developing recommendations on an issue that is critical to the people of Chicago, and those recommendations deserve more than a cursory review of an early incomplete draft summary,” Quinn said.
The draft became public as the Chicago City Council's Committee on Public Safety recommended a change in the municipal code so that Emanuel can name Interim Superintendent Eddie Johnson the next superintendent instead of picking from a list of finalists given to him by the city's police board. A final vote from the full council was expected Wednesday.
During his testimony before the City Council committee Tuesday, Johnson said he hasn't had a chance to review the report.
“We welcome recommendations and will take a look at all of them,” he said.
Emanuel announced the creation of the task force at the same time he fired police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in the wake of public protests over the 2014 shooting by a white police officer of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. A video of the shooting, released last year, contradicted police accounts that McDonald was threatening officers before he was shot.
“Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment,” according to the draft summary, which added that past and present conditions have left residents totally alienated from the police.
“And while many individuals and entities have a role to play, the change must start with (the Chicago Police Department). CPD cannot begin to build trust, repair what is broken and tattered unless — from the top leadership on down — it faces these hard truths, acknowledges what it has done at the individual and institutional levels and earnestly reaches out with respect,” the summary says.
Some council members urged for Johnson to be appointed as quickly as possible because of the city's violent crime problem. They dismissed the suggestion by one alderman that changing, even temporarily, a process that has been in place for more than a half century would be a troubling and perhaps dangerous precedent.
“We don't have time to play,” Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. said during Tuesday's debate. “People are dying in our wards.”
Johnson is seen as a popular choice as an African-American and a 27-year department veteran. His rise within the force stands in stark contrast with the previous two superintendents, McCarthy and Jody Weis, both of whom are white and came from other law enforcement agencies.
While community leaders, aldermen and members of the department have praised Johnson, Emanuel came under fire for pushing to change the code rather than follow the normal procedures.
“The mayor didn't like the outcome and disregarded the process,” Alderman Scott Waguespack said Tuesday before the meeting. “We understand the mayor wants this person to carry through on his policies, but there is also time to do it the right way.”
Alderman Proco Joe Moreno called Johnson a “fantastic pick” while agreeing that the way the mayor and council are pushing him for the job might cause some to think the selection process is “another inside Chicago deal.”
“In this case, you want someone in there who can tackle the problems from day one, and the process we had failed us,” he said.
A year after Freddie Gray, Baltimore makes slow progres
by IAN SIMPSON AND DONNA OWENS
A year after the death of a black man in Baltimore police custody and the ensuing riots, the city is making slow headway in tackling the economic and social issues that residents, civic and business leaders say gave rise to the unrest.
With a Democratic mayoral primary two weeks away, setting the stage for November's general election, many voters are hungry for new leadership and fresh momentum to solve the vexing issues facing the city of 620,000 people, most of whom are African-American.
By most accounts, Baltimore's recovery from the looting, arson and violence that erupted after 25-year-old Freddie Gray's death in April 2015 has been spotty, leaving the city at risk.
Gray's death, a week after breaking his neck in a police van, triggered protests and rioting that damaged 400 businesses, and helped stoke Black Lives Matter, a movement that has challenged police treatment of minorities.
"The causes of the civil disturbance in Baltimore last year have not been eliminated," said Billy Murphy, a lawyer who represents Gray's family and settled a $6.4 million civil settlement with the city.
"This can happen again," he said, adding he was not speaking for Gray's relatives.
Still, there are signs of progress. Convention bookings have risen and tourism at the Inner Harbor has rebounded. About 93 percent of the businesses that closed after the riots have reopened, officials say.
But chronic economic problems persist. Unemployment, which dipped to 7.1 percent at the end of February from 7.4 percent at the time of the riots, exceeds the 5 percent national rate. Some 23 percent of residents live in poverty, 5 points above the national rate.
Yet last year's turmoil was a wake-up call. It led to the formation of numerous coalitions bringing together city businesses and non-profits for economic initiatives.
One involves Baltimore-based mutual fund companies Legg Mason Inc (LM.N) and T. Rowe Price Group Inc (TROW.O), apparel maker Under Armour Inc (UA.N) and Johns Hopkins University. The coalition plans to invest $69 million in a buy-local campaign, including minority-owned companies. While it may be too soon to see if those efforts will produce results, Diane Bell-McKoy, chief executive of Associated Black Charities, sees real economic improvement.
“It's slower than any of us want, and not helping enough people yet, but, definitely, change," she said.
MIXED BAG ON POLICING
In terms of policing, the year has been a mixed bag as well. Homicides climbed last year to the highest level in the city's history on a per-capita basis. The trend persists this year, even after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who decided against seeking re-election, fired her police chief.
The new commissioner, Kevin Davis, has emphasized training, foot patrols and improved community relations, and some residents have welcomed the new tone. "It's good they've got patrolmen in (some) areas,” said Kenneth Betts, a 50-year-old cook, standing near the rebuilt CVS pharmacy in Penn-North, epicenter of last year's disturbances.
He said police still resorted to aggressive tactics at times but that the climate had improved.
Six officers, three of them black, were charged in Gray's death. The trial of the first officer ended in a hung jury. His retrial and trials of the others are due to start next month.
But in neighborhood forums, the hot topics are economic development and worker training. In a November poll for the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore, 41 percent of black voters cited a jobs shortage as the cause of the city's problems.
Nearly all of the two dozen or so mayoral candidates, including 13 Democrats, are pledging aggressive job creation.
The field includes Councilman Nick Mosby, husband of Marilyn Mosby, the prosecutor who charged the officers involved in Gray's arrest, and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. In her comeback bid, former Mayor Sheila Dixon promises to triple training programs. State Senator Catherine Pugh, Dixon's closest rival in the Democratic race, would introduce mobile units to help residents apply for jobs. Millionaire businessman David Warnock wants to create entrepreneurial opportunities.
With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 10-to-1, whoever wins the April 26 Democratic primary is virtually assured victory in November.
“Many are recognizing the importance of ... social and economic disparities that are underlying causes of the challenges we faced last year," said Donald Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, made up of more than 500 businesses, non-profits and other institutions.
Beirut police learning about visiting our area to learn about community policing from DPD
by Tara Edwards
DETROIT - Students at Dixon Educational Learning Academy can pretty much sum up why community programs involving Detroit police work well.
Eighth grader Marlena Brantley has been involved with Detroit City Camp for weeks. She told 7 Action News before that, she had a bad perception of police.
“But as I got to know the police who work with us, I really have positive input on police because they were so nice and so generous and they are helping us to become a better person.”
It is these types of programs that have captured the attention of law enforcement in Beirut, Lebanon and Tuesday, members of the Beirut Police Department got a look at how Detroit Police officers do it.
“They could have gone anywhere,” said Chief James Craig. “They could have gone to Los Angeles, but they came to Detroit. I've often times said Detroit is different. We do have good working relations in our community.”
