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"  

October, 2017 - Week 3
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.


Cleveland police go on city-wide bike tour with students

by Maia Belay

CLEVELAND - Sunday, Cleveland Police officers, along with students and their parents, set out on a 20 mile bike ride across the city, each mile creating new memories with officers, hoping to inspire the next generation to wear blue.

"It's about our kids being able to trust our police officers and then our police officers also establishing relationships with our kids," said Angela Bennett, the Director of Development for the Cleveland Police Foundation.

Several dozen officers helped kick off the first annual "Ride 2 Achieve Challenge Program," a citywide bike tour and partnership with the Cleveland Police Foundation, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Safe Routes to School. The program celebrates the hard work of students along with their attendance and good grades by rewarding them with bicycles and new helmets.

"Just to interact with the police let him know it's not what everybody say," said parent James Stewart, who biked with his son. "I want to teach him, let him know it's all right, the police are there to help."

Fifteen bicycles were awarded to students at several schools across the city, including Louis Agassiz Elementary, where Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, State Rep John Barnes, Jr. and other local elected officials congratulated students on their accomplishments.

"They can teach me knew things that I never knew," said student Lamont Brown, 11, about the event.

The ride served as a bridge between officers and the communities they serve, inviting parents and students on a day-long journey towards better understanding.

"Hopefully in the future, whenever he sees an officer he [student that won the bike] remembers this moment," said Police Commander Johnny Johnson, of the Bureau of Community Policing. "The most important thing is not necessarily that they believe or they want us to be friends, but they need to know and understand that if they need help they need to come to us."

Riders took off at noon and stopped for short breaks at several schools along the way. Free hair cuts, water and snacks were offered to students at Mound Stem Elementary. Community policing is already making an impact on students looking to enter the police academy.

"This is good... you don't get to show what the officers are doing that's good always what's bad," said Cleveland Police Explorer Tyrence James.

In the spring Bennett says 500 students will have the opportunity to earn a bike from the foundation. The bicycles will be purchased from locally owned Fleet Bike Shop.

To donate towards the cost of those bicycles click here.


North Carolina

Police reach out to children on two wheels

by Rebecca Sitzes

Sgt. Shannon Porter often spends hours on his bike, pedaling the streets around Shelby as a means of connecting with the community and deterring crime.

It was during one such ride that Porter, in charge of community policing for the Shelby Police Department, noticed kids riding their bikes around town. He said in most cases, they weren't riding safely.

It was this observation, and a desire to connect with city youth, that led to the idea for the Shelby Police Bike Academy.

Porter is partnering with the local bike shop, Bicycles, as well as Cleveland County EMS, Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland County and Safe Kids Coalition to work with children on bike safety.

It's a unique idea and one Porter hasn't seen before.

“I don't know of any other department doing this,” he said.

Porter said he is working with Bicycles to order bikes for five boys ages 10 to 12, who will then complete a six-week program that involves putting bikes together and learning basic maintenance skills and safe riding habits. But it's more than just about bikes.

"I also plan to teach them four core values,” Porter said.

Each week, he plans to emphasize a different character trait: honesty, integrity, teamwork and respect.

By the end of the course, the bikes will be completed and the boys will have to safely ride through a closed course. Upon graduating, the bikes will be presented to the graduates as gifts.

Porter said he not only hopes children will learn the ABCs of bicycle maintenance and safety, but also build a trusting relationship with police officers.

“My ultimate goal is to try and get officers involved with the kids,” he said.

The classes will be held at the Shelby Police Department once a week, and participants will be selected by the Boys & Girls Club.

A grant provided helmets for the riders, and Bicycles is working to buy the bikes at cost through donations.

Porter said if the community wants to get involved, they can drop by the local shop and make a donation for the Shelby Police Bike Academy.

He hopes to get the first group of kids together by the first week of December.

Depending on the success of the first class, Porter wants to continue the program.



Maine cop discovers elderly man going hungry, cooks him dinner

Sgt. Thomas Burgess found the elderly man hungry during a check-in on Tuesday

by Seth Koenig

CUMBERLAND, Maine — A Cumberland police officer discovered a local elderly resident was running low on food and hadn't eaten all day, so he decided to do something about it, according to a post on the department's Facebook page.

Sgt. Thomas Burgess found the elderly man hungry during a check-in on Tuesday, according to the post.

“Sgt. Burgess took it upon himself to deliver the man some food from our local food pantry and cook him a nice dinner,” the department post explained, in part.

The post, which featured a photograph of Burgess preparing food in the kitchen, was shared nearly 700 times by Thursday afternoon, with many community members commenting that they would like to help out.

The department posted that Burgess reached out to local organizations and the man's family members to ensure he would have enough food in the future. He also cleaned the man's refrigerator and some dishes, washed some laundry and took out the trash while he was there, local police said.



Florida governor declares state of emergency in advance of Richard Spencer event

by Lori Rozsa and Susan Svrluga

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday in anticipation of a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida.

Scott (R) warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the public university is located.

The order was intended to help with law enforcement agencies' response to rallies planned for Thursday, the governor said in a news release. University of Florida officials said Monday afternoon that the order was not made in response to any specific heightened threat.

Spencer led hundreds of torch-bearing white supremacists, white nationalists and others on a march chanting, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us” at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in August. The group fought briefly with counterprotesters, and violence worsened the following day when a man drove a car into a crowd of people protesting a planned “Unite the Right” rally, killing a woman and injuring others.

A state of emergency was declared in Virginia after that violence.

In the days afterward, the University of Florida told Spencer he could not hold an event he had planned on campus. After his supporters and a lawyer questioned that decision on First Amendment grounds, the school allowed Spencer to schedule his speech and question-and-answer session for Thursday.

University officials have done extensive planning for the event and said they intend to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor's executive order will allow local law enforcement officials to work with state and other agencies. Scott is also activating the Florida National Guard to help if needed.

“This worries me. I don't get it,” Spencer said about Scott's order. “I hope he's doing this with good intentions.”

He said the order won't change his plans. “I'm going to play ball,” Spencer said. “My people are in constant contact with security. We're moving forward in good faith.”

Spencer said his followers won't instigate violence. If altercations occur, he said, it will be because somebody else starts it.

“It's these antifa groups,” Spencer said, referring to the anti-fascist movement. “They're thugs. Nasty, nasty people.”

And he tweeted.

The University of Virginia was not well prepared for the march through its campus, according to a report released by the school last month.

Cameron Padgett, who has helped organize Spencer's efforts to speak on college campuses, posted a video on social media in response to the governor's executive order and explaining ticketing for the event Thursday.

Scott said in a statement that he has been in constant contact with the Alachua County sheriff, who requested the order to ensure county and local law enforcement agencies have every available resource.

The governor called it an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and Gainesville are prepared and that safety is maintained.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion,” Scott said. “However, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority.”

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said she had sought the declaration because of uncertainty surrounding what law enforcement will encounter.

The sheriff said she and the governor spoke several times over the weekend. “I pitched it to him and that it would help us a great deal to have that latitude,” Darnell said.

That includes allowing her to purchase more equipment quickly. Darnell said she wants to get more radios so all of the agencies involved — from campus police to the National Guard — can communicate.

“We have looked at what happened in Charlottesville and Berkeley,” Darnell said, referring to events in Virginia and at the University of California at Berkeley. “We're not being alarmist. But we want to be prepared. ”



Study: Diverse workforce makes friendlier police departments

Houston's department "one of the most diverse' in US

by St John Barned-Smith

Advocates of community policing have long claimed a more diverse police workforce would ease tensions between citizens and law enforcement.

A new study appears to give those proponents added ammunition.

The study , published Friday in Justice Quarterly by two professors at the University of Central Florida, found officers of color were less likely to be cynical about their jobs and to view citizens more favorably.

"A greater representation of minority officers may translate into better service provision and police–community relationships," wrote Jacinta M. Gau and Eugene A. Paoline III, both of the University of Central Florida.

As The Crime Report noted , the findings offer some statistical support for arguments by police reformers that diversity is crucial to improving police-community relations —particularly in at-risk neighborhoods where trust and confidence in law enforcement are at a low ebb.

The authors of the recently published study conducted their survey during morning roll call one week last year to 149 officers with the West Palm Beach Police Department, and found significant variation in attitudes of officers of different races towards the communities they served.

"Black and Latino officers seem to view citizens more favorably than white officers do," Gau and Paoline III rote. "They are significantly more likely to believe that victims deserve police assistance and that they are genuinely helping people when they answer calls for service."

The report does not give reasons for the difference in attitudes between officers of color and Anglo officers.

Approximately 35 percent of WPBPD police officers are black or Latino. More than half of the city's residents, meanwhile, are persons of color.

In Houston, where just a quarter of the city is Anglo, the Houston Police Department became minority-majority in 2009. According to the most recent and readily available data - demographic information from 2016 - HPD's more than 5,200 officers is approximately 6.5 percent Asian, 21 percent African-American, 27 percent Latino, and 45 percent Anglo.

In 2014, the department came under some criticism for failing to diversify the higher ranks of its command structure . The department's defenders had argued diversification of those ranks would take longer, as officers promoted up the civil service ladder.

Then last year, the department saw a wave of promotions of officers of color to the captain's rank .

Houston Police Officers Union Vice President Joseph Gamaldi said both the department's diverse workforce and the training HPD officers receive help with the trust of community members.

"We are one of the most diverse departments in the country," he said, adding that the department tries to recruit high-quality, varied candidates. "Any time you do that, you're going to be able to communicate with the community better, and with folks in general."

Through a spokeswoman, Chief Art Acevedo declined to comment for this story.




What Can the U.S. Do to Prevent Another Mass Shooting?

by Robert R. Friedmann

Terrorism has permeated modern-day life. There have been about 30 attacks a month all over the world since 2010, including knifings, shootings, bombings, car bombs, suicide bombings, and vehicle rammings. This year alone, Barcelona, London, Manchester, Paris, and Stockholm have experienced major attacks.

