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.
U.S. Police Killed Over 1,000 Civilians in 2017 While the News Was Watching Trump
Sixty-eight of those killed by police this year were unarmed
by Celisa Calacal
News headlines in 2017 were primarily dominated by coverage of President Donald Trump's administration and tense party politics. But while most the attention was focused on the president's antics, officers in police departments around the country killed over 1,000 civilians.
According to the database Mapping Police Violence, police have killed 1,129 people this year in the U.S., which was similar to the number of killings in previous years. According to the Washington Post's police shooting tracker, officers fatally shot 976 people this year. In 2016, police shot and killed 963 people , and in 2015, officers fatally shot 995 people . Black people were disproportionately affected, as they made up 25 percent of those killed, despite making up only 13 percent of the population. Sixty-eight of those killed by police this year were unarmed.
Out of the 1,000 people who died at the hands of police, several received high-profile coverage in the media. In June, Tommy Le was shot and killed by deputies in Washington state hours before his high school graduation. The deputies initially claimed Le was holding a knife or other sharp object, but investigators found that the object was a pen. An autopsy report revealed that the deputies fired two shots into Le's back.
That same month in Washington, a police officer fatally shot Giovonn Joseph-McDade , a 20-year-old college student at Green River College, following a car chase. And in Seattle, police shot and killed 30-year-old Charleena Lyles , who was pregnant at the time. Relatives said she had been dealing with mental health issues in the past year. An autopsy in August revealed officers shot Lyles seven times .
In September, Scott Schultz , a student at Georgia Tech University and president of the college's Pride Alliance, was shot and killed by a campus police officer. Schultz, who had a history of mental illness, left three suicide notes in his room before being killed by police.
In a particularly tragic case, 6-year-old Kameron Prescott was killed by a stray bullet this month when deputies opened fire on Amanda Jones in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas. Jones, 30, was killed after being pursued by officers for car theft and other offenses. The confrontation ended on the porch of a trailer where officers opened fire. One of the bullets pierced the trailer wall and struck six-year-old Kameron inside.
The 2016 death of 26-year-old Daniel Shaver gained further attention this year after released footage showed Shaver on the floor of a hotel hallway begging for his life in front of an Arizona police officer, who had his gun pulled. The officer, Philip Brailsford, fatally shot Shaver. Earlier this month, Brailsford was acquitted by a jury of second-degree manslaughter and reckless manslaughter.
Several officers involved in police killings were put on trial in 2017, often with disappointing outcomes. In June, the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016, ended in acquittal . Officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was acquitted by a jury for the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith. Later that month, the trial of former University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing, who was being tried for the fatal 2015 shooting of Samuel DuBose, ended in its second mistrial. The prosecutor dismissed the murder indictment against Tensing in July.
In a reversal of this dominant trend, in which officers face little to no punishment, former South Carolina officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting and killing Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, in 2015.
Judge partially lifts Trump administration ban on refugees
by Martha Bellisle
SEATTLE – A federal judge in Seattle on Saturday partially lifted a Trump administration ban on certain refugees after two groups argued that the policy prevented people from some mostly Muslim countries from reuniting with family living legally in the United States.
U.S. District Judge James Robart heard arguments Thursday in lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Family Service, which say the ban causes irreparable harm and puts some people at risk. Government lawyers argued that the ban is needed to protect national security.
Robart ordered the federal government to process certain refugee applications. He said his order applies to people “with a bona fide relationship to a person or entity within the United States.”
President Donald Trump restarted the refugee program in October “with enhanced vetting capabilities.”
The day before his executive order, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats sent a memo to Trump saying certain refugees must be banned unless additional security measures are implemented.
It applies to the spouses and minor children of refugees who have already settled in the U.S. and suspends the refugee program for people coming from 11 countries, nine of which are mostly Muslim.
In his decision, Robart wrote that “former officials detailed concretely how the Agency Memo will harm the United States' national security and foreign policy interests.”
Robart said his order restores refugee procedures in programs to what they were before the memo and noted that this already includes very thorough vetting of individuals.
In a statement, Department of Justice spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said: “We disagree with the Court's ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps.”
The ACLU argued the memo provided no evidence for why additional security was needed and didn't specify a timeframe for implementing the changes. The groups say the process for imposing the policy violated a federal law.
August Flentje, a Justice Department attorney, told the judge that the ban is temporary and “is a reasonable and appropriate way for agency heads to tackle gaps” in the screening process.
The lawsuits from the two groups were consolidated and represent refugees who have been blocked from entering the country.
The ACLU represents a Somali man living in Washington state who is trying to bring his family to the U.S. They have gone through extensive vetting, have passed security and medical clearances, and just need travel papers, but those were denied after the ban.
Lisa Nowlin, staff attorney for the ACLU of Washington, said in a statement they were happy for their client — “who has not yet had the opportunity to celebrate a single birthday with his younger son in person — will soon have the opportunity to hold his children, hug his wife in the very near future, and be together again as a family for the first time in four years.”
Two other refugees included in the Jewish Family Service lawsuit are former Iraqi interpreters for the U.S. Army whose lives are at risk because of their service.
Another is a transgender woman in Egypt “living in such extremely dangerous circumstances that the U.S. government itself had expedited her case until the ban came down,” said Mariko Hirose, a lawyer with the Jewish Family Service case.
Yet another is a single woman in Iraq, Hirose said. Her husband divorced her after she was kidnapped and raped by militants because she worked with an American company. Her family is in the U.S. but she's stranded by the ban, Hirose said.
Pennsylvania police shootings were 'terror attack,' DHS says
by Nicole Chavez
The Department of Homeland Security is calling a series of shootings targeting law enforcement in Pennsylvania a "terror attack."
Authorities said Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty, 51, was shot and killed by police Friday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after he fired several times at law enforcement officers throughout the city.
The string of shootings began just steps from the state's Capitol building when El-Mofty fired several times at a Capitol Police officer and then, shot and injured at a state trooper. Later, he used two handguns to open fire at several officers who then returned fire and killed him, according to a statement from the Dauphin County district attorney's office.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said there was "no doubt that he was directly targeting police officers," CNN affiliate WGAL reported.
Tyler Houlton, acting DHS press secretary, referred to the incident as a terror attack in a statement released Saturday. He said the incident highlights the "Trump administration's concerns with extended family chain migration."
El-Mofty was a naturalized US citizen who came to the country on a "family-based immigrant visa," Houlton said.
"Both chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program have been exploited by terrorists to attack our country," Houlton said, adding that "the programs make it more difficult to keep dangerous people out of the United States and to protect the safety of every American."
Local authorities have not confirmed whether they consider the incident as a terror attack. Earlier on Saturday, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, a member of the House homeland security committee, said only that he was going to monitor the incident "for potential links to terrorism."
District Attorney Marsico's office issued a statement saying authorities were seeking any information on El-Mofty, who, according to the statement , "has spent time in both Dauphin and Cumberland counties and recently was in the Middle East."
One year later: Canton cop's community goals strengthen
by Amani Abraham
He's no stranger to the Canton community.
In fact, children often run in his direction to give him a high five or simply say “hello.”
“I like to help people.”
Canton police officer Lamar Sharpe has been focused on community policing in the city for the past two years. WKYC first met Sharpe on Dec. 23, 2016 when he spent the day before Christmas Eve handing out gifts to deserving families.
Exactly one year later, Sharpe was out in full force once again. This time was a little different as he held onto a deeper connection to the community he calls home.
“Sometimes you don't know where Christmas is going to come from,” Sharpe said. “What we would try to do is to help families.”
Sharpe, joined by his wife Diedra Sharpe and a group of volunteers, surprised families in a Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) trolley. The trolley was escorted through the neighborhoods by a Canton police cruiser, driven by officer Tim Marks who was sure to activate the police sirens just as they approached each scheduled stop.
“Generally, when you hear sirens, it means trouble,” Sharpe said. “But guess what, we turn the sirens on because the big guy, Santa, is coming in.”
With Santa aboard the trolley, hundreds of gifts were given out to families, beginning with the family of Lisa West.
“I had a little bit of a rough year,” West said, fighting back tears. “This is just a very nice.”
Sharpe's focus is on building a stronger relationship between law enforcement and the community.
“We're so divided right now and it just really bothers me,” Sharpe said. “That's why when I come into a room, I'm coming to own it. I'm going to make you laugh.”
Sharpe has become a well-known figure in the community, named person of the year in Stark County's About magazine . He has gained thousands of followers on social media while documenting his "community policing" journey.
Sharpe has started the Be a Better Me Foundation to help mentor kids in the area, encouraging them to stay out of trouble and to simply follow their dreams. His future goals include finding a building to house his foundation.
Click here to learn more about Sharpe's Be a Better Me Foundation.
New York state prioritizes gang prevention
by the LI Herald
In late October and early November, FBI agents, state troopers and Nassau County police began showing up at local parks and in secluded forests in central Nassau County — in the Roosevelt-Baldwin and Freeport-Merrick areas. Officials were there in search of bodies — and they found them.
More precisely, they found “human remains” — teenagers who had been hacked to death with machetes. Among those killed were two one-time Freeport High School students.
The notorious El Salvadoran gang MS-13 was likely responsible, authorities said. The killings sent a chill across the county. Central Nassau isn't the kind of place where gangland killings are supposed to take place, or so we believed.
In our Nov. 9-15 editorial, we called on elected leaders to do more to ensure that after-school and community-policing programs are not cut in high-risk communities. On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped up, saying that he would seek $11.5 million in state funding for more after-school, vocational-education and community-policing programs. We can only say, thank you, Governor!
There is little doubt in our minds that the best way to halt the scourge that is MS-13 is to keep young people from joining the gang in the first place. That means keeping kids off the streets and occupied in productive activities that give them a sense of self-worth — and that help them understand that their future lies in obtaining the best possible education. Art, music and sports are critical.
In last month's editorial, we noted, “At the elementary, middle school and high school levels, it's more difficult to spot members of [MS-13]. Yes, you read right. MS-13 members can be as young as elementary age, according to a recent Florida International University study, ‘The New Face of Street Gangs: The New Gang Phenomenon in El Salvador.'
“In so many cases, MS-13 members look like regular schoolchildren. But they're not.
“MS-13 isn't so much a gang as it is an international crime organization that targets children and middle-school students, most of Latin-American descent, for membership. According to Florida International University, 60 percent of members join before they turn 15 and 77 percent before they reach 17.”
Indeed, it will take all of us working together to defeat MS-13. It's good to know the governor has our backs.
Johnston Police Adding Community Affairs Officer in 2018
Officer Zach Grandon's role will include working with neighborhoods on community policing issues and crime prevention.
by Melissa Myers
JOHNSTON, IA — The Johnston Police Department will add a Community Affairs Officer position in 2018 in an effort to bring neighborhoods together and focus primarily on crime prevention, community outreach and education initiatives. Officer Zach Grandon has been selected for the duties.
"As a city, we have done an excellent job of recognizing the importance of community policing to strengthen public trust and foster stronger relationships between local law enforcement and our stakeholders," Police Chief Dennis McDaniel said in a news release. "This new position will act as the coordinator and ambassador to those efforts and aid patrol officers and investigators in dedicating the time necessary to effectively follow-up on case referrals."
McDaniel said the end goal is "to successfully implement crime reduction strategies, community outreach initiatives and educational programming."
Grandon will transition to his new role in January. He began in the department in 2007 and most recently has served as a school resource officer. He also has worked as a patrol officer and crime scene investigator and he serves as a department instructor.
"Officer Grandon is a talented communicator with an exceptional ability to recognize the community's needs and opportunities," McDaniel said. "His skill set made him the perfect fit for this position."
Being a school resource officer has allowed Grandon to cultivate relationships with students and families in the community. He said he will miss those people in the district "and the daily interactions with the students."
"Being able to be a part of their lives, while influencing and helping shape their future, is a unique and rare opportunity," he said. "I am glad I got to be a part of an invaluable partnership and make a difference."
In his new role, Grandon said he looks forward to implementing new initiatives. That will include coordinated interactions with elementary schools through the department's Adopt-A-School program, focused efforts on being a resource to seniors or those in need of mental health assistance, and educating the Johnston business and religious communities on tools available to ensure safety.
The department's crime-free multi-housing program will also be coordinated by Grandon and he will work with the Community Education staff and the Johnston Partnership to develop a 21st Century approach to neighborhood watch.
"This new position will allow me to collaborate with a very diverse section of the Johnston community on a variety of topics," Grandon said.
Federal Judge Terminates East Haven's DOJ Consent Decree
Town of East Haven
Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., announced that, at 12:35 p.m. on Dec. 13, Federal Court Judge Alvin Thompson granted a joint-motion filed by the Town of East Haven and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to terminate the consent decree and dismiss the pending litigation between the parties following the town's unprecedented success meeting and exceeding the requirements of a 48-month Agreement for Effective and Constitutional Policing aimed to address deficiencies raised by the DOJ in 2011.
