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.
Jury convicts Chicago officer of 2nd-degree murder
First time in half a century that a Chicago police officer has been convicted of murder for an on-duty death
CHICAGO — A jury on Friday convicted Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
Van Dyke was charged with first degree-murder in the October 2014 killing, a charge that requires a finding that the shooting was unnecessary and unreasonable. The judge told jurors the second-degree charge was also available, requiring them to find Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but that the belief was unreasonable.
Jurors also convicted him of aggravated battery, but acquitted him of official misconduct. It's the first time in half a century that a Chicago police officer has been convicted of murder for an on-duty death.
McDonald was carrying a knife when Van Dyke fired 16 shots into the 17-year-old as he walked away from police.
Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years.
By far the most serious charge Van Dyke, 40, faced was first-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
But, in a move not uncommon at Illinois murder trials, Judge Vincent Gaughan told jurors before they began deliberating that they could consider the charge of second-degree murder. Second-degree murder typically carries a sentence of less than 20 years, especially for someone with no criminal history. Probation isn't an option for a first-degree murder conviction, but it is with second-degree murder.
First-degree murder requires a finding that the accused knew the killing wasn't justified but did it anyway. For a second-degree murder conviction, the jury must agree that the accused truly believed the killing was justified but that the belief wasn't reasonable.
Van Dyke was the first Chicago police officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in more than 50 years. That case, which also involved an officer shooting someone with a knife, ended in conviction in 1970.
The verdict is the latest chapter in a story that has made headlines since a judge ordered the release of squad car video of the shooting in November 2015. The case also put the city at the center of the national conversation about police misconduct and excessive force.
The 12-person jury included just one African-American member, although blacks make up one-third of Chicago's population. The jury also had seven whites, three Hispanics and one Asian-American.
Officers had McDonald largely surrounded on a city street and were waiting for someone to arrive with a stun gun to use on the teenager when Van Dyke arrived, according to testimony and video. The video, played repeatedly at trial, shows Van Dyke opening firing. McDonald spins, then crumples to the ground. Van Dyke continues to shoot when the 17-year-old is lying in the street. At times, smoke can be coming from his body, and one officer who was there that night testified that the smoke was actually gunfire hitting the teen.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over what the video actually proved.
Prosecutor Jody Gleason noted during closing arguments that Van Dyke told detectives that McDonald raised the knife, that Van Dyke backpedaled, and that McDonald tried to get up off the ground after being shot.
"None of that happened," she said. "You've seen it on video. He made it up."
But Van Dyke and his attorneys maintained that the video didn't tell the whole story.
His attorneys had portrayed Van Dyke as being "scared' by the young man who he knew had already punctured a tire of a squad car with the knife. Van Dyke testified that the teen was advancing on him, ignoring his shouted orders to drop the knife. Van Dyke conceded that did actually step toward McDonald and not away from the teen, as Van Dyke had initially claimed. But the officer maintained the rest of his account, saying: "The video doesn't show my perspective."
Van Dyke had been on the force for 13 years when the shooting happened. According to a database that includes reports from 2002 to 2008 and 2011 until 2015, he was the subject of at least 20 citizen complaints — eight of which alleged excessive force. Though he was never disciplined, a jury did once award $350,000 to a man who filed an excessive force lawsuit against him. Van Dyke testified that McDonald was the first person he ever shot.
To boost their contention that McDonald was dangerous, defense attorneys built a case against the teenager, who had been a ward of the state for most of his life and wound up in juvenile detention after an arrest for marijuana possession in January 2014. Among those testifying were several current or former employees at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center who said they had violent run-ins with McDonald. They also pointed to an autopsy that showed McDonald had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system.
Prosecutors stressed that Van Dyke was the only officer to ever fire a shot at McDonald.
They called multiple officers who were there that night as they sought to chip away at the "blue wall of silence" long associated with the city's police force and other law enforcement agencies across the country. Three officers, including Van Dyke's partner that night, Joseph Walsh, have been charged with trying conspiring to cover up and lie about what happened to protect Van Dyke. They have all pleaded not guilty.
Even before the trial, the case had already had an impact on law enforcement in Chicago. The city's police superintendent and the county's top prosecutor both lost their jobs — one fired by the mayor and the other ousted by voters. It also led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation that found a "pervasive cover-up culture" and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.
A week before jury selection, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he would not seek a third term, although his office insisted the case had nothing to do with his decision. He had faced criticism that he fought the release of the video until after his re-election in April 2015
Ahead of the verdict, the city had prepared for the possibility of the kind of massive protests that followed the release of the video in November 2015, with an extra 4,000 officers being put on the streets.
The issue of race permeated the case, though it was rarely raised at trial. One of the only instances was during opening statements, when special prosecutor Joseph McMahon told the jurors that Van Dyke didn't know anything about McDonald's past when he encountered him that night.
"What we do know, what he (Van Dyke) did see, was a black boy walking down the street... having audacity to ignore the police," McMahon said.
Van Dyke's lead attorney Dan Herbert countered: "Race had absolutely nothing to do with this.
Seattle Police Department Creates Database to Cut Down on Swatting
by Stefanie Fogel
SEATTLE — Seattle Police are expanding an online registry residents can use to provide first responders additional information ahead of a 911 response by allowing anyone to register concerns about becoming a target of “swatting.”
The department already uses tech by a company called Rave Facility that allows residents to create a “Smart 911” profile that allows residents to log details they want officers to know before responding to calls to their home, such as pets or medical conditions, reported Engadget.
Seattle resident can now share concerns with the local 911 Center about being targets of ‘swatting,' a prank where someone lodges a false emergency call to dispatchers at an innocent person's location to kick up a dramatic -- and sometimes fatal -- police response.
In 2017, a swatting hoax in Kansas led to the death of an innocent man when the caller provided the man's address and claimed he was holding hostages.
The Seattle PD hopes to avoid similar tragedies by expanding the “Smart 911” profiles. Once someone registers, dispatchers will be able to check for swatting concerns at the caller's address and share them with responding officers.
Officials reassured residents that the registry will not negatively affect police response time.
“Nothing about this solution is designed to minimize or slow emergency services,” a description of the response process on the department's site read. “At the same time, if information is available, it is more useful for responding officers to have it than to not.
Ill. superintendent becomes cop so she can carry gun in school
After a slew of school shootings, Julie Kraemer wanted a better way to protect her students
HUTSONVILLE, Ill. — Seeking a better way to protect her students from active shooters, and with no budget for a school resource officer, one Illinois superintendent decided to become a cop herself, according to Time.
Julie Kraemer, superintendent of a 320-student school district, began police academy training after hearing about an active shooter at a nearby high school who had wounded a student. According to The Hill, it was a teacher who finally disarmed him.
The proximity of the shooting hit close to home for Kraemer.
“I think sometimes we sit back and think it'll never happen here, it'll never happen to us, it's states away,” she told Time. “But that was really close to home.”
Kraemer entered the academy in January and graduated on Sept. 22, in time to bring her new skills and training into Hutsonville hallways.
“If somebody comes in to try to hurt my kids, we have something other than a stapler to throw at them,” Kraemer told Time. “We're no longer a soft target. We have some options.”
Police killings, brutality damaging mental health of black community
Last week, Officer Amber Guyger was charged with manslaughter after entering an apartment she thought was hers, she says, and killing the unarmed black man who lived there.
Botham Jean's killing happened only days after another officer, Roy Oliver, was sentenced to 15 years for the murder of Jordan Edwards — a 15-year-old who was leaving a party with friends.
And on June 19, Antwon Rose Jr., a 17-year-old unarmed black male, was killed in a Pittsburgh suburb as he fled a car that had been stopped by police. He was shot in the back by Officer Michael Rosfeld, who had been hired one month before, and had only been formally sworn in hours before he took the teenager's life.
Two days after Rose's death, Boston University's School of Health and the University of Pennsylvania released a study that found the high rate of unarmed African Americans being killed at the hands of police has caused more incidents of depression, stress and other mental health issues among blacks. In other words, overwhelming police brutality is damaging the mental health of African Americans — even those who have no direct connection to men, women and teens who have lost their lives.
The use of deadly force by police against an unarmed black American “carries with it the weight of historical injustices and current disparities in the use of state violence against black Americans,” researchers concluded.
The study's findings aren't entirely new. In 2015, Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring analyzed 1,100 killings by police and found that the death rates for African Americans (and Native Americans) were disproportionately higher than their populations. Both groups have a history of state-sponsored injustice in the U.S.
Both groups also deal with some of the highest rates of mental health issues in the country. Between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, blacks are more likely to report serious psychological distress. Native Americans also report high levels of PTSD.
The aftermath of Rose's death was predictable. There were public protests and demands to hold the police officer who fired the shots accountable. Rosfeld, the officer, has been indicted.
It remains to be seen whether the legal system will ultimately provide any relief to Rose, his family members and friends, or members of the black community.
Even more damning from a systemic perspective is the admission by the Allegheny County district attorney, when asked about established protocol for dealing with police use of force, that the county doesn't have a policy.
The absence of a policy is, unfortunately, the norm not the exception. Even those individual law enforcement agencies that attempt to regulate interactions almost always develop guidelines in isolation.
As little training as officers get today when it comes to use of force, they get even less training when it comes to dealing with youth.
Had officer Rosfeld, the man who killed Rose, been trained in adolescent development and the effects of trauma on behavior, he would have understood that the presence of authority figures often triggers flight-fight responses in traumatized youth, which comes from a heightened sense of powerlessness, regardless of guilt or innocence.
A public health issue
For many black youth, due to the disproportionate and often traumatic experience of police arrest and use of force against them, their family members and friends, the combination of race and authority is often lethal.
Darren Nichols, a black, Detroit-based reporter, described his own PTSD response to reading about Rose's death: “See, Rose was 17. Yet I'm sure we shared the same panic and the adrenaline rush when you see those red and blue lights flashing behind you. It never subsides.”
Boston University and University of Pennsylvania researchers concluded that their findings support “recent calls to treat police killings as a public health issue.” They noted that failure to do so produces mental health issues and health problems: “The observed adverse mental health spillover effects of police killings of unarmed black Americans could result from heightened perceptions of threat and vulnerability, lack of fairness, lower social status, lower beliefs about one's own worth, activation of prior traumas, and identification with the deceased.”
We suggest going a step further and incorporating a public health perspective into 21st-century policing.
Using a public health perspective would mean more than the prosecution of a single police officer. These deaths indict an entire system of recruiting, hiring, training and evaluating police officers. It would mean that no police officer should leave the academy without training on the effects of trauma, violence and poverty on behaviors — including responses to law enforcement. And all officers should leave the academy understanding how biases — implicit and explicit — directly affect actions, particularly when under stress.