The massive shooting attack in Las Vegas earlier this month is yet hard to classify. It appears to have been done without an overt ideological, religious, or known personal motivation typically seen in other terrorist attacks. It was meticulously planned, carefully prepared, and the gunman, Stephen Paddock, seems to have trained well for it by being fully armed, calculating positions, distances, velocity, and shooting angles for maximum kill. Regardless of the reasons behind such attacks, what is common to all of them is the carnage they inflict on defenseless, vulnerable human beings anywhere. So why did no one see it coming?

Better security might have prevented the Las Vegas shooting. Some have argued that there is nothing that could have been done because security at the concert site was adequate, and no one expected an attack from a 32nd-floor hotel window across the street. True. But these are the very assumptions that need to change.

Even events with VIP presence (a U.S. president) that are thoroughly checked prior to and during the event aren't fail-safe. Conducting K-9 sweeps, ID'ing spectators, limiting access, and observing possible lines of fire from rooftops and other strategic locations are performed as a matter of routine. But President John F. Kennedy was in the line of fire from an “unsuspected” strategic position, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was allowed to be too close to the assassin who wasn't vetted or suspected. A higher level of security doesn't guarantee absolute safety.

Lessons were learned. So what can hotels and other private or public venues do to better protect their guests and crowds?

There are short-term and long-term solutions, and they depend on the understanding of the threat. Attacks happen when motive is combined with capability. Therefore, defense strategies and tactics need to focus on minimizing the capability to carry out an attack as well as reducing the motivation that is likely to initiate it. Physical security addresses capability, and community policing addresses motive and intent.

For starters, physical security arrangements need to take into account not only the immediate protected event venue, but also its surroundings. Public places need better perimeter protective shield. It's hard to grasp how Paddock was able to move loads of weapons and ammunition into the hotel without ever raising any suspicion in a site monitored 24/7 by security cameras. Physical security relies on police and private security and on the respective technology at their disposal. Yet, their deterrent capability and effectiveness cannot stop or prevent threats from determined individuals or organizations. Countries with a long history of suffering terror attacks (Israel, U.K.) found out that while they cannot prevent 100% of the attacks, they are successful in thwarting many because of early detection, timely intervention, and rapid response. And that is a result of thorough, community-based intelligence apparatus as well as relying on community assistance for information, early warning signs, understanding community dynamics, and working with community groups to mitigate potential threats.

In addition to physical security comprised of personnel, barriers, spot checks, technology, and intelligence, the public needs to be viewed as the long-term force multiplier where citizens, employees, teachers, guests, visitors, business people, passengers, pedestrians, and anyone out and about should partake in the co-production of public (and private) safety. That means sharing information, remaining alert, and reporting suspicious behavior. The community can offer an added dimension to fight such attacks as efforts move beyond the reliance on physical security alone by focusing on community-control mechanisms that reject the aims of the would-be terrorists, or provide advance warning if there are telltale signs.

Public law enforcement and private security and community groups need to form partnerships to share information, training, resources, and pertinent intelligence so they can do together what each agency cannot do alone. That means better cooperation between private security and public law enforcement; and between law enforcement agencies and community groups such as churches, advocacy groups, academia, voluntary associations, and professional organizations. Citizens need to gain a better understanding of potential threats and what they can do to help, and law enforcement agencies need to seek community support to be more effective, acceptable, and proactive. Businesses rely on the public not only as customers, but also as employees or visitors who should enhance security by being more informed and cooperative. For example, hotels should encourage guests to report suspicious persons or activities, develop situational awareness, cooperate with hotel personnel, and be aware of hotel security information.

Lastly, public and private security entities, schools, businesses, and community groups need to provide training on recognizing suspicious behavior in public places and on information sharing, all in an attempt to create a force multiplier to enhance public and private safety personnel who cannot do the job all alone.

Training could be offered to the public by police and community groups and offered to the private sector by internal security personnel and consultants.

Community campaigns on wearing seat belts, reducing smoking, improving health, and recycling waste have been effective. It's time to harness the public to provide information, to be aware of its surroundings, and to assist public and private safety personnel to minimize the likelihood of such attacks or of their lethality. This is where community policing can be helpful by being proactive, creating partnerships, and relying on community resources to minimize crime and terrorism, and it will provide for better community resilience.

Robert R. Friedmann is founding director at Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) and Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.



City deems Open Policing a success

by the Moultrie Observer

MOULTRIE, Ga. — The Moultrie Police Department has concluded a trial of the Open Policing solution designed to help law enforcement agencies better engage their communities and receive real-time public feedback, and city officials say the experiment is a success.

The program has generated valuable feedback about how residents perceive local law enforcement and how the police department can leverage data to improve the way in which it serves, a press release stated.

Moultrie police officers actively participated in the trial by giving each resident with whom they engaged an opportunity to share the quality of their encounters.

While some law enforcement agencies are experiencing an increase in citizen complaints, lawsuits, and legal settlements, Moultrie Police Department has experienced a 35 percent reduction in citizen complaints since implementing the program, the release said.

“We believe that by listening to our residents, we can learn from them and improve our policies and procedures,” said Frank Lang, who serves as chief emeritus of the Moultrie Police Department.

The trial has produced insights and feedback about officers' behavior that are often not captured using traditional citizen complaint/commendation systems, it was noted.

“We know that the clear majority of our officers are doing a great job and creating goodwill in our community. The Open Policing solution is the first of its kind that has successfully captured this,” said Lang.

Moving forward, the police department plans to continue engaging the community for real-time public feedback.

For more information, contact the Moultrie Police Department at . For more information about Open Policing, please visit .


Violence toward cops skyrocketed in 2016 and whites are mostly responsible

by Christal Hayes

More cops were killed in the line of duty last year than in any year since 2011, leading many, including some in the FBI, to falsely connect the increase in violence with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Earlier this month, the FBI declared that "black identity extremists" are a violent threat to officers, but data released by the Bureau on Monday shows white people are actually much more of a threat to cops.

Sixty-six officers were killed, either by being shot or run down intentionally, in 2016, but out of 59 cop-killing suspects only 15 were black.

Critics slammed the "divisive" narrative of police bias as leading to blame ending up in the wrong place.

"Whether it's 'whatever lives matter,' all lives actually matter," said Jeff O'Dell, Police Chief in Kissimmee, Florida, who lost two cops earlier this year in a shooting. "Officers aren't expendable. I hope we can find a way to mend these divisive issues, which stem from false narratives about officers being more aggressive based on race."

But race is a factor. The Black Lives Matter movement has become a force due to a number of police shootings of unarmed black men. One high-profile shooting last year, when five officers were killed in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter rally in July, which was motivated by hatred of white people and police officers.

But the data suggest such incidents are not the norm. Instead, the FBI report shows isolated killings were the larger problem. And the number of officers killed was drastically higher in southern states that are known for their support for gun rights, such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas, which had the highest number out of any state with 52 officers slain since 2007.

Experts said more police are being killed because of the increase in the number of guns on the streets and heightening distrust with officers. The number of those slain on duty is the highest since 2011 when 72 officers were killed. There have been 509 officers slain since 2007.

The report also found most of those killed were veteran law-enforcement officers, with an average of 13 years of experience. The average age of an officer who was killed was 40, the FBI found.

"These numbers are as shocking as they are unacceptable," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "Our law enforcement deserves the support of the people they serve."

In 2016, more than 57,000 officers were assaulted while working, which is about 157 officers per day.

O'Dell said better community policing and open-mindedness can help stop the carnage.

"There is no chance of influencing someone's behavior without building a relationship," he said. "The violence keeps getting worse in the world, but having a side and not being open to listening is not the way to cure this problem. We have to listen."


From the Department of Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Issues Statement on FBI Statistics Showing Staggering Rise in Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted in The Line of Duty in 2016

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today issued the following statement on the FBI's 2016 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, which show an unacceptable rise in law enforcement officers assaulted and killed in the line of duty:

"Every law enforcement officer goes to work knowing that today might be his or her last. But last year, we saw a staggering 61 percent increase in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty because of a felony, and on average, more than 150 officers were assaulted in the line of duty every single day. These numbers are as shocking as they are unacceptable.

“Our law enforcement deserves the support of the people they serve. Fortunately we have a President who understands this. President Trump ran for office as a law-and-order candidate; now he is governing as a law-and-order President.

“In one of his first Executive Orders to this Department, President Trump directed us to prevent violence against law enforcement officers. He stands with our law enforcement 100 percent—and so does this Department of Justice. That's one more reason why we're focused on the President's goal of reducing violent crime and united with local, state, and federal law enforcement in our shared mission to protect law-abiding people in every community."

According to statistics collected by the FBI, 118 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2016 – this is a 37 percent increase from 2015, when 86 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents.

Additionally, in 2016 there were 66 law enforcement officers killed in line-of-duty incidents as a result of felonious acts – this is a staggering 61 percent increase from 2015, when 41 law enforcement officer were killed in line-of-duty incidents.

Moreover, 57,180 officers were victims of line-of-duty assaults – this is a 14 percent rise from the 50,212 officer that were victims of line-of-duty assaults in 2015.

For the full comprehensive data tables about these incidents and brief narratives describing the fatal attacks and selected assaults resulting in injury, please see the 2016 edition of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report, released today.


From the Department of Homeland Security

Staying Safe in a "Smart" World

Is your refrigerator putting your home network at risk? We live in a world of “smart” objects, where things like thermostats, coffee pots, and refrigerators are connected to the internet. We carry around smart devices like phones, and we even wear them in the form of fitness trackers and medical devices. This complicated internet ecosystem offers us tremendous benefits, but it also poses unique risks.

As technology continues to evolve and advance through all aspects of our lives, it is critical to use internet-connected devices in safe and secure ways. These devices pose various privacy and security challenges because they collect personal information about the user which could potentially be accessed by others. The user is responsible for understanding what information these devices collect and how it is being shared.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), and DHS is joining with its partners across the country to highlight the importance of cybersecurity to individuals of all ages and all segments of the community.

