LACP - NEWS of the Week
on some LACP issues of interest
NEWS of the Week
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles is but a small percentage of the info available to the community policing and neighborhood activist. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view. We present this simply as a convenience to our readership.
"News of the Week"  

July, 2017 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many thanks to our very own "MJ" Goyings, a resident of Ohio,
for her daily research that provides us with the news related material that appears on the LACP & NAASCA web sites.

New York

NYPD officer fatally shot while sitting in police vehicle in the Bronx, suspect killed

by Pocco Parascandola

An NYPD officer shot while sitting in a police vehicle in the Bronx has died, authorities said early Wednesday.

The slain officer was identified as Miosotis Familia, 48, a 12-year veteran of the police force. She was assigned to the 46th Precinct.

Two cops gunned down Familia's alleged assailant during an exchange of fire after he blasted the mobile command post parked near E. 183rd St. and Creston Ave. around 12:30 a.m., according to police sources and Commissioner James O'Neill.

Surveillance footage shows the suspected 34-year-old shooter marching toward the command post “with purpose,” the source said.

O'Neill said the gunman fired one round, striking Familia in the head as she was wrapping up her shift in the Fordham Heights neighborhood.

The cop's partner frantically screamed into his police radio for help.

“Shots fired!” the officer can be heard shouting moments after the gunfire rang out.

“I need a f-----g bus! 10-85 10-85! My partner's shot! My partner's shot! My partner's shot! Hurry up central!”

Familia was critically wounded and rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital, where she died. A line of police saluted the fallen officer outside the hospital as she was escorted to the medical examiner.

A police source said another officer was also treated at the hospital for trauma.

“It is obvious this was an unprovoked attack on police officers,” Commissioner O'Neill said during the press briefing around 3:30 a.m. at St. Barnabas Hospital.

Familia died minutes after police brass addressed reporters at around 3:30 a.m., the source said.

Police stationed outside the slain officer's home south of Van Cortlandt Park told two men that Familia had been killed.

“What happened,” one of the men cried, falling into the other's arms. “How could this happen?”

Officers with an NYPD anti-crime unit flocked to her partner's distress call, confronting the fleeing gunman a block from the shooting on Morris Ave. He brandished a silver revolver and police opened fire, killing him, O'Neill said.

He was identified as Alexander Bonds, whose criminal rap sheet includes an assault on a police officer with brass knuckles, a source said.

"Let's be clear. This was nothing less than an assassination of a police officer. Our understanding is she was filling out her memo book and he walked out and fired one round," the source said.

The source said Bonds, who boasts up to six different aliases, recently spoke critically of law enforcement on an unspecified social media site. He said police in Oakland, Calif., were wrong to stop a child riding a bicycle.

An innocent bystander standing next to Bonds was shot in the stomach during the deadly confrontation with police but is in stable condition, police said.

Police said it was not known whose gunfire hit the bystander, who has no connection to the suspect.

Witness Jay Marzelli thought the shots were fireworks at first.

“I was in this bodega right here on Creston, just getting a sandwich and all of a sudden there was all this running and stuff going on and I look out probably 40, 50, 60 cops screaming, ‘Call a paramedic, clear the block!'” he said.

“It looked like there was a riot going on and two seconds later I hear gunshots, ‘bam, bam' and then the police officer was just lying there in front of the stationary precinct — right here on Creston.”

Hundreds of heavily armed police officers were on the streets surrounding the scene into the early morning hours.

Fireworks periodically lit up the night sky as residents of the Fordham Heights neighborhood continued to celebrate the Fourth of July, undeterred by the massive police presence.

“The city was celebrating our Independence Day. One of those days we look forward to each year. The NYPD did an extraordinary job keeping our city safe ... and tragedy struck,” Mayor de Blasio said, starting off the press conference.

The reports of the pyrotechnics rattled off apartment buildings as NYPD police helicopters circled overhead, their spotlights trained on the area where the mobile command center had been stationed since March.

Streets were shut down for blocks in all directions.

The late night holiday shooting was eerily similar to the assassination of two officers as they sat in their marked police car on a street in Brooklyn in December 2014.

Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were targeted by a gunman who had posted anti-police messages on his social media feeds in the days before the shooting, officials said at the time.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill is scheduled to conduct a media briefing at St. Barnabas, where cops have about four full blocks closed off on Third Ave., only allowing police vehicles to pass.

“I was driving up 183rd here and cops started running up to me in a hurry screaming 'back up back up,' we drove back in reverse about three blocks,” said Ernesto Martinez Jr., 31, who lives in the neighborhood. “I ran over to the hospital, when I got this way cops started flooding in, man, they've just been coming and coming.”

The officer was shot less than two miles away from where Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo was fatally shot by an armed ex-con in November.

A second cop, Sgt. Emmanuel Kwo, suffered a graze wound, but survived that shooting.

PBA president Pat Lynch asked the public to be vigilant against those looking to harm police.

“This kind of violence against police officers cannot stand,” Lynch said at Wednesday morning's press conference. “We need the public's help. When you see someone that's making threats, doing something against police officers, you need to let us know."



Police, residents talk community relations at town hall event

by Brian L. Cox

Evanston police heard some residents' concerns about unsolved shootings investigations at a recent town hall meeting, with police informing them that more cases could be solved if victims of crimes and members of the community would cooperate more with investigators.

Those were among a list of issues that came up during an Evanston Police Department forum, held at the Lorraine Morton Civic Center.

Residents and police met to talk frankly at the June 20 event about "cultural awareness and community policing," according to event organizers.

The approximately 50 residents in attendance submitted written questions to police and one of the issues that came up was a concern that police are not doing enough to solve violent crimes against and the murders of black African American men.

Police said they take such crimes very seriously but also said their efforts are often hindered by a lack of cooperation from victims and witnesses.

Police Commander Joseph Dugan said a recent incident offers an example of that: A man was shot in the leg but refused to cooperate with police.

"We need the victims to come forward to take the case to court," he said. "It really hinders the investigation. It definitely has an effect as far as the clearance rate goes. It's important for us no matter what to keep investigating it."

This town hall meeting was just one in a planned series in which police and residents are scheduled to discuss issues such as drugs, gangs, unresolved homicides, social media, crime prevention, community policing, rights, responsibilities and reasonability, authorities said.

"It's important to have events like this to have the community come out and ask questions," said Dugan. "It's good for us to hear."

Other issues that came up during the forum were police de-escalation training, ways to help at-risk youth who get into trouble avoid getting a criminal record, dealing with citizen complaints against officers, community policing and mandating that Evanston officers live in the north suburb.

"It just makes me uncomfortable about officers not living in Evanston," resident Peggy Tarr said.

In answer to a question about complaints against officers, police said they hope to have some type of citizens complaint review board in place by the fall.

Resident Wendy Nissen said she attended the meeting because her home was burglarized and she believes there has been a spike in crime in Evanston in recent years.

"I want to know about my area," she said. "People are always revved up when they need something to be changed. As long as each side is listening to each other, we can make some steps forward to make it better."

Dr. Gilo Kwesi Logan moderated the forum.

"We're here to come together to have a dialogue and a discussion around cultural awareness," he said. "We all have a vested interest in what happens in this community. We all have a responsibility to do what is right for this community. That's both law enforcement and as community members."

