February, 2017 - Week 3
6 ways beat officers can make a difference through community policing
A beat officer committed to protecting and serving the community is what community policing is about
by Lt. Dan Marcou
Since community policing programs began popping up all over the nation in the late 1980s and early 1990s it has been simultaneously loved by some and hated by others within the ranks of law enforcement.
There is now an effort to re-deploy it, to reduce rising tensions between police and their communities. As a career-long-practitioner of community policing, I would like to share with you eight aspects of a style of community policing, that I came to believe in and train.
1. It is not a line item program
When at its best, community policing is not a program. It is a philosophy, which when embraced, pays dividends to officers who apply it on the street. It needs no funding, because it doesn't cost a penny to implement it.
Community policing is what happens when an officer casts off the “us against them” mindset and comes to realize he or she is a part of, not apart from, the community they serve. Police work, after all, is more effectively done when the community is standing behind you, rather than standing against you.
In spite of what is depicted on the nightly news, recent polls show the majority, in the communities around the country, believe in their local police.
2. It is not “Officer Friendly”
Some people believe community policing is a glorified “Officer Friendly Program” and is soft on crime. This is the fault of agencies in the 1990s, assigning community policing officers to perform non-law enforcement duties. Some agencies stipulated that these community policing officers were not allowed to answer calls for service. Fortunately, that mindset has changed.
Community policing is most effective when embraced as a philosophy of active beat officers rather than as specialized duty assignment. It occurs naturally when a beat cop gets to empathetically know the people on the beat. This officer protects them as if they were an extended family. These officers watch over the people, their homes and businesses on the beat like they were their very own. A beat officer committed to protecting and serving the community is what community policing is about.
3. It is being available for a call
This career can make an officer quite negative and cynical if he or she lets it. Cynicism can make a caring officer appear uncaring during contacts. But, when practicing the community policing philosophy, officers are no longer just a call taker and report writer. A call for service will be answered with as much empathy as the officer can muster.
The simple act of outwardly caring about a victim affects how the victim perceives the officer. It takes no additional time, nor expense to care.
Now if that act of caring leads the beat officer to do a bit of follow-up and actually bring the case to a successful conclusion as often as possible, there is great satisfaction in this not only for the victim, but the officer as well.
4. It is about protecting and serving
It says “protect and serve” on every squad car in most jurisdictions around the country and every officer must be fully prepared to protect themselves and others.
The unfortunate truth is that after many officers complete their entry level fitness testing and training, they often stop physically training and only rarely sharpen their protective skills.
It is critical for officers to become experts at every level of force from communication skills to empty hand control, all the way up to deadly force. Possessing a tool box filled with effective, yet defensible, tactics will help officers win on the street and in the court of public opinion.
Officers need to be trained to prevail on the street, while demonstrating they are model citizens.
5. It is a two-way street
Police can't be truly effective unless the vast majority of the members of the community do their part. When a partnership exists between police and the community, criminals will find it necessary to retreat into the shadows.
Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, identified this aspect of policing, when he said police must strive:
“To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties, which are incumbent on every citizen in the interest of community welfare an existence.”
6. It must be observable at street level
The community hearing about community policing from the chief or sheriff will not have the impact of seeing it in practice on a daily basis by beat officers.
Even if there is no departmental buy-in for the community policing philosophy it does not preclude one officer from employing it on their own beat. In doing so, that officer can have a tremendous impact on people one call at a time, one contact at a time.
Community policing is really American policing. It is the protecting and serving of the people, by the people and for the people. It behooves police officers to recognize the need to both protect and serve, while always having the community welfare in mind.
Always remember that ultimately your community will judge by how officers protect and they will appreciate them for how they serve.
About the author
Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized, police trainer, who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. Marcou's awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. His Novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody's Heroes,” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest Non-Fiction Offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all highly acclaimed and available at Amazon
Work Continues On Tulsa's Community Policing Plan
Tulsa, Oklahoma- The City of Tulsa's community policing commission is working on a plan for better relationships between the public and police.
Early goals include recruiting more minority officers and stronger outreach at community events.
Some of the work is already is happening, but Police Chief Chuck Jordan says other ideas involve more time and money.
"True community policing will only happen when our officers have the unassigned time to make personal relationships with the people on their beat, that's what's really going to be a success," said Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan.
The commission will come up with a final report next month.
Bill would make killing first responders a death penalty crime
A bill in the Ohio House would add killing a first responder or military member to the list of slayings eligible for the death penalty
by The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — A bill in the Ohio House would add killing a first responder or military member to the list of slayings eligible for the death penalty.
The proposal from Rep. Dave Greenspan, a Republican from Westlake in suburban Cleveland, would address fatal attacks on firefighters and emergency medical service providers.
The legislation in the House Criminal Justice Committee would also include killings of current and former military members including reservists and national guard members.
Killing a police officer is already a crime eligible for the death penalty.
Greenspan tells Cleveland.com the goal is providing a strong deterrent. He says he was inspired to act by cases in recent years nationally and in Ohio of attacks on police, fire and military personnel.
Man who allegedly killed Denver transit security officer says he supports Islamic State
Police have uncovered no evidence to suggest Joshua Cummings was either directed by ISIS to carry out Officer Scott Von Lanken's killing or may have been inspired by the group
by James Anderson and Colleen Slevin
DENVER — A former U.S. soldier accused of shooting and killing a transit guard in downtown Denver last month says he is a supporter of the Islamic State group, but investigators say they have not found evidence the terror group had anything to do with the killing.
In a telephone interview Thursday from Denver's jail, Joshua Cummings told The Associated Press he pledged his allegiance to ISIS after spending three days behind bars fasting.
He said he did so to purge himself of an oath he took to uphold the U.S. Constitution when he joined the Army in 1996.
Speaking calmly and addressing a reporter as "ma'am", the Islamic convert from Pampa, Texas, declined to discuss the crime or whether his support for ISIS led him, as police allege, to walk behind Scott Von Lanken while he was speaking to two women around 11 p.m. on Jan. 31 and put a gun to his neck.
One of the women told investigators Cummings said something like, "Do what you are told," just before he opened fire and ran away, police have said.
Cummings was found a short time later hiding on the terrace of an apartment building with a handgun, authorities said.
Police have uncovered no evidence to suggest Cummings was either directed by ISIS to carry out the killing or may have been inspired by the group, Denver Police Commander Barb Archer said Friday.
She said Cummings, 37, has declined to talk with detectives and that investigators have not determined a motive for the killing of Von Lanken, a former police officer who was working as a contract security guard for the Denver area's Regional Transportation District.
Archer said federal authorities who also have investigated Cummings have not told her about a possible Islamic State connection, as she would expect them to if there was one.
"I think he's looking for attention," she said of Cummings' comments about pledging loyalty to the Islamic State.
Cummings served in the Army more than a decade ago but never saw combat.
Investigators interviewed him in December after members of a Denver-area mosque reported concerns about him to federal authorities. The FBI has declined comment on what if any action agents took after Cummings was interviewed or about any involvement they may have in the shooting investigation.
Cummings was living in a suburban Denver motel in the weeks before the shooting. He previously stayed there about a month before briefly returning to Texas.
His public defender, Sarah Welton, declined to discuss her client's comments about the Islamic State.
"I can't speculate on his reasons for calling," she said.
Denver-area Muslim leaders have repudiated Cummings' self-professed practice of Islam. They stressed in a December email to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security their perception that Cummings' statements and rants about Islam at one area mosque led them to fear he had become radicalized.
On Dec. 24, a mosque leader emailed the Department of Homeland Security to say a man identifying himself as a Muslim convert named Joshua, from Pampa, Texas, made worrisome statements that day about fighting to establish "the rule of Islam." The email also said Joshua had rebuked a speaker "as being soft" on Shariah law earlier in December.
Ismael Akbulut, a leader in the Denver-area Muslim community, said he knew nothing about Cummings professing allegiance to the Islamic State.
"It's his own interpretation" of the purpose of fasting, Akbulut said. "If he had been affiliated with ISIS they would post that on social media. They haven't. I think it's his desire to be affiliated with that now."
Islamic State supporters often proclaim their allegiance in social media before attacks. It is less common for them to declare it after the fact.
Cummings had been vocal on Twitter about his views about Islam as well as both critical and supportive of law enforcement.
He told the AP said he had wanted to declare his allegiance ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, earlier but an infection had prevented him from fasting.
The mug shot of Cummings' arrest shows him with the left side of his face swollen and his left eye almost swollen shut.
Since his arrest, he said he received medical care in jail that gave him the ability to fast and "expiate" his prior oath.
He used the Arabic word for allegiance in making his declaration and then explained in English what he meant.
Akbulut said Islam does call for atonement through three days of fasting, but he said that would not apply in the context Cummings described.
"In this case it's totally nonsense," Akbulut said. "It's his own interpretation."
Miami-Dade commission upholds mayor's order to end county's 'sanctuary' status
Mayor Carlos Gimenez defended the decision saying county police are only agreeing to hold people flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
by Adriana Gomez Licon
MIAMI — County commissioners in immigrant-rich Miami-Dade voted Friday to uphold their Cuban-born mayor's order to cooperate with federal immigration officials, drawing shouts of "shame on you" from those hoping to make their community a sanctuary city.
Though it's the only U.S. county where more than half the population is foreign-born, Miami-Dade has bucked a trend among some cities that have sought to defy federal immigration crackdowns out of sympathy with their large migrant populations.
The commissioners, voting 9-3, backed the order of Mayor Carlos Gimenez that was delivered after the administration of President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from the so-called sanctuary cities.
"This is a country that opened arms to everyone, allowed opportunities to everyone. But this is also a country of law," county commissioner Rebeca Sosa, also of Cuban descent, said before the vote taken in a special public session. "I am so sad to see that people are afraid of something that has nothing to do with immigration. This was just a financial decision."
In emotional public testimony, dozens spoke against the order, including school-age children of deportees, young people brought to the U.S. without legal permission as children, construction workers, lawyers and rights activists.
At one point, four school-age girls and a boy stepped up to the podium holding hands with Nora Sandigo, who has a foundation that helps and houses children whose parents have been deported.
"These kids are orphans because they took their parents away from them. I can't stand this much pain," Sandigo said.
Many of the people gathered at the meeting stood and shouted obscenities at the commissioners when they voted to uphold the mayor.
Hatian-born Jean Monestime was among the three commissioners to vote against the motion.
"Today cannot be about money. It must be about justice," Monestime said. "It must be about dignity it must be about the spirit of our community."
The debate has highlighted a divide between Cuban-Americans and immigrants from other countries, stemming largely from a former immigration policy that gave preferential treatment to Cubans fleeing the island's communist government. For more than 50 years, Cubans arrived to open arms in the U.S. and were able to become citizens much more easily than people from other countries.
"Cuban families, in a general way, haven't been as aware of what it means to be undocumented in this country," said Michael Bustamante, a Florida International University expert on contemporary Cuban history. "They have had a different process to achieve legal status. Not to say that they haven't faced other difficulties."
Miami-Dade counts 51.7 percent of its people as born abroad. But the share of immigrants living here without permission is lower than places like Houston or Atlanta, precisely because Cuban immigrants could quickly get employment authorization cards, a Social Security number and become legal residents.
But that's changed. In January, then President Barack Obama announced that Cubans without residency or visas would be treated as any other immigrant with similar status.
In 2013, Miami-Dade commissioners passed a resolution that local law enforcement officers would comply with federal immigration officials only in cases of serious charges or convictions and only when the federal government agreed to reimburse the county for holding an offender in jail for more than two days. Longer detention while awaiting deportation was costing local taxpayers, Miami-Dade officials said.
The move put the county on a list of sanctuaries in a 2016 Justice Department report. Gimenez contested the designation, and then on Jan. 26, a day after Trump announced he would strip federal funding from sanctuary cities, Gimenez sent a memo instructing the corrections director to honor all immigration detainer requests.
Gimenez defended his decision Friday and said the county's police were not actively chasing people or asking for their immigration status — they were only agreeing to hold people flagged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He said that most of the 34 people who have been requested by immigration authorities had previously committed crimes.
"Look. I am an immigrant myself," Gimenez said. "I can assure our residents that I will not comply with any executive order that will unfairly put our law-abiding immigrants at risk."
But Maria Bilbao, a 51-year-old Argentine who has lived in the U.S. for 16 years and is now obtaining residency, said the commissioners' support of Gimenez's decision is an anti-immigrant stance.
"They are broadening ways in which immigration officials can deport families," she said. "How can they keep a clear conscience."
Peelian principles of policing: How to get the public on your side
An informed public is more likely support us
by Tim Barfield
The Peelian principles have been quoted, lectured on and written about since they were first put into a list in 1829. The principles, followed by many, seem to be as important now as they were when they were conceptualized.
Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, was responsible for the centralization of police services in London. Prior to Peel, policing was done by multiple groups of sometimes unpaid men who lacked organization and the skills necessary to carry out all their duties. Without the centralization of these small groups, investigations and quelling of uprisings were often handled by military troops. There was distrust among the citizens of having a government organized and run force. Peel suggested a citizen-based force that would be able to relate to the citizens cops served. Although the nine principles would come to bear his name, they were originally concepts maintained in the general orders given to people hired to provide full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen.
In Peel's model of policing, officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They were to exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens by the consent of the people. It is this equality of position that carries over to the concepts that should be in the heart of every American police officer, that as public servants, we derive our power and authority from the U.S. Constitution.
Prevention of crime and disorder
Peel's first principle is about prevention of crime and disorder. The visibility of the police force is on the forefront of this principle. It is every police officer's first duty to be present for the public to see and consult. The argument in many inner city locations is the lack of police to prevent crime by high visibility.
As budgets are cut, the number of officers available to patrol and deter crime falls. In many locations officers have stopped patrolling and now respond to crimes that have occurred like firefighters putting out fires. There is nothing that citizens want more than to be able to leave their houses and come home to all of their property untouched.
The same holds true of people who want to be able to walk their neighborhoods or allow their children to be in public without fear of robbery or worse. It is the opinion of some that the police should not be in their neighborhoods, but my experience is that talk like this comes from individuals who have an ill-intentions or don't care about their neighbors. The true victims are those who live in areas that are being successfully de-policed by this type of agenda. But visibility is difficult to do without the second leg of this principle. Police officer visibility must come with relationship building.
Building community relationships
Visibility in a neighborhood without building relationships with the citizens in those neighborhoods looks a lot more like an occupying force than consent of the people. I know this concept may anger some of my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, but stop and think of how this looks from the other side for a minute. I have had the good fortune of working in small and large communities, and I know that it is possible to build those relationships in every neighborhood. There are larger communities that struggle with their police relationships. There are many reasons for this and most are not the fault of the police, but it is incumbent on officers to build those relationships. Some officers may have difficulty achieving this because of the cultures we develop within our police departments.
Officers don't have to wait on the administration or the community relations officers to develop a program of outreach. Every day the line officer is in contact with the public. They are public servants and without taking that to a ridiculous conclusion, they are present by consent of the people. Many officers do a wonderful job at this, but many treat the public as if they don't owe them an explanation about what they do. Take the time on your call to build a relationship with everyone you meet. It is your duty to do so and it will improve the quality of your police work.
Policing with the public
In attempts to prevent crime and disorder, officers must realize that the public is in this battle with us. Part of the disconnection with the public may be that officers do not include them in their endeavors. Seeking out the public's input, help and assistance will go a long way in reconnecting with them. I often hear officers complaining about the disconnection between the administration of the department and the line officers. It is this same principle that causes the public to feel as if they are not part of the effort.
