May, 2016 - Week 4
Pleading for Peace in Chicago: ‘We Could Be Looking at a Blood Bath'
by Monica Davey and Mitch Smith
CHICAGO — During Memorial Day weekend, this city reopens its Lake Michigan beaches, regular fireworks displays start at Navy Pier, and the downtown streets and spruced-up Riverwalk are crowded with tourists.
But the holiday weekend is often seen here as the start of heightened violence as well. That has been particularly worrying this year to community leaders and city officials, as they grapple with a rise in gun violence that has traumatized some neighborhoods and left city officials searching for new ways to subdue street crime.
“If something doesn't change, if we don't get jobs for these kids, if we don't change the economic situation, I'm worried that we could be looking at a blood bath,” said the Rev. Corey Brooks, a pastor on the city's South Side, a mostly African-American area where some of the shootings have been concentrated. “If something doesn't happen, I fear that we're potentially looking at one of the worst summers we've ever had.”
As of Friday morning, homicides in Chicago were up 52 percent in 2016, compared with the same period a year ago, and shootings had increased by 50 percent, though the pace of violence had slowed in recent weeks, the police said. Only five months into the year, at least 233 people had been killed.
Officials are struggling with the problem and are using a range of strategies as the murder rate in Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, outpaces that of New York and Los Angeles.
Over the weekend, the Chicago police increased the number of officers on the streets. About a week after a gang sweep that led to the arrests of 140 people, the police said they planned to have extra foot patrols in parks and neighborhoods and more officers on bicycles. They are also using social media to track potentially troublesome house parties.
“I think you all know how important this weekend is,” the police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, said on Friday afternoon at a meeting with his top command staff.
On Friday evening, people gathered at more than 100 gymnasiums, parks and churches around the city to call for gang members and others to stop the violence that has long plagued some Chicago neighborhoods. The activities were the start of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's third annual Summer of Faith and Action initiative, which promotes safety and urges people to put down their guns.
“If we all come together and reclaim our streets, reclaim our parks, there's no room for the gangbangers,” Mr. Emanuel said, stopping by one of the gatherings on Friday night on the Southwest Side, where people played basketball and painted murals.
“I would also say to the gangbangers what Eddie Johnson said,” Mr. Emanuel said, referring to his recently appointed superintendent. “There's a small percentage creating an overabundance of the gun violence. The Police Department knows who you are. They know where you live. And they know what you're doing.”
For a few hours on Friday evening, under periods of pounding rain, the peace held, and the police scanners were filled with mundane reports of disturbances and crowd-control problems after a Beyoncé concert. But by Saturday evening, the police reported, 19 people had been shot, four fatally, including a 15-year-old girl.
Last year during the three-day Memorial Day weekend, there were 46 shootings in Chicago, and 14 people were killed, the police said. Other years have been quieter; in 2013, there were 22 shootings and six deaths.
Some community leaders are concerned about what may lie ahead because of how widespread the shootings and killings were even before the warm summer months, historically the most violent time of year in Chicago. The Rev. Michael Pfleger said on Friday that residents seemed to be “hunkering down” because they expected bad things to happen.
“It's almost like everyone's saying a hurricane is coming,” said Father Pfleger, whose parish, the Faith Community of St. Sabina, is on the South Side. “What we really need to be doing is getting out, walking around. Don't board up your house. Be out on your block. Be vigilant. Fear either paralyzes you or it motivates you. We could have this be the safest weekend of the summer if everyone was out talking to one another.”
The worries about summer come at an extraordinarily complicated time for Chicago, which is facing parallel crises: a drastic spike in violent crime and a Police Department viewed with suspicion, even derision, in some neighborhoods.
Long-strained relations between the Chicago police and residents, especially African-Americans, boiled over after the November release of a dashboard camera video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times.
In the months afterward, Mr. Emanuel faced calls for his resignation, the police superintendent was fired and the Justice Department began an investigation into the Police Department's practices. Last month, a task force appointed by Mr. Emanuel issued a scathing report saying that racism had contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the department and that the department had lost the trust of residents.
That mistrust, some here say, has made it harder to solve crimes on the streets: Witnesses and victims often choose not to share information with the police.
“People think that to get justice, they have to take the law into their own hands,” said the Rev. Marshall E. Hatch, the pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, on the West Side.
Some here expressed concern about focusing on preparations for violence on a particular weekend — Memorial Day or otherwise.
“The fact is that it's constant and relentless, and that you don't know when it's going to happen,” said Dr. Kimberly Joseph, a trauma surgeon at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, where some shooting victims are taken. “Try to imagine what it must be like for a 12-year-old trying to go to school every day and not knowing what's going to happen."
No one knows for sure why Chicago's violence has increased this year, but the police say it is largely the result of a small number of people involved with the city's increasingly splintered set of gangs, and a rising number of disputes playing out on social media. A new area of concern is shootings along the expressways, where the authorities say gang feuds are spilling out of the neighborhoods. There have been 20 shootings along Chicago-area expressways this year, the police said, and no arrests.
“This has all amped up from what I've ever seen,” Father Pfleger said. “There's a boiling point, and guns have become part of America's wardrobe. People out here presume everyone has one, and they'll tell you, ‘I'm going to draw mine before I get laid down.' ”
Chicago's population of 2.7 million is nearly equally split among whites, blacks and Hispanics, but most of the shootings have taken place in black and Hispanic neighborhoods on the city's South and West Sides, and the majority of the victims have been African-American.
For many who live in these neighborhoods, a recent poll showed, crime and gangs have become overriding concerns. More than 20 people under 18 have been killed this year. A number of bystanders have also been shot. Zarriel Trotter, 13, who appeared in an anti-violence video last year, was injured by a stray bullet in March.
Janaé Bonsu, the national public policy chairwoman for Black Youth Project 100, said she was hopeful that city leaders would address the increase in violence by investing more in community groups focused on better jobs and increased educational opportunities, rather than just bolstering the police.
“The City Council, the mayor, nobody is being brave enough to say that maybe our efforts are concentrated in the wrong place,” Ms. Bonsu said. “When you don't have much going for yourself, whether it be work, whether it be school, your options are on the block.”
From the FBI
Civil Rights and Law Enforcement -- Director Speaks About Race and Law Enforcement at Birmingham Conference
It was September 15, 1963 when a bomb exploded inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls and injuring countless others before Sunday worship.
The racially charged attack at the African-American church drew national attention and marked a major turning point in the civil rights movement. It was this act of violence and numerous other atrocities that ultimately led to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provided the FBI with new federal laws to investigate civil rights violations.
Decades later, on the hallowed ground of the historic church, FBI Director James B. Comey recalled the discrimination African-Americans in Birmingham have faced during a speech today at the annual FBI and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) conference on law enforcement and civil rights.
“Too many have forgotten what it was like for men and women of color—for black people—in this city 50 years ago. But many of you here today remember, because many of you and your relatives lived it. Separate schools. Separate neighborhoods. Separate lives,” said Comey. “You fought against racism and inequality and the tremendous inertia of the status quo.”
Comey's speech ended the two-day conference, which focused on the need to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, particularly in communities of color. As violent crimes increase in many parts of the country—including Birmingham, where 2015 brought on 88 homicides—Comey discussed how the lines between citizens and police are moving further apart. To change this trend, the FBI Director stressed the importance of developing a deeper understanding and a stronger connection.
“It is hard to hate up close,” Comey said. “It is hard to hate someone you know, someone whose life you have come to understand. And only by getting close to each other can we begin to arc those lines back together.”
Comey outlined several strategies to improve communication between the community and law enforcement, calling for better transparency, accountability, and partnerships. Birmingham, he said, is a good example of how the FBI works side-by-side with municipal organizations to stem violent crime.
For decades, the FBI's Birmingham Field Office has worked closely with partner agencies on task forces to investigate cases, protect citizens, and train fellow law enforcement officials.