Every police department should be governed by clear, consistent standards developed by experts and other stakeholders convened by state agencies. These standards should be conveyed to every officer, supported by training, and used as the basis for evaluation and discipline.
Law enforcement leaders should promote a vision in which use of force and arrest, especially when it comes to youth, are the last and least desirable outcome.
As a nation, we require and have come to expect such training and standards of doctors, nurses, home health care professionals, child care workers and teachers. Why should police — who risk their own lives and have the power to take the lives of others — be exempt?
Trump Pushes Due Process For Some, 'Lock' Them Up For Others
President Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Tennessee in support of Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn.
President Trump says the fight over his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is about more than just the nation's highest court. He says it's about how America treats the accused.
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct decades ago, allegations he adamantly denies.
Trump tweeted Thursday that "Due Process, Fairness and Common Sense are now on trial!"
But Trump has not always been such a staunch defender of due process.
In one infamous case in 1989, Trump actually took the opposite approach.
That year, a woman jogging in New York's Central Park was brutally beaten and raped.
Five black and Latino teenagers, known as the Central Park Five, were charged with the crime.
Before they were brought to trial, Trump took out full-page ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the state. The ads called for the city government to "unshackle" law enforcement officers from concerns about "police brutality."
"The problem with our society is the victim has absolutely no rights and the criminal has unbelievable rights — unbelievable rights," Trump told Larry King in a CNN interview in 1989 discussing the ads.
Years later, the five men were exonerated by DNA evidence, and another man confessed to the crime. The five reached a settlement with the city in 2014 for $41 million.
Trump decried the settlement in an op-ed in the New York Daily News, saying it was a "disgrace" and that the wrongfully convicted men were not "angels" in the past.
Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, told MSNBC in 2016 that Trump owed them an apology, but he didn't expect to get it.
"This thing that he did to us, calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty, I always think if this had been the 1950s, we would have become modern-day Emmett Tills," Salaam said, referring to the 14-year-old African-American boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955.
"Lock her up"
Trump has continued his selective support for due process as president.
Even with the 2016 election long over, he still presides over campaign rallies where crowds chant "lock her up," referring to his onetime rival Hillary Clinton.
"It's deeply troubling to read the president's pattern of comments about people presuming their guilt, particularly people that are under investigation by his government," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.
Trump has targeted numerous current and former government officials, from former FBI Director James Comey to Justice Department employee Bruce Ohr, accusing them of breaking the law.
The president has repeatedly said special counsel Robert Mueller should be investigating Democrats and those he seems to consider opponents.
"If he was doing an honest report, he'd write it on the other side," Trump told reporters in August. "Because when you look at criminality, and you look at problems, take a look at what they did, including colluding with the Russians — the other side."
Even as the head of the executive branch, Trump still seems to behave as if he is outside of law enforcement, Turley said.
"That's a very flawed concept, because he's not just anyone. He is the president, these FBI agents ultimately report to the director of the FBI, who ultimately reports to him," he added.
Not a legal matter
Although Trump has invoked due process when it comes to Kavanaugh, the Senate confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee is not the same as a court case.
"There is no legal due process, it is an entirely political proceeding," said Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute.
Neily said that does not mean the Senate should not strive for a "moral fairness" to maintain institutional credibility.
Asked by NPR about Trump's support for due process in light of his history with the Central Park Five and "lock her up" chants, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president.
"He is simply stating the fact that we are a country of law and order, we are a country that still believes that you're innocent until proven guilty and we want to see that process go through in its entirety," Sanders said.
But, Neily argued, Trump has applied those principles unevenly, depending on who is accused.
"He occupies the bully pulpit and he is in a position to remind Americans that we are a rule-of-law nation ... he's consistently failed to do that unless it's in the service of people or objectives he personally cares about," he said.
Veteran Cleveland police officer is new LGBTQ liaison as city pushes to improve community relations
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Veteran Cleveland police officer Deirdre Jones is a longtime advocate of building a better relationship between the city's police officers and the LGBTQ community.
Now Jones will get to do so in an official capacity. Jones became the Cleveland police department's first-ever LGBTQ liaison, a move the city hopes will help give a bigger voice to residents who feel they have no voice when dealing with police.
Jones, a commander in charge of the police academy, the personnel unit and budget policy, said she's been teaching officers how to treat those in the LGBTQ community with respect and compassion for decades, usually one officer at a time. Now she has the chance to do that department-wide.
"The biggest thing I want to change is the perception that the community has when dealing with the police, which is very negative" Jones said. "There are a lot of younger officers coming up now that want to learn and want to show that they are supportive."
Jones will be the point person between the LGBTQ community and police brass. As the first official liaison, she'll help shape what that role means.
A 29-year veteran police officer who came out in the late 1980s while working for Cleveland EMS, Jones became known throughout the LGBTQ community as the sergeant in the police department's domestic violence unit, said Greater Cleveland LGBTQ Center Executive Director Phyllis Harris.
Jones said she believes a majority of Cleveland police officers want to provide professional and compassionate service, but the challenge for officers was understanding the needs of LGBTQ victims.
"In the domestic violence unit, I saw how a lot of those cases with LGBTQ victims were handled," Jones said. "If the victim was uncooperative, they didn't prosecute or you had police officers who were ignorant on how to interact with LGBTQ victims. I also found a lot of LGBTQ victims weren't reporting (to police) because they were afraid that it wouldn't be taken seriously or that they might be arrested. I want to change that."
The city is looking to improve on the Human Rights Campaign's ranking of cities' inclusiveness for the LGBTQ community. The organization provides weighted scores for the nation's largest cities on a variety of markers, including anti-discrimination laws for housing, city employment and transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for city employees.
Cleveland scored an 81, behind several other Ohio cities including Akron, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. The Human Rights Campaign weighs having an LGBTQ liaison in the police department as the second most important aspect of a city's inclusiveness.
Jones said she jumped at the chance to become the police department's first liaison. She said she plans to use the position to keep the community informed. She's already started in some capacity.
Two transgender women were killed in Cleveland in the first six months of the year, sparking concerns in the community that transgender people were being targeted for violence.
Jones, who was the first woman to be put in charge of the department's homicide unit, checked into the killings and found that neither were targeted because they were transgender.
Court records say that in one case a woman was killed because of a drug debt and Jones said in the other case a trans person was charged in connection with the slaying.
"There are always rumors and fears that LGBTQ persons are being targeted," Jones said. "One of the first things I did was to look into that and be able to inform them that's not what has been going on this year."
She said her initial focus will be on pushing for the department's administration to include sensitivity training for all officers. She said she plans to visit several cities who have police liaisons to see what works best.
"I'm advocating for LGBTQ training during our in-service training," Jones said. "I also want LGBTQ officers to have a safe space to talk if they need any advice or have any issues."
Mayor Frank Jackson also appointed Kevin Schmotzer as the city's LGBTQ liaison. Schmotzer, who has worked for some two decades in the city's economic development department, will continue to serve as the city's executive director for small business development.
Schmotzer said he's already had conversations with the city's human resources department about including anti-discrimination policies in place for gender identity. The city does not have a policy that specifically spells that out.
"I've already had a discussion with human resources on that," Schmotzer said. "Along with having someone as a liaison to the community, we also can work internally on something like that."
Harris, of the LGBTQ Center, said she began advocating for a police liaison four years ago.
"It takes more than one person in different areas," Harris said. "The work still remains to be done but I certainly like the direction we are headed."
Harris said she was pleased with the appointment of both Schmotzer and Jones. She said Jones earned a reputation as being a resource for the LGBTQ community during her years as a sergeant in the domestic violence unit.
"She has a great history of service and is known in some circles in LGBTQ circles, especially because of her time in the domestic violence unit," Harris said. "In those circles, we all knew we could call for her advice and training."
‘Please Give Us Justice': New California Law Aims to Hold Police Accountable
A “first of its kind” bill would raise use-of-force guidelines for police from “reasonable” to “necessary”—a higher standard that could save lives.
Demonstrators protest the police shooting of Stephon Clark, in Sacramento, When Sacramento police shot dead Stephon Clark on March 18, he was the 51st black man killed by cops in 2018. (An additional 15 have been killed since.) Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet fired 20 bullets, seven of them hitting Clark in his back and side according to an independent autopsy conducted by his family. (The official police autopsy report released May 1 showed only three bullets entering his back.) The 22-year-old died in his grandmother's backyard clutching a cellphone that officers had misidentified as a gun.
Since his death, which was captured on video, activists across California have been demanding justice and accountability. Protesters have disrupted traffic, blocked access to Sacramento's multimillion-dollar stadium, and, for the past month, rallied at District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office three times a week, prompting the prosecutor's office to install a temporary 10-foot fence.
Despite this pressure from demonstrators, state courts are likely to side with the police. If precedent holds, landing a conviction against the officers will be virtually impossible. The Supreme Court has ruled that cops can't be held criminally liable for shooting a suspect if they legitimately feared for their lives when they pulled the trigger—even if they misjudged the threat. In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that police in six southern California counties had shot more than 2,000 people since 2004, yielding only a single prosecution. The officer in that case was later acquitted.
Most often, family members are left holding questions that may never be answered. At a press conference, Sequita Thompson, Clark's grandmother, tendered an emotional plea: “I just want justice for my grandson and for my daughter. Please give us justice.”
In response to the public uproar, Democratic lawmakers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty announced a “first of its kind” bill in California that could raise accountability standards statewide by implementing stricter guidelines governing how and when officers may use lethal force. The legislation is aimed at making it easier to bring cases against law enforcement.
The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB-931) would raise the current guideline from “reasonable force” to “necessary force,” requiring officers take deadly action “only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death” and if, given all circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative. Assemblymember Weber said lawmakers must ensure the state's policy “stresses the sanctity of human life.”
According to UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz the current standard of “reasonable force” affords police too much discretion. The language of the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Connor, which forms the basis of many police departments' policies, has been interpreted to look at use of force in the split second it was delivered—not the totality of circumstances or whether it was necessary.
Schwartz used the example of a suspect who has been pulled over for a traffic stop and has fled his vehicle. The officer gets out of their car and pursues the suspect down an alley, because they think he's holding a weapon; the officer shoots and kills the suspect. Under Graham v. Connor, many courts would find the officer's actions “reasonable.” “That standard doesn't give officers enough guidance on when that force is appropriate,” she told me.
If California were to raise its standard to “necessary force,” a court might question if it was necessary for the officer to pursue the subject into the alley or if the person had other ways of assessing the situation that might not have required lethal force—like creating a perimeter of vehicles or calling back-up.