Grant Yackel, 16, said he went to the meeting because, as a black teenager, he sometimes fears the police.

"I just want to get to know officers in my community better just so I don't have to fear," he said. "The police are our allies I don't think they should be demonized or viewed as the opposition."



Race relations and law enforcement

by Jobin Panicker

It is a topic that is very difficult to discuss; partially because of the historical context and the interesting dynamics at play. But if there is one way to go about understanding the topic of race relations and law enforcement you have realize the perspectives involved.

An artist like Eliana Miranda uses the concept of perspective all the time in her art.

"I'm a first-generation American," she said.

Her work mostly focuses on social issues and lately it has been on immigration and policing.

"This is what we're exposed to," Eliana said pointing to real life photos on her studio wall taken by journalists of protests and especially the role police play at those protests.

There is also no shortage of images on social media played over and over and over. Those videos often become reminders that something is broken when it comes to race-relations.

"If we ignore it- it could exceed what we are capable as a society of dealing with," said Thomas Glover with the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.

And nowhere is the disconnect more evident than in interactions with police.

"You have essentially an American version of aparthied...that originally was by law and is now by economics," said historian Michael Phillips, also a local professor.

Phillips has no qualms about saying that about the cultural dynamics in Dallas. He says Dallas' history is fraught with injustice. He immediately mentions the murder of Santos Rodriguez by an officer in 1973.

"He started a game of Russian Roulette with the kid and the kid ended up dying," said Phillips. That was one of the first big cases that got national attention that showed the ugly side of bad interactions between police and community. It appears those scars have not healed.

Almost everyone we talked to agrees race relations aren't at its worst, but it is bad.

"I start out by telling people that I am pro-police. I'm also pro-community," said Glover.

Thomas Glover took WFAA to South Dallas. It is a community he knows very well and vice versa.

"We didn't like the officers. We were complaining and then there was a shooting...then all of a sudden we were heard," Tabitha told Glover, a black woman and long-time business owner in Dallas.

We heard this often that it took tragedy to make stuff happen; that stories weren't believed which led to mistrust.

"People are taught as children...not to talk with police. It is a generational thing," another man said to Glover. He says it's generational because he remembers he and his friends wanting to be officers growing up.

Joli Robinson is with the Dallas Police Department's Community Affairs Department. She works with officers on a daily basis to improve and maintain strong relationships with all communities. She says there will always be that challenge of perception.

Robinson says her officers meeting with different communities is essential to the concept of community policing. It's about hearing from the people they serve.

"How does it feel as a police officer wearing a uniform to walk into spaces and be judged based on your uniform and nothing else," said Robinson.

We are bombarded with images of possible excessive force cases. Social media has ignited these firestorms. Phillips says media needs to share in the blame of creating this disconnect between the two sides.

"The media and culture teaches them that black and brown people are dangerous," said Phillips.

Mediums like social media and Facebook give fuel to movements and before a verdict is ever returned. These often-20 second video snapshots force us to pick sides between pro-police or pro-communities of color.

"Before the advent of cell phones and video cameras...and social media. We were told these things didn't exist," said Glover.

Robinson says any time one of these videos of possible excessive force comes out, it makes it a challenge for officers.

"It pains them. It doesn't make them angry. It pains them to know that the profession they are in...the profession they feel passionately about also has to defend itself on a daily basis," she said.

What happened on July 7, 2016 when five officers died at the hands of a gunman, people argue was either a symptom of strained tensions or the boiling point. They can agree it did not help.

"The way we acted in Dallas after July 7 is how we should act every day of the year. We stepped away from our promises," Glover.

Glover is referring to promises of open communication and of understanding.

The fix is not simple every event stifles progress of connecting the community and police.

"I want people to start discussing these issues," said Miranda.

She's hoping through her art she can start the dialogue...knowing full well it's also about perspective.



State, local, area crime rates decline

by Fritz Busch

ST. PAUL — Recently released statistics collected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) show that the state crime rate has dropped to its lowest level in 50 years.

Agency data includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, arson and two human trafficking categories. The report showed that, overall, such crimes take place about half as much as they did in the late 1980s and 1990s.

In addition, the report showed crime declined about 4 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Statewide murders fell from 130 in 2015 to 100 last year, a decline of about 23 percent. Violent crime, rape and major assaults rose by less than one percent in 2016.

Brown County's combined crime rate fell from 3,965 in 2015 to 3,928 in 2016, according to the report. The crime rate clearing percentage remained at 68 percent.

“The crime rate may be down but criminal activity is up,” said Brown County Chief Deputy Jason Seidl. “We're still plenty busy with prisoner transports, serving civil papers. We're doing more community policing now, which helps. Overall, law enforcement activity is up.”

Community policing focuses on police building ties and working closely with community members. It requires police to address public safety concerns.

The overall assessment of community policing is positive, with officers and community members attesting to its effectiveness in reducing crime and boosting a community sense of security, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Brown County's 3,928 overall crime rate in 2016 compares to 9,160 in Blue Earth County. Renville County had 7,894 crimes; McLeod County 6,077; Nicollet County 5,027; Redwood County 4,889; Watonwan County 4,591; and Sibley County 2,584.

Minnesota began collecting sex trafficking data in 2014. Statewide data showed a large increase in these reports. Such crimes nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016. There were 119 reports in 2015 and 235 in 2016.

In Brown County, there were 24 human trafficking reports in 2016. That figure compares with nine in Nicollet County. Other area counties did not have human trafficking figures in 2016.

Brown County had 16 prostitution reports in 2016. That number compares to three in Nicollet County.

Brown County had 290 DUI reports in 2016. That compares to 361 in McLeod County. Nicollet County had 224, Redwood County 326, Renville County 489, Sibley County 291, and Watonwan County 312.

Brown County had 230 drug abuse reports in 2016. That compares to 274 in McLeod County. Nicollet County had 183, Redwood County 183, Renville County 54, Sibley County 135, and Watonwan County 340.


Experts: Fentanyl's risk to first responders overblown

by Marie McCullough

PHILADELPHIA — Experts agree that the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and its even deadlier relatives pose potential hazards to police and emergency responders who come in contact with the drugs.

But there is also concern that the risks are being overblown, potentially creating unnecessary stress for emergency workers.

Sometimes quoting law enforcement sources, media outlets are routinely stating that just touching fentanyl can cause an overdose or even death — a contention that medical toxicologists say is scientifically impossible.

“I hope this doesn't turn into hysteria,” said Andrew Stolbach, an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “I don't want this to make people afraid of doing their jobs.”

Fears of death from a touch were stoked in May when local and national media (including the Inquirer, the Washington Post, and the New York Times) reported the story of an East Liverpool, Ohio, police officer. He said that after searching the car of suspected drug dealers, he suffered a life-threatening overdose after simply brushing powder presumed to be a form of fentanyl off his shirt. He passed out and needed four doses of the opioid-reversal medication naloxone to save him.

“That sort of incidental exposure would not cause such severe opioid toxicity,” said Joseph D'Orazio, a Temple University emergency physician and medical toxicologist.

Echoed Stolbach, “It's just not plausible that getting a small amount of fentanyl on your skin is going to cause significant opioid toxicity. You don't absorb enough drug fast enough to get toxicity that way.”

