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.
Amazon employees protest sale of facial recognition software to law enforcement
Amazon employees join Google and Microsoft workers in revolt.
Workers at Amazon have demanded that their employer stop the sale of facial recognition software and other services to the US government. In a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and posted on the company's internal wiki, employees said that they “refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights,” citing the mistreatment of refugees and immigrants by ICE and the targeting of black activists by law enforcement, reported The Verge.
Amazon employees are not the only techies to revolt. The letter follows similar protests at Google and Microsoft.
“As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” says the letter. The employees (it's not clear how many signed the letter) refer to the sale of computer services by IBM to the Nazis as a worrying parallel. “IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late,” says the letter. “We will not let that happen again.”
The employees call out two specific businesses that Amazon should end: the sale of facial recognition software to law enforcement (marketed as Amazon Web Services Rekognition), and the sale of AWS cloud services to Palantir (a data analytics firm that provides “mission critical” software to ICE).
Amazon's sale of Rekognition software to the police was first revealed by an ACLU investigation in May, with the civil liberties group warning that the deployment of the technology could be the beginning of automated mass surveillance in America. Palantir, meanwhile, has been working with ICE since 2014 under President Obama, and helps the agency manage the stacks of personal data needed to target and deport individuals.
The letter written by Amazon's employees references the separation of children from their families at the US border as a motivation for the protest.
In the correspondence, they write: “In the face of this immoral US policy, and the US's increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.”
It remains to be seen whether the protests at Microsoft or Amazon will affect the companies' policies, but the trend of tech workers taking an active stance on their employer's work with the US government seems unlikely to end any time soon.
As seen via Gizmodo, you can read the full letter from the Amazon employees below:
We are troubled by the recent report from the ACLU exposing our company's practice of selling AWS Rekognition, a powerful facial recognition technology, to police departments and government agencies. We don't have to wait to find out how these technologies will be used. We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized. We are not alone in this view: over 40 civil rights organizations signed an open letter in opposition to the governmental use of facial recognition, while over 150,000 individuals signed another petition delivered by the ACLU.
We also know that Palantir runs on AWS. And we know that ICE relies on Palantir to power its detention and deportation programs. Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents. Since April 19, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers. This treatment goes against U.N. Refugee Agency guidelines that say children have the right to remain united with their parents, and that asylum-seekers have a legal right to claim asylum. In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.'s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.
Technology like ours is playing an increasingly critical role across many sectors of society. What is clear to us is that our development and sales practices have yet to acknowledge the obligation that comes with this. Focusing solely on shareholder value is a race to the bottom, and one that we will not participate in.
We refuse to build the platform that powers ICE, and we refuse to contribute to tools that violate human rights.
As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used. We learn from history, and we understand how IBM's systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler. IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late. We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.
We call on you to:
Stop selling facial recognition services to law enforcement
Stop providing infrastructure to Palantir and any other Amazon partners who enable ICE.
Implement strong transparency and accountability measures, that include enumerating which law enforcement agencies and companies supporting law enforcement agencies are using Amazon services, and how.
Our company should not be in the surveillance business; we should not be in the policing business; we should not be in the business of supporting those who monitor and oppress marginalized populations.
This protest from Amazon is the latest outcry from Silicon Valley workers over work with the US government. In March, it was revealed that Google was helping the Pentagon build AI tools to analyze drone surveillance footage.
The US Department of Defense is involved in Project Maven, a research initiative to develop computer vision algorithms that can analyze drone images. In response, more than 3,100 Google employees signed a letter urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to reevaluate the company's involvement, as “Google should not be in the business of war,” as reported by The New York Times.
Employees protested and more than a dozen even resigned, and as a result Google pulled out of the contract and announced a new pledge not to develop AI weapons.
More recently, more than 300 employees at Microsoft demanded that the company stop providing cloud services to ICE. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella downplayed the work, saying the company was only providing benign software for tasks like messaging and email.
Upstate New York
Police: Man who killed NY trooper had 12 illegal firearms
Trooper Nicholas F. Clark was fatally shot responding to a call that a suicidal man was barricaded inside his home
by Sarah Moses Buckshot --
Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.
CORNING, N.Y. — Twelve illegal firearms were recovered from the home of the man state police said shot and killed a New York State trooper on Monday near Corning, state police announced Friday.
Trooper Nicholas F. Clark, 29, was fatally shot responding to a call that a suicidal man was barricaded inside his home in the town of Erwin, state police said.
The suspect, Steven M. Kiley, 43, was a pre-K to 12th grade principal in the Bradford Central School District.
During the investigation, state police recovered 12 illegal firearms owned by Kiley, including eight assault rifles, one rifle and three handguns. Two silencers and numerous high capacity magazines were also recovered, state police said.
Autopsy results show that Clark died as a result of being struck with buckshot from a 12-gauge shotgun fired by Kiley, police said.
Kiley's autopsy determined that he died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Kiley also sustained a gunshot wound from law enforcement to his chest, which would have been fatal had he not taken his own life, police said.
The investigation into Clark's death is continuing.
Funeral services for Clark will be held on at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Alfred University.
(VIDEO on site)
Video shows shootout during LAPD pursuit
Police were following a stolen Honda before one of the suspects pointed a shotgun out of the car and fired at the officers
By PoliceOne Staff
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department released video of officers engaging in a shootout with two suspects during a pursuit.
On May 20, two LAPD officers were following a stolen Honda when one of the suspects in the car realized police were following them, ABC News reported . The car can be seen on video speeding up and barreling through several stop signs in an attempt to flee.
A suspect in the passenger side of the vehicle, identified as 24-year-old Andrew Guerrero, then points a shotgun out of the car and fires at the officers. One of the officers returns fire, first with a handgun and then with a shotgun. The shootout ends when the officers' patrol vehicle collides with a curb and another car.
Police eventually found the stolen vehicle abandoned, but later located Guerrero and 29-year-old Daniel Salinas, accused of driving the Honda, in the same area as the vehicle.
Neither officer were injured during the incident.
Police said Salinas and Guerrero are documented gang members and face a number of charges, including attempted murder of an officer. They both pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Israeli training in community policing
Fifteen Police Officers and other civilian members have completed a one week course on Community Policing at the National Police Training Academy in Belmopan, under the tutelage of World class trainers in the subject. Participants of the course received their certificates and other recognition in a brief ceremony at the Academy on Tuesday morning.
The course was conducted by Dr. Eran Israel, who initiated the community approach to policing in Israel 35 years ago. Joining him was Mr. Horacio Kurland, another Israeli, with expertise in the management of communications and community development.
During the one week course, participants were taught the theories surrounding community policing, strategic planning and about analyzing current situations. Trainees were also practically involved, separating into six teams and fanning out in Belmopan to get direct feedback from principals of schools, pastors, municipality representatives and others.