“The FBI has been a vital partner here in Birmingham,” said Don Lupo, director of citizen assistance for the Birmingham mayor's office. “The local field office has been completely supportive of everything that we have attempted to do in the city. The strong working relationship between our police and sheriff's department has been vital to the protection of our citizens.”
Along with its enterprise with the city police, the FBI has partnered since 2006 with BCRI to educate law enforcement officials and the community on the history of the civil rights movement as well as current issues impacting neighborhoods across the country. Through the FBI and BCRI's annual conferences, the two agencies have built upon previous years' discussions to maintain an open dialogue between law enforcement agencies, their personnel, and the communities they serve.
“We believe that these conferences build ongoing and lasting relationships,” said Priscilla Hancock Cooper, BCRI's vice president of institutional programs. “Not only do we want to continue to engage law enforcement and community members in Birmingham, but I think we have something to offer to the rest of the country. Through our relationship with the FBI, we'll look for ways to spread this effective law enforcement partnership with other cities.”
As Comey concluded his speech in front of a packed crowd at the historic Baptist church, he recalled the stories of every day people living in Birmingham during the civil rights movement who risked their lives to take a stand for racial equality—people like Bishop Calvin Woods, sitting in the audience today, who was determined to speak out against segregation despite being sentenced to hard labor.
“He said he kept marching, kept peacefully protesting because of his fellow citizens,” Comey said. “Because despite the beatings, the jailings, and the bombings, the spirit and determination of the black people of Birmingham could not be destroyed.”
As the FBI continues to root out hate crimes and color of law violations and protect civil rights, Comey stressed the importance of citizens and law enforcement working together.
“It will take all of us—every single member of every community—to fight for and deliver change. To fight for equality and fairness. To stop driving around the problem. To be agitators and insiders, in the best way—in the way Dr. King taught us,” said Comey.
From the Department of Homeland Security
TSA Summer Travel Tips
Enhanced TSA security screening that meets the current threat environment along with significant increases in travel volume are expected to significantly contribute to longer lines at airport security checkpoints.
In order to maintain the highest levels of security TSA must ensure that every person and every piece of baggage that goes aboard a commercial aircraft is properly screened, and that process takes time.
Travelers are reminded to take steps to facilitate the screening process by preparing ahead of time.
Apply for a Trusted Traveler program , such as TSA Pre ? ®, Global Entry, NEXUS, and Sentri. These programs help improve security and reduce wait times.
Arrive early . The increase in travel volume has a wide-ranging effect. Consider incorporating additional time in your travel plans for traffic, parking, rental car returns and airline check-in. Arrive up to two hours in advance of your flight departure time for domestic travel and three hours for international flights.
Prepare for security . Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out and remove large electronics, including laptops and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage. Avoid over packing your carry-on bag. Consider checking bags vs. carry-on where feasible. Read the summer travel checklist.
Follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule . Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart size plastic bag and be placed in a bin for carry-on baggage screening.
Call TSA Cares . Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to traveling.
Tweet @AskTSA . Unsure if an item is allowed through security? Issues receiving TSA Pre ? ® on your boarding pass? Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA, weekdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends/holidays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Your security is our top priority. Learn more about security-related events and measures in this Transportation Security Timeline.
Summer Travel 2016: Rumors and Facts
Statement By Secretary Johnson On Latest Actions To Address Wait Times At Airports
The TSA Administrator and I both appreciate the recent support we have received from Congress to aggressively address increased air travel and reduce wait times at TSA screening points in U.S. airports. In the face of increased air travel volume, we will not compromise aviation security. We are quickly and aggressively surging resources to keep travelers moving through airports, and to keep them safe.
Two weeks ago Congress approved our request to reprogram $34 million. This has enabled us to expedite the hiring of 768 new TSOs, which we expect to have on board by mid-June, and to pay additional overtime to the existing TSO workforce. This action alone will enable the screening of 220,000 additional passengers per day.
Today I sent to Congress a second reprogramming request for $28 million. This money will fund the immediate conversion of 2,784 TSOs from part-time to full-time at the Nation's 20 busiest airports. This will enable us to screen almost 82,000 additional passengers per day. I hope Congress will act on this request soon.
These actions are in addition to a number of other immediate steps we are taking, in partnership with the airlines and airports, to address wait times.
TSA has brought on and moved more canine teams to assist in the screening of passengers at checkpoints. This has helped screen an additional 40,000 passengers a day at the Nation's seven busiest airports.
TSA has given Federal Security Directors at airports added discretion to assign TSA personnel at airports to directly support screening at checkpoints.
TSA has solicited approximately 150 volunteers from among its TSO workforce to accept temporary reassignment from less busy to busier airports. TSA headquarters personnel have also volunteered to work at airports.
TSA has deployed optimization teams to the Nation's 20 busiest airports to address, at the local level, any excessive delays.
TSA has stood up an Incident Command Center at its headquarters to monitor checkpoint trends in real time. This will allow TSA to quickly and aggressively trouble-shoot any issues that may arise at the busiest airports around the country.
We continue to encourage the public to join TSA Pre ? ® . The public is responding. While enrollments a year ago were at about 3,500 daily, now enrollments are exceeding 16,000 a day. For 90% of those who are enrolled and utilize TSA Pre ? ® , the average wait time at TSA checkpoints continues to be five minutes or less.
Airlines are assisting in addressing wait times. We appreciate that major airlines have assigned personnel to assist in the non-security duties at TSA checkpoints, and are providing support in a number of other ways. Longer term, we are working with airlines and airports to invest in “Innovation lanes” and other technology to expedite the screening of carry-on luggage and personal items.
Nationwide, 90% of the traveling public is waiting 30 minutes or less. Still, as we approach the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer, the public should expect longer wait times at some of the Nation's busiest airports, at certain times of the day. In general, we encourage travelers to arrive at airports two hours before flight time, and pack responsibly. Prohibited items in carry-on luggage delays checkpoint screening. Visit TSA online (www.tsa.gov) or on Twitter (@AskTSA) to learn more.
With the help of Congress, we are working quickly and aggressively to add resources to keep air travelers moving at airports, and to keep them safe.
FBI Director praises Birmingham's community policing
by Jon Paepcke
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —FBI Director James Comey stopped in Birmingham Friday to speak on law enforcement and race relations at the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Director Comey also visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute during the its annual conference on civil rights and law enforcement.
Comey spoke at a public event at the church along with former federal prosecutor Doug Jones and Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper.
Following the session inside the church, Comey took questions from reporters outside the Civil Rights Institute.
When asked about the progress Birmingham has made since the 1960s, he said the city's police department is an example for others to follow.
He said the strategy of officers engaging the community on the street to bridge the racial divide is one that cities around the nation should use.
One of the biggest ways to battle the crime increase since 2014, Comey said, was to make the criminals scared to get caught with a gun.
He said if the country could force more convicted felons to think twice before carrying a weapon, law enforcement could go a long way to curb violent crimes.
Comey also said the scrutiny law enforcement has received over the last couple of years can only improve the public's level of protection, because it causes police departments to constantly improve the way in which they interact with people on the street.
U of R considers arming public safety officers
by Jim Madalinsky
Rochester, NY - Bringing guns on to campus. It's an idea being considered by the University of Rochester as the school is looking into arming it's public safety officers.
A commission of eight administrators formed by University President Joel Seligman is currently looking at ways to improve public safety on campus.
U of R Public Safety Chief Mark Fischer said Wednesday the school is the only one in the state of New York that has sworn-in officers without firearms.
According to the university, since 2014 campus police used force, either with pepper gel or a baton, 15 times.
Fischer said his officers face similar threats to Rochester Police, including just a few days ago when an armed man walked into the hospital.
