May, 2016 - Week 1
Public safety plan must address roots of crime
by Bruce Strouble
In recent debates about the need to address crime in Tallahassee, there has been much focus placed on increasing the number of officers per resident along with discussion on “community policing.” While I think these ideas are intended to address the local crime issue, I am concerned that they are short sighted and will ultimately fall short of mitigating the root causes of crime in Tallahassee.
The true sources of violent crime in our city are better correlated to poverty, lack of social capital and mental health issues. Attempts to address crime without a focus on these core issues will only serve as a Band-Aid on an infected gunshot wound.
Community policing is a complex idea that does not have one set definition, making measurement of its success difficult. While some attempts at community policing have proven beneficial, others have been met with mixed results. In my experiences talking with members of several communities nationwide, there is a sentiment that “over-policing communities of color” would be a more appropriate title.
Tallahassee Chief of Police Michael DeLeo is among the city's most adamant advocates of community policing. While his efforts should be supported, they alone are insufficient. Furthermore, it is unfair and unwise to expect the addition of new officers to solely result in any significant decrease in major crime. In order to be successful, these efforts must be coupled with additional measures that attack the roots of violent crime in our city.
It is imperative that we develop a more comprehensive approach to addressing our public safety concerns. First, we must begin to treat crime as a public health issue. This includes comprehensive campaigns that address the problem at the individual, family and community level. We must get creative at reaching out to our young people and teaching them about the consequences of crime for the entire community. Also, there must be a focus on re-entry for ex-offenders. If we do not find a way to make them productive members of our communities they are likely to re-offend.
Often overlooked is the role of environmental factors and their impact on crime rates. The physical appearance of several neighborhoods in Tallahassee is conducive for violence because they influence the morale of the communities, making them less resilient. Criminals often identify these areas and they become hot-spots for criminal activity. The treatment of the environment in these neighborhoods contributes to the mindset that crime is an acceptable part of the culture.
Lastly, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that our fellow citizens are not choosing between crime and malnutrition. We have citizens who are considering Leon County Jail as a viable option for shelter and food.
Ultimately, we should not expect much movement in our crime rate if we do not address the poverty rate.
Bruce Strouble holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and is a candidate for City Commission Seat 1. He is executive director of Citizens for a Sustainable Future and an academic advisor for the Undergraduate Student Success Center at FAMU.
NYPD Memorial Wall adds 19 officers' names
With the new names, the total number of officers and civilians memorialized now stands at 882
by Anthony M. Destefano
The lives of 19 NYPD officers, most of whom died from illnesses attributed to Sept. 11 duty, were commemorated Thursday during an evocative Memorial Wall ceremony at police headquarters.
As a solitary violin played in the background, the names of the 19 officers, including Brian Moore and Randolph Holder who died in line-of-duty shootings last year, were read aloud in the lobby of One Police Plaza.
With the new names, the total number of officers and civilians memorialized now stands at 882, officials said.
“To do these ceremonies is never easy,” Commissioner William Bratton told hundreds of family members and officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio. “What we continue to do today, is the memory of the life, a life well lived and life given for others.”
Bratton noted that the 2001 terror attacks continue to take a toll on the health of officers who worked at Ground Zero and at the Staten Island landfill, where debris was sifted to recover human remains. He said 121 officers have died from 9/11 illnesses.
“That day took many lives but we are today continuing the promise that we will always remember, that their lives will never be erased from our memory and the memory of time,” Bratton told the hundreds of family members in the audience.
Those whose Sept. 11-related names are now on the wall include: Deputy Chief Steven J. Bonano, Inspector James Guida, Captain Scott V. Stelmok and sergeants Patrick P. Murphy and Stephen P. Scalza. Detectives memorialized were: James J. Albanese, Luis G. Fernandez, Stuart F. Fishkin, John A. Russo and Richard H. Wentz. Police officers honored with plaques were: James M. Burke, Peter D. Ciaccio, Cheryul D. Johnson, Robert W. Kaminski, Shaun M. Mahoney and Peter O. Rodriguez.
The names of Moore, who died last May 4 after being shot in Queens Village, Det. Randolph Holder, killed in a shooting in upper Manhattan on Oct. 20, 2015, and Det. Joseph G. Lemm, killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 21, 2015, also were added to sections of the wall.
Officials didn't have a complete list of the counties of residences for the fallen officers. Long Island was home to at least two, Moore of Plainedge and Fishkin of New Hyde Park. Fishkin's mother-in-law, Emma Sgambati of College Point, said later that he died on May 8, 2015 of pancreatic cancer.Police fraternal groups and unions presented floral displays that were placed in the headquarters lobby.
To underscore why remembrances were important on such a day, Bratton read from a letter written by Union soldier Sullivan Ballou to his wife, Sarah, just before he was killed in the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 at the age of 32.
“I shall always be near you in the garish days, the darkest nights ... always, always,” wrote Ballou, as read by Bratton.
Bratton also cited a poetic line he read at the funeral of his mother, June Devilla Bratton, who died in 2007.
“Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened,” were the words from the poem attributed to Dr. Seuss.
Sept. 11 families seek answers in secret pages
The document has been likened it to a 'preliminary police report'
by Jennifer Peltz and Tom Hays
NEW YORK — Fifteen years after the attacks that killed her husband, Lorie Van Auken thinks she still hasn't been told the whole truth about 9/11.
She wants to know what's in 28 classified pages locked away in a basement room of the U.S. Capitol. They describe investigative leads about "specific sources of foreign support" for the terrorists and may shed light on possible Saudi connections.
The secrecy "gnaws at you every day," says Van Auken. "Fifteen years is long enough. We want to stop guessing."
She soon may. President Barack Obama has hinted that at least portions of the 28 pages may be released shortly, amid growing calls to reveal what some see as a hidden chapter in the explanation of Sept. 11.
Victims' relatives say they and the public deserve full transparency about the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and some argue that continued secrecy raises troubling questions about who or what is being shielded, and why.
Some Sept. 11 families expect the pages' contents will help them sue the Saudi Arabian government, since a former lawmaker has said the 2002 document casts suspicion that the terrorists got financial help from the kingdom, though U.S. investigations later concluded otherwise.
But the push to unveil the pages stirs mixed feelings among victims' families, and sometimes even within them.
Diane Massaroli, who lost her husband, is convinced responsibility for 9/11 extends beyond al-Qaida. She and sister-in-law Joann Masseroli find suspicions of Saudi links compelling, and they lament that important questions have been left unanswered.
"To see us get to the bottom of the financial paper trail ... would give me tremendous satisfaction," Joann Masseroli says. "To me, those pages hold something that's going to be revealing."
Diane's son, Michael, doubts it. He favors releasing the pages but thinks the idea of Saudi complicity doesn't add up, and he wonders about the point of grasping for what he sees as fragments of data.
"There's no information out there that's going to bring my father back, that's going to bring any of these people back," says Michael, 20, a college senior and his father's namesake. "I'm at as much peace as I will ever be with what happened."
The classified pages come from a congressional inquiry into the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people when hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field in 2001.
Republican President George W. Bush decided releasing the pages could divulge intelligence sources and methods. Former Rep. Tim Roemer, a Democrat who has viewed the document, has likened it to a "preliminary police report," including unvetted tips and allegations that were later investigated.
The congressional inquiry, the subsequent 9/11 Commission, a review commission and a CIA inspector general report last year found no reliable evidence that the Saudi government or senior officials knowingly supported the 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudi citizens.
The Saudi government vociferously denies involvement and says it would welcome release of the 28 pages to clear the air.
But former Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat who co-chaired the congressional inquiry and has also read the document, told CNN the pages point to "a connection at the highest levels between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the 19 hijackers." He has also said the U.S. government covered up the link to preserve its relationship with a key Middle East ally.
Kathy Owens believes that, reluctantly. Widowed on Sept. 11, she initially trusted in Washington's vow to hold everyone involved responsible.
But in recent years, she has felt increasingly bothered by the secret pages and the Democratic president's opposition to changing federal law to let Sept. 11 families sue Saudi Arabia, after a judge dismissed claims against the country on grounds of sovereign immunity.
"I feel betrayed, really," Owens says. "Something is more important than justice for all those 3,000 people ... oil money, arms money, donation money, whatever it is."
It doesn't feel that way to Donald Goodrich, who lost his son.
He would like the 28 pages released, though he accepts that the government may have a plausible, security-related argument for withholding them.
Regardless, he's skeptical of allegations of Saudi government responsibility for Sept. 11, and he doesn't expect the documents to change how he understands or lives with it.
"The important issue, for me, is not the little bits and pieces of the puzzle that are missing," says Goodrich, who with his late wife founded a girls' school in Afghanistan as a tribute to their son. It's "a more nuanced appreciation of the historical precursors of 9/11 that is important to me — and how to address them."
From the FBI
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program - Part 1
The homicide investigators, crime analysts, intelligence analysts, and administrators in the police department classroom studied their computer monitors, ready to receive instruction on—and access to—a powerful database that serves as a nationwide repository for certain types of violent crimes.
The men and women from regional law enforcement agencies were gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona for an introduction to the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), whose mission is simple: share information to help solve serial crimes.
“ViCAP Web is the only national law enforcement database that contains both investigative and behavioral information related to specific types of cases,” said Rick Blankenship, an FBI crime analyst who travels the country to train law enforcement on the use of the system. “We are not looking for law enforcement agencies to enter every one of their homicides or sexual assaults in ViCAP Web,” he explained. “We are looking for cases of a serial nature, where we think this may not have been the first time the offender committed this type of crime.”
The detailed information entered about each of the approximately 85,000 cases in the system allows investigators to find potential links to their own case—all while sitting at their office computers. “If you are a small police department investigating a murder case, how do you know if it's a serial crime?” Blankenship asked. “ViCAP is where you can go for help.”
Investigators from across the country—many from small agencies that don't usually see violent serial crimes—can enter their cases in ViCAP Web and search the system for similarities with other cases. Did the offender pose the victim in a particular way? Did he choose a particular kind of victim, like a prostitute or an elderly person? Were certain items removed from the crime scene? Was DNA recovered? If the database shows that a peculiar sexual homicide in Chicago was similar to a previous case in upstate New York, for example, it might provide investigators from both jurisdictions with new leads and possible suspects.
“A lot of times local law enforcement gets involved in a case and they hit a wall where they don't have any more leads,” said Thomas E. Kelly, chief of the Apache Junction Police Department near Phoenix, who has been using and promoting the database for several years. “ViCAP Web allows investigators to compare incident details with thousands of other cases. And every time a new case comes into the system, it's compared to the case that you submitted, so cases are constantly being reviewed for any connections.”
Nearly 5,500 U.S. law enforcement agencies participate in the program. Cases that meet the ViCAP criteria—including homicides and attempted homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and unidentified human remains—are entered and include details about the crime, the victim, and whatever is known about the offender. The database can be searched using various keywords and filters. If an investigator is working a murder case where the victim was shot, stabbed, and bound, he can search ViCAP Web for cases where victims were killed in the same way.
ViCAP analysts like Blankenship and Christie Palazzolo, who also provided instruction at the recent Arizona training, specialize in violent serial crimes and monitor the database with their colleagues from their FBI offices in Virginia. They regularly provide consultative and analytical services to investigators.
“Many smaller agencies might not have crime analysts,” Blankenship said. “When they come across one of these types of cases, they can place it in VICAP and it gives them the opportunity to use our resources. We can do the analytical work for them and provide investigative leads and contacts with other agencies who have similar cases.”