“The best practice of policing is community policing, the most efficient one, the cheapest one, you don't need technology and helicopters and trucks, you only need one clever policeman, who is suitable for his community, he has to know the language, the tradition, should know how to speak with the people of that community and most important they respect each other which means he is the one to make the contacts,” explains Dr. Eran Israel.
“You don't need guns, it doesn't need violence, it doesn't mean that because community policing is a soft policing it can fight crime,” he also said.
Present at the graduation ceremony was Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, who spoke on behalf of the Government of Belize and the Commissioner of Police, Alen Whylie. He firstly expressed gratitude to the facilitators and the Israeli Government for taking the time to impart valuable knowledge in Belize.
As a Commander of Operations, whose portfolio is also Community Policing Williams also said that the Police Department welcomes such training.
“The Belize Police Department will always welcome training that will enhance the capacity of our officers. We are a progressive Department. We are a growing Department and as such we cannot remain ignorant to the expertise of others around us near and far whenever opportunity present itself, where we can reach out to any organization or any country or government, who believe that they can assist us in achieving our daily operational objectives. It is our duty to reach out and get these assistance that we need.”
Williams was also frank about the realities.
“We have seen over and over again, on a daily basis, that one of our greatest weaknesses, which can be our greatest strength is community policing, it is our weakness, because we tend not to use it, in the way we should, and it can be our greatest strength, because if we apply community policing the way we should we will make great inroads in the fight against criminality right across this country.”
These newly trained police officers are being encouraged by the Police Department to now share their newly found knowledge on Community Policing with others. Civilian members from the Voluntary Special Constables, Citizens on Patrol, Department of Youth Services and Community Rehabilitation, who also participated in the intensive course are also being encouraged to multiply their experiences.
As the phenomenon of Community Policing blows across the Globe, there are new signs of fundamental changes on the Belizean horizon. There will be a neighborhood watch meeting at 7:00 p.m on July the 5th at the Rotary Park on the La Loma Luz Boulevard in Santa Elena, where the new Regional Commander for Community Policing will be present.
What's behind the Lehigh Valley's decrease in crime? Community policing? A good economy? Luck?
by Manuel Gamiz Jr.
As president of the Eighth Ward Neighborhood Crime Watch, Bonnie Wachter has seen her fair share of violent crime while living in one of Allentown's tougher neighborhoods.
Over the past decade, 16 people have lost their lives to violence in her crime watch district, a neighborhood north of the downtown that stretches from Seventh Street to 12th Street between Liberty Street and Sumner Avenue. Three died last year.
But this year, the 8th Ward seems quieter despite the occasional loud car stereos, or the groups of reckless riders on motorbikes and bicycles who pop wheelies and clog the streets.
“It does seem a lot more quiet,” said Wachter, who has been with the crime watch for the past 25 years. “We're not seeing the major types of crimes.”
The numbers back her up.
Allentown, coming off one of its most violent years in 2017 with a record number of gun deaths, saw a nearly 11 percent decrease in serious crimes in the first four months of the year, with robberies, assaults and burglaries significantly lower, statistics show. Nonfatal gun assaults are down nearly 73 percent during that same time, with seven during the first four months of the year compared to 26 at the same time last year.
Males who are between 18 and and mid-20s are the people doing the majority of the crime. We want to reach them ... — Assistant Chief Gail Struss of Allentown police
Allentown police officials attribute the decrease to a continued focus on community policing and working with the city's youth, reaching out to them before they get lost to the streets.
The city has several programs devoted to the city's young people and earlier this month participated in a panel discussion on reducing crime and violence by youth. The panel featured the city captain in charge of the downtown patrols, a mother who lost her son to violence last year and three young men who are trying to turn their lives around after being locked up.
Allentown is not alone in crime reduction — Bethlehem and Easton are also witnessing dips in serious crime. Bethlehem recorded a 9 percent decrease in serious crime in the first four months of the year, while Easton's decrease is more than 11 percent, according to state police's uniform crime reporting system.
Allentown's crime reduction is happening despite major changes to the city's leadership with a new mayor and the fourth police chief to head the department in the last three years.
Crime down in Allentown
The first four months of the year showed significant decrease in serious crime in Allentown. This is the breakdown by the city's four Police Service Areas:
PSA I - East Allentown
Robberies - down 75 percent
Aggravated Assaults - down 75 percent
Burglaries - down 12 percent
Overall - down 7.55 percent
PSA II - West End
Robberies - down 18.5 percent
Aggravated Assaults - down 40 percent
Burglaries - down 33 percent
Overall - down 4.84 percent
PSA III - South Allentown
Robberies - down 44.4 percent
Aggravated Assaults - up 66.7 percent
Burglaries - up 24 percent
Overall - up 0.85 percent
PSA IV - Center City
Robberies - down 54 percent
Aggravated Assaults - down 30 percent
Burglaries - down 35.5 percent
Overall - down 19.6 percent
The decrease in Allentown is most noticeable in downtown, where every crime category has seen significant reductions. The numbers in Allentown include an almost 45 percent decrease in armed and strong-arm robberies, a close to 32 percent drop in aggravated assaults and a 22 percent reduction in burglaries and burglary attempts. The only crime category that showed an increase was auto thefts.
Assistant Chief Gail Struss said while it's still early in the year, she believes the department's work with the community and city's youth is paying dividends.
“We have been expanding a lot of energy to reach out to the youth,” Struss said. “Males who are between 18 and and mid-20s are the people doing the majority of the crime. We want to reach them before they get to that.”
She said the department regularly looks at crime statistics and statistical updates from the city's crime analyst. The captains who command patrol areas in downtown, east Allentown, south Allentown and the West End look at these numbers on an almost daily basis, Struss added.
“Every month we are looking at the numbers to see what's up, what's down, where are the hot spots in the city,” she said. “If we see an issue, we try to throw more resources and officers.”
A breakdown of Allentown's crime statistics for the first four months of the year shows crime was most noticeably down in the downtown, with robberies decreasing more than 54 percent in the areas between the Lehigh River and 10th Street, and from the northern edge of the city to Union Street on the south. That area also saw a more than 35 percent decrease in burglaries and a 30 percent drop in aggravated assaults.
Last spring, a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll showed that while Allentown residents mostly believe the city provides a good quality of life and is headed in the right direction, they are still concerned about crime, despite a decadeslong decrease in serious crime. The poll also found that two out of three surveyed say they worry about becoming a crime victim in Allentown, and residents listed crime and safety as the No. 1 issue facing the city — outranking city schools and the job market.
Wachter, with the 8th Ward neighborhood group, said she has seen a heavier police presence in her area of both officers on cruisers and on bikes.
Her group lies within the downtown police coverage area, and Wachter said the area's police Capt. Glenn Granitz Jr. attends the group's monthly meetings and keeps residents aware of the department's efforts to reduce crime.
“It seems to be deterring a lot of crime,” she said. While the most serious crimes appear to be down, she said there are still minor problems, like noisy drivers, double parkers and “goofy kids riding their bicycles and four-wheelers in the middle of the street.”