“Following on-site audits which concluded in November, DOJ officials confirmed that our Police Department had met and exceeded each and every benchmark for success specified in the 48-month Agreement for Effective and Constitutional Policing,” Maturo said. “Last Wednesday, upon the joint-motion of the town and DOJ, a federal court judge acknowledged the same, terminated the consent decree, and dismissed the ongoing litigation between the town and DOJ.”
Maturo proudly added, “Thanks to the collective efforts of a number of individuals, East Haven is the only jurisdiction in the country to have met every requirement of a consent decree with the DOJ both on-time and under budget. Although our department has been recognized in numerous capacities over the past two years for its success rebuilding public trust and restoring accountability, today we recognize the culmination of that hard work and the beginning of a new, bright chapter for our department.”
On Dec. 11, 2011, the DOJ issued a civil findings letter alleging a pattern and practice of biased policing, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and excessive force that eventually led to the Jan. 24, 2012 arrest of four East Haven police officers.
Maturo recollected, “When I addressed our department personnel at roll call on the day our officers were arrested, the mood was somber, morale was low, and no one quite understood how we were going to chart a path forward for our embattled department. However, after nearly a year of negotiation with the DOJ, we agreed to embark on an expansive and unprecedented set of reform efforts to revolutionize our Police Department. After four years of collaboration with the DOJ, those efforts have transformed our department into a model for others across the nation.”
Police Chief Ed Lennon, who served as the department's subject matter expert and compliance coordinator while a lieutenant in the department, recalled, “Meeting the 270-day deadline was a monumental effort. I remember working around the clock with command and patrol staff to schedule and hold all of the necessary training, re-write policies, and overhaul our data collection and reporting systems.”
Lennon noted, “However, the process was as collaborative as it was transformative, and we learned early on that we had a partner in the DOJ along with the full support of the Mayor's Office and the Town Council. We were given carte blanche by the mayor to do whatever was necessary to turn the department around. That support came with the backing of the Town Council, which, in June of 2013, unanimously authorized the bonding of $2.5 million to effectuate the reforms called for in our agreement with the DOJ.”
Maturo explained, “We all wanted our Police Department to succeed and to grow. We even went to far as to appoint former Town Attorney Lawrence Sgrignari as special counsel to the reform effort. He was tasked with brokering, on behalf of the Town, with the DOJ throughout the Town's compliance efforts. Throughout the compliance effort, he proved to be an invaluable resource and a champion for the Town's legal rights.”
In her eighteen-month report released in August of 2014, then Joint-Compliance Expert, Kathleen O'Toole, who served as an independent broker and supervisor of the Town's progress until being succeed by Rafael Ruiz, commended the “ total commitment on the part of the Town of East Haven” and noted that the Mayor, Police Chief, and department personnel in charge of this endeavor had “not wavered once on their commitments under the Settlement Agreement.”
In the same report, O'Toole concluded “that the milestones accomplished in the first eighteen months are impressive” and noted that “[a] solid foundation has been established, particularly with the development, training and ongoing review of the new Policies and Procedures Manual.”
In July of 2015, following a series of positive reports on the department's ongoing success and transformation, Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited East Haven as part of a national community policing tour. In describing East Haven's blueprint for success, she explained, “[t]his is a message that we're hoping other cities can look to and see how this change is implemented here. It does take a lot of work. It takes a lot of will. It takes a lot of effort, but it can be done.”
Shortly after Lynch's visit, Mayor Maturo and police command staff attended a community policing forum at the White House to share the Town's story of success with forty other departments from across the country.
Maturo reflected, “Thanks to our compliance efforts, our police department found itself on the forefront of the policing industry. We weren't just employing ‘best practices.' Rather, by mid-2015, thanks to the sound leadership of Chief Brent Larrabee and young police executives like Chief Ed Lennon and his staff, and through collaboration with the Department of Justice and other policy experts, our department was actually defining the ‘best practices' in a number of policy areas.”
In April of 2016, the Department gained further national recognition when the Seattle Times published an expose on department entitled, “How a small town overcame police abuses — Creating the conditions for true police reform.”
Maturo recalled, “The Seattle Times article followed on the heels of local reports by the New Haven Register and regional press about our department's success and the improved relations with minority residents. It's publication was noteworthy because it recognized not only the department's progress, but the ‘conditions' and hard work that went into the logistics of fostering, supervising, and effectuating that progress.”
In June of 2016, Maturo tapped then-Deputy Chief Ed Lennon to succeed Chief Larrabee as East Haven's top cop and the Board of Police Commissioners promoted then-Professional Standards Officer James Naccarato to Deputy Chief. The shuffle-up led to the assignment of Lt. David Emerman to fill Chief Lennon's role as the department's DOJ “compliance coordinator.” Despite the shuffle up, Emerman excelled and the compliance efforts pushed forward with remarkable fluidity. In October of 2016, Emerman was honored by the U.S. Attorney's Office with the “Community Policing Award” for his efforts as the DOJ Community Liaison and as compliance coordinator.
Maturo explained, “Ed Lennon's ascension to the role of Police Chief was an indicator of the department's growth, progress, and readiness to lead itself. It marked the beginning of a new era of self sufficiency for our department. Since that time, Chief Lennon, Deputy Chief Naccarato, and Lt. Emerman, along with the entire command staff, have led the department responsibly and professionally.”
On December 21, 2016, the date marking the four-year anniversary of the start of the consent decree, Maturo addressed the department's sworn personnel at 4:00PM roll call.
Maturo recalled, “My goal in speaking to and congratulating our officers at roll call that day was to recognize their incredible contributions to the department's turnaround. While our police executives and policy experts charted the path of reform, our patrol officers were the ones who walked it step by step.”
With the litigation between the Town and the Department of Justice formally terminated, all eyes now turn toward the future which, by all indications, looks brighter than ever. As Rafael Ruiz noted in his 48-month compliance report, “[t]oday, the EHPD is a much younger and forward-looking department. It has had a significant turnover of officers… with a number of Spanish-speaking police officers, as well as African-American officers and female officers within its ranks. Today, the EHPD looks more like the community it is policing. During the last four years, the JCE has met and had several conversations with some of these officers and supervisors at the station and during ride-alongs, and noticed the enthusiasm that exists today among these officers, and the professionalism they show. There is a certain feel of camaraderie among them.”
Echoing Mr. Ruiz's sentiments and looking toward the future, Maturo explained, “While the consent decree has been terminated and litigation has been dismissed, our efforts cannot and will not cease. In 2012, we made a commitment to changing the culture of our department and, more broadly, to becoming a more culturally competent, tolerant community. Moving ahead with Chief Lennon and Deputy Chief Naccarato leading our Police Department, I know our efforts will be lasting and that our department will remain a progressive, responsive, and respectful organization for years to come.”
Maturo concluded, “As I noted almost a year ago, there were many who doubted whether our community was capable of making the sustained changes contemplated in our compliance agreement with the Department of Justice. There were even some who rooted against us. Today, our department and our community are models of tolerance and respect. I am grateful to our residents for their trust and support on this long and difficult journey and I am proud to say, in no uncertain terms, that ‘we succeeded.'”
Impaired drivers an issue for cities that legalize marijuana
Impaired drivers in states that legalize marijuana have forced police agencies to seek out technology that will help identify and charge offenders
by Rachel Engel
States that have legalized marijuana use are now grappling with how to deal with impaired drivers. The biggest hurdle facing law enforcement, according to Governing.com , is the lack of a uniformly-accepted way of measuring impairment.
It's an issue that is commanding attention, after a 2015 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that the number of fatal crashes involving marijuana surpassed the amount of those involving alcohol for the first time.
Research from the Highway Loss Data Institute also showed an increase in the number of insurance claims in three states after they legalized marijuana: Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
While the data exists to confirm an increase in crashes from the drug, law enforcement is limited in charing those suspected of impaired driving.
Reliably Identifying Impaired Drivers is a Struggle
While law enforcement officers have a variety of tools to determine alcoholic sobriety, from field tests to breathalyzers to blood tests, there are no accepted standards to measure marijuana levels in drivers.
In September, Massachusetts' highest court ruled that the observations of police officers will be accepted against those suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana, though the observations cannot be used as the sole source of evidence.
City in Illinois Tests Device to Identify Impaired Drivers
Law enforcement officers in Carol Stream, Illinois, are the first in the state to test a device that will determine if an individual is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
The test will consist of a mouth swab that will check for the presence of cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines and opiates like heroin, in addition to marijuana.
California, Colorado, Kansas and Michigan have also begun utilizing similar tests to determine impaired drivers, though it's not clear if such test will be held up in court, according to one defense attorney.
California Pushes for Stricter Laws to Combat Impaired Drivers
A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that the number of nighttime weekend drivers found to be under the influence of marijuana increased by 50 percent from 2007 to 2014.
Current California law prohibits “stoned driving,” but as of Jan. 1, 2018, a new law will go into effect that will make it illegal to drive or ride in a car while actively smoking marijuana. The regulation includes consuming marijuana edibles.
Murder in America: What Makes Cities More Dangerous
Neighborhoods where killings have gone up share deepening poverty, lots of vacant properties and police pullbacks following officers' shootings of young black men
by Max Rust, Scott Calvert, Zusha Elinson and Shibani Mahtani
Murder in America is deeply local.
Homicides in the U.S. rose about 9% last year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and more than one-third of the increase was concentrated in neighborhoods where just one-third of Chicago residents live. Meanwhile, improvements in areas where 30% of Los Angeles residents live accounted for one quarter of the 13% drop in U.S. murders between 2002 and 2014.
The Wall Street Journal analyzed the locations of thousands of homicides in four cities: Chicago and Baltimore, where violence has risen to or near 1990s levels in the past two years; and Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where meaningful declines in violence have been sustained since the 1990s.
The data show that the neighborhoods where killings have soared in Chicago and Baltimore share worsening poverty, high numbers of vacant houses, and a lighter street presence by police following officers' high-profile killings of young black men. In Washington and Los Angeles, gang interventions and community policing, which seeks closer contact with residents to gain trust and even information in to address crime, have helped produce long-term reductions in murders. Gentrification in the nation's capital also has played an important role in keeping violence down.
George Mason University criminologist David Weisburd said his research has shown that about 1% of city streets produce 25% of a city's crime, and 5% of the streets produce half the crime. He calls it the “law of crime concentration.”
Amarley Coggins remembers the first time he dealt heroin, discreetly approaching a car coming off an interstate highway and into West Garfield Park, the neighborhood where he grew up on Chicago's west side.
He was 12 years old and had just been recruited into a gang by his older brothers and cousin.
A decade later, he sits in Cook County jail, held without bail and awaiting trial on three cases, including felony drug charges and possession of a weapon.
“I have a lot of friends who didn't make it to 22,” said Mr. Coggins, who hasn't entered a plea. “I want to stay alive for my son and my family.”
Violence in Chicago erupted last year, with the city recording 771 murders—a 58% jump from 2015. The third largest city in the U.S. with 2.7 million people, Chicago had more murders than New York and Los Angeles combined.
Almost half of the increase in Chicago came from five neighborhoods, including West Garfield Park, meaning they were at least as violent as in the 1990s when drug wars fueled by the crack-cocaine epidemic were raging through black neighborhoods.
Those neighborhoods also experienced a greater rise in unemployment, poverty and vacant homes—and saw a bigger decline in median income—compared with parts of Chicago where homicides fell or remained the same.
“People see these empty buildings standing there, over four years on, and it is just a reminder that the city has turned their back on them,” said Danton Floyd, a community activist in West Garfield Park.
Chicago city officials say that they are making strategic investments in ailing neighborhoods. They point to a $95 million police-training center in West Garfield Park, public-transit improvements on Chicago's south side and efforts to get major corporations such as Whole Foods and Wal-Mart to invest.
The city also has spent $10.5 million in data-driven technology centers for the police. The centers integrate tools such as predictive-policing technology—including a network of surveillance cameras—and gun-detection software in the city's eight most violent districts, including the one that oversees West Garfield Park. City officialssay the centers have contributed to a drop in murders citywide this year.
But West Garfield Park is still awash with drugs, as demand in recent years has been driven up by white suburban and rural consumers of heroin and opioids, according to police, drug dealers and residents. And a lot of indiscriminate killing is attributed to small, fiercely competitive gangs that have devolved from more powerful street organizations of the 1990s but lack the earlier gangs' discipline in the use of violence.
On a recent afternoon, a dispute between two families over their children playing too loudly in the yard escalated into a shooting with someone hit, said Kevin Johnson, commander of the police district that includes West Garfield Park. One of the families had gang ties, so police braced for retaliatory violence.