Blankenship added that ViCAP Web is a free service provided by the FBI and is open to law enforcement agencies nationwide. The only “cost” for training and access to the system is that participating agencies must enter their criteria cases so that the database continues to expand.
At the training session in Scottsdale, law enforcement personnel learned about the system by entering their cases. An officer from Flagstaff brought a cold case homicide from his department. A deputy from a different jurisdiction entered her sexual assault case. A detective from the Scottsdale Police Department who was familiar with ViCAP because of a murder case he has been working for the past year (see first sidebar) encouraged his colleagues to receive the training and get access to the database.
“We are constantly looking for more agencies to join ViCAP,” Blankenship said. “When we go out and train law enforcement personnel and they see what ViCAP can do and how easy it is to get the information into the system, they get excited about being able to move their cases forward.”
In addition to the database, which is a part of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (see second sidebar), FBI analysts offer a range of other free services to help investigators.
“There's more than just the database,” said Kelly, the Apache Junction police chief. “We had an unidentified victim where we just had skeleton remains. My crime scene technician contacted the Bureau, and they did a facial reconstruction. With a likeness of the victim, we then reached out to the media and asked for the public's help to identify her. Once you are in the program,” he noted, “there is a lot of help available.”
“The bottom line,” Blankenship said, “is that we are all in this together. The more resources you can throw at solving a crime, the better your chances are of solving it. We want law enforcement agencies to know that we're here to help them, and we want the public to know that these cases are not forgotten. There's always the possibility that the newest case that comes in will match up with a case from five or 10 years ago,” he explained. “We want the public to know—especially the families of victims—that we are constantly looking at these cases.”
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) is part of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). The primary mission of the NCAVC is to provide behavioral-based investigative support to the FBI, national security agencies, and other federal, state, local, and international law enforcement involved in the investigation of unusual or repetitive violent crimes, threats, terrorism, cyber crimes, public corruption, and other matters.
The NCAVC consists of five Behavioral Analysis Units (BAU), each of which offers investigative and operational support to complex and time-sensitive crimes in distinct areas:
- BAU-1: National security matters, including counterterrorism, arson, and bombings
- BAU-2: Threat assessment, cyber crimes, and public corruption
- BAU-3: Crimes against children
- BAU-4: Crimes against adults/ViCAP
- BAU-5: Research, strategy, and instruction
From the FBI
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program - Part 2
If there is such a thing as an ideal profession for a serial killer, it may well be as a long-haul truck driver.
FBI Crime Analyst Christie Palazzolo is quick to point out that long-haul trucking is an honorable profession and that the overwhelming majority of drivers are not murderers—but it does happen, and the pattern is unmistakable.
More than a decade ago, analysts for the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP)—the only national database of serial crimes—began to see a marked increase in the number of bodies recovered along the side of the road. A majority of the victims were truck-stop prostitutes, and it turned out that many of the suspects were long-haul truckers. “We had an inordinate number of victims and offenders from this rather specific population pool,” Palazzolo explained.
To make matters worse, these cases are extremely difficult to investigate. A long-haul driver can pick up a prostitute at a truck stop in Georgia, rape and murder her, and dump her body on the side of the road in Florida later that day. The victim has no connection to the area where she was found, and there may be no forensic evidence to collect because the crime was committed hundreds of miles away. The local police detectives investigating the case might have little experience dealing with a crime of this nature and may be faced with few, if any, leads.
To raise awareness among law enforcement agencies—and the public—about highway serial killings, and to focus ViCAP resources on helping to solve these cases, in 2004 the FBI began the Highway Serial Killings (HSK) Initiative, with support from the trucking industry.
“We want to help local law enforcement agencies tie their cases to similar cases nationwide,” said Palazzolo, who has been managing the initiative for the past four years. “That's where ViCAP comes in, because the database can make those connections.”
Without ViCAP—part of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime—local law enforcement agencies investigating one of these cases may have no way of knowing a murder in their jurisdiction is similar to killings committed elsewhere. Since the initiative began, ViCAP analysts have compiled a list of more than 750 murder victims found along or near U.S. highways, as well as nearly 450 potential suspects.
The analysts also began to develop detailed timelines on many of the suspects. The information in the timelines, obtained from company logs, gas station receipts, and other records, helps investigators pinpoint where a suspect was when murders were committed.
“It's not unusual for a driver to pass through five or even seven states in one day,” Palazzolo said. “The amount of ground they cover and the lack of any connection to where they're passing through makes it difficult to tie cases back to them.”
So the timelines become crucial to investigations. The goal for ViCAP analysts is to obtain as many records from as many sources as possible to determine a driver's whereabouts at fixed points in time. “Those details are what ultimately will help tie the suspect back to the murders,” Palazzolo said.
The database is constantly monitored for cases that meet the HSK criteria. When cases are identified, ViCAP analysts can provide information to local law enforcement agencies regarding these cases—anything from timeline data to advice on what records to subpoena to suggesting a point of contact at another police department with similar cases.
In the 12 years since its creation, the Highway Serial Killings Initiative has helped many local police departments solve violent sexual assaults and murder cases, but Palazzolo cautioned that many more victims demand justice. And these highly mobile killers are not going to disappear.
“According to the Department of Transportation,” she said, “the number of truck drivers on the road in the next 20 years is going to grow exponentially. So if we've already identified a population from which we are getting a significant number of offenders, and if we are going to be seeing more and more trucks on the road, the potential for additional highway serial killings is definitely there.
Los Angeles jury convicts 'Grim Sleeper' of 10 murders
by Scott Glover and Paul Vercammen
Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., a one-time garbage truck driver and LAPD garage attendant, was found guilty Thursday of murdering nine women and one girl over a span of three decades, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in California history.
Jurors took less than two days to convict Franklin of all charges against him, including the attempted murder of a woman who survived a 1988 attack. He was dubbed "The Grim Sleeper" because of a 13-year gap between slayings attributed to him.
Franklin, who has close-cropped hair and wears glasses, stared straight ahead and remained silent during the several minutes it took the court clerk to read the verdicts.
Family members of the victims, who had been cautioned by the judge to refrain from displays of emotion, quietly comforted and congratulated one another with each passing "guilty." Some nodded their heads in approval.
The trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court will now go to the penalty phase, beginning May 11, in which jurors will be asked to decide whether Franklin, 63, should be put to death for his crimes. Prosecutors disclosed Wednesday that two more women — one he was convicted of raping and another he attempted to kidnap and rape in Germany while in the U.S. Army in the 1970s -- may testify during the penalty phase of his trial.
Outside the courtroom after the verdicts were read, Samara Herard, sister to Franklin's youngest victim, 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux, said she was not surprised at the killer's lack of reaction.
"He doesn't value life," Herard said. "He doesn't care."
Herard said she was grateful for the jury's decision. But she prefers to think of her sister not as a victim, but as the person she was before she encountered Franklin.
"I want to remember the sweet little girl who had her whole life in front of her," she said.
'They are all premeditated'
The verdict follows a three-month trial featuring the testimony of 61 witnesses. Prosecutors portrayed Franklin as a sexual predator who killed his victims, then dumped their bodies like the trash he was paid to collect.
"He did it over, and over, and over, and over and over, and over," Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors during closing arguments. "All of the murders in this case are first degree. They are all willful. They are all deliberate. They are all premeditated."
Franklin's defense attorney, Seymour Amster, told jurors during his closing that the government's case was "circumstantial" and lacked the evidence required for a conviction. He suggested that an unnamed relative of Franklin's committed the killings, but offered no proof.
"The lack of evidence in this case compels you to find Mr. Franklin not guilty," he told jurors.
The lawyer also issued an apology for his own behavior during the trial, which was marked by moments of visible frustration and terse exchanges with the judge and prosecutor. He at one point said, "We now have no defense," following an unfavorable ruling by Judge Kathleen Kennedy.
"Just do your job," Kennedy told him.
Jurors clearly were not swayed by the defense Amster ultimately put on.
Police linked Franklin to the crimes in 2010 using DNA technology that did not exist when the initial killing spree occurred in the 1980s, according to prosecutors. Their case was built on that DNA evidence, including Franklin's saliva on many of his victims' breasts, along with ballistic evidence and the testimony of a surviving victim.
Silverman spent much of her closing arguments walking jurors through evidence in the case, including DNA, which she acknowledged can be "very tedious."
She spoke of astronomical odds — in the quadrillions and quintillions — that DNA collected from victims and crime scenes belonged to someone other than Franklin.
She noted the common characteristics between many of the crime scenes in which victims were found in alleys and dumpsters in South Los Angeles, all of them within a few miles of Franklin's home. Most wore disheveled clothing suggesting they'd been re-dressed and moved. They carried no identification.
Each of the crime scenes bore one or more characteristics of a "body dump," in which a victim is killed in one location and discarded in another, Silverman told jurors.
A surviving victim
The prosecutor also cited the testimony of a surviving victim who she said "provides a blueprint for the murdered women who cannot speak and can't tell you what happened."
That victim, Enietra Washington, testified that Franklin coaxed her into his orange Pinto in 1988 and, without warning, pulled out a handgun and shot her in the chest. She remembered Franklin climbing on top of her and a camera flashing as she lost consciousness.
He pushed her out of the moving car, assuming she was dead, Silverman said.
When detectives searched Franklin's house two decades later they found pictures of Washington hidden behind a wall, Silverman told the jury.
The prosecutor also reminded jurors of a videotaped police interrogation of Franklin, played during the trial, in which she said the accused killer did not appear surprised about the allegations against him. He laughed at times and called one victim "fat" and another "butt ugly" as detectives showed him photos.
"They're staring up at him — and he's laughing in their faces," Silverman said of the defendant.
DNA evidence to the rescue
Franklin had been charged with killing 10 victims, ranging in age from 15 to 35, from 1988 to 2007. He was also charged with the attempted murder of Washington.
The first spree began in the summer of 1985 and seemingly ended three years later. Police did not know his identity at the time but had linked seven slayings to the same .25-caliber handgun.
The then-unknown killer apparently fell dormant for years. Decades later, in 2007, LAPD homicide detectives got word from the department's forensic lab of "case to case hits" linking one person's DNA to unsolved slayings in 2002, 2003 and 2007, according to Detective Dennis Kilcoyne.
Detectives were unable to match the killer's DNA to any known samples contained in databanks. The department formed a task force that soon discovered the killings in the 2000s were connected to the unsolved spree in the 1980s, Kilcoyne wrote in a statement submitted to a congressional subcommittee investigating the use of DNA in so-called cold cases.
In 2008, detectives submitted crime scene DNA from both sprees to the California Department of Justice, asking them to conduct a "familia search" to determine if a close relative of the unknown killer was in a state databank of convicted felons' DNA.
The search came back negative.
But a second attempt, conducted two years later, yielded a hit, Kilcoyne wrote. It matched the DNA to a recently convicted felon.
The criminal's father turned out to be Franklin, according to authorities.
The pizza plan
Detectives placed Franklin under 24-hour surveillance and came up with a plan to obtain a sample of his DNA.
An undercover officer posed as a waiter at a local restaurant and collected a pizza crust left behind by the suspect. DNA taken from the crust matched DNA left by the suspect in multiple murders, Kilcoyne wrote.
Franklin was arrested in July 2010.
When police raided his South Los Angeles home, they discovered photos and videos of dozens of unidentified women. Police have since accounted for the identities and whereabouts of some of the women, but others remain unknown.
Silverman called Franklin a "serial killer who was hiding in plain sight."
"Science in 2010 finally caught up with the defendant for the crimes he committed since the 1980s," she said shortly before the case went to the jury. "All of the evidence in this case proves the defendant is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. There is no other plausible explanation."