Wachter has given all the residents in the neighborhood her phone number to help them report those types of quality-of-life offenses. “If you are afraid to say something, I will call it in for you,” she said.
While most major crime categories are down throughout the Lehigh Valley's three cities, auto thefts are up.
Bethlehem's crime statistics showed a decrease in serious crime of 9.4 percent, with drops in robberies and assaults, but increases in rapes, burglaries and thefts.
Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio said he feels part of the reason for the decrease is because his department, like many of the bigger police departments, targets career criminals who continue to commit crime even after they are released from jail.
“If you can put away these career criminals, it makes a big difference,” he said.
It's like a future investment and your return is by solving the quality-of-life issues, you have less serious and violent crime down the road. — Bethlehem police chief Mark DiLuzio on the tactic of targeting small problems before they escalate
The Bethlehem chief also credits an improved economy — “we definitely see less crime when there's an upswing in the economy” — and a continued focus on solving smaller problems before they become bigger ones.
“It's like a future investment and your return is by solving the quality-of-life issues, you have less serious and violent crime down the road,” DiLuzio said. “There will always be crime. We don't live in a utopia, but the more we can do to be proactive to prevent bigger crimes from occurring, I think that's a real success.”
Michelle Bolger, an assistant professor of criminal justice at DeSales University, said she believes the Lehigh Valley's decreased crime so far this year is likely linked to area police department's efforts in the community.
“I think that locally, our police are being very proactive in the community,” she said.
“Allentown and Bethlehem have a lot of police presence and are quite involved. Bethlehem hosts a variety of events in the community, like the annual Cops ‘n' Kids event, and is very proactive with heroin outreach, especially in [publicly subsidized] housing programs. Perhaps the heroin epidemic has, to some degree, led to more community and police interaction and cooperation. That, in turn, could have an impact on local community crime.”
Bolger said she's unsure if the local numbers mirror any national trends since not every department releases crime numbers consistently. According to published reports, cities such as Chicago and Nashville have reported crime is down, while others areas such as Boston and Washington, D.C., report decreases in overall crime but an increase in homicides.
Some departments are wary of patting themselves on the back a few months into the year, since crime trends can change rather quickly and inexplicably, according to Easton police Chief Carl Scalzo.
“Sometimes there isn't an explanation,” he said. “But you just keep fighting the battles and hopefully things keep moving in positive directions.”
Easton's serious crime dropped by 11.5 percent in the first four months of the year, which Scalzo credits to the men and women of his department.
Our goal for last seven years has been to make this city as uncomfortable a place for criminals to set up shop as we possibly can. — Easton police Chief Carl Scalzo
“The credit, 100 percent, goes to the men and women of this department, the officers on the streets, the detectives and the efforts they put forth,” Scalzo said.
Scalzo said the department has been committed to being more community-oriented, deploying more foot and bike patrols and moving officers to different sectors that require their strengths — and it's “shown some promising effects.”
He said the almost-weekly drug raids by the department's vice unit and special response teams, led by Lt. Matt Gerould, has also made a dent in reducing crime over the past seven years, the period Scalzo has been chief.
“Our goal for last seven years has been to make this city as uncomfortable a place for criminals to set up shop as we possibly can,” he said.
The crime statistics that Scalzo said he's proud of are the ones that show serious crime has dropped more than 50 percent over the past decade. In 2007, Easton reported 1,243 serious crimes such as homicides, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and arson. Last year, the city only had 547.
“We lay low on this kind stuff, but we are happy the way things are going,” he said.
(VIDEO on site)
Columbia's Race Matters, Friends disappointed by community policing efforts
Many officers do not feel valued, said Maloney.
by Jasmine Ramirez
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Race Matters, Friends representative Lynn Maloney said a lack of funding and "toxic culture" of the Columbia Police Department causes challenges for community-oriented policing.
"Mistrust of supervisors, not having their feedback incorporated and feeling like they are treating punitively when express their concerns," she said.
Maloney said she believes issues within CPD need addressed before the department can successfully move towards a community-style of policing.
"We can't expect them to go out into the public and generate that generosity and authentic connection," she said.
The city held seven community engagement meetings on community policing led by Sgt. Fox. The final meeting was Jun 28.
Maloney said Sgt. Fox always addressed the need for more funding in order to adopt a department-wide community policing philosophy.
"There is an issue with financial resources but so much could be done if the police officers really felt they were being treated well." she said. "We need to start with what's happening in a very toxic culture.”
Maloney said she wants the city manager to hold the police chief accountable. She spoke at a city council meeting Jul 2 about community policing.
The Columbia Police Officers' Association brought up salary concerns during the meeting . CPOA president, Alan Mitchell, asked for a pay plan for officers.
Race Matters, Friends put together a policy report for Columbia's community policing.
Building trust: Community policing requires shared humanity
by ALEXIS ALLISON
Bill Davis remembers the first white teacher he ever had. His name was Tim Woodward, a 20-something fifth-grade history teacher at an all-black school in Montgomery, Alabama. He wore wine-colored penny loafers.
It was the 1960s, and the non-black exemplars in Davis' childhood were Jesus and President John F. Kennedy, whose portraits hung next to that of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in every home in his family's public housing community.
They, like Mr. Woodward, were the good ones. Davis learned to distrust other white people, especially police officers, from the black, college-educated Freedom Riders who were often guests in the Davis home.
Davis lost touch with Mr. Woodward, but he never forgot him or those loafers. He never forgot that Mr. Woodward didn't talk down to students, didn't punish them if they didn't understand — that he gave Davis a new, better impression of what it meant to be white.
When the internet era rolled around, Davis, now in his 60s, tried and failed to find Mr. Woodward. He wanted to tell him how much he meant to him.
“To put it simply, he made us feel included in his life,” Davis wrote in an email. “Not like he was trying to be black or accepted by us, but he welcomed us to learn of him.”
Years after that fifth-grade class, Davis, who is African-American, became a police officer in what he considers the most racist police department in the country: the Montgomery Police Department.
He worked alongside officers who helped arrest Rosa Parks. He learned to navigate environments where people with skin color like his and police officers defined justice differently.
Today, he serves as a member of Columbia's Citizens Police Review Board to bridge both worlds. He refuses to generalize.
Ten years ago, he bought his own pair of wine-colored penny loafers in honor of Mr. Woodward. It was only recently that Davis, a towering and regal presence, found his old teacher's obituary online. He sat down and wept.
If Mr. Woodward had taught Davis anything, it was that a small and consistent kindness — a recognition of a shared humanity — has the power to transcend years of distrust and misunderstanding.
The absence of trust and understanding has been evident at this summer's seven town halls on community policing. City budget shortages, racial disparities in traffic stop data, police conduct, low police officer morale, meeting fatigue, and many people feeling unheard have Columbia at an impasse that may only be overcome by a lesson from Mr. Woodward.
The ongoing conversation about policing in Columbia is, at its core, a conversation about what it means to be human and what it takes to recognize each other as such.
A long time coming
Community policing, which partners the police and community in pursuit of public safety, isn't new in Columbia or elsewhere.
