April, 2016 - Week 4
Community police oversight panel to Portland mayor: Get rid of police 48-hour rule now
by Maxine Bernstein
Calling the 48-hour rule "contrary to good policing,'' a community police oversight panel Thursday unanimously passed a resolution urging Portland's mayor and police chief to immediately remove it from the police union contract.
The controversial rule is part of the rank-and-file police union contract and requires internal affairs investigators to give officers at least two days' notice before interviewing them after they've been involved in a deadly shooting or death in custody.
"The impact of the 48-hour rule on the Portland community has had a historical trajectory of confusion, mistrust and skepticism about the Portland Police Bureau,'' the resolution read. "Since the role of the PPA (Portland Police Association) is to act on behalf of the members of the Portland Police Bureau and not on behalf of the inhabitants of Portland, this places the members of the Portland Police Bureau in a most precarious position; against the very community they are charged to keep and maintain safety.''
The city's Community Oversight Advisory Board -- born out of the city's settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor police reforms – also demands that the mayor and police chief report back to the board on their plans to get rid of the rule.
The board's action follows repeated recommendations by outside consultants, who have shown the 48-hour rule is "antithetical to good community policing,'' the resolution says.
In an emailed statement Friday, Mayor Charlie Hales' spokeswoman Sara Hottman wrote, "The rule is subject to bargaining and the contract isn't open yet, so the mayor can't immediately act on it as the COAB (Community Oversight Advisory Board) request, but shares the community's concerns.''
The Rev. LeRoy Haynes, co-chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance's Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, said he and the alliance have been trying to convince the city to get rid of the rule for over 12 years. Doing so would go a long way to helping rebuild public trust in police, he said.
"The 48-hour rule creates a double standard,'' Haynes said.
The resolution is one of roughly 50 recommendations on police use of force policies, data collection and police response to mental health crisis calls that the community advisory board has passed and forwarded to the Justice Department and the Police Bureau, with no feedback.
Attorney Tom Steenson, a member of the community board, said the lack of response is frustrating.
"It looks as if there is no progress being made – that we're doing this work, and it's not being listened to,'' he said. "We've been working very, very hard with no feedback whatsoever. ... It's a major problem.''
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrian Brown said the Justice Department's review of changing police policies is complex and time-consuming. The settlement agreement stemmed from a federal investigation in 2012 that found Portland police used an excessive amount of force against people with mental illness.
"It's not that we haven't considered your recommendations. It's because we haven't been able to get to them yet,'' she told the community panel.
Brown said Justice officials have worked with the city for months and are nearly ready to approve a new Police Bureau mental health response policy. They're still waiting for the city to propose a revamped police accountability system and negotiations are continuing on changes to the bureau's use of force policy and reviews of police training curriculum, she reported.
"I apologize that our silence makes you feel like we're not considering your recommendations. That's not the case,'' Brown said. "Policy review is very complex.''
During the course of Thursday night's meeting, regular attendee Kif Davis, who was sitting in the front row, was removed when he refused to abide by chair Kathleen Saadat's demand that either he put down his small hand-held video camera or move to a designated filming area.
Steenson, who has successfully negotiated multimillion-dollar settlements for clients stemming from civil rights lawsuits against the city in police-related cases, told Davis that he believed he had the right to remain where he was and what he was doing.
Police oversight panels in the city are struggling to maintain order at their meetings.
In late March, a member of the public threw a cup of water at a member of a different volunteer police oversight body. The police union urged its officers not to attend the hearings. In response, that group, the Citizen Review Committee, drafted proposed ground rules for future meetings. The committee hears appeals of Police Bureau findings in citizen complaints of alleged misconduct by police officers.
The proposed ground rules set up a designated public seating area, a barrier of some sort or roped-off area to separate the committee members from the public and restricted locations for videotaping. The committee noted that officers from police internal affairs were uncomfortable with someone filming the hearings over their shoulders. Further, the guidelines warn that anyone who disrupts the meetings may be excluded.
Kristin Malone, Citizen Review Committee chair, said she wants to have some type of physical barrier created by tables or a rope to serve as an "intercept zone'' between the committee and the public "in case someone wanted to harass a member.''
Dan Handelman of the watchdog group Portland Copwatch has videotaped police oversight hearings since 1992 for Flying Focus Video Collective and objected to the restrictions on videotaping. He also voiced concerns about emails he obtained through public records requests from a former Citizen Review Committee member, Angelo Turner, who suggested to his colleagues that Handelman "needs to be reined in.''
While Handelman said it's reasonable for committee members to ask that videographers not move around in a distracting manner during a meeting, he added, "It is not reasonable'' for the committee to force those filming to stand where they can't capture the members testifying.
Rochelle Silver, a member of the community oversight board and former Citizen Review Committee member, called the March water-throwing incident "an anomaly'' and cautioned the committee members against setting up additional barriers. "You might be losing what it is you're set up to do,'' Silver said.
Police Chief Larry O'Dea, who last month said he wouldn't allow his officers to attend future Citizen Review Committee meetings until sufficient ground rules were adopted, said he was satisfied with the proposed changes.
San Francisco's Prop. D would extend agency probes to all OIS
Even the police union supports the measure
by Vivian Ho
SAN FRANCISCO — The least-controversial part of San Francisco's very controversial discussion about law enforcement reform is a ballot measure expected to pass in the June 7 election.
Proposition D, spearheaded by Supervisor Malia Cohen, would require the civilian agency that looks into complaints of police misconduct to investigate every officer-involved shooting, instead of just shootings when a complaint is made.
The Office of Citizen Complaints investigates only about half of police shootings because investigators cannot open a case unless someone files a complaint — even though they respond to the scene whenever an officer fires a gun.
Cohen said that she believes many people don't know they may file a complaint and that changing the process sends “a clear message to everyone near and far that we value transparency and accountability.”
“Proposition D is one step that brings us closer to rebuilding trust, and we are going to do that through transparency,” she said.
Cohen introduced the ballot measure after San Francisco became a topic in the national conversation on police misconduct and racial bias following a series of police shootings.
After a video of the Dec. 2 shooting of Mario Woods showed what many people described as an excessive use of force, the Police Commission began to reconsider the department's use-of-force policy, and the U.S. Department of Justice's community-policing unit launched a review of the Police Department at the request of Chief Greg Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee.
The discussion about the Police Department has been heated at times, but throughout the process, no one has opposed Cohen's ballot measure. Suhr said he saw “no problem” with the initiative, and the Police Commission issued a resolution in February supporting it.
“This is a commonsense reform, but just because it's common sense doesn't mean it's not important,” Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said. “Part of what we have to do is connect the dots and invite people to understand the system we have, and where there are places to improve it, we need to do that.”
Even the police union supports the measure, though Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran made it clear that the union does not support Cohen. Halloran clashed with Cohen after the Woods shooting, when she described the officers who fatally shot Woods as an “ethnically diverse firing squad.” Halloran called that “insensitive and inflammatory.”
“They already have the authority to conduct those investigations and we have nothing to hide, so go ahead and investigate,” Halloran said. “It will show that our members get it right 99.9 percent of the time.”
Office of Citizen Complaints Director Joyce Hicks, who worked with Cohen on the legislation, said she sees it as a way to give her agency “a jump start on the most serious investigations.”
Although in the eight years she has headed the agency, the office has never had a finding of wrongdoing in an officer-involved shooting that would require officer discipline, Hicks said investigators have made several policy recommendations that resulted in department bulletins issued by the chief — direct orders from the chief that officers must follow.
One such policy recommendation came from a shooting at a single-room occupancy hotel, Hicks said. Investigators found the shooting a failure of policy, not of officer conduct, in that the officer used a master key to enter the person's room.
“As a result of our recommendations, the chief drafted a department bulletin reminding the officers that they have to follow the normal search-and-seizure laws, and you cannot get a passkey from the property manager and just walk into somebody's room,” Hicks said.
Last year, the agency, which was created by voters in 1982, investigated almost 700 cases, Hicks said.
Although she has concerns about Prop. D increasing her office's case load, Hicks said, she has planned for that and is seeking additional funding.
Cohen said that Hicks has her support in this area and that she is looking into drafting legislation that would get the agency more resources. Prop. D, she said, is just the first of her efforts to strengthen the agency.
“People have not paid attention for a very long time to the Office of Citizen Complaints, and I think if people knew they had a right to request investigations, we would see greater numbers,” she said. “That's the spirit of Prop. D. It's about raising people's general awareness about the different mechanisms people can exercise when it comes to their interactions with law enforcement.”
State police posts collecting expired, unused Mich. prescriptions
Liquids, inhalers, patches or syringes are not accepted
by The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State Police posts statewide are serving as drop-off points for expired, unwanted or unused prescription drugs.
Authorities say Saturday's events at 29 posts are part of an effort to curb prescription drug abuse. Police also say the collection can also help lower instances of overdoses and accidental poisonings.
Liquids, inhalers, patches or syringes are not accepted. The one-day effort — tied in with Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day — runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the posts.
For those who cannot participate, medications may be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, excluding holidays. No appointment is needed.
Dallas police to be outfitted with 'sponge guns' as less lethal option
Being hit with one of the sponge-tipped bullets is much like being pinged with a baseball or hockey puck
by Tasha Tsiaperas
DALLAS — Some Dallas police officers will soon be toting “sponge guns,” weapons aimed at reducing the chances of a deadly officer-involved shooting.
Police booster group Safer Dallas Better Dallas announced Thursday that it plans to raise $250,000 to help pay for more than 100 launchers that shoot sponge pellets. The “less lethal” weapons are meant to disarm and incapacitate someone from up to 100 feet away, police officials said.
Being hit with one of the sponge-tipped bullets is much like being pinged with a baseball or hockey puck. The guns are designed to cause enough pain on impact to force a person to drop a weapon or to the ground without breaking the skin, making it safer for police officers to approach.
“If they get hit in a soft spot, they go down,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Cotner, who oversees the police academy.
The launchers, which will be bright yellow, would be dispersed among patrol officers throughout the city to help respond to incidents involving volatile or mentally ill people. The yellow coloring shows other officers and people in the community that police are trying to use less-lethal force.
The goal is to put as much space as possible between responding officers and a suspect who might be holding a weapon, such as a knife or screwdriver. Other less-lethal weapons, like Tasers, require that officers be within 21 feet of a person, making it more likely that an officer might have to use a gun.
“As a Dallas police officer, we all value the preservation of life,” Cotner said.
The last fatal police shooting in Dallas was in September. Two officers shot and killed 24-year-old Gerardo Ramirez, who was armed with a semi-automatic gun. Officials said Ramirez was high on drugs and appeared to be trying to “commit suicide by cop.”
The launchers cost about $800 apiece and could be in the city by late summer. The department expects to start out with more than 100 of the weapons before considering adding more, Cotner said.
About 20 other police departments in the U.S. and Canada already are testing the weapons in some form. Many of those departments just provide them to their SWAT units but Dallas officials decided that patrol officers should get them first.