"It turned out he was a permitted weapon holder that didn't know the rules," said Fischer. "Still I had to send an unarmed Lieutenant that was confronting an armed individual."
Some students are concerned about the possibility.
Some said they would like to see diversity training for officers before the idea is even considered.
Others simply don't think there's a place for guns on campus.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is no. No. I don't think it's necessary," said sophomore Michelle Ikediobi.
"The more guns we have the more we have the likelihood that someone is going to get hurt sooner or later. It's only a matter of time," said graduate student Lina Zigelyte.
The commission plans to continue meeting with students, faculty and the community to discuss public safety. There is no timetable for when or if an official proposal will be made.
Reducing recidivism is a public safety imperative
by William A. Galston and Elizabeth McElvein
Proponents of criminal justice reform are cautiously optimistic about prospects for a sweeping statutory overhaul to the federal prison system by the end of the 114 th Congress. Several bills, including the Recidivism Reduction Act of 2016 (H.R. 759) and the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), have passed the House Judiciary Committee, earning the support of Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) and Ranking Member John Conyers (MI-13). House Speaker Paul Ryan has embraced criminal justice reform and pledged to bring reform legislation to the floor for a vote this Congress.
The legislative landscape in the Senate is a bit more complicated. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123) sailed out of the Judiciary Committee last fall, with the full-throated support of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Committee Chairman and Ranking Member. The bill is cosponsored by senators spanning the ideological gambit from conservative firebrand Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) to Democratic whip Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Shortly after the bill emerged from committee, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) led a small but fervent group of Republican lawmakers to oppose the bill. Although the senators' key objections are certainly subject to interpretation, concerted opposition in the upper chamber temporarily stymied legislative momentum.
At the end of last month, proponents breathed new life into the bill, announcing revisions to certain sentencing provisions and the support of six additional senators—two Republicans and four Democrats—and the influential National District Attorney Association. Largely absent from the national conversation, however, are the bill's extensive provisions to reduce recidivism and promote successful prisoner re-entry.
Recidivism in the United States
In addition to holding individuals who commit crimes accountable, correctional facilities should work hard to rehabilitate individuals and prepare them to rejoin society. Currently, the nation's astronomical rates of recidivism indicate that correctional facilities are failing to equip prisoners with tool for successful re-entry. Given that the vast majority of incarcerated individuals will one day be released, ensuring that correctional facilities have the resources to rehabilitate incarcerated individuals is a public safety imperative.
According to estimates by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over a quarter of individuals released from state prison are rearrested within six months. As the figure below illustrates, recidivism rates increase steadily after each additional year of release; after five years, more than seventy five percent of formerly incarcerated individuals have been rearrested. This striking trend is consistent across demographic categories.
In a recent report to Congress, the bi-partisan Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Correction outlines evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism. Numerous studies have shown that identifying and targeting individuals at greatest risk of re-offending based on key factors such as criminal history, employment prospects, and familial relations can have a significant impact on recidivism reduction. Once at-risk inmates are identified, research indicates that prioritizing these individuals for programming can positively impact rehabilitation, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety.
Based on these academic insights, the Task Force urged Congress endow the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) with the resources to deliver adequate and appropriate in-prison programming and services based on individual risk for recidivism and other identified needs. The Task Force also recommended that Congress create incentives for inmates to participate in rehabilitation programs by authorizing eligible individuals to earn up to 20 percent off time served for successfully completing their programs.
The recidivism reduction measures outlined in the Senate bill closely track the recommendations of the Task Force. The bill's corrections provisions require the Attorney General to develop a system to determine the recidivism risk and programmatic needs of every prisoner, and the BOP to make statistically validated recidivism reduction programming available to all eligible prisoners, commensurate with an individual's risk status. The bill authorizes eligible prisoners to earn time credit for successful program completion, and it allows prisoners at low or moderate risk of recidivating to serve earned time credits in residential reentry centers, on home confinement, or on community supervision.
With several Republicans facing tight re-election bids in November, the Senate Majority Leader faces an uphill battle to retain a GOP majority. Although any number of factors could determine which bills McConnell decides to bring to the floor, the politics of the 2016 election will be chief among them. On the one hand, the criminal justice reform bill could showcase Republicans' ability to enact sweeping statutory change on an issue that voters generally support. A recent poll conducted by the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies, for instance, indicates that voters across demographic groups and party lines strongly support an array of significant changes to federal criminal justice laws, especially those pertaining to drug offenses.
On the other hand, McConnell is unlikely to bring a measure to the floor if it would further fragment a fragile GOP majority, and the bill has hardly been uncontroversial. In remarks at the Hudson Institute just last week, Senator Cotton opined, “the criminal-leniency bill in the Senate is dead in this year's Congress. And it should remain so if future versions allow for the release of violent felons from prison.” As we have argued elsewhere, sentencing reform is the linchpin of GOP debate—specifically, which federal offenders should be eligible for targeted reductions to mandatory minimum sentences.
Expanding debate on the reform bill to include the evidence-based recidivism reduction provisions in the Sentencing Corrections and Reform Act may prove to be good politics. By highlighting the urgent need to contain astronomical recidivism rates, the Majority Leader has the opportunity to showcase his party's commitment to public safety and to demonstrate that the GOP is capable of working with Democrats on an issue of great public concern.
Nextdoor app connects local police to residents to bolster public safety efforts
by Jason Axelrod
Hundreds of cities across the U.S. are partnering with an app to help make their residents aware of public safety news in the area.
Nextdoor is a free, private and hyperlocal social network that allows neighbors to discuss anything from finding services to discussing break-ins, according to the app's website. Cities including Indianapolis; Memphis, Tenn.; Annapolis, Md.; Cocoa, Fla.; and East Lyme, Conn. have partnered with the app in efforts to increase awareness of news around neighborhoods, according to local media.
According to Nextdoor's site, over 99,000 neighborhoods across the U.S. use Nextdoor, and hundreds of public agencies use the app.
East Lyme's partnership with Nextdoor is similar to aforementioned cities' partnerships. It allows local police to communicate with local residents and carry out virtual crime watches, according to The Lymes Patch .
“Having the ability to easily communicate with residents is extremely vital to not only maintaining, but also increasing safety and reducing crime within the East Lyme community," East Lyme Detective Mark Comeau told The Lymes Patch . "With Nextdoor, we can help empower neighbors to keep their communities safe and connected and give them the ability to collaborate on virtual neighborhood watch efforts."
Indianapolis has already seen the fruits of the app's digital crime watch abilities, according to Indy Star . Local resident Jonathan Whitham caught a “prowler” walking through his backyard via a security camera and was able to alert other residents in his neighborhood to the individual's actions.
"The more people that see the picture, the more chance you have of someone identifying them," Whitham told Indy Star . "I haven't heard whether or not he was ever captured, but I do know that he hasn't been back, which was, obviously, one of our goals."
The Cocoa, Fla. Police department also plans on using the app to alert residents to active crime scenes and trending activity that might impact their neighborhood, Space Coast Daily reports.
“Our use of social media needs to expand with the available technology. It is unique in its ability to provide direct two-way communication to specific sectors of our community,” Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe told Space Coast Daily .
Each neighborhood on Nextdoor has its own website that users establish and manage, according to The Lymes Patch . While public agencies cannot view neighbors' content, contact info or websites, they can send out crime alerts and other emergency notifications.
Baltimore officers charged in Gray death sue state
Officers sued the city's top prosecutor and an official in the sheriff's office for defamation
by Juliet Linderman
BALTIMORE — Two Baltimore police officers facing criminal charges in the death of a young black man whose neck was broken in the back of a police van have sued the city's top prosecutor and an official in the sheriff's office for defamation.
Officer William Porter and Sgt. Alicia White filed the suit against Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Maj. Sam Cogen in Baltimore Circuit Court on May 2.