“Before, it was unheard of that there were female victims, children shot; it was unheard of that there were retaliatory shootings at churches,” he said.
The neighborhood's proximity to Interstate 290, long known as the “heroin highway,” has fueled the drug wars, said Cmdr. Johnson.
Police say at least 30 gangs operate within a roughly four-mile radius of West Garfield Park. They all compete for prime turf in the drug trade, including at gas stations and liquor stores, where a seller can make more than $800 a day.
Wearing a loosefitting jumpsuit at the Cook County jail, Mr. Coggins said gas stations are valuable territory to gangs because they are easily accessible for the mostly white customers rolling off I-290 into West Garfield Park.
“They know they stick out like a sore thumb here, some even come in the Mercedes and BMWs,” he said. “They want to get in and out quick.”
Of his involvement in drugs, he says: “I felt like I had to do it. And the money came so quick, you feel me?”
He can't shake the memory of his partner on the streets, 20-year old Mario Cousins—“Little Rio”—who was killed last year after a rival gang member shot him in the head as he was sitting on a porch and left his body there for the block to see.
Mr. Coggins said he planned to move to the suburbs when he is released from jail. “The only way I could get out of that life is if I moved out of my area,” he said.
As he drove through a series of West Baltimore neighborhoods, former deputy police commissioner Tony Barksdale took note of an open-air drug market, a heroin hawker on the sidewalk and a group of young men loitering at North and Pennsylvania avenues.
But he didn't see many police officers.
“Baltimore City has a lot of people walking around that have committed homicides and shootings, and they're emboldened now,” said Mr. Barksdale, who served on the police force for two decades before his 2013 retirement.
This city of 615,000 is enduring its third year of near-record violence, as police struggle to rein in one of the highest murder rates in the U.S.
Until a few years ago, violence had been edging lower citywide and in a collection of West Baltimore neighborhoods. But in 2015, violence rose, and it has stayed historically high. In the area to the west of North and Pennsylvania, homicides soared 89% during 2015 and 2016 from the two prior years, far outpacing the 49% citywide jump in that span.
Some community leaders and former police officials say police have pulled back from a more proactive approach on the street since April 2015, when riots erupted after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died from a broken neck he sustained in a police van. Officers had chased Mr. Gray from North and Pennsylvania, a known drug corner, and arrested him for allegedly possessing an illegal knife.
A police department spokesman said foot patrols have increased because now officers are mandated to walk through neighborhoods in the first months of field training, which wasn't the case a few years ago.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, in charge since July 2015, also said violent criminals feel emboldened. He said judges too often give offenders who use guns suspended prison sentences.
Ericka Alston-Buck, who runs a youth center blocks from where Mr. Gray was arrested in 2015, says the violence is tied to poverty that hasn't eased since the riots. “You have to be here to feel the blight, the vacant houses, the cat-sized rodents that run through the streets, the open-air drug markets, prostitution, no grocery store,” she said.
Jacqueline Caldwell, a local resident who leads a nonprofit umbrella group that includes several west-side community associations, said the police have become nonexistent over the past two years. “I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out we need more police on the street, more community involvement with the police,” Ms. Caldwell said.
John Skinner, a former deputy police commissioner who retired in 2014, said after the riots, police feared “another triggering effect.” He said while he thinks the retreat from proactive policing was brief, its effects were lasting.
“Violence can escalate really, really rapidly. When it occurs it's tough to get that stabilization back,” he said.
Since the unrest, arrest numbers in the city are down. The police force is also at reduced strength because of retirements and resignations that have left it with 2,500 sworn officers, or about 500 fewer than in 2012. And eight officers were indicted this year on federal charges that included robbing citizens; five have pleaded guilty.
“You look at Baltimore's crime numbers, that's criminals taking advantage of weakness,” Mr. Barksdale said. He added: “I am against mass arrests, but you still need arrests.”
The police-union president said in July that some officers remained hesitant on duty, because the six officers involved in Mr. Gray's case faced criminal prosecution, even though none was convicted.
Murders are often retaliatory strikes driven by “guns, gangs and drugs,” the department spokesman said, adding that Baltimore homicide victims have 12 arrests on average. In a positive sign, he said, citizen tips about homicides are up, and police are clearing more homicides.
Early this year Baltimore officials agreed to a sweeping overhaul of the police department. That followed a 2016 U.S. Justice Department report alleging unconstitutional policing disproportionately targeted African-Americans. Mr. Davis says the result will be an improved police force that will earn back public trust.
Murder in America: What Makes Cities Safer
Killings fell in Los Angeles and Washington when police established closer ties with people living in the most violent neighborhoods; gentrification also played a role in Washington
by Max Rust, Scott Calvert and Zusha Elinson
This is the second of two articles on how murder in America is deeply local.
For the project, The Wall Street Journal analyzed the locations of thousands of homicides in four cities: Chicago and Baltimore, where violence has risen to or near 1990s levels in the past two years; and Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where meaningful declines in violence have been sustained since the 1990s.
A gang-intervention worker known as “Big” told a lie in March, but it was one he believes helped saved lives.
Craig “Big” Batiste, 50 years old, confronted an armed Crips gang member who was seeking revenge against men he suspected of stealing from him. Mr. Batiste wrestled the gun away and told the man he had a job for him. That lie was quickly made true when another gang-intervention worker, Skipp Townsend, found the man work in construction.
“It's hard for us to determine how many people would've been affected if he went out on emotions and shot the wrong somebody or maybe the right somebody,” said Mr. Townsend, a former Blood who runs a nonprofit that offers counseling and job help to ex-cons.
Mr. Batiste's West Park Terrace neighborhood, with its well-kept, one-story homes and a struggling retail corridor, has seen a steep decline in homicides, as has the rest of the city.
Total number of homicides
260“The 100's”Nickerson GardensJordan DownsDowntownHollywood012 - 34 - 56+Homicides per Census tract200020022004200620082010201220142016
Violence in the city of Los Angeles has ebbed since a record 1,094 people were killed in 1992 amid gang wars, a booming crack trade and the riots following the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of a black motorist, Rodney King. Murders have been on downward trend, with 294 homicides last year and 271 so far in 2017.
South Los Angeles, the birthplace of the Bloods and the Crips and the symbol of inner-city violence in the 1990s, has seen the biggest declines.
The reduction in violence hasn't, however, coincided with marked economic improvements. The unemployment rate has risen in the Los Angeles areas where killings dropped over the past 15 years. The poverty rate is at 25%. In West Park Terrace, median household income has dropped 23% since 2000.
Instead, criminologists and social scientists credit the decline in violence to a shift in the city's approach in its most dangerous neighborhoods.
The gang-intervention program, which started in 2007 and costs about $30 million a year, has turned hundreds of former gang members—including Big—into neighborhood peacekeepers. The police department has increased its engagement with the community and taken a more targeted approach to violent crime, including using predictive-policing software to deploy officers to hot spots.
Nowhere are the results clearer than in the neighborhoods that encompass the city's most notorious housing projects, Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens in Watts. Median income for the people living in and around the rundown, two-story cinder block complexes is around $13,000, with unemployment above 30%.
While poverty persists, it is absent the extreme danger that once accompanied it. In the past five years, nine homicides have occurred at Nickerson Gardens and one at Jordan Downs, which served as the setting for 1993 film “Menace II Society.” That compares with 35 murders across both housing projects in the five years ending in 2006.
In 2011, the city began to deploy police officers who patrol the projects, work with residents to solve problems, walk children to school, and organize after-school activities. The community-policing approach sharply contrasts with the department's old strategy of swarming the projects in response to crime.
There are now more than 70 officers in the program—in seven housing projects and one city park. The cost isn't broken down by the city, but it includes police salaries and another $250,000 annually per site
The officers' constant presence alone is a deterrent against violence, police say. The homicide-resolution rate in the area jumped to 81% last year because the new relationship between these officers and residents “broke the power lever that the gangs had” in these neighborhoods, said Deputy Chief Phil Tingirides, who oversees the police bureau in South Los Angeles and started the community-policing program.
In West Park Terrace, also known as the 100s, a series of shootings in 2016 threatened to reignite violence between Crips there and Bloods from nearby Inglewood. Mr. Townsend, 54, the former Blood who runs the nonprofit 2nd Call, called for a sit-down. Rod Dog Jones, 45, brought Bloods from Inglewood, and Mr. Batiste brought Crips.
Over sandwiches at a deli in the nearby oceanfront city of Marina del Rey, the rival sides came to an understanding to leave each other alone.
Mr. Batiste, a former Crip, said that by keeping the peace in the neighborhood, he is trying to make up for his past crimes.
“I've been a drug dealer, I've been thug, a hustler,” he said. “Now, I'd rather be in my community trying to prevent some bad shit from happening.”
Anwar Saleem operated a hair salon in a neighborhood blocks from the U.S. Capitol when Washington, D.C., was known as the nation's murder capital in the 1990s.
But over the past decade and a half, poverty, violence and trash-ridden streets lined by abandoned properties have given way to bars, restaurants, shops and condos along the 15-block corridor in Northeast Washington. That resurgence has led to further drops in crime that followed the winding down of the 1990s crack-cocaine epidemic.
“You cannot commit the crimes because it's too many eyes on the street,” said Mr. Saleem, 63 years old, who owns property on H Street, a main thoroughfare in Northeast Washington, and heads a nonprofit that promotes the corridor.
Washington's homicide rate in 2016 was 73% lower than in 1996, and murders fell over that time in a majority of neighborhoods, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of homicide locations. H Street has had some of the steepest declines.
Besides the end of the crack scourge, other factors behind the transformation include community policing and economic rebirth, particularly in gentrifying parts of Northeast Washington.
Along H Street, an improving citywide safety climate in the early 2000s attracted new investment, which helped deter violence, said John Roman, former executive director of the nonpartisan District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute.
“It has created a virtuous cycle that has allowed violence to decline in that part of the city that I think is unparalleled elsewhere,” Mr. Roman said.
In row house neighborhoods north of H Street, property values have soared, outpacing even the considerable citywide increases. In several blocks around the junction of H Street and Florida Avenue, the median sales price since 2000 has jumped to $715,000 from $179,000 in inflation-adjusted terms as of April, according to Zillow.
The area is changing in many ways. In an adjacent Census tract stretching west to North Capitol Street, the share of white residents jumped from 4% in 2000 to 58% in 2015, and median household income more than doubled to $106,000. H Street now has a Whole Foods, as well as services like veterinarians and banks. High-end condos are sprouting.
“It's like Rip van Winkle. If you went to sleep and woke up, it's a whole different look,” said Mr. Saleem.
As a boy in the 1960s, he remembers patronizing music shops, bakeries and clothing stores that welcomed African-Americans like him. But rioting after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968 turned the street into a wasteland.
By the 1990s, when the nation's capital was also the U.S. murder capital, H Street resembled a no-go zone. “You really got to the point where you didn't walk through H Street, you ran,” said Mr. Saleem, who opened a hair salon there in 1989.
About a dozen years ago, businessman Joe Englert began buying empty buildings on the east end of H Street and transforming the properties to become popular bars and restaurants. Now, Mr. Englert says he can count the vacant buildings on one hand.
A sleek streetcar glides up and down H Street, thanks to a $220 million investment by the city. Public money also has restored facades, improved trash collection and upgraded lighting, curbs and sidewalks.
Cathy Lanier, chief of Washington's Metropolitan Police Department from 2007 to 2016, agreed that gentrification has helped reduce violent crime, but she said she thinks the most important factor in driving down violent crime has been better community relations.
“It really is about having a community that is engaged with the police department. I mean, really engaged,” she said. “They trust you, they trust the cop on the beat.”
Ms. Lanier, now the National Football League's head of security, also said the kind of revitalization that turned H Street around doesn't happen in a vacuum. As chief, she said she worked hard to gauge where development was headed next so police were ready to modify deployments to help nurture it.
“You don't just throw seeds in a garden and hope everything will grow,” she said. “You have to till the garden, make sure it gets plenty of water, put up protective fencing so the deer don't eat the plants.”
Cities Sue Over Pentagon's Failure to Report Crimes to Gun Database
by Richard A. Oppel Jr.
Three major cities have filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department for its failure to report many criminal convictions in the military justice system to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its national gun background-check database.
The Pentagon has for years run afoul of federal laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers by not transmitting to the F.B.I. the names of service members convicted of crimes that disqualify gun ownership.
This is what allowed Devin P. Kelley , who was convicted of domestic assault in the Air Force, to buy at a store the rifle he used to kill 25 people, including a pregnant woman whose fetus also died, at a Texas church in November.
Now, after two decades of serious lapses — and one of the worst mass shootings in American history — officials from New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco are trying to force a change. Their suit would require the Pentagon to submit to federal court monitoring of its compliance with the reporting laws it has broken time and again.