Amid the civil rights fervor of the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a nationwide study that called, in part, for improved police engagement with minority communities.
By 1991, the Missouri Department of Public Safety began awarding contracts for community policing, according to a 1994 evaluation of several community policing programs in Missouri .
Soon after, the Columbia Foot Patrol Program was implemented downtown. Using state-level grant money, the Police Department assigned an officer to develop relationships with business owners and citizens, reduce fear of crime and provide crime-prevention training.
“The business community's interest dovetailed well with a commitment of the Columbia Police to implement community policing in the city,” the report said.
In 1997, Norm Botsford was hired as police chief to implement a department-wide community policing philosophy, said John Clark, a local attorney with a certificate in community policing from Missouri Western State University.
Around that time, the department began offering a Youth Academy to teach kids about police work, according to the city's website . Within two years, Botsford quit after failing twice to acquire more funding for the department, Clark said.
Under new leadership, the Police Department in 2003 developed a ”Columbia-Oriented Policing” strategic plan , which mentions the need for “citizen empowerment,” “community partnership and involvement,” and “hiring for community-oriented problem-solving.”
By then, school resource officers had been placed in local high schools, and a horse-mounted unit for special community events was about to hit the streets. It was disbanded in 2015 due to staffing shortages.
In 2009, newly appointed Police Chief Ken Burton, who had co-authored a study on community policing from his time with the Arlington Police Department in Texas, designated a downtown unit of bike-riding cops as a demonstration of “geographic policing,” a tenet of community policing.
From the get-go, Burton, who's been criticized for not attending this summer's community policing meetings , told officers that they should all — rather than a single unit — practice community policing, according to the recent State of the Community Outreach Unit report . Burton came to the seventh and final community policing meeting Thursday.
Shortly after the geographic policing model was introduced, the Police Department assigned two officers to patrol Douglass Park, known for its high number of calls for service.
By early 2015, not long after the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence released its final report , the department expanded the officers' boundaries and renamed the unit the Community Outreach Unit, according to the city's website . Within a year, the unit was working in three neighborhoods designated by the city's strategic plan . A fourth neighborhood was added in 2017.
Based on the early successes of the unit, the City Council passed a resolution in February directing City Manager Mike Matthes to design a department-wide community policing plan. To get public input on this next phase, the city organized seven town hall meetings that were led by Sgt. Robert Fox . Fox and Matthes said they plan to co-present a report on their findings to the council by Aug. 31.
The meetings took place in each of the city's six wards and drew 20 to 30 attendees each, with the exception of the first, which attracted about 50. City officials, journalists and police officers usually made up about half of the audience. Despite perennial concerns about racial disparities in the Police Department's traffic stop data, only a handful of black citizens participated, except for the last meeting.
What these conversations leave out, according to Clark and Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of local activist group Race Matters, Friends, is another history — one that uniquely, disproportionately burdens black Americans.
Lack of context, lack of trust
When Wilson-Kleekamp was 12 years old, her father was pulled over by an officer in California. She and her baby siblings were in the car, which didn't stop the officer from calling her dad “every foul name in the book.” Her dad stayed calm, but she was afraid he'd get shot.
“I remember being so terrified that I almost could not think. My whole body was shaking,” Wilson-Kleekamp said. “It was a very very scary experience. That moment has never left me.”
Now that she's an adult, Wilson-Kleekamp has had many more experiences, both good and bad, with police officers. More recently, her younger brother, who was terrified of police in high school, was pulled over by a cop.
“He treated me like a human being,” her brother told her. “He didn't ask me if I just got out of jail, he didn't ask me if I was related to such-and-such.”
Wilson-Kleekamp, who's pursuing a doctorate in education with an emphasis in social studies, said the problem lies not with those in uniform but with the historical underpinnings of policing.
“I don't think police are bad people,” Wilson-Kleekamp said. “I think policing as we see it and in practice is very antithetical to relationships.”
She points to Fox's emphasis on the Peelian Principles , a set of nine policing guidelines typically attributed to the British leader Sir Robert Peel in the 1800s.
The principles stress the idea of police as citizens in uniform: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” A department-wide return to these principles, Fox said during his presentations, would be a step toward a full embrace of community policing.
The problem with the Peelian Principles, Wilson-Kleekamp said, is that they ignore the unique history of enslaved African-Americans in the United States.
“We really leave out the role that police have played in slavery and social control,” she said. “They sort of leap-frog over this history and they're not able to connect (that history) to why people don't trust them.”
Clark, who studied the principles separately from Wilson-Kleekamp but arrived at a similar conclusion, believes the community and Police Department should create a strategic plan based on the Peelian Principles with what he calls a “proviso” that addresses America's specific history. He's written out a possible option and submitted it to the department:
“Implementation of these Peelian Principles in the United States must be informed at each stage by the conscious, intentional awareness of the effects on our communities of the 400+ year systematic, systemic, intentional oppression and brutal treatment of people of color in America — including Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, etc.”
For Wilson-Kleekamp, a sincere and vulnerable acknowledgement is in order. She said that Matthes' comment at the June 18 City Council meeting, in which he said that there is bias and everyone has bias, isn't enough. To say that everyone has bias is dismissive, she said.
“That's essentially what policing has done to people of color since the inception — which is, ‘We don't acknowledge how we've treated you, we don't acknowledge the outcomes of our policing, and we do not acknowledge your anger and resentment,” Wilson-Kleekamp said. “'We are entitled to treat you in the way that we want because we are law enforcement.'”
Wilson-Kleekamp submitted a records request last week to the city, asking for correspondence between Burton, Matthes, Fox and the outreach unit, so she can better understand Burton's role in the initiative.
At the core of her request is a desire to hold the leadership of the community policing initiative accountable, especially in light of the recent Missouri Quality Award feedback that gave city leaders what she calls a “D-”.
Her critique doesn't extend to the Community Outreach Unit, whose members demonstrate the kind of outreach that builds community, she said. They've been at the tables at this summer's public meetings, listening, asking questions and taking notes.
It takes a village — or at least a unit
When he was in elementary school, Sgt. Michael Hestir wrote an essay about how he wanted to be a “newspaper man” when he grew up. Specifically, he wanted to expose injustice.
Years later, Hestir was on the steps of the Columbia Public Library when a little black girl, maybe 8 or 9, approached him. “Stickers?” she asked, and held out her hand. He checked his pockets. Another child, and a woman holding a baby — the little girl's family, maybe — paused and watched, farther down the steps.
Hestir was out of stickers. He said he was sorry, there'd be more another time, and the family moved on.
The stickers in question, gold police badges with the words “junior officer” emblazoned on them, were purchased by the thousands, along with temporary tattoos, by the department for moments like that one. It's the sort of “non-law enforcement-related” activity that drew criticism from three officers who responded to Matthes' police morale survey in 2016 .
But for the officers in the community outreach unit, it's not about stickers or barbecues or basketball — it's about the mental and relational shift that happens when a little black girl approaches a white, male police officer with trust, not fear.