Follow the simple tips below to secure any object or device that connects to the internet and sends or receives data automatically:

•  Read privacy policies and know what information an app or device will collect to determine if you really want to share such information.

•  Keep any device that connects to the Internet free from viruses and malware by updating the software regularly.

•  Understand privacy settings to control how much information a device or app will display publicly about you.

•  Set strong passwords, and change them regularly.

DHS is doing its part to make the internet safer for everyone by participating in NCSAM. Learn more about NCSAM 2017 and how you can be cyber safe at .

To receive cybersecurity tips year round, visit and become a Friend of the Stop.Think.Connect.Campaign.


From the FBI

Virtual Kidnapping

A New Twist on a Frightening Scam

Law enforcement agencies have been aware of virtual kidnapping fraud for at least two decades, but a recent FBI case illustrates how this frightening scam—once limited to Mexico and Southwest border states—has evolved so that U.S. residents anywhere could be potential victims.

Although virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme—one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death. Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

Between 2013 and 2015, investigators in the FBI's Los Angeles Division were tracking virtual kidnapping calls from Mexico—almost all of these schemes originate from within Mexican prisons. The calls targeted specific individuals who were Spanish speakers. A majority of the victims were from the Los Angeles and Houston areas.

“In 2015, the calls started coming in English,” said FBI Los Angeles Special Agent Erik Arbuthnot, “and something else happened: The criminals were no longer targeting specific individuals, such as doctors or just Spanish speakers. Now they were choosing various cities and cold-calling hundreds of numbers until innocent people fell for the scheme.”

This was significant, Arbuthnot said, because the new tactic vastly increased the potential number of victims. In the case he was investigating, which became known as Operation Hotel Tango, more than 80 victims were identified in California, Minnesota, Idaho, and Texas. Collective losses were more than $87,000.

The incarcerated fraudsters—who typically bribe guards to acquire cell phones—would choose an affluent area such as Beverly Hills, California. They would search the Internet to learn the correct area code and telephone dialing prefix. Then, with nothing but time on their hands, they would start dialing numbers in sequence, trolling for victims.

When an unsuspecting person answered the phone, they would hear a female screaming, “Help me!” The screamer's voice was likely a recording. Instinctively, the victim might blurt out his or her child's name: “Mary, are you okay?” And then a man's voice would say something like, “We have Mary. She's in a truck. We are holding her hostage. You need to pay a ransom and you need to do it now or we are going to cut off her fingers.”

Most of the time, Arbuthnot said, “the intended victims quickly learned that ‘Mary' was at home or at school, or they sensed the scam and hung up. This fraud only worked when people picked up the phone, they had a daughter, and she was not home,” he explained. “But if you are making hundreds of calls, the crime will eventually work.”

The scammers attempt to keep victims on the phone so they can't verify their loved ones' whereabouts or contact law enforcement. The callers are always in a hurry, and the ransom demand is usually a wire payment to Mexico of $2,000 or less, because there are legal restrictions for wiring larger amounts across the border.

Although victims were typically instructed to wire ransom payments, two individuals in Houston were coerced into paying larger amounts—totaling approximately $28,000—that could not be wired. The victims were directed to make money drops, and they believed they were being watched as they were directed to the assigned location. When the drops were made—in specified trash cans—a Houston woman, 34-year-old Yanette Rodriguez Acosta, was waiting to pick up the ransom money. After taking her portion of the payment, Acosta wired the rest in small amounts to several individuals in Mexico to transfer to the Mexican prisoner believed to be running the virtual kidnapping scheme.

Acosta was taken into custody for her involvement in the scam, and in July 2017, a federal grand jury in Houston returned a 10-count indictment against her. Among the charges were wire fraud and money laundering.

Arbuthnot noted that the Mexican prisoners who carry out virtual kidnappings use the ransom money to pay bribes and to make their lives behind bars easier. “And sometimes they use the money to buy their way out of jail. That's the ultimate goal.”

He added that virtual kidnapping cases are difficult to investigate and prosecute because almost all of the subjects are in Mexico, and the money is wired out of the country and can be difficult to trace. The charges against Acosta represent the first federal indictment in a virtual kidnapping case. In addition, many victims do not report the crime, either because they are embarrassed, afraid, or because they don't consider the financial loss to be significant.

Regardless, Arbuthnot said, “victims of virtual kidnapping scams are traumatized by these events, because at the time, they believe that a loved one has been kidnapped and is in real danger.”

Don't Become a Victim

The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved. To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible indicators:

•  Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.

•  Calls do not come from the supposed victim's phone.

•  Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.

•  Calls include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer to Mexico; ransom amount demands may drop quickly.

If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the following should be considered:

•  In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.

•  If you do engage the caller, don't call out your loved one's name.

•  Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”

•  Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.

•  Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak.

•  Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.

•  To buy time, repeat the caller's request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.

•  Don't agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.

If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, contact your nearest FBI office or local law enforcement immediately. Tips to the FBI can also be submitted online at All tipsters may remain anonymous


FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

by John Solomon and Alison Spann

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin's atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin's commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America's uranium supply.

When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton's spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she “never intervened ... on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”

In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom's Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.

The Obama administration's decision to approve Rosatom's purchase of Uranium One has been a source of political controversy since 2015.

That's when conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee's decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin's nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.

Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didn't comment.

Mikerin was a director of Rosatom's Tenex in Moscow since the early 2000s, where he oversaw Rosatom's nuclear collaboration with the United States under the Megatons to Megwatts program and its commercial uranium sales to other countries. In 2010, Mikerin was dispatched to the U.S. on a work visa approved by the Obama administration to open Rosatom's new American arm called Tenam.

Between 2009 and January 2012, Mikerin “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire confederate and agree with other persons … to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of an article and commodity (enriched uranium) in commerce by extortion,” a November 2014 indictment stated.

His illegal conduct was captured with the help of a confidential witness, an American businessman, who began making kickback payments at Mikerin's direction and with the permission of the FBI. The first kickback payment recorded by the FBI through its informant was dated Nov. 27, 2009, the records show.

In evidentiary affidavits signed in 2014 and 2015 , an Energy Department agent assigned to assist the FBI in the case testified that Mikerin supervised a “racketeering scheme” that involved extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks that were both directed by and provided benefit to more senior officials back in Russia.

“As part of the scheme, Mikerin, with the consent of higher level officials at TENEX and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities) would offer no-bid contracts to US businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to some offshore banks accounts,” Agent David Gadren testified.

“Mikerin apparently then shared the proceeds with other co-conspirators associated with TENEX in Russia and elsewhere,” the agent added.

The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump's deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.

Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife's Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI. The probe is not focused on McAuliffe's conduct but rather on whether McCabe's attendance violated the Hatch Act or other FBI conflict rules.

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year.

Its many twist and turns aside, the FBI nuclear industry case proved a gold mine, in part because it uncovered a new Russian money laundering apparatus that routed bribe and kickback payments through financial instruments in Cyprus, Latvia and Seychelles. A Russian financier in New Jersey was among those arrested for the money laundering, court records show.

The case also exposed a serious national security breach: Mikerin had given a contract to an American trucking firm called Transport Logistics International that held the sensitive job of transporting Russia's uranium around the United States in return for more than $2 million in kickbacks from some of its executives, court records show.

One of Mikerin's former employees told the FBI that Tenex officials in Russia specifically directed the scheme to “allow for padded pricing to include kickbacks,” agents testified in one court filing.

Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency's cap.

But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.

The only public statement occurred a year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals .

By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States's approval.

The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia's nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton's foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.

On Dec. 15, 2015, the Justice Department put out a release stating that Mikerin, “a former Russian official residing in Maryland was sentenced today to 48 months in prison” and ordered to forfeit more than $2.1 million.

Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin's case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.

Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during the time the FBI probe was being conducted, told The Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case even though many fellow lawmakers had serious concerns about the Obama administration's approval of the Uranium One deal.

“Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them,” he said. “The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking.”



'Know Your Rights' event provides law enforcement resources to citizens

by Alissa Smith

Why did you pull me over?

What is your name, officer?

What department do you work for?

Am I free to leave?

These are just four of the questions the Lynchburg Police Department taught citizens to ask during a traffic stop Tuesday night at a “Know Your Rights” event, hosted in partnership with the Lynchburg Branch of the NAACP and the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation department.

Almost 30 people filled the theater at the Miller Center on Grove Street, where officers and volunteers acted out a variety of scenarios and gave a few presentations on how to interact with the police.

“The educational aspect is huge,” said Sgt. J. Rater, leader of the Community Action Team, a group of LPD officers dedicated to reaching out to the community. “What our policies are and why we do certain things? A lot of it is for safety purposes — again, we want to go home at night — but a lot of it is department policy.

“So if we don't explain to the citizens and the community why we do it, then they may get the interpretation that it's to [shine a] bad light [on] them.”

There was no incident that prompted the event, police and organizers said.

Gerald Cheatham, president of the Lynchburg Branch of the NAACP, said the event's need was discovered through increased communication between police and community leaders.

He said its purpose could be summed up in three words: information, education and awareness.

“I think the philosophy of community policing, that's really what we're striving for,” he said. “Not just to have it as [a] buzzword of community policing, but to make it real for the community, real for the people.”

Lynchburg Police Officer L. Rose gave a 15-minute presentation on various reasons officers may initiate a traffic stop, such as traffic violations or Be On The Look-outs (BOLs), and how citizens should handle being pulled over.

It could be summarized as “reasonable suspicion,” Rose said.

“Say your inspection sticker has faded and it kind of looks pink; well, that looks like a rejection sticker,” he said. “So would it be reasonable to believe that you got a rejection sticker and I pull your car over?”

He also gave insight on when citizens are allowed to leave interactions with police and when they're not.

For example, if a police officer has their lights or siren on when they pull someone over, that means that person is “detained” and cannot leave until the officer says they can, Rose said.