“This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said.
The cities say they are suing because their police departments regularly access the federal background-check database and rely on it to provide accurate information about who should be prevented from buying guns.
The Pentagon has repeatedly been chided since the 1990s by its own inspector general for woefully failing to comply with the law. In a 2015 report — and another one issued just a few weeks ago — investigators said that nearly one in three court-martial convictions that should have barred defendants from gun purchases had gone unreported by the military.
Having a federal court oversee compliance, the cities in the lawsuit say, would reduce the chance that a tragedy like the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Tex., happens again.
If the lawsuit is successful and the military fails to adhere to a court order to demonstrate compliance with the law, a federal judge could hold the defendants in contempt, lawyers for the plaintiffs say. The lawsuit names as defendants the Defense Department and its secretary, James N. Mattis; the Departments of the Air Force, Army and Navy and their respective secretaries; the directors of the military's criminal investigative organizations; and the commander of the Navy's personnel command.
Generally, the military is required to report felony-equivalent court-martial convictions for crimes that are punishable by more than one year in prison, and any convictions for domestic violence. As with those of similar convictions in civilian courts, the records are supposed to block defendants from buying guns.
The military must also report anyone who receives a dishonorable discharge, which precludes gun ownership. Federal law also bans ownership by drug abusers, people subject to certain restraining orders, and mentally ill people.
“I believe the active involvement of the court system will produce the desired results,” said Ken Taber , the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. “This will impose an outside monitor to make sure that what should have been done for two decades is finally done.”
Another lawyer for the plaintiffs, Adam Skaggs, added that the lawsuit was not seeking a new interpretation of law — merely that a judge be enlisted to help ensure the military's adherence to existing rules.
“After 20 years of failure, outside monitoring by the courts is clearly necessary to guarantee that the reporting failures that led to the Texas church shooting never happen again,” said Mr. Skaggs, the chief counsel of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence .
“The department continues to work with the services as they review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the F.B.I.,” said Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman. He declined to comment specifically on the lawsuits.
In the wake of the church massacre, military leaders have acknowledged the severity of their reporting lapses and vowed to improve.
“This is a problem across all the services where we have gaps in reporting criminal activity of people in service,” the Army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said after it emerged that the Texas gunman's Air Force conviction was never sent to the background-check database.
The Pentagon's acting inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, told a Senate committee earlier this month that “there's really no excuse” for the military's repeated failure to comply with the reporting rules.
But even with bolstered compliance, major loopholes would still remain.
Had Mr. Kelley's conviction been in the background-check database, for example, he still could have purchased a gun in person or online from private sellers, who are not required to run the background check — an exemption known as the “gun show loophole.”
And while federal law calls for domestic violence convictions to be reported, the rules generally exempt the reporting of misdemeanor convictions where the victim is only a dating partner, an exception known as the “boyfriend loophole.”
But the sort of federal monitoring that the lawsuit proposes has had successes, including efforts by the Justice Department to rein in police departments that use discriminatory tactics or excessive force.
Some agreements to revamp law enforcement practices — known as consent decrees — that have been overseen by federal courts have been credited with helping spur marked improvements in police forces in Los Angeles and other cities.
Deputy punches through iced-over pond to rescue drowning boy on Christmas Day
by David DeMille
ST. GEORGE, Utah — A Washington County Sheriff's deputy punched through the ice and dove into a frozen pond to rescue a drowning 8-year-old boy on Christmas Day.
A day later, saying his thoughts were still with the hospitalized boy and his family, Sgt. Aaron Thompson played down any heroism on his part, saying he had dived into the icy water knowing there was no other way the boy might survive.
"I knew what I was getting into," the veteran deputy and former search and rescue dive team member said. "I knew how cold that water was going to be."
The boy was chasing his dog Monday evening in the small community of New Harmony, about 30 miles north of St. George, when another child saw him fall through the ice. Unable to help, the other child ran inside to tell family members, who then reported the incident shortly after 5 p.m. local time.
Thompson arrived on scene and heard from another person on scene that she had seen the boy's hand just minutes earlier, he said. So he stripped off his police gear and used his hands and forearms to batter his way into the ice, eventually wading in up to his neck about 25 feet from the shoreline before locating the child and lifting him out of the water.
"Once I saw his face I just pulled his head up above the water," Thompson said.
The boy had been in the water for about 30 minutes, but the frigid temperatures — the water was 37 degrees — actually meant that there was a chance he could still survive, Thompson said.
As of late Tuesday, the boy's condition had not been released.
Thompson was also hospitalized and treated for symptoms of hypothermia, as well as cuts and abrasions sustained while breaking through the ice.
Sheriff Cory Pulsipher called Thompson a hero.
"A lot of people would probably like to think they would have dived in too, but how many actually would have?" he said. "He hates having the spotlight on him, but he's a hero."
Thompson said his dive team experience proved invaluable, crediting the sheriff's office for maintaining a culture where many deputies train in their personal time to equip themselves with skills that can be used on the job.
Boys charged with murder after a sandbag thrown from an overpass kills a man
by Chuck Johnston
Authorities in Toledo, Ohio, have charged four boys with murder after a sandbag they allegedly dropped from an interstate overpass killed a passenger in a car.
Authorities say the three 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old threw sandbags and other objects onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 on December 19.
One of the bags crashed through the window of a car traveling below, hitting passenger Marquise Byrd on the head.
Byrd, a 22-year-old from Warren, Michigan, later died.
The boys, who have not been identified because they are minors, will be arraigned Wednesday on charges of murder and vehicular vandalism.
Lori Olender, deputy chief of the juvenile division of the Lucas County prosecutor's office, said the teens hit more than one vehicle. So they face an additional charge of vandalism for hitting a second car. No one was injured there, Olender said.
At a detention hearing last week, the boys denied the allegations against them, The Blade reported .
It's not the first time teens have been charged with murder in such a case. In October, a Michigan judge denied bond for five teenagers accused of throwing a 6-pound rock off an overpass near Flint, killing Kenneth White Jr., 32.
Those teens face second-degree murder and other felony charges, and could be imprisoned for life. They have pleaded not guilty.
NYPD's Community Policing Aims to Take the Edge Off Crime Fighting
The neighborhood program is slowly breaking through years of fear and distrust
by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
On the rare occasion when Albert Scott would talk to New York City police when he was growing up in Brooklyn in the '80s and '90s, he said he was careful to make sure the conversation took place in the shadows.
“They were simply a cold,” Mr. Scott said of the officers. “We don't talk to cops. And that would be from individuals that were law-abiding citizens.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Scott, who is 44 years old and works in e-commerce, sat in an audience of about two dozen East New York residents at a Brooklyn YMCA voicing his concerns to two New York Police Department officers.
Most spoke of low-level crimes such as abandoned vehicles taking up parking spots and noise complaints. Others asked about a string of robberies. The officers answered their questions and passed out photos of young people suspected of robbing restaurant delivery workers.
“You guys are really active in the community, pass the word on and let them know this is what's going on,” Officer Manny Sharma of the 75th Precinct told the crowd. “The reason these meetings are great is because it's just to have a conversation without the big bosses here, without the inspector here, where I can tell you what's going on.”
The meeting is one of many at the heart of the NYPD's neighborhood-policing program, which began rolling out in 2015 under former Police Commissioner William Bratton.
It was designed to improve community relations in the wake of unrest sparked by the July 2014 case of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest on Staten Island, and by the assassination later that year of two officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
The program has been the hallmark of Police Commissioner James O'Neill's 15-month tenure as head of the 36,000-member department.
While other cities nationwide struggle with rising crime, New York City is on pace to record fewer than 300 murders for the first time since the '50s—and the neighborhood-policing program has become an NYPD priority.
Mr. O'Neill discusses the program at monthly department crime-stat briefings: Precincts are divided into sectors that mirror neighborhood borders. Certain members of the force are designated neighborhood-coordination officers. They are assigned to areas where they spend about one third of their day working to establish relationships with residents, instead of responding to emergency calls.
Other police agencies are taking notice.
The Baltimore Police Department, which has 2,500 members, said it has sent officers to New York City to learn about the neighborhood-policing program and have launched a similar initiative. “They are the largest police force in the country, so of course, it is easier for them to implement a program like this,” said a spokesman for the Baltimore department. “However, we aren't letting the staffing difference stop us.”
The 75th Precinct, which encompasses East New York and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn, is prime testing ground for the neighborhood-policing program. It has long been one of the most dangerous precincts in New York City, according to NYPD crime data.
The area has experienced tumultuous relations between police and the community. Many residents at the recent meeting said in the past they routinely were stopped by police and rarely given an explanation. A documentary was released in 2015 titled, “The Seven Five” about rampant police corruption in the precinct. Civilians filed 3,452 complaints against officers from 2006 through Dec. 15, 2017, the most among all the city's precincts.
“It's a great starting place to talk about improving,” said Andre T. Mitchell, chair of Community Board 5 in East New York. ? He said he would like to see residents have some input as to which officers are chosen for the program.
“They still have a long way to go when it relates to bridging gaps in the community and building trust,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Not saying all officers have to be there and reflect the demographics, but they should at least have an understanding of the demographics to be effective.”
Paul Muhammad, 62, a lifelong East New York resident, said the initiative is “too little, too late.” He questioned why it was started as the neighborhood is beginning to gentrify. “Are you preparing a better place for the people here?” he asked. “Or the people to come?”
NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan, who oversees the citywide program, said 51 of the city's 77 precincts have neighborhood-coordination officers. He acknowledged that it can be a tall task to ask officers to step in front of an audience of skeptical residents, many of whom have long feared and distrusted the police.
To jump-start the initiative, Chief Monahan has made himself available for neighborhood meetings, including earlier this year when he participated on a public panel to speak about changes in the department. The mostly minority crowd gave voice to many criticisms.
“What about the fear we have of police officers?” a young African-American man shouted at the chief. “Just coming here I'm still scared.”
Chief Monahan spoke with the man privately after the event. “You can defuse a situation quickly by having an honest conversation with someone,” Chief Monahan said in an interview. “If they think you're real, if you're not bullshitting someone. Right off the bat, then you can start to talk.”
Chief Monahan expects neighborhood policing to result in a “cultural change” from “how it used to be.”
He pointed to Operation Impact, an anticrime program that was implemented from 2003 to 2014 and called for recent police academy graduates to go on foot patrols in the city's high-crime areas.
While some say the program helped reduce crime, Chief Monahan said it damaged relationships between the police and the community. This coincided with the NYPD's heightened use of stop-and-frisk, which a federal judge ruled in 2013 violated the rights of African-Americans and Hispanics.
“We were a top-down organization very driven by activity,” Chief Monahan said.
Officer Sharma and officer James Priore, another neighborhood coordinating officer in East New York, were both on patrol during Operation Impact. They said they felt no connection with residents. “I never had the opportunity to hear from those people,” Officer Priore recalled.
That has changed, they both said. Earlier this year, Officer Priore spent his daily time passing out fliers requesting information about someone suspected of vandalizing a church in East New York. The department received an anonymous tip and made an arrest.
Most residents, including Mr. Scott who once feared speaking with police in public, said it was a major change from the policing tactics they had grown used to.
“I see the sincerity,” he said. “I'm sure I'm not the only one that sees that.”
Police Departments Grapple With Who Should Hold Them Accountable
Scandals surrounding abuse and corruption are spurring cities across the country to adopt civilian oversight boards. But some argue they have the opposite effect that advocates are looking for.
by John Buntin
Sharon Fairley remembers how she felt when she first saw the dash cam video of the Chicago police shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. “Shock and concern,” she says. “It's just heartbreaking to watch that kind of violence being done to a person.”
Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, knew police work could be tough. She also knew that video could be misleading. But what this video showed was genuinely shocking. Police cars converge on a young man walking erratically down the middle of a street in an industrial neighborhood at night. Two officers jump out of a marked SUV. Seconds later, Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, empties his 16-bullet clip into McDonald, who is African-American. Van Dyke's partner then walks over and kicks a 3-inch knife from the hand of the motionless teen.
Officers at the scene said that McDonald had turned threateningly toward Van Dyke with the knife. The video told a different story. The shooting occurred in October 2014, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office took no public actions against the police department. Nor did the city release the video. Seven months later, a local journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video. Hours before its release, prosecutors arrested Van Dyke and charged him with first-degree murder.
That didn't prevent protests, which persisted downtown for days. Marchers demanded that Emanuel resign. Instead, he fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and, with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announcing a civil rights investigation into the department, assembled a police accountability task force to recommend reforms. Last April, the task force delivered more than a hundred recommendations. Among them was a call for the creation of a new civilian oversight agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
Emanuel asked Fairley, the city's deputy inspector general, to head it. She accepted. In doing so, she became one of the leading participants in a movement reshaping law enforcement in cities across the country: the steady growth of civilian oversight of policing. It's a development that has been welcomed by people concerned about the frequency with which police in the United States use lethal violence and the high levels of mistrust between minority communities and law enforcement. But there's a problem with this solution. Past experience suggests it doesn't work. In fact, it may make matters worse.