Critics of the launchers in other parts of the country have said that the weapons could still be fatal if fired at certain parts of the body, such as the head. And, they say, use of the weapons still doesn't do anything to eradicate what they say is often a dangerous “shoot first” mentality on the part of law enforcement officials.
Dallas Police Association President Ron Pinkston said the launchers will be a good tool for officers, though it is still unclear how the weapons will be dispersed in the department. Officers also will need to be trained on using the launchers.
“You need to have more less-lethal options available to officers,” Pinkston said.
Safer Dallas Better Dallas board member Spencer Michlin said he believes the community will quickly fund the $225,000 effort. He said the launchers give officers an alternative to using their guns.
“It makes it less likely that an officer will have to kill somebody,” he said.
ICE HSI leads the largest street gang take-down in New York City history
NEW YORK — More than 120 members and associates of two rival gangs operating in the Bronx were indicted in federal court Thursday on charges of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, narcotics distribution, and firearms offenses.
The arrests and indictments follow a year-long investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.
Members and associates of street gangs 2Fly YGz (2Fly) and the Big Money Bosses (BMB) allegedly led years-long gang wars which resulted in an enormous amount of fatal and non-fatal violence between 2007 and the present in the Northern Bronx, including shootings, stabbings, slashings, beatings, and robberies.
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez said: “Those arrested today allegedly used violence and fear to intimidate people who live within and around the Eastchester Gardens Public Housing. These ruthless gang members are allegedly responsible for more than 1,800 shots fired, resulting in eight alleged homicides. Public safety is important to us, and today our city streets are safer because of the work of HSI agents in our Violent Gang Unit and the work of our federal and local law enforcement partners.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Today, we seek to eviscerate two violent street gangs – 2Fly and BMB – that have allegedly wreaked havoc on the streets of the Northern Bronx for years, by committing countless acts of violence against rival gang members and innocents alike. The gangs' alleged victims include not only a 15 year-old child stabbed and left to die in the street, as well as a 92 year-old woman shot by a stray bullet in her own home, but also extend to the thousands of residents of Eastchester Gardens and its surrounding neighborhoods terrorized for years by the gangs' open-air drug dealing and senseless violence. We bring these charges today so that all New Yorkers, including those in or near NYCHA public housing, can live their lives as they deserve: free of drugs, free of guns, and free of gang violence.”
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said: “As alleged, these individuals engaged in open-air drug sales near homes and schools in the Bronx, pushing poison onto our streets. Allegedly, they also committed numerous acts of violence and at least eight murders in the course of their illicit operations. This includes the murder of a 92 year-old innocent bystander who was killed by a stray bullet inside her home. I want to thank the members of the NYPD's Bronx Gang Squad and our law enforcement partners for dismantling these gangs. I commend them for their dedication and precision throughout this long-term investigation.”
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt said: “The gangs of New York have returned to open air drug markets; brazenly selling marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine and prescription pain medication to drug users in neighborhood parks, abandoned houses, and playgrounds. A decade long rivalry between two of the Bronx's most violent gangs has resulted in drug related violence, fatal stray bullets and daily intimidation felt by the law abiding residents living in their crosshairs. Law enforcement has come together again to identify and dismantle these gangs that have plagued our community for too long.”
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Delano Reid said: “This investigation demonstrates ATF's commitment to our communities by partnering with our federal and local counterparts in order to dismantle armed criminal organizations. These two violent groups, allegedly responsible for multiple shootings, homicides, and other acts of violence, will now have to face the consequences of terrorizing the communities that they lived in. This should be a lesson to others who are engaged in these types of illegal activities. Our cooperative law enforcement efforts will continue.”
According to the indictments unsealed today in Manhattan federal court and other publicly filed documents:
2Fly is a subset of the “Young Gunnaz,” or “YG” street gang, which operates throughout New York City. 2Fly is based in the Bronx, within and around the Eastchester Gardens housing development (ECG) and in an area called the “Valley” or the “V,” which is in the vicinity of Gun Hill Road. ECG is a rectangular complex of residential buildings bordered by Burke, Adee, Yates, and Bouck Avenues, in the middle of which is a playground. Members and associates of 2Fly control the narcotics trade at ECG, which takes place in the open air at the playground and in apartments at ECG. 2Fly primarily sells marijuana and crack cocaine, but also sells powder cocaine and prescription pills, such as oxycodone. 2Fly members and associates store guns at the playground or in nearby apartments or cars in order to protect the narcotics business and for protection against rival gangs. The case of United States v. Laquan Parrish et al. charges 57 members and associates of 2Fly, including its “Big Guns,” or leaders: Laquan Parrish, aka “MadDog,” aka “Quanzaa,” Andre Bent, aka “Dula,” and Aaron Rodriguez, aka “Gunz,” aka “Cito.” 2Fly coexists at ECG with a faction of the Bloods street gang called “Sex Money Murder” (“SMM”), which controlled ECG before 2Fly and has allied with 2Fly to prevent others from selling drugs at ECG. Two of the leaders of SMM at ECG – brothers Preston Pasley, aka “Fresh,” and Terrence Pasley, aka “Smoove” – and several of its members are also charged in the Parrish Indictment.
BMB is a subset of the “Young Bosses,” or “YBz” street gang, which operates throughout New York City. BMB – whose members also sometimes refer to themselves as the “Money Making Mafia” or “Triple M” – operates primarily on White Plains Road from 215th Street to 233rd Street in the Bronx. This area is a long stretch of road under a subway train overpass, bordered on each side by single-family homes and local commercial establishments, and in the vicinity of several playgrounds and schools. BMB's narcotics trafficking activity is based principally in the vicinity of White Plains Road and 224th Street, an open-air drug spot that is referred to by gang members as the “Forts.” BMB members also operate a drug spot on Boston Road and Eastchester Road in the Bronx, which they refer to as “B Road.” BMB members who work principally at the B Road spot typically refer to themselves as “Blamma.” BMB primarily sells marijuana and crack cocaine, but also sells prescription pills, such as oxycodone. BMB members and associates store guns in abandoned homes and other places near their drug spots in order to protect their narcotics business and for protection against rivals. The case of United States v. Nico Burrell et al. charges 63 members and associates of BMB, including its “Big Suits,” or leaders: Nico Burrell, aka “Nico Zico,” and Douglas Mclarty, aka “Q-Don,” aka “Q-Dizzy.”
In addition to numerous non-fatal acts of violence against both rival gang members and innocents, the rivalry between 2Fly and BMB – as well as with other gangs, such as the “Slut Gang,” which is based at the Boston Secor housing development, and the “YSGz,” who are based at the Edenwald housing development – has led to the following murders, among others:
The murder of Sadie Mitchell, who was killed in her own home by a stray bullet, at the age of 92, by an associate of BMB in the vicinity of White Plains Road and 224th Street and White Plains Road, on or about October 20, 2009.
The murder of Jeffrey Delmore, aka “Famous,” aka “Junior,” who was stabbed to death, at the age of 15, by members of BMB in the vicinity of East Gun Hill Road, on or about May 15, 2010.
The murder of Alexander “A.J.” Walters, who was stabbed to death at age 17 by members of 2Fly in the vicinity of 1824 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, on or about March 8, 2012;
The murder of Donville Simpson, aka “Donny,” who was shot to death at ECG at age 17 by members of 2Fly, on or about October 5, 2013.
The murder of Keshon Potterfield, aka “Keke,” who was shot to death, at the age of 18, by a member of BMB in the vicinity of 232nd Street between White Plains Road and Barnes Avenue, on or about June 22, 2014.
The murder of Fabian Pennant, an associate of 2Fly, who was shot to death by a member of BMB at the age of 24 in the vicinity of Eastchester Road on October 22, 2014.
The murder of Jordan Jackwett, who was shot and killed at the age of 23 in the vicinity of Ely Avenue during a shooting between members of 2Fly and BMB on July 26, 2015.
The murder of Darren Epps, age 47, who was shot to death by a member of 2Fly in the vicinity of 215th and White Plains Road during a botched robbery on March 13, 2016.
In connection with these arrests, federal and local law enforcement officers also executed court-authorized search warrants at four locations tied to the defendants. During the arrests and searches, agents and officers seized, among other evidence, seven guns, ammunition, crack, marijuana, counterfeit currency, and drug paraphernalia. To date, in this case, agents and officers have seized, among other evidence, quantities of marijuana, crack, cocaine, and oxycodone, as well as firearms, ammunition, scalpels, and knives. During the investigation, agents and officers also intercepted thousands of wiretap calls, during many of which various members and associates of the gangs discussed their racketeering and narcotics activities.
In a coordinated operation, 78 defendants were arrested in New York Wednesday. Defendants Andre Bent, Robert Pope, James Pilgrim, Jamal Blair, Stephan Clarke, Laquan Parrish, Jafar Borden, Anderson Ross, Barffour Abeberse, Robert Haughton, Shaquille Dewar, Martin Mitchell, Donque Tyrell, Devante Joseph, Daquan Anderson, Jaquan Mcintosh, and Sean Mcintosh were in custody on state charges and were transferred to federal custody today.
The charges contained in the Indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
From the FBI
Incidents of Ransomware on the Rise
Protect Yourself and Your Organization
Hospitals, school districts, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, small businesses, large businesses—these are just some of the entities impacted recently by ransomware, an insidious type of malware that encrypts, or locks, valuable digital files and demands a ransom to release them.
The inability to access the important data these kinds of organizations keep can be catastrophic in terms of the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, the disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and the potential harm to an organization's reputation.
And, of course, home computers are just as susceptible to ransomware, and the loss of access to personal and often irreplaceable items—including family photos, videos, and other data—can be devastating for individuals as well.
Ransomware has been around for a few years, but during 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher. And if the first three months of this year are any indication, the number of ransomware incidents—and the ensuing damage they cause—will grow even more in 2016 if individuals and organizations don't prepare for these attacks in advance.
In a ransomware attack, victims—upon seeing an e-mail addressed to them—will open it and may click on an attachment that appears legitimate, like an invoice or an electronic fax, but which actually contains the malicious ransomware code. Or the e-mail might contain a legitimate-looking URL, but when a victim clicks on it, they are directed to a website that infects their computer with malicious software.
One the infection is present, the malware begins encrypting files and folders on local drives, any attached drives, backup drives, and potentially other computers on the same network that the victim computer is attached to. Users and organizations are generally not aware they have been infected until they can no longer access their data or until they begin to see computer messages advising them of the attack and demands for a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. These messages include instructions on how to pay the ransom, usually with bitcoins because of the anonymity this virtual currency provides.
Ransomware attacks are not only proliferating, they're becoming more sophisticated. Several years ago, ransomware was normally delivered through spam e-mails, but because e-mail systems got better at filtering out spam, cyber criminals turned to spear phishing e-mails targeting specific individuals.
And in newly identified instances of ransomware, some cyber criminals aren't using e-mails at all. According to FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor, “These criminals have evolved over time and now bypass the need for an individual to click on a link. They do this by seeding legitimate websites with malicious code, taking advantage of unpatched software on end-user computers.”
