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National & World
Trashing of rape kits failed victims, jeopardized public safety
At least 400 cases affected across US
ASHLEY FANTZ, SERGIO HERNANDEZ AND SONAM VASHI, CNN
(CNN) - Hours after you are raped, you sit in a hospital room, under fluorescent lights, and consent to a forensic exam.
Your body is the crime scene.
When did it happen, a nurse asks. Where did it happen? Can you tell me who did this to you?
The nurse is trained to interview you and search your body for evidence left behind by your attacker. Knowing the details of your assault guides the examination.
Did he ejaculate inside of you, on you? Where did he touch you? Did he use any objects? Did he kiss you, lick you? Have you had anything to drink? Did you shower?
You're asked to undress slowly while you stand on a special sheet meant to collect any trace evidence that shakes loose.
For three to five hours, the nurse swabs your mouth, your breasts, a bite mark on your neck. She scrapes under your fingernails, combs your pubic hair. She inserts a speculum inside you and drops blue dye on the tissue there to illuminate any places that are torn.
The nurse cuts a hair from your head. She takes photographs of your face and shoulders to pair with your chart, of you in the clothes you wore when you were attacked. Every injury is photographed, too — far away, close-up, with a ruler to show size.
When the exam is over, the nurse puts hair, fibers, swabs, vials of blood and urine in a container smaller than a shoebox. She seals it — your rape kit — and entrusts it to a police officer.
This is the way DNA evidence is collected. This is what you endure so police can identify your assailant, make him pay for what he did.
No one tells you that the exam may be pointless — that police might treat your kit like trash.
A CNN investigation into the destruction of rape kits in dozens of agencies across the country found that police trashed evidence in 400 cases before the statutes of limitations expired or when there was no time limit to prosecute.
The number is likely higher and was arrived at through an analysis of the departments' own records.
The destruction occurred since 2010 and followed flawed and incomplete investigations that relegated rape kits to shelves in police evidence rooms until they were destroyed. Dozens were trashed mere weeks or months after police took custody of the evidence, records showed.
Almost 80% were never tested for DNA evidence, a process that can identify a suspect or link that person to other crimes.
For the past several years, public attention has focused on the hundreds of thousands of kits that have languished untested. The Justice Department has awarded more than $150 million to test that backlog.
But destruction of rape kits is a lesser-known and more fundamental problem: The evidence is gone. It can never be used to lock up a rapist or set free the wrongfully convicted.
"All the attention toward untested kits isn't enough if we have agencies destroying kits," said Wayne County, Michigan, Prosecutor Kym Worthy, whose testing of some 10,000 backlogged rape kits has identified at least 833 suspects linked to more than one sex crime.
"Each one of these kits represents a victim," said the Detroit-based prosecutor. "What you are doing when you destroy a rape kit is destroying the chance that they are ever going to see justice."
A woman who reported being gang-raped in 2007 said it was "absolutely devastating" to recently learn that police destroyed her untested kit.
She remembered the nurse at a hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina, asking her to describe what the four men did so that her body could be positioned in a way that allowed for more precise examination.
"It was very invasive," she recalled. "It was very degrading. The level of exposure ... was a second violation."
But she steeled herself because the nurse was collecting evidence, and she believed police would test it and use it in their investigation.
Instead, CNN found, the detective assigned to her case did nothing more than interview her. The officer never tried to talk to the men she named as her attackers, misinterpreted the law and concluded that no rape occurred. About a month after speaking with the woman, the detective authorized destruction of the untested rape kit — in a state where there was no time limit to prosecute rape.
"I counted on the police to do what they were supposed to do — to investigate what happened to me and to test that evidence," she said. "Instead, they treated it like trash. They treated me like trash."
Veteran sex crimes investigators, along with experts in the law, trauma and forensic science, reviewed case files for CNN. They said investigations indicated that police lacked training in how to interact with victims of sexual violence; in the importance of testing kits, not only to solve the reported assaults but potentially other crimes; and in the need to preserve kits for the length of time the law allows for a prosecution.
"What CNN discovered is a systemic problem," said Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant who ran the San Diego Police sex crimes unit for a decade. She examined 56 case files from more than a dozen departments.
"It's simple — but it's not the norm — that law enforcement should keep evidence at least for the statute of limitations," she said. "There are mistakes in these cases, but the worst mistake in each is the destruction of evidence."
Twenty-five agencies in 14 states destroyed kits tied to cases while they could still be prosecuted.
Department leaders at some agencies defended the destruction by saying officers approved disposal of kits in closed cases they believed had no chance of moving forward. This was a routine process, they said, done to make space in evidence rooms.
At least five departments acknowledged that the decision to destroy kits was made without considering the statutes of limitations. Three stopped trashing kits because of CNN's inquiries.
Experts said the destruction shows that rape is treated differently than other violent crimes.
"Would we test all the evidence" in a murder? "You bet," said police trainer Tom Tremblay.
The former Vermont police chief, who has reviewed rape investigations for the US Department of Justice, examined cases from nine agencies.
The language police sometimes used, he and other experts said, suggested bias — describing victims' accounts of their rapes as "having sex," asking whether victims experienced orgasms and focusing on a victim's behavior rather than the suspect's.
All of it, Tremblay said, communicates one thing to a victim: You are not believed.
Worthy understands personally what's at stake. She isn't just a prosecutor; she's a survivor. She was raped in law school, she said, and — like an estimated 68% of rape and sexual assault victims nationally — chose not to report her attack.
It is a triumph, Worthy said, when a victim musters the courage to go to police and consent to a rape exam. And destroying a rape kit is a betrayal.
One department's revelations prompt CNN's nationwide probe
Police Chief Harold Medlock was nervous. City attorneys had urged him to keep quiet, he said. But the Fayetteville, North Carolina, chief resisted. He was going public.
It was September 21, 2015, and Medlock was moments away from revealing that his department had destroyed 333 rape kits.
The evidence wasn't trashed in some unfortunate mishap. For more than a decade, detectives had the sole power to greenlight destruction of rape kits in their cases, and they did so sometimes just months after victims reported their assaults. The objective was, in part, to make space in the evidence room. Most of the destroyed kits had never been tested.
In a recent interview, Medlock reflected on his decision to hold a news conference announcing the department's failure to preserve kits. He said he had been warned that revealing the destruction could trigger lawsuits. But as he stepped to the podium, his mind was heavy with other fears.
Would the community ever trust the police again? Did the destruction of even one kit mean a rapist got away and went on to attack another victim?
As cameras snapped and reporters shouted questions, the chief owned up to the mistakes. He also asked his detectives to notify all of the victims about what had happened and, if possible, reinvestigate their assaults.
Fayetteville police said they stopped destroying kits in the fall of 2009, before North Carolina enacted a law prohibiting the disposal of biological evidence in unsolved rape and homicide cases. The chief's revelation prompted CNN to examine whether the practice was widespread and ongoing.
Comparing the work of police agencies proved difficult because of incomplete information and a lack of uniformity in how police classify cases. Departments said many kits were destroyed after the statutes of limitations expired, after cases reached resolutions in court or when an investigation demonstrated that a crime had not occurred. Those are circumstances in which it could be permissible to dispose of the evidence, some experts said. CNN excluded kits destroyed in those scenarios from its analysis.
Reporters also excluded tested rape kits destroyed by agencies that kept items from those kits (or whose crime labs did) because that evidence could help prosecutors bring charges. Forensics experts and defense attorneys, however, said the entire kit needs to be maintained to preserve a defendant's right to re-test the evidence and challenge the original analysis.
CNN identified agencies that reported destroying kits in less than two years. Requests for case files yielded more than 1,400 investigations from mostly small and medium-sized cities.
To determine whether kits were destroyed while there was still time to prosecute, reporters applied the shortest possible statutes of limitations for the sex crimes listed in case files. CNN's tally is likely an undercount; some cases could have carried longer statutes of limitations than reporters could determine or no statutes of limitations at all.
Reporters focused on cases in which rape kits were destroyed after investigators were unable to identify or apprehend a suspect, prosecutors declined to file a charge or an investigation stopped because leads ran dry or a victim showed a reluctance to continue.
Destroying kits in those circumstances is misguided, experts said; police are failing to recognize that the passage of time can work on behalf of an investigation. A victim can decide to engage with police after a few years, and new evidence can emerge, making a prosecution possible.
"Even if a victim doesn't want to be involved now doesn't mean they won't change their mind," said David LaBahn, president of the national Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and a career California prosecutor. "If you have a statute of limitations that is still open, and a victim does change their mind but you've destroyed the kit — that's a problem."
Destruction puts victims and the wrongfully convicted at risk
Some experts said police should test and keep kits beyond the statutes of limitations because they have the potential to help solve other cases.
DNA recovered from a rape kit can be compared to the more than 17 million profiles taken from crime scenes, convicted offenders, detainees and arrestees contained in the national law enforcement database system known as CODIS. That process can not only identify assailants but link them to other crimes.
In California, police used decades-old kits — kept well beyond the statute of limitations for rape at the time — to help solve a serial killer cold case. Improved technology allowed police to match DNA in those kits to murders committed by the notorious Golden State Killer in the 1970s and 1980s. That profile, in turn, matched Joseph James DeAngelo, authorities said. He was arrested in April and has so far been charged with 13 counts of murder, some involving other offenses related to rape, robbery and burglary
In addition to cold cases, preserving and testing rape kits has the potential to help solve future crimes. Detectives investigating a rape, for example, may be able to link a suspect's DNA to an earlier sexual assault in which DNA was uploaded to CODIS and establish a pattern of criminal behavior — something not uncommon among rapists and child molesters.
Last year, the federal government released guidelines on preserving kits. The National Institute of Justice recommends maintaining rape kits in "uncharged or unsolved reported cases" for at least 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations. But police are only obligated to follow their states' evidence retention laws, which vary widely. Some require evidence be kept only after an arrest or conviction, and even those differ in whether that happens automatically or only after a convict files a petition. Others mandate retention when a case is still being investigated. Local jurisdictions can also enact their own rules governing when evidence must be kept.
The accused may have just as much at stake in the preservation of evidence as victims.
"[A defendant] has a right to have his own experts review that material," said New Hampshire defense attorney Michael Iacopino, who has served on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "The analysis that was done...was [it] done correctly? Was it potentially contaminated?"
The ability to test or re-test the items in a rape kit played a role in overturning at least 195 convictions for rape, murder and other crimes since 1992, according to CNN's analysis of data supplied by The National Registry of Exonerations.
Keith Harward spent 33 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. He walked out of a Virginia prison in 2016 because a rape kit and other evidence was maintained and could be tested. That analysis not only showed he was innocent but also identified the man who committed the crime.
"If it hadn't been for the rape kit, I'd probably still be in prison," said Harward, who was serving a life sentence. "So I say [to police], 'What are you afraid of... by holding all the rape kits?'... Would you rather somebody [who's innocent] get executed?"
Pressuring victims, misunderstanding trauma
During a life-threatening trauma like rape, the defense circuitry of the brain drives the victim's sole objective: to survive.
Reflexes govern reaction — running away, punching the attacker, lying there paralyzed. Stress hormones can impair a victim's memory and the ability to make complex, rational decisions.
Investigators trained in the effects of trauma know that a victim's first account of an assault may not be complete, experts said, and it may not be the best time to ask some questions.