Porter and White are among six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled, but left unrestrained by a seat belt. His death prompted protests that gave way to looting and civil unrest.
Cogan signed and filed the initial charging documents in the case against the officers, and Mosby announced the charges in a news conference just days after the worst of the rioting.
Porter and White face identical charges of manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
Porter's trial in November ended in a mistrial. His retrial is scheduled for September. White is scheduled to be tried in October.
Earlier this week, a different judge acquitted Officer Edward Nero of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges.
The officers allege in their suit that Mosby, who announced charges on May 1 of last year, knowingly made false statements when she alleged wrongdoing on the part of the officers.
The suit cites statements Mosby made that Porter and White knew Gray was in distress when they checked on him in the back of the transport wagon, but ignored his cries for help and did nothing to administer aid.
"These statements were defamatory because they exposed Plaintiffs to public scorn, hatred and contempt, and thereby discouraging others in the community from having a favorable opinion of, or association with, Plaintiffs," the lawsuit says.
The suit also reads that Mosby and Cogen "breached their duty to Plaintiffs by bringing unsupported criminal charges then publicly publishing same," and that Mosby's statements were made "for the purpose of quelling the riots rather than prosecuting police officers who had committed crimes."
None of the parties involved is permitted to comment due to a gag order in the case.
Legal experts say the officers' lawsuit is a stretch.
David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said prosecutors have "absolute immunity unless they show true malice" toward a defendant. "If the state's attorney's office is ultimately mistaken about whether or not a crime occurred, or they lose a trial, those things don't give grounds to a defamation case," Jaros said.
The plaintiffs moved to seal the suit, but Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea Handy denied the motion Wednesday.
FBI chief talks filming cops, community policing at civil rights conference
Comey touched on remarks he made about the potential impact of citizens recording real or perceived police misconduct
by Phillip Lucas
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Working to protect Americans' civil rights is in some ways more difficult today because of an assumption that advances mean the fight for equality has been settled, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday.
"People in this church know better than anyone on Earth that the struggle is not over. In many ways the struggle is broader, it's more far-reaching," he said from the pulpit of the 16th Street Baptist Church, the target of a racially motivated bombing that killed four girls in 1963. "In a whole lot of ways it's harder now because folks assume it's over. We fixed that mess in the 60s, right?"
Comey was a guest speaker at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's conference on civil rights and law enforcement themed "Race and Law Enforcement: It's More than Just Black and White." The discussion comes amid national scrutiny of the fraught relationship between law enforcement and minorities, and the program ended with a heckler in the church's balcony lambasting the event as "a farce."
Comey gave examples of ways law enforcement and citizens can build stronger relationships and later touched on remarks he made about the potential impact of citizens recording real or perceived police misconduct.
Comey has suggested that rises in violent crime across the country could be fueled in part by anxiety among law enforcement officers who fear being recorded by citizens and hesitate to get out of their patrol vehicles to interact with people. Comey's suggestion put him at odds with the Obama administration and drew criticism from former attorney general Eric Holder and others.
Comey said recent scrutiny has helped improve law enforcement accountability, but he wonders if it also poses unintended consequences in community policing. Comey told reporters he resists using the term "Ferguson effect" and instead said officers may fear being the center of the next viral video of a questionable encounter.
"I don't know for sure whether that's a real thing. I don't know for sure whether that's affecting crime, but I've heard about it all over the country from law enforcement leaders, from community leaders from police officers that there's something going on like that that may be contributing," he said.
"I'm not against videotaping police, I'm not against scrutiny. We get better that way," Comey said. "What I'm asking is, is there something unintentional affecting our communities that is contributing to the spike in violent crime?"
DeKalb County Georgia Police Chief and former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Cedric Alexander said Comey's suggestion isn't far-fetched, but more research is needed to better understand what role increased scrutiny may play among other factors driving crime in some communities.
"We know it may be creating some potential reluctance, but we don't know how to measure it and we've got to figure out how to better measure that," Alexander said. "I've made the same observation he's making. Many police leaders are making the same observation."
During his speech, Comey also reiterated the need for more comprehensive use of force and violent crime data to inform discussions and improve transparency and accountability.
"Data means facts and facts help us find truth and understanding. We cannot address issues about use of force and officer-involved shootings or why violent crime is up in some cities within cities if we don't know the circumstances, if we don't know the facts," he said. "Without it, every single conversation in this country about policing, about law enforcement policy, about criminal justice is incomplete and uninformed, and that is a very bad place to be."
Report: Intruders breach US airport fences about every 10 days
Over the past year, the TSA and airports have been focused less on perimeter security than on stopping weapons that passengers or baggage handlers try to sneak onto planes
by Justin Pritchard and Martha Mendoza
Under pressure to prevent people from sneaking onto runways and planes at major U.S. airports, authorities are cracking down - not on the intruders who slip through perimeter gates or jump over fences, but on the release of information about the breaches.
A year after an Associated Press investigation first revealed persistent problems with airports' outer defenses, breaches remain as frequent as ever â about once every 10 days â despite some investments to fortify the nation's airfields. As Americans wait in ever-longer security screening lines inside terminals, new documents show dozens more incidents happening outside perimeters than airports have disclosed.
At the same time, leaders at some airports and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration are saying some of the 345 incidents AP found shouldn't count as security breaches, even when intruders got deep into secure areas.
Was it a perimeter security breach in March 2015 when a woman walked past a vehicle exit gate at San Francisco International Airport and onto the tarmac, where she tried to flag down a jet for a trip home to Guatemala? No it was not, said the airport and TSA officials, who also tried to suppress information about the case.
After discussing intrusions openly at first, officials at several airports and the TSA started withholding details, arguing the release could expose vulnerabilities.
Following a two-year legal struggle with the TSA, AP has now used newly released information to create the most comprehensive public tally of perimeter security breaches. The 345 incidents took place at 31 airports that handle three-quarters of U.S. passenger travel. And that's an undercount, because several airports refused to provide complete information.
The count shows that an intruder broke through the security surrounding one of those airports on average every 13 days from the beginning of 2004 through mid-February; starting in 2012, the average has been every 9.5 days. Many intruders scaled barbed wire-topped fences or walked past vehicle checkpoints. Others crashed cars into chain link and concrete barriers.
Airport officials point out that no case involved a known terrorist plot. Police reports suggest many trespassers were disoriented, intoxicated or delusional. Some came on skateboards and bikes, while others commandeered vehicles on the tarmac. One man got into a helicopter cockpit and was preparing to take off.
Five intruders brought knives and one a loaded gun.
Over the past year, the TSA and airports have been focused less on perimeter security than on stopping weapons that passengers or baggage handlers try to sneak onto planes.
"It doesn't surprise me that people sometimes try to jump over fences to see what they can get away with," said TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger. "The question is: What's your ability to detect it and ... what might you do to mitigate that happening in the future?"
Airport officials would not discuss how much they are spending on fortifying perimeters. Some that added security in the past year saw fewer intruders, others had more.
Altogether, there were at least 39 breaches nationwide in 2015, which also was the annual average from 2012 through 2015. The low was 34 in 2013 and the high 42 in 2012, when incidents spiked after several years hovering around 20 breaches.
Aviation security consultant Jeff Price said the TSA and airports have not done enough to address gaps in perimeter security.
"The straight-up honest answer as to why it's not being vigorously addressed? Nothing bad's happened. Yet," Price said.
Airport officials stress that the miles of fences, gates and guardhouses protecting their properties are secure and say many intruders are quickly caught.
Perimeters are not "a gaping vulnerability," said Christopher Bidwell, vice president of security at the advocacy group Airports Council International-North America. When intruders are quickly caught, "their ability to do anything nefarious isn't really there," Bidwell said. "It's being neutralized because they are actively being surveilled."
But video cameras and guards don't always spot intruders.