Members of the Beirut Police Department will be spending three days with DPD, exchanging ideas on community policing. They will also ride along with officers and learn more about programs like Project Green Light, which is a cooperative partnership between city businesses and police, where they install cameras to keep an eye on potential crime.
“We saw our colleagues here, how they are working, how they are visiting the schools, how they are interacting with the community,” said Colonel Elie Al Asmar.
“And what they are doing is a great job, the way they are interacting with them, with the society, with kids - especially with kids,” said Lt. Elsy El Hajj.
The visiting members of law enforcement will spend three days with DPD before visiting other police departments in Dearborn and Saginaw.
From the Department of Justice
Justice Department Honors Contributions to Crime Victims' Rights and Services at National Ceremony
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today recognized crime victim survivors, advocates and allied professionals at the National Crime Victims' Rights Service Awards ceremony. This year's event honored 10 individuals and programs for their extraordinary actions to bring positive and lasting change in the lives of crime victims.
“The extraordinary individuals being honored today are inspiring examples of service and selflessness,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Whether they are conducting research, championing new policies, or working directly with victims in need, these honorees are helping to revive hopes, restore futures, and reclaim lives. I am deeply grateful for their contributions, and I am proud to say that the Justice Department stands with them in the work of ensuring that every victim of crime in the United States receives the assistance that they need and deserve.”
This year's theme—Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope—focuses the observances for the 2016 Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 10-16. President Reagan proclaimed the first Victims' Rights Week in 1981, calling for greater sensitivity to the rights and needs of victims. The Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime leads communities across the country in observing National Crime Victims' Rights Week and hosts an annual award ceremony.
Following is a list of the award recipients, who were nominated by their colleagues in the field and selected by the Attorney General:
Tomorrow's Leaders Award – new award for 2016 – honors and highlights youth up to 24 years old who dedicate their efforts to supporting victims of crime.
Recepient: Miki K. Nishizawa of Waipahu, Hawaii.
Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Service Award recognizes a program, organization or individual who helps expand the reach of victims' rights and services.
Recipient: Choctaw Nation Victim Services of Hugo, Oklahoma.
The Crime Victims Financial Restoration Award recognizes individuals, programs, organizations or teams that develop innovative ways of funding services for crime victims or instituted innovative approaches for securing financial restoration for crime victims.
Recipients: Stephen J. Pfleger and Laura D. Rottenborn of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia.
The Crime Victims' Rights Award honors those whose efforts to advance or enforce crime victims' rights benefit crime victims at the state, tribal, or national level.
Recipient: Russell P. Butler, Esq., Executive Director of Maryland's Crime Victims' Resource Center from Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The National Crime Victim Service Award honors extraordinary efforts in direct service to crime victims.
Recipient: National Domestic Violence Hotline of Austin, Texas.
The Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award honors leadership, innovation and vision that lead to noteworthy changes in public policy that benefit crime victims.
Recipient: Dr. John P. J. Dussich of Fresno, California.
The Special Courage Award recognizes extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim.
Recipients: Kim Case of Jefferson City, Missouri and Brenda Tracy of Salem, Oregon.
The Vision 21 Crime Victims Research Award recognizes individual researchers or research teams that make a significant contribution to the nation's understanding of crime victims' issues.
Recipient: Dr. Anne P. DePrince of Denver.
Descriptive narratives and videos of the contributions of recipients are available at Office for Victims of Crime's Gallery: https://ovcncvrw.ncjrs.gov/Awards/AwardGallery/gallerysearch.html
About the Office of Justice Programs (OJP)
OJP, headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at: www.ojp.gov
LPD shifting focus, getting to know residents better with community policing
by Ryan Raiche
LAKELAND, Fla. - Some Lakeland police officers are shifting to a new focus to get to know residents a little better.
The city has chosen to go back to an affective program known as community policing in which officers stay in specific neighborhoods.
In Lakeland, community policing was at its prime in the '90s. LPD had about 30 officers dedicated solely to different zones in the city.
Many believe the community policing program helped save the Parker Street neighborhood in Lakeland, which had the highest crime rate in the city in the mid-'90s
"You wouldn't feel comfortable being outside and walking around," said Tim Mitchell, who runs Parker Street Ministries.
The ministry worked tirelessly to change the ways in the neighborhood, but Mitchell credits the community police officers who got to know the people who lived there and suddenly the crime rate went down.
"I think it was a huge piece in that puzzle in bringing back the neighborhood," he said.
Back then, some of the community police officers worked out of a house donated to the city. Neighborhood kids even stopped by to chat or do their homework because it was a safe place.
Budget cuts in the early 2000s put an end to this approach, but Assistant Chief Ruben Garcia certainly never forgot the impact.
"We solved more crime," he said.
He remembers watching the crime numbers go down and used that experience to convince city leaders to invest in it again.
Eight officers just got approved and assigned to four zones in the city.
"These officers get the opportunity to get out and work with the residents and learn the community day in and day out," Garcia said.
There is an upfront cost of hiring and training the officers, but Garcia said the benefit will come on the back end.
The program officially starts in the coming weeks.
'It's a public safety issue' — Should Utah require all rape kits to be tested?
by Annie Knox and Jessica Miller
A Utah researcher is calling on the state to mandate rape kit testing after discovering that much of the forensic evidence collected in sexual assaults since 2010 has not been analyzed.
"It's a public safety issue," said Julie Valentine, a forensic nurse and Brigham Young University professor.
The state crime lab is up for the challenge, saying it has the money and staff to handle an influx of kits. And prosecutors say that better DNA tracking of suspects can only help.
But the scientific analysis, critics contend, is costly and not always relevant to a case.
Under public scrutiny, lawmakers around the country have moved to require such testing and have funded efforts to clear backlogs of thousands of unsubmitted kits. Utah has hired an outside firm to test a pileup of 2,700 kits and is creating a database for victims to track the progress of their cases. Neighboring Colorado has required old kits be examined, joining Illinois, Ohio and Texas.
"We have so many resources now," said Jay Henry, director of the state crime lab, noting a $750,000 boost from the Legislature in 2014. Henry believes with new testing, a West Valley City lab set to open in November and additional staff, his agency can handle all new kits. Henry has begun directing police departments around the state to send every sample to the lab.
Kits typically cost at least $1,000 and the better part of a year to test. But Henry believes his staff can eventually cut the cost by 30 percent and the wait time down to 30 days with a new system of analyzing only the most pertinent swabs from each kit.
Valentine found that the majority of the 1,870 kits included in her study, collected from around Utah from 2010-2013, still have not been tested. The findings were released in a Thursday news conference at BYU. Police agencies, for their part, said that the state had directed them to send only the most high-priority samples until last year.
The genetic traces are especially helpful if police still are searching for a suspect, and the analysis can also prove that sexual activity took place.