Civilian oversight boards aren't new. In 1948, Washington, D.C., was the first to set up such a board. In the next two decades, enthusiasm for civilian oversight waxed and waned, but since the 1970s the number of civilian review boards has grown steadily. Today, roughly half of the country's 50 largest cities have oversight boards with independent investigative authority, according to Udi Ofer, deputy national political director for the American Civil Liberties Union. But activists across the country want more independent and more powerful boards. Last year, Newark, N.J., created one of the most robust civilian review boards in the country. It has the power to subpoena records and witnesses, audit police practices and discipline rule violators. Seven of its 11 members will be appointed by community and civil rights organizations, with the remainder named by the mayor and the city council. Voters in Denver, Honolulu, Miami, New Orleans and in the California cities of Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco also have voted to strengthen civilian oversight.
Some police chiefs are troubled by different aspects of civilian review boards. In particular, they are concerned about demands that they relinquish disciplinary powers to the boards. “The chiefs believe -- and I agree -- that disciplinary decisions need to be the responsibility of the police chief, not an oversight body of some type,” says Darrel Stephens, the former Charlotte, N.C., police chief and recently retired executive director of the Major City Chiefs Association.
There's another problem as well. Civilian oversight of policing, as it is most commonly implemented, simply hasn't met expectations. Consider the case of Chicago. Before COPA, there was the Independent Police Review Authority. Before IPRA, there was the Office of Professional Standards. Before OPS, there was the Chicago Police Board. All of these oversight entities were created in response to scandals. Far from improving accountability, some observers of policing in Chicago believe civilian oversight may actually have impeded it. Fairley acknowledges the problem. “Because you had this separate entity responsible for evaluating and dealing with complaint reports, it's almost like it let the department off the hook,” she says. “They felt like, ‘Oh, we don't have to worry about that because it's IPRA's job.' They didn't have the sense of needing to hold themselves accountable. They felt like they had this external entity doing it for them.”
Yet today, Chicago is doubling down on civilian oversight. COPA will be bigger and more independent than the agency that came before it, with more investigators -- 90 instead of 70 -- and a larger budget. The way COPA is set up reflects the belief of Fairley and others that civilian review boards fail for two reasons: lack of independence and lack of resources.
That's an analysis that worries Harvard University professor Mark Moore. Despite his anchor in academia, Moore is an influential person in the world of policing. In the early 1980s, Moore and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government convened a group of reform-minded police chiefs who were seeking to reduce crime and disorder by building trust and relationships with community members. This working group played an important role in creating what came to be known as community policing. Since the early 1990s, the federal government has devoted more than $14 billion to the idea.
Before community policing, Moore worked on a different problem: police corruption. That work informs how Moore believes cities should approach the problem of police misconduct and excessive use of force today. Instead of taking authority and responsibility away from police departments, Moore wants police chiefs and their command staffs to view reducing misconduct and the excessive use of violence as integral parts of their jobs. He has in mind a specific playbook for how to do this. It comes from 1970s New York City, when an independent commission and a police chief worked together to eradicate police involvement in illegal bookmaking and payoffs.
In April 1970 , The New York Times published a bombshell story about corruption inside the New York Police Department. Plainclothes officers in vice hot spots such as East Harlem were “on the pad” -- that is, taking payoffs from organized crime figures to ignore illegal gambling. Higher-ups in the NYPD and city hall had ignored reports of such corruption for years.
Faced with a public outcry, Mayor John Lindsay formed a committee, which included the police commissioner and the Manhattan district attorney, to investigate. But as more reports of corruption surfaced, Lindsay came under pressure to appoint an independent commission. The result was the Knapp Commission, named after its chairman Whitman Knapp, a former assistant district attorney who had turned Wall Street lawyer.
With a small staff and budget, and only six months to work (a timeframe that was later extended), the Knapp Commission faced an immediate challenge: How could it change a large bureaucracy like the NYPD? Its response was to recruit informers and create a media spectacle. The commission hoped that this in turn would generate public pressure for reform. In many ways, this strategy worked. New Yorkers watched, rapt, as officers such as Frank Serpico came forward with stories of corruption he had witnessed. However, the most important effect of the clamor was to change the leadership of the police department itself.
A few months after the scandal broke, Lindsay appointed Pat Murphy to head the department. Murphy had started his career in the NYPD before leaving to head first the Syracuse, then Washington, D.C., and finally Detroit police departments. In the process, he had gained a reputation as a savvy, tough reformer. “If you were a big-city mayor with a slightly berserk police department on your hands,” Washington Post reporter James Lardner, himself a former police officer, would later write, “there was one preferred remedy. You hired Patrick V. Murphy.”
It fell to Murphy to address a culture of corruption and the code of silence known as “the blue wall.” Murphy's predecessors addressed corruption by creating a centralized unit of investigators, the Internal Affairs division. Although its exact name and organization chart sometimes changed from one commissioner to the next, the approach was basically the same: Internal Affairs was a special division of cops, separate from the others, whose mission was to root out misconduct and corruption. The response to scandals was largely the same too. When new revelations of misconduct or police criminality broke, the department's leadership would appoint a new Internal Affairs commander, someone who was purportedly more ruthless and implacable than the person who had preceded him. Every 20 years or so, the process would repeat itself.
Murphy believed that approach was misguided. Instead of consolidating authority and responsibility in Internal Affairs, he chose to disperse it. Commanders would henceforth be responsible for corruption in their areas of command. Captains were given “field internal affairs units” so that they could conduct investigations on their own. To demonstrate his seriousness, Murphy forced several high-ranking members of the command staff to resign. He then informed the borough chiefs that the commander judged to be the least effective in addressing corruption would be relieved of his command. Internal Affairs was not disbanded. On the contrary, its range of activities was expanded. Instead of merely investigating complaints, it began to run so-called integrity operations -- stings -- that tested police conduct.
Murphy's hardball tactics got results. By the time he retired from the department three years later, 90 percent of the NYPD's top 180 commanders had resigned and “the pad” was a thing of the past. But Murphy's reforms did not eliminate corruption permanently. Twenty years later in 1994, another corruption scandal convulsed the department. This time it involved a small group of officers shaking down drug dealers. Another independent commission, the Mollen Commission, was formed to investigate. It tapped Harvard's Moore as a consultant.
Moore started with a kind of paradox. On the one hand, police departments did not effectively police themselves. Yet taking responsibility for investigations away from the police seemed to backfire because it made them even less accountable. Moore believed that the path to more respectful, less violent law enforcement ran through the department itself. He wanted to find a way to pressure and reward commissioners and commanders who took that responsibility seriously. To promote that, he proposed an independent, outside agency that would audit police investigations and policies. “The job of the external agency would be to warrant to the broader public the quality of police investigations,” says Moore. It would also provide political cover to reform-minded chiefs willing to look for and address problems within their department. The Mollen Commission ultimately rejected these suggestions. Instead, it created the Civilian Complaint Review Board. However, the subsequent experiences of civilian complaint boards have largely borne out Moore's concerns.
Attorney Lori Lightfoot, who chairs the Chicago Police Board -- which serves as a kind of court of last appeals for disciplinary proceedings for the police department -- co-chaired Chicago's Police Accountability Task Force. As part of the process of assembling recommendations, Lightfoot spoke with a number of police experts who shared Moore's concerns about civilian complaint review boards. “Frankly,” she says, “in some ways it robs a leader or superintendent or commissioner of both the obligation and the opportunity to set the culture of the department.”
Lightfoot is still a strong supporter of civilian oversight, but like other advocates she is thinking less in terms of incidents and more in terms of systems. One city reformers have taken a close look at is Denver. In 2004, it created the Office of the Independent Monitor to watch over the police and sheriff's departments. Nicholas Mitchell, who got his start as an investigator with New York City's Civilian Complaint Review Board, heads the 15-person office. “Our model is a little bit of everything,” he says.
The office's main function is to collect complaints. People can file them in person, through the mail or online. Investigations themselves are conducted by the police or sheriff's internal affairs bureaus. However, the Independent Monitor's staff tracks cases moving through the disciplinary process, making recommendations as to how the investigation can be more thorough and fair. The knowledge they gain from these individual cases informs the office's audits and policy recommendations.
Gaining the trust of both law enforcement agencies and sometimes skeptical community groups requires Mitchell and his employees to maintain a difficult balance. “One of the most important aspects of our model is the public reporting we do. That really helps us drive change in the policy and practices of the agencies we oversee.”
At the same time, Mitchell says that the idea of complete transparency is unrealistic. “You have to be strategic about when you publish and what you publish and how you present your findings,” he says. “Timing is everything. And publishing findings at the wrong time or in the wrong ways can prompt agencies to shut down rather than be willing to listen to new ideas.”
All oversight agencies live with this tension. “You can't understand how a department operates and how its culture functions unless you get really up close and have a peek inside,” says Walter Katz, Chicago's deputy chief of staff for public safety. “But by virtue of getting close and being able to have that deep insight, it starts fomenting the perception that you are too close.”
One way cities can escape this conundrum is to think in terms of “front-end” and “back-end” accountability systems, says New York University law professor Barry Friedman, the author of the new book Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission , that argues for more public participation in police policymaking. Front-end accountability comes from agreeing on rules and providing input on policies. This is common in most parts of government. In education and transportation, for instance, elected officials set policy but agencies solicit public comment in numerous ways.
In contrast, Friedman says, police accountability is focused entirely on back-end systems -- on investigations and audits that occur after the fact. Giving members of the public, particularly people in high-crime neighborhoods, more opportunities to participate in front-end decision-making is, in Friedman's opinion, an urgent necessity.
It's a perspective Lightfoot shares. “One thing that has been driven home to me over the years is that the process is almost as important as the outcome,” she says. “If people don't feel they are being heard, if they don't feel they have a voice, then you could have the best solution in the world, but it's not going to have any legitimacy.”
Chicago's current approach seems to be to try everything. In addition to creating COPA to investigate complaints, the city has also created a new position, inspector general for public safety, with responsibility for performing the kinds of auditing functions that Moore and other police accountability experts encourage. The city is also in the process of forming another civilian oversight board, which is expected to oversee COPA and perhaps provide the police with guidance on policy and priorities.
Yet some residents are already worried. At a recent meeting in the far West Side Chicago neighborhood of Austin, residents expressed concerns. After Paul Peterson, a COPA public affairs officer, explained how the group's investigators would investigate complaints and make recommendations for discipline to the police superintendent and the Police Review Board, residents seemed skeptical. One asked how the agency could be independent if its budget came from the city.
Peterson explained that COPA was part of the city government but independent from the police. He then went on to explain that residents could submit complaints without coming in and filling out an affidavit. They could submit video clips or even file complaints on Facebook. “My primary concern is retaliation,” said one resident. “The police, they carry guns.”
As for the new civilian safety oversight board, no one seems to know yet what exactly it will be or how it will work. Front-end accountability for police departments is new. “This is really difficult,” says Friedman. “I don't think we know how to do it.”
In a sense, Chicago is the experiment.
As for Fairley, 11 days after COPA officially launched in September, she stepped down to run for state attorney general. Even so, she's confident that COPA's leadership will succeed and that the most important determinant of success will be the attitude of the Chicago Police Department. “Accountability,” she says, “has to be baked into the core values of the department itself.”
ASJ: A Third of Murders in Chicago Boosted US Homicide Last Year
by Todd Beamon
Homicides rose by about 9 percent in the U.S. last year, with more than a third of the gain coming from neighborhoods in Chicago where only one-third of the residents live, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Baltimore also experienced a high rate of homicides last year.
On the other hand, violent crime fell dramatically in Los Angeles because of gang interventions and community policing, and in Washington — due to gentrification and, also, community-based police efforts.
According to the Journal, violence erupted in Chicago erupted last year, with 771 murders — up 58 percent from 2015.
Chicago is the nation's No. 3 city, with 2.7 million residents, yet it had more homicides than New York and Los Angeles combined.
Almost half of the increase in Chicago came from five neighborhoods, the Journal reported, including West Garfield Park, meaning they were most likely as violent as in the 1990s during the crack epidemic.
The neighborhoods also experienced a greater rise in unemployment, poverty and vacant homes — and saw a bigger decline in median income — compared with parts of Chicago where homicides fell or remained the same.
"People see these empty buildings standing there, over four years on, and it is just a reminder that the city has turned their back on them," Danton Floyd, a community activist in West Garfield Park, told the Journal.
Baltimore, according to the report, also showed worsening poverty, high numbers of vacant houses — and less of a police presence on the streets after high-profile killings of young black men, including the explosive Freddie Gray case in 2015.