This is another area where the public has come to feel disconnected in our role with them. Officers often don't think the public can understand what goes on with us. Except for keeping investigations quiet, for obvious reasons, there is no reason that the public is not entitled to know how we operate. We work for them and have an obligation to explain to them who we are and what we do. We often say they don't understand us, but what have we done to get the public to understand our job, obligations and the difficulties we encounter? An informed public will more likely support us if they see what we see.
Let's begin to apply these principles in a meaningful way and build on our public relationship.
About the author
Tim Barfield is entering his 34th year as a police officer. He was recently appointed as police chief in a village outside of the Cleveland, Ohio area. He spent almost 32 years on a police department in an inner ring suburb of Cleveland where he worked many different aspects of the job. He has taught police combat mindset, defensive tactics and firearms to numerous officers in the Cleveland and Chicago areas.
City weighs merits of BPD body-cams
by Jennifer Smith
The Boston Police Department's six-month body camera pilot program is set to conclude next month, although city and police leadership favor extending the 100-camera program.
Andrea Campbell, who chairs the City Council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, said the pilot seems to be going well.
Getting the program under way was an extended process. Announced in fall 2015, and planned for a spring 2016 start, the implementation was delayed in the face of opposition from the city's largest police union, the Boston Police Patrolman's Association (BPPA), which asked for an injunction to block the initiative, arguing that the city violated an agreement to do a voluntary pilot program.
Police Commissioner William Evans, who testified during the two-day court hearing in September, said he had the authority to assign cameras to officers after none volunteered for the pilot and a judge ruled in his favor.
Officials briefed the public on the pilot program's project in January, saying that overall, “this has been a positive program,” Campbell said. “What's great about hearing the positives is it pushed back on some of the assumptions that officers would not like wearing body cameras, that it would take away their discretion, or that it would have a negative impact on civilian and officer relationships,” she said. “And we're seeing the exact opposite.”
Evans and Mayor Martin Walsh are in talks with the police union to extend the program, which Campbell says she fully supports.
For the long term, organizations like the Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT) and the NAACP are pushing for permanent use of the cameras by the police. BPCAT released a statement after the Jan. 19 public meeting, objecting to a pilot extension:
“We do not support an extension of this pilot program,” the group wrote. “We do not believe further data is required to judge the merits of its success. Body-worn cameras are not the civil rights issue of our generation and do not warrant prolonged discussion. They are, however, a common sense issue, and one on which the people have already spoken.”
The team has scheduled a series of public meetings on the subject. The first was held on Wednesday night at the Grove Hall Community Center at 6 p.m. The others are set for Temple Israel at 6:30 p.m. on March 1 and the central branch of the Boston Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on March 20.
Campbell says the program's cost analysis is of particular interest, as “there have been different figures thrown around, all in the millions” – ranging from $3 million to $12 million – “but I've never seen a detailed analysis of what it would actually cost to outfit the 2,000-plus officers in the BPD, and I think constituents want to see that.”
Some grant money has been provided for the pilot from the state's Executive Office of Public Safety. Given President Donald Trump's stated priority of supporting law enforcement, Campbell suggested that a creative policing solution like body cameras may open the door for federal funding.
If the pilot is not extended, a report likely would be generated in the fall with an analysis of the pilot's effectiveness, metrics, and data. An extension, for which the timeframe is uncertain, could push the full evaluation into 2018.
Some debate still remains over the implementation, Campbell said. “There are some residents who don't want to see body cameras, and some of them are in communities of color, because of the surveillance issue,” she noted. “So I don't want us to think everyone in a community of color supports outfitting officers with body cameras.”
However, based on community meetings, activist outreach, and hearings, Campbell said, “most folks support body cameras as an effective tool for great community policing.”
Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Chicago
by Petr Svab
CHICAGO—Every day, Clarence Franklin would brush his teeth, wash his face, put on his best clothes, pick up his phone and his gun, and go sell drugs on the streets of Englewood, Chicago.
Six years in prison failed to dissuade him. Being shot six times failed to dissuade him. Yet, two years ago, when a close friend got killed, Franklin paused to think.
Sooner or later, he realized, his life would lead to one of two outcomes: He'd get killed, or he'd go to prison for the rest of his life. “Which one do I want?” he asked himself. “Neither.”
Last year, 47 people were killed in Englewood, a neighborhood of 31,000. That's about 30 times the national murder rate. Across the city, 784 were murdered last year, as tallied by the Chicago Tribune. Only during the crime waves of the '70s and '90s was the city deadlier.
The violence in Chicago has sparked a national debate. President Donald Trump has chipped in too. “If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible ‘carnage' going on,” he tweeted on Jan. 25, “I will send in the Feds!”
Epoch Times spoke with over two dozen former gang members, police officers, community activists, engaged citizens, and local youth. They painted a picture of a city embattled by economic and social problems. It's also clear they haven't given up on its future.
Today's gangs of Chicago hardly resemble the gangs of the '60s, '70s, or even '90s. Some of the gangs, back in the 1950s, didn't start as criminal organizations. Their founders intended them to be community groups formed to help their neighborhoods. Over the years, the groups turned violent and criminal, notably with the proliferation of drugs. But the gangs kept at least some principles: members talked over disputes before resorting to guns, and it was taboo to shoot at cars (as bystanders could be inside). Mothers, grandmothers, and children were off limits.
The gang leaders were often also the gang elders. Smart enough to survive past 30, they had what the gang would call “wisdom.” They could settle disputes and prevent major conflicts, albeit perhaps only to keep the drug trade from harm.
With the authorities busting gang leaders in the 1990s, this influence disappeared. Today's gang members, often aged 13 to 18, crave the respect enjoyed by the gang bosses of old, but lack their restraint. They pull guns for minor squabbles and bicker over territory lines that divide the ever-changing and ever-growing list of gangs, cliques, and factions. Many members don't even know who founded their gang or what it originally stood for.
“Back then, you want to be running the block, you got to make your bones,” said Charles “Charlie Slim” Jones, a former gang member who is now an outreach worker with violence prevention nonprofit CeaseFire. “It's not there no more. … That level of wisdom is not there.”
Jones said 13- and 14-year-old children are now running the block.
But most of the youth in Englewood don't belong to any gang, said Asiaha Butler, president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood. It is only within gang territories, sometimes as small as one block, that gang membership is almost inevitable.
Almost 80 percent of families in Englewood (with children under 18) are led by a single mother, according to Statistical Atlas. That's a common scenario in the poor, mostly minority communities hit hardest by gang violence in Chicago.
The hardships of single-parent families have been extensively documented, and in Chicago, they can make gangs seem attractive for the purported quick money and protection.
Without fathers, many young boys feel they need to protect their family. Joining a gang is dangerous, but it may create the appearance of security compared to fending for oneself. The spiel about protecting their block makes sense to such children.
Additionally, an absent father not only removes a male role model for these children, but also diminishes pride in one's culture and heritage, said Dwayne Bryant, a longtime Chicago resident who has worked with city youth for more than a decade as a life skills instructor and motivational speaker. “That's a lack of pride when you abandon your family, you abandon your children,” he said.
Single-parent families easily slip into poverty. A way out requires a steady income. But Chicago's economy is suffering.
Chicago lost a third of its manufacturing jobs between 2003 and 2013, Crain's Chicago Business reported. Many have been replaced by jobs in food and hospitality, but few businesses are eager to enter violence-fraught neighborhoods.
Whatever financial backbone locals built up was decimated when the housing bubble burst in 2008. Predatory lenders had targeted low-income communities and thus, in the hardest-hit Chicago neighborhoods, more than two homes were foreclosed on every block, on average. Many such homes were abandoned and went to seed, making for ideal gang hideouts and drug dealing spots. The city has been tearing down the abandoned homes—about 1,000 per year—and new developments are rare. The empty lots became a hallmark of poor Chicago, studding the neighborhoods like scabs of urban decay.
Instead of investing in programs to stimulate business, the state raised income taxes by 50 percent after the crisis to address its ballooning deficit, caused by long-standing fiscal neglect and the skyrocketing costs of state workers' pensions. The situation has only worsened since.
The new Republican governor and longstanding Democratic legislature remain deadlocked over fiscal policy, which has left the state without a budget for almost two years. Without a new budget, the state has cut funding to many nonprofits that had worked with the city's youth on violence prevention. Bryant's after-school program at 14 schools was canceled, despite its success in reducing absenteeism and boosting test scores. CeaseFire, which employ reformed gang members to mediate conflicts in the most volatile areas, was defunded across the city. The Englewood team alone shrunk from 14 employees to four.
With the economy in shambles, the only job openings in many poor neighborhoods are in the drug trade. So the incidence of overdoses climbs, and dealers fight over turf, further alienating legitimate business.
The Isolation Factor
Isolation is one of the worst problems in gang-ridden neighborhoods, as described by former gang members and other locals from different perspectives.
Because there are so many gangs and factions now, many young people live their lives wholly within a several block radius. Beyond it begins the territory of another gang or faction, which is dangerous to enter. This immensely shrinks their worldview. Many of them have never even been to downtown Chicago. Crime and violence becomes normal to them.
Thomas Jefferson, a former gang member who works as a conflict mediator with CeaseFire, remembered when he, as a boy, visited a cousin in California. The family was well off and lived in a suburb—something Jefferson had never seen.
When the children returned from riding their bikes, they left them on the front lawn. Jefferson recalls being dumbfounded that a bike left alone in front of a house wouldn't be stolen.
“You don't know what's bad until you experience good. So it was just normal,” said Chico Tillmon, a former gang member from Austin, Chicago, who now works for CeaseFire. “I didn't know Austin was a bad neighborhood until I got older.”
Last year, 88 people were killed in Austin (population 99,000), one of the deadliest neighborhoods in the city.
It's difficult to talk about positive things in such a depressed environment, because people don't want to listen to anything outside their desires, said Deandre Robertson, a 24-year-old former gang member from Englewood. “If it's not about what would make them the next dollar or something like that … that person will not have an open ear to that subject.”
Turning Life Around
Robertson grew up poor and fatherless. He had a godfather who took him to church, but that didn't keep him from joining a gang, dealing marijuana, and going to jail for it.
Still, he said, the church gave him some spiritual connection and a different perspective, and it made him read.
“The more reading I did, the more enlightened I got,” he said. “The more I got spiritual, the more humble I got. My ears opened to listen to stuff. I start taking heed of it, and as I start taking heed and listening and agreeing, I start doing things a little bit different.”
When he was 16, he sat down and thought: “I'm a hustler. I like making money. I like doing things. And the thing was, the thing I was doing, it kept getting me incarcerated.”
The odds were against him, but, he figured, others had beaten the odds before by changing their behavior. “I don't know what to do, but I know what I'm doing right now ain't going to do it.”
“Everybody's so angry because they expect something to be different,” he said. “But you can't expect something to be different when you're doing the same thing.”
He had an arrest warrant on his head at the time and he decided to make a drastic change.
“I turned myself in,” he said. As soon as he got out of jail, he returned to school. After he finished, he found a job as a door-to-door salesman and has been putting his hustling skills to use ever since.
Englewood has plenty of stories like Robertson's.
Chico Tillmon spent 16 years in prison for drug dealing. One time, when his mother visited him, she said: “When are you going to change? I'm tired of it. I can't do this no more.”
“I really had to do a self-reflection and look at myself,” he said. “And I was like, ‘I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life.'”
“I gave my life to God,” he said. He got out of the gang. “People thought I was crazy.” But he was serious about it, and that's why, he thinks, his former associates respected his decision.
After Tillmon left jail, some of his friends asked him to calm a dispute between two street groups. A drug dealer from one group was selling on the turf of a dealer from the other group. A shooting injury was already involved, and another round of retaliation threatened to be deadly.
“Who is it?” Tillmon asked. They told him. “No problem,” he said. He knew everybody involved. “I made a few phone calls, actually went over there, got them to sit down together, and I was able to stop it.”
Soon after, he was recruited by CeaseFire. While working, Tillmon pushed himself through college. Later this year, he expects to finish his doctorate in criminology.
Chicago police face an overwhelming job. Many locals said police sometimes treat them unfairly, but many ex-gang members also mentioned that trying to avoid prison played a role in their decision to change. They needed to feel the weight of justice.
If anything, Chicago needs more policing. In August 2015, police officers stopped and questioned almost 50,000 people. A year later, stops fell to less than 9,000, an 80 percent drop. Arrests decreased from 10,000 to 6,900, CBS reported.
Gun assaults on officers increased almost 50 percent from 2015 to 2016 (21 to 31 assaulted) based on data from Jan. 1 to Sept. 19 for both years.
Current and former officers as well as multiple experts attribute the slowdown in activity and rise in aggression toward police to the release of a video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
A judge ordered the Chicago police to release the video on Nov. 24, 2015. Officer Jason Van Dyke shot knife-wielding McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014, and most of the shots were discharged after McDonald was on the ground.
The tape sparked multiple protests and a federal investigation into the police department.
William Calloway, a local activist and former gang member, fought for the release of the tape. In retrospect, he said, he has doubts about his decision. He wanted the police to do their job properly. But he didn't intend for the political firestorm that put officers under so much scrutiny that they're afraid of being called racist if they stop too many people of color.
A New Way
Commander Kenneth Johnson of Police District 7 in Englewood tries to do things differently.
Last summer, after 30 years of service, he was looking forward to retirement. Instead, in August, Johnson was given command of the highest-crime district on Chicago's South Side. He implemented community policing, a highly touted strategy that has rarely been put into practice fully.
Community policing requires officers to talk to and listen to the people on their beat, learn about their problems, and look for ways to solve them. Officers still use the usual methods of writing tickets, issuing summonses, and making stops and arrests. But they can also use softer methods, like getting drug addicts into treatment centers and the homeless into shelters, or organizing midnight basketball games to keep youth out of trouble.
“We serve the community, we have to be part of it,” Johnson said. He encourages all officers to invest part of their time on patrol in talking to people to facilitate “positive engagement.”
The district's community policing faces two problems. The strategy usually requires more officers, so that the department can engage with the community while still responding to calls and fighting crime. The city is currently hiring 900 more officers.
And district commanders like Johnson have limited authority to put such a strategy in place. If some officers don't want to play along, there's not much Johnson can do, because officers are protected by union contracts.
Johnson said he's trying to get everybody onboard, but “in anything you do, you're going to have the naysayers.”
Johnson invited Officer Janice Wilson to be his community liaison. She worked in the central office on security for large city events, like fairs and parades. But she was from the South Side and, with her amiable personality, was the perfect choice to strike relationships with community members.
Wilson accepted, but the job was colossal. She visited every business in Englewood (over 100). She organized discussion groups with police officers, but started with having officers talk to each other—a breakthrough idea. Not only were the officers not talking to the community, they often weren't even talking to each other. The meetings were a hit, she said. Gradually, she started to replace officers in the circle with community members, creating mixed groups.
Johnson's leadership and Wilson's enthusiasm have brought results. Many people are starting to feel the police are on their side, or at least the officers they know. Wilson routinely accepts hugs from children on her routes. She knows many by name, too.
Clarence Franklin and his six children are just a few of the many faces familiar to Wilson. Franklin now works as a house manager at the I Grow Chicago Peace House. The house was established about two years ago by yoga teacher Robin Carroll. She bought a dilapidated house and employed some of the most problematic young people on the block to renovate it, maintain it, and then run a charitable nonprofit out of it.