But if the assailant is not a stranger to the person who reported being assaulted, the kits are less helpful, said defense attorney Susanne Gustin. The same goes for cases in which both parties acknowledge they had sex but disagree on whether it was consensual.
"I think it's a knee-jerk reaction for every single rape test to be tested," she said. "Let's put the resources towards the cases that need them and not towards the cases that don't."
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson agrees. The outcome of a case rarely hinges on DNA, she said, recalling one or two times in her own 20-year criminal law career when it played a part. She believes requiring all kits to be tested may further delay the existing monthslong wait for results.
Of the 400 Utah kits that have been tested from the 2,700 in the statewide backlog, 48 have produced leads in Utah, and three have helped police identify suspects in other states.
Valentine said she initially did not see a need to test all kits, but she has since been persuaded that the testing could detect repeat offenders. Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill agrees that testing each kit is a good idea, noting that sharing results with other states could help prosecute more rapes.
"I think there is value," Gill said, to a blanket testing policy.
A mandate also could help police and prosecutors keep biases in check by avoiding the need to pick and choose cases to forward to the lab, he said. They have a duty, he added, to pursue even difficult cases.
1 year after Freddie Gray, police work to heal city's wounds
In Baltimore and beyond, Gray's name became a rallying cry
by Juliet Linderman
BALTIMORE — A year after the death of Freddie Gray, a small part of his legacy can be seen at a southwest Baltimore recreation center, where the pounding of basketballs and squeak of sneakers echo off the walls as young black men in shorts and sweats face off.
Ken Hurst, a white policeman, watches from the side, a bum knee the only thing that keeps him from playing. He visits the game each week, not to make arrests but to make friends. "I need them to realize I'm not out here to lock everyone up," he says. "I'm here to rebuild trust."
Seldom in the city's history has that trust been so tenuous: Gray, a 25-year-old black man from West Baltimore, died after his neck was broken April 12 in the back of a police van. Protests erupted and long-simmering tensions between the police and residents exploded into the worst riots and looting in more than four decades. The U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into allegations of unlawful arrests and excessive force.
In Baltimore and beyond, Gray's name became a rallying cry, representative of black men's mistreatment by police officers, and of the Baltimore department's own failings.
Police commissioner Anthony Batts was fired. His deputy — and replacement — Kevin Davis — promised to repair a relationship with the community that was so strained some say it's safer to run from police than take a chance on interacting with them. While some in the community remain skeptical, other say there has been progress.
Davis has implemented a mandatory, 40-hour community patrol class that teaches officers in training — and eventually, all officers — how to engage residents. Davis said he has also begun honoring officers each week for demonstrating "guardianship" — for forging strong bonds with residents, rather than making arrests.
"That's how far we've come this year," he says. "Would that have happened before Freddie Gray? Probably not.
"We can no longer just go occupy a geography, a poor minority neighborhood, and stop 300 people in the hopes of catching 10 bad guys," Davis said. "We're also looking at who we're hiring ... Are we hiring people with a service mind set, or people who watch too many cops and robbers television shows?"
Another initiative, the one that brought Hurst to the rec center, aims to get more officers out of their cars and walking the streets of Baltimore's most crime-ridden neighborhoods as full-time patrol officers.
Howard Hood is a 22-year-old black man who was born and raised in the neighborhood Hurst patrols, and he shows up to the rec center every Tuesday night.
"Not all cops want to see us dead or in jail. We need more officers to come out and feel comfortable being around us," he says.
An hour earlier, Hurst, blue-eyed with tanned skin and an easy smile, was walking along a commercial strip in the Irvington neighborhood, dotted with corner stores, liquor stores, cheap restaurants and a massive thrift shop. Spotting a group of young men loitering near a bus shelter, he gently but firmly told them to move along.
As he strolled down the block, a car stopped in the middle of the road and a young man popped his head out of the passenger window.
"Whassup Hurst?" he shouts, his smiling lips parted to reveal teeth plated with gold veneers.
As part of his routine, Hurst walks to a cellphone store to check in on the manager. On the way, 45-year-old Keith Hopkins, who sat in a wheelchair, a hand-rolled cigarette between his fingers, stopped the officer to chat.
"Hurst don't need a gun or a badge around here," he says. "He's one of the good ones."
In 2015, the city experienced the most violent year in its history, and the Southwestern District, Hurst's post, saw 51 killings — the most of any precinct except the Western District, where Gray was arrested.
"Police officers, a lot of them think that every guy standing on the corner is dealing drugs, which isn't true," Hurst said. "And the community, a lot of them out here think every police officer coming up to them is going to make them sit on the ground and cuss at them and treat them badly."
Community mistrust of police in Baltimore dates back decades. Former Gov. Martin O'Malley, mayor from 1999-2006, instituted a "zero tolerance" crime-fighting strategy that advocated "stop and frisk" practices and cracking down on lower-level crimes such as public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. In 2005, more than 100,000 people were arrested — roughly one sixth of the city's population— and a Baltimore grand jury found excessive arrests in poor black neighborhoods.
The city paid $870,000 to settle a lawsuit by people who said they were illegally arrested, and O'Malley's successors have moved away from zero-tolerance policing. The police commissioner says those days are over, but the hangover lingers.
Dorothy Cunningham, 58, the president of the Irvington Community Association, was instrumental in getting Hurst assigned to her district. Hurst, an eight-year veteran, is beloved in the neighborhood, and has already helped residents feel safer, she says.
"Maybe the police learned something from the unrest in the spring," Cunningham says.
Other officers struggle to blend into the communities they patrol, where residents are still fearful of police and critical of the department.
Across town, Jordan Distance, a black officer, walks a commercial strip surrounded by blocks dotted with abandoned buildings and vacant homes. The day before, five people were shot, one fatally, on his beat. The police had yet to identify a suspect.
"The shooting last night, there's so many vacants and alleys and nobody's going to tell me what he looks like," he says.
"There's that disconnect between us and the people. I don't know if it's because they're scared or what."
For Hurst, policing is only one aspect of the job. He hands out flyers advertising jobs and is helping transform a vacant property into a community center, complete with a computer lab, a police substation and workshop space.
"There's a guy who said, I'll come and teach them carpentry. Another guy in the neighborhood said he'd come in and help them with their homework," Hurst says.
"We'll put in a garden and when the vegetables are ripe we'll pick them and pass them out. We're trying," he says, "we're trying our best."
Baltimore police use of ECDs questioned
The trends concern the city's top cop
by Mark Puente and Doug Donovan
BALTIMORE — Baltimore police officers exceeded widely accepted safety limits for Tasers more than any other force in Maryland, and in nearly all cases fired the weapon at suspects who were not complying with police orders but did not pose a threat.
Most of the suspects hit by Tasers in Baltimore were black, according to data obtained and analyzed by The Baltimore Sun, and more than two-thirds of the incidents from 2012 to 2014 took place in ZIP codes with the city's lowest median incomes.