Right now, the Sacramento Police Department's use-of-force policy is built on the state's standard that advises officers use reasonable force to effect arrest, prevent escape, or overcome resistance if they have reasonable cause to believe a person has committed a public offense. They are under no obligation to retreat or abandon pursuit.
AB-931 would attempt to make California law less ambiguous by requiring that police officers exhaust all other options—verbal persuasion, de-escalation, or other nonlethal methods—before attempting lethal force.
Teens Organize Event To Improve Police-Community Relations in Castle Point
The first annual 'Grill and Chill' will be held on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
CASTLE POINT, Mo. – Teenagers in a north St. Louis County community are coming together to address recent crimes happening in their neighborhood by a hosting an event to improve police-community relations.
"We decided to address our concerns by taking action,” 16-year-old Jayden Keys said. “This community is full of hard-working, decent people and we wanted to host an event that puts Castle Point in a positive light.”
The first annual ‘Grill and Chill' will be held on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be activities designed for meaningful interaction between police and the residents they serve. Activities include tug of war, basketball tournaments and kickball with teams of residents and St. Louis County police officers.
Jayden Keys and several other teenagers are participating in the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County's Teen Action Program, a leadership program for youth who reside in Castle Point. The 13-week class focuses on leadership, political engagement and civic participation.
“These teenagers are an example of what's best about our community,” St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said. “When I heard about their idea, I immediately called our Community Empowerment Director Ethel Byndom and we got the ball rolling to make this event happen.”
Community Empowerment and Community Action Agency of St. Louis County's Teen Action Program will provide free backpacks with school supplies to the first 250 youth that attend. St. Louis County Animal Control will provide free pet vaccinations and first responders from Metro North Fire Department will be grilling hot dogs.
The Point Grill and Chill will be located at Castle Point Park, 2465 Baroness Drive.
Cleveland police introduce community engagement officers tasked with improving relationship with public
CLEVELAND, Ohio - City officials on Thursday introduced more than a dozen Cleveland police officers assigned to a new program that is designed to improve the relationship between police officers and the neighborhoods they serve.
The grant-funded program includes 15 police officers - three in each of the city's five neighborhood districts -- designated as community engagement officers. Each of those officers is tasked with developing relationships with residents and community leaders in their neighborhoods, officials said Thursday during a news conference at City Hall.
The program is part of a larger effort to improve the police department's relationship with the community - a relationship that has been complicated in recent years by a series of high-profile controversies. It focuses on grassroots relationship-building in each of the city's neighborhoods, officials said.
"The community engagement officers are really meant to be out there as the eyes and ears not just of our police division, but of the community," Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said during the news conference. "Their mission is to engage with the community."
The police department rolled out the program more than a month ago but made a formal announcement Thursday. It is funded by a $1.8 million grant from the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which the city received in 2015.
The program should help officers get a better sense of everyday life on the city's streets - separate from the impressions they get on calls to investigate crimes, Mayor Frank Jackson said.
"It's a different approach, and we find that it's very effective," Jackson said.
The community engagement officers are First District officers Kerry Adams, Juan DeJesus and Lyniece Turner; Second District officers Carlos Garcia, Carole Hageman and Hubert Kidd; Third District officer Howard Hart III, Ervin Lee Jr. and Rashawn Rahim; Fourth District Officers Antonio Andino, Carmen Hall and Crystal Lewis; and Fifth District officers Nelson Muniz, Sabrina Walker and Aarius Waters.
Each officer is expected to field questions and complaints from residents. They'll help those residents find solutions to any small disputes or problems, or direct them to an investigator if the issue requires a more serious follow-up. They're also expected to interact with the community through neighborhood events, community meetings and visits to schools, libraries and recreation centers.
On Thursday, for example, several community engagement officers visited and played with children at the West Park-Fairview Family YMCA.
"We want to talk to people and come together, because we can do this together," Lewis said.
The community engagement officers will share what they learn with other police officers, in order to help those colleagues connect with the community as well.
"This partnership is important because it's also an officer safety issue," Hall said. "Building trust with our community members will in turn help officers."
Commanders for each of the city's five neighborhood districts selected the community engagement officers based on criteria including the officers' ability to interact with the public and their connections with local community leaders, among other factors, Williams said.
Community policing is one of several areas the city agreed to address in a 2015 settlement, known as a consent decree , with the U.S. Justice Department. The city reached the settlement after a Justice Department investigation found its police officers too often used excessive force.
Earlier this year, the city released a proposed community policing plan for public comment. The proposal requires officers to spend more time talking to people; patrol officers, for example, must spend 20 percent of their shifts on community engagement efforts, the plan says.
The proposal was released for public comment and is expected to be finalized in the coming months.
The proposal is separate from the program the city highlighted on Thursday, but the community engagement officers may act as role models when the community-policing plan is rolled out across the full police department.
Seattle program keeps low-level drug users out of jail
25 cities now operate Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion programs and, according to its national support bureau, 31 more are looking into the 'harm reduction'; Dan Springer reports from Seattle.
Drug users who are caught with small amounts of heroin and meth are increasingly being given a pass across the country by law enforcement after a pilot program in Seattle, which favors treatment over prison, was expanded to 25 cities and has now piqued the curiosity of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which was most recently expanded to Louisville, Ky., puts offenders into community-based care instead of getting snarled up in the system when caught with under a gram of narcotics. Community care varies from city to city and ranges from outpatient drug-treatment programs to counseling, among other programs.
Supporters say the program is an effective way to stop “arresting away” the country's growing drug problem but critics argue it is a costly and dangerous initiative that has not been independently studied.
“Ultimately, we have to break cycles of addiction to break cycles of arrest,” one Seattle-based police officer said. “We can't just stop prosecuting crimes then look at numbers and say look we have less drug crime.”
LEAD was started in 2011 in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle with four case managers and was funded by grants from private foundations, costing $435,000 in its first year. Since then, it's been expanded to cover most of the city. Seattle and King County have stepped up to provide additional funding in the years since LEAD was put into play.
LEAD's National Support Bureau director Najja Morris said participants are 58 percent less likely to be re-arrested than other chronic drug abusers who are sentenced to jail time. That's good news to cash-strapped communities who are dealing with prison overcrowding and rising numbers of addiction.
Seattle's early success caught the attention of other cities across the country struggling with everything from opioid abuse to meth addiction.
In Louisville, which implemented the program this week, police have the option to allow up to 50 people to opt out of jail time if they're suspected of committing low-level drug offenses driven by an opioid abuse disorder.
“In many cases, these folks mean no harm,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “They're struggling with a disease. Throwing them into jails and courts that are already overcrowded and backlogged doesn't serve their needs or the city's needs.”
The program has been so popular that it is currently operating in more than 20 cities stretching from Portland, Oregon to Huntington, West Virginia. Another 36 cities are exploring similar steps. Not all of the programs are carbon copies but instead tailored to meet the city's needs.
Waynesville, North Carolina, Det. Paige Shell spent some time in Seattle checking out how they run their program and hopes to duplicate parts of it.
“We were able to shadow their LEAD program and learn all about their program, what worked and didn't work, challenges, etc.,” she said about the experience.
Over in West Virginia, the state's Department of Health and Human Resources announced earlier this year that $600,000 would be made available for its LEAD program. The state has seen a high spike in drugs in recent years and leads the country in overdose deaths.
Seattle lawmaker Rep. Pramila Jayapa, D-Wash., is so convinced LEAD is a good idea that she's pushing for federal funding – and says she's gotten positive responses from both sides of the aisle.
Last year, Jayapa sent a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee asking for $2.5 million for the program in the 2019 budget. At the time, she had only Democratic support but says Republicans have warmed to the idea.
“It's got the attention of Republicans because LEAD is a program that offers social service to people instead of incarcerating them,” Jayapal told CrossCut.
But not everybody is on board with a program that gives drug users and prostitutes a pass from prosecution. Critics note there could be unintended consequences of the program including dealers adapting the way they do business to stay out of jail.
Another issue, some say, is that forcing people to get clean doesn't mean it will stick in the long run.
“Trouble with not prosecuting low-level stuff is that it removes incentives for people to go through LEAD and get treatment,” a Seattle police officer told 770-KTTH radio. “If the choice is treatment/sobriety vs. jail, people will choose LEAD. If the choice is LEAD vs no jail time/no sentence, [those] folks will just keep using.”
The officer warned that while LEAD “is a great carrot… we can't turn our stick into a feather.”
State House votes for tougher gun rules in domestic violence cases
(Harrisburg) -- A proposal to force people in Pennsylvania convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence or subject to protective orders to surrender their guns within 24 hours moved closer to becoming law Wednesday after approval by the state House.
State representatives voted 131-62 for a bill that would also end the ability to turn over weapons to family members or friends -- instead they would have to go to police, a gun dealer or a lawyer. Eight Democrats joined nearly half the Republican members in voting against it.
Current law gives people convicted of domestic violence 60 days to turn over guns, and they can give them to neighbors, or to relatives or friends who don't live in the same home.
The proposal goes over to the Senate, which voted unanimously for a similar measure in March. A spokeswoman for the majority Republican caucus said senators are expected to consider the House bill in the coming days. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf supports the bill.
Three hours of floor debate pitted supporters, who described it as a way to battle the plague of domestic violence, against opponents concerned with the infringement of Second Amendment gun rights and what they said were flaws in the legislation.
"The fact is that guns and domestic violence are a deadly mix," said the prime sponsor, Rep. Marguerite Quinn, R-Bucks. "The fact is that this bill does not apply to any reasonable gun owner. The fact is, if you don't want to be told by the bench that you need to relinquish your guns, don't commit a crime of domestic violence."
She said 39 people in the state have been killed by guns in domestic violence incidents since the bill was last amended, in late June.
"When this bill is in place, we will, tragically, still have domestic violence lead to murders," Quinn said. "If we could stop all that I know we would act expeditiously to do that. This is the first step we can take."
Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, called it "a gun control bill disguised as protecting domestic abuse victims" and said he has heard from county sheriffs who do not want to build storage facilities and take control of what could be a large number of weapons.
"This bill, like all gun control bills, concentrates on the instrument, not the person," Saccone said.
Several opponents spoke of concerns with the state's protection-from-abuse law, arguing the orders can be obtained with little or no evidence.
"The system has been weaponized by some to the great detriment of those actual victims of domestic violence, like me, who need those resources," said Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, who said someone held a gun to his head when he was in his early 20s, and that he was the subject of two protective orders he did not feel were warranted. Both were ultimately withdrawn.
But Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, said there are standards for PFAs, as they are known, and it's not a matter of, "You walk in and it's crazy time and just by flipping a coin somebody gets a temporary or final PFA."
"If you have a cure for domestic violence, please say it now," Miller said. "I would love to have that cure. But while we search for that cure, I'm tired of women -- mostly women -- getting beaten, getting killed and being too afraid to stand up."
Wolf promised to sign the bill if it gets to his desk and urged lawmakers to pass legislation to impose universal background checks on gun buyers and to keep firearms away from dangerous people.
The National Rifle Association and the state troopers' union were neutral on the bill, but the Pittsburgh-based Firearm Owners Against Crime was opposed, citing concerns about the shortness of the 24-hour period and the proposed limits on who can accept the relinquished guns. The state district attorneys' association called the bill a life-saving measure.
Fewer Immigrants Are Reporting Domestic Abuse. Police Blame Fear of Deportation.
Last year, Houston saw a 16 percent drop in domestic violence reports from Hispanics. The police blame Texas' anti-sanctuary city law, saying it has made undocumented immigrants more reluctant to report crime for fear of being deported.
HOUSTON — For years, she slept with a gun under her pillow, living in fear of a boyfriend who beat her, controlled her life and threatened to kill her and her children. Domenica, who came to this country illegally from Mexico in 1995 and became part of the booming immigrant community in Houston, said her partner was a United States citizen, and often reminded her that she could be deported if she went to the police.
“He told me nobody would help me, because I don't have papers,” said Domenica, 38, who has a son and daughter with her boyfriend, and asked that her last name not be used in order to protect them. “I was with him like that for a pretty long time. I felt like there was no help for me.”
In August of last year, fearing for the safety of her children, Domenica decided to flee. She never called the police. She said she would rather go into hiding than appear in court and risk being separated from her children, or sent home to Mexico.
“That scene is happening all the time,” Houston's police chief, Art Acevedo, said in an interview. Though Houston's immigrant population is one of the fastest-growing in the country, the city last year saw a 16 percent drop in domestic violence reports from the Hispanic community — a decline that the police blame on a tough new immigration enforcement law in Texas and the increasingly hostile political climate across the country surrounding the issue of illegal immigration.
The Houston police recorded 6,273 domestic violence reports from Hispanics in 2017, compared with 7,460 the year before.
Police departments in several cities with large Hispanic populations, including Los Angeles, Denver and San Diego, also experienced a decline in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault in their Hispanic communities. In Houston, Latino domestic violence reports went down even as the city's Hispanic community, now 44 percent of the population, grew significantly.
“Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime,” said Chief Acevedo, who has spoken publicly about the need for local leaders to care for immigrants under increased pressure from state and federal authorities. “They're seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
One case drew national headlines in February 2017, when an undocumented transgender woman from Mexico went to a courthouse in El Paso County, Tex., to file a protective order against her ex-boyfriend. She was detained on the spot by federal agents.
In interviews across Houston, women's activists, domestic violence shelter workers and immigrants shared detailed stories of women who had become more fearful than ever of any contact with the authorities, tying those fears to the threat of deportation.
One 38-year-old woman said she had never called the police about her husband, who frequently beat her, not even when she was six months pregnant and he punched her in the stomach, causing her to lose the baby. Eventually, when her husband threatened to kill her, she left him — but she did not report him. “I know the police are there to help,” said the woman, who feared she would be identified and deported if she gave her name. “But with the laws now, a lot of women like me are too afraid to come forward.”
Across the country, authorities have documented declines in crime reporting by immigrants. Though a general reluctance to contact authorities has always been a problem for police departments dealing with immigrant communities, the police say that many of the steepest declines began early in 2017, when President Trump took office and ordered federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to step up its targeting of those in the country illegally.
Removal orders are up over all from 2016, and much more broadly applied than they were during the last two years of the Obama administration. Arrests of immigrants who appear in court have also increased.
A survey of hundreds of police officers, victims' advocates and prosecutors across all 50 states, released by the American Civil Liberties Union in May, found numerous reports that undocumented immigrants are now more reluctant to call the police, press criminal charges and testify against assailants. A total of 82 percent of the prosecutors surveyed said that domestic abuse cases have become harder to prosecute.
But the threat in Texas has been particularly pronounced.
In Harris County, which includes Houston, the number of immigrants transferred from county jails to federal agents enforcing immigration orders jumped 60 percent in the first five months of 2017, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based immigration think tank.
In September, the Texas Legislature approved a sweeping law that orders local police departments to comply with requests by federal authorities to turn over local detainees suspected of being in the country illegally. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, declared the measure was necessary in order to prevent municipalities from setting up so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Under the new Texas law, known as Senate Bill 4, local officials could face jail time and fines that exceed $25,000 for refusing to honor federal “detainer” requests.
Houston has joined Dallas, Austin and other Texas cities with large Hispanic populations in a lawsuit to overturn the law, arguing that S.B. 4 could lead to widespread racial profiling.
Mr. Abbott has characterized critics' concerns as “fear mongering,” and said that the law does not pose problems for noncriminals. “If you're a criminal and you've done something wrong, yes, whether you're here legally or illegally, you've got something to be concerned about,” he said during a Univision television interview last spring. “If not, you've got nothing to be concerned about.”
A federal appeals court largely upheld the measure in April, but is currently weighing a request by the cities for a rehearing.
Meanwhile, the political storm surrounding the Texas immigration debate has driven some of the state's more vulnerable immigrants further into the shadows. This is especially troubling for the Houston Police Department, which recorded 43 domestic violence homicides among all ethnic groups last year.
City officials said they needed the entire community's help in identifying potential perpetrators.
“Legislation like this doesn't help at all. It just makes our job harder,” said Jason Cisneroz, a community service officer who is conducting outreach to make Hispanics feel comfortable reporting crimes. “It's not just the decrease in calls for service, it's also the decrease in willingness to be a part of an investigation.”
Chief Acevedo's answer is to comply fully with S.B. 4, while curbing its influence on his department's operations.
He requires his officers to file a report on every case in which they report on immigration status to federal authorities. Since the law went into effect, his officers have asked only four people to disclose their immigration status.
“We're not interested in somebody's immigration status,” Chief Acevedo said at a news conference in March, when he announced a new policy that requires supervisors to be present at all domestic violence crime scenes to help determine if an arrest should be made. “If a person is a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime, we want them to understand that this department, this D.A., our mayor, our community, stands with victims and witnesses of crime.”
Despite the drop-in reports to the police, victims are finding workarounds. The Houston Area Women's Center, which received 33,692 calls to its domestic violence hotline last year, saw an increase in Hispanic women seeking help.
Hotline counselors at the center inform callers of their legal rights and encourage them to disclose their immigration status, so that they can be advised on applying for special legal protections that may be available.
Victims of sexual assault and domestic violence can be granted permission to stay in the United States under what is known as a U visa, perhaps permanently, if they assist the police in their investigation. But a statutory cap of 10,000 such visas per year has resulted in a logjam: Last year, 33,500 assault victims applied for U visas — more than three times the number available.
Many women, like Domenica, are convinced that it is still too risky to come forward.
“I sleep better, knowing my children are safe,” Domenica said. She is living in a shelter outside Houston, but can only stay there temporarily.
The problem of where she will go next is a source of constant anxiety, but her fear of coming forward is worse. “I am still afraid of the courts,” she said.
Rape and domestic violence victims at risk as police fail to record tens of thousands of crimes, watchdog finds
Modern slavery victims who were forced into prostitution among victims whose cases were not properly recorded
Victims are being left at risk by the police's failure to investigate tens of thousands of crimes, including rape, violence and domestic abuse, a watchdog has warned.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that almost one in five crimes reported to Lincolnshire Police were not being formally recorded, meaning they are not investigated and victims cannot access support.
The Metropolitan Police failed to record almost 95,000 crimes in a year, 10 per cent of its total, including violent offences, domestic abuse and theft.
In Humberside – the third force examined in the current round of inspections – around 85 per cent of crimes were being recorded.
The standard of recording has improved nationwide in the five years since a scandal over some police forces “no criming” offences, including alleged rapes, by cancelling reports and eradicating them from statistics.
But HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary said there was still work to do as its inspections of forces across England and Wales continue.
Victim Support warned that the failures were preventing victims from accessing the help, support and justice they deserve.
Chief officer Diana Fawcett said: “The fact that many of these crimes that are not being recorded include those of a violent and sexual nature is even more worrying as it is putting extremely vulnerable people at risk.
The Metropolitan Police was one of three forces inspected in the latest round of checks
“We know there are already barriers to reporting to the police – especially for victims of rape and domestic abuse - and news like this has the potential to further undermine public trust in the criminal justice system and deter people from reporting in the future.”
Katie Ghose, the chief executive of Women's Aid, said it can be “devastating” for a victim to work up the courage to report an abuser only to see the crime dismissed.
“The most dangerous time for a survivor is when they are leaving an abusive relationship so it is essential that they are not left waiting for diary appointments, when the risk of abuse intensifying or being killed is so high,” she added.
“Frontline police officers need more training and support so they can correctly identify and record domestic abuse crimes, keeping survivors' safety at the center of their response.”
Police failing to record tens of thousands of crimes, inspection finds
Women's Aid warned that police can also be left with a skewed picture of domestic abuse, causing a “postcode lottery” with funding for refuges and other services.
The cases that Lincolnshire Police failed to properly record included 24 reports of rape – some involving modern slavery victims who had been coerced into prostitution.
Inspector Zoë Billingham said the findings revealed “revealed unacceptable failings in the force's recording practices”.
“We estimate the force fails to record 9,400 reported crimes each year, including reports concerning vulnerable victims, victims of crimes of a sexual nature and of violence,” she added.
“Although safeguarding measures were in place for many of the victims of crimes, there was little evidence of investigations being undertaken where the crime had not made it on to the books. This is particularly true for cases of domestic abuse.”
The proportion of unrecorded crimes rose to a quarter for violent offences, amid a nationwide increase in stabbings and shootings.
Ms Billingham said the figure was “of serious concern as it can prevent victims receiving the support they need and deserve, and prevent offenders being brought to justice”, adding: “The importance of correctly recording crime cannot be overlooked, or simply passed off as a bureaucratic measure. If a force does not correctly record crime it cannot properly understand the demand on its services, nor provide support to those who need it most.”
Lincolnshire Police, which was rated as inadequate, is making reforms including a more rigorous auditing process and improving staff training.
Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor, said his force was “absolutely committed to ensuring we resolve the problem quickly and effectively,” adding: “There are no 'missed' victims or offenders - what we have missed is the correct procedure for recording them.”
lA force spokeswoman said that many of the cases in question were ongoing inquiries where previous, historical incidents had not been correctly recorded - for example if a victim of domestic violence reports crimes stretching back a number of years.