Police Chief Charlie Beck, in a statement, said he hoped the verdict would bring "some closure for these families."
After Thursday's verdict, reporters crowded around relatives of the victims. Herard, Berthomieux's sister, kept her composure as she spoke about Princess in front of a throng of TV cameras.
Moments later she embraced Kilcoyne, the LAPD detective who played a pivotal role in the investigation.
"Thank you so much," she whispered again and again to him, tears welling in her eyes.
President Obama just commuted the sentences of 58 people. Here are their names.
by Sari Horwitz
(Complete list of names and offenses are on the site.)
President Obama commuted the sentences of 58 inmates Thursday as part of his ongoing initiative to release federal prisoners who have received severe mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses.
With this latest round of commutations, Obama has granted clemency to a total 306 inmates, 110 of whom were serving life sentences. Obama has said he will continue granting commutations during his final months in office to inmates who meet certain criteria set out by the Justice Department.
Of the inmates granted clemency Thursday, 18 had been sentenced to life without parole. One was Fulton “Wash” Washington, of Compton, Calif., who was convicted on PCP charges. At his sentencing, the judge lamented that harsh mandatory minimum sentences were not meant for offenders like Washington, but he had no choice. His daughter, who is 31, was 10 years old when Washington was sent to prison for the rest of his life.
“I was able to tell both Wash and his daughter today that he is coming home,” said attorney James E. Felman. “His daughter just broke down and started screaming and crying with hysteria. It's just unbelievable. I'm still in tears.”
In a posting on Medium.com, Obama said he has been inspired by the stories of the inmates who have already received clemency, several of whom he met with last month.
“Each of their stories was extraordinary,” Obama wrote.
Since the Obama administration launched its high-profile clemency initiative two years ago, thousands of inmates have applied. More than 9,000 petitions are pending.
BEHIND THE BADGE: New police chief says successful community policing will curb crime
by Kelsie Passolt
ROCKFORD (WREX) -
Murders, domestic violence, gangs and drugs are all issues that many Rockford residents want off of their streets. The city's new police chief has big plans to take down these types of crimes and prevent some from happening in the future. 13 News sat down with Police Chief Dan O'Shea to help you learn more about the man behind the badge.
"It's the only chief job I applied for in Illinois, I said 'I really want Rockford.'"
For Dan O'Shea, this year marks a lot of firsts-- accepting his inaugural police chief position and soon moving to Rockford, which is a place he's never lived before. While still an outsider by address, he currently lives closer to Chicago, O'Shea's been connected to the Forest City for years. He already knows some local police officers.
"I've known them for the 17 years I've been in Elgin. I used to work with them on violent crimes, we used to work cases together," O'Shea says.
The chief comes from the Elgin Police Department, working there since 1999. But, he started as a police officer in the Chicago suburbs 27 years ago. He's done it all: patrol, detective work and recently, administration and overseeing operations.
His now former boss, Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, says O'Shea is ready for this leadership role.
"He is," Swoboda says, "He's a great cop so he never forgets what does that midnight officer shift feel, what do detectives need, on the administrative side realizing money isn't endless, how can we be as efficient as we possibly can be. Plus, he's just very calm."
O'Shea comes into the Rockford Police Department with a lot of ideas. The ones that residents likely care the most about deal with violence. This could be a bigger challenge for O'Shea in Rockford than in Elgin. He admits our area saw about three times more murders in 2015. O'Shea says police can't fix these issues without the community.
"You can give me 1,000 officers, I'm not going to get rid of crime. I need the 150,000 residents to call the police, to help the police, to be good witnesses. When residents feel comfortable talking to police, we solve the violent crime problem, together."
That's why he says he'll create a community policing culture in Rockford, where every officer is expected to regularly interact with residents and build strong relationships.
"Every contact with every citizen everyday is community policing. Getting there is sometimes difficult with police officers. I think Rockford will be easy. I know a lot of them and I'll hold them to that," he says.
But, there will also be intense police work to crack down on violent criminals.
"We're going to use the county sheriff, the FBI, DEA, ATF."
The city's new chief is especially passionate about bringing down domestic violence cases.
"Domestics, can they be prevented? Yes, with a lot of education," O'Shea explains.
Meanwhile, he believes other violent crimes are harder to stop-- the ones related to gangs and drugs.
"We can try and fight it and we will but we're not going to just eradicate it. It's kind of an unrealistic goal. Gang members and drug dealers don't have a respect for life at times, it's all about the money, drugs and their friends," O'Shea says.
So, Chief O'Shea says instead of changing their ways, those criminals will be locked up. One idea of his is to put what are called civil injunctions against known gang members. He's already started talking about this idea with the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office.
"You can no longer hang around each other and every time the police see you together, they can arrest you just for being around these other guys who have been served."
But, when it comes to drugs, O'Shea thinks the answer is to give addicts help instead of just handcuffs. He plans to start these discussions soon with local leaders.
"If they went in [to jail or prison] a heroin addict for a year, they'll come out a heroin addict. Locking people up for those drug offenses isn't working. So, there's a paradigm shift to rehab programs."
Aside from solving problems out on the streets, the chief says there are issues within the department that need repairing, like communication, which he says is one of his strong suits.
"I've got two ears and one mouth, I'll do a lot more listening than talking. I want to know what the officers want," he explains.
With a plan to stay put in Rockford for the next five to ten years, O'Shea says he wants to make a difference and needs everyone's help along the way.
"I don't consider myself above anybody else. I don't want to be elevated above anyone else. I like being on the ground, it's done me very well."
As for how his first few weeks have gone, Chief O'Shea days the workload is what he expected. The biggest challenge has been meeting all his officers. He says it'll take a couple months just to do that.
Police chemist who worked on drug cases was usually high
She handled about 30K cases during her career
by Denise Lavoie
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Investigators say a former chemist who tested drugs for Massachusetts police departments was high almost every day she went to work for eight years, potentially putting thousands of criminal convictions in jeopardy.
Sonja Farak, who worked for an Amherst lab that tested drug samples for police, was high on methamphetamines, ketamine, cocaine, LSD and other drugs during most of her time there, even when she testified in court, according to a state investigative report released Tuesday. Farak worked at the lab between 2005 and 2013.
Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, said the information gathered about Farak "will no doubt have implications for many cases," but it is unclear just how many. She said it will be up to prosecutors, defense attorneys and the courts to determine the full scope of cases affected by Farak's misconduct.
"We are deeply concerned whenever the integrity of the justice system is called into question or compromised," she said.
One defense attorney told the Boston Herald that Farak handled about 30,000 cases during her career.
"This is a statewide scandal, and I think it's going to take an enormous toll on the system," attorney Luke Ryan said.
Farak's case is unrelated to the case of Annie Dookhan, who worked at a state drug lab in Boston. Dookhan was sentenced in November 2013 to at least three years in prison after pleading guilty to faking test results in criminal cases that jeopardized thousands of convictions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said the number of criminal cases affected by Farak's misconduct could rival the approximately 40,000 cases thrown into question by Dookhan's actions.
"It's now beyond doubt that the drug war in Massachusetts during the Dookhan-Farak era was built on a foundation of falsified evidence," said Matthew Segal, the ACLU's legal director.
Segal said he doesn't have an estimate of how many cases could be challenged, but said prosecutors who got convictions using drug samples she tested "have an obligation to identify and notify everyone who might have been denied due process" as a result of Farak's actions.
Segal said that because Farak admitted ingesting lab "standards" — drug samples used as benchmarks to test against substances submitted by police for testing — all cases that went through the lab should be re-examined.
Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ordered an investigation into the timing and scope of Farak's misconduct. Healey's office conducted the investigation.
Many of the shocking details came from Farak's own grand jury testimony, including that she once smoked crack before a 2012 state police accreditation inspection of the now-closed lab. Farak also testified that she manufactured crack cocaine for her personal use in the lab.
Farak, 37, of Northampton, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, stealing cocaine from the lab and unlawful possession in January 2014 and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars and five years of probation. She served her sentence and has been released from prison.
The attorney who represented Farak during her criminal case did not immediately respond to a telephone message from The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Gov. Charlie Baker said the state will likely have to allocate more money to deal with the Farak scandal. In the Dookhan case, the state Legislature authorized up to $30 million to cover costs incurred by the court system, prosecutors, public defenders and other state agencies.
"We certainly believe we are going to have a big responsibility to work with the courts and with others to make sure that people who are affected by this have the appropriate opportunity to engage in that conversation," Baker said. "And we fully expect we will be doing that for the next several months."
Dookhan was paroled earlier this year. She worked at the lab for nine years until her suspension in 2011.
10 secrets cops know that most people don't
It's become abundantly clear that the press and the public have very little real understanding of police work.
by Doug Wyllie
It's become abundantly clear that the press and the public have very little real understanding of police work. And something we've learned over the years is that during times of stress and tension, a good chuckle is extremely effective medicine.
So, here are some things most people don't know but cops do. Add your observations in the comments area below.
1. Most cops understand why tickets are necessary, but don't particularly like writing them. Well, unless they happen to stop “the guy who pays their wages” and then writing a ticket isn't so bad.
2. The vast majority of cops have never shot anyone, but most cops can recite a detailed list of people who are/were deserving of being shot because they posed a deadly threat. This means that most cops have successfully defused a potentially deadly confrontation using only words and less-lethal weapons.
3. Most cops wonder if they have something better to do until the person asks in that whiny voice, “Don't you have anything better to do?” It is then — and only then — the cop knows the answer to that question is, “No. This is good as it gets.”
4. Most cops know the driver they just stopped had more that “two beers” and can estimate with reasonable accuracy how many beers a driver did, in fact, have.
5. Most cops like donuts, but so does everybody. They are deliberately made to taste really, really good so people will want to eat them. Please pass me another donut.
6. Most cops wonder why so many members of the community choose to pick up a mobile phone and record them while the officers are rolling in the dirt with an assailant rather than offering to help the officer.
7. Most cops don't know the color of the people they stop before the traffic stop takes place. This is especially true when those people are driving cars with tinted windows at night.
8. Most cops know that if you fix that muffler / tail light / other mechanical issue for which they've stopped you, the cops will stop stopping you.
9. Most cops know it is impossible to stop a squad car fast enough when the drunk in the back seat says, “Stop! I think I've got to puke.”
10. Most cops know that the national media do not pursue the truth, they pursue a story. Their story and the truth are too often a little like fraternal twins. They are related, but cops can't explain why they don't look anything alike.
Behind a viral news story: What a waitress' kind gesture to cops meant to me
She is the face of the majority of America — let's not forget that
by Tim Barfield
On April 10, 2016, Officer Steven M. Smith was shot while on a SWAT call in Columbus, Ohio. His family granted his last act of service to the public when they allowed others to benefit from his passing by allowing his organs to be donated. To hear the accolades, spirit and dedication of Officer Steven M. Smith underscores why his friend and boss, Sergeant Podolski, stated in a moving eulogy, “My badge, it shines brighter because of Steve Smith, so do all of yours.”
Having left that funeral service, several officers and I stopped for a bite to eat at a local Red Robin restaurant. We were seated and approached by a young woman named Jessica Dunbar — our server for the meal. She asked how everyone was doing. I responded that it is always a bad day when you have to bury a brother officer. She stated that she was sorry, explained that her father was a retired officer and then took our orders.
Another group of officers I knew sat down a table away. We greeted each other, caught up, and Jessica also took their order. Jessica tended to our needs in a friendly and energetic way.