The trends concern the city's top cop.
"Who suffers the most when police departments have deficient policies and procedures? Minorities and poorer communities suffer," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in response to The Sun's findings.
Davis has begun reorganizing the department and implementing new policies aimed at reforming its practices, including how officers use Tasers. His efforts come as the Justice Department continues a yearlong investigation into whether Baltimore officers violate federal civil rights laws when using force on residents, ranging from deadly force to Tasers and pepper spray.
Civil rights leaders and attorneys contend that more needs to be done. They say that residents increasingly complain about police abuse of Tasers and that the data shows that officers treat residents differently, depending on where they live and the color of their skin. Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, called The Sun's findings "troubling."
"This is not community policing," she said. "It is not the right way to solve the city's problems. We're going to have to address it."
The Police Department has tripled the number of Tasers in its arsenal to 1,700 in recent years. While Davis acknowledges that the department's policies had been inadequate, he said the Taser can be a useful tool if used correctly as an alternative to lethal force and in some cases can save lives.
Steve Tuttle, Taser International Inc.'s vice president of strategic communications, agreed, noting that the weapon is used by 18,000 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries.
"Marylanders want safer, effective and transparent responses to resistance, and no other less lethal tool today accomplishes this challenge especially with police under a microscope by critics," Tuttle said in an email.
But policing experts across the country have raised concerns that officers rely too heavily on Tasers.
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, whose five-year tenure ended in 2012, said he worries that police turn to Tasers rather than verbal techniques and other ways to subdue suspects or de-escalate tense encounters.
"Police have a fundamental responsibility to work to communicate to get people to comply with their directions," he said in an interview. "Anything that intercepts with that, we have to be careful with.
"There are a large number of cases where I have seen technology used as a default rather than resorting to verbal and nonverbal techniques that generations of police here and abroad have used effectively."
A number of federal courts have ruled in recent years that using a stun gun on suspects who put up nonviolent resistance is unconstitutional excessive force.
Amid concerns about Taser use, Maryland began requiring in 2012 that all police departments report data to the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention. The agency's online annual reports only summarize the aggregate information for each year.
With the data obtained through public records requests on nearly 3,000 Taser encounters in Maryland through 2014, The Sun created a database as part of a six-month investigation. Data from 2015 is not yet available.
The Sun found that nearly 60 percent of those hit by Tasers in Maryland were described by police as "non-compliant and non-threatening," as opposed to making threats or using force. In Baltimore, police characterized suspects as non-threatening in 98 percent of cases.
In more than 100 incidents, Baltimore officers discharged the weapon for more than 15 seconds — exceeding the limit for Taser use recommended by the weapon's manufacturer, the Justice Department and policing experts. That is one-third of about 300 incidents statewide, and more than any other jurisdiction.
In addition, officers across Maryland failed to heed other safety recommendations from Taser International and the Justice Department, including to avoid repeated drive-stunning and chest shots, The Sun found.
Taser is the only brand of stun gun used by law enforcement in Maryland. It fires two electrified darts that incapacitate suspects long enough for them to be handcuffed. An alternative drive-stun method allows officers to press the hand-held device against a suspect's body to inflict localized pain or to complete the electrical circuit when a dart fails to pierce the skin.
Eleven people have died in Maryland since 2009 after encounters in which police used Tasers, including five who died after being shocked for longer than what is now recommended. Three people died after being repeatedly hit by a Taser in drive-stun mode, according to police reports and other accounts. One died after being hit in the chest.
When Davis took over last summer, he found that the department's Taser policy, enacted in 2007, was vague and allowed too many interpretations for when officers could use the weapon.
Within weeks he approved a new policy that contained best practices written by national experts and adopted by the Justice Department to minimize injuries and to hold officers more accountable when they use Tasers.
To help defuse tense situations, the department developed training programs on cultural sensitivity and on ways that community foot patrols can better interact with residents.
Baltimore police, a force of 2,600 officers, reported the most Taser use in the state from 2012 to 2014.
Nearly 90 percent of those shocked in 730 incidents over the three years were black residents, a rate that far exceeds the 63 percent of Baltimore residents who are black, and tops the statewide rate of Taser use against African-Americans.
Nearly 70 percent of the incidents occurred in 10 of the city's poorest neighborhoods, including Sandtown-Winchester and Penn North, focal points of the unrest last April after Freddie Gray's death from spinal injuries suffered in police custody. By comparison, 11 percent occurred in the 10 ZIP codes with the highest median incomes, such as Roland Park and Govans. The city has 26 ZIP codes.
Kenneth Butler, president of the Vanguard Justice Society, an association for minority and female officers in Baltimore, said police do not target suspects based on their race or where they live. He said more officers might be deployed in low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of minorities.
The neighborhoods that saw the most Taser use also had the most crime. Those communities, predominantly in East and West Baltimore, regularly record the city's highest rates of violent crime.
Butler estimated that he has shocked people with his Taser three times in the past five years. Two were black, one was white, he said. In every encounter, he added, he was attempting to gain compliance from people who were violently resisting his orders.
"Police work is not pretty," Butler said. "No matter how we use force, it's not going to look pretty. When the Taser is used correctly, it's an excellent tool."
But civil rights leaders pointed to deep-seated problems between police and residents.
"It's another example of the great systemic change we need with law enforcement in Maryland," the Rev. Heber Brown III, an activist and pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, said about Taser use. "This is most concerning. We need to have eyes on this."
In the aftermath of Gray's death and the riots and protests that gripped the city, calls alleging police brutality to the Murphy, Falcon & Murphy law firm "dramatically spiked" and included dozens of complaints about possible Taser abuses by Baltimore police, according to lawyer Hassan Murphy. The firm represented Gray's family in a $6.4 million civil settlement with the city.
Murphy said he and his colleagues are checking out the Taser allegations and plan to compare them with the data Baltimore police reported to the state.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department is continuing its review of the Police Department and thousands of pages of records to determine whether the agency has discriminatory policies.
A similar federal probe of the Cleveland Division of Police in Ohio found that officers lacked proper Taser training and often used the weapons in situations when less force could have been applied, especially on people with mental illnesses or medical and drug problems.
"It's a systemic problem nationally," said Steven M. Dettelbach, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, who oversaw the federal investigation in Cleveland. Police "tend to fall in love with the Taser a little too much."
New Taser Policies
Davis and other top brass hope the new policy changes how and when Baltimore officers reach for a Taser.
The new policy states that officers should only use the weapon for one standard cycle of five seconds, "then stop and evaluate the situation." Officers cannot fire multiple times merely because a suspect fails to comply with a command unless the suspect could obtain a weapon or poses an immediate threat.
The department moved the Taser up the scale of acceptable force in the new policy, so that Baltimore officers must exhaust other means before using the weapon. Tasers had been on the same level as pepper spray; now they are between pepper spray and deadly force.