The Metropolitan Police was found to be recording around 90 per cent of crimes reported from July to December last year, meaning it fails to record an estimated 94,500 offences every year.
HMIC warned that Britain's largest force needed to improve the way it handles violence, domestic abuse, public order offences, theft and damage.
Inspector Matt Parr said Scotland Yard had made “significantly improved” and was rated as good overall but was under-recording low-level assaults and public order crime.
“There is more the force could do to make sure that all victims, especially victims of serious and distressing crimes, get the support they deserve,” he added.
“That said, I am confident that the Metropolitan Police Service can and will improve further.”
A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said it had implemented recommendations from a 2014 inspection and would “strive towards improving crime recording accuracy”.
“In the cases highlighted by HMIC's report, the 10.5 per cent of reported crimes that went unrecorded are in the main, public order crime being under-recorded, as assaults where there is no injury to the victims,” he added.
In Humberside – the third force examined in the current round of inspections – around 85 per cent of crimes are being recorded.
HMIC said the force “requires improvement”, particularly on rape, sex offences, common assault, malicious communications, harassment and public order offences.
The watchdog estimated that the force failed to record more than 14,200 crimes each year, 14 per cent of the total reported, and almost one in five violent crimes.
“Missing a crime off the books can have serious consequences,” Mr Parr said.” When a crime isn't recorded, cases may not be investigated and victims can lose access to support services they are entitled to.
“I am aware that Humberside Police has taken immediate action to address our concerns.”
Event helps foster community, police relationship
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It's a trend law enforcement is seeing across the country, witnesses not cooperating during investigations.
Whether it be for fear of retaliation or just not wanting to get involved, it's something law enforcement hopes to change.
Held in several neighborhoods in Jonesboro Tuesday night, National Night Out is an event attempting to do just that.
It's held in several locations across town, and it's about fostering a relationship between law enforcement and our community.
One location was in the West End neighborhood at City Water and Light Park.
There were Jonesboro police officers, firefighters, and several community members out enjoying music, food, and most importantly, each others' company.
Jonesboro K-9 Officer Jason Myers said every time he goes to events like this, he notices their impact.
"Most interactions with the police these days are unfortunately negative, this way gives a positive interaction," Myers said. "It allows them to come up in a non-threatening environment where they don't have to drive to the police station, they don't have to call us out to their house to be able to interact with us, get our attention and tell us 'hey we have some concerns and this is what we'd like to see done.'"
And for the kids that participated, it was just a lot of fun.
They got to play soccer, basketball, and hang out with officers and firefighters for a couple of hours.
Other locations were in the Fisher Street community and at Annie Camp Jr. High.
Why Is It So Hard To Improve American Policing?
The use of lethal force by police officers in Minnesota and Baton Rouge has once again sparked protests over the violent dynamic between citizens and the police.
The ideal today is “democratic policing,” a concept developed by scholars like Gary T. Marx at MIT. Broadly, this refers to a police force that is publicly accountable, subject to the rule of law, respectful of human dignity and that intrudes into citizens' lives only under certain limited circumstances.
Partly in response to this ideal, policing in America has evolved considerably over the past 50 years. There have been changes in hiring, how relations with civilians are managed and what technologies are used.
The 20th century has seen a slow but steady integration of minorities and women within police forces. Different managerial models aimed at improving relations with citizens have also influenced policing over the last 40 years. The most prominent among these are community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing and intelligence-led policing.
Policing has also been deeply transformed by the rapid integration of new technologies leading to computerization of police forces such as the profiling of crime hotspots, access to a broader range of weapons like tasers and the deployment of surveillance technologies like drones and closed circuit TV.
Some of these changes have been positive, but as recent events show, many problems remain. Why hasn't more progress been made?
Not all police forces are equal
One problem is the inequality inherent in the system. For example, Washington, D.C. has 61.2 police officers per 10,000 residents, while Baton Rouge has just 28.7.
Policing in America is not a standardized profession guided by an established set of procedures and policies. There are at least 12,000 local police agencies in the United States, making it one of the most decentralized police organizations in the world.
There are more than 600 state and local police academies across the country delivering training programs that vary tremendously in content, quality and intensity. This, inevitably, has an impact on the skills of their graduates.
Differences in policing also reflect the quality of leadership and the availability of resources.
Police chiefs and commanders represent a critical source of influence. They provide the doctrine by deciding whether to focus on prevention or repression of crime. They design strategies like police visibility or zero tolerance. And they identify the practice to be adopted - rounding up the usual suspects or systematic stop-and-frisk.
Often, however, these police practices are not aligned with public expectations. Citizen review boards - such as those in New York City or San Diego - are the exception rather than the norm.
And then there is the money issue. Police departments that are financially crippled are simply not able to provide regular training and therefore don't have the expertise to pursue certain kinds of crime. The policing of fraud, for example, requires financial expertise and specialized units.
From public relations policing to intensive policing
Policing styles in America vary according to the targeted audience.
Police work in an affluent neighborhood is often characterized by “soft” policing strategies. In other words, policing in those areas is more a question of making people feel secure than actual crime fighting.
However, in disadvantaged, multi-ethnic neighborhoods, police presence and activity are often more intense. They are there to target crimes that have been identified as priorities by police leadership and elected officials.
In fact, one policing model, predictive policing, can exacerbate racial tension between law enforcement and African-American communities.
Predictive policing is based on crime analysis and computerization. This model helps law enforcement mobilize their resources in places where crime tends to concentrate. These crime clusters tend to be located in poor and disadvantaged communities. However, trying to prevent crime by focusing police forces on some addresses, street corners and blocks increases police-citizens encounters. Some of these encounters - even between police and law-abiding citizens caught up in the dragnet - can turn violent.
Another noticeable trend that is front and center in the media today is the “militarization” of police.
This blurring of the distinction between the police and military institutions, between law enforcement and war, began in the 1980s and has only intensified since. It was reinforced by public policy rhetoric calling for a “war on crime,” “war on drugs” and “war on terror.” Police forces began to acquire military equipment and implement militarized training with little or no accountability. For instance, in the wake of 9/11, several local police departments received funding from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense with little or no guidance on how to spend the money. This led to the unnecessary purchase of military equipment including armored cars, bulletproof vests for dogs and advanced bomb-disarming robots.
As a result, we have seen a booming of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams: 80 percent of cities with 25,000 to 50,000 inhabitants now have a SWAT team. From the late 1990s, through the 1033 Program, the Department of Defense has authorized the transfer of military equipment to police departments across the country. Since 2006 the police have bought 93,763 machine guns and 435 armored cars from the Pentagon. All this has only heightened the real and perceived potential for deadly force by police officers.
Now I see you
Another significant change in modern policing is the increasing capacity to monitor criminal activity and the population in general.
Police agencies now have access to a vast network of closed-circuit television (CCTV) monitors, allowing the surveillance of public and private spaces. Just to give a few numbers, the Chicago Police Department has access to 17,000 cameras, including 4,000 in public schools and 1,000 at O'Hare Airport.
Drones, too, are increasingly in use. The U.S. Border Patrol deploys them to monitor smuggling activities. They have been purchased by a number of local police departments, including those in Los Angeles; Mesa County, Arizona; Montgomery County, Texas; Miami Dade; and Seattle.
A mirror of society
In many regards, police agencies are a mirror of our beliefs and values as a society.
When applying this assumption to the phenomenon of intensive policing, it is not surprising, I would argue, that a country that has the highest rate of gun ownership among Western countries, the highest murder rate by guns among advanced democracies and the largest military apparatus in the world would see a militarization of its police.
The same reflection can be made about the use of police surveillance technologies in a society where information technology increasingly defines our interactions.
Ultimately, policing is inseparable from politics. Police organizations are constantly influenced by political pressure, such as the nomination of a new chief of police or new laws that police must enforce. The state of our police system, in other words, for good or for ill, is an accurate proxy measure of the state of our democracy.
Community policing: residents and officers working together
Lt. Col. James Yarbrough of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office and Coweta Commission Chairman Al Smith spoke at a recent forum on community policing.
“The bottom line is, there are bad people out there regardless. That is something we will not stop,” Lee said. “So in order for us to accomplish the safety of our community, we need law enforcement and the great citizens to work together. We must have working relationships. We must have trust among each other in order to weed out the bad elements in our community."
The panel, which also included Coweta County Commission Chairman Al Smith and Lt. Col. James Yarbrough of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office, were asked how residents can help law enforcement.
“Anytime you see a problem out there, don't hesitate to give us a call – that's why we're out there,” said Yarbrough. “Call us, don't hesitate. We'll do everything we can to help… if we don't have the answer we can hopefully point you in the right direction to get it all taken care of."
“We are here to assist in your community and our community,” Lee said. “We can't catch people doing wrong without the help of our citizens."
Many times when criminals are caught, “it is because we do have citizens that step up to the plate and take charge of their community,” Lee said.
A big issue is when law enforcement go into a neighborhood where something bad is happening. Many times Lee said he's responded to a shooting in a neighborhood and nobody wants to say anything. “Nobody wants to stand up,” he said.
“We're here to help each other, help your family,” he said. “Because your family lives in that neighborhood. That is where you sleep at night. We have to help each other.
“Our objective is to have a safe community,” he added. “Our objective is for our kids to go out and play, for us to wake up in the morning not having to worry about our cars being broken into,” he said. “We all have to take charge of our community. Don't wait for the police to come and say to the police – 'that's your job.' No. That's our job because it's our community. I don't want you to be afraid. But I really don't want you to be afraid to stand up in your community.”
Pastor Everton Ennis said there are some people who might want to come forward, but they are afraid.
“They would like to come forward but their fear is other people finding out,” Ennis said.
“You don't have to leave your name, phone number, anything,” Lee said. “A lot of stuff we get is because we have anonymous callers give us a name. Sometimes .. that is all it takes – a name."
If someone calls the NPD with a crime tip, they can ask to be anonymous, Lee said. Something that might seem small can help a lot, he said.
It can take witnesses to keep crime in check, said Smith.
Most elected officials and law enforcement go into their positions and jobs because they want to serve and protect the community, Smith said.
But somehow, possibly through social media, “we have a lot of scuttlebutt going around now where the police and even the elected officials are adversaries to the community,” Smith said.
“I think we need to take a step back and turn off the TV and put the Facebook down,” when it comes to that adversarial feeling, Smith said. There are many different cultures, different races, different levels of education and beliefs. So sometimes “fear comes into play. When you don't understand another person's ethnicity or sexual orientation or something that doesn't line up with yours we tend to become fearful of that person,” Smith said.