After eluding security and reaching parked planes at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, one intruder warned an airport worker in December that he "better not say" anything. Authorities never found the man, though they did arrest three others at different times in 2015, including one man who managed to drive his vehicle in with a convoy entering the airfield during a visit by Pope Francis.
The large airports with the most known incidents serve San Francisco (41), Las Vegas (30), Philadelphia (30) and Los Angeles (26). New York's JFK ranked 10th with 12 breaches.
La. set to expand hate-crimes laws to include police
Lawmakers in five other states have recently tried to pass similar so-called Blue Lives Matter bills
by The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is poised to become the first state in the nation to expand its hate-crime laws to protect police, firefighters and emergency medical crews — a move that could stir the national debate over the relationship between law enforcement and minorities.
If signed by the governor, the new law would allow prosecutors to seek additional penalties against anyone convicted of intentionally targeting first responders because of their profession.
Existing hate-crime laws provide for more fines and prison time if a person is targeted because of race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or affiliation with certain organizations.
The state House unanimously supported extending the law, and the bill gained overwhelming support in the state Senate. The measure underwent little questioning and met no objection from committees in either chamber.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat whose grandfather, father and brother have served as sheriffs, is expected to sign the bill into law this week, said his spokeswoman, Shauna Sanford.
Lawmakers in five other states have recently tried to pass similar so-called Blue Lives Matter bills, but each effort stalled, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Critics regard the laws as unnecessary and say they could weaken current hate-crimes statutes.
People convicted of assaulting police officers already face increased penalties in many states, including Louisiana. And crimes against public-safety officials are being "investigated and prosecuted vigorously under current Louisiana law," said Allison Goodman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who wrote the Louisiana governor asking for his veto.
Expanding the hate-crime laws may open the door to other job categories being added, and thereby dilute the laws' impact, she wrote.
The national Black Lives Matter movement spread quickly after the 2014 police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and activists now seek reforms in policing nationwide.
Louisiana's legislation was prompted by a number of high-profile attacks on police, including the killing of a suburban Houston deputy who was shot 15 times in an August 2015 ambush, according to the Republican lawmaker who proposed the bill.
"This gives more of a deterrent for people just to pick out a law officer because he's a law officer and attack him," said state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria.
Maryland state legislator Steven Arentz, who filed a similar proposal, said he was not even familiar with the Blue Lives Matter language being used to describe the bills.
"People are getting killed just because they're cops," he said. "And they are black and white wearing the uniform."
Latoya Lewis, co-chair of the New Orleans chapter of the Black Youth Project 100, suggested the Louisiana governor's support of the bill would be a commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Supporting this bill puts the broader community on a back burner in Louisiana," she said. "This would not be a positive reaction to our cries, but only show how much power there is against the people trying to stop the harassing and murder in the streets by police."
Statistics do not support a change in law, Lewis added, saying that thousands more people were killed by police last year than officers killed in the line of duty during the same period. While supporters of the legislation contend police are targeted because of their uniforms, Lewis said officers "are not born a certain way. They choose it, and the uniform they wear comes with a lot of protection."
Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, has proposed a federal Blue Lives Matter Act that is supported by the national Fraternal Order of Police, according to Buck spokesman Kyle Huwa. Supporters say federal legislation would protect officers in states that do not have police hate crime laws and would help provide federal investigative resources in such cases.
Under the Louisiana measure, people convicted of felony hate crimes singling out police or other first responders would face an additional five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. In misdemeanor cases, penalties could increase by $500 or up to six months in prison.
Freddie Gray verdict: Officer Edward Nero not guilty
by Eliott C. McLaughlin and Aaron Cooper
Baltimore (CNN)Perhaps no one found Baltimore police Officer Edward Nero's not-guilty verdict Monday so surprising.
But to hear the families of Nero and of Freddie Gray, the young black man who Nero was accused of assaulting, both lauding the judge who handed down the decision? Surely no one saw that coming.
While Nero released a statement saying he and his family were "elated" with the ruling, Gray family attorney Billy Murphy, too, applauded the decision, saying, "You can't convict people unless you know the evidence," and that Judge Barry Williams had followed the law as he saw it.
After a bench trial, Williams found Nero not guilty of all charges in connection with Gray's death last year.
Williams took 20 minutes to read the decision to a packed courtroom and near-capacity overflow room. Wearing a dark, three-piece suit and tie, Nero nodded as Williams said there was no evidence to support each individual charge and tilted his head back in relief after the judge read the verdict. He then put his head down and sobbed.
Nero, one of six officers charged and the second to be tried in the Gray case, was accused of second-degree intentional assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Nero was one of three bike officers involved in the initial police encounter with Gray that day in April 2015.
Edward Nero sobbed after the verdict was read.
About a dozen or so protesters surrounded and chanted at Nero's brother as he left the court. Sheriff's deputies escorted him into a parking garage.
The verdict, which drew mostly outrage on social media but praise from police and the Gray family attorney, brings perhaps only a sliver of resolution to a city that seethed with unrest over the death last year of the 25-year-old prisoner. Four more officers' trials are slated to take place.
Praise on both ends
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, said in a statement that Nero was pleased with the verdict but concerned that five other officers, Nero's "good friends, must continue to fight these baseless accusations."
Ryan accused State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby of leveling charges not as the product of a "meaningful investigation" but as a response to riots in the city after Gray's death. in the process, she "destroyed six lives," Ryan said, as well as the relationship between the Baltimore Police Department and her office.
"None of these Officers did anything wrong," Ryan said in his statement. "Officer Nero is relieved that for him, this nightmare is nearing an end. Being falsely charged with a crime, and being prosecuted for reasons that have nothing to do with justice, is a horror that no person should ever have to endure."
A statement from Nero's lawyer echoed some of the same points and also used the word "nightmare" to describe Nero's prosecution.
"The State's Attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law. Officer Nero is appreciative of the reasoned judgment that Judge Barry Williams applied in his ruling," said the statement from defense attorney Marc Zayon.
Nero's father, Edward Nero Sr., told CNN affiliate WSVN that the verdict was a victory not only for his son but for all police.
"I believe it allowed the police officers to do their job, and if he was found guilty, I believe many officers would have been hesitant to do the right thing when it came time to dealing with crime because they would be afraid to be prosecuted," he told the station.
A police statement said Nero will remain on administrative capacity during the investigations, which won't be completed until the last officer's trial ends because the officers may be called as witnesses in their co-defendants' cases.
Gray family attorney Murphy applauded Williams, saying that, as an African-American judge, "he did not bend to that pressure" from the black community, many of whom wanted to see Nero convicted as an emotional response to Gray's death. The family might not be pleased with the verdict, he said, but they respect the rule of law.
"You couldn't ask for a more fair-minded judge than Barry Williams," Murphy said. "I hope (the ruling is) going to be received with equanimity."
On a wider scale, posts on social media expressed mostly disdain for the verdict, with a smattering of approval. While one user wrote that he felt "justice prevailed in the face of Obama's lawless regime," others, including writer and activist Shaun King, felt the verdict represented anything but.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Fayetteville on community policing tour
by Anne Blythe
FAYETTEVILLE -- At odds with North Carolina leaders over the state's so-called bathroom bill and an elections law overhaul, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch returned to her home state Tuesday to celebrate local police work she would like to see modeled across the country.
Though Lynch in remarks to reporters reiterated the U.S. Justice Department's stance against House Bill 2, a sweeping measure that includes a provision requiring transgender people to use the bathroom consistent with the sex on their birth certificates, Lynch's time in Fayetteville focused on community policing and bridging gaps between officers and the cities they serve.
Lynch chose Fayetteville as a stop in the second phase of her Community Policing Tour because it's a city with a police force that has been working for several years on becoming more transparent.
In 2012, after complaints about racial profiling and traffic stops that led to vehicle searches, the City Council prohibited police from searching vehicles unless they had written consent from the driver.
