December, 2016 - Week 3
4 dead in Fernwood attack, 15 others wounded in shootings
by Deanese Williams-Harris, William Lee, Rosemary Regina Sobol and Elvia Malagon
Four people were shot dead during an attack in the Fernwood neighborhood and 15 other people, including a 9-year-old boy, were wounded in shootings from Saturday to Sunday.
The quadruple fatal shooting marked the third time in less than 24 hours that a single shooting incident left at least four people wounded.
It happened about 12:40 p.m. in the 100 block of West 105th Street at a home in the Fernwood neighborhood, said Officer Jose Estrada, a Chicago police spokesman.
At least five ambulances were sent to the home after officers were alerted by an anonymous call that several people were shot there, police said.
Two men and two women were pronounced dead at the scene, and a woman in her 20s was taken in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, officials said.
Earlier information stated a 2-year-old child was wounded, but that information was incorrect. Officials later said the child was taken to Roseland Community Hospital for observation, said Jeff Lyle, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman.
Lyle said all of the shooting victims were in their 20s.
At a news conference about a half block from the site of the shootings and with more than a dozen relatives looking on, First Deputy Police Superintendent Kevin Navarro said authorities received an anonymous 911 call of five people shot at the home. Once they arrived they found two women on the front porch — one dead, the other critically injured. Inside, police found two men and a woman, all of them dead, Navarro said.
Police did not provide ages or relationships for any of the victims and the motive for the attack remains unclear Saturday night.
"At this point the case is still unfolding," Navarro said. "We have more questions than answers."
Family said at least four people lived in the house and were tight-lipped about who the shooter is but confirmed he left in a red truck.
Navarro said a weapon was not recovered. Police were expected to be at the scene for much of the night as forensic specialists comb through the home for details.
Police were also expected to check for any past incidences of trouble at the home, Navarro said.
After the news conference, relatives of the suspected dead struggled with the tragedy, saying they still didn't know which of their family members were killed, as authorities hadn't yet released the identities of the dead.
They suspected that one of their cousins was among the dead because he had not answered the phone all day.
"(Why would) somebody do something like this? Just another senseless act of violence," said Melvin Jackson. "This is a massacre, man. Who would do something like this?"
Police offered no information about the gunman.
As word of the deaths spread, family members began to arrive at the home, some in thin jackets, waiting behind the crime scene tape for news about their loved ones.
Relatives said neighbors told them that they didn't hear gunshots but did see a red truck speed backward up the one-way street just before the child fled the home.
Early Sunday, three people were wounded inside a party bus under a viaduct near Lake Shore Drive and Irving Park Road in Lake View on the North Side.
Just before 1:55 a.m., an argument inside the bus escalated when one of the men pulled out a gun and shot two men. A 22-year-old man was shot in the head, and he was in critical condition at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. A 33-year-old man was shot in the chest, and his condition was stabilized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
A 31-year-old man, who is a person of interest in the shooting, had a gunshot wound to his left hand, police said. He was also taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center to be treated for the injury.
An accidental shooting on the West Side about 4:25 p.m. Saturday wounded a 9-year-old boy in the right leg.
Paramedics were called to the 5900 block of West Rice Street in the Austin neighborhood for the boy who had been shot in the right leg. Police said the shooting was accidental and self-inflicted.
The boy was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he was listed in serious condition.
In the Rogers Park neighborhood just before 1:45 a.m. Sunday, a 32-year-old man was shot while he was involved in a fight in the 1700 block of West Lunt Avenue, police said. He was shot in the back, and his condition was stabilized at Presence Saint Francis Hospital.
Two people were shot about 12:50 a.m. while they were inside a parked car in the 8500 block of South Kingston Avenue in the South Chicago neighborhood, police said. A 22-year-old man was shot in the abdomen, and he was taken in critical condition to Trinity Hospital. He was expected to be transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center. A 26-year-old woman was shot in the shoulder, and her condition was stabilized at Trinity Hospital.
A 34-year-old man was critically injured in a fight outside of a bar in the Albany Park neighborhood, police said. Just after 12:50 a.m., he was fighting with a man in the 3100 block of South Irving Park Road when the man pulled out a gun and shot him in the abdomen. The 34-year-old man was taken in critical condition to Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
A 17-year-old boy was shot in the right leg at 7 p.m. in a drive-by shooting in the Chatham neighborhood, police said. The boy was walking in the 8200 block of South Ingleside Avenue when someone inside a black vehicle began shooting at him. The boy took himself to Comer Children's Hospital, where he was listed in good condition.
In the West Pullman neighborhood at 7 p.m., a 28-year-old was shot in the abdomen while he was talking to two men in the 11500 block of South Princeton Avenue, police said. He had been walking down the street when the two men approached him and began talking to him. At some point, one of the men pulled out a gun and shot him in the abdomen. He was taken to Roseland Community Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.
About 6:40 p.m. in the South Chicago neighborhood, someone shot a 26-year-old man in the abdomen while he was standing outside in the 8800 block of South Burley Avenue, police said. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center where he was in critical condition.
About 6:25 p.m. in the Austin neighborhood, a 32-year-old man was standing in the first block of South Leamington Avenue when a gunman confronted him on foot and began firing, hitting him in the groin, buttocks and right leg, police said. He got himself to Loretto Hospital where his condition has stabilized. The gunman ran away north on Leamington, police said.
About 5:05 p.m., a 15-year-old boy was also shot in the right leg. It happened in the 4500 block of South Princeton Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood. He told police he heard shots and felt pain while walking but is not cooperating further with police. He was taken to Comer Children's Hospital where his condition had stabilized, police said.
A 21-year-old man was seriously wounded outside of a funeral home on the West Side. He was coming out of a building about 12:20 p.m. in the 3100 block of West Roosevelt Road when someone inside a blue sedan shot him in the right arm. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical but stable condition. Two people were in police custody in that case, officials said.
3-year-old boy dies in road rage shooting during shopping trip with grandmother in Arkansas
by Fox News
A 3-year-old boy being taken on a shopping trip by his grandmother was killed in a road rage shooting when a driver opened fire on their car Saturday evening because he thought she "wasn't moving fast enough at a stop sign," police said.
The boy and his grandmother were at the stop sign in southwest Little Rock when a driver apparently angry about the delay stepped out of his car and opened fire, police said. The boy was struck by gunfire at least once, they said.
The grandmother, who wasn't struck, drove away and called police from a shopping center. Authorities arrived at the shopping center and found the boy in the car outside a JCPenney department store. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he died shortly after.
Police Lt. Steve McClanahan said investigators believe the boy and his grandmother "were completely innocent" and have no relationship with Saturday's shooter, who was being sought. He said the grandmother simply was "driving the car and was taking her grandson shopping when the incident occurred."
Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner told Fox 16 the shooting is a senseless act of violence.
"I certainly have no information to say that anyone in this family has done anything to cause this young person's life but this is about as frustrating as you can be as a public safety official or just a plain citizen," he told the television station.
Police said they were looking for an older black Chevrolet Impala that was being driven by a tall black man. They hadn't released any other description of the man and appealed to the public for help finding him.
Last month, a 2-year-old girl was killed when a car drove by and someone fired into her vehicle; the shooter in that case hasn't been captured.
Buckner said the road rage killings were frustrating for the police department and the community, especially because the young victims were "very innocent" and "can do very little to protect themselves."
"We cannot have a community to where the least protected among us, being infants, who are dying these senseless crimes in our city," Buckner said.
He said he didn't know if the children's shootings were related.
New App Helps Promote Community Policing
by Kate Denardi
With a rise in public mistrust of police forces in cities across the country, many police departments have been refocusing their efforts on community policing to re-establish public trust.
USPDhub, from LogicTree IT Solutions, is a mobile app that helps bridge communication between local law enforcement and the community they are trusted to protect. The app allows law enforcement to easily communicate with citizens by sending push notifications or text messages to inform them of important and timely announcements, emergencies and alerts, as well as receive crime and safety tips from area residents and businesses.
“USPDhub simplified our police department's process of distributing information to citizens and the media, as well as receiving crime tips from the community,” said Rocklin (Calif.) Police Captain Lon Milka. “It's increased our department's productivity with tools to create and send consistent crime reports, citizen alerts and media releases–especially during breaking events.We can push out information at the same time on multiple channels, including social media.”
Similar products, such as the Community on Patrol (COP) app, have not only led to more positive interactions between the public and police, but have also helped close cases by using community crime tips.
“Safe communities are not built safe–but are made safer with the help of the people that work and live in them by working with their law enforcement agencies,” said Rich Maddalena, CEO of LogicTree. “Community-police relations should be a two-way street, and USPDhub enhances and simplifies that communication link between the police and the communities they serve.”
A major complaint against police forces today is a lack of two-way communication between the public and police. However, police departments struggle with how to listen to their community's complaints and requests. Police forces using USPDhub have found the mobile app helpful in consolidating the public's feeding in an easy-to-use format.
“We have created polls and surveys that allow the citizens to provide us their input through anonymous and recorded methods,” said Portales (N.M.) Police Chief Pat Gallegos. “They are now also able to contact us directly through the app via phone, message, or email.”
FBI raids La. sheriff's office, police HQ
The raid was the latest development in a DOJ investigation of a federal drug task force
by PoliceOne Staff
TANGIPAHOA, La. — The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office and the Hammond Police Department were raided Thursday by the FBI in connection with a DOJ investigation of a federal task force.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, the FBI took computers, cell phones and case files.
The DEA task force is under investigation after allegedly stealing cash from drug dealers, selling confiscated narcotics and tampering with witnesses, the publication reported.
The buildings were shut down for hours as agents searched the facility and conducted interviews.
"They're basically treating these buildings like crime scenes," an unnamed official told the publication.
The FBI, along with the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility and the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, are concerned about the lack of oversight within the New Orleans field division of the DEA.
Two former task force members who worked for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office are facing federal charges.
NYPD officer buys homeless man socks, inspires large donation
Hanes heard of Officer Rendina's kindness and was inspired to donate 500 pairs of socks to the NYPD for New Yorkers in need
by NYPD News
NEW YORK — NYPD Transit Officers Frank Rendina and Mathew Spano had been patrolling the Grand Central subway station when they ran into Ron, a homeless man they have seen many times. After speaking about a recent medical check-up, Ron mentioned that he could not afford a pair of compression socks that his doctor recommended.
Officer Rendina told Ron that he would buy the socks he needed as an early holiday gift. Unknown to the officers and Ron, a passerby captured the interaction and later posted it on his Facebook page, where it was shared hundreds of times. Officer Rendina made good on his promise a few days later, setting Ron up with a new pair of socks.
The Hanes clothing company heard of Officer Rendina's kindness and was inspired to donate 500 pairs of socks to the NYPD for New Yorkers in need. On Friday morning NYPD Transit cops including Officer Redina were on hand outside the Union Square subway station to accept the clothing donation and to thank Hanes.
“All it takes is one small act of kindness to inspire others to do the same,” said Chief of Transit Joseph Fox. “The generosity of Hanes meshes well with the Transit Bureau's overall efforts to encourage homeless New Yorkers to get off the streets and into shelters where clothing and food are available, and where they can be put on a pathway to long-term housing placements.”
The officers turned the donation over to the Transit Bureau's close partners at Bowery Residents Committee, who will get the clothing directly to where it is needed most.
From the FBI
New Top Ten Fugitive
Help Us Catch a Killer
(Picture on site)
A Wisconsin man wanted for a double homicide is the newest addition to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and a reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to his capture.
Terry A.D. Strickland, a 24-year-old Milwaukee resident, is charged with fatally shooting two men last July during a fight outside the house where he rented a room. After the murders, he fled the scene, abandoning his 18-month-old daughter.
“We don't know all the details surrounding the shooting and what prompted it,” said Special Agent Chad Piontek, who is investigating the case from the FBI's Milwaukee Division, “but we know that Strickland is extremely dangerous and he is a threat to the community.”
Milwaukee Police Department officers responded to multiple reports of a shooting on the afternoon of July 17, 2016. The bodies of two men—ages 38 and 39—were found outside the residence where Strickland appeared to be living with his daughter.
According to witnesses, a group of approximately seven or eight men were in front of the residence arguing. Strickland entered the house and allegedly returned with a .40-caliber handgun and began shooting into the group. One man who attempted to stop the argument ended up on the ground, and Strickland reportedly stood over the unarmed victim and shot him repeatedly before turning and shooting another unarmed victim in the head. After the shooting, Strickland fled, leaving his daughter behind in the residence.