However, if an officer is just chatting with a citizen, which is called a “consensual encounter,” the citizen can refuse to speak to the officer and leave whenever they want, he said.

But no matter what, don't argue with officers while in unsafe situations, such as on the side of the road, Rose said.

“You're not safe; the officer isn't safe,” he said. “That's what court is for.”

But citizens can and should calmly state their side of events, Rose said.

Officer A. Lucy, a member of LPD's Traffic Safety Unit, echoed that idea in his presentation about car crashes, in which he detailed how police respond to traffic incidents such as wrecks and hit-and-runs.

LPD's Community Action Team helped to act out the scenarios, with member Officer L. Hughes taking the lead role.

Hughes showed how police officers have to approach vehicles, including how they must press down on trunks prior to reaching the driver's window in order to ensure no one will leap from the trunk in a type of surprise attack.

Walking backward to his car, represented by a slightly turned folding chair, he showed how officers must not turn their backs on anyone, or else things could take an immediate turn for the worse.

Traffic stops and domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls for officers, Rose said.

In addition, Rater gave a presentation on how to file complaints with the department for officer misconduct.

It's important officers are held responsible for their actions, Rater said.

And part of holding police officers responsible is being able to report them when necessary, he said.

That gives citizens a voice in how their communities are policed, which is something Cheatham said is necessary.

“I think that's really what we're trying to get at,” he said.

Rater said the event was to educate the public.

“I think [this] will help the community communicate with us … they should be actively involved in [this], because we work for the city.

“We work for the community.”

The presentation and event is expected to be held again, possibly on a Saturday so more school-aged children can attend, Cheatham said.

Citizens can file complaints by calling the department's Professional Standards Division at (434) 455-6052 or the Field Operations Bureau at (434-455-6061).


New Mexico

Las Vegas shooting survivor starts fund for first responders

After returning home, Chad was eager to find a way to give back to the first responders

by Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — A former Farmington resident who survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, Nev. has started a fund to give gift baskets to the first responders who responded to the shooting.

Chad Robertson, 38, with the help of others has started the Las Vegas First Responder Thank You Fund with the goal of raising $100,000 to make and deliver 1,000 gift baskets to first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and nurses.

It's important for Robertson to recognize the hard work and danger the first responders faced as they ran into the festival grounds amid the gunshots fired by Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 people on Oct 1.

"Those guys are victims as well," Robertson said in a phone interview. "They'll have a hard time going through things."

Chad is the son of former Farmington Deputy Fire Chief Phil Robertson, who worked for the Farmington Fire Department for 20 years.

He graduated from Farmington High School and is the vice president of employee benefits at Moody Insurance Agency in Denver, Colo.

Chad and his wife, Jennifer Robertson, reside in Northglenn, Colo.

It was the second year for Chad and Jennifer to attend the three-day country music festival at the Las Vegas Village.

The couple was on the southwest corner of the property near the Mandalay Bay Resort, about 60 to 70 feet from the stage where Jason Aldean was performing.

Jennifer said in an email the couple got married at the Mandalay Bay Resort on March 21, 2005.

Chad initially thought he heard fireworks but he looked up in the sky and didn't see fireworks exploding in the sky.

He then saw Aldean run off-stage.

"I knew right then something was wrong," Chad Robertson said.

Chad grabbed Jennifer's hand and they started running away from the stage.

The couple spent a couple of seconds pushing against the crowd when everyone started running as another wave of gunfire started.

"We just saw people getting shot," Chad Robertson said. "As we were running, we saw people get hit."

Scared the gunfire might be from a gunman on the festival grounds, the couple briefly laid on the ground and pretended to be dead.

A short period of time passed before they got up and started running again towards the northern portion of the festival grounds, across the street from the Tropicana Las Vegas.

The couple wedged their bodies between a hot dog cart and a generator near a mesh fence to protect themselves from the gunfire.

After hiding in that spot, the Robertsons got up and ran toward the festival entrance.

Chad and Jennifer exited the festival grounds, crossed the street and entered the Tropicana as they heard the sound of bullets ricocheting off the street.

The Robertsons hid in parts of the Tropicana, including a kitchen and women's locker room, before being allowed to exit through a back entrance.

Shortly after leaving the Tropicana and walking near the MGM Grand, the couple witnessed a group of people flee the MGM Grand after hearing a report of a gunman possibly at the hotel and casino.

It prompted the Robertsons to return to the Tropicana and hide again.

Members of the SWAT team found the couple hiding along with others and they were escorted to the hotel's convention space.

It was about 4 a.m. on Oct. 2 when people were allowed to leave after a lockdown was removed, Chad said.

The Robertsons returned to their hotel rooms at the Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club resort, about 5 or 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 2.

After taking a shower, the couple started calling family members to tell them they were safe.

Brian Robertson, Chad's brother and owner of Speedin' Motorsports in Farmington, got a call about 10:30 or 11 a.m. on Oct. 2 from Chad.

"It was all tears," Brian Robertson said about talking to Chad following the shooting.

After returning home, Chad was eager to find a way to give back to the first responders.

He struggled to establish a fund with a bank and discovered the amount of time and effort it takes to form a nonprofit 501c3 organization.

The project came together after Chad met Melody Mesmer, a co-founder of the Foundation 1023 nonprofit, on Oct. 6 at an event in Arvada, Colo.

The organization provides mental health and wellness services for first-responders.

Foundation 1023 is helping the fund by handling the financial operations. A website for donations was launched on Monday.

Mesmer said it's been amazing to help out the fund and that it provides an opportunity for Foundation 1023 to provide information on the services it provides.

"(First responders) go into places people are running away from," Mesmer said.

The fund has raised $9,288 as of Friday afternoon.

Chad has had talks with several companies to provide items including books and the materials to make the baskets and shipping for the baskets. He also has volunteers ready to assemble the gift baskets.

He sees the baskets as an inspiration to help first responders get back to living their lives.

You can donate to the fund: Las Vegas First Responder Thank You Fund



Commission approves yearlong test of UAS by LAPD

The LAPD has become the largest agency in the nation to try using the devices

by Kate Mather

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday approved a yearlong test of drones by the LAPD, allowing the police department to become the largest in the nation to try using the controversial devices.

The 3-1 vote was met by jeers from dozens of people who crowded the Police Commission's meeting room, many of whom repeatedly urged the civilian oversight panel to reject the proposal.

“Shame on you!” some shouted. “Shame on you!”

That frustration spilled outside the Los Angeles Police Department's downtown headquarters as protesters settled in the middle of First and Main streets, chanting and holding signs as they denounced the decision. Officers ultimately led four people away in handcuffs.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates and police critics, for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of unwarranted surveillance or fears of weaponized drones patrolling the skies.

Advocates say the drones could help protect officers and others by using nonhuman eyes to collect crucial information during high-risk situations. Skeptics worry that use of the devices will steadily expand and include inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance. The LAPD's harshest critics wanted the drone program scrapped before it even takes off.

LAPD brass have promised careful restrictions on their drones — or a “small Unmanned Aerial System,” in police speak. The Police Commission approved a set of rules limiting their use to a handful of tactical situations, searches or natural disasters. Each drone flight will be approved by a high-ranking officer on a case-by-case basis. Another rule is listed in bold: LAPD drones won't be outfitted with any weapons, lethal or nonlethal.

But many residents have said they're still wary.

Dozens of people spoke out against LAPD drones during four community meetings held in late August. When the LAPD solicited written feedback, only 97 of the 1,675 emails it received had encouraged the department to move forward with the program, according to an assistant chief.

Some groups had amplified their opposition in the days leading up to the Police Commission's vote. The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition — which protested the LAPD's first look at drones in 2014 and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's use of them now — sent commissioners a letter Monday demanding that they vote down the drones.

“The people of Los Angeles have spoken,” the letter read. “Now the responsibility to uphold the peoples' trust lies with you, the civilian Board of Police Commissioners.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said it too opposes the use of drones by the LAPD, writing in its own letter to the commission that the proposed program “poses serious risks to the privacy and civil rights of Los Angeles residents.”

Melanie Ochoa, a staff attorney at the ACLU, said concern over “mission creep” — the idea that police will steadily, quietly expand use of the devices — is one of the most significant concerns. Although the LAPD's proposed policy outlines circumstances when drones could be flown, she said, “there's nothing that stops this list from being expanded.”

“Beyond just what's in the policy today, it's also a question of what's in the policy tomorrow,” she said.

LAPD brass have acknowledged the controversy surrounding the devices and have tried to ease residents' fears at public forums and in a podcast released by the department last week. In that podcast, Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala said the LAPD tried to tailor the proposed rules to address specific concerns — “to help alleviate some of the anxiety.”

“But that's why this is a pilot program,” she continued. “Because we want people to take a look at how we are using this technology and be able to weigh in.”

The debate over whether the LAPD should use drones began in 2014, when the department received two Draganflyer X6 drones from police in Seattle — drones the Washington agency unloaded after heavy criticism from the public.

The outcry continued in L.A., and the drones were grounded before they were ever flown. The devices were ultimately locked away and destroyed this year — just before the LAPD went public with its current proposal.

This time, department officials have tried to assuage some of the concern by promising public oversight throughout the pilot program. Under the new rules, any request to fly a drone — whether its use is approved or not — will be documented and reviewed by high-ranking officers and two police commissioners. The full five-person Police Commission will also receive quarterly reports that will be made public.

At the end of the yearlong pilot program, the panel would review use of the drones and determine whether to continue the program.



Did LA's violent crime drop by nearly half during Villaraigosa's time as mayor?

by Chris Nichols

During his time as mayor of Los Angeles and now in his campaign for California governor, Antonio Villaraigosa has repeatedly highlighted the city's drop in violent crime.

Villaraigosa, one of the top Democrats vying to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, spoke in detail in a late July interview on MSNBC about LA's reduction in violent crime and the steps he claims led to that result.