In 2013, the city hired a new police chief, Harold Medlock, a law enforcement officer with a background in community policing.
Not only did Medlock immediately order his officers to stop motorists only for the most serious driving offenses, but he also instituted other changes designed to build trust within communities that had been at odds with the Police Department.
“What I will tell you very candidly is no one said things are perfect,” Lynch said afterward.
But she lauded the city – and its police chief – for holding tough conversations and working together to try to solve problems that caused ministers and others in the black community to talk about being pulled over by patrol officers for what they called “DWB,” or driving while black.
Lynch heard from officers and community leaders who had gone through diversity training and other programs designed to offer a different perspective on their work.
Charles Cochran, a Fayetteville police sergeant, told Lynch and John Bruce, the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina, that he recently attended a “Rank and File” forum in Washington. He said he appreciated the idea that police officers should drop “the warrior mentality” and instead realize that “we're not over the community; we're part of the community.”
Community leaders also talked about the need for those having difficulty trusting that police are there to help them to talk with officers and administrators to let them know why they feel that way. Lynch also noted that police, too, can be reluctant to change.
“You can get something,” said Dollie Manigo, a pastor in Fayetteville, “but you've got to give.”
The need for frankness and sharing ideas and concerns was the theme of the day.
Lynch started out her day meeting with a student advisory council, high school students from across the city who meet regularly with the chief and law enforcement officers to talk about anything.
Sixteen students from four Fayetteville high schools got out of their regular school schedules Tuesday to meet with Lynch, ask questions, and give her ideas and advice for President Barack Obama.
Lynch's tour grew out of the president's “21st Century Policing” initiative that was created in the wake of the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., at the hands of white officers.
One of the things that turned Lynch's focus to Fayetteville was Medford's voluntary request for the U.S. Justice Department to review his department.
That review turned up 49 problem areas and led to recommendations for improvements.
The high school students gathered at Terry Sanford High School offered a few suggestions Tuesday while discussing their experiences with Lynch, a North Carolina native who posed for selfies with the teens before touring the Police Department's body-camera facilities.
Valerie Key, the student body president at the school, told the chief that young people might find police more approachable and have more confidence in them if they knew better what they were doing.
Key was the only student in the group who followed the department's Twitter account.
“The reason they don't have a lot of followers is they don't post enough,” she told Lynch, while gently chiding a chief who was in high school, he said, “when tablets were stone.”
The department's public information officer posts more often on its Facebook site, the chief acknowledged, but he suggested to a show of enthusiastic hands that students come with him to the City Council to request a job – “at $15 an hour” – for a new staffer more adept at social media.
“I keep telling people: Facebook – Facebook, that's for old people,” Medlock said.
Kendrick Swinson, a senior at Pine Forest High School who joined the student advisory council to many quizzical looks from his friends, told Lynch that his intentions were to buck the troubling trend of teens who were more interested in the street than school.
Swinson gave Medlock pushback after the chief talked about a department initiative in which police invite students to let them know about “house parties” so officers can do a “drive-by” check to cut down on going in to the big gatherings and “shutting them down.”
In the past year, Medlock said 58 of the 60 parties “went off without a hitch.”
But Swinson said police had shut down parties he had attended, and the partygoers had to pack everything up and find another place before being shut down there.
Lynch lauded Swinson for airing his complaint. She used it as an opportunity to discuss the need for many departments to listen more to concerns and to ask for advice on what to tell officials in Baltimore, a city where there is much distrust of police, on her next visit.
One student suggested just listening to people – “Face to face is the set way to go.”
The students, who were quickly at ease with Lynch, suggested more mentoring by police outside the schools and told her they thought officers “should be more like themselves,” as if they were home with their families, not wearing the badge.
The students were curious about the president and how often Lynch met with him. They suggested that she invite him to their next meeting.
“What young people think means a lot to him,” Lynch told the group, as her father, a retired pastor from Durham, watched from the side.
The students summed up the thoughts of many who encountered Lynch on Tuesday, encouraging her to take a message to the White House.
“Tell President Obama he has a great team,” said Dre'Shawn Spearman, a junior at E.E. Smith High School. “If you are representative of the team he has working with him, he's doing a great job.”
Community Policing in the Falls—back to the foot patrol
by Al Vaughters
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Learning lessons and changing perceptions. Those are some of the benefits of the Community Policing program Niagara Falls police are trying out.
“Safe Shopping Days” is the Falls' version of community policing which has been on the books for years, but police just opened the book a few years ago, realizing it is critical to their job to “Serve and Protect”.
City officials believe Community Policing serves a number of purposes: it gets cops closer to the folks they are serving and protecting, and Deputy Police Commissioner Carlton Cain says, it helps to build relationships with businesses and residents.
“It affords us the opportunity to get out in the community and do more things that the community wants us to do, rather than just ride around in a police car and be reactive.”
On Tuesday afternoon “Safe Shopping Days” also might have helped to prepare the next generation of potential police officers for a career of public service, as police took a group of students from Niagara Catholic High School with them as they patrolled the Pine Avenue business strip.
The education component of Community Policing is a joint effort of the mayor's office, the Niagara Falls Police Department, Niagara Catholic H.S., and Niagara University.
Police officers teach classes at Niagara Catholic, and students get credit at Niagara University from their firsthand experience. Student Lauren Licata said it is something they can share with others.
Lauren is the daughter of Police Lt. Thomas Licata, and the outing convinced her that people need to see there is more to policing than arresting people, “They don't like police officers or law enforcement, and other people see things on TV and interpret it differently than it really is. So it is good to know what really happens.”
Niagara Falls cops also recognize community policing cuts both ways–real life, not a TV drama, which Cain said can be frustrating at times.
“Not only do people expect us to solve a crime within 30 minutes, but in reality they forgot how important the community is with us solving crimes. Without the community most crimes, still to this day, go unsolved.”
Cain explained Community Policing is 99% foot patrol, a throwback to the cop on the beat, but during summer events, they also patrol on bikes. So far, officials have not compiled figures on Community Policing's effectiveness in fighting crime, but Cain was emphatic when he said, “the public loves it.”
‘Community policing at its finest': cops called on kids playing soccer, officers join game
by Jenny Sung
(Video on site)
When Birmingham, Al. police officers were called to break up a game of soccer played by neighbourhood kids, they decided to join in on the fun instead.
“There's one person who continuously calls [the police] and kind of wants us to tell them to go inside, and I'm not going to do that. I can't ethically tell children to stop playing,” officer Jordan Burke told WBRC.
According to Burke, the children, aged six to 10, live in an impoverished neighbourhood without a playground. The children were playing in the parking lot of a tractor company, whose workers do not mind having their lot used as a soccer pitch after office hours.
“That area, there isn't much out there for them to do,” Burke told local news site Alabama.com. “There are a lot of burned-out buildings and I'd rather them be playing soccer in a parking lot than playing in a burned-out building.”
Burke posted a video of the impromptu soccer match on Facebook with the caption:
“Please stop calling the police telling us to tell children to stop playing outside. This will be the result every time.”
Since the video was recorded, the officers said they have been making efforts to drop by the kids' soccer matches during their breaks on a daily basis. They are also asking the community at large for sports gear donations to ensure the children are safer while they play.
In the video, Burke says to the camera, “That, my friends, is community policing at its finest. Getting our butts handed to us by a group of little kids playing soccer.”
Burke said he and his fellow officers want the children to perceive police as friendly and helpful rather than being scared of them.
“It would be great if people see us as people who are there to help you. We want your kids to run to us, not away from us,” he said.
Report: New Orleans police response times improving, but still areas of concern
The average response time for all calls has fallen from 1 hour and 19 minutes to 1 hour
by Jeff Adelson and Mike Perlstein
NEW ORLEANS — Six months after officials pledged to crack down on abysmal response times, New Orleans police are getting to crime scenes more quickly but are still nowhere near achieving the goals the department set out earlier this year.