Instead, we need to embrace differences but also see that people are more alike than we are different, he said.
“We can move forward knowing that we are not as different as we think,” Smith said.
Coweta is a “a very progressive county in law enforcement,” said Yarbrough.
The Coweta County Sheriff's office had officers wearing body cameras long before the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., he said.
The CCSO has community programs including free firearms classes and women's self-defense classes, and the Defending the Flock program for church security.
“We show churches how to do an analysis of the church, how to make it safer. We help train some of the members on how they need to look for, what they need to observe,” Yarbrough said.
There's also the Sheriff's Academy held each year.
“You see every department in the sheriff's office, and you'll go through the firearms simulator. You could see somebody getting tased,” Yarbrough said. “Anything we can do, any way we can serve, that is what it is all about.”
The Newnan Police Department has the Guitars Not Guns program and the Law Enforcement Explorer program for teens.
The panel were asked how many officers are enough to serve a community.
“You can never go to a city where there is enough law enforcement,” Lee said. “There will never be enough law enforcement, especially if you want to do community policing."
Yarbrough said that when he began his law enforcement career in 1977, “usually after midnight in was quiet. Now in Coweta County we're answering call after call – it is very hard to have enough law enforcement on the street at any given time."
And “if an officer does something stupid like in Dallas” it can affect the hiring of officers all over the U.S., Yarbrough said, referring to the recent shooting death of a man in his own apartment by a female Dallas Police officer who allegedly mistook it for her apartment and thought he was a burglar.
“That is the difficult part in law enforcement – trying to hire good people to be in law enforcement,” Lee said. “There are some folks that don't need to be in law enforcement, because they just don't have it. During the hiring process we can do all the lie detector tests we want, we can check their background all we want – but we don't know what's in their head."
Who Loves Pokémon Go? The Police.
Officers seize on the latest craze for fun — and plenty of safety tips.
by JONATHAN GOMEZ
No one is immune to the Pokémon Go craze — not even the nation's police forces. The interactive game, which has attracted legions of global fans since it was released earlier this month, encourages players to go on a real-world scavenger hunt to find the Japanese animated characters. Here's how it works, The game presents a map powered by GPS, using real-world locations to spot Pokémon and collect items. When you find one, the game opens up your smartphone's camera, giving you a view of Pokémon in the real world. Once you spot them, you flick a Poké Ball toward the creature to capture it. Along with collecting Pokémon, there are Poké Stops pinned to real locations where players can grab items. It could be a grocery store, or a landmark, or even a sign that can serve as a Poké Stop. Once Pokémon are trained, players take them to gyms to battle other Pokémon.
Across the country, Pokémon Go has evolved into a little more than a summer distraction. Amid a week when two police shootings of black men and the murder of five officers in Dallas have convulsed the nation with renewed racial tensions, police have turned to the game to connect with people in their communities.
One officer in Fall River, Mass., took time off the beat to get involved in a Pokémon hunt: In Tucson, Ariz., officers in a squad car blasted the Pokémon theme music for hunters trying to fill their Pokédex.Police in Crewe., Va., warned players not to walk into traffic unwittingly. “If you become road kill who will train the Pokémon? Think about it…”
How community initiatives disrupt gang violence
Research shows that to reduce gang-related homicides, law enforcement, social services and the community must work together
by Patrick Welsh
Over the last 25 years, research shows that the best – and most sustainable – approach to reducing gang homicides is a three-pronged initiative involving law enforcement, social services and the community.
Such an initiative is commonly referred to as a Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. CIRV started in Boston in 1996 and has been replicated throughout the country in agencies of all sizes and cities of various demographics.
In Dayton, Trotwood and Montgomery County, CIRV has been used to reduce gang-related gun violence and homicides. The local initiative was dubbed Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence (CIRGV). It provides life-changing support to individuals who desire positive transformation in their lives, and engages the moral voice of the community to promote a neighborhood standard that openly values life and safety while denouncing gun violence. Law enforcement supports the initiative through enhanced multi-jurisdictional policing efforts.
Through coordination between law enforcement, the community and social services teams, CIRGV disrupts the cycle of violence by:
Clearly informing the public and those involved in high-risk lifestyles of the consequences of gun violence and its impact on the community.
Empowering the community to be a moral voice that speaks out against gun violence.
Engaging gun violence survivors and their families in educating the public on the impact of gun violence.
Providing life-changing supportive services to those who want to get out of the cycle of violence.
Improving communication and coordination among multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies.
Initially, the response of many cops to a CIRV initiative is: “That's a bunch of liberal, ivory-tower crap. I'm not going to hug a thug. I'm going to do real police work and lock them up.” I had that same initial reaction in 2008 when I was placed in charge of setting up the CIRV initiative to reduce the number of homicides attributed to gangs in Dayton, Ohio. I'll admit that my doubt was misguided. Looking back, the program worked extremely well for our department and I'm proud to say the initiative is still going strong today.
COLLECTING DATA ON GANG HOMICIDES
The CIRGV initiative focused specifically on group member involved (GMI) – or gang – homicides. Representatives of Dayton PD, Trotwood PD and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) began by utilizing the Problem Analysis Triangle model of POP (Offender/Place/Target or Victim) to conduct an in-depth problem analysis.
All firearm-related violent crime data in the city of Dayton was compiled for the complete years of 2000 through May 31, 2008. This included crimes, victims and incidents. This data was broken down and tracked by month and year, and a comparison graph was generated to reflect trends for firearm-related violent crimes. The results were as follows:
759 non-fatal firearm injuries
59 forcible rapes
2,487 armed robberies
1,386 aggravated assaults
Looking at January 1, 2005, through January 1, 2008, we reviewed every homicide from Dayton, Trotwood and Montgomery counties with the purpose of identifying some of the following key characteristics:
Victim known to review team
Offender known to review team
Incident known to review team
Victim involved with street group
Offender involved with street group
Incident connected with previous homicide/violence
Incident connected with subsequent homicide/violence
Running dispute between groups/individual(s)
From this review the following data was revealed:
Total homicides – 91
35 were GMI homicides (38.5 percent)
Causes of these homicides were:
Drug related – 14
Respect issue – 11
Running dispute – 5
Robbery – 5
Sudden dispute – 4
(Note: Total exceeds 35 because some homicides had multiple underlying reasons.)
GATHERING INTELLIGENCE ON GANG MEMBERS
Once we had collected the above data, an eight-hour intelligence gathering session was held. The following agencies were represented: Dayton PD (all five districts and Special Investigations Division); Trotwood (Patrol and Detectives); MCSO (Patrol and Detectives); FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); DEA; Metro Parks; Adult Probation; and Adult Parole.
The purpose of this session was to identify:
Known groups and their members
Type of group (adult, juveniles, both)
Level of violence (low, medium, high)
Territorial boundaries of group
Illegal activities of group
Alliances between groups
Feuds between groups
Any additional info
This session resulted in the following:
39 identified groups
541 identified members by name
57 members on probation or parole
Follow-up intel sessions were held annually and the identified group members/affiliates grew to over 900 individuals in 50+ identified groups, with several hundreds of those individuals being on probation or parole. The identified groups and members were geographically located in 2nd, 3rd and 5th Districts in the City of Dayton, Crown Point and various neighborhoods within Trotwood and Harrison Township.
We found that 38 percent of the total number of homicides in the three-agency region were committed by 0.03 percent of the population in the same region. The offenders were identified as members of various gangs who had a measurable amount of documented violent behavior in specific areas of the region. Furthermore, 79 percent of all homicides were committed by firearm.
To reduce the number of GMI homicides and residually reduce the overall number of homicides, CIRGV was initiated between Dayton, Trotwood and MCSO using the data recorded/collated. The local initiative was based on CIGV best practices involving law enforcement, the community, and social services strategies.
LAUNCHING THE CIRGV STRATEGY
Initially, the judges of the Montgomery County Courts were briefed on the CIRGV initiative, including our methodology of identifying gang members and related homicides over the previous three years. We needed their buy-in in order to conduct call-in sessions with known gang members who were on probation or parole.
“Call-in sessions” was the term we utilized to order gang members into a courtroom and be addressed by the court, law enforcement and social services.
With the judges' approval, group members identified as being on probation or parole were ordered into the first call-in session, in a Common Pleas courtroom, as a condition of their supervised parole or probation. Each member was personally served with an order by their probation officer (PO) and failure to appear as ordered would result in an arrest warrant being issued. Additionally, the PO would initiate the proper paperwork to revocate the member's probation/parole.
DURING THE CALL-IN SESSION
Members of law enforcement, including representatives of Dayton PD, Trotwood PD, MCSO, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office, delivered a message to the group members gathered at the call-in session. In the three-hour session, it was explained that the groups and their members must put down their guns and stop the killing or face intense law enforcement response from the combined agencies.
We made it clear that anytime there was a GMI homicide, the group responsible for pulling the trigger would be targeted for any and all legal enforcement action; all members of the group would be targeted regardless of their involvement in the underlying homicide. We also emphasized to the group members that any violence linked to their group would result in law enforcement requesting revocation of their parole/probation status.
The gang members were told that law enforcement's first course of action when a gang-related homicide occurred would be to place all new cases into the federal system, not state court. Next, members of social services agencies offered assistance to the group members to help them exit the violent group environment by navigating them through social services programs (commonly referred to as an “honorable exit”). These social services agencies also reinforced the message that failure to get out of the group may result in being targeted by law enforcement.
Finally, a member of the community whose family member was the victim of a GMI homicide delivered a message as the “moral voice” of the community. The speaker shared the pain of losing a loved one, the impact on family members, the community's condemnation of the violence, and their support of law enforcement in stopping the killing through group targeted enforcement strategies.
NEXT STEPS IN THE CIRGV STRATEGY
The combined law enforcement agencies met to develop and execute enforcement strategies targeting groups responsible for future homicides. This did not involve any new enforcement units being created, manpower reallocation, or funding. Instead, within existing patrol and narcotics enforcement units, we developed strategies to go after gang members whose group was responsible for a homicide.
From quality of life violations (e.g., loud music, disorderly conduct and other misdemeanor offenses), to felony drug investigations, to POs increasing random urine analysis testing, every identified gang member on probation and parole was fair game for any and all legal means of getting them off the street and locked up in order to interrupt the cycle of gang violence.
Responsibility after a GMI homicide was determined through intelligence gathering, informants, evidence gained through investigations, and Crime Stoppers tips. Regardless of whether there was probable cause to make an arrest for the underlying homicide, the decision to launch enforcement efforts lay with the commander of the Special Investigations Division of the Dayton Police Department. If such a determination was made, the CIRGV enforcement efforts were launched against the entire group.