Writing in the online magazine Slate, Jeremy Samuel Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, tried to imagine a scenario in which the Ohio officer could have accidentally inhaled or swallowed fentanyl – routes known to be potentially life-threatening. “But the amount that could have transferred from the … shirt to the fingers to the mouth or nose,” Faust wrote, “would not be a clinically significant quantity, even accounting for fentanyl's potency.”

Faust added that he doesn't think the officer or anyone at his police department is lying. “These police officers are at the front lines of an extremely challenging fight, and it is understandable that they would be freaked out by this event.”

Still, Faust said, the huge dose of naloxone needed to revive the officer suggests it was “treating the wrong illness.” And the media's uncritical embrace of the story indicates “an interesting new hysteria, for lack of a better term, about opioids.”

The leader of the nation's war on drugs may be fueling the reaction. Last month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a news release titled “DEA Warning to Police and Public: Fentanyl Exposure Kills” along with a video of two Atlantic County, N.J., detectives who were “exposed to a very small amount of fentanyl.”

“I thought that was it. I thought I was dying,” one detective says on the video.

Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the DEA's Philadelphia office, said that ultra-potent forms of fentanyl such as carfentanil — which is legitimately used to tranquilize elephants and other large animals — are deadlier than the anthrax used in the mysterious bioterrorism attacks in 2002. Anthrax-tainted letters killed five people and sickened 13.

“They are worse [than anthrax] in our opinion,” Trainor said in an interview. “You have a drug like carfentanil that's 10,000 times stronger than heroin. Just touching it, is that going to kill you? Probably not. But do you want to take the risk?”

In its 20-page briefing guide for emergency responders, the DEA declares that “it would only take 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl to induce respiratory depression, arrest, and possibly death.” That amount is “about the same as five to seven grains of table salt.”

Toxicologist Stolbach added some context: “Yes, two to three milligrams of fentanyl would be sufficient to make most people stop breathing if it found its way into the bloodstream. However, fentanyl just isn't absorbed through skin into your blood quickly or efficiently enough to make this kind of dose possible from incidental contact. Fentanyl is absorbed much better by inhalation and through [mucous membranes] but we feel like these routes of exposure are much less likely with routine precautions and good common sense.”

Stolbach heads a committee formed by the American College of Medical Toxicology that will soon issue recommendations for protecting emergency responders from occupational exposure to fentanyl and its cousins.

But guidelines already exist, built on the twin pillars of proper protective equipment and good judgment. Depending on the situation, that equipment may range from gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask all the way to hazmat suits with breathing gear.

“Fentanyl can be handled safely with proper training and equipment,” says the DEA guide for emergency responders.

The rub, of course, is that the opioid epidemic is unprecedented and evolving. In the United States in 2015, opioid overdoses killed 33,091 people, including 9,580 who used forms of fentanyl, according to federal data.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the worker protection agency, says it “does not have enough empirical evidence to provide specific guidance for protection from exposure during every possible law enforcement operation.”

The uncertainties should prompt prudence, not panic, said Temple's D'Orazio.

“Everyone is extrapolating what would happen without a lot of scientific evidence,” he said. “But we don't need to jump to the conclusion that a little drug on your skin means you'll require numerous doses of naloxone and potentially die.”


New Jersey

Black Lives balks as NJ lawmaker wants to legislate 'The Talk'

by Jacqueline L. Urgo

PATERSON, N.J. — A bill passed unanimously last month by the New Jersey Assembly that would require schools to teach young people how to properly interact with police and avert confrontations mirrors "The Talk" that many African Americans say they often have with their children, according to a sponsor of the legislation.

But the effort is drawing resistance from Black Lives Matter.

The group and other critics fear that the bill, approved during a time of high-profile police-involved shootings and the failed prosecutions of many of the officers involved, would do little more than create a scapegoat for police brutality.

"Look, I'm just trying to save lives," said Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D., Essex), co-sponsor, of the motivation behind Assembly bill A-1114, which passed in a 76-0 vote on June 22.

Alexis Miller, lead organizer for the Paterson, N.J., chapter of Black Lives Matter, said the group is wary of the bill's concept. Black Lives Matter is calling for a no vote when the legislation reaches the Senate.

She said the bill ultimately places the onus of police interactions squarely on citizens while allowing "police to continue to evade accountability." Black Lives Matter is urging its supporters to sign a petition against the legislation and to call their state senators to discourage them from approving it.

"This bill is clearly designed to create a scapegoat for police brutality, and that scapegoat is New Jersey's children," Miller said. "It does nothing to address the laws already in place that protect the immense power of police departments. Students ... children are expected to master the idea of respectability politics in order to protect themselves from officers."

Oliver, who is African American, said "The Talk" has long been a private conversation that many black parents have had with their children, especially as the children become old enough to begin driving and may have their first interactions with police in traffic stops.

"A lot of times kids want to know if they get stopped if they have the right to call their parents," Oliver said. "Can the police search their car? Do they have to get out of the car? ... They have questions like these with the backdrop of being black and interacting with police. There may be a lot of fear instilled in them, a lot of potential panic."

Bringing that discussion into the schools and out into the open may ultimately better prepare children of all races and ethnicities for such encounters, she said.
"This is not a bill to teach kids to be subservient to police but to empower children, and ultimately adults, about their rights and their role in interacting with law enforcement," Oliver said. "I think young people need to have their consciousness raised about these issues."

Akin Olla, organizer of the Tubman-Hampton Collective, based in New Brunswick, said the bill "continues to allow police to evade accountability" and is "not a means of stemming police brutality."

Olla was among about 75 people who protested against the bill at the Statehouse on Friday.

"We want the public to really look at this bill and see it for what it is," Olla said. "If it does nothing beyond a civics lesson [about making] the streets safer for everyone, it's pointless."

Not until activists criticized the bill as previously written was a new component added that would require that students also be taught about their rights when interacting with officers.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it worked with Oliver and other legislators to recast the original version of the bill, introduced in 2016, that would have required only that children be taught about the "role and responsibilities of law enforcement in providing public safety" and an "individual's responsibilities to comply with a directive" from police. The new version would require that students be taught about the officer's responsibility and proper behavior, their own rights as citizens, and how to file a complaint, if necessary.

"The bill has come a long way in its current form from where it was," said Portia Allen-Kyle, a lawyer for the ACLU's New Jersey office in Newark. "As it stands now, we feel that there is an opportunity here to really empower students and educate them about their rights."

Allen-Kyle said the agency will keep close tabs on how the curriculum is developed by a specially appointed committee if the bill is signed into law.

The vote in the Assembly came a week after Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter in the July 2016 fatal shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop after the motorist informed the police officer he possessed an open-carry permit for a gun he was carrying. The shooting, which occurred within seven seconds of Castile's having informed the policeman about the gun, was captured on cellphone video by the victim's girlfriend, who was in the car with her 4-year-old daughter.

According to the Washington Post, 963 people were killed by police in the United States in 2016, down from 991 in 2015. On Saturday, in a mid-year report, the Post said there were 492 police-involved killings in the first six months of this year.

Of those killed in 2016, 169 were unarmed civilians, six were under age 18, and 36 of them were between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the ACLU.

There were also 135 police officers killed in the line of duty last year, the most on-the-job officer fatalities in five years, according to an analysis by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.Law enforcement officials and legislators across the country are looking into ways to work with communities to try to stem the tide of bloodshed.