Yet documents CNN examined showed officers sometimes asked questions that threatened to overwhelm victims or put them on the defensive.
"Did you say no? Did you fight back? Why didn't you call police right away?"
A traumatized person's instinct is often to avoid the pain that can come from retelling or reliving the experience. Avoidance and withdrawal are common symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. But when victims pulled away from investigations soon after they reported being assaulted, when the trauma was fresh, some police officers were quick to label them uncooperative and close their cases.
"We're trained to sniff out the liar," said Justin Boardman, a former Utah police detective who teaches cops how to understand trauma. "So when you don't give us this training that says — 'Oh, she's pulling away because she's traumatized, or she can't tell me this detail because she legit can't remember' — we think she's lying or she's hiding something."
Experts who reviewed cases said detectives appeared to rush victims into making consequential decisions, effectively ending some cases. They noted that investigators violated longstanding best practices by asking victims if they wanted to prosecute their attackers soon after reporting the assaults to police — sometimes the same day. That question, they said, can intimidate victims and cause them to withdraw.
Prosecution should be discussed only after a thorough investigation is complete, experts said, when a prosecutor — not a victim — has determined that charges can be filed.
Some victims who expressed reluctance to proceed with a prosecution were asked to sign forms attesting to that. But victims should not be given waivers declining prosecution, according to guidelines by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as far back as 2005. Only the statute of limitations should constrain a victim's right to change her or his mind about moving forward with a prosecution, the association says.
The group's guidelines also stress that an investigator should try to spend time building rapport with a victim. Unless the public is in imminent danger, law enforcement should work at a pace comfortable for the victim.
Some case files showed detectives closed cases and called victims uncooperative if they didn't meet arbitrary deadlines.
In North Charleston, South Carolina, a woman reported being raped at knifepoint by a man who had once been a sexual partner. Police noted she'd been arrested for prostitution two years earlier and quizzed her about whether he was a client. She told them no. Though she did not know her assailant's name, she called police twice after her initial interview with information she thought might help identify him, according to the case file.
But when she failed to return a detective's call in a week's time, he wrote that she was uncooperative and ended the investigation 17 days after she reported being raped. Her kit — never tested — was destroyed less than a year later, even though testing might have identified the man. There was no statute of limitations on the crime, meaning the woman should have had as much time as she needed to help police pursue her assailant.
North Charleston's detective bureau commander, Major Scott Perry, declined to specify why the kit was destroyed. "Each case is evaluated on its own facts," he said, adding that the investigation could be reopened at any time if the victim re-approached police. He conceded, however, that not having the rape kit would make the case "more difficult to prosecute."
In Springfield, Missouri, police labeled victims uncooperative when they didn't respond to letters mailed to their homes warning that they had 10 business days to contact a detective or their assaults would not be further investigated. In at least six cases, records show, a detective sent the letter the day the officer was assigned to investigate.
The victims had undergone rape exams and given initial accounts to patrol officers, actions that demonstrated a desire for the crimes to be investigated. But when victims didn't meet that 10-day deadline, Springfield police sometimes sent another letter, telling victims their "failure" to respond led to the closing of their cases. The kits were later destroyed, even though the crimes remained within the statutes of limitations.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said the 10-day letter is a tool used in all kinds of cases to spur a victim to work with police. He said investigators should use it only as a last resort — after a detective has exhausted every other means to reach a victim. He did not explain why some letters were sent immediately after victims reported being raped.
The letter is "a way to justify not doing your job," said Archambault, the retired San Diego sex crimes investigator who reviewed cases. It should never be sent to rape victims, she said.
"It's horrendous. This type of response will guarantee that the majority of victims will not participate in the investigation."
Victims sometimes leave their homes because they are afraid an attacker will find them again. It's "absurd," she said, to expect victims to check the mail and respond to a demand.
"It isn't that [victims] are being uncooperative. They're just dealing with survival. They're trying to get out of bed, get their clothes on, get to work, get the kids to school," Archambault said.
Police should instead give victims time — and access to counseling and services that help them feel safe, experts said. After that, they are far more likely to work with law enforcement.
A woman in West Valley, Utah, said she told police she was terrified that her rapist would hunt her down again, but she received neither time nor support.
According to her case file, the woman told a patrol officer that a man she'd broken up with came to her home and raped her. He ordered her to "shut her mouth," or he would "hurt her," she told the officer. He forced her into his car. She said she eventually managed to jump out and run into a Kmart, where someone called 911.
The woman gave police an initial statement about the assault and underwent a rape exam. Ten days later, on January 27, 2009, Detective Ryan Humphrey noted that she called him. She said she was "scared to pursue charges," he wrote in the case file.
He shut down the investigation.
CNN reached the woman, who was upset to learn that her rape kit was destroyed and never tested. She called the failure to analyze it "pathetic."
Police did not offer to take steps to protect her, she said. If they had, she might have gained confidence and worked with police. She said she wishes they'd told her, "'Well, we can still help you through this.'" (She asked that her name be withheld, and CNN does not typically identify sexual assault victims.)
Humphrey, who no longer works for the department, said that in the 10 days between the woman's report and her phone call, he did not try to locate and interview the suspect or do any other work on the case.
Like investigators at other agencies, Humphrey said resources were tight, and he struggled under the weight of a heavy caseload.
He closed the investigation, he said, because he assumed that the district attorney wouldn't file charges in a case without a victim's cooperation.
As he reflected on the case, he acknowledged he could have given the woman more time by leaving the case open and trying to build trust and rapport with her. He could have done what experts said is protocol: offer her a safety plan to allay her fears, such as patrolling near her home or helping her file a restraining order.
He agreed that the woman could have changed her mind and re-engaged when she was ready — her right in a state that had no statute of limitations to prosecute rape at the time she reported the crime.
"Obviously, she wanted to pursue it," he said, "because she went to the hospital and had a rape exam done."
Humphrey said he did not authorize destruction of the woman's rape kit but understood that once he closed a case, the evidence would be disposed.
Her kit should have been preserved, he said. Not keeping the investigation open was "a mistake. I look back at this case and can see that...."
Destroying rape kits in open investigations
There are many obstacles to a successful rape investigation. A victim is too scared to continue working with police. A suspect claims sex was consensual. Testing a kit doesn't crack a case.
But those circumstances shouldn't necessarily end an investigation. Officers can press pause and set cases aside, then reopen them if there's a break — a victim changes his or her mind, new leads emerge, technology improves and evidence can be retested.
Yet CNN identified 17 departments that destroyed a combined 92 kits in sex crimes investigations that police described as open or in other terms that mean the same thing, such as inactive or suspended.
In Idaho, Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White acknowledged that his department discarded rape kits in cases marked inactive.
"Sometimes," he said, "it appears we were too quick at the trigger to dispose."
In Farmington, New Mexico, police reported destroying kits in at least eight cases labeled inactive. Chief Steve Hebbe reviewed those cases and said the kits should not have been trashed. He then ordered a major change.
"We will not destroy sexual assault kits," he said. "We're not going to destroy them until after the statute of limitations is out." The chief also said he made sure his officers received fresh training in sex crimes investigations.
Proper training includes an understanding of what DNA testing can do — even when suspects claim sex was consensual. In several departments, CNN found officers failed to test kits in so-called consent cases because they believed testing would only demonstrate that sex occurred, not whether a crime occurred.
That's short-sighted, experts said. A DNA profile of the suspect in a consent case could match a DNA profile of an unidentified attacker in another rape, connecting those crimes and helping to solve them both. The testing of the backlog in Wayne County, Michigan, has linked kits in "consent" cases to suspects in other sexual assaults, said prosecutor Worthy.
CNN also discovered cases in which police listed "insufficient evidence" as a reason to destroy kits that were never analyzed. Testing might have produced evidence, advancing investigations while there was still time to prosecute.
Even a tested kit that fails to yield DNA evidence during an initial analysis should be preserved, forensic experts said, because testing technology is constantly improving. DNA that couldn't be detected just a few years ago can sometimes be recovered today.
Blake Nakamura, the chief deputy prosecutor in Utah's Salt Lake County, said he came to understand the importance of preserving evidence in sex crimes cases years ago.
Nakamura has been on both sides in the courtroom. As a private defense attorney, he successfully defended a man accused of sexually abusing a child by blocking the admission of evidence. When he became a prosecutor, he wanted to be able to admit all evidence and knew he had to protect rape kits from destruction.
So in 2011, he sent a memo to police departments in his county, notifying them to keep all evidence in sex offense cases. At least two failed to follow his directive: Salt Lake City and West Valley. They provided records to CNN showing they continued to destroy kits for at least a couple more years.
They also provided documentation showing why: Prosecutors in Nakamura's office approved the destruction.
When CNN showed those records to Nakamura, he was irate. He later spoke with his staff in colorful language he said he couldn't share. But the prosecutor feels certain they got his message.
Rape kits from children, teens destroyed
It is particularly egregious, experts said, to destroy rape kits belonging to children, the most vulnerable victims.
Young victims often can't express what happened to them, so their rape kits can speak for them. The evidence can prove abuse because suspects, unlike in adult cases, can't argue that sexual contact was consensual.
Statutes of limitations for teenagers and children typically do not start until victims reach adulthood.
"It takes years to comprehend the trauma of child sex abuse, well into adulthood, to decide whether to move forward," said Marci Hamilton, a professor and attorney who analyzed juvenile cases for CNN to determine whether they had been destroyed before the statutes of limitations.
"What police do when they destroy rape kits, and other evidence of crimes against children before the statute of limitations has passed, is rob them of their full chance at justice."
Hamilton and CNN identified 47 children's and teenagers' rape kits that were destroyed before the statutes of limitations expired or where there was no time limit to prosecute. At least 39 were untested.
CNN's analysis did not include "unfounded" cases, those in which police determined that no crime was attempted or occurred. But Hamilton, whose non-profit CHILD USA advocates for sexual abuse victims, argued that given the complexity of child sex abuse, juvenile reports should rarely be labeled unfounded.
In Fallon, Nevada, a detective dismissed a 7-year-old's case as unfounded, partly because the child looked away from him as he questioned her in 2013. The girl described how a man had assaulted her anally, orally and vaginally the previous night, and then methodically cleansed her body.
Even though the child was consistent in describing the incident to others, the detective said her body language — looking away — indicated she was being deceptive.
The detective suggested to her parents that they get her psychological help.
Police destroyed the girl's untested rape kit seven months after the allegations of abuse were made.
Experts said the 7-year-old's account should have raised a red flag; until children reach puberty and start to have sexual urges, they are generally incapable of imagining rape scenarios. The detective, they added, seemed to judge the child's body language as he would an adult's.
The police chief in Fallon, Kevin Gehman, said the girl's account was fully investigated but acknowledged "some weaknesses in the investigative process." He would not elaborate.
CNN's questions about the case prompted a review of all sexual assault investigations by the police and the city attorney. As a result, the attorney instructed police to stop destroying rape kits.
Hamilton and other experts said it is rare for minors to disclose abuse soon after it occurs. Out of fear or confusion — or because predators manipulate them — young victims may delay talking about what happened for years, if not decades. That's all the more reason to maintain their rape kits.
When children report what happened immediately, "it's extraordinary," Hamilton said. "When they have a rape kit, that's a gift."