This same message was made abundantly clear to the gang members who attended the call-in session.
Additionally, the CIRGV law enforcement team kept track of GMI homicide rates and of group members opting for “honorable exit” opportunities. Within months of the next GMI homicide after the first call-in session, we had gang members who had attended the session reporting to us who was responsible – they did not want the police to think it was their group and suffer the enforcement actions they knew would be coming.
Finally, groundwork was laid to institutionalize the initiative's practices as the way of doing business in response to all future GMI homicides in Dayton and the surrounding communities. A formal Community Police Relations Council was formed and a full-time coordinator hired to administer the various services of CIRGV.
OUTCOMES OF THE CIRGV INITIATIVE
From the launch of the first call-in in March 2008 through to the end of 2010, CIRGV recognized a 64 percent reduction in GMI homicides.
Not only has CIRGV significantly reduced gang-related homicides; in addition, the 2017 Community Survey by the City of Dayton indicated that community police relations improved to a 57 percent citizen satisfaction rating. Also, the survey revealed a significant increase in the perceived safety of neighborhood residents who were once plagued by gang-related homicides. While there is still more to be done, the reduction in gun violence and gang homicides over the 10-year period speaks for itself.
The honorable exit strategies also proved successful. Social services agencies reported a marked increase in gang members voluntarily coming forward to seek help to get out of the gang life. Support services included anger management counseling, drug rehabilitation, getting a GED, or simply getting a driver's license and employment counseling. By offering quality services, the community was able to overcome all the excuses as to why someone would stay in a gang or join in the first place.
The bottom line is that the police and community came together with a unified message and supported one another. Building relationships between the police, social services, faith-based organizations and community members, without sacrificing the law enforcement mission of the police, proved to be the right thing at the right time. The initiative was implemented in the right way for the right reasons – with the right results.
And the “hug a thug” mentality? The only hug I ever got was from a gang member who hugged and thanked me for saving his life by providing the help he needed to get out, and stay out, of the gang life.
How police can benefit from open data
Studying and sharing non-sensitive information can provide valuable insights and build trust in the community
by Laura Neitzel
The concept of “open data” may raise an eyebrow for a law enforcement officer whose job is to keep people and property secure. In an environment where many police may feel their actions can be vilified, some agencies are reluctant to invite scrutiny, not realizing that by offering greater access to their data, they build trust with the community.
Open data helps police agencies build trust with the community.
Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown learned this in 2012 during the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer. Allegation of racial bias soon followed, and Chief Brown realized that to get ahead of the story and dispel rumors, he needed to share as much information as possible.
“Citizens, and particularly our activists, who had preconceived notions about where and who this force was being used on really had to take a look at their previous beliefs because the data didn't support it,” Chief Brown told a gathering of leaders at an open data conference. “Facts became the great equalizer for us and put us in a position to open up more of a dialogue with our critics.”
By organizing non-sensitive data into data sets that can be shared with any interested individual or organization, a police agency can provide transparency, promote trust and gain meaningful insights from the data, while doing so in a secure and compliant environment.
WHAT IS OPEN DATA?
Open data is raw data that can be downloaded and analyzed by another person or organization. Instead of a high-level summary, open data gives people access to data at a detailed level – providing not just aggregate data, but incident data in a downloadable, digital format, at no cost, and for use without restriction.
Enabling citizens with access to police data may sound counterintuitive. But, in fact, letting citizens see the raw data shows the true scope of what law enforcement officers deal with on a daily basis. As any officer knows, a single allegation of racial bias in a use-of-force incident can explode into a perception that the whole department is biased, when, in fact, an analysis of the data will show the opposite is true. Opening data lets a police agency tell an accurate, unmitigated and more complete story.
According to The Police Foundation's Law Enforcement Executive's Guide to Open Data, “with increased access to accurate information, police officers and community members alike are empowered to develop a fact-based perspective on community-police relations by understanding the actual public safety and crime problems within their jurisdictions and how the police are responding to those problems.”
The Police Data Initiative promotes the use of open data to encourage joint problem solving, innovation, enhanced understanding and accountability between communities and the law enforcement agencies that serve them. Partners include the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Foundation, technology company Socrata and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
Through the Police Data Initiative, more than 130 police agencies across the nation have shared data sets they have identified as important to their communities. These data sets are used, among other purposes, to track progress on performance goals, identify crime trends and hotspots, improve traffic safety, measure response times and call volume, reduce opioid deaths and show transparency around issues such as workforce demographics, officer complaints and use-of-force incidents.
HOW OPEN DATA HELPED NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, TRANSFORM CITY OPERATIONS
“If you want to tell the whole story of what's going on in your community from a public safety perspective, there's no better way than to release all your data that shows, in granular detail, the whole story,” said Oliver Wise, director of Data Academy at Tyler Technologies' Data & Insights Division and former director of New Orleans' Office of Performance and Accountability.
As a pioneer in the field, Wise oversaw the use of open data to transform city government in New Orleans, post-Hurricane Katrina. Half of the city's workforce had been laid off after the hurricane, the city was over budget by about 25 percent and morale was abysmally low.
“The entire senior leadership team knew that we needed to take a brand-new approach to management and saw the huge potential for data to transform how city government was managed; how we created accountability for results; how departments could collaborate with each other; and importantly, how we could improve engagement and trust with our community,” he said.
Wise first used open data to tackle a pervasive problem in New Orleans – urban blight. Citizens didn't just want to know that the city was responding to the problem; they wanted to know the status of specific troubled properties in their own neighborhoods.
“The City of New Orleans partnered with Socrata (now a division of Tyler Technologies) to put that data on a centralized platform in the cloud, very affordably, and we opened that data to the public so that they could see the data we were using,” Wise said. “Because the data was already in the cloud and open, any citizen could look up a property by address to see how it was working its way through the code enforcement process.”
When the New Orleans Police Department was put under a wide-ranging Department of Justice consent decree in 2012 that required them to initiate reforms and evidence compliance, Wise again turned to open data to set goals and track performance. In the years since, the data management system they created has become a model for other police departments – and not just the ones looking to comply with a consent decree or to reset strained community relations.
The data management system created by New Orleans includes a dashboard that pulls data from different sources and displays them in user-friendly charts and tables and generates maps that highlight crime hotspots. Citizens or organizations interested in mining the data further can access detailed reports that show information such as response times at different times of day, or in different precincts. The New Orleans Police Department was one of the early leaders in the Police Data Initiative and many other agencies have adopted their model or have created and shared their own data sets.
THE BENEFITS OF OPEN DATA TO POLICE DEPARTMENTS
Open data provides an opportunity for more productive and constructive conversations with constituents, says Wise, because all parties have access to the same information.
Police departments around the country are also creating their own data sets to gather insights that help them respond effectively to challenges with their respective communities. Example data sets include calls for service (911 calls) and self-initiated calls for police action, says Wise. “That is a massive data set, but it gives a very good handle on the pulse of your community and how people are interacting with the police system,” he said.
Data can be pulled directly from an agency's records management system to show real-time information or historical trends, which departments use internally to inform decisions and gain a broader picture of day-to-day performance. Through the Dallas OpenData portal, citizens can access Dallas Police Department records to view active calls in real time, track officer-involved shootings or show progress toward performance goals.
Cincinnati, Ohio, a city laden with opioid deaths, created the Cincinnati Heroin Dashboard in 2016. The dashboard analyzes data from 911 calls to determine when and where emergency medical services administered naloxone for a suspected heroin or other opioid overdose. This location and time data helps public safety officials identify dangerous areas and peak times so they can anticipate when and where to deploy personal and medical resources. The dashboard also provides helpful information to families of addicts, and alerts them when there is a particularly potent drug on the street.
Governors around the level of detail accessible by the public are built into the data set. To protect privacy, the Cincinnati Heroin Dashboard does not include patient information or medical outcomes – just information such as the day, time and block address of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) response (such as whether the patient was treated on scene or transported to the hospital).
The Dallas OpenData portal adheres to similar standards. A site visitor can view active calls and search police reports and arrest records by incident number, time, block location, physical description of the suspect and other details that convey useful data, but that do not compromise personal privacy or security.
HOW THE CLOUD FACILITATES OPEN DATA ACCESS
Cloud-based data storage from service providers like Amazon Web Services is what makes open data open. Instead of sequestering data sets in a set of binders accessible only to officials at headquarters, the cloud enables agencies to share data across an entire police department in a secure and compliant environment. Every rank-and-file officer, on whatever internet-connected device he or she prefers, can see that data.
“The big leap for putting data in the cloud and making it open is that it democratizes the data across the entire police department. Now that data's in the cloud, it's widely accessible. And the entire police force has access to that data at their fingertips,” said Wise.
The data can also be shared with the district attorney, public health departments, or even nonprofit organizations working to solve community problems like chronic homelessness or gang violence.
HOW OPEN DATA EMPOWERS OFFICERS AND AGENCIES
In New Orleans, Wise said, data made it easy to see where agencies were having problems with response times, and helped make the case for added resources.
“Having the data helped garner the political will to really change how the police department was staffed, resourced and allocated to more adequately respond to a resident request,” he said. “Most importantly, we were able to boost the police budget to hire additional officers to address that issue.”
In addition to benefits of open data for citizens, journalists, social service agencies, advocacy organizations and nonprofits, open data can not only help a law enforcement agency build trust with the community by showing transparency, but also by helping them share their successes and gain support for the resources it needs.
“We believe that data should be used first internally to create intelligence to shine a flashlight on where problems are occurring, so that they can be improved. And to provide insights to departments so that they can work smarter, not just harder,” said Wise.
For Real Community Policing, Let Officers Do Their Jobs
by Patrick J. Lynch
All policing should be community policing. Police officers and residents work together every day, because it's the only way to keep the streets safe. Over the past 30 years, though, whenever there has been a need to heal a rift between the police and the public, this basic principle has gotten watchword status.
We face such a rift today, particularly in New York City's African-American and Hispanic communities, largely because of Police Department policies that inhibit true community policing and set harmful quotas for arrests and other police activities, like “stop, question and frisk.”
Police officers have recognized for decades that the department was driving a wedge between officers and the people we serve by making our jobs dependent on meeting these mandates — reducing public safety to a numbers game. As far back as 2004, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association warned that quotas were harming residents and police officers alike, and we filed grievances and fought for expanded state anti-quota legislation to stop it.