George Mason University criminologist David Weisburd told the Journal that his research had shown that about 1 percent of city streets produce 25 percent of a city's crime, while 5 percent of the streets produce half the crime.
He called it the "law of crime concentration."
Police: Pa. gunman in standoff wanted to 'take out' officers
Police believe Justin Kephart targeted police officers, firing at least 115 rounds at them during a standoff
by Pamela Lehman
BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Authorities say a “tumultuous” relationship between gunman Justin Kephart and his mother may have sparked her death during last week's standoff in Bethlehem Township, but they also believe Kephart targeted police officers, firing at least 115 rounds at them.
“It was his intent to take out other bodies, and they would be wearing blue uniforms,” Bethlehem Township police Sgt. Daryl LaPointe said Tuesday afternoon during a news conference about the killings.
Authorities say Kephart, 35, was armed with a shotgun and two Russian assault rifles and fired the 115 rounds from his Dennis Street home on Friday afternoon as neighbors prepped for the Christmas holiday.
Kephart shot and killed his mother, Marylouise Meixell-Moyer, 62, who was hit 11 times, then shot himself in the basement of the home he shared with his grandmother and mother, police say.
At the news conference, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said he spent several hours at the standoff scene as armored vehicles prowled the streets and officers wearing helmets and bulletproof vests searched backyards to make sure the gunman hadn't escaped.
“I felt like I was in a war zone, really,” Morganelli said.
The bizarre story took an even stranger turn on Monday when Kephart's father, Dale Clark Kephart, was found dead Monday in his Allentown home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
Justin Kephart, a convicted felon with previous drug charges, was not permitted to own firearms and Morganelli said investigators suspect he got the weapons he used during the standoff from his father's “arsenal.”
State police Lt. Joseph Sokolofski, who also spoke at the news conference, said Justin Kephart had a semi-automatic shotgun and two Russian assault rifles, an AK-47 and an AK-74. Sokolofski said one of the weapons, identified as a Saiga shotgun, may not be able to be imported anymore, but the semi-automatic weapons are not restricted. The primary purpose of an assault rifle is home or self-defense, he said.
Police said they also found drug paraphernalia in the home, but did not detail exactly what was found.
"We were very fortunate that we did not have a police officer shot. We are very fortunate that no civilians were hurt," Morganelli said.
Authorities at the news conference described a harrowing scene as Kephart's neighbor called police around 2 p.m. Friday to say a bloody woman was lying motionless in the yard of her home at 1543 Dennis St. As a neighbor checked on her and a township police officer arrived Kephart opened fire, spraying the street with dozens of gunshots, police said.
The neighbor, 70-year-old Douglas Wallace, said he dove for cover behind his pickup truck. Bethlehem Township police officer John Meehan took cover behind a car, said township Chief Daniel Pancoast.
As shots rang out, one bullet whizzed between Meehan's left hand resting against the car and his head, Pancoast said, “missing him very closely.”
A Bethlehem police armored vehicle was brought to the scene to rescue Meehan and Wallace. That vehicle also came under heavy fire and was riddled by at least 26 gunshots, said city police Chief Mark DiLuzio.
The state police's special emergency response team tried to make contact with Kephart, who was found later in the basement of the home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police said he had several weapons nearby and they found dozens of spent rounds, mostly in the basement of the home near two windows.
Morganelli said authorities are still unsure of the motive behind the attack, but knew of the rocky relationship between Kephart and his mother. During the attack, Kephart told his father in a cellphone call that he had killed “mom” and “a cop,” Morganelli said.
Kephart's public Facebook profile has not been updated in more than a year, but during the 2014 manhunt for convicted cop-killer Eric Frein, he posted “Go Frein. Keep making a [expletive] of all those OINKERS.”
The Bethlehem Township shootings prompted a massive police response, with authorities preventing residents from returning to their homes and ordering those at home to shelter in place.
LaPointe said at Tuesday's news conference that police used a reverse 911 call and online message system to warn residents to stay inside their homes and seek shelter. Any Bethlehem Area School District students who lived in the area were kept at their schools to be picked up later, he said.
Morganelli said he was pleased by the response of area police departments, volunteer firefighters and the residents of the neighborhood.
“I can tell you that in the staging area, it was like a ghost town,” Morganelli said. “People stayed inside their homes, people out shopping couldn't get back home for hours. There were traffic jams galore across the area, but it kept everyone safe and everyone seemed to understand the need for that.”
Morganelli said he knows that incidents across the nation have prompted complaints about police purchases of surplus military equipment, questioning the cost and the necessity of it.
“We need to have these types of armored units available,” Morganelli said. “But for that, we may have had a police officer and citizen deceased at the scene.”
Smuggling of drugs and immigrants in Texas border on the rise
Agent Lee Smith said Texas' Big Bend is "the absolute weakest link on the southern border"
by Molly Hennessy-Fiske
PORVENIR, Texas — Two Border Patrol agents bent to study the sandy dirt like animal trackers — what they call “cutting for sign.”
They didn't have to look far.
Just yards from the Rio Grande, Agent Lee Smith pointed to footprints and scraps of carpet. Smugglers tie carpet to their shoes in hopes of covering their tracks, he said. Smith followed the rough trail through thick brush, his fellow agent close behind, wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a long gun.
They saw no one. But the agents sensed smugglers watching, waiting.
“They come right across. What's here to stop them?” Smith said.
Sometimes smuggler scouts cross on horseback: The muddy banks are pocked with human and horse tracks. The river here, about 60 miles east of El Paso, is just a few yards wide, one of the reasons Border Patrol agents in Texas' Big Bend region have seen troubling increases in smuggling, attacks on agents and migrant deaths in recent years.
“There's hundreds of these crossings just in our area of operation,” Smith said. “The drug cartels, they own this part of the land. We have conceded large swaths of the border. There are areas where there are not agents for days.”
He called the vast Big Bend “the absolute weakest link on the southern border.”
The natural barriers beyond the river that made the landscape a stunning backdrop for “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Giant” were also supposed to protect it. Or at least that was long the assumption of U.S. officials. There's the river. There are mountains — the snow-covered Chinati, Chisos and Davis ranges.
There's the Chihuahuan high desert, the land full of prickly cat claw and temperatures that soar above 100 degrees on summer days and dip to below freezing on winter nights. And for many years, smugglers avoided Big Bend, that part of Texas where the border makes a gentle swoop south before swinging back north.
But smuggling routes shift according to the dictates of criminal organizations, often in response to border enforcement. In the late 1990s, border traffic moved from Southern California to remote desert stretches of Arizona; by 2013, it moved east again to Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter of migration and enforcement ever since.
But now new routes are opening up to the west, in Big Bend.
“As things in the Rio Grande Valley get tougher to cross, they're looking for other places, and this is a spot that over the past few years has become established for smuggling,” said Border Patrol Agent Rush Carter, a spokesman for the agency in Big Bend.
Just as migrants once tried to cross the Arizona desert unprepared, Central Americans are arriving in Big Bend without cold weather gear, abandoned to the elements by smugglers. Migrants tell agents that smugglers advertise the area as an easy crossing, the least patrolled stretch of border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection divides the southern border into nine sectors. Big Bend is the largest: 135,000 square miles, 510 miles of river, a quarter of the entire southern border.
The sector stretches north to include 118 counties in Texas and all of Oklahoma. Yet it has the smallest staff of any southern border sector, about 500 agents assigned to a dozen stations and several highway checkpoints including one in Sierra Blanca, notorious for large drug busts. That's fewer agents than have been assigned to a single station in the Tucson sector, Smith said.
President Donald Trump has promised to add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, potentially doubling Big Bend staffing, but with high turnover, agents said that they would still be spread thin.
With such a small staff, agents usually patrol alone, with hand-me-down technology from other areas, including radios so spotty agents have erected makeshift cell towers in the brush to boost reception. Sometimes they just yell.
They don't have observation towers along the border as in the Rio Grande Valley, and their single aerostat blimp hovering overhead, unlike those used in the Valley, is not equipped with infrared technology, Smith said.
“You know what it helps?” Smith said. “Migrants. They use it as a guide: Go that direction.”
The only time they received drones, agents complained, was when the devices were sent west from southeast Texas for safekeeping before Hurricane Harvey hit in August.
Since the summer, Big Bend saw the biggest increase in unaccompanied youth caught on the border, mostly Central Americans: 278 since the federal fiscal year that began in October, up 74 percent from last year. By contrast, the number of youths caught in the Rio Grande area dropped 64 percent during the same period.
At the same time, Big Bend saw drug seizures drop, Smith and other agents said. That's because smugglers use the migrants as decoys, they said, and abandon dozens at a time to overwhelm agents, before sending drug mules with 50-pound backpacks of marijuana in their wake.
Big Bend agents caught 6,000 people last fiscal year, which ended in September. During the next two months, they caught 1,646 people, putting them on pace to far exceed last year's total.
Big Bend agents seized 40,852 pounds of marijuana last fiscal year, but 4,211 pounds in the first two months of this year. That's more than a thousand pounds less per month.
As conditions deteriorated, some agents said they feared a death was inevitable, even though an agent hadn't died on the job since 1929, when one was killed by bandits smuggling liquor during Prohibition.
Last month, the agents' worst fears were realized.
Two Border Patrol agents were injured while investigating smugglers who had reached a culvert under Interstate 10, about 55 miles north of Porvenir. Both agents were fathers with years of experience. Both suffered serious head injuries. Agent Rogelio Martinez died. Agent Stephen Garland is still recovering and has trouble remembering what happened, said Smith, who spoke recently to the agent, who declined interviews.
The FBI is still investigating the incident , and there have been no arrests.
Walking the 9-foot-deep concrete culvert where Martinez, 36, was found fatally injured, Smith pointed out signs of recent smuggling: A gray backpack, a man's black-and-white checked shirt, an empty water jug in a holder sewn from a pair of blue jeans.
Up on the highway, traffic zoomed past a lighted sign advertising “Reward for information Border Patrol agent death.”
Days after the agents were injured, another was sent to investigate potential smuggler activity in a culvert farther south, alone. The agent, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak, didn't encounter anyone, but he was nervous: His two backup agents at a nearby station has been sent north to help after the attack.
“If it picks up here, we're just going to be unprepared,” Smith said.
He and other agents said they need more staff, improved radios, cameras and other equipment. Otherwise, they worry they may become overwhelmed the way Rio Grande Valley agents were by tens of thousands of Central American youth and families in 2014.
They also worry for the migrants unprepared for the harsh conditions of Big Bend. This month, agents patrolling by air spotted 15 Guatemalan men lost in the desert. The agents caught and brought them to a station, but the migrants were already suffering hypothermia. One died. Migrant families often turn themselves in, Smith said, but agents are increasingly discovering skeletons in the desert.
Recently a group of 50 migrants — mostly Guatemalan families and a couple of Hondurans — turned themselves in at Presidio, about 250 miles east of El Paso. Across from the bustling Mexican town of Ojinaga, connected by an official bridge and makeshift river crossings marked by guide wires, Presidio has become a hot spot for families who claim asylum, agents said.
On the Mexican side stands a roughly 50-foot-high retention wall topped with razor wire, set back from the river, built after a flood in 2008. Agents said it may be time to build a similar wall on the U.S. side.
A day after the Central American group arrived, a half dozen agents were still processing them in the Presidio station, a collection of trailers with reward posters on the door for Martinez. One by one, the migrants turned over their belongings — shoes, backpacks, toys — in exchange for numbered tags they would later use to reclaim them.
Four women huddled with three children on pallets on the concrete floor. Agents would like to expand and improve the holding area, eventually moving to a permanent building.
“That's on our wish list,” Carter said.
Instead, they lined up a dozen of the migrants, including a young mother clutching a baby, outside where Border Patrol vans waited to take them to two other Big Bend stations. Agents there would have to interrupt other duties to help process the latest arrivals.
Califor. patrol officers prepare for rise in cannabis-related DUI's
Marijuana impairment is on the rise and it likely will bloom on the roads after recreational cannabis business licensing starts Jan. 1
by Michael Todd
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The driver was so high on marijuana, he passed out with his foot on the brakes of his 2012 Hyundai Sonata in the turning lane of 17th Avenue at Portola Drive about two weeks ago, a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said.
“It's not uncommon for us to find somebody passed out in their car,” officer Trista Drake said. “It happens all the time.”
Officers arrested the 23-year-old Santa Cruz man who passed out in his Hyundai shortly after 10 p.m. Dec. 15, Drake said. He was charged with driving under the influence.
Marijuana impairment is on the rise and it likely will bloom on the roads after recreational cannabis business licensing starts Jan. 1, Drake said. As a result, the Santa Cruz County CHP office will increase training for drug-recognition experts after the new year.