"In the eight years that I was mayor, (there was a) nearly 50 percent drop in violent crime, gang crime — crime went down because we grew our police department, we focused on constitutional community policing, we did some of the most innovative prevention, intervention, job re-entry programs in the nation."

He made a similar claim on Capital Public Radio on October 4, 2017.

"When I was mayor of Los Angeles … we reduced our violent crime rate by 49 percent."

We wanted to know whether Villaraigosa's claim about this big drop in violent crime stood up to the facts. We also wanted to know whether there was evidence supporting his explanation that growing the police force and focusing on community policing really led to the decline.

We set out on a fact check.

Our research

To support the claim, Villaraigosa's campaign pointed us to crime statistics and past news articles discussing the former mayor's crime initiatives.

We started by reviewing FBI crime data. Here's what we found:

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics , the LAPD reported the violent crime rate per 100,000 people declined from 820.6 in 2005 -- the year Villaraigosa took office -- to 426 in 2013, the year he left office.

That represents a 48 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, homicide, rape, robbery and assaults.

That matches with his claim of a "nearly 50 percent drop in violent crime" made on MSNBC in late July. It also tracks with his more recent statement on Capital Public Radio.

In addition to looking at the violent crime rate, we also reviewed the raw number of reported violent crimes over Villaraigosa's tenure. That total was nearly cut in half from 31,767 in 2005 to 16,524 in 2013, LAPD statistics show .

Beyond the numbers

Charis Kurbin , a professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine, reviewed Villaraigosa's claim at our request and told us "the numbers do check out."

Kurbin added, however, that the more difficult challenge is determining how much of an impact Villaraigosa's initiatives had on crime.

"It's noteworthy that violent crime was going down well before 2005," Kurbin said. "So there's some question as to whether these are continuing trends or there's something new about the time period he went into office."

For some perspective, violent crimes in LA dropped nearly 50 percent in the decade before Villaraigosa was elected mayor. They totaled nearly 73,000 in 1992 and had decreased to less than 38,000 by 2002.

Who gets credit?

Robert Stern, former president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said Villaraigosa should get some credit for his successful push to hire hundreds of new LAPD officers.

But, Stern said, "The main credit has to go to the police chief Bill Bratton. And also the fact that what we saw across the country was a reduction in crime in almost all the major cities. So, it was a trend that LA participated in. But I think the mayor can claim some credit at least for increasing the police force."

Violent crime rates fell by 50 percent nationwide from the early 1990s through 2015, according to an analysis of data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

Looking at another large city, New York, during the specific period of Villaraigosa's tenure, we found only a 7 percent decline in the violent crime rate. But looking at a broader period, from 1995 through 2013, New York saw a nearly 60 percent decline.

Breaking from the long-term trend, California and the nation saw an increase in violent crime rates in 2016 and 2015, according to state and national figures.

Criminologists credit factors from the economy to demographic changes to incarceration rates for driving crime trends nationally and in California. As mayor, Villaraigosa had limited influence over many of these factors.

Kurbin said Villaraigosa's expansion of the police force, by itself, was probably not the main driving force behind the crime reduction. Instead, she cited the strategy executed by the police as a more important element.

The LAPD's focus on community policing and crime prevention and intervention during Villaraigosa's tenure likely helped reduce crime, Kurbin said.

Researchers have found those police strategies are likely to reduce crime, the professor added, though their impact is limited.

Praise from LAPD chief

Villaraigosa's campaign additionally pointed to praise from current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in a 2013 Los Angeles Daily News article. Beck was paraphrased in the article as saying the violent crime drop during Villaraigosa's tenure was "unprecedented."

Beck "attributed it largely to the outgoing mayor's steadfast commitment — even during the Great Recession — to expand the LAPD during his tenure," the article said.

Beck said the mayor's public safety strategy was effective, the article continued, "because it also included diverting at-risk youth from gangs; recruiting gang members to prevent conflicts between rival gangs from flaring up; and handing out grocery store gift cards in exchange for guns."

LAPD statistics on gang crime during Villaraigosa's tenure were not immediately available. In his statement on MSNBC, the former mayor specifically cited gang crime as one category of violent crime that had dropped.

News articles generally back up this statement. An investigation by VICE News in 2015 , however, sheds light on a more nuanced change in LA gang crime in recent years.

It found that while "gang crime is down in the city, many experts cautioned that gangs haven't disappeared."

"Gang members and gangs altogether have gone underground, pure and simple," Jorja Leap, a UCLA professor who researches gangs and criminal justice, told VICE News. She noted that social media has allowed gang members to retreat indoors, and that they have become more involved in lucrative illicit activities such as human trafficking. "They have not disappeared but become more knowledgeable."

Our ruling

Villaraigosa's claim about a nearly 50 percent drop in violent crime during his time as LA mayor is backed up by LAPD crime statistics.

His explanation for why this drop in crime took place is more difficult to evaluate.

Experts we spoke with noted that violent crime had been falling well before Villaraigosa took office. They also said that key factors that drive crime trends, such as the economy, changing demographics and incarceration rates, are largely out of the control of a mayor.

Villaraigosa's statement does not include this context.

Still, the mayor's successful push to hire hundreds of new LAPD officers and focus on community policing is generally accepted as having, at the very least, some impact on reducing crime in the city.

Additionally, the current LAPD chief has praised Villaraigosa's strategies for reducing gang violence, saying they helped reduce violent crime.

We rate Villaraigosa's claim Mostly True.



New Chicago cops get their assignments, but neighborhood hopes tempered

by Craig Wall

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Eighty two new Chicago police officers got their assignments Monday as the first class of 2017 to hit the streets after completing their training.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the impact new officer training is having in reducing shootings in murders. Shootings in Englewood are down more than 40 percent from 2016, and the mayor and police brass believe part of the reason is the greater attention being placed on community policing. But in the neighborhood, hope for change is a bit more tempered.

"I would hope to see people who are rooted in the community be recruited," said Asiaha Butler, present of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE).

In the heart of Englewood, Butler started RAGE to try to make a difference. She hopes Chicago police will succeed in doing their part by how they recruit and train their officers.

"If these officers are not culturally sensitive and do not treat citizens like the upstanding citizens that they are, it's just going to be another cycle of distrust among the force and the citizens," she said.

Monday at the 7th District police headquarters, Mayor Emanuel joined police in announcing 82 new officers are hitting the streets, and another 100 recruits will be joining the force every month through the end of 2018.

"There's nothing as powerful as partnership between the police officers and the residents that make up that particular area. When that partnership is working, everything's gonna work on public safety," Emanuel said.

The mayor pointed to the dramatic reduction in shootings this year, which he attributed to technology and police-community engagement.

"Here in Englewood, in the 7th District, down 43 percent in shootings. I'd like to put a little finer detail on that for you. The last eight days, not a single shooting in this district," he said.

But crime and blight and economic hardships remain facts of life in Englewood, presenting a challenge to the officers who patrol those streets. Butler has advice for them.

"Really understand community engagement, and understand that most of us in the community just want a safe and walkable community and we're not all criminals," she said.

Which is what the department has made a core policy.

"It's not an office, community policing, it's a philosophy, and we want every recruit that comes out to be a community policing officer, to be a partner with the community and the citizens," said First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro.

The department's new use of force policy went into effect Monday. It focuses on de-escalation and what the department calls the "sanctity of life" principle.

Monday is also the deadline for applicants to apply to be a Chicago police officer. So far nearly 10,000 have done so, and 77 percent of them are minorities.



Wis. city: Officers should exhaust all options before using gun

"When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters"

MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Police Department has updated its guide on the use of deadly force, instructing officers to exhaust other options before using a gun in a change lauded by both a police union official and an attorney who has sued the city over the issue.

“When it comes to the rules our police officers are trained to follow, language matters,” said Andrea Farrell, a Madison attorney who earlier this year won a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family of a woman killed by Madison police.

The police department was ordered by the City Council in May to change its standard operating procedures for how officers use deadly force, as well as one for how they use non-deadly force and to include language emphasizing an officer's duty to intercede, de-escalate and preserve life. The changes were recommended by a special committee that studied police policy and practices.

Assistant Police Chief Vic Wahl said the language ordered by the council has already been emphasized in other standard operating procedures in the department as well as in training manuals and the department's list of core values. He said the new language puts the department's policies on use of force in harmony with bigger agencies as well as the International Association of Police Chiefs and the Police Executive Research Forum.

“In terms of an officer's decision-making, I don't think (the new policy) changes it,” Wahl said. “I think it just emphasizes that it's an important part of our core values and how we do business.”

‘Preservation of all human life'

But Farrell said the changes offer more clarity, which she hoped would help officers make the right decisions in crisis situations. Farrell represented the family of Paul Heenan, which received a $2.3 million settlement from the city after Heenan was fatally shot by a Madison police officer in 2012. She also represented the family of Ashley DiPiazza, which was awarded $7 million by a jury in federal court this year after the 27-year-old woman was fatally shot by two Madison police officers in her apartment in 2014.

Farrell noted that there are key, subtle differences between the old policy, which told officers they had “a legal and moral obligation to use force wisely and judiciously,” and the new policy, which tells officers their primary duty is the “protection and preservation of all human life — including the lives of individuals being taken into custody.”

“These may be two sides of the same coin, but I think the new policy does a better job of embodying what we want from our officers,” Farrell said. “Can you imagine squad cars with ‘using force judiciously' painted on the side instead of ‘protect and serve'? The bottom line is that all officers who believe it is their job to protect human life will, de facto, use force judiciously.”

Officers who have used deadly force in the line of duty often say that their training takes over in those situations, according to Jim Palmer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. “That's one of the most common statements that I hear. So I think the training and policies that reinforce their obligations as officers do have a benefit,” he said.

The facts of each case ultimately dictate the officer's reaction, according to Palmer. “But these are critically important concepts and themes to reinforce in every officer,” he said. “The public benefit is to diminish the confusion that exists.”