Strickland is 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs approximately 240 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. He has no known scars or tattoos. The fugitive has ties to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana and is not known to have traveled outside the United States.
“The most recent information we have is that he might be in a Chicago suburb,” Piontek said, noting that the murder weapon was not recovered and it is likely that Strickland is armed.
Strickland is the 512th person to be placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which was established in 1950. Since then, 479 fugitives have been apprehended or located—and 159 of them were captured or located as a result of citizen cooperation.
“We are asking for the public's assistance to help us locate and apprehend Strickland before he hurts anyone else,” Piontek said. “There is no question that he is a danger to the community. The fact that he abandoned his daughter while fleeing says a lot about his character.”
If you have information regarding Strickland, contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip on our website. Individuals should take no action themselves, Piontek said, adding that any information provided to the FBI can remain confidential.
“We are confident that the $100,000 reward will provide a great deal of incentive to someone with information about Strickland's whereabouts,” Piontek said. “Even his friends and family should be frightened about the violence he is capable of.”
Mt. Vernon officer in 'very critical' condition after shooting; suspect held
by KOMO Staff
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A Mount Vernon police officer shot in the back of the head is in "very critical" condition, a Harborview spokesperson said at a Friday morning press conference.
The hospital said the officer arrived at the hospital unconscious via helicopter and went into surgery about an hour later.
The hospital says the officer, 61, was in surgery for at least a few hours. Hospital officials did not release any updates on the officer's current condition.
"We're doing everything possible," Susan Gregg, Harborview spokeswoman, said. "We're taking this day-by-day."
Gregg said people can show their support by sending an email to the officer's family via the Harboview website and typing "Mount Vernon police officer" in the patient's name field.
"This gives you a chance to offer support without actually coming to the hospital," Gregg said.
Police arrested the suspected shooter early Friday morning, Washington State Patrol said. The 44-year-old suspect was arrested without incident after a 7-hour standoff with police.
The suspected shooter's identity has not been released, as of Friday morning.
Two other people were also taken into custody as "persons of interest," said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Keith Leary.
"A job well done by all law enforcement agencies and we wish the quick recovery of the officer who was shot," said Sgt. Leary. "He's in the hospital now with a gunshot wound. That's the biggest fear of any law enforcement officer out here."
Mount Vernon police initially responded to a domestic disturbance and reports of a man shot around 5:30 p.m. near Laventure Road and Fir Street, State Patrol said.
Multiple agencies and SWAT teams converged on the scene including the Skagit, Island and Whatcom County Sheriff's Departments, Marysville Police and the State Patrol.
The suspect remained barricaded in side the home and continued to fire shots as late as 10:00 p.m. Thursday.
When police arrived, they made contact with the suspected shooter, who then barricaded himself inside a home and began shooting at officers.
Part of the neighborhood was evacuated to a nearby church, where everyone was told to stay inside.
The Mount Vernon officer was shot in head. Sgt. Leary said the officer was conscious and alert immediately following the incident.
Officials say the officer is a 31-year veteran of the force. His name has not yet been released.
"There was a 'bang bang bang'. I had the kids go in the floor and don't really see much," said Maria Zendejas, who lives nearby. "I'm just shaken up with everything that's going on. Poor officer is down. You wouldn't think there's something going on especially just three, four houses down from mine."
Hostage negotiators spent several hours communicating with the suspect and officers fired gas canisters into the home.
At one point, officers thought there were hostages inside the home, though it turned out there were just the three people who are now in custody. All three were taken to the Skagit County Jail.
Sgt. Leary said the primary suspect is violent offender and well-known to law enforcement.
One neighbor, Mark Fossati, said he was fixing Christmas lights when he heard a shot. "I think, God, that sounds like a shot, and then 10 seconds later I heard bang, bang -- two more shots. And I looked around and about 10 to 15 seconds later I heard a shot and then a rapid succession of shots like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Then I knew something was really wrong. These are gun shots, and something serious is going down. So it was pretty terrible."
The shooting, he said, made him feel sick. "It brings it home as far as what our officers do and what they have to put up with and the hard work and dedication and what they do for us and community and how they put their lives at risk every day."
Nearby Laventure Middle School, was briefly put on lockdown. Skagit Valley College also went into lockdown and tweeted to students and staff to get inside and stay inside.
The area remains blocked to traffic while law enforcement officers investigate the scene. Police are asking people to stay away from the area. Sgt. Leary said evacuated residents would be allowed to return as soon as the area was deemed safe.
The names of the suspects in custody and possible charges are expected to be released Friday afternoon.
The first man who was initially shot during the domestic dispute went to a neighbor's house for help and was taken to a hospital.
Law enforcement give the gift of ‘community policing' to kids
by Arthur Mondale
Army Spc. Kristopher Alvarez, a member of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's 289th Military Police Company recalls when his younger brother, a special needs student, first reported being bullied in school.
“He's a special needs student with autism and a speech impediment, who was seen as weird and targeted by the other kids,” Alvarez said. “Many of his classmates didn't want to play with him, while others chose to either verbally insult him, or use physical force. It got to the point that it took a toll on him emotionally and my brother was scared to go to school. It's a situation that I don't want other kids to go through, nor do I want kids to become bullies themselves.”
Alavarz is using his position in law enforcement to actively engage with area kids, parents and school administrators about the dangers of bullying and other law enforcement concerns. On Dec. 9 he along with Lt. Stacey Wilson, watch commander for the JBM-HH provost marshal's office, and Alicia Foye, investigator and forensic child interviewer, met with third-graders from Cathedral of St. Thomas More School's Cub Scout Pack 194.
“Nationwide, bullying remains a problem regardless of age group or type of school,” Wilson said. “Bullying needs to be better defined so that it can be faster identified. Some kids may not even realize that they are bullies themselves.”
“It's about expanding vocabulary, better identifying threats and how they should be reported; these are tools that have to be taught,” Foye added.
Cub Scout Pack 194's visit to the JBM-HH police department also included a more thorough look at the role of law enforcement to include forensics, investigative interviewing, fingerprinting and K9 detection.
“I enjoy showing kids the essential role that me and my partner Luma perform to keep people safe,” said Army Spc. Hunter Vickrey, a member of the 947th Military Police K9 Detachment. “We search for bombs, narcotics, conduct patrol work, building searches — there are many important capabilities executed within this team.”
Alvarez, Wilson, Foye and Vickrey hope members of Cub Scout Pack 194 take the tools they learned back to St. Thomas More School to share with their peers. Moreover, they want to continue to expand their community policing net well into 2017.
“Kids can share information with other kids better than law enforcement can in the end,” Wilson said. “Our job is to continue providing the tools.”
It's an intention that resonated with William Brougham, Cub Scout Pack 194 den leader.
“It's more than just about earning a badge for the boys of Den 3,” Brougham said. “It's important that they learn more about the people in their community and ways to develop and build character. They're on a journey as they grow from little boys to young men.”
Members of the JBM-HH Police Department are open to coordinating visits with other schoolchildren in the National Capital Region. To learn more call Lt. Stacey Wilson, JBM-HH watch commander or Alicia Foye, JBM-HH investigator at 703-588-2800.
Three lessons learned on community-police relations
by Tom Barth
Incidents around the country of alleged and/or proven use of excessive police force against minority citizens and subsequent protests have sparked soul-searching by public officials and calls for action. Charlotte is the latest scene for this unsettling challenge.
I'd like to share three basic lessons that emerged from my participation in two recent responses: a series of police-community conversations over the past year in Wilmington and a recent panel discussion between Charlotte public administrators (representing city and county governments and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police) for students in UNC Charlotte's Master of Public Administration program.
Symptoms of deeper issues
Attention to law enforcement officers and to government response to protests is certainly important. One police official noted we need to learn from training in other countries where there is greater emphasis on first creating distance and assessing a threatening situation instead of immediate engagement.
Managing protests requires on-the-ground coordination and understanding the delicate balance between respecting the public right to protest and protecting property and public safety.
On a deeper level, it's equally critical to address the fear among police operating in African-American neighborhoods that have a history of distrusting law enforcement and “guns everywhere,” as one police official said. In turn, residents fear police who seem to face little accountability for their actions. After the protests, one government official noted how they underestimated the level of pain and frustration in the community over conditions such as affordable housing, jobs, and an overall sense of inequality and powerlessness.
Social media – blessing and curse
The “new normal” means many residents can record events and make them instantly available to scores of people. In the Charlotte shooting of Keith Scott, the cell phone recording released by the family was seen by 500,000 people within hours. Viewers quickly make their own assessments of what they see without context. Unlike years past, today statements flow without any filtering by professional journalists who work to verify information before publication or broadcasting.
Such technology's potential benefit is a more transparent society where those with authority and power have checks on behavior that in the past was not visible to the public. The potential disadvantage is a limited ability by public officials and professional journalists to interpret events, provide context and add to public understanding.
Better outreach needed
A police official stressed that for community relations to improve, police must be better listeners. Listening is not always easy for people accustomed to giving orders and telling the public procedures to follow. At the same time, members of the public don't always encounter police with an open mind. They may make assumptions about motives because of history and can be openly hostile to police who are just doing their jobs.
Community policing efforts are an attempt to make police more visible in neighborhoods beyond just arrests, to increase familiarity and build relationships. But it will take a change of heart on both sides for things to improve. An old saying applies: To get respect you have to give respect. For government officials other than police, it is also clear more effective, continuous approaches – such as ongoing engagement and dialogue – are needed for local officials to better feel the pulse of the community. Inviting residents to open venting sessions at the government center is not enough; local officials need to go into communities and engage all types of grassroots groups, not just those reached through traditional paths, such as religious leaders.
These themes are just a sample of what is being learned by efforts across the country to address police-community relations and tension in neighborhoods where anger and frustration roil beneath the surface. In Charlotte as elsewhere, we need the collaboration of government, nonprofits, universities and community gatekeepers to focus energy and resources on the deeper issues in play.
Perhaps most important, we need everyone to see shootings and protests as our issue, not their issue, and to hold ourselves and our institutions accountable for real dialogue and concrete action.
Oxford Police Department Programs Help Strengthen Community Relations
The Citizens Observer Patrol allows residents and students to help the police that regularly protect them in their communities.
by Mariah Schlossmann
The Oxford Police Department's Citizen Observer Patrol (COP) program is an effective way for citizens to give back to the Oxford community and helps local police, officials said.
“This program provides an invaluable service for us,” said Oxford Police Chief John Jones. “And it's a great way for citizens to interact with the community and the police.”
The services that COP volunteers provide include: controlling traffic in an accident, checking vacant houses over breaks and vacations, acting as school crossing guards, working at sobriety checkpoints, and others where volunteers can do the work.
From doing these various services, Jones said that the police department would not be able to function properly without the help of the COP volunteers, which totals to over 100 throughout the program's existence.
“We can't be everywhere all the time, so we wanted someone who could be another pair of eyes, drive around, and report things they see and also help with other tasks when needed,” said John Buchholz, Assistant to the Chief and head of Community and Business Outreach.
COP is a volunteer program that began around the late 90s and stemmed from the community policing era. According to the National Bureau of Justice Assistance, the community policing era was a collaboration between the police and its citizens to collectively solve community problems.
“The community era of policing was basically the outreach of the police to the community,” said John Buchholz. “It was a chance for the community to assist the police in maintaining the quality of life.”
COP was established with the intentions of creating a stronger community and a way to offer transparency into the actions of the police and their community relations.
Transparency is achieved most successfully when COPs patrol the streets of Oxford.
"It is important to make the citizens of Oxford aware that we have people out there to track them but also to protect them," said Buchholz.
While on patrol, COPs are not able to do much other than keep their eyes and ears tuned into the streets of Oxford. Having a police presence in neighborhoods is good for everyone to see. COPs often make stops at Kroger or run other errands, so that the people see there is someone among them.
These types of programs are commonplace in larger metropolitan areas, but not as common in smaller departments or those in towns with a large university.
According to the COP application, the program functions for three main purposes:
To deter criminal activity in our city neighborhoods, and to reduce the amount of criminal activity in our community.
To increase resident/student respect and cooperation
To further the Oxford Police Department's commitment to the community in accordance with our Mission Statement: “The Division of Police shall endeavor to promote a personalized, proactive partnership between the Police and the Oxford community to reduce fear and incidence of crime, and to solve contemporary problems with the goal of improving the quality of life for all.”