The house changed the environment within several blocks, Franklin said. Before, “I couldn't even walk my daughter to the store,” he said. Now he can. And his daughter visits him at work—instead of prison.
Charles ‘Charlie Slim' Jones, outreach worker at CeaseFire
Englewood native Charles Jones, 43, went to prison at the age of 17 for accountability in murder. That means he didn't pull the trigger but was part of planning or assisted the murderer. He served 20 years. But it wasn't all wasted time. He began to learn about laws and legal procedures and how to file grievances and lawsuits. He said learning about his rights made him “feel human again.” When he was released in 2010, he went to work for CeaseFire, a nonprofit devoted to violence prevention. “Guns are always going to be there,” he said. “We got to change how young people see violence. … We got to change that mindset—how you think it's OK to kill, or it's normal to kill.”
Thomas Jefferson, conflict mediator at CeaseFire
Thomas Jefferson grew up in Englewood. He said he made “the wrong decision” to join a gang, which started a cycle of crime and imprisonment. It was prison that changed his perspective. He saw that members of different gangs talked to each other and even got along in prison. He asked why and was told, “When you know a person, you know a person.” Personal connection was, at times, stronger than gang affiliation. It made Jefferson look past the squabbles on the street. He decided to change. When he got out, CeaseFire gave him the chance to have a legitimate job mediating potentially violent conflicts, for which he uses his extensive contacts in the neighborhoods.
Erin Vogel, co-executive director of I Grow Chicago
Erin Vogel grew up in the cornfields of Central Illinois. After studying criminal justice and sociology, she found a job in real estate. One day, her work friend told her about the I Grow Chicago Peace House project, a charitable nonprofit funded by donations. She loved the idea. “This is a community house,” she said. “It's not an institution. This is built by people who used to terrorize this block.” She volunteered with the project starting in December 2014 and joined full time in May 2016. “This is my dream job,” she said. She leads yoga classes, organizes discussion groups, and helps run the project.
Asiaha Butler, president of RAGE
When a bullet tore through Asiaha Butler's Englewood home in 2007, she wanted to move. But one day, she looked outside and saw kids playing with dirt on an empty lot. Looking at them, she decided to stay and instead help her community. She started to volunteer for different councils and organizations, and eventually founded the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE). The association selects the most dangerous parts of Englewood and organizes a festival in one of them every week to create “safe spaces.” Her latest achievement was to convince the city to let Chicago homeowners buy empty lots from the city for $1 to spur development, or at least let the residents fix up the lots.
Congress blocks rule barring mentally impaired from guns
The Senate voted to block a regulation that would prevent an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from being able to purchase a firearm
by Kevin Freking
WASHINGTON — Congress on Wednesday sent President Donald Trump legislation blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
On a vote of 57-43, the Senate backed the resolution, just one of several early steps by the Republican-led Congress to undo regulations implemented by former President Barack Obama. The House had passed the measure earlier this year. The White House has signaled Trump will sign the legislation.
The Obama rule would have prevented an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from being able to purchase a firearm. It was crafted as part of Obama's efforts to strengthen the federal background check system in the wake of the 2012 massacre of 20 young students and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man with a variety of impairments, including Asperger's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, shot and killed his mother at their home, then went to school where he killed the students, adults and himself. He used his mother's guns in the attack.
The Obama administration rule required the Social Security Administration to send in the names of beneficiaries with mental impairments who also have a third party manage their benefits.
But lawmakers, with the backing of the National Rifle Association and advocacy groups for the disabled, opposed the regulation and encouraged Congress to undertake a rarely successful parliamentary tool designed to void regulations that Congress takes issue with.
With a Republican ally in the White House, the GOP has moved aggressively on several fronts to rescind some of the Obama administration's final regulations on the environment, financial reporting and now guns. Under an expedited process established through the Congressional Review Act, a regulation is made invalid when a simple majority of both chambers pass a joint resolution of disapproval and the president signs it.
The House also voted to repeal three Labor Department regulations Wednesday, including a rule that established when states could require drug testing for certain laid-off workers seeking unemployment insurance. Critics seeking the repeal said the department crafted the regulation so narrowly that it undermined congressional intent to give states more leeway to use drug testing in their unemployment insurance programs.
On the gun rule, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, spearheaded the repeal effort, saying the regulation unfairly stigmatizes the disabled and infringes on their constitutional right to bear arms. He said that the mental disorders covered through the regulation are filled with "vague characteristics that do not fit into the federal mentally defective standard" prohibiting someone from buying or owning a gun.
Grassley cited eating and sleep disorders as examples of illnesses that could allow a beneficiary to be reported to the background check system if they also have a third party to manage their benefits.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he didn't know how he could explain to his constituents, including those in Newtown, that Congress was making it easier rather than harder for people with serious mental illness to have a gun.
"If you can't manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you're going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm," Murphy said.
Gun rights groups weren't the only organizations upset about the Obama administration's regulation. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized it, too. The ACLU said the rule advanced a harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, "a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent." More than a dozen advocacy groups for the disabled also opposed the Obama administration's regulation.
"This heartless resolution puts the most vulnerable Americans at risk," countered Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Make no mistake, this vote was really about deepening the gun industry's customer pool, at the expense of those in danger of hurting themselves or others."
On the labor rule, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Texas are among the states seeking more flexibility in using drug tests in their unemployment insurance programs. Republicans complained that the Obama administration regulation undercut that flexibility — and congressional intent.
"I am pretty certain that the people who I am privileged to represent would be very upset if they thought somebody was receiving unemployment compensation while they were on drugs, because they think that is going to make it pretty hard for that person to ever get back into the workforce, and they want to be able to identify that," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
Democrats argued that Republicans were simply enabling states to intimidate people from seeking unemployment benefits.
"The legislation that we are debating today has nothing to do with fighting drug abuse," said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. "It's about allowing states to put one more time-consuming, humiliating obstacle in the way of Americans who work hard, and were laid off from their jobs and need unemployment insurance to pay the bills while they look for new jobs."
3 children killed in crossfire amid Chicago violence
by Aamer Madhani
CHICAGO— Three children have been killed in shootings since Saturday in an ugly spasm of gun violence in the nation's third largest city that has befuddled even the most battle-hardened of Chicago Police Department officers.
The tragic killings— all three children were caught in gang-related gunfire that wasn't targeting them—come in the midst of a difficult moment for Chicago. The city is struggling to stem a surge in violence that left it with more than 760 murders last year and at least 70 homicides in the first six weeks of 2017.
As Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced the first-degree murder charges Wednesday against Antwan Jones, 19, for the shooting death of 11-year-old Takiya Holmes, he didn't mince words about his anguish over the unrelenting violence in this city. Authorities allege Jones, who police say is a gang member with a long rap sheet, inadvertently shot Takiya when he fired at some rivals who were selling marijuana near his apartment complex.
"For these families, my heart goes out to them, because there is nothing you can say to them that will ease that pain," Johnson said. "I can't imagine losing an 11-year-old child senselessly like this."
Takiya was sitting in a family van in front of a dry cleaners on Saturday evening, when she was struck in the back of the head by the stray bullet. She succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.
Brendan Deenihan, the police commander of the detectives unit handling the investigation, said that gang investigators were able to help homicide detectives spot witnesses who could be seen in surveillance videos in the area at the time of the shooting. Detectives interviewed the witnesses, who identified Jones as the gunman.
Jones turned himself into police late Tuesday, and immediately asked for a lawyer. He appeared before a judge Wednesday afternoon, and was ordered held without bond.
Less than an hour before Takiya was shot, Kanari Gentry Bowers, 12, was inadvertently struck in the head by gunfire as she played basketball with friends on an elementary school playground. After four days on life support, Kanari died on Wednesday. Police have not apprehended a suspect in her shooting.
Hours after Takiya's death,another child Lavontay White, 2, was killed on Tuesday along with his 26-year-old uncle Lazarec Collins in what police said was a gang-related shooting. A pregnant woman, 20, was wounded when they were ambushed as they drove in an alley on the city's West Side.
In the fatal shooting of Lavontay, police believe the uncle Lazarec Collins, 26, a known gang member, was the intended targeted. Like the suspected gunman in Takiya's shooting, Collins had an extensive record, including convictions for armed robbery and burglary.
Anthony Guglielmi, a police department spokesman, said both Jones and Collins were spotted by the department's Strategic Subject Algorithm tool, a predictive list that the department generates to determine people who are at high risk of becoming victims or of perpetrators of a crime.
No one has been apprehended in that shooting, part of which was livestreamed on Facebook Live. Police, however, said they had promising leads in the double homicide.
Chicago has been in the spotlight over the roiling violence plaguing the city. President Trump has repeatedly suggested that he may order a federal intervention to try to stem the violence. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed that it was considering the addition of more agents to its Chicago field office.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Johnson say the spike in violence—the city tallied more murders than New York and Los Angeles combined last year— is caused by a combination of increased gang activity and weak gun laws that they say don't do enough to dissuade convicted felons from carrying and using weapons.
Emanuel and Johnson have called on state lawmakers to pass legislation, introduced by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, that aims to lengthen sentences for felons previously convicted of unlawful use of weapons charges. The bill would not impose strict minimum sentences, but would require judges to explain their rationale in writing if they grant lighter sentences to previously convicted gun felons. About 40% of homicide suspects arrested in Chicago in 2015 had previously been convicted of a weapons offense, according to police department data.
Johnson said it was "tragic" that the state lawmakers haven't taken action.
"They (repeat offenders) think the judicial system in Cook County is a joke," Johnson said. "They just don't care. Until we create that...accountability to not pick up a gun, we're going to continue to see this cycle of violence."
Boy, 2, killed in Chicago gang hit
by Aamer Madhani
CHICAGO — A two-year-old boy and his 26-year-old uncle were killed — and a pregnant woman was wounded — on Tuesday in what authorities suspect was a gang-related shooting, according to Chicago Police.
No one is in custody for the shooting, which occurred in broad daylight and was streamed on Facebook Live by one of the victims, police said.
Police said the adult male victim, Lazarec Collins, was a known gang member. The man and his nephew, Lavontay White, as well as a 20-year-old woman, were shot while sitting in their car on the city's West Side, police said.
The woman was described by police as the man's girlfriend. She was wounded in the stomach, and was listed in fair condition.
Paramedics were able to revive the boy when they arrived at the scene, but he died from his injuries shortly after. Lavontay became the third child in less than three days to be killed or gravely injured in a shooting in Chicago, which is mired in a surge of killings and gun violence that the city has not seen in nearly 20 years.
“We have yet another innocent child that can lose (his) life over senseless gun violence,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at the scene of the shooting shortly before police announced that Lavontay had died from his injuries. “I am sick of it, and I know Chicago is sick of it.”
Investigators were reviewing surveillance video from the area, and investigators had promising leads about the gunman, Johnson said. Police said they were also reviewing Facebook Live video that the woman was streaming when the victims were ambushed.
In the Facebook video, Collins and woman can be seen singing along to music as they drove into an alley, and the child is seated in the back of the car. About three minutes into the livestream, the sound of a series of shots can be heard. The woman then runs from the car into the home of someone she appears to know.
“They shot at us!” the woman says as she ran through the home. "I got a bullet in my stomach."
Someone inside the house can be heard saying, “Call 911!”
Detectives believe Collins had been in some type of dispute with the gunman, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Investigators were able to interview the woman, he said.
The triple shooting occurred in the midst of a spike in violence in the nation's third largest city, which has caught the attention of President Trump. The city recorded more than 760 murders and 4,300 shooting victims last year. This year is off to a nearly equally grim start, with more than 60 murders and 300 shooting victims, according to police data.
Trump has repeatedly suggested over the early weeks of his presidency that he may order some type of federal intervention to help stem the violence, if city officials are unable to stop the bloodshed themselves. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed that it was weighing adding more agents to the agency's Chicago field office.
The adult male, who authorities have not yet identified, was shot in the head and stomach, while the boy was wounded in the head.
The death of the toddler marked the third time in less than 72 hours that a child in Chicago was victimized by the ongoing gun violence.
On Saturday, a 11-year-old girl and 12-year-old girl were shot in the head in separate incidents on the city's South Side.
The 11-year-old, Takiya Holmes, who was shot while sitting in her mother's car, succumbed to her injuries earlier on Tuesday. Kanari Gentry Bowers, 12, who was shot as she played basketball with friends, remained in critical condition Tuesday evening. Police believe both girls, who were shot just a few miles apart from each other on the city's South Side, were hit by stray bullets and were not targeted.
Chicago Police announced Wednesday that Antwan Jones, 19, had been arrested and charged with murder for Takiya's killing.
Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have repeatedly blamed the violence on a combination of increased gang activity and weak gun laws that they say don't do enough to dissuade convicted felons from carrying and using weapons. Both repeated their calls to state lawmakers to strengthen penalties for repeat offenders.
“These shootings must be a turning point for our city,” Emanuel said. “Anyone with information about these crimes owes it to the families of these children to come forward.”
Johnson told reporters his "gut feeling" was that the shooter in the killing of two-year-old Lavontay will also turn out to be a repeat gun offender.
“Our children shouldn't have to keep paying the price of our inability to hold repeat gun offenders accountable for their actions,” Johnson said.
ATF considers sending more agents to help with Chicago's violent crime
by Aamer Madhani and Kevin Johnson
CHICAGO — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Saturday that it is examining a variety options to address Chicago's deadly crime surge, including sending a number of its agents to the city on permanent assignments.
David Coulson, an ATF senior agent in the Chicago field office, said the agency is still early in the process of developing strategies to bolster its efforts in the nation's third-largest city.
"ATF is exploring various options as we are committed to furthering law enforcement efforts in Chicago," Coulson said. "One of those options is to send additional agents to Chicago on permanent transfers." No plans have been finalized yet.
President Trump has repeatedly criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city officials for the crime surge, which left the city with more that 760 murders and 4,300 shooting victims last year. The city tallied 51 murders and 299 shootings in the first month of 2017, a slight increase from the bloody start to last year.
The president has repeatedly made vague threats about federal intervention in Chicago. Emanuel, however, has repeatedly said he would welcome federal assistance — short of sending federal troops into the city.
Emanuel said he discussed the issue with Trump when they met in New York in December. He's also talked about boosting federal assistance to fight crime with Vice President Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
"It would be welcome news if the administration has indeed agreed to one of Mayor Emanuel's requests for federal resources," said Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Chicago mayor. "We remain hopeful that they will also provide added DEA and FBI agents, that they will boost the prosecution rate for federal gun crimes in Chicago, and that they will provide funding for successful violence prevention efforts."
'A resurgence of white nationalism': Hate groups spiked in 2016
by Sara Ganim, Chris Welch and Nathaniel Meyersohn
Across the country, flyers are showing up on college campuses.
Some promote blatant neo-Nazi rhetoric, others are much more subtle.
"Protect your heritage." "Let's become great again." "Our future belongs to us." "White people, do something." "Serve your people."
They represent a less extreme white supremacist movement targeting the young and educated.
"They're racist, but they have fancy new packaging," said Brian Levin, director for the Center of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. "They learn to downplay the swastikas and get a thesaurus, so instead of white supremacy they use words like identitarian. It's just a repackaged version of white nationalism."
On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that monitors hate crimes across the country, released its annual report on extremism in America. The report says the number of groups across the country increased in 2016 to 917, up from 892 in 2015. In 2011, SPLC recorded 1,018 active organizations, the highest tally it found in more than 30 years of tracking hate groups. That number had fallen to 784 in 2014.