After we ate, only one check was delivered to the table instead of the several we had requested. As we prepared to divvy up the check, we noticed writing over top of the bill. It read:
Officers, your bill is on me today, I can't imagine the day you all have had, let alone what you go through every day. I hope your days get better. So much respect. #weseeyou #policelivesmatter #RIPOfficerSmith
The other officers and I were moved by the kind act. I hugged and thanked her. I and another officer took a photo of the bill and I took a photo of Jessica — tears in her eyes. Everyone left a good tip and we left, impressed by the act of kindness on a bad day.
Kindness Goes Viral
Two of us posted to our Facebook pages in order to express our appreciation to Jessica and embrace a little warmth in the midst of the media attacks against the police over the last couple of years. As a cop, it can feel lately like the whole world is against you. Jessica's kind act was a reminder that it's not.
My post was reposted to the department Facebook page. Then it went viral. The responses, shares, phone calls and “likes” were crazy. Calls came in from the media for comments or interviews, the public offered support, people wanted the department to share with Jessica their thoughts and some wanted to share theirs.
I have been a police officer a long time. I have had people drop off baked goods, sandwiches, and gifts at the police department on many occasions. I have had more than one meal paid for anonymously and have often stopped to thank those who, after a thorough investigation, were found to be the “anonymous” donor of a meal.
When Jessica committed that act of kindness, she was just trying to do her part, but I think she speaks for the “silent majority” of Americans who love and support the police. What causes something to go viral has been the study of several people and organizations. Acts that stir intense emotion — especially joyful emotions and those that anger people — are more likely to be shared. The post about Jessica did both.
Seeing this waitress — who is probably not particularly well-to-do — pay for the meal of nine cops who were attending a funeral showed her incredible compassion. Probably more important are the emotions brought on by those who support the police because they see them as professional, honest servants who are under attack in the public sphere. A quick survey of the comments to the numerous shared posts showed the support of Jessica for her support of the police.
Here is the takeaway for the public: don't be the silent majority. Speak up and say something so that the thin blue line will continue to know they serve people who support the sometimes thankless job they do. You don't have to buy dinner, but just walking up to an officer and saying “thank you,” “good job” or “we got your back” will go a long way in encouragingr those who are willing to give their all for you.
Here is the takeaway, officers: the public does support you. It's not just a few — the vast majority of the public has your back. The media has created a lie that the police are not trusted and are hated. It is easy to get caught up in the lies being spread, but this viral post and others like it should encourage you to go out and continue to do the great job you do.
Two of us met up with Jessica again for an interview with Fox and Friends. My concern for her was the backlash I thought would take place. She assured me that Red Robin had been great and supportive of her publicity and the random act of kindness (something they teach their employees). She also has received calls from across the country and Canada in support of her act and compassion. She feels “proud to be the face who is sharing this positive outlook on law enforcement.”
She is the face of the majority of America. Let's not forget that.
About the author
Tim Barfield is entering his 34th year as a police officer. He was recently appointed as police chief in a village outside of the Cleveland, Ohio area. He spent almost 32 years on a police department in an inner ring suburb of Cleveland where he worked many different aspects of the job. He has taught police combat mindset, defensive tactics and firearms to numerous officers in the Cleveland and Chicago areas.
The Police Officer ‘Nextdoor'
A social-networking site is helping Seattle's cops dive deeper into the communities they serve—but the platform can stoke neighborhood paranoia and social stigma.
by Kaveh Waddell
It was the ideal proof-of-concept and a PR coup: a New York Times article that described how the Seattle Police Department used Nextdoor, a community-based social-networking site—a mini-Facebook just for your neighborhood—to find the owner of a stolen camera that officers had recovered. One officer posted a photo of the camera on Nextdoor, and a local user realized it was the same one in a Craigslist lost-and-found post he'd recently clicked on. Soon, the camera and its owner, a photographer from Louisiana, were reunited.
Sean Whitcomb, the department's public-affairs director, says the camera's owner sent the department a king cake—the traditional Mardi Gras delicacy from New Orleans—as a thank you.
Launched in 2011, Nextdoor allows neighborhood residents to connect with one another online, sharing classified ads, notices about nearby events, and observations and warnings about crime trends. The platform has the potential to bring out the best and worst in communities—it brings neighbors closer together, but can amplify their worst fears—and its focus on neighborhoods makes it a particularly valuable tool for law-enforcement agencies that want to understand the concerns of particular areas in a city.
The Seattle Police Department's foray into Nextdoor is a product of its broader attempt to reconnect with the community it serves after being placed under a Justice Department consent decree in 2012. A federal investigation the year before had uncovered a pattern of excessive violence among officers, and the resulting report expressed “serious concerns about biased policing.”
To be more transparent, the department took to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to push out information about crimes, events, and the agency itself. Twitter is the department's primary communication tool, Whitcomb says—and indeed, its account has a disproportionate number of followers for Seattle's relatively small population, trailing only Boston's and New York City's much bigger police departments.
But Nextdoor is more private and decentralized than Facebook or Twitter, and so when Nextdoor approached Seattle Police in 2014, the department saw an opportunity to engage with Seattleites in a different way. The department waited until there was a critical mass of Seattle residents on the platform—about 20,000—before diving in. “It's not our place to promote platforms,” Whitcomb says. “It's our place to go where people are having conversations.”
Public-agency accounts like the Seattle Police Department's work a little differently than individual Nextdoor user accounts: Public employees can post to community pages, see replies to their posts, and message privately with individuals—but they can't see the rest of the chatter on a community page, or read private messages that users have sent to one another. Seattle Police is one of the larger of the 1,400 public agencies—mostly police departments—on Nextdoor.
Seattle's department encourages precinct officers to maintain a presence on the community pages for the neighborhoods they serve. The initiative is an example of what the department calls “micro-community policing”: an attempt to use hyper-local data to customize its approach to law enforcement. Officers can alert residents to crime trends, ask for feedback on policing initiatives, or simply introduce themselves and encourage neighbors to say hi to patrolling officers.
After a honeymoon period, however, Seattle's relationship with Nextdoor hit a few bumps in the road.
This February, Nextdoor hosted Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole for the first-ever online “town hall” on the platform: Residents asked the police chief questions and had a chance to hear directly from her. But when local journalist Erica Barnett reported on the event, Nextdoor booted her from the site for violating its terms of service for publicly posting users' questions. It wasn't until after she wrote about the incident on her website that her account was reinstated.
Barnett's reporting was fiercely critical of the echo-chamber effect of the local, private community pages, many of which have hyperactive “crime and safety” sections. Indeed, in a recent interview with Barnett, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray derided an atmosphere of “paranoid hysteria” he'd witnessed on the message boards of some of Seattle's more upscale neighborhoods.
That hysteria, Barnett reports, tends to focus on complaints about property crimes and homelessness. That's because some of the most active communities on Nextdoor are in Seattle's wealthier areas. “The neighborhoods where most of the social-media complaints are coming out of are not even the neighborhoods that have significant crime problems, which tend to be our communities of color in the south part of the city,” Murray told KUOW, the local NPR affiliate, in February. “If it's simply about creating a sense of paranoia or if it's about stigmatizing folks in our city that are struggling, then I have to think about why we're in that kind of partnership.”
(Nextdoor says that nearly one in five Seattle households have signed up for the site, and that 98 percent of neighborhoods are represented. According to the company's estimates, 70 percent of Seattle's Nextdoor users are white and 7 percent are African American, stats which mirror Seattle's demographic makeup quite closely.)
This isn't just a Nextdoor problem: Any private forum has the potential to become a hotspot for exclusion and marginalization. It happened in Oakland, where white residents routinely posted warnings on Nextdoor about suspicious people for no apparent reason other than that they were black, according to a feature published last year in the East Bay Express. And it happened in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where business owners profiled black shoppers, sending descriptions and secretly snapped photos of “suspicious” individuals to a private GroupMe thread. And before platforms like GroupMe and Nextdoor, the same sort of things happened on Facebook or neighborhood email listservs or just meetings behind closed doors.
Nextdoor's co-founder and CEO, Nirav Tolia, said in an emailed statement that divisive and discriminatory conversations are “counter to our mission, and we will continue to evolve the product to make sure that members use Nextdoor in constructive ways.”
But even if Nextdoor does give megaphones to a certain kind of resident to make a particular type of complaint, Whitcomb says the police department treats it as just one of many platforms for communicating with Seattle residents. He emphasizes that the information that his department publishes on Nextdoor isn't exclusive to the platform, and that it balances the feedback it receives on the site with the responses it gets from Twitter, Facebook, and in other venues.
“It's no different than us attending a community meeting and providing public-safety information,” Whitcomb said. If community meetings have been replaced by Nextdoor conversations, he says, “we have a responsibility to use it.”
That said, there probably won't be another Nextdoor town hall anytime soon. “We gave it a shot with the best of intentions, but clearly our platform was not designed to facilitate this kind of event,” Tolia said.
Jacqueline Helfgott, the chair of the criminal-justice department at Seattle University, has been leading an independent audit of the Seattle Police Department's micro-communities policing program. Over the phone, she raved about the program, which she called the first of its kind in terms of both how it's implemented and the way it's being evaluated.
She said that one of the program's central goals—the dissemination of a city-wide public-safety survey—was executed in a way that was conscientious of the biases on Nextdoor. Although that platform was the survey's main launchpad, research assistants armed with tablets descended on homeless camps, food banks, and the Downtown Emergency Service Center to elicit a broader set of responses. Helfgott says preliminary results are due in the coming weeks, and a final report will come out next January.
But now that the police department's Nextdoor debut is nearly a year and a half old, Whitcomb is looking for the next platform to jump on. Instagram is in the works, he said. But first: an AMA on Reddit.
Los Angeles Board Votes to End Solitary for Juveniles
by Celeste Fremon
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion Tuesday that bans the use of solitary confinement — in all but the most exceptional circumstances — in all the county's juvenile detention facilities.
Solitary confinement “doesn't improve behavior,” said Board Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “It doesn't promote rehabilitation. … And [nationally] 50 percent of our young people who commit suicide were in room confinement at the time of their suicide.”
Los Angeles County oversees the largest juvenile justice system in the nation, housing approximately 1,200 youth. This decision could potentially have a contagious effect on other counties and their juvenile justice systems, in California and beyond, observers say. The change is to be made by the end of September.
Last year, a similar bill for the entire state was killed in committee. A revamped version has been reintroduced by state Sen. Mark Leno again this year.
Two juvenile camps of LA's 13 and one of three juvenile halls will do away with solitary by the end of May. Those three facilities will serve as models for the rest of system, said interim Probation Chief Cal Remington.
Remington cautioned that kids “may be separated as a short-term response when their behavior poses a serious risk to themselves and others.”
He also said the environments in which a young person might be placed for such a cool down would be very different than the current cell-like rooms. “We want the situation to be a calming experience,” he said, listing changes in furniture, lighting, window treatment and wall colors. ... We're talking about cultural change.”
Staff training will be very important, he said: “The staff have to feel safe.”
A panel of experts spoke about the motion at the hearing before the vote.
“Study after study has shown that solitary confinement can have devastating mental-health effects on adults,” said juvenile advocate Kirn Kim, who as a teenager spent 15 months in solitary, from 16 to 18. “So I ask, how can its use ever be justified for juveniles? The teenage brain is still developing. Youth have a lesser capacity to cope with stress than adults. To force that level of stress on a young person, especially those who have already been traumatized, only leads to further problems ... As any parent can attest, children act out. These kids have been traumatized, they are put in solitary confinement, and they act out further.”