While policies aimed at bringing arrival times back under control have had a clear impact on improving the department's 79-minute average response time, the momentum appears to have plateaued, according to an analysis of calls to police.
That comes despite a variety of tweaks to the department, including taking dozens of police off desk duty and putting them back on the streets.
The sheer scope of the challenge coupled with setbacks to new initiatives put in place to address the problem raise questions about what it will take to get units to scenes quickly. While a variety of efforts are on the drawing board, officials say continuing to make meaningful improvements likely will depend on the expansion of the New Orleans Police Department, a plan that could take years and currently has no dedicated funding.
In a joint investigation last year, The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV found that police response times had risen to an alarming rate in the city, leaving victims waiting hours or days for an officer. A new analysis that includes police calls through April shows significant improvement but also suggests the trend toward lower response times has stalled for now. The analysis found:
The average response time for all calls has fallen from 1 hour and 19 minutes to 1 hour, a 24 percent decrease from where things stood as of August. But that means it still takes an officer twice as long to arrive on the scene as it did at the beginning of 2010.
For emergencies such as felonies and crimes in progress, known as Priority 2 calls, the average response time has decreased from about 20 minutes to about 16 minutes. In early 2010, officers would take an average of about 10 minutes to respond to similar calls.
The department is still far from reaching its self-imposed goal of responding to 90 percent of Priority 2 calls in 7 minutes or less, and less-urgent Priority 1 calls in 14 minutes or less. The department hit its goal about 36 percent of the time in April for Priority 2 calls and 39 percent of the time for Priority 1.
There remains a big gap between response times in the best- and worst-performing police districts. Three districts — District 7 in New Orleans East, District 3 in Gentilly and the lakefront area, and District 5 stretching from the Marigny and Bywater to above Florida Avenue — cut their response times in half but are still 20 to 30 minutes slower than other districts.
Officials say there are no easy solutions to bring response times down further. Only beefing up staffing will fix the problem, asserts NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.
“As I've stated, and I don't know how much I have to say it, the only way to really fix this is to add more police officers and to bring them on really fast,” he said.
The changes made by the department since fall largely have been aimed at beefing up the number of officers on patrol, either by directly moving cops onto a beat or coming up with stopgap measures to cut down on the backlog of calls waiting for a response.
The most dramatic measure was changing police schedules from three platoon shifts to five overlapping ones, which added officers during the department's traditional shift changes, a time when unanswered calls stacked up and response times would go through the roof. That policy was implemented in the beginning of November. By the end of the month, 20 minutes had been cut from responses citywide.
That was followed by another initiative: having desk officers respond to nonemergency calls by phone, reducing those response times and taking a burden off the officers on the street.
Another 10-minute drop came at the end of the year, but since then the numbers have remained in the 50-minute range, even as the department moved more than 70 officers from desk duty or specialized tasks to the street after Mardi Gras.
As the department has grappled with the issue, another tactic has arisen. At least in some cases, officers in what are informally known as “hot cars” are being dispatched to scenes to determine whether there is an actual emergency. If not, they leave the scene and ask the caller to wait for another unit to take a report when the schedule clears up.
That gets residents a fast response — and lowers the department's averages — but also does little to reduce the overall amount of time a victim or witness has to wait before an incident is fully addressed by police. The exact effect those policies are having on response times is unclear.
Harrison characterized the program as “smart deployment” that ensured officers were properly prioritizing incidents.
“If there are multiple calls of multiple emergencies coming out with fewer officers, perhaps we can't write the report right then but at least satisfy the emergency,” Harrison said.
Even after the reductions in police response times, it's not hard to find individual stories of residents alarmed by how long it took to see a cop after a crime.
Two warehouse workers who fought off a gun-toting robber in the 1400 block of Montegut Street in April said they quickly called police, worried at the prospect that the robber might still be lurking nearby. The workers said they waited for what felt like 20 to 25 minutes. Police data states it took officers 12 minutes to arrive at the scene after the initial call.
In a separate incident this month, a man living near the Fair Grounds Race Course wound up waiting nearly 5 hours for officers after a house burglary.
Will Bercik said guests staying at his house on North Gayoso Street arrived at almost the same time as a burglar was fleeing out the back. The house had been ransacked. Both Bercik and his guests called 911 in short order, just after 3:30 p.m. on May 13.
If police had arrived right away, Bercik said, he is confident they might have had a chance to catch the burglar.
“Without a doubt. You don't miss the dude wearing Tiva sandals and socks,” said Bercik, 33.
But the crime was treated as a Priority 1 call, according to police logs. A dispatcher told Bercik the wait would be a while. As the hours passed, his guests left. About 5:30 p.m., he decided to make a quick run to the nearby Seahorse Saloon.
“I just literally was sitting there fuming, so I went to get a beer,” Bercik said.
When Bercik returned to his house, police already had dropped by and left. Having missed his chance, he called police again about 6 p.m. Then he waited, police logs show, until officers were dispatched again just before 8:30 p.m.
Bercik said he was pleased with the thorough work of the officer and detective who ultimately showed up at his house. But to him, their effort seemed a waste.
“You showed up way too late to do anything beneficial,” he said.
Since the initial focus on NOPD's response times, the department has worked to integrate the statistic into its regular routines. Weekly meetings at the department on crime statistics now feature regular updates on how various districts are doing.
The department's internal benchmarks are based on a different analysis than that used by The New Orleans Advocate, making direct comparisons difficult. NOPD focuses on the median — the individual calls or calls in the middle of the range — and narrow the different categories of calls more finely. The median emergency call is now getting answered in about 9 minutes, still higher than the 7-minute goal set by a consultant, Berkshire Advisors, at the beginning of the year.
“That's not acceptable. Because we set a goal, and we're always trying to reach that goal,” said Harrison, echoing comments he made as the crisis reached its height last fall.
The department has slid from a peak of 1,600 officers to about 1,165 today but is closing in on increasing patrol officers to 319 as recommended in the Berkshire report through its internal reorganization. While the department is working toward hiring a total of 150 officers this year, those would go to other divisions in the department.
How much the NOPD can grow beyond this year is up in the air, thanks to an April vote in which residents shot down a property tax that was to pay for further expansion.
There also have been other hurdles.
Earlier this month, the state Legislature killed a bill that would have relieved officers of the requirement to investigate minor car crashes, instead allowing them to take reports online or over the phone after the fact.
The Landrieu administration, which made the bill a priority during the ongoing legislative session in Baton Rouge, estimated it could save officers between 3,000 and 10,000 hours of work a year, time they could be responding to other, potentially more critical calls. But it never made it out of committee after the insurance industry lobbied hard against it.
“It's not a little frustration; it's great frustration,” Harrison said of those setbacks.
Another program aimed at lowering response times still is in the works, though its not been rolled out yet. The City Council last year passed an ordinance that would penalize properties that repeatedly are sites of false burglar alarms, which officials argue take up a large portion of officers' time.
Other tweaks that have been proposed include going to an electronic system for tickets and warrants — to save the time needed to travel to fill out the paper versions — and allowing cops to gas up their units at more locations throughout he city.
“All of these new initiatives are all part of putting more cops on the street, keeping more cops on the street, improving efficiency,” Harrison said.
Dayton No. 1 in nation for drug overdoses
DAYTON, OHIO — Dayton ranked worst and two other Ohio cities ranked in the top 10 for drug overdoses in a list released today by an online site.
The rankings are compiled by ArrestRecords.com, which rated Cincinnati sixth and Toledo 10th on the list.
This news organization has detailed the heroin and opiod epidemic locally and across the country.