In order to be considered for the program, a volunteer must be 18 or older, a resident of Oxford or a student of Miami University, have no criminal record, submit to a background investigation and be available to participate. It is free of charge to volunteer as a COP. The police department pays for training, background checks and uniforms.
The program includes a fair amount of Miami University students that go through the COP program and become citizen observers during their time at Miami.
“There are regularly around a dozen COP volunteers who are citizens of Oxford, while about two to three Miami students cycle throughout the year,” said Buchholz.
The students who do the program are most often informed about it through the Sociology Department at Miami.
For students in the criminology program at Miami, there is an internship required in order to graduate. The students are able to get anywhere from 4-16 credit hours that count towards their internship requirements.
“There are many different internship roles, but COP is the most common for students to do,” said Glenn Muschert, professor of sociology.
The criminology department has been offering COP as an internship for seven years.
“The students who partake in COP are aware of the type of town Oxford is,” said Muschert. “It's important to realize that it is a small college town with a limited amount of crime.”
Students Gain More Than Experience From COP
Courtney Benner, a Miami junior, said she chose to participate in COP to complete her internship requirement, but also to pursue her interest in law enforcement. She said she hopes to work for the FBI.
Benner majors in psychology and sociology with a minor in criminology, and said she found the skills she's learned through COP may help. Skills such as decision making, problem solving, conflict management and dealing with ethics are all qualities Benner was able to enhance of her own throughout her time in the COP program.
“While the majority of the job is to patrol the streets of Oxford, being a COP comes with many other opportunities to serve the community,” said Benner.
Benner has worked at local community events in Oxford to ensure the safety of citizens, she has been a crossing guard for elementary schools, and, noted as one of her favorite memories, she passed out candy to children on Halloween in the patrol car.
“Being a COP has allowed me to see the city of Oxford in a whole new perspective,” said Benner. “It has given me a greater appreciation and respect for Oxford.”
Sarah Edmonds, a junior at Miami majoring in psychology and minoring in computer science and criminology, is also doing COP in order to fulfill an internship requirement.
“From the program, I've already gotten great exposure to what the police officers have to deal with in Oxford,” said Edmonds.
Edmonds explains that while on patrol, she listens to a police radio and is able to hear how the police communicate with one another and is able to see a glimpse into the daily duties that go into being an officer in Oxford.
Through COP, Edmonds has found a greater understanding of law enforcement and how it works.
“Being a COP has taught me mostly how to have more respect for communities and for those who work to keep them that way,” said Edmonds.
Student to Community Relations Improve
Benner and Edmonds are two examples of how the COP program works to enhance the relationship among the students at Miami, the police and the Oxford community. Both students said they feel a significant change in their relationship to the Oxford community and police since starting volunteering.
“When you go to Miami, you really only see campus and what surrounds it,” said Edmonds. “But something that something that I've come to know is that there is so much more. When I'm on patrol I like to explore a little and I've come across some beautiful places I've never seen before."
The students said they enjoyed their time patrolling and it was a good way to explore the city of Oxford.
John Buchholz characterized Benner and Edmonds' experience as “escaping the bubble.”
“I understand not being able to branch out a lot since your whole life here is studying with short interludes in between, but COP offers students a good chance to escape and learn more about the city a little more,” said Buchholz.
Buchholz said the main goal of the Oxford Police Department towards students is to ensure safety.
“There is a chance that many students don't interact with the police during their time at Miami,” said Buchholz. “But what we want to make sure to do is that we can get the students through their years at Miami without any major problems.”
Muschert referenced “the town and the gown” concept when discussing the relationship between the students and the rest of Oxford. The “town” referenced is the non-academic population, the residents of the community. The “gown” references the university community, those who have worn or will wear an academic gown.
Usually there is tension present in these types of “town and gown” communities, but the relationship between the police and the students is fairly positive in Muschert's opinion.
“The COP program is a role that students can have in helping community concerns,” said Muschert. “In this sense, the students can be seen as an asset and not a liability.”
Miami University senior Annie Fogel said she is unaware of the surrounding areas of Miami's campus.
“I would not be able to tell anyone where the borders of the city of Oxford exist,” said Fogel. “It is crazy to me that you can go here for four years and never really know the community you're living in.”
As appreciative Police Chief Jones is about the help that students and residents involved in COP provide the police, he also recognizes the other important aspect that it has for students like Benner and Edmonds.
“I see the program as an inlet to students of Miami,” said Chief Jones. “They are able to see more that Oxford is a whole community that doesn't just consist of the university.”
AG Loretta Lynch pushes Baltimore to reach police consent decree
The consent decree will serve as a "road map" for changes in fundamental police department practices
by Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Thursday stepped up the pressure on Baltimore officials to reach a deal with the federal government to overhaul the city's police practices. "The ball is in the city's court" to conclude negotiations soon, she said.
Lynch, who took office in April 2015 as riots roiled Baltimore after the death of a black man in police custody, said she intends to return to Baltimore in January to give an update on efforts to reach a court-enforceable consent decree.
Her statements seemed intended to publicly push Baltimore toward a resolution and appeared to reflect a degree of disappointment in the pace of negotiations.
Though consent decrees can take months to negotiate, the federal government and Baltimore already had reached an agreement in principle by August, when the Justice Department issued a report that identified discriminatory policing practices and pervasive civil rights violations.
"We are looking forward to getting a positive response from them in finalizing this consent decree," Lynch said.
A consent decree, filed in federal court and overseen by a monitor, often serves a road map for changes in fundamental police department practices, such as in how officers use deadly force and carry out traffic stops.
The Justice Department opened an investigation into the city police department last year, months after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was injured in a police transport van. A report in August found that Baltimore police officers routinely discriminate against blacks, repeatedly use excessive force and are not adequately held accountable for misconduct.
Pa. state police looking to fill 500 job openings
The state police are looking to bolster the department's contingent of troopers and liquor enforcement officers
by Paul Peirce
PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania State Police are recruiting candidates to fill about 500 job vacancies to bolster the department's contingent of troopers and liquor enforcement officers.
"There are plenty of openings for those interested," said liquor enforcement officer Glen A. Titler of the Pittsburgh District office. "We've had a shortage for awhile."
State residents have less than three weeks to apply for the openings, which offer beginning annual salaries of $42,700 for a liquor control officer and $58,962 for a trooper.
The Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, which is part of the state police, is accepting applications for the next qualification examination to become liquor enforcement officers, while state police are seeking applicants for trooper candidates for the next cadet class. Both deadlines are Dec. 31.
Cpl. Adam Reed, spokesman for the state police, said its trooper ranks are 477 below the full complement of about 4,700. With seven liquor enforcement trainees set to graduate Wednesday, 23 openings remaining there, Reed said.
"We also have a cadet class of just over 100 troopers scheduled to graduate Friday, so that will bring that number down too," he said. Reed noted that state police have not been at their full complement "for several years," mostly as a result of retirements.
Reed said interest among men and women who want to become state troopers has "not really wavered," despite an increase in violence against police.
"We still have experienced a fairly strong demand ... as witnessed by the over 100 cadets slated to graduate," Reed said.
Prospective candidates for both positions are required to complete training at the state police academy in Hershey once they pass entrance examinations, Titler said.
"The Bureau of Liquor Enforcement academy is four months, versus about six months to become a trooper," Titler said.
Liquor enforcement officers conduct undercover and open-enforcement investigations, inspect licensed establishments suspected of violating liquor laws, conduct criminal investigations for illegal manufacturing and sales of alcohol, and seize illegal items. They must be able to prepare citations, criminal complaints and warrants, as well as testify in court.
State troopers provide primary police coverage in more than 1,200 municipalities statewide and patrol all interstate highways. Those duties include uniformed patrol, crash investigation, criminal investigation and incident responses.
While the duties of a liquor enforcement officer may not be as dangerous as a trooper's, they are in harm's way at times.
In September, a liquor control officer on an underage drinking patrol in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh was injured when he was struck in his head by an Erie man. Max Swahn, 20, is awaiting trial in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on charges of aggravated assault, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and underage drinking.
Both jobs have physical prerequisites.
After the written exam, trooper candidates must pass an oral exam, physical readiness test, polygraph test, background investigation and medical and psychological evaluations to be appointed a cadet.
They must have completed at least 60 semester credit hours at an accredited college or university to be accepted into the academy, unless they have four years of previous law enforcement experience or four years of military service.
For a liquor enforcement officer, applicants must be at least 20 years old and have a high school diploma or GED, U.S. citizenship, a valid driver's license and Pennsylvania residency upon graduation.
Both positions pay trainees during their time at the academy.
A small Indiana town doesn't have a police force because all its officers just quit
by Travis M Andrews
The sign, posted on the glass window of the police department, reads “The Town is currently without the Police Department. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.”
It seems like a prop from a dystopian film portraying a post-apocalyptic world, but it isn't. It's an actual sign from a small town in Indiana.
Bunker Hill, Ind., which is home to just about 900 residents, to be specific.
Each and every one of these residents was left without a police department, when the town marshal and four reserve deputies walked out of the job in protest on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
“We have had issues with the town board, and there are some activities there where I felt like they were serving their own agenda,” former Bunker Hill town marshal Michael Thomison told WXIN.
In a statement released Wednesday and obtained by WTTV, the Bunker Hill Town Council expressed surprise.
“The resignation of the entire police force has come as a shock to the council,” it read. “It has never been the goal to dismantle or otherwise endanger the town police department or officers.”
Some of their grievances were of a familiar variety — complaints about financial cuts to the department.
“They would not communicate with us or the officers and they kept scaling back,” said Thomison, a four-year veteran of the force.
He later told Buzzfeed News, “We can't make this up. They were just not receptive to having a police department.”
The cuts, the officers alleged, forced every officer in the department to share a single set of body armor — a lack of sufficient resources that further endangered them.
“I did not want to send someone out there with bad body armor, so I would take mine off and provide it to the other officers,” Thomison told WXIN. “I told them we have to provide this, there is an IC code that explains that and says that the town has to provide that body armor.”
The town council, though, denied leaving the force with only one set of armor. In the statement, it wrote:
The current town council as well as prior councils have, on occasion, had disagreements with Mr. Thomison over a number of things. These disagreements have primarily been caused by the lack of funding available to the town to invest in the police department. However, the council denies that it has failed to provide body armor for the marshal or reserve deputies.
Less familiar were the officers' assertions, written in their resignation letter, that the council asked them to “do illegal, unethical, and immoral things.”
Among these were allegedly being asked by town councilors to secretly run background checks on one another. They claimed the councilors would threaten them — and sometimes follow through on these threats.
“None of us wanted to quit,” Joshua Graham, one of the reserve officers who resigned, told Buzzfeed News. “They just, basically did whatever they wanted to do, whether it's by the law or not.”
Thomison told BuzzFeed News, for example, that one officer found himself in pursuit of a drunk driver, which required breaking the speed limit. Later, that officer was written up for “speeding.” Thomison alleged the reason was because the officer had previously pulled over a council member's wife.
Troy Gornto, another former officer, told BuzzFeed News he was also written up after stopping a council member whose car had a malfunctioning tailgate. His citation was for “abusing town equipment” after pulling the member over. The complaint stated he “took off quickly.”
“It just bothered me because I knew his complaint was unfounded,” he told BuzzFeed News.
The town council also denied this in its statement.
“The council absolutely denies that it has ever asked Mr. Thomison or any of the reserve deputies to be involved in any illegal, unethical or immoral actions,” it read.
Finally, Thomison said after he was diagnosed with cancer, he had to take time off from the force. Upon his return, he was allegedly told to work 29.75 hours a week. The town is required to provide benefits to those who work 30 hours per week.
“They came at me and said it is costing the town way too much money because of my insurance and they said we are taking you down to part time,” Thomison told WTTV.
In a statement, town officials said they are currently assembling a new police force.
“Bunker Hill is in the process of obtaining a new marshal and reserve deputies. The council asks for patience from the town residents in this process,” it read.
Until then, deputies from Miami County — of which Bunker Hill is a part — will patrol the town and respond to calls in Bunker Hill according the Sheriff Tim Miller, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, another bizarre story involving the law was unfolding in the neighboring town of Kokomo, less than fifteen miles south of Bunker Hill. On Monday, the town legalized the arcade game pinball, which had been illegal there for 61 years.
Family demands federal investigation after Bakersfield police kill 73-year-old man
by Veronica Rocha
The family of an unarmed 73-year-old man who was killed by a Bakersfield police officer is demanding state and federal investigations into the shooting.