Attorney Jo Kaplan, who is a member of the Probation Commission and a longtime child advocate, made clear that getting rid of juvenile solitary was overdue. “For close to two decades we've had the Department of Justice monitoring probation,” she said. “This solitary confinement motion is symbolic of [a department] that, in the past, was stuck on stupid.”
Several young people in the audience talked about their own experiences in solitary. “It was horrible,” said Francisco Martinez, who was from the Youth Justice Coalition. “An animal in a cage.”
Report: Communities Can Do More to Support Children with an Incarcerated Parent
by Sarah Barr
Children with an incarcerated parent often suffer emotionally, academically and financially, and too few policies consider their needs, says a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Nationwide, more than 5.1 million children have experienced separation from a parent because of incarceration — a situation that can be as difficult as dealing with abuse or domestic violence, said the report, “A Shared Sentence.”
Research shows children may experience increased mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and children of incarcerated mothers, in particular, are more likely to drop out of school.
“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,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the foundation, in a news release.
A reduced reliance on mass incarceration would help families, but policymakers and communities also can take shorter-term steps to improve children's lives, the report said.
The foundation made recommendations in three areas: supporting children directly during and after a parent's incarceration, connecting parents to employment when they re-enter the community, and building stronger communities that promote family stability and opportunity.
Proposals to help children include:
Encouraging judges to consider families when making sentencing and prison-assignment decisions,
Helping caregivers with financial, legal, health, child care and housing assistance when they step in to care for a child,
Supporting community-based organizations that foster children's well-being.
Sandra Barnhill, founder and national president of Foreverfamily, an Atlanta nonprofit that works with the children of incarcerated youth, said it is critical not to demonize parents.
“Unless we really acknowledge the important role that parent plays in that family or in the children's life, we do a disservice to families, parents and even to re-entry,” she said.
The group organizes trips so children can visit their parents in prison, provides after-school programming for children and youth who have incarcerated parents, and offers training and technical assistance to other organizations, including a toolkit for after-school providers that is expected to be released later this year.
Barnhill said out-of-school time leaders who are looking to support children who have an incarcerated parent should be mindful of preserving families' privacy and avoiding stigmatization. Society is not often kind or understanding about what children are going through, she added.
“We have to raise public awareness. These children cannot continue to be invisible,” she said.
To encourage employment, the recommendations include building better prison education programs, passing ban-the-box legislation and suspending child support orders.
And, to strengthen communities, the report advises building a supply of safe and stable housing.
“Leaders can take action right now to support children from the moment their families come in contact with the criminal justice system,” Scot Spencer, Casey's associate director of policy and influence, said in a news release.
Death by Ignorance
by Jim McNeff
During my career, I spent more than ten years working undercover narcotic enforcement in Southern California. I lamented Proposition 215 that passed in the Golden State in 1996. In essence, it provided many exceptions to the laws prohibiting possession, and cultivation of marijuana. By defacto, it decriminalized marijuana, and states across our union have been following suit since then.
As I spoke to citizen groups in the 90's, I tried to convince them of the slippery slope this would cause. As a gateway drug, marijuana often leads to experimentation with other controlled substances. Many people wanted “other” drug users/dealers punished, but they desired rehab for their loved one addicted to his or her drug of choice, and argued that marijuana was harmless even though I offered proof to the contrary—the THC content had more than quadrupled in recent decades. Yet quietly, and by popular vote, the erosion began.
Sadly, rehab is rarely sought without legal mandates that are part of the justice system. The drug courts instituted in my area of Orange County, CA required addicts to complete a diversion program—something that no longer exists because culture has sided with libertarians on the issue. In other words, “let people get stoned as long as it doesn't affect the rest of us.”
Anyone who has been a cop for any amount of time can articulate many causal factors that drug use has on society, from property crimes to acts of violence. It overwhelmingly affects everyone! Self-report studies during my years working narcotic enforcement consistently demonstrated 65%-70% of the inmates committed crime while under the influence of their drug of choice, regardless of the offense. Imagine if detectives had their caseloads reduced by those numbers. We'd have a much better world.
Am I stuck in the past, or have my fears from 1996 come to fruition? I was prompted to write this article after reviewing statistics regarding drug overdoses published by the National Institute on Drug abuse. The numbers are staggering!
National Overdose Deaths:
2002 – Under 10,000
2014 – Over 25,000
Prescription opioid pain relievers
2002 – Under 6,000
2014 – Over 18,000
2002 – Under 2,000
2014 – Over 8,000
2002 – Under 4,000
2014 – Over 5,000
(Peaked in 2006 at 7,000)
2002 – Under 2,000
2014 – Over 10,000
2002 – Under 24,000
2014 – Over 66,000
Did you do the math? That is an increase of 42,000 drug overdose deaths—nearly triple the amount in twelve years! Moreover, these numbers do not include deaths related to huffing, bath salts, methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, and other newly designed street drugs that are trending and available. Nor does it account for the traffic collisions caused by people stoned on these intoxicants let alone all forms of crime committed by unemployable individuals with a drug addiction. And how about all the recreational users who are employed? Have you experienced a quality control issue with persons in the public market place or service center? Maybe these individuals weren't simply having a bad day, but impaired!
With global terrorism appropriately on the front burner, many resources are unavailable to keep the lid on narcotic interdiction. Not to mention many enforcement agencies have become discouraged due to policies and legislative action that has undermined their good faith effort to protect society from killing itself. If you are one of the few professionals who are doing so, I applaud your effort! You are saving lives regardless of the critique from your naysayers.
I am now two decades older, and possess more compassion than I did in 1996. Yet I'd still prefer to have my loved one sleeping on a metal cot in jail than being dissected on a stainless steel table at the county coroner's office. Save all the arguments for legalizing drugs, I've heard each one. They are emotional appeals for personal preference. I intentionally used the word “preference” versus “liberty,” because dependency on drugs is anything but liberating, it is enslaving. I could provide another 66,000 reasons why the arguments are wrong, but I'll let the impersonal figures tell a very disheartening tale.
I may only have one vote as a citizen, but it will never be cast in favor of allowing unintended suicide. I have concern for the addict and support recovery programs nationwide (particularly Celebrate Recovery), but I will not enable the process that binds people to chemicals. Our misguided compassion has produced massive Death by Ignorance.
Jim McNeff served on a presidential support detail in the United States Air Force before transitioning to civilian law enforcement. Once his combined service exceeded thirty-one years, he retired as a police lieutenant from Orange County, California. Jim authored The Spirit behind Badge 145 (WestBow Press, 2013), the soon to be released, Justice Revealed (CrossLink Publishing, 2016) and contributes articles to Law Enforcement Today as well as other publications. He encourages and ministers to the law enforcement community from his website: www.badge145.com
Officer Involved Shootings: Public Perception vs. Reality
by Jacob Eubanks
Why can't you just aim for the leg? How many times have you heard that question from the public, the media or even a family member or friend? Television and film consistently show action heroes flying through the air and rolling end over end while firing several rounds at a moving target with a 100% hit ratio. If they can do it, why can't we?
Hollywood is much different than reality, but we encounter many people on a daily basis who are surprised to find out we don't have the technology they watch everyday on CSI. So why are we surprised to hear people complain that we had the option to “wound” someone and chose not to do it?
Many factors must be considered when addressing public perceptions, but the answer is actually pretty simple. You just have to look at the human body.
When you picture the human body's exterior, you can see a head, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs. If you look at this from the target acquisition perspective what is the largest target that you can find in that group? If you said torso, you are correct. The largest target area on an individual is the torso and should, ideally, be the easiest to hit. The reason we aim for the largest target is mainly due to stress, believe it or not. Stress can mean many things to many different people.
In the law enforcement world, the stress we worry about the most involves lethal force encounters. It is the same stress that soldiers experience in combat and is, in essence, combat stress. This stress has many effects on the brain, all of which contribute directly to our physical condition.
One response to stress in combat is tunnel vision; the inability to use your peripheral vision. Another response to stress is auditory exclusion, defined as a temporary loss of hearing and is, in some cases, called “tunnel hearing.”
The loss of fine motor skills is a devastating effect of stress. This can cause an officer to lose the ability to clear weapon malfunctions. This has also been blamed for the inability to drop a ticket book during a lethal force encounter. All of these physiological responses can be deadly to officers in lethal force encounters. Training can illustrate a number of different effective counter measures to these dangerous responses.
Range training is fundamental and absolutely necessary for police officers. The more training we get, the better we will perform under stress. The training we receive not only prepares us for lethal force encounters; it also helps us to develop muscle memory.
Muscle memory is essential to performing under stress. Whether it is a magazine exchange, a malfunction clearance or sight picture development, it is vital to maintaining the skills necessary to overcome stress. The only way to develop this muscle memory is repetition over time.
Many police departments only have one range event per year and that is the annual qualification. Although it is probably the minimum requirement, I implore you to re-examine your training standards so that you can provide your officers with the needed tools to overcome stress. Let's talk about the statistics that demonstrate why you should train hard and train often.
Ample research was conducted by Dr. Bill Lewinski with Force Science Institute and Tom Aveni with the Police Policy Study Council on officer-involved shootings. According to this research, the best-trained officers involved in shootings only hit their target 64 of the time in daylight encounters.
This percentage drops to 45% in diminished light encounters. If 77% of officer involved shootings occur in a diminished light encounter, that means that three-fourth's of the time, highly trained officers are missing their targets 55% of the time. These are highly trained officers that train with their firearms several times a year.
Let's go back to the public perception of “Why can't you just wound them?” Stress has a lot to do with it. Even the officers with a high level of training can only hit their targets 64% of the time and the target they are aiming at, the torso, is the largest target available to them.
If you take all of these factors I've reviewed into consideration, it would be extremely difficult to aim at an arm or leg during times of stress and many, if not all, of the rounds fired would miss their intended target. Since we don't want random bullets flying through the air toward the masses, we minimize the process involved in these encounters. This is why we aim for the largest target available to us in order to stop a suspect's engagement.
Jacob Eubanks has been a police officer for 13 years and currently holds the rank of Corporal with his department. Jacob is a use of force instructor and holds TCOLE licenses as an Instructor and Firearms Instructor. Jacob is certified as both a 1911 and AR-15/M16 armorer and is currently assigned to criminal investigations.
Dr. Bill Lewinski; Force Science Institute Newsletter #23 with Tom Aveni; Police Policy Study Council
Florida has nearly 400 death-row inmates. Will the state overturn all of their death sentences?
by Mark Berman
Florida has hundreds of inmates on its death row and is among the states most persistent with capital punishment. But a group of former Florida Supreme Court justices, elected officials, prosecutors and a federal judge said this week that the state needs to overturn every one of those death sentences and replace them with life in prison.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's unique system of imposing death sentences, which the justices deemed unconstitutional because it let judges, rather than juries, make the final decision. In response, Florida formally revamped its death penalty, an overhaul aimed at letting the state resume executions and, as Gov. Rick Scott (R) said when he signed the changes into law, “allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve.”
Nearly two months after Scott signed the bill, executions have not resumed in Florida. And it remains to be seen what all of this means for the nearly 400 people on Florida's death row, the second-largest in the country, trailing only California's. The key question is whether the Supreme Court's ruling scuttles all of these existing death sentences — or if, as state officials maintain, it was not retroactive.
In an amicus brief filed Tuesday, a collection of high-profile legal figures and groups in Florida say the answer is clear to them. They argue in the 33-page brief submitted to the Florida Supreme Court that “a straightforward application” of the state's sentencing statute means death-row inmates “are entitled to have their death sentences replaced by sentences of life without parole.”