It's not the type of wrong-righting Hestir expected when he imagined himself as a journalist. But it's pretty close.
For him, community policing is really about two things: protecting a neighbor who just wants to plant her garden, and addressing the drug dealer with a choice — go to jail, or get clean.
For the latter, Hestir will perform a mental calculus he developed long before supervising the outreach unit.
Hestir resists stereotyping and will consider context. If he recognizes the dealer from making rounds in his neighborhood, or playing baseball in Douglass Park, he'll also know him as a father with a sick kid whose work has been hard, and who's been meaning to fix that tail light.
Hestir's philosophy of relationship undergirds the unit he supervises; he knows community policing at its best is intensely personal, yet at the end of the day, still accountable to the law.
Amid these ruminations, his approach is courteous. He imagines that his mom and the dealer's mom are also at the scene. These are the qualities that got him “voluntold” to lead the Community Outreach Unit in 2015. He's obviously good with people, listens well and is quick to acknowledge if he's made a mistake.
He's become a kind of middle man between the police and the communities he serves. He answers to both, and that vulnerable position leaves him acutely, wearily aware that for community policing to work, it has to be grounded in resources.
Cost of relationship, luxury of time
When Officer Matt Rodriguez ends his work day in the North neighborhood, he has a short walk home. A member of the outreach unit since 2016, he's the first and only officer to live in the neighborhood he patrols. He moved there with his kids in October after the local homeowners' association agreed to pay his rent.
Rodriguez admits he couldn't do what he does if he didn't live in the neighborhood. Although he'd made progress in relationship-building before he moved in, the months since have yielded exceptional “dividends.”
Before he was on the outreach unit, Rodriguez was on patrol — going from “call to call to call.” It's easy to become robotic, he said, when there's no time to form relationships, follow up, or even take care of yourself.
Officer Maria Phelps said sometimes those officers can't even take a bathroom break.
Phelps is a member of the outreach unit, patrolling the newest neighborhood alongside Officer Tony Parker. They're the duo responsible for Xbox with a Cop, a community event in May that pitted officers against kids inside a mobile command center they'd turned into a gaming space.
Later, another police officer who attended the event pulled over a black man in front of his family's home. The traffic stop had several witnesses — the man's family was in the front yard. Soon, a little boy pushed through the crowd and hugged the officer, whom he'd competed against at the Xbox event.
Phelps and Parker said it took a lot of time and resources to plan that event. It took time for people in their neighborhood to even acknowledge them, much less smile or wave. But that's the thing about community policing, Phelps said. It requires slowing down, and that allows both officers and civilians to see each other as human.
And when it comes to the world of policing, time means money.
The Police Department gets more than 90 percent of its funding from the city's general fund, which largely relies on sales tax revenue, according to the city's most-recent Ten Year Financial Trend Manual .
In fiscal year 2017, the Police Department received more than $20.8 million. That's nearly a 20 percent increase in funding from 10 years ago, when the department received about $17.4 million.
The majority of those funds go toward officer pay and benefits, including pensions.
Although funding for the department has increased, it hasn't kept up with inflation or population growth. In 2008, Columbia's population was nearing 96,000 but jumped to almost 119,000 by 2017, according to the manual. The number of officers has only increased by 21 during that time, Deputy Chief Jill Schlude wrote in an email.
As the city has sprawled, officers have become stretched more thinly.
Fox, who was criticized at the June 18 council meeting for seeming “disinterested at best” in community policing, said he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about these things.
He's tired, maybe, but not disinterested. He's happy to talk about the books he's reading — “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, or “13th,” the documentary about mass incarceration he watched recently on Netflix. At the same time, he's fiercely protective of his officers, of whom he speaks in glowing terms.
“We find these gems in the community and then we expose them to trauma, horror, injury, pain, drama, domestic violence,” Fox said. “You can see officers wearing out.”
And an exhausted, beat-down, underpaid officer is more likely to say or do something wrong.
Fox thinks community policing might be the way forward, not just for the public but for the police, who on daily calls, experience someone's “worst day, worst hour.”
He said he believes the only way for officers to do more than survive, for the daily 911 calls to be addressed and for neighborhoods to get community policing, is for the department to hire more officers. This, along with raising salaries for police officers who haven't received a meaningful raise in 10 years, would be the first priority should voters agree, Fox said.
It would require an additional 52 officers to decrease the departments's number of calls for service per officer to the average call volume in other comparable cities, according to Fox.
Fox and Matthes meet twice a week formally to discuss his findings. They work three doors down from each other, so they're always talking, always sharing ideas. There will be more conversations now that the public meetings have finished. In the meantime, he's got a report to write.
Next step: building trust
At the June 18 City Council meeting, Matthes responded to criticism after the public comment period by saying that addressing concerns about the Police Department is a work in progress. About 10 citizens took issue , saying little meaningful work has been done, but Matthes disagreed.
He referenced the department's adoption of the bias-free policing policy , updated earlier this year. He noted that the consent to search policy , developed in 2016, has reduced disparities between blacks and whites. He's not alone in seeing progress.
Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said in a recent interview that even the imperfect public meetings represent a change from previous conversations between the city and its citizens. The city has taken the discussion into the wards, rather than staying siloed at City Hall. The city has also provided meals and child care, allowing police officers and community members to sit, eat, listen and talk — not the way things used to be done.
An even more positive voice is that of Chris Haynes, 52. When he was a student at Hickman High School, his break-dancing skills landed him on MTV, and he was a member of the school's drill team. But soon, the young black man from Mississippi got carried away with the night life — and the drugs that go with it. He became addicted and ended up in prison.
He's been clean for more than a decade and is now a substance abuse counselor at Burrell Behavioral Health. He showed up for three community policing meetings.
“I'm not against the cops. I knew I did my thing back in the day. I recognize that I have to be accountable for the part I played in my interaction with the cops,” he said. “I think we have to come together in order for this to work out.”
He learned about the power of relationship from former Columbia police officer Cathy Dodd.
He remembers her saying to him, “'What can we do to get you out of where you at?' She knew our names. She knew who we was,” Haynes said. “And she did her job. She will take you to jail. I have been taken to jail by her. However, she didn't treat me like I was less than.”
What made Dodd stand out was her professionalism. Haynes said he tries to adopt it in his counseling, and he thinks officers should do the same.
“There is a learning curve,” Haynes said. “That is not on the black person or the white person. That is on the professional.”
Fox pulled him over a few years ago. Haynes laughs when he tells the story — he was a counselor at that point, but he had his music blasting and Cadillac rims on his car. He was a driving stereotype, he said. Fox had cause to pull him over — the music was really loud — but later reached out to Haynes to attend the community policing meetings.
Haynes said he appreciates what Fox is trying to do, and he's ready to be a part of it.
“If I'm holding onto the past, I won't be able to develop a new future. If I can get past my bias, my stereotypical thoughts and just open up and say, ‘let's give this thing a chance,' that will make the difference on both sides,” Haynes said.