Texas recently enacted a measure to require high school students, as part of their driver's education classes, to learn how to conduct themselves during a traffic stop. Illinois and Virginia have passed legislation mandating that driver's ed courses for all ages include that information. Mississippi, North Carolina, and Rhode Island are considering similar laws.

Oliver said the number of police-involved shootings has created mistrust of police in communities across the nation, and her bill, which must also pass in the Senate and be signed by the governor to become law, is meant to "help rebuild trust in police while simultaneously empowering the communities they serve."

Oliver said current programs that visit schools and encourage police and youth interaction -- sponsored by organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, and Jack and Jill of America, a service group formed during the Great Depression to strengthen African American children -- have helped, but are not enough.

Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association said his organization supports the Oliver legislation and calls it "a good policy that can benefit everyone.""There is no training ... no learning about something that can't be a benefit to everyone involved," Colligan said. "I think something like this provides everyone with the opportunity to look at, and perhaps understand, the situation from an entirely different perspective."


Washington D.C.

Supreme Court strikes down law banning use of Facebook by registered sex offenders

by Ariane de Vogue and Daniella Diaz

The Supreme Court unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that bars the use of commercial social networking sites, including Facebook, by registered sex offenders.

A lower court upheld the law, but lawyers for Lester Gerard Packingham -- who is a registered sex offender -- say it is too broad and swept in their client even though his Facebook posting concerned the fact that his parking ticket was dismissed.

"No fine, no court costs, nothing spent... Praise be to God" he wrote.

After the office came upon the posting, Packingham was found guilty of violating the law that says "it is unlawful for a sex offender who is registered access a commercial social networking site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages on the commercial social networking site."

North Carolina argues the law was passed to "confront the threat sexual predators pose to children."

Packingham's lawyers note that when they filed their petition Facebook had grown to 1.59 billion users. They argued the section of law at issue "imposes criminal punishment for activity fully protected under the First Amendment."

At oral arguments, David T. Goldberg said that the law reaches "vast swaths of core First Amendment activity that is totally unrelated to the government's preventative purpose." Goldberg noted that his client was not accused of communicating with or viewing the profile of a minor, but "speaking to his friends and family" about his experience in traffic court.

They maintained that the section of the law "is not narrowly tailored; it does not leave open ample alternative channels for the First Amendment activities it burdens; and it does not directly or effectively future the government's interests."


Supreme Court decision is 'a constitutional coming out party' for social media

by Selena Larson

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that sex offenders can't be broadly banned from using social media.

The First Amendment ruling sets a precedent about denying access to social media sites and raises questions about their role as a public forum.

The North Carolina law, established in 2008, made it illegal for registered sex offenders to use websites that minors also use. That included Facebook (FB, Tech30), Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) and many other popular sites.

The Supreme Court's ruling is a major milestone in the internet era -- it is among the first decisions to target social media use.

"This case is one of the first this court has taken to address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern internet," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, which struck down North Carolina's law.

In the opinion, Kennedy said the law was too broad and North Carolina did not prove why a wholesale ban on social media was necessary.

"In a lot of ways, it's a constitutional coming out party for social media companies," said Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. "It puts social media platforms on equal footing with other important areas of First Amendment expression."

But, Abdo said, the lingering question is whether the courts will eventually come to view social media platforms as public forums in their entirety.

In his opinion, Kennedy said "cyberspace," and social media in particular, are now the most important places for exchanging views. He cited LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as places for discussing entrepreneurship, petitioning elected officials, and debating religion and politics.

"These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard," he wrote, referring to social media sites as a "modern public square."

Dick Costolo, Twitter's former CEO, used to say the the company was the "global town square," a place for people to communicate and find out about current events. But there's currently a legal difference between a physical public square -- like streets and parks -- and the internet.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito cautioned against equating internet sites to public streets. He argued the majority opinion should have been more narrowly written to avoid ambiguity.

Complicated questions linger about how best to define these platforms -- for instance, if Twitter was considered a public square, would the government have some power to regulate it and make sure its terms of service align with the Constitution?

This ruling means that specific groups can't be denied wholesale access to social media sites.

"I do think this precedent would be applicable if a state engaged in other attempts to prophylactically bar people from using social media," Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the ACLU, told CNN Tech.

Facebook already prohibits convicted sex offenders from using its services, and people can report accounts they believe violate this rule. But Monday's decision affirms that this is for Facebook, not the courts, to decide.

Twitter and LinkedIn declined to provide a statement on the ruling, and Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

"I do think we will see more cases like this as the internet and social media increasingly become the site of choice for public discussion and debate," Bhandari said. "In many ways, the protests, the political debates of this era are taking place online."



Chicago police express frustration after more than 100 shot in violent Fourth of July weekend

by Peter Nickeas, Elvia Malagon, Elyssa Cherney and Jeremy Gorner

The Chicago Police Department says it is conducting "a very comprehensive review" after the city experienced one of its most violent Fourth of July weekends in recent years, with at least 102 people shot between late Friday afternoon and early Wednesday.

"We're doing a debriefing," said chief police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. "The mood here is frustration."

The review will include an analysis of how "amateur fireworks" might have affected the ShotSpotter system, which captures audio of gunfire and attempts to pinpoint its location for quicker deployment of officers. The system is deployed in the Englewood and Harrison districts, traditionally among the city's most violent.

"It's perplexing," Guglielmi said. "We deployed some very successful tactics over the Memorial Day weekend." Yet those same tactics did not seem to work as well over the Fourth holiday.

Fifteen people were killed and 87 others were wounded. Nearly half the shootings occurred in the last 12 hours of the long holiday.

The last time the Fourth holiday spanned four full days was in 2013, when July 4 fell on a Thursday and many people had Friday off. At least 74 people were shot between Wednesday evening and early Monday that year, and 12 of them died, according to Tribune data.

The violence this year was largely confined to the South and West sides, where hundreds of officers on overtime were deployed. The youngest person shot was a 13-year-old boy seriously wounded in Gage Park on Friday night. The oldest was a 60-year-old man in the Lawndale neighborhood.

The weekend had been relatively calm when police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a news conference early Tuesday afternoon and announced the arrests of 58 people on drug and gun charges "to keep residents and visitors safe in every neighborhood."

But within hours, violence erupted in nearly every police district south of North Avenue, according to data kept by the Tribune. At least 43 people were shot between 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. Only two of those 43 were shot north of Chicago Avenue.

As part of its review of what happened over the weekend, the department is looking at how fireworks may have interfered with the ShotSpotter system, a relatively new technology the department hopes to expand.

The spotters register a shooting and deploy cameras in the direction of the shots while officers are deployed. Analysts at the district station look at the data in real time to decide what steps to take next. Guglielmi called it "micro-deployment."

The department is also reviewing calls for service, particularly as the weekend ended. "A lot of incidents happened in a short amount of time. We're also looking at that. We did typically see it (violence) where we typically see it."

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over "petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun." He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening.

He said a "handful" of shootings were "retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating ... It's just enormously frustrating."

A total of 1,300 extra officers were deployed over the long weekend through 6 a.m. Wednesday. The additional officers came from the summer mobile teams, organized crime units and area saturation teams. "I don't think lack of resources was an issue."

A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. "We have to change the underlying culture," Guglielmi said.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday. Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

The Harrison District on the West Side, which had gone without any shootings over the Memorial Day weekend, recorded 14 people shot over the long Fourth weekend.