We thought we were doing things the right way
As head of the Fayetteville Police Department cold case unit, Lieutenant John Somerindyke discovered the massive rape kit destruction that prompted Chief Medlock to hold a news conference. Both men felt compelled to right the department's wrong.
Somerindyke has spent the last two years looking at old rape cases, figuring out whether sex crimes cases involving more than 300 victims could be reinvestigated — without their rape kits.
In the beginning, he could barely get through the reports. "I was angry," he said. "It got to the point where I had to stop reading...It was getting so disheartening."
Many cases looked as though they could have been solved, but the investigations were deeply flawed. The problems were the result of a lack of training, he said, but also a department culture that failed to take sex crimes as seriously as other violent felonies.
"The priority was homicides. After that, it was business robberies and aggravated assaults," he said. "The emphasis wasn't placed on rapes."
He said detectives were working rape cases "probably like we work a crackhead that got robbed in the projects at 2 in the morning."
The lieutenant was disgusted by the way police treated evidence differently.
"I don't think we were just getting rid of the guns like we were with the rape kits."
The evidence audit Somerindyke was asked to perform has helped the department identify its weaknesses in sex crimes investigations and learn from its mistakes.
Auditing sex crimes investigations, experts said, should be routine in law enforcement. It's not.
One law enforcement agency — the Philadelphia Police Department — holds itself accountable every year for how sex crimes are investigated by reviewing its cases side by side with attorneys from the Philadelphia Women's Law Project.
That effort began after a 1999 Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed that police had mishandled sex crimes cases for two decades.
The collaboration "overnight had the effect of demonstrating that there could be credibility in terms of the investigative process," said Chuck Wexler, head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an industry leader in advocating best practices. "There's definitely a need for that kind of quality control."
He's long encouraged agencies to replicate "The Philadelphia Model," but Wexler had trouble thinking of departments that have done so.
In May, the forum issued guidelines saying police should not only do internal reviews of investigations but bring in outside experts to examine cases, too.
"It's the essence of community policing," said Carol Tracy, an attorney and director of the Women's Law Project. She reviewed rape investigations from five agencies for CNN and has consulted with departments across the country grappling with their backlog of untested rape kits.
"Kits being destroyed — that is something I didn't realize was happening," she said.
She said she doubts the public knows that poorly conducted investigations play a role in improper rape kit destruction. "They don't know so they aren't applying pressure to departments to make them audit their work."
Fayetteville's effort to be transparent about the past meant trying to contact the victims whose kits were destroyed. Somerindyke and his officers reached 260 victims; three agreed to work with police again. One of the reopened cases ended with a successful prosecution.
Somerindyke remains hopeful and still talks about getting justice for rape victims. His drive is partly tied to his own feelings of guilt. He worked sex crimes years ago and was among the detectives who signed off on the destruction of rape kits.
"We really want to do the right thing now," the lieutenant said. "The right thing wasn't done a long time ago."
He said the bad police work wasn't malicious. It was the result of poor training or no training at all on sexual violence and its impact. It was old-fashioned bias that ruined cases. It was a failure to hire enough investigators and treat rape like a serious crime.
Had Somerindyke been asked before the audit whether his police department had improperly destroyed kits or mishandled rape investigations, he would not have known the answer.
"We thought we were doing things the right way."
He hopes the turmoil in Fayetteville sends a message to other law enforcement agencies that are destroying rape kits.
"Stop," he said. "Get training. Look at what you're doing. Reassess.
Three big trends for the future of public safety
Digital transformation, artificial intelligence and data analytics are the way forward for police officers.
By Khai Hwa Toh
Imagine this: a world where crimes can be stopped before they occur, and where police officers can crack cases in record time. This may have been an unrealistic dream 20 years ago, but now, it is no longer a distant impossibility.
Across the world, the police are using artificial intelligence and data analytics to develop new tools and methods of working, so they can catch criminals more quickly and efficiently.
DXC Technology has identified three big trends for the future of public safety. Here are case studies from across Asia and the world of how public safety agencies are going through digital transformation; using artificial intelligence; and enabling cyber analytics.
1. Digital transformation
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has set up a digital unit to research and develop tech-enabled tools that help officers work more efficiently. “It's useful internally to have a part of the police force that sees themselves maybe first as a technological organisation, rather than a police organisation,” said Assistant Commissioner Alvin Moh, Director of Planning and Organisation Department of the Singapore Police Force, at the Innovation Labs World summit.
His agency is building a police smartphone with custom apps that will transmit real-time information on the ground 24/7 to officers. Police officers “will be able to make better and faster decisions, [and have] more effective response”, K. Shanmugam, Minister of Law and Home Affairs, announced at the SPF's annual workplan seminar in May. From next March onwards, 8000 front-line police officers will be able to use their smartphones to respond to incidents.
According to Moh, it is essential for the police to reinvent their investigation methods to keep up with new modes of crime. “The old mode of working is, I seize the laptop, I want to get it analysed, I send it to my tech experts. Moving forward, that cannot be the case anymore, it's too many devices,” Moh remarked. Police robots will soon patrol and engage with residents to complement the patrol work of real officers, he said.
These patrol robots are equipped with cameras that transmit a 360-degree view of their environments to their command posts in real-time. During its patrol, the cameras can detect and flag suspicious activities, so police officers can be swiftly deployed to the scene.
The Home Team Academy has begun using virtual and augmented reality to create more immersive and realistic training environments for its police officers. “We have started to embrace training simulators, augmented reality”, said Moh. These augmented environments train officers by simulating potential incidents like terror attacks, which officers can respond to.
Handheld scanners now allow officers to take real-time 3D scans of crime scenes. They take measurements of objects found at crime scenes without physically measuring the real object.
2. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is now helping police officers to identify crime patterns and stop future crimes. “Based on accumulated experience or data, they can predict how much percent of this would be happening,” Noboru Nakatani, Executive Director of the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore told GovInsider.
The Netherlands is using AI algorithms to analyse huge amounts of investigation requests, so its police officials can sieve out important intelligence on potential threats. “Sometimes, very valuable information can end up in a file, in an office. But what if in this file is crucial information about a potential terrorist group?” said Anita Hazenberg, Innovation Director of the IGCI. AI allows police agencies to be “more efficient towards each other with law enforcement co-operation,” she added.
Meanwhile, police officers can now outsource tasks to AI and robotics, so they have more time to work on more complicated cases. “In a couple of years, some police functions will hardly exist. There will be robots,” Hazenberg predicted.
The Dubai Police has built smart police stations that are run entirely by AI-powered robots. “There are no human beings there,” she said. The smart police station, which operates 24/7, provides services like crime reporting, lost-and-found requests, and victim support, and receives labour complaints and home security requests.
3. Cyber analytics
As cyberspace becomes the new domain for warfare, cyber attacks are now the new norm. In June, the personal information of 1.5 million patients were stolen from Singapore's SingHealth servers – the country's largest cyber breach to date. Meanwhile, last year's WannaCry ransomware attacks infected tens of thousands of computers across 74 countries, Wired reported.
Countries are fighting back against cyber threats with big data analytics. Australia, for one, is building a national network of cyber threat sharing centres to detect and protect its citizens from malicious cyber attacks.
In these sharing centres, cyber security experts from academia, businesses and government can pool sensitive data on cyber threats in an online sharing portal. They then use big data analytics to detect patterns of malicious cyber activity and implement adaptive, data-driven ways of responding to cyber threats. So far, the federal government has set up centres in four major cities – Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – with plans to roll more out across Australia.
At the state level, the New South Wales (NSW) government has inked an AUD$11 million deal with Data61 – Australia's largest data innovation group – to use data analytics to identify cyber threats in real-time. “Cyber security has emerged as one of the most high profile, borderless and rapidly evolving risks facing governments across the globe, so it is essential we are at the forefront of new ideas and thinking,” announced Victor Dominello, NSW's Minister for Finance, Services and Property, in a press statement.
With tech-enabled tools for crime fighting, police officers are transforming the very face of law enforcement to keep their cities and communities safer.
Australia passes world-first legislation to snoop on Whatsapp
Australia has passed unprecedented legislation that will allow its spies to snoop on encrypted messages on services like Whatsapp, in a world-first that has alarmed privacy advocates and the tech industry.
Under the legislation, police and intelligence agencies can force technology firms - including overseas communication giants like Facebook - to remove encrypted protection for people under investigation.
Canberra says the laws are needed to intercept communications between serious criminals, like terrorists and paedophiles.
The move makes Australia's state the first to be able to break the end-to-end encryption of Whatsapp, with other Western governments including the UK having shied away from doing so in the face of fierce criticism.
The government's cyber security adviser Alastair MacGibbon said the state had been able to lawfully intercept telephone conversations for almost half a century and needed the new powers to keep pace with the modern world.
Despite fierce debate, the legislation rushed through parliament late on Thursday night, on the last day of sitting for the year, after the opposition Labor party agreed to drop amendments in the interest of public safety over the Christmas break.
"I think these laws were rushed," opposition leader Bill Shorten admitted on Friday.
Australia's top legal body, the Law Council of Australia, on Friday said the legislation "rammed" through parliament left open the possibility of "overreach" from the police and intelligence officials.
The council was concerned the new laws could circumvent the need for authorities to get a warrant before obtaining communications, while people could be detained in some circumstances without being allowed to contact a lawyer.
"It's not just the rights of citizens that are potentially compromised by this outcome, but intelligence agencies and law enforcement that are at risk of acting unlawfully," said council president Morry Bailes in a statement.
Digital Industry Group Inc, a non-profit body that represents Google, Facebook and Twitter, said the laws were unneceesary.
"This legislation is out of step with surveillance and privacy legislation in Europe and other countries that have strong national security concerns," said the group in a statement.
NEW YORK TODAY
N.Y. Today: Officer Who Choked Eric Garner Faces Police Charges
By Azi Paybarah
Officer in “I can't breathe” case
Four years after placing Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, Officer Daniel Pantaleo appeared at Police Headquarters on Thursday.
So did Mr. Garner's mother, sister and supporters.
People packed a fourth-floor trial room at One Police Plaza for the first hearing of Officer Pantaleo's disciplinary case. He is accused of violating Police Department policy by using excessive force against the 43-year-old Mr. Garner.
Mr. Garner's final words became a rallying cry for a national movement after he gasped “I can't breathe” while Officer Pantaleo restrained him in a chokehold on a sidewalk in Staten Island.
Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado set a trial date for May.
Officer Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, argued for a trial date in July, after the statute of limitations expires for potential federal civil rights charges that the Department of Justice may still bring against his client. (In 2014 in state court, a grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo.)
Proceedings are expected to last 10 days, with testimony from about a dozen witnesses . The evidence is voluminous: More than 40,000 pages of documents were turned over in discovery.
After the hearing, Mr. Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said, “I felt sort of numb being in the same room as my son's murderer.”
Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, yelled over protesters outside that the trial was a “kangaroo court.”
He said the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the independent agency prosecuting Officer Pantaleo, was rushing the case.
Riots Flare in Athens on the 10th Anniversary of a Police Killing
Riot police faced protesters in Athens after demonstrations to commemorate the anniversary of a fatal police shooting unraveled on Thursday night.