Police brass also wanted to ensure that police reports accurately reflect what happened in Taser incidents.
Now officers must "clearly articulate" every Taser activation in police reports, including those longer than 15 seconds, and every time officers use the drive-stun mode, the policy states.
The new policy requires each computer chip to be downloaded quarterly and when used on a person. And before an officer can get a new Taser cartridge, the written police report must match the data on the computer chip, and a supervisor must approve it, said Jason Johnson, the department's director of strategic development.
The written narratives in police reports often do not match the data reported to the state from the Taser's computer chip, The Sun found in its investigation.
From 2012 to 2014, the reports on incidents that involved the five longest activations often noted only that officers "used" or "deployed" a Taser on a person — not how many times. The suspects in those cases were shocked well above the recommended limit, from 68 seconds to 159 seconds.
In one case, two officers responded in May 2014 to Brio Tuscan Grille on East Pratt Street about a man talking incoherently to patrons. The man refused officers' orders to leave. "He then started flailing his arms at this officer," the report states. With the help of another officer, the man "was placed in handcuffs."
The officer did not mention in the report that he fired the Taser darts and then used the device's drive-stun mode. State data shows the officer activated the Taser for nine cycles for 52 seconds.
The new Taser policy also cautions officers to avoid the chest and to limit use of the drive-stun mode. Officers should use drive stun to supplement the probe method when it does not work and as a countermeasure to create distance between officers and suspects.
"Do what's best for the person; do what's best for the department; do what's best for the officer," said Col. David Reitz, head of the administrative division.
Officers in Maryland fired Tasers at the chest in 119 incidents in 2014 — even though Taser has warned since 2009 that doing so could cause cardiac arrest. Baltimore officers hit the chest in 29 incidents. Data from earlier years only shows when police struck the "front torso," which includes the chest.
A Teenager Dies
One person has died in a Taser-related incident in Baltimore since 2009.
Novella Sargusingh still sobs in recounting the incident. She remembers flopping in her recliner and kicking off her shoes on Mother's Day 2014 when her phone rang. She answered, grabbing an envelope to jot notes: Good Samaritan Hospital, toothache, seizures, four security guards, police and Taser.
She learned that her former foster son, George Vonn King, 19, was near death after an officer struck King with a Taser five times, including four drive-stun jolts to his chest.
Days later, Sargusingh and others circled King's hospital bed and sang "Amazing Grace." As tears streamed down her cheeks, Sargusingh grabbed King's hand and whispered in his ear, "It's OK, baby, you can go." King died moments later when a nurse turned off life support.
"He went into the hospital with a toothache and ends up dead because of a Taser," said Sargusingh, 62. "That doesn't make sense. He was healthy as a horse. He was 19, for god's sake."
King had suffered seizures but objected to being moved to intensive care and asked to be released. King became "aggressive, combative and disoriented, possibly because of the medication he had been given," according to police records. King then removed an IV from his arm. When a nurse tried to reinsert it, King tried to hit her.
Nurses called police. Two officers tried to calm King, but he remained combative. An officer shot a Taser at King's chest, but it had no impact. The officer then used the drive-stun mode on King's chest. Nurses, hospital security and police held King down long enough to put him on a bed, but they could not put restraints on him, according to records.
State data shows six discharges totaling 27 seconds.
The medical examiner ruled that King's death was from natural causes by "acute epidural abscess and meningitis with complications."
In the aftermath of King's death, then-Commissioner Anthony W. Batts ordered police supervisors to evaluate whether officers should handle emergency calls at hospitals and mental health facilities. Hospital leaders objected across the state.
Batts then dropped that idea and said he would equip more officers with Tasers in order to reduce accusations of brutality.
A divided city Board of Estimates approved the most recent Taser purchase — a $1.1 million contract — in late 2014. City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt — the two on the five-member board who voted against the contract — doubted that police were being trained properly to use the weapon.
Young remains concerned.
"I have concerns about the health risks," he said. "I am against Tasers."
At the time of the contract vote, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland feared that more deaths would occur and warned Batts that the agency needed better training before adding the weapons.
In a recent interview, David Rocah, the group's senior staff attorney, commended the Police Department for updating its policy. However, Rocah said, a better policy would be to use the Taser only for "active aggression" such as an attack or threatened attack, not when a person is "actively or aggressively resisting."
Not having clearer guidelines "makes it difficult, if not impossible, to actually hold officers accountable when they do violate policy," Rocah said.
The NAACP's Hill-Aston also praised Davis for overhauling the Taser policy but said she fears "it won't get down to the rank and file. The older officers need to get the message."
Bealefeld, the former police commissioner who now serves as Under Armour Inc.'s chief global security officer, said teaching proper conflict resolution techniques is "labor intensive" and requires constant refresher courses. He said departments "look for expedited ways" to teach conflict resolution with technology rather than use of communication skills.
Davis said he is confident that his officers are following the new Taser policy. It is common for departments to have standard operating policies and standard operating practices, he added.
The department plans to report that its Taser use increased to 350 incidents in 2015.
Davis also has ordered an overhaul of the department's use-of-force policy for the first time since 2003, and recently dispatched Johnson to Seattle to examine how that police department's polices have changed after a similar federal civil rights investigation.
Baltimore's chief stressed that his department is serious about reforms and that the new policies are consistent with the Justice Department's best practices.
"We have to train to the policy, and we have to hold officers accountable," Davis said.
One View: Public safety dispatchers play vital role behind the scenes
by David Cochran and Jason Soto
Reno citizens are accustomed to police vehicles cruising the streets and fire engines roaring out of the stations to help keep our community safe. However, our city has another incredible public safety team you never see and hardly ever hear: the hard-working team of public safety dispatchers.
Dispatchers are the voice behind urgent and sometimes chaotic calls to 911. That unseen voice you hear, that calm in the storm, comes from a group of professional men and women who are integral partners of law enforcement and fire safety.
Reno public safety dispatchers are required to successfully complete 18 rigorous months of initial training and remain on the positive end of performance evaluations throughout their career. When you dial 911, you hear the voice of a highly trained individual who is committed to helping the citizens of Reno.
That individual displays exceptional listening and interpersonal skills, all the while accurately typing at incredible speeds. Though this person is speaking calmly to you while sorting through the details of your emergency, public safety dispatchers must also track police and fire vehicles on state-of-the-art video surveillance equipment, use multifrequency radios to direct emergency first responders, and maintain a high level of professionalism in spite of the wide range of emotions often manifested during emergencies.
With all the technology and tools, it still comes down to the skill of the dispatcher as they communicate with callers. There could be a language barrier between the dispatcher and caller, or the caller may not be able to speak clearly because of the symptoms of a stroke. The call might end abruptly, but the dispatcher must be able to rationalize and make quick, smart decisions. This could be the last chance a victim has to get help.
That voice, that individual in control, that dispatcher, is a major public safety partner, albeit behind the scenes.