But one side isn't showing up, he said. Haynes wants to know why Columbia's black citizens haven't been coming to the meetings.
“We're doing all this complaining, where are we at? We're talking about this community and how we're treated — let's get together,” Haynes said. “It needs to be a conversation, and it needs to be all types.”
John Clark has made himself part of the conversation.
Clark is 75 now. He wears suspenders, carries an expanding file folder stuffed with research and keeps extra black pens in his pocket. He's run for mayor twice on a platform that advocated community policing even back in 2004. He's come to almost all this summer's meetings on community policing. He's a CPA, attorney, nature-lover and activist, and he often references films as examples of culture and society.
His confidence in the trust-building potential of community policing comes in part from a movie: the 2009 political thriller “Endgame,” based on the fall of apartheid in South Africa. In it, as racial intolerance boils over, secret talks between two warring parties build a trust that breaks the impasse.
“Trust is an outcome of people having a mutual relationship in which they feel connected in relatively equal way,” Clark said. He said that trust can grow in Columbia, if people take the time to sit and talk to one another.
One review he's read of the film puts it best: “Hollywood movies are about heroes and baddies, and this (movie) is about the real world, where nobody is a baddie or goodie,” Clark said, paraphrasing. “There are no heroes and villains. There are complex people in complex situations.”
The conversation about community policing will continue even after Matthes and Fox file their report at the end of August. In the meantime, Davis will wear his penny loafers, Fox will return to supervising a unit he hopes will have positive interactions with people, Rodriguez will walk home, and Haynes will teach his 11-year-old, biracial son that it's not about the color of your skin. It's about relationship. It's about trust. It's about the endgame.
DC kids share their fears, ideas on violence and policing
by Megan Cloherty
WASHINGTON — D.C. middle and high school students discussed their impressions on violence and community policing in the city with lawmakers.
Talayia Richardson, 12, opened the forum Friday by sharing her winning essay in the city's “Do The Write Thing Challenge.”
The Wheatley Education Campus student said she tries to lead a peaceful life and influence others, even though her family has been torn apart by violence.
“Growing up in Washington, D.C., I've witnessed more violence than any child should … My uncle died for no reason. My uncle was stabbed at a party and his murderer was never found,” she read to the roundtable of seven council members and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.
“We adults need to listen more to young people,” Racine said.
The conversation turned to the topic of how to better improve the trust between police officers and the community, which garnered a strong response from the students on the panel.
“They also spent a good amount of time as young people of color talking about their interactions with police officers,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen, D-Ward 6.
“There were a range of experiences from individuals who say they felt safe, to those who felt less safe, or cautious, or uncertain around a police officer,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I know they are doing their job. They have someone to return to,” one girl shared in her essay. “They took time out of their busy schedule to help me with my problem. I respect that.”
Another boy felt differently.
“You're a little bit cautious about it because you don't know what they are going to do, if they are going to be friendly, if they're going to be aggressive,” he said. “It's just, you don't really feel safe.”
A few students shared that their impressions of police officers were formed in part by the press coverage of police shootings of black men across the country.
“It just makes me scared because I don't know if they are going to try to shoot me or not,” one boy said.
Allen said hearing the variety of impressions and the kids' ideas as to how to improve police-community trust is valuable.
“We need to hear that as well so we understand how we work with officers and MPD leadership to make sure we're building community trust,” he said. “And so, an officer is viewed as a positive, safe experience. That, in essence, will help move toward stronger community safety.”
Read Talayia Richardson's full essay below:
Talayia Richardson Essay
Read another essay, by sixth grader Tavon Jones, below:
Tavon Jones Essay
Roundtable on policing to be held as tensions escalate in Northeast DC
by Heather Graf/ABC7
WASHINGTON (ABC7) — D.C. Council is now getting involved amid a growing distrust of police in one Northeast Washington neighborhood.
A public roundtable on policing and public safety in Wards 7 and 8 is now set for July 12.
Councilmember Charles Allen, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, called for the round table in response to recent tensions between police officers and community members in Deanwood.
Allen's office received a lot of calls, emails, and requests for assistance, after cell phone video showing several controversial exchanges between officers and community members surfaced on social media.
Both incidents took place outside Nook's Barber Shop on Sheriff Road NE.
In the first incident, residents allege D.C. Police staged a search outside of Nook's in order to conduct an improper stop and frisk .
In the second incident, video shows a violent clash between officers and a group of people outside of Nook's. Relatives of a three-year-old girl says she was pepper sprayed by officers as she stood outside the barber shop with her mom. By the time the confrontation was over, four people were arrested.
"The police, in my opinion, were extremely restrained under very difficult circumstances,” Police Chief Peter Newsham said last week. “Unfortunately, some of the people involved in that incident, put their hands on the police.”
Newsham also denied that police used an undercover officer in the June 13 incident and made no apologies for their tactics.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, who has been vocal about his concerns regarding police misconduct, said next week's roundtable is crucial.
"It's not right for officers, in the name of public safety, to come up to you, make you pull up your shirt, bend you down over the car however they want, and to violate your rights. It's not fair and should not be happening. That's the type of policing that should not be tolerated," said Green. "Any type of interaction with police where you walked out feeling violated, I want you to come out and share your story, whether you live in Ward 7 or Ward 8."
FBI takes down suspected Cleveland terrorist planning Fourth of July attack
by Peter Krouse
CLEVELAND - For the second time in six years, the FBI reported having prevented a home-grown terrorist from carrying out an attack designed to cause wide-scale death and destruction in Northeast Ohio.
At a Monday news conference, the FBI in Cleveland and the Joint Terrorism Task Force announced they had arrested a Maple Heights man who was plotting to help al-Qaida detonate a bomb in downtown Cleveland during the Fourth of July.
Demetrius N. Pitts, 48, a Muslim who the FBI reported had been radicalized in the United States, was charged with attempting to "provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization."
The investigation of Pitts has similarities to the FBI's 2012 investigation that foiled a bridge-bombing plot. In both cases, the FBI used undercover investigators posing as would-be accomplices and promising to provide the explosives.
In the 2012 case, five men connected to the Occupy Cleveland movement were found guilty of trying to blow up the Ohio 82 bridge over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. They are now serving prison terms ranging from six to 11 1/2 years.
The FBI learned about Pitts' disdain for America on Dec. 31, 2015, after discovering suspicious Facebook activity under the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, later determined to be Pitts, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
In 2017, Pitts "expressed a desire to recruit people to kill Americans that were against Muslims and also stated he would have no remorse if he killed in the name of religion," according to the affidavit.
Further investigation of Pitts by the FBI lead to his meeting on June 15, 2018, in Willoughby with an undercover FBI employee posing as an al-Qaida "brother," and eventually to Pitts scouting downtown Cleveland for a location where al-Qaida could detonate a bomb on the Fourth of July when people gathered for fireworks.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony said Pitts had the "desire and intent" to commit the act, although he declined to say whether Pitts could actually have made or acquired a bomb himself.