According to their brief, state law requires a wholesale jettisoning of the death sentences, rather than “a piecemeal, case-by-case review.”
The statute they are citing states that if “the death penalty in a capital felony is held to be unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court … the court shall sentence such person to life imprisonment.”
State authorities, though, say that since the death penalty itself was not deemed unconstitutional, the statute does not apply here.
Instead, the Supreme Court “struck a portion of the [sentencing] statute as a means of imposing a constitutional sentence,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wrote in a court filing earlier this year. Bondi (R) argued that the state law did not intend to reduce all death sentences to life sentences “any time any aspect of the statute is held to be unconstitutional.”
These filings were in the case of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of killing his co-worker at a Popeyes restaurant in Penscaola, Fla.
Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard Thursday in Hurst's case as the Florida Supreme Court weighs what to do with the sentencing question. While the state Supreme Court had upheld a prior death sentence for Hurst, he is now arguing that since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving his case, his death sentence should be cleared out.
Florida's death penalty effectively ground to a halt after the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hurst v. Florida case, which prompted lawmakers to revamp their sentencing statutes. The new law says that at least 10 jurors have to recommend a death sentence, and it scraps the old language saying that a judge could determine the sentence “notwithstanding the recommendation of a majority of the jury.”
Death sentences are increasingly rare across the country, but Florida remains one of the most active practitioners. The state is one of only three that have carried out an execution in each of the past five years (along with Texas — which, like Florida, has carried out an execution this year — and Oklahoma, where executions have been on hold since last fall).
While the future for Florida's death sentences remains unclear, there is also uncertainty in Alabama, a state that allows judges to overrule jury recommendations. After the Florida ruling, an Alabama inmate unsuccessfully argued that his state's system was “virtually identical” to the Florida system, but the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeals and he was executed.
A judge in Alabama issued a limited ruling in March saying that the state's death sentences were unconstitutional. On Monday, the Supreme Court said it was reversing its decision earlier this year to reject an Alabama inmate's request to review a lower court's ruling in his case. The justices said they were remanding the case to a criminal appeals court in Alabama “for further consideration in light of Hurst v. Florida.”
The Florida group filing an amicus brief this week in the Hurst case included three former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court, one of whom was a prosecutor and another who served as a federal appeals judge before becoming part of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague; a former state representative; another former prosecutor; and former presidents of the American Bar Association. They were joined by a statewide organization representing criminal defense lawyers and two groups aiming to help defense lawyers in death-penalty cases.
FBI Nabs Man Suspected of Poisoning Produce at Grocery Store
by PIERRE THOMAS
The FBI has arrested a Michigan man for allegedly spraying a poisonous mixture of chemicals on food at three grocery stores in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The FBI and Michigan Health Department are now looking at whether anyone was seriously ill from the low-scale chemical attack to contaminate food.
Authorities believe the unidentified suspect targeted at least three grocery stores in the past two weeks: Whole Foods, Meijer and Plum Market. Law enforcement officials are also now trying to determine whether he victimized other stores with his toxic mixture of hand-cleaner, water and Tomcat mice poison.
"What if he's been doing this for weeks, or months, or even years, and just suddenly someone saw him?” one concerned citizen said. “Makes you think about everything you buy all the time."
The suspect may have mental health issues, and so far there is no indication of terrorism, sources said.
The FBI had released photos of the suspect Sunday, seeking the public's help in identifying him.
“The FBI and Ann Arbor Police want to thank the media for bringing attention to this matter, and the public for their assistance,” the FBI said in a statement Tuesday.
Richmond Police holding community meetings to address crime
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond has seen its murder rate more than double so far in 2016 compared to this time last year.
The Richmond Police Department has had a busy year already with 19 homicides so far. At this time last year, there were seven reported murders.
Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham is holding a meeting Wednesday night to listen to the concerns of city residents, address the rise in crime and discuss how to combat it.
“These meetings are a continuation of our community policing strategy,” said Chief Durham. “The purpose of these Town Hall meetings is for me and my staff to get input from the general public; what we can do better and how they can help us do better.”
In his time as chief, Durham has launched two initiatives and command staff visits neighborhoods, going door to door, talking to people and asking how they can work together to decrease crime in the city.
There will be four meetings over the next two weeks — one in each of RPD's four precincts:
1st Precinct — Wednesday, May 4, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Cedar Street Baptist Church of God, 2301 Cedar St.
2nd Precinct –– Thursday, May 5, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Southside Plaza Community Center, 4100 Hull Street Rd.
3rd Precinct –– Thursday, May 12, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 2709 Monument Ave.
4th Precinct — Tuesday, May 10, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Richmond Police Training Academy, 1202 W. Graham Rd.
Stay with 8News for continuing coverage of this developing story.
What is World Press Freedom Day?
by VOA News
What is World Press Freedom Day? Global observance that stresses that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, weighs the state of press freedom around the world, and is a reminder that in dozens of countries, publications are censored, fined and closed down, while journalists and editors are harassed, attacked, detained and sometimes murdered.
Why May 3? Date adopted by United Nations in 1993; commemorates the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek.
What is the Declaration of Windhoek? A statement of free press principles put together by newspaper journalists in Africa during a UNESCO seminar on "Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press" in Windhoek, Namibia, in 1991.
What does it do? Declaration of Windhoek calls for free, independent, pluralistic media worldwide, characterizing free press as essential to democracy and as a fundamental human right.
Milestones recognized on May 3, 2016
• 250th anniversary of the world's first freedom of information law, covering both modern-day Sweden and Finland
• 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Windhoek of press freedom principles in Namibia.
• First year of the 15-year life cycle of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of goals adopted September 25, 2015, to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.
May 2-4, 2016, held in Helsinki, Finland, and being organized by UNESCO and Finnish Ministry for Education and Culture
UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
Awarded to Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist from Azerbaijan. Ismayilova served for two years as the Baku bureau chief for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani service, Radio Azadliq.
Ismayilova was initially arrested and jailed on December 5, 2014, on libel charges that international human rights groups said were trumped up. She was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on charges relating to abuse of power and tax evasion. Human Rights Watch described the proceedings as a politically motivated prosecution, flawed trial, and a campaign to discredit her.
“Khadija Ismayilova highly deserves the prize and I am happy to see that her courage and professionalism are recognized,” said Ljiljana Zurovac, president of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2016 Jury.
The award is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá in December 1986, after speaking out against drug cartels.
Florida man charged with plotting to blow up synagogue during Passover, compared his plan to Sept. 11 attacks
by ALFRED NG
A Florida man was busted for a twisted terrorist bombing against a synagogue, which he wanted to be on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's month-long sting operation against James Gonzalo Medina, 40, ended with the wannabe terrorist arrested on Friday, as he was walking toward the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center with an inert explosive, court documents revealed.
Undercover agents had been following Medina since March 27, after he stirred up conversations about attacking a synagogue during Passover — which he mistakenly referred to as Yom Kippur the entire time.
“This is gonna be like, like f---in' September 11 s---!,” Medina said in excitement to the FBI informant.
Medina had scouted out the synagogue, sketching out the building's layout, noting where the security cameras were while planning his terrorist attack.
Medina showed no mercy in his plot, telling informants he didn't care if innocent women and children were killed in the bombing.
“I wanna see damage happen to their ass, I wanna see something man,” he told the undercover agent.
He was giddy with excitement for the murderous plot, even relishing the thought of being able to see the bomb detonated at the synagogue.
Before going through with his attempted bombing, Medina recorded three videos on the informant's cellphone, two making threats in his maniacal manifesto, and one saying farewell to his family.
“Aventura, watch your back. ISIS is in the house,” he said in the clip, according to court records.
FBI agents nabbed Medina on Friday, during one of the last days of Passover, as he was walking to the synagogue with the inert explosive.
The undercover agent who provided him the bomb had already rendered the device useless.
Medina said he wanted his bombing to cause as many casualties as he possibly could.
Originally he planned the terrorist attack as a mass shooting, with two other accomplices who would stand at the exit to slaughter anyone attempting to flee. He was planning to kill himself as a martyr at the end of the mass shooting.
He told his accomplices he wanted to leave behind misleading signs that it was an attack by ISIS, despite not having any affiliations with the terrorist group, the informant said.
Medina, who converted to Islam about four years ago, told investigators he wanted to “strike back for all the wars and his goal was to send a message,” court documents showed.
He wanted his attack to inspire a series of copycat terrorist acts across the country.
At his court appearance on Monday afternoon, Medina attempted to jump into a speech before the judge shut him up, the Sun Sentinel reported.
“I've got a few words of my own. ... My name is James Medina, also known as James Muhammad,” the suspected terrorist said, according to the local newspaper.
The synagogue was open and operating as usual on Monday, despite the scare on Friday.
“We are very grateful and appreciative of the efforts of our law enforcement agencies, most especially the Aventura Police Department, at keeping our synagogue, Jewish community and community at large safe and secure,” the synagogue's leaders said in a statement on their Facebook page.
Medina has had a long criminal history, including one in 2012 when he sent violent threats through about 50 text messages in just a few days,” according to local reports.
Kalamazoo Public Safety has a plan to stop violence before it starts
by John McNeill
KALAMAZOO (WKZO-AM) -- Kalamazoo Public Safety says it has found the money it needs to fund a program that would attempt to cut off violence in the city at its roots.
They have been working for over a year to bring the nationally-recognized Group Violence Intervention program to Kalamazoo. This week, they got the green light from the Kalamazoo City Commission to accept foundation funding to underwrite the effort.
Dep. Chief Donald Webster said the goal is to identify gang members and youthful offenders who seem headed toward a life of violence and offer them an alternative.
Capt. David Boysen said the program works with the courts, probation officers, existing social service agencies and the help of former gang members and ex-felons to give youthful offenders a choice they may not have thought was available.
The program, which was developed by David Kennedy at John Jay College in New York City, has worked successfully in other cities across the country.
Baltimore officer shoots suspect during attempted ambush
The police commissioner called the incident an attempted 'suicide by cop'
by Carrie Wells
BALTIMORE — A Baltimore police officer sitting in his patrol car shot and critically wounded a man who came up to him pointing a 9mm handgun, police said Sunday.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the incident an attempted "suicide by cop." When other officers and EMTs arrived on the scene in Northwest Baltimore, Davis said, the suspect told them multiple times: "He should have finished me off."
The shooting, which occurred about 9:30 a.m., is the third in five days involving a Baltimore police officer. It follows the shooting of a teenage boy running from police with a BB gun on Wednesday and the shooting of a 25-year-old man who appeared to have a bomb outside a television station.
In Sunday's incident, the officer "perceived he was being ambushed," Davis said. "Which is a really scary thing in police work, and it's not the first time an American police officer in the last year or so has been ambushed."
Police said the officer, who was not identified, was sitting in his car writing reports in an alley off Ulman Avenue, between Reisterstown Road and Park Heights Avenue. Seeing the man pointing the gun at him, the officer fired through his closed driver-side window, shattering the glass and hitting the man several times in the upper body, police said.
The suspect, who has not been identified by police, was alert and conscious when taken to hospital but was in critical condition, police said. The suspect's gun turned out to be unloaded.
"I'm just in shock that someone would have a gun and do that, and early on a Sunday morning," said City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the Park Heights area where the shooting occurred.
"It's another example of the problems we have with guns and how easy it is to obtain a gun on the street," she said. "I continue to pray for our officers that put their jobs on the line every day, and I pray for the family of this person that did this particular act."