At a critical moment, that public safety dispatcher gives us guidance, direction and informs us of things unseen and persons unknown. Knowing how many victims there are, if there are weapons involved, or exactly where in a large building is the closest entrance are critical element for firefighters and police officers to know. With that kind of information, public safety dispatchers protect lives, save lives and impact the lives of your police officers, your firefighters and Reno citizens. Dispatchers do this 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
April 10-16, 2016 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. We are using this time frame to thank the team of professionals who calmly and quickly answer over 500,000 emergency and nonemergency calls each year. We can protect and serve the citizens of Reno because of our hardworking and dedicated public safety dispatchers.
Visit Reno.gov/Jobs to apply to be a City of Reno Public Safety Dispatcher.
David Cochran is chief of the Reno Fire Department. Jason Soto is chief of the Reno Police Department.
Racial disparities in SF traffic searches raise concerns of bias
Police say that factors including where they patrol and the demographics of criminal suspects are at the root
by Joaquin Palomino
SAN FRANCISCO — On Sept. 6, 2013, four plainclothes San Francisco police officers approached a 55-year-old African American man as he parked in front of his home in the Bayview district. They ordered the driver and his friend out of the car and onto the sidewalk, according to a grievance the man filed with the city. The driver complied, handing the officers his license and registration.
After checking his documents, officers asked to search his vehicle, according to the driver, whose identity was withheld by the city's Office of Citizen Complaints. He consented, and officers found a small amount of marijuana both in the vehicle and in the passenger's backpack. The police did not cite either of the men, telling the passenger they were looking for weapons. None was recovered.
In his complaint, the driver said police never explained why he had been stopped and alleged that his consent for the search had been coerced, though he did not say exactly how. He also accused police of targeting him because of his race. One of the officers interviewed disputed the claim, telling investigators the search was predicated on incorrect information from a dispatcher that the car might have been stolen.
None of the allegations was sustained by the Office of Citizen Complaints.
This stop and search, and the dispute about whether police acted properly, are emblematic of issues raised by a Chronicle examination of three years of data on traffic stops in San Francisco.
From the beginning of 2013 to December 2015, SFPD officers chose to search black and Latino drivers at much higher rates than whites or Asians after traffic stops, either by invoking probable cause or requesting the driver's consent. Those searches, however, were much less likely to result in officers uncovering evidence of crimes than less frequent searches of white or Asian drivers.
Police say that factors including where they patrol and the demographics of criminal suspects are at the root of those racial disparities, but many social scientists, criminologists and civil rights advocates believe they signal racial profiling. The higher search rates of blacks and Latinos suggest police are more inclined to search drivers of those races, they say, and a lower evidence recovery, or “hit” rate, implies those searches are more often unwarranted.
“A lower hit rate for ethnic minorities is a red flag for bias,” said Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida who participated in a previous analysis of SFPD stop data in 2007. “It's not conclusive, because nothing is, but it is certainly a statistic that should lead to questions.”
Importance Of Traffic Stop Data
Because traffic stops are the source of most interactions between the police and the public, they have become a growing area of study and an impetus for police reforms.
In Rhode Island, racial disparities in traffic stop data prompted the state to revamp its police training policies in the mid-2000s. Connecticut recently began tracking a variety of detailed metrics on police stops and searches. And in Oakland, achieving racial parity in stops and searches is one of the last hurdles that city's Police Department must clear before being freed from more than a decade of federal oversight.
The California Legislature passed a bill last year requiring all police departments in the state to collect traffic stop data and send it to a newly created branch of the attorney general's office starting in 2019, where it will be analyzed.
Neither San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr nor any deputy chief was made available for comment on The Chronicle's findings. But other SFPD officials attributed racial disparities in stops and searches to higher crime rates, and subsequently a heavier police presence, in minority communities, as well as the disproportionate number of crime suspects identified as black and Latino.
Cmdr. Ann Mannix, who heads SFPD's traffic division, said officers do not racially profile drivers.
“I don't say, ‘There's a white guy, I'm going to go pull them over. There's an African American guy, I'm going to search them,'” she said. “I pull someone over because their registration is expired, they're going too fast, they've got a headlight out. And then, if I see something else, I probe further.”
Critics, however, say the data raise concerns about racial bias at a time when police-community relations in San Francisco have grown tense, in part because of the officer-involved shooting deaths of Mario Woods and Alex Nieto, and derogatory text messages shared by SFPD officers.
Last week, Public Defender Jeff Adachi asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to open a civil rights investigation of the SFPD. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has been lobbying the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation of the department for two months.
“It reflects systemic racism and bias in dealing with black people,” Amos Brown, president of San Francisco's NAACP chapter, said of The Chronicle's findings. “We've been working with the Police Commission, Chief Greg Suhr, the mayor's office to improve (community-police relations), but it's still a major issue that needs to be addressed.”
A Search With ‘Virtually No Limits'
San Francisco police made almost 320,000 traffic or suspicious-vehicle stops from 2013 to 2015. The vast majority of drivers were given a warning or ticket and sent on their way, but cars were searched in about 12,700 of those stops — roughly 4 percent, a rate close to the national average.
Justifications for a search after a traffic stop are expansive. If someone smells like marijuana, their car can be searched. If they are on probation or parole, they can be searched. If police have reason to believe the driver is armed, officers can pat them down for weapons.
A police tactic often questioned by critics is a consent search, which requires asking a driver's permission. Unlike probable cause searches, which require police to articulate some evidence of a possible crime, consent searches can be based on just an officer's hunch. A 2008 research paper from Boston University said consent allows “an open-ended search with virtually no limits.”
Due to the degree of officer discretion involved, many observers, including the ACLU, consider consent searches a reliable barometer for discerning bias — both conscious and subconscious.
“Consent searches are what people complain about when they say police just pulled them over for no reason,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview district and sponsored legislation last year requiring the city to more thoroughly analyze and report its traffic stop data. “There's a compelling argument that they're obsolete, unfair and incredibly biased.”
San Francisco's top prosecutor and public defender both have reservations about consent searches. District Attorney George Gascón, formerly the city's chief of police, said such searches are useful for law enforcement but that some drivers who are stopped do not realize they can decline an officer's search request. Adachi said his office's clients often say their consent was coerced — something that is difficult to prove in court.
“Too often we hear that a (defendant) said, ‘No, I don't agree to a search,'”Adachi said. “And the officer still went into their trunk, searched the floorboards of the car, searched the glove compartment.”
Racial Divide In SFPD Consent Searches
SFPD reported just under 1,800 consent searches from 2013 to December 2015, or about a dozen per week. By comparison, police in Charlotte, N.C., roughly the same size as San Francisco, conducted 2,500 consent searches last year alone. About 37 percent of all vehicle searches in Connecticut were conducted with the driver's consent from Oct. 1, 2013, to March 31, 2015, a proportion more than twice as high as San Francisco's.