"Law enforcement cannot sit back and wait for Mr. Pitts to commit a violent attack," Anthony said during the news conference. "We don't have the luxury of hoping an individual decides not to harm someone or get others to act, especially when his continued, repeated intentions were to do exactly that."
Cleveland Police Calvin Williams said the city already planned stepped-up security on the Fourth as a matter of course, and that additional officers won't necessarily be deployed. He said police will be on a heightened state of alert and that the public needs to be vigilant.
Within hours of the news conference, praise for the FBI investigation poured in from Ohio politicians in Cleveland and in Washington.
"This plot underscores the threat we continue to face from home-grown terrorism," U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said in a statement. "I applaud the FBI and its law enforcement partners for their hard work to stop this threat and ensure that everyone can have a safe and secure Fourth."
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued a similar statement. "I want to thank the FBI and all the members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force - men and women whose primary goal is to make Northeast Ohio safe," Jackson said. "These Law Enforcement Partners continue to secure us against those who seek to disrupt our way of life through violence and the threat of terrorist acts."
Pitts has an extensive criminal record . He was found guilty of robbing a woman in Cincinnati in 1989 and was charged with domestic violence the following year after being paroled from prison. He pleaded no contest to the charge. He later spent more than 10 years in prison for robbing Bangs Market, a grocery store in Cincinnati. Two prior convictions enhanced his sentence. He had further run-ins with the law in Columbus and Philadelphia.
Pitts has few apparent ties to Cleveland. He was in Northeast Ohio because he was staying at Broadway Care Center, a physical rehabilitation facility in Maple Heights, according to interviews and police records.
Earlier this year, Pitts began to talk about joining al-Qaida and harming members of the U.S. military, according to the affidavit in his case.
Pitts proposed packing a van with explosives and detonating the explosives near July 4 crowds, the affidavit states. He also proposed putting explosives in toy-size, remote-controlled cars and rolling them under law enforcement vehicles or giving the cars to children of military personnel.
Pitts also spoke of carrying out attacks in Philadelphia, his hometown, and possibly in San Francisco, the affidavit states.
Days before his arrest, Pitts turned over a cellphone that an undercover investigator gave him to photograph or film potential targets, according to the affidavit. The undercover investigator also gave Pitts an RTA bus pass to conduct surveillance.
The phone contained pictures of Voinovich Park, the U.S. Coast Guard Station, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building, and St. John's Cathedral.
The phone also included two videos of Pitts pledging his allegiance to al-Qaida, the affidavit says.
Then, on June 30, the day before Pitts was arrested, one of the undercover investigators sent Pitts a coded message informing him that "there would indeed be a large explosion in front of the U.S. Coast Guard Station" on July 4, according to the affidavit.
As they did in the Pitts case, undercover FBI investigators played a crucial role in the arrest of the would-be bridge-bombers six years earlier.
In that case, one of the terrorists, Joshua Stafford, placed what he thought was a real bomb concealed inside a lunch box, at the base of the bridge and tried to detonate it with a cellphone. Both the bomb, which was fake, and the phone had been provided by an undercover agent.
Drop that phone: It's now illegal to hold your mobile device while driving in Georgia
by Joshua Hafner
It's now illegal to hold your phone while driving in the state of Georgia, part of a sweeping hands-free law that went into effect Sunday. Reading from a phone or using it to record video is banned, too, according to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety , including at stoplights.
Those caught breaking the rules — even tapping "play" on a Spotify playlist while not parked — face a $50 fine, which doubles upon their second offense. The law, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May, aims to curtail driving fatalities in the state.
"Nobody's trying to keep people from listening to music," Harris Blackwood, the safety office's director, told The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia. "We're trying to keep people from making videos of themselves driving at high rates of speed or taking selfies going down the road."
Drivers can no longer have phones "touching any part of their body" while talking through devices, the safety office stated. Reading emails, social media posts and text messages is banned, as well as writing any such content. While recording videos while driving — a practice frequently seen on social media — is banned, dash cams are OK.
The law also carves out other exceptions, especially when phones utilize in-car or Bluetooth technology: Playing that Spotify playlist through a vehicle's stereo controls while driving is allowed, for example.
And while watching or reading anything on a phone falls under the ban, an exception was made for navigational services like Google Maps. More exceptions exist for the use of phones to report emergencies, crimes or traffic accidents.
Arizona enacted a similar law this week banning teen drivers from using phones until they've had their provisional license for seven months.
Georgia's law comes after the state banned texting while driving in 2010, a move critics called largely unenforceable because dialing calls was still allowed.
"It was completely ineffective," said Rep. John Carson, a Republican from Marietta, Georgia, who chaired the committee and authored the bill, told USA TODAY .
The Atlanta Journal Constitution called the law "the most significant change to Georgia traffic laws in a generation," and spoke with an officer who said the law seemed to be working as of Monday morning.
People "seem to be taking the new law seriously," Gwinnett County police Sgt. Jake Smith told the publication.
Georgia is the 16th state to pass such a hands-free law.
Cleveland on pace to hire hundreds more police officers
by Mark Gillispie
CLEVELAND (AP) — While police departments deal with a shrinking pool of job candidates, Cleveland plans to add several hundred new officers over the next year thanks to an aggressive recruiting plan aimed at making its department look more like the community it serves.
Democratic Mayor Frank Jackson set a goal of adding 250 new officers last year after city voters approved an income tax increase intended in part to bolster the ranks of a police department bracing for a wave of retirements from baby boomers over the next five years. Around 40 percent of the department's force of roughly 1,500 officers has more than 20 years of service.
The ability to hire new officers is significant for a department that has battled image problems after high-profile shootings, large lawsuit settlements and a federal finding that officers had engaged in a pattern of excessive force and violating civil rights. Cleveland and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement in 2015 to have a court-appointed monitor oversee departmental reforms.
Before the consent decree, police recruiting in Cleveland had been haphazard. Today, with the Department of Justice requiring a recruitment plan, there's a safety forces recruiting unit with five officers headed by Sgt. Charmin Leon.
"It looks promising," Leon said. "It's just a matter of having resources and the commitment of the department to do it."
Changes in how Cleveland recruits officers have put the department in position of meeting the mayor's hiring goals, Leon said in an interview. A class of 42 police cadets graduated in February, and 69 recruits currently in the police academy are slated to graduate this fall. Additional classes are to begin this month and in October and November, with more to follow next year.
A full-time recruiting team has allowed the city to cast a wide net at job fairs in and out of state. Community outreach has been ramped up to include visits to places such as beauty salons and barbershops. City employees have been asked to be on the lookout for potential candidates. And to combat one of the primary reasons recruits wash out during the selection process, the department is holding conditioning camps to get them in shape to pass a physical agility test.
While other cities are struggling with recruiting, Cleveland has compiled a list of more than 2,000 candidates, allowing the city to tighten its selection process to find people with the skills needed to accomplish community policing in an urban setting.
In surveys prompted by the consent decree, residents noted the lack of diversity in the department. The latest census figures show Cleveland with a population of around 385,000 people that roughly breaks down to 51 percent black, 34 percent white and 11 percent Hispanic. About 65 percent of the departments patrol officers and detectives are white, 23 percent are black and 10 percent are Hispanic. About 14 percent of officers are women.
In the current academy class of 69 recruits, 37 percent of cadets are women or minorities.
The court-appointed monitor overseeing the consent decree, Matthew Barge, said he's encouraged by Cleveland's recruiting efforts.
"They've come up with something that's pretty forward thinking," Barge said. "The division and the city have really thought about this in a focused and strategic way."
Jeff Follmer, president of the union that represents patrol officers, detectives and dispatchers, said additional officers are sorely needed. Patrol officers in the five police districts are routinely ordered to extend shifts to keep enough cruisers on the street, he said. A deluge of radio calls gives officers little time to interact with the community as problem-solvers, something the consent decree also requires.
"If we get another 250 officers, there would be a lot of opportunity for officers to do a lot of different things," Follmer said.
Louis Dekmar, police chief in LaGrange, Georgia, and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said a robust economy and negative perceptions about the profession have led to shrinking pools of candidates who are needed to replace retiring baby boomers.
"All of us are competing for the same thing — a limited pool of candidates who are qualified and interested in a career involving police service," Dekmar said.
Lessons learned from 25 years of policing the homeless
Policies, training and specialized units focusing on homelessness have an increased presence in police agencies compared to 1993 numbers
by Chief Joel F. Shults
In 1993, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) surveyed 650 medium- to large-sized law enforcement agencies about police interactions with the homeless. In January 2018, PERF hosted a conference on the same topic to hear from attendees about the issue. The resulting report (available in full below) provides a valuable overview of problems with response strategies shared by police executives and line officers that could serve as inspiration for other jurisdictions. But what, if anything, has changed since PERF's findings 25 years ago?
Fewer homeless, but more urgency
Like any sociology statistic, public perception doesn't always match the numbers. In 1993, the crime rate was waning, in part due to criminal justice strategies initiated after crime spikes in the 1980s, but the public was still concerned enough to respond to Bill Clinton's campaign promises on crime – a platform virtually ignored by President Bush's re-election campaign.
Similarly, the rate of homelessness has dropped since 1993, according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) statistics cited in the report, but the perception that persons experiencing homelessness are more numerous than ever remains. HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau have developed new methods for counting the homeless that probably give a more accurate count. As with crime rates, national data are skewed by urban areas with high concentrations of homeless.
The definitions and perceptions of persons experiencing homelessness (the now preferred language rather than “the homeless”) have also changed in the public consciousness and among service agencies. While once considered as a monolithic group, experts categorize homeless persons in a variety of ways that may also define what kind of responses are best suited. These categories include sheltered and unsheltered, veterans, those with mental illness including substance abuse, families with children, unaccompanied youth, the chronically homeless and “travelers.”
Police problem or community problem?
In 1993, nearly 70 percent of police executives surveyed said that their communities saw homelessness as a police problem. Since both the 2018 report and the 1993 survey results cite mental health and substance abuse as a primary cause and complication of homelessness, police executives are insisting on partnerships with non-law enforcement entities to move solutions away from arrests and enforcement action.
San Francisco has recognized that a police response is not always the best resource. Instead, a multi-agency command center within the dispatch facility will triage a call to determine what agency or service should respond to a call regarding a homeless person. Cambridge, Massachusetts, police hold a weekly multi-disciplinary case management meeting regarding the homeless, just as they would for any at risk population, to develop response strategies on cases. More than 30 jurisdictions have courts designated for homelessness cases, some of which convene at shelters and mandate services in sentencing.
Changes in the law
Policies, training and specialized units focusing on homelessness have an increased presence in police agencies compared to 1993 numbers. This is not only due to increasing use of problem-solving police strategies, but also to court decisions ensuring the rights of persons who are homeless.
Rights to personal property, the right to camp and the right to panhandle are being enforced by court decisions. Clean up of camps and seizing of property must be justified and afforded proper notice on Fourth Amendment grounds. Ordinances against begging are challenged and voided on First Amendment grounds.
At the same time, laws intended to decriminalize drug offenses and provide early release to reduce prison populations have swelled the populations of local jails, reduced leverage of the courts to order treatment, and returned offenders to the streets with no life or job skills. Legalization of marijuana is believed by many to have increased the number of persons with no family connections or resources – the “travelers” – to move to states like Colorado, Washington and California to seek easy access to the drug or employment in marijuana grow operations.
Crime in the camps
Perpetration of crime by homeless persons is largely of a minor nature most likely resulting in release on a summons and not incarceration. Homeless persons are more likely to be victims of serious and violent crimes in shelters, camps, or in public spaces than to commit those crimes against members of the general public. This includes domestic violence, sexual assault, murder and human trafficking.
The change in attitudes and police response over the past quarter century makes helping homeless crime victims more likely today, but not less challenging. Finding competent and willing witnesses is problematic.
PERF's report documents the range of strategies and programs that agencies in different parts of the country are implementing. While the problem is different in every community, the report outlines 11 actions and initiatives every law enforcement agency should consider:
Take a problem-solving approach to homelessness.
Create a dedicated Homeless Outreach Team .
Select the right personnel to staff the Homeless Outreach Team.
Provide staff with training to work effectively with persons experiencing homelessness.
Take a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem.
Collect, analyze, and share data to better understand the community of homeless individuals and their service needs, and to track progress.
Form regional partnerships to address the problem in a coordinated fashion.
Pursue a variety of funding sources.
Create or expand homeless courts.
Work to identify and eliminate unnecessary, counterproductive barriers that prevent homeless persons from improving their lives.
Evaluate what you are doing.
The success of these initiatives can be measured in a variety of ways:
Getting more people into temporary or transitional housing.
Getting more people access to services for mental health issues, substance abuse and other factors that lead to homelessness.
Placing more homeless people with social service agencies so they can obtain the care they need.
Reducing crime involving homeless persons (as victims or perpetrators).
Reducing citizen complaints about encampments or other locations where homeless individuals gather.
Getting more people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing and jobs.
The future outlook
Pinellas County Sheriff Robert Gualtieri, who spent over $2 million to house homeless offenders outside of his overcrowded jail, offers a realistic assessment: “Should we be in the business of running services for homeless persons? I don't know. You can debate that all day long. But we are in that business, and we're making a difference, and it's solving a problem. Ideally, somebody else should be doing it. I've offered it to all of the homeless service providers in the county many times. I ask them, “Do you want to come do it? I'll give it to you.” But nobody's taking me up on the offer.”
Anything that generates 911 calls becomes a police problem in the view of the public and often in the view of elected policy makers. Whether in the scope of private and government concerns homelessness should be law enforcement's primary responsibility, police leaders will be taking leadership in coordinating a comprehensive response to homelessness.