At one homicide scene in the district, onlookers peeked around the entrance to the Green Line station at Pulaski Road and Lake Street, trying to get a glimpse of the body of a man chased down and shot early Wednesday.

The shooting happened on two sides of a popular West Side liquor store. Officers found shell casings and one man shot behind the store, next to an alley. The other wounded man fell face-up on a sidewalk underneath the elevated train tracks.

A garbage can fire burned as officers counted shell casings and draped tape from support pillars holding up the "L" tracks. A fire engine backed down the alley, and firefighters dumped the trash and pumped water from a tin can onto the smoldering waste.

Other scenes from the weekend

• The only shooting north of North Avenue happened about 50 yards from the street that marks the West Side's northern edge.

• A 56-year-old man died and a 19-year-old man was seriously wounded around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday in the 1600 block of North Major Avenue -- the same block where an 8-year-old girl was shot last August. The house where the two men were shot was home to a young man killed last year around the corner. The older man was pronounced dead overnight at Loyola University Medical Center.

• Tuesday night, a man approached the crime scene with a toddler, who seemed to be just learning to walk as she ambled ahead of him. An officer walked up to the little girl and gently turned her around, while another yelled at her father for walking under yellow tape officers had stretched across Major Avenue.

• Seven miles to the south, shortly before midnight, a woman searched the 1900 block of South Spaulding for shell casings by the light of her cellphone before officers arrived. Two people walked into St. Anthony's Hospital, a block from Mount Sinai Hospital, saying they had been shot there.

• Earlier Tuesday, officers found a woman shot on Roosevelt Road. She was in a silver car just east of Independence Boulevard The department is also reviewing calls for service, particularly as the weekend ended. "A lot of incidents happened in a short amount of time. We're also looking at that. We did typically see it (violence) where we typically see it."

A lot of the shootings appeared to be over "petty disputes that escalated into somebody pulling out a gun." He mentioned some examples: A shooting in Smith Park that started as an argument over where people were sitting; a confrontation between a driver and bicyclists on State Street, with the driver getting a gun from his trunk and officers intervening.

He said a "handful" of shootings were "retaliatory .. People drinking all day and then things escalating ... It's just enormously frustrating."

A total of 1,300 extra officers were deployed over the long weekend through 6 a.m. Wednesday. The additional officers came from the summer mobile teams, organized crime units and area saturation teams. "I don't think lack of resources was an issue."

A total of 159 guns were seized by Chicago police since Friday. "We have to change the underlying culture," Guglielmi said.

The weekend began with 19 people shot on Friday night and 23 on Saturday. Sunday and Monday nights were both relatively quiet, by summer standards, with 17 people shot over the two days, according to Tribune data.

The Harrison District on the West Side, which had gone without any shootings over the Memorial Day weekend, recorded 14 people shot over the long Fourth weekend.

At one homicide scene in the district, onlookers peeked around the entrance to the Green Line station at Pulaski Road and Lake Street, trying to get a glimpse of the body of a man chased down and shot early Wednesday.

The shooting happened on two sides of a popular West Side liquor store. Officers found shell casings and one man shot behind the store, next to an alley. The other wounded man fell face-up on a sidewalk underneath the elevated train tracks.

A garbage can fire burned as officers counted shell casings and draped tape from support pillars holding up the "L" tracks. A fire engine backed down the alley, and firefighters dumped the trash and pumped water from a tin can onto the smoldering waste.

Other scenes from the weekend

• The only shooting north of North Avenue happened about 50 yards from the street that marks the West Side's northern edge.

• A 56-year-old man died and a 19-year-old man was seriously wounded around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday in the 1600 block of North Major Avenue -- the same block where an 8-year-old girl was shot last August. The house where the two men were shot was home to a young man killed last year around the corner. The older man was pronounced dead overnight at Loyola University Medical Center.

• Tuesday night, a man approached the crime scene with a toddler, who seemed to be just learning to walk as she ambled ahead of him. An officer walked up to the little girl and gently turned her around, while another yelled at her father for walking under yellow tape officers had stretched across Major Avenue.

• Seven miles to the south, shortly before midnight, a woman searched the 1900 block of South Spaulding for shell casings by the light of her cellphone before officers arrived. Two people walked into St. Anthony's Hospital, a block from Mount Sinai Hospital, saying they had been shot there.

• Earlier Tuesday, officers found a woman shot on Roosevelt Road. She was in a silver car just east of Independence Boulevard and had been shot around the corner, on Lawndale Avenue. Every few minutes, officers found a few more shell casings, each a little farther from the alley south of Roosevelt.

• Police found a 42-year-old man in "extremely critical" condition on Laflin Street just south of 62nd Street, and he was later pronounced dead from gunshot wounds. Neighbors gathered on a front porch nearby and in a smaller group across the street, on church steps, while paramedics worked on the man. The ambulance left after a few minutes with a squad car in tow.

• Just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, police taped off Roosevelt Road because they found a person shot where the road intersects with Loomis Avenue in the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood. He had been shot about a block south on the 1300 block of West 13th Street.

• A shooting in the 3400 block of West Grenshaw Street about 10:15 p.m. left two men wounded. People nearby said they hesitated when they heard the gunfire but weren't certain because of the frequency of the fireworks. A woman, who neighbors said was the young man's grandmother, stepped to the ambulance to find out what happened.

"Right now, ma'am, he's worried about you. He's going to be OK, but he's worried about you," a paramedic told the woman. She stepped away, and the ambulance pulled off toward Mount Sinai Hospital.

"I can't go with him?" she asked.

Mount Sinai Hospital treated at least 22 of the 102 people shot over the weekend. At one point early Wednesday morning, five ambulances crowded into the emergency room's small ambulance bay and a Chicago police squad SUV sat parked nearby.



'Cops Rock"

LOPD hopes to use painted rocks for community policing

by Jamie Wachter

(Pictures on site)

LIVE OAK — The Live Oak Police Department hopes to start handing out tickets that local residents want to receive.

As part of its community policing push, the LOPD will begin today to join the Live Oak Rocks community by hiding rocks painted with law enforcement designs for residents to find.

Once found, the rocks can be brought to the station in return for a “ticket,” in this case, a certificate for a free ice cream at Dairy Queen.

“It will introduce them to the police and also let us have an opportunity to talk to them, to show that there are all kinds of sides to law enforcement,” LOPD Chief Buddy Williams said, thanking the Live Oak Dairy Queen for its support of LOPD's community policing. “It's just to try and build a bond, give the kids something to do and have a little fun in the process.

“Be the only ticket I'm sure that they'd like to receive.”

Williams said the idea hit him a couple months ago during a lunch at Ken's Bar-B-Que.

While dining, he found a painted rock in a window sill and he soon became a follower of the Live Oak Rocks community.

“It shows all these folks that are painting rocks and hiding them all over town and putting clues where they're at,” he said.

The idea to start a “Cops Rock” offshoot soon followed.

“I watched this work a little bit, and I got to thinking that would be a neat community policing thing to do,” Williams said adding that a friend painted the law enforcement-related rocks for the LOPD. “And call it ‘Cops Rock.'”

The LOPD will begin hiding the rocks today, Williams said with day shift officers dropping a few off in various locations around town. He will then post clues to Facebook.