Despite the low volume, there was a large racial divide in whom police asked to search. Over that three-year span, African American motorists were eight times more likely to be searched with consent than white drivers after a traffic stop. Latino drivers were searched at almost four times the rate of white drivers.
In all consent searches during that period, police found criminal evidence less than 13 percent of the time. Just 85 of the individuals searched were ultimately arrested; 46 percent of those arrested were African American.
Experts say the low search-recovery and arrest rates suggest that consent searches may not be the best way to detect crime. “Within the span of a couple years, thousands of people were subjected to a humiliating ritual,” said Janice Nadler, a law professor at Chicago's Northwestern University. “And I'm guessing many of those people were innocent.”
An Important Tool For Police
Certain law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions have temporarily or permanently banned consent searches after class-action lawsuits or constitutional challenges. The California Highway Patrol has not conducted them in more than a decade. The ACLU suggested SFPD end the practice in 2002, after that organization's analysis of stop data uncovered similar racial disparities.
Law enforcement experts maintain that consent searches are crucial for catching criminals in the absence of tangible physical evidence.
“Consent searches give us the ability to do our jobs efficiently and go on to the next call for service,” said Mike Durant, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide lobbying group. “We don't always have the ability to completely articulate” reasonable suspicion.
While consent searches can involve a high level of discretion, SFPD officials say new hires receive ample training on fair and impartial policing. Recruit officers go through a four-hour workshop on racial profiling at the police academy, 12 hours of search and seizure training, and a city-ordered 40 hours of “cultural immersion” training, where they meet with leaders of various minority communities.
Veteran officers also return to the academy every few years to receive additional instruction on racial profiling, which covers correct use of probable cause for stopping and searching suspects.
Discrimination Or Social Factors
San Francisco police officials attribute racial disparities in stops and searches largely to higher crime and a heavier police presence in minority communities. The disproportionate number of crime suspects identified as black and Latino is another factor that could affect the overall numbers, they say.
Because traffic stop-and-search data can be influenced by such social factors, many experts believe the most telling sign of potential racial profiling isn't whom police choose to search. Instead, they focus on the outcome of searches, particularly those predicated on reasonable suspicion or probable cause, also referred to as evidence-based searches.
From 2013 to 2015, SFPD conducted 3,450 evidence-based searches after traffic stops, many based on officers' reporting the potential sight or smell of drugs, alcohol or weapons. Like consent searches, most took place in the Bayview district, downtown and the Mission.
Black drivers were searched at a rate more than four times higher than white drivers after being pulled over, according to SFPD data. Latino motorists were searched almost 2½ times as often as white drivers.
Despite the high search rates, officers found guns, drugs or other contraband just 32 percent of the time after an evidence-based search of African American motorists, and 41 percent of the time when the driver was Latino. By comparison, when police searched white drivers, evidence was recovered 74 percent of the time; the recovery rate for Asian drivers was almost 80 percent.
“It implies that when police search whites and Asians, they're pretty darn sure they're going to find something,” Florida criminologist Fridell said. But the data suggest “there's a wider net being cast and a lower level of proof (required) before initiating a search of African Americans and Latinos.”
Strained Community-Police Relations
While racial disparities in traffic stops might seem minor compared with serious incidents of police misconduct, they can have a profound influence on community-police relations. “That sort of intrusion is very meaningful in a person's life,” said University of Kansas Professor Charles Epp, an expert on investigatory police stops. “It leads to suspicion of the police and to stories about disrespectful treatment.”
District Attorney Gascón, who put together a task force to investigate bias within the SFPD last year, said the impact of racially skewed stops and searches reverberates throughout the criminal justice system, and they challenge the notion of San Francisco as a progressive city.
“If a significant segment of the community believes the system is rigged, that's going to impact every portion of our work,” he said. “Because we're a progressive city, we often fall under a false sense of security that we can't have the problems other places do when it comes to racially biased policing.”
Last year, Supervisor Cohen sponsored legislation requiring the Police Department to release reports on its traffic stop data. Despite the fact it has collected the information for more than a decade, the city seldom analyzed it, past reporting by The Chronicle has shown.
The ordinance was one of many measures geared toward rebuilding public trust in the Police Department after what Cohen characterized as a tumultuous few years.
“Bias exists within our law enforcement agencies, particularly SFPD, and these data about stops and searches is another example of a justice system that's failing,” she said, while noting that many of the department's problems are caused by a handful of officers. “We are bringing some tools to the table to help rectify historic past wrongs. ... We have a rare opportunity to make major tweaks to a department that's falling short.”
Rifles on campus: US college security forces add firepower
Police say rifles offer more firepower, longer range and greater accuracy than handguns
by Collin Binkley
BOSTON — Once a rarity on campuses, semi-automatic rifles are becoming a standard part of the arsenal for college security forces — firepower they say could make a difference the next time a gunman goes on a rampage.
The weapons are rarely seen in public and often kept stashed in cruisers or department headquarters, and many schools won't talk about them. But federal data and Associated Press interviews and requests for records reveal that at least 100 U.S. college police forces, and probably many more, have added rifles over the past decade.
The arms buildup has raised tensions on campuses, with debates over the need for such weaponry flaring at schools like Boston's Northeastern University, the University of Maryland and Florida State. A similar outcry over police use of military-style gear erupted in 2014 after the violence that broke out in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police say rifles offer more firepower, longer range and greater accuracy than handguns.
"A bad shot with a rifle is better than a good shot with a handgun," said Skip Frost, who until February was deputy chief of police at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which offers a semi-automatic rifle to every officer.
Some colleges have made the weapons available to SWAT-type units of officers who respond to risky situations; some have issued the guns to patrol officers. Either way, police are authorized to take up their rifles only in extreme cases, such as a shooting or reports of an armed person.
Most states also require police officers to undergo weapons-proficiency training at least once a year. Many campuses receive training from the FBI and U.S. Justice Department, which teach officers how to move quickly through buildings to take down a shooter.
"The reality is that these are not always handgun situations," said FBI agent Katherine Schweit, the bureau's senior executive in charge of active shooter matters. "We can't tell a university realistically what's acceptable in their community — that's up to them — but we recognize the struggle that every community faces because many of these shooters come to the scene with a long gun."
The federal government provided a glimpse into the spread of rifles in 2014 when it started publicizing a list of military equipment on loan to police forces across the country. The newest figures this year show that 91 campus police forces are armed with 817 rifles that were obtained through the program over the past decade, along with other tactical gear. But colleges can buy firearms directly, as well.
The AP sent records requests this year to 20 of the nation's largest public universities for a list of their guns and for invoices from weapons purchases. Most of them refused, with several of them, such as Arizona State and Ohio State, saying releasing the information would jeopardize campus safety.
There was a time when colleges debated whether campus police should be armed at all. In 2005, about a third of the nation's campus police agencies were unarmed, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In 2012, the last time colleges were surveyed, 75 percent were armed with some type of gun.
Things changed dramatically in the nine years since a student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. For example, after decades without giving guns to its police, Princeton University announced in November that it, too, would equip officers with rifles in case of a campus shooting.
Since Virginia Tech, more carnage has followed: Six dead at Northern Illinois University. Seven more at California's Oikos University. Ten dead last year at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
"As law enforcement, it's our responsibility to be prepared for the worst-case scenario," said Frost, the former deputy chief at Illinois. "If we can't protect ourselves, we can't protect the community."
Gun education, outreach curbs suicides
Police Commander Keith Caddy has been around guns since childhood, now he's doing outreach for the Gun Shop Project
by David Crary
MONTROSE, Colorado — Keith Carey is a gunsmith in Montrose, a town with a frontier flavor set amid the mesas of western Colorado. He's a staunch, though soft-spoken, defender of the right to bear arms.
Yet now he's a willing recruit in a fledgling effort to see if the gun community itself — sellers and owners of firearms, operators of shooting ranges — can help Colorado and other Western states reduce their highest-in-the-nation suicide rates.
"Suicide is a tragedy no matter how it's done," said Carey, whose adult daughter killed herself with a mix of alcohol and antidepressants a few years ago on the East Coast. However, he sees the logic in trying gun-specific prevention strategies in towns like Montrose, where guns are an integral part of daily life.
"It's very expedient for people to commit suicide by a firearm, without too much forethought," Carey said. "Unfortunately, it's generally effective."
At the urging of a local police commander, Carey agreed last year to participate in the Gun Shop Project, a state-funded program in which gun sellers and range operators in five western Colorado counties were invited to help raise awareness about suicide. It's a tentative but promising bid to open up a conversation on a topic that's been virtually taboo in these Western states: the intersection of guns and suicide.
Carey's shop counter now displays wallet-sized cards with information about a suicide hotline. A poster by the door offers advice about ways to keep guns away from friends or relatives at risk of killing themselves.
Carey says some customers take materials home, or ask a few questions. The conversations tend to be brief.
"Suicide is one of those morose subjects that a lot of us don't want to talk about," he said. "But it's all too common. I believe any method of suicide prevention is worth a good hard try."
Across the U.S., suicides account for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths — far outnumbering gun homicides. In 2014, according to federal data, there were 33,599 firearm deaths; 21,334 of them were suicides. That figure represents about half of all suicides that year; but in several western Colorado counties, and in some other Rocky Mountain states with high gun-ownership rates, more than 60 percent of suicides involve firearms.
Along with Alaska, the states with the highest rates form a contiguous bloc — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. All have age-adjusted suicide rates at least 50 percent higher than the national rate of 12.93 suicides per 100,000 people; Montana's rate, 23.80, is the highest in the nation.
Between 2000 and 2014, gun suicides increased by more than 51 percent in those states, while rising by less than 30 percent nationwide.
Theories abound as to why such high rates. Commonly cited factors include the isolation and economic hard times in rural areas of these states. There's also belief that a self-reliant frontier mindset deters some Westerners from seeking help when depression sinks in.
"We embrace the cowboy mentality," says Jarrod Hindman, director of Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention. "If you're suffering, suck it up, pick yourself up by your boot straps. But that doesn't work very well if you're suicidal."
Underlying all these explanations is the fact that firearms are more ubiquitous in the West than in most other parts of the country.
Catherine Barber, a suicide prevention expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, says residents of gun-owning homes are at higher risk of suicide than other people — simply because a suicide attempt is more likely to involve a gun. According to federal estimates, suicide attempts involving firearms succeed 85 percent of the time, compared to less than 10 percent of attempts involving drug overdoses and several other methods.
"It's not that gun owners are more suicidal," Barber argues. "It's that they're more likely to die in the event that they become suicidal, because they are using a gun."
Colorado's Gun Shop Project is modeled after a program pioneered in New Hampshire. Barber helped design the initiative and hopes collaboration on firearm suicide prevention can spread nationwide.
"In the past, people shut up about this issue because they thought raising it meant raising the issue of gun control," she said. "It makes so much more sense to look at gun owners as part of the solution."
Hindman said that when he joined the state health department in 2004, talking about the role of firearms in suicide was discouraged. It's still a sensitive topic, he said, but some funding has materialized for gun-specific initiatives.
In Montrose, Police Commander Keith Caddy has been around guns since childhood. Now he's doing outreach for the Gun Shop Project — and most of the businesses he has visited agreed to display suicide-awareness materials once they were assured it wasn't a gun-takeaway program in disguise.
"It's my duty to protect the community I serve," Caddy said. "If I can go out there and spend a little time talking to the gun shops, maybe the reward will be saving someone's life."
Suicide presents a distinctive challenge for shooting ranges: Occasionally, someone will rent a gun, then use it to commit suicide.
At the Family Shooting Center in Denver, there have been three such incidents, including two since Doug Hamilton began managing the range in 2004. Hamilton is open to letting his staff get suicide-prevention training, though he's unsure it would help. Those who killed themselves at his range exhibited no signs of stress beforehand.
"Suicide prevention brochures aren't something that anyone's going to pick up who has come out to our range to kill themselves," he said.
Such challenges are familiar to Dr. Michael Victoroff, a Denver-area physician whose leisure-time passion is competitive shooting. He was at the Family Shooting Center in Denver when one of the suicides occurred there.
Victoroff belongs to the American Medical Association and the National Rifle Association, and has qualms about both.
"The medical community has been content not to know anything about gun culture and gun safety," said Victoroff. As for the NRA, he'd like to see suicide prevention highlighted in its training materials.
Over the years, firearm suicide has not been a high-profile issue for the NRA; it worries that the topic might be used to advance a gun-control agenda. Though the NRA has no position on Colorado's Gun Shop Project, it has endorsed a bill in Washington state encouraging gun dealers to participate in suicide prevention efforts, said spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
Throughout Colorado, prevention efforts are fueled to a large degree by people who've lost friends and loved ones to suicide.
Cindy Haerle, a teacher and board member of the Grand Junction-based Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation, grew up in "a real gun family" in Salida, Colorado, and had her own gun by the time she was 5. But she gave up shooting after her brother John killed himself with a pistol in 1980 at age 29.
"Nothing is as final as a gunshot," said Haerle, who was 13 at the time.
In the northwest counties of Routt and Moffatt, the Gun Shop Project is coordinated by Meghan Francone, who constantly reassures gun owners and sellers that the outreach program poses no threat. She got involved after her 15-year-old brother-in-law fatally shot himself in 2010.
"Keep your guns. Keep a dozen. I don't care. But please make sure they are locked and out of the reach of someone who's in crisis," she said. "I'm not asking any gun shop owner to be a psychologist. I'm asking them to be their brother's keeper."