“It is difficult to accept that our dad's life end so brutally, abruptly and with such excessive violence,” a family statement said. “We felt our dad was stolen from us at a time our family should be celebrating the holidays, birthdays and making happy family memories. Instead, our dad was murdered by BPD. … Our dad was treated like a criminal and we feel he was left die alone without his family by his side.”
Monday's killing of Francisco Serna, who was in the early stages of dementia, has sparked anger and grief in the San Joaquin Valley and raised questions about how the department handles police shootings.
A lone officer fired seven rounds at Serna after he was spotted outside his home just after midnight and refused to take his hands out of his pockets when ordered to do so by police. The shooting stemmed from a neighbor's 911 call saying that a man had menaced her with a gun. When police searched Serna's body and the scene however, they did not find a weapon. Instead, officers found a dark, faux wood crucifix.
At a vigil Tuesday night, family spokeswoman Cyndi Imperial said Serna's relatives have requested an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. They have also asked the California attorney general to appoint an independent investigator in the matter.
Reading from the family's statement, she said the Bakersfield Police Department's “own investigation has confirmed that Francisco Serna was not armed.”
The family and members of the grassroots community group Faith in the Valley plan to hold a news conference Wednesday outside City Hall, where they are expected call for better police training, greater transparency and broader diversity in the department.
On Tuesday, newly named police chief Lyle Martin disclosed details of the shooting and acknowledged that the community has been deeply affected by Serna's death.
“This is a very tragic incident for their family, for this community as a whole and for the police department,” he said.
The episode began at 12:35 a.m., when a woman arrived at her home in the 7900 block of Silver Birch Avenue — the same block where Serna lived — and began removing items from a friend's vehicle, the chief said.
Serna approached the woman, stood behind her and questioned her about living in the neighborhood. She told police he was acting strange. He then asked her if he could get inside her vehicle, the chief said.
During the exchange Serna had one hand in his pocket, Martin said. The woman told police that she saw a black- or brown-handled object in his jacket and that she believed it was a firearm.
Her friend opened the car's back door and allowed Serna to look inside. As the woman ran inside her home and told her husband to call police, her friend drove off. The husband told a 911 dispatcher that a man outside had a revolver and had brandished the weapon, the chief said.
Two police officers responded just after 12:40 a.m. As officers and the couple stood outside, the woman spotted Serna exiting his home across the street.
Martin said she pointed toward Serna, and said, “That's him.”
The couple rushed inside their home and closed their doors. The officers took cover. Serna kept both hands in his jacket and continued walking toward police as they ordered him to stop and show his hands, Martin said.
Serna ignored the officers' commands and walked toward Officer Reagan Selman. When Serna was 15 to 20 feet away, Selman fired seven rounds at Serna, he said.
Martin said Selman “made that decision” as Serna moved toward him.
Serna was struck and fell in the driveway. It is unclear how many rounds struck Serna.
“No lower levels of force were attempted by any officer,” Martin said.
Serna never lunged or threatened officers, he said.
Martin said 20 to 30 seconds had elapsed between the woman identifying Serna and the officer firing the first shot. By then, five more officers had responded and saw the shooting. None of the other officers fired any rounds, Martin said.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Serna's family was prevented from seeing and comforting their mother for 14 hours as police investigated the shooting, according to Imperial.
“Family who asked to see their mother was told by BPD that if they crossed the police line they would be arrested,” she said.
The family said police prevented Serna's wife and daughter from checking on him “even when they asked to be allowed to be next to him just to hold his hand.”
“Details were withheld from the Serna family and they learned from social media and the 5 o'clock news that their dad had passed away,” Imperial said.
Selman and the six other officers were placed on routine administrative leave. Selman joined the force in July 2015. It was his first police shooting.
Bakersfield police had visited Serna's home at least twice before because he would become confused and activate a medical alarm, son Rogelio Serna told The Times. A police spokesman confirmed that officers had visited Francisco Serna's home, but could not provide any details.
Francisco Serna had shown signs of dementia since 2015 and occasionally experienced delusions, his son said. His symptoms seemed more pronounced in the last month, his son said.
About eight hours before the shooting, a neighbor told police that Serna was banging on the neighbor's door and windows, authorities said. The man said Serna grabbed his hand, then tried to drag him outside and challenged him to a fight, police said.
The neighbor said Serna also kept a hand in his pocket and acted as though he had a gun, although he never saw one, police said.
Some Colorado Teachers Are Packing Heat
by The Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — A rural Colorado school district decided Wednesday night to allow its teachers and other school staff to carry guns on campus to protect students.
The Hanover School District 28 board voted 3-2 to allow school employees to volunteer to be armed on the job after undergoing training.
The district's two schools serve about 270 students about 30 miles southeast of Colorado Springs, and it takes law enforcement an average of 20 minutes to get there. The district currently shares an armed school resource officer with four other school districts.
Board member Michael Lawson backed the idea not only as way to protect students from a mass shooting, but also as protection against possible violence connected with nearby marijuana grows, which he believes are connected with foreign cartels, the Gazette of Colorado Springs reported.
He said it will take months to work out the details and to train employees.
School board President Mark McPherson said a survey showed the community was split on the issue. While staffers would get some training, the retired Army officer said he didn't think it would be enough to help them respond effectively to an active shooter. He worries what would happen if they fired and missed in a classroom.
"Our rooms are supposed to be locked and secure. We have cameras. We have a very vigilant staff," he said. "We are authorizing teachers to pull a weapon and kill a human being, and I cannot support that."
He said he is only aware of one marijuana growing operation within about 5 miles of the schools, and he thinks comments about cartel involvement in the area are just rumors at this point.
Some other school districts in Colorado as well as in Texas, Oklahoma and California have also backed allowing teachers to carry weapons following the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
An undisclosed number of teachers and other employees at a one-school district in Colorado's sparsely populated Eastern Plains are currently being trained after the school board approved the move in July largely out of concern for how long it would take law enforcement to respond.
All had concealed weapons permits and volunteered for the duty, Fleming School superintendent Steve McCracken said. They all must undergo an initial 46 hours of training, including live fire training, plus yearly training and undergo a psychological examination. The firearm training costs a total of $3,000, and the district will also have to spend an unknown amount of money to buy firearms and ammunition. But McCracken said that it still makes more financial sense than trying to hire an outside security officer to protect the school.
The latest Colorado vote came on the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. McPherson said the proposal has been in the works since June and the timing of the final vote was coincidental.
What's Needed to Achieve Real Policing Reform
by Joe Domanick
Watch the Link Voices documentary, "South Bureau Homicide," on our website. The film explores the roles of LAPD homicide detectives and a local community's anti-violent crime activists, who together investigate and cope with the violence that plagues parts of South Los Angeles.
Lately, I've been thinking about why only a small fraction of America's 18,000 police agencies -- and particularly their rank-and-file officers -- are defiantly hostile to progressive police reform. It's a critical issue made especially urgent this past year by the stunning, caught-on-camera police killings of unarmed black men and the explosive retaliatory assassinations of random cops.
Then November brought us “tough-on-crime” Donald Trump as America's president-elect.
Supported during his campaign by the powerful, reform-resistant 330,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, Trump nominated the Old South, law-and-order Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as his attorney general, who not only has been a forceful advocate of enhanced police spying and surveillance, but has a history of racist views compelling enough for the U.S. Senate to deny him a federal judgeship.
All of which appears to make the coming Trump era a triumphant one for the hundreds of thousands of street cops, supervisors and middle managers who cling hard to the old policing order -- and a very perilous one for policing reform and efforts to get cops to embrace that reform.
How to gain their support is the essential question. Without their buy-in, policing reform could well drag out for decades, or perhaps simply be abandoned, despite the fact that reform can improve their lives (and protect them).
How can reformers and senior police executives convince cops that they stand to gain as much as the communities they serve from real reform? What kind of training could advance reform goals?
Los Angeles Cops Speak Out
Last January, I was asked to speak to a group of about 25 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). I immediately accepted because the cops in question were exactly the people I hoped could provide some answers to these questions.
All had volunteered for training as Community Service Officers (CSOs). As such, they were in the vanguard of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's almost eight-year quest to reform a department whose hostile approach to poor and largely African-American residents had been a central factor in provoking the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
I'd been critically covering the LAPD for a quarter-century and written two books about the department. Consequently, the officers' trainers wanted me to tell these CSOs about the department's “bad old days.”
Once inside the classroom, however, the cops quickly let me know that they were having none of it. So I suggested instead that they tell me what was on their minds.
Which they did.
They described their deep frustration at being in the middle of the high-voltage controversies ignited by the massive protests against officer-involved shootings since 2014, which in turn have fueled a national movement for change. Just as strongly, they believed they weren't being listened to, that a great deal of responsibility and blame has been foisted on them, and that they are allowed little leeway when they made a mistake.
I'd often heard far worse from other cops -- particularly about reform -- and found it in sharp contrast to a different message I've been receiving from senior police managers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice where, as the associate director of the Center on Media, Crime, and Justice my colleagues and I have been organizing training seminars for criminal justice journalists for the past decade.
What I found in those seminars was an emerging acknowledgment from chiefs and other high-ranking police officials, mayors, district attorneys and criminologists that police reform was both justified and necessary for keeping the peace between cops and poor communities of color.
A consensus, in fact, had developed among them about what “reform” at its most basic contains:
De-escalation training and a tightening of use-of-force polices to avoid increasing tension during police stops, and to avoid when possible the use of lethal force. Indictments for officer- involved-shootings are extremely rare. But convictions are even rarer: almost none of the officers accused have been convicted, partly because the legal definition to convict is so high, it's near impossible to meet. But this is a crucial demand of African Americans, who are often the victims of those shootings.
A community-service policing culture in which police officers are integrated into local communities in a way that strengthens police legitimacy, trust and transparency.
Better education for serving officers, and informed training and broader recruitment policies for new ones that can achieve the goals above.
So why is there such a gap between what police managers and experts concede is necessary -- and what their rank-and-file officers believe?
One explanation is that the values of the conservative police culture have been cemented in place over the past 30 years, and are hard to dislodge. During that time, America's militarized “warrior cops” have been fighting ‘wars' on drugs and crime at the behest of policymakers and politicians -- wars in which aggressive arrests have been the principal, and often the only, strategy.
Those wars have “defined the [current] police culture -- its strategies, operations, training and recruitment,” says Frank Straub, an ex-police chief who is now the Director of Strategic Studies at the Police Foundation. “Community engagement and programs -- to the extent that they exist -- are [regarded as] the work of specialized officers and/or units that are typically viewed as distracting from the core mission [of] law enforcement.”
This culture is the heart of the problem.
It represents, Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle told me, “the paramilitary, bureaucratic organizational arrangement of American policing -- one that is notoriously resistant to reform through community policing, de-escalation, providing advanced education for officers and handling the mentally ill.”
In Stamper's view, there's always been a deep division between progressive reform chiefs, and rank-and-file officers; but that divide has turned particularly intense “because of the socio-political climate, police shootings and police assassinations.”
Trying to improve community-police relations and to reduce racism and acts of excessive force,” adds Stamper, are thus “viewed by most in the rank and file as traitorous -- an abandonment [of them] by their bosses.”
Changing that attitude in the current climate of fear is difficult -- but possible.
Some of the fear felt by officers in high-risk neighborhoods is certainly justified. But it's also important to recognize that cops are trained to be fearful -- to watch their backs.
Breaking through this attitude while reducing officer-involved shootings is possible through “de-escalation” training -- which teaches cops to avoid both being confrontational during stops, and placing themselves in situations where they feel compelled to use their weapons.
Teaching de-escalation to academy recruits as the way the department polices, is essential to quickly getting buy-in from new cops.
But “you can't teach it when the officer is facing a real deadly threat,” says Frank Straup, “You have to balance the presentation with real-life exercises so that an officer can weigh his options. It is not just a different focus on training, but explaining to them [and constantly to the entire agency] how they'll be safer by using de-escalation strategies.”
Another concrete way to reduce both police fear and police shootings is to cut down the number of routine stops based solely on fishing expeditions.
The New York City Police Department, which was notorious as late as 2013 for its stunning number of stop-and-frisks, has since dramatically decreased them. Crime in New York has, nevertheless continued its decades-long decline without putting officers in hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous situations.
In fact, despite the very real, extremely worrisome advent of sniper killings of police, officers are generally safer today. According to Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of Southern Carolina and former police officer, “FBI data on police officers ‘feloniously killed' -- killed as a result of a criminal act – indicates that the numbers have been falling.”