Palmer said there have been 23 officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin so far in 2017, 20 of which were fatal. While the number of shootings is consistent with the previous three years, the number of fatalities is three more than 2016 and 10 more than 2015, he said. Most notably, Palmer said, the WPPA data show that 80 percent of the officer-involved shootings this year involved confrontations with individuals who had a firearm. That is 27 percentage points higher than in 2016 and 30 points higher than 2015.

“It's not just urban areas anymore, either,” Palmer said. “It reinforces the need for every agency to have policies (for using deadly force) that closely reflect what the state mandates.”

Exhausting options

Farrell said the new policy requiring an officer to believe that “all other options have been exhausted or would be ineffective” before using a gun is a higher standard than the previous instruction that deadly force would not be used “unless a lesser degree of force would be insufficient.”

“This new text encourages officers to actually exhaust other options, rather than just hypothesizing that they would be ineffective,” she said.

Another change in the new procedure for deadly force removes language that says, “the purpose of deadly force is to stop the threat.” Farrell called that a “welcome change.”

“This phrase has been misconstrued by some to mean that the purpose of deadly force is to kill a threatening person,” she said. “I think most people would agree that killing a threatening person is a necessary evil rather than the end goal, and that deadly force should only be used when necessary in true self-defense, or to save the life of another, and the new policy better embodies this notion.”

Farrell also gave Madison police high marks for its new policy on use of non-deadly force, since it emphasizes a layered tactical response that divides responsibilities among officers at emergency scenes and avoids what she called “a gun-or-nothing approach.”

“It makes little sense for six officers to respond to a scene, yet all be doing the same thing — shouting orders and pointing guns,” she said. “This model gives officers more tools and more options on any given scene, so they can actually use a lower amount of force when appropriate — something that would be unavailable if every officer was holding a gun. Many times, under this model, non-threatening verbal de-escalation is all that will be needed.”

Wahl said the language spells out how less-lethal weapons should be used to prevent a situation from escalating to the point that lethal force is needed. “If someone has a knife and they are 20 feet away from you, you deploy less-lethal,” he said. “If they are on top of you and trying to stab you, that is definitely a deadly force threat and that is not the time to try a bean bag (gun).”

Also, if officers see someone with a gun but it's down to the side, that might be a good time to use less-lethal means to stop the person. “Given the right circumstances, (less-lethal means) can be appropriate and a potential lifesaver,” Wahl said.Madison police also created new standard operating procedures for backup, responding to persons with an altered state of mind and to Mendota Mental Health Institute, and made changes to policies for major case investigations and restricted duty, among others.



Ill. cop buys gym membership for teen who kept sneaking in

A teen had been repeatedly warned about sneaking onto the gym basketball court, but one cop came up with an alternative to arresting him

by Mike Isaacs

SKOKIE, Ill. — A Chicago teen had been repeatedly warned about sneaking onto the basketball court at a Skokie fitness facility, but one police officer came up with an alternative to arresting him for criminal trespassing.

In late August, X-Sport Fitness workers made good on a promise that police would be called in if they found the boy on the basketball court again.

"We had no choice but to contact police," said X-Sport Operations Manager Justin Pritchett.

He said only a day after being warned, the boy – who lives just over the Skokie border in Chicago – tried to sneak in yet again.

Pritchett said the teenager — about age 15 — would repeatedly walk past the front desk and onto the court. At one point, he said, the boy hid in a bathroom stall to try to elude fitness center employees so he could play hoops with friends.

"He had had a membership, but his mother could not afford to pay for it anymore and it expired," Pritchett said. "All he wanted to do was play basketball."

Skokie police Officer Mario Valenti responded to the call for police that August day. What happened next surprised everyone at X-Sport, Pritchett said.

Valenti offered to pay $150 out of his own pocket, asking fitness center workers how much membership time that would buy for the boy.

The answer was three to four months, and Pritchett called the corporate office to report the situation, he said.

According to Pritchett, corporate was so taken with what the officer was doing that it made its own offer: The $150 would go toward a two-year membership with a total value of $718 and X-Sport Fitness would pick up the rest of the cost.

"We all were flabbergasted here," Pritchett said. "I know X-Sport takes care of our members so after we ran a background check and found out he had had no other trouble, we went ahead."

Valenti and Pritchett said they later learned that the boy, who attends a Chicago school, was an NBA hopeful, a skilled player who had received national attention for his on-court accomplishments.

Valenti said it's unusual for him to dip into his own pocket in cases, but police officers perform good deeds every day without the public necessarily knowing about them.

"At the end of the day, it's not about gratitude," Valenti said. "Most of us took this job to help people, not to hurt them. The job can be negative. For the most part, the job is dealing with good people having a very bad day so you're not seeing the best side of people."

Valenti said the teenager was especially appreciative after he initially didn't have a positive view of police. This made the teenager rethink his attitude about police in general, which was another positive about how the officer addressed the situation, the police officer said.

"It seems like all that's represented (in the news) with police is the bad stuff, and it's a shame, because when I took this job 23 years ago, I didn't think everyone was going to hate you, which is sometimes the feeling you get as a police officer," Valenti said.

Valenti said that during more than two decades on the Skokie force, he always remembers police trying to help people in need.

Earlier in his career, he said, a rabbi's mini van was parked on the wrong side of the street during a snowstorm. It had to be moved to the other side of the street for plowing or the driver would be subjected to a $35 ticket, he said.

Instead, Valenti said he asked for the vehicle's keys, scraped about an inch of ice off the vehicle and moved it to the other side of the street.

"Nobody makes a big deal out of that, but that stuff happens all the time with police officers," he said. "That's not just me. That's all of us."

In the case of the teenage basketball player, Valenti said there were many reasons to do a nice thing for the boy.

"I'd rather have him playing ball than being on the street and possibly getting into trouble," he said.

X-Sport's offer to add to his own generosity is an example that "doing a good thing can be contagious," Valenti said. "I see that all the time."

A spokesman for the Skokie Police Department said it's important that the public sees all of what police do.

"The good stories are not out there," said Officer Eric Swaback. "People don't always know about them. Police do good things all the time but, unfortunately, people have no way to hear about them."



Florida child porn probe uncovers weapons stash, sheriff says

by Ray Sanchez

The locked closet in Randall Drake's home in Dunedin, Florida, did not yield any child pornography that detectives suspected was hidden there, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

Instead, they came upon an arsenal that included homemade explosive devices, 10 rifles, eight handguns, two shotguns, more than 2,300 rounds of ammunition, tactical jackets, a homemade silencer, assorted knives, a crossbow and gunpowder, Gualtieri told reporters Thursday.

There were aerial photographs of an elementary and middle school as well as a water treatment plant in Hillsborough County, according to the sheriff. There also were books and notes on making explosives, and a handwritten note that ended, "I shall have my bloody revenge, and then the WORLD WILL BURN BURN."

Drake, 24, was arrested and charged Wednesday with two counts of unlawfully making, possessing or attempting to make a destructive device. The child pornography he was suspected of distributing has not been found, said Gualtieri, without elaborating on that investigation. Drake's computers were seized.

On Thursday evening, Drake was released on $20,000 but was held under Florida's Baker Act -- which allows mental health facilities to hold a person for up to 72 hours for evaluation, according to county officials.

"If they release him," Gualtieri said, "there's nothing I can do about it."

Drake's attorney, Summer Goldman, declined to comment Friday.

No criminal history

Before the child porn investigation, the suspect was not known to authorities, Gualtieri said. He had no criminal history.

Drake was home-schooled after the third grade and lived with his parents in Dunedin, a city about 25 miles northwest of Tampa, the sheriff said. He was a former Police Explorer, which introduces young people to careers in law enforcement.

Drake's last known job was at Tampa's Florida Firesarms Academy, a shooting range that offers firearms training, Gualtieri said. He lost that job in 2015, the sheriff said.

"He came into work armed with a gun strapped to his thigh, wearing a flak jacket, and they didn't want him working there anymore after he did that," Gualtieri said.

'It's very troubling'

Drake has not made any statements to investigators, according to the sheriff. His parents told detectives they knew he had guns but not as many as were found in his room closet.

"What's driving this? ... We don't know," Gualtieri said. "He won't talk to us."

Some of the weapons found were improvised. The silencer was fashioned from an oil can, the sheriff said. Two homemade explosive devices were constructed of metal cylindrical cigar tubes with gunpowder and wicks. A third device was made from a plastic tube filled with gunpowder, wrapped in tape, with a fuse attached.

"You've got a kid who is 24 years old," Gualtieri said.

"He's got three bombs, a whole cadre of weapons, 2,300 rounds of ammunition. He's got a note that says everybody's going to burn and you have him with maps and aerial overviews of an elementary school in Hillsborough County, a middle school in Hillsborough County and a water treatment plant. ... It's very troubling."

Drake's girlfriend told investigators that he's "a nice guy and not violent," according to the sheriff.



Demanding change: Has marching in the streets made a difference in community policing?

by Rebecca Lindstrom and Andrianne Haney

ATLANTA -- Protests around police violence have taken many forms the past few years – from a bended knee to marches and rallies.

There is no doubt, our community is talking about police behavior. And as Atlanta finds itself ground zero for those still fighting for change, 11Alive investigator Rebecca Lindstrom raises the question, is it working?

Lindstrom sat down and talked with Calvin, Anthony, and Darius - three men who have had their share of interactions with police.

I've been arrested, probation, everything, I never did it,” Darius said. “I told them a million ‘no's.' That didn't work so I thought... maybe they'd say go home and stay out of trouble, so I told him what they wanted to hear.”

Instead, of home, they sent him to jail. Lindstrom asked these men if they felt the protests the past three years had done anything to change what they saw as aggressive police behavior.

No one said yes.

In fact, some of the men feel it's getting worse.

“I don't trust the police,” Darius said. “I don't even call the police.”

“That was a crazy day,” he recalled.

“What did you want,” Lindstrom asked.