Rioting broke out here and in Thessaloniki late Thursday, as masked youths at barricades pelted the police with homemade firebombs after rallies for the 10th anniversary of a fatal police shooting of a teenager.
The unrest in Athens flared in the neighborhood of Exarchia, a traditional stronghold for anarchists and where 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead in 2008, leading to the worst street riots Greece had seen in decades.
On Thursday, protesters lobbed firebombs and chunks of concrete hacked out of the sidewalks at riot police, who fired back tear gas and cast a choking, acrid haze, which hung over Exarchia into the early hours of Friday. A water cannon was used to douse fires in cars and dumpsters and on barricades and a building's balcony.
A police official said that the authorities had detained 66 people and that two officers and a protester had suffered minor injuries. The official said that some of the protesters had built a burning barricade of car tires and refuse, and others had climbed onto rooftops, prompting the police to stay in the neighborhood even after the streets had calmed.
Similar violence broke out in the northern port of Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, where protesters set up several barricades in the streets, engaged in running battles with the police and set fire to subway construction sites. A police official there said late on Thursday that the situation was under control and that 52 people had been detained.
Clashes between professed anarchists and the police have become something of a ritual after rallies, usually peaceful, to commemorate the shooting of Mr. Grigoropoulos.
The teenager had been out with friends in Exarchia when an argument prompted a police officer to fire his gun, fatally injuring Mr. Grigoropoulos. The shooting set off two weeks of rioting in Athens and other cities, and led to the officer, Epaminondas Korkoneas, being sentenced to life in prison for murder.
Thousands of police officers were on the streets of Athens on Thursday anticipating unrest, following violence last month on the anniversary of the 1973 student uprising at Athens Polytechnic, which was suppressed by police officers and tanks on the orders of the country's military dictatorship. That anniversary, too, has over the years culminated in running battles between rioters and the police.
London Police's Tactic to Stop Thieves on Scooters: Ram Them
By Palko Karasz
The London police wanted to send a message to thieves on scooters and motorcycles in London: We will catch you however we can.
The Metropolitan Police published a compilation of videos last month showing officers ramming fleeing motorcycle and scooter riders in the hope that “offenders will think twice about their actions.”
But the release attracted criticism for a tactic seen as unusually aggressive, and a labor group for officers warned it might even be against the law.
The video, captured by dashboard cameras in police vehicles, shows riders bouncing off the hoods of the cars that hit them, swerving dangerously in traffic and falling to the pavement. Some fall while being chased, without being hit, and one runs into a hedge.
Since 2014, London has faced a surge in crime committed on two wheels — so-called ride-by theft in particular. Riders often take advantage of people distracted by their cellphones as they walk down busy sidewalks, snatching the devices from their hands, sometimes violently, and grabbing up to 30 an hour, according to the police.
Others snatch women's purses or assault people as they ride by. They target crowded streets and escape through alleyways, sometimes even discarding their helmets in the belief that it will make the police more cautious in chasing them.
The police call the practice of deliberately running a vehicle into a fleeing motorbike “tactical contact,” and they say that only specially trained drivers do it. According to The Guardian, the tactic was deployed 63 times this year, and three incidents have been referred to the police watchdog for investigation.
One qualified driver, Sgt. Tony McGovern, told The Guardian last month that tactical contact was one of the hardest to use: “It's just a slight nudge. It's controlled.” He said suspects were amazed when, in some cases, they were sent sprawling off their bikes.
“They are shocked,” he is quoted as saying. “They say, ‘We did not think you were allowed to do that,' especially when they take off their helmet. They are confused.”
Crime committed on motorcycles and scooters has dropped by nearly a third since last year, when the police introduced that tactic and others, like using helicopters to track suspects, a statement accompanying the videos said.
“We can, we will and we do target those involved in moped and motorcycle crime at every opportunity,” it said.
In a country where the police's use of force is far less common than in the United States, the authorities are hardening their practices, and running into some opposition. In Britain, officers do not routinely carry arms on patrol, but the Metropolitan Police recently announced plans for officers to carry guns in plain sight in some high-crime neighborhoods, despite objections from London's mayor and others.
“Police are not above the law,” Diane Abbott, a Labour member of Parliament whose portfolio includes policing, said on Twitter. “Knocking people off bikes is potentially very dangerous. It shouldn't be legal for anyone.”
But Prime Minister Theresa May's government defended the practice. Mrs. May said last week that the suspects being pursued by the police “are acting unlawfully and committing crimes, and I think it's absolutely right that we see a robust police response to that.”
The home secretary, Sajid Javid, replied to Ms. Abbott on Twitter: “Risk-assessed tactical contact is exactly what we need. Criminals are not above the law.”
But a major labor group for police officers said that tactical contact appeared to violate current law, and could get officers in trouble.
“Judged against the common standard, as police officers are, it is dangerous to drive a car deliberately at another road user,” Tim Rogers of the Police Federation of England and Wales told The Guardian. “The law clearly classifies this as dangerous driving, and officers could be prosecuted.”
The publicity around the video drew attention to a continuing criminal investigation into one chase last year in which a 17-year-old rider who was fleeing the police sustained serious head injuries and fractures. The rider, whose name was not made public, pleaded guilty to five charges, including attempted theft and driving without a license.
“Ultimately, no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent,” the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Britain's police watchdog, said in an email, “be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint.”
A spokesman for the watchdog referred to a longstanding tradition, known as Robert Peel's 9 Principles of Policing, probably dating back to the establishment of the Metropolitan Police in London, in 1829. They include favoring prevention over repression, limiting the use of force and serving in the interest of and with the consent of the community.
Jeff Sessions, while President Trump's attorney general, imposed policies that impeded reforms of local police departments.
Last month, a video was released of two police officers in Elkhart, Ind., repeatedly punching a handcuffed man in the face. The episode was just the latest in a long-troubled police department where nearly all of its supervisors have disciplinary records.
This is the sort of problem that Congress sought to address in 1994 when it authorized the Justice Department to overhaul troubled local police agencies under court-monitored consent decrees. These agreements lay out a reform plan negotiated by federal law enforcement officials and the local government.
After seeing the videotaped beating, Elkhart's mayor, Tim Neese, asked the Indiana State Police for a “very thorough and far-reaching” investigation of his police department. But the state police turned him down, so he asked the Justice Department for help. His timing could hardly have been worse. Less than three weeks earlier, Jeff Sessions, who was then the attorney general, had sharply limited the Justice Department's ability to use court-ordered agreements to address abuses by local police departments. It was one of his last actions before he stepped down.
Mr. Sessions was a longtime opponent of these agreements, complaining that they damaged police morale and smacked of federal overreach. But his critics say his last-minute move is likely to further the Trump administration's efforts to impede police reforms nationally. For instance, the Obama Justice Department had wanted to revamp the police department in Ville Platte, La., where officers have a long history of jailing people without probable cause. But once Mr. Sessions took over, the Justice Department settled on a watered-down version of the ambitious reform plan Obama administration officials had envisioned. As ProPublica has reported, illegal arrests remain a reality of daily life in Ville Platte.
Consent agreements were an important part of the Obama administration's efforts to address misconduct allegations. Cleveland entered into a consent decree in May 2015, six months after an officer shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old playing with a gun that fired plastic pellets. A report this summer on Cleveland's continuing reforms cited a nearly 40 percent drop in officers' use of force from the previous year. Ferguson, Mo., approved a consent decree in 2016, two years after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown set off widespread protests. At a status hearing this year, a federal judge said she was seeing “a great deal of progress.”
Fourteen cities are currently under consent decrees, from big cities like New Orleans to smaller communities like Warren, Ohio. One frequently cited success story is Seattle, where a 2012 consent decree has been credited with reducing unnecessary uses of force and improving citizens' trust in officers.
Elkhart, sometimes called the “RV Capital of the World,” is a city of about 50,000 people near Indiana's northern border with Michigan. Police problems are nothing new there. In the mid-1990s, a study by two policing experts commissioned by the city called out the department's “reputation for brutality” and its failure to rein in officers who had “abused citizens, violated civil rights, [and] alienated segments of the community.” Many of the problems cited in that long-ago report can still be found today.
Mayor Tim Neese of Elkhart, Ind., has run into obstacles getting an independent investigation of his police department.
Mayor Tim Neese of Elkhart, Ind., has run into obstacles getting an independent investigation of his police department. CreditSam Householder/The Elkhart Truth, via Associated Press
In early November, we obtained the video of the two Elkhart officers repeatedly punching a handcuffed man in the police station's detention area. “If you spit again, we're going to party,” one of the officers said just before the beating began. The police chief, Ed Windbigler, never mentioned the punches when he told the city's civilian oversight commission that the two officers had gone “a little overboard” when taking the man to the ground.
The chief said he had opted to reprimand the officers, rather than impose more serious discipline, because of their clean records. But one of them had an extensive disciplinary history, with six suspensions and two reprimands in his first five years. Once, according to his personnel file, he arrested a woman for public nudity, then, after she was released from jail on bond, he sent her a friend request on Facebook and seven text messages, asking to “hang out.”
He isn't alone. Of the department's 34 supervisors, 28 have disciplinary records in their personnel files. One is the mayor's son, a sergeant once reprimanded for firing 13 times at a dog, with at least two bullets striking a house. Fifteen of the supervisors have been suspended, including the chief, assistant chief and patrol captain. Three were convicted of criminal charges during their careers.
There's also another set of numbers that is striking. From 2013 to 2017, Elkhart police officers fatally shot six people. In those same years, the police in New York City — population, 8.6 million — fatally shot 43 people. The New York Police Department had about seven times the shootings in a city with more than 160 times the people. In Elkhart, one of the shootings led to a lawsuit and settlement. Another generated protests when it was discovered that neither of the officers who opened fire had a working body camera.
As Mayor Neese awaits word from the Justice Department, Chief Windbigler has been placed on unpaid leave for 30 days, putting the department in the hands of Todd Thayer, the assistant chief. His disciplinary record includes a five-day suspension, seven reprimands and a two-step demotion, for making flippant comments about a fatal shooting. He said an officer who opened fire could now check that off his “bucket list,” according to his personnel file.
The assistant chief has been unwelcoming of outside scrutiny. At a town hall meeting in November, he defended the police department while criticizing the news media. He said that when his department began receiving public records requests from one of us, the department's reaction was: “Who is this guy? … What's all this digging?”
The police, he said, went to the city's legal department and asked: “Does anybody know what's going on? Everything's going good in Elkhart. Why are they coming over here, into our backyard, and trying to disrupt everything we built.
Our Thanks to Those Who Keep Us Safe
in Our Communities and On Our Borders
The holiday season is a time of good cheer, when we get together with friends and family for celebrations of many kinds. But it is also a time when violent crimes, thefts of illegal drugs, drunk driving, and other problems increase—and therefore a busy season for law enforcement. I want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of our nation's law enforcement agencies for their efforts in maintaining public safety this month as well as throughout the year.
I would also like to salute two local law enforcement groups in particular for the excellent work they are doing to keep our entire nation safe. One of them is the North Texas Crime Interdiction Unit (NTXCIU). As you will see in this month's featured article, they have been very innovative in their use of collaboration. By assembling a multijurisdictional team of specialized highway patrol officers, the NTXCIU has been remarkably successful in reducing the amount of human trafficking and illegal drugs flowing through their counties and on to the rest of our country. All of us in the COPS Office applaud their dedication, skill, and ingenuity.