Also making reform more difficult for police managers is the fact that they can give orders, but there's no guarantee that they'll be carried out. Cops aren't soldiers trained in organizations where taking orders is a given. Police agencies are half civilian, half para-military.
“That's a major difference, says Ron Noblet, the dean of L.A. gang intervention professionals and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “Cops are simply not as strongly bound by orders as the military, and many have unions to protect them. So they push back.”
The Union Issue
To counter this pushback, police managers must first use the carrot of encouragement, constantly explaining why reform will be good for them and the department, while reminding them that reform -- while a long-term, on-going transformation project -- is happening now.
A key is vigorously targeting middle-management -- and particularly lieutenants and sergeants in the field -- to insure that they're carrying out reform policies; rewarding those who are doing so, and sanctioning those that aren't.
In short, when necessary, reform chiefs must be hard on these members of the police bureaucracy negative to change. Because they're the hub around which the department spins and resistance festers.
You can't lecture [a reform] attitude into police officers -- or [just] do it through policy and procedures and improved training -- and expect reform to really become integrated into the culture and the structure of law enforcement,” explained Stamper.
“Police chiefs are also going to have to say “if you want to be a cop in this city, these are the standards you must meet; failing to meet them means that you cannot be a cop in this city.”
Concurrently, reform chiefs must define the mission, and continuously model the desired behavior, by treating officers with the same respect and fairness they want their officers to apply in their interactions with community residents.
And political support, as noted above, is essential. You can find examples all over the country -- from Indianapolis to Washington DC -- where an “outsider” chief without a strong political base of support was defeated in his or her reform efforts by local police unions welding far more political support.
Reform chiefs should also work cooperatively with official police oversight agencies. In many cities they have been major players in achieving changes in police culture. Police managers should see them as critical allies.
This is precisely what occurred when the Los Angeles Police Commission pushed LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to cut down on officer-involved-shootings by significantly revising the department's shooting policy; and also by requiring both body and dashboard cameras be used by officers in the field.
These cameras proved to be an enormous help in better adjudicating use-of-force disputes. Beck got pushback from the department's union, but those key reforms were big gets, and are now, or soon will be, facts of life in the LAPD.
The wars on drugs and crime have made what can inherently be a dirty job even dirtier; making cops in the process absolutely hated by many of the people most in need of their protection. That's a terrible thing to experience day-after-day when a cop goes to work.
Community Service Policing (CSP) will benefit police officers. In many cities, residents of low-income communities of color simply refuse to even talk to the cops patrolling their neighborhoods. That's a recipe for constant tension.
Once CSP has been established, police managers must avoid the temptation of changing or diluting the strategy when an uptick in crime brings calls for tougher policing. CSP is a long-term, transformative process. It must be carefully nurtured and expanded and sold throughout the department.
It is at the heart of culture change, and officers have to recognize that.
Moreover, if police managers make clear that success in CSP is one of the factors taken into account for promotions and recognition, officers will learn to value it.
Making CSP officers the “elite” unit of a policing organization is another way to encourage police buy-in. Typically, cops want to be in elite units because these have long been an avenue for promotion. The LAPD is rewarding officers who agree to become CSP officers for five years, with a promotion of two ranks.
“Stipends should also be paid, for community engagement, problem-solving, and being in specialized training like crisis intervention,” says Frank Straub, who adds that assignments to specialized community-based activities should be …considered in performance appraisals, promotion and assignments.”
Reducing the disdain and contempt many cops feel towards reform will be an extremely difficult task -- and for those cops who are already “battle-scarred” and cynical veterans, may be almost impossible.
No amount of telling them that reform is the only way to avoid racialized and class-based animosity (and potential violence) between them and poor people is going to change their minds.
What Outside Reformers Need to Do
Nevertheless, outside reformers can do their part by understanding that the changes they're advocating could, in the eyes of many cops, negatively affect their lives and their livelihoods. They could start by dialing back the rhetoric that blames cops for what many officers regard as sins of the past, like the wars on drugs and crime; and by not assuming, ipso facto that most, if not all white cops are racist.
“Psychologists may be right that (bias) exists in all of us,” says Richard Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. “But to police officers implicit-bias testing is loaded with blame, and the implication is that they're racist, and at a time when [racial] tensions have skyrocketed.”
Second, these same reformers need to start naming, championing, supporting and working with reform chiefs and commissioners like those in cities like Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston and New York -- as well as other parts of the police establishment -- who have taken upon themselves the enormous task of transforming a strictly repressive, resistant police culture.
Finally, the real hope for transformative change in policing lies in recruiting and training. Police recruits who want to be cops because they have controlling personalities are the wrong fit for community policing.They are not likely to buy into de-escalation training, and far more likely to start a series of actions that lead to violence.
Instead, empathy, compassion and problem-solving skills should be the key to recruiting for change. First responders -- EMTs -- might present a good model.
The new, 21 st century police officer must also be a highly paid professional open to change and different perspectives, multi-dimensional in his or her ability to do the complex jobs community policing and community building; and, as Straub put it, “be able to enforce the law with legitimacy and empathy, even while protecting the community and themselves from truly violent and dangerous persons.”
For decades America's police have wrapped themselves in what former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has called a “Blue Cocoon” -- where “all your friends are cops, all your talk is cop talk, and all you hear are cop ideas.”
Inside that cocoon is a strictly punitive view of their jobs, and contempt for much of the public. It hasn't served them well. They're doing a tough and necessary job, often with great dedication. Yet they know they're more than just not appreciated: they're actively despised by millions of millennials and poor people of color.
Policing as envisioned by reformers in and out of policing isn't a threat to cops but an opportunity to be part of what can and should an ennobling profession.
Shouldn't all cops want that?
City Hall in no rush to improve police training
by Daniela Porat
Buffalo officials are in no hurry to address the police department's lack of training in tactics that many other cities have deployed in response to police shootings of African Americans in Ferguson and elsewhere.
In fact, Mayor Byron Brown said he is satisfied with the status quo. He said he sees no need to improve training programs that show officers how to de-escalate potentially volatile situations and make restrained use of force in dealing with citizens.
“We are very pleased that when you look at what's happening here in Buffalo versus other parts of the country, we are not experiencing the same problems and difficulties that other police departments, other communities have experienced,” Brown said.
Some members of the public dispute his point, including Denise Walden, a community health worker and a mother of four.
“Right now I'm on edge, waiting for something to push us past the boiling point,” she said, viewing incidents in other places as warnings of what might happen here.
“I wish people would stop saying that this doesn't happen in Buffalo.”
Common Council members who represent districts that comprise most of the city's minority population had a muted response to the department's lack of de-escalation training.
Masten Council Member Ulysees Wingo, who has staged protests on the Council floor against racism and police shootings of African Americans, agrees with the mayor that there's no immediate need for more training.
“My position is that because we haven't had incidents like we've had in the rest of the country, I do believe that whatever [the police has] been doing has been working,” he said.
Council President Darius Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, and University District Council Member Rasheed Wyatt both said they would seek changes to the police's training if necessary.
“If Buffalo is behind, we need to catch up,” said Pridgen. “We need officers who are confident in their abilities, especially to de-escalate.”
But all three members agree that the issue can wait until the Council's Police Oversight Committee meets on Jan. 24.
Lack of training detailed
An Investigative Post story published Oct. 31 found that the police's annual training in firearms and the use of force falls short of both statewide and national practices.
The department's use of force training is not focused on de-escalation tactics; nor does it place officers in real-life scenarios to teach them how to handle stressful situations.
Firearms training here also falls short of best practices. Officers are not trained to handle their guns in scenarios that simulate the kinds of stressful interactions they would encounter in real life.
Buffalo police this year will receive only two hours of training in firearms and use of force compared to 11½ to 20 hours in other urban departments surveyed.
The Police Oversight Committee has not pushed the department to improve its training, despite it being a priority for the committee. Niagara District Council Member David Rivera, who chairs the committee, said he does not know how the police spent $60,000 the committee provided for training in 2014.
Kevin Kennedy, the president of Buffalo's police union, said his officers are “starving” for training in the use of force and firearms.
“You could overcome so many bad scenarios, bad outcomes if you train your people properly,” he said. “It's not a good idea to address the problem after it happens. It's a good idea to address it before it happens.”
Nevertheless, Brown and Wingo maintain that because Buffalo has not suffered such a Ferguson-type tragedy, the police department's current training program is sufficient.
“Clearly we must be training our officers pretty well in those areas in those few hours that they're being trained in order for them not to have had the occurrences that are happening across the country.” Wingo said. “For all the people who have experienced police brutality, there are countless others who have not experienced police brutality.”
Wingo denied any inconsistency between his protest on the Council floor against police shootings and racism and his statements suggesting police misconduct is not an issue in Buffalo.
When asked repeatedly whether non-lethal police brutality factored into his protest, Wingo said he was focused on fatal shootings of unarmed, mostly black, civilians, and the “devaluing of black lives” through institutional racism.
Other Council members have concerns about the potential for problems in Buffalo.
Pridgen, at an event hosted by Investigative Post in January, alluded to the potential for conflict in Buffalo.
“Can there be a Ferguson or a Baltimore in Buffalo? Absolutely,” he said.
After the Investigative Post story published in October, Pridgen asked Deputy Police Commissioner Kimberly Beaty for a copy of the department's detailed training curriculum.
“I think we both fundamentally agreed, that if there needs to be changes, let's make the changes,” he said of their phone conversation.
“When you've got the police union, the head of the union saying, ‘Hey we need more training,' you have people saying ‘We need more training,' you have officers saying ‘We're not resistant to more training,' the only answer I have: let's do it,” said Pridgen.
Wyatt echoed Pridgen's call to address training shortcomings – albeit in late January when the Council's Police Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet.
“I certainly don't want an officer to be in a situation where because of their lack of training they're not able to meet that demand for that moment in time.” said Wyatt. “I think it's so very crucial to arm them to handle these situations because I certainly don't want to see a Ferguson here in the City of Buffalo. ”
Mayor sees good community relations
The mayor, pointing to the police's diversity and community-policing programs, said the relationship between the police and citizens is strong.
He praised the Buffalo Police Department's 21st Century program, a scholarship initiative geared towards increasing diversity on the force. Brown also spoke highly of the department's community policing program, which consists of 11 community police officers – two for each police district and one for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.
“We have very well-trained police officers,” he said. “I believe we have one of the best police departments in the country.”
This year police will receive three hours of training in ethics, three hours in cultural diversity, and a one hour community policing update.
“We're always looking to expand our training,” he added.
Some residents laud the department's interactions with the community. For example, Lesley Haynes, who attends monthly block club meetings with community police officers in her police district, has applauded the department's new Language Access Plan at community gatherings. The initiative is focused on ensuring non-English speakers are able to communicate with police through in-person and telephone interpreters, among other services.
Distrust of police
While the mayor maintains that strong relations between police and community obviates the need for additional training, many residents view matters differently.
“There are little kids in our neighborhoods that fear law enforcement” said Walden, the community health worker.
“If my young kids notice there's a problem, they're not looking for officers. They're looking for a neighbor, they're looking for a mailman. They're looking for people that they're familiar with, that they feel comfortable with, that they trust.”
Her position is backed up by research conducted by Buffalo's Partnership for the Public Good, a community think tank and advocacy group that published a policy report Nov. 18 about police-community relations. The report issued five policy recommendations to enhance police-community relations in the city, including improving training; increasing the force's diversity; and facilitating data dissemination and making the police disciplinary process more transparent.
The partnership's recommendations were based in part on the findings of a survey of 2,018 city residents conducted by Open Buffalo that found wide distrust of police.
Only 30 percent of black residents said the police works well with their neighborhood and 44 percent said they trust the police enough to call them in an emergency.
The partnership's report said this fear is partly attributable to largely negative interactions many residents have with police. For example, while African Americans comprise 14 percent of the Erie County population, they accounted for 43 percent of arrests between 2007 and 2011, according to a partnership study.
“A significant part of the community does not trust the police department because they only encounter them in enforcement circumstances,” said Steve Peraza, a history professor at Buffalo State and policy analyst with PPG who co-authored the recent report. “That part of the community wants to trust the police, but they don't know how to bridge that gap.”
Instead of limiting community policing to the group of 11 officers, Peraza and his colleagues recommend community policing be better integrated into the practices of patrol officers, an expansion Beaty, the deputy police commissioner, supports.
“Until we can get the community to feel like the police is not just targeting them, the relationship will remain the way it is,” he said. “That's kind of why we're tempting a Ferguson.