The plan: Have at least 65 percent of its staff undergo the 40-hour expert course that teaches officers to identify many types of drug impairment.
Marijuana, unlike alcohol, has no legal limit for drivers, but all forms of impaired driving can result in arrest, according to state law.
There are three sections of DUI laws in California that usually apply to cases of drunken or drug-infused driving. The first section makes it illegal for drivers to be impaired by drugs or alcohol — a ruling based on an officer's discretion. The second section of law makes it illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.08 percent while driving.
“Let's say the driver is weaving badly and hits the center divide, for example. That person could be arrested with a lower blood-alcohol level,” Drake said.
The third section specifies drug impairment is an arrestable offense. But there are no levels someone must exceed to break the law. Drugs only require the impairment standard. Alcohol can result in either form of DUI arrest.
Marijuana impairment may be charged for multiple factors: the smell of marijuana, the presence of the drug and impaired behavior such as slow speech.
“Marijuana can make you behave the same as alcohol. It's a central nervous system depressant like alcohol,” Drake said. “It slows down the system. It takes longer to react to things. It can be very scary.”
She said marijuana impairment is not something highway patrol is ignoring.
Officers ask drivers how much they have smoked.
“A lot of times, they will admit it to us,” Drake said. “We check their pulse, their eyes.”
And officers check the driver's tongue. Drake said someone who is on marijuana might have a thick greenish-white coating on his or her tongue.
“It's gross,” Drake said. “But, to be arrested, you have to show signs of impairment.”
Drunken driving is the most common form of DUI, but drug impairment is on the rise among Santa Cruz County drivers, Drake said.
The highway patrol hosted a holiday crackdown of impaired driving Dec. 22 to Dec. 25. During that time, Santa Cruz County CHP made 18 DUI arrests, Drake said. Of those arrests, 11 were alcohol-related. Three arrests were combinations of drugs and alcohol. One involved a driver who appeared to be high on marijuana only, Drake said.
“That's a good amount,” Drake said.
The highway patrol monitors all roads and has an agreement with Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office for CHP to investigate DUIs in unincorporated areas.
“We are seeing an increase of drugs and we expect it to continue, especially with (recreational) marijuana sales being legal the first of the new year,” Drake said.
Russian supermarket explosion injures at least 13
by the Associated Press
MOSCOW — The explosion at a supermarket in Russia's second-largest city was a terrorist attack, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.
At least 13 people were injured Wednesday night when an improvised explosive device went off at a storage area for customers' bags at the supermarket in St. Petersburg. Investigators said the device contained 7 ounces of explosives and was rigged with shrapnel to cause more damage.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Putin made his comment Thursday at an awards ceremony at the Kremlin for troops who took part in Russia's Syria campaign but did not offer any details. He also said another terrorist attack had been thwarted in St. Petersburg but did not elaborate.
Putin has portrayed Russia's operation in Syria as a pre-emptive strike against terrorism at home. He said the threat of attacks at home would have been much worse if Russia had not intervened in Syria.
"What would have happened if those thousands (of terrorists) that I have just spoken about, hundreds of them had come back to us, trained and armed," he said in comments to Russian news agencies.
Earlier this month, Putin telephoned President Donald Trump to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart a series of bombings in St. Petersburg, Putin's hometown.
The Federal Security Service said seven suspects linked to the Islamic State group were arrested in connection to the alleged plot. The Kremlin said the suspects had planned to bomb Kazan Cathedral and other crowded sites.
In April, a suicide bombing in St. Petersburg's subway left 16 people dead and wounded more than 50. Russian authorities identified the bomber as a 22-year old Kyrgyz-born Russian national.
Law enforcement community reflects on a deadly 2017
by Diana Marinaccio and Ari Melber
When Louisiana police officer Shawn Anderson called his wife, Becky, on March 18, he said he had one more suspect to interview and would see her the next morning. But an hour later, a SWAT team arrived at Becky's doorstep. They told her that her husband, an 18-year veteran of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's department, had been shot and killed responding to a call that night.
Reflecting on Anderson's death in the line of duty, Becky said he used to say he was not afraid of being shot. "He told me, 'I'm afraid of leaving you and the kids here by yourself,'" she recalled.
“Telling Shawn not to be a police officer was like telling him not to breathe,” Becky told NBC News.
Anderson was one of 44 officers killed on duty in firearms-related incidents in 2017, according to new data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. It's a 33 percent decline from last year, though experts remain concerned about ambush attacks as a broader debate wages around policing in America.
Eight of this year's officer killings were from ambush attacks, also marking a decline from 2016, when the country saw a surge of ambush killings targeting officers, with 21 officers killed in those attacks and 66 total officers killed by gunfire.
Craig Floyd, who tracks every officer death as president of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, says it's important to remember the officers who gave their lives in the line of duty this year.
Floyd suggested that preventive measures have decreased the total number of officers killed on duty. “Technology has helped,” he said. “Training has made a difference.”
Still, “one ambush attacks is one too many,” said Marq Claxton, a retired NYPD Detective & Director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.
Gun violence takes a toll
According to his family and friends, Detective Jerry Walker embodied the values of public service. The 47-year-old was tough, kind and disciplined, a certified hostage negotiator and SWAT team member who served as a school resource officer at a high school in Little Elm, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
Walker, an 18-year veteran of the Little Elm Police Department, saw himself as a sheepdog that protected others, a mission he tattooed on his body.
“There are wolves. There are sheep. I am the sheepdog," the tattoo read.
“He's going to be out there on watch,” Beverly Walker, his mother, said, “making sure that the wolf doesn't get to the sheep.”
Walker was shot to death in January while responding to an emergency call. He knew the danger when he arrived at the crime scene, where an armed man yelled at police officers and then retreated to barricade himself inside a house. Walker was part of the team stationed outside. Hours later, the shooter opened fire from inside the home, killing Walker.
He was the second child Beverly lost to gun violence. When Walker was 17, his 10-year-old brother, Bragan, was killed in a shooting accident at a friend's home.
“I didn't think I would lose another baby,” Beverly told NBC News. “My consolation is that I know they're together, and I know they're in heaven, and I know they're happy.”
Another family member of an officer killed this year, Louise Cummings, was also no stranger to sudden loss.
Her husband, Corporal Stephen Ballard, was shot and killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle in April in Bear, Delaware. She says she accepts his fate as part of his “noble profession” of service. “He needed to die and be a hero for all,” she said.
Before she was married to Ballard, Cummings' boyfriend of five years died in 2011 after going into cardiac arrest.
“We have so many questions about anything that happens in the world, especially when it's tragic or traumatic,” Cummings said. “I have to believe it's for a bigger purpose.”
The president "felt the pain"
This July, Detective Miosotis Familia was the first woman NYPD officer killed in the line of duty since the 9/11 attacks. A pedestrian approached her vehicle and shot her in the head, one of the eight ambush killings this year.
Familia chose a midnight shift, her family recalls, because she wanted to spend more of the daytime with her family. “Her priority was always her children and my mother,” said her sister Mercedes Proefrock, who recalled Familia's “contagious smile.”
“To see someone and then having them disappear like that, it's hard,” she added.
President Donald Trump called Proefrock after Familia was killed.
“That moment, I respected that man,” Proefrock said. “The president took two minutes of his time to make me feel like she didn't die in vain — to show her children that the President of the United States also felt the pain.”
Floyd, who tracks officers killed on duty, said that while the rate of ambush attacks fluctuates, some departments have improved responses through situational awareness.
“We need to be always aware of the dangers that lurk around us,” Floyd said, “in terms of people literally attacking and assassinating law enforcement officers.”
Whether an officer lives or dies can also depend on funding and technology, Chuck Wexler, who runs the Police Executive Research Forum, which advocates advancements in policing through research and policy developments, said.
“Approximately one-third of officers killed in the line of duty each year don't have body armor,” Wexler said.
Wexler added that commemorating and honoring the fallen officers reinforces public esteem for a very tough job.
“The community really empathizes with what the police have to do,” said Wexler, especially when they were killed for “simply performing their job.”
Remembering the fallen
While some families said they have found some kind of acceptance of their loss, others emphasized their daily struggle.
“I've really struggled with the fact that he was murdered,” Chris Michael said of his brother Officer Gary Michael, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Clinton, Missouri, in August. “That somebody's decision took him away.”
“It's a nightmare that I'm still waiting to wake up from,” said Frances Von Hof, whose son, Corporal Michael Middlebrook, was killed by a gunman when he responded to a crime scene at a convenience store in Lafayette, Louisiana, in October.
She told NBC News that his service demonstrates how most police serve to “keep the peace and to help people.”
Middlebrook had faced close calls before.
Just this January, he intervened in a dispute between two men and shot one, wounding him. His mother recalled that he asked her to “pray” the suspect he shot “doesn't die.”
After that harrowing incident, Middlebrook's wife, Adrienne, said she told him, “One day you're not going to be so lucky.”
Now, she said, she still finds herself expecting him home to greet their 4-year-old daughter when his shift would have been over.
“I'm waiting on him to return home,” she said, “and he's not returning.”
A steady decline over decades
While on-duty shootings are down this year, law enforcement experts said that ambush attacks reflect a new front in antipathy toward police. Meanwhile, debates about policing and civil rights continue across the country.
Just this month, the president incorrectly claimed violent assaults against against police are increasing.
“We have seen an alarming increase in violent assaults carried out against our police officers,” Trump told graduating law enforcement officers at an FBI National Academy Graduation Ceremony on December 15.
Overall, killings of police officers and ambush attacks declined this year. Over the past few decades, police fatalities have been steadily declining, with a spike in 2016.
“You have to go back to the 1950s, to find a number lower than what we had in this decade,” said Wexler, the law enforcement expert.
But in the police community, family members and advocates tell NBC News the aggregate data only tells a small part of the story.
“It's devastating because it exposes just how dangerous the profession is,” said Claxton of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance, “how vulnerable you all are individually.”
Special Agent Sadia Baxter, who lost her husband, Officer Matthew Baxter, in Kissimmee, Florida, in August, said that she would continue to work in law enforcement, despite the dangers of the profession, in order to “keep [her] husband's legacy alive.”
Other family members of fallen officers say they are concerned some debates over problematic police practices have dented the wider respect for the job.
“Behind that badge, underneath that blue — they're human beings. They're people that have families,” said Proefrock, the sister of the NYPD officer ambushed by a pedestrian. “We tend to forget that.”
Reflecting on this difficult year, Proefrock added that she believes respect must run in both directions.
“We as a people have forgotten to respect [police],” she said, “and the officer also has to respect the community.”
Family says son killed by police in 'swatting' was unarmed, didn't play video games
by Nichole Manna
Blue and red lights flashed outside of the McCormick Street house just after 6 p.m. on Thursday. Curious of what was going on – Andrew Finch, 28, opened the door.
“I heard my son scream, I got up and then I heard a shot,” his mother, Lisa Finch, said Friday morning.
Finch and other relatives invited reporters into their home Friday morning – more than 12 hours after Wichita police said an officer fatally shot a 28-year-old man, who was identified by family as Andrew “Andy” Finch.
“We want Andy's side of the story to be told,” his mother said.
On Thursday, Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said a substation received a call that there was a hostage situation in a house in the 1000 block of West McCormick — and that someone had been shot in the head.
“That was the information we were working off of,” he said, explaining that officers went to the house ready for a hostage situation and they “got into position.”
“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said Thursday night. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”
Livingston didn't say if the man had a weapon when he came to the door , or what caused the officer to shoot the man.
Finch said her son, a father of two young children, wasn't armed.
As the Finch family talked to reporters, they carefully navigated their way around their foyer, and pointed out a reminder of what happened.
“There's where he was shot,” Andrew Finch's aunt, Lorrie Hernandez-Caballero, said, as she pointed to spots of blood on the home's porch, and on the carpet just inside the door. “They (police) had to take the screen door as evidence.”
After she heard the shot, Finch said she walked out of her bedroom and into the kitchen. A door leading from the kitchen to the side yard was open, she said.
“The police said, ‘Come out with your hands up,'” she said. “(The officer) took me, my roommate and my granddaughter, who witnessed the shooting and had to step over her dying uncle's body.”
The family was handcuffed, taken outside and placed into separate police cruisers, she said. They were taken downtown and interviewed by Wichita police officers.
Asked if the family has talked to investigators from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Finch said they were told KBI investigators would contact them.
But they have questions now.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” Finch asked. “Why didn't they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report.”
Finch and Hernandez-Caballero said they want to see the officer – identified only as a seven-year veteran of the department – and the person who made the false report held accountable.
“The person who made the phone call took my nephew, her son, two kids' father,” Hernandez-Caballero said. “How does it feel to be a murderer? I can't believe people do this on purpose.”
Online gamers have said in multiple Twitter posts that the shooting was the result of a “swatting” prank involving two gamers.