I also want to call attention to the efforts of the local and federal law enforcement agencies on our southwest border, who are working tirelessly to stop human trafficking and illegal drugs where they most often enter. On a recent visit to southeastern Arizona, I had the privilege of meeting with the men and women who are at the forefront of these efforts, and I was both astounded at what they are up against and amazed at their courage and dedication to their jobs.
On this visit, I met with local border sheriffs, their Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) counterparts, and representatives from state and local law enforcement, as well as officials from the U.S. Department of State, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies. During the day-long meeting, I also heard from ranchers and local business and community leaders. All voiced great concern specifically about the increase in fentanyl trafficking, which is now the biggest drug threat in our country. According to some estimates, seizures of this deadly drug increased nearly five times in the last year.
They also called for additional resources in personnel, equipment, and technology, which have not increased in supply as the need has grown. One sheriff estimated that 40 percent of his agency's financial and staffing resources are directed to addressing border-related issues, which detracts from the ability to focus on local crime reduction and community policing efforts. The ancillary local costs of dealing with illegal immigration, including the increase in prosecutorial activities and incarceration, is stressing both public and private resources.
Although they are in great need of additional support, the sheriffs and their local and state partners have worked to be as innovative and creative as possible in devising a unique program: the Southeastern Arizona Border Region Enforcement (SABRE) team. This collaborative task force has energized its members' efforts to combat the increased crime, suicides, fatal overdoses and other consequences of drug smuggling that plague our communities while also enhancing the security of those living and working along the border.
I am heartened by the spirit of innovation and unwavering dedication of Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier, Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, and their local and state law enforcement colleagues. And I applaud their strong working relationship with CBP and other federal law enforcement agencies. We are grateful for their efforts to keep the drugs coming through our nation's borders from arriving in our communities. I have pledged the support of the COPS Office to do whatever we can to assist state and local law enforcement in this critically important work.
– Director Keith
Keeping Spirits Bright for Cops, Kids, and Communities
December sometimes gets a “Bah! humbug” rating from law enforcement officers because of its increased incidence of burglaries, shoplifting, domestic violence, and drunk driving. But what never fails to keep officers' spirits bright are the holiday programs held by agencies across the country, especially those that spread cheer to local children.
As Chanel Dickerson, Assistant Chief of Patrol Services, South, of the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), put it, “I really get a high out of the programs we do with children. Just seeing them smile makes me happy. I know this is true for other officers as well. People who work in law enforcement do it because we really want to help, we really care. And we want to connect with kids when they are young. We don't want them to see us only in enforcement actions.”
Hugs, smiles, and the satisfaction of knowing they've made a difference
A program that's popular with many law enforcement departments is Shop With A Cop. According to Assistant Chief Dickerson, this all-volunteer activity—which provides a fun-filled day for underprivileged children—is just as much fun for the officers. “They love giving the children the excitement of choosing gifts for themselves,” she says. “The kids look up to the officers, hug, and hold onto them. And they're so grateful.” One little girl told her officer that this would probably be her only Christmas gift. Though each child is given a gift certificate from the D.C. Police Foundation, the officers invariably dig deep into their own wallets to pay for additional things, including pajamas and other basic clothing as well as toys.
“Most of the time when people call, it's for bad stuff. This lets them see us in a different light,” Assistant Chief Dickerson says, adding that some of the children stay in touch with officers through high school. In fact, she herself was inspired to enter law enforcement by a female officer she met when she was nine years old. “So I'm paying it forward,” she says.
Motor elves and Santa Cop support “a home away” for sick children
“Santa Ride” – Montgomery County Police Motor Squad fundraiser for Children's Inn at NIH | www.mymcpnews.com
In nearby Maryland, the Santa Ride program is very popular with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) motorcycle officers. Dressed as elves and led by Santa Cop, the 30 riders roar through the county one day in December to help raise funds for the Children's Inn, a homelike residence for children being treated at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda. In each of the MCPD's departments, the group stops to talk about the work of the inn and distribute flyers with donation information, while NIH personnel collect contributions.
The road show ends at the inn, where the officers have a party with the children. “It's a lot of fun for the motors,” says Lieutenant David McBain, a special investigations officer who participated as a former motorcycle officer and now runs the event. “Typically, motor officers write tickets and deal with accidents. This is a day when they can relax and enjoy being with the kids, who are wonderful. We get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that we're helping them by helping the inn.”
Relaxation and appreciation after a day of enforcement
“The kids love it too,” says Lt. McBain. “So we do another activity in the summer called Christmas in July. Buses pick the children up at the inn, then we take them with a motorcycle escort to a Target, where they shop with gift cards. Probably the biggest thrill for them is seeing the waves part as we drive down the highway with sirens blaring and lights flashing.”
Like thousands of other local law enforcement departments, the MCPD and the MPD support a variety of voluntary programs that build positive community relations throughout the year. As MCPD Sergeant Marcus Dixon said, “When I've been on patrol, I am serious, tactical, and on alert. Cocoa with a Cop and other things we do are a great way to unwind and feel appreciated. Especially by kids, who think we are cool when they are little but can be distrustful by middle school. These programs help us connect.
North Texas Sheriffs Work Together to Reduce Drug Smuggling and Human Trafficking
It started as a routine traffic stop in December 2017. A Rockwall County (Texas) sheriff's deputy pulled over a car with a faded paper license plate on a remote stretch of North Texas highway. But the incident soon became far from routine. A search of the vehicle found seven pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl. What's more, one of the three occupants was a murder suspect with a warrant for his arrest, and the car contained three illegal weapons including a fully automatic Glock 19, all within easy reach.
Eight counties created one formidable enforcement unit
Had there not been immediate backup from two neighboring jurisdictions, this intervention could easily have turned deadly. However, the deputy who initiated the stop worked for one of the eight counties that have banded together to create the North Texas Criminal Interdiction Unit (NTXCIU), a mutual aid task force that has greatly increased the response time and enforcement power of each participating county.
Launched shortly before the traffic stop described earlier by the sheriffs of Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Parker, Rockwall, Smith, Tarrant, and Wise counties, the NTXCIU was created to stop the growing problem of drug and human trafficking on their highways. And according to Nick Bristow, Public Information Officer for the Collin County Sheriff's Office, it has exceeded expectations.
$18 Million in illegal drugs, two murder suspects, and two abducted children
In the 10 months since its formation, the unit has intercepted $668,632 in U.S. currency, four automatic weapons, 20 stolen vehicles, 103 pounds of cocaine, 105 pounds of heroin, and more than 1,000 pounds of other drugs with a total street value of $18.8 million. Deputy sheriffs from the NTXCIU have also arrested 114 persons—including two capital-murder fugitives—and recovered two abducted children.
The first unit of its kind in the United States, the NTXCIU got off the ground when the participating sheriffs enlisted the support of county judges and their commissioner courts, who signed agreements allowing deputy sheriffs to conduct investigations and enforce the law across county lines.
Interoperability with a high degree of flexibility but clearly defined roles
Today, the unit consists of 10 specially trained highway patrol deputies authorized to make arrests in any of the participating counties. They wear the same uniform, drive similarly marked cars, and are supported by many of the same professionals, including dispatchers and analysts. But despite the high degree of cooperation, there is also a high degree of operational flexibility.
The deputies are free to make their own decisions about coordinating joint efforts, and interdiction officers from two or more counties can meet to work a stretch of highway in any member county. However, deputies from the host county—where the operation, arrest, or seizure occurs—are usually responsible for taking custody of arrestees, property, or seized vehicles. The host county also controls dispatch.
Heading the eight NTXCIU agencies are:
Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner
Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt
Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler
Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson
Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin.
Moreover, every deputy must comply with his or her own office's policies—as well as the host county's policies—especially those that deal with vehicle stops, searches, arrests, and the use of force. Each county also retains primary financial and other responsibility for its deputies, employees, vehicles, and other property. Radio interoperability, federal detainer requests, forfeiture cases, citations in lieu of arrest, video and audio recordings, and record keeping are also addressed by the NTXCIU's mutual aid agreement.
A strong and effective force multiplier
Says Sheriff Jim Skinner of Collin County, “Setting up the unit took time—there are many moving parts—but the results were far more than worth it. We're disrupting the drug and money supply chains, and the community's response to the increased safety has been outstanding.” Noting that the right kind of mutual aid force helps sheriffs improve public safety without significant personnel changes or great cost, Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt said that it's a good, strong force multiplier. Added Bristow, “By working together, we can not only make Texas safer but [also the nation as a whole. Reducing the illegal drug supply and human trafficking benefits us all.
New Law Enforcement Resources for Combating Animal Cruelty
On November 8, 2018, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) released new resources for combating animal cruelty. Animal abuse has long been linked with other forms of antisocial behaviors and criminal violence. It is estimated that animal abusers are five times more likely than those who do not abuse animals to commit violent crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses.
Animal Cruelty as a Gateway Crime assists in building the capacity of all participating law enforcement agencies to recognize that animal cruelty crimes can serve as precursors to more violent crimes, as a co-occurring crime to other types of offenses, and as an interrelated crime to other offenses such as domestic violence and elder abuse. Armed with this knowledge, law enforcement officers (assigned both to patrol and to investigative duties) can take steps both to solve current crimes and to prevent future crimes from occurring.
To complement the white paper, the COPS Office and NSA also released a new “Animal Cruelty” app available free on either the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store. This law enforcement tool will help officers and deputies recognize and investigate instances of animal cruelty. The app is designed as an informational and awareness tool that contains the following resources:
Response. Checklist of questions to ask when responding to a variety of calls for service (domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and dogfighting)
Animal Cruelty and Its Nexus with Other Crimes
Recognizing Animal Abuse
Animal Abuse by Children.
A reminder to take photos or videos of evidence that can be stored on your camera or servers connected to your phone
To learn more about these resources, please visit the Animal Cruelty as a Gateway Crime project site.
Arlington Police App Streamlines Internal Communication
The Arlington (Texas) Police Department (APD) received a 2015 Community Policing Development Microgrant award for the project “Arlington Police Department Mobile Phone App” to facilitate better communication within the police department and between the APD and citizens.
The Arlington Police Department (APD) is in the process of deploying a sophisticated mobile app that is unique on the current market. While many vendors offer various ways of accessing data in a mobile environment, this app allows field officers and supervisors to access relevant, real-time data instantly. Developed by 3Di in coordination with a grant from the COPS Office, this mobile app brings policing further into the 21st century.
Mobile apps offer the convenience of accessing pertinent information quickly and efficiently. Almost every employee carries a smartphone as they carry out their daily duties. Having relevant information and resources can assist staff in multiple ways including quickly obtaining policy information, corporate communications, and other criminal justice information from their smartphones.
The following highlights a few of the tools available to officers:
Chief's Blog. Departmental communication from Chief Johnson on specific issues and the weekly newsletter. Employees can comment on the posts with feedback.
Reference. This section links to all information an officer may need while on duty. It includes the department's general orders, city and state statutes, intelligence bulletins from the
Arlington Tactical Intelligence Unit and Crime Analysis Unit, standard operating procedures, shift reports that summarize notable incidents, and training materials. Officers' access to APD information enhances their safety.