Newest members of college police departments: Bomb-sniffing K-9s
Campus police chiefs say having a K-9 in place will help their departments respond quickly to threats and improve relations with students
by Jennifer McDormott
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More colleges are getting bomb-sniffing dogs in a time of always-looming security threats, with two in New England among the latest.
Black Labradors named Figaro and Bella attended the same training class and arrived in October at the University of Rhode Island and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, respectively.
Many colleges have used dogs for years to look for drugs. And while some larger schools have had explosive-detection dogs for a while, there has been an uptick in the past year or so, said David Bousquet, president-elect of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
"You have to prepare for that and say, 'I'd rather have the protection and not need it, than need it and not have it,'" he said.
Colleges are often a community's hub — the very place bombers seeking maximum carnage would strike, authorities say. The openness of most campuses makes them inherently hard to close off, and some colleges note their events are increasing in size.
And if a threat or bombing occurs, college police don't want to have to wait, sometimes hours, for dogs to arrive from other departments and help do sweeps.
More federal funding is now available for schools to get dogs through the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, Bousquet said, and the law enforcement community in general has adopted a mindset that violence can happen anywhere. The recent car and knife attack at Ohio State, while not a bomb or bomb threat, underscores that reality.
North Carolina State University got two dogs this summer. Yale University in Connecticut has had one for a few years now, as have some schools in the California State University system.
Ohio launched a program in 2014 to place explosive-detection dogs at public colleges. Eight schools received them, including Ohio State, and the initial cost of about $12,000 per dog was paid by the state, according to Ohio Homeland Security spokesman Dustyn Fox.
Campus police chiefs say having a dog in place will help their departments respond quickly — and can improve relations with students.
"They just feel safe seeing these dogs and knowing they're at work, helping to contribute to the various things the police department does to keep them safe," said Anne Glavin, police chief at California State University, Northridge.
"And who the heck doesn't love a dog?" she said. "Well, a cat lover, I guess."
73-year-old Calif. man with dementia fatally shot by police was carrying crucifix, not gun
by Travis Andrews
Slightly after midnight on Monday, police in Bakersfield, Calif., received a call concerning a man thought to be brandishing a weapon in a residential neighborhood.
Shortly after police arrived, 73-year-old Francisco Serna — who family members said was suffering from the early stages of dementia — walked out of his home and into his driveway. When Serna, who was unarmed, did not comply with officers' orders to remove his hands from his jacket pocket, one officer fired seven shots at him, killing him.
During a canvass of the premises that lasted at least until the following afternoon, police did not find a firearm on or near Serna. Instead, they found a crucifix.
“During a search of Mr. Serna, a dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix was recovered,” read a statement from the Bakersfield Police Department obtained by USA Today. “Mr. Serna was not armed at the time of the shooting. No firearm has been recovered.”
At a news conference on Tuesday night, Bakersfield Assistant Police Chief Lyle Martin identified the shooter as Officer Reagan Selman, who joined the force in July 2015.
This was the first time Selman had discharged his weapon in the line of duty.
The 911 call came from a household on the block where Serna resided. A woman who lived there arrived home just after midnight. She was unpacking the car when Serna approached her.
Serna asked why she was at her house, according to Martin, and then asked if he could get into the car. Throughout this conversation, Serna kept one hand in his pocket.
The woman noticed a black- or brown-handled object sticking out of his pocket that she took to be a gun. She rushed inside and told her boyfriend, who called the police.
Two voices appear on the 911 call, which was released by police.
First, a boy can be heard saying, “There's a man outside my house with a gun.”
Then, his voice is replaced with a deeper one. That person told police that a “Mexican gentleman” in his late 60s outside their house was in possession of a revolver and was “brandishing it at women outside.”
When asked by the dispatcher about the gun, the man said, “It looked like a revolver.”
Two officers reached the house at about 12:40 a.m. and spoke with the couple. It appeared that Serna had reentered his own house at this time.
After a few moments, five more officers arrived. Meanwhile, Serna walked outside his house, prompting the woman to point and tell police, “That's him.”
Serna walked toward the officers, who had taken cover. The officers allegedly told him to remove both his hands from his jacket and to stop walking toward them.
“As Mr. Serna got within 15 to 20 feet … Officer Selman fired seven rounds at Mr. Serna, striking him,” Martin said at the conference.
“Nothing that I've been told up to this point and nothing in the investigation up to this point indicates a lunging or threatening [of officers] or anything of that nature,” Martin said.
Speaking with ABC News Tuesday, Sgt. Gary Carruesco of the Bakersfield Police Department said officers at the scene were not wearing body cameras and there was no dashcam footage.
Martin said this was the second time the police had been called to the 7900 block of Silver Birch Avenue in a 24-hour period.
At about 4 p.m. Sunday, one of Serna's neighbors reported that the 73-year-old was banging on his doors and windows. When the resident answered the door, Serna kept one hand in his jacket and “was attempting to pull this subject out of his residence with his other hand.”
“The resident felt that Mr. Serna had a firearm. However, he did not see one,” Martin said. “But by Mr. Serna's body language, he surmised Mr. Serna had a firearm.”
Serna then left without incident — until police were called out again less than 24 hours later. It was not clear from Martin's remarks Tuesday whether police responded to the first call regarding Serna that was placed Sunday evening.
At the news conference, Martin expressed sympathy for the family.
“I'd like to offer my condolences to the Serna family. This is a very tragic event. It is tragic when a family loses a family member at any time, but when you lose a father or a grandfather during the holiday season, that makes it that much worse,” Martin said at the press conference.
Martin was selected as Bakersfield chief of police on Dec. 6 and will assume the role on Wednesday morning.
According to Serna's children, their father was not a gun owner, nor did he condone gun ownership.
“My dad did not own a gun. He was a 73-year-old retired grandpa, just living life,” Rogelio Serna told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.”
Serna told KBAK that his father was against firearms and “even voted for them to get off the streets.”
According to Rogelio Serna, his father showed signs of the early stages of dementia and experienced delusions. He said the elder Serna had trouble sleeping and would often take long walks late at night by himself, in an attempt to tire himself.
Serna told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday that police had previously visited his father's home on at least two other occasions when he became confused and activated a medical alarm. Authorities did not confirm this.
For years, Francisco Serna had worked at a cotton gin in McFarland, Calif., located about 26 miles north of Bakersfield on Highway 99. He retired in the mid-2000s. He lived with his wife and one of his daughters, according to the Los Angeles Times.
All officers from the scene, including Officer Selman, are on administrative leave and will remain so pending an ongoing investigation, Martin said at the news conference.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Serna's home on Tuesday evening for a vigil. They carried candles, photographs of the man and signs reading, “Justice for Francisco Serna.”
The Bakersfield Californian described the crowd as “silent, respectful and sorrowful.”
There, Cyndi Imperial, a friend of the Sernas, read a statement from the family, which includes Serna's wife of 52 years Rubia, his five adult children, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“It is difficult to accept that our dad's life ended so brutally, abruptly and with such excessive violence. We feel our dad was stolen from us at a time when our family should be celebrating the holidays, birthdays and making happy family memories,” Imperial read, according to the Bakersfield Californian. “Instead, our dad was murdered by BPD.”
She continued, “Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel he was left to die alone, without his family by his side. Our family was questioned and restricted from comforting our mother for about 14 hours, while BPD completed their investigation.”
Sarah Cosper, a vigil attendee, said she worried about her own family.
“Can't our abuelos, or grandfathers, walk on the street without fear of being shot by police?” she asked.
As of early Wednesday morning, 907 people have been fatally shot by police in the U.S. in 2016, according to Fatal Force, The Washington Post's database that collects data on police shootings.
Of those, at least 45 — which translates into 1 in 20 — were unarmed at the time. That number could be larger, though. Of the fatal shootings, details of 64 remain unknown.
Suspect arrested in traffic stop shooting of 2 Ga. officers
Two Lavonia officers were making a traffic stop Monday evening when officials say the suspect opened fire
by The Associated Press
LAVONIA, Ga. — Investigators say they've arrested a man suspected of shooting and wounding two Georgia police officers.
In a news release late Monday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says Khari Anthony Dashaun Gordon was charged with multiple counts including attempted murder and assaulting a police officer.
The two Lavonia officers were making a traffic stop Monday evening in northeast Georgia near a restaurant when officials say the 22-year-old Gordon opened fire. Both officers were hit.
The GBI says their injuries were not life threatening and they were both taken to the hospital for treatment.
The shooting marked the second time Monday that two Georgia officers were hit by gunfire on the job. Two Byron police officers were shot and wounded executing a search warrant early Monday morning.
Tenn. officer shot while trying to serve warrant
The officer was shot in the shoulder and suffered non-life-threatening injuries
by The Associated Press
A man suspected of shooting and wounding a Nashville, Tennessee, police officer has been found dead in a motel room.
Police tweeted that they found the gunman who shot the officer dead inside a room at the Cumberland Inn on Tuesday morning, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police say the wounded officer, Terrance McBride, was shot after entering the motel room to serve a warrant. McBride has worked for the agency for three years.
Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said McBride has a serious shoulder wound, but he is expected to make a full recovery.
99 Dallas officers quit in 10 weeks
The department has hired only 30 people for the next academy class in February
DALLAS — Ninety-nine officers have quit or retired from the Dallas Police Department since October, continuing an exodus that started last year.
Meanwhile, the department has hired only 30 people for the next academy class in February. Police officials aimed to fill the class with 60 officers, Interim Police Chief David Pughes told council members Monday at a public safety committee meeting.
The shrinking department is down to 3,252 officers, well below the desired 3,500. The force hopes to hire 449 officers this year to make up for attrition. Council wants police staffing to average three officers per 1,000 residents.
The department is faced with a troubled police and fire pension fund, low salaries compared with other cities and a rising crime rate.
Recruitment is lagging behind the rate at which officers are leaving. Last fiscal year, which ended in September, 294 officers left the department, and the department hired 142 officers during the same period.
The losses have hit every part of the police force, Pughes said.
There are only 13 motor jockeys, the cops who are likely to patrol school zones with their motorcycles, often writing speeding tickets. Last year, there were 22.
A property crimes task force was disbanded last month because there weren't enough officers. And other specialty units have been stretched thin.
"Being down 400 officers, it's spread throughout the entire department," Pughes said.
The chief said the department is moving resources and officers as needed to ensure there are enough cops to answer 911 calls.
Meanwhile, the department has been battling an uptick in violent crime this year.
There have been 160 homicides this year, and overall violent crimes — a category that includes aggravated assaults, robberies, murders, sexual assaults — are up 12 percent this year over last year.
Much of the increase has been linked to drugs.
"Right now the majority of the homicides we're seeing is home invasions of drug houses," Pughes said.
About 48 percent of this year's homicides have been solved, police records show. Pughes said that number is not higher because witnesses to drug murders are often unwilling to cooperate.
Retired Dallas Police Chief David Brown created a violent-crime task force in March to target high-crime areas.
Recently that task force, which is made up of officers from the K-9, gang, narcotics and tactical units, has been targeting fugitives. Pughes said the group is focused on getting repeat offenders off the streets, the ones who commit multiple robberies or assaults.
The task force is no longer geographically focused on five crime hot spots as it was in the beginning.
Pughes said the task force "continues to do a good job" and uses "intelligence-based policing" to patrol areas with the highest crime rates, which vary from week to week.
Police fatally shoot unarmed 73-year-old Calif. man, who family said suffered from dementia
by Travis M. Andrews
Police in Bakersfield, Calif., shot and killed an unarmed 73-year-old man whose family claimed was suffering from dementia.
Details of the incident, which occurred about 12:30 a.m. Monday, remain scant at this time.
Police responded to a report that a man in the 7900 block of Silver Birch Ave. was brandishing a weapon, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco told KBAK.
When they arrived, Francisco Serna was standing in the driveway, though it is unclear as to why.
“As some point during that contact, an officer fired several rounds striking the individual,” Carruesco said.
In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, the Kern County coroner said Francisco Serna was declared dead on the scene at 1:15 a.m.
After canvassing the area well into Monday afternoon, police did not recover a gun. According to one of Serna's sons, he did not own one.
“My dad did not own a gun. He was a 73-year-old retired grandpa, just living life,” Rogelio Serna told the Los Angeles Times. “He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.”
Rogelio told KBAK that his father was against firearms and “even voted for them to get off the streets.”