The largest jump last year occurred in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups, which tripled from 34 in 2015 to 101.
The report singled out Donald Trump's pledge to bar Muslims from entering the country, his harsh language around immigration from Mexico, his appearance on conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones's radio program, and his engagement with white nationalists on Twitter as key moments that encouraged extremist groups during the campaign.
"Trump's run for office electrifed the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man's country," wrote Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC. "Several new and energetic groups appeared last year that were almost entirely focused on Trump and seemed to live off his candidacy."
"The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we've made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists," Potok noted.
The White House did not respond to request for comment.
Conservative critics have charged that SPLC targets right-wing groups based on their ideology. SPLC says on its website that it characterizes hate groups as those having "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."
One of the groups named in the report is Identity Evropa, run by Nathan Damigo, a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran and student at Cal State Stanislaus in northern California.
Damigo told CNN that in the past 18 months, he's targeted 40 colleges across the country trying to bring younger people into his group. He says he's recruited about 60 college kids to join the group, which now measures in the hundreds.
"Prior to 1965, America was a white country, a country for European people," Damigo told CNN when he sat down with us on the Stanislaus campus in December. "What's actually happening right now is that we're being replaced in our own country."
"We want to combat the diversity cult that has propagated itself not only on college campuses but throughout much of America," he said.
In 2007, Damigo was convicted of armed robbery for robbing and pointing a gun at a cab driver he thought was Iraqi.
Damigo says it was before his views on race changed, and a result of PTSD.
"I spent two years in Iraq," he said. "I had a lot of issues coming back and when that happened I was not unfortunately in the best state of my life. It's not something I'm proud of, it's not something I'm happy about but I been back from Iraq for a couple weeks and unfortunately I didn't know where I was, I flipped out on the guy and it was a terrifying thing, for him, it was a terrifying thing for me and it's something I have unfortunately something to live with for the rest of my life."
He said he was sorry for what happened, but has not apologized to the victim.
"Just like the middle ages, when armies would lay siege to a castle or an institution," he said.
His Twitter handle is "Fashy Haircut," as in Fascist.
For now, Identity Evropa, is relatively small.
"Nathan Damigo is ... an extraordinary irritant, but nothing more yet," Levin said. "What will be interesting to see is whether he gets traction with his hit and miss and hit and run presentations and leafletting at campuses up and down the state."
Bloomington advocate calls for more community policing to bridge racial divide
by Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON – A breakdown on pedestrian stops based on race doesn't set Bloomington apart from most other cities in the U.S., but the Bloomington woman who compiled the report says the study should still serve as a call to action.
Julie Prandi, a retired Illinois Wesleyan professor, told WJBC's Sam Wood she would like the see greater emphasis on community policing.
“When they had problems and they know about crimes and they have tips and will feel good about going to police and giving those tips,” Prandi said. “That's not my understanding of how policing is done in any neighborhood in the city.”
The report which covered the first six months of last year showed blacks were three-times more likely then whites to be stopped by police while a higher percentage of blacks were never arrested.
“I think it would be good for Bloomington Police to look at some other definitions of (community policing),” Prandi said. “Targeting specific neighborhoods like this isn't necessarily the way to go.”
Police Chief Brendan Heffner has said those stops were concentrated in higher crime areas and were not based on race.
Triangle Muslim leaders, police hold meeting about security and violence
Raleigh, N.C. — Security was among the top priorities at the meeting between law enforcement and Triangle Muslim community leaders Wednesday night at the Islamic Center of Raleigh.
When gunmen opened fire inside a Mosque in Quebec, killing six, last month, the incident shook up the Muslim community around the world and here in the Triangle. The Raleigh meeting was the first since President Trump was elected and the recent deadly shooting at a Canadian Mosque.
"I think that fear is not something I feel just in our community but quite honestly when I go to the mall, and go outside, I think people are uncertain, and especially concern for their children," Mohamed Abu Taleb said.
This meeting at the Islamic Center in Raleigh addressed the concerns about fear within the Muslim community and law enforcement's role.
"We believe that the partnership with law enforcement is very important to our community, and for the community at large," Mohammed Elgamel said.
The meeting targeted local, State and Federal Law Enforcement officers. Tim Stranahan with the FBI made the drive from Charlotte because this is another form of community policing.
"We're in the community. We're always here, but it's important for the leadership of the FBI to come to events like this, to show support for what's going on in the community," Stranahan said.
The murder of three Muslim students in the Chapel Hill Community two years ago is why Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said he believes in the partnership he's forming with Triangle Muslim community leaders.
"There's a shared sense of responsibility for a community's safety. Those are the fundamental elements of community policing," Blue said.
The Islamic Association has been having this dialogue with law enforcement officers since September 11, 2001. Similar meetings are planned later this year.
Huntsville City Councilman calls for community discussion after police mistake him for a robbery suspect
by Brian Lawson
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith posted a Facebook message on Tuesday night saying he'd had an encounter with the Huntsville Police Department.
Keith said the encounter, where police apparently briefly questioned him as a potential robbery suspect based on his race and clothing, was resolved with "civility between myself and the officers on duty." But, he added, it also "sheds light on an issue that happens far too often in familiar neighborhoods."
Keith, 29, was elected to the Huntsville City Council District 1 seat in October, upsetting longtime incumbent Richard Showers.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle confirmed the account to WHNT News 19.
"This is one of those that involves public trust," Battle said. "You have to make sure the public trusts your police, trusts your elected officials to do the right thing. And this is one of those cases where I think everybody did do the right thing."
Battle said the encounter happened after Keith, who had recently moved into the Terry Heights neighborhood, was notified by a neighbor there were police in the area. Police had been responding to a robbery call, Mayor Battle said.
The description of the alleged robber wasn't very specific, it said, "black male, wearing a hoodie and blue jeans."
Battle said that's how Keith was dressed Monday afternoon when he encountered a Huntsville Police Department officer in front of his home.
Keith was briefly questioned and searched. Battle said Keith didn't tell the officer he was a city councilman. He provided his name and the encounter ended shortly after that.
A press release from the city of Huntsville said, "Both the Huntsville Police Department and Mr. Keith acted appropriately and served as a great community model for citizen and police interaction."
Councilman Keith is working with city administration and Huntsville Police to continue conversations regarding community policing and ways the city can improve good police work, the city said.
“I look forward to continued, open, intentional dialogue on our community policing procedures and how we can work to keep our community safe,” Keith said. “District One will see these conversations carried out publicly and in a way that leads to real solutions for our community.”
Crime data helps police thrive: NYPD commissioner
by James P. O'Neill and Dermot Shea
Academics, critics miss mark on CompStat. Reporting numbers gave cops focus needed to improve city.
For more than a decade, coteries of academics, and ex-cops who became academics, have been selling the idea that CompStat, the police command accountability and crime strategy system developed in the New York Police Department in the mid-1990s, is responsible for the deterioration of police-community relations across the country. Nothing could be further from the truth. These critics are not that knowledgeable about CompStat as it is practiced, and certainly not as it has been practiced in the NYPD over the past three years.
What they present is a ludicrous caricature of CompStat as a numbers-driven juggernaut that rolls over peaceful and unsuspecting neighborhoods for no better reason than to jack up enforcement numbers such as arrests, summonses and stops. They suggest that precinct commanders, having been “humiliated” at CompStat sessions because of high-crime numbers, come back to their precincts and demand that cops crack down on neighborhoods on pain of being denied days off or assigned to undesirable shifts. In turn, these officers supposedly go out into the streets and abuse the public.
Although CompStat appeared at times to have placed too heavy an emphasis on numbers, the case against it is an exaggeration. CompStat has been adopted by police departments across the country and around the world because it applied a much needed focus to the complex challenges of policing a large city.
Data, strategy bring focus
The real risk in large police organizations is not overzealous policing but the tendency to drift and lose focus because of a lack of strategic oversight. Absent this oversight prior to CompStat, New York's precinct commands weren't grappling with emerging crime trends effectively; detective squads weren't identifying and shutting down patterns of robberies and burglaries swiftly; and special units like narcotics squads weren't coordinating their efforts with precincts or detectives very well. Individual cops and detectives were working hard, but the department as a whole was spinning its wheels more often than not as crime, and especially violence, continued to climb in the 1970s and 1980s.
CompStat changed all this. The simple act of tracking crime by precinct, introduced as a weekly data report in 1994, has helped the entire department stay abreast of changing crime circumstances and respond accordingly. CompStat meetings bring together precinct commanders, detective squad leaders and special unit commanders from a particular part of the city at headquarters each week. In three-hour sessions, the NYPD's top operational managers work with these field commanders to conduct an exacting and detailed review of crime, emerging patterns, and the steps being taken to counter them. It's a planning session, a training session and a resource coordinating session all in one. Maybe most important, CompStat continuously reinforces a sense of urgency about our core mission: countering crime and keeping people safe.
We ran the NYPD CompStat meetings together in 2015 and 2016. We were able to manage further declines in crime from New York City's already very low numbers, including an all-time low in shootings. During those years, the city experienced lows in murders, robberies, burglaries and auto thefts.
CompStat in New York today is a precision instrument. The chiefs running the meeting do not demand arrests, summonses or stops from anyone simply for the sake of generating numbers. Rather, they focus on strategy to prevent and solve crime when it occurs. What they demand: close attention to emerging problems and crime; the thorough gathering of evidence and intelligence; exhaustive investigative follow-through; and plans and strategies to attack whatever challenges have developed in each precinct.
System contributes to community policing
The critics of CompStat have another recurring theme, which is that CompStat ought to be replaced by “community” and “problem-solving” policing, which they rarely define with any clarity. CompStat is the most effective problem-solving policing system ever devised. It helps commanders identify the real crime and quality-of-life issues in a neighborhood and then apply resources to effectively address them.
But New York cops go further. In the past 21 months, the NYPD has mounted a far-reaching neighborhood policing effort that is transforming the way we fight crime. This approach allows patrol cops to share the responsibility and authority for addressing conditions in their precincts. By restructuring various units and adding police officers, we have been able to staff patrol units sufficiently so that police officers have both the time and latitude to work with neighborhood residents at solving problems, including entrenched crime. Anchored in sectors within precincts, the NYPD's sector officers are collaborating closely with community residents and delivering a level of local police service that was never possible before. Neighborhood police officers are building meaningful relationships with the public. And they better understand the neighborhood, conditions and crime by working with residents who live there.
As it happens, CompStat is helping NYPD manage this complex transition in its patrol methodology. Unlike CompStat's critics, who vaguely imagine an idealized community policing future, New York police have actually put the structure in place to make neighborhood policing a reality.
Since its inception in 1994, CompStat has ensured better community service and crime fighting across New York City. Now, with the added innovation of neighborhood policing, the NYPD is taking the next step toward stronger police/community alliances. But the department is not jettisoning CompStat. It's building on it with the confidence that neighborhood policing will be as lasting and effective an innovation as CompStat has been.
James P. O'Neill is the commissioner of the New York Police Department. Dermot Shea is the chief of crime control strategies.
Judge: Man can't be tried in forgotten '72 cop-shooting case
by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An 82-year-old man who was indicted, but never prosecuted, in the nonfatal shooting of an Ohio police officer almost 45 years ago cannot be tried now, a judge ruled Thursday.
The case against Charles Hays fell through the cracks, and prosecutors acknowledged the state neglected the case. But they said he never demanded a speedy trial.
Franklin County Judge Guy Reece dismissed the case Thursday, saying Ohio had at least two opportunities over the past four decades to bring Hays back for trial.
Those came when Hays was in jail in Kentucky and in prison in Connecticut on charges unrelated to the 1972 shooting of Columbus officer Niki "Nick" Cooper.
A speedy trial is a constitutional right, the judge said as he announced his decision.
"Not only is it important for the defendant, but it's also important for society as a whole to have a criminal case resolved in a timely manner," Reece said.
Cooper was shot in the left arm in March 1972 when he and his partner interrupted a burglary. Cooper never regained full use of the injured limb, and he died just over three years ago at 71.
Hays was shot twice by Cooper and left a paraplegic, according to court records.
After Cooper died, an investigation by one of his daughters, Lori Cooper, brought the still-open case to prosecutors' attention. She fought back tears Thursday as she said she couldn't agree with the judge's decision.
No one should be able to shoot a police officer and not suffer the consequences, said Cooper, of central Ohio.
"I didn't accomplish what I set out to do, and that was to ensure that justice occurred. And that didn't happen today," she said.
The family wants the case appealed. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he hasn't decided whether to do so.
Hays' attorney, Robert Essex, declined to comment afterward. He has said that the state missed opportunities to try Hays over the years, violating his speedy trial rights.
Two accomplices were charged and pleaded guilty. Both sides agree Hays was properly indicted on counts of intentional shooting, burglary and larceny. What happened afterward is in dispute.
O'Brien said Hays was aware of the charges even as he continued to commit crimes in Kentucky and Connecticut.
Hays was hospitalized for his injuries, first in Columbus, then at a veteran's hospital in Cleveland. Afterward, he went to Kentucky and ended up in jail where Ohio authorities were notified of his presence and told an ambulance would be needed to collect him.
In the early years after his indictment, Hays highlighted his medical condition as a reason he shouldn't be returned to the state, prosecutors argue.
The state's lax approach was illustrated by the fact that Hays has a current Ohio driver's license he's renewed twice and has lived at the same address in Dayton for 10 years, Essex has said.
Hays is in poor health and unavailable for an interview, Essex said.
Community Policing in America: Is it Possible in 2017 and Beyond?
Over the past several years' police officers have been under scrutiny for shootings and use of force toward minorities in America. In 2014 after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, grew a movement where law enforcement has been under the microscope from both the media and the public. Serious violent crime has been on the rise in America, and many believe it is in direct relation to a slowdown in law enforcement tactics in high-crime areas. For serious violent crime to be reduced there needs to be an equilibrium of effort put forth by the community and the police. It cannot be a one-sided effort.
As violent crime and murder peaked in the late 1980's, and early 1990's the public demanded a change from American law enforcement and demanded that law enforcement is more proactive than reactive. Minimum mandatory sentencing made sure offenders stayed in prison for a long time, and violent crime fell in the late 1990's and throughout the 21 st century. However, American law enforcement never adjusted to the crime trends and proactive policing continued at 100% as crime fell into the 21 st century. These practices led to an abundance of minorities being incarcerated for longer periods of time. Which caused damage between the community and police, along with economic and social hardships in inner-city communities due to separated families.
Proactive police work is a needed tactic for law enforcement to prevent crime, there is no denying that. However, law enforcement needs the community to identify suspects, to report crimes, to be witnesses, etc. Without the assistance of the community, crime reduction is impossible. Each community must have the social capital to assist their community in fighting crime. Social Capital can be described, in relation to law enforcement, as a community with networks, neighbors, foundations, and the ability to trust the police, fire, other officials and can improve the efficiency of that community. A community that looks out for one another and socializes when there are problems.
When it comes to communities that lack this social capital, unfortunately, most are inner-city communities that consist of minorities. Most inner-city communities suffer from economic and social climates that are precursors for crime trends. Having the confidence and ability to be proactive in these communities, as well as all communities, is vital to law enforcement operations as they tend to lead to law enforcement actions like capturing fugitives or seizing contraband. However, when mistrust arises in a community or the social capital of a community is weak, it makes being proactive more difficult.