“Hopefully, somebody will rush out to find them,” he said. “And then we can start meeting these kids and adults.

“It's a pretty neat little idea. It's safe fun, good fun and gives the kids an activity they wouldn't have to do any other time.”

It's also an activity that the LOPD wouldn't have a chance to do any other time.

And to Williams, it provides another opportunity for his department to get involved in a fun way.

“We had buy in,” he said of his department's backing of the initiative. “Everybody thought it was a neat idea.

“I'm a firm believer in community policing and that's what we're going to do. And since I'm the chief, they're going to go along with it. But all joking aside, if you just keep your eyes peeled, you see that we're very involved.”


New York

As summer starts, Albany seeks strategy to counter crime surge

by Amanda Fries

ALBANY — An uptick in violent crimes — something often seen in the summer — has city leader looking for new strategies to deal with a rash of incidents, many of them fueled by personal feuds.

Shootings in the capital city in the first half of this year have more than doubled over the same time last year – from eight in 2016 to 18 and six homicides compared to two for all of 2016.

Albany had a 14-month stretch without a single homicide, eight people have been slain in the eight months since November.

Police can't put a finger on what exactly has triggered the increase.

“Most of the recent violence has occurred outside of the situations that we have seen here in the city over the past decades," acting police Chief Bob Sears said. "Many of our recent incidents have been personal disputes among people, and most of the victims have very little exposure to the criminal justice system."

At a meeting to discuss the increase in crime, Sears said these factors make it harder to predict the next victim and suspect and where the violence will occur.

That the recent "shots fired," or shooting incidents, may not be random, provides little solace to residents, particularly those who've experienced gun violence in otherwise quiet neighborhoods.

Two men were shot in the early morning hours Sunday on Hamilton Street near Lark Street in the Hudson/Park neighborhood. Less than 24 hours later, residents a few blocks away reported shots fired at Myrtle Avenue and Dove Street. Police arrested 31-year-old Brandon Upton and charged him with weapon possession.

“Although we feel the city took a necessary step today in publicly addressing the incidents that occurred over the weekend, there is still work to be done,” said Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association President John DeBois, who attended the meeting at City Hall. “Until we see a noticeable reduction in violence occurring in our streets, we won't be satisfied.”

Hours later, police reported investigations into a stabbing at 10 p.m. Tuesday and Lark and Orange streets and a shooting shortly after midnight Wednesday, also on Lark Street, this time at Sheridan Avenue.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, whose adopted son's brother was shot and killed this year, recognized that violent crime happens across the city

“It's something that no family should have to deal with, no block should have to deal with. When I think about the death of my son's brother, that happened during the day on the corner of Quail and First streets,” she said. “When I go over there and see children playing … they shouldn't have to live on a street where they have to worry about shots being fired. Nobody should.”

In the past, programs geared to steering people deemed at risk of being swept up in crime to a more productive direction helped lower violent crime, Sears said. Now police must determine the best strategies for the more personal, not gang-related, crime Albany is experiencing, he said.

“The department takes these challenges head-on and will look at every way they can to combat them,” Sears said.

Common Councilman Frank Commisso Jr., who is challenging Sheehan in September's Democratic Primary, said consistent leadership in the police department, a residency requirement for new officers and sharper evaluation of the effectiveness of community policing could help address the violent crime increase.

“I think there is going to be a need – after analyzing metrics – for proactive policing in the city,” he said. “Do we have a way of determining that these officers that are allegedly engaging in community policing are generating new leads?”

Sheehan said officials receive feedback from the Community Police Advisory Committee and neighborhood associations on community policing effectiveness.

City officials encouraged residents who hear, or see, something not right to reach out by any means they're comfortable with – including Facebook, stopping in at police stations, contacting neighborhood beat officers and going to the department's online public safety network — to submit tips.

Sears said community cooperation recently has been “unparalleled,” which he credited in part to the department's efforts in community policing.

“The community has been a fantastic partner in all our endeavors,” he said. “This level of cooperation has not been seen for quite some time.”

Sheehan said her administration is setting up community meetings to discuss residents' concerns.

Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, who also is running for mayor in the primary, said she'd like to see increased police patrols.

“I am a proponent of police cars driving through neighborhoods and sitting for five to 10 minutes,” she said. “It's going to ease the mind of the resident, and it's also going to deter crime.”

Sears said, "A lot of times people won't do something if we're there, but when we walk around the corner, they take the opportunity."

“I can't promise an arrest in every case," he said, "but I will guarantee that every resource and opportunity will be used to make the violence stop.”



23 Arrested and Tear Gas Deployed After a K.K.K. Rally in Virginia

by Hawes Spencer and Matt Stevens

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied here on Saturday afternoon in a protest meant to assail the city's decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general.

For about a half-hour, around 50 members of the Klan — some wearing hooded white robes — shouted “white power” at Justice Park as more than 1,000 people protested their presence by hurling insults, water bottles and apple cores.

By about 4:25 p.m., the Klan members, who said they came from North Carolina, began to leave and return to their cars. It was then when the trouble intensified.

City officials said a large group of counterprotesters followed the Klan members back to their vehicles and stopped them from leaving. Asked to step aside, the counterprotesters refused, a city spokeswoman said. The police declared an unlawful assembly, and officers began moving the protesters back so the Klan members could leave.

As the police returned to Justice Park, though, the crowd followed, and “there were a number of incidents, including the use of pepper spray by the crowd,” Miriam Dickler, a city spokeswoman, said in a statement.

At one point, the police again ordered the crowd to disperse, but the protesters remained entrenched. Ms. Dickler said the Virginia State Police then released three canisters of tear gas.

“The crowd immediately dispersed,” she said.

Over the course of the day, Ms. Dickler said that at least 23 people had been arrested, and that at least three people had been taken to a hospital — two for “heat-related issues” and one for an “alcohol-related issue.”

In an email, Ms. Dickler said she could not “speak to the affiliations” of those who were arrested.

The rally, and the response to it, put the city on edge, and upset some residents who had hoped the event would end without any problems.

“We were just standing there, peaceful, on the sidewalk,” said Candice Maupin, a city resident and one of the counterprotesters. “We heard this boom, and then this green smoke, and our eyes started burning.”

City officials and church leaders had asked residents to stay away from the rally. Concerts and other events were planned to encourage residents to spend the day elsewhere.

“It's become a game,” said Bob Fenwick, a city councilman.

Indeed, Charlottesville has become a flash point in a debate about how cities across the South should reconcile themselves with their past and, specifically, with the Civil War.

The Charlottesville City Council voted narrowly in April to sell the statue of Lee. But in May, a circuit court judge in the city issued a six-month injunction to halt the removal of the statue after a collection of individuals and groups — including the Virginia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — filed a lawsuit against the city.

Demonstrators led by Richard B. Spencer, a noted white supremacist, marched here in May to protest the city's plan to remove the statue. Mr. Spencer posted pictures and videos from the gathering that showed demonstrators holding Confederate battle flags and a banner proclaiming, “We will not be replaced.”

“People should be able to respect our heritage,” said Amanda Barker, who identified herself on Saturday as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. She added that she was underwhelmed by the number of people who had turned out to oppose the rally.

Counterprotesters, who chanted “go home,” “black lives matter” and a variety of profanity-laced insults, said it was important for them to confront the Klan because simply ignoring white-supremacist viewpoints could allow such views to proliferate.