According to Rogelio, Francisco showed the early stages of dementia and experienced delusions. He said the elder Serna had trouble sleeping and would often take long walks late at night by himself, in an attempt to tire himself.
Rogelio told the Los Angeles Times police had visited Francisco's home on at least two other occasions when he became confused and activated a medical alarm. Authorities did not confirm this.
Francisco had worked at a cotton gin in McFarland for years, but retired in the mid-2000s. He lived with his wife and one of his daughters, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“At this point, the investigation really slows down while we interview everyone involved, all officers, and attempt to locate video surveillance and things like that,” Carruesco told KBAK.
The officer who fired the shots is on administrative leave pending an investigation, KBAK reported.
Grants to help community policing efforts
by News Plex News Staff
RICHMOND, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- The Albemarle County Police Department is one of three dozen law enforcement agencies across the Commonwealth getting a community policing grant.
It's part of Governor Terry McAuliffe's Policing the the 21st Century Initiative.
The grants support training and equipment to enhance the agencies' community-inclusive policing efforts.
The money for the grants comes from federal funds awarded to Virginia by the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.
"Since the beginning of my administration, my team and I have worked closely with local and state law enforcement agencies to develop strategies that build and strengthen their relationships within the communities they serve," said McAuliffe. "Strong police-community relationships are essential to protecting the safety of families and businesses in every community in our Commonwealth."
Back in August and September, there were four Law Enforcement and Community listening sessions, which drew more than 300 people from various law enforcement and community groups.
Ideas that communities could initiate with grant funding were pitched and then selected for funding.
Some of those community efforts include one-on-one and small group mentoring for youths and their families; training for law enforcement officers in de-escalation and crisis communication strategies; equipment for a police department athletic program intended for at-risk youth; a community collaboration effort to reduce crime between law enforcement, public schools, social services, the Commonwealth's Attorney and nonprofits; and a public school-based youth outreach program to promote positive relationships with law enforcement.
School security chief focuses on relating to students
by Deidre Williams
Aaron V. Young is a familiar presence throughout Bennett High School. As he walks the halls of the Main Street building, students recognize him immediately.
Some know him as coach of the football team. Others see the school district security chief simply as Officer Young.
But many also call him mentor and friend.
"He's a good motivator. He sees people for their potential. If you're not living up to it, he reminds you and gets you back in there and gets you focused on what's right," said senior Nigel Robinson.
"He wants to see all of us achieve," added classmate Kendrick Benson.
Those qualities caught the attention of Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who appointed Young chief of three specialized units last June: schools, housing and the Strike Force.
But the schools unit is where Young's predisposition for mentoring children helps most.
Amid national talk about "community policing" and confrontations between cops and citizens – particularly young African-American males – Young's rapport with students seems the embodiment of what's seen as a way of preventing conflicts rather than dealing with their aftermath.
"He's a perfect fit. His heart is always in it," Derenda said.
Standing in the hallway near the front of the cavernous school just before classes start, Young – a 1991 Bennett graduate – greets arriving students. His uniform's white shirt makes him stand out as an authority figure and sets him apart from two other resource officers with him one recent morning – Juan Phillips and Michael Bennett.
Only 100 12th-graders comprise the traditional Bennett High School, which is being phased out. Maybe the small number of students is why so many are familiar with Chief Young. Or maybe it's his easy smile and accessible demeanor.
As they file in, he greets the students with a wave of the hand or a salutation, and they respond with handshakes and sometimes a hug.
"What's up, man?" Young says to one boy. "It's good," the young man responds.
About an hour later, Young is in the interior hallways, helping herd kids into their classes, clapping his hands to punctuate the officers' directives.
By the time the tone sounds, the hallways are clear.
Teaching as policing
Young's 11 school resource officers cover 61 city schools, but they are not based in the buildings; instead, they patrol the schools on their beats. They respond to emergencies, but also are expected to cultivate relationships with students and staff, whether there's a problem in the building or not.
"They have to visit that school, find out what any issues are, find out how the day is going," Young said. "Just being visible within that school, especially the lunches... because that's where students are more calm and more freeflowing. To sit down with kids while they're having lunch, asking how their day is going – that helps with that engagement."
The officers also attend school meetings, PTA sessions, and block club and other community gatherings to strengthen relationships.
"That's my big plan," Young said. "I don't want our students looking at any officer as just a uniform, badge and a gun. I want that student looking at that officer as, ‘That's Officer Young. That's Officer Westbrook.' I want that student not being apprehensive speaking with that officer about anything."
The approach seems to be working, judging by the adjectives students used to describe Young: caring, inspiring, dependable and intelligent.
"He keeps pushing me, telling me how to fix things. He gives me pointers on life and stuff. He tells me to surround myself with a lot of good people," said student Alex Dildy.
"He teaches you things about life, how hard things can get and how to overcome them, to never give up," said fellow student Marcelus Toliver.
Once the kids realize you care, the discipline part takes care of itself, said Phillips. The 34-year department veteran says being a schools officer allows him to teach, as well as police. As an assistant basketball coach at McKinley High School, Phillips uses that opportunity to mentor the young men.
"It's all about building character. We spend time with them. We do outings together. We talk to them about what it takes to be a young man. We talk about morals and values and hold them to it," Phillips said, adding that the job goes way beyond school buildings and the 4 p.m. dismissal time.
"We have found that sometimes the student can only talk to you - even if it's a home issue. They may not communicate well with Momma, Nana, Uncle or administrators at the school," Phillips said. "They will text you, call you, get to you. They'll reach out to you. The father just got incarcerated or Mom is on drugs or Grandma is terminally ill.
"Some reach out in the morning. Some reach out late at night. I've been called to a home for sickness or emergencies to cry with them, to support them. They reach out because they realize Officer Phillips cares about their tomorrows, cares about what happens to them today."
Even when the kids get in trouble, that's a teachable moment – after things have calmed a bit.
"I tell them, ‘When you're sitting in back of a police car handcuffed, this is not the beginning. You can make the decision to never have to be handcuffed again in life. Let's talk about what took place. Why did it take place? Now that you've calmed down, can we handle this differently?'" Phillips said. "By the end, the problem is not as large as they perceived it to be."
More mentor than cop
That type of mentoring consumes most of the resource officers' time – about 60 percent, Phillips estimated – as opposed to breaking up fights, confiscating weapons and dealing with other forms of trouble typically associated, fairly or not, with urban schools.
The Buffalo Police Department does not keep separate police reports for schools, Young said. However, districts must report violent and disruptive incidents at each school to the New York State Department of Education, which compiles an annual report.
Data from 2014-15 – the most recent available – showed there were 134 assaults in Buffalo schools using a weapon and resulting in injury. There also were 2,544 non-violent, minor altercations, as well as 1,016 non-violent acts of intimidation, harassment, menacing or bullying. Students were caught with weapons 194 times, and there were 5,154 other non-violent disruptions.
"That's not an every day, every hour occurrence,' Phillips said of the types of incidents that make headlines. "The majority of what we're doing is interacting with school administrators and students. We spend most of our time mentoring. That's how it should be. That's the relationship building."
That mindset trickled down from top brass. The better officers can engage with the community, the better they can do their job, said Derenda, who wants all of the department's officers to be more pro-active.
"Everything adds up, and I think we have a good relationship with the schools, but we can certainly do better," he said.
Kevin Eberle, school district chief operations officer, agreed about the importance of the community policing aspect of the schools unit, which began in 2007.
"I think it's much more important than just responding to an emergency," he said, such as when four students were caught last month sipping a concoction of soda, cold medication and sleep aids. "We have to go to emergencies, but community policing in itself is very important."
Real talk, real kids
A Buffalo native raised in the Central Park Plaza neighborhood, Young, 43, grew up with two sisters, a brother and both parents in the home. He credits his upbringing with helping him stay focused.
He knew since childhood that he wanted to be a cop. He didn't get into a lot of trouble as a kid, but remembers officers taking time to speak with him about what was going on in the neighborhood and with him personally. Cops on patrol would stop and interact with him and his friends while they were playing street football.
That went a long way, Young said. He learned about mentoring from his family and police, he said, because it's what he received growing up.
Before becoming an officer, Young studied to be a social worker, worked as a substitute teacher in city schools and as a residential aid at two group homes in the city – gleaning knowledge that has been particularly useful as a cop.
And for years before he became chief of the schools unit, Young – who coaches football at Bennett – had been visiting and volunteering at schools, showing up at open houses and trying to cultivate relationships with students, said School Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman.
"He would come out on his own. He has a lunch thing with kids. He sits down and talks to them. He brings them food," said Belton-Cottman. "He's just trying to make a difference in the lives of these kids, give them a positive role model."
The lunch program she referred to is Real Talk at Lunch at Community School 53 on Roehrer Avenue, which started after teachers overheard students' talking at lunch about how they feel about cops and about life in general. The program is a way to humanize police officers.
Street-smart kids participate as well as "kids who know nothing more than video games," Young said. The group is limited to no more than 12 or 13 seventh- and eighth-graders to keep the sessions more personal. It is all-male – for now – and meets two Fridays each month for an hour during lunch break. Young provides the food, usually pizza. The teacher leaves the room, and the only adults usually are Young, another school resource officer and Murray Holman of the Buffalo Peacemakers.
In addition, there's often a guest - like basketball players from the University at Buffalo or Buffalo News sports writer Miguel Rodriguez - to speak to the boys. The players gave the boys free tickets to a UB game.
Working with community groups like the Buffalo Peacemakers is one of the strides the city has made in community policing, but there's plenty more to be done to improve police-community relations, according to a recent study by the Partnership for the Public Good.
The report praised department leaders for hiring community police officers, providing all officers with some community policing training and creating a scholarship program to diversify its recruits. But the study also said the department needs to do more training, including in implicit bias, restorative justice, adolescent development and de-escalation techniques.
For Young, practically every day can be a teachable moment in how to de-escalate potential confrontations. He recalled a student who recounted how a police officer questioned the boy and some of his friends, telling them they could not stand in front of a convenience store. The boys felt singled out and harassed.
Then Young explained the larger picture.
"‘Here is why that officer said you can't stand in front of that deli,'" said Young, retelling the story. "‘It's a law called no loitering. You were loitering, so he has a job that he has to do. His boss says we received some complaints about youth congregating in front of a business. So now on his patrol, he has to go make sure no one is standing out in front of that store as part of his job responsibility. He didn't wake up and say let me stop at this store, find you and say don't stand in front of that store. That business owner has to make sure his business has access to customers walking in and out.' When I said that, the student said, ‘All right, I can see that.'"
Young also asked the boy if the cop was mean in his approach.
"No, the kid said. He just stopped and said you can't stand in front of the store," Young said. "So the next time it happens, he can say to his friends, ‘No, no they're just doing their job. We can't be standing in front of the store.'"
That one-on-one engagement can go a long way in shaping what kids think about law enforcement officers, Young said.
"That's what we have to change," Young said. "Judge how you feel about police officers based on your dealing with police officers. Don't judge by what you see on the news as all police officers are like that."
Fla. officer creates anti-ambush device to reduce LODDs
The device has a 360-degree motion sensor that tracks movement within a 25-foot radius
by PoliceOne Staff
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — With the recent increase in ambush attacks on police, one officer is aiming to reduce them with a new invention.
Officer Vasile Ciuperger created “Stop Ambush,” a device that could help increase officer safety.
“Seeing some of the senseless killings of police officers throughout [the] country lately, I think my product will make a big difference possibly between someone going home at the end of their shift," Ciuperger told KCBY.
The device has a 360-degree motion sensor that tracks motion within a 25 foot radius. “Stop Ambush” sits on the roof of the officer's patrol vehicle, signaling to the officer when someone is coming toward them and what direction they're coming from, the news station reported.
Ciuperger said that using the computer inside an officer's vehicle reduces the officer's line of vision, making them more vulnerable.
"So this device uses red arrows and beeping sounds to grab [the] officer's attention. You could have six people approaching you from six different directions, and you will have six arrows showing you," Ciuperger said.
The device, which took five years to develop, is available online for $500 at stopambush.com.
From the FBI
2015 NIBRS Crime Data Released
Report Contains More Detail on Criminal Offenses
Today, the FBI released details on more than 5.6 million criminal offenses reported by law enforcement to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2015. This latest Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program's report, National Incident-Based Reporting System 2015 , offers a wide range of information about victims, known offenders, and relationships between the two for 23 categories comprised of 49 offenses.