Many people argue proactivity only targets minorities, however, law enforcement is like any other business and acts on efficiency. The largest division of any agency is its patrol division. The upper and mid-level supervisors assign officers to an area based on the historical need in that geographical area of crime trends. If a zone is a high crime area, it will tend to have more officers assigned to it than a zone that is not as crime-ridden. Unfortunately, many inner-city neighborhoods are high crime areas due to their social and economic struggles. Therefore, being proficient, there are naturally more officers patrolling the inner-cities than there are patrolling other areas. On the one hand, this is a good thing; it means faster response times to in-progress calls. However, on the other hand, it means looking at the statistical data on a sheet of paper it is going to show an unbalance of citizen interactions that statistically misrepresent one side. It is also going to enhance the chance of a tragic event happening i.e. a shooting, police brutality case, etc. because there are far more interactions in that community than others in the same jurisdiction.
There certainly are challenges when it comes to policing in America. It is said that when police officers feel that a community lacks social capital, they feel a responsibility to step up and be the one that protects that community. Police Officers took an oath to protect the citizens they serve, and most police officers are great public servants. However, when trying to balance preventing crime and still building a relationship with that very same community, it is a struggle. The former Dallas Police Chief, David Brown once said “Every societal failure, we put it on the cops to solve”, meaning schools, economic, social, etc. With all of this, you throw in being proactive and trying to prevent crime in communities that distrust the police but require the police, it seems impossible. One must ask themselves, how did the state of law enforcement get here? And can police and community relations every improve without social and economic improvements? Things that are out of the control of law enforcement and more in control of politicians who have somehow escaped all blame for the quality of life in inner-city communities.
More than 200 police chiefs criticize Trump's 'law and order' executive actions
They argued that Trump's approach could result in more dangerous communities and is a waste of federal resources
by PoliceOne Staff
President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders last week aimed at reducing crime and drug trafficking and protecting law enforcement. But a group of current and veteran law enforcement leaders say that his approach could be a potential waste of federal resources and make communities more dangerous.
Business Insider reported that Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Incarceration, consisting of former Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Former Superintendent and Police Chief Ronal Serpas, said today's policies “too often rely only on jail and prison, are simply ineffective in preserving public safety.”
One executive order sets out to define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing ones, to further protect officers from violence. Another focuses on the creation of a task force to reduce violent crime, and a third aims to dismantle international drug cartels, the Associated Press reported.
In the 28-page agenda, the leaders asked the Trump administration to focus on reducing the overcrowded prison population with alternative sentences. They stated that better support for inmates reduces repeat offenses.
The group wants Trump to focus more on policies that target violent crime specifically, saying that focusing on arresting people and not directing resources toward the correct initiatives is a waste of taxpayers' dollars.
The agenda addresses the lack of community policing focus in the executive orders. The leaders said by improving community policing, crime and tensions between police and their communities are reduced.
“We must instead consider those policies that better preserve public safety,” the agenda states. “Dangerous, violent offenders should be behind bars, but incarceration is not necessarily the best
tool to put non-violent offenders back on the road to productive, law-abiding lives.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at his confirmation hearing last month the administration is committed to representing law-and-order interests.
"Protecting the people of this country from crime, and especially from violent crime, is the high calling of the men and women of the Department of Justice. Today, I am afraid, that has become more important than ever," Sessions said.
Community engagement remains a work in progress
by Caleb Bedillion
TUPELO – Recommendations made last fall to remedy racial rifts mostly remain under discussion or in the early implementation phases by Mayor Jason Shelton's administration.
These recommendations were all compiled by temporary study committees appointed by Tupelo's elected leadership and dealt with community policing, community outreach by City Hall and the creation of a more diverse city workforce.
A few measures are more or less in place. Shelton created the position of community outreach liaison and filled it by hiring Marcus Gary.
The mayor's administration also revised the job duties of the neighborhood coordinator aimed at ensuring a broader vision of city-wide cohesiveness.
Compiling a directory of faith-based organizations and social services remains ongoing
For now, efforts to bring more minorities onto Tupelo's payroll, particularly at the police department, will focus on a recruitment partnership with the historically-black Rust College, in Holly Springs.
However, a recommendation to bring outside observers onto hiring and promotion panels in order to ensure impartiality was dismissed by the administration.
Efforts to strengthen community policing mostly await full implementation.
Last summer, after protesters made allegations of prejudice and excessive force against the Tupelo Police Department, civil rights advocates demanded a stronger commitment to the philosophy of community–oriented policing.
Tupelo's leadership, including Shelton and Police Chief Bart Aguirre, have insisted that a commitment to community policing has existed for years.
However, the study committee devoted to the topic suggested ways to expand current efforts.
Those suggested included neighborhood foot patrols as well as the resurrection of defunct programs like bike patrols and “coffee with a cop.”
Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis said bike patrols are back by request for special events. Implementation of foot patrols remains under discussion, as does the coffee with a cop program, which was designed to foster one-on-one conversations between community members and police officers.
One new initiative is on the calendar. A March 6 public forum is scheduled to promote dialogue around Tupelo's police department.
“What we are going to be doing is implementing an ‘All-America Conversation' on various topics,” said Lewis. “This one is going to be a welcome to the TPD. And we are going to have an All-America Conversation about the police department.”
Lewis added that the city is seeking to raise awareness around police department initiatives and events through the city's neighborhood coordinator and outreach liaison.
“They are out in the neighborhoods, spreading the word about what's going on,” said Lewis. “They are carrying the mayor's message.”
Shelton is also emphasizing the need to ensure that new hires in the police department understand the importance of the community policing mindset.
“I met with three new officers and went over how proud we are of them,” said Shelton. “I went through some of the recent history of what we've gone through as a city and pledged to them that the city is always going to have their back, they are always going to have the city's support. But as law enforcement officers they are representatives of the city. We expect the officers to be professional and conduct themselves in a manner befitting the city of Tupelo.”
Our View: Ward 5 meeting turnout encouraging
Monday evening, consultant K.B. Turner held the second of six planned ward meetings to discuss how the Columbus Police Department can better serve its residents and what residents can do to assist those efforts.
The meeting was held at the Sim Scott Center for residents of Ward 5, who are no strangers to the issues facing their community. There is nothing abstract about the crime problem for many of these residents; it exists right out their front windows.
Giving the choice between tuning out and turning out, it was apparent that the 50 or 60 who filled every available seat want to engage in making their community a safer, better place to live.
It could be argued that Monday's meeting was a matter of the choir turning out for rehearsal -- those who attended are not the people who are victimizing their neighborhoods. Even so, we are encouraged by the tone and tenor of the 1 1/2-hour meeting. As is the case at these sorts of gatherings, there was some pontificating, but, also there was an open, often candid exchange between residents and Turner, who responded to residents' observations.
No subjects appeared to be off the table, including what "community policing" has looked like until now and what it might look like going forward.
It is easy for officials to condescend in such an environment, to be dismissive of suggestions, to retreat behind vague platitudes and to suggest that the community is not fulfilling its role in fighting crime.
Yet we found little of that Monday. In truth, both police and residents can do better and Monday's meeting focused on ways to move forward.
Turner called for citizen volunteers to help the CPD by volunteering to do time-consuming clerical work at CPD headquarters.
The CPD, meanwhile, can making community policing more about building relationships with residents than looking to write citations for minor infractions. To many, these encounters seem more like confrontations than conversations, which damages rather than improves the now-tenuous bond of trust between police and the people.
Tonight, the conversation resumes in Ward 3 with a meeting at 6 p.m. at First Christian Church (811 N. McCrary Road), another opportunity for citizens not only to air their grievances, but to learn how both the CPD and residents can achieve a common goal.
These meetings, when completed, are a step toward that goal. How Turner and the CPD respond to what they have heard, how whatever changes emerge are implemented and how the community responds to what is required of it, will ultimately decide how successful this venture will be.
But a third of the way through these meetings, we are encouraged that what we have heard and seen suggests both the city and its citizens are eager to strengthen the bonds of trust that is vital to success.
It may be only a start, but it's a good start.
How not to get tough on terror: Column
by Rajdeep Singh Jolly
The Trump administration reportedly plans to narrow the focus of its counterterrorism strategy to extremism emanating from the fringes of the Muslim community. All Americans, liberals and conservatives alike, should be alarmed by this.
Don't get me wrong — Muslim supremacist groups like the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda continue to pose deadly threats to the homeland, and they must be defeated. Some analysts note the risk posed by foreign-born terrorists is very small compared to other risks, but this is offensive. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 resulted in the loss of nearly 3,000 lives. The loss of loved ones due to terrorism cannot be dismissed. It is 100% permanent.
At the same time and for the same reasons, it would be reckless to ignore white supremacist terror threats. There has been a string of hate crimes against American Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim in recent months. And just last month, six lives were lost when a white supremacist attacked a mosque in Quebec. President Trump could not even spare a tweet about the incident.
Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy of all people should know better than to downplay the threat of white supremacist terror. On Aug. 5, 2012, a neo-Nazi gunman murdered six people at a Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) in Oak Creek, Wis. and injured several more, including a law enforcement officer.
The Quebec mosque attack was not a “one-off,” as Duffy suggested. Just ask the families who lost loved ones at the hands of white supremacists in 2015 at a South Carolina church and in 2014 at Jewish facilities in Kansas.
White supremacy and Muslim supremacy are two sides of the same coin. Both are based on exclusivist ideologies that reject American values of pluralism and equality. The threat of neo-Nazi terror may seem as distant and alarmist now as an al-Qaeda attack may have seemed before 9/11, but complacency is not an option. White supremacists murdered thousands of Americans during the Jim Crow era and committed genocide against European Jews during the last century.
So what should the president and Congress do to confront this menace?
The Trump administration and its allies should publicly and consistently acknowledge that white supremacy poses a threat to national security. This will reassure millions of Americans who live in communities that have been targeted by white supremacists.
For example, Trump could deliver a prime time address promising Americans that his administration rejects the toxic ideology of Hitler-saluting bigots and will vigorously prevent and prosecute crimes committed in the name of white supremacy.
Next, government counterterrorism programs should include white supremacist terror threats instead of focusing exclusively on al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Focusing solely on radical Muslim terror groups would be a tactically misguided codification of the Obama administration's de facto neglect of the white supremacist danger. In 2009, in the face of political pressure, the Obama Administration withdrew a prescient Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism and downgraded a unit assigned to study and track non-jihadist threats. Obama's 2015 Countering Violent Extremism Summit was critiqued for giving insufficient attention to white supremacist violence. The Trump administration should not repeat and multiply the mistakes of its predecessors.
Finally, national leaders need to reassure the entire country that people of all races, religions, and national origins are an integral part of the American fabric.
When the president's chief adviser laments the success of Asian-origin CEOs in Silicon Valley, and when his attorney general waxes nostalgic for race-based immigration laws, these are dog whistles that threaten the safety and security of minorities.
After prevailing on election night, Trump said that “it is time for us to come together as one united people” and pledged that he would be president “for all Americans.” This promise will ring hollow if the white supremacist threat is ignored and its prospective victims are treated like second-class citizens.
San Diego crime report says violent crimes are down, murder rate is up
by Erika Cervantes
San Diego city leaders say the violent crime rate has dropped to its lowest level in more than 40-years. However, the same report shows murders up over 30% compared to last year, and rape and robbery are up as well.
San Diego Police Chief Shelly Zimmerman says they can't explain the spike in killings other than the string of attacks on the homeless that occurred last summer.
“There was not a pattern except for the killer we took off the streets and that was our highest priority when that was happening,” says San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
Most of the murders in 2016 occurred in the southeastern part of the city. After that mid-city had the next highest rate.
The chief says the department will use this information to try and cut down crime in problem areas.
“As we move our resources around, it's to make sure that we're able to respond to those types of incidents,' adds Chief Zimmerman.
The report shows that violent crime has decreased overall because the number of aggravated assaults, by far the most common violent crime, dropped significantly. Police also say new programs and technology, such as body cameras and community policing, have helped make the city safer.
“Whether it's through ride-alongs, whether it's through attending community meetings or taking parts in neighborhood events, our officers are continuing doing this outreach and keeping the lines of communication open, it's what's community policing is all about,” says San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
The Police Chief also says more police officers are needed on the streets. There are currently 200-open positions in the department.
Law enforcement forced to handle social issues
by Dan Deming
Wichita's relatively new and seemingly highly qualified police chief recently spoke about the strain that mental illness, along with drug and alcohol abuse, is putting on his department. Unfortunately, the same situation is true in Hutchinson and Reno County. When coupled with police called upon to handle an increasing volume of misbehaving and troubled youth that either their parents or schools can't properly control, you have officers unable to focus on crime because they handle too many other societal problems.
It's not a stretch to imagine that if HPD and the sheriff's office only had to deal with crime, we could likely get by with a fraction of our current force. But because of mental health, homelessness and a myriad of situations not directly related to criminal activity but needing someone's attention, our officers spend a huge portion of their 12-hour shifts on issues others are unable to control. It is becoming alarmingly common for officers to be tied up for multiple hours at the hospital, youth shelter or dealing with mental health while traffic, criminal investigations and other law enforcement issues are overshadowed.
“The police department has really become the first and last provider of social services in our community,” said Wichita Chief Gordon Ramsay.
I'm becoming a fan of Ramsay's efforts to upgrade and make the Wichita PD more accountable. Eliminating an overly costly helicopter unit, much-improved dialogue with minorities and changes in hiring practices are among Ramsay's accomplishments in less than a year.
“All you have to do is drive around the streets to see that mental illness is a problem, and that's what our officers are having to deal with,” Ramsay said when expressing support of Medicaid expansion as one way of getting help to people before police must intervene. “Some crimes could be prevented if offenders received health insurance coverage to get medications for mental illness after being discharged from jail.”
Inmates lose Medicaid coverage during incarceration and must reapply upon release. In some jails they receive small medication supplies before leaving, but they often run out before reapproval for Medicaid, which is called KanCare in Kansas. Qualification standards have been raised to make many working poor ineligible for assistance they desperately need to avoid going back to the crime cycle.
Locally, Horizons Mental Health Center helps fill part of the void, including partial funding of a full-time mental health counselor at the Reno County jail, but its funds will only reach part of the needed distance. Sheriff Randy Henderson deserves much credit for cooperating on getting more mental health and related programs into the jail, but there simply isn't enough money, tax or otherwise, to properly address all the issues law enforcement is increasingly being called upon to handle.
Hutchinson Police Capt. Troy Hoover told me recently, with agreement from Chief Dick Heitschmidt, “It's getting to the point that we have little time to concentrate our efforts on crime reduction and apprehending criminals.” Baby-sitting individuals at the local hospital emergency room because of mental or related issues for multiple hours is increasingly more common.
Recent assignment of three officers to do community policing in specific areas of town is another step forward, but the more street cops are sidelined with mental health, out-of-control grade school and other student problems, along with those involving drugs and the homeless, it means that less gets done in actual law enforcement work and preventing crime before it occurs. It also means that as new officers are hired, they need to be trained and equipped to be aware of and handle social issues, defuse conflicts and potentially deadly situations as much as an ability to handle a gun or control violent behavior.
Feds, Texas police search for suspect who opened fire on officers
City and state law enforcement were assisting in a federal manhunt when the suspect allegedly opened fire
by PoliceOne Staff
SAN ANTONIO — A suspect wanted in a federal manhunt opened fire on law enforcement Tuesday.
According to MySanAntonio.com, local and state law enforcement joined a federal manhunt for the suspect and attempted to take the man into custody in a restaurant parking lot.
The suspect resisted and opened fire on police. One bullet went through a glass pane of the restaurant, but no one was injured.