Police spokesman Donny Moses said charges are pending against the man who was shot. He was carrying no identification, Moses said, and police were trying to identify him.
Commissioner Davis described the officer as in his 20s and said he is regularly assigned to the area. The officer wasn't injured.
The man was the seventh person shot by city police this year. All but one of the shootings have happened since March 31. At the same time last year, police had shot four people.
On Wednesday, a city police detective shot a teen-aged boy in East Baltimore who he believed was carrying a semiautomatic pistol. It turned out to be a BB gun. On Thursday, police shot a 25-year-old man wearing an animal costume and what appeared to be an explosive device outside the Fox 45 station on W. 41st St. The device turned out to be chocolate bars and wire.
On Sunday, both the boy and the man remained hospitalized. Dedric Colvin, whose family says he is 14 and police say is 13, was listed in good condition, and Alex Brizzi, the 25-year-old, was in serious but stable condition, police said.
Davis said Saturday the teenager would not be charged, but Brizzi faces several charges, including arson, related to the incident in which his car burned outside the TV station, which was evacuated after he entered the lobby and gave a flash drive with video warning of the end of the world to a security guard. Brizzi was shot after exiting the lobby and refusing to follow orders to remove his hand from his pocket, police said.
The Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon Sr., who has worked in Park Heights and is president of Baltimore's chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said police-involved shootings strain the trust between police and the community, no matter the circumstances.
"This is not helping the situation in terms of improving police and community relationships," he said. "With this one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray's death, we as a community must find a way to improve police-community relationships. These shootings of African-American men are not going to help to bridge the broken relationships between the community and the police."
Gray died on April 19 last year from spinal injuries sustained in police custody.
In recent years, Middleton said, residents have made strides in trying to improve the neighborhood near Sunday's shooting, which she called a "constant drug area."
A nearby park on Pall Mall Road and Shirley Avenue was reclaimed from drug dealers by the community recently, she said, and neighbors are attempting to clean it up and restore its historic stage and brickwork.
"Park Heights has its problems, but it's wonderful people there that still have hope and care about their community," Middleton said.
Rock Ware, who owns a mobile car washing and detailing business that typically sets up in the area where the shooting occurred, said he would have been in that spot if it had not been raining on Sunday. He said he was shaken by the incident.
"It's always something around here," Ware said. "I'm getting scared to come around here."
Not 10 days before, a man was killed and another man injured in a shooting two blocks from Sunday's incident. Nathan Walker, 25, was killed April 22 in the 3400 block of Reisterstown Road.
Willie Flowers, executive director of the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, which offers fresh food, health consumer advocacy and other services, said he was shocked by the police shooting.
Flowers said his organization isn't licensed for mental health services but offers yoga, tai chi and meditation training. All are in high demand in Park Heights, he said.
"There's obviously a need for greater access to mental health programming as early as possible," he said. "There's consistent treatment for drug addiction, but the mental health thing is stigmatized. There should be some level of outreach that guides people to mental health services."
Perhaps, Flowers said, the police and community could partner to help guide people toward such help.
"Hopefully the good that comes out of it is that the police and community can be more partners on the front end, so all the [mental health] programs can come together to see where everybody has strengths," he said.
New Orleans officer shot at while sitting in cruiser
The officer was not injured
by PoliceOne Staff
NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleans officer was shot at Saturday night while in his cruiser, WDSU reported.
The officer, who has not been identified, was sitting in his patrol vehicle while responding to a call of a downed power line when he heard shots. When he turned around, he saw the muzzle of a gun flash. He took cover behind his cruiser.
The gunman fled from the scene.
Investigators have not released information on the suspect.
The officer was not injured and did not return fire.
Group creates 'thank you' hand gesture for police
Whenever people see a police officer, firefighter or EMT, they can let them know they're appreciated
by PoliceOne Staff
ALBUQUERQUE — A nonprofit group created a new hand gesture to let police know they're appreciated, KOB reported.
The group, Survivors in Action, launched the “Hi-4 Campaign” which shows first responders they acknowledge and appreciate how hard their job is.
“When they're not busy, we shoot up a Hi-4 – four fingers up in the air, thumbs tucked in the palm,” said Elisabeth Sacco of Survivors in Action. “It's our way of saying ‘I see you and I thank you for the responsibilities you hold in our community.”
The nonprofit helps victims of domestic violence become independent. They got the idea for the Hi-4 during their constant contact with law enforcement.
Organizers want to spread the campaign nationwide.
Sacramento Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography Used in Online Ads for Prostitution Services
LOS ANGELES – A Sacramento man was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison today for producing child pornography that was used to advertise the victim as a prostitute.
Antonio Dickerson, 26, was found guilty in February by a federal jury of one count of sexual exploitation of a minor for production of child pornography.
Previously in this case, Dickerson's co-defendant – D'Antoine Thomas, 26, also of Sacramento – pleaded guilty to sex trafficking of a minor. Thomas was sentenced by Judge Wilson in March to seven years in federal prison.
The victim in the case was 16 when she met Thomas in Sacramento in 2010. She soon started working for Thomas as a prostitute in Northern California. In April 2011, Dickerson transported Thomas, the victim and another prostitute to Orange County. During this trip, Dickerson directed the 16-year-old victim and another prostitute to simulate sex acts, which he photographed and posted on a website to advertise prostitution services involving the girls.
Dickerson also directed the victim and another 16-year old girl to engage in commercial sex acts, according to the sentencing papers filed by prosecutors, which noted that Dickerson was well aware of the victim's age, but he “didn't care” how old she was.
“No child should be subjected to this type of exploitation,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This defendant's criminal conduct demeaned his child victim, caused the victim harm each time one of the images appeared on the Internet, and was used to further promote illegal sex trafficking.”
This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Sacramento Sheriff's Department.
CONTACT: Special Assistant United States Attorney Ashwin Janakiram
General Crimes Section
Garden Grove Man Surrenders on Charges of Traveling to Canada to Have Sex with a Teen Girl He Persuaded to Send Naked Videos
SANTA ANA, California – A Garden Grove man was taken into federal custody this morning after being charged with receiving sexual videos from a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet and traveling to Canada to have sex with the girl.
Paul Binh Do, 29, was arrested after he surrendered himself to federal authorities this morning.
Do was charged last month with one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receipt of child pornography. In a plea agreement also filed last month, Do agreed to plead guilty to the charges that could send him to federal prison for as long as 50 years.
“All forms of child exploitation are deeply troubling, and this case demonstrates how quickly online child exploitation can lead to physical exploitation,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Mr. Do coerced a girl that he knew was only 13 to perform sex acts on camera and then travelled to another country in the hopes of further exploiting her. If not for the timely intervention of law enforcement here and in Canada, a greater tragedy would almost certainly have occurred.”
According to the documents filed in United States District court, Do began an online relationship with a 13-year-old girl and soon thereafter they began exchanging naked videos of themselves engaging in sexual conduct. Two years ago today, Do traveled to Canada from Orange County to celebrate the victim's 14 th birthday and have sex with her, but he was stopped by Canadian law enforcement as he attempted to enter into the country.
When he was stopped by Canadian authorities, Do possessed digital devices that contained naked videos of the victims. Following his arrest in Canada, Do obstructed justice when he contacted the victim and asked her to tell law enforcement that she had lied to Do about her age when, in fact, she had been completely truthful about being 13.
The investigation into Do was conducted by the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The Task Force received substantial assistance from HSI's attaché office in Vancouver, the Calgary Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Southern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation Unit.
“As this case illustrates, the burgeoning use of the Internet means youth are now vulnerable to exploitation by sexual predators not just around the corner, but around the globe,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “That said, child sexual predators who mistakenly believe they can escape detection by boarding an airplane to victimize minors beyond our borders should be on notice – HSI is using all the resources at its disposal to combat this reprehensible behavior and hold the perpetrators responsible for their crimes.”
Do is expected to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.
The charge of receiving child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and statutory maximum penalty of 20 years. The charge of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct carries a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Vib Mittal
Santa Ana Branch Office
Top L.A. County sheriff's official resigns over emails mocking Muslims and others
by Alene Tchekmedyian and Cindy Chang
A top Los Angeles County sheriff's official has resigned amid mounting criticism over emails he sent mocking Muslims, blacks, Latinos, women and others from his work account during his previous job with the Burbank Police Department, the Sheriff's Department announced Sunday.
After previously saying that he had no immediate plans to discipline his chief of staff, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that he had accepted Tom Angel's resignation and intended to turn the controversy into a “learning opportunity” for his department employees.
“This incident is one that I find deeply troubling,” McDonnell said. “Despite the Sheriff's Department's many recent efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do.”
McDonnell said he would introduce random audits of employee email accounts and would meet with community groups to “share thoughts and ideas about improving our understanding of the varied cultures and orientations and deepening our appreciation of the many ethnicities and religions that are part of the vibrant fabric of the population we serve.” The department would also examine its training and existing policies for “ensuring accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity,” he said.
Angel's resignation came after The Times published emails obtained under the state's open records act. The forwarded emails prompted numerous civil rights advocates to call on the sheriff to discipline his chief of staff. By Sunday, the consensus was that Angel should step down or be fired.
Angel did not respond to messages seeking comment. He previously told The Times that he did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone. He said it was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state's records laws.
It is unclear what lasting effect, if any, the controversy will have on McDonnell's standing among local civil rights advocates.
McDonnell was elected in November 2014 as an outsider promising to steer the agency past an era in which some deputies beat jail inmates and others were found to have singled out African Americans and Latinos in the Antelope Valley for harassment. He brought Angel, a veteran sheriff's official, back from Burbank as a key member of his reform administration.
Angel's resignation was welcomed by many of the civil rights advocates who had called on McDonnell to act, though some said the sheriff should have done more sooner. McDonnell had previously said he was disappointed by the emails but didn't have plans to take action because Angel sent the messages while working for Burbank.
Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Angel's resignation was not a moment to rejoice but to “roll up our sleeves and help the sheriff develop a culture of partnership and accountability and transparency within his office.”
Haroon Manjlai, a spokesman for the greater L.A. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the sheriff's decision to accept his chief of staff's resignation sent an important message going forward.
“Hopefully now, if incidents like these happen again, the precedent is to step down or be dismissed,” Manjlai said. “It promotes zero tolerance when it comes to any kind of xenophobic or insensitive behavior to any community.”
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said the sheriff should have acted against Angel rather than wait for public criticism to build.
“You're not doing anything if your initial reaction is, ‘That's horrible, that's terrible, but there's nothing I can do or nothing I intend to do,'” Hutchinson said. “This is your department. You are the man at the top, you set the direction, the tempo, the climate for the department. If you don't take action, what you're saying is the department doesn't care.”
Hutchinson, who last week called for an audit of all sheriff's employee emails, said he plans to monitor the email audits and push to make sure the results are made public.
Esther Lim, director of the Jails Project at the ACLU of Southern California, called McDonnell's initial reaction “a little passive.”
“When you have someone high up in the administration sending off inappropriate emails, and the sheriff is slow to respond, that communicates to the line staff that it's a behavior that's OK, when it's not,” Lim said.
The uproar echoes recent controversies in other cities. In San Francisco and Ferguson, Mo., police officials who sent racially derogatory emails or text messages were placed on leave or fired.
Angel's emails were sent in 2012 and 2013 when he was the No. 2 police official in Burbank. There, too, he had been brought in to reform an agency reeling from misconduct in its ranks, including allegations of brutality, racism and sexual harassment.
“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” said one of the emails, which The Times obtained from the city of Burbank under the state's public records law. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently ‘Blacks' and ‘Mexicans' were NOT the correct answers.”