Drug deaths surge after brief lull
Pill abuse in spotlight after Prince's death
Heroin epidemic traced to Mexican cartels
Coming to Dayton and dying for cheap ‘fix'
The new list was compiled using CDC and state health data for major cities in the United States, ArrestRecords.com said in a news release.
“It's really sad and shocking to see how this opioid epidemic is destroying lives across the country”, said Jennifer McDonald, an ArrestRecords.com analyst. “Communities large and small are being torn apart, and this map and data really shows how bad it is.”
ArrestRecords.com describes itself as a criminal justice and crime portal devoted to compiling data and information on public policy.
The Top 10 Worst Big Cities for Drug Overdoses
- Baltimore, MD.
- Philadelphia, PA
- New Bedford, MA
- Birmingham, AL
- Warren, MI
- Knoxville, TN
- Albuquerque, NM
Public safety is getting short shrift in city's response to homelessness
by Alison Krupnick
LAST May, instead of attending Ballard's beloved annual Syttende Mai parade, as my family has for the past 20 years, we waited for the police. The abandoned house next door to us, one of many in the neighborhood slated to be replaced with a multifamily structure, had become a base for heroin users. It took multiple efforts to get the police and the developer of the property to agree to board up the building.
I didn't realize then that by parade day 2016, Ballard would be gripped by crime and homelessness.
A few weeks ago, I was one of three women accosted by a young man in downtown Ballard. After attacking a woman in a Market Street office building, he entered the parking garage of the Ballard public library, where he harassed a mother and her two young children on the way to story time and then harassed and groped me.
Two days later, I watched as Ballardites restrained a man who had broken a window at La Isla restaurant and tried to cut nearby passers-by with a shard of glass.
A few days after that, I saw police in the alley across the street. I later learned that a body had been recovered near a dumpster there. It was a homeless person who had succumbed to pneumonia.
There was more. An elderly school-crossing guard was attacked at the Holman Road Northwest QFC and later died from his injuries. One sunny Saturday, while walking my dog, I was verbally abused by a man on a stairwell above Golden Gardens.
I admit that, apart from noticing the surge of homeless people in Ballard Commons Park and the proliferation of RVs near the Ballard Bridge, I hadn't given much thought to our city government's responses to the challenges Seattle currently faces.
But I found myself shaken to the core after I was attacked and began to educate myself about these challenges. Here are a few things I've learned:
In the past year, Seattle has seen a 20 percent increase in its homeless population. As neighborhoods like the University District are “cleaned up,” those who have been kicked out seek somewhere else to go. We have homeless shelters, but they typically close by 6:30 a.m., forcing people back onto the streets. If you're not sober, you can be denied entry.
The most shocking thing I've learned so far is that, rather than rally together to figure out solutions, there is a small cohort of critics who say that my neighbors and I suffer from NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome because we worry that the influx of homeless people and drug users in Ballard has not been matched with an influx of social services and that overall public safety is being ignored.
If you had been present the day of the La Isla attack, you would have heard bystanders express hope that the attacker, who we later learned was high on PCP and methamphetamine, would be offered help. People were dismayed that the man found dead near the dumpster had died of pneumonia, surely a preventable fate. Had anyone reached out to help him?
Seattle needs a coordinated plan to deal with the epidemic of homelessness and addiction that plagues our city, and this requires everyone working together. This is no time for petty divisiveness.
Perhaps we can learn from San Francisco, where news organizations are coordinating coverage on that city's homeless crisis to raise public awareness. Or Boston, which has special outreach services for “rough sleepers” who avoid shelters, offering them continuous medical and behavioral health care from roving street teams of professional caregivers.
Perhaps we need to have serious discussions about a state income tax so we have the funds necessary to provide mental-health services. Perhaps we need to tax developers more so that the city has the financial resources needed to fund support measures.
Apparently, the man who groped me is back on the streets of Ballard. I wonder what will happen to him. But I also wonder what will happen to anyone who encounters him. All of the women I've spoken to are avoiding Ballard Commons and the library parking garage, just in case.
Mass. officer shot, killed; gunman on loose
The shooting is under investigation
Duty Death: Ronald Tarentino - [Auburn, Massachusetts] - End of Service: 05/22/2016
by The Associated Press
AUBURN, Mass. — A manhunt was underway Sunday for a suspect who shot and killed a police officer during a traffic stop in central Massachusetts, authorities said.
Auburn police Officer Ronald Tarentino was shot about 12:30 a.m. Sunday after stopping a vehicle on a residential road, Chief Andrew Sluckis said during a news conference. The vehicle's occupant shot Tarentino and then fled the scene, Sluckis said. Auburn is about 45 miles southwest of Boston.
The 42-year-old Tarentino was taken to UMass Medical Center in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead. He had been with the Auburn police force for two years and before that worked with the Leicester Police Department in his hometown.
Police did not provide details about the suspect, saying the investigation is in the early stages. State Police divers searched a pond near the traffic stop.
"We will leave no stone unturned in our investigation to determine who was involved," Sluckis said. He called Tarentino a "dedicated and brave public servant."
State and local police officers lined up outside the hospital as a police vehicle, escorted by a procession, took Tarentino's body to the state medical examiner's office in Boston, where the vehicle was met by another large contingent of officers.
Tarentino was the second police officer to die in the line of duty in Massachusetts this year. State police Trooper Thomas Clardy was killed March 16 when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle.
Outside the Auburn police station, the American flag was lowered to half-staff. The town's residents left bouquets of flowers and miniature American flags piled at the bottom of a stone monument dedicated to law enforcement officers who've been killed in the line of duty.
Residents in Tarentino's Leicester neighborhood remembered him Sunday as a pleasant family man. Tarentino is survived by a wife and three children.
Phillip Stanikmas told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that Tarentino kept an eye out for his 91-year-old mother when she was home alone. Stanikmas said he was "distraught" when Tarentino left the Leicester Police Department because he was a "great guy."
"I wanted him to stay in Leicester," Stanikmas said.
Del. State Police launch online neighborhood watch program
The Delaware State Police is the first state police agency in the country to utilize Nextdoor.com
by The Dover Post
DOVER, Del. — State police on May 12 announced a pilot program with Nextdoor.com, a free, private and secure social network for neighborhoods. The program will enable the Delaware State Police to enhance communication between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve, DSP spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said.
The program is the same as the one announced by Dover police in October 2015.
The Delaware State Police is the first state police agency in the country to utilize Nextdoor.com with selected troops throughout the state piloting the social media platform. Neighbors across the state will be able to work together to increase safety and strengthen virtual neighborhood watch programs with the support of the Delaware State Police and Nextdoor.
The Delaware State Police announced this partnership to provide safer and more secure communities with the help of Delaware residents, Bratz said. Using the system, troopers can effectively share crime prevention and safety updates, free community safety events, and urgent alert notifications. The public can expect to receive posts related to crime and safety updates from the DSP on Nextdoor, he said.
Nextdoor is a free private and secure social media website available to Delaware residents. The website is kept private and accessible only to residents of their neighborhood who have a verified address. Neighbors establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor.com website. The Delaware State Police will not be able to access resident's websites, contact information, or content and only can only see the number of crime and safety posts, Bratz said.
“As a result we can reach out to that community and offer help, direct resources and police services,” he said.
“We encourage others to visit and research the website nextdoor.com and simply follow the easy steps to log in and after establishing their very own website visit help.nextdoor.com for any questions or concerns,” Bratz said.
Police say Nextdoor.com is not the way to request emergency services, police services, report criminal or suspicious activity, file a report, etc. Anyone needing emergency services, will should call 911.
As the Nextdoor program has begun, it has proven to be an essential and well-adopted social media tool to share information for Delaware residents, Bratz said. Already more than 371 neighborhoods have launched their private and secured website. Currently 79 more neighborhoods have initiated their websites in Delaware with more than 25,000 community members actively engaged within the Delaware State Police jurisdiction.