Officials said the suspect fled the scene and is still at large.
Police said one person is in custody, but they are searching for a second in the area. People inside North Star Mall told KENS the building was on lockdown as police searched for the suspect.
A JCPenny employee told MySanAntonio.com that the mall was on lockdown due to a possible active shooter situation.
The website reported that U.S. Postal Inspector Service agents, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and the San Antonio Police Department are involved in the manhunt.
Authorities said the suspect is wanted in a weekend shooting of a mail carrier. The mail carrier was taken to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to her leg.
Tenn. bill aims to protect drivers who inadvertently hit protesters blocking traffic
The bill states if a protester is hit by a driver while blocking traffic, they cannot sue for injuries
by PoliceOne Staff
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A new bill aims to protect drivers who inadvertently hit protesters who are blocking roadways.
WTVC reported that if protesters are inadvertently hit while blocking a roadway, they cannot sue in civil court for injury. The bill states that a driver would not be immune from civil liability if the injuries are intentional.
“We believe that citizens have the right to protest. There is a procedure for peaceful protests and the purpose of that process is to protect the safety of our citizens,” Sen. Bill Ketron said. “Protesters have no right to be in the middle of the road or our highways for their own safety and the safety of the traveling public.”
The bill was created after claims of a man driving into protesters last month were investigated by local police.
Rep. Matthew Hill said they are not “endorsing anyone running over a person with a car.” If someone intentionally injuries someone, lawmakers said they will still be charged with a crime.
“There is a clear difference, however, between peacefully protesting and lawless rioters in the middle of a public roadway who jeopardize the safety of our families,” Hill said. “This is a public safety bill that is meant to protect everyone's right to peacefully protest and I look forward to seeing this commonsense legislation passed into law.”
North Dakota proposed a similar bill last month that protect drivers from legal consequences if they inadvertently hit, injure or kill pedestrians who are obstructing traffic. According to Reuters, the bill was voted down 40-51 by lawmakers Monday.
Man accused of threatening Fla. police had stockpile of weapons
Police found 16 guns and 4,500 rounds of ammunition inside the suspect's apartment
by The Associated Press
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — A man is charged with making harassing phone calls to the Miami Beach Police Department and posting expletive-laced threats against officers in an online law enforcement bulletin board.
The Miami Herald reports 54-year-old Ricky Weinberger was charged with threatening law enforcement and harassment during a hearing on Monday. He was booked into jail Saturday.
Authorities told the judge that police found 16 guns and 4,500 rounds of ammunition inside Weinberger's apartment.
Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez says the department believes they "potentially averted a catastrophic crisis."
An arrest report says the agency's lawyer asked Weinberger to stop making threats, to no avail. A judge also ordered him to stop. But in January he began posting on LeoAffairs.com, a non-official website for individual police departments.
9 arrested after gang raids by police, feds in Santa Cruz
by The Associated Press
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- Nine men believed to be affiliated with violent gang activity have been arrested in connection to a series of raids by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Santa Cruz Police Department.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/2kOMJvO) that the raids conducted early Monday capped a five-year investigation into gang violence in Santa Cruz. The raids targeted members of the MS-13 gang, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha gang.
Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Dan Flippo says he believes the department will be able to solve two recent homicides with the arrests made Monday.
Evidence is still being processed in connection to the arrests.
NY Congressman Urges President Trump To Retain COPS Program
by Allison Dunne
New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was in Middletown Monday to call on President Trump to retain a federal police program. Middletown is the latest city in Maloney's 18th district to receive funding through the program to hire additional police officers.
Maloney says that since 1994, the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office has sent about $14 billion to law enforcement agencies to fight crime. In New York since then, he says some $990 million has gone to nearly 500 law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
“So my message to President Trump is, if you want to back the badge, if you want to support law enforcement, talk is cheap but you have to put your money where your mouth is,” Maloney says. “The president ran explicitly on being the law-and-order candidate. That's fine with me but this is where the test comes is when you propose your budget, you're going to be smart about continuing investments because we know they work.”
Maloney, a Democrat, says three cities in his district benefit from the funding that local governments cannot afford.
“And since I've been in Congress, in just the last couple of years, we've been successful in bringing $1.6 million to local departments, like this one here in Middletown, but also in Newburgh and in Poughkeepsie. And, because of those efforts, we have secured funding for 13 officers — four here in Middletown, correct me if I'm wrong, five in Poughkeepsie and four in Newburgh,” says Maloney. “And that's really important when you think about how these guys do their work and the kinds of things we ask them to focus on, particularly with emerging threats like the heroin epidemic, these resources are absolutely critical.”
And he has put this point on paper to the president.
“I've written a letter that we're sending today to President-elect [sic] Trump. I've been in communication with members of the administration about their budget proposal because they specifically identify the COPS program for elimination in the president's proposed budget,” says Maloney. “Now they haven't made that proposal yet but are hoping they will not.
Maloney means President, not President-Elect Trump. Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano, also a Democrat, says without money in the budget for additional police hires, his city would lose out for a community policing program that works.
“We found great effectiveness in policing with special units, street crime units and things of that nature, community policing, where we have a standing order basically on almost every shift for the police to get out and walk through the neighborhoods and meet people at their homes, have conversation with them about their neighborhoods and about their concerns,” DeStefano says. “So I think those things would suffer and that communication between police and residents; and that's community-oriented policing, and what better way to do it with more staff.”
He says one of the four officers under the COPS program for Middletown was hired in September. Maloney says that if President Trump were to eliminate the COPS program, he is fairly certain the hire of the other three officers would be unaffected.
“I think most people would tell you — Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative — that community oriented policing and the COPS program has been one of the real standout successful programs that the federal government has done to partner with states and local communities, and New York has definitely benefitted from it,” Maloney says.
Middletown Lieutenant John Ewanciw says the program is beneficial not only to the city but to the police force.
“The City of Middletown as a whole is growing so this is a mechanism and an avenue for us to grow our police department as well,” says Ewanciw.
He says the Middletown police department, counting one COPS hire, has 65 sworn members.
What sort of policing do we want?
by Diane Chiddister
Years ago, when John Grote was a local police officer working under Chief Jim McKee, he regularly read to young children at the Community Children's Center. Sometimes he was off duty and sometimes he was on, but always he wore his uniform. After hearing a story, the kids could ask anything, and sometimes they asked about the story. But more often they wanted to know about being a policeman.
“They'd say things like, what's that on your belt? What's it for?” Grote said in a recent interview. “We were starting a friendship with the kids that would continue as they grew up.”
Grote didn't read to the kids because the Children's Center needed volunteers. He did so because the chief thought it was a good idea. It was one more way —; like bringing doughnuts to the Mills Lawn safety patrol kids or taking the safety patrollers out to lunch — that the local police engaged with the community.
“It was making connections,” said Grote, who is now retired after serving as chief himself. “It was building trust in the community.”
At the time, no one used the term “community policing” for the style of policing that McKee modeled, because the term hadn't yet become popular. But when the term began gaining currency nationwide in the '90s, Grote said to the chief, “Hey, this is what we've been doing all along.”
The term “community policing” has become more controversial in recent years, as some villagers feel it was co-opted by the Department of Justice War on Drugs “community policing” effort in which police in high-crime urban areas encouraged citizens to watch their neighbors for criminal behavior. But the term is being used in this article because when villagers are asked what sort of policing they want, the answer given most often is “community policing,” although some prefer the terms local policing, village policing or community-oriented policing.
But what do villagers mean when they say they want community policing?
According to Jennnifer Berman, formerly a member of the Justice System Task Force: “When I think of community policing, I think of police that know and are invested in the community, walk the streets rather than cruise around in a sealed object, participate in community events, play with our children, have children in our village and view themselves as one of us. They need to like us. Their sense of duty and protection, therefore, comes from wanting to protect their own family and people. And if the people they are sworn to serve feel comfortable in their presence and trust them to have their best interests at heart, they will work with the police to keep their community safe.”
In this second article in the “People and Police” series, the News has interviewed a range of villagers in an attempt to shine a light on the sort of policing that villagers want. We also hope to look at some factors that can pave the way to this policing style, as well as potential obstacles.
What villagers want
The foundational component of community policing seems to be police who are out and about in the village, seen and engaged with villagers in nonthreatening ways. In a 2015 News survey in which villagers stated what they wanted from local police, three fourths of the 477 respondents said they wanted police to be more engaged with the community.
In a recent email, longtime villager Kathryn Van der Heiden expressed this wish.
“I do think that when police officers spent time in the community, got to know the people of the community as well as our values and became familiar with the ethos of the village, that things went better,” she said.
Chief McKee's engagement with the village flowed naturally from living locally and being involved in a range of activities, Grote said.
“He lived here, his family was here, he was deeply involved in his church and in the community,” Grote said. Most local officers at the time — in the '70s, '80s and '90s — also lived in the village, including Dennis Nipper, Al Pierce, John Winks, Huey Livingston and Pete Banner, among others.
But times have changed. While many villagers still wish that local officers would live in Yellow Springs, state law prevents a municipality from requiring police to live in the town in which they work.
Still, an officer can be community-minded without living here, according to Molly Lunde, who holds up Officer Brian Carlson (now Yellow Springs interim chief) as an example.
Since joining the force in 2010, Carlson has made an effort to be visible, and has frequently stopped into Asanda, the downtown store Lunde owns with her husband, just to say hello. He's brought his family into the store when he's off duty, she said, so that they could meet each other.
“He is human to me, and I'm human to him,” Lunde said recently. “You get that from him.”
The visibility of officers in the community is also critical to the style of policing that Chrissy Cruz would like to see.
“I'd like to see officers be out and about more often, be part of the community, not just riding around in cars,” said Cruz, a member of the Human Relations Commission.
But beyond just having police be more visible, those interviewed said that they want police to engage villagers in a manner that's nonthreatening and respectful.
“It's people feeling safe,” said Village Council member Judith Hempfling. “It's important to remember that police are public servants. People need to feel more safe, not less safe, when police are around.”
Hempfling is attracted by a new program at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, in which new police officers are trained to assume a nonthreatening “guardian of democracy” stance rather than a “warrior” stance when interacting with citizens.
“I'd like to see what other ideas are out there,” she said. “I like the idea of guardians rather than warriors.”
To Council member Brian Housh, “it is critical that members of the YSPD have real and regular interactions with citizens, highlighting the importance of community engagement. Specifically, this means limiting the use of force, striving to de-escalate situations and approaching all situations with an open mind. Training in such areas as implicit bias, community sensitivity and restorative justice will facilitate this behavior.”
To Joan Horn, local police should interact with villagers in a way that's “courteous, gracious and compassionate, but also tough when needed,” she said, offering former Chief Grote as the best embodiment of those qualities that she's seen in her several decades in the village.
Horn said she also believes that while officers may not live locally, the chief should “be no more than five minutes away.”
And it's critical that all villagers, including minorities and people of color, feel safe and respected in the presence of police, several said. Having grown up in Yellow Springs, John Gudgel remembers the “sense of calmness, confidence, reassurance and sense of pride that I felt with the Yellow Springs police as a child, teenager and young adult. When a Yellow Springs police officer, or any officer for that matter, was in your presence, you did not feel a degree of anxiety and nervousness that you feel in this age and time. … As a Black person and male (even as an old guy, professional and school administrator) in the world of today, I sometimes feel a sense of ambivalence and fear when stopped by a police officer, especially with what has taken place locally, statewide and nationally regarding blacks and police shootings.”
In recent interviews, several villagers emphasized that they want police to approach citizens with an attitude of inquiry and helpfulness rather than an assumption that the person has done something wrong.
Community-oriented policing is “about approaching situations with an open mind, saying, “how can I help?” wrote Council President Karen Wintrow in an email. “It's about looking for easy solutions and de-escalating difficult situations. It's also about keeping people safe, citizens and officers alike, so training and professionalism is critical. One of the best comments I heard during the Jan. 3 [Council] meeting was, ‘a police officer is looking for wrong while a peace officer knows something is right.'”
And local police need to see themselves as problem-solvers rather than punishment-dispensers, according to several villagers.
“I would like the police to utilize the mediation group, NAMI, and as many social services as are available in the area,” wrote Kate Hamilton, a member of the Justice System Task Force. “Restorative vs. punitive. More communication with, and visibility, with our officers. I strongly believe that a social worker to assist the department would be a fantastic asset for our police force and our citizens.”
Hamilton said she'd especially like to see local police interact with young people in a problem-solving rather than punitive way.
“I grew up here during the Chief Jim McKee years, so I would, of course, like to see that same type of police-citizen interaction, especially with the youth in town. Chief McKee would not automatically assume negative intent nor guilt. He would genuinely be willing to listen to people. To try and find workable solutions. Many of the officers from my youth were the same way. They took the time to find out what the issues were vs. automatically penalizing someone.”
Yellow Springs Officer David Meister sees community policing as “facilitating problem-solving with the community. We help people with all kinds of problems that have nothing to do with policing.”
According to Meister, his problem-solving approach to policing was heavily influenced by officers who mentored him when he began in the department almost eight years ago, including Dennis Nipper, Andrew Gault and Tom Jones, who Meister said had the biggest impact.
“He encouraged me to not just look at the easiest solution to a problem, but to find the best solution for the community,” Meister said of Jones. “It may be harder, it may take more time, but you might come up with a better solution.”
Shift in policing
In his seven years as chief from 2005 to 2012, Grote launched several programs to facilitate interactions between police and the community, including one that trained interested officers to perform their duties on bicycles.
“When a police officer is out on the bike, it's easier to make contact with people, and especially kids,” Grote said of the initiative.
Grote also either showed up himself or had an officer show up each morning when school began at Mills Lawn to help kids get out of cars, both ensuring the safety of children and making friendly contact with citizens.
But in the years since Grote retired in 2012, during the tenures of Anthony Pettiford and Dave Hale, there was high turnover in the department and some of the community-engagement initiatives, such as officers on bikes, went by the wayside. In a News series on police/community relations in 2015, several villagers spoke of feeling that the officers were no longer familiar and the style of policing had changed.
“I've noticed a shift,” Carole Cobbs said then. “I'm not feeling the same sense of community policing. I don't know when it changed but some newer officers don't seem as friendly or as good at handling people.”
A longtime member of the Human Relations Committee, which at the time heard citizens' complaints about local police, Joan Chappelle noticed what seemed a more punitive approach to policing than had been the case in the past.
In the past, she said, “There were fewer citations. Enforcement was the exception, conversations were the rule.”
Not all villagers felt that community-minded policing had declined, however. Officers always treated her with respect and kindness, Kathryn Van der Heiden reported, and Joan Horn also praised officers for their helpful behavior.
But dissatisfaction with local policing culminated last month in the outcry following the New Year's Eve Ball Drop, when four officers attempted to shut down the event shortly after midnight by driving through the crowd with sirens blaring. In the resulting chaos, police chased and attempted to tase a young local man, who was charged with obstructing official business, a felony.
Chief Dave Hale resigned shortly after, and more than 300 community members showed up at a special Council meeting soon after, calling for a more respectful and engaged style of policing. The Village launched an investigation into the incident, and a special Council meeting to report the results of the investigation will take place Feb. 13. Village leaders are also beginning a search for a new chief.
Last week, the Village announced that Brian Carlson, a seven-year veteran of the department, had been hired as interim chief. Carlson cited healing the rift between police and the community as his highest priority, and Village Manager Patti Bates stated that Carlson's community-minded focus was a main factor in his being hired.
“One of the important things right now is to try to bridge the gap in understanding between the department and the community. Brian already has a leg up in filling that gap,” she said last week.
Community policing challenges
On a recent day, Officer Meister was alerted that longtime villager Alan Macbeth had blown a tire out in his old pickup truck and was stranded on Xenia Avenue just north of downtown. When Meister responded to the call, he not only assessed the situation but also was soon under the truck, fixing the tire. (This reporter happened to be driving by.)
Asked later about his decision to go ahead and fix the tire, Meister said, “I know Al Macbeth. If I can help him out and help him get on his way, I'm happy to do that.”
While Meister will go the extra mile with those who need help if he can, he is sometimes frustrated that officers who do so don't get recognized for their efforts.
“Community policing is hard to evaluate,” he said recently. “It's easier to evaluate an officer by looking at the number of arrests, and harder to look at the question, ‘How have you helped the community be better?' ”
Janet Mueller of The 365 Project said recently that that group, which is looking into ways to improve the police/community relationship, shares Meister's concern.
“What counts is what we count,” she wrote in an email. “If success in community policing is engagement and accountability, then we need to measure these, and include them in reports to the public and in officer evaluations. What we count demonstrates what we value. To shift from traditional policing to community-engaged policing requires a commitment to the philosophy as well as ways to measure it in everyday operations.”
The difficulty in measuring community policing is one of challenges involved in training officers to be more engaged in this style, according to Victor Kappeler, dean of the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University. Kappeler wrote “Community Policing: A Contemporary Perspective,” and is an advocate of a strong relationship between police and the community.
Currently, there are two main models of community policing, according to Kappeler. In the first model, which he describes as “community-oriented” policing, a department takes a problem-solving approach in a community, perhaps introducing innovative programs to engage police with citizens, such as those introduced by McKee and Grote.
With the heightened national awareness of police/community relations in recent years, some departments are heading in the “community-oriented” direction, or at least giving lip service to doing so, Kappeler said in a recent interview.
However, Kappeler advocates a second, more radical vision of community policing in which the police department not only engages with the community, but also makes the community a full partner in setting the police department's agenda.
“Community policing, in its ideal form, not only addresses community concerns, but is a philosophy that turns traditional policing on its head by empowering the community rather than dictating to the community,” he wrote in the article, “What is Community Policing?” from EKU Online Police Studies at plsnline.eku.edu.
Few departments have adopted the second, more progressive approach to community policing because “most police departments don't want to surrender their power,” Kappeler said.
And before a police department can make such a change, it needs an open-minded chief, Kappeler believes, because while some organizations might change from a “bottom-up” strategy, police departments are very “top-down” organizations that generally only change in response to their leader.
“If you don't have a progressive chief, you won't move in this direction,” he said. “If you have a chief who understands the causes of crime, you're more likely to have a progressive model.”
A department also needs field training officers to train new recruits to engage with the community, he said.
Clarity in the expectations of both the department and the community is also critical, according to villager Kate Hamilton, who questions the use of the term “community policing.”
“The divide between what citizens believe the term ‘community policing' to mean and what police are taught it means is vastly different. It is very important that a consensus is reached on the definition and clearly, explicitly communicated to, and agreed upon (in writing) by our police department,” she wrote in an email.
And indeed, in a 2015 interview, former Chief Hale said that when he stated he supported community policing during his interview process for becoming chief, he was referring to the Justice Department meaning of the term, which emphasizes increasing arrests.
“During the interview process, I was interpreting the use of ‘community policing' with the terminology I was used to, which is closer to the DOJ definition,” he wrote in a 2015 email.
While there are challenges involved in instituting the more progressive policing model, it offers substantive and positive benefits, according to Kappeler of Eastern Kentucky University.
“It reduces tensions, there's less violence both ways, there's more support from the community for the police department,” he said. Without the usual tensions between police and the community, “you can begin to address the social problems that contribute to crime.”
When a police department and community adopt the progressive stance of becoming partners in setting the police department agenda, tensions dissipate, he believes.
“It gets at the “us/them,” “we/they” divide that has always been the source of conflict,” Kappeler said.
Trust is seen as key to a more diverse Erie police force
by Tim Hahn
Anastacia Stewart was fresh into his new career as an Erie police officer in 2014 when he pulled over a car for loud music on the city's lower east side.
As he walked up to the car, the driver "was just F-bombing me and yelling you're doing it because I'm black," he recalled.
Then the driver got a look at him.
"He looks up and says, 'Oh, (expletive). He was already F-bombing me because he assumes I'm some white officer," said Stewart, 33, who is black.
The driver's rant continued, however, he said.
"Even if you are a certain color or a woman, sometimes they give you (grief) because of the uniform," Stewart said.
Stewart is a rare sight in an Erie police uniform. He's one of only five black officers — including his twin brother, Anastacio — on the 173-member force. That represents 3 percent of Erie's police officers in a city that, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, had a black population of nearly 17 percent.
The Census also reported that more than half of the city's residents are women, yet only 5 percent of the police department's officers are female; and that nearly 7 percent are Latino, yet only two Latino officers are members of the city police.
Long-standing complaints by some in the Erie community about a police force that doesn't adequately mirror the population it serves were heard again in late January, when seven new officers — all white males — were sworn in by Mayor Joe Sinnott.
The hiring list the officers were pulled from was created from an application and testing process conducted in 2016. It will remain in effect for two years, and has 36 people on it: 35 white males and one female.
Erie officials and the city police brass are keenly aware of the lack of minority and female police officers, and they have been working hard to increase those numbers through ongoing recruitment efforts, Police Chief Donald Dacus said.
But some community leaders said the efforts won't succeed unless a more comprehensive plan is created that involves the community as a whole and addresses all issues that could be perceived as barriers to becoming a city police officer, including police-community relations and the hiring process.
A lack of numbers
Lack of diversity among law enforcement personnel isn't just an Erie problem.
Agencies across the country have spent years trying to address the issue, with varying levels of success, according to an October report by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Some of the likely barriers to diversity, according to the report, include strained relationships and a lack of trust of law enforcement; an agency's reputation or operational practices; a lack of awareness of the career opportunities in law enforcement; a reliance on examinations and screening processes that may inhibit or exclude some qualified candidates; and the length, complexity and cost of application processes.
According to the report's authors, diversity serves as an important tool to build trust with communities. Those agencies that have been successful in building diversity share common themes that include ensuring that an agency's organizational culture is guided by community policing, which involves working closely with community members; engaging stakeholders from within and outside law enforcement; and re-evaluating hiring criteria and standards to ensure they are tailored to the skills needed to perform the work.
Erie police officials said they have made a concerted effort in recent years to educate people, particularly members of the minority community, about the job opportunities on the Erie Bureau of Police, where new hires start at a salary of $42,453 that increases to $70,756 after three years. The bureau has sent some of its black officers out to help recruit minority candidates, and those efforts continue, Dacus said.
"We went to all of the (community) centers, went to the churches, local colleges, several job fairs. They covered pretty much everything you could cover within the minority community to reach as many people as possible," he said of efforts to get minorities to apply during the 2016 test.
Police are also working to build relationships with community members at a much younger age through efforts such as the Police Athletic League and programs that some of the officers conduct in schools, Dacus said.
"We're trying to reach kids at every level of education to try and interact with them at a younger age so they view us in a positive manner rather than a negative one when we go in the neighborhoods," he said. "We're trying to send a message back in the minority community that it's OK to become a police officer, that it's OK to take these jobs."
But minority candidates "simply aren't showing up in numbers enough to result in any minority hiring here," Dacus added.
The requirements for the job include having Act 120 police certification completed before a candidate is hired; passing the city's written and physical agility tests; and clearing physical, psychological and background investigations.
There were four testing periods for Erie police officer candidates between 2008 and 2014. Of those who took the written examinations, 563 were white males, 57 were white women, 44 were black men, 27 were Latino men, 10 were black women and six were Latino women, according to city statistics. Those who took the written examination during the 2016 testing included 126 whites, 14 blacks, four Hispanics and four Asians. Nineteen were female, and the rest male.
The cutoff score for advancing from the 2016 written test was 83 percent. Veterans receive 10 extra points, if they pass the test, according to information on the city's website.
The Municipal Police Training Academy at Mercyhurst University, which trains many who become law enforcement officers in the Erie region, similarly sees few minority candidates, said Bill Hale, the academy's director. He said he will see one or two black cadets per class in a typical year, noting that an average class has about 30 cadets.
"The state lays out the requirements to get in (to the academy). If you pass, we have a seat. But we don't see them. And with Erie (police), they'll take applicants but you still have to clear the academy," Hale said.
He said he believes you have to look beyond the police department, and into the neighborhoods and families, to find out why more minorities aren't going after police jobs.
"The other question is do you leave the standard's the same? A lot of people just aren't getting qualified candidates. A lot of the big police departments are not even seeing qualified people anymore. It's a concern now," Hale said.
A community effort
Anastacia Stewart, who was hired as a city police officer in March 2014, and Anastacio Stewart, who was hired in March 2016, both said it took a lot of time and dedication to realize their dreams of becoming police officers, a goal they set in high school. Both left jobs to become full-time students at the Municipal Police Training Academy, which they paid for, and went through a nearly two-year process of getting trained and prepared.
Anastacia Stewart was hired by Erie right after he finished the training academy. Anastacio Stewart worked as a police officer for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford before he was hired in Erie.
"You have to really want it. You just can't go out there and say I want to be a (police officer) and it's going to happen. Some of it is luck, some of it is a long process," Anastacia Stewart said.
Fred Rush, a former aide to Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott and a member of the city's Civil Service Board, which handles the application and testing processes for Erie police, said while the opportunity for minorities to become police officers is there, the trust level in the community isn't.
"The issues of public service and public trust have to be addressed," said Rush, who is black. "As a community we're still socially and economically segregated. We have to have that discussion. It's not just black police, it's black bankers, black business owners. We have to understand the totality of the issue."
Bishop Dwane Brock, founder and chief executive of the Eagles Nest Leadership Corp., said what Erie needs is "some dynamic leadership" that will do what it takes to improve the relationship between police and the community in Erie and draw more interest in police work.
"Change the rules, change the legislation, change the civil service exam, change whatever is necessary for the sake of an integrated police department," said Brock, who is black. "We have seen so much violence within our community. We need police officers who can identify with the problem, identify with the situation, who can identify with the culture and offer some plausible solutions."
The city needs a "transparent collaboration" between "choice individuals" in the community and law enforcement to come up with a serious effort to get more people of color to wear the badge, said Marcus Atkinson, pastor of community engagement at Grace Church and director of ServErie, a community renewal program. He said he believes there have been some good-faith efforts by Erie police to find more minority candidates, but also believes there's a culture that "demonizes the position within the community."
"The negative stigma has to be addressed from the community side of this," said Atkinson, who is black. "I would also like to see more accountability on the side of law enforcement. I would like to see efforts continue to bring more law enforcement on board who look like the community they serve."
When people come to the table to address the issue, they should say it's being taken on as a community, and should be done in an open and transparent way, he said.
"Unless the relationship is addressed in a realistic way, we will never get minority officers with regularity to even apply, because of the fractured relationship," Atkinson said.
U Visa data give glimpse into local law enforcement-immigrant relationship
by Gustavo Solis
(Statistical graphs on site)
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Newly released data from the California legislature are shedding light on the impact of a state law that aims to make it easier for immigrants, including those in the country illegally, to obtain visas.
“It's fascinating,” Lucie Hollingsworth, director of legal services with YWCA said of the data, which have been exclusively obtained by The Desert Sun. “I was surprised at the level of detail.”
The data show the number of U Visa certification requests that police departments, sheriff's departments and district attorneys throughout California approved and denied in 2016. The U Visa gives immigrants who are victims of a crime access to work permits and deportation relief — and the number of immigrants asking for the visa is rising quickly.
To receive a U Visa, law enforcement agencies need to certify that the immigrant crime victim is cooperating in the investigation before U.S. Customs and Immigration Services can process the visa application. This certification is a small part of a process that is ultimately approved by USCIS but, historically, law enforcement officers haven't always responded or signed off on the requests, even when the immigrant crime victims cooperate.
Data from the California state Senate show some law enforcement agencies have arbitrary deadlines for applying for the visa, for example, some won't accept a request based on a crime that happened longer than one year ago. And some agencies will refuse to certify the requests for certain types of crimes the immigrants may have faced, like simple battery or vandalism. Advocates argue that those decisions should be made by USCIS instead of local law enforcement agencies.
“What this report tells me is that the law is still being applied inconsistently and I think, as an advocate, it really helps me be more targeted in training,” Hollingsworth said.
California's new law, Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act, requires U Visa certifiers to respond to requests within 90 days. It also created the presumption of helpfulness, meaning that unless there is evidence to the contrary, the assumption is that immigrants applying for the visa were helpful in the investigation.
There are no enforcement mechanisms built into the law. However, U Visa certifiers are legally obligated to submit annual records of the number of applicants they received, approved and denied. These records serve as the oversight, said Alison Kamhi, a staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.
“We are very interested in seeing what those numbers are to see if there are any law enforcement agencies that have a high denial rate because that is someone we would like to target for education,” she added.
Legislative staffers are compiling reports from dozens of certifiers and shared some of that data with The Desert Sun.
Here is what we've found:
• The 36 law enforcement agencies whose records were obtained by the Desert Sun received 7,108 requests;
• In total, the agencies approved 5,356 requests and denied 1,489;
• The Los Angeles Police Department received the overwhelming majority of requests with 2,384;
• The average denial rate for the available data was 27.8%;
• The largest denial rate was the San Diego Police Department, with 41.73% of U Visa requests denied.
Demand for U Visa
Since President Trump vowed to deport millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally, lawyers and advocates have been keeping an eye on the cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. The general consensus is that in order to achieve mass deportation goals, federal immigration officers will need the help of local police officers and sheriff's deputies in identifying and detaining deportable immigrants.
The U Visa is distinct in that it requires a different type of cooperation between local law enforcement and the federal government. In this case, they help each other give legal status and work permits to immigrants who are victims of a crime.
The visa serves as a form of community policing by encouraging victims to speak out and cooperate with the police without fear of deportation, something their abusers use to keep them silent.
“I'm not exaggerating, 100% of the clients that come to me who are undocumented said that their abusers would constantly say, ‘I'm going to have you deported if you don't behave,'” said Hollingsworth.
Other threats include: “You are never going to see your American-born children ever again. I'm going to call ICE and they are going to pick you up. Don't call the police because they are going to pick you up, they are not going to come after me,” she added.
The demand of U Visas has increased dramatically throughout the country in the last decade, according to data from U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
Between the 2009 and 2016 fiscal years, the number of people who applied for a U Visa grew from 10,000 to 60,000 and the number of people on the wait list skyrocketed from 21,000 to more than 150,000, USCIS data show.
With the current cap of 10,000 approvals plus their family members each year, it will take at least 15 years to clear the wait list, and that's without taking into account new applicants. Applicants on the wait list who would have otherwise been approved for a U Visa are able to receive temporary work permits.
Signs of success
The San Diego Police Department has the highest denial rate, 41%, out of every agency whose records were released to the Desert Sun .
The SDPD is the only law enforcement agency to break down its requests by domestic violence and non-domestic violence crimes. Out of the 357 requests, 163 were requested by domestic violence victims.
Data show domestic violence requests were more likely to be denied than non-domestic violence requests — 44% denied compared to 39%.
Advocates who follow the Immigrant Victim Act say San Diego has historically been known for being hard to get a U Visa certification, so they are not surprised to see the high denial rates. However, the fact that they are approving more than half of applicants is a positive sign.
"They are going in the right direction," Hollingsworth said.
Beyond the data, lawyers have called the law successful for encouraging more immigrants to apply for the visas.
“People aren't as scared to come forward,” said Casey Martin, a lawyer based in King County and a former prosecutor in Fresno County. The Fresno Police Department received 363 U Visa certification requests and approved 284. “One of the things I've noticed at least before the law, the abuser would say if you come forward you are going to be deported. The law has removed that because the minute they talk to a lawyer we can tell them not to worry.”
Another area where lawyers have noticed change is in education, specifically more clarity on what is required from officials who certify U Visas.
“It has been an overwhelming success,” said Kamhi, the immigration attorney. “A lot of it has been about education. About a year ago, the ACLU and other organizations sent out letters to all the district attorneys of the state and police departments in 30 cities with the highest population explaining the law and its new requirements.”
Sheriffs still looking for clarity on deportation
Despite tough talk from Trump, many sheriffs still fear that they lack the legal right to hold prisoners for possible deportation, even at the request of the feds
by Tim Henderson
WASHINGTON — Despite tough talk on sanctuary cities from the Trump administration, many sheriffs still fear that they lack the legal right to hold prisoners for possible deportation, even at the request of federal authorities.
Sheriffs, who operate 85 percent of local jails, are still waiting for courts to clarify the legality of “detainers,” or federal requests to hold prisoners for possible deportation.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 promising to punish any “sanctuary jurisdictions” that “attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” The order threatened cuts to federal funding and public shaming of “any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers.”
But the new administration in Washington hasn't altered the legal landscape — at least not yet. Court rulings over the past several years have dissuaded even red-state sheriffs from honoring detainers, fearing that doing so would make them vulnerable to civil rights lawsuits.
“Sheriffs want to participate but we need to know our legal standing on this. We've been asking for this for years,” said Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Yuma County, Ariz. Wilmot said he spoke to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about the issue Monday on behalf of the National Sheriffs' Association, which represents more than 3,000 sheriffs.
Wilmot said sheriffs need a definitive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County, Mich., said larger counties have the same concerns and want a court ruling, action by Congress, or an agreement that federal immigration agents will seek a judge's signature on detainers to make them more legally acceptable.
Last year, a U.S. District Court in Illinois ruled that the detainers are illegal because they exceed the government's authority to hold prisoners without a warrant. That followed a 2014 U.S. District Court order holding an Oregon county liable for damages after denying bail to a woman based on a detainer.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, generally issues a detainer request after receiving information about the arrest of an immigrant. The agency asks the local jail to hold the prisoner for up to 48 hours longer than it normally would to investigate the immigrant for possible deportation.
When considering whether to deport prisoners under Obama administration policies, ICE focused on those deemed to “pose a threat to public safety” because of gang activity or felony convictions unrelated to immigration status. Trump's executive order expands that focus to include any criminal activity, fraud or abuse of public benefits, or failure to obey a court order to leave the country.
Local authorities in 43 states refused to honor more than 16,000 detainer requests from ICE from October 2013 to December 2015. Only in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming did local officials honor all requests, and detainers are relatively rare in those states.
“We just don't feel we can legally hold people without something from a judge. This is a problem for sheriffs across the country,” said Sheriff Tim Morse of Jackson County, Kan.
But some sheriffs say they think they already have the legal authority to detain immigrants for federal authorities. Sheriff Richard Jones of Butler County, Ohio, said he disagrees with fellow sheriffs who won't honor detainers, though he is sympathetic to their position. The issue was hotly debated at the sheriffs' association's winter conference this month, Jones said.
“Every jurisdiction looks at it differently,” said Jones, who views failing to honor detainers a violation of federal laws requiring cooperation with the federal government. “I feel we have the authority to detain.”
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which wants to restrict immigration, agreed with Jones.
“There are a few (sheriffs) who have been sued who want a Supreme Court ruling.” Vaughan said. “Most don't have any legal problem with it.”
Jones said he supports a proposal in Ohio that would criminalize cities or counties that adopt sanctuary policies. It also would enable crime victims to sue local officials if an unauthorized immigrant is released despite a federal detainer request. Similar legislation has been proposed in Colorado and could be introduced by lawmakers in Alaska and Maine.
Other states are gearing up to create their own bans on “sanctuary” policies that could ensnare sheriffs trying to walk the line between liability and cooperation.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to withhold state funding from Travis County (Austin), which announced limited compliance with detainers. Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would force local jails to cooperate with immigration authorities. A similar bill is pending in Iowa.
A bill in California takes the opposite tack. It would forbid local jails from holding prisoners for deportation.
Vaughan of the immigration center said a compromise may be possible if federal immigration authorities use an “administrative warrant” signed by supervisors because warrants signed by judges often are hard to get.
“There are no judges that would issue those routinely, and demanding them is another way of obstructing,” Vaughan said.
Mark Fleming, an attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center who represented plaintiffs in a lawsuit that struck down detainers in the Illinois court case, said he's not sure administrative warrants would satisfy the judge's ruling.
“I do feel for these sheriffs. They're like a ping pong ball caught in the middle of all this,” Fleming said. The judge in the Illinois case struck down all detainers as illegal, but the decision has not taken effect yet. The court gave the new administration in Washington time to decide whether to appeal.
Fleming's lawsuit was brought on behalf of two people who were arrested and mistakenly detained at the federal government's request, although one is a U.S. citizen and the other holds a green card.
Generally speaking, the sheriffs' group supports Trump's immigration policies. Greg Champagne, the group's president, has applauded the president's executive orders on immigration, saying they'll help with the “burden associated with criminal illegal immigration and the subsequent impact on our communities.”
Trump invited sheriffs to a “listening session” Tuesday at the White House, and heard nothing but praise from the group.
“You're about the rule of law. We haven't seen that in many years,” said Sheriff Sam Page of Rockingham County, North Carolina. “You've got support from sheriffs around the country,” Page said.
Police chiefs who operate jails have the same liability concerns, said Darrel Stephens, director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Many will not honor the detainers without a warrant signed by a judge.
“A good many jails and even states have said that they will not honor the detainer requests without a warrant,” Stephens said. “This is not an unreasonable request and certainly doesn't mean they're unwilling to cooperate. They just want to ensure they are operating within the law,” Stephens said.
House OKs bill to expand Ky.'s hate crimes law
The Kentucky House voted to expand the state's hate crimes law to classify police and other emergency responders as a protected class
by Bruce Schreiner and Adam Beam
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky House voted Monday to expand the state's hate crimes law to classify police and other emergency responders as a protected class, drawing the scorn of Black Lives Matter activists who briefly interrupted the debate.
House members sent the measure to the Senate on a 77-13 vote after a long debate. The Senate's leader predicted the proposal would be well-received in the chamber.
Near the end of the House action, as some lawmakers were explaining their votes, activists chanting "Black Lives Matter" filed out of the gallery overlooking the House chamber.
"Those people who introduce this bill know what this bill stands for and why it is there — to give hate crime protection to law enforcement that further builds up their impunity from the law," Chanelle Helm, a Black Lives Matter community organizer, said later.
Opponents warned that the bill could result in more serious punishment for protesters who damage property during demonstrations against police brutality.
Supporters said the measure is aimed at applying the hate crimes law to attacks that target police and other first responders simply because of the uniforms they wear.
"They're the heroes in our society that we pay to run toward danger, while the human instinct is to run away from danger," said Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher, the bill's lead sponsor. "And it's just an absolute travesty that people would attack them simply for what they are and what they're doing. I hope that we can send a message today that if you're going to mess with one of our first responders, you're going to get the full brunt of Kentucky law."
Other supporters invoked the names of police officers and other first responders who were killed in the line of duty. Republican Rep. John Blanton of Salyersville, a retired Kentucky State Police officer, said even former police officers "carry a target" on their backs.
"This is not about one race versus another race," he said. "This is about somebody being targeted for simply what they do — not about their skin color, but what they do for a living."
Opponents said the hate crimes law should remain focused on people who need special protection because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. They said the law shouldn't be expanded to cover people in a particular profession.
"We all know what this is a response to," said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville. "It's in response to the Black Lives Matter movement."
Wayne said the bill poses "false choices" between supporting first responders and the black community. He said the hate crimes law should be reserved for minority groups that historically faced oppression.
The legislation would apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical crews. It would make them a protected class under a law that currently applies to crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.
Opponents said state law already includes stiffer penalties for harming police officers. The focus should instead be on increasing pay and training for first responders, they said.
"This bill does nothing except to pander and to pretend like we're doing something for our first responders, when in fact ... it does nothing," said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.
Under state law, an offender's hate crime status can be cited by judges in denying probation at sentencing or by a parole board in denying parole.
Senate President Robert Stivers said he hadn't reviewed the bill yet but thought it would draw support from senators.
"Look, we protect first responders," he told reporters. "All lives do matter, and people who target them because of some unfounded belief or some concept that they should be targeted because they represent the establishment ... are truly warped in their beliefs. And so it sends a statement to both that they will be protected."
Last year, Louisiana became the first state to expand its hate crime laws to protect police, firefighters and emergency medical crews.
Kentucky is among about a dozen states considering similar legislation.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Statement From Secretary Kelly On Recent ICE Enforcement Actions
WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a series of targeted enforcement operations across the country. These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation's immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.
ICE officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City areas of responsibility arrested more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation's immigration system. Of those arrested, approximately 75 percent were criminal aliens, convicted of crimes including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI and weapons charges.
ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years.
The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE's Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.
President Trump has been clear in affirming the critical mission of DHS in protecting the nation and directed our Department to focus on removing illegal aliens who have violated our immigration laws, with a specific focus on those who pose a threat to public safety, have been charged with criminal offenses, have committed immigration violations or have been deported and re-entered the country illegally.
I commend the heroic efforts of the dedicated officers of ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations and those who provided assistance from ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as cooperating state and local law enforcement agencies. These professionals put their lives on the line to protect our communities and country. There is no greater calling that to serve and protect our nation – a mission that the men and women of ICE perform with professionalism and courage every single day.
From the FBI
Online Imposters Break Hearts and Bank Accounts
They met online. He said he was a friend of a friend. The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. “He was saying all the right things,” she remembered. “He was interested in me. He was interested in getting to know me better. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”
That connection would end up costing the woman $2 million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.
It's called a romance scam, and this devastating Internet crime is on the rise. Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. But they are also emotionally vulnerable. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.
Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI's Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases. “The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be. You can be anywhere in the world and victimize people,” she said. “The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target. Then they use what the victims have on their profile pages and try to work those relationships and see which ones develop.”
In the case of the Texas woman who lost everything, it was her strong Christian faith—which she happily publicized on her Facebook profile—that gave “Charlie” an incredible advantage when he began courting her.
“I'm very active on Facebook,” said the woman, who agreed to share her story in the hopes that others might avoid becoming victims. “I thought it was safe.” After she friended Charlie—without verifying his bogus claim that they had a mutual friend—“he would read my wall, I would read his wall. We would post things, he would like things. Then it got to where we would share e-mails. We started sharing pictures.”
According to Beining, this is standard operating procedure for romance scammers, who assume other people's identities to trick their victims. “They make themselves out to be average-looking people,” she said. “They are generally not trying to build themselves up too high.”
The scammer's intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, gain trust, and propose marriage. He will make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, he will ask for money.
According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, romance scams—also called confidence fraud—result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes.
In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million. The states with the highest numbers of victims were California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. In Texas last year, the IC3 received more than 1,000 complaints from victims reporting more than $16 million in losses related to romance scams.
‘I was Looking for Happiness'
When she first encountered Charlie in 2014, the Texas woman recalled, “I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and things had not been good for probably at least 10 years.” Her new online friend seemed to come along at just the right time. “I was looking for happiness,” she said. “I thought I could find that with Charlie.”
Romance scammers often say they are in the building and construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask their victims for help. They will suddenly need money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee. “They promise to repay the loan immediately,” Beining said, “but the victims never get their money back.”
Charlie claimed to be in the construction field. “He was trying to finish up a job in California,” the woman said, “and he needed some money to help finish the job. I thought about it long and hard. I prayed about it. I've always been a very giving person, and I figured if I had money … I could send him some [money]. And he promised to have it back within 24 to 48 hours. I thought, ‘I could do that.' It was kind of a statement of faith, too.”
She wired him $30,000. A day passed and then another, and she didn't get her money back. “I still thought everything was okay,” she said, “just that he was the victim of some bad luck.” And then Charlie needed another $30,000.
For the next two years, the woman believed Charlie's stories after each new request for funds. Everything he said made sense, and, after all, they were in love. Eventually, the woman's financial adviser became alarmed about her steadily dwindling accounts and, suspecting fraud, urged her to contact the FBI.
The subsequent investigation led by Beining resulted in the arrest of two Nigerians posing as South African diplomats who had come to the U.S. to collect money from the woman on behalf of Charlie, who claimed he was paid $42 million for a construction project he completed in South Africa. The woman believed she would be paying to have the money—including the repayment of her $2 million—transferred to the U.S. from South Africa, where Charlie was still supposedly working.
In July 2016, the two Nigerian co-conspirators pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the scam, and a federal judge sentenced them each to 36 months in prison last December. But Charlie is still at large, presumably in Nigeria, and there may be little hope of bringing him to justice.
“This is a very difficult crime to prove,” Beining said. “When someone is using a computer to hide behind, the hardest thing to find out is who they are. We can find out where in the world their computer is being used. It's identifying who they actually are that's the hard part. That is why this individual remains a fugitive.”
It also explains why romance scams are on the rise: It's a lucrative and easy crime to commit, and easier still to remain anonymous and beyond the reach of authorities. “It's not like going in a bank and holding a gun to the teller,” Beining explained, “because there are so many leads that you provide law enforcement when you do that. Even if you are able to get out of the bank, we can probably find out who you are and track you down. But with an Internet crime like this, it's much more difficult.”
As for the Texas woman, she came forward “because I don't want this to happen to anybody else. I not only invested money in this man but there is a big, huge piece of my heart that I invested in him,” she said. “It's not just the finances, it's the emotional part, too—being embarrassed, being ashamed, being humiliated.”
Even now, though, she remains conflicted. A part of her still wants to believe that Charlie is real and that their relationship was real—that the e-mail exchanges about church and the phone calls when they sang together and prayed together meant as much to him as they did to her. She even holds out hope that one day Charlie will repay her, as he promised to do so many times.
Otherwise, there is no doubt that he is a heartless criminal who robbed her and broke her heart—and who is almost certainly continuing to victimize other women in the same way.
“I can't even imagine a man, a person, that could be this bad,” she said. “I can't think of him that way. … There can't be a man in this world that could be this horrible to have purposefully done what he's done to me.”
Don't Become a Victim
The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them.
“Behind the veil of romance, it's a criminal enterprise like any other,” said Special Agent Christine Beining. “And once a victim becomes a victim, in that they send money, they will often be placed on what's called a ‘sucker list,' ” she said. “Their names and identities are shared with other criminals, and they may be targeted in the future.”
To stay safe online, be careful what you post, because scammers can use that information against you. Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:
Research the person's photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
Go slow and ask lots of questions.
Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can't. If you haven't met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
Never send money to anyone you don't know personally. “If you don't know them, don't send money,” Beining said. “You will see what their true intentions are after that.”
If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. And if you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.