The NIBRS is slated to replace the traditional Summary Reporting System by January 1, 2021, establishing it as the national standard for crime reporting. The move is backed by a host of criminal justice leaders, including the Criminal Justice Information Services Division's Advisory Board Policy Board (a multi-agency group), the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs' Association, and the National Sheriffs' Association.
Why NIBRS? When used to its full potential, the system will identify with precision when and where crime takes place, what form it takes, and the characteristics of victims and perpetrators. Armed with that information, law enforcement can better identify the resources it needs have the ability to use those resources more efficiently and effectively. More on the benefits of NIBRS participation.
This latest NIBRS report includes a message from FBI Director James Comey about the importance of the new reporting system and of the National Use of Force Data Collection. He said, “We need more transparency and accountability in law enforcement. We also need better, more informed conversations about crime and policing in this country. To get there, we are improving the way this nation collects, analyzes, and uses crime statistics and data about law enforcement's use of force.”
Director Comey also expressed his appreciation to law enforcement agencies around the country who submitted NIBRS data during 2015. “By providing this data,” he said, “they are playing a critical role in helping us to better understand what is happening in our nation.”
Participation via NIBRS did increase during 2015 by 128 agencies, for a total of 6,648 agencies representing coverage of more than 96 million people. But while the number of agencies participating in NIBRS increases each year, the 2015 coverage representing just 36.1 percent of all law enforcement agencies that participate in the UCR Program shows that there is still some work to be done.
The FBI continues working to expand NIBRS participation. Most recently:
Fifty-six agencies began reporting NIBRS data;
Funding was awarded to seven state programs and 17 agencies through the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics' Joint Crime Statistics Exchange initiative;
The Department of Defense was certified as NIBRS compliant, making DOD the first federal agency to transition to NIBRS; and
The NIBRS Modernization Study began, assessing whether improvements to NIBRS are needed.
Here are some highlights from the new NIBRS report:
NIBRS agencies reported 4,902,177 incidents that involved 5,668,103 offenses, 5,979 victims, and 4,607,928 known offenders.
Of the report offenses, 62.9 percent involved crimes against property, 23.2 percent involves crimes against persons, and 14 percent included crimes against society (like gambling and prostitution).
Of the 4,158,264 individual victims, 23.8 percent were between 21 and 30 years of age; a little more than half (50.9 percent) were female; and the majority of victims (72.0 percent) were white, while the next largest percent (20.8) were black or African-American.
Of the known offenders, more than 44 percent were between the ages of 16 and 30, and most offenders (63.3 percent) were male.
More details on the data in NIBRS 2015 can be found on our interactive NIBRS map and the agency-level offense tables , which present statistics for each that reported 12 months of NIBRS data in 2015.
Metro Atlanta police, city leaders explore ways to improve community relations
by Noreen Cochran
Incidents nationwide have threatened relations between police and the communities they serve.
But a recent gathering of more than 100 elected city officials, municipal law enforcement officials and area stakeholders tried to find ways to bridge the gap.
“Tragedies across the nation have demonstrated a dire need to strengthen the bonds of trust between our communities and law enforcement,” East Point City Councilwoman Stephanie Gordon said. “It is imperative that our role in community policing be properly defined so that we can efficiently meet the needs of our communities and the guardians who are sworn to serve and protect them.”
She spoke at a regional symposium on community policing held by the Georgia Municipal Association Dec. 7 at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.
Co-hosts included the cities of College Park and East Point, Aerotropolis Atlanta and Virtual Citadel Inc.
A slew of panelists represented police departments, churches, MARTA and municipalities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel R. Boatright gave the keynote address about drug market intervention.
Decatur Chief of Police Mike Booker offered solutions from public relations to officer training and recruitment.
“People need to see the more human side of law enforcement,” he said. “When it comes to training, you have to slow it down to put the ‘due' on the process and really train those persons to be true police officers.”
MARTA Police Chief Wanda Dunham also shared her agency's best practices and experiences.
Association Executive Director Lamar Norton said cops have to know their superiors are behind them.
“These officers are our most visible ambassadors and they need everyone's support,” Norton said in a statement.
He said the symposium demonstrated that leaders are committed to solving problems on the streets.
“I was proud to see the amount of peer-to-peer engagement surrounding the issues faced by our law enforcement,” Norton said, “and attendees actively uncovering methods to foster stronger relationships between police departments and the communities they serve.”
The event was the second on the topic hosted by the association, a voluntary, nonprofit organization providing legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its more than 520 member cities.
Speakers included College Park City Councilman Joe Carn, Fulton County Solicitor General-elect Keith Gammage, Atlanta Police Department Deputy Chief Rodney Bryant, American Medical Association board chair Dr. Patrice Harris and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director of Professional Standards Fred Mays.
Waite Hill Police Department adopts community policing standards
by The News-Herald
The Waite Hill Police Department has adopted and implemented state standards established by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board as part of the state's efforts to strengthen community and police relations.
According to a press release from the state Department of Public Safety, more than 250 agencies employing over 15,000 officers, including agencies and officers in most of Ohio's metropolitan areas, are either certified or in the process of becoming certified by meeting standards for the use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.
The standards are the first of their kind in Ohio and were developed by the Collaborative in 2015, the press release stated.
The first list of all Ohio compliant agencies will be published in March.
Police expect Trump to lift limits on surplus military gear
Trump promised to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire
by David Dishneau
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — If president-elect Donald Trump keeps his promise, surplus military grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles and high-powered firearms and ammunition will once again be available to state and local U.S. police departments.
National police organizations say they'll hold Trump to that promise.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order restricting that access in 2015 amid an outcry over police use of armored vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Since then, federal officials have recalled more than 1,800 items, which have been destroyed through target practice or otherwise disposed of, officials say.
But state and local police organizations have protested, insisting that military-style vehicles and gear help protect officers' lives and public safety — for example, a privately manufactured, tracked armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the mass shooting at a county government building in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.
During his campaign, Trump sided with the police. In September, he promised to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers.
"The 1033 program is an excellent program that enhances community safety. I will rescind the current executive order," reads the response posted on the group's website.
"We take him at his word," Executive Director James Pasco said in a recent telephone interview.
The Trump transition team did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about the executive order.
National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jonathan F. Thompson said his group has pressed the topic in discussions with Trump's transition team. And William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said he was encouraged by his conversations with Trump representatives before the Nov. 8 election.
"The feeling that we got is they absolutely hear us and they share our concerns," he said.
Obama's order was triggered partly by police use of military-style gear and vehicles in response to the 2014 unrest in Ferguson. The order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to state and local police agencies.
Since then, the Defense Logistics Agency has recalled 138 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the military's 1033 program, agency spokeswoman Michelle McCaskill said.
Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies who has studied the militarization of police, said Obama's executive order has had little effect because there was relatively little demand for the prohibited items to begin with.
"It was more symbolic politics than anything substantive," he said.
The order also added requirements for record-keeping, local oversight and training for the acquisition or use of other surplus military equipment such as wheeled armored vehicles, but those hurdles apparently have not deterred agencies from obtaining the gear. McCaskill said 183 law enforcement agencies have received mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles or MRAPs, through the 1033 program so far this year. That's more than the 165 MRAPs that were distributed in 2013.
Nevertheless, Kraska said, there's nothing to justify most police departments having such equipment.
"It just ramps up the probability that this kind of kind of high-end military hardware is going to be misapplied," he said.
But Cass County, North Dakota, Sheriff Paul Laney said the executive order is aimed at urban areas and ignores the usefulness of tracked vehicles in rugged terrain.
"They fail to realize the dilemma it puts sheriffs in who live in the rural areas, the desert areas, the mountain areas," he said.
Oakland County, Michigan, Sheriff Michael Bouchard, whose tracked vehicle was recalled, said rescinding the order would restore police access to equipment they've been denied for what he called "purely optic" reasons.
Groups on both ends of the political spectrum have expressed concern about police militarization, from civil-rights organizations such as the NAACP and ACLU to the libertarian Cato Institute.
Raed Jarrar, government relations manager for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group committed to peace and social justice, said the executive order wasn't effective but rescinding it would send a message that "rather than attempting to curb militarism, the president-elect is planning to continue on that path."
The Charles Koch Institute, founded by its conservative billionaire namesake, considers the restrictions under Obama's executive order "a decent start," said William Ruger, vice president of policy and research.
"We don't want local police departments to be incentivized to get the types of equipment that in most cases are a better fit for the war zone," he said.
Politicians look for solution to Chicago gun violence with sentencing
Legislators are facing pressure to lengthen sentences on repeat criminals who return to the streets and contribute to violence after serving only a portion of their prison terms
by Ivan Moreno
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The refrain is heard almost as often as the fatal gunshots: The way to reduce Chicago's gun violence is tougher prison sentences for repeat gun offenders, keeping them off the streets and decreasing the city's mounting death toll.
That idea, pushed by the mayor, police superintendent and others, shifts pressure from patrol officers of the city's West and South sides to the Capitol, where legislators will consider how to balance law and order with finding alternatives to imprisoning young blacks and other minorities.
In that building, in the same Senate seat where Barack Obama launched his political career and focused on racial profiling issues, Democrat Kwame Raoul plans to propose legislation next month to impose longer sentences for defendants who previously committed a gun-related crime.
It's a measure that has Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson's backing, especially with the city topping 700 homicides a year after seeing 468. The state's past attempts to strengthen such penalties have been turned down, met by opponents who worry it'd further incarceration rates in the predominantly black neighborhoods hardest hit by violence and doesn't address the root cause of readily available illegal guns. The opponents have called for more comprehensive solutions that go beyond law enforcement.
Raoul and the legislative black caucus have said they don't want to increase mandatory minimums, which have drawn criticism for putting nonviolent drug offenders behind bars for decades — something even Obama is trying to undo in his final days through commutations and other actions.
Instead, Raoul says, he'll propose directing judges to use the higher end of the sentencing scale when someone has a prior gun-related conviction. Judges would keep their discretion in sentencing, but Raoul's bill may require them to explain their rationale.
As is, someone with a previous felony weapons conviction faces 3 to 14 years; Raoul's measure might have judges consider more than 10 years. Currently, someone with a 3-year sentence can be freed after serving half their term with good behavior.
"The question is ... whether (repeat offenders) are incapacitated long enough to create a breather for some neighborhoods that are just ravaged by gun violence, and long enough to create a deterrence," Raoul said.
But such an effort could turn into a "war on guns" that would resemble the war on drugs of the 1970s and 1980s, according to Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, whose staff represents many of the accused. It didn't lead to a drop in drug usage, but to the "demonization" of mostly young African-American and Latino men, she said.
"Increasing prison terms while failing to address the causes of gun violence will serve only to, once again, demonize and incarcerate another generation of mostly young African-American and Latino men," Campanelli wrote in a September op-ed column in the Chicago Tribune.
The issue of repeat offenders again came under scrutiny in August when 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge, cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade, was gunned down while pushing her baby in a stroller. She wasn't the intended target.
The men charged were two brothers who'd been released on parole — one two weeks before the shooting, the other in February. Despite a combined 26-year prison sentence for five separate felony convictions, they served only 11 between the two of them, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said.
"They're not afraid of the laws, they're not deterred by the laws," said Alvarez, who has pushed for stricter sentences.
Johnson, who has stood before the media several times this year decrying repeat offenders who were allegedly involved in some of the city's homicides, believes the "cycle of violence" will continue until people are put in jail longer. He often points to New York as a model, where having a loaded handgun illegally carries a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years, regardless of whether someone has a prior record.
Yet, there's not enough evidence to show how effective stricter sentencing guidelines can be, said Roseanna Ander, the executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which researches criminal justice matters. She suggests it may be more worthwhile to ensure sentence lengths are applied consistently, rather than different outcomes depending on the judge.
And a tough, zero-tolerance approach could be a tough sell in Illinois, where in 2013, lawmakers considered requiring three-year prison sentences for felons or gang members caught carrying a loaded weapon in public. The measure failed amid criticism from black legislators who worried it would lead to imprisonment for more African-Americans. The National Rifle Association also opposed the bill, arguing it could ensnare law-abiding gun owners.
Democratic Rep. La Shawn Ford, a member of the black caucus who voted against the 2013 bill, is skeptical that Raoul's bill is needed, saying there are sufficient laws to punish repeat offenders. He said harsher sentences will impact poor defendants who can't afford attorneys, and he worries Raoul's bill effectively sets new mandatory minimums — even if the measure is not written that way — because judges will feel pressured to impose tougher sentences to avoid backlash.
"Because now the eyes are all on the judge," he said.