Unfortunately, our elected leaders and the courts have too often ignored these failed management policies, focusing instead on saddling police officers on the street with additional burdens and scrutiny. In doing so, they have advanced the false narrative that New York City police officers are, as a group, bad actors motivated by personal racial prejudice. This narrative has made our jobs far more difficult, and has further damaged the relationship with the New Yorkers we serve.
Now the city is once again calling for community policing as a means of repairing the damage, and once again some officers on the street and community members are skeptical. We have seen similar strategies, such as the Community Patrol Officer Program from the 1980s, tried out and eventually abandoned. In order for the current iteration of community policing to succeed, it must be given the proper staffing resources. It must also treat police officers as professionals and allow them the discretion to effectively carry out the strategy in the real world.
But our head count has dropped by approximately 6,000. Many precincts face a serious backlog of radio calls, and officers on patrol are routinely assigned multiple jobs at once. Meanwhile, officers are pulled from local precincts to staff specialized units or to cover special events.
Now, under the current plan for community policing, a handful of neighborhood coordination officers would have dedicated time off their radios to address community policing issues. But if that forces others to double up or keeps them from responding to potentially critical calls, we'll be making things worse and could even prevent the development of strong ties with the community.
The department may want officers at every precinct community council meeting, participating in pickup basketball games, and stopping by local cookouts. But attending these structured activities goes only so far to address what the community needs. What most New Yorkers want from the police are not photo ops for the department's social media channels, but for officers to listen and respond to their concerns when they have them.
Officers want to have those types of conversations. They let us resolve some situations without resorting to enforcement action while also learning who the truly bad actors are. It's not enough for those conversations to happen only at formalized community policing activities.
Unfortunately, like the numerically driven enforcement model, the formal community policing strategy implies that officers cannot be treated as professionals, trusted to exercise proper judgment in any situation without micromanagement. It pressures them to produce documentable “activity,” paralyzes them with bureaucratic second-guessing and threatens to turn “community engagement” into just another box to check.
If this approach continues the department will lose smart, highly qualified officers to other police departments that provide competitive wages, respect and fairer treatment. Stronger community relationships require keeping our best police officers and being able to recruit the best. They also mean giving them incentives to remain in roles that work directly with the community, instead of jumping at the first opportunity to get off the street and into a specialized unit.
If city neighborhoods lose these officers and cannot attract new ones of the same caliber, the impact will be significant, especially in the areas that need them most.
New York City police officers don't want to look elsewhere, because the communities we protect are our communities, too. Sixty percent of New York City police officers live in the five boroughs. We want the same as our fellow New Yorkers: safe and livable streets. If we work together, with the tools, support and the right strategy, we will make sure our communities are safer and stronger for years to come.
PRESS RELEASE - Dept of Justice
Federal Prosecutors Bring Child Pornography and Other Exploitation Cases as Part of Ongoing Efforts to Combat Victimization of Children
LOS ANGELES – United States Attorney Nick Hanna and FBI Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt today announced a series of child exploitation cases involving the victimization of minors through crimes that include the production of child pornography.
FBI agents on Thursday arrested two defendants as part of a multi-agency sweep that led to eight defendants being taken into custody over the past 10 days. Several of the cases involved agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). These cases are part of Project Safe Childhood, which is the Justice Department's ongoing initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation crimes.
The internet has dramatically increased the availability of child pornography, and digital equipment has made it relatively easy to create, distribute and collect these disturbing images. But underlying each case in which an individual uses technology, there is a young victim who was abused, molested or coerced to engage in sexual activity to fulfill the deviant interests of a perpetrator. Every child exploitation prosecution is designed to end this horrific behavior, to stop the cycle of abuse, and to bring offenders to justice.
“These cases involve acts of depravity against vulnerable young people, many of whom will continue to be victimized as photos documenting their abuse spread across the internet,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “These cases are a reminder that child predators cannot hide behind the perceived anonymity of the internet. Those who engage in the child pornography industry – whether they create new images or collect videos – can and will be caught as a result of the concerted efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. Our aggressive investigators and prosecutors will continue to diligently work to protect innocent children and to seek justice for those who are victimized.”
“The cases being announced today range from individuals who continuously feed the demand for child pornography by sharing it, to those who document the sexual abuse of children through images and video, and others who travel abroad for the purpose of molesting children. In each case, a voiceless child is victimized for life,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI and our partners have a clear mission that includes rescuing these precious victims from this unspeakable abuse and delivering some justice by putting their abusers in prison.”
The two defendants arrested Thursday by the FBI are:
· Nestor Ramirez, 36, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography. The production charge relates to images that Ramirez allegedly created, and he allegedly distributed videos over a peer-to-peer network on at least two occasions. During his arraignment Thursday afternoon, Ramirez pleaded not guilty to the charges in a four-count indictment and was ordered to stand trial on November 27. Ramirez was detained – meaning held without bond – pending trial.
· Victor Manuel Diaz Romo, 53, of Lawndale, who is named in an indictment alleging receipt of child pornography over a peer-to-peer network and five counts of possession of child pornography. During his arraignment on Thursday, Romo pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on November 27. Romo was ordered detained pending trial.
The FBI-led sweep resulted in the arrest of six other defendants last week. Each of those defendants has entered not guilty pleas and are facing trials later this year. Those arrested on September 26 and 27 pursuant to grand jury indictments are:
· Christopher Norman Strinden, 57, of Long Beach, who is charged with three counts of possession of child pornography he obtained from a now-defunct website called Playpen, which was operating on the dark web. Many of the more than 17,000 images in this case allegedly involve minors under the age of 12, including toddlers.
· Kenneth Rudy Smith, 31, of Lawndale, who is charged with one count of possession of child pornography involving victims under the age of 12 that was found during a search of his residence.
· Justin Schobey, 19, of Canyon Country, who is charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography. Schobey allegedly used text messages to coerce a boy in another state to produce child pornography.
· Jorge De Los Santos, 31, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession. De Los Santos allegedly used an online peer-to-peer network to obtain sexually explicit videos depicting young males.
· Fernando Vazquez Garcia, 30, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with receipt of child pornography, as well as possessing videos he allegedly obtained over a file-sharing network.
· Nathan Pham, 27, of Long Beach, who is charged with both receipt and possession of child pornography obtained through a peer-to-peer network. The possession count alleges images involving minors under the age of 12.
“No crime impacts us as law enforcement agents and as parents more deeply as the abuse of an innocent child,” said Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “As these cases vividly illustrate, the internet has left our children vulnerable to exploitation by sexual predators not just around the corner, but around the globe. The staggering number of arrests achieved through interagency cooperation is a testament to our combined passion to prevent future harm to innocent children."
In recent weeks, federal prosecutors have filed cases against additional defendants who allegedly committed child exploitation offenses. Those case include:
· A former music teach from Ventura – John Zeretzke, 60– who is charged with production of child pornography, attempted enticement of a minor, and traveling to the Philippines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. This case is being investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.
· Members of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force arrested a Long Beach man on charges of coercing a minor to produce child pornography and travelling to Mexico to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Jonathan Sandoval-Lepe, 31, was taken into custody by deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and FBI agents pursuant to a five-count indictment.
· Israel Sanchez, 52, of Sylmar, who was arrested on August 30 pursuant to an indictment that charges him with 13 counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession. Sanchez was arrested after he was released from state custody on child molestation charges involving one of the very young victims in the child pornography case.
· Alex Primitibo Campos, 25, of Palmdale, who was arrested on September 5 on charges of distributing child pornography and three counts of possession. The distribution charge relates to videos depicting children as young as approximately 7 that Campos allegedly made available to others via download from a peer-to-peer network.
· Joseph Natale, 24, of Lancaster, who was indicted on September 18 on two counts of distributing child pornography and two counts of possession. This case stems from an undercover FBI investigation in which agents downloaded images that Natale allegedly made available via a peer-to-peer network.
There have been developments recently in other child exploitation cases being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office. Those cases involve:
· Michael Joseph Farber, 50, of West Los Angeles, who pleaded guilty on September 14 to one count of possession of child pornography. Farber specifically admitted that he possessed videos showing a child under the age of 12 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Farber is scheduled to be sentenced on December 10.
· Richard Celestino, 48, of Green Valley (on the eastern edge of the Antelope Valley), who pleaded guilty on July 30 to possession of child pornography, admitting that he used a peer-to-peer file-sharing network to distribute and possess child pornography, including images depicting children under the age of 2. Celestino's sentencing hearing is now scheduled for November 19.
· Edward Anthony Contes, 36, of San Pedro, is scheduled to be tried on January 29 on charges of traveling to Mexico for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minor boys, use of the internet in an attempt to entice a minor to engage in prostitution, and attempted sex trafficking of two boys in the Los Angeles area. Contes was arrested in June after allegedly traveling to Tijuana in May and making contact on the internet with a person he thought was a child sex trafficker, but who in fact was an undercover law enforcement agent. In addition to seeking a boy in Mexico, Contes allegedly made arrangements with the undercover agent to pay to have sex with a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old at a hotel in Long Beach. This investigation is being conducted by HSI's Long Beach Child Exploitation Investigation Group and the FBI's Long Beach Resident Agency.
· An elementary school teacher from Burbank, Sean David Sigler, is scheduled to be tried on April 11, 2019, on charges related to the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old student. Sigler has been in custody since his arrest in May.
· Daniel Patrick Diaz, 34, of Wilmington, was arrested in July pursuant to a six-count indictment that alleges the production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography. Diaz is currently scheduled for trial on January 22.
· Charles Patrick Miller, 49, of Lancaster, was sentenced on August 13 to nine years in federal prison for distributing child pornography on a peer-to-peer network. Miller admitted possessing tens of thousands of images and videos depicting child pornography, and his distribution of child pornography continued even after the FBI served a search warrant at his residence. Once he completes his prison sentence, Miller will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charge of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The charges of distributing and receiving child pornography carry a five-year mandatory minimum sentence and a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Possession of child pornography does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence, but a conviction on this charge can bring a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
The recent arrests are the product of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, often working in conjunction with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, as well as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department participated in several of the investigations.
Assistant United States Attorney Devon Myers of the Violent and Organized Crimes Section is the office's Project Safe Childhood Coordinator. In addition to the cases she is prosecuting, some of the cases being announced today are being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey C. Chemerinsky, Shawn R. Andrews, Wilson Park, Lana Morton Owens, Joey L. Blanch, Damaris Diaz, Joanna M. Curtis, Joseph D. Axelrad, Bruce K. Riordan and Scott M. Lara of the Violent and Organized Crime Section. Assistant United States Attorney Robyn K. Bacon of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section, Assistant United States Attorney Kathy Yu of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Section, and Assistant United States Attorney MiRi Song of the General Crimes Section are also handling cases.
Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer