February, 2017 - Week 4
ICE urgently requests public's help locating a suspected predator
NEWARK — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is urgently seeking the public's help to locate the pictured individual who is wanted for sexually abusing an underage girl.
Constante Alvino Ore-Riveros, 64, is a citizen of Peru and a U.S. permanent resident. He is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in New Jersey, resulting in the birth of a child in November 2014.
Following the birth of her child, the victim ultimately disclosed the story of her abuse and Ore-Riveros' alleged involvement. After these sexual assault allegations were made and law enforcement became involved, Ore-Riveros fled the immediate area and hasn't been located since.
Ore-Riveros has known associates in Virginia, Arizona, California and Washington State. He was last seen on an Amtrak train traveling from Atlanta to New Orleans.
Based on the investigation, HSI believe Ore-Riveros may have fled the United States.
Both suspect's photos, along with their biographical information, are now posted on ICE's Operation Predator App.
Tips from the public can be reported anonymously through the app, by phone or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you think you have seen Ore-Riveros, please contact HSI at 1-866-347-2423 or email your tip to: http://www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form. All tips will remain confidential.
The smartphone app is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together.
Nearly 100 headstones toppled at Philadelphia Jewish cemetery
by The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA-- Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia's Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don't let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.
When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones' graves.
What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined -- tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground -- including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.
"Your stomach just drops," Silver said. "I mean it's just horrible."
Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that 75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.
"It's criminal. This is beyond vandalism," said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. "It's beyond belief."
The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Donald Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
"Mr. President, it's time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate," the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. "Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society."
The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump's inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups.
The incident at Mount Carmel prompted support from the national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
"We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up," said Nasim Rehmatullah, the organization's national vice president.
Mount Carmel Cemetery is one of four graveyards located on each corner at the intersection of Frankford and Cheltenham Avenues. No noticeable vandalism was visible at the other three cemeteries, which all appear to be for Christians.
In a statement Sunday, Mayor Jim Kenney offered condolences to the families affected and said police would find and charge those responsible.
"Hate is not permissible in Philadelphia," he said. "I encourage Philadelphians to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and to show them that we are the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection."
In a post on Twitter about the incident, the Anti-Defamation League said: "We are appalled to see the desecration of another Jewish cemetery. These attacks need to end now."
The vandalism was similar to that the previous weekend in suburban St. Louis, Mo., where vandals knocked over 154 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery. Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the cemetery, condemned the damage as a "vile act of vandalism" and said "there's no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism."
Trayvon Martin's death sparked a movement that lives on five years later
by Darran Simon
Five years ago, the world learned of Trayvon Martin and how he died.
The African-American teenager's death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer spurred a movement and gave rise to a rallying cry that resonates with many today: "#BlackLivesMatter."
Martin, 17, was carrying iced tea and candy as he walked from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancee in Sanford, Florida. Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman spotted the teenager and called 911 to report "a suspicious person" in his neighborhood."
A scuffle broke out, but there were no direct witnesses. Moments later, neighbors reported hearing gunfire.
Zimmerman claimed Martin hit him, knocking him to the pavement. Zimmerman contends that he took out his gun and shot Martin in self-defense. Critics said Zimmerman was unjustified in confronting the unarmed teenager, particularly since Zimmerman disregarded a police dispatcher's advice to stop following Martin.
In July 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of a second degree murder charge, igniting protests.
The image of Martin wearing a hoodie became iconic. Professional athletes donned hoodies, and protestors repeated the mantra: "I am Trayvon Martin" to express solidarity and outrage.
Martin's death inspired then-President Barack Obama to deliver a heartfelt message to Martin's parents, saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
Writer, producer and director Ava DuVernay took a moment Sunday to remember Trayvon Martin before heading to the Academy Awards.
"Our hoodies are still up and the movement is still strong," she wrote on Twitter.
After Zimmerman was acquitted, three activists -- Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors -- created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in protest.
Since then, the deaths of several African-Americans at the hands of police kept the "Black Lives Matter" movement in the public eye.
Here are some of the cases that led to protests, and kept alive the national conversation about the deaths of black Americans, police conduct, and what critics say is inequality in the justice system
Eric Garner, 43
Died on July 17, 2014, in Staten Island, New York
Police tried to arrest Garner, a father of six, in front of a store for allegedly selling cigarettes. Garner raised both hands in the air and asked officers not to shoot him.
Seconds later, Officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed the 350-pound Garner in a chokehold, pulling him to the sidewalk and rolling him onto his stomach.
The New York Police Department prohibits the use of chokeholds.
Garner, who had asthma, repeatedly said, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" as officers restrained him on the ground.
Police said he suffered a heart attack and died en route to a hospital. The death was ruled a homicide.
The jury later declined to indict Pantaleo, sparking protests and "die-ins."
New York City eventually settled with Garner's family for $5.9 million. The settlement "acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner's death," but "the city has not admitted liability," City Comptroller Scott Stringer said.
Michael Brown, 18
Died on Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri
Brown, an unarmed teenager, was walking with a friend in the middle of the street when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson approached them and told them to walk on the sidewalk in the St. Louis suburb.
From that point, the narratives vary. Authorities said Brown attacked Wilson and tried to take his gun. Some witnesses said Brown was surrendering with his hands in the air to indicate he was unarmed when Wilson shot him. Wilson fired his gun 12 times, documents show.
In November 2014, a grand jury decided not indict Wilson -- a decision that led to heated and sometimes violent protests and clashes with authorities.
Days later, Wilson resigned from the force.
A Department of Justice investigation ultimately determined Wilson did not violate Brown's civil rights. The department found that Brown reached into Wilson's car and a struggled followed. Prosecutors couldn't corroborate Wilson's claim that Brown reached for his gun but couldn't find any evidence to disprove Wilson's account.
The Justice Department also found that local police had excessively stopped and ticketed black residents, often citing them multiple times in a single stop. The DOJ said "many officers" apparently viewed some of the city's black residents "less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue."
Last February, the DOJ sued Ferguson in an effort to reform the department.
What happened when Michael Brown met Ferguson officer Darren Wilson
Walter Scott, 50
Died on April 4, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina
North Charleston police officer Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott after a traffic stop. The shooting was captured on a bystander's phone, which showed Scott running away as Slager fired eight times, striking Scott three times in the back.
On the stand, Slager argued self-defense, telling jurors he shot Scott as he ran away because he posed a threat and could have turned around and charged him. A key piece of evidence in the trial was the cell phone video, which showed Slager chasing Scott, then shooting him in the back. Prosecutors estimated the two men were 18 feet apart when Slager opened fire.
Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, had argued that the media created a "false narrative" of a white officer in Charleston who stopped a black motorist for a broken brake light and shot him as he ran away. The video, the attorney, contended, didn't tell the whole story.
In December, a judge declared a mistrial on the fourth day of deliberations after a jury failed to reach a verdict.
Slager's re-trial on the murder charge is set for August.
Freddie Gray, 25
Died on April 19, 2015, seven days after he was fatally injured
It started when an officer on bike patrol made eye contact with Freddie Gray, and Gray ran. Police later found a knife in Gray's pocket and arrested him on a weapons charge.
Officers put Gray in a police van. At some point, somehow, Gray suffered a fatal spinal cord injury and died.
For many, the circumstances of his death epitomized why black communities distrusted police, and protests and riots followed. Gray's death fueled the debate over racial bias in policing that ultimately drew federal scrutiny.
In May 2015, six police officers were charged in connection with Gray's death, including one who drove the transport van.
That month, the Department of Justice announced it had opened an investigation into whether the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.
Between December 2015 and January 2016, the officers' cases were heard in court. The jury deadlocked in the case against one officer, and three others -- including the van driver -- were acquitted. Charges against the three other officers were dropped in July 2016.
Months later, the DOJ found Baltimore police disproportionately stopped, searched and arrested black residents, and used excessive force against juveniles and those with mental disabilities, over at least a six year period.
Here are some of the most egregious examples.
In January, the Justice Department and Baltimore agreed to sweeping reforms that included cameras in all police transport vans. The 227-page consent decree came after the DOJ monitored Baltimore's policing methods for more than a year after Gray's death.
Read the consent decree here (PDF)
Sandra Bland, 28
Found dead on July 13, 2015, three days after a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas
On July 10, 2015, Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pulled over Sandra Bland for allegedly failing to use her turn signal. The interaction was captured in a dashcam video. The video showed how the encounter started as a normal conversation but grew tense after Encinia asked Bland to put out her cigarette.
"I am in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?" Bland said.
"You can step on out now," Encinia replied.
Bland refused to get out of her car. The trooper opened her door and tried to pull her out of the vehicle.
In the video, Encinia told Bland she was under arrest. She repeatedly asked why.
Encina does not answer, other than saying to Bland: "I am giving you a lawful order."
At one point, after Encinia aimed what appeared to be a Taser at Bland, Bland stepped out of her car.
Later she can be heard saying: "You're a real man now. You just slammed me, knocked my head in the ground."
Bland was detained in the Waller County Jail for allegedly assaulting an officer during the traffic stop. Three days later, she was found hanging from a noose made from a plastic bag in her cell at the jail.
Authorities ruled her death a suicide, but Bland's family said the Prairie View A&M graduate wouldn't have killed herself.
Bland's death sparked outrage. Many said she shouldn't have been arrested in the first place. Protestors said her arrest for the alleged traffic infraction showed bias and excessive force by police against African Americans.
Encinia was later indicted on perjury charges after he claimed Bland was "combative and uncooperative" and "kicked my right leg in the shin." He was also fired.
What we know about the controversy in Sandra Bland's death
In September 2016, Bland's family reached a $1.9 million settlement in a wrongful death suit.
Using #SandySpeaks hashtag, she posted frequently on her Facebook page of police brutality and the plight of African Americans.
Police: Some Chicago gangs turning to rifles for added firepower
Police aren't sure why the gangs have suddenly added rifles to their arsenal, except for the obvious speculation that they are deadlier
by Peter Nickeas, Jeremy Gorner and Nereida Moreno
CHICAGO — The first time 14-year-old Brisa Ramirez remembers hearing rifle fire was when a man was shot dead on a Sunday afternoon outside a Catholic church around the corner from her home in Back of the Yards.
She raises her voice to imitate the sharp, metallic bursts. Ta. Ta. Ta. Ta. Ta. It was a foreign sound even in this neighborhood accustomed to gunfire.
"It wasn't like a normal (shooting). … It was like something more terrible," Brisa says. "A noise that you can't really explain."
She and others in Davis Square Park took cover against concrete steps across the street from Seward Elementary School, where Brisa had just graduated from eighth grade.
The shooting was one of at least 33 in Back of the Yards and Brighton Park over the past nine months that police believe are tied to semi-automatic rifles as several gangs boost their firepower. At least 46 people have been shot in the attacks, 13 fatally.
Police say this is the only area of the city where rifles styled after AR-15s and AK-47s are regularly used, a menacing new development in the gang fights.
It's unclear how many of the high-powered rifles are on the street, but police suspect they are being passed around by members of four Hispanic gangs in the Deering police district, which covers parts of the South and Southwest sides.
Two of the gangs — La Raza near 47th and Loomis streets and the Almighty Saints near 45th and Wood streets — have been fighting for decades. But the conflict has expanded to the Satan Disciples and Gangster Two-Sixes in neighboring Brighton Park, where violence is less frequent.
Police have seized at least three rifles and have recovered rifle casings at dozens of crime scenes. There is also surveillance video showing rifles being used, according to investigators.
Police aren't sure why the gangs have suddenly added rifles to their arsenal, except for the obvious speculation that they are deadlier.
A bullet from a semi-automatic rifle can travel as fast as 3,200 feet per second, twice the speed from a handgun. That means wounds are more disabling, experts say.
Rifle bullets can tear through cars and other obstacles, including standard-issue bulletproof vests worn by Chicago police. Special "rifle plates" that can stop those rounds are issued to SWAT teams, and some officers on regular duty also buy them.
Gangs have fired rifles outside elementary schools and churches, a day care center, in alleys and on residential streets, mostly during the afternoon and evening hours when streets are often crowded.
The conflict has grown so intense that officers were called to Seward and Lara elementary schools in Saints territory in December after a Raza gang member threatened to shoot school-age kids with a rifle, according to police sources.
"I get worried," said Brisa's mother, Silvia Ramirez. Her family lives in "Halo City," Almighty Saints territory bounded by 43rd and 47th streets and Damen and Ashland avenues. "I've seen how all these young people are dying."
'What did I do wrong?'
Two white candles burn in the Gonzalez family's Brighton Park living room next to two photos in a red and green Virgin Mary shadowbox.
One burns for Daniel Torres, a 17-year-old shot to death with a rifle just before Christmas outside Shields Elementary School, at 43rd and Rockwell streets, as classes were letting out. Two others also were shot, one fatally.
The other candle commemorates the loss of Torres' close friend, 18-year-old David Gonzalez, who was fatally shot by rifle fire three weeks later and only about a block from where Torres was killed. Four other people were wounded in the shooting.
As young children, Torres and Gonzalez used to scream for each other from across Fairfield Avenue because their parents wouldn't let them cross the street.
They became inseparable as their families grew close by marriage. They lived together for years, and both joined the Satan Disciples.
Their parents think the two turned because they felt backed into a corner. Torres' mother, Marisa Dominguez, said her son and Gonzalez had been bullied by Satan Disciples at Kelly Park and by Two-Sixers in high school.
"I think about it every day. Every day I say to myself, what did I do wrong with my son? Was I a bad mom, was I a bad parent that I didn't do enough?" Dominguez said. "You think about it now, now that he's not here, now that I know I'm not going to see him again."
The Satan Disciples — with their turf between about Oakley and California avenues — and the Two-Sixers — west of there — are as much a part of Brighton Park as the brown bungalows and iron fences that line the one-way streets south of Pershing Road.
But residents say it's only in the last three or four years that they've seen such violence.
The Deering police district is one of four that experienced a lot of Chicago's violence in 2016, the deadliest year in the city in two decades. Deering finished the year with about 60 people killed, roughly double the previous year.
Police started noticing the rifles early last year, mostly in Back of the Yards, and their use has been increasing. October had three rifle shootings, November had six and December had nine, about the time the shootings started in Brighton Park, according to police.
Torres' death on Dec. 16 was only the third rifle shooting in that neighborhood since March, but there have been five since.
Dominguez was walking to pick up her younger kids from a charter school when she heard gunfire. Worried, she said she called her son, but he did not answer.
By the time she made it home, ambulances were lining up on 43rd Street. Torres' friends ran up and said her son had been shot. She waited at the scene after telling police her son's name. Officers told her he was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, but he died before she got there.
"I was so young when I had him, and God took him from me when he was young as well," Dominguez said. "I had a very good relationship with him. I did the best that I could for him."
By the end of December, gangs in the area were using rifles "almost exclusively," according to several veteran officers interviewed by the Tribune. The last day of 2016 saw two rifle shootings: one a block from Brisa Ramirez's home and the other a few blocks west.
The first rifle shooting of the new year was the one that killed Gonzalez on Jan. 11.
In the weeks before his own death, Gonzalez had been shaken by Torres' killing. He had built a small memorial in the family's back yard from cardboard and foil and sat out there, his family said. Others would join him and light candles.
"He was always back there. Every morning with his coffee, he was back there," Dominguez said. "He took it hard."
On the day he died, Gonzalez spent the morning at home. It was pouring rain. He left the house that afternoon after eating a warm meal prepared by his mother.
The family had scheduled a Mass for what would have been Torres' 18th birthday on Jan. 12, so Gonzalez texted his friends. He wanted everyone to show up.
"He couldn't have been outside for more than half an hour when it happened," said his mother, Juliana Gonzalez. "Because it's not like I can say he was out all night — it was the afternoon."
Gonzalez was in a car with four others on Talman Avenue, across from Shields Elementary, when someone stepped from a white van and started shooting. All five in the car were hit, Gonzalez the most seriously.
His family heard on social media that he had been shot. His mother drove from hospital to hospital, looking for him. She was desperate for information, learning little from rumors spreading on social media.
As it turned out, her son had been pronounced dead where the car finally stopped, about a mile from the shooting. He had been shot in the back of the head.
Four days later, two people were wounded in a rifle shooting that police believe was retaliation for Gonzalez's killing.
'The rifle comes out'
The weapon of choice for gangs had long been the revolver, the same kind of gun carried by police. That began to evolve in the 1980s and early 1990s with the appearance of the TEC-9 and MAC-10 pistols with high-capacity magazines. Then it was the semi-automatic handgun, the same weapon Chicago officers now use.
Rifles were briefly used about 10 years ago in a conflict between the New Breeds and the Traveling Vice Lords, two of the West Side's most violent street gangs. Former police Superintendent Jody Weis allowed patrol officers to carry semi-automatic rifles after two officers nearly got shot by a gunman armed with an AK-47 rifle.
Semi-automatic rifles can be bought by anyone licensed to buy a firearm. They fire a single round per trigger pull and the magazine can carry 30 rounds.
Police have several theories about how the Hispanic gangs are getting these rifles — they're buying them in Indiana, where gun laws are more lax, or they're buying or renting them from other gangs.
"Alliances, sort of," one veteran South Side officer said.
In many of the rifle shootings, gangs send out scout cars in search of rivals, according to the officer. "The other car comes up, and the rifle comes out," the officer said.
In Back of the Yards and Brighton Park, rifle fire has come from a black SUV, a silver Nissan Sentra with tinted windows, a brown minivan with sliding doors, and a red or maroon Jeep Cherokee, according to police.
Rifle seizures are still rare and didn't crack the list of the 20 most-seized types of guns in 2014, according to the latest breakdown from the Police Department.
Police and Cook County sheriff's officers have conducted searches across the neighborhood over the last few months. At least three rifles have been seized so far in the Deering District.
One of the rifles was recovered last Labor Day. Police were pursuing two suspected La Raza gang members after a fatal shooting in Almighty Saints territory. The two wrapped the rifle in a T-shirt and tried stashing it in a clothing donation bin, according to a security video from a gas station on Western Avenue. But it didn't fit, so they kept running and were arrested in an alley just off Western. The rifle was recovered in a backyard nearby.
In the most recent seizure, on Feb. 9, officers on patrol spotted gunfire from a car near 47th Street, not far from where a warrant had come up empty-handed in January.
As the officers gave chase, a dispatcher said neighbors were flooding 911 to report gunfire.
"Sounded like a machine gun," the dispatcher said. "Just be advised, we still have hot tickets coming in for shots fired, 47(th) and Loomis, 47(th) and Bishop."
The chase went as far south as Garfield Boulevard before heading back north toward Almighty Saints territory at 43rd Street and Ashland Avenue. Two teens deserted the car in an alley and took off on foot, but officers arrested one within seconds wearing a black face mask and black gloves.
While searching for the other teen, police started hearing gunfire near 45th and Wood, then near 48th and Paulina. One officer wondered if it was a diversion. "They're not above shooting to just get our attention," he radioed.
Police found two rifles inside the car — one a Remington, its serial number defaced, complicating efforts to figure out its origins, and the other a Norinco AK-47-style rifle made in China, according to law enforcement sources.
So far, police have linked one of them to a shooting Dec. 30 in the 4700 of South Throop Street that wounded one person.
As the conflict escalates, Marisa Dominguez worries gangs will try to recruit her 12-year-old son by enticing him to avenge his brother's death.
"This is the time where they start trying to get more kids," she said. "I fear that they'll grab him ... and pull (him) in little by little. And that's the biggest fear now."
Calif. police: 'Nothing's changed' despite Trump's immigration orders
"I think there's value in having the feds only take the immigration issue. I want local people to trust the local law enforcement"
by Lindsey Holden
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — As President Donald Trump's administration beefs up immigration enforcement and looks to local law enforcement agencies for help, San Luis Obispo County officials say they're in the business of protecting residents, not deporting them.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum Tuesday outlining the Trump administration's plan to crack down on immigrants in the country illegally. The plan gives immigration officers authority to deport anyone they see as a public safety risk — with priority to those charged or convicted of a crime, have committed acts that could lead to charges, engaged in fraud against the government or abused any public benefits program.
The department “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” according to the memorandum. To enforce the measures, Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to hire 10,000 federal officers and agents.
The directive notes that 32 local law enforcement agencies in 16 states participate in a program that allows them to act as immigration officers and that the Department of Homeland Security is looking to expand that. Only one California agency, the Orange County Sheriff's Office, is among the participants.
In San Luis Obispo County, local law enforcement agencies say they aren't interested. And California law backs them up, giving local agencies discretion in detaining people with immigration violations. State law also makes it illegal for state and local law enforcement to detain anyone solely for immigration purposes.
“I think there's value in having the feds only take the immigration issue,” San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said. “I want local people to trust the local law enforcement.”
Fear and opposition
California is home to more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, an estimated 9,000 of whom live in San Luis Obispo County, according to 2013 data collected by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Undocumented immigrants play a significant role in the state's workforce — making up about 9 percent of all workers in California, second only to Nevada's 10 percent, according to the institute's data.
The new directive, in addition to reports of recent ICE raids and Trump's disparaging remarks about immigrants, have created fear in immigrant communities throughout the state, including in San Luis Obispo County.
Local attorneys Erica and Hernaldo Baltodano said they've been helping provide area immigrants with information about their rights. Hernaldo Baltodano helped give a presentation at Pacheco Elementary School in San Luis Obispo earlier this month that drew hundreds of concerned parents, he said.
“People are staying home,” he said. “They're not answering their doors. They're living in complete fear.”
The fear caused by the Trump administration's directives will make it tougher for immigrants being exploited or abused to seek help, Baltodano said.
People are staying home. They're not answering their doors. They're living in complete fear.
Hernaldo Baltodano, an attorney in San Luis Obispo County
“It takes courage to go see a lawyer and actually do something,” he said. “I can only imagine how difficult it is if you're living in the shadows and have no status.”
Kevin Gregg, an immigration attorney in Paso Robles, said he's experienced an uptick in calls from individuals asking deportation-related questions.
During the past week alone, Gregg said he's received about 50 calls from people trying to make plans for children with citizenship if their parents get deported — a topic he's never gotten inquiries about in the past five years.
Despite the Trump administration directive, the California TRUST Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2013, gives local law enforcement officers discretion when detaining people for potential immigration law violations.
Under the TRUST Act, individuals can only be detained for immigration reasons if they've been convicted of serious or violent felonies.
“Nothing in the (federal) directives changes anything about California law,” Gregg said.
Federal manpower and support for immigration law enforcement are sparse on the Central Coast.
Tess Whittlesey, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, said Thursday that the congressman met with ICE officials about two weeks ago and was told the agency doesn't have the resources — staff and space for detainment — to conduct mass raids or other large-scale enforcement operations on the Central Coast.
Lori Haley, an ICE spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the agency isn't granting interviews to the news media and declined to comment on the memorandum.
In an emailed statement, Haley said ICE is “committed to using its unique enforcement authorities and available resources and tools to promote national security, uphold public safety and preserve the integrity of our immigration system.”
The agency will continue to seek collaboration with law enforcement agencies to help ensure that individuals who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the street to potentially reoffend and harm our citizens.
“The agency will continue to seek collaboration with law enforcement agencies to help ensure that individuals who may pose a threat to our communities are not released onto the street to potentially reoffend and harm our citizens,” Haley wrote.
Parkinson said the Homeland Security directives have virtually no effect on the Sheriff's Office or other local law enforcement agencies, in part because state law doesn't allow them to do frontline immigration enforcement.
Moreover, he said, enforcing immigration laws would run counter to the department's “community policing” efforts. He said his deputies want all residents to feel free to report crimes and to share information that can help in investigations.
“The people in fear are not only the ones here illegally,” Parkinson said. “You have people that maybe are here legally but are already leery of law enforcement because of (cartel and drug) issues in Mexico, or they may be legal but their brother is not. It naturally makes people fear.”
ICE and local officials have sometimes had a tense relationship when it comes to undocumented immigrants and crime, though it's improving, Parkinson said.
In August 2015, the Sheriff's Office came under fire for releasing from custody a Mexican national arrested on suspicion of attacking a 2-year-old girl. The department was following state law when it released Francisco Javier Chavez after he posted bail, although ICE had issued a detainer request.
The jail had followed its normal procedure: When someone is booked, their fingerprints are sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, which checks immigration status. ICE had been alerted to Chavez's impending release, but agents didn't arrive at the jail in time to take him into custody.
Chavez, who grew up in Paso Robles and attended Paso Robles High School, is assumed to have fled to Mexico. An outstanding warrant for his arrest remains.
In his case, Chavez would have been eligible for a bail enhancement, which might have kept him in custody long enough to go before a judge. Following a grand jury investigation, all San Luis Obispo County law enforcement have now been trained on how to request additional bail when the alleged crime merits it.
The new ICE memo issued last week calls for publishing a weekly report that names all local policing agencies that release undocumented immigrants when there is an outstanding immigration request.
Despite incidents such as the Chavez case, undocumented immigrants are underrepresented in California's prisons compared with their representation in the overall population, according to a 2008 Public Policy Institute of California study.
Parkinson said the number of undocumented people being arrested for violent crimes in San Luis Obispo County is “pretty low.”
On Thursday, for example, County Jail was at capacity with about 600 inmates, three of whom are known to be undocumented.
Asked what he wanted residents — documented or not — to know about the local implementation of the Trump administration's immigration enforcement priorities, Parkinson said nothing has changed.
“The president can certainly ask for assistance in the matter, but I have to agree to it,” he said.
Local police departments also want no part in the ramped-up immigration enforcement.
Lt. Ty Lewis of the Paso Robles Police Department said his agency has no plans to begin tackling illegal immigration.
“We're not immigration officers,” Lewis said. “We're not trained in immigration enforcement.”
“Building trust” among residents is especially important to the department, he said.
“We have a very large immigrant Hispanic community, and we're sensitive to their needs,” he said.
Our focus is on crimes committed in San Luis Obispo. That's not based at all on immigration status.
Capt. Jeff Smith of the San Luis Obispo Police Department
Capt. Jeff Smith of the San Luis Obispo Police Department said officers don't ask about residents' citizenship when responding to calls.
“We're a local municipality,” he said. “Our focus is on crimes committed in San Luis Obispo. That's not based at all on immigration status.”
Smith said he thinks those in the country illegally may be apprehensive about contacting law enforcement agencies in an emergency. But he doesn't want that to be the case.
“Our focus is still and will always be to serve the people in our community,” he said. “We don't want them to hesitate to call or contact us because we'll look into their immigration status.”
The murder of Officer Keith Boyer reveals the dangers of early prisoner release
A recidivist gang member whose record includes a 2010 robbery conviction and a 2014 GTA conviction murdered Officer Keith Boyer ten days after release from prison
by Doug Wyllie
Ten days after being released from prison, a recidivist gang member named Michael Mejia reportedly murdered his cousin in East Los Angeles and stole his car. He subsequently crashed that vehicle into two other cars in nearby Whittier.
Two of the Whittier police officers who responded to assist at the crash scene were Keith Boyer and Patrick Hazel. Mejia ambushed them and a gunfight ensued. Officer Boyer was pronounced dead at the hospital. Officer Hazel was wounded and remains in stable condition.
Mejia is a career criminal with a history of drugs and violence whose record includes a 2010 robbery conviction and a 2014 conviction for grand theft auto. Until mid-2016, he had been held at Pelican Bay State Prison, where California keeps some of its most violent offenders, preventing them from doing harm to innocents on the outside.
Mejia is presently in custody at a hospital — recovering from the wounds he received during the gunfight — and is expected to be charged within the week.
Early release and slackened parole
Early reports indicated that Mejia was released under conditions set by Assembly Bill 109. Subsequent reports contradicted this narrative. Regardless of whether or not Mejia was an AB 109 probationer, Boyer's death has reignited the debate over that legislation — as well as Proposition 47 and other prison reform ballot initiatives which have led to the early release of countless violent criminals across the country.
Assembly Bill 109 — which was passed by the California legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 — seeks to reduce prison overcrowding by moving certain felony offenders from state prisons to county facilities. Further, AB 109 shifted post-release supervision of certain criminals from state to local supervision. Under AB 109, prisoners convicted of a “triple-non offense” — non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual — who are up for parole would be eligible for post-release community supervision (PRCS) probation. Importantly, AB 109 eligibility is based on the offense the person is in jail for at the time, not their prior criminal record.
Proposition 47 — a ballot initiative passed in 2014 — reduced some felony property and drug crimes to become misdemeanors. This has effectively taken many of these offenders out of the court systems altogether — time is a zero-sum equation and district attorneys pick and choose their cases based on where they want/need to spend their time. Typically, felony cases trump misdemeanors.
AB 109 and Prop 47 have led to what have become known as “flash incarcerations.” Again aimed at keeping the state prison population down, this punishes probationers with up to 10 days in jail for “minor” violations of their parole that — prior to those two laws — would have otherwise sent them back to prison.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Mejia was “flash incarcerated” for various violations of his parole five times in the past seven months.
Let that sink in for a moment — Mejia was incarcerated five times in the past seven months. A very reasonable argument could be made that given his history — recent and overall — he should have been behind bars and not free on the streets to murder one peace officer and wound another.
The definition of insane
Instead of addressing the issue of prison overcrowding from a rational perspective — instead of electing to build more jails to house dangerous criminals — the voting public and their elected representatives have repeatedly voted to allow for the early release of career criminals. They have voted to create an environment where DAs won't even pursue charges for various criminal offences, allowing those offenders to roam free to reoffend. They have voted to allow dangerous predators to prey upon the weak and the vulnerable in our society.
That is insane.
An argument can be made that these laws need to be immediately repealed so this type of horrific event does not occur again. Mejia supplied the means (the ability to commit the crime) and the motive (the desire to commit the crime), but had he been behind bars, the element of opportunity would not be present. These laws created that opportunity.
Law enforcement officers, officials, and organizations have for years said that these ballot initiatives put the public — and the police — in peril, and the murder of Boyer casts in stark relief the danger of early release of career criminals and violent gang members.
The union that represents LAPD officers sent messages to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking for a review of the effect these two measures have had on public safety.
Following the death of his friend and colleague, Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper stood before the cameras and the microphones at a press conference and fought back tears.
“We need to wake up,” Piper said. “Enough is enough. Passing these propositions, you're creating these laws that are raising crime. It's not good for our communities and it is not good for our officers. What you have today is an example of that.”
Too many unnecessary tragedies
Mejia is not the first — sadly, nor will he be the last — parolee to kill a police officer.
Lovelle Mixon was released on parole, put back in prison for parole violation, and then released again. Mixon then murdered Motor Officers Mark Dunakin and John Hege at a traffic stop in Oakland, California. A few hours later, Mixon murdered Sergeants Daniel Sakai and Ervin Romans as they were attempting to apprehend him at his sister's apartment.
Maurice Clemmons — despite having multiple felonies on his record as a career criminal — was released from prison in Arkansas on a unanimous vote by a parole board. A few years later at a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, Clemmons ambushed and murdered Sergeant Mark Renniger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronald Owens and Greg Richards.
There have been too many other cops killed by parolees to catalog here. Check ODMP. Hundreds of cops have been killed by men who rightfully should have been behind bars at the time.
Boyer — a 27-year-veteran of the Whittier PD who had recently begun to speak about retiring — should be alive today. His kids should have their father. He should be playing drums with his bandmates in his time off.
Will Boyer's death be a turning point for public support for legislation — like AB 109 and Proposition 47 — that puts violent criminals on the streets?
I hope so. But I'm not betting on it.
Trump mentioned Chicago's violence again. Police say they hope the president ‘finally' sends help.
by Mark Berman
President Trump returned to a familiar subject this week, remarking multiple times about the violence in Chicago and painting it as an unbelievable situation that needs fixing.
“Can you believe what's happening in Chicago?” Trump said in his speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He also referred to the seven people fatally shot in the city on a single day this week, something he also did on Twitter the night before: “What is going on there — totally out of control. Chicago needs help!”
Chicago's top police officer responded Friday afternoon with a sharp message: We've already asked for your help, and we haven't heard back.
“We've made requests to the White House and the Justice Department for them to support our work — from increasing federal gun prosecution to more FBI, DEA and ATF agents to more funding for mentoring, job training and more,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. “The mayor made the request in person as recently as last week and we are hopeful the administration will finally respond.”
Johnson's comment was not the first time he has responded to the president, who has frequently invoked the bloodshed in Chicago as a shorthand for rising violence in some American cities nationwide. On Twitter and in speeches and interviews, Trump has time and again brought up Chicago, which has struggled in recent years to combat a wave of bloodshed.
The city had 762 homicides last year — its deadliest single year in two decades — with more killings there than the combined death toll in New York and Los Angeles, the only two larger U.S. cities. While a number of big cities saw an uptick in homicides last year, the death toll in Chicago was so high it drove up the homicide rate for the nation's 30 biggest cities.
Through Wednesday, the city has had 99 homicides, slightly up from the same point last year, according to the Chicago Tribune. That newspaper tracks homicides and includes killings not counted in the police department's tally (which does not include fatal shootings by police and justified homicides, and which shows that killings were slightly down in the same window).
On Thursday night, Trump's tweet again posited that Chicago needed help, without elaborating on what the federal government could do.
His comments Friday at the conservative conference followed suit. “Seven people, seven people, Chicago, a great American city, seven people shot and killed,” Trump said. “We will support the incredible men and women of law enforcement.” He promptly moved on to something else and never returned to the topic.
These remarks were the latest in a long line of Trump's commentary about the issue. During the presidential campaign and in office, Trump has decried Chicago's violence and weighed in on what could be done. In January, during his first White House interview, Trump called the situation “very easily fixable” and then blamed it on city officials “being overly politically correct.”
In the summer, while running for office, Trump said in an interview with Fox News that police in Chicago were fully capable of resolving the situation. When asked how, Trump, who has painted himself as a staunch advocate of law enforcement, said: “By being very much tougher than they are right now. They right now are not tough.”
Trump also said that a “top police officer” told him that there was a way to stop the violence “within one week.” (Trump's campaign declined to identify this person, and Chicago police and union officials said Trump never met with any member of the department's senior command staff.) Johnson responded during a news conference a week later, saying: “If you have a magic bullet to stop the violence anywhere, not just in Chicago but in America, then please, share it with us. We'd be glad to take that information and stop this violence.”
Last month, days after taking office, Trump tweeted about Chicago's bloodshed, a message seemingly prompted by a segment on Fox News that aired that night.
His tweet echoed another he sent during the transition, when he said that if Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) “can't do it he must ask for Federal help!”
However, it was not immediately clear what Trump meant by sending in “the feds.” There are already federal resources on the ground in Chicago, including multiple agencies involved in task forces with agents working alongside Chicago police officers. If Trump was referring to the National Guard, the Illinois governor has said he opposes such an idea, and federal law effectively states that activating the guard without a governor's consent requires the president to be putting down a rebellion. (Johnson, at the time of Trump's last threat to “send in the feds,” expressed bafflement, telling the Chicago Tribune : “The statement is so broad. I have no idea what he's talking about.”)
Authorities in Chicago have made clear what kind of help they want. City officials have pointed to illegal guns as a cause of the city's spiking violence, and Johnson and Emanuel have said they could use federal help in tackling crimes involving guns. Emanuel met with Trump administration officials this month, during which his office said he again asked for more federal agents and increased federal gun prosecutions.
In his message Friday, Johnson reiterated this plea for help and again assailed the bloodshed in his city.
“We have challenges with gun violence in several neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city,” Johnson said. “It's unacceptable to me, to the mayor and to everyone who lives in Chicago.”
Seven year low: Proactive policing brings down crime in Klamath Falls
by Stephen Floyd
A community policing initiative in Klamath Falls has paid off as the city recently reported a seven-year low in crime statistics.
According to stats collected during 2016, Klamath Falls saw a 7.4 percent reduction in crime compared to the previous year, which Police Chief Dave Henslee credited to the hard work of the men and women in his department.
“This is happening because of the police officers,” said Henslee.
When Henslee was hired in 2015, one of his goals was to use a proactive policing model for the department involving enforcement based on community feedback and current crime trends. These efforts include monthly meetings to analyze recent criminal activity and an emphasis on officers getting to know and interacting with local businesses and residents.
“We focus on what we can do to put officers in places where we have problems to prevent the problem from occurring, and that's kind of our proactive policing style,” he said.
When comparing crime reports from last year, the biggest downward trends was in person-on-person crimes such as assault, robbery, rape and homicide. These numbers fell from 349 reports in 2015 to 261 reports in 2016, a reduction of 25.2 percent.
Henslee said the biggest change in this category included aggravated assaults (an attempt to cause serious bodily injury) and simple assaults (less-serious attacks typically involving violent disputes), which fell 26.5 percent and 27.1 percent, respectively.
Also down were property crimes, which went from 1,066 reports in 2015 to 946 reports in 2016, an 11.3 percent reduction. Specifically theft fell 13.4 percent and vandalism fell 29.8 percent, with Henslee saying his department has been cracking down on crimes in these categories.
One example of this special emphasis was on shoplifting, which Henslee said has been a significant problem at many local businesses. He said his officers have begun patrolling inside stores, parking patrol vehicles outside businesses and arresting shoplifters instead of simply issuing citations with notices to appear in court. He said one store went from roughly 60 reports of shoplifting in one month to about 20, and said this is an example of the impact community policing has had.
But crime reports did increase in the category of society crimes, which involves drug offenses, illegal weapon possession, DUII and public disturbances, among others. This category rose 8 percent from 653 reports in 2015 to 710 reports in 2016. But Henslee said this was still a measure of how effective their efforts have been because society crimes often go unchecked without proactive policing.
“We've noticed that, when officer's have this face-to-face interaction with people, it's leading to more drug arrests, it's leading to more weapons arrests because they're finding people that are committing crime rather than just driving by in a police car,” said Henslee.
Drug arrests have also spiked through efforts by the Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET), a partnership of local law enforcement agencies with offices at KFPD. Henslee said drug abuse remains a top enforcement priority for the area and said BINET has left its mark on the local drug trade.
“I am extremely impressed with the quantities of methamphetamine that they have seized and the arrests they have made and the convictions that they are getting through the court system for distribution of methamphetamine,” Henslee said.
He said another strong indicator of improvement within the city was in the volume of directed patrols, which more than doubled from 989 in 2015 to 2,183 in 2016. Henslee said these are examples of officers patrolling specific areas with specific enforcement goals, and he said sergeants meet with officers at the beginning of each shift to discuss current enforcement needs.
“For example, they may focus on traffic collisions on Washburn Way,” he said. “Maybe that's something that they want to focus on that day, so they put officers in locations where problems are occurring to prevent the problem from occurring.”
Henslee said directed patrols also include officers intentionally approaching residents to determine if there has been a violation or if there is a need for assistance.
“It could be, you know, a citizen walking through the Mills Addition at two in the morning,” said Henslee. “So the officer gets out and goes, 'What's going on?' So it could be a bad guy, it could be somebody that say's, 'Hey my dog got loose, can you see my dog?' So it could be, you know, helping a citizen or it could be enforcement action.”
Captain Rob Dentinger, head of the department's Patrol and Operations Division, said these directed patrols have been very effective, and said the department has also found success in taking action against venues with recurring problems. Dentinger said, when crimes are recurring at a specific location, the property can be declared a nuisance and the city can begin the abatement process, which could result in the city seizing ownership of the property.
“When we find out there's a problem property or a problem location, we aggressively enforce that,” he said.
Dentinger said the city has yet to actually abate a property and said starting the process is usually enough incentive for a landowner to take corrective action. He also said he is pleased to see the downward trend in reported crimes and hopes it will continue.
“I think the numbers could still go low and be driven down,” said Dentinger.
How low can it go?
Henslee said he is also curious how far the crime rate can go and said, though a 7.4 percent drop is an improvement, he is hoping crime will continue to trend downward for the next several years.
“They're only going to go so low,” said Henslee. “Every community has crime, but I want to see where that low point is and then make adjustments as we need to from there.”
He added this dip in the crime rate is a positive indication Klamath Falls can turn around its reputation as a hot-spot for illegal activity in Oregon.
“I'm tired of hearing about how bad Klamath is from around the state,” said Henslee. “We live in an amazing location, we live in a beautiful city, we're blessed to be able to have all the things that we have here in Klamath and I think that this sends the right message, not only to our community but to the rest of the state, that we do have a really nice place to live.”
Both Henslee and Dentinger reiterated the reduction in crime reports is due to the efforts of officers on the streets, and Henslee said the change was “only because of their hard work and their dedication.”
Keeping the community involved
Part of community policing is keeping the community involved and able to provide input.
In Klamath Falls, residents have access to the Community/Police Advisory Team (CPAT), which meets regularly to discuss crime trends, enforcement goals and any issues the public wants to address.
Police Chief Dave Henslee, who implemented CPAT in 2015, said the program continues to be a success and a place for his officers to connect with representatives of local neighborhoods.
“I really like the community participation piece,” he said.
Henslee said the CPAT meetings, held the third Wednesday of every other month, include an open comment period for residents. On more than one occasion, residents have come forward with specific concerns about people or households where they live. Henslee said his officers are able to follow up on such information and take action when they may not have been able to if residents had not spoken up.
“We don't know what we don't know, so we like it when the community is involved,” said Henslee. “I like it when people come into CPAT and go, 'Here's what's happening in our community,' because we'll address it if we know it exists.”
The next CPAT meeting is scheduled for April 19 at 3 p.m. at KFPD headquarters and the public is welcome to attend.
Police Community Relations Committee Asks for Input
Each district will have the chance to discuss the topic
by Cody Schiever
Peoria city leaders are trying to form better relationships between the police and the community.
The Police Community Relations Committee hosted its second town hall meeting today at the Carver Center.
The group is holding meetings in each of Peoria's districts to discuss fears and concerns from the public.
Community members had the chance to talk about problems to the board and suggest ways to build a better relationship.
“They believe what they see on television is what every African American is, and that's not the case. I believe we need more members from the community policing the community,” said Peoria resident Mike Williams.
The group hopes the meetings will continue to have a positive response and plan to continue to hold them to hear the communities questions.
Noble Wray's prescription for police: Use cameras, listen more
by Rob Schultz
Noble Wray has the look of a man on a long vacation.
The former Madison police chief is back in town and enjoying some new perks, like becoming a grandfather for the first time, since completing in November a one-year assignment with the U.S. Department of Justice observing and advising police departments around the country.
“I'm slowing down now for the next few months,” said Wray, 56, as he relaxed at a West Side coffee shop just hours after the longtime partner of his youngest son, Elliott, gave birth to a baby boy a few blocks away at St. Mary's Hospital.
Some rare down time has allowed Wray to reflect on what he has learned from other departments in the last year as the leader of the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and how that can help inform the Madison Police Department, its sometimes-embattled chief, Mike Koval, and policing in general during President Donald Trump's administration.
Among the top takeaways: Madison police need to start wearing body cameras, and officers need to stay on their beats longer.
“Most departments have turned the corner on accepting (body cameras),” Wray said. “They have seen it over and over again how they have helped provide information that might have been perceived differently by the citizen and the officer.”
Wray said it was a mistake for the City Council to reject funding for police body cameras in November 2015 after a citizen-led panel concluded the city first needed to focus on efforts to build trust between police and the community.
Wray, who resigned as chief in 2013, countered that part of that breakdown in trust occurred after the controversial fatal shooting of an unarmed Paul Heenan by officer Stephen Heimsness on Madison's Near East Side in November 2012.
The Dane County District Attorney's office and an internal investigation cleared Heimsness of any wrongdoing, although he retired in October 2013 after the department later moved to have him fired for unrelated policy violations. But if police had been required to wear body cameras it could have provided an objective account of the incident, Wray said.
“I can't imagine how many nights I was going, ‘Damn, I wish we had had a camera on (Heimsness),'?” Wray said. “It's a no-brainer. You're trying to get at the truth.”
The city later agreed to pay Heenan's family $2.3 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit over the shooting. That settlement would stand as a record for a fatal police shooting in Wisconsin until last week, when the city's insurance company agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Tony Robinson, a black teenager who was shot and killed by officer Matt Kenny in March 2015, for $3.35 million.
Although part of that incident was caught on Kenny's squad car video, many believe questions about what happened in the narrow stairway of an apartment building on Williamson Street where Kenny shot Robinson could have been resolved had the officer been wearing a body camera.
Both shootings created major use-of-force issues for Madison police and eroded the community policing efforts started by former Madison police chief David Couper and continued by Wray and Koval.
The public backlash that followed the shooting of Heenan, who was white, was the most controversial period of Wray's nine-plus years as chief. He said he empathized with Koval, who is facing a Police and Fire Commission review over how he has handled some of the aftermath of the Robinson shooting.
“It's not easy, especially after officer-involved shootings,” Wray said. “There's so much pain inside and outside the organization and you look for ways to relieve that pain.
“Those meetings I went to on the East Side and people were yelling me, that was tough. I remember my wife and my son were at one of those meetings and they said to me, ‘Why are you taking that?' I told them I had to take it because there's a human being who's not here anymore and I'm not blaming anyone, but people are hurting.''
‘Seek first to understand'
Wray said he agrees that cameras aren't a panacea. But if they're included as part of a broader strategic plan to build trust between the police and the community, Wray said, he believes the citizen panel, the council and mayor will be more comfortable with them.
In many communities, it's not a matter of if, but when, the next police-related shooting of an unarmed black man is going to occur. To ensure that they can survive it, police departments need to work with community and outside agency leaders to build trust between them, Wray said.
“We usually don't talk to people to understand, we talk to be understood,” Wray said. “That's wrong. We need to seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Trust begins with officers listening “at every traffic stop, every time somebody calls the police department. You have to work in a way where people believe you have their best interests at heart,” he said.
It's also important for the police to listen to each other, he said. Wray recalled encountering a police officer in Baltimore in tears last year because a citizen called him a racist at a traffic stop.
“That is the challenge with police officers right now,” he said. “When a high-profile incident like Tony Robinson takes place, the entire department is looked at in a different way and (the officers and others) lose their individuality, they lose what they came to that profession for: the nobility of it and the humanity of it because they are all viewed the same way.”
In visits to departments around the country last year, Wray said he learned that most officer-involved shootings of unarmed black people weren't isolated incidents by rogue cops.
“There is usually a culture. So it begins with recruitment, hiring, leadership. All of those things culminate in one of those incidents. They are not done in isolation,” Wray said.
One key to strengthening relationships in the community, Wray said, is keeping officers on beats longer than a year before moving them to another assignment.
“I think that's critical,” Wray said. “This is a debate going on nationally. The question is not about keeping somebody on the same beat forever, but how do you increase someone's time on a beat?”
When he attended community meetings, Wray said citizens showed higher levels of respect for officers if they knew them.
Critical reviews necessary
If he could start over as Madison chief, Wray said, he'd engage in more strategic planning and have assessments done of his department every five years to identify any growing problems.
In the year he spent with COPS, he said about a dozen chiefs allowed the Department of Justice to assess their departments. “It's a framework for how to improve no matter how good you are as an agency,” Wray said.
He backs the decision the City Council made in June to spend $400,000 to hire an expert to examine the Madison department's policies, procedures, training and culture.
“I think it's very impressive for our city government to want to allocate resources for our department to improve,” Wray said.
Koval, who calls Wray a mentor, confidant and good friend, said he doesn't disagree — despite a very public spat with the council at the time over the funding, which he said could have been better spent on more urgent needs. After the assessment comes out, Koval said, he'll include any constructive feedback from it in his strategic planning.
But his actions at the council meeting and during a confrontation with Tony Robinson's grandmother, Sharon Irwin, that same night when he allegedly called her “a raging lunatic,” are the basis for a complaint Irwin filed against Koval with the Police and Fire Commission.
Wray said Koval needs to insulate himself better within the department as a matter of protection.
“The unique thing about Madison is that people think they can walk up to the chief and tell him things,” Wray said. “So my staff would tell me that you can't let just anybody have a meeting with you.”
That might be a tall order for Koval, who likes to connect with the community.
“The tension is palpable because you have an intense desire by the community for the chief to be their chief, and then there's this intense desire within the organization for the chief to be their chief and back them up,” Wray said. “A lot of chiefs see themselves as either/or.”
Stress of the job
Wray was a diplomat, walking a fine line between protecting himself and working with the community. Koval wears his emotions on his sleeve and freely admits that he lacks Wray's panache.
“I've tripped over that fine line a few times,” Koval said.
But Wray and Koval agree on much — especially where it comes to community policing — and talk by phone about twice a week, although they haven't talked since December. Wray wouldn't say what he tells Koval but said he worries about his friend who supervised hiring during his time as chief.
Wray remembers how previous chiefs Couper and Richard Williams stumbled at times under pressure, and that he himself had a heart attack when he was 37, five years before being named chief.
“There's a learning curve to any job,” Wray said.
To clear his head, he used to drive over to the East Side YMCA in the morning and shoot baskets by himself.
For Koval, the stress of the job includes waiting to hear whether the more then $20,000 he has spent on legal fees so far to deal with the Irwin complaint will be reimbursed.
“If I win, I get to put in for a resolution, which I hope the council will vote to reimburse me,” he said. “If I lose, that's $22,000 that might arguably not be compensated for.”
Koval said he takes long walks, has long talks with his wife and prays to keep himself grounded.
But having either hired, trained or worked with all but eight of the Madison department's 470 officers, Koval's stake in the department is too personal to effectively leave it behind. To clear his head, Koval rides a beat four to eight hours a week.
Avoiding that kind of stress is on Wray's mind as he contemplates his next move. He said private and public agencies continue to pay him as a consultant and he is contemplating writing a book. He hasn't ruled out running for political office — some encouraged him to run for mayor after he retired — but he said he likes how he feels right now.
“I would literally make less money (as mayor),” Wray said. “I have to be honest. Going to work every day and making less money? From a health standpoint, I would put all my energy into it. After 10 years as chief of police, I just don't know.”
Missing reports prompt review of Texas police shootings law
Texas is one of seven states that require LE agencies to provide information about officer-involved shootings to the state
by Juan A. Lozano
HOUSTON — Police in Texas could soon find it easier to report officer-involved shootings to the state — but they also may pay a price for failing to do so.
Texas is one of seven states that require law enforcement agencies to provide information about officer-involved shootings to the state, and it could become the first to mete out punishment to those that don't.
State Rep. Eric Johnson says he's is pushing to "put some teeth" into Texas' statute after learning that up to a dozen fatal shootings hadn't been reported since the law went into effect in 2015. He's also trying to create a web portal that would make it easier for law enforcement to report crime data, including officer-involved shootings.
Texas' law, which was sponsored by Johnson, requires agencies to provide information about the shootings in a one-page report emailed to the state attorney general's office within 30 days, but there are no enforcement or tracking mechanisms.
"For the most part, departments are doing a pretty good job. ... Voluntary compliance is just not quite getting us to 100 percent," said Johnson, a Democrat from Dallas who has proposed withholding some state money for agencies that don't comply.
Supporters of such reporting laws say they can help authorities and the public understand how often and why officers use deadly force. But legal experts and researchers say a lack of consequences for failing to report or a mechanism for tracking missing reports can lead to incomplete information and a lack of accountability.
"We've been pushing this (reporting of police shootings) for several decades. ... But no one's really stepped up except a few states and the states that have I think are mostly like Texas ... without any kind of teeth in the requirement," said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina and an expert on police use of force.
Under Texas' law, once law enforcement agencies report an officer-involved shooting, the attorney general's office then has five days to post the report related to each shooting online.
One bill introduced by Johnson this legislative session would make it so that any Texas law enforcement agency that fails to submit a report on a shooting is ineligible to receive criminal justice grant money from the governor's office for a year. In 2015 and 2016, the governor's office provided more than $52 million in grants for such things as body-worn cameras, anti-gang centers and training.
The Texas Municipal Police Association supports the bill.
"We recognize the collection of data is probably in most cases helpful to law enforcement not hurtful," said Kevin Lawrence, the group's executive director.
Attention was drawn to unreported fatal shootings after freelance journalist Eva Ruth Moravec reported about them as part of "Point of Impact," a yearlong series on police shootings. Since then, 10 of the missing reports have been filed, according to an Associated Press review, and the attorney general's office says it's looking into the other two shootings.
Both Johnson and Lawrence said they don't believe any law enforcement agency intentionally failed to report a shooting, but some agencies might have been unaware of the requirement.
A second bill by Johnson would create a website where agencies could submit required information. Agencies currently email their reports to the attorney general's office and that office posts them on its website as PDFs. Johnson says they're not user-friendly and are not part of a searchable database. His proposed website could generate reports that could be accessed by the public.
Other states with laws requiring law enforcement agencies to report officer-involved shootings or use of deadly force incidents are California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Oregon. In Connecticut and Maine, state authorities investigate any cases in which an officer uses deadly force, with the final reports available online.
But the states don't have a way to track whether shootings are being reported.
"We don't have any sort of audit function built into our system. We trust that the agencies are reporting to us what accurately happened in their jurisdiction," said Ashley Cox, uniform crime reporting manager with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Johnson praised efforts by the media and the public to track down missing cases but the responsibility can't fall solely on them and "it's something we're going to have to address in the legislation."
Ex-LA County sheriff Baca back on trial on corruption counts
Lee Baca is facing a retrial on charges that he conspired with underlings and obstructed justice in the investigation of civil abuses in the nation's largest jail system
by Brian Melley
LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca went on trial on federal corruption charges Friday stripped of a ceremonial badge and unable to present a defense that might have won him sympathy if jurors knew he was in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease.
Instead, his lawyer dropped only a hint of what he couldn't say as he attacked the obstruction of justice and lying charges as an outgrowth of a rookie FBI investigation riddled with blunders.
Defense lawyer Nathan Hochman emphasized that Baca was 71 at the time he allegedly lied to federal authorities in 2013 about his role in the 2011 effort to stymie the FBI probe into guards who savagely beat inmates in the jails he ran and deputies who smuggled contraband to prisoners.
"Sheriff Baca did not lie, hide, conceal what happened 20 months before, but explained it to the best of his memory," Hochman said, putting additional emphasis on that final word.
Baca, now 74, is facing a retrial on charges that he conspired with underlings and obstructed justice in the investigation of civil abuses in the nation's largest jail system. Jurors in December deadlocked 11-1 to acquit him on those charges.
He was to face a separate trial on a lying charge, but prosecutors have added that count to the other two charges in the retrial.
The two cases were severed when Judge Percy Anderson said evidence of Baca's diagnosis was irrelevant to the 2011 conspiracy and could cause jurors to sympathize with him and harm the prosecution case. Anderson said Alzheimer's might be relevant to the lying charge because a psychiatrist said Baca's memory could have been impaired when he told prosecutors in 2013 he was unaware of actions taken by deputies to thwart the FBI investigation.
Anderson suggested prosecutors seek separate trials and they went forward in the first trial with the obstruction and conspiracy charges. After the mistrial was declared, prosecutors said they would take their chances and face consequences if jurors sympathized with Baca because of his condition.
However, Anderson has now barred that evidence, ruling it was speculative and a waste of time. Anderson also ordered Baca not to wear a ceremonial sheriff's badge on his lapel that he wore during the first trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox told jurors in his opening that Baca had been atop the conspiracy to derail the investigation after guards discovered that an inmate with a contraband cellphone was acting as an FBI informant. An undercover FBI agent had bribed a jail guard to give the phone to the inmate so he could stay in touch with the FBI and shoot photos and video of beatings.
Fox said Baca had failed in his role to bring criminal conduct to light and instead concealed it in an elaborate scheme to hide the jail informant from his handlers.
"Mr. Baca viewed this as a chess match," Fox said. "He was trying to move pieces to get the federal government to back down."
Baca headed the department for more than 15 years before resigning abruptly in 2014 as indictments targeted underlings with taking bribes, attacking inmates and falsifying reports.
The scheme unfolded in August and September 2011 as sheriff's brass scrambled to find out about the scope of the FBI investigation. What had been a probe targeting jail deputies blossomed into a more sweeping corruption investigation that led all the way to the top of the department.
Baca's second-in-command, Paul Tanaka, was one of nine people convicted on obstruction-related charges.
Tanaka was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Another 11 members of the department were convicted of various other charges, including beatings, falsifying reports and taking bribes.
Baca managed to escape charges until a year ago, when he pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to federal authorities.
He backed out of the plea deal after a judge rejected a sentence of no more than six months as too lenient. He was then indicted on the more serious obstruction charges.
Jurors were not told about the withdrawn guilty plea.
Community policing vs. patrol officers subject of Masten meeting
by Mike Desmond
A small number of citizens turned out to ask real questions of real cops about how policing works in Buffalo, during a meeting sponsored by Masten District Common Councilmember Ulysees Wingo.
Those who were in the auditorium of the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts had a chance to meet some of the top-level cops in the councilmember's district, led by Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Chief George Gast and district Chiefs Barbara Lark and Carmen Menza. They also had a chance to meet some of the community police officers who are on the street every day in B District and E District.
Lurking in the background was the still unresolved death in custody of 20-year-old Wardel "Meech" Davis, with toxicology tests results still to come. Wingo said he knew one of the officers on leave because of the death, calling him a mentor to youth.
"He inserted himself in a lot of children's lives. He is a husband and a father. He is a family man," Wingo said. "I do know that. I do know for three consecutive years in my district, he would host events - pushup contests and the like - to engage youth in positive activities."
Several of the questions at the event asked, "What do I have to do?" Issues raised were people in abandoned houses, who to complain to if a police officer does not provide the service requested and annoying kids getting off a school bus and hassling a resident near the bus stop. Buffalo Community Policing/Special Events Capt. Steve Nichols said his community police officers can handle some of that.
"The community police officers are sort of like your family physician. They have the time, the resources and the connections to be able to follow up and not only take the care of a problem that you might have, but maybe to head off some problems and prevent them," Nichols said. "They are always available. There is one working on each shift. There is a community police officer working seven days a week in each district and they have the time to take care of the problems."
Compare that to patrol officers, he said, who are like the emergency room physician. Sometimes, one questioner was told, it is hard to define when police can do something.
City council approves community policing resolution
The new initiative tasks a “diverse stakeholder group” with changing CPD culture to be more engaged with citizens, especially minorities.
by Sam Forbes
City council members voted unanimously Monday to change the Columbia Police Department's philosophy, making it more engaged with citizens and minority groups.
According to the resolution document, community-oriented policing emphasizes officer interaction with underprivileged youth in Columbia and “will include public events, consultation with experts, and review of relevant research.”
Despite initial concerns by some council members, the resolution eventually passed after an amendment extended the original November deadline to next February. This will allow CPD and the city more time to implement the new philosophy.
Fourth Ward council member Ian Thomas, who proposed the resolution, said he had the support of activist groups such as the NAACP and Race Matters, Friends, as well as Columbia Police Chief Kenneth Burton.
“I've introduced this bill because public safety is the most important role of local government,” Thomas said. “A lot of people in the community, and most of us on this council, recognize some serious challenges that our police department is facing right now in a number of different areas.
When Mayor Brian Treece and city manager Mike Matthes asked how the resolution would differ from CPD's town hall meetings, Thomas said it would give the community a voice rather than leave decision making to council members.
“The distinguishing feature of what we're voting on here would be that the process is designed by a broad stakeholder group,” Thomas said. “Everything that [Treece and Matthes] just mentioned was designed within City Hall and within the Police Department. What I firmly believe we need is a more inclusive process.”
During the public hearing portion of deliberations, multiple residents took to the podium to declare their support for the resolution, including MU faculty and students.
“We are asking for a new way of doing policing in Columbia,” RMF treasurer Tara Warne-Griggs said. “That's what we want. And so my challenge to you all is: What are you afraid of if you vote no tonight?”
Warne-Griggs and RMF have been pressing the city for community-oriented policing since the group formed in 2014, and many were in attendance at Monday night's meeting.
Columbia resident Dr. Clanton C.W. Dawson, Jr., who was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in philosophy from MU, also spoke about the importance of including the black community in this new process.
“I live in the hood, and the first part of that is neighbor,” Dawson said. “We need to have a process in which all of us can sit at the table. Not just a selected few. Not just the bourgeoisie. But all of us.”
Before a final vote could take place, some council members expressed concern about the lack of a concrete plan and the fiscal feasibility of such a project, especially with many vacancies in the police force.
“I'm sort of frustrated that we need to spend a year talking about what we want our nonexistent police force to do,” Sixth Ward council member Betsy Peters said. “It's not that I don't support this issue, but I'm sort of frustrated to think that we're going to allow our city police officers to flounder for another year while we talk.”
Third Ward council member Karl Skala even proposed to table the resolution “at least until we get through dealing with the UDC,” referring to the implementation of the new Unified Development Code which took up a majority of the council's agenda that day. Skala's motion was swiftly denied.
After the council finished its discussion, all members voted in accordance and agreed to set a completion deadline for Feb. 28, 2018.
Further discussion will be required to lay out the exact framework for the initiative, Thomas said.
Community Outreach Key to Fighting Crime in 2017 and Beyond
by Daphne Stanford
In the aftermath of the Michael Brown and the Ferguson shootings and a slew of others, former President Obama put together a task force for police oversight and community reporting of law enforcement called the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. It created a new office called Community Oriented Policing Services, a branch of the Justice Department. A number of cities have served as the prototypes, and the data collecting has gone relatively smoothly. However, in the wake of Donald Trump's election, it remains to be seen what will happen to this new community policing trend.
The task force's recommendations, which included action suggestions, are organized around six main ‘pillars': building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; officer training and education; and officer safety and wellness. The goal of these actions is to help integrate law enforcement officers into the community, in order to focus more on prevention and understanding, rather than treatment and prosecution.
This goal is only reached after taking a few initial steps, according to Portland State University: “The first step comes in understanding the context around crime and punishment at the local level. The second step comes in implementing changes through policies and procedures to cultivate stronger relationships between communities and law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies.”
The eventual goal of all this relationship-building is for law enforcement officers to become a part of the community they patrol, in order to build up enough trust and familiarity to encourage neighborhood residents to do the right thing and avoid crime-related activities, altogether. A large part of community policing involves identifying potential problems before they take root and changing perceptions of law enforcement—like officers hanging out with communities and doing non-policing activities such as BBQ patty flipping and basketball.
This focus on relationships is part of the reason why counselors can also play a role in crime prevention. For example, if an individual has been perceived as a risk to themselves or others, school or community counselor may step in to evaluate what's called their “threat assessment,” consisting of a three-part process: identification, evaluation, and intervention. Part of what counselors do when working with individuals is known as “wraparound intervention,” which can involve a number of possible factors: counseling, in-home tutoring, help with pursuing personal interests, and “knock-and-talk” interviews—which let the person know that authorities are watching which often serves as a sufficient deterrent in and of themselves.
Law professor Kami Chavis has written about the problematic aspects of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) “pattern or practice” policy, which states that the DOJ may file a lawsuit when there is reason to believe a person has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination or has engaged in discrimination against a group of persons that raises an issue of “general public importance.” One issue with this policy is that the level of enforcement varies depending on the political administration in power—the current President having campaigned as a “law and order” candidate. Many of Trump's rallies were racially charged, to say the least, which doesn't bode well for enforcing “pattern or practice” policies.
According to the Harvard Law Review, better policing at the community level can, in fact, reduce mass incarceration and improve law enforcement legitimacy—as long as it's done in a way that maximizes the community's role in creating meaningful relationships and implementing preventative strategies. Following a “focused deterrence” model, for example, involves warning high-risk people such as gang members of the law enforcement consequences associated with continued violent behavior and advising them to take advantage of community-based social services and work-based opportunities.
There have also been some promising results using what's called “predictive policing,” but racial justice organizations caution against relying on it too heavily: “They argue that predictive policing perpetuates racial prejudice in a dangerous new way, by shrouding it in the legitimacy accorded by science.” The specific geographic areas are determined using maps showing locations where crime is likely to occur, based on algorithms developed by scientists from Carnegie Mellon University. The most effective approach might consist of a combination of predictive policing and community-focused strategies that aim to build community, rather than merely generate a list of potential offenders. These two approaches, plus police oversight and accountability, make for a potent combination of preventative measures. More police accountability needs to be incorporated in order for law enforcement officials to become more aware of the consequences of their actions.
Campaign Zero is an agenda and set of guidelines—recently created due to the new “law and order” president and administration—that communities can follow in order to reduce police violence and incarceration. It's especially crucial that oversight is conducted by independent, civilian-led groups who are able to be impartial and fair in their assessments—especially since internal accountability efforts have historically proven to be relatively ineffective. This is not to say that police officers shouldn't have someone to hold them accountable from within their own departments; it's just that independent, external observers are better able to remain impartial and unbiased in their critiques. A Frontline article reminds us, however, that oversight committees need oversight, as well—lest we forget.
Experts discuss changing police perceptions during Naperville forum
by Megann Horstead
Community trust in local police is a valuable commodity that can easily be eroded by police shootings of African-Americans and abuses elsewhere but also can be strengthened by re-examining procedures and forming connections with residents, experts said Wednesday.
A panel discussion held by the League of Women Voters Naperville on the subject of "Policing in Naperville" brought together Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall; Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois; Michael Childress, president of the DuPage County NAACP; and Holly Schroetlin, volunteer legislative lead for Moms Demand Action.
Among the topics discussed were gun control, when to use force and law enforcement training.
"If the past is any indication, we can have an honest dialogue about issues involving policing while at the same time recognizing, as I think we have to from the beginning, that we ask police to do an incredibly difficult job in this society," Yohnka said.
"We ask them to go out on the streets each and every day and enforce a myriad of laws that are constantly changing. We often ask them to do that in a way that puts their lives at risk. That's something we should recognize and make clear that all of us support."
But police are also afforded incredible power — the ability to take away a person's freedom and, in some cases, their life — Yohnka said. It's a delicate balance, he said.
Childress agreed. "I hear a lot of times we say, 'Well, 99.99 percent of the police officers are all good people,' and they are," he said. "On the other hand, there's a few bad ones that give the police a bad reputation."
That's the equivalent of saying someone has cancer but 99.99 percent of his body is healthy, Childress said. That doesn't mean the disease doesn't have to be treated.
"One of the things we have to do to get those things fixed is to work together with police (to) understand what community policing actually is," he said. "We need to be involved as citizens, as concerned citizens, because we have to live in the community together, and also be involved with the city councils, the library boards, park districts. All of these things are local institutions that we take for granted."
Police shootings in such places as Ferguson, Mo.; Dallas; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; and Chicago have exacerbated negative feelings between communities and local police departments, something Naperville police are wary of, Marshall said.
"These incidents have provided all of us in law enforcement the opportunity to examine our practices, our procedures, and how police services are delivered and those relationships with the community that they serve," he said. "This is an opportunity for us to look at how things are going in law enforcement and the opportunity to make changes."
The Naperville Police Department recently adopted "six pillars" as part of the recommendations made by former President Barack Obama's task force to help gauge the effectiveness of policing in the nation, Marshall said. They include building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; training and education; and officer wellness and safety.
While the department agreed with most of the recommendations in the report, there were areas for improvement in departmental training and the city's Response to Resistance policy, formerly known as the Use of Force policy.
"I think anybody who lives in Naperville has seen that we have received top ratings for one of the safest cities in America when you look at cities with a population of 150,000 to 300,000," Marshall said. "Naperville has rated as the safest city in America for this population, and that is specifically in the area of violent crime."
But Naperville has not been immune when it comes to gun violence. A man was shot outside an apartment complex last year, and another man was killed just a few weeks ago when he was shot in his car outside Scullen Middle School.
The panel agreed the issue of gun control presents a challenge in this country.
"There's been this kind of gap in many ways, and I think it too often happens these positions we stake out where it's absolutist, maybe on both sides sometimes," Yohnka said. "We don't ever really get to a common ground because we can't even agree upon a common history of where we are.
"If we can't agree on what that is, I don't know how we ever really get to the question of how we actually approach the fundamental idea of controlling this."
Audience member Kathy Gibson, of Naperville, said the discussion was informative but also left many questions unanswered.
"There were a number of questions about race and how it relates to policing, but I didn't hear as many answers, specifically about how the Naperville Police Department addresses it," she said. "There's a perception that the Naperville Police Department is more aggressive in perhaps stopping black motorists for potential infractions, and I didn't hear that addressed as to whether or not there's truth behind it or if the Naperville Police Department feels that's an important perception to address."
And it's not just the Police Department's perceptions that matter, Gibson said — the community's perceptions do as well.
"The Naperville Police Department has some pretty heavy-duty equipment, and you see it at events like the Naperville Marathon as (if) they're preparing for some kind of bombing," she said. "There's some protective factor in Naperville's identity as a very safe city that makes some of the militarization of the police force seem really excessive."
Chicago cop pens play to capture street violence
After the fatal shooting of a teen who was a regular at youth beat meetings left Denise Gathings distraught, she decided to write about the violence
by Annie Sweeney
CHICAGO — Heaven's voice rose as her anguished cries grew more insistent.
"Mama! Mama! I am right here!" the 11-year-old girl pleaded as she circled her mother, who had collapsed to the floor, hysterical. "Mama! Look at me! Please, look at me!"
In the mesmerizing scene, part of a new and unusual play examining Chicago's violence, Heaven has succumbed to gunshots and is crying out to her grieving mother moments after she learned of her daughter's death.
The dramatic staging of a mother and daughter ripped apart by gun violence is a vivid and painful reminder of all the children who have been lost to Chicago's streets, especially in recent days when two girls, 11 and 12, and a 2-year-old boy were struck down by errant bullets in separate shootings.
If there is a note of authenticity to "My Soul Cries Out: Stop!" it is because its author knows the reality of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods all too well.
She's a Chicago cop.
As part of her work as a community policing officer in the Wentworth District on the South Side, Denise Gathings compiled reports in a binder on shootings of youths — timely information for officers and investigators on the street.
Then, in 2015, the killing of a teen who was a regular at youth beat meetings in the district left Gathings distraught. To deal with the pain, she decided to write about the violence.
"I thought, what if I could tell the story about how this stuff started and how it has gotten so out of control," said Gathings, who grew up on the West Side. "And how many people are being affected."
It is a work in progress, but the cast of 15 gave its first performance on Friday to about 150 students at Leif Ericson Scholastic Academy, an elementary school in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.
When it was over, kids took photos with the actors and asked to join the production, according to principal Leavelle Abram.
"Oh, my God, it was powerful," Abram said. "I think every school in this area should see it."
A sensitive touch
Gathings, who is doing this on her own time, allowed the Tribune access to the rehearsals since last summer.
As Chicago's violence was peaking in those dangerous months — in a year that ended up with the most homicides in two decades — Gathings, 58, was putting the finishing touches on the play and assembling a troupe of mostly extended family members and friends. Most have limited theatrical experience except for singing and dancing at church.
They held rehearsals in police district stations, churches, the sweltering Ericson school auditorium, even at Gathings' West Side home, where they pushed couches to the wall in the front room to make space. Once, during a steamy summer rain, the cast and crew took over the sidewalk in front of the home Gathings grew up in to practice a scene in which a dispute over drug turf ends in a fatal shooting.
Five or so houses down the block, young men lingered, casually watching. As the sun broke through, a rainbow arched over the city just as the rehearsal came to an end.
"Oh, look at that," Gathings said.
She called the group in for a prayer circle to end the day.
Her play captures the pressures on the street that too often build to violence and the painful aftermath. She tackles tough topics like snitching and retribution but also injects a measure of humor.
The storylines — written by a Chicago cop at a time when relations with police in crime-ridden neighborhoods have frayed — bring a sensitive touch, even to the gun-toting gang members and drug users who fuel the violence.
"That is part of who she is, being sensitive to the community and its residents," said police Chief Fred Waller, who was her commander at Wentworth and now heads the department's Bureau of Patrol. "And that is part of what makes Denise so good at what she does. She has genuine engagement."
At rehearsals, Gathings, who also performs in the play, easily slips into all the characters to help the other actors understand their parts. Among the key roles are: a promising teenage dancer who ignores all good sense and her mother to hang out on the corner with the drug dealer she fell for; a giggling crackhead, desperately sad and funny at the same time; and the menacing gang thug who needs to protect his small piece of real estate.
Ameena Chapman, Gathing's niece, portrays a wise-cracking drug addict who loses her son to gun violence. She said she signed on to the project because of Gathings' ability to go beyond stereotypes.
"You do have your crackheads who are hilarious," said Chapman, 34. "They just go with the flow. In reality, she is masking her pain. You see the pain when she is told her son is dead. You see that person. Drug addicts are coping."
A tool for change
In 16 years on the force, Gathings has worked a variety of jobs — as a patrol officer, then a tactical plainclothes cop and now in community policing.
She enjoyed the different responsibilities those jobs brought but feels community policing gives her the best window into people's lives.
"What moves 'em. What they need. What they don't need," she said. "...You are out there listening to people."
Gathings had a knack for this aspect of the work, she found.
"When people find out you are sincere, they are behind you 100 percent," she said.
Gathings grew up in a large, extended family in the Fifth City neighborhood, a patch of the East Garfield Park community area. A portion of Fifth Avenue is named in honor of her mother, Ruth Carter, one of the founders of a preschool in the community who was a community activist. Gathings' family remains close — last Christmas she hosted some 150 guests at her house, she said.
A straight shooter, she talks openly about her own family's struggle at times to avoid the streets. This has inspired her work as well, she said.
"I am hoping this play heals them," she said.
At recent rehearsals, Gathings has been offered a helping hand by Chicago theater veteran Tria Smith of now-shuttered Redmoon Theater.
At its best, art and theater can be a tool for change and a chance for transformation, said Smith, who praised Gathings for her "act of hope" by pulling together non-actors committed to sharing painful realities.
"When I came in and saw the piece, I was amazed at the words. I was amazed at the truth of the performances and the power, their ability to let go and really speak and sing and be completely present," Smith said. " … They are able to come together and speak the words of, 'How can this (violence) be happening?' They are calling that out together."
'Too hard living'
During a rehearsal at the Ericson school, Gathings was directing one of the cast's youngest members, Daniel, 10.
"I got to have it, Daniel," she said. "We need this. We need you, OK? A huge you."
Minutes later, the lanky boy walked onto the stage, arms swaying as he belted out the lyrics of a Sam Cooke song from 1964 that seemed strikingly modern.
"It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die," he sang. "'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky. It's been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh, yes, it will."
The play depicts the painful aftermath for unintended victims who are suddenly and brutally cut down — a timely topic for a Chicago reeling from the three children lost to random violence in four short days.
To the cast and crew, these threats are real and so routine that each day can seem precious, even delicate, said Chapman, who is Daniel's mother. The play provides a chance to express those feelings.
"They know what is happening. It's happening in our neighborhoods," Chapman said. "I don't like to sugarcoat or hide anything. ... The only thing we can do is pray. Pray every night. We pray about safety, getting home or going to school and being safe."
Cristiana Strong, whose daughter Heaven portrays the slain girl pleading to her grief-stricken mother, speaks openly with her daughter about the threats around her.
Strong, 30, who has not seen any of the rehearsals, wasn't surprised to hear of the impact of the play on her daughter — when she finished her scene during one practice she walked back to her seat and quietly wept.
"She is very aware. … I explain that things happen and some things we can't control," Strong said. "She is very soft-hearted. She understands, and it hurts her to live in a place like this."
Gathings is hoping that the play can help people who live outside these troubled neighborhoods to understand the pain its residents are enduring.
She also wants kids growing up on these streets to view the play so they can think about violence in a different way.
How can they avoid trouble? What can they do to stay safe even in the tough place they live?
Cellphone Video Shows Anaheim Struggle Between 13-Year-Old Boy and Off-Duty LAPD Officer Who Fired Weapon; Officer on Administrative Leave
by Melissa Pamer, Kareen Wynter and Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime
(Warning: The video contains indecent language. You can watch it here.)
Cellphone video captured a physical struggle between an off-duty LAPD officer and a 13-year-old boy that led to the officer firing his weapon and the teen in Anaheim police custody.
The incident happened around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday near Euclid Street and West Palais Road, close to Loara High School, according to the Anaheim Police Department.
Anaheim police said that they were called to the scene where an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer had discharged his firearm and was detaining a 13-year-old.
"The confrontation began over ongoing issues with juveniles walking across the officer's property," Anaheim police said in an updated statement issued Wednesday, after cellphone video of the altercation was posted on YouTube.
The boy "is alleged to have threatened to shoot the off-duty officer," Anaheim police said. That account is disputed in the video by the boy himself and by the boy's parents.
No one was struck by the gunfire, and the officer admitted firing the weapon, police said.
The officer was not arrested, but the 13-year-old boy and another 15-year-old boy were.
The officer was not arrested, but the 13-year-old boy and another 15-year-old boy were.
The officer was placed on administrative leave, according to an LAPD statement issued Wednesday night.
KTLA published a story about the incident Tuesday night, prompting the father of the 13-year-old to contact the station with the family's side of the story.
The boy's mother, who did not want to be identified, went to visit her son at the Theo Lacy detention facility in Orange Wednesday. She came outside with her son, who had been released, saying she was told the Orange County District Attorney's Office had rejected charges.
“I still fear for our lives, for him living right down the street from us,” she said, tearing up. “Him being an officer.”
The DA's office would not confirm if charges were rejected; a spokeswoman said the office cannot comment on juvenile cases.
Anaheim police said LAPD is conducting a “concurrent/administrative investigation.”
Investigators from the Office of the Inspector General will be reviewing the video, officials said.
The father supplied a link to a nearly nine-minute YouTube video of the confrontation in which the teen can be heard making claims that the officer got upset with a girl who was walking on his lawn, and the boy came to the girl's defense, prompting the confrontation.
The cellphone video shows a boy and off-duty officer physically struggling with each other on the sidewalk in a residential area. More than a dozen people, mostly apparent teens, are present.
The bald LAPD officer wears a plaid shirt and sunglasses. He appears to be grabbing the front of the boy's black hoodie as several of the gathered teens say “Let him go.”
An older man with a long beard and a crutch says “Hey, Kevin,” at one point, apparently addressing the officer. Later in the video, the man apparently calls 911 to report the gunfire, saying the off-duty officer is his son.
In the video, as the sweatshirt-wearing teen and the off-duty officer struggle, the teen seems to taunt the officer, saying, “He tried to hit me in my nuts. That's like a little pussy move, punch a kid in the nuts.”
The audio is difficult to understand, but the officer appears to say, “Because you've been resisting this whole time.”
“No, I wasn't. You tackled me first. I didn't do anything to hurt you,” the teen says. “All I said was, ‘Respect the girl,' because you said, ‘Get out of my property.'”
The officer responds that the teen had said he was going to shoot him, and the teen denies that, saying, “I didn't say that. Why you lying? I said, 'I'm going to sue you.'”
Then the pair tell each other to “get your hands off me.”
“I'm only like 13,” the teen says.
After a couple minutes, a young man comes up to the struggling pair, apparently trying to separate them. Then another boy with a red backpack runs into the threesome, pushing the officer into and over a low hedge. At that moment, the teen who tried to separate the officer and the 13-year-old appeared to strike the officer in the head area.
In a matter of seconds, the officer, with one hand still on the 13-year-old, reaches into his waistband and pulls out a handgun.
The person recording the video backs away, and the view of the confrontation is temporarily blocked.
A single gunshot is heard.
The officer can be seen pulling the teen over the hedge as the person recording and other witnesses run away from the scene. Kneeling over the teen, the officer appears to tell the older man with the crutch to call 911.
The teen then gets up and says, “You shot me, you put a gun to my face.”
The older man can be heard saying into a cellphone, “My son shot his gun because they've got about 15 people.”
The young witnesses can be heard heckling the officer and the older man, disputing what the older man is saying on the phone. A helicopter arrives overhead, drowning out the audio.
About 5 minutes into the video, a police patrol car pulls up and the off-duty officer can be heard yelling to the arriving Anaheim officers. The two Anaheim officers approach the pair. One officer appears to put handcuffs on the teen, while the LAPD officer, hands up, is walked across a driveway by another officer.
The Anaheim officer appears to take the handgun of the LAPD officer's back pocket or waistband. Then the LAPD officer and the Anaheim officer can be seen conversing in a neighboring home's front yard.
Meanwhile, a handful of teens are sitting on the curb next to the Anaheim officers' car. More police arrive and the video soon ends.
Anaheim police said the 13-year-old was arrested on suspicion of making criminal threats and battery, and the 15-year-old on suspicion of assault and battery. The older teen was released to his parents, Anaheim police said Wednesday.
The LAPD officer, who has not been identified, is cooperating with the Anaheim homicide detail investigation, according to the Anaheim police news release.
Anaheim police investigators were seen Wednesday afternoon knocking on doors in the neighborhood where the altercation occurred.
Standing with his mom outside the jail facility Wednesday, the 13-year-old again said the incident started with the off-duty officer yelling at one girl.
"I said, 'Hey, that's not how you treat a lady,'" the boy said. "And then he came at me. ... He hit me. I ran to the street to run away from him, and he got me. He tried to trip me and then he kicked me in my testicles."
The boy again said he told the officer he was going to "sue him," not "shoot" him.
The boy's mother said the family had retained an attorney.
The video of the altercation and gunfire has more than 18,000 views on YouTube as of midday Wednesday. Later in the afternoon, it has been removed "for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines."
In an email Wednesday, Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said: "We are aware of numerous videos being posted on YouTube and other internet sites. We cannot authenticate the validity of these videos as they were not recorded or posted by APD. However, they do appear to depict portions of the incident in question."
On Wednesday night Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said the city is committed to a thorough investigation.
"Like many in the community, I've seen the video and I'm very concerned about what it shows," Tait said in a released statement. "Anaheim is committed to a full and impartial investigation. Our city will move forward without delay."
Activists were protesting near the location of the altercation on Wednesday night.
Palestine PD to host community policing class
by The Palestine Herald
Lt. Gabriel Green, communications officer for the Palestine Police Department, informed the Palestine Rotary that the police department will host a community-oriented policing class March 8-9.
“The community policing is about working to identify those problems in our community and getting with the right people to fix them,” Green said.
This class is being offered to help empower citizens to be able to retake and maintain their neighborhoods and communities, according to Green.
This event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Palestine Civic Center.
On the first day, the class will teach residents how they can work with the police department to solve issues in their neighborhoods and in the community.
They will go over the history of policing in America, roles and responsibilities in community-oriented policing and tools of community-oriented policing that help reduce crime and fear of it.
The class will also discuss the concepts of how to establish better relations, solve crimes and get dangerous people off the streets.
On the second day, participants will go out into the city to try to identify problem areas and formulate solutions.
'We are asking that our citizenry join us in this two-day event, as we go behind the scene together and explore how to rid our streets of crimes that are systemic in nature,” said Mike Alexander, Palestine city manager.
“Community is where the robber meets the road, because it is riddled with mutual trust and cooperation, which are two key elements of community policing and are vital to protecting residents of these communities from the crime that plagues them,” said Alexander. “Community policing combines a focus on intervention and prevention through problem solving with building collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and schools, social services and other stakeholders.”
Community policing not only improves public safety, but it also enhances social connectivity and economic strength, which increases community resilience to crime, Alexander said.
“One of my phases I often use when discussing this topic, taken from Sir Robert Peel, who was called the father of modern policing — “the police are the community and the community are the police; the only difference between the two is that the police is paid to give 24-hour service to what is incumbent of every citizen,” said Alexander.
The class will be attended by both police and city employees, who will be assisting and learning how they can further help the community.
The class is free and open to all residents.
The Palestine Civic Center is located at 1819 W. Spring St.
For more information on the community policing class, contact Lt. Green at 903-729-2254 or email@example.com
Bridging Erie's police-community divide starts with straight talk
by Pat Howard
Any honest, ongoing dialogue about the badly tattered ties between law enforcement and Erie's minority community is welcome. Indispensable, actually.
The flash points and progress of such a dialogue was the subject of a community forum on Monday evening in the gym at Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary School in Erie. Representatives of law enforcement, including Erie police and the Erie County District Attorney's Office, joined with members of Erie's African-American and Latino communities to fill in those attending.
They described their experiences and perspectives from regular, closed-door meetings that have been going on since August, with 10 law enforcement officials and 10 community members at the table. The accounts depicted a tense, wary airing of grievances and misconceptions from both sides that gradually moved toward greater rapport and common ground.
That much is welcome. But it's only a beginning.
Monday's public examination of the "fractured relationship" between law enforcement and the minority community, to use moderator Marcus Atkinson's words, comes at a fraught moment. The Erie Bureau of Police is the subject of a pending U.S. Department of Justice investigation centered on the violent arrest of an Erie man last June 27.
Montrice Bolden, 41, suffered broken facial bones and a concussion in the incident. The meetings at the heart of Monday's forum started shortly after the DOJ investigation became public.
Developments in that case and weary experience prompted a sizable protest in late July in Perry Square. The police-community dialogue that began soon after was a constructive effort to keep the lines of communication open.
Because those at that table were self-selected, however, it remains to be seen how the beginnings of that rapprochement will extrapolate beyond the people in the room. Contentious disagreements in early 2016 over the methods of the Unified Erie anti-violence initiative exposed deep fissures in the black community on the subject of law enforcement. And though they described a sometimes wrenching back-and-forth with police, the African-American voices at Monday's forum came from people who generally have been behind Unified Erie all along.
The plan now, those involved said, is to broaden that dialogue to the larger community. That will be essential. And almost certainly very complicated.
Monday's forum opened with videotaped remarks by Yvette Jennings that served as a reminder of a freighted history. The March 2009 murder of her son, Rondale Jennings Sr., shortly thereafter became the subject of a vile, drunken barroom rant by an off-duty Erie police officer that found its way onto YouTube and, in due course, onto the radar of the national NAACP and cable news.
Jennings didn't speak of race on Monday. She spoke of decency.
"It's never been a racial issue for me," she said. "It's an issue of ignorance and lack of compassion for another human being."
The resulting scandal, and the gross failure of professionalism in the internal police investigation, laid bare an unhealthy culture within the police force and a toxic divide between officers and some of those they protect and serve. An inquiry panel appointed by Mayor Joe Sinnott found the police had created "what is perceived to be a paradigm of dismissiveness, lack of empathy and regard for the concerns of its people," and that "much of this divide and isolation is a product of the climate deeply embedded within the culture of the city Bureau of Police, Erie City Hall and its leadership structure."
Some reforms have been made, and certainly the top police leadership has improved since then. But the divide and isolation remain potent. Erie Police Chief Donald Dacus acknowledged as much on Monday.
"We know we have a problem. ... We've got to have some communication," he said. "We've got to bring some humanity back to police work. We're human beings. We all want the same things."
Those things, as displayed on a placard at the forum, are reducing crime and increasing public safety; ensuring policing that respects the law and the Constitution; ensuring and enhancing respect for and from law enforcement; and maintaining lines of community/police communication.
All of the above are essential to law enforcement effectively and fairly serving the community, the whole community. All are essential to members of that community, the whole community, stepping up to their responsibility to help police solve crimes and remove violent predators from the street.
The gulf will have to be bridged one heart and mind at a time. Getting more and more people talking to each other instead of at each other is an excellent place to start.
Malloy Tells Local Leaders They Don't Have To Enforce Federal Immigration Law
by Russell Blair and Kathleen Megan
As President Donald Trump moves forward with a campaign promise to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is reminding school and law enforcement leaders that they don't have to enforce federal immigration laws.
The governor's administration sent memos to school superintendents and chiefs of police this week with recommendations on how they should respond to requests from the Department of Homeland Security and how they should interact with agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Groups that work with undocumented immigrants praised Malloy for reaffirming a commitment to that community in the wake of memos issued by Homeland Security describing sweeping new guidelines to ramp up deportations under an executive order Trump signed last month.
"The message is loud and clear, the state of Connecticut will not allow the Trump administration's racist and xenophobic actions to destroy our community," Ana Maria Rivera-Forastieri, director of advocacy at Junta for Progressive Action, a New Haven-based organization that works with Latinos, said in a written statement.
Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, has been a frequent critic of Trump's immigration policies, even saying in his State of the State address last month, "Regardless of whether your family settled in Connecticut 300 years ago or three days ago, you are welcome here."
"I think it's a message that leaders need to communicate," Stamford Superintendent Earl Kim said of the memo sent to school districts. "It's a stand that they take whether popular or not. I think as much as it is a legal document, it's also a moral statement for the people of Connecticut. It's a symbolic thing, but it's important for people to hear."
The memos don't represent a change in policy for many school districts and police departments, but Jesus Morales Sánchez, a statewide organizer with the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, said the group was happy to see the governor "advocating for the things that we're fighting for," particularly when there's concern about threats to strip federal funding from cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration agents.
Under state law, the requirements are very specific about when state or local police or the Department of Correction can hold someone in custody solely based on a request from ICE.
The Connecticut Trust Act, passed in 2013, says law enforcement can only detain an individual on a violation of federal immigration law if they have been convicted of a felony, are subject to pending criminal charges and have not posted bond, have an outstanding arrest warrant, are a known gang member, are on a terror watch list, are subject to a final order of deportation or present an unacceptable risk to public safety.
"Law enforcement should not take action that is solely to enforce federal immigration law," Malloy and two of his commissioners wrote in the memo to police chiefs. "The federal government cannot mandate states to investigate and enforce actions that have no nexus to the enforcement of Connecticut law or local ordinances."
Malloy's memo is only a recommendation, and it doesn't mean that police departments can't work with ICE.
"This is an individual community practice or decision to be made," said Monroe police Chief John Salvatore, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. But Salvatore noted that most departments already were not expending a lot of resources or time on immigration issues.
Although Trump has moved to reinstate a program that allows ICE to partner with local law enforcement to locate and catch undocumented immigrants, John DeCarlo, the former chief of police in Branford and a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, said he didn't expect many police departments in the state to participate.
"It's a blue state and I don't know that you'll see many people in local governments signing on to a program like this," DeCarlo said.
The 287(g) program can also hurt relationships between local police and the communities they serve, he said. Malloy's memo said he encouraged all state law enforcement agencies not to participate in the program.
"When you look at the way that we're trying to police in the United States … and then we have police officers going in and doing immigration raids ... it flies in the face of community policing in general," DeCarlo said.
Camila Bortolleto, policy director for Connecticut Students for a Dream, which has been pushing to get undocumented college students access to financial aid, praised Malloy for making it clear that state and local law enforcement don't need to enforce immigration law.
"If local law enforcement agencies choose to enforce federal immigration law, it will undermine community safety," she said in a written statement. "We will continue organizing to win sanctuary spaces and build deportation defense networks so that we can all live a life with dignity and a life without fear."
In the memo to superintendents, Malloy and his education commissioner, Dianna R. Wentzell, said they believed the Trump administration would continue to follow Obama's "sensitive locations" policy, which puts schools off limits for immigration enforcement. Still, "we encourage you to consider having a plan in place in the event that ICE agents come to one of your schools requesting information about or access to a student," Malloy and Wentzell wrote.
Other recommendations included contacting an attorney if an ICE agent shows up at a school, confirming that agents have a warrant before letting them into the school and if an agent presents a warrant, reviewing it carefully "to determine exactly what it authorizes ICE to do, and who issued it."
"We have heard anecdotally that families may be keeping kids home from school out of fear of immigration actions," said Abbe Smith, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. "This letter is meant to help districts address those concerns and provide resources to families about their rights related to immigration matters."
William Clark, chief operating officer for New Haven Public Schools, said that Malloy's letter doesn't raise any new issues and is very much the same as the instruction and training given to school staff and leaders in New Haven.
However, he said it's "important for the community and the folks in the trench to hear it from their elected officials and to have that solidarity and support. I think we certainly feel supported by the governor and law enforcement in the guidelines they set out."
Clark says he continues to hear many concerns and fears from families, the community and school staff about the immigration issue. "Every morning there is a new headline," he said. "People are on the edge."
Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford's acting superintendent of schools, reiterated the city's support for undocumented students in a video message on the district's website.
"Hartford's legal and moral obligation to educate all children will not be derailed by any of the language in recent presidential executive orders," she said. "We want each and every student to be in school and ready to learn in safe environment."
Suspect in Calif officer killing had cycled in and out of jail records show
by Richard Winton
LOS ANGELES — The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer Monday had cycled in and out of jail for repeatedly violating the terms of his release, records show.
Sheriff's Homicide Capt. Steve Katz on Tuesday identified the suspect as Michael C. Mejia, 26, a career criminal with a history of drugs and violence. Mejia has a “history of control problems,” Katz said.
Mejia is suspected of killing Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer and wounding another officer in a shootout after a crash involving a stolen vehicle.
Court records show that Mejia was sentenced in 2010 to four years in state prison for robbery and was convicted in July 2014 of grand theft auto and attempting to steal a vehicle. He was given another two-year sentence.
Mejia, who was shot by officers in the deadly gunfight that claimed Boyer's life and left Officer Patrick Hazell wounded, has been arrested and jailed for short stints several times since July. State officials said he was on probation and under supervision of the L.A. County Probation Department.
In July, he violated terms of his release and got 10 days in jail. He was arrested again in September after authorities moved to revoke his community supervision.
He was arrested in January for again violating the terms of his release and sentenced to a combined 40 days in jail. But he was out again after 10 days, records show. Then, Feb. 2 he was arrested by East L.A. sheriff's deputies for violating his release terms and “flash incarcerated.”
Mejia was sentenced to 10 days and released Feb. 11. On Monday, before his run-in with Whittier police, he allegedly went on a deadly rampage that began at an East L.A. home, where authorities suspect Mejia in the fatal shooting of a man believed to be his 46-year-old cousin, Ray Torres. Mejia then allegedly stole his car.
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper said Mejia is an example of how statewide efforts to reduce incarceration of certain criminals can have tragic consequences.
“We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” Piper said at an emotional news conference Monday, the day Boyer was killed. “This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell pointed to three measures enacted in the last seven years — Propositions 47 and 57 and Assembly Bill 109 — that he said have led to the release of too many criminals without creating a proper safety net of mental health, drug rehabilitation and other services.
“We're putting people back on the street that aren't ready to be back on the street,” McDonnell said. He said the county jail system he runs, the largest in the nation, has become a “default state prison.”
Sheriff's officials have long criticized Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 and downgraded some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
They say AB 109 — which moved state prisoners to local lockups — has pushed lower-level offenders out of custody and onto the streets, offering little deterrent against committing new crimes.
Proposition 57, which passed last year, changed California's “three strikes” rule and made sentencing more flexible, allowing some prisoners who wouldn't normally have been eligible for early parole to be considered for release.
It was unclear if Mejia's releases were related to any of the measures.
In Los Angeles County, the jail population has decreased, from 18,500 inmates just before Proposition 47 passed to about 16,500 inmates in November. Narcotics arrests have dropped, with busy police officers deciding that the time needed to process a case is not worth it.
The result, some law enforcement officials say, is that more criminals are now on the streets instead of in jail and are not receiving the drug and mental health treatment the measure had promised. Without the threat of a felony prosecution, they say, defendants are less likely to choose treatment as an alternative to serving time.
But supporters of Proposition 47 dispute the theory that crime increases are connected to the measure. Misdemeanors can still result in sentences of up to a year in jail, and it is up to police officers and prosecutors to enforce those penalties, Michael Romano, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, told the Los Angeles Times in December.
“The idea that Proposition 47 has been responsible for an increase in crime in California over the past year or two is fake news, as far as I'm concerned,” he said.
NM council passes immigrant-friendly resolution
The resolution affirms Santa Fe's status as "a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees," without specifically stating they are a sanctuary city
by The Associated Press
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe City Council passed a resolution Wednesday night that affirmed the city's immigrant-friendly policies without using the word "sanctuary."
The council voted 8-0 to approve the resolution, with one council member absent on an out-of-town trip.
The vote came more than a week after the City Finance committee unanimously approved a softened version aimed at not starting a fight with President Donald Trump, who has promised to punish local governments that don't help federal authorities increase enforcement of immigration laws.
Santa Fe's resolution, which restates a policy under which local police have operated since 1999, has gone through multiple versions since first being introduced in December with the most notable change being the removal of the word "sanctuary."
Rather than specifically identify Santa Fe as a sanctuary city, supporters said the resolution affirms the city's status as "a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees."
The resolution also states that the city has the authority to preserve the confidentiality of information collected from residents, including a person's immigration status.
City Councilor Joseph Maestas, one of the resolution's sponsors, was previously quoted as saying the policy is a way of "thumbing our nose at" the Trump administration.
After hours of discussion during previous committee meetings, the proposal was amended and the word "sanctuary" was removed to make it more palatable to some councilors.
Maestas has said that changing the words doesn't diminish the intent of the resolution.
Cities and counties across the U.S. are immersed in a debate over what role, if any, they should play in immigration enforcement as Trump seeks help from local law enforcement to boost deportations of those living in the country illegally.
Many large cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have pledged to resist and not cooperate with requests for help from federal immigration officials.
"This community has been under immense pressure to abandon our embrace of all immigrants into this family, an idea that has been at the center of Santa Fe's identity for centuries," Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said in a statement. "We responded with courage and integrity, sending a message that no matter what happens in Washington, we will stand up for who we are and continue to fight for our values."
ACLU challenges Milwaukee police's stop-and-frisk policy
The lawsuit alleges the Milwaukee PD's stop-and-frisk program is citywide but is concentrated in areas largely populated by minorities
by Ivan Moreno
MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department is operating a stop-and-frisk program that mostly targets black and Latino residents who are often detained without cause, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of six black and Latino plaintiffs who say they've been stopped once or multiple times since 2010 without a citation or clear explanation. The lawsuit alleges the stop-and-frisk program is citywide but is concentrated in areas largely populated by minorities, including the predominantly black neighborhoods in the north of the city, creating a "deepened public fear of and alienation from" the police.
Police Chief Edward Flynn has suggested that increasing the number of stops in certain areas will disrupt and deter crime, the lawsuit alleges.
It asks the court to order the police department to immediately end the program and to declare that department is violating the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause and the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Flynn denies his department has a stop-and-frisk policy, though he maintains that traffic stops in "high crime areas" reduce crime.
"No discussion of our crime tactics is complete without reference to the hyper-victimization of disadvantaged communities of color by high rates of violent crime," Flynn said in an emailed statement. "But MPD considers it our moral duty to confront violence where it occurs."
The lawsuit also names the city of Milwaukee. A spokeswoman for Mayor Tom Barret didn't immediately return a call for comment.
"What we've uncovered by talking to people in the community and looking closely at plaintiff's experiences is that the Milwaukee Police Department is running a vast, unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program that subjects people to law enforcement encounters without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and based on their race and ethnicity," said Nusrat Choudhury, an ACLU attorney.
The ACLU has challenged similar police initiatives in Boston and Chicago over racial-profiling concerns. New York halted its stop-and-frisk policy in 2014 after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.
The number of traffic and pedestrian stops in Milwaukee rose from 66,657 in 2007 to 196,434 in 2015, according to police department data cited in the lawsuit. The ACLU contends the stop-and-frisk directive began in 2008.
Figures the ACLU obtained from the police department through an open records request found that black people comprised 72 percent of the more than 33,300 pedestrian and traffic stops officers conducted between 2010 and 2012. Blacks make up about 39 percent of Milwaukee's nearly 600,000 residents, according to 2015 Census data.
The ACLU's analysis of those stops found that 41 percent lacked a clear explanation, with the reasons listed being "other," ''null," or "suspicious circumstances," ''suspicious vehicle," and "suspicious person."
ACLU attorneys also contend that the department encourages quotas for stops. They cite a May 2016 letter from the police union to department supervisors about placing officers "in a very difficult situation."
"Basically, stops must be made to preserve employment, rather than to facilitate public safety," Milwaukee Police Association President Michael Crivello said in the letter, which claimed officers were being told to make two traffic stops per day or face discipline. Police department officials have denied a quota system exists.
One of the lawsuit's plaintiffs is a 17-year-old boy who says he's been detained without cause three times, including once when he was visiting a friend when he was 11. Another plaintiff is 60-year-old Alicia Silvestre, who alleges that two police officers pulled her over and followed her home to look through her purse and verify she had a driver's license, which she didn't have when they stopped her. She said she was not ticketed or told why she was pulled over.
The lawsuit alleges that Charles Collins and his wife were pulled over and questioned in 2014 without explanation — an experience Collins, 67, said reinforced his anxiety about police.
"If I go out, I gotta be on edge, I gotta be a little anxious because if I roll out as a black man, there's a good chance that I'm gonna get stopped for doing nothing," he said.
Cop's daughter makes teddy bears from uniforms of fallen officers
Megan O'Grady personalizes the bears with the officer's uniform, badge and stripe
by PoliceOne Staff
(Picture on site)
ORLANDO — After receiving an essay prompt to write about something she believes in, Megan O'Grady came up with an idea to help families of fallen officers.
O'Grady, whose father is a police officer, realized the impact policing has on LE families and decided to create “Blue Line Bears,” BBC News reported.
She and her grandmother hand-stitch the bears for the children and families of the fallen cops. They dress each bear with the fallen officer's uniform, badge and patch.
"I just thought of an idea that would reach out to them personally, and give them something that was a piece of their parent ... so they can hold that every single night and think of them," O'Grady said.
O'Grady told the BBC that each bear takes about four days to finish. Each bear also comes with a medal of Saint Michael, the patron saint of police officers.
She delivered the first bears this week to the families of fallen Lt. Debra Clayton and Deputy Norman Lewis. Clayton was fatally shot while approaching a murder suspect and Lewis was killed in a motorcycle accident pursuing her killer, the Associated Press reported.
Clayton's son, Johnny Brinson, said out of all the gifts he received after his mother's passing, the bear was the best.
“I always hugged her in her uniform - even before she went to work, while she was on duty...” Brinson said. “Seeing this patch, feeling it again … I'm very thankful for it, to make it - it's amazing. I love it. I really do.”
O'Grady's father said her compassion and empathy is “breathtaking.”
"With all the craziness and unrest, it is good to know that there is still someone I can look up to and call my hero,” he wrote on the Blue Line Bears Facebook page. “Who knew that it would be my daughter?"
A close look at Trump's new immigration policies
by Nicholas Kulish, Vivian Yee, Caitlin Dickerson, Liz Robbing, Fernanda Santos and Jennifer Medina
With an executive order last month and a pair of Department of Homeland Security memos Tuesday, the Trump administration has significantly hardened the country's policies regarding illegal immigration. Here are some of the most significant elements of the new approach:
Who will be deported
In 2014, the Obama administration issued guidelines for deporting unauthorized immigrants that placed the highest priority on gang members, and those who posed security threats. A goal was to concentrate limited resources on the most serious cases, but many Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents complained that the priorities tied their hands, taking away their discretion as to whom to pursue.
Under the new directives, the government “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” Immigration agents can now focus on picking up and removing anyone charged with or convicted of any criminal offense, even minor ones, as well as anyone already ordered deported, regardless of whether they have a criminal record.
One unauthorized immigrant in California, Kristina, who did not want her last name used because of fear of deportation, said she was alarmed to learn on Tuesday that she would now be considered a prime target. Kristina has been in the country for 25 years and has been ordered deported, but her removal had been postponed for the last four years by the Obama administration.
“We have our whole lives here; our children are citizens,” she said. “Now I don't know if I can go out, if I should drive.”
But the Obama guidelines “translated into de facto protections” for people with no legal right to live in the United States, said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants. Unless they fell into one of the high-priority categories, Stein said, “the chance of being deported was virtually zero.”
‘Catch and release'
Under the Obama administration, people caught crossing the border without permission were often released into the United States while their requests for asylum wound through the immigration system, a process that can take years. Most requests are denied, but by then, the immigrant has been living in the United States all that time and may not be easy to find.
The Trump administration has declared an end to the so-called catch and release policy, though it may take a while to see any significant change. “Catch and release” came about in part because the government had nowhere to hold detainees waiting for immigration decisions. One of the memos released Tuesday directs officials to expand detention facilities, but it will take time to build centers big enough, or find enough room in jails, to hold the thousands of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers expected to cross the border this year.
The document also raises another alternative: sending migrants back to Mexico to wait out the immigration process, even those who are not originally from Mexico. That proposal comes with its own problems. Though U.S. law appears to allow it, Mexico's laws do not, if the immigrant is not a Mexican citizen.
No judge required
Two decades ago, Congress passed a law allowing the government to quickly deport unauthorized immigrants who have not been in the United States very long, without allowing them go before a judge.
In practice, the government has used this process, called “expedited removal,” relatively narrowly because of concerns about whether it violates constitutional rights of due process that are granted to anyone in the United States, regardless of immigration status. Since 2002, expedited removal has been applied only to immigrants who have been in the country less than two weeks and were caught within 100 miles of the border. That is because the Supreme Court has held that such immigrants can still be considered “in transit” and not here long enough to qualify for due process protections.
The Trump administration is now planning to use expedited removal as extensively as the original law allows, saying that limits on its use had contributed to a backlog of more than half a million cases in immigration court.
Immigration advocates vowed to challenge the change.
“Someone could be living in Chicago for a year and a half and then be swept off the street by an ICE agent,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. “He is going to be detained and removed right away without ever seeing a judge.”
Children traveling alone
One of the memos Tuesday acknowledges that children who arrive at the border alone — “unaccompanied alien children,” in government parlance — are entitled to special protections: Unlike other border crossers, whom border patrol agents may deport without a legal hearing, these children must appear before an immigration judge and be interviewed by an asylum officer. Children have surged across the border in recent years, many fleeing violence and destitution in Central America.
But the memo turns a sterner face to their parents, who, under the new policy, may be subject to deportation or even prosecution for enabling their children to come into the country.
The memo notes that parents and relatives often pay smugglers several thousand dollars to bring their children from Central America, an act that the memo says amounts to facilitating illegal smuggling or trafficking.
Immigration advocates are predicting that the policy will drive parents of migrant children further underground. With parents fearful of prosecution, advocates say, navigating the immigration process — or even showing up to court — could become much harder for these children.
Some 750,000 people who were brought into the country as children were issued work permits and temporary protection from deportation under an Obama program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Even President Donald Trump said last week that the subject “is very, very difficult” for him and that he promised to “deal with DACA with heart.”
So far, the Trump administration has left the program alone. But chills went through the community of “Dreamers,” as DACA recipients are known, with the recent arrest of a 23-year-old Mexican immigrant in Washington state, Daniel Ramirez. Immigration agents arrested him when they went to his house to detain his father, a convicted drug trafficker. They said Ramirez admitted to having gang affiliations, which cancels the protection offered under DACA. But Ramirez denies having made the admission, and his lawyers are fighting his deportation.
Role of local police
A program known as 287(g), named for its section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows the Department of Homeland Security to train local and state law enforcement officers to work as de facto federal immigration officers, identifying undocumented immigrants in their communities and jails and turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
From 2006 to 2013, the program led to 175,000 deportations, according to federal statistics. But investigations and court rulings revealed an ugly side effect: In some jurisdictions, local officers were using their authority to racially profile Latinos. One of the most egregious cases was in Maricopa County, Arizona's most populous, during the tenure of Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, who a federal judge ruled had discriminated against Latinos in patrols and other enforcement efforts.
The Obama administration curtailed the use of the program, which currently involves 32 agencies in 16 states. The Trump administration wants more agencies to take part, and some have already expressed a desire to do so.
Statistics and sanctuaries
The administration is trying to significantly expand the amount of information available on the enforcement of immigration laws and, in particular, unauthorized immigrants who commit crimes. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will establish a new office to work with the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, some of whom appeared with Trump on the campaign trail.
The office, known as Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, will provide victims with information about defendants' immigration status and whether they are in jail. Significantly, funding for the office comes from reallocating “any and all resources that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
ICE will now have to provide monthly public reports on its apprehensions and releases. The agency also has to publish a weekly report about state and local authorities that release unauthorized immigrants from jails. That is a clear shot across the bow at so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities, contending that turning in unauthorized immigrants would destroy the fragile relationship that police have with immigrant communities.
“We are going to continue our policy that has been in place because we think that it helps us have a safer, stronger, better community,” Mayor Stephanie A. Miner of Syracuse, New York, said Tuesday.
The Trump administration is already pondering ways to punish those cities by denying them some federal aid.
“Now everyone is going to be able to see how many criminal aliens are being released as a result of the sanctuary policies,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration.
— No privacy
In January 2009, the departing Bush administration extended some Privacy Act rights, which U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents already had, to unauthorized immigrants. That meant that information obtained by one agency, like the Internal Revenue Service or Citizenship and Immigration Services, could not generally be shared with other agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One rationale for the move was to protect the personal information of immigrants who might one day become citizens covered by the Privacy Act.
The Trump administration has now rescinded those privacy protections. One of the memos released Tuesday said that those protections had been detrimental to the families of the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, because those families could not get information about such defendants' legal status, or whether they had been deported, leaving victims “feeling marginalized and without a voice.”
The Department of Homeland Security said it would develop new rules on the sharing of unauthorized immigrants' private information. But advocates for immigrants said they feared that those who had applied for legal status — in the process divulging they were not here legally — were now in danger of having that information used to deport them.
“The constitution doesn't traditionally allow bait and switches,” said Thomas A. Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an organization that advocates for immigrants. “These are folks who submitted their information attempting to play by the rules, with part of the rules being that the government would protect their privacy.”
The memos released Tuesday repeat Trump's demand in his executive order for a larger enforcement force that can speed up the removal of millions of immigrants illegally in the United States.
In practice, that may play out more slowly than the president might prefer. The source of this caution is none other than John F. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, who told lawmakers this month that he did not believe it would be possible to hire the desired 15,000 ICE and border patrol agents in the next couple of years.
“I'd rather have fewer and make sure that they're high-quality people,” Kelly told lawmakers. “I will not skimp on the training and the standards.”
On top of the stringent hiring standards and training, Border Patrol applicants are required to take a polygraph test, which nearly 60 percent fail. A previous surge in hiring under President George W. Bush resulted in dozens of corruption cases, with Border Patrol and other agents accused of taking bribes and providing information to Mexican drug cartels.
Police halt high five program in Northampton schools following negative response by handful of parents
by Phil Demers
A program designed to engage young students and members of the Northampton Police Department in a positive way lasted barely a month in city schools before parent complaints resulted in it being put on hold.
Begun in December, the High Five Friday program saw on-duty police alternate visiting the city's four elementary schools every week to high five students at the start of the school day. Police mostly congregated outside the buildings but entered on occasion as well.
"We probably had 12 to 15 negative responses" to the program among parents, Northampton Public Schools Superintendent John Provost said in a MassLive interview.
"There were also a number of positive responses that exceeded the 12 to 15 negative ones," he added.
Before launching the program, the city school system buffered against negative responses by being "very clear" that students did not have to slap hands with the police and ensuring some building entrances were kept free of officers during visits for non-participating students, Provost said.
Still, a small number of parents and teachers as well voiced an immediate, negative response.
According to The Daily Hampshire Gazette, district employee Gina Nortensmith called the program "ill-considered, tone-deaf and potentially damaging" to some students who may have had earlier, negative experiences involving police. She voiced these comments at a Dec. 8 school committee meeting.
A parent also spoke at the meeting, Provost said, asking "whether High Five Fridays might be having a counterproductive effect on some students."
Northampton Police Capt. John D. Cartledge, in a MassLive interview Tuesday, said, "I went to every single one of the High Five Fridays and everything was positive at each of them."
Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper attended a Jan. 12 school committee meeting in an attempt to hear and respond to community concerns.
Provost requested the department to put the program on hold at the end of the Jan. 12 meeting.
Last week, the program was suspended until further notice.
"What was most striking to me was one parent who felt she actually had to keep her kids at home during High Five Friday because her children had a trauma in their history that she thought would be triggered by the presence of police," Provost said. "The goal of this is for positive experience. If some of them are having an extremely negative reaction, we need to consider alternatives."
He and Kasper plan to meet on March 14 to do just that.
To explain the program's suspension to the community, the department posted a statement to Facebook over the weekend.
"NPD really enjoyed greeting kids as they arrived at school. But, as much as we enjoyed the visits, we also took time to listen to the thoughts of some school committee members, school staff and past and present parents/families," the post states. "For a large portion of our population this program may not seem controversial. However, we cannot overlook the fact that this program may be received differently by some members of our community."
The vast majority of responses to the decision on social media were negative.
Provost said something will grow up in its place, possibly involving police officers entering classrooms to talk to students.
The initiative grew out of efforts to understand and mitigate the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson.
Two NPD officers learned of the High Five Friday program at a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police they attended in San Diego, Calif., and decided to bring it home.
While the program has been suspended in the public schools, the department said officers still "accept high fives, low fives and fist bumps. If you see any of us out there on the streets, feel free to ask for one."
How To Rebuild A Police Agency From The Inside Out
by Megan Harris
(Podcast on site)
From Obama-era task forces to widespread protests, the idea of community policing has become part of our national conversation.
On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talked to Jerry Clayton, the elected sheriff of Washtenaw County, Mich. Now in his third term, Clayton started overhauling the department of 400 officers eight years ago with service and sustainability in mind.
DAVID HARRIS: How do you change a law enforcement agency from the ground up? How do you change the basic culture?
JERRY CLAYTON: I don't believe that you can change behavior solely through policy. You have to start by addressing the fundamental beliefs of an organization, the fundamental beliefs of your staff. We had to write a new narrative in terms of why we exist. There's a reason why we, a full-service criminal justice agency, exists. And it's not just to exert power and authority and to make arrests – we exist to serve. It's our responsibility to engage our community partners to talk about what that service is and what it looks like, and to talk about the outcomes that we both agree we should be trying to achieve in this partnership. … And then we can pull in some operational philosophy – what we call total policing, or police services, which includes the data analysis, community engagement, problem oriented policing, inmate corrections, inmate behavior management – we did all of that stuff, but the biggest challenge was really to address the “why.” And we think once you do that, and you gain momentum in the organization, everybody is on the same page – or the majority of the organization is on the same page – that's where you get sustainable, impactful change.
HARRIS: Community policing was part of the new strategy. How did you do that?
CLAYTON: We have to engage our community at a deeper level. I didn't want us to be one of these, “Well you know, we're a community policing organization and those over there are 10 community policing officers. They do the barbecues and the cookouts and all that stuff. The rest of our deputy sheriffs office, our police officers, they do the real police work.” We knew we did not want that. We wanted full immersion into the community.
HARRIS: You appointed someone with a social work background to be your director of community engagement. He suggested you get really involved in some of these high traffic neighborhoods. What came next?
CLAYTON: We wrote a grant, we got some dollars and we hired one of our first, what we call, street outreach workers.
HARRIS: Those are people who have been through the criminal justice system, now out, working with police and people on the street to stop violence and retaliation.
CLAYTON: Yes. He was a person that had spent 12 years in the federal prisons on a (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charge that our staff 12-15 years ago arrested him on. Now he's moved on. He's started a couple of his own businesses. He's employing other folks and he's a positive contributor in the community, and we've replicated that on a number of occasions. This culture and this belief system – it's one thing to talk about it. It's another to actually be about what you're saying.
HARRIS: Your leadership philosophy is all about building relationships and trust both outside and inside the department. How do you do that?
CLAYTON: You can't jump to “Oh we want to be leaders, we want everybody to lead.” When we don't understand the behaviors associated with leadership. And we're honest enough internally – now we are – to actually acknowledge where we're falling down in those areas, and I think that's really, really healthy. Because that creates some space for the staff to take calculated risks when they're delivering services. And not to be fearful that if they make a mistake, you know, the sky's going to have a chance to recover from that and get better. We talk about creating public safety because we believe it's one of those things that we're always attempting to do, that we never get to the point, “Well, oh, we've created public safety in that neighborhood so let's move on to something else.” We know it's this perpetual ongoing thing. We talk about providing service excellence and quality service. So we understand that we are a service oriented organization and everyone we come in contact with is a customer because they're on the receiving end of some activity from us. So it's funny, and some people may roll their eyes, but we say that even the person we arrested is a customer and the manner in which we treat them, the manner in which we engage them, it matters. It sends a message to that person. It sends a larger message to the community. It sends a message to us in terms of the standards that we set for ourselves. So this goes back to this whole police services piece. You can't arrest your way to a better community. You can't arrest and enforce your way to a higher quality of life in a community. You do that by working in partnership and in concert with the people that you are serving. And sometimes we have to be humble enough to step back, be quiet and listen to what they say in terms of the what's the important aspects of the things we can do to make their community safer.
City to take part in Community Police Academy - Part of a grant to strengthen law enforcement and community relations
by Kellie Hicks
SOUTH COUNTY – The Gonzales Police Department will be collaborating with the three other South County cites to create a Community Police Academy that will begin on March 6.
Four Cities United Initiative (FCUI), made up of the cities of Gonzales, Soledad, Greenfield and King, was awarded grant funding of $850,000 from the State of California Board of State and Community Corrections under a two-year program.
The cities of King and Greenfield will hold their Community Police Academy together, while the City of Gonzales will team up with the City of Soledad for theirs.
Soledad and Gonzales Police Departments will be hosting their academy in the Community Room at the Gonzales Police Department, 109 Fourth Street in the City of Gonzales. The King City Greenfield meetings will be held at the Greenfield City Hall, 599 El Camino Real, in Greenfield.
The FCUI grant has several aims, including developing a culture of trust and inclusion between law enforcement and the community.
The grant is also intended to divert young people from involvement in the juvenile justice system through the FCUI Juvenile Diversion Program.
Participants in the 13-week Community Police Academy must be least 14 and live or work in South Monterey County. They can have no felony convictions and no misdemeanor convictions within one year of application. The Community Police Academy will run from March 6 to May 22 with a graduation day of May 26. Applications are due by Feb. 24, and are available at the four city Police Departments.
Students will receive a working knowledge of their police departments' functions and operational procedures. Students will learn about the laws of arrest, crime scene investigations, CommYOUnity Policing, Social Media, animal control, gangs in the community and drug trends, among other things.
In the program CommYOUnity Policing is when graduates become partners with the police department to help identify problems and then work with the department
For the complete article see the 02-15-2017 issue.
A routine traffic stop ends with Whittier police in 'a gunfight for their lives,' leaving one veteran officer dead
by Tony Barboza and Richard Winton
It began as a routine police call to a rear-end collision, the sort of traffic accident that happens every day in Southern California.
It ended in tragedy, with one Whittier police officer dead and another wounded.
The officers didn't know when they approached the accident scene about 8 a.m. Monday that one of the drivers — a 26-year-old man released on parole less than two weeks ago — was in a stolen car and suspected of killing another man hours earlier in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
As the man got out of the silver car and officers moved to pat him down, he pulled a semiautomatic handgun from his waistband and shot them at close range.
The officers, both wearing bulletproof vests, returned fire. But Keith Boyer, 53, a 27-year department veteran, was killed. Patrick Hazell, a young officer hired three years ago, was wounded and hospitalized in stable condition.
Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper broke down in tears as he paid tribute to Boyer, who became the first officer from the department to be killed in the line of duty in 37 years. Piper said Boyer was a close friend and beloved officer who was close to retirement.
“He was the best of the best,” Piper said.
Alongside the outpouring of grief, however, was a display of anger, as Piper and other law enforcement officials blamed the slaying on new laws designed to reduce incarcerations in California.
“We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” Piper said. “This is a senseless, senseless tragedy that did not need to be.”
Police said the suspect, whose name has not been made public, was released from custody early, but they did not provide details on his criminal history or why he was released.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell pointed to three measures enacted in the last seven years — Propositions 47 and 57, and Assembly Bill 109 — that he said have led to the release of too many criminals without creating a proper safety net of mental health, drug rehabilitation and other services.
“We're putting people back on the street that aren't ready to be back on the street,” McDonnell said. He said the county jail system he runs, the largest in the nation, has become a “default state prison.”
Sheriff's officials have long criticized Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 and downgraded some drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. They say AB 109 — which moved state prisoners to local lockups — has pushed lower-level offenders out of custody and onto the streets, giving them little deterrent against committing new crimes. Proposition 57, which passed last year, changed California's “three strikes” rule and made sentencing more flexible, allowing some prisoners who wouldn't normally have been eligible for early parole to be considered for release.
Authorities described the suspect in Monday's shooting as a known Los Angeles gang member. Hours before his run-in with Whittier police, he is suspected of fatally shooting his 46-year-old cousin and stealing his car in East Los Angeles. The slain man was identified as Roy Torres, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
After the suspect collided with a vehicle near Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, he asked the other driver for help pushing his car off to the side of the road. The suspect then asked for a ride from the people whose vehicle he hit, but they refused, wary of a man with tattoos on his neck and face.
When three officers arrived at the accident scene, they believed they were helping an injured motorist. Instead, McDonnell said, “they end up in a gunfight for their lives.”
Police did not release many details of the firefight, but a police vehicle was seen with its windows shot out.
Boyer and Hazell were taken to UC Irvine Medical Center, where Boyer was pronounced dead.
The suspect was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. His condition is unknown, but he's expected to survive.
Piper said he and others were devastated by the death of Boyer, who was known for his friendly disposition and willingness to lend help and advice.
He leaves behind two adult sons, according to the department.
Boyer joined the department in 1989 as a jailer and dispatcher before becoming an officer in 1990.
One of his pastimes was performing as a drummer with Mrs. Jones' Revenge, a classic-rock tribute band in Temecula that played at wineries and weddings.
Band leader Jeff McNeal said drumming “was probably a nice release for him, with the kind of high-stress work he does.”
Boyer's skills “elevated” the band, said McNeal, 57, calling him “probably the easiest guy in the whole band. Always willing to play. He loved the music. It was his passion.”
Monday's shooting marked the third time a Whittier police officer had been slain in the line of duty in the department's 100-year history. The Police Department has about 128 sworn officers who patrol the cities of Whittier and Santa Fe Springs in southeastern Los Angeles County.
“This is a very sad day for our officers, the families involved, the Whittier Police Department and our community,” said Mayor Joe Vinatieri. “But we're pulling together. And we're going to take care of these families, and we're going to take care of this police department.”
A procession of police vehicles traveled from UC Irvine Medical Center, accompanying Boyer's body to the Orange County coroner's office. Their cars were greeted by law enforcement officers and firefighters who saluted as the vehicles drove by, some wiping away tears.
In the evening, the city held a vigil outside the Whittier Police Department. A crowd of about 1,000 police officers and other mourners overflowed onto the sidewalks of the civic center, standing silently and holding candles while an enormous American flag hung from a firetruck. A framed photo of Boyer was placed in front of the memorial for the two other Whittier officers killed decades ago.
Ivanka Trump calls for 'religious tolerance' amid threats on Jewish centers
by Rebecca Savransky
First daughter Ivanka Trump is calling for religious tolerance after Jewish community centers across the country on Monday received phoned-in bomb threats.
"America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance," Trump tweeted Monday.
"We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC."
Trump converted to Judaism before marrying her husband, Jared Kushner.
Her comments come after the JCC Association of North America reported that 11 Jewish community centers received bomb threats Monday, including centers in Chicago, Houston and Tampa. The threats were determined to be hoaxes.
The White House denounced the latest wave of bomb threats, saying "hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom."
Many Jewish community centers have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year.
There have been 69 incidents at 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province, according to the JCC Association of North America. All threats were determined to be hoaxes.
During a press conference last week, President Trump clashed with a Jewish reporter over a question about the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents and what he would do to address an uptick in anti-Semitism.
The president said the question was "insulting" and called himself the "least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen in your entire life."
Louisiana woman hailed as a hero for stopping man from beating police officer
by Fox News
Authorities said a Louisiana woman “made a big difference” Sunday when she jumped on a suspect's back to save a police officer from a brutal beatdown.
Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, was being hailed as a hero, The Advocate reported. Williams-Tillman was driving to a store, listening to gospel music on her radio, when she spotted the Baton Rouge officer and the suspect.
Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely said the suspect grabbed the officer's baton and repeatedly bashed him on the head with it, and also tried to grab the officer's gun.
"I could see in his eyes he needed help," Williams-Tillman told The Advocate. "You don't have time to think about it … I did what God needed me to do."
Police said the officer found 28-year-old Thomas Bennett asleep inside his vehicle with drug paraphernalia out in the open at around 8 a.m. Bennett became aggressive after he exited his vehicle and that's when the squabble started.
Soon at Williams-Tillman jumped on the man's back, police backup arrived and the suspect was apprehended after being shot with a stun gun. The 44-year-old officer was not identified.
Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome called the woman a courageous hero.
"Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan," Weston-Broome said. "She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor."
Williams-Tillman said she didn't think twice about helping the officer. "It was something that went through my soul," she said. "You don't think about the risk."
Bennett was arrested on aggravated batters, disarming a police officer, battery on a police offer, resisting an officer with violence, possession of cocaine and possession drug paraphernalia charges.
The police officer suffered a few wounds to his head. Williams-Tillman injured her wrist.
The officer and Williams-Tillman embraced in a hug after they were both treated at the hospital.
Police say crime is down again in Harrisburg, but some residents don't feel it
by Chris Davis
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A new report out Monday shows crime in Harrisburg is down pretty much across the board, but it doesn't feel like it depending on where you live.
City leaders focus on community policing, the tactic that has officers spend more time in and around the people and places they serve instead of just for the purposes of making arrests.
The numbers presented Monday, they said, show it's working.
“It's a lot of bad examples out here,” Kevin Dolphin said. He sees a lot more work ahead.
“The citizens in this community, they don't feel any more safe,” Dolphin said. As he puts it, he used to be part of the problem where he met us in Uptown.
Now a community activist, Dolphin said the crime stats don't show the whole picture.
“When they hear gunshots ring out at 2 or 3 in the morning and they have children,” he said of his neighbors, “that really concerns me.”
“No one is satisfied with the current crime rate. We feel we can do much better and we will do much better,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said.
It's already better than it was. The city says crime dropped close to 18 percent last year compared to 2015, and violent crimes are down about four percent.
That encompassed roughly 80,000 calls for service — 37,000 of which led to investigations, 8,000 of those through the police department's criminal investigation division — and 4,389 arrests over the year. The numbers include juvenile offenders.
But the number of rapes more than doubled to 71 in 2016. Papenfuse and police Capt. Gabe Olivera said that's because certain crimes have now been reclassified as rape.
Nonviolent crimes are down more than 30 percent, police said. That decline includes a nearly 40 percent drop in drug crimes.
Last summer, the city also decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, reducing the charge to essentially a traffic ticket. City leaders couldn't say how much of the drop-off in drug arrests was related to changing the policy halfway through the year.
An additional goal of the law change was also to free up officers to investigate more serious crimes. It also wasn't clear Monday how much of an effect the change had on the overall crime rate in that respect.
Even more important than those numbers, the mayor and police captain said, was the long-term impact the city is seeing. The numbers show all crime is down almost 30 percent since 2013.
“We can be very, very proactive, but the community needs to be vigilant as well,” Olivera said, adding more people are talking to police when they have information about a crime.
Dolphin hopes they keep it up. “Just like the police department within itself cannot solve the problem,” he said.
He also hopes police reach out to more people like himself — those who have been part of the problem but are focused on fixing it now.
“It's like a block of ice,” he said. “You just have to keep chipping away at it and keep chipping away at it.”
When there's no hope, there's help: Suicide prevention services available in Hancock County
by Sara Arthurs
No one talks about it, but you likely know someone who has thought of suicide. Maybe you are that someone.
But help is out there. And many, many members of this community have been that someone,
gotten help, and gone on to heal.
One in 25 adults and nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls considered suicide in the past year, according to the 2015 Hancock County Community Health Assessment, a survey released last April.
Nancy Stephani, coordinator of emergency services at Century Health, said there are about eight to 12 suicides each year in Hancock County. Attempts or suicidal thoughts are more common. Her department sees about 90 to 160 people each month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls suicide “a serious public health problem.”
It's the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and the second for people ages 10 to 34, having surpassed cancer.
In Ohio, someone dies by suicide every six hours, with more than twice as many suicides as homicides.
“We have to talk about suicide,” said Focus on Friends Recovery Accountability Manager Ellyn Schmiesing.
The Community Health Assessment found that in 2015, 4 percent of Hancock County adults had considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 1 percent had attempted. Thirteen percent of youth in grades 6-12 reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, increasing to 19 percent of females. Seven percent of Hancock County youth had attempted suicide, and 3 percent of youth had made more than one attempt.
National figures are similar. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among students in grades 9-12, in 2013, 17 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months (22.4 percent of females and 11.6 percent of males), and 8 percent attempted one or more times.
There were 41,149 suicides in 2013 in the United States — one every 13 minutes. And an estimated 9.3 million adults (3.9 percent of the adult U.S. population) reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
Risk factors and awareness
When National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hancock County Executive Director Sunny Davis-McNeil announced on Facebook last year the organization would hold a suicide vigil, she started getting all kinds of messages: My husband died of suicide. My brother. My mother.
Several who spoke at the vigil had lost someone. And a girl spoke of her own plan, while experiencing depression, to kill herself.
“There needs to be more awareness. … It's kind of like a secret,” Davis-McNeil said.
It's believed that suicidal thinking results from a severe lack of certain chemicals, said Dr. Christian Steiner, a Blanchard Valley Health System psychiatrist. It is linked to illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse create a greater risk for suicide.
With the prevalence of opiate overdoses, it's sometimes hard to distinguish if they are deliberate or accidental, Stephani said. But: “It's a young person that's dead and it's awful. How do we stop it?”
She said several situations can lead to suicide, but 90 percent of the time it is a sense of, “I have these blinders on.” All the person can see is their pain; they cannot see the people who love them.
“Depression is like trying to think through mud,” Stephani said.
Sometimes people are psychotic, hearing voices that “won't shut up.” But this, too, is often treatable, she said.
Other risk factors for suicide include chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease); knowing someone who has died of suicide, especially a family member; criminal charges; the loss of a spouse; financial worries; or loss of employment. Often people attempt, or think about, suicide at the end of a relationship. Stephani tells them, “No man (or woman) is worth it.”
She always asks if there are guns in the home.
“Remove those firearms from the home,” Steiner said. “Have them secured.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Suicide Prevention reported that in 2014, an average of 20 veterans died by suicide each day. Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults, but just 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population.
Nichole Coleman, executive director of the Hancock County Veterans Services Office, said few veterans pursue mental health care through the VA, so the community as a whole must know how to recognize warning signs.
Youths, too, present their own issues. Steiner is not a child psychiatrist, but can see patients 14 and older. Teenage girls will “communicate more readily” about emotions than boys, he said. But at that age, “They don't know what their future holds,” he said.
He said it's “really fantastic” that there are more programs in schools to raise awareness.
Awareness efforts are also going on among the community as a whole. Schmiesing is among those locally trained in “mental health first aid.” Trainings are offered regularly for the public.
In youth mental health first aid, they find the biggest factor in prevention is an adult the youth can talk to.
“That's all it takes, is one adult,” Schmiesing said.
The CDC states that warning signs “can include individuals talking about wanting to hurt themselves, increasing substance use, and having changes in their mood, diet, or sleeping patterns.” The person may isolate, withdraw or push people away. They may talk about suicide, not necessarily explicitly saying they are suicidal but asking questions like, “What is death like?” Steiner said.
The “biggest sign of all” is giving away prized possessions; if this occurs, “Do not pass go,” Stephani said. “Call for help.”
If a friend or family member expresses suicidal thoughts, “You should not ignore it,” said Jane Fletcher, therapist at ProMedica Physicians.
Schmiesing said asking someone if they are thinking of suicide will not lead them to do so, but will provide them with a place to talk about it.
“It's important to keep the dialogue open,” said Brandon McCall, program/volunteer coordinator at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hancock County. He said many people with mental illnesses feel isolated within their family, and have trouble even talking to their spouse.
Steiner said people can go to the hospital emergency room, call the crisis line or even call the police.
“If you feel actively in danger of hurting yourself, go directly to the emergency room,” she said.
So what happens after you make the call?
Stephani isn't the one answering the phone, but she's usually who you'll end up talking with afterward. She'll assess the situation and determine what to do. She might ensure that one caller makes — and keeps — an appointment for counseling. Another might end up hospitalized.
She tells people often that their stress outweighs their coping skills.
Stephani noted that the fact that the person is calling the crisis line in the first place indicates that “a part of them wants to stay alive.”
“I want to keep their bodies safe until that part's big enough to stay strong,” she said.
There is still a view of psychiatric hospitals as an “institution,” Steiner said, adding in reality they're just hospitals.
Orchard Hall is the nine-bed psychiatric unit of Blanchard Valley Hospital. A patient room is furnished with a bed, a dresser and chair, with a picture on the wall. Exercise equipment is available, as are information sheets on support groups. It is locked for patients' protection and there are no cords on the window shades. But basically, Steiner said, patients are, in fact, just in the hospital.
Patients stay three to five days, longer if needed. They may start medication and discuss safety planning. They meet with a social worker and look at other issues like financial pressure, the death of a loved one or homelessness.
Outside of, or after, the hospital, treatment generally includes a combination of medication and therapy, Fletcher said. Medications may help depression or anxiety symptoms get to a manageable level. Then, they work on developing a support system and examine what has worked in the past, along with new coping skills.
Fletcher said therapy does not necessarily have to be long-term: “Our goal is not to create a dependency on us.”
Some people are reluctant to take medications — “And that goes back to all the stereotypes about mental illness in general,” Fletcher said.
A blood pressure cuff can give an exact reading and an X-ray can illustrate a broken leg, but mental illness is harder to measure, so people assume it's all in their head. But it's now known that “it's a disease. The brain chemistry is not at the right level,” Fletcher said.
Still, people are often reluctant to seek help.
“Very much so,” Steiner said. “There's a lot of stigma around seeking mental health care.”
Often, once they do, they are surprised to learn how many loved ones have already done so.
“Just because someone has a mental health diagnosis doesn't mean that they're not a functioning part of society,” said Coleman, who herself was reluctant to seek treatment for her PTSD but said doing so helped her a great deal.
Nor does it mean that they don't or can't get better. Steiner noted that improving depression is a process, but even after hospitalization, “Most people go back to work, go back to life.”
Focus on Friends Executive Director Wayne Ford said in the midst of a crisis, people may feel like they are in distress and on a “sinking ship.”
“You don't realize that the hole in the ship can be plugged and you can survive,” he said.
Schmiesing said if someone is having thoughts of suicide, “Tell somebody.” This can include a local hotline, a national hotline or the text line.
“Reach out to somebody, somebody you trust,” she said.
And yes, people who have been among those with thoughts of suicide have gone on to get better and live full lives.
“There are lots of people that I have had the absolute joy of meeting … who at one time in their life were suicidal. And are no longer,” Schmiesing said. “So many.”
‘Live Through This' puts names and faces to stats
The University of Findlay will present “Live Through This,” featuring Dese'Rae L. Stage, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“Live Through This” is a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors. The program portrays the topic of suicide with humanity by putting faces and names to the statistics that have been the only representation of attempt survivors in the past.
Stage holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from East Tennessee State University. She is an artist, suicide awareness activist and public speaker. She struggled with self-injury for nine years and survived a suicide attempt catalyzed by an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Her writing has been published in Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post and XoJane.
This event is part of the month-long suicide prevention campaign, “Love Yourself Enough,” sponsored by the University of Findlay Counseling Services. This event is also sponsored by OC3, Social Work Club, Student Nurses Association, Cosiano Health Center and the Department of Athletics. Additional funding support is provided by the Hancock County Community Partnership, UF LGBTQ Endowment Fund and Office of Violence Against Women Campus Grant Program.
The event will be held in the Alumni Memorial Union Atrium and is open to the public. Cost to attend is $1.
‘Life is important and we want to help'
Many resources exist to help suicidal people and their loved ones.
Blanchard Valley Health System psychiatrist Dr. Christian Steiner recommended going to the emergency room if in imminent danger.
The local crisis number, available 24/7, is 888-936-7116.
When in doubt, “Call,” said Nancy Stephani, coordinator of emergency services at Century Health.
Last fall, Ohio unveiled a free, confidential, statewide crisis text line. Any Ohio resident who needs help coping with a crisis can text the keyword “4hope” to 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor. This line is for any type of crisis, including suicidal thoughts.
The Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery board, which piloted the program, found young people are often not comfortable phoning a crisis hotline but are willing to text.
It's also possible to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
And veterans can get help at 800-273-8255 by pressing 1, or chat online at veteranscrisisline.net. This line exists not only for people who are suicidal, but those dealing with other problems such as symptoms of PTSD and needing to talk something through. It's possible to call the veterans crisis line and say you are a Vietnam veteran and would prefer to talk to another, or that you are a survivor of sexual trauma and only want to talk to a woman.
Above all, you're encouraged to make that call.
“No question is too stupid,” Stephani said. “Life is important and we want to help.”