“We wanted a working meeting,” Jackson responded. “We wanted a meeting to get to solutions.”

But he said the meeting never materialized – at least not the way protestors wanted. And the demands have not been met. (Scroll down to the end of the story for more on demands and police response)

“The largest amount of the city budget still goes to police,” Jackson said. “At the root of what we were asking for was a shift in priority. Divesting in incarceration and divesting from hunting down people in their neighborhoods and investing in alternative solutions, job creation, housing that's stable.”

He also stressed the need for meaningful economic and social improvements, pointing to multi million dollar developments that are going up in the city, yet failing to change the lives of the people that live in those areas – at least not for the better.

Not exactly an overnight fix.

But changes have been made. This year, every police officer in the state was required to take de-escalation and community policing classes. Mayor Reed signed legislation allowing for the decriminalization of marijuana possession of less than an ounce and repealed 40 out of date city ordinances.

Atlanta Police also went a step further in its training. Instead of training a specialized team of officers to interact with those who suffer from mental illnesses, APD now spends an entire week training every new recruit.

“We said, ‘We think it's that important,'” Chief Erika Shields told 11Alive in a recent interview. “We want a week long and we want to teach recruits.”

In addition, police departments no long investigate themselves. The GBI now conducts most officer-involved, fatal-shooting investigations. And grand jurors, twice now, have done something almost unheard of: indict a police officer for murder.

State law has also changed the way grand juries hear cases regarding officer involved shootings. Before an officer could be present throughout the District Attorney's presentation and provide their own account at the end, without having to face any questions regarding their version of what happened.

Now the officer can only be present when testifying and must answer questions from grand jurors. The testimony is also transcribed and publicly available if the grand jury decides not to indict.

“I don't know that I would say the protests themselves would have accomplished that,” Shields said. “I think you have to say that it's the video footage that has allowed individuals to see first-hand what's occurred.”

It's that video, from cell phones, surveillance cameras, and, now, body cameras that Chief Shields believes will continue to hold police and the community accountable.

11Alive surveyed metro police departments – 33 now use body cameras, more than half of those departments rolling them out just within the past year.

“You're going to get, in some instances, footage that is troubling, but it allows you as a commander to deal with something immediately,” Shields said.

The Atlanta Citizens Review Board told 11Alive it's watching closely. In the past five years, the board has sustained 15 cases of excessive force. But only once was the officer disciplined. Chief Shields took over last December and said she's working to change that culture.

“I know when I gave an officer suspension days for use of force and I did it out of the box quickly, that deviated from our practice from the past,” she said. “I have to do what is right and I have to do what is best for this organization. And if it costs me popularity points, I can live with that.”

Protestors admit, getting to the real root of the problem isn't a simple fix. That's why they want shifts in funding to focus on social programs and affordable housing to give everyone in the city a fair shot at a good job, equality and a safe place to live.

After two years of planning, Atlanta did launch the state's first pre-arrest diversion program in October. It hopes to help people before they get an arrest on their record, by providing them services to get back on track. The initial pilot program will focus on those who have committed a crime, driven more by homelessness, poverty or mental illness than criminal intent.

Avery Jackson said the changes all “sound” good, but, “If you have to watch the news to hear how the police have changed, then they have not changed,” he said. “When people see us protesting or yelling, or upset, it's because we know kids and families who are directly impacted by our city not getting it right.”

Calvin, Anthony and Darius agree, we need change. They're not sure protests will result in solutions, but the do agree, "I think people need to just love people and stop being so evil.”


ATLisReady: Terminate Atlanta's involvement in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program.

APD: Says it will not end the program. It believes the exchange program helps APD officers learn counter terrorism techniques from other countries and allows them to train other officers how to use community policing to reduce crime.

ATLisReady: Implementation of mandatory bias training audits.

APD: Requires all new recruits to go through bias training. Audits on performance to see if an officer is showing bias are only conducted if a complaint or concern is submitted.

ATLisReady: Require community outreach hours for officers in assigned zones.

APD: Believes officers already focus on community outreach as part of their job duty. Setting a number of hours would miss the point of what their job is all about.

Other requests by groups have been:

•  Release of police body camera footage with 72 hours of an officer involved shooting.

•  Public database of officers with substantiated cases of corruption or misconduct.

•  Stop using private probation firms.

•  Give the Atlanta Citizens Review Board authority to enforce its own rulings through legally binding disciplinary actions.


United Kingdom

London now more dangerous than New York City, crime stats suggest

by Martin Evans

London is now more crime ridden and dangerous than New York City, with rape, robbery and violent offences far higher on this side of the Atlantic.

The latest statistics, published earlier this week, revealed that crime across the UK was up by 13 per cent, with a surge in violence in the capital blamed for much of the increase.

Seizing on the figures, US President, Donald Trump, claimed the rise could be linked to the “spread of radical Islam”, adding that it demonstrated the need to “keep America safe”.

But critics dismissed his comments as “ignorant” and “divisive”, with former Labour leader Ed Miliband calling him an “absolute moron”.

Criminal justice experts insisted rising crime in the UK, and particularly London, was more to do with the way the city was policed and blamed the reduction in neighbourhood patrols across the capital.

While both London and New York have populations of around 8 million, figures suggest you are almost six times more likely to be burgled in the British capital than in the US city, and one and a half times more likely to fall victim to a robbery.

London has almost three times the number of reported rapes and while the murder rate in New York remains higher, the gap is narrowing dramatically.

The change in fortunes of the two global cities has been put down largely to the difference in tactics adopted by the two police forces.

Both Scotland Yard and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) have just over 30,000 officers each and budgets of around £3 billion a year.

But in the mid-1990s spiralling crime rates in New York - sparked by the crack cocaine epidemic - resulted in radical a new approach being adopted by the city's police department.

Under the leadership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and police commissioner, Bill Bratton, the NYPD introduced a zero tolerance approach to low level crime and flooded problem areas with patrols.

The force also put a huge amount of emphasis on community policing in order to build bridges between the police and members of the public.

As a result the murder plummeted from a high in 1990 of over 2,000 to a record low of 335 last year.

That figure is expected to fall even lower this year, and is currently in line to dip below 240.

But the last decade has seen the Metropolitan Police move away from the neighbourhood policing model and low level in favour of pursuing more serious offences.

Last week it emerged that Scotland Yard would not even bother investigating a large number of low level offences as part of a major cost cutting drive.

In addition a huge amount of police resources have been poured into high profile and politically sensitive cases, such as a the flawed VIP child abuse inquiry and the phone hacking inquiry.

At the same time crime rates in London have been creeping up and the latest statistics are likely to increase pressure of Met bosses to reassess their policing priorities.

Last year there were almost 70,000 burglaries in Greater London with more than 43,000 taking place in people's homes.

Robberies have also increased in London dramatically, largely as a result of people having mobile phones stolen.

Rory Geoghegan, head of criminal justice at the Centre for Social Justice, said neighbourhood policing had a wide range of benefits.

He said: “By embedding proactive community policing, the NYPD is helping tackle crime, improving the quality of life and building better relationships with the community.

"It's an approach and argument that London – and the country as a whole – is struggling to maintain never mind bolster, with too many preferring to talk excitedly about investing in crime hubs to hunt online trolls.”

“The latest crime figures paint a depressing picture for London that reinforces the need for the sort of political and policing leadership that enabled the initial turnaround of the NYPD in the 1990s under Bill Bratton and enables the no less seismic shift being seen in New York City under Jimmy O'Neill today.”

David Green of the think tank Civitas, also said there was urgent need to put bobbies back on the beat.

He said: “It has been suggested by academics that bobbies on the beat do not reduce crime, but it is quite clear that a uniformed presence on the streets will act as an effective deterrent.

“The police in this country remain too influenced by the intelligence led investigations focused on serious crime.

“That is exactly the opposite of the model that has proved so effective in New York City over the past 20-years.”


Washington D.C.

Study: Body cams have no effect on police use of force

"We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras," resesarcher Anita Ravishankar said

by PoliceOne Staff

WASHINGTON — Body cameras have no impact on an officers' use of force or citizen complaints, according to a recent study.

NPR reported that the Metropolitan Police Department conducted a study before rolling out a huge camera program amongst their department of around 2,600 officers.

"We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras," Metropolitan Police Department and Lab @ DC researcher Anita Ravishankar said.

"I think we're surprised by the result. I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior," Chief of Police Peter Newsham said. "There was no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all."

Chief Newsham added that the behavior may not have changed because his officers "were doing the right thing in the first place."

Lab @ DC Director David Yokum's group randomly selected officers to wear body cams for the study.

"This is a very methodologically rigorous study. It is very well done. And that's not a small issue, because there have been many studies of body-worn cameras that are not rigorous," Arizona State University body-cam researcher Michael White said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city "invested in one of the most comprehensive deployments of body-worn cameras in the nation to ensure even greater transparency and accountability. As we conclude this comprehensive study, we will recommit ourselves to always evaluating what works — and what does not — to better serve our residents and creating a safer, stronger D.C."


Washington D.C.

Trump plans to release JFK assassination documents despite concerns from federal agencies

by Ian Shapira

President Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy's assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.

Kennedy assassination experts have been speculating for weeks about whether Trump would disclose the documents. The 1992 Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act required that the millions of pages — many of them contained in CIA and FBI documents — be published in 25 years, by Oct. 26. Over the years, the National Archives has released most of the documents, either in full or partially redacted.

[Pressure grows on Trump to release the JFK files]

But one final batch remains and only the president has the authority to extend the papers' secrecy past the October deadline. In his tweet, Trump seemed to strongly imply he was going to release all the remaining documents. But he also hedged, suggesting that if between now and Oct. 26, other government agencies made a strong case not to release the documents, he wouldn't. Also, Trump was not clear about whether he would publish all of the documents in full, or with some of them redacted.

In the days leading up to Trump's tweet, a National Security Council official told The Washington Post that government agencies were urging the president not to release some of the documents. But Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars this week that he personally lobbied Trump to publish all of the documents.