Social Media. This section links employees to the department's social media posts even if they do not have accounts on Facebook or Twitter. The department's media team is constantly posting on social media to update the public to the activities of the department. It is important that employees know APD's message to the public.
Messaging. This function enables communications between users and groups. Chat messaging is useful when unit commanders need to relay instant information to their staff. All messages are retained per the City's retention policies and move department conversations from personal devices to the department's cloud platform.
Calendar. This feature populates with APD events such as graduations, retirements, and festivities so all employees have quick access to these agency events.
The mobile app project in Arlington was divided into three categories. The first two categories include an internal version of the mobile app for exclusive use by department employees. The third version is an external-facing mobile app that affords community members an opportunity to stay connected with the department.
In the internal versions, employees can choose from a Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS)–compliant version or a non-CJIS version of the app. The Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) has strict policies that govern access to confidential criminal justice information. Access to the CJIS version of the APD app requires the installation of 3Di's mobile device management (MDM) app, allowing the agency to apply CJIS-compliant security controls on personally owned and agency-owned devices. Employees who prefer not to have MDM software on their personally owned devices can elect to install the non-CJIS version, which will limit their ability to access confidential information. The department is awaiting final approval from the Texas Department of Public Safety on the CJIS version of the application.
For the CJIS version of the mobile app, officers can access the following subsets of relevant information:
Computer-aided dispatch calls and details
GPS mapping of all current calls for service
GPS mapping of all marked units
Corporate communications from the department and Police Chief Will Johnson
Reference materials such as policies and other helpful guides
Social media accounts
Messaging in groups
“Having readily available call information for supervisors and field staff who may not be at their mobile data computer elevates our position to be informed in real-time on incidents that are unfolding,” said Arlington Police Lieutenant Christopher Cook with the Media Office.
“This highlights our partnership with the COPS Office and the value that employees and citizens will gain through a mobile application,” said Chief Johnson. “We are incredibly fortunate to have a design team that worked many months to bring this project forward.”
Lieutenant Christopher Cook
Woman Says Police Forced Her To Give Birth In Handcuffs
The woman claims she was shackled during her labor, over the objections of medical staff who told police the practice was illegal.
By Melissa Jeltsen
New York City police officers forced a 27-year-old woman to give birth while shackled to a hospital bed, in violation of state law, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
The woman, who asked to be identified in the complaint only as Jane Doe, was arrested on Feb. 7, 2018, on a misdemeanor charge related to a family dispute. She was nine months pregnant. Within hours, she went into labor inside a police holding cell.
NYPD officers transported her to Montefiore Medical Center in handcuffs. When she arrived, an officer put heavy shackles on her feet, chaining her ankles together.
Doctors who assisted in the woman's labor urged NYPD officers to remove the shackles for the safety of the mother and baby, the complaint states, and informed them that the practice was in violation of state law.
Under New York legislation passed in 2015, it is illegal to shackle an incarcerated woman at any stage of her pregnancy or in the 8 weeks following delivery.
The officers refused, stating that they were following procedure from the NYPD patrol guide, which they believed superseded state law, according to the complaint.
Ten minutes before the woman delivered her daughter, officers finally unshackled her ankles and one of her wrists. She gave birth with one wrist chained to the hospital bed.
Shortly after delivery, her ankles were shackled again, the suit states, and the woman struggled to feed her baby with only one arm free.
She gave birth in chains, in a way that made her feel like a dangerous criminal.
Ashok Chandran, an attorney for the woman
The woman is seeking damages for a violation of her civil rights, as well as changes to NYPD policies to ensure pregnant women are not shackled in the future.
“She gave birth in chains, in a way that made her feel like a dangerous criminal,” Ashok Chandran, one of her attorneys, told HuffPost. “She continues to have nightmares. She remembers the fear and anxiety she felt when doctors were saying this was a serious risk to her and her child.”
Medical experts are in agreement that shackling pregnant women poses serious dangers to both the mother and child. Shackles make it difficult for women to shift into different positions while in labor, and can impede the ability of medical staff to do their job. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the use of restraints on pregnant incarcerated women may “not only compromise health care but is demeaning and rarely necessary.”
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to ban or restrict the use of shackles on incarcerated women. A criminal justice reform bill backed by President Donald Trump, the First Step Act, would ban the shackling of women at federal facilities during pregnancy, labor and postpartum recovery.
The woman had planned to deliver her baby at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital under her obstetrician's care, with her partner by her side, Chandran added.
“She was denied both those things,” he said.
He said his client brought the suit because she wanted to make sure that the NYPD follows state law, and that no other women has to experience the trauma that she did.
The NYPD declined to comment on pending litigation. In a statement, the New York City Law Department, which represents the city and its agencies, said it was examining the allegations “very carefully.”
Shackling is a dehumanizing, cruel and pointless practice that has no place in New York City in 2018.
Jane Doe's lawsuit
“This is a civil rights case about the egregious failure of the NYPD to protect the health, safety and dignity of a woman at one of the most important and vulnerable moments of her life,” the suit reads. “Shackling is a dehumanizing, cruel and pointless practice that has no place in New York City in 2018.”
In an affidavit filed with the Federal District Court in Manhattan, the woman explained that she wants to remain anonymous because the experience humiliated her.
She said she hadn't told many friends or family members about what happened.
“I'm embarrassed, and don't want people to think about me like that,” she wrote.
She also feared that she might face retaliation from the NYPD officers if she was identified.
“I don't want my name to be forever associated with this traumatic event,” she wrote. “I want to shield my child from this for as long as possible.
French government defends heavy-handed police tactics against students
(Reuters) - France's government on Friday defended the tactics of riot police who forced several dozen detained high-school students to kneel in rows with their hands held behind their heads or in handcuffs after violent protests west of Paris.
Students this week have been blocking access to scores of high schools across France in protest at President Emmanuel Macron's education reforms, just as the 40-year-old leader grapples with sometimes-violent demonstrations over living costs.
Videos and photos of the students from two high schools in Val Fourre, a deprived neighborhood outside Mantes-La-Jolie, 60 kilometers west of Paris, went viral on social media late on Thursday, prompting public outrage.
"Over the past few days, the students have been joined by about 100 hooded youths armed with clubs and incendiary devices and determined to pick a fight with police," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference.
Castaner said roadblocks had been set alight, projectiles hurled at motorists and houses robbed in the area around the two schools.
"It is in this context that the security forces stepped in," the minister added.
No students were injured while detained in the Val Fourre incident, French media reported.
But some social media users said the scene, with some of the teenagers lined up facing a wall, resembled a mock mass-execution.
"Can anyone tell me if they've witnessed such a thing in the last 50 years," one Twitter user said.
Another tweet read: "These images of teenagers on their knees at the feet of CRS (riot police) are unworthy of a democracy. The government needs to take charge and re-establish chains of command."
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer described the images as "shocking" but said the violence convulsing France in recent weeks justified the heavy-handed policing.
France is hunkering down for another wave of potentially violent protests on Saturday as Macron struggles to quell public anger at the cost of living. Senior allies said he would address the nation early next week.
Alleged victims of police brutality have a powerful new tool in court, top N.J. defense attorneys say
The Force Report is a continuing investigation of police use of force in New Jersey. Read more from the series or search your local police department and officers in the full the database.
Defense attorneys and the state Public Defender's Office say the unprecedented release of police use-of-force data in New Jersey could significantly bolster the rights of defendants who for years have had the odds stacked against them in court.
In the wake of The Force Report, a 16-month investigation of police use of force by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, the attorneys said they have been strategizing over how they could use the data to gain more access to police personnel records in their cases.
“Until (NJ Advance Media) published (its) work, there was no resource like this available,” said Sharon Bittner Kean, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys of New Jersey. “We're delighted to have a tool that could bolster the rights of defendants.”
The investigation found that while the majority of police officers in the state barely used force at all, many departments had individuals who did so far more than their peers. The data revealed that multiple officers who were charged with brutalizing suspects and other types of misconduct would have raised red flags had a system been in place to track use of force trends.
The entire database is now available to the public at NJ.com/force.
The attorneys said that accessing police records can be difficult during discovery. They said cannot request a police officer's entire disciplinary record when they can't present proof that there's anything relevant to the case in it. With the newly released data, they said they may now have a basis to request and receive more documentation.
“A lot of people think we can just go into court, ask and a prosecutor just hands it over. That's not how it works,” said Jennifer Sellitti, director of training and communications for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. “Now we can use statistics to support our argument. We can say we know this exists. That gives us something we can put into a motion.”
Bittner-Kean said the defense attorney association plans to discuss The Force Report at its next board meeting and brainstorm how to use it in court. Sellitti said attorneys working for the Public Defender's office already have been combing through the database, and the office has been crackling with excitement at the possibilities it presents.
“This is something we've been discussing for a long time, and (NJ Advance Media) just stepped on the accelerator for everyone,” she said.
Sellitti also believes the newly released use-of-force data could prove valuable in other aspects of criminal litigation, such as reinforcing the prosecution's requirement to turn over evidence that may be favorable to the defense.
“It adds some teeth to what we're asking prosecutors for,” she said.
Matthew Troiano, a defense attorney who spent years as a prosecutor for Hudson and Morris counties, said the database removed barriers to learning about an officer's history.
That could especially impact cases where an officer's testimony conflicted with the testimony of someone he or she had arrested, Troiano said, because the differing accounts could be more easily compared to that cop's past arrests.
“In that type of situation, it'd be extremely helpful,” Troiano said.
To build The Force Report, reporters filed 506 public records requests, collected 72,607 paper records and spent more than $30,000 to create the most comprehensive statewide database of police force in the United States. The records — spanning 2012 through 2016, the most recent year available — cover every municipal police department and the State Police
Terence Jones, a civil rights investigator, said he hopes The Force Report will prompt state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to push for more transparency in policing data and enact reforms that will allow for greater accountability.
“I think it's an embarrassment that you have to have a news organization do the work of these agencies,” he said. “The police have proved they cannot police themselves. And right now, you have county prosecutors acting as if they are the personal lawyers of the police. The state is supposed to represent the people.”
Hours after the project was released, Grewal called it “nothing short of incredible” and promised to propose changes to the system. On Wednesday, he issued a rare joint statement with every leading law enforcement official in the state conceding they had failed to accurately track police force and setting forth reforms, including standardized electronic reporting.
OHIO POLICE OFFICER REPLACES BOY'S STOLEN CHRISTMAS GIFT
An Ohio police officer replaced a boy's Christmas gift after it was swiped by a porch pirate.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - An Ohio police officer replaced a boy's Christmas gift after it was swiped by a porch pirate.
It was all caught on surveillance video.
Minutes after a package was delivered to the Koeppen family's Youngstown, Ohio, home, a man clad in a ball cap and dark jacket snatched it off the porch.
"He just nonchalantly walked down the street and 'whoop!' right off the porch with it and had a big smile on his face and everything like that and our cameras caught everything," Brian Koeppen told WKBN.
The package was a Christmas gift for Koeppen's 5-year-old son.
Officer Joe Wess was sent to the home to take a theft report.
"Theft is one of my pet peeves," he said. "People work hard for what they have and when someone just comes up and takes it. That doesn't sit right with me."
Armed with information about what had been stolen, Wess went shopping until he found the exact same toy and delivered it to the Koeppens on Santa's behalf.
"It made me feel good that I could help him out and make light of a bad situation for him," he said.
Koeppen thanked Wess, who was also recently recognized for saving a man's life. He said replacing the Christmas gift was just the right thing to do.
"He asked me how he can repay me. I just told him to pay it forward to someone else," Wess.
Study: Epileptic Adults in High-Crime Neighborhoods Have Seizures More Often
A new study points to a link between the level of crime in a community and the frequency of seizures suffered by adults with epilepsy.
Over the course of 30 days, epileptic people who lived in high-crime areas in Chicago had three seizures on average, compared with one seizure for those in low-crime communities in the city, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago study, which surveyed 63 adults with epilepsy who lived in the city.
Researchers cross-referenced police crime data with the specific neighborhoods of study participants to determine community crime levels. The gap persisted over a 90-day span: Those in high-crime areas had an average of seven seizures, compared with three in low-crime neighborhoods.
Epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures, affects roughly 3.4 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epileptic seizures can last from a few seconds to five minutes or longer.
While the findings indicate there may be a significant link between neighborhood crime status and seizure activity, the actual driver of the seizures could be another factor related to high-crime neighborhoods, such as poverty or a lack of access to transportation, health care or other resources, says Jessica Levy, a research coordinator in the UIC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation.
Previous research also indicates that living in a disadvantaged or violent neighborhood can cause stress in children. Stress may trigger seizures in epileptic people.
"The research is very preliminary and we haven't looked at any other contributing factors," Levy says. "It creates a new avenue for looking into why exactly this link exists – if it's the crime, or whether if it's some other characteristic of a high-crime neighborhood."
About a third of epileptic people struggle to control their seizures – even with medication – which can lead to injury and negatively impact quality of life, researchers said. Their findings are being presented Sunday at the American Epilepsy Society conference in New Orleans.
Knowledge of the potential impact of high-crime environments on seizure frequency could help doctors treat epileptic patients more effectively, researchers said.
"Understanding the impact of violence and crime as potential triggers for seizures underscores the need for further research that might allow clinicians to make better-informed recommendations for self-management education and stress management skills," Dr. Dilip Pandey, associate professor of neurology and rehabilitation at UIC, said in a statement.
Remarks by President Trump at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference
LAW & JUSTICE
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you. I appreciate it very much.
I want to also thank Matt for the introduction. He's doing an excellent job — really, a leader. Strong leader.
I was also thrilled to announce earlier today that I am nominating, as Matt said, William Barr to take the helm as our new Attorney General. He's an outstanding man.
Bill previously led the Justice Department with distinction as Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, following his unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate. During his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering adherence to the rule of law, which the people in this room like to hear. There is no one more capable or more qualified for this role. He deserves overwhelming bipartisan support. I suspect he'll probably get it.
I'm honored to be in Kansas City with the incredible men and women of law enforcement — I've been here a lot over the last couple of months — the U.S. attorneys, state and local prosecutors, police officers, sheriffs, deputies, and federal agents who keep our country safe. You keep America safe.
And you maybe don't hear it enough, or sometimes don't feel it enough: You do an incredible job. The people in this country know it and they love you. Just remember that. (Applause.) So true.
On behalf of a grateful nation, I just want to say that we thank you, we salute you, and we stand with you 100 percent. All of us. Me and all of us.
We're here today to restore one of the most effective crime prevention strategies in America: Project Safe Neighborhoods. This initiative brings law enforcement, community groups, and local leaders together to get the most violent criminals in the most dangerous areas off the streets and behind bars. After many years of neglect, we are bringing back this lifesaving program stronger than ever before.
Today is the first nationwide meeting of Project Safe Neighborhoods in eight years. And here with us is the man who started this visionary project all the way back in 2001, former Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Applause.) Where is John? Where is John?
I've been here a lot lately, John. Huh?
MR. ASHCROFT: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I've been here a lot. That's good. Thank you. Thank you for a great job.
I also want to thank two members of my administration who are doing tremendous work: the head of ATF Thomas Brandon and the Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. (Applause.) Please. Thank you, fellas.
We are also joined by a great representative of the state, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler — helps me a lot. Thank you, Vicky. Thank you, Vicky. (Applause.)
And we are especially excited to have with us the man who is your state's current attorney general and newly-elected United States senator — that's why I've been here so much lately — Josh Hawley. Josh. Thank you, Josh. (Applause.)
And I will tell you, Josh really stepped up to the plate. You know, in life, you never know. You pick somebody — looks good, sounds good, think he's smart — and then they choke. (Laughter.) They choke like dogs. (Laughter.) And you say, “What did I do? I picked the wrong person.”
Well, we saw a lot about Josh and we thought he'd be great. And I'll tell you, he had a tough race against a very tough competitor. You know that. And he was absolutely fantastic. So I just want to congratulate you.
And, you know, I keep listening to the fake news that, “They won the House — House, House, House.” Nobody ever talks about the Senate. We won the Senate easily. In fact, we picked up two. And that hasn't been done in a long time. For a person is President, you just — for whatever reason that doesn't happen very often.
And we have the Senate, now, 53 to 47. And we're very proud of that. But you never hear that. You only hear, “The House, House, House…” And the nice part about having the Senate is, when you have the Senate, your judges — you know, we've appointed many, many judges. We're just about at a record clip — ever.
And by the time I finish, we should have the all-time record, except, of course — from the percentage basis, you know who the best of all was, right? George Washington. 100 percent. (Laughter.) He picked 100 percent of the judges. That's the only one that I won't be beating. (Laughter.) I can never beat George. He's tough. (Laughter.) 100 percent. I asked that question. I say, “Who had the greatest percentage of judge picks?” And so far, I haven't had too many people guess it. But as soon as soon as I say it, they say, “I can't believe I didn't think of that.”
Finally we are grateful to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Timothy Garrison. Where is Timothy? (Applause.) Timothy. Thank you, Timothy. Great job, Tim. Along with a very well-known person, Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith, for hosting today's event. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you, Rick. Thank you. (Applause.)
Everyone here today is committed to the same vital goal: liberating our communities from crime and securing the right of all citizens to live in safety and to live in peace.
In the two years before I took office, the violent crime rate increased by 7 percent and murders were up by over 20 percent. But we're turning it around very quickly, much quicker than anyone thought possible.
At the core of our strategy is restoring respect for law enforcement. And there is nobody that deserves respect more than you people, that I can tell you. For too long, many politicians and radical activists have been smearing and slandering our police, making life easier for criminals and harder for law-abiding Americans. We will not tolerate attacks on the heroes who protect our streets and defend our communities. We will not allow it to happen. (Applause.)
My administration has also made officer safety a top priority. We will protect those who protect us. And we will believe the right punishment — and we all do — for cop-killers is called the death penalty. (Applause.)
And you know, in some circles, that's very controversial to say that. You have all of the television cameras rolling back there. For me, it's not even a little bit controversial. You kill a cop and it's called the death penalty, okay?
At the same time, we are ensuring you have the resources you need to do your jobs properly. We have added nearly 200 new violent crime prosecutors across the country.
We have made more than 600 million dollars' worth of surplus military equipment available to law enforcement that, as you know, the previous administration would not allow you to have. It was sitting in storage houses and warehouses all over the country getting old and gaining dust — beautiful stuff. And they didn't like it because it made you look too strong. And I liked it because it made you safe. And now it's been distributed all over the country to the police and you're using it very well and very judiciously and we appreciate it.
We increased funding for Project Safe Neighborhoods to $50 million dollars this year and we're asking Congress to add an additional increase for next year. That will happen.
We secured $6 billion in new funding to combat opioids — the most in history. And speaking of that, Kellyanne Conway is here. A very special person. Where is Kellyanne? Is she around here someplace? Stand up, Kellyanne. (Applause.) She's worked so hard with Melania, the First Lady, and they're working very hard. And thank you, Kellyanne. Great job.
We've increased the average sentence for drug trafficking to its highest level since 2013.
I signed landmark anti-drug legislation that included the STOP Act to help prevent fentanyl from entering our country through the mail service.
And at my recent meeting that you all read about three days ago with President Xi of China — this took place in Argentina at the G20 — President Xi agreed to criminalize and make all fentanyl in China controlled, meaning it's a controlled substance. Such a big event. (Applause.)
And it was really considered an industrial agent; it was not criminal at all. He's agreed to make it a controlled substance and the highest criminality. And that would bring into play, again, the words “death penalty.” Death penalty. From no penalty to death penalty. And that's the way our meeting went.
And I appreciate President Xi doing that very much because we lose about 80,000 people a year to fentanyl. So now they can send it but, if they get caught, they're going to get the death penalty. I have a feeling you're going to see it go down very rapidly. Very, very rapidly. It's a terrible thing
This year, thanks to the efforts of everyone in this room, I am proud to report a new all-time record for the prosecution of violent crime. You also prosecuted 15,300 defendants for federal gun crimes, almost 20 percent more than the previous record.
In partnership with the federal government, local law enforcement is also making tremendous, historic strides. Here today is Wilmington Police Chief Bob Tracy. Where's Bob? Hi, Bob. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Bob.
When a vicious gang member shot and killed two people in Wilmington last February, investigators used the ATF's ballistic database to match the shell casings to another shooting and bring the killer to justice. Amazing job. Thank you. Thank you, Bob.
Over the past year, shootings in Wilmington are down nearly 60 percent and firearm murders are down over 35 percent. Thank you, Chief Tracy, for your unbelievable work. We're reading about it, we're seeing it, and it really is exceptional. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
An important milestone in our campaign to make America safe again is the reduction in the murder rate. Murders in America's largest cities are projected to drop by more than 8 percent compared to 2016 — a remarkable turnaround in just two short years. And you are the ones who have really made it possible. We've given you certain advantages that you didn't have before this administration, but you have made it possible.
With us today is U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. Maria? Where is Maria? Thank you, Maria. (Applause.) Great. Maria assembled a team from the IRS, the FBI, and Tampa Police to take down a violent street gang in Tampa, Florida. Thanks to this collaborative effort, 11 gang members are now facing hard time in prison. Maria, great job. We've all been reading about it. Very, very exceptional. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
James Clark with the Better Family Life initiative is here as well. James? Thank you very much, James. (Applause.) James works with schools, churches, family members, and friends to deescalate conflicts and stop violence before it happens. A very dangerous thing he does, but he's not afraid. You're not afraid, are you, James? It's just a day in the office, right? Stand up again, James. That's pretty — that's not easy. (Applause.) That's not easy.
And James and his team have successfully ended more than 50 ongoing, escalating gun battles between rival gangs right here in the St. Louis. James, great job. It's really incredible, what you do, and everybody in this room appreciates it. Thank you very much. And all over the country, they appreciate it, James.
As part of our comprehensive crime reduction strategy, we are reforming the prison system to help more former inmates get on the right track. We all benefit when those who have served their time can find a job, support their families, and stay the hell out of jail. Right? That's what we want. Stay out of jail. That's why I have called on Congress to pass the First Step Act, so that more inmates gain the skills they need to become productive, law-abiding citizens.
And we've helped them a lot by creating one of the greatest economies — maybe the best economy this country has ever had. Our jobless rate is now down to 3.7 percent. And, by the way, in Missouri, I was just told by Josh, it's at 3.2 percent, which is the lowest in the history of the state.
So now, when people get out of prison, rather than not being able to find a job, some employers, frankly, are forced to hire people that maybe they wouldn't normally do. And the reports coming back are incredible. I have one particular person that says it's hired seven people, and he just is thrilled. He can't even believe it. We're giving them a chance. And the economy is maybe — it's a beneficiary, but it's also one of the reasons that it's working so well.
So we're very proud. It's — a lot of good reasons to have an economy that's so good, but that's maybe toward the top of the list, as far as I'm concerned.
We know it's possible for former prisoners to turn their lives around because their Safe Neighborhood partners really make it happen every single day. Deborah Daniels is the co-founder of Offender Alumni Association in the great state of Georgia. Hi, Deborah. (Applause.) Through peer-to-peer networking, coaching, and support, Deborah and her team have helped more than 650 former offenders start new lives as law-abiding members of society. It's an incredible story. I've read the story. I've seen it. Many of you have seen it. Thank you, Deborah, for giving these Americans a true second chance — and, in some cases, you could say a third chance — at a good life. Thank you, Deborah, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
The amazing results of Project Safe Neighborhoods prove just how critical it is to foster cooperation among law enforcement at every single level of government.
Nowhere is this cooperation more important than when it comes to enforcing our nation's immigration laws. You've been reading a lot about immigration, haven't you, folks? But we're getting it. We're really getting it. We're being strong on the border. We could use a little help, but we're being strong on the border. A lot of brave people are working with us on the border.
Every day, our brave ICE officers are working with the state and local partners to get some of the world's most violent criminals off our streets, and we get them the hell out of our country. We get them out.
Since I took office, ICE agents have arrested over 235,000 aliens with criminal records. Think of that: Two hundred and thirty-five thousand. And then you have a lot on the Democrat side — they're saying, “We don't want to respect ICE. We want to get rid of ICE.” We're not getting rid of ICE. They're going to be with us. They're heroes. They're heroes. (Applause.)
Think of that, though: Two hundred and thirty-five thousand. And that includes those charged and convicted of more than 100,000 assaults and over 4,000 murders.
Last year alone, ICE and Border Patrol seized more than 2.8 million pounds of illicit narcotics, and we have quadrupled the seizures of fentanyl. And now, with our new deal with President Xi of China, maybe we won't even have to worry about that so much. I think you're going to see that coming down at numbers that are pretty unbelievable.
Removing these deadly poisons and vicious predators from our neighborhoods depends upon partnerships with local communities and their elected leaders and officials.
Unfortunately, there are extreme politicians in cities and states around America — I'm sure you haven't heard about this — who have issued policies to forbid their police departments from working with federal immigration authorities. Hard to believe, isn't it? These outrageous sanctuary cities are grave threats to public safety and national security. Each year, sanctuary cities release thousands of known criminal aliens from their custody and right back into the community. So they put them in, and they have them, and they let them go, and it drives you people a little bit crazy, doesn't it, huh? But it's changing. It's all changing.
You look at what's going on in California; many people are demanding that they not be part of a sanctuary city. They don't want sanctuary cities. It's happening by its own.
American politicians should protect American citizens, not criminal aliens. Not one more American life should be stolen because of radical politicians pursuing their open borders agenda.
Nearly 100 percent of the heroin in our country comes across the southern border, killing 300 Americans, at least, a week. A week. According to the Council of Economic Advisers, this illegal heroin cost our country $238 billion dollars in 2016 alone. Think of that.
And we're talking about a wall for $20 billion, $15 billion. I could even do it cheaper if I have to, and it'll be better than anybody has ever seen a wall. (Laughter.) Think of that. You're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars and you're talking about a fraction. You would make it up in a month — a month — by having a proper wall.
You see what's happening. You see where they're surging and our great people are able to easily handle it. Without the wall, it gets tougher. But you know what? They still handle it.
Illegal immigration is a threat to the well-being of every American community, threatening innocent families, overwhelming public resources, and draining the federal treasury.
Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill. We have to — we have to get this done. They're playing games. They're playing political games. I actually think the politics of what they're doing is very bad for them, but we're going to very soon find out. Maybe I'm not right, but usually I'm right. Like I said, “I'm going to win for President.” (Laughter.) And some people said, “That won't happen.” And guess what? Look who's up here now, folks. (Laughter and applause.)
But this includes fully funding our great ICE officers, ICE attorneys, border agents, detention beds, equipment, technology, and lifesaving border wall, which we need more than ever. We need it more than ever.
When you see these caravans of thousands and thousands of people — they like to minimize it on the fake news, but, you know, you have tremendous amounts of people coming up and it's incredible.
And oftentimes, they'll keep the cameras low. I know every trick. They've taught me. I know every trick. (Laughter.) They'll put women and children in the front row and they'll have those cameras nice and low. So number one, it doesn't look like a big crowd. Number two, all you see is women and children. And they say, “You're such bad people.” I'm “such a bad person.” But behind that front couple of rows, you got some tough, tough people.
You saw the mayor or Tijuana. He said, “These are tough people. You talk to them and we end up in fights. These are tough people.” We don't want them coming into our country. We want great people coming in. Some of them would be great people. We need people because we have too many companies coming into our country. Car companies are pouring in. They're all coming in.
A big announcement by Fiat Chrysler the other day: They're going to move into Michigan with a massive new plant. A lot of things are happening. We need people at 3.7 percent unemployment, but they have to be brought in the legal way. And they have to be — we talk merit. We want to bring them in through merit. We want people that can love our country and people that can help our country. It's all very simple. To me, it's very simple.
Every American citizen is entitled to a safe community and a secure border. Here in the audience today are three trailblazing leaders — they truly are — who are working to dismantle MS-13 over the past two years. They've helped so much. They've done such an incredible job. Twenty-nine MS-13 members have been charged and convicted just recently, despite being targeted for retaliation.
These three patriots are U.S. Attorney Zach Terwilliger — where is Zach? Hello, Zach. (Applause.) Heard great things about you. Herndon Police Sergeant Claudio Saa. (Applause.) Thank you, Claudio. Thank you very much. And Fairfax County Police Detective Ray Betts. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. All three, thank you very much.
As President, nothing is more important than protecting the security of our nation and its citizens. So to every federal law enforcement officer who is on the frontlines of that mission; to the U.S. Marshals; ATF agents; immigration officers; FBI; DEA; and all state and local authorities who proudly wear this incredible uniform — it's really the uniform of our country — I say, “Keep up the great work.” You know that my administration will always have your back. We will never ever let you down.
In the most hazardous moments, in the high-speed chases and the high-stakes courtrooms, in darkened alleys and late-night stakeouts, you are always there and always keeping watch over us. Our people love you. They love you. You don't hear it, but they love you. (Applause.)
You never let us down and we will never let you down. You bring criminals to justice and peace to our streets. You are the reason Americans sleep soundly in their beds at night. And you are the ones making America stronger and prouder and safer and greater than ever before. We are making America greater than ever before. We are respected again as a nation. We love our law enforcement.
I just want to thank you all for being here. It's my great honor to be before you. And God bless the United States of America. God bless you all. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Citizens Are the Key to Creating Smart Cities
BY MYUNG J. LEE
In the 21st century, data-driven decision-making is a mantra among city leaders, who increasingly wish to harness the capacity of data science to measure every aspect of a city — from well-established police evaluation tools like CompStat to more recent concepts like tracking greenhouse gas emissions by benchmarking buildings' energy usage. But how can a mid-sized city with limited resources tap into the data-driven revolution to drive municipal policy?
Tulsa, Oklahoma found a way with its Urban Data Pioneers program, a winner of the 2018 Cities of Service Engaged Cities Award.
Tulsa, like most cities, had a large amount of data on hand, including crime statistics, utility information, and traffic statistics. Mayor Bynum, elected in June 2016, wanted to use this data to achieve his goals, including reducing crime and growing the city. But a limited city budget meant resources to accomplish that goal were not readily available.
The mayor proposed a working group called Urban Data Pioneers, with the goal of creating teams to learn data analysis techniques together and provide actionable information that would enable the mayor and city leaders to make better policy decisions.
For the program's initial launch, Mayor Bynum sent an email invitation to everyone in city hall to join with an expectation that a dozen or so employees would show up to the first meeting. But that initial gathering elicited 60 attendees, with 120 ultimately engaged in the effort.
James Wagner, chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation, manages the Urban Data Pioneers program from within a unique city hall department, newly created by Mayor Bynum, with a mission of harnessing data for civic innovation.
Each cohort kicks off with a planning meeting in which Wagner's office brings a series of predetermined topics, based largely on the mayor's agenda, that deserve more data-driven scrutiny. Volunteers gravitate to the project that most interests them. Wagner's office ensures that each team has a data analyst, subject matter expert, and someone skilled in data visualization.
Each team then spends 10 weeks gathering and mapping data. Volunteers generally spend three to four hours per week — likely more if they are city employees — often meeting early in the morning or during lunch. City staff coordinate their participation with their direct supervisors, which is facilitated by the mayor's support for the program. They may meet in person, but just as often the work happens remotely via collaborative digital platforms like Slack.
“Urban Data Pioneers was a great way to pull these people together with completely different levels of expertise,” said Penny Macias, a project manager in the Office of Performance Strategy and Innovation.
The final product is a slide deck with an emphasis on visual analytics like GIS maps that can illustrate the data analysis. These are presented at a showcase attended by about 50 city employees, including most department directors. Wagner's department routes presentations on priority topics to the city council and the mayor; all presentations are also available on the program's website.
Now in its fourth cohort, teams have examined a variety of issues including traffic crashes, land-use efficiency, and blight, and also embarked on more sophisticated projects like building a predictive model for neighborhood stability. There are about 50 active members at any given time, roughly split between two-thirds city employees and one-third private citizens or nonprofit representatives.
One city service, maintaining streets, has already seen a change in policy direction due to the Urban Data Pioneers' efforts. Previously, Tulsa selected which street projects to prioritize based on a computer model calculating road conditions against available funds. A team on the first cohort conducted a more detailed analysis.
“The Urban Data Pioneers developed a model whereby we could weight different factors more heavily in deciding which overall street projects to pick,” Mayor Bynum said. Factors include issues like traffic crashes, sidewalk gaps, ADA accessibility, bicycle infrastructure, and storm sewer overflow. “Ninety-plus percent of the capital program we do next year will be street work, and that is going to be done utilizing the tool that the Urban Data Pioneers developed.”
Like the best-sustained citizen engagement efforts, mayoral leadership is critical to the success of Urban Data Pioneers. It started with Mayor Bynum, who inspired city employees and members of the general public. They volunteered with a clear indication that their efforts would be considered by the highest level of city government, inform policy, and have an impact on their city.
Through the recognition that Tulsa has received from winning the Cities of Service Engaged Cities Award, the city has been able to create additional citizen engagement programs and share the Urban Data Pioneers program with others. “It's one thing when you're in a community working on something as hard as these folks have, to think, ‘Well, maybe we're making a difference locally,' and to find that rewarding,” said Mayor Bynum. “But to get the kind of recognition that we receive from Cities of Service, to know that we're helping inspire other cities around the world with the work—these are people that two years ago were all closeted away, doing data analysis in cubicles around the city, and now they're helping set a trend for other cities around the world.