The FBI doesn't support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Said Trainor, “Paying a ransom doesn't guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we've seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cyber criminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.”
So what does the FBI recommend? As ransomware techniques and malware continue to evolve—and because it's difficult to detect a ransomware compromise before it's too late—organizations in particular should focus on two main areas:
Prevention efforts—both in both in terms of awareness training for employees and robust technical prevention controls; and
The creation of a solid business continuity plan in the event of a ransomware attack. (See sidebar for more information.)
“There's no one method or tool that will completely protect you or your organization from a ransomware attack,” said Trainor. “But contingency and remediation planning is crucial to business recovery and continuity—and these plans should be tested regularly.” In the meantime, according to Trainor, the FBI will continue working with its local, federal, international, and private sector partners to combat ransomware and other cyber threats.
If you think you or your organization have been the victim of ransomware, contact your local FBI field office and report the incident to the Bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Tips for Dealing with the Ransomware Threat
While the below tips are primarily aimed at organizations and their employees, some are also applicable to individual users.
- Make sure employees are aware of ransomware and of their critical roles in protecting the organization's data.
- Patch operating system, software, and firmware on digital devices (which may be made easier through a centralized patch management system).
- Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans.
- Manage the use of privileged accounts—no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed, and only use administrator accounts when necessary.
- Configure access controls, including file, directory, and network share permissions appropriately. If users only need read specific information, they don't need write-access to those files or directories.
- Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted over e-mail.
- Implement software restriction policies or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations (e.g., temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers, compression/decompression programs).
Business Continuity Efforts
- Back up data regularly and verify the integrity of those backups regularly.
- Secure your backups. Make sure they aren't connected to the computers and networks they are backing up.
Sextortion and Cyberstalking
How a Single Tip Uncovered an International Scheme
The investigation that uncovered a far-reaching sextortion scheme by a U.S. State Department employee at the U.S. Embassy in London all started with a single complaint by a young victim in Kentucky. She went to the police.
“The victim basically was saying that she was being cyberstalked by some guy who got into her e-mail and was threatening to expose compromising photos of her to her friends and family,” said FBI Special Agent Andrew Young, who interviewed some of the hundreds of victims targeted by Michael C. Ford, a former State Department civilian employee who was sentenced last month to nearly five years in prison for hacking into the e-mail accounts of young women to extort them.
According to the facts of the case, between January 2013 and May 2015, Ford—while working in London—posed as a member of a large web company's “account deletion team” and sent out e-mails to thousands of women warning them that their e-mail accounts would be deleted if they didn't provide their passwords. Ford then used the passwords he received to hack into victims' e-mail and social media accounts to search for nude and topless photos and personal information like contacts and addresses.
He hacked into at least 450 e-mail accounts and admitted e-mailing at least 75 women, threatening to circulate their compromising pictures unless they sent him more.
Following the initial complaint in Kentucky, local police reached out to the FBI in Louisville, where agents traced the source of the e-mails to a State Department server in London. The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) began an internal probe that led to Ford and uncovered the massive hacking, cyberstalking, and sextortion scheme. Young said the investigation showed Ford spent the bulk of his time at work using a government computer to “extort women, hack into their e-mail accounts, and threaten them.”
The FBI's primary role in the investigation was interviewing victims across the U.S. to build a case. “They were angry,” said Young, who worked the case out of the FBI's Atlanta Field Office, which had jurisdiction because Ford had Georgia residency. “Somebody steals your most private pictures out of your computer, then comes back and threatens you with it. They felt compromised.”
At Ford's March 21 sentencing, prosecutors presented evidence of another scheme he started several years earlier, in 2009. Posing as a talent scout, Ford combed through websites where aspiring models posted their pictures and contact information. He duped young women into sending personal information, including their measurements and dates of birth. “He would send them an e-mail with a link, and when they clicked on the link he got access to their computer and e-mail accounts,” Young said.
Ford, 36, of Atlanta, was indicted August 18, 2015 following his arrest by DSS during a visit to Atlanta. He pled guilty in December.
His plea was due in large part to the voluminous evidence against him, including the statements of victims like the one who came forward in Kentucky.
“There was no getting around it,” Young said. “Witness after witness and a lot of forensic evidence—it made putting him in jail a whole lot easier.”
Skid Row Drug Ring Bust Was Months in the Making, Officials Say
by John Cádiz Klemack
Los Angeles police and city leaders on Thursday said the arrests of more than two dozen alleged members of a drug ring that's plagued Skid Row for 30 years was the culmination of a months-long operation.
In a sweeping pre-dawn raid Thursday, 20 search warrants were served simultaneously at multiple locations, netting cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, guns, $1.8 million and the arrest of the alleged ringleader, Derrick Turner.
"Los Angeles will not tolerate anyone who preys on some of the most vulnerable people we have in this city," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
LAPD Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph has patrolled Skid Row for 18 years. He points to the $600,000 in one dollar bills in this case as proof the predators preyed on the weak.
"You'll have an addict trying to benefit from a drug problem and sometimes you have the drug dealer outside or slipping inside the drug program, and the temptation to fail in Skid Row is too great," Joseph said.
On Thursday, he said there's a different feeling on Skid Row, an optimism he says he hasn't seen in a long time.
"It was wonderful to see many members of the community to come up to us, kissing us on the cheek and saying thank you," Joseph said.
But cautious optimism from the chief, who says the arrests were only a small step of a bigger plan.
"This by no means is the end of narcotics use on Skid Row, but it is the beginning of stopping it," Beck said.
Willie Williams, trailblazing top cop for 2 cities, dies
Colleagues said Williams was firm, fair, charismatic and committed to community policing
ATLANTA — Willie L. Williams, who was the first black police chief in Philadelphia and in Los Angeles, where he took over in the wake of the Rodney King riots, has died. He was 72.
His daughter-in-law Valerie Williams told The Associated Press that he died Tuesday evening at his home in Fayetteville, Georgia. She said he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
In Los Angeles, Williams was selected in April 1992 to succeed police Chief Daryl Gates, whose lengthy tenure had been shaken when four white officers were accused of beating King, a black motorist. Gates was still in charge when the officers were acquitted, resulting in a riot that left parts of the city in ashes.
An outsider chosen over a field of insiders, Williams was given a mandate to restore public confidence and department morale. Critically, the following month voters amended the city charter to remove civil service protection for the chief's job and limit the position to a five-year term, renewable once by the Police Commission, the department's board of civilian overseers.
Williams' term was marked by the O.J. Simpson murder case, which spotlighted sloppy evidence handling and racism in the department; resentment from within the ranks; and an investigation into whether he improperly accepted perks including Las Vegas accommodations.
In 1997, the commission exercised its new power and unanimously denied Williams a second five-year contract. The commission president said that Williams had become a symbol of positive change but had failed to become a respected leader.
Williams fought to remain chief but ultimately accepted a severance package and left, saying the 1992 reform measure had unintentionally allowed politics to intrude into the department's management.
Williams started his career as a cop in Philadelphia in 1962. He moved up the ranks over the following two decades before then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. appointed him commissioner in 1988. He ran the Philadelphia Police Department until 1992.
In 2002, Williams was appointed federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport.
In a statement Wednesday, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Williams "served this city with greatness, improving community police relations."
Williams' son, Willie Williams Jr., is a police officer in Philadelphia and now works in security for Kenney.
One of Williams Jr.'s partners was Philadelphia's current police commissioner, Richard Ross.
Ross said the elder Williams was firm, fair, charismatic and committed to community policing. Williams' role as the city's first African-American police chief was an inspiration to Ross and a sign that the profession was becoming more progressive.
"I'd seen that someone else had reached that pinnacle," said Ross, who is also black and was sworn in as commissioner in January. "It was possible for me and others to do it as well. When you reach a milestone like that ... that just makes the barriers crumble for others as well."
Washington D. C.
House Committee Votes to Require Women to Register for Draft
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Women would be required to register for the military draft under a House committee bill that comes just months after the Defense Department lifted all gender-based restrictions on front-line combat units.
A divided Armed Services Committee backed the provision in a sweeping defense policy bill that the full House will consider next month, touching off a provocative debate about the role of women in the military.
The panel also turned aside a measure backed by Democrats to punish the Citadel military college in South Carolina for flying the Confederate flag.
The United States has not had a military draft since 1973 in the Vietnam War era, but all men must register with the Selective Service Systems within 30 days of turning 18. Military leaders maintain that the all-volunteer force is working and the nation is not returning to the draft.
The 32-30 vote Wednesday night came with a twist: The proposal's author didn't back it, a clear sign that more contentious debate is ahead.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former Marine who served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not support drafting women into combat and opposes opening infantry and special operations positions to women. Hunter, R-Calif., said he offered the measure in the House Armed Services Committee to prompt a discussion about how the Pentagon's decision in December to rescind gender restrictions on military service failed to consider whether the exclusion on drafting women also should be lifted.
That's a call for Congress, not the executive branch, Hunter said. "I think we should make this decision," he said. "It's the families that we represent who are affected by this."
At times, Hunter evoked graphic images of combat in an apparent attempt to convince colleagues that drafting women would lead to them being sent directly into harm's way.
"A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill," Hunter said. "The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies' throats out and kill them."
But if Hunter was trying to sway people against his amendment, his plan did not work.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she supported Hunter's measure.
"I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription," she said.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. and a retired Air Force fighter pilot, said draftees aren't exclusively sent to the front lines. There are plenty of other useful, noncombat positions for them to fill, she said.
If an 18-year-old man does not register with the Selective Service he could lose his eligibility for student financial aid, job training and government jobs. Immigrant men could lose their eligibility for U.S. citizenship. According to the latest annual report, 73 percent of 18-year-olds registered on time during the 2015 fiscal year ending last Sept. 30. And the registration rate for all men aged 20-25 was 94 percent.
Hunter's amendment was part of a defense policy bill that authorizes defense spending for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. The committee passed the legislation by a 60-2 vote early Thursday.
The overall bill cuts $18 billion from the wartime operations account to pay for weapons and troops the Pentagon didn't request, a money-shifting strategy Defense Secretary Ash Carter condemned as a "road to nowhere" that undermines U.S. troops and emboldens America's enemies.
On another thorny policy issue, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the committee's senior Democrat, offered an amendment that would have barred the Defense Department from financially supporting the ROTC program at any institution that flies the Confederate battle flag.
The Citadel is the only school that fits the profile. The college is in South Carolina Rep. John Clyburn's district. He's not on the committee, but he backed Smith's measure in a statement Wednesday, calling the Confederate flag a symbol of hate, racial oppression, and resistance to the rule of law.
The college's Board of Visitors has voted to remove the flag, but South Carolina state law prohibits them from doing so.
"This failure to take down the Confederate battle flag is an extremely disappointing statement of principles," Smith said. "They should have voted to take it down instead of dodging the issue."
The overall bill authorizes $602 billion in defense spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Brady Campaign Tool Hides Mass Killers' Namnes, Photos from Websites
by MAX KUTNER
The Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced on Wednesday a Google Chrome plug-in available for download that hides the names and images of mass shooters and killers from websites. The initiative, called Zero Minutes of Fame, aims to quash the notoriety that mass killers often receive after their acts, as well as to head off the desire of others to achieve such notoriety.
The plug-in works for major news websites and Google search result lists. According to a Brady Campaign video, the plug-in replaces a killer's name with a parenthetical saying “name withheld out of respect for the victims,” and the killer's image with an image of a victim and a label saying the victim's name.
“Instead of rewarding killers and inspiring copycats, we should be lifting up the stories and the lives of victims, heroes and survivors,” Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said in a statement on Wednesday. “The fact is, notoriety serves as a reward for these killers and as a call to action for others who would seek to do similar harm in the name of infamy.”
Research suggests that mass killings and shootings are contagious: A study out of Arizona State University last year found that 30 percent of mass killings studied were inspired by previous mass killings, and 22 percent of school shootings were inspired by previous school shootings.
“In ones that didn't get a lot of media attention, there was no contagion, and in the ones where we did see a lot of media attention, that's where we saw the contagion,” researcher Sherry Towers has previously told Newsweek.
Killers even seem to have become more media savvy in recent years, such as the one who sent reporters a manifesto and then live-streamed on social media his murders of two journalists in Virginia last August.
Recent campaigns have tried to push the media to stop publicizing killers. Caren and Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in a Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting in 2012, run No Notoriety, which issues guidelines for reporters covering mass killings.
“Name them once. Don't turn them into anti-heroes. Stop calling them ‘monsters.' They're little punks, and you should be calling them cowards,” Tom Teves explained to Newsweek last year.
The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University operates a similar campaign, Don't Name Them.
Learning of the Brady Campaign plug-in, J. Pete Blair, executive director of ALERRT, says, “It's very much in line with what we're talking about, which is shifting the focus during these attacks away from the murderers and on to the heroes, the victims and the communities.” He says he also likes that the plug-in is voluntary.
Kelly McBride, vice president of academic programs at the Poynter Institute, who has been critical of previous efforts to stop the media from naming killers, says the Brady Campaign plug-in seems like a happy medium. “I actually like that idea because it gives power to the people who want to support that, but it still gives responsibility to the newsmakers, the news creators, it gives them the ability to do their job as well.”
She adds, “People will consume what they want to consume and people will go where they want to go.... For the people who don't want to see the name of the mass shooter, I still want them to have other information and so I'd rather have them consuming articles that have other good information than avoiding those articles altogether.”
But Tom Teves, of No Notoriety, says he's unhappy with the plug-in. “I think it's counterproductive because it then gives the media an opportunity to say, ‘Well, just use the plug-in if you don't like it.'”
More importantly, he adds, “The shooters aren't going to use the plug-in. What you're trying to do is stop the shooters.”
He says he also takes issue with the Brady Campaign's video for the plug-in, which includes images of the killers—including the one who murdered his son—which he says only adds to the publicity problem.
Responding to those remarks, the Brady Campaign tells Newsweek via email: “It's a valid concern.... The majority of Americans don't know this is a problem, so we felt is was important to demonstrate just how widespread this problem is so that everyday Americans can see it for themselves and then take action to do something about it.”
Speaking with Newsweek, Brendan Kelly, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign, also concedes that the plug-in still needs some work. For instance, not all mass killers and shooters are included in the current list of those to be replaced. “We started first with the most high-profile shootings,” he says, adding that they will be continually updating the list.
Kelly says they are also working to add different name combinations to the list of killers, for those whose names appear written in different ways. But in cases where only a killer's last name appears, “that's kind of difficult” to remove, he says.
Toledo police say community policing programs are working
by KAYLA STRAYER
TOLEDO - Warmer weather means a busy time of year for the Toledo Police Department. We checked in with Lt. Joe Heffernan to see how police are preparing.
He says they have bike patrols out during night shifts in areas with high crime rates, and as we told you in February, more officers are out walking their beats.
"We have gotten a large amount of support from the public on this. The officers seem to really enjoy it too. It gives them a little break in their day to go around, do a little socializing and interacting with the community where they're working," Heffernan said.
The goal is to get officers out of their cars and walking around for one hour a day when possible. Since the start of this year, Heffernan says they have done more than 200 foot patrols throughout the city.
Coffee with Cops is another program that is helping the department with community policing. The monthly event is becoming one of the department's most popular programs.
"This is a customer service business. We are here to serve our customers who are the citizens of Toledo. Whatever their needs are is what we are paid to handle," Heffernan said.
TPD is also working to get more body cameras. Currently all of the afternoon shifts wear body cameras. The department hopes to buy 100 more cameras for $500 each by the end of the year.
The online crime map is now up and running on the department's website. It allows you to see real time crime statistics for anywhere in the city.
TPD will also start its summer youth programs.
OJJDP Plans to Help States Eliminate Use of Solitary Confinement for Juveniles
by Sarah Barr
WASHINGTON — The federal government wants to help states eliminate the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention plans to host a meeting for states to consider how to move away from putting youth in isolation.
“Our goal is to eliminate the practice,” said Robert Listenbee, OJJDP administrator, during a speech at the annual Coalition for Juvenile Justice conference Friday.
Earlier this year, President Obama announced solitary confinement no longer would be used for juveniles in federal custody, a move supporters hoped would encourage action in the states, where most juveniles are held.
More broadly, Listenbee applauded reforms across the country that are moving from a juvenile justice model that emphasizes punishment to one focused on improving outcomes for juveniles.
“They should leave the system better than they were when they came,” he said.
Researchers have found solitary confinement can cause depression, anxiety and psychosis and that youth are particularly vulnerable because they are still developing. More than half of all suicides in juvenile facilities occurred while young people were held in isolation.
In a separate session on the use of solitary confinement, experts discussed the nuances of ending solitary.
Kim Godfrey, executive director at the PbS Learning Institute, said it would be helpful to have data that show why youth are being sent to solitary confinement, such as for punishment or because there is insufficient staffing. Each of those reasons will require different interventions.
Another consideration should be how the use of solitary confinement affects juveniles who are not placed in isolation but see their peers being subjected to it, said Jennifer Woolard, associate professor and co-director of the graduate program in developmental science at Georgetown University.
Listening to youth
Across the conference's sessions, speakers emphasized the importance of listening to youth's voices, whether a judge is trying to figure out how to help a teenager or formerly incarcerated youth are making the case for reforms to lawmakers.
Starcia Ague, an administrator in Washington state's Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Administration who spent time in the justice system as a teenager, said advocates and policymakers should be sure youth are given a real voice, not just used to make a point.
“I want to have a seat at the table — really have a seat at the table,” she said.
Ramon Leija, a coordinator at Eastern Coachella Valley Boys and Men of Color in California, who has also experienced the system, urged advocates and others to allow themselves to be vulnerable when they're working with youth if they hope to connect with them.
“Young people can tell who's real,” he said.
Department of justice
School Police Officer Indicted by Federal Grand Jury on Attempted Sex Trafficking Charges for Allegedly Using Internet to Entice Minor
LOS ANGELES – A police officer employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District was taken into federal custody this morning after being named in an indictment that charges him with the attempted sex trafficking of a child.
Mauricio Edgardo Estrada, 28, who has been placed on administrative leave by LAUSD, surrendered himself to federal authorities after he was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury.
The two-count indictment charges Estrada with attempted sex trafficking of a child and use of the Internet to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
The case against Estrada is the result of an undercover operation by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes representatives of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service. The Task Force was conducting an anti-sex trafficking operation in Artesia and posted an advertisement on the Craigslist website that was designed to attract individuals interested in engaging in commercial sex acts with minors.
“Protecting children from sexual exploitation means focusing our resources on all aspects of the industry that preys upon young people,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Prosecutors in my office who deal with sex crimes against children have a long history of targeting those who produce, distribute and possess child pornography. We also aggressively prosecuted pimps who prostitute minors and use physical violence to establish and maintain control over their victims. Now we are turning our attention to customers who seek out young prostitutes, because their demand fuels an industry that causes so much harm to so many young people.”
On April 20, Estrada responded to the advertisement via e-mail and subsequently engaged in a series of text messages with an undercover agent he thought was a 15-year-old girl, according to the indictment. Estrada agreed to pay $150 to engage in sex with the “girl.” In preparation for the encounter, Estrada purchased condoms. When he arrived at a gas station in Artesia for the encounter with the girl, Estrada had approximately $150 in his possession. He was taken into custody by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and subsequently released from county jail after posting bond.
“It's deeply troubling when those sworn to protect our kids, are accused of an act that violates every tenet of the oath they pledged to uphold,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The reality is that the defendants in child exploitation cases come from all walks of life and access to children is all too often the common denominator. The predators who're brazenly stalking our children online need to know that HSI, together with its law enforcement partners, is working tirelessly to track you down and hold you accountable for your crimes.”
Estrada is expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court. Both of the charges in the indictment carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and statutory maximum sentence of life.
Last week, a San Pedro man was indicted on charges of attempted sex trafficking of a child and use of the Internet to induce a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. Joshua Paul Crouch allegedly sought to have sex with a 13-year-old girl after responding to an advertisement on backpage.com (see: http://go.usa.gov/cuZnP). Crouch is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court.
President Barack Obama has declared April 2016 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, during which “we recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and to ensuring that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect.”
Last month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the 2016 National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. The strategy provides a comprehensive threat assessment of the nature and scope of the current dangers facing our nation's children, including child pornography offenses, sextortion and live-streaming of child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, child sex tourism and sex offense registry violations.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney David Herzog
Human Trafficking Coordinator
Violent and Organized Crime Section
100 Bronx gang members arrested in largest takedown in city history
by KELDY ORTIZ, THOMAS TRACY
About 100 Bronx gang members were busted early Wednesday in the largest takedown in city history, sources said.
The raids by police and federal authorities took place at more than 100 locations, including the Eastchester Gardens in Williamsbridge, at dawn, officials said.
Of the 100 or so people taken into custody, 60 will face criminal charges in federal court for a string of violent crimes, including at least seven homicides, sources said.
“This was a major gang sweep across the Bronx,” a law enforcement source said. “The charging documents were quite severe.”
The gang members were taken to the 43rd and 50th precincts in the Bronx to be processed, officials said.
WPPA Poll: Support for community policing, some disparity between Caucasians and minorities
70 percent of minorities say not enough community policing, more Caucasians supportive of local police
by Madalyn O'Neill
LA CROSSE, Wis. - More people are in support of more community policing rather than less, according to a 2016 statewide poll.
WPPA released results from their fourth annual poll examining the public's perception of police enforcement in the state. They found that only 3 percent of their sample said police spend too much time in their neighborhoods, while 57 percent felt they spend enough and 37 percent felt they spend too little. Of the minorities in the poll, 70 percent felt that police spend too little time policing their communities.
Jim Palmer, WPPA executive director, said community policing was defined as when a law enforcement officer is assigned to patrol a specific neighborhood. “The idea is they develop relationships with people who live in that neighborhood and that community policing area, and it's clear that by using that general definition, that the public strongly supports community policing,” he said.
Palmer said the results show community policing is fundamentally important to people regardless of their race or gender.
“When you see an effort like here in La Crosse, when you had community officers cleaning up Cameron Park last week, I think that's something that really means a lot to people that live in that area,” he said. “That's really how you build a relationship with the people you're supposed to serve. It's clear people place a high value on that and we hope it continues.”
The La Crosse Police Department does community policing through their neighborhood resource program started in 2013 in which officers are assigned to certain neighborhoods.
"When citizens see that, that the Police Department is invested in the community, that we want to work through whatever concerns or issues that they have, that starts to build trust,” said Detective Sgt. Andrew Dittman. "Putting a name with the face, breaking down these barriers, that these police officers aren't robots, they're human beings too. If they have a personal relationship with a police officer, they're more likely to be able to report crime.”
Dittman said the department has added two neighborhood resource officers for downtown in the last two weeks.
Palmer said there wasn't a big difference in local police approval when comparing this year's poll to those in the past, despite highly publicized incidents.
“Obviously, there have been a lot of news items related to policing in the media, particularly in the national media,” he said. "Despite some of the narratives that have emerged from those national stories, our poll shows that Wisconsinites hold law enforcement officers in extraordinarily high regard.”
Although the poll showed a total of 80 percent of respondents approved of their local police force, 83 percent of Caucasians approved, while only 59 percent of minorities did. Palmer said it's important to draw attention to that disparity.
"We wanted to drill down on that and understand that a bit more,” he said. “Hopefully by talking about that on a state basis, as we're trying to do, only then once we accept that reality, can we begin to address that gap."
St. Norbert's College Strategic Research Institute helped WPPA conduct the poll, in which 400 participants, who were representative of the state's demographics, were randomly selected for a telephone questionnaire regarding police perceptions.
Law and Disorder: The strain of police, community relations
by Gary Craig
Camden NJ Police Chief Scott Thomson once tried an unusual approach to ensure his cops knew the neighborhoods they patrolled.
He'd have the officers go hang out in the neighborhoods for hours, without police cars. They would walk around, meet and chat.
"You've got to go to the bathroom, you better make a friend out there," Thomson said.
Some may question his approach, but his message was clear: Cops can't be seen as an invading army in the communities they patrol. Without trust and support from the residents, conditions deteriorate, crimes go unsolved, and tension abounds.
"We forced positive interactions between police and the community," he said, speaking at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Symposium on Crime in America.
Along with reporters from across the country, I attended the February symposium as a John Jay Fellow. I've used my blog here to occasionally write of some of the topics we discussed at the symposium, and wanted to tackle one more here.
Probably at no time since the 1960s have police-community relations been such a volatile topic as they are now. The spate of police shootings and killings of unarmed black men has fostered a distrust and even resentment of police in some communities — a combustible equation, to be sure.
Each of those killings has its own set of facts, sparking arguments over whether the slayings were justified or not. I don't want to debate those questions here, nor was that a focus of the round-table that included Chief Thomson as a panelist. The focus instead was on the overall condition of police-community relations, and what can be done.
Rochester has had its experiences through the years with so-called "community policing" — law enforcement designed to mold a partnership with the police and the citizens. The model for the methodology is the old image of the "cop on the beat," chatting with the many residents and business-people whom he or she knows, constantly staying attuned to the pulse and goings-on of the neighborhood.
"If arrest is the focal point of your benchmark for success, it's a failed policy," Thomson said.
Too often a police officer's first encounter with many residents is when the cop is responding to a crime and asking for information, Thomson said. "The time to try to make friends is not when you need them," he said.
In his department, officers are rewarded for instances when they demonstrated restraint in interactions that could turn heated, or when they problem-solved disputes and mediated successfully.
Community policing is not new, and often sounds like touchy-feely social work to some of its opponents, including skeptical cops. But there is substantive proof that policing that is distant from the community has its drawbacks.
Each negative interaction between a cop and a citizen requires four to 14 positive interactions for the resident to alter a soured attitude about police, said Jerry Ratcliffe, the chair of the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University.
The rancor from troubled interactions filters into the community, and all cops — rookies or veterans — become the targets of suspicion.
Cops often have "a relatively young memory and they're policing a community that has a relatively old memory," Ratcliffe said.
Rochester is much the same. There are plenty of residents, typically people of color, who have had incidents with police in which they believe they were treated as less-than-human. And cops have no shortage of their own horror stories about the verbal abuse — sometimes turning physical — they've endured while trying to do their job.
And there is the long-running debate about police staffing in Rochester, prompting the question: How can cops find time to mingle with and meet the people they serve if they're constantly responding to crime?
How not to get away with robbery: Hop the White House fence
The Secret Service has worked to increase security along the White House fence amid a string of fence-jumping incidents
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Here's a surefire way to get busted for robbery: leave the scene of the crime and hop over the White House fence.
The White House was locked down briefly Tuesday after a man jumped the fence alongside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a White House facility where presidential staffers work. Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said an initial investigation suggested that the man was fleeing a robbery just across the street.
Secret Service officers quickly detained the man, who hasn't been identified publicly, but not before he suffered a cut to his finger. Doug Buchanan, a spokesman for the fire department in Washington, said emergency workers responded to help transport the man to a local hospital under police supervision to treat injuries to his hand.
At the White House, canine teams and armed Secret Service agents gathered on the North Lawn of the White House as the area around the complex was cleared. Reporters working inside the White House were kept inside by automatically locking doors.
The lockdown was lifted after a brief period, and visitors and staffers could be seen walking about the complex. President Barack Obama was at the White House during the incident.
The Secret Service has worked to increase security along the White House fence amid a string of fence-jumping incidents. In 2014, a man who hopped the fence made it deep inside the White House before officers were able to apprehend him.
Union: Tamir Rice settlement money should help educate kids
by Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND — The head of a Cleveland police union said the family of a 12-year-old black boy shot dead by a white police officer while playing with a pellet gun should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the dangers of handling real and replica firearms, while an attorney representing the boy's family blasted the comments.
“Something positive must come from this tragic loss,” said Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association. “That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm,” he said.
The statement came hours after the city announced a settlement Monday in a lawsuit over the death of Tamir Rice.
An order filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland said the city will pay out $3 million this year and $3 million the next. There was no admission of wrongdoing in the settlement.
“We have maintained from the onset this has been an absolute tragedy for the Rice family as well as our involved officers and their families,” Loomis said.
Family attorney Subodh Chandra sharply criticized Loomis' response.
“Anyone has ever wondered whether ‘tone deafness' is a real thing need look no further than the police union leadership,” Chandra said in a statement.
He said Loomis' comments managed to “blame the victim, equate the loss of life of a 12-year-old child with officers facing public scrutiny for killing that child and demand money from the victim's family.”
The wrongful death suit filed by Rice's family and estate against the city and officers and dispatchers who were involved alleged police acted recklessly when they confronted the boy outside a recreation center on Nov. 22, 2014.
Video of the encounter shows a cruiser skidding to a stop and rookie patrolman Timothy Loehmann firing within two seconds of opening the car door. Tamir wasn't given first aid until about four minutes later, when an FBI agent trained as a paramedic arrived. The boy died the next day.
In the Rice family lawsuit, Samaria Rice had alleged that police failed to immediately provide first aid for her son and caused intentional infliction of emotional distress in how they treated her and her daughter after the shooting.
The officers had asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. Loehmann's attorney has said he bears a heavy burden and must live with what happened.
Tamir's estate has been assigned $5.5 million of the settlement. A Cuyahoga County probate judge will decide how the amount will be divided. Samaria Rice, Tamir's mother, will receive $250,000. Claims against Tamir's estate account for the remaining $250,000. Tamir's father, Leonard Warner, was dismissed in February as a party to the lawsuit.
Chandra said the Rice family remains in mourning over Tamir's death.
US cyber command opening up new front against ISIS
by Fox News
The U.S. is supplementing its ground and aerial assaults on ISIS with a cyber-attack campaign, opening up a new, high-tech front in the war against the Internet-savvy terror group.
President Obama was scheduled Monday to address future efforts against ISIS at a conference in Germany with several European leaders, The New York Times reported. One of those efforts is the burgeoning cyber war.
“We are dropping cyberbombs,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work told The Times. “We have never done that before.”
Though the cyber assault is the latest tact taken in the effort to destroy the terror group, details of the program have been vague, and its effectiveness is tough to evaluate.
The National Security Agency has conducted phone surveillance on ISIS for years, The Times reported, but the NSA's military counterpart, Cyber Command, had not trained its sights on ISIS until recently. Now, secret tech weapons employed against more traditional U.S. adversaries such as Iran and North Korea will be deployed against the Islamist group.
“Our cyber operations are disrupting their command-and-control and communications,” Obama said after an April meeting at CIA headquarters in Virginia.
The operation's objective is to upset ISIS' efforts to attract new recruits and spread propaganda. Officials also hope to stymie electronic cash transfers. By talking publicly about the program – albeit in little detail – the administration hopes to psychologically affect ISIS' command structure, making them question the integrity of their communications. It's also hoped that lower-level extremists may be scared off by the knowledge that someone may be monitoring them.
U.S. Cyber Command is based out of Ford Meade, Md., and the East Coast facility began shifting its focus to ISIS after some prodding from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, The Associated Press reported.
Late last year Carter told cyber commanders they had 30 days to bring him options for how the military could use its cyber warfare capabilities against the group's deadly insurgency across Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Officials said he told commanders that beefing up cyber warfare against the Islamic State group was a test for them, and that they should have both the capability and the will to wage the online war.
But the military cyber fight is limited by concerns within the intelligence agencies that blocking the group's Internet access could hurt intelligence gathering.
Officials said Carter told commanders that the U.S. must be able to impact Islamic State operations without diminishing the indications or warnings U.S. intelligence officers can glean about what the group is doing.
On Jan. 27, Carter and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, went to Fort Meade for an update.
Officials familiar with Carter's meetings said the secretary was frustrated that, as Cyber Command has grown and developed over the past several years, it was still focused on the cyber threats from nations such as Iran, Russia and China, rather than building a force to fight more agile insurgents.
"He was right to say they could be more forward leaning about what they could possibly do against ISIS," said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "You could disrupt their support networks, their business networks, their propaganda and recruitment networks."
However, Lewis added, the U.S. needs to be careful about disrupting the Internet to insure that attacks don't also affect civilian networks or systems needed for critical infrastructure and other public necessities.
U.S. officials have long been concerned by militants' ability to use the Internet as a vehicle for inspiring so-called lone wolf attackers in Western nations, radicalized after reading propaganda easily available online.
"Why should they be able to communicate? Why should they be using the Internet?" Carter said during testimony before the defense appropriations subcommittee. "The Internet shouldn't be used for that purpose."
TSA finds record number of firearms in passengers' luggage
by CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN
Airport security checkpoints are increasingly being held up by what other passengers are “packing.”
The Transportation Security Administration said that it had discovered a record number of guns in carry-on baggage last week.
Workers at the country's airports found flyers trying to bring 73 firearms on planes in the seven days ending last Thursday, and all but five of the weapons were loaded.
The gun-toting total broke the previous record set in October of last year, according to a blog post from the TSA.
Travelers were warned that firearms cannot be taken on planes in carry-on luggage, and that guns must be unloaded, declared ahead of time and in checked luggage.
Violations can lead to arrests and up to $11,000 in fines, the agency said.
TSA prohibitions also extend to replica items that look like weapons or ammo. Earlier this year a woman was stopped in Baltimore for bracelets lined with bullets and stilettos with pistols for heels.
In 2015 the TSA confiscated 2,653 firearms — nearly a 20% increase over 2014 — and said that passengers at Dallas Ft. Worth, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and George Bush International in Houston were the most frequent offenders.
Lynchburg police chief discusses recent shootings, community-policing efforts
by Brie Jackson
LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) – Nearly six months into the job, Lynchburg Police Chief Raul Diaz has identified crime problems he wants to fix following recent shootings.
“Obviously when it involves people shooting at each other it is a concern for us” said Chief Diaz.
Officials are concerned about the recent double shooting at Younger Park and another shooting nearby.
The chief said the incidents appear to be unrelated and have attracted negative attention to, what he calls, a normally quiet neighborhood.
Diaz said crime numbers in Lynchburg have fluctuated since he has been in office. He said overall crime figures have been on a downward trend in recent years.
Moving forward, the chief hopes implementing community-policing programs will help to further reduce crime. Recently, he started Lynchburg's first “Community Action Team” or CAT team.
Diaz said the program was an effective crime fighting tool at his previous job in Florida and he believes it will be successful in building relationships in the Hill City.
“Community policing is a philosophy that involves the whole department but these officers will lead the way,” Chief Diaz said.
By being a visible part of the community, Diaz hopes to prevent future incidents like what happened at Younger Park from happening anywhere else in Lynchburg.
On Tuesday, the Lynchburg Police Department is teaming up with Parks & Rec for a community meeting at Fairview Center.
Community members are encouraged to attend and discuss concerns about safety, crime and other issues. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.
How Housing Improves Public Safety
by Deborah De Santis
President and CEO of CHS (Corporation for Supportive Housing)
At first glance, the connection between improving public safety and ensuring a person leaving jail or prison has fair access to housing may not seem obvious. But a safer society for all of us is exactly what the Obama Administration is creating when it sends strong messages to public and private landlords that denying housing solely on the basis of a person having been incarcerated is discriminatory under the federal Fair Housing Act. What perhaps is even less self-evident is why the housing-public safety nexus is gaining such bipartisan traction; yet the answer here also springs from the recognition there are safer, smarter ways of addressing a person's reentry into the community.
The reality is this: The moment a person fresh from prison or jail steps off the bus in any town, a daunting challenge confronts them - where to find a place to sleep. Many face this trauma alone as family members may have died, moved away, or withdrawn the welcome mat. They have no money or prospects for a job. Then there are the public-perception obstacles they face, namely Not in My Backyard “NIMBY-ism” and a wide-spread unwillingness to rent to them.
As a result, a large percentage of newly-released prisoners end up in homeless shelters. Alarmingly, anywhere from 30-50% caught in shelters are from jails or prisons.
Another fact we cannot ignore is a disproportionate amount of these individuals are impoverished African-American or Latino-American men - individuals who should be protected under the Fair Housing Act but who before now were disregarded and invisible because of their past incarceration.
In too many instances young African-American and Latino-American men have been denied opportunities as a direct result of biases, greatly contributing to their likelihood of incarceration. Continuing to discriminate by denying post-release housing only exacerbates the fallout from a system that appears weighted against them.
The Fortune Society, a group serving those leaving jails and prisons, filed a lawsuit making such an argument and pointing out that discrimination against those who have been in criminal justice facilities directly counters the intent and spirit of the Fair Housing Act because it disproportionately affects African-American and Latino-American men.
As an alternative to homelessness and shelters, CSH has for years promoted many models of supportive housing (affordable units linked to services) helping people protected by the Fair Housing Act, including those who have served their time.
Frequent User of Systems Engagement (FUSE) reentry supportive housing is for individuals with chronic medical or behavioral health challenges leaving jails or prisons.
The idea behind FUSE is simple: Give the person exiting a criminal justice facility a real “second chance” to move forward and become self-sufficient by bolstering their stability and access to the medical, mental health, job training and maybe substance use help they need. Because if we don't, we're likely dooming them to a second sentence of a life in poverty, increasing their risks of homelessness and recidivism and jeopardizing the public safety of everyone.
Because FUSE is an early intervention that follows through on services, participants demonstrate fewer jail days and shelter stays, and there are genuine public cost savings.
FUSE is making its mark across the country. The Connecticut Collaborative on Re-Entry Program (CCR), for example, is a FUSE supportive housing initiative that uses data-driven targeting to identify and serve a set of individuals in Connecticut that repeatedly cycle in and out of the homeless services and correction systems. A few years ago, Mecklenburg County Community Support Services (CSS) leadership was researching effective jail diversion models that would reduce recidivism and save public dollars, and discovered CSH's FUSE model. The county has received national recognition for its MeckFUSE effort.
In order for programs like FUSE to grow, governments, Public Housing Authorities, private landlords and providers must recognize denying housing to someone based on something that may have occurred 20 years ago unduly perpetuates a punishment that should end along with the sentence.
This isn't a problem for just one state or community. Nationwide, nearly 700,000 people a year are being released from jails and prisons. That means potentially tens of thousands more crowding into our homeless shelters annually if we don't choose better ways to ensure successful reentries.
As the numbers of individuals being released increases, and the risks of their homelessness and recidivism also rise, our policymakers in Washington are making the right call when they embrace the Fair Housing Act as a potent vehicle to end housing discrimination against those who have already paid their debt, and are looking for nothing more than equitable treatment and a fair shake to move forward.
From the Department of Justice
Roadmap to Re-entry
Each year, more than 600,000 citizens return to neighborhoods across America after serving time in federal and state prisons. By issuing this Roadmap to Reentry and working vigorously to enhance federal reentry practices, the Department of Justice reaffirms its view that each and every one of the individuals committed to custody at BOP presents us with an opportunity to turn around a life, avoid a future victim, repair a family, and support a community. All of these individuals deserve the federal government's best efforts to help them start anew when they return home.
The Roadmap to Reentry identifies five evidence-based principles guiding federal efforts to improve the correctional practices and programs that govern the lives of those who will reenter society after incarceration. The Department of Justice takes the view that “reentry begins on Day One.” And, just as important, our involvement does not end at the prison gates. As such, these corrections principles span the cycle of custody and beyond: from intake, to incarceration, through to release. The principles are as follows:
Principle I: Upon incarceration, every inmate should be provided an individualized reentry plan tailored to his or her risk of recidivism and programmatic needs.
Principle II: While incarcerated, each inmate should be provided education, employment training, life skills, substance abuse, mental health, and other programs that target their criminogenic needs and maximize their likelihood of success upon release.
Principle III: While incarcerated, each inmate should be provided the resources and opportunity to build and maintain family relationships, strengthening the support system available to them upon release.
Principle IV: During transition back to the community, halfway houses and supervised release programs should ensure individualized continuity of care for returning citizens.
Principle V: Before leaving custody, every person should be provided comprehensive reentry-related information and access to resources necessary to succeed in the community.
Read the full version of the Roadmap to Reentry: Reducing Recidivism Through Reentry Reforms at the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Download the PDF | Infographic (PDF)
Couple whose baby was mauled by dog gave up on 911 calls
Police said they too are frustrated by slow 911 response times
by The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — Police in San Diego say a couple whose 3-day-old baby was mauled to death by the family dog made two unsuccessful 911 calls before getting frustrated and driving the boy to the hospital themselves.
Police Lt. Scott Wahl tells KNSD-TV Saturday that the parents waited 28 seconds before hanging up their first call, then tried again and waited 34 seconds before giving up.
Police say the family has their condolences and they too are frustrated by slow 911 response times. They say their operators are understaffed and that 73 calls came in during the half-hour span when the parents called.
Police say the couple was in bed with the baby Thursday night when the dog was startled and attacked the baby. The child was declared dead at the hospital.
Marijuana 'grow operations' found at Ohio slaying sites
by Ralph Ellis
Investigators found three marijuana "grow operations" at rural residences where eight family members were killed in southern Ohio, state Attorney General Mike DeWine said Sunday at a news conference.
Authorities wouldn't say publicly whether they thought the killings were drug-related, but an official with knowledge of the operation told CNN's Nick Valencia: "This operation was not for personal use; it was for something much bigger than that. It was a very sophisticated operation."
The cold-blooded nature of the killings has rattled Piketon, a town of about 2,000 people 90 miles east of Cincinnati.
The victims, who ranged in age from 16 to 44, were methodically shot in the head Friday while sleeping at four residences, including a mother with a 4-day-old infant lying beside her, authorities said. The newborn, along with a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old, survived. The official said the killings happened before dawn.
"This was a preplanned execution of eight individuals," DeWine said. "It was a sophisticated operation and those who carried it out were trying to do everything they could do to hinder the investigation and their prosecution."
The killer or killers were specifically going after the Rhoden family, Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader emphasized, though he didn't say why. The suspects are probably armed and a danger to surviving family members, he added.
"We have a specific family that's been targeted but I don't think there's been a threat to any other members of the community," he said. "I cautioned them they are a target and I cautioned them, 'Be armed.'"
Pike County has 30,000 residents and deputies cannot be everywhere to protect residents, Reader said. To the public he said, "I can tell you if you are fearful, arm yourselves."
DeWine said 50-60 people have been interviewed, 100 tips received, 18 pieces of evidence submitted to the crime lab and at least five search warrants issued and completed. Seven of the eight autopsies have been performed so far, the last one scheduled for Monday, said DeWine.
He wouldn't say how many guns were used in the shootings and if the Rhoden family was involved in any crimes. At first he wouldn't answer when a reporter asked if marijuana was involved.
"We will not be telegraphing or telling the bad guys everything we know," he said.
But as the news conference ended, DeWine said, "Let me go ahead and I think it's OK for me to confirm that we did find marijuana at three locations."
"Like bags of marijuana?" a reporter said. "Grow operation?" another asked.
"Grow operation," DeWine said and walked away.
The victims were identified as Hannah Gilley, 20; Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16; Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 20; Dana Rhoden, 37; Gary Rhoden, 38; Hanna Rhoden, 19; and Kenneth Rhoden, 44.
Dana Rhoden left work about 11 p.m. Thursday, Valencia reported. The sheriff's office received calls about 7:30 a.m. Friday from relatives who found bodies in the residences. Two residences are within walking distance, authorities said. A third is about a mile away and the fourth about eight miles away, they said.
A Cincinnati-based restaurant owner, Jeff Ruby, has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, DeWine said Saturday.
Authorities have found marijuana growing in Pike County previously.
In August 2012, DeWine issued a press release saying law enforcement officers found "a major marijuana grow site in Pike County with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel."
Investigators destroyed about 1,200 marijuana plants and found two abandoned campsites they believe belonged to Mexican nationals, the release said.
DeWine has not indicated any connection between the 2012 findings and the operations found on the Rhoden properties.
1 in 10 Michigan children have a parent who has been incarcerated, report says
by Brian McVicar
One in 10 Michigan children have a parent who has been incarcerated, an often traumatic event that can lead to increased poverty, stress and family instability, according to a report released today.
The report, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that 10 percent of Michigan children have a parent who has been in jail or prison. The data only counts children whose incarcerated parent lived with them at some point. It does not include children with a parent who was incarcerated prior to their birth.
Children with an incarcerated parent are more likely to live in low-income families of color and have a mother with a limited education, the report says.
The report cites 2011-12 data from the National Survey of Children's Health. Just two states – Indiana and Kentucky – have a larger percentage of children whose parents have been incarcerated than Michigan. Five states have the same percentage as Michigan: Alaska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The findings underscore the need to support children whose parents are incarcerated and ensure that incarcerated residents have a pathway to employment after their release, said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.
They findings also reinforce the need to examine how Michigan's "outdated corrections policies" impact families and children, she said.
"Michigan's outdated corrections policies have hurt our economy, they've hurt our state budget, and this report really shows that they are doing the same to our families and their kids," Guevara Warren said.
She added, "We need to think about the impact on kids and think about how as a state we can put children who have been impacted by incarceration at the forefront of any decisions around reform – sentencing and corrections reform."
Criminal justice reform has been a significant focus in the Michigan in recent years, but thus far none of the major legislative proposals to emerge have been signed into law.
In 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder outlined what he called a "smart approach to criminal justice." His plan called for improved efforts at preparing inmates for life after prison and saving money by placing terminally ill and elderly prisoners in more cost-effective settings, among other steps.
Another significant legislative effort has been presumptive parole, which would offer low-risk prisoners a legitimate shot at parole once they've served their minimum sentence. The proposal, however, has been met with opposition from county prosecutors and Attorney General Bill Schuette, who says it could endanger public safety.
"Our nation's overreliance on incarceration has left millions of children poorer, less stable and emotionally cut off from the most important relationship of their young lives," Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said in a statement. "We are calling on states and communities to act now, so that these kids—like all kids—have equal opportunity and a fair chance for the bright future they deserve."
That includes increased funding for prison education and re-entry initiatives, banning felony conviction check boxes on job applications and doing a better job helping households where a parent is incarcerated access financial, legal, child care and housing assistance, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.
"Having a parent in prison causes economic, social and personal strife for kids and there are currently little to no efforts to address this," Mary King, executive director for the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, said in a statement. "There are more than a quarter of a million kids struggling with an incarcerated parent in Michigan, and that number is too high for them to continue to be disregarded."
Police try cultural outreach to engage immigrant communities
by Olivia Lewis and Jull Disis
The lights flashed, the siren went off and two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers got out of the car. The officers had pulled over four Burmese youths in a white 16-passenger van. The youths' vehicle was swaying back and forth over the yellow traffic lines.
When officer Candi Perry got to the van driver's window, she asked James Tluang to put his hands on the steering wheel. Then Perry asked to see Tluang's license. The driver, 20, politely handed the officer his wallet.
“Do not give us your entire wallet,” Perry said to the crowd of youths standing beside the van on Saturday in the parking lot of IMPD's East District Headquarters.
The traffic stop was a demonstration in the IMPD and Me program, which encourages officer engagement with immigrant communities. About 50 Burmese youths from the Falam Baptist Church of Indiana met with police officers, learned what to do in a traffic stop and took notes from the bomb squad. Earlier this month, IMPD Chief Troy Riggs told IndyStar he was concerned about how his department can address the city's growing immigrant communities, adding that immigrant involvement in policing "helps us with some of the cultural issues that we have at times when we're trying to investigate crimes or investigate victims."
Through active cultural outreach, authorities say they will be able to improve police-community relations.
In three years, Perry has had 40 groups participate in the IMPD and Me program. The officer said extending the offer to immigrant communities to come to the police department has helped debunk the negative perception those communities have of police. Perry said the program and the department's efforts to engage have helped IMPD police Indianapolis' smaller communities more effectively.
The officer said community policing has made the department seem more trustworthy, which encourages immigrants to call for help when there's an issue. Perry said she uses their calls as a measure for the program's success.
"There's a freedom in conversation that wasn't there before," she said.
Terri Downs, the executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center, said the center has supported IMPD's immigrant outreach programs for years. She said it's hard for police to foster meaningful relationships with immigrant and refugee populations, many of whom come from countries where the police are people to be feared.
"It's very, very difficult to gain the trust of them from a person in uniform, because of the number of military governments throughout the world that would jail people," she said. "(The IMPD officers) recognize the importance of coming to them and bringing them in and saying, 'We are your friends.'"
Run Sui Lian, 21, Indianapolis, met Perry at the Immigrant Welcome Center. He said he questioned why IMPD had a liaison for Indianapolis' Latino population but not for the Burmese. He began to ask Perry about available programs to learn more.
Lian, who encouraged the Falam Baptist Church youth group to participate on Saturday, was skeptical the first time Perry invited him to the department. Lian said many in the Burmese community see police as "anti-civilian," that police don't approach people to be helpful.
Lian's first visit to the department was with a friend. He said he was surprised to learn how much he didn't know about the state's laws, policies and procedures when it comes to police work. After his visit, Lian told other people in his community about the program, encouraging them to participate.
Though Lian said Perry is "really cool" and that her work has benefited the community, he said there are still gaps in police and community engagement.
"It's a correlation between the two," Lian said. "We have to approach them, too."
Officials said they agree, efforts to establish strong relationships with ethnic and minority communities can't end with outreach events.
For example, they point to a need for diversity within the police rank-and-file — something that is also seen as a way to help police de-escalate potentially turbulent situations and build trust in urban minority communities.
An IndyStar examination of department staffing found that the city's police force is less diverse today than it was nearly 25 years ago, even as the city has grown more diverse. Blacks, for example, make up 28 percent of the city's population but only 14 percent of IMPD. Women make up 13 percent of the department.
City officials have in recent weeks pitched new ways to boost those numbers.
A proposal that would free up $50,000 of city money for IMPD recruitment this year passed Wednesday out of a City-County Council committee. Co-sponsor Leroy Robinson, a Democrat, said the funds could be used to finance trips for recruiters to historically black colleges and universities to seek out talent.
And earlier this month, the council passed a measure codifying into law an existing Police Merit Board policy that backers say would allow the chief to make additional minority hires at his or her discretion.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett praised the measure's passage, writing in a statement that it "will improve ongoing efforts to strengthen our police force by making it more representative of the people it serves."
How far should public agencies go to restrict employees' social media posts?
In La., an officer was punished for speaking out on his personal Facebook about the department
by Terry L. Jones
BATON ROUGE, La. — Rapides Parish teacher Deborah Vailes was called into the office and reprimanded by the principal on the day she posted sharply critical remarks on her personal Facebook page about Louisiana's Common Core curriculum.
Vailes didn't mince words. Under a photo that had been floating around the Internet of a visibly upset little girl struggling with the curriculum, she wrote a caption that urged parents to take their children out of public school and either home-school them or put them in a private school “until we get rid of this.”
Her principal ordered her to remove what she had posted from her home computer early that morning in September 2014, according to a lawsuit Vailes filed in federal court the following February. And, Vailes said, she was instructed to no longer express her personal opinions regarding public education on social media. The school system disputes her claims.
More than a year later, the suit is still working its way through the courts. But the issues it raises over how far governmental bodies can go in restricting the free speech rights of public employees are playing out elsewhere across Louisiana.
Abbeville disciplined one of its officers for speaking out on his personal Facebook page about working conditions at the city's Police Department. It ended up costing Abbeville's taxpayers $32,900 to settle the case, and the city was forced to revise its policies governing the use of social media by employees.
An East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy, who included an image of his badge on his Facebook page, was fired after posting comments that disparaged a McDonald's in Central. The comments, which generated public controversy, related to how the deputy said he was treated by an employee of the fast-food restaurant. A spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office said the Facebook post was only one of several factors that went into the decision to terminate the officer's employment.
In Lafayette, First Amendment protections became an issue when a U.S. magistrate judge ordered a group of city police officers to take down a website they had been using to air clandestine recordings of on-duty officers. The recordings, they believed, backed up accusations they were making in a lawsuit accusing the Police Department and city officials of corruption and racism.
The growing popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter has led to more and more image-conscious companies and governmental agencies adding policies in their employee manuals prohibiting certain online behavior and to a growing number of conflicts.
“In almost any sector you can think of — government agency, private businesses, nonprofits — those in leadership are always concerned about what individuals who work for the entity are saying online,” said Victor Canada, owner of business consulting firm NXT Media.
Canada, who also developed the Social Media Certificate Program at LSU, has conducted social media workshops for businesses and government agencies across the nation, including the Louisiana Municipal Association.
“You have individuals who, when they go online, they have a feeling like this is personal to them. It's no one else's business what I'm saying,” Canada said. “The challenge lies in personal profiles where you associate yourself with your employers. Your audience, people who are connected to you, can see who you work for. If you get online talking about your horrible day at work, obviously your employer is going to be embarrassed.”
Employment lawyers and civil liberties experts generally agree that private companies have more leeway in putting restrictions on the social media posts of “at-will” employees.
“What intrigues me most is how the limitations on public employees' rights is going to play out in Louisiana and elsewhere,” said Baton Rouge attorney J. Arthur Smith.
Smith, who has been practicing law in the state for more than 40 years and specializes in labor and employment law, said public employees have “plenty of resources, including our pretty good state constitution” to protect their free speech rights.
Smith and Marjorie Esman, executive director of Louisiana's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out what they saw as serious flaws in the written social media policies of several public agencies they reviewed at The Advocate's request.
“There's a lot of vagueness and overbreadth,” Esman said. “If you take them on their face value, they prohibit things people absolutely have the right to do.”
Both said the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office guidelines are ambiguous and appear to encroach on the free speech rights of employees. They pointed to language in the policy that prohibits “speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, or acts and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, and religion, any sexual orientation or any protected class of individuals” in the personal use of social media.
“That's overly broad,” Smith said. “A lot of things can be characterized as sexually explicit language. This really doesn't take adequate account that there will be comments that could be made that are protected under the state's constitution.”
Another section of the Sheriff's Office policy says employees are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media as long as what they say and post doesn't damage their working relationships, disrupt the office's operations or discredit the Sheriff's Office or an individual employee.
“Not all opinions are protected speech,” the policy reads.
To that, Esman responded, “Well, what are?”
The policy doesn't say.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, says her office stands by its policy, on which it consulted with a legal expert before adopting.
“This policy pertains to when a deputy is representing the agency by using our badge, emblem or department name on their profile,” she responded in an email. “Not when they are commenting on a personal basis and not claiming affiliation to or representing the department.”
Social media polices for school districts in Iberville Parish and Zachary are written mostly to discourage personal online interactions between teacher and students.
Last year, the Iberville Parish school district fired a teacher who carried on sexual affairs with several of his students, resulting in a child with one of them. The investigation into the incident revealed the man sometimes used Facebook to interact with the girls.
Restricting employees' online behavior on electronic devices issued by public agencies — like Iberville does — doesn't raise any red flags. But Esman said a section of the policy that prohibits employees from accepting “friend” requests from students or posting any photos of students on their personal Facebook pages isn't specific enough.
“What if it's a relative?” she asked.
Iberville's human resources and policy supervisor Brandie Blanchard said no one has been fired for social media posts, but some have been disciplined and asked to remove posts deemed unprofessional.
Zachary school system's policy includes language similar to that used by Iberville but excludes students who are immediate family members of their employees.
However, Zachary's policy also includes a broad prohibition against employees making any statements on social media that would violate any of the school's policies, and it prohibits employees from posting any photographs deemed “inappropriate,” like ones related to alcohol or tobacco use.
“The employee must uphold the district's value of respect ... and avoid making defamatory statements about the school district or any member of the school community,” the policy reads.
Smith believes it probably will take the right legal cases presenting strong arguments challenging social media policies to clear up the murky waters flooding the employment sector as social media's popularity grows.
And he thinks many of the courts' decisions in these types of cases will hinge upon how much of a reach a person's voice has on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“If a person only has stuff that's seen mostly by close friends and family, he or she has a certain expectation of privacy,” Smith said. “But if a person has thousands of friends online, I would bet the courts would see that a little differently when it comes to private versus public speech.”
Officials with the Louisiana Municipal Association and the Louisiana School Boards Association say they encourage governmental bodies within their networks to consult with their attorneys when trying to craft any kind of policy.
“We can't give them legal advice. It would be up to each mayor or parish president to determine how they want to address the issue,” said John Gallagher, director of governmental affairs for the Louisiana Municipal Association. “Each administration has their own ideas how they want their employees to be good ambassadors (for their agencies).”
As for whether the policies are too strict or over-reaching, Gallagher said, “I don't know. That's for the courts to determine.”
Canada said he advises municipalities and government agencies to take a more proactive approach to social media when the topic comes up in his workshops.
“I tell them to focus more on what they want their employees to do instead of trying to control what they don't want them to do,” he said. “It's much harder and dangerous for them to try and pigeonhole their employees.”
In the meantime, incidents like that involving Vailes, the Rapides Parish teacher who says she was ordered to take down her Facebook post criticizing Common Core, continue to arise to test the limits on social media use.
Vailes says having to remove her post enraged her.
“I felt so violated,” she said.
The Rapides Parish school district denied the allegations that it was trying to suppress Vailes' free speech rights and said the problem was with other material posted on her Facebook, not the Common Core material.
In its response, the district said Vailes was asked to remove from her Facebook page a post that “implied that the Rapides Parish School Board was teaching children the use of sexual aids and informing them of sexual positions.”
The district also denied her claim that she and other teachers at Pineville Junior High School were barred from publicly voicing their opinions about public education following the controversial post.
Neal Johnson, the attorney for the school district, said Vailes hasn't been terminated despite claims in her lawsuit the district is trying to push her out. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment further on litigation that is still ongoing,” Johnson said when asked additional questions about the school district's defense.
Vailes called the school district's allegation “a blatant lie.”
“It was a school nurse that had shared the picture they're talking about, and I had commented beneath it and said it was disgusting,” Vailes said. “I did not share it. But supposedly, they said it popped up in my (Facebook) news feed.”
Vailes' case was taken up by the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal counsel for cases seen to have broader significance. According to its website, the center “defends and promotes America's Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values and the sanctity of human life.”
The ACLU, meanwhile, argued on behalf of the Abbeville police officer who was disciplined for posting on his personal Facebook about working conditions in the city's Police Department.
To settle the suit, Abbeville had to pay the officer $32,900 and also revise its social media policy, which now assures its employees that “social media activity and speech as citizens relating to matters of a public concern are First Amendment protected forms of speech.”
Why Seattle took longer to adopt police reform
Seattle's effort got off to a rocky start, although it has made significant strides
by Steve Miletich
SEATTLE — Seattle and East Haven were notified within days of each other in December 2011 that the U.S. Justice Department had found a pattern of unconstitutional policing in their communities.
Both questioned the results and expressed concerns about the potential costs of making changes. Each took months to reach settlement agreements with the Justice Department. But once they did, Seattle, the big city, and East Haven, the small town, took different paths.
Seattle's effort got off to a rocky start, although it has made significant strides since hiring Kathleen O'Toole as police chief in June 2014.
After agreeing in 2012 to reforms to address excessive force and biased policing, Seattle officials fought over who should be the federal monitor overseeing the effort. Ultimately, the City Council forced then-Mayor Mike McGinn to accept its preference in October 2012.
East Haven, which had been cited for discriminatory practices, worked quickly with the Justice Department to make a selection: O'Toole, a former Boston police commissioner, who held the position until taking the Seattle job.
It also moved quickly to adopt reforms.
Seattle was plagued by problems, which were noted by the monitor, Merrick Bobb, a Los Angeles-based police-accountability consultant.
In his first report card in April 2013, Bobb found the city had taken the first steps toward compliance. But implementation had been uneven and resistance remained strong, his report said.
A stinging report followed in November 2013, noting resistance in the top ranks, error-ridden data collection and failures to fully and fairly analyze shootings by officers.
Not until a new mayor, Ed Murray, took office in January 2014 did things begin to significantly change, although Murray got off to a bumpy start with his interim police chief.
Murray's hiring of O'Toole — followed by a major shake-up in the command staff — ushered in an upswing cited by the monitor.
East Haven, by comparison, brought in a new chief from the outside even before reaching its settlement agreement, accelerating its efforts.
Most recently, Bobb has found Seattle's department to be in initial compliance on a range of key reforms.
But it remains unclear when Seattle might be found in full compliance, while East Haven is nearing that milestone.
One factor is that Seattle's agreement with the Justice Department, unlike East Haven's, contains no set timetable.
East Haven established a four-year time frame, which provided a sense of urgency and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Without question, the complexities of carrying out broad change in a much-larger city, with many more police officers, public officials and civic voices, contributed to the different pace of reform in Seattle.
But so did the slower commitment to change, which isn't governed by size.
“The same principles apply. And it's just a matter of scale,” O'Toole said.
East Haven had to accomplish the same goals, she said.
“At the end of the day, it's all about leadership,” O'Toole said, expressing confidence in the team she has put together.
Collaboration among all parties is the key to success, she said, stressing she brought that belief to her role in East Haven and her job in Seattle.
“I can't say enough … about the importance of collaboration and mutual respect,” O'Toole said, adding, “An adversarial process does not work; it does not produce good results.”
More than 1,000 shot in Chicago this year
The city reached the dubious mark six to nine weeks earlier than in the previous four years
by Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — The number of people shot in Chicago so far this year has already passed 1,000, a grim milestone as gun violence in the city continues at a pace not seen since the 1990s.
The city reached that dubious mark Wednesday, six to nine weeks earlier than in the previous four years, according to data compiled by the Tribune.
The day saw one 14-hour stretch in which 13 people were shot, including a 4-year-old boy hit in the foot as he walked with his mother in the Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side. In the nearby Austin police district alone, four people were injured in three shootings during the day.
The 1,000th gunshot victim appeared to be a 16-year-old boy who was wounded in the knee shortly before 4 p.m. near 131st Street and Champlain Avenue in the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex on the Far South Side.
Police officials have cited the easy availability of guns, an intractable gang problem and conflicts sparked by social media as major factors in Chicago's increasing violence.
Many of the victims, of course, are innocents caught in the middle of gang conflicts. A front page story in the Tribune earlier in the week highlighted Khlo'e Chatman, one of at least five children younger than 10 shot in Chicago so far this year. Weeks shy of her second birthday, Khlo'e was shot in the back seat of her aunt's car on the West Side when someone opened fire from a car moving in the opposite direction. A single bullet pierced the trunk and flattened before lodging at the base of the girl's skull, but a few days later she was prancing around at home, digging candy out of her bag.
This marks the earliest in the year that 1,000 people have been shot since the Tribune began tracking each shooting in 2012, using data from the Chicago Police Department and street reporters. In recent years, Chicago hadn't reached 1,000 shooting victims until June. The city hit that mark on June 4 last year, June 15 in 2014, June 26 in 2013 and on June 9 in 2012.
The numbers are so troubling in part because this represents the third consecutive year in which shootings have risen by double-digit numbers. At 1,000 victims, this year's shooting toll exceeds last year's total at this point — about 600 victims — by more than 66 percent. At this point in 2014, 483 people had been shot.
Not surprisingly, Chicago's homicides have soared by comparable percentages so far this year, and if current trends persist, the city appears likely to top 500 homicides for only the second time since 2008. Through Sunday, homicides totaled 161, a 64 percent jump over 98 in the year-earlier period, official Police Department statistics show.
While the violence pales by comparison to the early to mid-1990s when homicides peaked in Chicago at more than 900 a year, the city still continues to far outpace the nation's two larger cities, New York and Los Angeles.
So far this year, the number of people shot here far exceeds those two cities combined. Through April 10, New York — a city more than three times the size of Chicago — had seen 246 people shot, while in LA —with over a million more people than Chicago — 328 people had been shot through April 16, both departments reported.
Up until just a few years ago, Chicago police did not publicize official statistics on the number of people shot in the city. The Tribune first highlighted how the department reported only the number of "shooting incidents," not victims, in a 2010 story that focused on one month during that summer.
In July 2013, the newspaper analyzed virtually every shooting in the first six months of that year and found that there had been more than 1,000 victims, far more than the department had revealed since it reported only shooting incidents.
The surge in violence comes at a critical juncture for the Police Department as it struggles to improve community trust in the fallout over the disturbing video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by an officer as the teen walked away from police with a knife in his hand.
The public furor since the video's release last November led to Mayor Rahm Emanuel firing then-police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, weeks of street protests and the launch of a wide-ranging investigation into the Police Department by the U.S. Justice Department.
In February, the Tribune reported a precipitous drop in morale among Chicago police, citing interviews with numerous officers. They told the newspaper the McDonald shooting had made them less aggressive on the street out of fear that doing even basic police work would get them into trouble. Criminals were taking advantage of their passive approach, they said.
The Police Department also began on Jan. 1 to require its officers to fill out detailed reports every time they made a street stop as part of a new state law and a landmark agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
The change — the result of concerns over racial profiling — has not only kept officers busy with paperwork longer than before, officers said, but also increased their anxiety about being second-guessed on whom they've stopped.
The result was that officers made 6,818 arrests in January, a 32 percent drop from nearly 10,000 arrests a year earlier. The number of street stops also has plummeted, with 9,044 investigatory stop reports issued in January, a fraction of the 61,330 "contact cards" that police issued during January 2015.