Stone also told Jones that CIA director Mike Pompeo “has been lobbying the president furiously not to release these documents.”

Kennedy assassination experts say they don't think the last batch of papers contains any major bombshells. They do suspect the papers will shed light on the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin, while he was traveling in Mexico City in late September 1963, and courting Cuban and Soviet spies.

Phil Shenon, who wrote a book about the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy's killing, said he was pleased with Trump's decision. But he wonders to what degree the papers will ultimately be released.

“It's great news that the president is focused on this and that he's trying to demonstrate transparency. But the question remains whether he will open the library in full — every word in every document, as the law requires,” Shenon said. “And my understanding is that he won't without infuriating people at the CIA and elsewhere who are determined to keep at least some of the information secret, especially in documents created in the 1990s.”

Jefferson Morley, a former Post reporter who has studied the Kennedy assassination record for years, said the last tranche of material is also intriguing because it contains files on senior CIA officials from the 1960s — officers well aware of Oswald's activities in the days before the assassination.

On Saturday morning, Stone, the Trump confidant, was rejoicing on Twitter.

“Yes! Victory!” he tweeted .



3 killings in 11 days 'terrorizing' Tampa neighborhood, police say

by Julia Jacobo

Police in Florida are searching for whoever is "terrorizing" a Tampa neighborhood after three people were shot and killed in the same vicinity in less than two weeks.

The latest slaying occurred Thursday night when Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old man with autism , was killed in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood while on his way home from work, according to the Tampa Police Department .

Officers were patrolling the neighborhood when they heard the shots fired, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said in a news conference today. After they canvassed the area, one of the officers found Naiboa.

"But it was too late," Dugan said. "He was already dead when our police officers came upon him."

It appears that Naiboa had taken the wrong bus to the neighborhood and was walking north to another bus stop when he was shot, Dugan said. His father had called the police department, "worried that his son was missing," Dugan added.

"He should not have been in this neighborhood," Dugan said of Naiboa.

Naiboa was the eldest of five children and had just graduated from Tampa's George S. Middleton High School last year, Dugan said.

"He was in the prime of his life, and it has been taken instantly," the police chief said.

Naiboa was killed about 200 to 300 yards away from where 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell was killed on Oct. 9, Dugan said. His body was found almost directly in front of Mitchell's home, Dugan said.

Investigators are searching for a person who was seen in surveillance video near the area the night that Mitchell was killed.

"We don't know if that is him, her or what, Dugan said. "Do not assume this is a white person, do not assume it's a black person and do not assume it's a male."

On Oct. 13, the body of Monica Caridad Hoffa was found about a half mile from where Mitchell was found, Dugan said in a news conference Tuesday. Police believe she died Oct. 11.

After Hoffa's body was found, police immediately linked her death to Mitchell's because of the proximity of the shootings, but Dugan called the circumstances "unusual" with "no clear connection." Authorities believe all three killings are linked because of when the shootings occurred and because all the victims were alone when they died.

None of the victims was connected to each other, police said.

Authorities have not yet determined any leads or motive for the killings and are offering $18,000 for information leading to an arrest, Dugan said. He described Mitchell as a "good person who comes from a good family" and said that while Hoffa "had some challenges in her life," there is no reason to believe there was motive to kill her.

Police are instructing residents of the neighborhood to turn on their porch lights at night.

Dugan added that it's not necessary to hide in their homes but to remain aware of their surroundings.

"Do cookouts, walk your dog," he said. "We're not going to be held hostage by whoever's doing this."

A heavy police presence will continue there, Dugan said, adding that the area has been "blanketed" with officers.

Police are not labeling the suspect as a serial killer at this point, and they are frustrated with the unsolved cases, Dugan said.

“This is, you know, very frustrating," Dugan said. "I go from frustration to anger on these unsolved homicides. And now, we have someone who is terrorizing the neighborhood. It's just difficult to see this happen.”


North Carolina

Homicides in Charlotte keep climbing. 'We have to do something.'

by Jane Wester

Homicides in Charlotte this year are on track to hit a total not seen in nearly 25 years, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney believes officers alone can't reverse the trend.

Putney said the city's overall violent crime has stayed almost flat in 2017, but the rise in homicides – 73 lives lost so far – is concerning. The loss has fallen disproportionately on the black community: the city is one-third black, but four out of every five homicide victims is black.

Putney said groups across the city will have to cooperate to make a difference.

“Sometimes I feel like the lone voice in the wilderness screaming, ‘We have to do something,' ” he said.

Previous spikes in homicide have been attributed to crack cocaine, in the early 1990s, and at least partly to gangs, in the mid-2000s.

So far in 2017, CMPD hasn't attributed a single homicide to gang activity, and a fraction have died through drug-related violence.

Experts say it's hard to identify a specific reason for the increase.

At least 28 homicides this year have been tied to arguments or domestic violence. Putney said too many people are grabbing guns to end disputes.


? Nearly 30 percent of all victims were black men in their 20s.

? More than half of the homicide victims know the person who kills them. Seventeen of those cases are classified by CMPD as domestic, with about half involving romantic relationships and the rest including people who were closely connected in other ways.

? Five victims this year are believed to have been killed by a son or son-in-law, police say.

Improving communication skills and increasing self-esteem for vulnerable young people are two ideas community activists and police leaders cite as ways to decrease the homicide rate – but neither will happen overnight.

That's why one of CMPD's priorities is helping people resolve arguments peacefully.

CMPD staff trained in mediation and conflict resolution sometimes respond to disputes while they're happening, Putney said, and they also reach out to people charged with lower-level offenses like assault and communicating threats to try to prevent future arguments from escalating.

Are community programs the answer?

At a July public forum on Charlotte's rising homicide count, Putney talked about how economic frustration can make people more likely to resort to extreme measures during an argument.

If someone thinks their most valuable possession is their self-respect, he said, it's easier to react strongly to a perceived slight.

In a conversation with the Observer this month, Putney urged young black men not to lose hope, despite Charlotte's low ranking for economic mobility.

“You don't want to end a life because you're mad and upset,” he said.

Because of the connection between removing economic roadblocks and reducing crime, CMPD is launching an initiative that seems more related to economics and healthcare than crime. That's intentional, police say.

Putney has called the Community Empowerment Initiative “90 percent community, 10 percent policing.” It'll involve a range of government agencies, nonprofits and organizations that help people with everything from finding a job to kicking an addiction.

The program is launching in a few of Charlotte's neighborhoods, including Hidden Valley and Lakewood, this fall, though leaders say they want to expand it across the city eventually. It's supposed to help families, and Putney said he specifically wants to reach young people through the program, so they can find success and avoid the kind of anger that can turn into violence.

Judy Williams, a founder of the Charlotte-based organization Mothers of Murdered Offspring, which has worked to memorialize homicide victims for nearly 25 years, said focusing on families, especially young families, will be key to reducing the homicide rate.

Williams said she hasn't heard much about the Community Empowerment Initiative specifically, but she's seen that trying to help children without helping their families is “like a dog chasing its tail.”

“A community can't be any stronger than the homes are,” she said.

She also said self-respect is key. Practically any kind of program that shows kids someone cares about them can be effective, she said.

“They've got to see themselves as valuable commodities so that they see other people as valuable commodities...and don't take someone's life away,” she said.

Call to action

Charlotte's homicides spiked in the early 1990s – in 1993, the worst year on record, more than 120 people were killed, including Williams' goddaughter – and again in the mid-2000s, when homicide counts hovered in the low 80s.

The numbers started to increase again in 2015, when the city had 60 homicides – a 36 percent increase above the year before. In 2016, Charlotte had 68 homicides, more than at any time since 2008.

Cities around the country, including cities often compared with Charlotte like Atlanta, Denver and Nashville, Tenn., saw homicides spike in 2016. Atlanta's homicides have declined substantially so far in 2017, while in mid-October, Denver is only a few homicides away from passing its 2016 total.

Nashville, like Charlotte, has already crossed its 2016 total.

Some activists say it's time for a group of people to sit down and take a hard look at how to reduce Charlotte's homicides. Robert Dawkins of the group SAFE Coalition NC said he wants people to examine the issue from a public health perspective, focusing on measurable outcomes and models that have worked in other cities, such as the public health-based Cure Violence model, which began in Chicago.

“It treats crime and homicide as an epidemiological problem instead of just having pastors and people sit around and talk about it,” he said.

Like Putney, Dawkins said reducing homicides is partly about teaching people – especially middle schoolers and teenagers – how to talk to each other and resolve conflicts.

Before forming another task force or working group, City Council member and community safety committee chairwoman Julie Eiselt said the city needs to look at the recommendations from older groups to see what progress has been made and where more work is needed.

Those recommendations encompass 12 years' worth of discussion on violence and community policing, from the 2005 homicide task force, which formed during another spike in Charlotte homicides, to the Citizens' Review Board recommendations after its August 2017 hearing on the Keith Lamont Scott case.

Putney has called the 2005 task force's recommendations a “road map” – but he said he sometimes feels like CMPD is alone on that road. He urged other groups to step up, and he said he's encouraged by the commitments some organizations, like Goodwill and Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, have made to the Community Empowerment Initiative.

Eiselt said local groups aren't having “coordinated conversations” about violence. She pointed out that homicide isn't rising in every city – Atlanta is one example – so Charlotte should find out what it can learn from those cities.

“What's wrong with asking that question?” she said. “It's not a sign of weakness.”

Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City police officer who is now a professor in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, said the disproportionate way homicide affects poor communities and racial minority groups has contributed to a lack of political will to address the problem.

“Many parts of the country are not impacted,” he said, adding that people who can afford to “buy security” usually do so, whether that means an apartment building with a doorman or a gated community in the suburbs.

If the situation was reversed, O'Donnell said – if homicide victims were disproportionately wealthy and white – he expects outrage would be immediate.

“It's a giant civil rights issue,” he said.