Ms. Dickler, the city spokeswoman, said another rally by white nationalists has been planned for Aug. 12.


North Carolina

Black Mountain Police Department looks to keep P.A.C.E. through community policing

by Fred McCormick

In the fight against crime there are few tools available to law enforcement officers as valuable as the trust of the community they serve. Open and honest communication between citizens and officers allows a department to allocate resources to address concerns before they become issues.

The approach to law enforcement that nurtures that relationship is known as community policing, and it's the philosophy behind the formation of the P.A.C.E. T.E.A.M. (Police And Citizen Enrichment Together Everyone Achieves More) within the Black Mountain Police Department.

The unit will work to improve the partnership between the department and community, according to Shawn Freeman, who took over as police chief in May.

“I wanted to put together a community-oriented team that can resolve issues immediately,” he said.

The two-member team will "wear a lot of hats," according to Freeman.

The PACE TEAM will serve as the public face of the department and will be issued the latest equipment, such as a pair of specially marked vehicles. The unit will respond to calls in the downtown business district, where officers plan to work closely with local business owners.

"The first priority for the team is to build bridges with the community," Freeman said. "If we want to tackle the issues with traffic or the issues with drugs or any other issues that may be growing, we have to have the lines of communication open with people in the community, because they'll be the ones who let us know what's going on."

That approach allows the department to rely on feedback from the community. It also help identifying the public's needs.

"If we get speeding complaints in a certain area, for example," Freeman said. "We can put these two officers out on the street, knocking on doors asking if there are specific times that the speeding is going on. It lets the people who live there know we're out there working on their problem."

The team will also focus on drug suppression. In a two-week period, the Black Mountain Police Department posted three drug busts on its Facebook page, busts that yielded 44 grams of methamphetamine, 14 grams of crack cocaine, 14 grams of heroin and 80 Xanax pills.

"Once this team is up and going I'm hoping to bring the community in to really talk about community policing and the effectiveness of it," Freeman said. "We have to have buy-in from the citizens to help address these kinds of problems."

The department reallocated two existing shifts to create the PACE TEAM and interviewed four officers on the force.

“We are above standard when you're talking about police officers,” Freeman said. “These guys have a lot of specialized and advanced training and college degrees.”

Freeman said last week that he will select the team in the next several days.

"This team will spearhead the charge to bridge gaps between the department and the community," Freeman said. "And by opening those lines of communication, they'll work with citizens to build an even safer, more caring community."



Stafford's crimerate remains flat as police strengthen bonds with community

by Amanda Vicinanzo

With the population boom in Stafford County over the past several decades came more shopping options, restaurants, residential developments and business opportunities. But that growth also brought some negative consequences, including more crime.

At the end of May, four people, including a juvenile, were arrested in connection with a shootout on Garrisonville Road in North Stafford.

Just days later, a suspicious call led to a brief lockdown of North Stafford High and Park Ridge Elementary schools. The Stafford Sheriff's Office discovered no suspects and determined that a threat did not exist; however, the community remained shaken.

“What is happening to Stafford?” one resident posted on Facebook afterward.

Despite these incidents, the county's crime rates have remained fairly flat over the past five years, according to a Stafford Sheriff's Office report summarizing criminal activities between May 2013 and May 2017.

The number of reported crimes to date this year is 5,192, compared to 5,351 at the same time in 2016 and 5,560 in 2015.

Crimes against persons is at 8.3 percent for 2017, compared to 8.7 percent in 2016 and 7.8 percent in 2015. Additionally, criminal arrests are at 2,176, compared to 2,079 in 2016 and 2,165 in 2015.

The state as a whole did not fare as well. In 2016, Virginia experienced more than a 10 percent increase in violent crime—murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault—compared to 2015, according to the Virginia State Police's annual crime analysis report.

Sheriff David Decatur said crime rates are only one way to measure performance, and not all crimes are reported, but the fact that crime has remained flat in Stafford as the population has grown is a good indicator that the county is staying a step ahead of crime.

Decatur credits the flat crime rate to multiple factors including an improvement in hiring and retention because of more competitive pay for deputies, and strong partnerships with county supervisors, schools and local businesses.

He also said a robust criminal justice system anchored by a strong and involved community plays a critical role in preventing crime from gaining a stronghold. Consequently, the Sheriff's Office places a lot of emphasis on community policing and engagement.

“Community policing has been a part of our culture and DNA for several decades—it is part of the fabric of who we are,” Decatur said. “We are building trust and relationships with the community.”

Community policing and communication

For Decatur, effective community policing requires stepping outside the traditional law enforcement role and becoming part of the community. The idea is to help prevent crime by building ties with the community.

One of the most important aspects of community policing is being transparent and keeping the public informed, Decatur explained

Even though the county's crime rate has been flat, and Decatur believes Stafford is a safe community, the public's perception is important. Oftentimes, the biggest challenge to effective policing in a growing population is keeping pace with how quickly information is disseminated on social media, he explained.

In emergencies, social media can become a hotbed for misinformation. The Sheriff's Office works to combat this by getting information out to the public as quickly as possible via Twitter, Facebook, email alerts and other mechanisms.

“We realize if we don't quickly get that information out, people won't know what is going on,” he said. “If you don't fill in the blanks as much as you can, people will fill them in for you.”

The Sheriff's Office is always looking for more tools to increase the rate at which they get information to the public. It recently launched a new social networking tool—the Next Door App—which connects people within their neighborhoods so they can share public safety information, such as news of a break-in.

Users can also contact law enforcement with information and questions about crime in their neighborhood. So far, 8,000 residents in Stafford have signed up.

“It is a great way for citizens to be plugged in and get the information they need,” he said.

Community programs and partnerships

A major part of community engagement and crime prevention is building relationships with schools and local businesses. According to Stafford Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Olsen, nowhere is this more important than in addressing criminal and risky behaviors in youth.

Olsen was hired in 1989 as a prosecutor in the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. With the population closer to 60,000 than today's 145,000, the county was a very different place.

In those days, Olsen seldom encountered a case involving a juvenile who had committed a gun offense. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and he now sees these types of cases occurring every few months.

While it is difficult to watch anyone engage in behaviors that will lead them down a destructive path, Olsen said it is particularly hard to see it happen to a juvenile.

“By the time a case reaches my desk, it is usually too late,” Olsen said.

In response, Olsen partnered with the Sheriff's Office on an initiative called “Youth-At-Risk,” which aims to identify risky behaviors in youth—such as substance abuse, sexting and bullying—before it is too late.

YAR uses the slogan “See? Care. Call.” It is based on the well-known phrase, “If you see something, say something.”

“This is an opportunity to try to either prevent stuff from happening or to get involved early so it doesn't escalate,” Olsen said. “That is the role of a forward-thinking sheriff's office.”

The YAR Committee—which comprises parents, business owners, educators and law enforcement—disseminates information on education, prevention and intervention strategies to the public.

The committee already collaborates with schools, and is in the early stages of launching a new partnership with local businesses. Olsen said businesses, especially stores that sell alcohol and tobacco, are well-positioned to be the “eyes and ears” of the community.

Michelle Gibbons, co-chair of the committee, said it has designed a new logo, education pamphlet and a sticker that businesses can put in their windows to show they are a YAR partner and have pledged not to engage in criminal behavior, such as providing alcohol or tobacco to minors.