Another email ridiculed concerns about the racial profiling of Muslims as terrorism suspects. A third included the subject line “How dumb is dumb?” and listed 20 reasons “Muslim Terrorists are so quick to commit suicide,” including “Towels for hats,” “Constant wailing from some idiot in a tower” and “You can't wash off the smell of donkey.”
Four of the emails contained strings of jokes that Angel received and then forwarded. A city spokesman said the other senders and recipients were redacted because they did not work for the city, and releasing their identities would be an invasion of privacy.
A fifth email was a short dialogue between Angel and another Burbank police official in which Angel asked what he called a trivia question: “How many virgins do Muslims get in heaven?”
Some who worked with Angel in Burbank defended him, calling him a respectful leader who comfortably interacted with different ethnic groups.
“I saw nothing but the highest levels of conduct,” said Burbank City Councilman David Gordon.
Angel's departure will be a big loss for the sheriff, who as an outsider relied on him as a right-hand man to help sort out the 18,000-member department's inner workings.
“Tom Angel's career within the Sheriff's Department was extraordinary,” said Brian Moriguchi, president of the union that represents sheriff's supervisors. “He came back to help the sheriff rebuild from the previous administration's corruption and other problems, and he was well-intentioned and well-respected. But that doesn't excuse his conduct, either.”
CIA director says secret 9/11 report pages full of hearsay, inaccurate info
by Fox News
CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday that 28 classified pages of a bipartisan commission's report on the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks contains "uncorroborated, unvetted information" that some could seize upon to claim Saudi Arabian involvement in the attacks.
Brennan, speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press," said such claims would be "very, very inaccurate."
The Obama administration may soon release at least part of the secret chapter, which some believe shows a Saudi connection to the Al Qaeda attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.
A groundswell to declassify the documents began last month, when former Florida Sen. Bob Graham told CBS' "60 Minutes" he believed the 19 hijackers "substantially" received support from officials in Saudi Arabia's government and prominent members of society.
"There are a lot of rocks out there that have been purposefully tamped down, that if were they turned over, would give us a more expansive view of the Saudi role," Graham said at the time.
The 28 pages were withheld from the 838-page report on the orders of then-President George W. Bush, who said the release could divulge intelligence sources and methods. In mid-April, the White House told Graham that it would decide whether to declassify the material within 60 days.
Brennan said Sunday that the pages were classified because "of concerns about sensitive methods, investigative actions, and the investigation of 9/11 was still underway in 2002."
Brennan added that he believed the pages contain "a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate." He said the 9/11 Commission followed up on the preliminary information in the 28 pages and made "a very clear judgment" there was no evidence indicating "the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials individually" financially backed Al Qaeda."
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government says it has been "wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity" in the attacks, is fighting extremists and working to clamp down on their funding channels. Still, the Saudis have long said that they would welcome declassification of the 28 pages because it would "allow us to respond to any allegations in a clear and credible manner."
Brennan's comments came as lawmakers are considering a bill that would permit terrorism victims to sue foreign states that helped fund or otherwise support attacks in the U.S. The legislation is opposed by the Obama administration and the Saudi government has threatened to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in American assets if it passes.
Drone Debate in House Judiciary Balances Privacy, Public Safety
by NANCY REMSEN
The House Judiciary Committee walked a tightrope Thursday in recommending its version of a bill to protect personal privacy.
The legislation sets guidelines for how and when the police may use drones, and it reauthorizes police use of cameras that capture photos of license plates and establishes the procedures that law enforcement agencies must follow to gain access to electronic communications.
“What is important is the balance between protecting individual privacy and enhancing public safety,” said Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown), chair of the committee.
The tension between privacy and public safety was apparent as the committee discussed a provision that would ban police from using a drone “to gather or retain data on private citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.”
“There is going to be a hue and cry if law enforcement starts flying these things over peaceful assemblies,” said Rep. Willem Jewett (D-Ripton).
“We are living in a different age of safety,” countered Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany). “I don't want to tie [law enforcement's] hands too much.”
Committee members debated whether police should be able to observe an event with a drone for public safety purposes, but not be allowed to keep the recording, or whether police should be banned from even flying the aircraft over a crowd.
Rep. Gary Viens (R-Newport) wondered, for example, whether police could fly drones over the Burlington marathon, reminding his colleagues about the bombing that took place at the Boston Marathon. “I don't want to take away that potential tool to avert a potential disaster,” he said.
Beth Novotny, representing the Vermont Police Association, argued that the drone provision in the draft before the committee allowed no exceptions to the ban on flying drones over peaceful assemblies. She warned: “There would be no public safety operation allowed.”
Jewett disagreed with her interpretation, but committee members agreed that they wanted to allow drone flyovers “for observational, public safety purposes that do not involve gathering or retaining data” or after police obtained a warrant. Those provisions became part of the final version.
The committee also wrestled with possible changes to the rules covering the use of license-plate readers. The current law governing them expires on July 1.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont had lobbied lawmakers to shrink the length of time police could keep data from the readers from the current 18 months to 24 hours. The Senate, which passed the privacy bill in January, stuck with 18 months, and so did the House.
The Senate bill would permanently legalize license-plate readers. The House proposes another expiration date in three years. Grad said that with emerging technologies, “It is important to be cautious and continue to monitor.”
The committee voted 9-2 to recommend its version of the bill.
“Everybody got something, and everybody lost something,” Rep. Tom Burditt (R-West Rutland) said of the final version of the bill. “I almost look at it as the barometer of a good bill.”
Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont cheered that lawmakers in both chambers recognized the need to enact more privacy protections, even though the bill fell short of what he wanted.
“This is tough stuff,” he said. “These committees are trying to deal with challenging new technology and how it affects personal privacy.”
The full House will debate the bill Monday. The House and Senate will likely have to negotiate the final version of the bill in the few remaining days of the legislative session.
Some lawmakers say some police ill-equipped for ODs
State data show that heroin-related overdose deaths tripled since 1999
by The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — A group of 20 lawmakers backs a bill to require more rigorous medical training for police officers, borne of fear that some rural police are not properly equipped to rescue people undergoing heroin or prescription opioid overdoses.
Republican bill sponsor state Rep. Hank Vaupel, a Fowlerville Republican, said current law doesn't require police to stay up-to-date on medical procedures that can save people from a narcotics overdose. But the organization that develops training standards for the state's 20 police academies and another that represents police officers say law enforcement are already trained in practices Vaupel's bill would mandate.
Vaupel said he spoke with two police chiefs that he would not name who don't require officers in their departments to be trained to do "rescue breathing," commonly known as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Medical experts say heroin overdose victims often need assisted breathing because the narcotic can shut down the respiratory system. But Vaupel said the two departments are only trained to perform chest compressions. He said he fears that puts lives at risk amid growing concern over opioid abuse.
State data show that heroin-related overdose deaths tripled since 1999. In 2014, the most recent data available, 1,745 people in Michigan died of fatal heroin or opioid painkiller overdoses.
Vaupel said he suspects other small departments also might not stay current on CPR training that includes rescue breathing, which his bill would require. State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, echoed that concern.
The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards sets training programs for police in the state, but they don't require police to renew CPR training. Neither that organization nor the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents the state's police officers, keeps statewide data showing how many local departments require their officers to renew CPR training.
Jeff Boyd, Livingston County Emergency Medical Services director, said some officers also don't know they're supposed to accompany rescue breathing with anti-overdose drugs in some instances. He said he'd like EMS personnel to help train police to administer the drugs, and testified in a House committee on behalf of Vaupel's measure.
George Basar, legislative director for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said he sees the bill as unnecessary because recruits trained in the state's police academies are already required to learn rescue breathing as part of their basic training.
Wayne Carlson with the state commission that develops those training standards confirmed that. Carlson said police CPR training is based on programs from the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. All state troopers learn the same techniques, said Shanon Banner, a spokeswoman for the State Police. Carlson and Basar said they suspect most departments make their officers renew training, but Carlson said it's possible some don't.
Michele Wagner of Fowlerville, a constituent in Vaupel's hometown, helped spark the legislation after her 23-year-old son, Mitchell, died of a fatal opioid overdose the night before Thanksgiving 2014. She said he still had a heartbeat when she found him on the floor of their home, but officers who arrived performed chest compressions without rescue breathing and weren't carrying Naloxone, a drug that can resuscitate people in an opioid overdose.
Wagner said she thinks her son wouldn't have died if police had been carrying the drug and helped him breathe.
"I don't know how I get through," Wagner said. "One day at a time. That's all I can do. I don't know. I go to therapy. I do community service, try to take it to the community and talk about it."
Fowlerville Police Chief Thomas Couling confirmed the date and cause of Mitchell Wagner's death, but declined to say whether officers performed rescue breathing while trying to revive him.
Couling said as a general rule, his officers don't perform rescue breathing anymore.
"The way they teach you to do CPR these days, is by compressions," he said, noting that all of his department's officers are Red Cross certified in CPR.
A spokesman from the American Red Cross said they have programs that include rescue breathing and ones that don't.
"She's a grieving mother," Couling said. "And this has been very difficult for everybody. And as much as we care for her and we do, we've done everything that can be done in this case."
Federal government tracing of firearms is no exact science
Many years can pass between the initial sale and the time police encounter the weapon
by The Associated Press
The flow of guns from states with looser gun laws into states with stricter ones is again emerging as a hot topic, shining a spotlight on an issue that has long flummoxed law enforcement and gun-control advocates. While most guns used in crimes were originally sold legally, what happens to them later is hard to track and even harder to prevent: criminals getting guns from friends, family or on the street.
Here are some questions and answers about tracing firearms:
Aren't All Firearms Traced By The Federal Government?
No. There is no national registry of firearms. In fact, federal law prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from tracking every firearm in the United States. It's not even clear how many firearms exist in the country. Estimates, based on the number of firearms manufactured, imported and exported by American gunmakers, suggest there are more than 310 million firearms owned by civilians.
When Do The Feds Trace Firearms?
When a law enforcement agency recovers a firearm in a crime, they go to the ATF with the gun's serial number and other identifying information to trace it. The gun doesn't have to have been fired for law enforcement to seek a trace.
The law enforcement agency is not required to trace the firearm and there are times when it doesn't. For example, if a woman's gun-collector husband dies and she approaches law enforcement to help her dispose of the firearms, police are unlikely to ask that they be traced.
"Almost any time a crime is involved, the firearm is traced," said Larry "Nero" Priester, spokesman for the ATF's Atlanta field office.
What Happens Next?
The ATF tracing center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, uses the information supplied to contact the manufacturer and find out which wholesaler the company used. Eventually, investigators track which gun dealer sold the weapon initially. The gun dealer supplies the ATF with copies of federal forms that are filled out each time a gun is sold, which includes such information as the buyer and his or her contact information. From there, ATF investigators are dispatched to interview the first person who bought the firearm and to track each time the firearm was bought and sold up to the point law enforcement recovered it.
What Difficulties Does The ATF Encounter?
Many years can pass between the initial sale and the time police encounter the weapon. The average "time to crime" — a key barometer law enforcement uses to determine if the initial purchase of the firearm was for nefarious purposes — is about 10 years. If a gun is bought and used several months later in a crime, that's a significant red flag for law enforcement.
Among the difficulties the ATF faces in tracing a firearm are whether the original gun dealer is even still in business. Sometimes the dealer didn't keep good records or the records were lost.
"The traces are only as successful as the (gun dealer's) records. ... There's no exact science," the ATF's Priester said. "A gun can change hands many times."