Andrew Finch was not involved in the online game, according to his mother and people in the gaming community.
“He doesn't play video games,” Finch said. “He has better things to do with his time.”
Swatting is an internet hoax where someone makes a call to a police department with a false story of an ongoing crime – often with killing or hostages involved – in an attempt to draw a large number of police officers to a particular address.
Swatting has gained traction across the country with online gamers. Those who try to cause the swatting incident will use caller ID spoofing or other techniques to disguise their number as being local. Or they call local non-emergency numbers instead of 911, according to 911.gov .
On Twitter, more than a dozen people who identified themselves as being in the gaming community told The Eagle that a feud between two Call of Duty players sparked one to initiate a “swatting.”
“I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION,” said one gamer on Twitter, who others said made the swatting call. His account was suspended overnight.
According to posts on Twitter, two gamers were arguing when one threatened to target the other with a “swatting.” The person who was the target of the swatting gave the other gamer a false address, which sent police to Finch's home instead of his own, according to Twitter posts.
Andrew Finch leaves behind two children – ages 2 and 7. He is from Virginia and the family moved to Wichita in the mid-1990s.
“He was very kind and caring,” Finch said. “He was in gifted classes. He was very artistic. He would draw any picture ... He would do anything for his family.”
Crime in St. Louis: A Bright Spot
2017 is on pace to boast the second – LOWEST national crime rate since 1990, with near record low murders. Overall crime nation-wide is projected to drop by almost 2%, the second lowest since 1990, violent crime projected to fall by 0.6%, the second lowest point in 25 years.
But here in St. Louis it's quite the opposite. We were on pace for the second-HIGHEST homicide rate since 1990 until the cold snap hit, even with the slow down in crime, we haven't seen rates this high in decades. Overall crime is up YTD 1.1% as of November and even more alarming, person crimes are up 7.6% and homicides are up 11% year to date.
But crime isn't up everywhere in the city. In fact, crime is down significantly in some of the southside neighborhoods with the most crime historically. The same neighborhoods that have the most density and diversity, the most poverty and vacancy.
The Cherokee Neighborhoods (Gravois Park, Marine Villa, Benton Park and Benton Park West), collectively have seen a very distinct and significant drop in crime compared to the rest of the city in 2017. In fact, crime is down overall in these 4 neighborhoods collectively by 8.4%, down 16% in Gravois Park. Homicides are down a stunning 46%.
So what's driving this remarkable decrease?
According to Citylab, the great crime decline that the most major American cities have seen over the last 25 years can be attributed to community grassroots efforts like building playgrounds and employing young men. Earlier this year, Gravois Park and Benton Park West neighbors worked with the Cherokee Business District to apply for and install a brand new playground donated by New Balance. And for the last several years, this community has been a top employer for STL Youth Jobs, putting our young men and women to work.
The Washington Post yesterday points to community policing and establishing closer ties with people living in violent neighborhoods. The Cherokee neighborhoods are unique in the City in that we have two SLMPD beat officers assigned to do just that. Not paid by a special Community Improvement District. Not overtime answering to a particular neighborhood association or business. Officers Garrett and Jackson are assigned by 3 rd District Shawn Dace to patrol all 4 neighborhoods, to get to know the kids, the neighbors, the community as a whole. And they do an excellent job.
Yesterday, our City appointed a new Police Commissioner, Chief John Hayden who described building citizen trust through “having outdoor roll calls in struggling neighborhoods, by attending community meetings and seeking feedback, but most importantly by walking the streets and talking to our citizens face-to-face.” As we struggle to keep our beat officers in place, a new commander in chief with these priorities gives me hope.
While two beat cops and a playground are no panacea, and we still have crime issues, we should take seriously the impact community and community policing has on the crime rates in our neighborhoods. The small yet significant strides we have made in the Cherokee neighborhoods should be not only nurtured but used as a model city-wide. As many of our nation's major cities are learning: community makes all the difference.
Police walk an electronic beat on social media
by Bob Gross
Officer Patrick Eash has an ongoing dialogue with about 11,300 people on Facebook.
And that's what his superiors at the Port Huron Police Department want. Eash is the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education and community services officer, and he's also the person responsible for the department's presence on social media.
If you were one of the thousands of people who viewed the department's dashcam video of officers Sam Backer, Brian Daly and Derek Paret lip-syncing the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," you've seen part of what Eash does.
"In our department, we have a community policing philosophy," he said. "In the past, that was mostly things like Neighborhood Watch, community meetings, safety presentations ... basically community involvement, which is all great and necessary.
"(But) most people get their information and they form their opinions through social media," Eash said. "It's an opportunity to have a new (type) of community policing. We can interact with the community through social media."
One of the objectives is for people to see police officers as people — not as the person who's trying to catch someone doing something.
"The main purpose is to interact and have a two-way conversation between the police department and the residents of the Blue Water Area," Eash said.
He said videos such as the dashcam karaoke help humanize officers.
"You can say, 'Oh, I know that officer,'" Eash said. "'That's Officer Daly from that funny video.'"
He said the department's presence on social media is not "all fun and games," however.
"That opens it up so a lot more people can see what we have to say," Eash said.
The department used Facebook recently to collect tips about an armed robbery at the Days Inn on Pine Grove Avenue.
"That armed robbery goes out to a much larger audience," Eash said. "... The tips are pouring in."
The department also uses social media to help people.
"Since we have a lot more people interacting with us ... we have a dialogue to answer people's questions," Eash said.
Port Huron Police are on Facebook at facebook.com/PortHuronPolice and on Twitter at @PortHuronPolice. The department also has a website at porthuronpolice.org.
"Soon we will start doing an Instagram account, and we have started dabbling in Facebook Live," Eash said.
He said he spends a couple of hours a week on things such as videos and updating the Facebook page. He also is available to monitor the department's social media presence around the clock.
"It's going well," he said. "It has a pretty positive reception. We have a lot of fun with it."
He said he comes up with some of the video ideas, while others are team efforts.
"We have a recruitment team, and our recruitment team will bounce ideas off each other when we meet.
"Now everybody comes up to me with these video ideas."
He said people recognize him from social media.
"I've had several instances where people come up to me and say, 'I love your video. What are you going to do next?'" Eash said.
The department's experience with social media seems to be having the desired effect, he said.
"There's a lot of noise on social media and it's easy to ignore the noise," Eash said. "If we can have these positive interactions with videos, it reduces the noise ..."
He said the department's administrative officers are "100 percent supportive" of the social media efforts.
"They love it," he said.
Social media and the police
The St. Clair County sheriff offices are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stclaircountysheriff.org
The Sanilac County sheriff offices are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Sanilac-County-Sheriffs-Office-185551388277736
The Macomb County Sheriff is at https://www.facebook.com/macombcountysheriffsoffice
The Lapeer County Sheriff is at https://www.facebook.com/Lapeer-County-Sheriffs-Department-573907275955119
The Marine City Police Department is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/marinecitypd
Clay Township Police Department is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Clay-Township-Police-Department/160945477300231
The Yale Police Department is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CityOfYalePoliceDepartment
The Lexington Police Department is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LexingtonMIPolicedepartment
The Richmond Police Department is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/richmondcitypolicemi
The Port Huron Police Department is accepting applications for the 2018 Citizens' Police Academy. The six-session academy will be 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 6 through March 20.
The deadline to apply is Jan. 19. Brochures and applications are available at the police department, 100 McMorran Blvd., Port Huron, or at www.porthuronpolice.org.
The academy is free. Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Contact Officer Patrick Eash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A city ever safer thanks to the NYPD
Even after years of crime declines that have utterly transformed New York City, the record 2017 is about to set remains nothing short of astonishing.
Barring the unthinkable, the five boroughs will end the year having lost fewer people to murder than the previous recent low of 333, set in 2014, and indeed fewer than at any time since records began more than a half century ago.
As of Wednesday, this city had seen just 288 murders, versus dozens more at this time last year. Other major crimes, from felony assault to burglary, are on similarly sharp trajectories down. Even public housing is at long last seeing crime declines.
This city's fresh achievement speaks to the shining leadership of Police Commissioner Jimmy O'Neill, who has built on the strides made by his predecessor Bill Bratton in targeting high-crime locations, busting gangs with the help of social media and deploying new technologies, such as ShotSpotter, to fine-tune response.
So great were such strides that when the NYPD sharply cut back on its excessive use of stop, question and frisk, it had no impact on safety. Neither has the rapid reduction in the number of inmates at Rikers Island and other city jails, now under 9,000 on a typical day — the fewest in a generation.
With the benefit of beefed-up numbers of officers, O'Neill has since advanced community policing that brings New Yorkers back toward trusting relationships with local officers they know they can call on.
Mayor de Blasio wisely empowered both, and shielded the NYPD from pressures to roll back policing to the barest as a supposed scourge on black and Latino communities — understanding full well that it is those same communities which are counting on the police as partners to keep them safe.
O'Neill in this, his first full year as commissioner, deserves all the more honor for having achieved further crime drops despite some blasting headwinds.
Not least: The deadliest terrorist attack this city has seen since 9/11, of eight murdered on Manhattan's West Side bike path. At our peril does this city take for granted just how many lives the NYPD has saved in thwarting planned attacks before sick acolytes of ISIS and terror networks ever strike.
Opioid addiction remains a scourge, tied to larceny, trafficking and other crimes. Overdose deaths don't count in the crime stats but sear the city and continue to challenge the police.
So does untreated mental illness, which constantly calls cops to the scene of crises and violence in lieu of psychiatric professionals. Improved police training eases but does not end the likelihood that some desperately ill people will die in such confrontations.
One sych sick person murdered one of the NYPD's own, Miosotis Familia.
Police to tighten security for NYC New Year's after recent deadly attacks
In addition to its usual security practices, the department this year is relying on help from "vapor wake" dogs
by Colleen Long
NEW YORK — Police are promising a bigger security detail than ever before in Times Square for this year's New Year's Eve celebration, which will cap off a year that saw a number of deadly attacks, including a vehicle rampage at the very spot where revelers will ring in 2018.
In addition to its usual army of snipers, bag-inspecting officers and metal detectors, the department this year is relying on help from a growing corps of "vapor wake" dogs, which are trained to sniff out trace amounts of explosive particles that trail behind someone carrying a bomb.
All 125 parking garages in the vicinity of Times Square will be emptied in advance of the celebration and sealed off, so no one has a chance to sneak in a car bomb, police said.
Detectives already have been assigned to all of the dozens of high-rise hotels in the area, with the aim of preventing the type of attack that happened in Las Vegas in October, when a gunman firing from a casino hotel killed dozens of people at an outdoor concert below. Police wouldn't discuss whether guests at area hotels would be screened in advance of the celebration, but Police Commissioner James O'Neill said officers already are working with hotel security.
"This is going to be one of the most well-policed, best-protected events at one of the safest venues in the entire world," O'Neill said.
The extra precautions follow two recent terrorist attacks in the city. A man detonated a bomb in the city's subway system on Dec. 11, injuring only himself. On Halloween, an Islamic State-inspired attacker drove down a bicycle path, killing eight people before he wrecked his truck and was shot by police.
Times Square itself was targeted in May by a man, said by police to be high on drugs, who drove through crowds of pedestrians for more than three blocks, killing an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan. The speeding vehicle was eventually stopped by one of the squat metal barriers that have been installed around the square's pedestrian plazas.
Those attacks were reminders that New York City's massive security apparatus can only do so much, but city officials insisted they will be able to keep people safe on New Year's Eve.
"The fact is, they will absolutely be safe," said Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.
The police department doesn't reveal the strength of its security force for the event, but it gave some details about the operation at a news conference Thursday.
Officers will have help from roughly 1,000 security cameras installed in and around Times Square.
An area roughly 22 city blocks long and three long blocks wide will be sealed off from both vehicle and pedestrian traffic with cement blocks, sand-filled garbage trucks and other vehicles blocking the streets leading into the area.
Partygoers entering that secure zone will be screened at a dozen access points where they will encounter metal detectors, the vapor wake dogs and officers with portable radiation detectors. Large backpacks are not allowed. All small bags will be searched.
From there, people go through a second round of security screening when they enter spectator pens where they are essentially confined for the night. People who leave the pens aren't allowed to re-enter — so no bathroom breaks.
Those who make it through will get to see live performances from Andy Grammer, Nick Jonas and Mariah Carey. A cascade of confetti and fireworks will ring in the new year when the Waterford Crystal ball drops.
In addition to the officers at the scene, dozens of analysts will be combing Islamic State propaganda and deciphering data.
Police also will be out in force at Coney Island, where live music and fireworks were expected to draw large crowds, and at a midnight event for runners in Central Park.
"The takeaway from our preparations is this: People will be safe, and they should feel safe, too," O'Neill said. "Because the NYPD and our partners are well-prepared."