If a business observes risky behaviors, they can call and report it, she explained.

In addition to YAR, the Sheriff's Office hosts a number of community-based programs and events targeted toward youth.

For example, the cadet program gives high school students between the ages of 14 and 20 the opportunity to receive law enforcement training and learn about police careers. One of the most popular features of the program is the “ride-along,” which offers cadets the chance to ride on patrol with deputies and observe law enforcement work first-hand.

The Sheriff's Special Star Force Cadet Program is a similar initiative and the first of its kind in the state. The SSSF gives youth with intellectual challenges the opportunity to experience the various duties of a law enforcement officer.

Perhaps the most popular of all the Sheriff's Office events is National Night Out, which attracts children and adults alike. Each year, thousands of residents come together for free food, games and activities. The main event takes place in August at Stafford Marketplace, but neighborhoods can also participate by holding block parties.

“It is the culmination of the whole year, and a great way to build new relationships and strengthen existing ones,” Decatur said.

Eye to the future

At the end of the day, however, Decatur said the everyday interactions with the community are what make the biggest difference. As the county's population continues to expand, community policing will play an increasingly important role.

“It is not just the big programs, it is the everyday encounters that are most important for us,” Decatur said. “Every good relationship needs to have trust, respect and transparency.”



Mo. joins 27 other states with 'Blue Alert' system

The measure also enhances penalties for assaults on law enforcement officers

by Kurt Erickson

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri soon will have a system to notify the general public when a law enforcement officer is killed or injured.

Patterned after the Amber Alert system for missing children, the so-called “Blue Alert” law was signed Thursday by Gov. Eric Greitens, who had championed the idea.

The measure was part of a package of crime-related changes to state law approved by members of the House and Senate in May.

In addition to the Blue Alert plan, the new law creates the crime of illegal re-entry. Those who are deported from the United States for committing a crime and then return and commit a felony would also be guilty of illegal re-entry in Missouri.

The offense would be a class C felony, punishable by three to seven years.

The measure also adds museums that cater to children under 18 to the list of public places where sex offenders are banned.

The Blue Alert provisions are designed to promote public safety and protect police officers. When the law goes into effect, Missouri will be the 28th state to adopt such a program, according to U.S. Department of Justice figures.

The measure also enhances penalties for assaults on law enforcement officers.

“We must stand up for those who stand guard for us,” Greitens said in a release.

Greitens signed the measure at a St. Louis County police site in Pagedale. Among those who were there to witness it were Ballwin Officer Michael Flamion and St. Louis Officer Tom Lake, who were both badly wounded in on-duty shootings.

The changes come partially in response to the unrest in Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in 2014.

The legislation is Senate Bill 34.


New York

After NYPD cop's slaying, city heeds call for more vehicle armor

by Tom Hays and Colleen Long

NEW YORK — The day after a bullet blasted through a passenger window of an RV-like command post and killed a police officer sitting inside, officials on Thursday announced that the New York Police Department was adding ballistic protection to all 72 of the vehicles in its fleet.

The mobile command centers hadn't originally been part of a plan to retrofit all of the department's squad cars with inch-thick bullet-resistant glass and armored door panels capable of stopping a round from a .44 Magnum — a response to the killing of two officers in 2014.

That changed with Wednesday's fatal shooting of Officer Miosotis Familia by a lone gunman suspected of having mental problems. It immediately raised questions about the omission of the command centers, especially since the vehicles, which often are planted in high-crime neighborhoods for weeks, might actually be more vulnerable.

City Hall announced on Thursday that it would spend $1.3 million to retrofit the command posts with bullet-resistant door panels and side windows. It said windshields can't be replaced because current technology doesn't allow for their curvature.

"Together, as we mourn the loss of Officer Familia, we are reminded of our sense of community and that the safety of our men and women in blue who patrol our city every day to protect the lives of New Yorkers is paramount," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

New York politicians have been lobbying for more armor on police vehicles since NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were fatally gunned down through the window of their squad car in 2014.

"This should have been more of a priority," state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said earlier Thursday before the City Hall announcement. Malliotakis was among lawmakers who proposed mandatory retrofitting for every police car statewide.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams pushed similar legislation after the officers' deaths but said it wasn't an easy sell because of the high cost and concerns that officers would be hampered by the thick, heavy windows that don't roll down.

The city eventually opted to phase in the protections for about 3,800 patrol cars, first allocating $6.8 million to retrofit car doors with bullet-resistant panels to protect the doors, then adding another $10 million last year to install bullet-resistant windows.

To date, 2,100 vehicles have the panels, officials said. The first 500 bullet-resistant window inserts will go into cars this month, they added.

Experts say that while fortifying police vehicles is worth it to save even one life, it isn't a panacea for gun violence against police officers. They also suggest that posting officers in stationary command centers can make them sitting ducks for anyone planning an attack.

In the case of the slaying of Familia, the 12-year NYPD veteran had been assigned to work out of a command vehicle that had been placed in a high-crime section of the Bronx after a triple shooting three months ago.

"I'm not a big believer in predictability in police work," said Maki Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "You have to be able to rotate positions and be on the move because it's much easier to plan something if you know what you're going to encounter."

But she cautioned: "If someone is bent on killing a police officer, they can do it. ... This is just another layer of protection."

Other cities have explored fortifying their police vehicles. Los Angeles police officials say most of their patrol vehicles now have ballistic panels in the doors; however, the windows are not bullet-resistant.

Frank Merenda, a former NYPD captain who is now an assistant professor of criminal justice at Marist College, said the extra protection could give officers a tactical advantage but has its limitations.

"It's important to remember the job of the police is to fight crime and keep communities safe, which begins with engaging the community, not just fortifying themselves from it," he said.


IACP forms new task force to address violence against LEO's

In 2016, 21 of 145 officers killed in the line of duty were killed in ambush - style attacks

by PoliceOne Staff

In 2016, 21 out of 145 officers killed in the line of duty were killed in ambush-style attacks. In response to the growing violence against LEOs, IACP has formed a new task force to provide monthly reports on the violence and training materials to help keep cops safe.

In the first of a series of blog posts, IACP President Donald W. De Lucca said that even though danger always exists in law enforcement, he is troubled by the increase in “apparent random, unprovoked ambush-style attacks and other violent acts inflicted upon officers.”

The task force, which De Lucca helped form in January, is made up of 15 police executives from different cross-sections of law enforcement. The members are assisted by IACP professional staff and senior level LE fellows from local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Together, the task force is hard at work attempting to address the complex issue of violence against police in a manner that places preeminence on officer safety, while continuing to advance progressive community policing practices,” De Lucca wrote. “The task force recognizes that officer safety and commitment to community policing/community relations are not mutually exclusive, but rather work hand in hand. Positive community-police relationships are a critical component of reducing threats that officers face.”

Leading up to the annual IACP conference in October, the blog posts will provide updates on the task force's work and bring awareness to key areas of officer safety. They will also include monthly LODD reports, a chief's guide on preventing LODDs and downloadable training materials.

“As the work of the task force proceeds, its members will be vigilant in ensuring the safety and well-being of officers is given the attention and commitment it deserves and that police leaders are provided the resources and recommendations that can most effectively assist them in maintaining the safety of the men and women under their command,” De Lucca said.